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.