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Wednesday 31 December 2014

New Year Resolution.

Well here we are on the cusp of another year. Amazing isn't it! We have had some good weather here in Hull, not the snow or rain of further west. However it has been cold with a good frost overnight. That also means the clear skies make for beautifully clear and sunny day and good walking weather. We went the short distance to Hornsea on the coast and walked round all round the outside of the houses. We parked near the mere and circumnavigated the town. The beach was full of anglers as it appeared there was a match on. We had to make a tough decision as to whether to head off home or stop for a fish and chip lunch. The answer was stop for lunch. The next decision was Sullivan's or Whitehead's. We plumbed for Whitehead's. Hornsea is home to  two very good fish and chip restaurants. We just got in before the rush and on emerging with full bellies we resolved to extend our walk to help the digestion. Secretly I think it was all a ploy for the girls to visit Hornsea Pottery outlet village as our route went through it. It was remarkably busy and we did stop for a couple of purchases on the way through. We were back home by 1500 feeling better for being out and about.

Looking south towards Spurn Point from Hornsea promenade with the Marine Hotel in the centre. The anglers didn't seem too cold with all the standing about but then they do get well togged up.

Looking north towards Bridlington and Flamborough Head, (couldn't see them today though). Note the caravans perilously close to the cliff edge. The low cliffs on the Holderness coast are made up of boulder clay and it is easily eroded with 2 or 3 metres been lost, even on a good year.

We haven't managed a trip to the boat yet but must go next week to check her out. I have a few jobs to do so I am hoping for at least one night aboard rather than rushing over everything. I had started to look to booking a Ribble Link Crossing as it seems they get booked up very quickly on in the New Year, but after seeing some friends yesterday I will scratch that for this next year I think. Helen and daughter and friends have got tickets for a Take That concert that I thought was in mid June but is in actual fast mid May. It was a good thing that we got it straightened out in good time. I am not thinking of starting out at the end of March. We may head to Sheffield again, or certainly further east from Dewsbury as I am helping out at the Hull Beer Festival in mid April. After that we will cross the Pennines over the Rochdale to Manchester and then make our way steadily to Birmingham for mid May and the concert. From I have a thought to head down the Severn to Gloucester and Sharpness with a view to passing out into the Severn Estuary and making the trip to Avonmouth, Bristol and Bath and then the Kennet and Avon. I didn't fancy doing a there and back up the K&A and it should be fun! After that we will maybe just wend our way back north slowly. Nothing set in stone as yet so we will see what happens.
Chart with the route from Sharpness to Avonmouth. Doesn't look very difficult on paper does it?

All the very best to each and every one of you that may read this blog now, or in the future. I hope that 2015 will be all that you would wish it to be for you and your family. If you are reading this in the future I hope that all is going/went well for you.

New Year's resolution; to take more time to stop and enjoy places on which ever routes we end up following, and not just on the canals. Stay  safe everybody in 2015.

Saturday 27 December 2014

Christmas past.

Ten days since I have posted and I don't seem to have sat down since writing that past and until we sat down for our superb Christmas dinner. We haven't had time to get over to the boat but as the cold weather is set to descend we will have to go over next week to check it out and feed the meter at the least. There were ten of us at table and we had a lovely day, just enough food and not too much drink was enough to get us giggling with the quizzes and games we played and slept very well that night. I didn't see the space station go over though, so that was the only disappointment.

I was expect any present that I was given to have a high percentage being connected to the canals in some way. When folk know that you live on the canal for a lot of the year and are interested it makes there selection easier sometimes. How ever I only had two items, and one of them was a joint one.

We were given this by our daughter. We are not ones to have canal ware all round the boat but as you can see this is small enough to not take up too much space and even be useful. I will have to question her as to where it came from.

The other item was the autumn copy of the Narrow Boat magazine. I love the history of the canals and rivers and it is really interesting to read of how the work was undertaken and even better to see the old photographs. In this edition there were photos of Stoke Bruerne, Doncaster and Church Lock on the Grand Union where we had traveled this year. Other than the boats and the missing old buildings the thing that I notice the most is that the trees and hedges have grown up a lot. I often think that the views would have been much better in days gone by, but not so easy to navigate in a gale of wind. There was also an article about the cargo handling in days gone by. The boatman had to contend with very varied cargoes and knowing how to best stow them and to load them for trim and so not to overload the boat were very similar skills to what was needed on the general cargo ships I first went to sea on. The advantage for the narrow boat was they were almost always for one point of discharge and there was only one deck. On my old ships we had to load everything so that it didn't damage cargo above or below it and that it could be accessed to be discharged at the proper port. I remember having to stow sacks of pepper corns in 5 tonne lots in a tween deck so that they didn't touch anything else, especially the side of the ship to avoid sweat damage, and so that we could unload them at any one of eight ports. It was the entire season's cargo of  a small Indonesian island.

It seems that the Calder and Hebble has had the flood locks closed for navigation since 11th December which is over two weeks now. The last time we went to the boat I found that the back fender had been caught under the pontoon deck for a while. I moved the boat forward so it would clear if the water rose again. I hope that it isn't too bad there. Last night there was snow in Sheffield but I'm not sure about Dewsbury. Here in Hull we only had a little rain and not even a frost. I hope that even with the colder weather due the heaters will be able to cope with maintaining the heat in the boat above freezing.

