Sunday, 12 December 2010

Pump it up

The water pump was running when we woke up this morning. I feared the worst and thought that the impeller would have worn out. On inspection, I realised that it is a diaphragm pump and they can run dry without a problem. We've been running low on water lately and were down to the bottom of the water tank but I couldn't see any water in the filter meaning that there was a blockage somewhere. I think that a piece of ice formed into the pipe nearest the tank and stopped the flow.

A very wet hour later, pump out, pipework disconnected, stick wirey things up and down the pipework, blow through and the problem was sorted. I had already rang around the local chandlers and there was not spare parts to be had anywhere so it was fortunate that the pump was good. I was the one who built the system and it was built with ease of maintenance in mind.

I have been reading blogs this week and someone had changed their starter battery and it took four hours due to bad planning by the builders. Also someone else is living in a hotel as the radiators give out insufficient heat for the size of their boat (and the loo tank is full and can't be emptied). Boat builders have a lot to answer for don't they. I'm always boring people by saying that low tech always works but high tech may not.

We've had enough of being iced in now. The novelty has well and truly worn off. A little sun would be lovely please. Thank you.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

From a warm comfy bed to a frozen one.

We arrived back at the boat after a wonderfully relaxing weekend break at the folk festival. It really was very good although I'm still not convinced about Butlins and Lisa is still not convinced about folk music. We may have to try it all again next year.

The boat was frozen when we returned. Fortunately I dropped Lisa straight off to work before I got the dog from the kennels, returned and lit the fire and the Rayburn. It took about four hours for the boat to recover to it's original cosy state and the water gurgling around the central heating system. Sam was not impressed and sat on the chair in front of the small Boatman stove shivering for the first hour. I think she's forgiven us for leaving her in her dog hotel.

I was quite lucky with the calorifier as ice had formed inside it, expanded and water had been forced out of the cap of the element, past the rubber seal. Fortunately it was not tight enough to keep the water inside and distort the cylinder (at least I can't see any through the insulation). I'll make a vow to be more prepared for Christmas.

Thought I'd post a winter picture of Pickles No2 before the ice melts and the picture would look stupid.Or I would do if Blogger would let me. It's seemingly impossible today.

Is Blogger the most useless piece of software ever written? Everyday I get more and more exasperated with all things Google. Maybe it's time for a change. I've now got a parallel, identical  blog in Wordpress and may move across lock stock and 2 smokers if it all works out.

Saturday, 4 December 2010


Here we are at The Great British Folk Festival at Butlins, Skegness. A bit of an epic journey here and the weather worsened with progress. We were both going on different weekends. I was off to a folk festival and packed accordingly with a small day sack with one pair of jeans and a pair of underpants. Lisa was, however, off to Butlins and packed with two changes of clothes per day into an extremely large suitcase that occupies the whole rear of the car.

I have again been proved correct and the Skegness statement of it's Bracing has been proved correct and the wind bites right into you. People can't see what you're wearing under your overcoat.

The Friday evening entertainment was reasonably good, the accommodation is clean and the food is edible despite the garish primary colours and loud piped music. It's a good idea to keep away from the carbs and stick to the protein.

Butlins and the captive retail outlets have all got the demographics of this temporary populace completely wrong. The paper shop is full of Daily Mails and The Sun and he only ordered one Guardian. I'm afraid it's full of bearded, jumper wearing liberals and they're not likely to read the Mail.

There's not enough real ale either. They have set up a small real ale bar beside the main bars but the queue for the real ale is horrendous whilst the main bars are relatively quiet.

Lisa has also been recounting her childhood experiences of Butlins and showing me around the place reminiscing. "Yes, very interesting Lisa. Can we go for a pint now otherwise I'm going to slit my wrists."

Monday, 29 November 2010


I'm in deep shit. Lisa was visiting Terri with Pearl in London and having a girly day out. Half an hour after she left, a friend of mine rang and asked if I fancied a pint. Of course I did and off we went. In the pub, I was summoned to Sunday lunch once he found out I was on my own for the day. So be it, off we went for a great spread (Cheers Peter and Angela). Only trouble was that Peter is a lover of red wines (as am I). Much wine sampling later, I was taken back to the boat a tad unsteady on my pins awaiting Lisa's return. I promptly fell asleep and Lisa could not revive me by banging on the boat and shouting through the closed portholes. Oops. 20 minutes in freezing weather did not improve her mood and much chastising and shouting at me ensued.

I'm now in the dog house. Even the dog's not in the dog house. Am I in the shit? Yip. Will I be in the shit for some time? Yip. Well I be forgiven? Sometime in the new year I should imagine. Lisa doesn't do forgiveness particularly well.

(Note to self. Get Lisa a key cut)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

New boots

A gift from Lisa. New winter boots. 
Just right for those trips down the muddy towpath.with all our worldly goods.

