Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Water at last

We reached Sutton Cheney yesterday afternoon after another boat made their way passed us and we decided to follow them to Sutton Cheney. On arrival we filled with water and had a chat with Allison on Gosty Hill who said that Iain was out with another boater to deliver diesel and coal to other boaters along the Ashby in the other boaters van. The ice was surprisingly much thinner than the day before.

I'm not sure who you would trust come the apocalypse, but fellow boaters are a fair bet.  I would say that this is the best of humanity, that boaters are reacting to the potential distress of others they do not even know and that this help was the action of compassion by those larger than life characters who care about their fellow human beings. Well done Ralph on nbAnnabelle who was driving his van to deliver the fuel.

Life always feels better with and empty toilet and a full water and fuel tank and no rubbish aboard.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Stuck again

We tried to move today as it looked as if it had melted a little and two boats had left our mooring and had made their way successfully to Market Bosworth and back. But we were facing the other way and had to go to Sutton Cheney Wharf. We made it about a kilometre, followed by nbDestiny before coming to ignominious end after a very difficult passage. The ice was four inches thick at places so we abandoned the attempt and may try again tomorrow if we can. We are currently moored some distance from the bank as we cannot get closer.

I'm not surprised that Gosty Hill abandoned the attempt. I was just a  little ambitious or possibly, a little stupid.

Monday, 28 December 2009


We've been stuck here in the ice for two weeks and going into the third. Gosty Hill (the local coal boat) just couldn't make it any further and winded at Sutton Cheney Wharf before they reached us and everyone else further on down the Ashby. We feel abandoned by humanity and have been left to our own devices by society. Diesel is ok but toilet and water have to be transported by car. The five day weather forecast is not looking like we will be moving very far for the next week. The two week weather forecast is hardly any better. We'll see.

It's not such a bad thing as there is a bit of the old Dunkirk spirit around here with boaters passing info down the line, getting coal for those without vehicles of their own and shopping for the same.

The outlaws and Terri were here for Christmas dinner and very successful it was too. All cooked on the Rayburn with not so much as a cross word. I say that but, later in the evening, after much drink having been consumed, the central heating reservoir overflowed and I shouted at Lisa not to over-react as I was over-reacting to her anticipated over-reaction. She was being uncharacteristically calm and caught me unawares. Anyway, I was in the wrong again.

There has been a spate of liveaboards having their cars broken into around these parts, tyres let down and even in several occasions, cars set on fire. It seems that liveaboards are being picked on at the moment. Probably just kids and us feeling a little victimised but slightly worrying all the same. Even more so since none of us can go anywhere at present.

We met another set of narrowboat boggers in the Red Cow in Market Bosworth this afternoon. They were Graham and Jill from nbArmadillo who, on hearing our tales of woe discussed with another couple who walk the towpaths, introduced themselves as fellow abandonees moored at the Market Bosworth moorings. At least they've got a water point available to them but no car. Proper Constant Cruisers I believe. i have added them to my boatroll.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Parenthood, ice and moving

We have now moved lock, stock and smoking barrels into our 'new' bedroom on the boat. That means that all the rooms now have the purpose they were designed for on my original plan. The final job before Christmas is to build the Belfast sink unit and tile the kitchen with the slate. Lisa is away for several days next week in London so I can get on with this without having to bother having to clean up for her return every evening. She usually arrives back and has no idea what an uproar the boat has been in during the day.

There may be a little bit of carpentry to do yet but you get the idea

The only thing we now have to do for the arrival of the outlaws is to buy the food and remind ourselves that the shops are only closed for one day. We are, as usual, refusing to acknowledge the near existence of the day by not putting any decorations up until absolutely necessary. Although Lisa, having a penchant for twinkly things, has placed some newly bought red lights around the inside of the door. I'm slightly worried that there will be men of dubious character hanging around outside.

I got fed up with the time this one was taking to upload but it was just the inevitable 'Look at me, I'm iced in' shot. (Ohh! It's done it now)

Our plan is to set off for Shakerstone at the (almost) end of the Ashby to enable the outlaws and Terri to have a drink in the luxury of a pub before all descending onto the boat for food and more drink, although we may have to rethink all of that if this cold snap continues and we are unable to move. -6 outside and +25 inside thanks to Dusty Rea (Rayburn's new name apparently). If we're iced in, that's the way it will be. We're having Christmas here. Well, frozen ground means no mud so it must be a good thing.

Terri was up around these parts visiting her friends the other day. Not us. Oh no. Not the ones who put up with her and looked after her for twenty years. I got a phone call in the morning and she told me to meet her at Halfords so as I can replace an indicator bulb for her before she returns to London. "Have you done it yet. I've got to be at work at twelve". Ho hum. The perks of parenthood.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

More building

I have now built the final bulkhead so as to make our own bedroom at last and so Terri can have her own room on her very rare visits (and our day room at other times). It has to be done before Christmas day as the outlaws are coming for their annual free scoff. Sponging bar stewards. Terri will also be here so there will be a full house (boat). I have run out of large pieces of ash faced ply and have used t&g. I think it will be better as I can scrumple it in my workshop. Today I made the door in a typically rustic cottage style. At least rustic is what Lisa calls it. I'm not sure if that's an insult or not. I have yet to complete the rest of the decorative woodwork so it may look a little better sometime down the line.

New bulkhead. You are standing in my bedroom. 
Do you mind?

My space in the workshop has been cut in two and cutting eight foot lengths of timber are a real problem. I have to turn my band saw so as the back end of the timber is through the bedroom and start the sawing process. Half way through I stop the saw, hop it around and startthe other half with the timber facing a different direction. It's all a bit of a faff really. I've convinced myself that it will be a lot easier when I have got rid of all the ply lieing around but I'm not entirely sure that it will be.

 My workshop's looking a little smaller than it was

I think that I will work out a method of having the band saw at the same height as the side hatches so I can have the timber out through one hatch, put it through the saw and it will emerge through the other hatch. Hopefully there will be no ranblers walking past as it emerges otherwise it may become a health and safety hazard.

I just need to find a home for all this lot. Shouldn't be a problem really. There's loads of room on the boat.

