Monday, 25 August 2008

Sough Canal Festival

for details see this excellent blog

I have nothing more to add

Thank you and good night

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Oostend 2007 pt 2

Hundreds of classic boats are brought together over the weekend from all over Low Countries and the UK....well, six or seven from the UK but the town of Oostend make every effort for those of us who brave the crossing and the sea's. They very kindly provided us with 250 litres of Fuel and lunch time meal tickets throughout the four days.

Our mascot T-Rex is hung from the highest yard arm

Music is a large feature of the festival with folk bands, rock bands and marching bands all taking their turns on the stage erected in front of the station and when evening comes and the visitors depart, the stage and beer tent become the meeting place for the crew's and again the folk and shanty bands go through their repertoire.

The centre piece of the festival however has always been the Replica circa 1800 RN Frigate 'Grand Turk'

Here she is just arriving in Mercator Dock being aided in her manoeuvres by 2 small RIBS

Another regular British vessel is the Motor Tug 'Kent'

Going down into her engine room and you feel like your in a cathedral, with her huge diesel motor reaching up to the skylights, and of course, every bit of copper and brass is gleaming

The Days are long with the public shows opening at 10am and then the boats being open to the public at 11am through till 6. This trip we were stuck on the outside of 2 other boats so our visitor numbers were very limited except for those engine enthusiasts who where willing to clamber over the boats to come and view Emblems 1945 Gardner 4L3.

Once all was cleared away for the evening ourselves and the crew of Mary Jane

would repair to the Crew tent for a few well earned sherberts and a listen to the bands

There is always a downside and sure enough, as the beer flowed so our inhibitions departed.....unless your steve, he just falls asleep

Paul, the owner and skipper of Mary Jane was suddenly the victim of an assault by his mutinous crew who were hungry following a long day of polishing bright work and smiling at the belgium public so it would appear, that their usual method of getting him off his chair is to clang him on the head with a beer tray, cover him in the dregs of left over glasses and then force feed him whatever he has left in his glass.....only then can they depart to find a restaurant.
Clang on the head

Spill beer
and drink up

Thankfully, the crew of Emblem were more gentle with their skipper guiding me back to my berth when they felt i'd had enough, which was usually when I started singing and talking Boll***s to Jamie and smoking my pipe.

I wish I could remember what I was saying
Much words of wisdom no doubt

The weather gradually deteriorated over the weekend and by the closing day on the monday, the rain was lashing down and the winds were gusting force 7-8. A number of the British boats had already left the day before due to the weather reports. Jamie jumped ship and returned to blighty with the crew of Mary Jane on the Ferry to Ramsgate as Paul was leaving MJ at Oostend for the week while his steering was repaired.

Steve and myself however still had the rest of the week off so we remained to brave it out. Rachael and Dan needed to return home by Wednesday so we managed to get them train tickets to Calais tuesday morning where they then caught the Ferry home and were picked up by Dan's dad at Dover.

That just left Steve and myself and a now very empty Oostend. The forecast for Wednesday was still pants and a walk over to the Harbour wall tuesday afternoon certainly cast doubts in our minds as we watched the breakers smash onto the beach. Wednesday morning dawned bright but still with the wind gusting 4-5, a quick look at the outer harbour and we made the decision to 'run' for Dunkirk knowing that if it got too bad we had 2 other minor ports we could hide along the way.

As it turned out, we kept to the inshore bouyed channel along the Belgium coast to Dunkirk and the wind had shifted from the NE to the SE so the land was acting as a 'lee' and keeping the swell down to a manageable level.

We arrived in the safety of Dunkirk harbour and enjoyed an afternoon wandering around its streets and port. It had also been the weekend of the Dunkirk Little Ships visit and there were still a couple of boats waiting for a weather window.

Our weather reports had been varied and very unreliable so far, this was due apparently to severe cyclonic weather all along the UK east coast which made predictions very difficult, The good news was that Thursday morning was expected to be SE winds 3-4 increasing to 4-5 by the evening with a sea state as slight.

