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Monday, 31 March 2014

And we're off!

We arrived at the boat on Sunday lunch time. Unfortunately our son was keen to get off home again so it was a quick turn round and a hurried farewell to our daughter. It was much easier last year when there was just the two of us. Mind you it meant that we could get everything stowed away and even a few jobs done, like filling up with water.

I wont lie and say I had a lovely nights sleep but it was only because of Macy the cat meowing regularly through the night. It was like having a baby aboard. I think she was missing her 'sister' and she is used to sleeping all day and being out all night at home and it takes her a while to change round when she is on the boat.

Whilst we were on the the shore power a carried out an 'equilisation' of the batteries and whilst that was being done I checked the gearbox oil and all the other jobs one has to do before we were off at about 1015 with no ceremony.

That was our hole for five months. It served its purpose but it is good to be underway again.

We didn't go very far, about 200m and then tied up to do a bit of shopping in Thorne followed by a bacon banjo for lunch. The next event was trying to get through the Princess Royal Footbridge. This is owned by the local council and seems to have always been a problem. Passers by all spoke of the trouble it had been and indeed it was left open when we came this way in October. We had relatively little trouble but the control lid didn't seem to lock.
The Princess Royal Footbridge is open but seems a little crazy when there is an easily accessible road bridge with footpath next to it.

There are no fisherman about and the weather is so nice even the fish are taking the air.

Thorne lock swing bridge was really stiff and it took Helen and I and a couple of walkers to get it swinging. It was very pleasant pottering along the deep canal at a nice even pace. A swing bridge at Bramwith and the the lock. There are some nice boats moored up here and I reckeon it would make a very pleasant mooring.

Does my bum look big in this? A good illustration of the difference in a wide beam and a narrowboat.

We were soon at the junction of the Keadby and Stainforth Canal and the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Canal and once more on to new ground for us.
At the junction. Left to Goole and Leeds and right to Thorne, Keadby and the Trent.

We moored up just before the next lift bridge and went for a walk round the village of Barnby Dun that involved a pint of Guinness, but only because there was not one real ale in the place. Still  more pubs to sample over the next few months. Back on the cut and looking forward to Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.

Friday, 28 March 2014


We have all ready made one trip to our boat with stuff we will need. Tools, bedding, dry food, cat food, etc etc. We are only 50 mins away so it isn't too bad a trip to do in a day as you get time to sort out some jobs whilst there. I was very pleased to see that the addition of edge trims around the engine hole has solved the problem of entering the engine bilge. I used the trim as a method of reducing engine noise so to prevent the water ingress is a real bonus. The water must have been entering over the lip after a real down pour as it couldn't escape through the freeing port fast enough. (I suppose then that we may not have had a heavy enough down pour!). It also seems to make a real difference to the sound levels on the after deck too. That is a real result for £25-00 spent from They also do caravan and boat window seals and  fenders etc. They were very quick on delivery too.

Click for larger version
Edge trim used. Placed over the metal lip and lightly hammered into place.

I have also put in place the coir matting under the mattress to see if it will cure the condensation from sleeping. In the end I bought three large plastic backed door mats and  cut them to shape. I will let you know how it works, but if it does it is another cheap fix and may even add by softening the bed a little more.
Tesco Jumbo Coir Mat 60x90
PVC backed coir doormat 60 x 90cm x 3 cut to fit the space.

I now have to contemplate packing clothes etc. I hate all this, but after last year I hope I take less stuff that I wont use and so have more space for the stuff I do. There will be the inevitable odds and ends to find and pack but really as we are off to Sheffield first and then back to Thorne we will be able to collect anything we forget, and take back items that we don't need that have found their way aboard. Today I need to source a small battery for the cats tracking system. It seems it isn't a common size and has over 20 equivalents.

I can't wait for teleport systems as it would make all this build up much easier to take. Still next week we will be off on our way shouldn't grumble.

Monday, 24 March 2014

What to do, what to do?

