Monday, 28 December 2009

decade decayed

Those who know me, even a little would probably put 'pedant' as one of my attributes if asked. Hence I remember all the fuss ten years ago from a certain quarter of society who insisted that the end of 1999 was not the end of the millenium, century, or indeed decade, due to something about counting from one or zero, and all that. They were largely ignored, and obviously their parties at the end of 2000 were less than notable.

I like things to be correct & clear - good communication is essential, and being precise within a complex if poetic language is worth the effort, in my opinion - even if I get things wrong as much as most (so no marking out of ten at the bottom, please). This was something heartily discussed by myself (engineer, of sorts) and father (metallurgist) with my stepmother who, despite being an ex teacher, was vehement that the details don't matter any more - computers will sort it all out for us. Ouch.

Anwyway, yes. Decades. If we want the decade to end in 2009, it will, and no number of awkward sods will change that. I do worry about apostrophes more than I should (but they're useful, they convey added meaning, sometimes critically so), and as someone pointed out recently, people use quotation (not quote, I like to think, although again now used interchangeably) marks for emphasis rather than their correct use. I find myself being annoyed, when such emotions are largely futile. Anyway, a decade is just ten years, it can start and finish whenever we bloody well want it too, for our own purposes. A certain war criminal turned 'peace envoy' insisted on a decade of premiership, without it fitting neatly into the right dates.

The last ten years have been eventful, but I probably know myself a little better at the end than at the start though. Getting Tortoise has been a major step, and yes, suits me well. John o'Farrell was on Woman's Hour this morning, and described that as his own reaction to a mid-life crisis he was going the wrong way and thinking about getting a canal boat and growing the appropriate facial hair (as opposed to getting a sports car and a partner half his age, being the context). It wasn't the put down it may have sounded like (since I'm digressing today, John Humphrys was decidedly snooty to comedian Dave Spikey when he took as his Mastermind specialist subject the Leeds & Liverpool Canal), as he was very positive about the life and the community. I'm a bit like that; I bought a boat in my thirties, after all, and it's been great.

I look forward to spending new year's eve in the best possible company, looking to the sky (let's hope it's not cloudy) and forward to new adventures.

Thanks to everyone who's been part of Tortoise's progress, in all ways.

cheers, all.

this posted edited after belated proofreading. We're all human. ;-)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Stove, actually

Last Wednesday, just before the snow really kicked in we took the opportunity for a moderately eventful (I really must fix my fuel gauge - again) trip up to Uxbridge, to collect the new flue I'd ordered, and that playing trumpets on boats could be considered to be unlucky). The Slogh Arm had a thin coat of ice, although a channel had already been neatly cut that morning, presumably by a boat coming in for craning out. Pushing the speed an little made the wash crack the ice at the sides of us in a neatly artistic pattern - fun, admittedly. We made it back before dark, and couldn't resist firing up the stove - it's only been about a year since it first came into my possession.

Since then it's been fixed & cemented in to the adapter collar made specially for me by Jon of Windy Smithy (bolted to the top with ten M6 bolts - it's not going anywhere, and there's a tub's worth of fire cement under the top around the flue passages, sealing it in nicely)), and I'm having great fun getting to know it.

World's worst photo, but here's it in action this afternoon - there's potatoes (and an onion - I'm strange like that) baking in the oven, beans simmering on top, and the red cup contains apple juice, very nice hot with Zubrowka vodka. ;-) The big brown kettle is has hot water - it's not great for condensation to keep it simmering away, but comforting, I must admit.

Thoughts so far; it's a lovely little stove. Lighting takes a bit of practice; best done from below (via the grate hatch) with the top plate closed, to avoid filling the cabin with smoke. ;-) Once it's burning well the draw up the flue makes it OK to open the top, and since there's no window and I do like to watch a fire, that's a blessing. So far I've only been burning scrap wood, which of course needs regular attention, I have some coal on board but am yet to try it.

One interesting (bearing in mind online suggestions that new BSC requirements would make a traditional boatman's stove illegal) point is that after hours of use, the tile surround (4" away from the stove) is barely above room temperature. Unsurprising as the sides seem to be lined with rockwool, the heat mainly radiates from the stove top itself, ideal for cooking, of course. Tortoise heats up nicely, albeit slowly (no immediate radiant heat from the fire, it only really starts heating the boat once the stove itself is hot) - being slightly bigger than a trad back cabin, but I'm not sure how well it could heat a bigger space.

I'm looking forward to doing as much cooking on the stove as possible - more sensible in winter than summer, but I don't see myself limited to stews and the like - if it's hot enough for frying, most things I make at home should be acheivable, including bread & cakes. I've never really lusted after the massive edifice of an aga or similar, but this is just right. Thanks again to Geoff & Laura, without whom... - well, without whom I'd still be idly wondering what boatman's stoves are like. ;-)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

a bicycle-powered house

There's only a couple of days to go before it disappears off the iPlayer (here), but last Thurs the current BBC 'popular science' strand did a whole show on a day's 'experiment' to power a house from a bank of 100 cyclists. Well worth a watch if you can - it may well be preaching to the converted to those reading this, but amusing nevertheless. If you thought pedalling for a band was bad enough, try coping with an electric oven...

It may be an exaggeration to say I consulted on the show, but I certainly helped with ideas with the guys who did it when they were planning it a few months ago. If you don't actually get to see the show, there's a few pictures of the event here

You can even buy one of the generators from the show, or of course build one from the info on my site instead...

Friday, 4 December 2009

a stroll to the river

I've just had the week at a training centre, where a tutor just about managed to make a boring subject nearly interesting. The site has had a few ownership changes over the years, and it's difficult to know who owns what now - especially the hundreds of empty, abandoned dorm rooms (the buildings unlocked, making for a spooky walk through) and the rather cute lodge cottage on the way in.

They also - or at least used to - own the land on the other side of the road, down to the river (Avon). Lunchtime walks were pretty essential for sanity, so to get to the river, I had to climb over this gate...

...then around the overgrown tennis courts, where I found this sign...

...and then down to the riverbank, where there's a nice bench and a couple of chairs, and this view:

Worth the effort, I thought. There was a lock a little further up the river, but I didn't have the time to get there. Fairly fast flowing at the moment, but certainly navigable. I was intending to come down here by boat for the course in autumn 2008, postponed to now. One day...

Friday, 27 November 2009

Lyons Tea Three Bridges advert

(click pic for bigger version)

I went back to Ealing Library to retake a pic of this ad, as previously blogged. I'm not sure all three were regular ways to get tea from Brentford to Greenford, but you can admittedly get there by all three methods...

Bonus pic, also from the exhibition - the Brentford Dock area in it's industrial mode - the Brent/GU mouth is to the right of this picture, Thames Lock is centre top. Sorry about the reflections in this one:

There's a great aerial view of Brentford by the pool table in the Brewery Tap - I really must grab a copy of that one day, as well.

Monday, 16 November 2009

regulatory authorities

My last ever post on Canalworld Forums, I recall, was suggesting that if electrical kit sold for car use (in the context of radio, tv etc) was used on a boat there'd be no need to worry about overvoltage when the engine was running, in response to the original question. This was responded to by one of the resident gadget-obsessed trolls 'experts' that I should 'bugger off and get myself an education'. At this point I quietly considered my bachelor's & master's degrees in electronic engineering, and twenty years as a broadcast engineer, and decided the education I should get myself is not not bother with that particular website*.

