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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Our mooring fees for 2016.

I was quite surprised when I totted up our mooring fees for last year as I had expected them to be higher than last year.

The break down is as follows;

Over winter at Kings Orchard marina   844-79
A week mooring at
Sovereign Wharf, Banbury                     74-29
1 night at Henley on Thames                  10-00
1 night at Windsor                                    8-00
4 night Pryford Marina                           77-40
17 nights at St. Pancras                         170-00
8 nights at Barby Moorings                    84-00
TOTAL                                              1268-48

I was expecting to pay for more nights moorings whilst on the Thames. I think that Pryford Marina on the Wey must be the most expensive marina that we are ever likely to stop in. I hope so anyway. We were lucky on the Thames as we seemed to obtain the last free berth, or on a couple of occasions, leave before they came round collecting the fee.

2015 costs were £1524-55 and 2014's costs were £1298-48. It seems that mooring costs are fairly static. I suppose with the number of marinas that seem to be under construction, and depending where you are on the system, competition should keep a check on any increase in fees.

The Anthony Gormley 'Nobbly Man' at Lowsonford Lock was checking us out as we passed. I think he has since then be moved to another location.

We got to the bottom of the Stratford upon Avon canal and found a good berth in  Bancroft Basin. It is a very busy place with tourists, but is a very nice town to have a walk about, and plenty to see even if you don't go in anything but the pubs!

We left Stratford and headed down the Avon, our first trip on this river. The first lock is the Stratford Trinity, or Colin P. Witter Lock. We had a bit of a fight to get in as just above the lock is where all the large trip boats swing round to head back to the town. Still we made it and through out first Avon Lock, not counting the lock from the basin or the lock from the Severn up to the Avon at Tewkesbury.

Our first restricted bridge, Binton Bridges. I can imagine it being a little worrying approaching with a great current pushing you from astern but our trip was very benigh.

The river passes through so very pastoral countryside between Bidford and Evesham with civilisation hardly encroaching on the peace of the river.

There was plenty of room to moor at Evesham, and there was plenty to see ashore too. Also a good spot to fill up on the groceries etc

The Cropthorne Mill next to Fladbury Lock. I can't remember if we were on the river at the weekend but we never saw any lock keepers, maybe they are only on at the height of the season, and as this was May we missed them. But this would be a great place to spend a day as a look keeper.

after Pershore, another place where there was plenty of good moorings, and plenty of good pubs too, we continued and passed through Tiddesley Woods with distant views of  Bredon Hill.

At Nafford Lock there was evidence of the strength of a river in flood and the need for great care. It is never wise to underestimate the power of water.

This picture shows the Swans Neck bight in the river. It is not taken with a panoramic lens, it really is 360 degree turn in that space. And of course we did meet the boat of the day at the turn. Mind you we were okay, out lock buddy can be seen just coming into shot on the left. They would have more trouble that us.

We stopped on the Avon Trust moorings at the Fleet Inn Twyning Green. It was a lovely light in the late evening on Bredon Hill.

We got a good mooring above the lock at Tewkesbury. We like Tewkesbury a lot, and the Abbey must be one of our favourite churches, it is just so beautiful.

Our opinion of the River Avon is that it is very beautiful. we spoke to a gut who spent months here in the summer, but with the lack of mooring points I expect that, like most rivers, in the height of the season it must be dog eat dog to get a berth. I would come again, but at a similar time of the year as we had no problems. And in the towns, and countryside there is plenty to do and see. A week was a good taster for us at least.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Fixed Costs for 2016

Our fixed costs for 2014/15/16 were as follows;

                                                  2016                                                    2015            2014
CRT Licence                          870-42                                                   856-70         833-38
Insurance                                212-91                                                   232-64        198-19
RCR Bronze                           126-00                                                   126-00        126-00
BSS                                        165-00    Insurance for Severn Estuary   30-00
Avon Licence                           50-00    Severn Pilotage                      190-00
Thames 2 wk licence             122-00    Bristol Licence                         29-75
Wey-Basingstoke transit            7-00    Thames transit Licence            39-00  
Basingstoke licence                 40-00
Basingstoke-Wey Transit           7-00
Wey licence 1 week                 58-00
Thames transit                          10-00                                                                                   
TOTAL                                1668-33    TOTAL                                1504-09       1157-57

