Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Short Walk

Yesterday evening Jan opened the side hatch an took a photo of the pub on the far side of the canal.

An icy mist was already starting to form above the water!

I’d gone to the shelter of the pram cover to polish my walking boots when a voice from outside called a greeting.  On opening the back flap I found Gary standing beside their boat Muleless which had miraculously appeared overnight and moored behind us!

Della then appeared at their cratch so an invitation to join us for morning tea on Waiouru was extended and accepted.   A series of interesting conversations then followed. 

Jan had baked cheese topped bread rolls for lunch.  Nothing like fresh bread with tomato filling!  After lunch we went for a short walk to the bottom lock where Jan checked out the small shop whilst I took a few photos.  We passed the following boat on the way to the lock.

Maffi was moored behind us yesterday but Jan saw him silently slip past us on his way to the water point.  He had to pass silently because the Milly M is waiting on a replacement gearbox.  Apparently Maffi was doing his Venetian gondola act propelling Milly M with his boat pole.

On our arrival back at Waiouru we were invited to afternoon tea on Muleless.  Della has a machine for making delicious coffee and we were invited to sample the end product.  I’m not a coffee drinker but willingly accepted a hot chocolate.

Jan was rather struck on the idea of owning one of these machines.  She has decided there’s not enough space for it on Waiouru but it will go on the list of things to buy for life after narrowboating.

Monday, December 15, 2014

There’s a hole in the bucket dear Liza… A hole!

These are the winter days to enjoy.  Slightly crisp, no wind, with blue skies and sunshine.  Ideal for doing a few outdoor chores.  The cratch cover and towpath side of the boat had a scrub which appears to have removed the small patch of green mould from the cratch cover.

My walking boots were desperately in need of a scrub after Saturday’s wanderings around Watford Gap.  They are now drying under the stern pram cover in eager anticipation of a date with the nugget.

Jan sorted through the vegie bin and compiled a shopping list of replacement items whilst I decided to finally do something about the Hurricane fuel tank gauge.  It’s secured to the instrument panel with double sided adhesive tape and the top portion of the tape has lost it’s adhesiveness.  Every so often I’ve pushed it back into place but today I decided on something more permanent.  I thought I’d document the process with photographs only to subsequently discover the computer wouldn’t recognise the memory card.  That led me to attempt the alternative process of linking the memory card to the computer with the usb cable.  That didn’t work either.  OK, check out the camera. Nope….. the camera didn’t recognise the memory card.  So the problem is the memory card.  Attempted to recover the photos on the card.  Failure!  By now I’d realised I was getting into a downward spiral, hence the blog title.  Time to cut my losses and bin the card.  Fortunately youngest son had given me one he no longer required.  It appears I’m the hoarder and our children are the wealthy ones!

Of course I’d now lost all the photos so I went back to the instrument panel and took a another photo of the finished product.

My repair method was to find the almost empty tube of Sikaflex adhesive left over from the fitting of the glass splashbacks in the galley.  I then hunted through the long term storage to find an old small screw driver (did I mention I’m a hoarder).  By forcing the shaft of the screw driver into the sealed nozzle of the tube and through the set adhesive I was able to reach the last of the semi-liquid adhesive.  This was then smeared onto the back of the gauge using the tip of the screw driver before pressing the gauge back into position and securing it with masking tape.  I’m glad I hadn’t disposed of the screw driver and last of the adhesive otherwise it might have been an expensive or messy job.

Jan has mentioned the Hurricane is considerably quieter since the 1000 hour service.  However she can now hear a ticking sound.  It’s the heater fuel pump.  Fortunately I’m slightly (perhaps more than slightly) deaf and can’t hear anything!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Watford Gap and more

A clear but crisp start to the day.  The ground was frozen with ice on top of the towpath puddles.  Obviously good walking conditions.  Those muddy fields should be firm under foot.  The plan was to follow the towpath to the east of Braunston and record three public footpaths that are not on the OSM.

There was a mile marker beside the towpath just above Braunston Top Lock.

It was actually set back quite a distance and I wouldn’t have seen it except the cold weather has killed off the surrounding vegetation.  I guess most summer boaters wouldn’t see it.  There’s also a plaque on the western end of the Braunston Tunnel Portal.

The route took me over the top of the tunnel.  It doesn’t have a towpath. This is a path I’ve previously walked when going to Daventry.  It’s not hard to see the tunnel alignment as there are ventilation towers along the route.