The boiler in the Rayburn has a small leak and I have to refill the expansion tank on a regular basis. Still it should be ok until March or April when I can turn it all off and fit a new boiler. I wonder it Alistair Darling will give me some money off a new one. Fat chance.

I'll try to be a little more frequent with the blogs in future.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Plumbing and passing bloggers

I've been filling the pipework for the last couple of days. I honesty didn't know where the water was going. There were no leaks, no joints weeping, no puddles on the floor and no jets of water soaking everything. It takes a long time to fill as it doesn't seem to want to enter the system at any great speed probably due to the pipe beginning at 15mm and going up the 28mm through the intermediate step of 22mm. It has bee gurgling away merrily, usually at three in the morning.

The problem was that I didn't take into account the size of the boiler in the Rayburn and 28mm pipework holds an awful lot of water. I assumed that the boiler was much smaller than it actually is.

Derek and Dot from Gypsy Rover appeared today on their way back to Market Bosworth to post a letter. Seems like a long way round just to post a letter although they may have other things to do. The last time I saw them was when I was on my initial 30 day fit out, they turned up and Derek spent several days helping out with the spray foam removal. That was much appreciated at the time. It was good to see them again although I had missed them the last time they were up this way several days ago.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Rayburn fully working (hopefully)

All installed and pipework in place

It's all up and running now. First lit at 1615hrs today and hopefully it will not go out until April (if what I've read is correct). I finished the plumbing today after getting hold of the expansion tank. The system hasn't been filled completely yet as I didn't fancy finding leaks this evening but will fill it tomorrow. However, I put some water into the pipework and it certainly traveled around to the towel rail so it may work after all. More tomorrow.

I know. The plumbing is a little dodgy

For anyone for an eye for plumbing, it looks a little haphazard but it was the only way I could think of to get the slope for the gravity fed system, the existing fitting couldn't be shifted and, anyway, I'm not a plumber. If I was a decent plumber, I'd have charged myself fifty quid an hour (with a hundred quid call out fee) and be speaking Polish .

We actually cooked our first meal on it this evening and it was roaring success. Quite literally, a roaring success. It all became a little hot and the little water I had in the system was bubbling away making a dreadful noise. We have now set it to the night time settings (again theory) and it has settled down nicely.

As for the negitivity from people prior to installation; it is heavy but not too heavy, it is greedy but not too greedy, it is inefficient, but not too inefficient and it is hot, but not too hot (saying that the hatches are still open).

 We may revise that in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Flue fitted

Holes cut in roof, roof collar fitted, flue fitted and cemented in place and some cosmetics completed. The plumbing is proving a little harder and long winded. 28mm pipework is difficult to work with as I'm geared up for 15mm plastic piping and this stuff is copper and it's also extrordinarily expensive.

Also I haven't got hold of an expansion tank yet. Thirty odd quid from Midland swindlers for a water bottle with a radiator cap. Possibly tomorrow. With a bit of luck, it may be finished tomorrow. Yea, 'course I will.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Rayburn installed

At last the Rayburn is in place and semi-cleaned up if not plumbed in yet. It took six men of various ages, some of whom I thought wouldn't get off the boat alive due to possible cardiac arrest. All survived and left my boat without my need to knock up a pine box. There was too much going on to take photos. My framework, that I had lovingly made up for the Rayburn to rest on so it would be above the lip at the door, was eventually found to be too tall as I hadn't measured to the top of the flue box. We had to do a bit of wrestling.

Note the cut down broomsticks to move it.

That's it. In position. A bit of cleaning and derusting to be done.

Tomorrow I have to fit the flue pipe and cut the hole in the roof for the roof collar. I've done it before for the other stove so with a bit of luck, it shouldn't be a problem.  Then again... Tuesday it's the gravity fed pipework to the towel rail. I have my doubts as to how that one will work.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Armour plating

Armour plating

Over the last couple of days I've been playing around in the toilet (according to Lisa). I have, however, been laying tiles on the toilet floor. Well when we bought them we thought they were tiles (that's what was on the label). The Welsh have a lot to answer for. I don't mind taking the Mick out of the Welsh and all things Welsh but it seems that they are having their revenge. What we have actually bought is Welsh slate and it's made of hardened steel.

The start

When we saw it, we thought that I had all the tools and bits and pieces for laying 'tiles', and I did. The problem is that Welsh slate is not ceramic but is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash through low grade regional metamorphism (Many thanks to Wikipedia for that). To the unscientific amongst us that means, 'dead 'ard'. After breaking all my tile nibblers, cutters and saws I resorted to the angle grinder with a stone cutting stone. The back of the boat is now covered in a fine dusting of black Welsh slate.

Look what it did to my grinding wheel (old one against the new one)

That's not a bad job. A bit of cleaning and polishing and that's it.
Look at the way it effortlessly curves around the shower.

I bought four 12v batteries the other day and they have transformed our lives. You forget the difference good batteries make to your megre existence on the canals.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Winter's here

Her: "It's a bit chilly tonight."
Him: "It is indeed. We'll be wearing jumpers in here soon before long."
Her: "Is that window closed?"
Him: "No, I'll just close it. There is a bit of a draft from somewhere."
Her: "I think you'll need to turn the fire up."
Him: "Ok. How's that."
Her: "It's still a bit chilly."
Him: "I think you're going to have to put that jumper on."
Her: "I'm sure there's a draft from somewhere."
Him: "No, it's just winter's arrived."
Her: "There definitely is still a draft from somewhere. It's as if the front door's open behind the blind."
Him: "Damn."
Her: "What?"
Him: "It is. Wide open."
Her: "Idiot"

Oh how we laughed.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Scoff and cratch

We've found a little gem of a pub around these parts. We lived locally for seven years and have been on the boat for the last 18 months but last night was the first night that we have had a drink in the White Swan in Stoke Golding. I vaguely remember reading a blog from  others who found in before us and thought it was a scary local's pub. But the food is fantastic and the prices unbelievable. £3.50 for the biggest plate of faggots, peas and chips you can imagine. Not only that but all locally sourced and home cooked. Just our barra'. And right next to Duck Corner as well (you'll know where I mean when you arrive).

