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Sunday 29 December 2013

In between.

I forgot I had another of my presents that is canal related. After stripping my knuckles of skin and getting old oil in the engine hole bilge I decided to get a hand operated oil transfer pump so I could suck the old oil out of the PRM gearbox with out having to remove the plug. The space below the gear box is so small that you can't get anything of any size underneath to catch the oil. After a bit of looking around I settled on a Neilsen Multi use Transfer pump CT2567. It has the dipstick hose to use in the gear box, it can be used as a syphon and can pump air too. I would also be able to use it to suck small amounts of water from a bilge etc. I wont say I can't wait to use it, but as I serviced the engine after parking her up it means I will need to drain the gear box after another 250hrs so that will mean that we are off and running for next years cruising. You can get them for about £6-50 on E Bay. I think I would secure the orange hoses to the pump with jubilee clips if using it for air but we will see when I finally get to use it.

Neilsen Multi Use transfer pump.

After our walk on Boxing Day we had a social event on the Friday when we picked up my Mum and went over to Selby to spend the day with one of my brothers and his family. The food and banter were excellent as always and it is horrifying to see all the kids getting one so well with partners about and lives to lead. Makes  you wonder where the time has gone. My sister in law is quite arty and as a present for Christmas she gave us a water colour of 'Holderness'. It is great and we have just the spot to hang it in the boat.

Christmas painting of 'Holderness'.

I'm sure that if anybody is interested she would be more than happy to undertake commissions and would spend time getting it just right. We passed over to them some of our foraged products, cherry brandy, sloe vodka, damson jam and boozy bramble jam etc. I hope they enjoy them.

We have paid for the next quarters mooring fees and that has concentrated the mind to be off and cruising by the end on March. I can't wait.

All the very best for the New Year. I hope all your hopes and dreams make roots and next year blosom.

Thursday 26 December 2013

After a lovely day yesterday we determined to have another great one today! Your Christmas lunch turned out to be about 1800 due to my daughter working until late. This gave us time to go and call on my Mother in Law who was too poorly to come over to us. We took  the presents and some of the 'side dishes' for her to cook at home. My Mum was picked up and we sat and watched the Queen's speech. For once they hadn't trailed most of it before hand. The meal was fantastic as always. I suppose it takes a few years to perfect everything but Helen has now had 28 years to get it exactly right to please everybody. I'm glad we didn't prepare everything too early otherwise we would have had enough food for six rather than four. It was the least number round our table in those 28 years.

I did well fro presents. There was a photo book about the Birmingham Canal Navigation, now and then. I love the BCN as there is so much history concentrated in such a small area and a great variety of scenery and sights too. There was also a book about foraging, what where and how, that will come in very useful next year. We managed to give a lot of jams, jellies and spirits we have made over the year as presents. I like the idea of making fruit cheeses and leathers (you'll have to Google it). We didn't get any Christmas cards with a narrow boat or barge on them though.

It was brilliant sunshine round her today so we went for a stroll by the Humber. It wasn't as busy as I thought it may have been. The low sun gives everything a special light too. The area in the first photograph below is of an area that has been opened up inside the flood bank so as to take some of the surplus water in tidal surges and flood periods. It is a great spot for birds and there were very many Golden Plovers on the mud flats. They occasionally took to the air and the glinting of their flanks was beautiful. The area has many starlings too and when they all swarm and wheel in the air. I think these are called murmurations!

Looking inland across Paull Holme Strays from the river bank. The area is open to the river at flood and spring tides. There are some dancing shadows too!

This is the Holderness Cape Canaveral with the rocket launching facility in the distance.
(Actually they are the leading lights at Throngumbald Clough. The red one to the left is the high light and the white one just to the right of it is the low light. Their bearing when in line marked the the course to steer from Hull to Halton Middle. I seem to remember the low light was on rails so when the channel changed, as it frequently does, the low light could be moved to bring the proper bearing into line again. They are't used now). Hopefully made you all look twice though. The slight rise at the right of the picture is the Napoleonic Fort Paull. The cloud is just arriving that indicates the front that is bring the next depression across the country. I hope you are all battened down for the gales that are to pass over us tonight. 

Hang on tight everybody.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Insurance check.

I had a letter from C&RT yesterday. I thought that it may have been a  little seasons greetings to licence payers but it turned out to be this! It seems that I was just one of the lucky ones!!

