Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Mostly boring

This morning Jan made a 3rd trip to Tesco whilst I walked to the Rugeley Re-cycling Centre with 10 litres of used engine oil.  I was hoping they would allow pedestrians to enter the site.  When I tried to dispose of the engine oil at the Plank Lane re-cycling centre earlier this year they wouldn’t allow pedestrians to enter.  Fortunately today I was able to enter without difficulty.

RugeleyBottom arrow is Tesco and the top arrow the re-cycling centre

On the way back I stopped at Screwfix for a couple of items.   The next service is due in 100 hours and I plan to stop at Tamworth where I can buy another 10 litres of oil from Halfords.  The manual states you can put any CF grade 15W/40 oil into the engine but I prefer to use a high grade oil in the hope it will extend the life of the engine.

After lunch I masked up more of the port handrail before rubbing it back and applying a first topcoat of alpha red.  Whilst doing this a passing pedestrian said “Hello” and then “Do you remember me?”  His face was very familiar but I couldn’t remember where we had last met.  He reminded me it was on the Thames last year.  It was John from nb SamSara, who occasionally reads the blog, and I think we met at Abingdon!

Monday, 24 October 2016

The Bloody Steps

We left Great Haywood around 9.30 heading towards Rugeley. There were only two locks and both of them were in our favour.  Moreover a boat appeared at the bottom of each as we were exiting so that saved us some time and effort.

Nb Pilgrim passed us going in the opposite direction and the crew called out they read the blog…… but only when they are at home.  Sensible people, much better to be boating than reading about boating!

The diesel tank is more than ¾ full so we decided not to stop and refuel at the pig farm.  There’s a notice on the fuel boat advising “cash only” which probably wouldn’t have suited us.


Taft Bridge

The fuel boat only has a small tank.  However there is a pipeline from it to a huge tank beside one of the farm buildings.  I guess the small tank in the boat is a theft minimization measure.

A second passing boater had some amusing comments to make about a moored boat he had just passed.  “They want £65,000 for that.   Must be on drugs!”


It didn’t look like a £65,000 boat!

We made a hard left turn after crossing the River Trent.  This location is infamous as the site of “The Bloody Steps”.  Christina Collins was murdered here in 1859 by the crew of a packetboat on which she had taken passage to London.  Her body was subsequently recovered from the canal and carried up the steps to the Talbot Inn.  The circumstances surrounding her murder were the subject of an episode of Inspector Morse and was named “The Wench is Dead”.


Bloody Steps to the left at the bend

There was a vacant mooring in Rugeley just before the large Tesco.  It’s been our lucky day! Smile

We made two trips to Tesco managing to restock the galley.  After lunch I visited Wilko (white spirits), Morrisons (spicy chutney) and Aldi (butter and chocolate)

In my absence Jan had a knock on the side of boat.  A well known boater was also in Rugeley and came for an enjoyable afternoon of conversation before continuing on towards Great Haywood.

P1030471Yes it was all the “M’s”  Maffi, Molly and The Milly M

Sunday, 23 October 2016

More painting

Yet another twist in the dehumidifier tale.  This morning I converted It back to 240V.  We discussed the situation last night and recognized the potential risk to the domestic battery bank if we had it running on 12V.  We might forget it was on and damage the batteries.  As we only run the inverter when the engine is running there’s a minimal risk to the batteries if it runs on 240V.  So we’re back to where we started!

The plan was to have a Sunday roast lunch in the nearby Crown Hotel.  They do serve food but not a Sunday roast.  In the end we went to the small restaurant/cafe beside the canal at Haywood Lock.  It’s an attractive location and is usually very busy during the summer.  Today it was slightly chilly and all but one of the patrons was inside the small brick “barn”.

SAMSUNGWhilst the location was attractive Jan was decidedly unimpressed with her meal.  The “Aunt Bessies” roast spuds and Yorkshire pudding tasted like they had shared a refrigerated container with a group of Calais asylum seekers. Smile

It was sufficiently warm in the afternoon to prepare and get a first top coat of paint onto another section of the cabin starboard handrail.  We’re now used all the white spirits cleaning brushes so there will be a slight delay to the painting.