This is at Leeds Lock on the Aire and Calder in 2007 and we may well be in trouble if it gets this bad on the Calder and Hebble!

I'd like to wish my four blog followers, Andy Healey of NB Centurion, Andy on Festina Lente, Marilyn and David in New Zealand and John R in Western Australia a very belated Happy Christmas and all that they would wish for for the New Year. I am very surprised at how many people read my blog offerings and even more about where they originate from. My top places are as follows:-

Thanks to all of you for reading and I hope that there will be something of interest to you all in the future. Keep safe and well.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

More boats required.

After reading all about the excess numbers of boats in London, and having seen that for ourselves (but found it not as bad as some would have you think) it was amazing to read of a canal where more boats are desired! I recently received my Pennine Link magazine, the organ of the Huddersfield Canal Society and it said that whilst the numbers of boats using the canal were about the normal so far they really wanted to increase the numbers. I can attest to the fact that the canal, or the tow path at least, is used extensively by cyclists and walkers but there are few boats moving along it's length. Especially the Narrow Canal. They say that is perhaps due to the fact that the transit of the tunnel is limited to three days a week and it needs to be booked at least three days in advance. I think the limitation is partly due to the provision of 'pilots', or chaperons as C&RT like to call them and them cost of this. I think the Canal Society are getting two of their volunteers trained up for this so that should ease somewhat. The other factor is that if it became very busy there could be a problem with water supply. I think this is being looked at in the water resources management structure for the region.

Stakes Aqueduct over the River Tame near Stalybridge, built by Benjamin Outram.

How ever I think the real reason that there are few people that want to use the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and pass through the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in the UK is that they have heard from other boaters that it is terrible! The boaters grapevine is a wonderful thing so long as you don't believe everything you hear. The bush telegraph seems to have a magnifier attached to it. What may be one incident in a place turns into a no go area after several tellings. How many times have we heard that you should never stop in Leicester as it is dangerous. There are safe and secure moorings provided on the offside. Admittedly these are limited in number but with sense you can use the towpath without more than the normal worries in a city. The local police patrol told me that they haven't had any incidents there for many years. It is the same with moorings in London as this is a very special case. There aren't many places on the rest of the system where you would have to consider mooring alongside a boat that may not have a couple of a certain age with at least one dog and a well polished side, but in London if you are willing to do it then there is no problem. It may not be a problem as there are places to moor on a first come first served basis at the basins etc. The apocryphal stories about the Huddersfield are many, no water, no moorings, heavy gates, boats stuck on sills etc etc, and all have been true at some time or another. It is also true of every other canal on the system.

Next time you here such a story ask the teller if it happened to them, or they have been and witnessed it. 99 time out of 100 I bet they say that it was at least third hand. Part of the idea of reopening the through route was to assist in the regeneration of the towns and villages along the canal. This wont really happen until boats come in greater numbers. Stalybridge is a case in point. The local council flattened an area to allow the canal to come through and the canal passes the resulting Armentieres Square was a focal point for the generation of the area. All it is lacking is boats passing through for the Gongoozlers and ice cream vans etc to congregate.

Armentieres Square, Stalybridge.

It must be somewhat disheartening for the Canal Society that after such a superhuman effort by many bodies and people, and vast sums of money, that the canal is under utilised and somehow devaluing their effort.  The Society are doing their part by lobbying for more work to be carried out on the infrastructure ( and doing plenty of it themselves too), increasing the number of moorings, and making a leaflet of the details of facilities for boaters etc . It is up to boaters to come and use the canal to show that their efforts were not appreciated by boaters. The old addage of 'use it or lose it' hold good here. The fact that many more boats will bring many more problems is just something that have to be addressed when it happens. For me it is a glorious trip and the sense of achievement of completing the trip is worth the effort. The scenery is fantastic and the locals are friendly. Try it for your selves.

Entrance to the Diggel, west end, of the Standedge Tunnel.

Overall Winner
Huddersfield Canal Society Photography competition winner 2014.
The Standedge Tunnel, Nathan Reynolds, York.

Autumn in the Colne Valley.

Locomotive Bridge, Huddersfield.

Sunday 14 December 2014

Another hemisphere.

I wish the title went to explain why it has been a week since I put up a blog, and that it was because we had jetted off to leave the Christmas shopping behind in cold England as it seems to be what many boaters seem to do. But no, it meant that we traveled the 15 miles to the coast that is  actually east of the Greenwich meridian and so in another hemisphere. We love the Holderness coast and Spurn Point on a nice day in the winter. In the summer it can be very busy as it makes a great place for kids. Which ever the wind direction you can find a spot to sit on the sand, with the dunes etc etc. I used to travel up and down Spurn Point to the Pilot Station there and even then we would have occasional periods on a top spring tide with an added tidal surge that the water would wash over and  make the road impassable. Spurn Point is a long spit of land at the mouth of the Humber estuary caused by the movement of sand eroded from the coast south of Flamborough Head, moved by longshore drift, meeting the flow out of the river. There have been many Spurn Points and called many that have been eroded as the coast to the north has been consumed and then it has re-established it's self further to the west. There was a major port town on one of the spits called Ravenser in the 14th Century and in 1399 Henry Bolingbroke landed there and went on to become Henry IV when he deposed Richard II.

