Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The Weather has turned

Herbie is back from her travels along the Lee and Stort.
They have had some lovely weather but as I sit here typing the rain is lashing the roof and the wind has picked up, is that the last of the warm spell?

We had the stove lit last night but again, it was far to warm with it alight and far too chilly not to have it. Im going to pop out later and get some logs to see if that will be more managable heat wise rather than coal in this transition period.

The stove pipe seems to be sealed well enough with no more drips down the the outside of the pipe and a good draw for the fire so am quite pleased with it.

Next jobs on the list are the oil filter and topping up the batts which are now just coming upto a year old. I last checked them 5 months ago and all were in good condition so will be intersting to see if they need any top up or not.

One thing I have badly neglected is the Gennie, but bearing in mind ive only run it 3 times it does kinda sit out of sight out of mind, so full service filterwise for that little darling and of course check the Mud box as it is raw water cooled.

Time has flown by for our first year afloat. it didnt take long for the licence renewal to come along and within the next few days we're expecting the bill for this coming years moorings. We are hoping to do just 6 months this time in order to try and spread the costs, as we have been hit for the BSS cert. The BW Licence and Moorings all within a 2 month period so 6 mths will make it not quite such a big hit in one go...or at least it will in our minds.

Ive been contemplating what, if any changes we would like to make internally having now spent 12 months aboard and I am leaning towards slight changes to the Boatmans Cabin.
We use the rear doors as our main entrance and exit and the cabin does tend to get littered with coats, shoes and bags. Im thinking sof keeping the bed on the starboard side but converting the Port side into full height cupboards/wardrobe. The Drop down table is never used nor is the computer desk that Trevor fitted as we are wireless and the laptop is plonked on a tray on ones lap in the saloon when on line.
Our main wardrobe at the moment is the engine room which has to be cleared everytime we set off anywhere or if I want to do some tinkering so this new space would be invaluable.

Time to do some drwaings me thinks and see if im brave enough to attempt to emulate Trevors excellent wood working skills....oh dear..I fear the worse

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Overnight at Denham and Whipsnade

This Friday we had arranged to have Rachael, Dan and granddaughter Brooke come to visit. They unfortunately dont drive so I did the 200 mile round trip to Ramsgate to collect them and all the equipment that goes with a baby.

Dan wasnt able to come back with us friday night due to commitments but was going to get the train to Victoria on Saturday. This threw our cruise plans into a little muddle as we had planned to head down to Tesco at Bulls Bridge to do our big shop then turn round and spend the night at Denham before running back to base Sunday afternoon.
It was quarter to 1 by the time we picked Dan up from Victoria and by the time we had prepared Lady Elgar for the off it was 2pm.
We chugged the 5 and a bit miles to Bulls Bridge without incident except collecting 2 fence panels and a five bar gate on our bow.

By the time we had finished shopping at Tesco it was now turned 5 o'clock and the prospect of getting to Denham in daylight was gone.
Rachael and Dan were keen to do some locks so we decided to carry on with our plans and set off for Denham. Laura was able to give the lock working instruction at Cowley lock in gathering gloom but by the time we reached Uxbridge lock we were reduced to tunnel lamp and the big 'Seek an Search' spotlamp.
There is something lovely about cruising at night when your tunnel light illuminates your route, and swings slowly with the turn of the boat like a battleships search light.

Denham Deep lock was navigated with extra care due to the darkness and then we had a clear run towards Harefield Marina where we would turn. We spotted a likely BBQ spot on our way past the country park away from any other boats and by 10pm had secured alongside and shut the engine down. Within a short time the BBQ was fired up and Dan had commenced trying to drown pieces of luncheon meat on a hook while pretending to try and catch fish.

It was a late night but we were all tucked up in our berths by 2am not to reappear again till 10 the next morning.
Sunday again was lovely, weatherwise, and following breakfast we fired up the Perkins and headed back for base.
Dan took to steering with ease and it wasnt long before I was happy to leave him alone at the tiller

All this excitement was obviously too much for Brooke who was able to sleep whenever and whever she wished...lucky girl

Rachael made sure Dan was kept in check by the use of the personal radio and made sure he was well and truly informed when it was his turn to keep Brooke amused.

There is always something interesting to see on the Uxbridge/Cowley level due to the collection of boats in that area. One of my favourites is this old wooden motor boat which appears to be in restoration. I particularly like the outside cooking facilities in the hold, you can just see the kettle sitting on the cooker.