With our imminent return to cruising I have started to think about all sorts of things, and then in to my head popped 'what should you really do when passing fishermen/anglers on the cut? There is nothing

A fishing match on the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

specific to anglers in the Boaters Handbook. The Considerate Boaters Manual suggests that you reduce speed to tick over and stay in the centre of the canal unless asked to do something else. When passing a match, like the above photo, we do do this. If meeting a lone or separate fishermen I slow down but perhaps not to tick over. I try to watch them from as far back as I can as they are quite often concentrating so hard, hard of hearing, or my engine is very quiet, as they seem to  have no natural inquisitiveness to see what the noise is and look our way to confirm that they have seen me coming. I then may gun the engine to make a louder noise. It becomes very tense on the after end then as with those big carp poles they seem to leave it to the very last second before lifting it out of the way. If you haven't made eye contact it could result in a full astern, or a broken fibre glass rod. I therefore now have no hesitation in giving them a toot to ensure they know we are there. There are some very friendly and cheery folk that are fisherman, but I would say there is a majority that find it difficult to raise a grunt of acknowledgement as we pass but we always remain cheerful.

Online moorings going on and on.

Then there is the slowing down for moored vessels debate. Not really a debate as you should slow down for moored vessels! However how much should you slow down? It seems that if you were punting along with your shaft you would be going too fast for some folk who should perhaps get a hobby like gardening or similar to prevent them just sitting by a window waiting for somebody to come past. People say that you should pass at tick over, well tick over is different for all engines and boats. I found myself getting a little rattled by  the speed of boats passing and I now believe that  when you are inside the boat the speed of the 'offender' seems high, but if you were on the deck it wouldn't seem so bad. I put this down to the fact that your view is limited and the other boat is close, something like the Doppler effect. Coupled with the fact that it seems to pass by the windows or port quickly where as the fixed bulkheads provide a very close reference point. Where as outside the field of vision is wider and you see the boat approaching but not with a close reference for judging speed like through the port. My bug bear is the fact that they slow down when there bow is level with the end of your boat. This means that their speed is still high, and the attractive/repulsive forces are still high as they pass. I always slow down at least a boat length before the boat I am passing and if going speedily even sooner. The same is also true when passing as speed could be reapplied before clearing the boat being overtaken as it takes a while to pick up speed and create the forces acting. Mind you  what ever speed you are going there is nothing so boring as passing miles and miles of offside moorings. It should be born in mind also that when mooring you should do so properly and not so that even a canoe passing would drag you off the side. I suppose that if we all used two head/stern lines and a spring each end it would be much more secure, but I can't see it becoming the norm.
Queuing for locks.

Then there is the etiquette of locks etc. This is a minefield if you let it be. I have found that the best use of volunteer lock keepers is not to assist the passage of boats up locks by actually swinging a windlass, but rather the crowd control of gangs of boaters jockeying for position to go up or down! It would seem simple to carry out. Those with crew to spare  assist others with no crew or less experienced crew at the lock to speed things along. That is the first problem. Everybody has their own way of doing things and can be very de-chuffed if you step in and upset the routine. I always ask if they want a paddle opening/dropping etc and how much it should be opened. There is a skill involved in making snap judgement about the people involved some will not take kindly to any assistance and some are actually craving for you to assist. There are some that are quite willing for you to do it all for them. Helen's pet hate is the boats with a couple on the bow in the sun with a glass of wine and/or a book watching whilst you are working them up or down! I really try to treat the locks as a social event. I am well known for being grumpy, but not all the time, but with strangers you  have to make an effort. You may never see them again so it costs nothing to be nice. I am quite willing to watch and learn from somebody else, and I am willing to pass on any knowledge I can if it seems appropriate. The skill is in being pleasant, considerate and polite. Far too many aren't, but the vast majority are. I also don't like this us and them with regard to hire boaters as the vast majority of us were there once. I actually find the  hire boaters are fine and just want to get on with their holiday with the minimum of fuss. They may be in more of a rush as they have to get round the ring but usually are trying to have a good time. Well maybe the boats full of lads dressed as pirates and those full of girls dressed in pink cowboy hats etc but just don't moor near them.

Pristine moorings!

Then there is the moorings that be a problem. The regulation is not running of engines or generators between 2000 and 0800. That seems straight forward enough but not for many it seems and hackles rise when the rules are 'bent' or flaunted. I think it is perfectly reasonable to not watch the tele that night if your batteries are too flat but of course there may be several underlaying reasons. The same goes for people overstaying on mooring, tying up on water points and lock landings, and all the other stuff that people do. It really should be quite simple, if you wouldn't want it to happen to you, why subject others to it! 