I think the first thing that I notice from the above figures is that we seem to be getting a little more adventurous as the extra fees for pilots and licences has grown each year. This year we have had the cost of the BSS Certificate otherwise it would have been a cheaper year. The best value seems to be the RCR who haven't put their price up over the years and I think it is pegged for this year too. That is despite them having their offices burned down. We have only used their services once and that is when we were in Birmingham in May. The engine wouldn't start as there was no power to the starter etc, despite everything seeming to be okay. They came very quickly and after a very through look over things and trying the obvious first, and whittling them down, it was traced to the battery isolation switch. It had been 'chattering' and the copper contact had burned lower and so, despite being in the closed position was not making contact. He soon sorted it all and having tided up bits of electrical wiring etc  he left with my grateful thanks ringing in his ears.

It was the weekend that daughter Amy and Joe had come for the weekend. They were all dispatched to the shops and by the time they were back we were ready for cruising.
We made our way to the Black Country Museum via the Old Main Line level and saw the new Dudley Tunnel visitor centre. We did have a look round and it all looks very nice indeed. The Tunnel trust seems to have big plans  to develop the system further and make it more spectacular. I would love to be able to take 'Holderness' through, but I think we will be way to big, and I expect I am getting a bit old for all that legging as no diesel craft are allowed through.

I love being able to pop in at the close of the day and get some pictures whilst there is nobody there. It makes them look like they are 'real' places and not in a museum.

There is a great big stack of these cast iron chimney pots in the museum. It makes you wonder how cheap they must have been to be able to compete with clay. Maybe Kim and Tracey on the Little Chimney Co. boat could replicate them? 

We returned to Birmingham via the new Main Line and said goodbye to No.1 daughter but soon had more visitors who we took on a jaunt round the Icknield Port Loop. As there is no tow path round the canal and that although the factories etc have been demolished no work has been done to transform the area into a new village within a city. The trees and shrubs have grown up and it looks like you could be on a river like the Avon.

Now housing Sherborne Wharf's offices and facilities, among numerous other enterprises the old round house is looking very well. The alcoves were for storing coal and minerals that had been transported by narrow boat for onward transport around the city. The pub next door has some good live music on, for all tastes so is good to check out when you re in Birmingham.

From Birmingham we headed down the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, through the Worcester Bar in Gas Street Basin. I bet the old boaters used to curse having to unload their cargoes just to transport it over the bar just because of the canal companies not being able to reach agreement over water etc. We stopped at Bournville and walked in to the Cadbury village. We resisted going to the shop and had a lovely walk around. The above is Selly Manor that was moved to this site if I remember correctly. It seems like a film set for the Borrowers or English Hobbits or something.

When we reached King's Norton Junction we turned left on to the Stratford upon Avon Canal and passed through the famous old guillotine stop lock. We passed on down in cuttings with the odd road passing but it would be hard to tell from the canal that you were really travelling through the suburbs. This fox taking the sun by the tow path reinforces the feeling.

We stopped for a day after doing just four of the Lapworth Locks and went to have a day out at Packwood House which was a short walk away. It was beautiful and the grounds were good too. The yew trees are one of it's features and I'm glad I don't have to clip them every year.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Cruising Costs 2016

I'm sure that you have all been waiting to see this years breakdown of costs for our cruising, but first here are a few photos of April last year.

We started the year off with a new flag, out with the old and in with the new! The old one had faded badly, and with the run up to Hull as City of Culture we wanted to look our best. The flag is that of the East Riding of Yorkshire.

We set off from Kings Orchard marina and headed towards Birmingham. On the way we stopped for a walk to Middleton Hall not far from Drayton Basset on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.

There is plenty of graffiti on the Saltley Cut on the way to Bordesley Junction but some can be quite engaging.

Old school Birmingham, still looks 'different' and modern.