Passing this large classroom widebeam was a challenge for Dan but we passed without incident and eventually arrived safe at Iver following a very pleasant 2 days indeed.

To top off Dans trip, he managed to land a fish off the moorings. It was lovely to have them stay and spend time with Brooke who at now 8mth old is already very much an individual.

Monday morning saw us all up at half 6 in the morning so that we could get Laura to Whipsnade Zoo. I had bought her a 'Be a Keeper for a day' experience for her birthday and the day had finally arrived. We dropped her off at the main gates for 8.40am and off she went to look after various animals at the Zoo.
She mucked out the rhino's and then fed them. Lions also came in for a feeding as did Giraffes and Elephants. She had to fly the Harris Hawk prior to the scheduled Bird show in the park but, the Hawk apparently got spooked by something and couldnt be recovered from the tree it had taken refuge in. By the time Rachael Dan Brooke and self arrived to watch the bird show, the keeper was still trying to entice the Hawk from the tree and failing, and, because it is a bird of prey, they had to cancel the bird show due to the obvious dangers to the display birds from the hawk.
We enjoyed our walk through the Zoo but Lauras day was by all accounts, fantastic...shes now looking for a job there

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Slough Festival Day 2

After re-reading my previous post I must admit to feeling rather guilty about my adverse comments on the weekend.
I didnt really want to be so negative so its only right and proper that I defend what really was a pleasant weekend which was only slightly marred by the organisation.
There were plenty of things for kids and families to do from boat trips to fishing lessons and watching the falconry. Some of the birds of prey they brought along were spectacular specimens

I like the way the handler is looking very suspicious of the Eagle
There was also ferret racing where the kids could gamble their pocket money away
There were also a decent if small collection of boats, one of which, Highlander, was set up to allow visitors aboard to see just what life aboard a modern Narrow Boat is like.
The Boat an Butty Freya and Christina where well turned out and I heard plenty of folk suddenly exclaim surprise at catching a glimpse of their Chicken Coop.
The Harbour Masters boat Ro-An was a lovely example of an old dutch Ark with a classic huge wooden rudder
Eventually though it was time to take down the bunting and flags and prepare for the return journey back to Iver via the Slough basin.
My glass was recharged by Kath with their Tring Ale to assist me in the journey, we set off for the basin.
It was obvious that we were approaching a heavily populated area as the beer tins and the signs of the human throw away society began to appear in the water....even the customary arm chair until arrival at the basin which is a rather sad little place with very little to show what mustve been there when it was first built.
We managed to turn and set off back without picking up anything obvious on the prop and passed Herbie on her way to turn at the basin.
Looking back away from the basin
Slough Basin
Lady Elgar having just turned in the basin
Nb Herbie approaching the basin
We pass Herbie and head back to normality
We arrived back at Highline just as dusk was taking a hold following a few dodgy things obviously round the prop. and within a couple of mins herbie pulled alongside and we made all secure.
It was back to work for Laura and myself the next day but Neil and Kath were off on their Lee and Stort cruise, so an Early night was the order of the evening for all.
I really do hope they hold the festival again next year and that we are off work again. Its never that bad really when you look back, and when I think about it, its more about what you make of it rather than what you expect of it.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Slough Festival proper

You have to come to this event if it occurs next year just for the sheer......."whats the point" value.

I now know why folk down at the moorings had a glint in their eyes when they asked."is it your first visit to the Slough festival"

To say the facilities offered to visiting boats to a "Canal Festival" are a little basic is the understatement of the year. I can fully understand shallow waters and needing a plank to get ashore as its one of those things boaters have to make do with, but, the moorings being fully obliterated by reeds and nettles is another thing entirely.....This is Herbie's view on it.

The only section of towpath cleared for the event were reserved for the trip boat and the 4 fishermen giving fishing lessons.

Compare here the area given to fishermen and that given to boats.



Which stretch do think the organisers wish to promote more?

Our boat is very well hidden from view....which is probably a good thing but, I keep expecting Humphrey Bogart to emerge from the reeds towing a boat ala The African Queen.

To compound the sheer laugh ability of the event, That evening, Neil kath and ourselves set up and began our BBQ about half 6.... at quarter past 7, 2 chaps from the IWA walked past us, looked at the boat names and then came back towards us....one of the boaters stood with us said, "you may not have been able to read the boat name due to the vegetation but if you want to know, its..............." These chaps then stopped and suffered a barrage of gripes from us, that even just 2 blokes with decent strimmers wouldve opened these moorings up a treat....it wouldnt've been difficult to arrange.