The other night we had an Indian meal at Simla Peppers in Market Bosworth and it was also fantastic although four times the price of the White Swan.

Today we were out and about and went to the local tent and caravan emporium. Jackson's of Arley is one of those shops that has expanded over the many years it has existed and sells all kinds of bits and bobs, nik-naks and widgets and wadgets related to camping. For the narrowboater it has many useful items including all the fasteners that hold a cratch cover in place all at a quarter of the price of a chandlery. We were looking for some cheap material to make a template cratch cover for our front deck. We bought the material from one of the small businesses associated with and co-located with Jackson's, Temple's Tent and Awning Repairs. Rob was very helpful and supplied us with what we were looking for and suggested the material for the finished item when we get around to making it even thought I broke one of his electrical connections.It looked brilliant and different from most other boats use. Just what we want.

Further to my last post, I've just spoken to Ian and Alison from the Gosty Hill coal boat and they has just fired up their newly installed Rayburn. They rave about it and sing it's praises with gusto. That is a relief. Another positive review.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Rayburn, not

There is a big space where the Rayburn should be. It has been delivered but unfortunately the person that I had lined up to place it onto the front deck is too busy until next weekend. It is frustrating as we now want to get it all up and running and start cooking on coal. We would also like to find out if all the doom mongers that say it's either too heavy, too warm, too inefficient, too greedy on the coal, too old etc are correct or I am. Not a single person that has been negative has had one fitted to their boat but any stuff I've read about Rayburns on boats that was written by those that have them fitted, has been positive.

I've also heard that narrowboats are cold and damp in the winter.

BW have been round for their bi-annual check of the waterways. You can always tell as the person doing the checking was not a BW employee checking boats in the middle of nowhere where, usually, BW employees fear to tread.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Rayburns, BNP and dredging

We went for a drink with one of the local liveaboards the other night and were sat outside when another boater who we know, came outside for a ciggie. We started talking and he declared that he was a member of the BNP (I've no idea why they all love to declare this to anyone who'll listen. I would never mention my political beliefs unless it was relevant. (OK, that's not entirely true. It's not true at all really). Well not really a major surprise around these parts. But  we were guilty of then taking advantage of the situation and asking difficult questions like, 'What about the Irish, scots and the Welsh over here. Should they be sent home? (according to the BNP website they shouldn't) Our BNP friend thought that they should. Our liveaboard friend, knowing where I was originally from, started generally taking the Mick. Laughing at the afflicted.

You've got to feel sorry for these people as they have constructed their own reality and live in a bubble away from the rest of us. Well I say you've got to feel sorry for them but only to a point (a pretty sharp point I think). I'm all for people thinking for themselves and forming their own opinions but I wish that some would think for themselves with a little more information and available evidence rather than nonsense, bigotry and misplaced patriotism. And please don't impose this nonsense on others you hardly know.

What's happened to our mooring?

You pop off for a couple of days and BW arrive and dig up your mooring. Well it's not technically our mooring and they haven't technically dug it up but as we are constant moorers cruisers, it's a little annoying. Yes, I know we're the scum of the earth but this kind of thing is annoying to us scum none the less. They have been dredging the Ashby since we came back this way and are slowly working their way to the terminus doing about fifty metres a day. It's all a bit of a mess really but long term it is all a good idea. Behind the piling, there are a lot of holes that do need filling as they can be very dangerous. If you step off the boat you may end up, up to your bits in canal water.

Isn't autumn lovely. This is the view from our front door.

We've just bought a solid fuel fired Rayburn. We now just need to have it picked up, delivered to the boat yard, placed into the front deck and drag it inside and installed. Shouldn't be any problem. It only weighs 320 kgs. Whatever that is in pounds.

As we were bidding for it, our internet signal died and we had to scramble out of the boat and head along the totally black towpath to the car and then to a decent signal area. In the melee I had 'done me back in'. As we were bumbling up the muddy towpath a boat came around the corner and hit the bridge, switched on his headlight and blinded us. When it passed we were night blind and couldn't see a thing. The remainder of the trek to the car was like stumbling around a coal house at midnight looking for the proverbial black cat and Lisa shouting at me to stop moaning when we missed the gentle slope to the car and proceeded to climb the adjacent mountain. We eventually found the car and sped away to find a 3g signal and to make the winning bid. Phew. Whoever said this boating malarkey was easy.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Rayburn planning and autumnal cleaning

This week I had a word with The Ashby Canal Centre and sorted out the hauling out of Pickles in Febuary for a good blacking. That was the first date they had available. I had sorted out the date for a midweek haul out but Lisa has decided that she would like to partake in the blacking activity as well and always wanting to keep her happy, I will have to reschedule for over a weekend. I didn't realize someone would be so enthusiastic to help with such a job.

I also sorted out someone who can do the lifting of a Rayburn into the front deck. It will be done at the Ashby Canal Centre as and when I buy it and have it delivered there. I waiting for an email from someone for one I liked the look of on the interweb.

Pickles is also now bedecked with some new flowers. Winter pansies, amonst others, if you must. Flowers always seem to make a continuious cruiser a little more respectable although I can't imagine why. Lisa give the inside an autumnal clean (well she was supposed to be doing her work for next week and, as usual, was avoiding it) and I did the outside clearing the roof of all detris. Just as I had cleared it, Gosty Hill came past and, since we were down to our last two inches of deisel, we bought a tankful and some bags of smokeless for good measure and of course to place something on the roof again. Their turnaround is now four weeks so I must buy enough for a month each time. I got some good info from Ian and Alison about fitting the sold fuel Rayburn as they have one on their other boat.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Grass and oil

Steve on nb Albert was complaining on his blog the other day that contractors are cutting the towpath edge where it was not necessary. Well it might be nice if he sent them to the Ashby Canal as the edge of the towpath here could do with a good cutting. It doesn't look like there has been a contractor here since the beginning of the summer. I know that they normally cut around here twice a year and it must be due soon. It better be or we won't be able to find the canal soon. Even worse. I won't be able to find Pickles. I knew I shouldn't have painted it green. I'm now thinking of issuing Lisa with a machete so she can get back to the boat after work.