I am definitely not a C&RT basher. I am from the house of Libra and as such always seem to see both sides of an argument (if you believe in horoscopes that is). I am very pleased to see that they are doing checks to ensure that people on the cut are insured as it may well be our boat that gets damaged by an uninsured vessel. I wonder how they select the licencees to check up on. It could be that they decide that they need to carry out 10% checks and just divide the number on the list by ten and take every tenth number. It maybe that they take all the boats that are renewing their licence in a certain month. It would seem that if they were after catching people who were not insured that there would be more scientific ways of doing it. 

There is a enduring debate on the canals about continuous cruising/mooring, length of time allowed to stay on visitor moorings etc. Despite what the arguments are the 'rules' are clear if common sense is applied to them. There are also 'rules' on the canals such as you do not run engines or generators etc between 2000 and 0800 to avoid disturbing neigbours, not mooring on water points for longer than required to fill up, not mooring up on lock landings so as to leave them clear for boats putting crew ashore or picking them up, waiting for a boat approaching the lock with the level their way rather than turning it round and wasting water, and I'm sure there are others that could be added to the list. I'm sure there will be very legitimate reasons why  occasionally we, or anybody, will have to indulge in all of these things. This year I have been witness to all the above contraventions. I would say that most people have broken these commandments at times. How many have stopped for water and put the kettle on. The water has finished and you are still drinking your tea and eating lunch before moving off. What gets me is that when we do such a thing we are riddled with guilt and spend the time craning our necks to make sure nobody is coming and may need the water point. If they do we quickly down mugs and sarnies and leap to the ropes to move off apologising and begging forgiveness. When many others do the same they accuse you in words or looks or gestures of disturbing them when they have every right to complete their lunch in peace and quiet. We had two boats on the Calder and Hebble, one moored on the lock landing and one actually in the lock having lunch. They never apologised, they never helped and indeed showed great anxiety as we finally made our approach to the lock with both boats double banked now just outside the lock and making the approach almost a contact sport. An old couple were coming up Marple lock flight as we were going down. They had a friend going ahead of them who was just changing the locks round for them regardless of who else was the cut. When challenged they made claims that were obvious lies and could not be substantiated instead of just apologising. Loads of other instances can be given for similar incidents.

My main point is that if users were just polite and thought of others rather than just themselves rules would not be necessary. All the changes to bylaws and regulations that are proposed, and may be carried,  will not make any difference if people are just so selfish that they think they don't apply to them. Confrontation and upset could be greatly reduced if those that get caught causing disadvantage to other users just accepted that they were in the wrong and apologised as this would diffuse the situation straightaway. Obviously this problem is not confined to the canals and rivers of this fair land.

Those of us who may feel wronged should show some tolerance also as we never know the reason for the actions taken and there may be very real and legitimate reasons for the 'wrong doing'. All this thinking of others and tolerance would be much easier if everybody knew what the 'rules' were. British Waterways seemed to avoid confrontation and now C&RT have picked up the baton I feel the only way to stop an escalation of 'do what ever you want' is to quickly set the rules in concrete and then apply them rigourously through out the system. Folk would soon know what is required and start complying. Simple isn't it! But, now back to the beginning, there will be always those that think the rules don't apply to them, or at that time. So really once more I think that the way forward is just to try and be tolerant and just point out to transgressors that they may well be the first ones to get irate if somebody was having lunch when they wanted to use the water point.

I seemed to have droned on a bit but maybe that it is reading all the Christmas cards. Peace and Goodwill to all Men (and women). 

Seasons greetings to you all.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Brilliant batteries.

We went over to the boat for a few hours today. For the first time ever I have been able to check the batteries with ease. We had them moved from the engine hole to the st'bd locker and I was able to do a proper check in next to no time. I think I will move them a little further aft and I still need to construct a box to cover them better but I was able to open the caps easily. Check the electrolyte levels and the SG. When we left the last  time I  found that there were green 'charged ' lights on each battery, but one of the them was not illuminated. This time they are all lit and all the cells in each battery were about equal charge so it looks like there was no damage done to them after a year of not being able to check them properly. I am much relieved. But I still don't understand the invisible stuff. All connections were tight and everything seemed to be fine.

The batteries moved into the st'bd locker in the semi-trad stern.

The batteries covered with their lid still leaves room for some items for storage.

The engine hole was checked and all is dry and looking tiddly. I checked the drains for the deck boards and they were clear so the rain should run away okay. I checked the fenders and moorings. There is a little wear in the eyes of the mooring lines but not too bad at all. I put my old lines on for the winter. I checked the shore cable and connections and that was all tight and supplying power.

All looking nice and tidy externally.