Anyway, this is vaguely relevant as I've been building regulators, to prevent equipment being damaged by a battery charging voltage. Not for me, of course a friend on a liveaboard installed lots of nice LED lights (more or less MR16s in a custom flush mount fitting, hence designed fr a regulated 12v supply rather than a constant current supply) two years ago, and they've largely failed, due to being exposed to nigh volages from a constantly running charger. A temporary solution was a 7812 regulator meant it was safe to fit replacements, which to be fair ran happily (and brightly) on the resulting 11.5v, as said IC does introduce a significant voltage drop, well over a volt. For a tiny load it's hardly worth buying in a switch mode regulator, but a quick search found me this article about the LM2940 type regulator (that only drops 0.5v) on the very useful Renewable Energy UK site. They're only rated for a 1A current, If I needed more I guess I could do something with MOSFETs instead - if I needed to... ;-)

Needing only two components per circuit, I twisted & soldered the legs together, and mounted them straight into 3A terminal block, then bolted the whole lot to be bit of aluminium (heatsink tags handily connected to ground, needing no pesky insulation kits). Heat generation is pretty minimal, but will be monitored. The volt drop is pretty impressive - with a 12.3v battery it still managed 11.96v - the 7812 would have been barely over 11v.

I've built myself one too, just in case, but I haven't needed it yet. Even domestic kit that happens to have a 12v power supply is often fine on a boat - if supplied with an unregulated power supply, it'll be faced with voltages of up to 17v off full load. I'm happy to look inside kit and see if the power goes straight into am internal regulator IC anyway, but of course there are times when it's better to be safe than sorry. ;-)

* I must admit that many people are there are perfectly respectable individuals (and may even know what they're talking about - Tony Brooks posts there, after all), but surely it's a function of true wisdom that there is always more to be learned, so those who think they know everything are stupid indeed. Another favourite incident was where I advised that a new 12v spur should be fused if run straight from the battery - I was then told off for perpetuating the 'myth that fuses stop fires'. If only I'd suggested that he short out all his fuses on his undoubtedly immaculate boat, then say, short out the cabling at his water pump (probably the other end of the boat to the batteries), and then see what happened, just to prove himself right. I could continue...

Thursday, 12 November 2009

more anniversaries

Some time ago I mentioned the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Brentford Dock river/railway interchange (now covered in flats, of course). It's inevitably therefore the 150th anniversary of the connecting branch line from Southall to Brentford. Southall Railway Centre put together a small display of pictures and articles about the line; for a while it was in Brentford's Musical Museum - but they charge entrance, and I'd already seen their wurlitzers & musical boxes - but now, until the end of the month, it's in the more accessible Ealing Library. This line of course runs pretty closely with the grand union down to Brentford, cross at Brunel's 'Three Bridges' construction pictured above. They have a better picture, a Lyons Tea advert showing all three modes of transport with Lyons branded loads, but the little digital I had with me failed to get a sharp version of that one.

Also of interest was the viaduct that carries the 'Hounslow and Metropolitan Railway' - now the Picadilly - lines over the canal & Brentford branch - they had both an early picture (there's a lot more trees etc now) and a diagram from an engineering magazine:

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

lovely Marlec people

My first foray into buying a boat involved a 44' wooden topped monstrosity on the Lee. The unofficial survey verdict was '5mm pitting on a 4mm hull' and I was happy to not buy it. The vendor was in dire financial straights and didn't have the fuel to get back to the other side of London after the survey; he gratefully accepted the folding cash in my pocket for his old Rutland 500 wind gen, sitting unused and in an unknown state.

It's hung on the wall in my back room since (unstandably, High Line, being a residential mooring with boats breasted up, aren't keen on the wind gen vibrations being passed through the hull to adjoining boats).

It's a little 18W generator, long since upgraded and replaced, but worth sorting, hopefully to be loaned to a deserving home.

The internal rectifiers are covered by a nose cone, or rather weren't, as it was missing. I called up Marlec, who not only emailed me copies of the manuals, but are putting a replacement nose cone - a long obselete spare part - for me in the post, for nothing. What a lovely gesture - thank you, Angela.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Pics - Slough Festival

Tortoise (undecorated) tucked in behind Herbie (very much more decorated) after they'd saved me a slot for the Slough festival. You can see how far out from the bank Herbie had to moor - what you can't is how much closer in a v-bottom boat can get. ;-)

Phil's boat Becky was just behind me, so I got to watch him being interviewed for, although their website cunningly doesn't actually explain how anyone might actually get to see the results.

(ha - I've just spotted Herbie in the background - they didn't want to interview us as we weren't liveaboards, but obviously Neil was determined to get in somehow...)

I also had a nice poke around Ricksmanworth Waterways Trust's 1936 boar Roger's boatman's cabin, although without a fisheye lens the pictures aren't worth posting. It's a fascinating space, though. I must admit I'm vicariously enjoying Sarah's blogging about Chertsey's. I suspect it's all psychological, as a boatman's cabin makes the interior of Tortoise seem postively palacial... ;-)

Pictures - GU trip

Don't know about anyone else, but I'm getting bored of just text, so to make amends:

This type of springer (pretty sure it's a springer) is the closest I've seen to a distant relation for Tortoise (see 2006 for earlier photos) - square transom with hull tumblehome etc...

Possibly the tallest cratch I've seen around, but I don't see why not, no taller than a pram hood on the stern...

I love the various colours on this boat, and also that it dares to be just a little bit different. So many boats - GRP or not - all look the same. It also occurs to me that a little plastic cruiser could well be fun to see how well it would run on electricity, assuming it could carry the weight of batteries required. Assuming enough charging opportunites could be found/created (friendly pubs and a long extension lead?), could well be a pretty green - and beautifully quiet - cruising option.

We crossed locks with Chiswick on the Leafcutter John/Lisa Knapp tour. Didn't manage to see any of the gigs, but they sounded interesting - apparently LJ had been using underwater mics to record th sound of the boat to use in the performances.

Logs, acquired in Uxbridge on the way home. They look great (don't they?) but being freshly cut were merrily leaking sap all over the roof, so are now languishing just off the towpath until next winter...

Monday, 26 October 2009

low voltage links for me

just wanted to stash these away where even I won't lose them...

discussion about running a 12v house - boats already do, of course... (cwf people may recognise the intolerance people who know a very little have for each other in the comments)

USB phone charging (and other thoughts) and USB gadget roundup (have been looking into a standard 5v charging/connection system for phones, mp3 players etc, especially if based around solar/wind up sources)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

stuff & nonsense

A work meeting on Friday introduced me to the idea of 'Project Rainbow', which seems dedicated to pointing out the bleedin' obvious which had gone un-pointed. In front of three senior managers, it took a lot of sitting on hands for me to avoid asking which of them were Bungle, Zippy and Geoffrey.

In other news, far less connected to gainful employment, I get to do sound for Jeremy Hardy, singing on Thursday. Regular Radio 4 listeners will understand what a personal best, if not career peak, this is for me. ;-)

Sunday, 11 October 2009

fired up

Well, not quite, although I was a couple of weeks ago when I wrote, and then spared any poor passing readers, a largely pointless rant about a cyclist - in London, this is - who told me that traffic lights didn't apply to cyclists, they're for cars. Suffice to say i still haven't entirely calmed down from this comment, speaking as possibly the last cyclist in London who does pay some heed to the highway code. Not only does this behaviour lose us respect (and therefore rights) from other road users, but it completely ignores the safety of pedestrians, who's right to cross a road without being run down is pretty fundamental in my book.

