Thursday, 24 January 2008

Lists, lists and more lists

I've got lists of lists of things that need doing before we move out of the house and onto the boat. Least of all fit out the boat. It's all seeming a little daunting at present and we are both a tiny bit edgy. I also think that I have sent my scribbled list of even more things to do off to British Waterways Leeds office as it was at the bottom of all my licensing paperwork that I was gathering together. Some employee will think 'what is this evidence of'. 'I'm sure we don't need this'. I've made another three lists since. I'm not really a list kind of person and usually happy to bumble my way through life forgetting to do things (like picking Lisa up today from school so she could go to her piano lesson. She plays as good as she sings) but at the minute I can't have enough of them.

I drove down to Hanbury Wharf today to fill the boat with Diesel and complete the itinerary of bits and pieces that we need on board. Another three hundred quid and two hundred litres (no it wasn't £1.50 per litre). I think we are going to go for it this weekend and cruise it up to the Ashby. It looks like all the work is finished on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal for this weekend but I will confirm on the phone tomorrow. We'll bring the laptop and see if we can find a wifi signal.

The generator and the paraffin stove are arriving tomorrow so that should give me something to set fire to and make lots of noise with during the day.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Handover complete

I drove down to Hanbury Wharf today again to do the final handover. Barry the Boat Briefer took me through the bits and pieces and we took a trip up to the winding hole and back without incident or collision. Apparently I am now fully trained and can go anywhere on the system the length of the boat allows. Isn't Britain great in that respect. In any other country in Europe you would need all manner of helmsman's certificates, boat handling courses and instruction on how to become Captain Canal, all for the very reasonable price of a small family car. Here you just turn up and after a couple of minutes you are the captain of your own 70 foot 20 ton ship. I could have dispensed with the instruction all together. A quick signature and you're off.

The chandlery and fuel point were closed today so I couldn't get any diesel but there was two inches in the tank for the test run. I will have to have another trip down for that later in the week where I can incorporate fuel with picking up other other bits and pieces for the trip.

I am at home with all the technical booklets, two keys, warranties for gearbox and engine, handbooks and pamphlets. Easy reading for the enthused. Whilst browsing through the bits and pieces I had forgotten that you have to get a Isuzu engine dealer to service the thing in order to to keep the warranty valid. Never having owned a new car, and never likely to, we had not come across this before. Normally it is me that has to do the servicing of anything mechanical around here.

Ramming speed

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Scraping again

We have been down scraping the sprayfoam again today for a couple of hours and bringing some more stuff to the boat. Lisa claims that she cannot scrape the roof battons due to height restrictions. At 5 foot nothing her arms won't reach. Bit like mine when reaching into my pockets for my change. We found the ropes left over from the original Pickles in the attic and several windlasses but that was all. No mooring spikes. Hardly expensive items. Another couple of hours should see the sprayfoam removed. We are just half heartedly playing at it at the moment as we are waiting to get it moved as soon as possible.

You're not helping Sam.

Cucumber sandwich anyone?

I have just read on Waterscape that there has been a car crash on bridge 69 at the entrance to Kings Norton tunnel and the police no less, have closed the road and canal until an inspection has been carried out. Give me strength. Am I ever to get this boat to the Ashby. Unless the inspection happens before the 25th I'll be stuck at Hanbury for another week. Another delay and our plans for moving out of the house at the end of February could be scuppered although I do think Lisa would be quite happy to move on today and make the best of it.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Editorial interference

I'm having real problems with my editor at the moment. Janet Street Porter would be a breeze to work with in comparison. The last post was published without prior permissions and proof reading by said editor. In the first edition, the editor was displeased with some comments about the age of one of my co-workers. I had foolishly inserted octogenarian instead of septuagenarian. I also had not thanked Pearl for the banquet that was produced on our behalf. I am deeply saddened by my mistake and apologise profusely to those affected by these omissions and if I have caused any offence I will make amends (in your dreams). If the editor thinks she could do better then can I suggest that she stops interfering with my posts and takes up the pen in a rival publication.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Lining aboard

We picked a good day for it but nobody, not a single solitary person writing on the subject, not a sole mentioned that putting the lining ply on-board would be such hard work. I've been reading about fitting out boats for years and have never read anything on the subject. Well I intent to put that right here and now. It is hard work, very hard. Especially if you are a septuagenarian.

