Sunday, 4 December 2016

Quiet day

Our second day staying on the boat in the warmth of the cabin with me trying to shake off the more serious man flu whilst Jan gets over the normal flu!

Despite feeling miserable one task was completed.  The Garmin GPS was again disassembled so I could look for the reason why the touch screen wasn’t working.  Disassembling it for the second time proved to be a much quicker operation.  It didn’t take much to see the problem was an unconnected ribbon cable between the screen and the printed circuit board.

ribbonThe terminal connection is so small that my eyesight wasn’t up to seeing how the connection was made.  A magnifying glass assisted and I eventually realised the end of the ribbon slid under the tiny black flap.  I initially tried to open the flap using the end of a jewellers screwdriver before realising it was already open.  To get the cable back into the terminal and close the flap I needed my fist and second hands to hold the case open whilst my third and fourth hands positioned the ribbon cable and closed the securing flap (yes, Jan helped me!)

For some reason I had a clever idea and decided to test the gps worked before reassembling it.


Good news….. the touch screen now works and the Nuvi found the satellites.  It was then reassembled and tested as second time. 

I must admit that halfway through this operation I was starting to think Jan was right with her comment “Sometimes it’s better to spend a little more money and buy a new one!”

The dreaded sound of strimmers (whipper-snipper) and motor mowers were heard in the afternoon.  Surely CRT wouldn’t be cutting the towpath grass?  No it was council workers.  Actually they probably weren’t council workers as the council probably wouldn’t pay staff to cut grass on a Sunday.  Eventually I noticed one walker standing with his back to the boat and on his Hi-Viz vest was “SUPERVISOR”.  These would be “Community Payback” people.  In NZ it’s called called ‘periodic detention’.  

These guys were so slow at cutting the grass I doubt they will get employment with Fountains!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

The engine, the calorifier & the gps

Another 250 hours on the clock so it was time for an engine service.  We ran the engine to warm up the oil and Jan seized the opportunity to also do a load of washing.  Doing an oil change on a cold day can have advantages.  The additional clothing under the overalls means you can drape yourself over the hot engine for longer periods.  Despite this I was starting to break into a sweat by the time I’d finished pumping all the oil out of the sump.  The absorbent baby paper nappy makes a reasonable job of catching most of the oil when removing the oil filter. 

When I drained off the bottom of the first diesel pre-filter there were a few black specks in the diesel.  I guess they are pieces of splatter from the construction.  The second pre-filter was clean.  The alternator belts looked OK and appeared to have sufficient tension.  Battery water levels were good.  Everything looks good to go for another 250 hours.   

I used that ugly mirror from the 99P shop to see the element and thermostat on the back of the calorifier.  Access to this area proved to be rather difficult for an old man.  In order to to see the mirror you need to crouch over the engine and then look up.  It’s an awkward position involving some neck strain.  However I was able to view the area and noted there were two thermostats (which surprised me) and the element.  The thermostats are connected in series with different temperature settings.  I’m guessing one is the desired water temperature and the other is the over temperature cut-out.  There was a small black button which I pressed and heard a click.  I;m guessing the upper temperature cut-out had tripped and hopefully I’ve now reset it.  I couldn’t get continuity through the thermostats using the multimeter so I’m hoping this is because the water in the calorifier is already very hot after running the engine to do the oil change.  The plan is to wait until the water is cold tomorrow morning and recheck the continuity. If there is a circuit them my theory was good.  Otherwise I may have to replace the thermostat.

The last task of the day was to replace the battery in the Garmin Nuvi.  The battery came without any instructions so I carefully examined the Nuvi noting the two small torx screws on the reverse of the folding antenna.


The screws are very small and could easily be lost.  I used four of the empty compartment in my weekly pill container to ensure I didn’t misplace any of the tiny components


The screws.

With the screws removed it was possible to pry the back off the antenna.  This exposed (well not very well) the hinge pin and spring.  I released the pin by compressing the spring with a small jewellers screwdriver


The black plastic hinge pin and spring can be seen in the middle of the above photo.  With the antenna now able to be carefully moved to one side I had access to two further screws under the hinge.  These were also torx screws.


The next step was to separate the front off the Nuvi using the green plastic tool.  Using a plastic trim removal tool minimizes the possibility of damaging the case.  By working carefully around the join I was able to eventually separate the back from the front.


Green trim tool placed on the Nuvi for the photo

By sliding the face of the case backwards I exposed a further two torx screws which secure the printed circuit board to the rear of the case.


Once the screws were removed I used the plastic trim tool to pry the circuit board from the base.  By lifting the circuit board up slightly I was able to unplug the two cable connects.  You can see the loose cables and plugs to the left in this next photo.  The battery is the white rectangle in the top left.