Perhaps you got the rant after all.

Anyway, work progresses on the boatman's stove; Jon at Windy Smithy ( has made me a nice adapter plate to bolt to the top plate of the stove, to fit a flue to. Meanwhile I've been working on the surround; according to the BSC inspector masterboard (as sold - and already bought from - by one local chandlers) isn't considered to be up to the job, or at least won't be in the future, and asbestolux - aka Supalux, it actually says on the board - is better. I remember trying to research this some time ago, and going round in circles a little, so for my own peace of mind rather than the regulations I've got some supalux and put that over the existing masterboard, whoich will then be tiled over that. I've a feeling anything bigger than 4" tiles will look daft i the space, so sill be doing some serious tile shopping soon.

All this is in the context of seeing a completely burnt out boat recently, and reading the safety report on Lindy Lou, who's well fed stove set the rest of the boat alight, casuing one death. I suspect most boat fires are down to 3rd party action when no-one's aboard, but even so, one to be careful of.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

live from Slough Canal Festival

It's Saturday afternoon, I've wandered around everything there is to be seen and now I'm back on my boat just enjoying being on the water. There's a few boats here - I'm moored next to Herbie (Neil & Kath even saved me a space, for last night, although they weren't really expecting me until this morning), and the Batchworth trip boat are down here offering trips to the winding hole and back for a pound a go (although a trip to the Slough basin is £4).

This is my first time here, and it's nice enough, a village fete really. BW came down to cut the weeds along the edge, and have been cutting the weed from the bottom of the canal too - but none of it was cleared, so progress was even slower than was to be expected - around six weed hatch clearances in the mile from the moorings to hear, and another four this morning when I turned the boat around first thing. Hopefully it'll be a little clearer on the way back tomorrow, but it certainly isn't a great advert for BW.

I'd got back to Iver yesterday afternoon, after a lovely few days with some unexpected but very welcome company from Kings Langley back to Uxbridge. I always try not to name & shame (despite passing the working boat who tore past me and nearly had me in whilst retying the rubbish barge at Bulls Bridge on the way home from Little Venice), which makes it diffiult to relate the otherwise humourous tale of a boat who's name suggests a bit fo a devil-may-care nature, and yet they had planned each day of their cruise by spreadsheet. We should also report that the pub adjacent to Widewater Lock is possibly the worst canalside pub ever, so don't aim for it as an overnight stop (although the moorings weren't bad). Good weather always helps, and of course it was my first time heading south on the lower Grand Union - I've been up twice, but both times come back down the Oxford & then Thames.

Just opposite Uxbridge Boat Centre a voice called out to ask if I wanted any logs - they were cutting down a couple of small trees in a garden, so I'm the proud owner of a pile of cut wood on the front of the boat, freshly cut from a live tree, so it could be quite a while until they're worth burning. They look good, mind.

Again, pictures to follow when I manage to connect memory card & laptop...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Lock Gates

A contentious issue, I may as well post something about 'keeping it simple' on 12v electrics on the CWF...

I wherever possible, close lock gates behind me when leaving a lock, obviously unless a boat is ready to come in to the lock. Old working boats didn't, and the trip boat I shared a few locks with today didn't either, and many other boaters these days don't.

I must admit, largely being single handed, being able to go straight in to a lock, or indeed leave one without closing the gate behind me, would save the time & hassle of moving the boat, tying up again and going to open/close the gate. Obviously if they've been left open in the wrong direction, they have to be closed, but the lock needs to be 'turned around' anyway? I guess with leaky gates as common as they are it's best to close both, but as the trip boat guys said, in that case the lock ends up half full, set for neither end.

It's a question of convention & respect, which is which I try to do the right thing. But I'm also happy to apply a bit of logic to the situation. Either way, we probably end up doing about the same amount of work?

Monday, 7 September 2009

Copper Mill Lock

Boat Safety stuff finally sorted; all, impressively all things not down to me, and others shoud have been failed five years ago, like the exhaust not being lagged, and the dip in the diesel filler line. The latter needed a new thread filler and angled hose tail to sort; not cheap, but needs must. Frustratingly the gas failed due to the regulator fitted last year; I could be cynical about ways & means here, but I suspect such connivance may be beyond the organisation concerned. ;-)

I've still got a week off work, so I get to head away for a few days. I've brought the laptop but no card reader, so no pictures for the the time being. It's lovely & great, but I'm still reminded the fundamental truths of when sharing a lock a single hander still does most of the work, slowing down when passing moored boats is a thing of the past, and the moored boat a little bit down from me is STILL running his engine. At least the the latter case it must be more annoying for them than it is for me...

Friday, 14 August 2009


quick post to report BSC inspection today - largely fine but not a clear pass - a couple of niggly things on fuel & exhaust pipes, and a tiny gas leak somewhere near the Morco water heater I'm not looking forward to trying to find. Also the gas regulator cut out is out of of spec - that's something that really should have been checked when installed relatively recently, so something I may be able to follow up on. I have over a month to get things sorted and have my second (included in the price0 follow up inspection, but knowing me that will go past all too quickly...

Monday, 10 August 2009

of festivals and domes (tangible ones, even)

I've been out and about with the PA again; a two and a half week road trip of an album launch and two festivals was thrown into the air by the short notice cancellation of the Big Green Gathering. I've heard as many reasons and analyses as people I've spoken to about it, but it's clear that the local authorities wanted to kill it, and kill it for good. For words more well informed than mine try these letters in the Guardian a few days ago and George Monbiot on the subject. Are people who are taking the future of the earth seriously really that much of a threat to the status quo? I can only conclude we are, which suggests to me that they know we're right, which isn't what they want to acknowledge,let alone do anything about other than suppress it.

My second festival went ahead, though - I'm still processing a great few days, but the interregnum beforehand gave me a few hours to build a 1v geodesic dome to sleep in at the event. A temporary structure made from plastic tarps (uncut, and therefore very much reuseable), the frame being plastic tubes joined by cable ties:

all sides are 1.5m, giving me a tent only slightly bigger than the minimum I'd need to lie in and yet I can stand up in it. A blue tarp forms the groundsheet and door, the green one (after a lot of faffing) more or less covered the dome bar the triangular doorway. A suitably successful indulgence - sorry, experiment, and well worth a mk2 with wooden frame and canvas cover. Not a tent to go backpacking with, but if I need transport for the PA anyway and I'm staying more than just a couple of days at an event, it'll be good to have the space - and a little bit of uniqueness. ;-)

The link hidden above to is well worth a peruse - lots of info about different semi-permanent structures - with lots of diagrams, and serious maths for those that find it useful (and scaleable diagrams with stick men in for the rest of us). My dome is essentially 2/3 of a regular icoshedron made purely out of equilateral triangles (hence being almost as tall as it is wide) - domes with higher (non-equilateral) triangle counts get closer to being half a sphere - prettier, perhaps, but a lot more poles to carry. The 'yome' uses this shape to full effect (clear distinction between sides and roof, so half yurt, half dome) as a commercial enterprise - but it's easy to see how I could easily modify the design above with more triangles around the side and longer roof supports for more floor area - in fact if I bear this in mind with the mk2 version, at least side struts & panels could be reuseable in a wider version...

Friday, 17 July 2009

fending them off

I tend to get quite a few emails about my bike powered sound system, normally asking how to build one, despite me putting a fair amount of information on the web already. I generally reply as comprehensively as I can, often having to explain the laws of physics to them about why they can't run a projector/kettle/microwave from one bike. I try to be as polite and enthusiastic as I can, but often I don't get as much as a 'thanks for your time' in reply.