Blimey now I have written this I am becoming anxious before even setting off. I resolve to stay calm, chat to all in-sundry, be nice to fisherman and pick up any rubbish I spy with a reasonable distance of my mooring each day, and most of all enjoy what ever comes along. If you see me this year on the cut looking a little puce and with gritted teeth please smile and remind me of what I have written. All the very best to all those out on the cut and those who will join them at some stage over the year.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Better safe than sorry.

We have been splashing out on equipment ready for travelling on rivers etc. The first item was a couple of life jackets for us. I settled on Crew Saver auto inflation but with no extra harness. I have used these for a long time when at sea so I am confident of their sturdiness and ability to get wet and mucky and still do the job. I am able to maintain them myself so seemed the right thing to do.
 CSR CWX 150N Adult Manual Lifejacket With Harness
Crew Saver Life jacket.

The 'horse collar' design seems to be largely unobtrusive and doesn't make you too hot in the summer. The fit can be adjusted to go over lots of clothes in the winter. There is a crutch strap that stops the jacket riding up over your head when you fall in the water. I 'ummed and ahhed' about whether I really needed an auto inflate type but in the end decided that if you need a life jacket it will more than likely be an emergency and you may be unconscious after a fall, or just forget to inflate it in the shock. With the auto inflate once it is immersed in water the CO2 gas bottle is opened by a disc expanding and puncturing it. There is still the pull toggle that does the same thing and the  inflation by mouth too. I was surprised as to how cheap they are. Well perhaps not cheap, but for a good quality safety product not that bad. I was always getting questioned when ordering them for work. I suppose they had to factor in the annual maintenance charges though.

The other item we have bought is a VHF radio. I have one from work but unfortunately through lack of use and heavy use in the past it was not working. When I looked into it it was almost as expensive to buy a new one as to have the old one checked and repaired. It seems that Cobra make some very cheap radios but didn't really look well made enough for me. In the end I settled for a Standard Horizon make. I'm sure that it wont get the battering that  the radios used to get at sea. They were regularly dropped and constantly used with oily hands, and worse, and in all weathers. They type that I have bought wouldn't last five minutes there. I have got eh HX300E that is quite a budget one, but pretty cheap at the moment as there  have been a few newer models come out so are being sold off. At sea many people used to  either put them in their top pockets, or to free their hands put them down on the rail or else where. Quite often the end result was that they went 'plop' over the side!! The HX300E says that it will float!
Standard Horizon HX300E VHF radio.

I hope that we never have to find out whether it does, but if we do it also has a water activated LED light that comes on to indicate its position. It is also suppose the be withstand immersion to 5ft for 30mins. I'm not sure why it would have to if it can float but there you are. I suppose if you dropped it from a great height it my get stuck in the mud and not be able to float to the top!?! I was thinking of getting a throw line for man overboard purposes but have decided against it. We have the life ring and rope. I thought we would be able to reach further with a throw line but then the recovery lines are thin and so difficult to pull a person in with. I'm sure you would be able to make your own that  works just as well anyway. We will be all set to have a trip or two on the Trent when the time comes now as we already have the anchor waiting.

I am still wondering about investing in a Smartguage or not. Like many on narrow boats I can become quite obsessive about the state of the batteries. This was quite bad last year as I found it impossible to check the batteries in the position they were in. I'm hoping that as they are physically easier to check now it wont be so bad. There is a volt meter with the solar panels, and of course the engine, but that doesn't really give you the State of Charge, or, in my mind anyway, simply what percentage is left in the batteries. 
Balmar 7-Series Alternator
Smartguage display unit.

Helen has said that she wants a television on the boat this year. mainly as  Master Chef is starting  soon and she loves to watch that. I don't get it myself as we still seem to eat beans on toast and a fry up! Using the power for a TV and longer use of computers will mean I will get twitchy about the batteries again. It seems that the Smartguage is easy to install so I just may just ponder a little longer and see how we go. It doesn't look that difficult to install, but you  never know until you try.

Smartguage installed.

We have accumulated loads of stuff to take to the boat so next week we will have to make a trip with the first load of stuff and then we will be ready for the off.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Marsden revisited.