The timbers mark the seaward line of where the road and railway line once were. They are actually the Victorian sea defences that have delayed the loss of the point for many years.

The road was supplemented by a railway line when a gun battery was built in the First World War. This then had a garrison to man it and to assist construction a railway was laid from the north end of the point where it joins the mainland to the tip over three miles south. Various lighthouse have been built on the point and the remaining one does not have a light for navigation but still stands tall. In 1810 a lifeboat station was built on the point and as it was difficult to reach quickly a crew, and their families, lived on the point. After WWI the railway was utilised by the lifeboat crew and others by resting a bogey on the lines and using wind power.

A sailing railway bogey in 1933. They lock as thought they are in on of the bunkers that protected the large guns from the war. I think the hut on stilts was the look out house used by the lifeboatmen.

You can see the scale of the timbers by Helen and I

Out to sea could be seen the bases of very many wind towers. most were still awaiting their columns and sails and there was a jack up ship installing one as we watched. It was easily seen as the visibility was magnificent. The road has now been washed away and at just about any spring tide the point now gets washed over. At the point end is still the Lifeboat station but since last August the families live over in Grimsby and the crew live on the point six days at a time in a rota. The pilot station is still manned but all changes and boardings are carried out through Grimsby. There are no plans to build any defences to resist the sea as the Point is owned by the Wildlife Trust and they want nature to take it's course.

Walking back up the beach to the little village of Kilnsea to visit the Crown and Anchor and a lovely fish and chip lunch. I lovely day in a very under rated part of the world. And all at the request of my daughter on her birthday.

Monday 8 December 2014

Time telescoped.

Where did that week go? I suppose this is what you get in the run up to Christmas so much to do and so little time to do it. Last Monday we went over to Dewsbury to check the boat out. The trip was only an hour and a quarter so it isn't too bad at all.

The route takes you up the Humber North Bank and then crosses over the Market Weighton Canal that is still navigable for a few miles from the Estuary. The next waterway is the River Ouse where the motorway crosses just by Howden Dyke Island. Occasionally you can see boats stranded on the mud that have gone the wrong side of the island. On the way back east on the Motorway you can see the Howdendyke wahrves and even a ship or two occasionally.

Howdendyke Wharves from the River Ouse.

You can see the old Boothferry Swing Bridge to the west and Goole Docks to the south. Iy isn't very often you see any ships in Goole Docks. This is partly as they are usually low air draft vessels so you don't see them over the warehouses. How ever there used to be some very tall ships we brought up that had to lower their masts, hydraulically to get under the Humber Bridge.

Ouse M62 Motorway Bridge with Howden Dyke Island upper right and the wharves are very top middle. Boothferry Bridge is just out of shot centre left.

Looking south west with the M62 Ouse Bridge dwarfing the old Boothferry Swing bridge. The arch on the right opens for ships. The power station top right is the largest in Northern Europe, Drax and is now turning to burning biomass that is mostly brought into the country from abroad. In the distance beyoond it is Eggborough power station. The small river running through the centre of the photo is the Aire that meets the Aire and Calder Canal at Knottingly where it forms part of the route to Selby.

The next navigation crossed is the Aire and Calder where you can look down on Whitley mechanised lock. There are moorings there and I suppose that you will quickly get used to the noise of the motorway. We crossed the Aire and Calder again near to Woodnook Lock west of Castleford and the next navigation is the basin at Savile Town and the Calder and Hebble.

Whitley Lock from our passage in 2013.

We got there to just check over everything and to pick up several things. I checked the engine hole to find it had plenty of water down there. The swim of the stern is such that it actually doesn't drain right to the stern where the bilge pump is but to the forward part of the compartment. It didn't take long to bail out and dry up and get the engine started first time. The shore cable was good so all the batteries were fully charged according to the Smartguage. The next job was to put the kettle on, so on with the gas, and that to be followed by the heating. That was a problem as nothing happened and the Hurricane remote read out was flickering then dead. I checked the fuse in the engine hole to find that it had got water in it and the fuse had blown. I then walked into town to find a replacement and got some at Halfords. By the time I had got back it was getting dark, but after fitting the fuse the unit flashed up but then powered down as it was reading that the thermostats were all satisfied. Oh well I will have to look into that for the next time. There is always something going on isn't there. I didn't get to check the batteries and even forgot one of the things we had dashed over to collect. Still it means that we will have to go again before Christmas.

Saturday 29 November 2014

Gear and equipment bought 2014.