We’ve been slightly surprised by the number of boats on the move.  And then a passing boater mentioned school mid term holidays had started.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Signals and hot air

Once again itchy feet had us on the move this morning.  We are still heading south and although we’ve been this way previously neither of us had noticed the railway signal box in the garden of the house by Whitebridge Lane bridge. 


The signal box is named Stoneycombe Sidings Signal Box and it looks genuine.  But two things didn’t look right.  The grey foundation bricks looked relatively new and the signal post is right beside the canal.  This means the railway would have been exactly where the canal is and the canal was most definitely here first.  I then had an aerial look at the location using Google Earth.  There is nothing to suggest a railway in this location.  More internet searching revealed the following information on a signal box forum 

“I can put folk out of their misery on this one. Up here in the Midlands we have two signalling enthusiasts, the brothers Roger and Martin Fuller. Both have built signal boxes in their gardens to accommodate parts of their collection, and the box in the picture is one of them. No connection at all with Stoneycombe, apart from the fact that that is where the nameplate came from.”

Shortly afterwards we passed Roger Fuller’s boatyard where nb Hadar was born made.Smile 

Apparently the ground water in Stone was of an ideal quality for the brewing of ales.  The Joules family were brewing ale in their Stone pub during the 1600’s.  In 1780 Francis Joules moved the operation from his pub to a purpose built brewery beside the Trent & Mersey Canal which gave him excellent transport connections. This brewery was demolished in1974 but one of the warehouses still stands beside the canal.


The Joule’s family is probably more famous on Francis’s brother’s side of the family.  James Joule became a pre eminent physicist and gave his name to the standard measure of energy which he discovered, ‘the Joule’

Stone Boatyard was a hive of activity.  Their hire fleet is still quite active and the boat docks also looked busy.


It was here that we had another boaters meeting with Richard and Linda (nb Pendle Warter) who were out walking the towpath .Reader you may remember we last met Richard at Wheaton Ashton and on the Ashby Canal before that.


Memories flooded back at Ashton Lock.  In 2013 we waited for an hour in the queue whilst an “instructor” showed a hire crew how to work a lock.


No queue today

A young couple on a working boat and butty were moored below the lock having lunch.  It smelt delicious.


Although it’s school half term holidays the canal was rather quiet.  We only met three oncoming boats all day (two at blind bridge holes…. as you would expect!).


Love the strength in this bridge.  It’s on hell of an arch.

There was a red hot air balloon off in the far distance.  It was almost a red dot which made reading the lettering very difficult.  Obviously my eyesight is degrading.  With the naked eye (I only have one that works) I thought it was ‘French Letter”.  After subsequently zooming in on the laptop I now know it’s Red Letter.


We both noticed the sign in this next photo.  I wonder if it’s having the desired effect.


Now moored at Great Haywood.

Friday, 21 October 2016

More on the dehumidifier

After comments about yesterday’s failed effort converting the dehumidifier from Halfie, Don and Chas I decided to revisit the experiment.  Their encouragement made me rethink the situation and recognise it should be possible to operate the dehumidifier off the 12V system.  So why didn’t it work on my first attempt?  I discovered my error oversight today.  The fuse in the cigarette plug had too low a rating and had blown!  After soldering and reconnecting all the wiring I replaced the fuse and the dehumidifier now runs off the 12V DC boat system.


Yes, it is working.  The small green LED beside the switch is illuminated.


And I didn’t cheat.  It’s running off 12V


Thank you for the encouragement gentlemen.

It was quite cold and misty this morning.  I tested the cabin handrail temperature using Towpath Bill’s method (place hand on surface for 10 seconds, then remove.  If there is a hand mark on the paint it’s too cold to paint).  The surface wasn’t sufficiently warm until after lunch, but I did get the final coat on. 

We treated ourselves to lunch at The Poste of Stone (Wetherspoons).  It’s located in the old Stone Post Office (hence the name). 