From Birmingham we set off to Dudley, mainly to try a couple of pubs I fancied testing. I wasn't disappointed. We had a blizzard on the way back from one of them but here at Windmill End it was a lovely day for a walk in the early spring sunshine.

These used to be seen in every town and then disappeared but for a few examples. It now seems they are reinventing wheel and placing pissoirs around city centre to prevent anti social behaviour when the pubs and clubs chuck out.

We called in but they had no free samples. They did say they were hoping to set up a franchise in Tesco shops!

Our expenditure is set out in the table below, and I will expand on it over the next few weeks.

                               2014            2015            2016
Fixed Costs           1157-57      1504-09       1668-33
Mooring fees        1298-48      1524-55       1268-48
Fuel                      1156-66        824-94         721-92
Repairs                   790-84        321-63       1441-62
Equipment              678-22       164-22          556-75
Consumables          257-22       454-58          342-24
Total                    5338-99      4794-01        5999-34

That makes an average for running costs over the three years I have been keeping records of     £5377-45. Not too bad for about six months holiday a year, for two, to be honest.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Happy New Year.

Well Hull's City of Culture year 2017 kicked off with a very loud bang yesterday. The fireworks were perhaps not as massive as those in London, but they were certainly very numerous and beautiful, going on for about 15 mins. However combined with the big screen and music sound track they were fantastic. There was a poem read out with a film to accompany it and during the explosions was a film and music all by musicians connected with Hull. It was great.

The photographs in the press are stunning, but I thought I would give you ours! They were set off from two barges moored off the marina.

Before the fireworks we had mustered at Queen Victoria Square for the start of the Made in Hull  installation. They have projected the story of the last seventy years oh Hull's History on the three iconic buildings round the square, Ferens Art Gallery, The Maritime Museum and the City Hall. It was very well done and highly emotional too and called 'We are Hull'.

Doesn't look too much this close but the lights and sound were fantastic. See press and Youtube for better pictures.

There are severa other installations around the town too. One in Zebedee's Yard was just the sound of a football crowd at KCOM Stadium lit by floodlights called Invisible Flock. As it is enclosed on all sides the sounds reverberated just as at a match and at a peak of well over 100db it was quite awesome. There was another about the working man and employment called '(In)Dignity of Labour' near Scale Lane Bridge and another in an underpass called Embers about the the club scene and self expression and The Deep submarium was lit with a one called Arrivals and Departures about all those who have arrived in the city from all over the world. All in all a great experience, and a great way to see the town. We are going a couple of times more in the week it is on between 1600 and 2100 until 7th January. We then went for an Indian meal by the marina before stepping out to watch the fireworks.

I have also being looking at our 2016 cruising statistics and costs. After careful consultation with publications, log books, and most detailed of all, Helen, I see that we completed 776 miles and 558 locks. That is in seven or eight weeks less cruising than 2015 when we completed 752 miles and 524 locks!

Year          Miles          Locks
2014         1027            764
2015           752            524
2016           776            558
TOTAL    2555           1848

Navigations visited are:-
Coventry Canal
Birmingham and Fazeley Canal
Grand Union
Digbeth Branch
Worcester and Birmingham Canal
Birmingham Main Line, New  
Netherton Tunnel Branch
 Dudley No.2 Canal
Dudley No.1 Canal
Birmingham Main Line, Old.
Stratford upon Avon Canal
River Avon
River Severn
Droitwich Barge Canal
Droitwich Canal, narrow.
Oxford Canal North
Oxford Canal South
River Thames
River Wey
Wey and Godalming Canal
Basingstoke Canal
Grand Union Slough Arm
Grand Union, Paddington Arm
Regents Canal
Grand Union, Northampton Branch.
Thats 24 navigations if you count the Oxford Canal as North and South (which I know they are not).
In 2014 we touched on 38 and 2015, 37. We must be slowing up in our old age. 

I doubt we will approach anywhere near these figures for this year, 2017, as we will be spending plenty of time in Hull Volunteering for our Year of Culture.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A tenuous nautical theme.

Last week we went down to London for a couple of nights as it was my daughters graduation. I had missed her 'do' from Durham University as I was still at sea then so it was nice to be able to come along for this one.