Curtain rail for side hatch..........................33-11
Fairleads for roof edge..............................14-42
Coir matting for bed..................................16-00
Sheet for mattress cover.............................3-99
Richlow Guides........................................32-00
Lifejackets x 2..........................................98-50
Lifejackets x 2........................................114-00
VHF Radio HX300E................................89-99
Tide Tables for Humber and Trent............1-65
Tidal Trent chart......................................13-00
Frying pan..................................................7-99
Ash trays, for vent drip trays......................1-00
Pillows x 4................................................12-99
Longthrow aluminium windlass...............19-00
Wooden 'high chair'..................................30-00
Padlock for fuel cap lock..........................14-98
mooring chains x 2...................................12-78
TOTAL                                                   678-39

All these items are those that will be left on the boat and will be useful year after year. I suppose the largest outlay was for four life jackets. We bought two and then we we realised we would have guest during our trips up and down the Thames we thought we had better get a couple more when we found it difficult to 'borrow' some. I must admit that I am tempted to wear them all the time when underway as they are not uncomfortable, don't weight too much and don't overly restrict movement. We got the Crewsaver 150 with auto inflate but no harness. I have worn them a lot when at sea and can maintain them myself with no trouble.

The VHF radio I felt was another piece of safety equipment that we should have. I did use it on the Trent and Thames but not much. I think that it would come into it's own in an emergency. I did not need to do a course as I hold the full GMDSS General Certificate from my work.

Modelling the Crewsaver life jacket and the HX300E floating waterproof VHF radio on the Thames off the O2 Arena.

The next biggest purchase was the Smartguauge. I have no idea about electricity and would get paranoid about using electrical items on the boat. I don't profess to understand how it works by my research seemed to indicate that it was reliable, easy to fit and had a readout giving a percentage level in the batteries that made it easy for me understand the state of the batteries. I did find it easy to fit and I am far less anxious about the use of electricity as I can constantly see the state of the batteries.

The Smartguage is showing 80% charge in this photo and may it never fall any lower. We can hope I suppose. Above it are the fuse panels. (I must get round to marking what does what). At the right hand side at the top is the remote panel for the Hurricane heating system with the inverter below. The white bow is our in/out thermometer showing 24.8 in and 23.2 out. Less than half today alas. The lower box is the solar panel readout.

The Richlow Guides cover the waters that Pearsons and Nicholson's do not and they are well prepared and interesting to look at too. They were very helpful in sending them and as they put out updates you are able to keep them current so should not be required to be bought again.

We also used the Richlow Guides for the Chesterfield Canal, Lincolnshire Canals and the South Yorkshire Waterways.

The Tidal Trent Chart from the Boating Association was quite expensive really but it gives peace of mind to know where you are and what to expect. We made transits on a rising tide but on falling tides it would be even more of a comfort.

Just follow the red line on the Tidal Trent chart.

We had experienced damp under the mattress which had ruined the mattress cover. From my research it seemed that the material to maintain an air gap between the mattress and the bed box were really expensive. To achieve the same thing I bought two large coir door mats and cut them to shape. their weight keeps them in place and the bristles keep an air gap open so we have not had any problems. I got PVC  backed that stops too many of the bristles coming adrift but other types will do the job for a fraction of the cost of other types of dry mat.

The other items on the list are just items that we needed at the time and will be added to the inventory. Inevitably as years pass the boat will fill up with 'stuff'. We will now have to try to become strict on removing something no longer in use when we buy something new if it isn't a straight swap. I am expecting that the annual costs will not really go down very much, and hopefully not up very much either. We will be blacking the boat somewhere next year and who knows what will occur but generally I am hoping to keep to under £6000. Some things will go up and some will come down is what I am hoping. I often wonder how this compares with other boaters as there are not too many detailed figures to be had. I have often been told that boats are bottomless pits but I don't think they are anymore than homes or cars or gardens or golf club membership. You just have to be prepared to spend a certain amount on everything and hope that the maintenance you carry out limits unforeseen items and you remain lucky.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

2014 consumables.

50 lt  cocoa shell mulch................  16-15
grease............................................  15-45
engine oil 5 x 5lt...........................  75-00
oil filter x 3.................................... 37-80
fuel filter.......................................    5-33
air filter.........................................    5-48
2 lt engine antifreeze....................   12-90
10 lt of antifreeze for heating.......   30-70
paint and brushes etc....................   29-23
stove maintenance........................     7-50
5 lt distilled water.........................     2-75
tools etc........................................    18-93
TOTAL                                          257-22

The cocoa shell mulch is an essential item for the composting loo. It isn't readily available in garden centres so I had to buy it by mail order and get it to the boat.

This is the same compost loo as on our boat, an Airhead. The liquids go in to the large container at the front of the unit and the solids go straight down into the body of the thing. The cocoa shells are to absorb the small amount of residual moisture and to break up the solids so that air gets to all of it and prevents smells caused by anaerobic decomposition. The solids are stirred up using the cracked handle. I put about a handful of cocoa shells a day in so a 50 ltr bag has lasted us over 7 months.

I have carried out all my own engine servicing so far. I have bought all my filters from Inline Filters who are very rapid and very cheap too. The oil I have bought from Wilko's who seem to have the cheapest anywhere. I was disappointed to find that it had gone up from £12-50 a lt to £15 but still the best price around. The grease is for the stern glad etc. I drained the water system in the engine too as the coolant mixture degrades over a couple of years.

There isn't a lot of room for maneuver in the engine hole so I have to be in the mood and the weather has to be half way decent too. I should have picked a better photo as the tonsure looks like I have joined some Holy Order of Monks.

