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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.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Check out August.

Having said that I was only going to review June on my last post I must have got carried away as I ended up tagging July on too! Oh well we will just have to get straight into August now. We made our way up the Shropshire Union Canal to Chester where we had a couple of days, including Helen's birthday when we went to see an open air 'Othello'. The City is always great to visit. We left, travelling through the rock cut canal to Tower Wharf and then continued on the Ellesmere Port.

The canal running below the City Walls and under bridges in what would have been a moat.

Ellesmere Port Museum wasn't too welcoming for us to lock down into the Lower Basin but we had a good look round the place and as always found plenty to keep us engaged for a day. We then set off back down to Chester and past Barbridge Junction to Middlewich and Hurleston Junction to Langollen and stayed a couple of nights at Nantwich. As I was going home to see my Mum we checked into Overwater Marina for a week. Firstly my son and his girl friend stayed with us for a night and then after getting back some friends came for the day and then we set off down the Audlem flight of locks and stopped at Market Drayton where we were able to sample another pint of Joules beer at the brewery. Next time we pass we will do the tour.

Tyrley Bottom Lock. This flight of five locks is very scenic and seems also to be always busy.

We continued south pausing for a pint at the Anchor in, through Norbury Junction and Brewood to Autherley Junction and on to the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal, but only for less than a mile when we turned off at Aldersley junction on to the Birmingham Canal Navigation.

Aldersley Junction on the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal and the foot of the 'Wolverhampton 21' locks.

The lovely lock cottages at the top lock of the 'Wolverhampton 21' on the Birmingham Canal Navigation.

We had headed south as there were water shortages on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and we fancied going somewhere a little more quiet. Where better than Birmingham's back yard. After Wolverhampton we turned left and went exploring!

Near Adam and Eve Bridge on the Wyrley and Essington Canal.

When we turned at Horseley Junction we wondered what we had let our selves in for as it is not the most inspiring bit of canal on the system. However very soon we passed under a mirrored bridge and the water was so clear we could watch the many fish with ease. The canal wasn't as shallow and  weed and rubbish choked as the nay sayers were predicting. The lillies in the cut left a clear channel and as there was no traffic we could just stick in the middle. We turned up the Walsall Canal and stopped at the top of the locks at Birchills Wharf. This was the end of the canal until 1837.

Walsall top lock with the lock cottage and the Boatman's Mission next to it on the Walsall Canal.

At Pelsall Junction we turned up what is left of the Cannock Extension Canal. It is dead straight and has no locks but is none the less interesting to look at.

Early morning mist on the Cannock Extension Canal.

We went then went through Brownhills and turned up the Anglesey Branch of the Wyrley and Essington Canal at Catshill Junction.

Anglesey Basin with the dam of Chasewater Reservoir looming over it. It is a shame there are no better moorings here as it is a lovely spot. Anglesey Branch Canal.

Back down the Branch and on to the Daw End Branch. This was the most weed encroached and shallow part of all the canals we navigated but it had a real feeling of exploration and like pushing on up the Nile to the head waters! It was great fun.

I'm not sure weather we are ashore or afloat here on the Daw End Branch Canal.

The Daw End Branch was built to access limestone workings at Hay Head. When the Birmingham Canal Navigation and the Wyrley and Essington canal amalgamated that they decided to create a through route, the Rushall Canal.

Gillity Bridge on the very straight Rushall Canal with the next locks in the distance.

At Rushall Junction we turned on to the Tame Valley Canal and the Perry Barr flight of locks.

Top Lock of 13 Perry Barr Flight with the BCN cottages overlooking. Tame Valley Canal.

At Salford Junction the canal passes under the A38(M) and the M6 and appears to be in a futuristic world. We took the second right and on to the 'Saltley Cut' of the Grand Union Canal.

The 'Saltley Cut is not scenic, but it is interesting with many indications of its past glories. Garrison Locks and Bridges.

At Bordesley Junction we turned right on to the old Warwick and Birmingham Canal. There is an awful lot to see in this short stretch. Fellows, Morton and Clayton's old warehouse, side bridges, aqueducts, stop locks and Banana warehouses.

Warwick Bar where the water s of the Birmingham and Fazeley and the Warwick and Birmingham Canals were separated. The pillared building was the old Geest Banana warehouse. Birmingham Metropolitan College in the background.

Just past Warwick Bar is a turn into a basin that used to busy with boats working cargoes for Typhoo Tea and HP sauce that were manufactured near the Basin.

The 'Y' shaped Typhoo Basin.

After leaving Typhoo Basin we continued up the Ashted Locks on the Digbeth Branch of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. There is a lot going on in the way of developing the area and this flight will be a focal point in the future I'm sure.

Ashted Bottom Lock with single top and bottom doors to them as is usual on BCN locks. Digbeth Branch.

We found a mooring near the Science Park of Aston University and ended the month with a walk round Birmingham.