They were then joined by a chap in a coat who turns out to be the band leader of a Jazz sextet that had been booked for the boaters entertainment in the beer tent for the evening!!!!!!!!

This was the first we had heard of this, even after visiting the IWA organisers tent to pay our £10 participant fee and boat registration.

It appeared that the band were due to start playing at 8pm but so far nobody had turned up....to make matters worse...the beer tent was closed......and they were sitting in the tent in total darkness as the bloke with the genny had gone home......at this point I was struggling to see my cooking meats on the barbi through tears in my eyes brought on by laughing due to the sheer rediculous situation.

Mr Band leader was threatening the IWA chaps that they were going home but we and the crews of the other 8 brave visiting boats assured him that we would be there by 8pm or just after.

I skimped on cooking the lamb properly as I now felt obliged to attend the gig....which..if we had known about it in the first place we wouldve been up and ready on time, but Neil very kindly said the Lamb was just right.....mind you, it was very dark by now so the lamb couldve been burnt to a crisp.

Following a quick dismantle of the food cooking/eating area we recharged our glasses with the excellent beer kath had provided and we made our way to the ex-beer tent where the six members of the Jazz band were playing assisted only with the aid of a few 'night light' candles and a Gas lamp. They were bloody marvelous, my favourite being the trombone player for dexterity and range on his 'Bone'

We and the band lasted an Hour before the cold, isolation and lack of sustenance overcame us. We bid our goodnights and returned to the boats by torchlight. Neil is suffering from the remains of a nasty viral cough and im not sure the night air did him any good, so I hope they get some warm air during their holiday this coming week and keep well indoors during the evenings.

I seem to have got rather carried away and missed out on the actual festival.

It just feels odd. There were plenty of cars parked in the field but the actual site itself seemed very empty... 1 burger bar. 1 icecream van and a stall selling samosas were the only catering available......im sorry....im laughing now about it.

I think the biggest problem is that its such a large site yet they have so little going on except ferret racing and pony rides......then a few charity stalls, a Ghost train and some mini steam and diesel engines.

One amusing point for me was.....we were queing for our Samosas and kath got chatting to a lady wearing a BWB Canal Action sweatshirt. Kath asked, " what exactly is Canal Action"

The lady proudly stated that she was the volunteer Lengths person for the Slough Arm...although, she no longer walks the towpath as she feels intimidated!!!!!!!!!!!! PMSL
Why should England tremble

In line with current BW policy she went on to explain how much important wark was being done to assist towpath users to encourage their access to the canal......No mention at all of boats and their access.....how embarrassing is it when even the trip boats have to stop in order to clear their Props 2 boat lengths from their starting point?

It seems to me that Canals are not for boats anymore

The steam and Diesel engines were the best bit for me...chugging away and being tended lovingly by their owners while their respective families sat in deckchairs in the background with faces as long as nextweek......

The only ex unconverted working boat to visit the site was FMC LUPIN
I love the Motorbike combination on the deck.

They however, were reduced to having to moor nowhere near the festival site. So much for canal history.

I suppose they could just about see the other boats from their location even if I did take this pic on zoom.

Im sorry if this post seem like a rant cause I didnt want it to be. I just feel that our home is the Slough Arm and we should support this event whenever possible, its just that its such a half hearted, Fred Karno's affair. Little or no organisation, a token gesture of a festival Plaque for visiting boats with a band for the night thrown in provided that you have a mind reader with you to know that they will be there.

The local Big name company...ICI had obviously been approached for their assistance and their contribution?.......The Dulux dog who will allegedly be making an appearance tomorrow. Its actually got laura so rilled up about it that she is threatening that she is going to try and get on the organisation side next year...if there is a next year.

