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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.