I swept up the leaves and debris from the bow and stern and the roof and had a quick check round of all fixtures and fittings. We dead headed the flowers to but there is still a bit of colour there, and hopefully so until spring at least.

Just leaving, grudgingly. 

Inside I put the gas on and we made a cup of tea. Checked the water pump etc. The thermometer showed the the coldest out side had been -2.8 and inside + 2.5. We have to thermostatic heaters, one forward and  one aft, that seem to be doing their job. The temporary double glazing seems to be doing it's job and Helen took the curtain down that we had put up across the the back door so she could modify it a little.

We seemed to accomplish a fair bit in a short time, but it really made me feel that I wanted to sign on for another voyage as soon as possible. Mind you I wouldn't really want to be living aboard in a marina, especially this one as you are  really packed in. At least it means that there are folk that will be looking out for your boat most of the time.

Not much room this side!

My next job is to tile the shower cubicle so I don't really want to get it wet if I can help it. Hopefully tiles will be cheaper in the sales so will get that done in January in the boring bit after Christmas and New Year.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Officially a new era begins.

We have been a way in London for a few days. It has been the official retirement 'do' for myself and a few others. My old shipping company put us up in a nice hotel near to Tower Bridge and  close to the Trinity House Buildings and the memorial to lost Merchant Naval crews at Tower Hill. We and our wives were taken out to a nice restaurant where the Managing Director, Fleet Operations Director and one of the owning family were there. The family own huge assets with fingers in many many things, including this offshore company. It was a very pleasant evening.

The next day we were gathering at the company head office near Buckingham Palace and we decided to walk from the hotel to get some fresh air and exercise. The day was cold as the sun hadn't really broken through the fog. The fog made London very atmospheric.

Just by Tower Bridge with the Shard and City Hall, and me just nicely hiding HMS Belfast.

Tower Bridge. I have actually been under it with the roadway lifted for us. We then tied up on HMS Belfast. That would have been about 1985 I would guess. I was impressed that the launches and ferries were using their fog signals as they progressed up and down, and this made the Thames even more moody in the fog.

We walked via Covent Garden so Helen could get her fix. It wasn't too busy so we were able to have a little look around the stalls and things.

We decided that this tree in the piazza at Covent Garden, in front of the Actor's Church St Paul's, was more impressive than the one in Trafalgar Square.

We managed to get stuck in the lift at Head Office partly due to the fact we were in the service lift due to refurbishments. We were only there for about 20  mins but as there were 7 of us in a small space a claustrophobic may have had a panic attack. It was great to mingle with others in the company as it isn't very often that those at sea get to put names to faces. With the loss of the vast majority of the British Merchant Navy over the last 40 years it was also heartening to meet up and talk with some of the younger generation that are taking a career at sea now, and their wives/partners too. As you may appreciate there have been massive changes in the my almost 40 years.

It has been a nice few days away and a good start to the Christmas festivities. It has drawn a nice line under my seagoing and has fired the gun really for the start of my new life. I wont say that I wont go away again, or do something in that line as my qualifications are still valid for a few years and we may need the money or something, but the presentation seems to have settled me down properly into the idea of 'retirement'. They have also been good enough to allocate me a lump sum to purchase a gift. I have asked if they would cough up for our compost loo and then every time I sat there I could contemplate my time with them. Failing that my solar panels. (needless to say I didn't put it quite like that!)

Hopefully next week we will be down to the boat for a day to have a good check around and do a few little jobs.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Not much boat time.

I'm not sure where the time goes as we are well into December all ready and I haven't been able to get over to the boat. We had the tidal surge and high winds earlier in the week it was a little worrying for Hull and environs but in the end it wasn't too bad and no where in our village got flooded at all. There was flooding of the village of Keadby and I was a little worried that the lock gates to the Trent on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal would be over topped and that would then flood the canal and then there could well be problems on my mooring at Thorne as there is no lock between the Trent and Thorne. It seems all was well as I have heard nothing. If the comet Ison had survived it's close encounter with the sun we could have been blaming the weather on her. Mind you I would have put up with a bit of flooding if the spectacle of the comet had been as dramatic as they were predicting. Unfortunately the comet didn't survive but the scientists have been able to learn loads anyway. The high tides on the Humber will have brought a lot of debris high up the banks. I used to go with my Father after spring tides and collect fire wood for us both. I will go down and have a look to sea what is about. I was thinking that there way be the may be some 20/25ltr chemical containers washed up. I had a thought that they would make great cover for batteries. I will have to get the dimensions of a battery and see if they will fit. The plastic containers could be cut and trimmed to accommodate any cables etc and then they would make a good cover I would thing. Something else to look out for.