I bought some paint to recover the fore deck and some to paint the engine hole too, along with brushes etc. I bought a tub of fire cement to reseal the flue to the stove and some black lead to polish up the stove for the winter. Part of the curing the Hurricane heater problem was to drain the system and refill with new antifreeze. I know now how to do it more easily and next time I do it I will give the system a good flush as it surprised me how mucky the water gets. The distilled water was for the batteries of course, not for the steam iron!

The stove is not essential but it gives a lot of heat and is a lovely focal point of the boat. Ours is in the middle so with the walk through bathroom door open the the bathroom and bedroom get nice and warm too.

 The tools were things like saw blades, tap connector, drills, jubilee clips etc. This wasn't the sum total of all that it cost as I all ready some things that I used first and I have a lot of these purchases left for next year.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Seal of approval.

Nothing to do with canals but we did cross the Humber and see the sea so a good excuse to show you some cute pictures. On Saturday we drove over to Lincolnshire to see the seals at Donna Nook Nature Reserve run by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. It took about an hour to get there over the Humber Bridge and down to the coast. It is down some small roads but there was plenty of traffic going the same way and the car park was quite full at 1100. It was £2-00 to park on the farmers land but I hope that they will make a good donation to the Wildlife Trust at the end of the year. The field was wet but quite well compacted so not too much trouble getting on and off. However after a day and night of rain today I wouldn't like to be trying to get on or off for the next couple of days. They do have a tractor handy to pull you out if required. It is a short walk over the dunes and to the saltmarsh/beach. The Wildlife Trust have erected a strong fence at the margins of the dunes so to prevent interference of the seals. 43000 visitors went to see the seals in 2006. However the fence is low so does not interfere with viewing and obligingly the seals come right up to the fence in places. You should never touch the seals as they can bite and human scent may mean that a pup is abandoned by it's mother.

When pups are born they are have a yellowy white coat that turns more white after a few days. This one must be a few days old. They are about 14kg when born.

The seals at Donna Nook are Grey seals, also known as Atlantic seals, and not the much more common harbour or common seals. They only started using Donna Nook as a colony since the 1970's but numbers have been increasing. In the UK we have 40% of the world's population of Grey seals, 90% of which are in Scotland but this colony is of growing importance. The Uk population is estimated to be between 100 and 170000.

This is a female or cow grey seal. They are about 1.8m long and can weigh 150kg. The common seals are roughly about half the size of them. They hard to tell apart when in the water and wet but other than the size it can be seen that the greys have a 'roman nose' where as the common seals have a more dog like snout.

Donna Nook was, or even may still be an RAF firing range. As the beacons etc are in good condition I suspect that it is still used. However the land was given over as a Nature reserve around 2002 so I suspect that they must only use it 'out of season'. The seals come ashore at the end of October and are gone again at the end of January. They start to give birth a few days after landing and this year the first pup was born on 25th October.

There is a fair bit of 'argy bargy' between the cows that seem to warn others away from their cubs and the bulls that are battling for dominance over the most cows they can watch over. Neither the cows or the bulls feed whilst on the shore so I can understand them getting a bit techy as I'm just like that if I don't regular meals

The pups suckle 4 or five times a day for two to three weeks (the average is 18 days) and then the mother leaves them to it. The females mate again before leaving the beach and then are gone. The fetus develops for a week and then goes into remission for three months before restarting growth to ensure that they are due when the return to the beach the next year. They return to the same beach and they can live for around 45 years.

This pup is only a few hours old as can be seen by the blood from the placenta. (There are piles of after birth around the place if you are hyper squemish). It looked as though it's mother was ignoring it as she kept shuffling away but we were assured by one of the wardens that it had had its first feed at least. There is approximately 10% mortality of the pubs on the beach, mainly through starvation and abandonment. Another 40 % don't make it through their first year. Last year they also had to contend with the tidal surge in December that added about 2m to the height of the tide and scattered the seals up and down the coast. However wardens did not see mass deaths of the pups and as the year had been a record year, 1676 pups born, they are not expecting much effect on the population. This year all ready they have counted over 1300 pups and the peak is usually at the end of November.

It is well worth a trip out to see them if you are anywhere near or going past as they are after all the UK's larges carnivore.

Friday 21 November 2014

Repairs made during 2014.

Moving batteries..............268-92
Tiles for bathroom...........104-29
items for tiling work..........11-55
Engine hole seals...............24-78
Fit fairleads........................40-00
Dry dock for bent prop....892-80
fabricate fit fuel lock.........72-00
Hurricane fittings............144-30
Total                              1558-64
Insurance payout...........  767-80
Total                                790-84

Originally the batteries were sited in the engine hole and so close to the deck above that I found it impossible to even open some of the caps for the wet cells. Consequently the batteries were hardly checked in two years. (Fortunately one of those years the boat was more or less idle). I had them moved up in to the locker above. This has meant the I can easily check them on a regular basis and so hope that the cost will be offset by an improvement in the life of the batteries. I am still not happy so I hope to have them moved out again and line the space better and plug the drains that allow water in to the engine space. This job turned out to be the most expensive of the year and perhaps the least value for money. I had negotiated with the mechanic doing the job but had not realised that the billing would come through the marina, as it was carried out on their property, and was presented with a very inflated invoice. Believe it or not I negotiated a reduction but it was still a 'dear do' as they say round here.