We set off Thursday morning just after dawn and although the wind was already quite strong the sea hadnt had chance to 'get up' and in 5 hours we knew we would be within reach of Ramsgate so even bouncing around for that length of time wasnt too bad. As it turned out, the sea didnt get any worse and we enjoyed another decent crossing and by the time we approached North Foreland the wind had eased and we had blazing sunshine.....again, in total contrast to the weather report.

We arrived off North Foreland just before low tide so wouldnt be able to use the quicker, inshore Gore Channel so we moved out further into the thames mouth and entered the Princess channel and mixed it with the cargo ships heading in and out of tilbury.

Red Sand Towers

They are old WW2 anti aircraft gun towers

our position marked on the chart approaching the

towers times at 1620hrs

Re dressing the ship in order to dry out the flags

which had got a soaking at Oostend

We finally came alongside Thunderbolt Pier at Chatham Dockyard by about 7pm following another 12 hour cruise. The Old girl had done us proud once more in getting her crew there and back again.

Long may she continue.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Oostend 2007

I know its historical but for the 2 years I lived aboard Emblem I was without t'internet access and never had the chance to show any of Emblems trips, so here we go.

While Living aboard Disponibel, Gary and myself were very fortunate in being alongside a wondefull chap called Steve Woolgar. He lived aboard Emblem on the moorings at Hoo on the Tidal medway. We all worked dodgy shifts, Gary and self being coppers and steve being a taxi driver in sevenoaks, so we all finally met one night, arriving home about the same time just after midnight and much wine and Bacardi being consumed and spilt we have never looked back.

Eventually, life takes it turns and steve hitched up with a wonderfull lady called Debbie and they eventually bought a Barge of Biblical proportions called PAX.

My circumstances had changed, gary had passed away and Steve offered and sold Emblem to me.

Prior to that, we had attended The Oostend Voor Anker festival in Emblem since 2001 for the previous 5 years and although 2006 was my first visit to Oostend as skipper of Emblem, 2007 was caught on video.

The Festival was always organised for the last week in may coinciding with a bank holiday weekend in Belgium. In 2006, we spent 2 days hiding in Ramsgate due to bad weather and didnt arrive at Oostend till the eve of day one...much to my embarressment considering it was my first trip as 'skipper'

2007 however proved to be in total contrast and we set sail from Chatham at 7am in the calmest weather and sea I have ever known. Crew for the trip were, Steve, his son Jamie and for their first ever trip my daughter Rachael and partner Dan.

Emblem leaving Chatham

I had made a couple of improvements to Emblems Navigation systems during the year and we enjoyed for the first time a GPS chart plotter linked into a DSC VHF radio system

Should any emergency arise, then a quick press of the emergency button on the VHF set would alert the neartest shipping or coastguard to our plight and automatically give our GPS position....nice

The above pic shows our course and speed over the ground as we approached Dartness Point on the Medway.

It was a lovely morning without a cloud in the sky. Steve and myself had got up early and cast off while the 'KIDS' Jamie, Rachael and Dan had remained asleep, although half an hour into the trip, the engine noise of the Gardner 4L3 was obviously too much for Rachael and she repaired to the wheel house complete with Duvet to continue her beauty sleep

We ran with the Tide out into the Thames Estuary and followed the Gore Channel past Whitstable, Herne bay and Margate where we then shot past North Foreland and headed out into the North Sea for the Shipping lanes


I felt a bit guilty having insisted that Dan and Rachael take Sea sickness pills because the sea was an absolute mill pond, and the Tablets have a kindof drowsey effect

They however, managed to fight the effects and spent the next 9 hours of the crossing on deck taking in the sun and breeze

8 hours later Steve and myself were feeling the effects of an early start and a late night spent in the King George V pub....thank goodness for Auto Pilot and Radar alarm,

As we crossed the first TSS (traffic separation scheme) we needed our wits about us as there was a fair amount of shipping leaving the dover straights

This GPS pic shows us nearing the Sandetti East bouy prior to entering the last TSS

As you can see, our speed was nearly 7knts at 750RPM. The thick line was our GPS track to the nect waypoint, the little black arrow and thin line being our actual course due to tide.