Maybe there was no comet but these winter evenings mean the low sun in the morning and evening are bringing dramatic sunrises and sun set. I am really looking forward to the time when we can live full time on the boat and take full advantage of the winter sun and the quiet canals. There is nothing nicer than having a day in the fresh air and then settling down in to a cosy boat in front of the fire.

I have some wood to chop after thinning out some trees and then I have some more to thin over winter so with luck I will be able to cut those to the right length for the boat stove. I will test them out on the open fire at home to make sure that they burn okay before lugging them to the boat.

My son has recently flown out to Hong Kong to join his first ship as an officer and they were delayed yesterday by fog on the way to Shanghai. It made me realise that so far this year we don't seem to have had too much fog yet this year. When I worked on the river there seemed to be much more about. Is that part of global warming effects too, or am I just remembering wrongly? They are off across the North Pacific soon to Seattle. I'm glad that we don't get seas like that on the cut. My days of bouncing about for days on end with no sleep are long gone thankfully.

Next week is a very busy one for me so I don't think that I will get the chance to get over to the boat then so it looks like the week before Christmas. We have bought lights for the boat so we will take those over plus some logs and other bits and pieces.

Sunset on the Weaver in July.

Foggy start to the day in March on the Grand Union Leicester Line.

Taking water at Braunston in March with a nip in the air but the stove lit and keeping the boat nice and warm.

Monday 2 December 2013

New month and junctions.

With December upon us (where did November go?) I got to thinking about junctions in life and in general. My kids have started new jobs and the run up to Christmas starts and I had a look through the photo archive as I remembered taking photos of signposts as junctions.

Probably the first one, and certainly one of the most picturesque, would be Hazlehurst Junction on the Caldon Canal.

The setting with the white painted lock cottage and stone bridge make it very pretty indeed. 

I wonder when the signposts were erected as I can't believe that they were required by the working boatmen in times gone bye. They must have been needed when leisure use was becoming dominant and before the guides became cheaper and more easily found.

On the BCN they seem to have them at every junction and this maybe because there were so many junctions in a small area, and with it largely all being industrial surroundings, maybe not so discernible.

Pelsall Junction at the Wyrley and Essington Canal and Cannock Extension Canal Junction.

Salford Junction underneath M6 Motorway where the Grand Union Canal or 'Saltley Cut' and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal meet and the Tame Valley Canal enters too.

Deepfields Junction where the BCN New Main Line cuts of the neck of the 'Wednesbury Loop' of the BCN Old Main Line. Part of the loop is retained to access the C&RT yard at Bradley. We will explore this next time we pass I think.

Digbeth Junction was quite exciting for us as you pass through Warwick Bar to get to it which would be a honey pot tourist destination if it was in a different place as the buildings and canal seem almost original hereabouts. We explored Typhoo Basin and it would make a wonderful mooring almost in the heart of the Second City. This area and the Ashted Locks are undergoing a regeneration and in a few years it could well be on the tourist map.

I suppose the junction on the BCN would not win a beauty contest, but then most junctions on the canals where purposeful rather than romantic. Some are better than others and Old Turn Junction, which is at the top of the Farmer's Bridge Locks and really at the centre of the canal area of Birmingham, is quite a good setting with the plethora of iron bridges and overlooked by the National Indoor Arena and the Sealife Centre with it's 'round-about' in the middle make it probably one of the most photographed.

Old Turn Junction on the BCN.

However for sheer WOW appeal my vote would have to go to Dunkinfield Junction at the meeting of the Peak Forest and the Ashton Canals and effectively the start of the jumping off route over the Pennines on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

Dunkinfield Junction at night taken from the footbridge over the Ashton Canal, with the reflections in Portland Basin of the warehouse housing the Industrial museum and with the crown topped chimney of the defunct Junction Mill overseeing all.

I'm sure everybody will have their favourite junction but lets say this is mine for the 2013 season as we actually went through it three times too.

Thursday 28 November 2013

Better acquainted with my batteries!