I changed the oil today on the Pickles' engine and judging by the colour of it, I think I should have done it sooner. There again, we have owned a little Ford KA for about seven years and have never changed the oil on it. In fact we've never done anything to it. It's going to give up the ghost sooner rather than later, but that will have nothing to do with the engine but bodywork rust and general decay. The engine starts every time and sounds perfect. So there you go. The moral of the story (if there is one) save yourself a fortune and do no maintenance whatsoever. It's all a complete waste of time., eat your heart out.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Another quiet week

A week on and the inverter is working as intended. The batteries are lasting longer, as in twice as long, which leads me to believe that the old inverter was very inefficient or that the batteries have been miraculously revamped. Well if it saves me the price of a new set of batteries for a couple of months that suits me just fine.

I'm not quite sure what's happening here and I'm
not entirely sure I could do this even if I wanted to.

I had the usual discussion with a fellow boater the other night (hi Bob). You can take a stab in the dark which one it was. Well it's one of three isn't it. Cassette versus holding tank; the licensing, or more accurately, the non-licensing of canal boats and the other potential discussion is the old constant moorers thing. But this one was the second, licensing. I'm never one to shy away from informing all and sundry of my extreme radical liberal view of the world. Sorry Bob.

On the whole a quiet week but one where I finished three bows and that should hopefully pay for the Rayburn with a bit of luck. I must now find if the local boatyard can crane it into the front deck so I can haul it inside. I think I'd better measure everything again. Just to be sure you understand. As far as I can remember I had several spare inches around the range while it would sit in the cratch area. I hope it's enough. Now what am I going to place it on in the galley, slate, concrete, tiles. All suggestions greatfully received.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Accident above the Ashby

I made a assertion on my blog of 2nd Sept that constant cruisers provided a service to BW by being the eyes and ears of the canal during the winter. This has just been proved by the fact that a motorist has just crashed into Bridge 37 on the Ashby canal and I was the first one on the scene doing my "is everyone ok" bit. The driver was a little shaken by the ordeal, quite understandably, but no one was hurt. I suggested that she get in touch with the AA to get towed home, deal with all the insurance and official bits from there and that I would inform BW of the bridge damage.

So within five minutes of the event, BW had been informed of the structural damage to the bridge. You see, constant cruisers ARE the eyes and ears of the canal, at least on this occasion. But as the situation was being dealt with an idiot arrived in a new Range Rover and the bloke inside started shouting at the unfortunate women who had had the accident stating the she could have killed his family. I can only assume that he was coming over the hump back bridge in one direction and that the unfortunate women in the other. She saw him too late and breaked, skidding on the gravel and ending up taking out the bridge. Said geezer just drove past the accident, up the road, then turned around and came back to the accident site to have a rave. He had never even checked that everyone was ok before leaving the accident site. Some people really love to abuse others in a helpless state. They're normally called bullys in my world. He had driven off before I could make my way over as I was clearing the road of debris otherwise I may have had words with him. Prat.

Friday, 18 September 2009


I mentioned that my inverter had stopped working and had been dispatched back to Sterling Power Products on Monday. Well today a package arrived and it was a brand new inverter. I sent a 2500W old style model and received back a 2700W brand new model worth around £500 smackers and I didn't even send proof of purchase. How's that for service. Absolutely incredible. I was expecting to have to ring them up, send several emails, write threatening letters and then get a solicitor involved before getting the thing back but here it is, five days later with inverter power again. I know that there are those who will say, "well it shouldn't have gone wrong in the first place." But they don't live in the real world.

This is all a bit of a hash up at the minute
but I will fit it all properly tomorrow.

Mr Charles Sterling, I doff my hat to you sir, for you are the king of customer service. I doff my hat to only one or two people every ten years and this is most definitely one of the best. You may have guessed, I am flabbergasted. Lisa is quite impressed as well. It's after eight and the engine is still running as the batteries are still on their last legs, but who cares, I have an inverter. The only problem I can see with it is that it has no battery level indicator. I'll get myself a Smartguage. I've always wanted one.

If only I can get my bank to give me the same level of customer satisfaction. Fat chance.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Boat polishers and spare bits

Are you a boat polisher? There have been two boat polishers moored ahead of us on subsequent nights. They seem to spend their time between tieing up the boat and tea time polishing one side of their pride and joy. Do they do this every night? None of them are liveaboards so it's probably a bit of a novelty but their boats are not in perfect condition so I just don't see the point. Maybe I'm missing something. Pickles has never been polished, only painted and washed. Maybe I'll do some polishing at the weekend. Then again, maybe not.

I mentioned that I took the generator apart the other day and I was quite chuffed that it went very well. I was a little perturbed that today I found a bolt, washer and nut left lying on the roof obviously left over from the disassembly/assembly of said generator. I've no idea where they are from but when it's happened before there were no serious consequences. I think. No word from Sterling about the inverter. They may be letter writers rather than telephoners, texters or emailers. I may check tomorrow.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Everthing comes in threes

Now the manifold has dropped off the generator. I had to spend the afternoon taking it all apart and putting it back together again.

Nothing else should happen now as this is the third technical problem in as many days. Fingers crossed, lucky heather in the button hole and rabbits foot on the key ring.

More technical problems

I have at last fixed the diesel leak that had been niggling me for the last year or so. I got through the BSC by disguising it and by wiping the pipes and taking away all evidence. I say a leak but it was more of an occasional drip that is contained in an old margarine tub that I emptied every week back into the tank. It all came to a head when I returned from France and found the bilges with an inch or two of oily water. The counter hatch had blocked water escapes and rain water had got in. I'm not particularly obsessive about any aspect of the boat but I do like a dry bilge. Which is what I now have. Life doesn't get better that this.

The repair only required taking a joint apart and putting some PTFE tape around one of the threads but it was the thought of something breaking and being left without an engine that prevented me from doing the job. Why do they put joints in a system that have no method of undoing; no flats to grip the spanner. Needless to say that I merely put the original part back into situ and did not replace it with something with flats as I should have done. No doubt I'll have the same problem in several years.