Different sorts of boater

There are various sorts of boater. Liveaboards, constant cruisers, marina dwellers, weekend boaters, bridge hoppers and the rest. Liveaboards can be identified huddling around the Elsan disposal point clutching their containers of unmentionable, constant cruisers by the ease with which they do that tricky manoeuvre, marina dwellers by their smug look, weekenders by the amount of luggage they walk down the pontoon to their boat in the marina on a Friday evening, Bridge hoppers by their blue tarpaulins.

But there are one sort of boater who we all hate. The liveaboard constant cruiser who goes into a marina at the first sign of inclement weather. Yes, that's right, I'm talking about you nbArmadillo. It's ok in the summer talking the big talk to gongoozlers, telling tall tales of five foot snow drifts, floods, hurricane strength winds and famine but come crunch time, it's up sticks and into the nearest safe haven to hook up the umbilical cord. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

We'd much rather be trudging down the towpath with our three gallons of shit in one hand and two sacks of rubbish in the other and returning with twenty gallons of water, a weeks shopping, five gallons of diesel and a sack or two of smokeless. At least it's honourable. At least we can keep our heads held high. At least we can tell true stories of hardship in the Red Lion at Market Bosworth on a Friday evening.

Call yourselves boaters. I wash my hands of you.

There again...

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Back home with a new kitchen

We're now well established back on the Ashby Canal at our favourite mooring. I'm not going to tell you where it is as you'll all want to moor up next to us. Then it wouldn't be our favourite mooring any more, would it. What about that sheep syndrome. What's that all about. Why do boaters moor right next to another boat when in the middle of nowhere. Weird behaviour or what. Why don't you all just bugger off.

The kitchen is now finished, more or less (less cupboard doors). The worktop was actually made by me as we wanted to build the whole thing ourselves and not have to buy anything already made. It also took the longest time. Lisa wanted a farmhouse style with a thick work top (not necessarily a thick builder) and we're quite pleased with the result (even Lisa's impressed and she's notoriously difficult to keep happy).

I'm wearing flowers in my hair today in celebration of the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. (fortunately, no pictures)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

New kitchen and filters

After the weekend at Fradley we have been venturing back towards the Ashby. Seeing more and more boats that we recognise again. I think that the Ashby liveaboards are leaving their home base until the November BW count has been completed. They'll do the same in March then move back on again.

Lisa insisted that I start building the kitchen over the weekend and it is now partially finished. I'll finish it this week and next weekend. Lisa's original plan was to paint the t&g gloss black and paint the boat name etc as per what we are planning for the side of the boat. She has since chickened out with this idea. She thinks it may be a step too far. I think it would be a wonderful idea and would make it quite unique and a talking point for any visitors. But could we live with it?

We overnighted at Polesworth. The town is much maligned and I cannot find anyone who likes it (not that I've looked of course). However we do like the place as it is convenient for the shops and fish and chip shop although we haven't tried the pubs. It is a quiet mooring and the place has a bit of history about it. Ok, some weird and shifty people.

On the way from Fradley I felt a little fuel starvation from the engine and it wasn't running right. The last time I sorted this with some new filters so called into Streethay Wharf for a diesel top up and some filters. I fitted them in the morning and everything on the engine front is now as sweet as a nut. Although it took a couple of attempts to get it started and at one stage I thought I would have to join RCR (God forbid). The old fuel filter was really filthy. Changed the air filter as well for good measure. The engine can actually breath now.

There were loads of leaves in the cut. It was a veritable brown carpet in places. In fact the Coventry Canal has turned a shade of green with all the leaf mould that has dropped into it. It seemed like I had to put the engine into reverse every couple of minutes. Atherstone locks were the worst and the locks were full of them.

At the top there were about fifty primary schoolchildren out for a day trip to find how locks worked. A noisy and disconcerting audience if ever I saw one. When I am doing narrow locks by myself, I nudge into the bottom gate and either sit there in first gear if it's full, then open the gates manually or nudge the gates open if it's not full. Can't really do that with a load of kids milling about as, if one of them, or a small group of them, got on the wrong side of the balance beam, they would end up in the cut. There would be much consternation, shouting and running around from the adults present I fear, so decided, best not. By the Boater's Handbook. 'Elfin' safety and all that. Can't have dead kids floating around getting caught in the propeller. Enough leaves as it is.

Hartshill tonight, Ashby tomorrow. Photos of new kitchen when I find the camera.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Return to the Ashby

Shardlow yesterday. At Cranfleet Lock an overweight, sweating, ruddy faced man rushed up from the landing platform shouting at me, "Why didn't you wait. Why didn't you wait for me. How much time have you saved by not waiting for me."

"How long are you", I shouted back.

"Forty five foot, but that makes no difference you should have waited."

"I'm afraid that that makes you about thirty feet too long for the lock," says I. The hire boater, I was sharing with smiled knowingly at me. It suddenly dawned on the little fat man that there was two boats in the lock and not just the hire boat that he had been following and had shared Beeston Lock with. The hire boater looked pleased with the conversation. I wonder why?