Last Sunday we went over to the boat at Blue Water Marina Thorne to do a few jobs and to see what had happened to our batteries. I had seen 'Spike' previously and we had agreed what was the work scope involved in moving the batteries out of the engine hole, where they were almost totally inaccessible to me, in to the seat locker of the semi trad stern. The work looked as though it had been fairly easy to carry out as really it just needed three holes drilling in the bottom of the locker for the cables to be run and as the locker is almost directly above the batteries any way, not too much else. There was all ready a wooden base in the locker and so it was just a matter of fitting a lid and a but to stop them sliding. In the fullness of time I will make a better box and move them a little further aft. The most difficult job would be disconnecting the batteries and then lifting them out of the stow and on to deck. Spike isn't quite as big as me, but he isn't that much smaller either. He must have had a struggle as I found £1-13 in change in the bilges! Anyway it is loads better now and I can actually see that each battery has an indicator on the top that is green if charged up and in good condition and dark when not. One of the batteries was dark indicating that they need charging. As we are on shore power we will see what is showing next time. The batteries were quite dry, especially the one with the poor indication so I hope that it perks up before the next visit.

The five batteries were on the steel shelf, or swim beneath the red isolator switches on the left of the picture. They are now in the locker above so not below deck.

I also changed the oil in the gear box and the engine. It should be done every 250 hours. The engine has a sump pump so that is very easy to drain the old oil after running the engine to get it warm. Just pumping the handle up and down with an old plastic bottle under the spout. The gear box is another matter. The drain is right at the bottom of the gearbox, where you can never see it, so everything is done by eye. There is hardly any room between the gearbox and the floor plates so you can hardly get anything under to catch the oil. When you have it can't have enough capacity to catch all the oil in one go so you have to refit the plug. Then the gap to bring the drip try out to empty the oil into a bigger container is so tight that in the end I just bailed it out into a larger container in a more open space. On top of that the dip stick is part of the drain plug so to check the level you have to screw the plug right in and then out. I wasn't really able to see any oil on the stick but knew that it had enough in. The new oil just wasn't visible on the dipstick. It will be when it has a bit of colour in it though. The oil filter was easy enough to change this time. Last time I had to make a Spanish windlass to start it moving in the thread. Next time will be the fuel and air filter too. I suppose the oil and filter are a bit less that £30 all in so not too expensive.

Engine hole looking forward. The gear box is the round thing with the two black hoses going into it. The oil sump pump is the green handle just at the end of the black air filter inlet.
Helen was hanging curtains and cleaning through. The boat soon warmed up when the Hurricane was put on and proved that it was operating. I was a little worried that the electrics my have gone for a Burton with the disconnecting of the batteries and somehow shorting stuff. Everything seemed fine though. I had taken the TV from home again but was still unable to get a picture on it. As it was dark and I was rushing I didn't give it too long. I must say that even now we are at home I am watching loads less TV than previously so that has to be more productive, doesn't it?

As can be seen in the photo above the bilge is starting to rust so I will have to scrape it as clean as possible then deal with the rust and then paint over it. It will mean I will be stiff for a few days afterwards as I will have to bend myself into funny shapes to get to the bottom of the bilge.

Friday 22 November 2013

Facts and Figures

Well after looking back over the seasons cruising I have found that we actually did 519 locks. That seems quite a lot to me, and as we were away for 192 days, and moored for probably about thirty of those, that is about three a day. I must say that the narrow locks are by much my favourite. They are quicker and easier on the muscles. Whilst on the BCN I was, more often than not, able to close one of the bottom gates when going up from the back deck off the boat. This meant that it saved either me climbing up and down the lock ladder, or Helen walking right round the lock. I'm not sure if the locks are more shallow (so the gates less heavy) on the BCN or just better hung but I didn't seem to be able to do it anywhere else. Mind you the top gate on the BCN locks are normal single gates rather than two small ones as is the norm elsewhere and they can be heavy to shift.

Farmers Bridge Flight up to Old Turn Junction from Aston Junction in Birmingham. A lovely flight of locks to work as they seem to be well maintained and the walk between them is just the right length. There are usually several people asking you the same questions to keep you from being bored too.

By my reckoning we managed to cruise 627 miles. That is a little less the to Dundee and back and a little more than to Swansea and back. So as I wont have to go there to see the Capital of Culture 2017 maybe they will be able to come to Hull! I think that as it was our first season we were galloping along a fair bit. I think next year we will definitely take it much more easily and talk time out to enjoy our surroundings more. I want to moor up in the countryside and explore the villages just off the cut and not just the 'honeypot' places. That will mean we will get to see more pubs and do more walking. The cat will also have many more chances to stretch her legs on the tow path rather than in towns etc. One of my favourite moorings of the year was at Appley on the Leeds and Liverpool. There was a good view but really it was as the weather was superb and that the cricket on the radio was fantastic as I sat in the sun and drank a few beers.

Appley moorings in the sunshine.