Ken drove to our house and we went, with our old ambulance, to Harvey's at Tamworth after they had telephoned to say the ply had been delivered. We arrived, went into the joinery workshop and there before us was a great pile of 8x4 ply boards. “I think this is the wrong pile. I only want to fit out a 70 foot narrowboat not the Titanic.” Unfortunately it was my pile and we had to load it into the bus. Half an hour later it was completed and after I had bought several other items from the chandlery and talked to the owner (looking for a discount on further purchases. What a surprise) attempted to make a quick getaway towards Hanbury Wharf. No joy. It wouldn't start. Begged for a jump start from Harveys and after a while (we couldn't find the battery on Harveys company van) we were haring towards the boat.

It may not have escaped your notice but it has been raining somewhat over the previous couple of days. The tow path had become a quagmire and made the unloading task no easier. The boatyard had also moved my boat down the canal a hundred meters or so. This was no good for the task in hand and I had to ask for it to moved closed to the vehicle. They said I could move it myself as I had the key. After picking myself up I told them that it would probably not be a good idea if they wanted to keep their brokerage fleet intact. No problem. They sent a grizzly sort across and he started the engine and moved the boat the hundred metres or so. Hey, I could have done that. Yes, but not yet.

Ken and I then unloaded the boards and tried to fit them through all the orifices before realising that the only one available to us was the one at the back. After much tooing and frooing we finally managed to get the first one in. “It'll be easier from here.” I chirped, optimistically. It wasn't. I was suffering but at 91 Ken was really suffering. I thought we'd be finished and I could treat Ken to a slap up over at the pub but by the time we'd finished the pub was closed, the staff had gone home, it was nearly dark and the pub was just about to open for the evening session. Although Ken produced a feast wrapped in kitchen foil and prepared by Pearl for our day out in the country. To cap it all, the beast wouldn't start again. Fortunately I had thought ahead and brought a new battery with me. This time it wasn't under three tons of timber. Fitted and fired up we were home again within the hour except that Ken had to drive for another hour to get to his home. Apparently he crawled in at seven after having left the house eleven and a half hours earlier. I couldn't have done it without him. Poor man. He's a hundred and four you know.

It can only get easier from here. Can't it?

Monday, 14 January 2008

Hold the front page. I spent some money today.

I rang around a couple of wood yards and then phoned the boat builders Harveys of Tamworth (found their advert in one of the mags) to find the price of the 9mm ash faced ply for lining out the boat. Unbelievably Harveys won out and were the cheapest. They are also just up the road and I have ordered the lot from them. £800 odd for forty three 4x8. I'll need more for bulkheads etc. but that should be enough to keep me busy for a while. There is an extra reason for acquiring this timber at this stage before the journey back to the Ashby. The boat is currently sitting between four and six inches out of the water and rather than use rubbish bins filled with water to ballast the thing I may as well fill it with heavy articles that will be fitted anyway. The heaviest and one of the most expensive is the ply. If I place all that at the rear, with one or two other items I intend to buy, that should hopefully be enough to get the stern into the h2o. If necessary I can fill a couple of bins with water and use them but I think I'd rather not have open containers splashing about every time I hit something, an event that is highly likely on the way back. With a bit of luck it will be ready for collection on Wednesday when I've got Ken (of outlaws fame) in attendance to help load the timber.

I also ordered a twin burner paraffin stove as I have been so impressed with that fuel as a heating medium. When we went down the other day we had to work in tee-shirts with the hatches and doors open as it was too hot inside with the heaters going. They are hard to find even on-line at a reasonable price. We intend to have a solid fuel Rayburn to power the cooking and the central heating eventually but initially this will not be fitted (this is a gas free boat). In the summer, when it will be too hot to have it powered up, we will need something else to cook on. It's my intention to have the paraffin stove permanently in the kitchen under a flap in the worktop so it is always available for use but hidden. I haven't any idea if they are any good or not but we'll soon find out. I'm scrabbling around in the dark here. It might end up being flung out of the side hatch that will be conveniently nearby. I'm also not sure what the BSS has to say about paraffin powered things but I'm sure someone will tell me.

I also got my insurance sorted with Craftinsure. At £161 I considered that quite reasonable with no no claims etc. It was also very easy to set up and it was mine with the minimum of info and filling in boxes with pointless information. About three minutes start to finish.

We are also experimenting with our intention of living without a television in the future. Terri took the telly, DVD player and didgi (sic) box in the living room with her when she went back and we are left with a thirty year old one in the kitchen and one that we don't know how to tune upstairs (Lisa threw away the instructions when we got it and we never could work it out. Being a man I didn't think I'd need the instructions). So our thinking is that with the TV companies going the way of on-demand, iplayer and watch again type things we can be selective about what we watch and don't have to be totally radical and withdraw from the modern world entirely. We have loaded all the relevant software onto Lisa's school computer and have it set up in the living room. I know that this sounds like we a are chickening out of not being without the telly and you are absolutely right, we are. Go and lead your own lives and don't be so sanctimonious with ours.