I walked north into Welton Village (very quiet) and out the other side heading NE across the fields.  The path made a sharp right turn at a caravan storage park.

That got me thinking….. There was a caravan storage area near Watford Locks.  That noise in the background was the traffic on the A5 and M1 motorway.  Having recorded the data I retraced my steps to Welton and then headed north on the second footpath. Off to my left there appeared to be a walled manor with a gatehouse.

Zoom photo

At the far end of the footpath I could see the caravan storage park in the distance along with traffic on the M1 and then glimpses of a Virgin train.  I’d completed a large semi circle. 

The caravan storage park with railway and M1 behind

The third footpath took me back towards the large manor house.  It became apparent that the gate house wasn’t a gate house and looked rather dilapidated.

Then I realised the high fence in front of the “gate house” was a tennis court!  There wasn’t a road in front of the wall.  I’d arrived at the rear of the property.

It all looked rather run down.  The footpath went down the side of the brick boundary fence but at the stile there was sufficient height to see over the wall and take a photo.

A disused look about the place.

As I reached the front of the manor I realised it had its own graveyard.  Then I saw the church.  It’s probably not a manor and looks more like a church property in the village of Ashby St Ledgers.  On the far side of the village was an ornate gateway and abandoned driveway.

But Google has proved me completely wrong.  It is a manor.  Actually this is the manor where the major part of the gunpowder plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament was planned.  The owner, Robert Catesby was killed and the property confiscated to the crown.  It has passed through many hands and eventually Queen Elizabeth II purchased the estate, but not the manor house.  This continued to pass through yet more owners until purchased in 1998 by Ivor Guest, 3rd Viscount Wimborne who has reportedly stated it would cost approximately £10m to renovate.

<more information here>

The route back to Waiouru took me in an almost straight line across the fields from Ashby St Ledgers to Braunston.  There was quite a good view of Warwickshire from the last ridge.

Braunston church spire to the left.

If now seen Braunston from all four points of the compass.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Finishing the Hurricane

Jan took delight in informing me we had received an email from another Jan (nb Qisma) with a link to the the Michael Palin video clip of I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK.  What a scream…….!  But it’s not me…..  I’ve never worn high heels and a dress.  My limit is pantihose (another story).

Meanwhile, back on Waiouru I realised the 1000 hour service of the Hurricane heater hadn’t been completed.  The fuel pre-filter needed to be checked.  It was back into the crowded garden shed where I attempted to find a location for each foot so I could bend over and locate the filter which is above the swim on the port (left side).  The bowl was removed after turning off the feed and return stop cocks.

The inside of the bowl looked good.

I emptied the diesel from the bowl into a plastic ice cream container where it’s easier to examine.  The pre-filter appears to be doing its job.  A small amount of grit.  Probably left inside the tank when it was manufactured.  No sign of the dreaded diesel bug <phew>

As I was checking fuel filters I decided to also check the two pre-filters in the engine fuel line.

Looking down at the tops of the two engine pre-filters

I added the fuel from the first filter to the diesel from the Hurricane pre-filter.  Then used a new ice cream container for the second filter.

It looks like the filters are doing their job.  The first filter had collected some “gunk” whilst the fuel from the second filter is clean.  Therefore the final filter on the engine should be spotless!

Jan had been reading that original iPods had become a retro collectors item and were selling in America for $1000. “Hey, I have a 3rd generation classic somewhere!”  Yes, a hoarder!  After scrounging around through the cupboards voilĂ .

Unfortunately I can’t find anyone on fleabay wanting to buy it for $1000.  One day!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK?

Jan believe the title comes from an episode of Monty Python.  And how did it arise?  Well I wore my fur hat today and she took a snap.

Forget this is a face only a mother could love……….. focus on the hat!

Now this hat has a long history.  As a pre-teen I became interested in hunting and trapping.  I built my own trap which consisted of a small chicken-wire clad timber frame box with a vertical sliding front door.  The door was held open by a trigger activated by a false floor 2/3 the way into the cage.  My quarry was the NZ opossum.  Actually they were Australian opossums that had been introduced into NZ by English migrants back in 1837 in an effort to establish a fur trade.  With a far nicer climate and no natural enemies their population exploded and they started to destroy the natural habitat. Eventually they were officially declared vermin.

I needed something to attract my prey into my trap.  Way back then the cheapest sweets to buy were aniseed balls at 5 for one penny.  Possums are attracted to the smell of aniseed.  Half a ball would catch one possum.  If I was lucky; 10 possums for a penny!