"I sincerely apologize. I didn't realize. I thought there was just the one boat. I'm very sorry. I didn't see you."

"That's ok, says I. He couldn't have been nicer from then on.

Stenson Lock catches me out and every time I go through, there is some kind of incident. Today was no exception. Today I forgot to take out the tiller arm and it caught on the lock wall. Something is now bent and the tiller is out of alignment by about 15 degrees. More annoying than anything but I'll have to do something about it. The three bolts that hold the rudder in place may have been loose enough to move the shaft but further investigation will be required. Hopefully it won't involve me entering the water.

You can see the relevant bolts here at the last blacking. (it might have twisted on the shaft)
Willington tonight and on to Fradley Junction tomorrow. Possibly for the weekend. Decisions still have to be made. Not by me of course. But by the boss.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Newark, and back

We've been to Newark and back. We spent a couple of days going down the Trent, spent a couple of days there and came back again (surprisingly). There's a castle there you know. I say a castle but it's really only the front wall of a castle but that front wall fortunately faces the river so looks like a complete castle (at least from the river). It also makes for a better photograph than if the other wall was the only one remaining.

Beer (well it'd not really, is it. Wifebeater's. That's what Terri calls it. I call it rubbish)
On the way down there we saw a fisherman feeding a magpie that had landed on his arm and on the way back we saw another fisherman catching a flying pigeon with his line. A strange place, The Trent. We got into a tizz at the first river lock when we found that we were supposed to tie the boat back and front and not just with a centre line but were experts by the end of the return journey. It was also nice to have the locks done for us by the lockeepers.
Just Beer
Carrying on the beer theme from last weekend, we also had a couple of beers on the way, whilst there and on the return (just a couple you understand). Highlights were The Unicorn at Gunthorpe with the £10 for two meal and then Fiskerton with the Bromley Arms. But the best was a micro pub called, Just Beer in Newark run by some CAMRA members who only sell four different real ales and one cider. No largers, no alco pops, no soft drinks, no jukebox, no music, no TV, no gaming machines only fine company (well it was when we were there) and fine conversation (ditto) and really, really great beer. Behind the pub/restaurant called The Moorings by Newark Nether lock if you're interested. It was about the size of someone's front room but far Superior in terms of atmosphere to most larger venues.

 Bromley Arms
Lisa also bought a newish bike from the weekly auction in Newark. The total cost of which was...eleven quid. Not that she ever uses a bike but she feels that she may some day. Possibly soon but more than likely not. I wanted some timber that was on sale but that was sold for more than I was prepared to pay. Unfortunately I wanted to pay nothing for it. I was outbid.

Front wall of castle and river (and at night)
We're starting our return journey to the Ashby Canal this week and may be back next weekend (well there or thereabouts).

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Beer report

I hate hair straighteners. Lisa has naturally curly hair and she thinks that it should be straight. When she came back from work I expected to get out before the queues started and into the festival but no. That hair had to be straightened delaying our progress by an hour (Lisa will say only half an hour). Even then she insisted that it wasn't right and wore a hat. Consequently we were in the queue, in the rain for an hour and a half when we could have been straight in. Needless to say that I wasn't talking to her whilst queueing. But the mood lifted with the purchase of the first ale. It usually does.

"It's too big," says Lisa. I think she was talking about the Nottingham Beer Festival. And indeed it is. It's lost it's mojo (whatever that is). The beer has been left behind and it is the event itself that is more important. The live music is in a different tent and they no longer have faggots and peas for sale.

More beer later today.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Folk at Butlins

I never thought I'd hear myself say this but, we're off to Butlins in early December. Lisa has been before (that will not surprise anyone who knows her) but I have never been, and never had any intention of going. However, I have been convinced by the fact that there is a folk festival at the Skegness Butlins over the weekend of 3 December. This is the first one they have ever had and the line up seems very good so off to Butlins we go.

In fact, it was the line up that convinced me. Lisa's not a great fan of folk music and I presume that I'm not a huge fan of Butlins but we may both be converted. Beards and jumpers all round then. You can't have enough fiddles, that's what I always say.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

NicNac, Paddywhack give the dog etc etc

I haven't been looking after the blog lately as we have been at Trent Lock for the past (almost) three weeks and all that time was spent on 48 hour moorings. Aren't we real criminals. And you know what, I don't care. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. It's not as if there were loads of boats clammering to get onto our spot. We were, for the most part, the only people on the river with a couple of exceptions including bloggers nbForevermoore and nbBalmaha.

One of the days we were there, I decided to do a fuel run up to Sawley Marina. The floods had mostly subsided but it was still a rather slow journey. Approaching Sawley Lock, I was about 50 metres from the open lock gates when they started to close. I waved to the people operating the lock but to no avail. After mooring at the lock approach I walked up to the lock they were operating and called, "Good morning" but there was only a stony silence and their eyes avoided mine. Sensing a game afoot, I repeated my greeting but alas with the same response. "Yes, better not catch his eye had we", I called out. Again no reaction.