I've also fixed my old bike that is on the roof and can be spotted on the majority of photos on this blog. It's a bit of a rusty heap that I picked up at a French market for fifteen euros and it's really not worth stealing (that's not to say that it won't be) but we just use as emergency transport and I just hate those folding bikes. It wasn't rusty when I bought it but it was old and neglected. Now it's even older and more neglected but working again.

We're still at Shakerstone (that can't be fourteen days already, can it?) but will be moving through Market Bosworth to get water by the end of the week. Terri has been up from London as her course doesn't start for a couple more weeks and she has been invaluable helping Lisa in school although I don't think she's been vetted. It's all right for some. Bloody students.

We've had the fire on for the last couple of nights but turned way down on summer settings. A bag of coal will last over a week on this setting but keeps us toasty. We are planning to buy a coal fired Rayburn before the advent of winter and have identified one on the interweb for that purpose. It's being bought with my bow making money so I must get on with them.

I haven't got into my stride with these blogs yet so they are not as entertaining as I would like. Bare with me though. I think it's the fact that I am not writing regularly and tend to write too much. Quality(sic) not quantity. And piccies of course.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Technical difficulties

The Shakerstone Festival went ahead this year and it didn't rain at all although it threatened to. The visitor numbers seemed quite good on the Sunday and the number of visiting boats was good with over twenty ex-working boats. We had a couple of pints over the weekend just to get into the spirit you understand. They were clearing the site up until late last night and it all looks a little desolate now. The boats are making their way back to their respective home moorings and the local winding hole is jammed up with waiting boats as everyone is facing the wrong way.

We are hanging on here until our water runs out and it will probably run out tomorrow but will move to a more convenient mooring. The festival itself seemed a great success and the highlight was the Red Arrows. I've seen them so often on telly that I don't know if I've ever seen then live before. Even Lisa was impressed and that's saying something. The rest of the festival is the usual round or classic car displays, camel racing, quad stunts and dog antics. I think that the main problem with the Shakerstone Festival is that it has no one theme. It is a bit of a farmers festival (oh arr, oh arr, get orf my land, etc). It was also very expensive for entry. £40 for a family ticket for the weekend, £10 for an adult for the Saturday, £15 for the Sunday and £26 for the boat and up to four adults. Maybe this isn't much but it certainly seems a lot to me. To be honest and at the risk of appearing a tight ass, we don't pay anything as the site gate keepers come off duty at three in the afternoon and we can see the whole thing by about ten past. Oh, the cats out of the bag now. We're hardly going to welcome next year are we? All that money that the Ashby Canal Association are out of pocket by. Shame on me.

The above was written last week but I forgot to post it. We now have technical difficulties here as the inverter has gone u/s (unserviceable) and we have now resorted to generator power. Lisa reckons she's got vibration white finger when its on the counter. The problem with generator power is that after eight o'clock we have to resort to 12 volt only. Not really a big deal but I love making a big fuss about it all. The inverters gone back to Sterling so we'll see what they make of it. I've also been getting the car through the mot and have been crawling around inside the bonnet and under the car for the last couple of days. No piccies as it's after seven and I've got other things to do on the computer before it all goes off. See ya.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

We are now at the Shakerstone Festival site in exactly the same position that we were in last year. We tried further on but couldn't get Pickles near enough to the bank for the boarding plank to be of any use. So here we will stay for the next week watching the arrival of everybody else and the working boats. Roger Fuller is already here with the butty Ilford but he's moored up with the plebs and not where the working boats are to be. Ilford is not amonst those who are not on the listing so I don't know if he's been thrown off the historic boats section 'cause he wasn't booked in.

lisa has had her first day back at work yesterday and was a little trepidacious about it. I've been remaining around the boat in order to get it all ship shape and to unpack and to get my workshop up and running so I can get those bows manufactured starting next week. I have to get that income started as soon as possible.

Reading some of the other blogs, I am very glad that we are around a lock free area and that we don't have to queue up to go through. It seems that back holidays are used by marina dwellers to air their expensive toys and quite rightly so. The winter remains the domain of the constant cruisers and the liveaboards to have the canals to ourselves without hirers, marina dwellers, weekenders, occasional and weekend boaters. It's also the best time of year for canal boating in my opinion. Ice crunching is the business and separates the sheep from the lambs, the wheat from the chaff and the men from the boys.

BW seem to have done a bit of a clear out of some of the liveaboards on the Ashby this summer. On the way here from Alvecote we met many boats that had been on the Ashby when we left and had been here over the winter. Some of the popular moorings are cleared of liveaboards. I realise that this is a popular move amonst many boaters (moving all liveaboards off the canals would be even more popular with many) but it takes much of the charicter of the canals away and deprives them of an eyes and ears that report many problems.

I've realised that our batteries are on the way out since arriving back from France. They only last three hours with only the TV and fridge and the occasional light on in the evening. They also charge suspiciously fast when using the engine and only get to 14.4 volts. I know they have only lasted 18 months but we do tend to abuse them as we cook with electric and run them down till we can get nothing else from them. They were also cheap as I bought them second hand from a chandlery who told me that they had been taken from a new boat whose owner insisted on gel type batts. We may have to get two this month and two next (I know, I know. It's not good practice etc, etc, etc).

I don't know about you but I think that bags for life are a pain in the ass. Yes, I can see the point of them and any cut in the number of plastic bags can only be a good thing. But we now have three bags for life stuffed with dozens of bags for life. The problem is that they are bags for life and as such you cannot throw them away, they are for...well, life. If they were merely plastic bags we could use them as bin liners, rubbish, dog poo bags etc but bags for life cannot be used for any of these purposes as they can only be used for shopping. The other problem is that it is down to the individual to remember to bring these bags for life with them to the supermarket and if you don't you have to buy another set of bags for life hence the proliferation of them on our boat.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

On the move (not that 70s literature programme)

We got out of the marina without hitting anyone and Lisa, being the big brave soldier that she is, hid under the duvet until I was safely out. Terri is also with us but she doesn't get out of her pjs all day so there's no help there. The journey was uneventful if blustery. We had our first sighting of Gosty Hill at Atherstone top lock and took the opportunity to buy a bag of coal for those chilly evenings. Meeting them will be a regular event over the winter months. We overnighted at The Anchor just outside Nuneaton so as I could savor my first pint of real ale for a while. The first of many methinks.