Another number is that it looks like we have been on 48 different canal, arms, branches and rivers this year. I realise that some on my list may not be on other peoples lists but I have tried to count them only if they are distinct named and different to the bits they come off. For example I have added the Liverpool Link Canal which could be said to part of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. I'm not sure how many canals there are but as we haven't been south of Braunston really that doesn't seem too bad to me. I don't think I will be a 'canal bagger', meaning that I have to make a point of travelling on every one there is, but if we are in the area it seems daft not to check them out, if it is safe to do so. Next years plans haven't even been thought of as yet but as we are near the Trent it could be the Chesterfield, of Fosse Dyke, or to York and Ripon up the Ouse, or over the Leeds and Liverpool? We will just have to see when the time comes.

The Liver Buildings, from the Liverpool Link canal in June.

We have managed to put 460 hours on the engine too. Next time I go to the boat I will be giving the engine her winter oil and filter change. We have a Beat 43HP and it has had no problems really. It has started every time. The only slight problems I had was with the cap of the skin tank bleeder that had been over tightened and cracked. I manged to find another at Sherbourne Wharf and they gave it me for free too. The other problem was a slight leak where the water supply came off the engine block for the calorifier. I couldn't get a spanner on it until I had moved the engine lifting bracket round, and then it didn't seem to weep again. The shower and water pumps have had their moments but I seem to have worked out what the problem is now and so that isn't so bad now either. I am hoping that the problem with not being able to check my batteries regularly will be sorted soon and so then I will be able to keep on top of that. The main job for me is the shower. It has leaked and the facing veneer has started coming away from the board. I think all I can do is to get all the loose off and then tile the cubicle. I will have to make sure that the adhesive is good to stick with the movement of the boat and the changes in temperature causing expansion/contraction. Then I will have to sort the best way to marry up the tiles with the base to prevent water seeping between the two. Other than that I am pretty happy with the performance of the boat. I'm thinking that we wont bother with a cratch an cover as our deck is so high that we couldn't use it to sit with a cover, and as we are reverse lay out it isn't where we would board the boat either. It looks to me that it would just become a dumping area for 'stuff' and we want to avoid that if we can. When we become truly continuous cruisers I may well consider a 'pram hood' as it would give us that space for disrobing from the wet gear and the muddy boots, but not yet awhile i think.

The batteries are currently stowed just under the deck to the left of the red cut off switches. The height above the batteries is not enough to get a hydrometer in or to top up with water. As you can also see there isn't too  much room for me to move about either. I look like I have just auditioned for a part in the Robin Hood Panto as Friar Tuck. I didn't know that the bald spot now just had a fringe at the back!

My highlights of the year, apart from just been on the water that is, were The Caldon Canal which is always beautiful, The Liverpool Link and stay in Liverpool and our trip round the back of Birmingham as it seemed such an adventure. I'm looking forward to more of those next year.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Hull in the Headlines (for the right reasons) at last.

Well there you go. Hull is to be the City of Culture 2017. I was quietly confident really and was surprised when I heard the Swansea Bay was supposedly the favourite. There is a lot being said about why Hull won and this phrase 'Hullness' seems to be bandied about. I think that it is a very special place that has a different type of person. As the city is cut off it can be a laughing stock. The M62/A63 is a very big cul de sac. This isolation has also been the reason that the city character is how it is. We are quite down to earth and just get on with things. We don't crow and we aren't all  mouth and no trousers. People were also keen to have the City of Culture as we feel our isolation too and wpuld love to show our city in the best light. Our nature is to just crack on with things. Our humour is dry and definitely not slap stick. It is different here and I hope that from now to the end of 2017 folk will give us a chance and come and see for themselves. It is well known that many people come and spend time at University, work etc and then decide to stay. Ans those born and bred inevitably seem to return in numbers too, so there must be something here. I know that there is nowhere else more deserving and who will get most from it. Bring it on.

Here are a few whistle wetters for those who haven't been to our place.

The Humber Bridge.

The Deep Aquarium.

The River Hull Tidal Barrier.

Queens Gardens with the Town Docks Maritime Museum in the background.

Prince's Street in Hull Old Town.

Paragon Station, Hull.

I'm sure whoever took the photos won't be too upset today to have them reproduced here.

Sunday 17 November 2013

October rehash.