Fortunately for them there is the parallel lock that I could operate. As they were leaving I called out, "See ya", and indeed I did. For they were also on their way to the fuel point. This gave me the opportunity to moor at a waiting area just to their stern and sit on my roof smiling  at them while they were filling up. As intense as they were before, their intensity doubled with fiddling about, dropped ropes, unnecessary revving to get away and more eye avoidance. And the boat name, ohh I shouldn't really. nb NicNac (Did I really write that or just think it).

We bought a new stove glass and a new chimney this month. Both look remarkable like the old ones except, well, a little newer, and the new glass isn't cracked. We are also getting on with finishing off the kitchen and it now looks like a display at Ikea with all the pots and pans hanging from hooks. We even have our very own blackboard. Lisa's idea (she is a teacher after all). I was a little dubious but it is proving itself very useful.

Told you it looked the same...
just a bit newer 
Blackboard, white side hatch
We are currently in Nottingham having spectacularly failed to get a ticket at Trent Lock. Hopefully we'll have better luck here. Nottingham Beer Festival this weekend and we have to go on the Friday and the Saturday nights as we are meeting friends (yes we actually have some). From here we are heading down the Trent to Newark next week to meet the outlaws. I'm really looking forward to that.

I note this morning that BW is to be disbanded and the waterways to become a charitable body. We'll see.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Weeing, lock names & drivers

When I was having a wee the other night on the towpath... Sorry. You what, didn't you know that ALL cassette users wee on the towpath when it gets dark. That's a little naive I think. Of course we do. Instead of emptying every three days, it can make it three days and six hours. That's the difference between doing a run at nine o'clock at night and at ten in the morning. You should really know what we do when we get all the timings wrong, or shouldn't I talk about that. Best not. Let it be the monster in the attic we never mention. I'll leave the photos for another day.

We are now at Trent Lock. Well we were pointing that direction so we thought we'd just follow though. I'm on the lookout for the boat that was mentioned on Canal World Forum and Narrowboatworld that did a runner on a couple of mechanics that had done the work for him. CWF did the usual destroy thing with the original poster and members invented complete scenarios that never happened but that's what anonymity does to people. Nobody has ever been nasty to me on the towpath or at a lock, but then again I'm 6'4" and am usually carry a large heavy piece of right angle metal in my hand. But I reckon that on the forum those that would never dream about being nasty to me in person would be really different.

What has happened to Kegworth Deep Lock. It has become Kegworth New Lock for some strange reason. Seemingly hirers were scared by the fact that they may be going through a 'Deep' lock' so BW changed it to, 'New Lock' to ease their fears. But it was only a little half hearted attempt. I'm so pleased that they are to be all sacked as one of the quangos to be dumped. If only that was really going to happen. It'll be the same people running BW under a different title with more money.

 Or am I being a little cynical here.

There is a big difference between narrowboat drivers on the river and narrowboat drivers on the canal. River drivers are much more aggressive in their manoeuvring and use of the engine but canal users are more cautious and use minimal revs in their movements. River users are very aware of the current (as they should be) but put them in Braunston on a busy sunny summer afternoon, they may well be the cautious, nervous ones. Or maybe not.

I saw nbBalmaha at the pontoons at Trent Lock the other evening but looking at Mo's blog, it hasn't been updated for five weeks. Hope all's ok with them.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Stumps and basins

We moved from Barrow yesterday and are now at Zouch. Zouch cut seems full of boats that are unoccupied with, out of around nine boats present, only three are occupied. Is this a sign of the times in that many people don't put their boats into marinas over the summer months and just move them every now and again to keep legal.

I called into Loughborough Basin to use the facilities. There ended up being five boats in that tiny basin, some waiting for the facilities and others just leaving, three of them were full length. It's a little small to have that many boats fighting for space but, no collisions later, they were all gone except for poor old Pickles, all on it's lonesome.

It's a tad windy around these parts. I got a little bit stuck in Bishops Meadow Lock as it's a seventy foot lock and this is a seventy foot boat. The lock doesn't like boats with front and back fenders and it kept me prisoner for a couple of minutes until I extracted myself.
On the way I spotted a sawn off stump just before Normanton-on-Soar on the 'wrong' side of the canal. Sawn off stumps to the livaboard boater can prove a small goldmine in the form of timber for those long winter nights (which obviously just fly by). In this case, it resulted in a small haul of logs already sawn to a very reasonable size. So if you had your eye on them, tough. They are no more. Although I never seem to have as much luck as Vic and Sue from nbNo Problem, who always seem to be recovering vast hauls of logs from the verges of the canal. Sue finds most of them whilst walking the dogs and not from the boat. I need to walk the dog more often. Sam would probably agree.