Henry VIII established a postal service in England early in the 16th century.  As Stone was an important communications centre, it had a ‘poste’ in the town by around 1575.  It wasn’t until the middle of the following century that the sovereign’s royal post service was made available to the public as a paid service.  I doubt The Poste of Stone is the original poste office.  

Hunting around on the internet I discovered more about the movements of the post office in Stone.

The Post Office was originally located in the Crown Inn, on Crown Street. When mail was no longer carried by coach the Post Office moved to the building on High Street which is now Lloyd's Bank. By 1907 to had moved across the road to premises which are now part of the Co-operative supermarket. 

I subsequently found photos of postal workers receiving awards and certificates outside The Poste of Stone in 1952, so it appears this was one of the last locations.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Dehumidifier Experiment

Jan rediscovered the stored dehumidifier today.  It’s been in deep storage since her winter on shore power at Rugby several years ago.  We’re now starting to get some condensation on the mushroom vents and Jan thought it might be a good idea to run the dehumidifier when we were cruising and the inverter was on.  Obviously the dehumidifier needed to be checked before we plugged it in and that’s when i had the idea it might be possible to run it off the boat 12V system.  It has a ‘power brick’ so I inspected the information on the label.


The first thing I noticed was the input and output power.

Input is 240V and 1.5A = 360W

Output 12V and 6A = 72W

80% of the electricity is lost in the power brick.  It’s definitely worth attempting to eliminate the power brick and run the dehumidifier directly off the 12V.

The other useful piece of information was at the bottom of the label where the pos and neg wiring for the plug was displayed.

I needed a few things to complete the conversion.


Pliers, soldering iron, solder and a spare 12V plug.

The first step was to cut the cable between the power brick and the dehumidifier using the pliers


You will note I’m not going to cut it at the power brick.  If the experiment doesn’t work I’ll need to reconnect the original wiring so I’m leaving a ‘tail’ if that happens.

I cut the cable and soldered the 12V plug onto the end before connecting the dehumidifier to the 12V system.

It didn’t work!   Obviously the power brick produces 12V AC and the boat system is 12V DC.  So I removed the 12V plug and reconnected the cable to the power brick.  Nothing ventured…. nothing gained!

By 10.30 the weather was looking slightly better and Jan helped me apply masking tape to the starboard handrail.  I then gave the red paint a light sanding ensuring I carefully removed the paint lines from earlier patch repairs to the paint.  It Then received a first top coat of Alpha Red.  I think my painting might be improving Towpath Bill.

IMG_1022IMG_1023We had some rain at 5pm but I think the surface of the paint already had a skin on it so I’m hoping there won’t be a problem.  If the weather is fine tomorrow I’ll apply the final coat.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Continuing south

We left Etruria at 9am, but not before I had made an unsuccessful walk to Tesco to buy Jan’s weekly magazines.  Unfortunately they still had the old magazines on display so I bought ice cream instead (well it’s comfort food).

The second lock of the day bought back memories from 2003.


  This is where we met our first obnoxious boater. It was the first lock Jan had done on her own and she was taking it slowly.  “Mr Puffer Fish” appeared from below the lock; scowled at us; proceeded to drop the paddles at the far end of the lock and then disappeared back to his boat.  When I exited the lock he gave his moose bellow telling me “Go back to where you came from!”  There always has to be one.  Not that he particularly annoyed me.  I was having too much fun to have him spoil our day.

You don’t go through Stoke on Trent without taking at least one bottle kiln photo. 


Dolphin Boatyard on the southern side of Stoke is rather interesting.  It’s certainly a diverse business trading in tackle, bait, air guns (including a rifle range), archery, boats & engines and finally, line dancing!


Jan was particularly taken with a boat on the hard standing.  Shingle sides to the cabin and an AstroTurf roof.


The canal appears to pass under the Hanford Waste Recycling Centre and then runs adjacent to the huge Sainsbury’s distribution centre.


The canal then became sightly rural for a while.  The Wedgwood Pottery and showroom arrived and went.  We’ve visited it on two previous occasions without purchasing anything so didn’t stop today.

There is a canal side row of lovely cottages on the southern side of Barlaston which we always seem to photograph when passing by.