Pics showing Steve doing an impression of an awake watchkeeper and one of the many ....huge monsters we had to avoid.

Emblems controls were/are very simple, a Geared Wheel for gearbox control and a twist and clamp lever for the throttle,. These pics should show the rev counter/temp guage, echo sounder and chart table and Ships Wheel

It was such a lovely crossing there was little to keep our interest except for a fly by from the Coast Guard aircraft and jellyfish spotting.

12 hours later saw us entering Oostend harbour and slotting ourselves into our spot for the 4 days of the festival. Our neighbours (whom we had rafted upto) were the crew of the goodship Mary Jane, a Dunkirk little ship whose crossing had been rather more adventurous than ours.

Just after leaving Ramsgate their steering pin had sheared and the skipper made the crossing and arrival at Oostend using only the twin props for steering and excellent feat of seamanship considering the distance and age of the boat.

That will do for now, as its 8am and I have to be up at 4pm for night duty

will post part2 of the trip when Im next fully awake.

can any one help? the pics I post wont slot into the last curser position but plonk themselves at the top of the page so I have to move each one everytime I post

What am I doing wrong?

Its done

Before I say anything, Nora and self have just watched a fantastic film on telly which I have to recommend to all....its name is Confetti. I have no idea how we have missed this 'fly on the wall' docu film.

Enough said.

We cellebrated Jack and Beck's wedding on the saturday night and Sunday saw yours truly driving home to Lady Elgar while Nora remained in Sutton to look after the cat.

Monday and Tuesday were both NIGHT DUTY's and come Wednesday Morning I was all set to attack the stove pipe.

I got home by appx 8am and, with the aid of coffee and fags I eventually set off to Wickes by 10 am and selected a sexy little Angle Grinder for the princely sum of 30 quid.

My Black an Decker workbench was set up alongside LE and with the aid of the old pipe I marked off the correct 54" on the new stove pipe.

If youve never used an Angle Grinder before its obviously a nervous moment when the machine first kicks into life........have you ever seen the amount of, and the distance the sparkes travell.

in addition to the sparkes, the damn machine kept jumping off the pipe and throwing my arms upwards towards my head!!!!!

Eventually I got the hang of cutting steel and hanging onto the grinder at the same time and the 6" of excess steel fell to the floor.

Within minutes I had slotted the newly cut pipe into the new stove collar and the roof collar. Within another few mins, I had packed the pipe fittings with heat rope and brand new 'fire cement'. This part I will admit i had a few bad dreams over. due to the acute angle from the stove to the roof collar, however, having cut the pipe to the correct length, it fitted just smashing.

A couple of coats of stove paint and a cureing Fire later and all proved to be well and dandy for the coming winter... will try to post a pic if ever Nora hands over her camera.

Actually she has more important things on her mind. It was her birthday on 14 August and for once I thought I had finally excelled myself in birthday gifts.

Be a Zoo keeper for a day

on the 22nd of Sept she is going to Whipsnade Zoo to muck out all kinds of animals and fings. Im not allowed in, so will have to buy my own ticket :(

Actually it sounds like a great day, her expected best bit will be working with the penguins

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Prepare for Winter

On board LE we have a squirrel Solid Fuel Stove with a back boiler that heats a rad in the main bedroom.

Our first winter using the stove proved that it was bloody marvelous, infact too marvelous sometimes as we experimented with various settings and ended up sweating in bed due to the heat.

Over the last few months however, there was obviously a problem. during wet weather, a very very slight trickle of water would run down the outside of the stove pipe from the ceiling leaving numerous rusty streaks on the pipe. My thoughts were that the sealent or cement was obviously getting tired around the roof collar.

The Original Pipe looked to me like a cast iron drain pipe with the bulge at the bottom, similar to a joint in a down pipe. I had already had to do some packing to the Stove Collar which on day one of of our taking over had a rather large gap in it revealing the innards of the stove.

This pic.....if it works....shows my temp packing of stove cement around the lower collar....knowing that this summer I would have to do a proper job of it.

So, I look at all this.......well i can only describe it as looking like rusticles...running down the outside of the pipe and know its going to be a messy job. Laura aint gonna like it..