Last October we had just come out of the Stanedge Tunnel into Yorkshire when we learned it was the Jazz Festival at Marsden. We stopped a couple of nights and had a great time. We bought a ticket for the Duck Race in aid of the Local National Trust, and we won third prize, a meal for two at the Riverhead Brewery Tap pub and restaurant. Well we finally managed to get back to partake.

We went up on Sunday, leaving Hull basking in Sunshine and once near Huddersfield the cloud  descended and it became grey and miserable. Still we went for a walk on the opposite side of the valley to the canal and had a healthy romp up hill and down dale.

There are many reservoirs in the area, this one is Butterly Reservoir but is not for the canal. Good job as it it is extremely low for some reason.

Not lost, just resting!

New Mills, the disused mill in the middle of Marsden. It closed as recently as 2002. There are plans to convert it to a health centre, offices and apartments. I hope they keep the bridges.

After our walk we booked in to the New Inn and I promptly fell asleep! We then went down the Hill to The Riverhead Brewery Tap. They brew most of their own beer and a few guest beers. The ambiance is great and the beer was very nice and varied too, and not expensive. We went upstairs to the dining room and had a lovely three course meal. The staff were friendly and the service was quick so what is not to like. I wish we had a pub like this in our town.

The bar at the Riverhead Brewery Tap pub.

We came back today but I am already hoping that there will be enough water in the Huddersfield Narrow for us to journey up to Marsden again in October this year.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Maps and Guides.

I have always loved maps, especially Ordnance Survey maps. I have loads of them and love to read them like books, and they really come into their own when planning for a journey, trip or holiday is required. I really toyed with the idea of buying the ones I don't have for all of our journeys but the cost would be a fair bit and storing them would also be a problem. On the canals, when we were hiring I used the Pearson's Guides. I'm not sure why I started with them but  did enjoy the irreverent comments and the historical aspect of them. The maps are hand drawn and well annotated. The orientation is done to try to get the canal leading across the page so North is definitely not always up! I also like the comments about what the towns and villages along the way are like. Some are tongue in check and others allow you to read into them, but nowhere is condemned, and there always something positive said about the stopovers. The Pearson's obviously are not only wedded to the canals but railways too. All the old lines and stations are shown, along with transshipment basins etc. I do like the historical element of these guides.

The latest style of map in the Pearson's Guide. I am still getting used to this layout. I personally don't think they are as clear as the old style.

The other main guides in use are the Nicholson's guides. These were first published in 1970's by Nicholson's but are now  published by Bartholomew and the Ordnance Survey. They are based on the OS maps and I love my OS maps. There is a little bit of the map off, away from the canal so this gives you scope for sorting walks etc. As they are OS maps they always have north at the top of the page. I am used to this and it means I can always tell which way is which. I quite often find using the Pearson's Guides that I have to hold the map with north up so that I can sort myself out. The narrative on Nicholson's is usually more straight forward and less informative. Quite often the information for the map is not on the same page. This is likely to be due to having to have north up means that not enough space is left on the page. The guide is spiral bound which means that the spine isn't broken when using it.

Nicholson's Guide pages.

This year we will be cruising areas where there is either no guide for it or I feel that a 'second opinion' was required. I had heard about Richlow Guides and so had a look into them. They are written by Christine Richardson and John Lower, hence Richlow! They are both boaters and so have designed the guides the  way they want to use them. They are both heavily involved with the restoration of the Chesterfield Canal and as this is is only accessed from the Trent they have sailed the waters off that river too so first hand knowledge. My new Richlow guides have arrived today and so I have had a nice couple of hours reading through them. I had trouble ordering items from their website but an email to John Lower was very quickly answered. It seems there was a problem with PayPal rather than their website. The guides are slim spiral bound with plastic covers. The maps are uncluttered but have good information on them. The information regarding the places passed is good and relevant to the boater. The navigational information is very useful. There are historical sections along with lists of pubs and town maps. They look easy to use and easily read and I can't wait to use them when we get away. On the Richlow website they have updates that you can check out. Their 'motto' is 'written by people who go there' so they welcome anybody getting in touch with any changes or items missed to keep them as up to date as possible. The maps are like the Pearson's with the canal placed on the page to get the most on so north moves around. One thing I have noticed is that they don't have the number of locks summed up on the page so you have to count them from the page, like Nicholson's. All the maps have the mileage covered on the page but only Pearson's have a estimate of the time taken to cross the page. Nicholson's have each mile marked of on the map.