Logjam on the Ashby (if there is such a thing)

Our aim is to take it easy and make our way to the Ashby Canal by Monday ready in position for Shakerstone Festival the following weekend. This was canceled last year due to the weather so hopefully this year things go a little better. A little British beer may go down quite well after all that French wine. No matter how fine it is you cannot beat a pint of real ale (real ale seems to figure quite a lot in my life).

Derelect swing bridge. Why?
I always love this telegraph pole just outside Nuneaton. The rest have all been cut down. What happened here? Why was this one left? You can still see the remains of several others now usually used as fence posts.

Tonight we're just outside Sutton Cheney on the Ashby where we used to live. Did I say that this wasn't going to be a cruising blog? It sounds very much like it up to now.

This blogger thing is quite difficult to edit properly. In my head it has a better layout than this. Maybe it's operator error.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Home again

A rare picture of an imprisoned Pickles. Soon to be released (please note the firewood on the roof again. How could I have any credibility as a continuous cruiser without the wood on the roof).

We are now back on Poverty Rock after three months in sunnier climes (at least for me. Lisa was in France for six weeks). We've gone from being respectable, law abiding, land owning, businesspeople to being scum, don't pay a penny for the waterways, uninsured, unlicensed, liveaboard boaters. It's amazing what a short boat journey ac cross the Channel can do for a persons reputation. Back in the land of the perpetually poor, we are bringing freedom to poor old Pickles who has been sadly neglected for the past couple of months in Alvacote Marina. She's still not finished and won't be this year either but we may get a little more completed this year.

I did promise that I would update the blog when away but other things took priority and I didn't get round to it in the end. C'est la vie. I've got to get my rating back and get myself up to number thirty on the boaters roll where I quite rightly belong. Why are there eighty six people on my audience figures? Why am I number forty six on the ratings? I haven't updated this for months.

So what's been happening. Who's dead, who's sunk their boat, who's got themselves hung up in a lock and who's new to this boating malarkey? I would normally read about twenty five or thirty narrowboat blog entries per day but our interweb connection in France was awful so I lost track soon after arriving and never caught up again. The last time I looked there were over 1000 entries on my Google Reader thingy and I shan't be getting to read all those.

Just to remind those of you who read this drivel, this is not a cruising log. I don't know how many hours I do each day (if any) or how many locks or bridges I've gone through or how many gallons of fuel I put in or how much it costs or how many engine hours to the next oil change. I really don't care. This is the minutia of life that is uninteresting to me. This blog is all about my ego. my opinion, my politics, my interests, my boat and my partner (the long suffering Lisa). So don't expect a list of all the above 'cause you won't get one. I write this amuse myself, not you.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Summer residences

I've been of the radar for a couple of weeks now and this is due to apathy on my part. I'm not there any more but am here but Lisa is still there. In fact you'd need a fairly good radar set to find me now as I am in deepest France at my summer residence. This blog was written before we left and I forgot to publish.

Before we left we went all high tech and bought an ipod shuffle. Lisa had to ask the kids how it worked, how to charge it up and load music on to it. But they had her computer set up in no time and she now has itunes installed. Mine was a little more awkward as I had to find an alternative to itunes as I use the Linux operating system and itunes doesn't come in that. But I too, now have everything up and running, downloaded the software, digitized several cds, loaded them onto my hardware, steered the software in the right direction, made up playlists, repositories and categorized everything. Its all now tickity boo (hope Billy Connelly hasn't that phrase copyrighted) and I have been listening to music through it all day. I'm converted to digital music now. We were some of the last people to be converted to cds as I always consider that, as soon as I buy a medium, it will become defunct almost immediately. Like many of my age, I was scarred for life by the 8 track tapes v compact cassette and the Betamax v VHS wars and always bought the wrong one.

But it went wrong, lights flashing and no music so we changed it for a mp3 player. That's just the way it goes.

We came off the Ashby and traveled north to Pickles' summer residence. It took two days with a stopover at Atherstone. The journey was in all weathers and I had my tee shirt on, jumper on, rain coat on, hat on, hat off, and the rest off and all back on again several times every hour.

I do like a bit of wind (that's wind as in blowy thing as opposed to wind as in turney thing) when boating. Most boaters with 57 foot play boats hate it, never mind those with proper sized boats (that means 70' to the uninitiated; ok, I'm just trying to wind (that's wind as in...oh never mind) you up). It introduces an element of the unknown and chaos to steering. You have to concentrate fully and attempt to predict what is about to happen and what effect each change of direction or hedge or tree or building will have on the bow. It is the bow that you have to watch as the stern tends to look after itself as the propulsiony bits are down there. I enjoy crabbing down the cut taking up the entire width and suddenly someone appears around a bend and it's a struggle straightening it just to pass then get into crabbing position again before being blown into the side. Tell me this the next time we meet and I crash into you.

It suits us very well at Alvecote and it's all pretty relaxed here and just far enough away from Lisa's school to be out of the way but still handy. Lisa reckons she'll be quite happy here for the next seven weeks. Nobody has talked to us (bliss) and the people we have dealt with have been great, relaxed and made thing very easy for us continuous cruising, liveaboards and treated us in a way that many other marina operators did not. I even cleared the roof so we look like 'normal', marina dwelling boaters.

There are several sunken boats in the marina which adds a little something to the place. It gives it a bit of character unlike some of the marinas we looked at. So if your're a marina owner and need a bit of character for your property, sink a boat or two. Three's even better. I wonder, would they sell me one of their sunken ex-working boats to restore for a pittance. Probably not.

This mains electrickery is a wonderful thing. There's no thinking about consumption, no watching what we turn on and no rush to switch it all off again. Our boat is geared up for independent travel and we have few electrical gizmos geared towards mains power. We still have to run the engine for thirty minutes a day in order to heat the water and to top up the 12 volt as the battery charger is a alternator to battery charger and not a mains to battery charger (if that makes sense). I don't even have to fire up the generator to wash a load of clothes.