Dead loops

I was walking Sam around the 'unnavigable' loop of the Soar into Quorn the other day and came across this converted barge and these two liveaboards (it can also be seen easily from the A6). All of these are quite far around the loop with the barge nearly at the weir that makes this loop 'unnavigable' (which it plainly isn't). I do hope that the liveaboards don't have BW licences as they are where they are and, since this part is deemed 'unnavigable' by BW, any boats on it should not have to pay for the privilege as long as they don't enter the navigable parts. I don't think that's the case though. But it should be. There are many unnavigable loops on the Soar with loads of boats on them.

As we were getting out of the boat this morning, who should quite literally run straight into us but Geoff from nbSeyella out on his early morning run (I was going to say jog but that sounds a little too relaxed for the speed he was going). nbSeyella are on their way back to Pillings Lock Marina (Don't ask. Read their blog). Lisa was horrified as the straighteners hadn't hit her head yet and her hair looked like a bust sofa.
 This wharf in Quorn is also in pretty good nick (unlike the boats) and was probably Quorn's own wharf for coal delivery's etc. Strangely the house built on it is called Wharf House. Weird ain't it.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Book burning and boilers (and Barrow)

This blog has been quiet for the last couple of weeks as we haven't moved (that's not an excuse, just a fact). But the time has come and we are nearing the end of our 14 day stay at Barrow. Zouch, then Trent Lock next methinks. This last couple of weeks, we've seen Geoff and mags on nbSeyella waiting for the lock and nbForever Young, but we can't remember where we have seen nbForever Young before. Probably the Shakerstone Festival. Talking of which, it was on last weekend and we weren't there. I'm sure they've manage without us.

Barrow upon Soar is very quiet during the week but a busy little place at the weekends. With pedalos, canoes, kayaks, rafts converted lifeboats, cruisers and narrowboats competing for any available space on the water and the lock was taking 25 minutes to fill but has since been fixed and that made an enormous difference to the locking times. We thought it better not to move at all, so we didn't.

I've taken out the old boiler from the Rayburn in preparation for the proposed new one to be bought and fitted. It said on the interweb that the job should have taken twenty minutes but, after an hour and a half, I finally hauled it out. A little rusty with a small hole on one side. Ahhh! That's why the Rayburn was so wet inside and I had to add four litres of water to the system every day last winter. It probably won't be lit until sometime in October so it gives me a bit of time to sort out the replacement. We've decided to fit and finish the kitchen this year. That might be nice.
An old boiler (I know a few of those)
It's a shame that the pastor from the US cancelled his Qur'an burning event as we were planning to have our own bible burning event at Barrow (that's even got a better ring to it). I would also have considered other religious texts, books by Geoffrey Archer and Dan Brown. Hell, we'd probably have thrown a bit of James Patterson on to the pyre while we were at it. Nothing like a bit of book burning to separate the masses into the 'don't you dare' and the 'burn baby burn' brigades.

We'll need water before we move off. Do I reverse back four hundred metres to the water point or go through the lock, wind, back through the lock again, pass the water point, wind, stop for water, move back to the mooring. Reverse it is then. Wish me luck.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Tipping, old boats & large fish

We woke up this morning with Lisa claiming to be hanging on to the bed sheets by her fingernails trying to stay on the bed. Since I am on the outside I found it a little hard to believe. Once up she let out a yelp as some bottles rolled across the floor. I reluctantly got up as Lisa told me we were at 45 degrees. I loosened the ropes and we recovered back to normal from our 5 degree tilt. We're on a river you idiot and the Soar has tendency to go down as well as up (a bit like investments). In this case it went down (a bit like investments over the last year). I keep forgetting things. Not the proper actions of Captain Canal.

Below bridge 25 this boat is slowly being overgrown, at least it looks that way. When I look at this, and the new housing development behind it, I imagine a 'Local Hero' moment. The developer wants to buy the land and wharf and the grizzly old boat/land owner doesn't want to sell. Burt Lancaster enters Fulton Mackay's cabin and they enter into negotiations. Unfortunately real life never ends up like the films and, in this case, the development went ahead anyway and a fence was built to obscure the view of the old boat from the new homeowners.

As I write this, a fisherman has just pitched up to the front of the boat, threw his line in and hauled out a thirteen pound pike. I tried to take a photo but, as expected, the battery failed on the camera and this was the only photo I got.

Lots of pirates around today. Might be the weather.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Freedom & new coal boats

Heads it was, so we've decided to turn right. The Soar is a little in flood with some locks in the red and most in orange. Someone (can't remember the name of the boat) said that they had an aggressive bollocking from a BW employee for going through on red as they didn't have the right insurance. That really is the modern 'don't do anything 'cause it's too dangerous' excuse for not doing anything. Anyway, they were reluctant to go too far with the flood situation (and the agressive BW employee situation I should imagine). I do wonder if the chap had been steering instead of his wife, would the BW geezer would have been so aggressive. Past experience with bullies suggests not. Last year I ignored all the red lights and had a whale of a time on the Soar.