How do you get one very angry.scared possum with long sharp claws out of your cage?  My technique was to fit an old hessian potato sack over the end and raise the cage door before shaking it out into the sack.  Once in the sack I could have drowned it or beaten it to death (boys do this stuff!).  However because I’m a SNAG (sensitive new age guy) I would place the hessian sack in a canvas bag and fit the open end over a running car exhaust pipe.  My possums would drift quietly off to permanent sleep.  Skinning them wasn’t an issue once dad had shown me how it was done. I’d then nail the pelt to a sheet of plywood, scrape it clean and salt it before allowing it to dry and cure in the sun.  My pelts would then be sold.  Good pocket money and I was doing the environment a service.  Not that I realised it at the time.

Oh, yes I have eaten possum.  It’s not something I would recommend…. unless hungry! Winking smile

Wind the clock forward 15 years.  We were in a location where I needed a warm hat.  A fur lined hat was very appealing.  This resulted in me tanning a number of ‘green’ possum pelts to make my own hat.  It wasn’t particularly easy because the hat became quite an attraction in our house and would regularly disappear.

It’s almost half finished in the above photo (looks better on him).  The process took quite some time because the hat kept going “missing”.  The model in the above photo is now 38 so you will have an idea of the age of the hat.  Well it did get finished (eventually) but our location had changed and so had the requirement.  After all the effort to make the hat it was placed into storage.  As part of our pre-overseas planning we went through all our possession to sort out what would be sold or disposed of and those items that would go into storage.  During this process I came upon the hat and thought “That might be useful on the canals!”   And that readers is how the NZ possum fur hat finally ended up on my head.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


The wind bashed us about last night.  Jan mentioned we might lose some of  the gear on the cabin roof which meant I had a broken night and little sleep listening to every bounce, rattle and moan. imagining the wind tearing our solar panels or poles from the roof.  I almost got up three times during the night to lower the TV mast.  In the morning I was relieved to see everything was OK.

However the “hurricane” heading actually refers to the first 1000 hour service of the Hurricane Central Heater.  The heater manual stated the service was easily done and proved to be correct.  The first step was to ensure the heater power supply was off.  Next the six screws holding the front face panel were removed and the panel carefully pried off the heater.  It has an airtight rubber seal on the inside as the heater is actually pressurized when in use.

Removing the panel exposed the fuel atomizer (jet) and igniter.  These were easily removed from the burning chamber.

The combustion chamber is then removed by undoing the four brass nuts holding it in place.

The stainless steel combustion chamber.  The small tube sticking out at an angle is the receiver for the igniter. Fuel is sprayed in at the left end under pressure and ignited where it burns in the combustion chamber.

I was quite surprised to see how little carbon had built up inside the chamber.  Unfortunately it’s rather hard to see in the next photo.

It’s possible to see the hole in the middle of the chamber has some carbon deposits around the edge.  A light tap on the ground dislodged all the carbon.  The second half of the combustion chamber (the half inside the heater) was then vacuumed clean.  I was also surprised at the size of the fuel filter.  It’s about 2/3 the size of a cigarette filter.

After the combustion chamber was reassembled the side panel was removed (three screws) and the air filter checked. It looked to be in good condition.  The heater was then started to check it worked.  The job took about an hour and can be done by the owner. 

It has taken three years to reach 1000 hours so the chances are it’s a simple job that wont have to be repeated until 2017.

I’m very pleased with the Hurricane.  It’s more expensive than the Webasto, Mikumi or Eberspacher, but IMHO it’s more reliable, and the ongoing maintenance costs are significantly lower.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Southam and Rocking

A four hour circular walk towards Southam today.  There were two pieces of public footpath to be recorded and added to the Open Street Map.

It was a strange day, with the weather on one side of the boat almost fine whereas the other side looked grey and grim.

Our mooring above Calcutt Top Lock is rather exposed and Waiouru has been rocking and rolling in the wind.  At one point we thought she might be adrift.

I thought I might have made a mistake with my clothing.  The bottom half consisted of lightweight long trousers and budgie smugglers.  On top I had a thermal vest, light Tshirt and summer raincoat.  The wind went right through the clothing in exposed locations which meant it was a brisk walk in order to keep warm.

You might think there’s foam on the water in the following photo but it Is actually ice which has built up at the approach to the lock.