Goldsmiths started out as the Counter Hill Academy for boys in 1792 to 1838. The Royal Naval School then bought it and educated the sons of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. In 1889 it was again sold on to the City Livery Company of Goldsmiths who set up their Technical and Recreative Institute were for 13 years they educated males and females of the area. In 1904 they gifted the site to the University of London, so long as it was always used for education. Goldsmiths College of the University of London opened in 1905 and has always been connected with social science and the arts.

The ceremony was very good and the speeches mainly uplifting for me, never mind the students. There were several glasses of prosecco and canapes and a good chat before been ushered out in to the city.

Just down New Cross Road in Deptford Town Hall. This building was also opened in 1905 and had the Council chamber and three meeting room. It now also belongs to Goldsmith's College. The builders were Lanchester, Strewart and Richards and sculptor was Henry Poole, RA. There is a very nautical theme to the carvings as the area was for 600 years or more a naval dockyard. The figures on the second story, from the left are, Sir Francis Drake, Robert Blake (The Father of the Navy), Lord Nelson, and out of shot to the right a generic Edwardian Admiral.

Atop the clock tower is an ornate galleon weather vane.

In the triangular typanum is a naval battle and below is the bow of a ship with many oars and in the back a focstle with four lamps on it. There are also two fishes and two horns of plenty with the figures of Caryatid and Atlantes to either side.

Over the door way are two Tritons who have long tails with fins and also they have wings. You can also make out seahorses in the iron scroll work above the entrance.

I did chat to the Mayor and his Mace Bearer as they also attended the ceremony but they were representing Greenwich.

In the afternoon we headed over towards Southwark and looked round Borough market before taking a walk. This area just south west of the market is the site of the fabulous Hop Exchange and we went into the basement for a late lunch. Over the road was this lovely building with a beautiful sculpted design at the top. It is a Grade II listed building.

In the evening we went to the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre to see 'She Loves Me'. It was really very good and a great entertainment. I would recommend it to anybody, before it goes to the West End and become too expensive to see!

We were staying over in Dalston, very close to our daughters school, and the next morning we went for a walk close by and passed this old factory that used to make those little water colour sets you could buy. The builder in 1868 was Sewell and Sons for a cost of £2343. The factory was badly damaged in WWII and closed in 1954. Round the corner was Ridley Road Market that had just about every part of many animals displayed and for sale! There were not just whole plucked chickens hanging up, but every size of trotter and hoof, every bit of intestine, and ears and snouts, along with complete heads. There were many types of fish I had never heard of and a wide selection of vegetables from around the world too. We also found a shop in an old Art Deco building from the 1920's that was a Daks Suiting Factory. It was also used as a Cuban Cigar Factory in the film 'Die Another Day'. It now houses 'Beyond Retro' that is one of those cool brands. They have shops in Sweden and Moscow too. Helen found a Christmas cardigan at a bargain price too.

Helen really loves the Shard so she wouldn't forgive me if I didn't include a shot in daylight. We had a flying visit but it was great to be there for Amy's day and the weather was fine too. The trip on Hull Trains was very comfortable and the hotel was one we will certainly use again. Bring on Christmas now.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Boat dash.

Helen and I managed to dash down to Streethay to check the boat out and chat with Tom and Nick about the repainting, and finalise colours. Very boringly perhaps, we are having just about the same as previously so it made it quite simple really.

The propeller that they would have to wait until January for has already arrived and it is so very obvious that the one we have on at the moment is of very thin scantlings. There is no way that I would be able to bend a blade back into shape with mole grips as I have done with the old one. I will keep the old one and see if it is worth fettling and balancing to keep as a spare.

I got quite a surprise when I saw the needle guns on the roof. I spent many hours with them as an apprentice when I went to see. The ships I was on were beautifully maintained and on a trip to the Far East all the running gear got maintained on the way out, and on the way back everything got painted. Needless to say salt water and steel don't really mix and there was always plenty of chipping of rust to do. It did look smashing when finished, but my elbows are paying for it now I think.