It proved quite difficult to remove the battery as it was held in place firmly with double sided tape.  I managed to pry it out with the trip tool.


The new battery was installed and the process reversed to reassemble the gps.  Well it actually wasn’t that easy.  Some very fiddly bits meant it took quite some time to complete the reassembly.

Turned the Nuvi on and it fired into life



Friday, 2 December 2016

Man Flu

Dear reader I apologize for the lack of a post yesterday.  Man Flu caught me on Wednesday afternoon and I spent much of yesterday trying to free myself.  I don’t believe I managed to get any sleep last night, however Jan tells me she heard me snoring whispering sweet nothings.

Today we managed a trip to the Merry Hill Centre where we collected a couple of packages we’d ordered.  The post office in the centre will accept mail using the poste restante system.

projectWe now have a replacement catalyzer for the Lockgate diesel stove (top item).  The original catalyzer is working but has developed a bulge in the outer core half way down.  Actually I’m suffering from the same condition!

The bottom three items are the replacement battery for the Garmin Nuvi gps and a couple of small tools I’ll need to disassemble the unit.

We have been moored in Merry Hill for a week and the canal had frozen over for the last three days.  Although the water tank was still ¾ full we decided it might be prudent to move back to Bumble Hole and be closer to a water tap.  The ice looked like it had melted but in reality there was just a thin layer of water sitting on top of the ice.  

The ice made for a slow but noisy trip to Blowers Green.  Things got a little tricky above the lock where there is a basin with a hard right turn to continue on towards Bumble hole.  The basin was iced over making it very difficult to turn Waiouru.  Eventually I broke the ice with the boat pole and then Jan and I pulled the boat out of the lock and around the bend onto the water point.  The water pressure here is rather poor and it took an hour to top up the tank.

Jan thought she saw a Robin flying above the water on the far side of the basin.  However the flash of blue suggested it might be a Kingfisher.  It landed on a post on the other side of the basin.  I used the camera zoom to take a photo.  The Kingfisher is on the top of the white post in the middle of the photo.


I couldn’t see it either!  Smile

Digital zoom in…….


We continued on towards Bumble hole breaking a path through the ice.  Eventually it got dark and we had to use the headlight.  The ice cleared just before Bumble Hole where we found only one other boat on the designated moorings.

We’ll probably be here for a few days.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

From the past

The necrophiliac genealogist in the family has been spending the cold weather working on her tablet exploring the furthest extends of the Jones family tree In the process she has been discovering some rather unusual events.

In 1614 William Holland, a successful mercer of Chichester endowed his old school at Steyning, Sussex with lands and rents to maintain the school with additional funds for a headmaster and up to 50 boy boarders.  During the early 18th century the school had fallen on hard times with almost no pupils.  Moreover the schoolmaster was discovered to be embezzling the funds.  The school building hadn’t been painted in almost 100 years.

Apparently the situation was saved by an ancestor of mine, Mr George Airey who arrived in 1840 as the new schoolmaster.   George was a distant relative on my paternal grandmother’s side.  He stayed at the school for 30 years.  Steyning Grammar School still exists <link here>.

We were both rather amused by one of George’s antics

“he always cut the boys’ toenails himself when their feet were washed once a week in the dining room – there were to be no ingrowing toenails in Steyning!”

Children had their feet washed once a week!  What about the rest of their little bodies?

For the second morning in succession we’ve woken to find the canal iced over.  Yesterday it was thin but by this morning it was twice as thick.


But we’re having lovely clear days with a blue sky.

I’ve been wondering how much useable life is left in the laptop battery.  This can be achieved on a Windows machine using the following commands

  • Click Start button and type "cmd" (without quotes) in the search programs and files box.
  • In the command prompt, type "cd %userprofile%\desktop" (without quotes) and press Enter
  • Next type "powercfg -energy" (without quotes) and press Enter

It will enable a trace for 60 seconds. When the process is finished, an HTML file will be generated on your desktop including all the details you need. 

Our laptop has lost 25% of its total capacity since we bought it.

The query arose after I discovered our Garmin car gps battery has virtually no life left in it.  Of course boaters know batteries don’t last forever so at some stage the laptop battery will have to be replaced.

Monday, 28 November 2016

St Andrews

When standing beside our mooring on the embankment at Merry Hill and looking northeast you can see in the distance a woodland covered hillside with a church on the top.  That seemed a good destination for a walk with the possibility of panoramic views from the churchyard.  I should have taken a photo before leaving as it was dark by the time I returned.

st AndrewsChurch on the hill 

The route out followed the canal as far as the far end of the BCN Two Lock Line.  Along the way I stopped to read one of the historical signs.