The planned route took me west across the fields to Southam and then south to the Napton Flight of locks, before returning to Waiouru via the towpath.

The right arrow is our mooring whilst the other two arrows point to the footpaths I wanted to walk and record.

I have previous walked in this general area and last time I struggled at times to find the marked paths.  Some of them were rather overgrown.  A similar situation existed today.  The following gps traces shows how I had to wander around to find the path.

The route from the end of this path took me to a bridal path which had a farm gate across it.

OK… why take a photo of a gate post and horse?  No, it’s the name of the farm that caught my eye!  How unusual.

The first part of the bridal path was quite firm, however it then degenerated into a narrow muddy track that had been cut up by the passage of numerous horses.  Eventually I reached Southam discovering it’s quite a large village.  The area I walked through consisted of reasonably new housing estates.  I assume it’s a satellite residential centre for Rugby. 

The second footpath had also been used by horses in places.  This time the ground was partially frozen meaning I wasn’t paddling through mud.  Instead I was endeavouring not to turn an ankle. 

I came upon a container which appeared to have been converted into a dwelling located in the middle of a large field.  There were four cars parked in front of it along with a wind sock.  Out in front was a square of well mown lush green grass.  The marked area was too short for a grass landing strip and I wondered what its purpose was.  Then I noticed a model aeroplane in the back of one of the vehicles.  It’s a club house and landing strip for model aeroplanes!

You might be able to make out the brighter coloured grass

The farmers have been out ploughing the fields and if you look closely at the above gps trace you can see where I had to walk around one large field.  The footpath ended at The Folly Pub beside the canal. 

The Napton Flight is currently closed for maintenance and as I was there I decided on a short detour to see what work was being undertaken.

The top gate on the bottom lock has been replaced.

A large tree beside lock 9 has been very severely pruned.  Actually, I think it’s going to be removed!  If you look closely at the following photo the lock approach wall has a large crack running down it and two the left a large clump of roots from the tree have forced themselves around the end of the wall.  It appears to me that the tree has been forcing the wall out of place.

The next lock is the one with the collapsed approach wall.  The entire area is covered in scaffolding and tarpaulins.  My assumption is this has been done to protect the new approach wall whilst the mortar sets.

It is very difficult to see what’s happening but I did manage to poke the camera through the fencing and take a partial photo of the new brickwork.

Once the brickwork has set they will be able to backfill the cavity behind.

The area below the locks was rather quiet.  One boater has scored the best mooring in the area (the water point).  There was one boat on the 48 hour moorings and three around the corner on the 14 day moorings.  Plenty of vacant moorings.

I noticed an almost new inflatable fender in the canal on my way back to Napton Junction.  An interesting challenge working out how to recover it without going for a swim.  Success in the end. I notice it has an almost new Midland Chandler label.  Should I ask Midland Chandlers if they can remember the purchaser?   After losing a few myself I probably wont! 

By the time I reached Waiouru I was cold, hungry and thirsty.  Jan had been busy with freshly baked cheese topped buns and a cake in the galley.  A steamed pudding (my favourite) was bubbling away on the diesel stove.  I’m a lucky man! <burp>

Monday, December 8, 2014


We telephoned Calcutt Marine this morning to ask about a 1000 hour service for the Hurricane central heater.  It’s a simple job but I’d like the UK distributor to do the first service (after 3 years of use).  They can fit us in on the 10th and after looking at the weather forecast we decided to move from Braunston today. 

We were just sorting out the interior pre-departure tasks when Oakfield passed with Keith at the tiller.  Just time for a quick photo.

The first job was to cruise down to the services block and dispose of the rubbish whilst simultaneously filling the water tank.  That done, we reversed back to the junction and headed towards Wigrams Turn.  Not quite as easy as it sounds because the junction became rather busy with a boat and butty heading towards Hillmorton  which actually wanted to moor at the Swindlers.  Then a boat appeared from the Wigrams direction as we were attempting to turn.  All was eventually sorted.

Butty Alsager being towed by Zulu

Why do you always meet a boat at a junction or bridge hole?

The weather was clear and sunny but rather cold. Around midday the sun disappeared and black clouds started to appear from the NW.  The mercury dropped and I started to shiver slightly despite the thermal vest and knitted jersey.  The smell of hot bread was seeping from the back cabin.  Then a hand extended from the slightly open hatch offering me a freshly baked filled roll. 