Richlow Guide pages.

So far the Richlow Guides cover the waterways off the Trent and Ouse, the canals to Sheffield and the South Pennine Ring. These are waterways that are under boated compared with the Shropshire Union or Grand Union and that is one of the attractions for us. I think with all three guides for some of the waters we will be travelling we will have the best of all worlds. I'd like to thank John Richlow very much for his very prompt assistance in getting the order sorted for me. Under three weeks now before we set off. I hope this weather lasts till then!

Monday, 10 March 2014

American ambitions.

It seems that I have been getting a lot of viewings of this blog from America. I am sufficiently old to still be amazed that people on the other side of the Atlantic are able, and even more amazed that they can be bothered to spend the time looking.

I then pondered what would rivet their interest in English Canals and my blog. I know that lots of North Americans come over for holidays on our canals, but why my blog! Well that started me thinking about what I know about canals over there. I had been up the St Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes via the Welland Canal between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. It was very interesting and we even used to get a bonus of £12 up and £12 down due to the long stand by's we used to have. In fact I have employed the techniques used on the locks on the Welland Canal on Holderness too, very occasionally. The run up to the lock is made at slow speed. There is a long run in jetty that was wooden. When you reach this you turn to it and run along side it, or on it.

St Catherines on the Welland Canal showing the run in jetty. Maybe the technique described  is not used any more as the ship in the photo is just shaping for the lock.

Quite along way out from the mouth of the lock the run in jetty angles towards it. The trick is to steer so that the bow stays on the jetty with the ship heading at the same angle as the lock is aligned, that is towards the jetty. When you reach the entrance to the lock it is midships, or a little opposite lock, and a quick slow ahead to poke her in and then when head and shoulders in , half astern to bring her up before the arrestor wire at the end that prevents damage to the other gate. The locks are 233.5 x 80 x 25ft I seems to remember 26' being our load draft though. It was great fun and very interesting. There are no pumps involved at the locks, just the natural head of water. The lock fills and drains in about 8 minutes I seem to remember. It was so rapid anyway that on the barograph on the bridge you could see the increase in pressure as we went up and down.

Staircase locks No 4,5 and 6 on the Welland Canal.

I also spent sometime running in and out of a little port at the opposite end of the country, Point Comfort in Texas which is south of Houston. The alumina plant we frequented was in the middle of nowhere and we had to pass through the Matagorda Ship Channel from the sea. I was fascinated by the Intercoastal Waterway that was marked on the chart. It seems that the waterway is 3000' long and is made up of three non joined length. Brownsville in Texas to Carrabelle in Florida, then one leg goes south from Tarpon Springs in Florida to Fort Myers in the same state, whilst another canal heads north from Key West to Norfolk Virginia. 

Showing the make up of the Intracoastal waterway of lakes, lagoons, rivers and canal systems.

The canal is made up of inlets, bays lagoons and man made canals. The waterway also connects with alot of the big American rivers too such as the Mississippi, Delaware, Hudson and others. Ultimately you can travel as far north as Boston.

Most of the routes.

It seems that they also have funding issues around maintenance and dredging as the supposed minimum draft is 3.7m and the actual in some few parts is 2.1m! There are no tolls but there is a tax on fuel used and this is supposed to fund the work. The money raised by the tax is held by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, (sound familiar?) under the US Treasury. They also created a Waterways Users Advisory group to give recommendations on what the money was to spent on. The tax was to rise to 20% in coming years.

The users of these waterways are not only small cruisers that move with the sun from north to south in the winter and back again in the summer, often called 'snowbirds', but very large pusher tugs with huge barges of petroleum,and their products, manufactured good, building supplies etc making the waterway a vital link in keeping large freight off the roads and keeping costs down too. The fact that they interconnect with the rivers to the interior also add to the scope of the freight.

Intercoastal Waterway pusher tug and barges in Texas.