Almost immediately afterwards is a very attractive home with it’s own mooring.  I do like the colour scheme of nb Lodestar.

P1030450A hire boat had found a lovely mooring directly below Meaford Top lock.  It even had useful white mooring bollards.  The crew silently watched us manoeuvre around them in the pound.  Our guess was they were on Day 2 of their hire.  No doubt some boater will advise them not to moor on lock landings.

We finished the day below Meaford Locks finding a good mooring on the northern outskirts of Stone.  After a slightly late lunch I walked to the Morrison’s in Stone to buy Jan’s magazines.  I think the payoff will be an apple strudel and ice cream dessert.Smile

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The hidden facilities & a test run

CRT must have recently erected a facilities sign beside the canal at Westport Lake near Stoke on Trent.


The showers, toilet and elsan are located under the Visitor Centre on the canal side.  There is an anonymous dark brown door underneath on the canal side.  Access is via a slightly overgrown path.  The standard waterways key opens the door. 


There are no rubbish disposal facilities.

We moved today to moor outside the Toby Carvery at the Festival Park Marina for a belated Sunday Roast lunch.  Well the carvery has a roast lunch every day except it costs £2 more on Sunday.  Afterwards we continued on to Etruria Junction managing to squeeze in immediately after the services mooring.

We still have a shudder coming through the tiller which meant another trip down the weed hatch.  I discovered the black wire (partner of yesterday’s red wire) wrapped around the shaft along with the remains of a couple of urban jellyfish.  Then it was back into the cabin to dry out.

Once settled, I started the Refleks stove for the first time since last winter.  We weren’t cold and it was more of a test run.  The one year old diesel ignited and the smoke detector immediately started shrieking as the boat briefly filled with the smell of burning dust. I had to cut the detector throat  remove the battery from the detector for a few minutes until things settled down.

The weather is far too unpredictable to attempt any exterior painting so we are reading instead.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Two Successful Trips

There was a period of concern early yesterday evening when it started to rain quite heavily.  I’d only finished applying the second layer of top coat to the handrail at 3pm.  Had a good skin formed on the new paint or was I going to be applying a third coat.  It looked OK this morning so all is well.

The ropes were pulled through the rings at 9.30 this morning and Jan then worked us up through the last lock for the next couple of weeks.  We were the only boat at the northern end of Harecastle Tunnel and were advised one boat was coming through in the opposite direction so there would be a short delay.  I did ask the tunnel keeper if we could use the other tunnel but apparently it was closed for the day! 


The tunnel keeper informed us he was heading to Australia on holiday in a few days time.  Apparently and his wife are visiting Melbourne and Perth.  We suggested he take a coat and some warm clothes for Melbourne.  It might be spring there but Melbourne weather is unpredictable!

I thought we had collected something around the prop as we entered the tunnel and we seemed to be going quite slowly.  However Jan recorded the transit time and it was our fastest to date at 30 minutes.

Another brief stop at the southern portal to top up the water tank and then we headed to the moorings beside Westport Lake.


Along the way we passed signs of another recent canalside development demolition.


Neither of us can remember what was here…. but its now gone!

There was a terrible noise from under the boat as we went beneath bridge 128.  Eventually I managed to free a length of heavy duty cable but could only hang onto the outer insulation.


There were plenty of vacant moorings beside the lake and we settled down to have lunch before our second trip.

We walked up the hill into Tunsall.  There appears to be some redevelopment going on in the area with a new retail park.  I wanted to go to Aldi for more chocolate.  Their specials for the week included a dremel at £19.99 which I consider a bargain.  The Aldi at the Kidsgrove end of Harecastle Tunnel didn’t have any in stock.  However I had more success at Tunsall.


For the uninitiated a dremel is a multifunctional electric tool.  The head oscillates and can be fitted with a variety of blades.  The Aldi version comes with a sanding head, wood saw, tile saw and scraper.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover the cardboard packing box also contained a bag for the tool and attachments.