It is just over three weeks since we arrived back home and it seems like three months already. Although we have been back to the boat for a quick day visit, and it felt then that we hadn't been away, and we are hoping to go over for next weekend, looking back through the photographs we have taken has just reminded me what a lovely first season's cruising we had. All through the recap of our journey I have limited it to only one picture for each of the canals, rivers or arms etc that we have been on. There has been a surfeit of pictures to choose from on some, and less on others. Actually most of the pictures we have taken are things that you can see from the canal or when you are ashore. I must remember to take more photographs of what makes the canals so wonderful. Not so easy to catch the essence of a canal. I suppose the roving bridges of the Macclesfield Canal would be an easy way, but what of the Dewsbury Arm of the Calder and Hebble Canal?

After a week at home after collecting our daughter from her world travels we returned to the boat at Droylsden and set off up the Ashton Canal to cross the Pennines. This is just near where we moored at the head of the Fairfiled Locks. Down hill to Manchester.

Very hard to pick a photograph for the Huddersfield Narrow canal as there was so much to see and such pretty and different views. However the highlight has to be the Standedge Tunnel and the photo is the Tunnel Gates at the Diggle End from inside the tunnel at the start of the 1hr 40 minute trip. A fantastic experience and one I would recommend every boater, whose boat will fit, to undertake.

Down off the Pennines' now and just at the start of the Huddersfield Broad Canal just outside Huddersfield and Apsley basin. This is Locomotive Bridge. It is somewhat eccentric for a functional lifting bridge but it works and smoothly too. Not just your average bridge at all. We managed to fit in the smallest locks without removing fenders, or paintwork, but some of them we wouldn't have been able to share with another boat.

We popped out of the Huddersfield Broad canal and onto the River Calder. We missed the turn into the Canal Cut bu managed to swing round and through the stop lock. There was some unusual lock gear and we managed to use our old pick axe handle as a handspike. The photo is of the very pretty pair of locks, Thornhill Double Locks. I expect it would have been a bit of a bottle neck in the working boat days.

Just after Thronhill Double Locks was the very tight turn into the Dewsbury Arm. It took a bit of fiddling but we got in okay. The arm is very shallow but the Saville Town Basin looks very inviting and next tiem we pass this way I reckon we will stop for a night or two.

At Wakefield the Calder and Hebble morphs into the Aire and Calder canal at Fall Ing Lock. The lock looks huge, and the River Calder looks bigger than ever as you pen out on to it. The harsh old mine workings on its bank have been softened by age and the autumn colours and still cool air made it a very memorable trip. The photo is on the River Calder near Whitewood Wharf.

At Castleford the Calder joins the Aire and the river is doubled in size too. It felt like a real adventure as we motored on a placid River Aire. The Ferry Bridge Power Stations brought nus up to date and the juxtaposition of the modern A1 bridge and the lowly but much more elegant 18 century bridge made it more appealing rather than detracting. It must have been sacrilege when the Motorway Bridge was first built though. The phot above is taken from the Aire and Calder Canal looking over the flood look and you can see the A1 Bridge with Ferrybridge C Power station above it.

The Aire and Calder Canal remains deep and wide with only isolated locks. We made out way towards Goole but turned off south on to the last canal of the 'canal age to be built, the New Junction canal. This canal is almost dead straight but with aqueducts at each end and several moving bridges in between.
The photo is of the aqueduct over the River Don at the southern end of the canal The big guillotine gates are shut off the canal in case the River Don  floods. As can be seen the bridge carrying the canal is not much higher than the canal and the canal level is lower than the flood banks of the river, hence the need to close it off. As it was chucking it down at the time we didn't linger, but next time we will.

Our last canal for this six month trip was the Stainforth and Keadby canal. This joined the coalfields and manufacturies of South Yorkshire with the River Trent and hence the world. The New Junction Canal was dug to create a new junction to Goole for a access to deeper and larger vessels to trade with. This was our last day with the true colours of autumn really showing  between Bramwith and Stainforth.

I'm not sure when we live full time on the boat that we would like to stay in a marina the whole time. It does seem very hemmed in after the open road, but of course all mod cons are there. I think we would just keep a good eye on the weather and move around as stoppages and relative safe havens permit. All that is for the future. For the next few months I have a few jobs to do on the boat and hopefully we will get a away for short cruises and nights aboard. I used to get paid for night on board but now I would pay them!

Wednesday 13 November 2013

It's never dull in Hull.

Helen and I went over to Thorne and 'Holderness' today as I was meeting up with a bloke to size up some work for us. It was to move the battery bank into a more accessible position than at present as I literally can not get to one of the batteries to re-fill or test it. We are going to move them up into the st'bd seat locker of the Semi-trad. stern. This is directly above their current position so should be very easy, and relatively cheap to accomplish. The locker is ventilated so I can't really see any other issues with regard to the BSS Certificate. I will build a box round them and that way I will still be able to use the space above them for light storage.