I had a notion to journey from north to south on a Huckleberry Finn type voyage. I never managed it but I have crossed from Lancashire into Yorkshire a couple of times.

Welcome to all those from abroad who end up reading this blog. Hopefully if you do end up coming over on holiday, or other reason and come across our positively little ditches and see Holderness say 'Howdy'.

PS. Following my last blog and the excuse of not being able to find the MIFI, I found it in the bag of cables etc. I had taken it with me all along. Glad I found it but still makes me feel old. Maybe I should volunteer for this blood test diagnosis of Alzheimer's that has been announced.

Friday, 7 March 2014

I must be getting old!

It was all planned for Helen to take me over to the boat on Monday and leave me there to get on with a few jobs.As I was getting stuff ready the day before I found everything I may possibly need in the way of tools etc but I couldn't find the MIFI for the internet on the boat. We both hunted high and low but it never turned up so off I went internet deficient and unable to use the computer. How bereft can you feel with out stuff like that? The mobile signal in the area is very poor too so I had to make an effort to find a signal just to text! Still I was there to work and not to fritter my time away.

The main job was to tile the shower as small leaks had meant that the waterproof facing veneer had come away from the boards making up the shower. I had thought of sheeting but decided my skills were good enough to ensure a good water tight fit so we opted for tiles as the cement and grout would cover a multitude of sins. There was about 54 sq feet of bulkhead so how long could it take? I had given myself until Wednesday evening.

Firstly my Mum had had a new carpet fitted so I found a use for the off cuts around the boat, and the cutting and fitting of those took up a few early hours. Once Helen had gone after our lunch of sandwiches I set too cleaning the shower properly and then covering bare patches with bonding and sanding the rest hoping that it would assist in the adhesive sticking. That was the last early night I had. Mind you it was good to be back sleeping on a boat.

I never realised how hard tiles are. I had done tiling before, but using the small tiles. Current fashion is for much larger tiles and as this reduces the amount of grouting to go mouldy I approved. I am not competent enough just to quickly score the face of the tile and snap it with a nonchalant ease so I heavily scored the tile to ensure it broke in the correct place. I actually didn't waste very many at all and all in all it has turned out quite a nice job.  On the outer side where is the slope of the cabin side I left untiled as there had been no problem with water there and the board was much thinner there and I had doubts that any tiles I managed to persuade to stick on wouldn't stay very long as the thin ply panted.

Just about to start the tiling.

 The first bulkhead completed.
All done and dusted, I hope.

I'm hoping that when we go back next the tiles are still on the walls and the grout is in place. I have used flexible adhesive and grout so hope that the variations in temperature and the vibrations will all be shrugged off  and they are there a long time now. Plus there are no further leaks!

This shows why it wouldn't have been practical to do the job with Helen in residence at the same time.

I was very glad to see her when she arrived to pick me up on Wednesday teatime. I was about done in. Who would have thought that getting up and down so many times would give you piles, and I had blister all over my right hand through the scoring of the tiles etc, and my elbows and shoulders are aching so much they are still keeping me up at night. I am definitely out of condition, or maybe just getting old. I will definitely pay somebody the next time.

I was talking to a bloke in the marina about this and that. I asked him about going down to Sheffield and out on the Trent, both close to where the boat is moored. He had had a bad experience on the Trent with 3' waves, wind over tide and put him off for life. He told me not to listen to the lock keepers as they had never been on the Trent themselves. Now talking to most other folk they say that the lock keepers word is gospel and they help you no end. Who is right? I have seen this many times before, somebody has had a bad experience, like on the Trent, mooring in Leicester, weed on the Chesterfield or rubbish and yobs around Birmingham/Manchester and swearing they would never go there or do it again and warning you to keep clear. Who to believe as most people, most of the time never have any trouble. My theory is that you should do you own research, listen to everybody, make your own plans and take sensible precautions and then weigh it all up, and then just go for it.

I forgot to post this up last month when my friend and work colleague and his wife came up to stay with us. On the way again we popped in at 'Holderness' to show her off. It is a bit different to the boat Mark and I sailed on together out of Singapore.
L to R daughter Amy, Tul (the wife)and Mark.

I hope that I wont be in so much pain when I am typing for my next blog. Elbows you know. Home makers elbow, not housemaids these days.