Two emails yesterday were quite noteworthy. The first was from some kind of PR/events company, who 'needed' me to build them two bike-based sound systems that generated the power for the music as they cycled, at the head of some kind of parade for a tv show on Sky, and can I have them ready by the 24th July please? I tried to call them but 'weren't in the office', so replied as clearly as I can - that

1) there's no way they can power loud music directly from a slow moving bike anyway
2) there's no way I could do it in the timescale
3) there's no way I'd work for Rupert Murdoch

I must admit I'm not expecting a reply to that one. ;-)

The second one was from Will Golding who is part of the Treehouse gallery, an arts/spoken word project based in Regent's Park over the summer, launching July 20th, would I liek to take part? There's not much on the website yet but the provisional schedule I've been sent as a prospective contributor is pretty impressive - Jay Griffiths, George Monbiot, Benjamin Zephaniah and many, many more, with lots of creative sessions for adults & children too. I'm not quite sure how I will be involved, but it looks like an amazing project. There's some constructional photos here, I doubt I'll get a chance to look myself before mid August at the earliest, but do so if you're passing...

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

more non-Tortoise boating

I may well end up spending more time traveling on other people's boats than my own this year, but I have no complaints about that. Iver moorers Kingfisher had been away on a ten week adventure (including meeting Richard busy painting Happyhome) and came through the final stretch of the Thames this morning into Brentford, so Tortoise Lockingwheeling Limited sprang into action (and the photographic division had a good workout too). Here's Kingfisher turning into the Grand Union/Brent:

the previous pair of boats out of Teddington didn't have enough collective braincells to work the automated Brentford Gauging Lock (despite arriving about half an hour earlier), so I ended up working their lock too, whilst getting Kingfisher & companions Dream Two through the second chamber. Then onwards up through the Hanwell locks; just before the flight itself, I got slightly over excited about spotting Leviathan and her new owner Steve, and getting to see that amazing interior for myself as blogged about previously. I took a couple of photos inside too, but failed to ask if it was OK to post them, but the outside is public enough:

You see, sadly enough, lost animal signs, but rarely are they followed up:

An excellent day out, despite a a general failure to find anywhere alongside the canal for lunch, as the Fox was passed far too early. Cycling hoe I stopped to chat to a woman in a green polo shirt and wellies, with ruibbish bag & rubbish picker thing - no, she wasn't from Thames 21, she just did it because it needed to be done. Yes, I'd picked up a bit of rubbish near (and in) locks while waiting, but I certainly wasn't going equipped. Such people's existance more than makes up for the louts who leave the mess in the first place.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


I'm a day behind, but a new resident at the Iver moorings is Lilian Rose, a new daughter for Geoff & Laura on Lady Elgar - and the reason Lady Elgar gained an extra bedroom, and I gained their old stove... ;-)

Friday, 10 July 2009

Jack de Crow

In 1990, I had three months with nowhere to live (or at least anywhere I wanted to live, to be fair), no income and no inclination to get a job (as I was due to start the job I am indeed still in). So I spent two week volunteering at the Centre for Altrnative Technology in Machynlleth, then cycled through Wales & southern england, visiting people I knew, and when I failed to find a floor for the night, camping. Income came from lunchtime busking on a mandolin, which otherwise shared the rear pannier with a tent, sleeping bag and a change of clothes. When I found myself at Ramsgate I got a ferry and crossed Belgium, Holland and Germany (largely along the Rhine & Neckar rivers), reaching Tübingen, south of Stuttgart to visit a travelling acquaintance, before getting the train home in about 18 hours (reading Jilly Cooper's 'Polo' I recall, being the thickest of the books in english I could find in a fleamarket.

A very kind recent loan of a book written by Sandy Mackinnon brought that all back (and made it seem all very pedestrian). Transport for him was a mirror dinghy, the instrument was the penny whistle, and he did Ellesmere to the black sea (without the aid of a cross chanel ferry, too). I do hope some of the situations are exaggerated, as he seemed to risk his life about twice a week - but a lovely human adventure, and make me glad I've had my own experiences, too. I was going to say 'current reading', but I finished it at about 1.30am last night. ;-(

There's a nice article about the trip here, which also includes a couple of photos - the book itself is lovingly illustrated by the author's own line drawings, making it even more like a Swallows & Amazons adventure. Recommended.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

escape from Iver

It did feel a bit like that; getting past the weed on the mooring stretch of the Slough arm is a bit like reaching escape velocity, only you have to stop and clear the weed hatch every so often. Once I'd got passed Mansion Lane Bridge, of course, a boat in the distance seemed to be taking a very long time reaching the next, archless, bridge. It turned out to be Minerva of this parish, with a failed engine - so I turned around (because I can) and towed them back to the boatyard, and started again. I also discovered the weed had got into my blessed seacock cooling water inlets, so the engine would have overheated even if I hadn't been towing a 50' boat... ;-)

Anyway, the idea was to have a night away from the moorings, with the excuse of discussing stove work with boatyards as I passed. It's funny, Neil on Herbie has just blogged a very similar thought I was having - that some people with boats will just pop out for a couple of hours, to enjoy being out there, whereas others it's a three month cruise or nothing. I have a small boat I can turn almost anywhere, and may not manage a long trip this year - so yes, small wanders are the way forward, with possibly a quiet night on the water with a book for company. Of course the quiet night thing went straight out of the window when I passed NB Cossette and spotted Helen, so we arranged to meet in the General Elliot later. I've mentioned her before as a signwriter - she now has a website - Get in touch while she's still starting up and you'll get a great job at a bargain price. ;-)

Despite the pub, I made a relatively early start home in the showers of Tuesday morning, and was back at my home moorings by eleven. It was good to get away, and good to use the boat for what it is - access to green space and a little bit of peace & quiet. I may well have sussed out a quiet little spot on the arm itself for overnight escapes, I'll just have to see how shallow it is there... ;-)

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Small Spaces II

One recent visitor to Brentford's eco village was Vinay Gupta, creator of the Hexayurt - an easily built structure designed for temporary housing and disaster relief. He's also in a wonderful book I found after my previous post:

It's full of small housing projects with a similar philosphy, genuinely inspiring. I guess that most of what we see conciously of arhitect's work are the big and/or whimsical projects - it's great to see imagination being applied to the real human issues.

This reminds me that I met a student (?) architect, a friend of a friend, a while ago, who was also interested in minimal living spaces, so I should really get in touch with him. We're hoping the eco village could well be pretty long term, and come autumn we'll need something a little more solid than we have at the moment.

extra links:

appropedia wiki
playatech sheet material furniture designs

In other news: RIP, Steven Wells.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

local event

Brentford Dock is the housing estate built on the site of the old rail/river transhipment point - built as a council estate in the 60s, but very quickly largely in private ownership. Nice to see a bit of a historical celebration, though, and a variety of transport methods represented, including canal boats (although more wanted, by the sounds of it although access is directly from the Thames, not the canal). The railway long since stopped running to the dock itself, stopping at 'Brentford Town' station on the way, but it still runs just short of Brentford as a freight only line. I don't see any that this line have passenger services reinstated, although a direct train from home to the boat would be very nice, I admit.

More info for the event at

ETA - from their website - The 100 Years old steam narrow boat President will be going by Brentford Dock on Monday July 13. I bid them welcome to Brentford!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

more Epping about

I have a tendency to like to see things in place, do a dry/dummy run before things are ready for the final install, just to see how it all looks - and this is a typical example. I was gluing in the hearth tiles for the new stove plinth, wanted to weight them down so the glue spread well and flatten out the tiles, so what better weight than the stove itself?