My favourite bit so far......Listening to Neil play his bagpipes and then two young asian lads coming up to chat with us and asking if Neil is my dad....ROTFOL.....we are both grandads although he does have a few years on me.....Like I said to him......he mustve had a hard life or im looking pretty good :)

Saturday, 13 September 2008

uncharterd waters

Friday morning saw us up bright and early to prepare for the Slough Canal Festival.
Filling the water tank and washing down the boat then sorting out cruising ropes, deck chairs and BBQ.
Neil and Kath of Herbie arrived and within a couple of hours we were ready for the off. The weather had remained very mild but it was no real surprise that as soon as Neil turned the key in Herbie and the engine fired up, that it started to rain. Our neighbour Lydia has a saying......Herbie on tour, rain will pour. Actually I just made that saying up, but it is Lydia's theory that it always rains when Herbie goes out.
After a couple of initial clunks from the starter motor I eventually got Lady Elgar fired up and emerged topside. Neil had cast off and put Herbie in gear and set off for Slough. Well, after 1 and a bit boat lengths he came to a dead stop with his prop fouled. We had just slipped and were heading in the opposite direction but not wishing to miss out on an opportunity for I enquired if he wished "A Tow"....."Never" was the reply as he dived down into his weed hatch.

We crawled over to the High Line base as we obviously had picked up weed also and then bunkered the fuel tank, dumped the loo and cleared the prop.

A short motor east and we turned at the windly windly hole and set off back to follow Herbie.

It had now stopped raining and was very pleasant again. We then had a phone call from Neil asking if we could pick up the strimmer as the mooring site had a few nettles so as we passed base we picked up the cordless strimmer.

No further problems with weed and we eventually arrived at the festival site and with the aid of Neil Kath and another chap we tied up as close to the bank as possible which was very very shallow.
As it happens, there was little point in sprucing the boat up earlier as the reed and rushes have hidden LE from view.

Maybe the organisers are not overly bothered about visiting boats?
Any way, Bunting very kindly made by Kath was adorned over the roof and we finished off the colour by hanging two flags between Herbie and LE.

The strimmer proved to be useless as it hadnt been charged so will have another go with it after a night o charge.

A few sherberts on the tow path and eventually we retired indoors to await the grand opening Saturday.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Looking forward

Do you feel sometimes your always looking forward to dates in the future that you have planned and you seem to spend your time wishing your days away?

Maybe its the expectaion of doing something different from the usual hum drum of work,sleep and eat.

We have the Slough Canal Festival coming up this weekend. Ive spent the last few days doing some autumn cleaning inside the boat. I wouldve liked to do some of the outside work but the weather has put all that on hold.
has any other boater noticed how boats seem to attract dust and fluff more than a house, or is it because in a steel tube we are much closer to the grime to notice it wheras in a house it has more room to spread out/

Kath, our neighbour on Herbie has made us some bunting for the festival so we can dress LE fore and aft and hopefully make a good show to add some colour to the festivities. I know it starts on Saturday but im not sure if we need to pitch our spot on friday so we are up and ready for the grand opening on Sat. Ill email Neil in a min and see what their plans are.

I fired up the old stove last night for the first time since I replaced the stove pipe. There was a chill in the air due to the wind and rain but sure enough, within half an hour I had windows and doors open and that was with a very small amount of coal on the go.
While trying to sleep in the heat, I suddenly had a brain wave in finding a use for the old stove pipe. Why not cut it to size and use it as a lining for the chimney, so that we dont get the gunge running down the side of the boat. There should be enough space in the roof coller to fit it from above and then fit the chimney over it.
I always get my best eureka moments when trying to sleep.

The next dates to look forward to will hopefully see Dan and Rachael and granddaughter Brooke visiting us for Lauras Birthday 'day out' being a "zoo keeper for a day" at Whipsnade zoo.
This full day experience will see Laura doing the duties of a zoo keeper at whipsnade while the rest of us wander around the zoo trying to keep track of her. She is dead excited.

My plan of doing the river Lee as a final cruise this year has hit a brick wall as it turns out we dont have enough leave left to give us 2 weeks. I suppose if we were brave enough, we could, if we put our minds to it, cruise to point A.....go to work for 4 days commuting from point A then continuing our journey on the days off till point B and so on till we got home but i not sure if laura would be happy leaving our home at the mercy of the towpath and to be honest, nor would I.
15 hours away from the boat is a long time for it to be left alone on the towpath.
We would alos have to make sure we have suitable transport links to be able to get us to Lambeth for 7am to start work.
I wonder if there are any marina visitor moorings that would alow us 4 nights stop over......something for me to muse over while trying to sleep.

Actually, I think ill post a thread on the The Forum to see if any one has any usefull ideas on the subject.

of course, if the weather continues in its current trend there is no point at all in trying to cruise a river navigation for obvious reasons.