Lisa likes the soaps and I like to shout at Jeremy Paxman, “Ask him the bloody question Jeremy. Go on, ask him. We both know he's lying don't we. Ask him thirteen times if you have to.” But this way there's no excuse for not getting on with something that may be more important in our lives. We are not confined to the timings of the channels and don't have to be blasted with government and big business propaganda.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Lost contact

We have been off air for the past four days due to the incompetence of TalkTalk (it might also have had something to do with me cancelling the direct debit). It only took them four days to get us back on-line. A laptop and mobile access is the way to go as we cannot lift our desktop, put it in the car, fire up the generator, put that in the boot, plug in the computer and drive around the area to find a wi-fi signal whilst balancing the keyboard and monitor on my knee. Thank goodness we are getting rid of it next month. We only get 500 meg bandwidth and this is what we will get with the Web 'n walk contract with T-Mobile. I read in the Guardian (yes I'm a lily-livered, middle of the road, soft centred, bleeding heart, sandal wearing, folk music lov'in, jumper wearing, fascist/bigot/racist/agest/ethnicisist/sexist hating liberal. Not one of those chattering class liberal dreamers but a thoroughbred radical liberal thinker. At least in my mind), that T-Mobile and 3 are merging their networks to improve signal. They also claim to be increasing speeds up to 7.2 Mbs by the end of next year. It's the phrase of 'up to' that means nothing. Check your own band speed at the Gadget show website. Apparently the current contract if you sign for 18 months is for unlimited downloads for £20.00. Although this is at odds with what boaters are claiming on their blogs. I need to get myself dongled up as soon as possible.

We visited the boat on Saturday. I must admit that I was worried about Lisa's reaction of the interior of it. But I was relieved when she said that we could move on straight away. Less work for me then. We brought with us that obligatory fitting out tool, the bread knife, for the job of cutting the spray foam off the battens ready for the lining. Our hands are a little sore today but we did get quite a lot done in the short time we were there. I need to fit the battens to the area below the gunnels as there are just the support/ strengthening beams without the battens. No problem, No-Nails is just the job for that. On the way back from Hanbury Wharf we stopped at Hawksbury Junction or Sutton Stop for a pint at the Greyhound. Outside the door was moored The Cheese Boat. We had seen it before at Shackerstone Family Festival but didn't approach as the crowds of cheese lovers were hoarding around the side hatches for free samples. On this occasion there was no-one around so we enquired, bought four cheeses and had a good conversation with Mike Prescott, a retired marine electrician, who runs it. We talked of our plans for our boat and he confirmed everything we had thought, even saying that he fitted his in two weeks. I do enjoy talking to positive people who are enthusiastic about our plans. He even offered help at the end of the phone. There is nothing worse than having doubts placed in your mind by the harbingers of doom who criticize and condemn everything and believe everything is impossible. They are the same people who have never done anything in their lives as they are afraid of taking a risk. It's better to try and fail than fail to try in my book. Anyway the cheese was superb and highly recommended.

It was my birthday on the 11th January. Lisa said I was 47 but I think she's got it wrong somehow and I believe that I'm much younger. I received a grand total of four cards (I have distinct lack of friends) from Terri, Lisa, the outlaws, and our neighbours Peter and Angela. Peter is a wine snob (as I always prone to telling him) but we are always the beneficiaries of this wine snobbery as he always generously gives good bottles for presents and we also get his half finished bottles of wine that maybe didn't come up to the mark. Well for someone who refuses to spend over four quid a bottle they all come up to the mark to me. In the case of my birthday we received four bottles of superb south American red. Just the job to rid those winter blues.

Terri also left again this week to go back to uni and her other life. She appreciates the comforts and the pampering she gets at home but cannot wait to get away from our claustrophobic influence on her life. Her complete and utter lack of interest in the boat is probably more to do with the fact that she likes this treatment and is afraid that something might change when we move onto the boat. It won't. We are making a box of the familiar things in her room and plan to put them up in her room on the boat in order to make her feel a little better about the whole thing. Although it might make her move out permanently and who could blame her.