The bathroom shower tray had been leaking slightly and I couldn't find where it was coming from. I eventually tracked it down but not before the damp had caused the waterproof layer on the plyboard to come away. I thought about covering in plastic sheeting but wasn't confident in my skills with this material where as I had done a fair amount of tiling over the years so settled on that. Mind you I am no master and the cutting of the big tiles we had chosen was not an easy job. The final finish is okay but no a professional job but it seems to work. I had been worried that the tiles would come away with vibration etc but they seems to be holding fast.

Starting the job is always the hardest part!

When the boat was at Shobnal Basin in Burton on Trent I asked the engineers if they would fit a couple of fairleads on the roof rail for the centre ropes, one either side. I had purchased the fairleads myself. I should have bought different ones as the rope comes out too easily, but still save the paintwork. They also managed to free the fuel filter on the engine for me in the price. The first fuel filter replacement had come due but I couldn't shift it. It took them a goof bit of effort but they managed and fitted the filter that I supplied.

The boards over the engine hole are resting on metal edges and two removable bearers across the boat. I thought that the noise and vibration would be reduced if I put seals between the boards and the steel edge. It worked a treat and the noise is much better now.

The largest outlay would seem to be the dry docking and refurbishing of our bent propeller. However with the money received from the insurance company that only cost us £125. I say only through gritted teeth though!

This little feller got left behind in the dry dock. Mind you it wasn't that little. It is an 'Austropotamobius pallipes' or more commonly called a white clawed cray fish and they can grow to 12cm (5" in old money). It is called a white claw as the underside of the claw is pale. (Pallipes means 'pale footed). This one was near to full size I would say.

Whilst in the dock I had them fabricate and fit a locking device for the fuel filler cap on the stern. You hear all sorts of stories about fuel being syphoned off, although I have never spoken to anybody to whom it has actually happened, and with us bound for the place of dark deeds and trickery, London, I thought we should have something down. I had looked for locking caps etc and for other systems. I had toyed with the idea of drilling right through the cap and pipe and use a long shank padlock but could see problems in the future. The result was a pretty good solution and although quite expensive was about the same as a good quality locking cap for other types of filler.

Locking bar across fuel filler pipe.

The last repair was to the Hurricane heating system. I don't expect this to happen again as they are known for their reliability. They only require servicing every 1000 hours and we have only done 148 hours in two years. After the air lock was identified it was found there was no easy way to bleed the lines immediately out/in to the unit. Two bleed valves are usually sent with the kit but the builder had neglected to fit them. The addition to the lines means that now there will be no problem in me bleeding the system if it should happen again.

The two blue right angled hoses ensure that there is no air trap at where the hose leave the Hurricane unit and the bleed valves can be seen just where the blue hoses joins the black hoses

As to next year I want to get the battery locker sorted properly and it will be two years since the last blacking so maybe that will be done so I am hoping for no more than this years outlay again.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Fuel Costs for 2014.

Total                1146-66

We seem to use a 13 kg gas bottle in just under 3 months. It is only for cooking. The cost of a cylinder refill varies around the system, we paid £22-38, £24-50 and £27-30 making an average of £24-73

Thorne moorings 3 months...............30-95
Shobnal Basin one week.................... 5-00
Aylesbury Marina 2 x £1 cards.........  2-00
St Pancras Marina Fixed £3 + meter.. 3-80
Savile Town Wharf 2 x £10 cards.....10-00
Total                                                  51-75

When moored up over the winter when the boat is unattended we level a couple of thermostatic heaters plugged in to the 240v supply and set to come on when the temperature drops below 2C. Otherwise the shore supply just keeps the batteries topped.

When we enter a marina over the summer different marinas charge differently Shobnal charged a fix sum. Aylesbury had a machine to obtain cards at a subsidised rate. St Pancras there was a fixed charge of £3 plus very low priced units read by a meter. We will have to see how much we use at Dewsbury but I have allowed £20 up until Christmas

6 x 10kg @ £2-99..........................17-94
2 x 20kg Supertherm at £8-50.......17-00
Total                                              34-94

The 10 kg bags were bought from B&M I think and we took them with us from home when we started our cruising. We use about 2.5 kg of coal for an evenings fire but that is supplemented by logs that we have found and dried along the way. I often take logs from home over the winter so that there are plenty when we set off that are dried and then replace through the summer as we go along. I have many comments from gongoozlers about having logs below my solar panels drying out. It seems an obvious place to me as they are kept dry and out of the way, although there isn't room for too many there. The multistove is an added extra but it is lovely to have it on a winters evening. Ours is in the middle of the boat and so easily heats all through even without an eco fan on the go.

I haven't found away of being able to actually evaluate how much the solar panels save for me. I would save more if our cruising patterns were to be stationary for more days as then I would not have to run the engine to charge the batteries, but how I can quantify it easily is beyond me.