I had plans to do a few other jobs too like change oil and filters etc, erect curtain poles for the back door etc but as I am a daft beggar I forgot my tools!! We did manage to top up the fuel tank to try to prevent condensation in the fuel and do some measuring up for other jobs.

The boat was looking good and we instantly felt at home and ready to sail away again. The double glazing film at the windows and side hatch had been doing it's job as the wood work was dry. The minimum temperature in the boat had been +5C so it either hasn't got too cold or the heaters that I have set on +5C have been doing their job. The Hurricane heater started straight away and soon had the boat warm through out. The engine started first time too, which is all very encouraging. There was no water in the engine bilge either

The trip was useful as It was obvious that going for the day wont really be long enough to get too much done. I therefore have resolved that the next time I go it will be at least an over night stay. The trip from the berth to the fuel point and back was a good fix for my withdrawal symptoms for the boat. It meant turning twice in the confines of the berths. It is only three weeks since we moored up but it seemed ages that we had been away, hopefully it wont be so long til the next time.

You are maybe wondering what this all has to do with the title of post? Well Hull is one of the four finalist for UK City of Culture for 2017. The others are Leicester, Swansea Bay and Dundee. I can probable guess what you are all thinking but don't write us off so quickly. Hull is a dark horse. Nobody comes here accidentally. We are not on the road to any where, except maybe the ferry to Rotterdam or Zeebrugge, and this has made Hull a very individual place. For the official bid a short film has been made and I think it really sums us up very well, and is beautifully filmed too. I think of the four candidates Hull will gain the most from winning as I feel we have the biggest need for a leg up. Hull is just waiting to bloom and move on into the 21st Century.

Please watch the Youtube video 'This City Belongs to Everyone' ; 

(Not sure how to embed the actual Youtube)

I'm a big softie, but I had tears in my eyes as it has managed to show what I feel about this place I call home that only ever seems to get bad  publicity. If you like what you see please tell others about it as every little helps. Party political party for the Hull, City of Culture 2017 bid is over.

The winner of the bid will be announced next Wednesday 20th. Everything is crossed.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

September again.

We started the month on the Digbeth Branch Canal near the centre of Birmingham. This mooring is opposite Aston University Buildings.

We turned up the Farmers Bridge Locks at Aston Junction and headed for here, Cambrian Wharf, on the Birmingham and Fazeley canal. I stayed there for a week whilst Helen went home.

We set off north again via some slight diversions. This is the Icknield Port Loop with the dam for the Rotton Park Reservoir behind the maintenance yard.

We crossed over the BCN Main Line and straight on to the Soho Loop with Hockley Port and Winson Green Prison.

At Smethwick Junction we turned up on to the BCN Old line and climbed the three locks. The photo is from the top lock looking back down.

We then turned into the Engine Arm for an over night mooring. The tow path bridge over the Arm is tiny and the aqueduct is travelling over the BCN New Main Line below.

We then went back on the Old Main Line all the way to Factory Junction where the Old and New Main Lines of the BCN reunite. We then turned up the Wryley and Essington Canal at Horseley Junction to moor at Wednesdfield Junction again.

The following day we headed back to the BCN and passed down the Wolverhampton 21 locks. Helen is near Lock 20 at the bottom in the photo.

We were soon back on the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal. Soon after Autherley Junction you come to Pendeford Rockin where the canal is 'single track with passing places' as it has be cut out of solid sandstone.

After a couple of days we were soon back at Great Haywood and back on the Trent and Mersey canal. We turned north and these trimmed willows were found just north of Stone.

Once again through the Harecastle tunnel we returned to the Macclesfield canal at Hardings Wood Junction. The photo is of Hall Green Lock which is actually where the join of the Macclesfield and trent and Mersey Canals was made.

After a few days of mixed weather on the Macclesfield we got to Marple and the Peak Forest canal. We descended the 16 Marple Locks and then here we are passing over the River Goyt Aqueduct next to the rail viaduct. In a more salubrious place the place would be thronged with visitors as the whole canal-scape in this area is wonderful.

At the north end of the Peak Forest canal we put into Portland Basin Dry Dock. We had to have our propeller blades straightened after something went through them in Stone, and took the opportunity to black the hull, which badly needed it.

After five days in dock, and me going home for a couple of days we were off on our travels again. Not far through just to Fairfield Junction on the Ashton Canal. This is near Audenshaw. We then moored at Droylsden for a week as were going to pick our daughter up from the airport after she had been away from home over a year.