It is all sealed up so we weren't able to pop in to see but there is plenty of dust about as you can see. It wont be too long before they have it all prepared ready for painting.

They have left the windows in until they have the thick off the preparations done and will soon be taking them out to 'do' the areas round the window frames. I hope they come out okay with out losing all the blacking.

The boat has been out and had three coats of Intertuff put on. The bill came to £550 which I think sounds about average for having it done for you. It sounds okay if you say it quickly anyway!

I had painted the interior of the semi trad stern black and Helen liked it so we are going to keep that with the new paint scheme.

The sign writing will get done later and we will be having something very similar to what we had before as we really liked it. Boring again I suppose.

Next year I will have to set to and paint out the lockers and engine hole. I reckon that is a very good reason to go on a diet so as to be able to fit in the engine hole better.

Before we left the boat at the end of September we had Kim at the Little Chimney Company put a new flue in for the stove as the one we had was not fitted to take a double skinned chimney. The last thing we wanted was to pay out for  a new paint job and then get it ruined with the first fire. We had the chimney fabricated at the same time but it wasn't finished until we had gone home. Tracey and Kim held on to it for us and as we were in the area we went over to see them and pick it up. Kim says they are very busy and we just missed Tracey unfortunately.

The double skin means that any tar coming up the chimney will not condense so quickly and drip down as the inner flue will remain hotter. Any that does condense will drip back down the flue where it can be burnt up again as it will be hotter down there. Fingers crossed anyway.

Just the quick visit to the boat made us both realise how much we miss it and has pushed us into thinking about plans for next year so that we can schedule in time away on the boat as well as the volunteering work for the City of Culture year in Hull. That's getting very close now, and excitement is growing.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Catch up.

Still very busy with everything here in Hull. More training, more volunteering slots and more History and Ghost walks. Fortunately not the enormous numbers of the  first Ghost walks, but much more manageable and fun with smaller numbers.

Helen and I volunteer at the City of Culture Pod at the Travel Interchange, (bus and train station to normal folk) and it  is always fun. You get the 'nay sayers' who tell that City of Culture' is a waste of money etc. and I then like to play the 'What did the Romans do for us' Game. I may not always convert them but it is nice to try. There are lots  of folk who just want a natter, and they are lovely too. My favourite is when somebody comes and says they have several hours to kill and they don't know Hull, so you can help plan their day and send them off to the best places to make sure they come back. The most strange  question I have been asked is 'why are there two tides every day?'

Hull City of Culture 2017 Information Pod at the Travel Interchange.

Helen has discovered she enjoys jazz after a couple of trips out to the Hull Jazz festival and we have both addressed schools full of kids as every school in Hull is getting visit from volunteers and the outreach have got City of Culture activity packs into every school to get them involved. It is somewhat daunting standing up in front of over 200 small children.

On the boat front I think I have already said that we passed the MOT and so could get the licence with no problem, and with the discount. The next thing was the blacking. We still haven't been able to fit in a trip to the boat yet, but Streethay (and it is pronounced Street Hay, not Streath Hay, as I was told it was on the cut, a couple of times), have kept me well informed. They recommended that we fit a few low profile anodes along the middle length of the boat as there was evidence of pitting the further we got from the anodes at bow and stern. I had seen this for my self in clear water through the year. As we knew that we were having the boat painted this year I didn't get the blacking carried out last year so it has gone three between coatings. I thought the galvanic isolator wasn't working or something but then realised that  it will only be active when the boat is on shore power, or at least I think that is how it works. We had a very battered propeller with two very bent blades for the full years cruising so it will be interesting to see how the fuel consumption works out when I calculate it for the end of the year. Mind you we have been on the rivers quite a bit so may not show to much. I felt that the prop must be the thinnest scantlings as not only have we bent the blades every year, but I have been able to partly straighten them with just a mole wrench and whilst in the water. I asked them to source one for me and they reckon that they wont be able to find me one until January. They said also that they could get me one made for £950!!. I think we can wait. Whilst they were down there they have replaced the rudder cup bearing and the top bearing too. I am assuming that they have started on the repaint job now so we will have to pop down and see her with her skirts lifted.