It doesn't look very pretty there, as there's no tiling around it yet (not that the masterboard goes all the way round, although it does show the greater width of the space required), there's no trim on panelling around it, and after all, it' sitting on a sheet of grotty old 18mm ply rather than the tiles themselves...

But - in reality, it looks & feels very natural, and when commisioned, will be a real focal point of the boat. I balanced in the old flue just to see how it looks; the stove/flue junction will need a little work, and I'm also considering not replacing the 'smokebox' part that nornmally sits at that point. Apart from the door for flue access for cleaning, anyone know reasons for or against (apart from tradition?).

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Google maps updated

Last time I looked at the Iver moorings on google maps, the images were at least two years old, no evidence of my boat at all. This new image is pretty recent by the locations of boats up and down, particularly the brokerage boats - but Tortoise still isn't there - she should be alongside Benbulben in the middle of this image. So this one must be from last summer, or possibly this spring when I was away doing blacking/welding stuff.

If I get really, really, bored (unlikely) I'll have to follow my route to see if I can find her, but of course there's no guarantee she'll be there at all, obviously.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009


... work progresses on the new kitchen & plinth, I may add a pic later. Typically the tile spacers I thought I had on the boat weren't, but I need my tile cutter anyway. I've taken my old peltier fridge home, I'm going to see how I get on with the hull bottom cool box idea - this will also free up a lot of space, too. Strangely, widening the worktop from 18" to 21" makes it look for elegant and proportioned.

Also lovely to see back around old mate Helen, currently staying on her mum's boat whilst hers is still rented out; she's been in New Zealand for two years; she's back in the UK to study carpentry, then hopes to head back south.

The thing is - much closer to home, there's an exciting land squat next to Kew Bridge, on a site that has been enmpty for more than a decade, and is currently believed to have no approved planning permission anyway. Although the original diggers encampment on St George's Hill was further down the river, St George's is the name of the developer, and approiate enough. I'm of course getting involved; the boat can wait, a little. One contribution is mentioning here - I took an old, cheap cordless drill (14.4v, but 12v would be better) who's battery would no longer hold a change, wired in a piece of cable to large croc clips, and supplied an old car battery - instant drilling power for building.

Thursday, 4 June 2009


I don't intend a big epic trip again this year, but should have a few weeks available in August/September, after a three week stint of festivals with the bike powered music system. I don't see myself finding the opportunity to get Tortoise out on the canals before that, even though I'd probably be able to find a day or so during the festivals to move Tortoise to avoid overstaying anywhere.

Anyway, current vague idea is a leisurely (as in lots of stops, I know some of it will be real work) trip to Bath & back on the Kennet & Avon. If circumstances prevent that, then it'll be the Lee & Stort, all a bit more local.

Having said that, I really need to make the time to finish the kitchen rebuild; no rush on the stove flue, as I hope Mick Atkinson is on the K&A with welding kit at the ready... ;-)

Thursday, 28 May 2009


Three things in one picture; Front deck mostly now painted (after languishing with only a coat of red oxide for too long), less visible is the oak frame around the inside of the front door, covering the steel frame; meanwhile in the distance, two boats struggle with the overbearing amount of weed in the canal at the moment.

Every year, the half mile or so of the canal alongside Iver moorings gets so weedy that progress for passing boats, let alone ours, is slow. I'm not expert, but I assume it's the warmer temperatures, and added nutrients in the water from the ewater outflows on the boats - any thoughts? The main problem is of course that there are very few passing boats - only the real completists who like to do every lock and every arm - and whilst there's nothing at the end of the Slough arm, its going to stay that way, so the weed won't get broken up more, and will be worse than it would be otherwise, I guess.

In further news my BSC isn't actually due until September, not July. Although I could just seize the day and have it doen anyway, I decided to start installing the Epping stove instead - so the other evening, the existing kitchen (needs to be rebuilt to fit in the wider stove) and existing stove plinth were removed, and then yesterday I built a new wider plinth, and started on the kitchen unit. Yep, back to the good old days of 2" square timber and 18mm ply...

As part of this I realised I had the opportunity to try something - so I've cut out a section of the floor panels under where the food storage will be, with the idea of making an insulated coldbox, cooled by the water against the hull. Being completely overplated, this won't be as effective as it could be, but I'm looking to making a few measurements and reporting back in time, at least in terms of relative temperatures reached.

Sitting on the bus with a big, wheeled holdall with some of the required materials, I was reminded of a rant I had to listen to the other night about how great Routemaster buses were - this of course, from a fit man who doesn't actually seem to use buses... sitting downstairs on a modern double decker, it's obvious how people would rather selfishlessly grab the seats near the doors (including the 'prority' seats) rather than walk upstairs - having said that you've got to negotiate those stairs on an often jerkily driven bus, and once you're up there listen to dreadful music played from someone's phone. Anyone who thinks Routemasters are the ideal public transport should use a few buses occasionally, and live in the real world...

Friday, 15 May 2009

Sandbach to Macclesfield

I'm back at work, adjusting after a lovely, gentle couple of days in Cheshire with Carrie (and Milou) on Blackbird. I'd offered to come up and crew the next time she hit a flight, so with 'heartbreak hill' on the horizon, I got the train up.

Although Tortoise wasn't directly involved, Tortoise's new bike was - actually an old shopper bike, found in the car boot sale in Leek last summer, stripped, painted (badly) in the same paint as Tortoise's cabin and reassembled without the rattley mudguards. Useful for getting to and from stations as well as between locks. Here modelling (or being modelled by, I'm not sure) lock 63.

Further down, one of the pair was being refurbished; in the stonework above the top gate - which would therefore normally be permanently covered in water - a pentagram was to be spotted; who's to say how long it's been there, but if anyone ever felt the flight was cursed (or indeed especially blessed)...

We got through to Hardingswood Junction in a (admittedly long) day, went for a celebratory drink in the Red Bull and found a welcoming & varied folk session (2nd Tues of the month). In fact there was two - banjo-based nonsense in the back room, and a more UK orientated singaround upstairs. It didn't take much armstwisting (or indeed cider) to be talked into playing a few tunes on a borrowed mandolin, the last one, Neil Gow's lament for his second wife (a lovely slow fiddle tune) as being the only way they'd let me out of the door as I tried to sneak out.

Wednesday was a gentle ride up to Congleton (passing NB Cosmos) and a wander around town, and on Thursday I helped get Blackbird up Bosley locks, too. I ended up largely driving, which was interesting; largely, I found a 52' boat easier to control (certainly just as easy, anyway) than the shorter & lighter Tortoise, particularly, I suspect, in the winds that we had all three days. It doesn't help when a second boat insists on coming down into a small pound where there was already one boat patiently waiting for us to come up; apparently they'd been rushing them all the way down. I always got the impression that if one boat has plenty of people, if in rush their best bet was to assist the boat in front, but that might be a bit too much like common sense... Blackbird's a nice boat, not only to drive, but a nice fitout, and of course personalised with compost loo, pots of herbs and lots of interesting books. We've a lot in common, Carrie & I, we had lots of great chats over the time; a lovely, and inspiring few days.

Relevant link: Low Impact Life On Board. Some boats seem to be about cramming as many power gadgets in as possible; sometimes less is far, far more.