Just as we reach the junction at Wigrams Turn Jan said she had felt a drop of rain.  “Please hold off for another 20 minutes!”  Light sleet started to fall just as we reached the concrete edge to the towpath above Calcutt Top Lock. The well oiled mooring crew got to work and five minutes later were were inside a cheery warm cabin.  This is almost exactly the same spot as a month ago.  The sky is now a dirty grey and gusts of wind are making Waiouru rock slightly.  Got our timing right!  There were a couple of small maintenance jobs I was going to do outside, however I’ve changed my mind!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sunday at Braunston

Today was a lazy rest day.  I should have gone for a walk but instead we pottered around inside Waiouru.  Jan has been delving into my father’s ancestors discovering that on his mother’s side they had money.  I wonder what happened to it?  It appears the Everard’s and the Breach’s had very large families.  Usually 12 to 16 children so it probably got divided to non existence.  What a pity they didn’t have TV’s back then.  Dad didn’t know much about his mother’s relatives.  Apparently she was 5’6” and frightened of nothing.  Quite a ‘tomboy’ who, after being expelled from a number of schools for young ladies for fighting, was invited by the ‘family’ to leave England.  She duly headed off to the colonies meeting and marrying my grandfather on the way. They purchased a small block of land north of Auckland and commenced dairy farming using her small inheritance to pay the deposit on the land.  Regrettably, within only a couple of years the Great Depression wiped them out and they lost the farm forcing them onto the road. Within a generation my relatives went from reasonably wealthy to dirt poor.  Such is life!

Yesterday Maffi invited us to join him and the crew of Oakfield for Sunday lunch at The Boathouse.  We usually try to have a Sunday roast meal and as we’d not previously met Keith & Anne (Oakfield) we most willingly accepted the invitation.

We’d only just completed the introductions and seated ourselves at the table when Maffi produced his camera.  Oops….. batteries required.  Then the flash needed to be activated.  Meanwhile Keith produced his phone and took an photo of the photographer.  That done, I produced our mobile phone and took yet another photo of the group.

L-R  Jan, Ann, Keith & Maffi

We had a very pleasant meal together although over indulging in dessert (I was led astray by Maffi) resulted in me having to subsequently examine the inside of my eyelids for an hour in the afternoon).  If you look closely at the above photo you can see the bows of Waiouru and Milly M in the background.

Oh, we must be a strange group of boaters as the subject of toilets never arose!

Small maintenance task.  Jan mentioned the light/extractor fan in the shower was making a strange noise.  I immediately removed it from the ceiling for examination.  The fan housing and blades were covered in accumulated sticky dust and human hair.  Fortunately Jan’s toothbrush was handy (you didn’t think I would use mine!) which enabled me to remove all this crud from the fan to the bristles before re-installing the fan.  I think this is going to need to be an annual maintenance task.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chilly start but a nice day

Jan awoke to our most severe frost to date.  Meanwhile I just played possum under the 4.5 tog duvet.  Yes, the boat is so warm we are still sleeping under the lightweight duvet.  I sneaked one hand out of bed and pushed the central heating button.  Jan did the right thing and lit the Refleks stove before opening the side hatch to feed the swans that had broken their way through the ice to eat MY biscuits AGAIN.

Realising hell was going to freeze over before I received breakfast in bed I arose and wandered to the back of the boat braving the chill to take a few photos.

The mooring ropes were frozen stiff.  I could have done the Indian rope trick with them.  But then again, it was cold and breakfast was waiting.

The canal had a thin layer of ice on top which I thought had broken up and was now just a coating of mush.  It would appear I had once again made a mistake erred in my judgement.  The ice might have melted at the very edges of the canal but it was 10mm thick in the middle.  We headed off towards Braunston at 10am going at tick over speed slowly breaking our way through the ice.  Rather surreal to be going at engine idle speed and hearing the loud snapping of ice.

Before our departure

Not wanting to see their meal ticket depart, Jan’s two friends decided to tag along!

About a kilometre from Braunston the ice disappeared and it was easy cruising.  Jan managed to take a photo of the church despite the bright sunlight.

A number of familiar boats were passed on the way to the marina entrance.  Even two bloggers!  Jan managed to take a quick snap of one but we were too busy waving or steering to take a photo of Oakfield.

Maffi came knocking around 11am joining us for a cup of tea and a chat.  Also an invitation to join Oakfield and Milly M at the Boathouse for Sunday lunch tomorrow.  Should be an interesting time.