Freedom for Pickles No2

We left at around midday and found our way to Mountsorrell where there is a brilliant pub called The Swan. Below the lock we met up with a new coal boat. This was Star Class Carrying run by pleasant chap called Mark and his family. Apparently he bought the boat, nbCallisto, in February and did all the work to get it ready for carrying and serving diesel and coal and is currently on the way to the Shakerstone Festival before starting in earnest the winter run. Currently diesel at 69p so I got some.
As it says on the sign

He has plans to do the coal run on the Grand Union to Wigrams Turn, Leicester Section, Soar, Trent and Mersey to Fradley and Erewash. That is a large network and I have no idea what his turnaround would be, but good luck to him. I know that nbHadar was trying to to the Soar last year before bad luck prevented it.
It's a working boat that actually works, 'init.

I think we'll stay here the night as the weir at Silby Mill is running quite fast and winding Pickles may not be such a good idea in fast flowing water as we have both forgotten how to work things on the canals. Today Lisa stood by a lock gate unable to work out what to open first and I was appalling at steering nearly hitting a boat at Barrow. It can only go downhill from here. Here's hoping.
 Bit long though.


Well we're back. I said, we're back. Do I hear any cheers. Of course not. Big Brother's blaring in the background and I can't hear myself think.

It's all a bit of a shock, mostly around Sainsburys where we were a bit baffled by it all and couldn't remember how to shop British style. But there are good things too. At the till, customers tend not to be surprised to find that they have to pay when their stuff has been put through the scanner, then fumble through the purse looking for their cheque book whilst having a superficial but intense conversation with the cashier. It drives me mad(er). Fortunately we came back with 70 litres of wine and that should ease us into the mould. Well, it should last until after the weekend anyway.

No idea where my camera is as we haven't unpacked yet. Lisa actually never unpacks until we are off on the next trip to wherever. So no photos yet. Lisa didn't break very much when I wasn't here so there isn't much fixing to do, well none that I've found anyway. Even the engine started first time.

We are leaving with Pickles in the morning but don't know whether to turn right or to turn left when we get out onto the canal. Towards Leicester or towards Loughborough. Who knows, who cares. I think I've got a coin somewhere. There's a beer festival hereabouts in a month and a half and we have to be around these parts so shan't be moving far. Anyway we don't have much diesel.

Pillings Lock has been good for us and, as I'm sure I mentioned before, Lisa enjoyed her time here.

Life's a little uncertain at present as I'm sure you can tell. It'll all be much clearer tomorrow, I'm sure. I think.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Pillings Lock and France

I actually got round the ninety degree turn in Loughborough in one go this time. Unlike last year when I got caught out by the wind and needed to be, embarrassingly, hauled off by a passing boater. Also the Soar is a totally different beast when not in flood as it was last time.

Well we actually arrived at Pillings Lock Marina before the office closed on Tuesday so I took advantage and bought an electricity ticket and hooked up the umbilical cord. What a revelation. There is little of interest to us in marinas in general but mains electricity is brilliant. Lisa loves the marina and says that it is run very professionally.

Unfortunately the inevitable happened and I got shouted at for placing my rubbish in the wrong bin. Oh well, you live and learn. Everything is very convenient but we will hardly use any of the facilities on offer. We always feel as if we have to keep the noise down and talk in whispers. We don't like to open the hatches but on the towpath they're always open, even in the middle of winter.

We are off to France tomorrow evening and Lisa will return next week to complete the school term while I lie around in the sun (well that's what Lisa says). I haven't even thought of packing the car up. Tomorrow evening maybe.

I always say that I will attempt to keep this blog up over the summer but it rarely happens. Maybe this year. When we get back in September we are planning to spend a bit of time around the Soar and Trent and attend Nottingham Beer Festival. Well that's something to look forward to isn't it.

See ya.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Summer venture

It is about this time of year that we decide which marina we are to put ourselves into for the three months of summer when I have to go off and run our small campsite in France. Since I am away and Lisa is in charge, she has the choice as to which marina to go in to. This year it is to be Pillings Lock on the Soar. It has the right feel for Lisa and will be a complete change from Alvacote where she was last year. It was more money than Alvacote but they didn't demand the six hundred pound deposit that Hinckley Marina demanded the year before with only two hundred up front. It also has a holiday feel to it which may not be such a good thing for Lisa.