Speaking of being back at work - I was clicking down the stone floor corridor into the building this morning in my cycling shoes, rounded a corner to find a man holding the door open for me. He sees a bald bearded man with hairy knees & cycling shorts, and downfallen he blurts out 'sorry, I was expecting a lady'. Welcome to 2009 gender politics, not least in a well known broadcasting organisation...

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Little Venice

The weekend's festivities started nicely with a few guests on the back deck of Tortoise at Iver; coincidentally a day or two earlier I'd fitted an 8w light at the top of the back bulkhead for the deck, complete with illimuninated switch inside (otherwise I'd end up leaving it on all night), so that proved it's worth.

We left in the traditional convoy from Iver, which was great; I stopped off at Northolt to pick up Tess & Dave from their boat, while Catherine & Will on Benbulben was picking up Colin; then lunch at the Black Horse in Greenford. Stopping off at the supermarket on Ladbroke Grove meant I arrived at the basin itself in a bit of a queue, but not really worse than Llangollen last summer.

I was back on more or less the same spot as last year, with Jum & Mary on Heebeejeebee a few boats down, but with the bonus of Lawrence & Olivia, also from Iver, next door to me on Teazel, who I've known since I've had the boat but great to spend some time with them.

As I got into the basin, I saw friends snogging on the roof of their boat; tempted to heckle them, I didn't which was just as well as I found out later he'd just proposed, down on one knee and everything. So congratulations to Alex & Chris, thgere; in the 2nd hand book stalls later in the weekend I found them an old 50s/60s guide called 'The Way of Marriage' - what to expect in the bedroom, the works - which was duly handed over. I'm sure they'll find it useful. ;-)

Even a couple of days later it's difficult to remember in what order everything happened in. ;-) Saturday visitors include old friend Kate, teacher and itinerent musician for a catch up in the sunshine, and also Adam wandered over, who introduced me to Jo & Keith on Hadar, soon heading north for a coal distribution job, and also 'Eeyore' of Sonflower.

The evening was very serendipitous - Olivia had her grandfather's melodeon with her, I'd been teaching her a couple of tunes, as at the last minute I'd brought my mandolin. There proved to be a folk session by the boater's bar, so we joined them for the evening. Mainly played guitar in the end - accompanying three melodeons is a strange skill I'm at best out of practice at, but at least I never had to work out what key things were in - everything was in G. ;-) I also discovered my fingers are to fat for the chord buttons on a 72 bass accordion (having been used to a 60), that's my excuse and I' m sticking to it. I'm slowly getting back into session playing, but I do appreciate the instant community, a bit like being part of a church, or the masons, or something. ;-)

I was being fed a delcious sunday cooked breakfast by Catherine on Benbulben (partially escaping the inevitable running engines around me every morning - I was fine for power all weekend, thank you) when the boat handling competition was going on; not only did I miss one broken window and a few near misses, I also missed Tortoise's staring role as a fender. There's a few scrapes on her newly painted hull, but nothing I won't better in normally travelling anyway. I did get back to the basin to see Mike (another BBC engineer) doing teh circuit on Victoria, a working boat who's prow sits so high it's postively terrifying to see coming towards you.

Early afternoon I had another peruse of the book stalls and visited a few more of the Iver boats - meaning of course I was the worng side of the basin when the first of my evening guests arrived, who'd walked down the canal from Alperton (for fun, I should point out). We managed to fit in a suitable amount of drinking on the boat, then a trip to Red Pepper for Pizza and a pint in the pub opposite (the one with the low doors between snugs, I always forget its's name) before getting back to the boat for the illuminated boat parade, as surreal as ever.

Monday we waited fro Miss Matty to do their thing in the boat handling before sneaking out of the basin, only to find ourselves passing - on the left - the next boat coming in - it seemed the best thing to do in circumstances. Then on home with a crew of two friends and three small boys, the smallest of which couldn't actually see over the roof of the boat but insisted on having a go at the tiller anyway... we caught up with the others at the Black Horse again, but lost them when we started tying up boats as previously discussed...

I'm booked in again for next year. It's a great weekend, nothing too exciting, just a big social, really. Recommended, naturally.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

the need for speed

Proper Little Venice post later, but first a bit of a rant.

Coming 'home' on Monday, I had cause to stop to retie two boats, pulled off their moorings by passing boats. I'd thought a few times over the weekend that increasing numbers of people seemed to be hammering past moored boats with little respect for what their wash might be doing, the first proof came somewhere near Southall,restaked the stern rope), but really regret not leaving a note; they're going to return to their boat pointing the wrong way and tied up differently, and it may not be immediately obvious why. when we paused to retie a boat dangling off it's bow rope; both centre & stern ropes were still securely tied to long stakes, hanging down on the canal side, so it must have spun 180 degrees, too. I tied the centre rope off to the piling (and of course

Then at Bull's Bridge the rubbish barge was more or less all the way along the canal; Tortoise the Tug duly towed it back over to the wall, and tied it up.

Trouble was - obviously by this time there was a boat or two waiting, that was fine, but just as soon there was room, two old working boats hammered past, past the more modern boat that was patiently waiting, and throwing Tortoise & the rubbish barge around - since I was climbing around between the two and the wall, that was at best irresponsible if not s*dding dangerous. The pointed comment about patience to the first one was lost on him, when I asked the second one what the hell he thought he was doing he said 'we want to get home'. Yeah mate, we all do, and with all my fingers & limbs. Interestingly those with me were suitably angry on my behalf, as previously they believed all boaters to be kind genial creatures, but anyway...

Two points: (my blog, and I can bang on as long as I want)

I fully respect that commercial traffic has right of way, and even non-commerical boats that happen to be old deep drafted working boats need the centre channel in these undredged times (pretty irrelevant on this stetch of the GU, mind). I don't hold these two of typical of anyone else, but the arrogance of this manoeuvre annoys me greatly. I won't name them here initially, but I'll have no qualms should anyone ask in comments... ;-) (Ironically enough shortly after I was under way again I found they'd breasted up and were slowing everyone else down, but resisted the urge to charge past them with at much wash as possible.)

We're all aware, surely, of the amount of wash we make, and what other's wash does to us. There was a lot of traffic on Monday of boats leaving Little Venice, so I'm pretty sure both incidents were due to cumulative effects, but still cumulative effects of passing boats individually going too fast.

[if this were the CWF forum some self-righteous denier would just say the boats weren't tied up properly; if they ran over a child in the road while speeding would they say the child shouldn't have been there in the first place?]

On the way in, Tess with her GPS came along; on an open (and hard sided) stretch we had a play, Tortoise with her V bottom needs to get pretty fast before a serious wash builds up. Someone once said that canal boats have the water streamlining of a brick, and those that do push the water around must know of this.

A similar rant that often comes out at parties (which is why I don't get many invites, I suspect) is about the rules of the road; they're about co-operation and not wanton whim, and that applies to the canal too; they're there for a reason. Parking on double yellow lines isn't a challenge to the state's authority, it's dangerous for other road users, for example. Slowing down past moored boats isn't some archaic tradition (although it does seem to be dying out), it's for a reason.

If you're in a rush, get a bloody train. They're faster, but a lot less fun. Your choice.

Miss Matty leaves Cranford Iver

Robin & Laura have a new mooring near friends at Cowroast, so when they left Iver for Little Venice last week it may well have been for the last time. As they pulled out I jogged up to the bridge and took a few photos for them; it's the old problem that photos of all of you on your own boat are few & far between, and they were suitably grateful when I handed them over at the weekend.