1062.6 ltrs..........................   985-79

The lowest price paid was 76p/120p and the highest was £1 per litre.
The average price paid was 92.8p/Ltr

The engine ran for 686.5 hours so the average is 1.55  ltrs/hour.

However our Hurricane heater is diesel and is fed from the same tank. The Hurricane ran for 148 hours this year. That makes about 1.6 hours a day, normally to give hot water for a shower in the morning and to take the chill off first thing so getting out of bed to make the tea is not so much of a chore. It is just like your home heating as it is set by a thermostat and timer so doesn't need to come on if the boat is warm enough and only heat the water if the calorifier temperature is down. The makers give the consumption as 0.84 lt/hour so that makes 124.3 ltrs used over the year. If we take that from the total consumption it means we used 944.8 ltrs so our true engine average consumption has been 1.38 ltrs per hour, which I don't think is too bad when I think back to what we have done and where we have been.

I wish there was a standardisation of how diesel prices are quoted as it gets a little complicated, especially on the phone. I also wish marinas and other supplies would have an up to date sign outside their establishments so that you could see before entering. I have had suppliers almost push me into declaring 100% as it is no skin off their nose as the declaration is up to the boat not the supplier. I haven't had any that demanded a 40/60% split. I often declare 90/10% (domestic/motive) as our cruise pattern is to move for about four hours and even if remaining moored I would have to run the engine about that long to heat water and charge batteries so feel I can easily justify my declaration.

Sunday 16 November 2014

2014 Mooring costs.

Our mooring costs for 2014 were as follows;

Winter moorings at Bluewater Marina, Thorne.................677-36
Three night in Lincoln Brayford Pool @ £10.......................30-00
Shobnal Marina, Burton-u-Trent 7 nights.............................58-00
Market Harborough, 8 nights at £10 ....................................80-00
St Pancras Cruising Club Marina, 4 nights @ £10...............40-00
Clifton Wharf, Rugby. 5 days...............................................57-60
Winter mooring, Savile Town Wharf, Dewsbury...............355-52

At Thorne the moorings were from 1st January to 31st March which works out at  around £225 a month. Electricity was extra, measured by meter. It seemed that there were residential boats around so there was always somebody to keep an eye on the boat otherwise not too many facilities. The town was a little walk away and had all that maybe required but was not somewhere you would go to spend a weekend really.

Our mooring at Brayford Pool. The visitor moorings are limited in Lincoln and as we had guests arriving we had to be sure that we had a spot. The visitor moorings are those behind us, about three boats worth. There is also room through the Pool and the Glory Hole Bridge and out towards Stamp End Lock but access on and off the boat is poor.

We pop home every now and again to see the parents and for various other reasons, so for security and to make sure the batteries get a through charging every now and then we check into a marina. This year as we ventured further from home we have had a little longer at home to make the journey more worth while. This has added to the costs of course. It seems that the standard going rate is  about £10 a night. Last year we did have stops at £6 a night though. However what you get for you money varies. Some places you get unlimited electricity and some charge a lump sum whilst others meter it. The facilities of the marina or wharf can be ascertained before hand though. We mainly picked our moorings to fit in with the area we were in and the proximity to a railway station. It is a good way of sussing out places for having work done at a later date too. I think £250 is not too bad a price to pay for peace of mind, especially when I have gone home and left Helen alone on the boat.

Market Harborough is a nice place to stay. There is plenty of visitor moorings but they are 48hrs only. Most places where there is a decent railway station have time limits on the moorings. At Market Harborough there are 7 day and 14 day moorings out of town and as it happened they were also occupied so I was glad of a berth in this spot.

At Dewsbury the moorings are for 1st November to 31st of December. so working out at about £178 per month. Again electricity is extra and is paid for via a card. On our short acquaintance with the place it has a nice feel, with a nice cafe and pub on site and with people around all the time to keep an eye on things.

Clifton Wharf near Rugby was a fair walk from the station but was the most convenient in the immediate area and suited us for the time. The over night cost was on a cost per foot of boat length but essentially for us it was £10/night. 

Thursday 13 November 2014

Fixed Costs, 2014.

Our fixed costs for 2014 were £1157-57

This was made up of   C&RT Craft Licence...........833-38
River and Canal Rescue Bronze cover.....................126-00

The C&RT Licence is required by all boats and depends on your length, Our boat is 59'. The figure also has the benefit of an early payment discount of 10% which you would be silly to miss out on. Payment can now be completed over the internet and I have found it to be very efficient. The Licence comes through in the post though and should be displayed on either side of the boat. We meet many boaters who complain about all the boats that do not have a licence. I don't think there is a bye law that says you have to display the licence, just that it should be as it saves money when checkers need to waste time etc checking if a certain boats index number is licensed. Just because there is no licence displayed doesn't mean that the boat isn't licensed. I think there is a C&RT website that you can input an index number and check if it is licensed. C&RT have said the number of un-licensed boats has fallen to 4%. If there are 40000 boats on the canals that would be 1600 boats. If the average license fee was £650 that would be still over £1 million lost. With all the checking on the canals I wonder how long it will be before the  system is robust enough to do away with the window display and rely on the computer checks like for road vehicles? Not for a good while yet I suspect

License displayed.