Another “thing” to find room for in my wardrobe!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

More Preventative Maintenance

Yesterday Jan and I masked up the port side cabin roof handrail from the bow to the Boatman’s Beam.  I then lightly sanded it paying particular attention to remove the paint lines where it had previously been patched.  It was then given a first topcoat of Craftmaster Alpha Red.  It rained this morning preventing me from applying the second coat.

This morning Jan decided the freezer should be defrosted and cleaned.  It was also a good opportunity to both check what was edible at the bottom of the freezer and it allowed me to remove the drawer for the first time since it was first installed.

I rather like the reliability of the Engel.  It’s capable of being either a fridge or freezer and will operate from 240V or 12V.  What I particularly like is the compressor motor which has very few moving parts and therefore likely to be less prone to failure.  After the freezer was cleaned, it was plugged into the bedroom 12V socket which enabled me to work on the freezer compartment.


The freezer is contained in a sliding drawer above the washing machine.  When I installed it I drilled a row of holes along the back allowing cool air from the compartment below to be drawn into the freezer motor.  Hot air rises and passes out through a vent into the wet locker where it dries and warms our outdoor clothing.  I also mounted the 12V power socket vertically so the freezer plug pushes down into the socket from the top.  This prevents it from falling out when the drawer is opened and closed.


The compartment was sanded and then given a first coat of satin varnish


Now for the not so good news.  Sunday lunch was a failure.  After reading mixed online reviews about the nearby Red Bull Pub we decided to walk to the other end of Kidsgrove and dine at The Plough Inn which had good reviews about their food.  It’s opposite Aldi and meant we could shop before returning to Waiouru.  We reached The Plough Inn only to discover they no longer serve food.  Undaunted, we noticed a pub further up the road with a sandwich board outside.  The sandwich board was a notice about the pub car park and the Crown & Thistle didn’t serve food.  Sunday lunch was a sandwich on the boat. Sad smile

After the light lunch I managed to lightly sand back the handrail and apply a final topcoat.  

Friday, 14 October 2016

Wheelock to Kidsgrove

I went for a walk up the Wheelock Flight yesterday evening.  CRT are working on one of the bottom locks.  They were working on the flight when we passed this way at the beginning of the year so it must be an ongoing maintenance project.  Most of the locks are twins which means they don’t have to close the flight.  I took the following photos in the dark and continue to be impressed with the ability of the Canon lens to capture light.


CRT services at Wheelock


Chamber walls have been repaired and new bottom gates fitted.

Jan awoke very early and as a consequence we were cruising before 7.30am.  Being the first to move meant a number of the locks were in our favour.  The fourth lock of the day (Clear Water Lock) gave me a nasty surprise when Waiouru was dragged forward by the current created  in filling the lock.  Jan had only raised one paddle but the current was so powerful that despite my best efforts it was dragging Waiouru rapidly forward.  Jan managed to half lower the one paddle allowing me to regain some control.


I don’t recall the locks being this vicious when we were last this way and wonder if it’s a result of the refurbishment program.

Our first sighting of Mow Cop on the skyline occurred above Longcroft Lock. (spelt it right this time Halfie)

IMG_1006We were going to moor for the day above Church Top Lock but a hire boat full of happy Germans was working with us so we elected to keep going  There was only one boat on the 48 hour moorings at Red Bull and whilst we stopped it was only for water.  After 7 hours of cruising and locks we eventually called it a day (a long day for us) above Limekiln Lock.  Jan did rather well working us up through 25 locks.  One more lock and we’ll be on the summit pound.  Then it’s all downhill to Salford Junction.

My thanks to Paul and Alf for yesterday’s blog comments.  The name of the subdivision appears to be partially derived from the site which was previously occupied by the Albion Chemical Works.  Some of the products manufactured there include caustic soda and hydrochloric acid.  Alf is very knowledgeable regarding the local history and his information enabled me to do some further investigating.  The new sub-division will comprise of  dwellings under the “Affordable Housing Scheme”.  33% of the homes will be allocated to public housing.  One document I read stated the contaminated land had been satisfactorily decontaminated.  I wonder how many potential buyers will research the history of the site; and if they do; would they purchase one of the homes.