Someone more materialist than I would see a way to make money out of it, but if anyone else is passing Brentford, or wherever I happy to be, it's a service I could offer for a pint in return. Certainly anyone living near Pontcysyllte could do a roaring trade; I'd pay a few quid for a picture of Tortoise, taken from across the valley. I guess it could be done automatically with a motion-sensing webcam mounted somewhere suitable, but there's enough survellience out there already; do we really want timed & dated pictures of our boat up there on the internet, put there without our request or even knowledge?

Anyway, a nice enough picture, showing off the charms of the first half of the Slough Arm.

Monday, 27 April 2009

more electrics/misc

Finally added the voltmeter & ammeter to the DC distribution position. Ideally I'd prefer digital meters, but until I can find the right ones (at the right price), these cheap analogue ones do the job. The modular idea of using the pattress means that I can easily swap over in the future.

I've also put in 40m of 38x9mm oak strip as beading on to the boat, covering egdes of panels and going around the windows, above the gunwhales, anyway. There's still a few sections needing doing, around the front door and the front bulkhead shelves, but it has changed the look of the interior, making it all a little more tasteful, along with some curtains made from a charity shop duvet cover. ;-) This also meant that I finally tidied up the lighting wiring, too - I'm still looking for a nice low-energy light - presumably LED - for over the dining table, the rest are small strip flourescents - hardly elegant, but they do the job.

I also have running water again, thanks to the new pump bought from ASAP - the supplied water filter had ghot damaged in transit, an email asking for an RMA number produced a replacement in the post the following day. Good service, there.

In more random news, a short notice call into work to cover some shooting in an area I look after reminded me how easy it was to go into work from the moorings. Hmmm - anyway, once at work it turned out part of the film crew was another Iver resident - who's boat looks exactly as if a tv designer lives on it. ;-)

As mentioned, I'll be around & about at Little Venice next weekend. One boater said to me he wasn't going this year as 'it's the same every year'. Isn't that exactly why everyone else goes? ;-)

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

tucked behind the bus station

Uxbridge doesn't particularly distinguish itself in terms of living history or indeed architectural beauty, but the Friends Meeting House in Uxbridge is an extraordinary oasis in the centre of town, a lovely old building in well tended gardens that has somehow survived the madness around; completely appropriate then that it hosts an hour of peace & thought. I've never been to a quaker meeting, but may well one day; I'd probably find the silence threatening and I have enough of my own internal dialogue, thank you, but ever since I talked to x at Leek about it, it's been a thought. Discussions with college friends at a 40th birthday this weekend about the role of the church in the community feed into this too... I wonder if canalplan maps places of worship? Would be nearly as useful as folk clubs and branches of Screwfix... ;-)

In boat news, I'm told the welding around the prow will get done 'in the next few days'. Along with everything on a boat costing about a thousand pounds, I'm also convinced it takes about a month - I've been missed at Iver, too, which is kind of nice. I've got lots of oak strip on order though to tidy up the inside, and I've put the first of a couple of extra coats of Danish oil on the exiting panelling before I get started on that. Meanwhile engine starting woes have hopefully been ameliorated by Dan pointing out I've been missing a rubbing washer on the fuel filter (changed, along with the oil filter, and indeed the oil) bolt which may have been letting air in, and also a bit of 6mm cable to the glow plugs to replace the orginal, which must have been 2.5mm and that I'd always meant to change... I've also largely replaced the ageing water hoses with nice new blue stuff; it's starting to look pretty respectable in the engine space these days.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Useful links/info

only blogged here because I'll never find it again otherwise:

Indigo Dream's Brum recommended moorings, found via a comment by Adam on NB Sanity's blog.

BSS links:
online guide
Part 2 checklist - inboard engines
Part 3 checklist - electrical installations
Part 6 checklist - fire extinguishers
Part 8 checklist - appliances/flues/ventilation
Part 9 checklist - sanitation
download pdfs

weekend update

a boatyard is certainly the place to meet interesting people - here's Nik above, who was deftly moving his hands around a seemingly stationary glass ball. A lovely (and startlingly good looking) chap, he's been blacking next to me last week, and has had to put up with my angle grinder wire brush attachment evangelising (he may even be converted). A musician & performer, (and one man BMX display team), despite his talents he has also impersonated Mick Hucknall on Never Mind the Buzzcocks on BBC2.

Also blacking last week in the dry dock was the charity trip boat Angel of Islington; among the volunteers I met were Rose (best smile I saw all week), amd Helen of NB Gossette, who is looking for signwriting work (07952 266 294) - her work on A of I certainly looked good to me; she has designs on Tortoise (literally). Having a less traditional looking boat that most, it's less obvious what will suit, but I'[ll certainly be curious about possibilities. While I'm doing the ad break (actually noting down numbers before I lose them), Dan Hollands (0792 729 571) has sorted out my transmission gear and worked with UBC on installing the new bulkhead to keep bilge water out from under the engine; recommended as he's friendly and direct, communicates well, and that's important these days.

Tortoise going back into the water on Sat morning, guided by Terry; according to the crane's gauges, she only weighs four tons; I'd been told more previously, but it's useful to know these things. A short notice pint with an ex bandmate who lives close to UBC pointed me at a local gig of The Price and TV Smith on Sunday night, the latter playing in the very venue where I first saw him perhaps eighteen years ago, the former shared a rythym section wih my own band, both of whom I hadn't seen for a while and good to catch up with, too.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Stoke Golding Country Dance

I've been scanning in various old photocopied music sheets left over from my ceildh band days, making up a little A5 display book that's far easier to carry around with my mandolin. Anyway, here's an Ashby Canal related one, although no-one knew about it when I mentioned it in a Stoke Golding pub...

(interesting that this tune isn't in's tune database, but it's a useful online resource, especially as you can get a little midi file of at least some tunes, too, which reminds you of how it goes, and also how little folk music is played 'straight'...)

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


The new bilge water bulkhead seems to be going in nicely, although it did seem to start with drilling several 1/4" holes in the bottom of the boat. he;s promised to seal them all up, but I'll be checking carefully. No-one had mentioned leaving keys with boatyard, so I hadn't; a call at seven this evening from them confirmed this, as the smoke alarm on the boat was merrily chirping away after some late night welding on the front. I'm glad it's getting done, anyway, and a neat reminder on sorting out the security loophole they came up with to get in. ;-)

Extra work on a strange 30 yr old boat is inevitable - I'm hopefully going to get an extra rubbing strake kind of thing welded around the top of the prow, strengthening & pulling it into shape - it's had a fairly amount of clouting being pulled in & out of locks last summer.

Picked up my oil filter from Chris at Marine Engine Services - today's conversations included getting a job by promising to bring in his coffee machine and showing off a scarily encyclopeadic (but mainly just scary) knowledge of different manufacturers filter part numbers. I should make a point of calling in once a week just for a chat.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

blacking update

Third coat of Rylard premium on today, neatly finishing the 2nd tin. I'll do a fourth coat of normal bitumen on top tomorrow, and that's the blacking done, bar a couple of bits over the...

...welding; more repairs to the front rubbing strakes, and also a small bulkhead in the engine room to separate out bilge water & engine drips; the previous arrangements have always been pretty non-existent (two loose trays sitting up the engine must have been all that got the boat through the BSC last time). This will mean the boat is out of the water for another week, but I'm keen to get things like this done now, and properly.