Next blog will be on France and coming soon. With pictures no less. I've seen a couple of narrowboats over here already.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Cratch & GNDN

Cratch - £20.00 worth of materials and six hours work. Now if only I can make an aesthetically acceptable cover for the same price...

We've stayed where we were this week and have done very little. Bit like that plumbing pipework in the original series of Star Trek where the pipes had written on them GNDN (Goes Nowhere Does Nothing).

This week will be very similar as we are preparing to pop over to France in a couple of weeks to clear our little campsite ready for the summer onslaught (I wish). I'll be staying for the summer and Lisa will return after a week for the remainder of the term and then back to France for the remainder of the summer.

Similar to last summer, I will be keeping the blog going with waterways related opinions and photos although they may be a little French leaning I should imagine. Pickles No2 is into a marina for the summer.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Detractors and a long weekend

I have many detractors, least of all the bunch of interfering busybodies who read this blog. I've changed the picture on the top header thingy just to please the 'ne'er do wells' who seem to think that the previous picture was out of date. I will not be criticised on my own blog and only changed it out of good will and because I'm a nice person. Sod off back to Granny Buttons if you're not happy.

We're back on the Ashby and left the Lime Kilns mooring on Tuesday morning (as documented by Derwent 6) and made our way to a mooring short of Market Bosworth, which is our favourite mooring on the system. Not before the bridge with the other six live aboards who seem to have gathered there, but after it, where there's no-one. But this weekend we have ventured up to Shackerstone for the bank holiday weekend. After a couple of pints in The Rising Sun at Shackerstone and several more in The Globe at Snareston we headed back from whence we came.

I did say that I thought that many of the liveaboards had disappeared from the canal but some are still left and a boat passed today which I recognised that contained several boatloads of them all on the same boat. Maybe that are concentrating their efforts on one boat instead of several boats. It makes sense I suppose.

I forgot to take the chimney down before we entered SnarestonTunnel and (you guessed it) lost it within the depths of said tunnel. I tried trawling with the magnet on the way back but you can never find things unless you can identify exactly where you lost them can you. New one this week then methinks.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Ashby at last

We are now on the Ashby Canal. I took the boat down on Tuesday morning when Lisa was at work and we are currently at the Lime Kilns near Hinckley. I had forgotten how much detritus there is in this canal. This is not so much jetsam but rather flotsam. It is all natural ingredients.
I notice that BW have cut back the trees at Marston Junction. Last year, when I left the Ashby and wanted to head towards Sutton Stop, the front of the boat would be in the trees before the back of the boat left the Ashby. Entering was never a problem but leaving with a full sized boat always posed me a problem. It looks like I can now leave my own rooftop detritus in place in the future.
Charity Dock gets more and more bazaar every time I pass. It's now less like a boat yard and more like a scrap yard or badly arranged ex army stores. And long may it be so. You could probably make a couple of boats from all the bows, counters and superstructures lying about.
I notice that since we left in the autumn last year, many of the liveaboards are no longer where we left them. I had heard that there was a crackdown by BW around these parts and although it is nice to find a spot at the 48 hour mooring we have never been able to get to before, that it seems to have left the canal a little soulless and with a little less character. It is, after all, these characters and their boats that make the canal system the colourful, delightful experience that it is and they keep the canals alive in the winter when the marina dwellers fear to tread. And I know many of them.

I think we'll head up to Shakerstone this weekend. I'll be meeting up with my little van again parked further up the canal. If it's still there of course. Might even have a pint in the Rising Sun.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Beer festival new a breed of boater

There seems to be new breed of boater out there with the so called credit crunch (don't you just hate Americanisms) in full flow. There seems to be a lot of boats moored and unoccupied along the canals. Continuous cruising implies that the boats are occupied. Boats owned by these seem to be moored by their owners who appear every two weeks and move them on to another mooring thereby adhering to the terms of their licence. There have always been these boat owners but it seems to me that there are now more of them.

Did these boat owners have a marina mooring in the past and have had to reduce cost and are now bought continuous cruising licences (I know there's not such thing but in essence that is what they are)? Is there something morally wrong with this activity and should they really be in the same category as boats occupied by people who constantly cruise? I don't know. I'm asking you. We need to think of a new name for these boaters so we can hate them.

We have inadvertently stumbled upon the The Greyhound bi-annual beer festival. I promise it was totally unplanned and we were proposing to move to Hawksbury Junction this weekend anyway. We were here last year as well. Oh well all we could do was to partake in some beer.

There were several smaller groups in the beer festival. One such group found our fancy. It was either the linux user group, the local autistic society, social science PhD students or the local CAMRA. But those of us in the know always spot the difference and this was definitely the local Linux user group. They were probably celebrating their successful download of the latest release of Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope . Strangely I have downloaded the latest version as well.

There was a distinct lack of a bearded presence and CAMERA were not in much evidence. It was more like a hen party than a beer festival. We were entertained by a pianist. He was actually a very good entertainer and kept a relatively drunk crowd very happy. But he did say that it was a very weird night. I think he does weddings mostly these days and the afternoons and not evenings. I managed to drink nearly all the beers present just missing out on two. Most of them were very good...I think.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Bad backs and washing

Lisa has a bad back at the minute. This is unheard of. This is my domain and I think she's trying to take over my role as the boat hypochondriac. She reckons that it was the final set of locks at Stockton last week that 'done 'er in' as she felt a twinge around that area. She has my sympathy up to a point but when she says that it must be something more serious that my sympathy and attention go elsewhere. I've had many a bad back in my time (too much jumping out of perfectly serviceable aeroplanes I suppose) and tend to make less fuss about it all.

I saw another blogger the other day but I can't remember who and I cannot remember where or when nor did I introduce myself. There's hundreds of them out there and anyway, life's just too short.