So we are on our way there starting last week where we managed to get to Hartshill with the four day view to be at either Trent Lock or Shardlow by this weekend before moving up the Soar. It leaves a little leeway for potential flooding on the rivers but at this stage that looks unlikely. I reckoned that six hour days would see us there without a problem although I was to be wrong (I have a record of vastly under-estimating time taken for trips) and they ended up being nine hour days with one eleven hour day thrown in for good measure. At Shardlow, we decided to have a Saturday night BBQ and managed to set fire to someone's hedge and they came out to the towpath to complain. Oops.
I don't see any damage

On the way a cyclist flagged me down to ask if I had a pump to fit their bike. Always the good Samaritan (not), I did and they were soon on their way again. Then, at bridge 15 on the Ashby, a hire boat decided that he would share a bridge 'ole with me. Not a bad idea as it is easily wide enough, but they started to panic as the entered the 'ole and tried to put it into reverse and we inevitably collided. Oh well, these things happen. No damage done. The rest of the journey was quite event free but it was all a tad hot at the tiller and Lisa had little sympathy with me (surprisingly).
Pickles No 2 at Shardlow
On Tuesday we are hopefully heading up the Soar to our new mooring at Pillings Lock. Quite looking forward to that as well. All in all, I'm quite looking forward to the next couple of days. It's all bound to be a huge let down.
My new netbook (note the Linux stickers)

We have exceeded our monthly allowance with T-Mobile as I have been downloading all my  and open source linux stuff to fill my new netbook with. My ten year old laptop is still going strong but has been retired for less demanding work as it was all getting a little too much for it. Bless. I may use it for experimental software on older machines, something Linux is perfect for. I still need my MS Windows partition as Lisa now wants to use it to save her bringing her work laptop home. I can hardly complain, can I?

Thursday, 29 April 2010

A love of the canals

I have identified a current trend with the liveaboards on the Ashby Canal (if a sample of two can be a trend in a population of 'howmany' liveaboards). Young people seem to be buying boats and living on them in this part of the world. I've even seen them with their hoods up.

By young, I mean in their twenties (I always considered that the canals were the preserve of the over fifties (only a year to go in my case)). I'm not sure where they are getting the money from (probably theft) but it is a buyers market. A cheap form of housing or a love of the canals? Who can tell. But it is very possible for the former to become the latter, with time.

I met a guy the other day whom I first met when we first moved aboard Pickles No 2 and at that time he had just been divorced, was on his uppers and living in an old Dawncraft as he could not afford any other form of housing. But in the last two years, he has got his life together, bought a 'proper' steel narrowboat' got himself a decent job and a love of the canals (not just a cheap form of housing) along with many friends amonst the boating community and would never live in a house again. You see, it's not just the middle class marina dwellers who have a 'love of the canals' (as they spend several weekends a year on them).

I don't wish to influence anyone (god forbid) in the forthcoming election, but the Torys intend to  sell the BW property portfolio, if reading between the lines of the latest Towpath Telegraph is anything to go by (which it's probably not). It obviously depends which lines you wish to read between. I don't choose my lines lightly but as a fundamentalist liberal (no, not a 'Liberal') I'm good at choosing between 'my' lines (or sitting on the fence).

Hell, vote BMP. You know it makes sense.

Monday, 19 April 2010


Pickles in the sun

There's coal on the Ashby again (not counting Gosty Hill of course), except that it's not on the boats, it's on the bank. When BW dredged the canal late last year and the first part of this, they placed the puddle clay on the towpath side between the path and the bank. The clay has now completely dried out and amongst the clay can be found black gold. But how did it get there?
 Is it a meteor?

I can only presume that, since the Ashby was used as a coal canal for a couple of centuries, that this coal had fallen off the boats traveling it's length. There are places were there is quite a lot scattered around. For example where here is modern piling there is little to be had but where there has been little modernization, there is lumps of it. But you have got to wonder how it fell off the boats. Were they not as careful as we would probably be with the same load? I have read that boatmen would be fined if found to be underweight.

 And to prove the weight
When I say there are lumps to be found lumps, I mean very large lumps. I have had reports from another boater of finds that are 20 kg in weight but I have personally found a lump that weighs 43.2kg. To any walker they resemble rocks but they break easily and each half is unmistakable for what it is.

Look at the size of that

It was another boater who put me on to this, nbPlum and Plummy, it's owner. He claims to have heated his boat through the winter on this coal and I find that quite easy to believe.

And just to prove that it's not some random rock I picked up.

Is it worth collecting? That depends on how much you appreciate a free thing and how much you value your time. I reckon I could collect a 25kg bag in an hour of the small stuff if you find a good patch. But several large lumps would easily improve that. Seven quid an hour. I admit that I cannot stand missing out on a free thing. I also like to think that I've got a sense of history, several million years in the making, several centuries at the bottom of the Ashby and two days on my boat before being burnt. And I have no pride and am quite happy scrabbling around on the towpath on my hands and knees, getting filthy much to Lisa's despair.

Just out enjoying the sun

This is my 200th post. Happy birthday.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Back again.

I've been having as bit of a blog break lately. No reason, just have.

Since we had the bottom blacked we've been off the Ashby and down at Ansty on the Oxford, then down to Hilmorton, then, during the Easter break, we decided to move to Fradley Junction for a pint at the Swan. All very pleasant and the usual mix of weathers, experiences and thoughts (well, no thoughts actually). The blacking is looking decidedly used, even the newly painted red and white bands at the back need tarting up again. The problem is that we use the damn thing.
The Ashby has had a very light hand as far as the mooring wardens are concerned this year. As a paradox, there are actually less livaboards here this year as well. I've always said that these thing sort themselves out without outside influences. We were down at Ansty a couple of weeks ago and Iain off Gosty Hill coal boat said that he had seen loads from the Ashby that trip. Strangely the next day the people doing the twice yearly boat check raced past on their bikes clutching their computers tapping furiously. The next day a stream of Ashby liveaboards sped past presumably returning to their liveaboard roots. It would appear that they had left the Ashby in order to avoid being pinged there by the check. But once they've been pinged elsewhere...