Dan Holland has the prop shaft and everything between it and the gear box out on his bench at the moment; it's all a bit worn & loose, and hopefully it'll be refurbished/replaced with a better solution, including a more conventional stern gland that doesn't require a complete shaft strip down to repack. I've also taken the opportunity to clean out the strange trough under the prop shaft of years of junk & grease - I now need to work out how to stop it getting full of rubbish again, especially the rear section which is behind the stern gland, the prop shaft runs in a tube and I'm even thinking about filling it with expanding foam...

It's quite fun being in the yard, I get to see all the comings & goings - I'm not saying the staff aren't attentive to all, but a young female in a Morris 1000 got very good service. ;-) Over the past few days I've met all sorts of people, too, including Linda who lives on the 'strange purple boat' just past Warwick Avenue bridge at Little Venice. She's a designer, which will come as no surprise for anyone who remembers seeing the boat, as I did.

Forgot to add - a trip over to Marine Engine Services in the industrial estate on the other side of the canal in search of an oil filter (Crossland 418, from memory) turned in seconds into a discussion of Linux with Chris there, albeit prompted by him battling the database (running on windows) to see if he had one in stock...

Monday, 9 March 2009

Uxbridge English Dictionary

Bearing in mind this is my record of the boat more than a Top Entertainment Blog, feel free to skip this post if you're not me. Unless you want to find out why I've used that title, though. ;-)

Boat hull showed little or no signs of previous blacking after around 30 months; I expected to see more traces, curious. Anyway, what was in evidence was a fine layer of rust, very little real loss of metal but just enough to make it worth while wire brushing down the lot, which took a good few hours - even using a wire brush wheel on an angle grinder, it was pretty hard work, especially underneath, where I'm pushing a power tool upwards, often contorted. Options I guess may have been a coat of vactan/firtan, sealing it all up, but local advice was remove it and just use bitumen. I supect there's as many opinions as there are boats (as usual), but any thoughts?

Anyway, pic above is a neat before & after , albeit the wrong way round. ;-)

Next job was bitumen itself - I'm using Rylard Premium Protection - I'm hoping to get at least three coats on, although since this stuff stays shiny, I may try to get on a top coat of conventional (matt) biutmen on the sides. Whatever, last coat has to go on Thurs to make sure it has 48 hrs before She goes back in the water on Sat*. I got the first coat finished Sun evening/Mon morning, so next coat Tues (24hr overcoating).

*I'm also discussing work on the sterm gland/universal joint - all a bit loose at the moment, and also adding a bulkhead within the engine space to keep bilge water separate from engine drips. This of course may gain me more time out of the water, but I'm not banking on that.

Thte title could refer to the classic argot spoken by the town's youth, normally heard in more provincial towns, but actually a tangential note that I have two tickets for I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, presented by Stephen Fry. It'll be different, but good.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

but boats aren't supposed to be on wheels?

The two previous posts were assembled this morning while waiting to be craned out at Uxbridge; both of course overdue, but I catch up eventually. I'm sitting in the Uxbridge Wetherspoons using their wifi - the fact that they sell beer is completely coincidental.

This was the scene early this afternoon - after being hoiked out of the water, she sat in the yard for a bit while I attacked the slime with a pressure washer - messy fun, you could say. After that I got shunted into the shed, where we'll spend most of the next week together, me tending to her nether regions, as it were.

Spent the latter part of this afternoon with a wire brush fitting on the angle grinder taking off a very fine layer of rust from the (v-) bottom; interestingly no evidence of bitumen on there at all, and I'd expect at least a little. Fairly tedious work as I'm holding the angle grinder up and pushing upwards - I hope my arms don't ache too much tomorrow, as I've got to do the other side of the boat in the morning. ;-) If all goes to plan (and this is a boat, remember) I'll get a coat of bitumen on later tomorrow, then coats on Tues & Thurs, to be dry before going back in to the water next Sat.

The boat really is a long way up - standing on the back deck I'm pretty much in the roof of the shed you can see in the background of the picture. It's odd - there's a little bit of movement within the boat, but being on pneumatic tyres is very different to being on water. I may or may not get used too it, and I just hope I don't have a dream where the wooden chocks propping up the boat fall away...

Vicarious Boating

last weekend, in between socialising with a friend/ex lodger, I had a bit of a boating holiday from home. Neil & Kath were out for a short trip on Herbie, so managed to join them in the Fox in Hanwell on Sunday, then in O Briens on Tues (music session) and Weds (pub quiz- I'm still sure that wasn't JK Rowling). Weds night turned into about 3am Thurs morning before I wandered home across Brentford. ;-) Also on Weds I had lunch at work with Adam of NB Debdale, who as I type will be shortly heading along the Ashby and bemoaning the lack of locks. Poor lad barely got a word in edgeways, but thankfully his professional training in getting the basic facts into two sentences served him well. ;-)

I often carry around an old SLR (Pentax MX) with a fast (f1.4) standard lens, and get away with photos in fairly low light situations. I did on Weds night, I've included a few here.

(top pic - Jerry from NB Roanaoke playing excellent fiddle on the right, there. Also met the lovely couple from NB Barnaby, who's names I have, dreafully, forgotten).

Snow flashback

I've just got hold of a couple of pictures that Catherine (thank you!) took when we had the heavy snow a while back. Being relatively local to work, almost by definition I end up in work rather than getting to be out playing, so didn't make it to the moorings in the those few days. Anyway, here's Tortoise looking snowy, and with Benbulben, Catherine's boat.

Monday, 2 March 2009

pubs & relays

A mini boater's banter (TM Bones) last night in the Fox in Hanwell - Kath & Neil had got that far on Herbie, and we were also joined by Geoff & Rose (and Parsley the lion dog) who have just bought Peggoty from VC Marine - I'd actually seen them on Saturday at Iver as they pottered past. They're taking the boat back to Newbury, so are awaiting tides & bookings for Thames lock in Brentford. Embarrassingly (or understandably) after fifteen years in Brentford I hadn't been up to the Fox before - but then again with so many good pubs in Brentford, why would I need to?

Speaking of pubs, anyone on the canal in Mile End could do worse than a Saturday night in the Palm Tree, off Grove Road - a nice old pub, improved further by live jazz & crooning - they even played 'my funny valentine' for me, despite my lack of anyone to dedicate it too - brought a tear to my eye, indeed, nearly as good as the Freiwilligeselbscontrolle Peel session version.

Anyway, work on the boat continues – I now have a working automatic split charge relay system (you don’t want to know what I did before this), although the extra load from that & the fridge relay means the engine needs a fairly high rev before it kicks in. The usual recommended solution is putting in a bigger bulb, but I’m tempted to add a resistance in parallel with it instead, which also means the alternator will still run if the bulb blows. Other ongoing progress on my new back door, and also (controversially) some outdoor speakers to go under the gunwhales on my back deck.

Blacking next week; watch this space…

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Tortoise nearly has two stoves...

Blogs are marvellous things, and a little cheek can get you a long way - a comment left on Geoff's blog about forthcoming work on Lady Elgar has resulted in a new home for the Epping stove from their boatman's cabin, a tiny range, which I'm looking forward greatly to trying to cook on - expect reports on Fud at some point in the future, although with a new flue needed and BSC to work towards, installation (or should I say replacement - I don't need two heaters in an 18' long cabin) may not happen until the summer or autumn. Geoff is a very kind man, and I hope to be able to repay him in some way.

By the way, 'Fud' is a collaborative blog about cooking good, simple, ethical food, suited to boats or even gathered from the countryside nearby - if anyone wants to contribute, please get in touch.