Ideal oppotunity comes up....she has to go to mumsies for 2 weeks to Cat sit.

I duly drop her off at mumsies, 'yes dear, have a lovely time, no i wont be bored...ive a few jobs lined up...of course ill miss you.....' :)

A few jobs lined up turned into day 1 playing a stupid computer game called ROME...Total War.......I managed to defeat the Cartheginians and make a start on attacking Egypt
Feeling as guilty as a guilty thing, the next day I made a start on the stove pipe.

Armed with a large bucket of 'Wickes' fire cement, a wallpaper stripping knife and a flat head screw driver i made my assault on the roof collar. First job, was to sweep the flue, after a number of vigourous sweepings with the flue brush, I examined the collar and old cement for obvious failings.

If youve ever swept a chimney, youd know by now that my hands and face were was the shirt i was wearing.

meanwhile, The English bowlers led by their new captain Kenin Peiterson were setting about the Southe African openers

All seemed in order...I couldnt find any obvious gaps that would allow rain water to flow down the outside of the pipe......not to be out done, I repaired inside the boat to inspect the internal packing.

After a steady 1st session South Africa's batsmen started to collapse

Imagine my surprise when...looking at the top of the stove pipe I spyed a pinprick of daylight on the actual pipe itself!!!!!!
Sure enough. a couple of jabs with the screwdriver made the pinprick into a hole....never mind thinks I....I can pack that with cement and make good for another season.

Ah ...where ignorance is bliss it is folly to be wise.

I began to scrape off the I did, the my dismay....became a ammount of cement would save this sucker......Bugger!!!!!!

Tea and England only needed a couple of wickets to reduce SA to a dismal first innings

Sure enough, the more I probed, the more 15yr old pipe fell to bits until it was held only by 3' of metal to the roof collar. This was the last thing i wanted as we were trying to save money to pay the moorings and licence due in sept.

Nothing for it but to finish the job. The screw driver proved no further use so I set about the pipe and old cement with a hammer and my decent chisel.
An Hour later finally saw a defunct stove pipe lying alongside and a finally clean roof collar.....That 15 yr old cement was bloody good stuff...whatever it was.....I could only chip away bit by messy bit.

The last SA wicket fell to Monty Panasar and England went into bat.

The moorings at Iver are ideal in as much as having Highline Yatching at its base.
I, plodded along to the chandlary casting soot dust with evey step and met John Bolsom in the shop.

A few minutes explaining my needs and listening to his advice and 60 odd quid later saw me mooching back to the boat with a brand new stove pipe and stove collar and fire rope lugged across my shoulder.

Smashing, thinks I....will have this sorted in no time, but no,it was not to be.
The pipe was several inches longer than my measurments (no faults of Johns) and wouldnt come close to fitting in the angle required between stove collar and roof collar. I would have to cut it with my Angle Grinder.
Of all the things I brought with me from Emblem, I knew my Angle Grinder would be useful.
Why was it then, that it wasnt in the shed? It wasnt in the boat? it wasnt in the car?

because it was still on Emblem ya daft SOD!!!!

England at close of play were the 1 wicket of Andrew strauss down........

Time had run out, the shops were closed.

Work beconned the next day.

Im now in Sutton at Laura's mums and going to a wedding tomorrow.
The stove pipe is in the shed waiting for me to return and do it serious damage.

I did look around for the camera to take some sooty shots but laura had taken it with her for the wedding tomorrow so I will have to do some 'post' pics when I return to LE on sunday.

Sigh :)

The good news is that england look like they may..just may make a game of this test with KP making a Captains innings of 100 backed up by decent scores from Cooke, Collinwood and Harmisson

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Stand by for action

Its 10am

Im recording our summer trip from video to dvd as I type....3 tapes in total but Nora got slack in her recording as the days wore on.

Once its saved to disc, i'll take some stills off the film and try and do a commentry on the trip.

for a proper it occurs...story then, best have a look at

There's quite a few pages so try and find the start and all should be revealed

In the this space for this blog's version of the 2008 Thames circle trip