We are insured with Towergate Mardon and we have found them to be very good. We have the standard insurance cover I think. I checked that it covered us for our trips out on the tidal Thames and that was all in too. You have to have £3 million third party indemnity which is required by C&RT. They were very good when we bent our prop. We didn't think about our insurance until the boat was in the dry dock and the propeller off. I called them and quickly established that yes it was covered and no, it didn't matter that the work had already started. I sent them proof of the work done, photos and the bill etc and the money was transferred into our bank account very quickly. I was worried that the next years premium would increase greatly but it looks to me that it has only increased about 5%. I would recommend Towergate Mardon after our experience with them this year.

Our propeller after being straightened and re-balanced and ready to be refitted in Bulbourne dry dock.

I have taken out Bronze cover with The River Canal Rescue this year that entitles you to four call outs a year. I suppose at a boat gets older higher cover maybe needed but so far we haven't had to call them out at all.

Winterising Your Narrowboat
The fourth or is it fifth emergency service!

Monday 10 November 2014

2014 boat costs.

Remembrance Sunday has just past and fortunately the weather was fine in our area. The local parade was better attended than in the past as was the service in the church. The 100th Anniversary of the start of WWI seems to have touched a cord.

I have been working out costs whilst away on the boat this year. I have broken it down into areas and will expand on each area at a later date. I didn't bother with keep a check during our first year of cruising as I thought there would be costs that we incurred through ignorance and just equipping the boat from scratch. However I think that it was very similar to this years figures.

Our costs were as follows;

fixed costs..................1157-57
Repairs etc.................1558-64
Insurance payment       767-80

We were aboard the boat for seven moths so that makes £762 per month. Obviously it maybe more expensive in the winter to heat the boat but then again you aren't using so much diesel to move about perhaps. The fixed costs are paid on an annual basis so to divided them by 7 is not strictly accurate.

Moorings were the largest costs and this was our mooring over winter last year at Bluewater Marina, Thorne on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal.

 As we went around the system either Helen or I went home to visit the family or other reasons occasionally. When I am away I like to put the boat in marina so that Helen has all mod cons and doesn't need to worry too much. It is also good to give the batteries a good boost and equalisation charge. This was us just leaving Shobnal Basin, Burton on Trent after one of our stops.

The next largest cost group was the repairs section. This was the shower before I started on the tiling. The board had started to lose its facing so due to an ingress of water. I couldn't see a good way of sealing it other than by cladding it in plastic sheets or tiling. I know I can do tiling so I chose that.

This is the afterwards shot. I was quite please with it over all.

Our largest outlay was for thew dry dock to remove and refurbish our bent propeller. Options were limited for dry docks and as we were heading for a trip on the tidal Thames it wasn't really an option to delay it. This is the boat in Bulbourne Dry Dock at the top of the Marsworth Locks.

This is the bent propeller once it had been removed. It shows the worth of being insured as we managed to offset a large part of the bill.

In future posts I will break each section down further and give more figures etc. and hope that it will be useful for new boats to gauge what their costs may be and for old hands to see where they are much better at saving money or where they perhaps could do better.

Friday 7 November 2014

2014 Summary.

It feels like we had a long trip this year, with lots of locks of which the vast majority felt like being broad locks. I have had a look at the year and compiled some figures.

Just left the Thorne Marina at the end of March full of anticipation. 
(although it looks more like constipation in this picture!)

The engine hours were 686.5 hours.

The miles traveled were 1027'.

The locks passed through was 764 locks.

We passed through 13 tunnels including Standedge (1st longest), Blisworth (3rd), Harecastle (5th), Braunston (7th) and Crick (9th). In total our transit through tunnels was 19992 yards which equates to 11.33 miles underground!

We have passed under a few notable bridges too. Our three trips on the Thames were the highlight of the year and have given us loads of confidence for the future.

We used 1062.6 litres of diesel.

We traveled on 38 different canals and waterways. Just to be pedantic I will list them;
Stainforth and Keadby Canal
Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation
Sheffield and Tinsley Canal
River Trent
Chesterfield Canal
Fossedyke Canal
River Witham
Nottingham and Beeston Canal
Erewash Canal
Upper Trent
Trent and Mersey Canal
River Soar
Grand Union, Leicester Arm
Grand Union, Market Harborough Arm
Grand Union, Welford Arm
Grand Union
Grand Union, Aylesbury Arm
Grand Union, Paddington Arm
Regent's Canal
Hertford Union Canal
Lee Navigation
River Stort
Limehouse Cut
Bow Creek
Three Mills River
St Thomas Creek
Prescott Channel
Deptford Creek
River Thames
North Oxford Canal
Coventry Canal
Macclesfield Canal
Peak Forest Canal
Ashton Canal
Huddersfield Narrow Canal
Huddersfiled Broad Canal
Calder and Hebble Navigation
Calder and Hebble Navigation, Dewsbury Arm

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal and Standedge Tunnel is always a great way to finish off our cruising year and I would recommend it to everybody who has a boat that can fit.

I have kept a record of all our cost this year so will give a breakdown of them at a future date so that everybody can see how mean, or otherwise Yorkshire folk can be.