Monday, 7 January 2008

It's ours

Well the boat actually belongs to us now. All the payments have finally cleared after a last minute hiccup with the bank (don't get me started). I went down to the boatyard for the handover briefing but again there was several practical problems. The oil pressure sensor had blown and they were waiting for another to be sent. Consequently the engine bilge had some oil in it. The bar that keeps the weed hatch in place was also missing. Needless to say that I couldn't go for a cruise as we would probably have ended up on the bottom of the cut after water flooding through the hatch and a seized motor. Not good for the troops morale. We have the handover cruise now booked for the 21st January as there's now more time due to the stoppages. I also need to get the insurance sorted for licensing etc. I've had a look on t'net and Craftinsure seem ok at £160.

Barry the boat briefer briefed me up on the bits and pieces on-board and there were no surprises. In fact the whole thing was more or less as I had expected it. In fact Barry and I spent most of the time comparing our various medical ailments and medicine types and amounts. I've always thought that old people spend most of their time discussing their medical conditions and here I am doing it myself. Lisa now wants to go down next weekend and have a look at the boat. We are bringing bread knives with us as, since she wants to get involved, she can jolly well help me cut the spray foam from the top of the batons ready for the ply to be screwed into place. We'll see how enthusiastic she is after a couple of hours of that. Nothing like a bit of hard work to sort the men from the boys, the sheep from the goats and the bourgeoisie from the proletariat. Haa.

I stood where the bulkheads were to be and imagined the size of each room. My workshop for the first couple of months occupies where the workshop was planned, our bedroom and wardrobe space. This is were I intend to carry out the fabrication of the fittings then attach them into position in order to keep the boat as dust free as possible (I'm probably dreaming). It is an enormous space over twenty foot long. But I think it will decrease quite substantially when we get our stuff aboard.
I know. You've all seen piccies of sailaways before and they all look the same. But this one is different. This one belongs to ME. Aaooh (I've just had a cuff round the ear. Apparently it belongs to US. When will I ever learn).

Friday, 4 January 2008

First contact

They say that the best laid plans don't survive first contact and it seems that they (whoever 'they' are) are correct. I have just checked Waterscape and BW have increased the time taken for the work on lock 52 on the Tardebigge flight and we have now lost the first window that we had identified in January to take the boat up to Birmingham. Ho hum. The next window in the weekend of the 25th January unless of course there is an extension of the other work they are doing on the same flight. I always knew I'd have to remain flexible in regards of winter cruising.

The handover briefing is now on Monday afternoon instead of Tuesday but I will now have to leave the boat at the boatyard for a little longer. I should have delayed payment for a little longer as now it will be my boat and they will probably charge me mooring fees whereas if it was still their boat they couldn't really have done that.

We have been packing away our books to give to a local charity. We didn't realise how many academic books we had gathered over the years. As previous mature students we tend to have a reverence for books that others who take education for granted tend not to have and as such want to ensure that there is at least the possibility that someone may be influenced and possibly be inspired by what inspired us in the past. I'm not sure how three boxes of philosophy, sociology, politics, economics, psychology and education will affect the Atherstone area but that's where they're being sent. It will be sad to see them go but other than an emotional attachment to them for a variety of reasons, pragmatically they must be banished for reasons of space.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Handover date

Went down to N.B.Co. today to give them the final stage payment cheque and arrange the handover date. It is to be next Monday afternoon. The cheque won't have cleared by then but at least I will hopefully be able to fill the tank with fuel and ensure that the boat will be ready for the trip and learn a little about our future home. I'll also need to buy various bits and pieces for the trip as I'm not entirely sure what is included in a sailaway. The terminology implies that you can just jump on and sail it away although I'm not sure how far I'd get.

We haven't found the mooring pins and the two mooring ropes that we took off our last boat, the original Pickles. I think they are probably in the attic as I haven't been up there yet. We'll probably need a pole, boat hook, centre line and something to act as a tunnel light for the King's Norton Tunnel, BW key for filling our plastic water container from water points and facilities en route. Anti vandal key and handcuff key. Do I need them? Haven't a clue. We also need a blanket to act as a bulkhead to keep what little heat there will be in the one place. We don't require to heat the whole thing only the part we are occupying and a little bit of privacy for the toilet. Bits of cardboard to act as shutters for the portholes at night. There is a lot of things to consider that I don't normally have to think about.

I have told them that I want to collect it on Friday the 11th due to the stoppages and openings on Tardebigge and our window of opportunity. If the cheque hasn't cleared by then I'll be furious (see rant about banks in previous entry). Well I won't be furious as I don't get furious but I will shake my head and give a quiet tut under my breath. The weather is apparently closing in over the next couple of days. Lets just hope it warms up again otherwise it will be a very cold trip in our 70' fridge/freezer. The long term forecast has it warming up the weekend of the 11th. I hope they're right on this occasion although I won't be holding my breath. I'm digging out my skiing gear just in case.