Life on the canals is a tad easier with the advent of the good weather. Not so much ice, snow and rain but the mud on the towpath. It's the one thing I really hate. Good when frozen and when dry but not in between. But we had a BBQ the other evening which is always a good sign of things to come. Lisa even got a bit of sunburn on the way up the Atherstone flight.

The one thing I can remember on the boating front was when the owner of a certain historic nb (nameless) on his way to Coventry Basin for an event, crashed into the concrete bank on the way towards the lock at Sutton Stop. He didn't seem to be steering at all and I have no idea why he drove staight into it. It's no wonder those old boats are battered if this is the level of boatmanship (boatwomanship in the case of at least one ex-working boat) of their owners.

Believe it or not, I didn't take a single photo since the last blog. More soon. I've even written the next one.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Dirty Dancing & a black bottom

We were in London at the weekend as Terri had bought us a couple of tickets to see Dirty Dancing. Personally I thought there was a tad too much dancing involved but the clue was in the title. I also missed out as I had never seen the film unlike lisa who could hardly contain herself at times but she didn't fall asleep which is a good sign unlike several other productions that she has been to. It was actually very good. Possibly not my cup of tea.

We are finally out of the water and having our bottom blacked (oh, arr missus), at least I am doing it myself. I got it spray washed, wire brushed and the first coat on on the first day and it was quite hard work. I also had to tighten several bolts on the rudder as all of them were loose. The tiller has not been connected to the rudder properly from day one and there has always been a lot of play in it. I just thought it was normal (idiot). Well it's sorted now and hopefully we can now go in straight lines (maybe).

Look at the lines on this stern gear and compare it to that of nbChertsey. Which one was but as a utilitarian working boat and which a leisure boat. nbChertsey's is almost art deco in appearance and very elegant compared to Pickles no 2. And it looks a lot less worn. They don't built them like they used to.

The pressure was off after I got the first coat on and it didn't really matter that there was a couple of days of rain. There was very little (nothing actually) of the original blacking remaining and I fear that if I had of left it for another year it would have really suffered. I think that Pickles was just shown the initial blacking before leaving the factory. Last years moving through ice probably didn't help either. There were a couple of pits in the hull but nothing to be worried about.

I have been trying my hand at roses and castles (well roses actually). A more dismal attempt at the art would be hard to find I'm sure you'll agree. Nevertheless, since I insist on low standards in just about everything I do and usually fai to achieve them, this is more than adequate. Lisa bought me a DVD for Christmas and this is the first time I've tried it out. Well with some sample pots from B&Q and old model paintbrushes that I found in my workshop, what did I expect. Still things can only get better, can't they. Watch out Phil Speight, I'm a'comin'.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Chain saws and travellers

I've bought myself a new toy for £89.99. A chainsaw no less. It is essential livaboard equipment that we have done without for the last two years but I have no idea how. Yesterday I was cutting my first logs with a chainsaw for twenty years of to feed our perpetually hungry Rayburn. It's not very big but is a little scary as any wrong move and I'll have my leg off. Only then would I buy some protective clothing. It'll be a little cheaper if I only have one leg.

Every time I put my hand in my pocket (and that's not very often), I end up pulling out a small clear plastic bag. Unfortunately, only dog owners will understand the significance of this.

We were down in London (why are we always 'down' in London) on Saturday evening to watch a play that Terri was in as part of the second year of her degree. She was obviously the star but we may be a little unobjective as far as that is concerned. It was very good though. Nothing like a bit of Saturday night socialism with Brecht.  Chekov next apparently. That'll be a hoot a minute. Think I'll make my excuses for that one.

I gather that we are now classified as travellers as far as local authorities are concerned. This is all wonderfull stuff (although I imagine that some liveaboards may have different views on this) but some boaters have expressed a wish for new 14 day moorings and other privilages and this I see as problematic. The whole system is one big 14 day mooring as far as I'm concerned with some 7day, 48, and 24 hour exceptions, so personally I don't want more moorings, especially ones specifically for me and my ilk.

The whole thing could backfire on continuious cruisers as BW may well come up with the notion that we are more trouble than we're worth and push to have all boaters to have moorings with no such thing as constant cruisers. I don't need any special priviliages and am very happy to continue CCing and mooring in out of the way places not bothering anyone, neither the local authorities not BW. It seems that this has all stemmed from some CCers at the western end of the Kennet and Avon who seem to want to stay put and not fulfll their obligations. If only I fulfulled mine as well. Kettle, black?