We are currently at Ansty near Coventry (again). We like it here as there is good parking and good communications signals on all devices. That's about all we need really. There's also a water point but we never mind moving for that. Lisa hobbled off to work on Monday and I ran the boat up here from Braunston. We are up to Sutton Stop at the weekend and then onto our beloved Ashby Canal next week. I note that there are several bloggers there already. Well they better get off as there's only room for one blogger on the Ashby at any one time and that's me. It's in the rules. I've got a copy somewhere.

We have been doing a marathon washing thingy over the last two days and the generator has been red hot (it only has to be going for two minutes for it to be red hot). Every article of clothing on the boat has been washed, folded, piled and sorted then unsorted, unpiled and placed in a large heap. We were hoping to put away our winter wardrobe (well, box) and dig out the summer stuff but have chickened out and are keeping them available for the inevitable 'unseasonably bad weather'.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Arms, Capes and licences (or not)

My locking crew were locking through the Hatton flight when we came across another boat coming up (as you do). Lisa was chatting away when the other lady said that at the bottom of the flight was the Saltisford Arm and Lisa said, “Good job as I fancy a pint”. The woman looked at her a little baffled. Lisa recounted the conversation to me and I understood the other ladies bafflement. “I think you'll find that it's the Saltisford Arm, as in offshoot to the canal and not the Saltisford Arms as in a pub. Oh, how we laughed.

We never own windlasses do we. These are the metal things we could not do without but they're never really ours. We loose them, find them, retrieve them, buy them, mislay them and recover them but we never really own them.

We had an excellent meal in the Cape of Good Hope by Warwick Top Lock. The perfectly cooked steak.

I've been sporting a well out of date licence for the past couple of months and nobody has said anything. What is happening to this country. Does nobody care. What has happened to the 'rules is rules' brigade. We've had no sneers, snarles, odd or knowing looks, double takes or any comments whatsoever. What is going on out there. Are you all asleep. There's absolutely no point is trying to wind people up if nobody is prepared to be wound up. Do I have to spell it out or you . I AM NOT DISPLAYING A VALID LICENCE. Some people.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

At Kingswood Junction, I met the geezer at who had bought the very last Liverpool Boat. It, like Pickles No 2, is a 70' trad stern with an all porthole configuration. The only main difference between his boat and Pickles is that he has a 8 foot well deck, very unusual for a Liverpool. An extended well deck is probably the only thing would have changed on Pickles if we were to order it again. Liverpool Boats are much maligned but all of the owners I have met are very happy with their boats.

We are on our way back to Sutton Stop at present and are stopping in about the same places on the way back as we did on the way here. 50% of the locking crew have returned to London and the remainder were extremely wet over the last two days. Still, it could be raining (oh, it was).

Kingwood Junction tonight and the Hatton flight tomorrow. The locking crew need to get a bit of enthusiasm for that one.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

RSC under wraps (night)

RSC under wraps

We took a trip up the Avon today as we are now moored on the river after having forked out £10.00 for the day licence. We also had our friends Steve, Jill, Cloe and Macauley visit. We went to what was called the Limit of Navigation in my Nicholsons but I reckon we could have gone further but with visitors aboard and me on my best behaviour I decided not to progress any further and risk getting stuck or a thick ear from Lisa.

It was much quieter today and the throngs of Easter Monday tourists had reduced to Easter Tuesday levels and a good thing too.

I took a wander down to Colin P. Witter Lock to have a look as we will not be going through any of the Avon locks. They really are utilitarian with their beam bracing and girder type construction. Pretty damn ugly if you ask me. Still they serve a purpose and look in good order, unlike some of the BW locks although they are a little older. Just a tad.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Stratford upon Avon

Sam (dog) got a close shave yesterday when she fell into the engine backwards and got shaved by the alternator belt. It actually shaved a small banana shaped and sized area from her rear end. It could have been a lot worst than it was. I must get the engine more closed up than it is as this has the possibility of happening again if we're not careful.

Several grams of cute versus 20 tons of steel. Cute always wins. We were crossing over Edestone Aquetuct when half way across we came across a couple of mallards with their newly hatched brood. In fact they were barely several hours old by the look of them. Well they couldn't get out of the way as the aqueduct was as wide as the boat and they can't fly, if they jumped over the edge they would fall and they couldn't move any faster than they were. What's a boat to do. They were going slower than tick over so I could only stop and let them get on with it. Five minutes later they reached the other side and we could move on again.

The journey here was in lovely weather and the last 17 (16) locks were completed without mishap except that one half of the locking crew didn't leave the boat and opted to watch telly all day. Well it's her holiday after all.

We visited a town centre bar last night and one would have thought that at £1.75 a pint, I would have been singing its praises but this would not be the case. Weasel Wee would be the only way to describe the beer. Pubs shouldn't be allowed to sell beer for this cheap a price anyway as it doesn't keep them open and is a short term measure at getting punters through the door. They were actually trying every trick in the book, cheap beer, live acts (soul and Reggie???) and cheap food (well the former was off and the signs around the place declaring that, 'At present we are unable to supply food. We apologise for any inconvenience.' Have the H&S people been involved here? Looking at it now, probably).

If narrowboating was cool (and we all know it's not) then my entrance into the basin was mega cool beyond belief. With the world and their dog watching, we entered the basin and Lisa stepped off the front, tied up and I pivoted the boat and lined up for a reversing maneuver to back into the berth. It worked absolutely perfectly and we were moored in no time. But the slightest breeze would have changed everything. The only spider in the ointment was that when I pulled in to let Lisa off, I accidentally hit and broke a wooden electrical junction box on the side of the basin. Ooops! I hope it wasn't a historical Shakespearian one. Silly place to build one anyway.

The basin is quite spectacular in the middle of the town in front of the main Royal Shakespeare Company, beside the River Avon and in amongst the throngs of visitors. The works on the side are a distraction from the rest. I cannot imagine why it is taking so long as they only seem to be landscaping the gardens.

We came to Stratford for a bit of culture but the theaters are closed due to it being Easter. The exploitation of this geezer called Shakespeare is appalling but the tourists seem to lap it up. Queues to visit his birth place, death place, eating place, drinking place, father's place, dog's place, friend's place, and many other places. Dreadful. I'm not buying any more of his books in protest.