From there a narrow lane took me up the hill to the churchyard.  There was no view from the top because the summit was surrounded by a ring of trees.


Unlike other walkers, I didn’t see the ghost whilst walking up the hillside. <more info here>

The church is St Peter’s of Netherton (Anglican) and is the most prominent in the area.  It was opened in July 1830.  I found it interesting that the church main entrance is at the opposite end to the driveway.

IMG_1134I assume the driveway was a late addition with most of the early congregation walking to church from the surrounding area.  Apparently Netherton has a significant number of nonconformist churches.  Mostly Baptist or Methodist.  Perhaps some time in the 19th century a significant proportion of the local Black Country population became disillusioned with the mainstream churches?

The route back to Waiouru was a wide arc avoiding the canal whilst attempting to stay on the high ground.


St Andrew’s to the south


The road took me behind the Blowers Green Pumphouse.

It was dark by the time I reached the Waterfront Basin.  Wetherspoons was open and doing some trade but The Brewers Wharf was closed.  Actually The Brewers wharf Is looking rather rundown with peeling paintwork and rotten facia boards.

IMG_1142Brewers Wharf

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Another year

Boat license renewal time again.  Why does every major bill come at Christmas?

It was a pleasure to use the CRT online renewal system.  Straightforward and simple….. which is more than I can say for the bank and it’s direct debit system.  They refused the payment pending a confirmatory telephone call to me.  Of course the call never came, which just added complexity to the process.  But it’s now all done and we’re again carefree!

So here we are once again moored on the embankment above the large Intu shopping centre at Merry Hill.  In front of us is nb Areandare with Barry & Sandra aboard.


Sunday lunch was at the nearby Round Oak carvery (rated 8/10).


Jan had a brief browse through The Range buying me some yoghurt sachets and an egg timer for Christmas. Smile  Generosity should be reciprocated and I bought her a litre of oil for the generator.  Now she will be able to do that oil change.

Friday, 25 November 2016

BCN Two Locks Line

Attempting to describe this mornings trip down the weed hatch as damned cold would be a serious understatement.  It was also a painful reminder not to put off until tomorrow what you can do today.  The water temperature would have been higher when we moored yesterday afternoon.

The item we collected going through Gosty Hill Tunnel yesterday was a large grey sheet of heavy plastic.  The type you might see on a building site.  It was wrapped around the prop and shaft before being bound in place by fishing line.  Whilst I dislike removing carpet and plastic from the prop it’s the fishing line which creates the most concern.  Immersing your hands in cold water quickly makes them numb and you never know if there’s a sharp hook on the end of the line.

The plan for the day was to move from Bumble Hole to Merry Hill.  We’ve moored there on two previous occasions and the adjacent large Intu retail complex does provide at least one of us with some retail therapy.

The Dudley N02 Canal is a contour canal with one lock taking you down to the Dudley N01 Canal at Blowers Green.  Along the way we passed the former entrance to the BCN Two Locks Line.

P1030589 BCN Two Locks Line to the left

This was a short cut between the Dudley N01 and 2 canals.  The original route can be seen on the extract from Paul Balmer’s Waterway Routes map below.

BCN Two lock line

We stopped at Parkhead Junction (Blowers Green) to dispose of our rubbish and top up the water tank.  The latter had been done yesterday but we know there is no water at Merry Hill so wanted to moor there with a full tank.


The Dudley N01 Canal continues up the three Parkhead locks to reach the southern end of the Dudley N01 Tunnel.  Most boats won’t fit through the tunnel and passage for those that will fit is supervised.  The Black Country Museum is at the other end.

We turned left into Blowers Green Lock with the former pumphouse on our left


When we first passed this way I had assumed the purpose of the pump house was to remove water from underground mines.  However everything I’ve read suggests it was used for back pumping water from the lower canals up to the main level.

We then passed the other end of the BCN Two Locks Line on our way to Merry Hill.


Thursday, 24 November 2016

Back up

Well the nautical term is going astern.  With the forecast of a reasonably fine day a decision was made to reverse back to the water point and top up the tank.  There is a small canal side cafe and shop here which caters for the local walkers.  Jan had a good chat with a couple of local walkers whilst the tank filled.  Stopping on the water point also enabled us to remove the diesel stove flue. 


After that we would go further astern to the junction of the Netherton Branch and Dudley N02 Canal where we turned SE down to Hawne Basin. 

We’ve been down to Hawne Basin on a previous occasion but didn’t bother to enter the basin as the brick bridge at the entrance looked very low. 

gosty hill

From Waterway Routes

This time the canal looked much more pleasant.  New residential housing is being constructed on a brownfield site at the Bumble Hole end.  I think this land was either derelict or industrial on our last trip.


Silhouette steel figures explaining the history of the canal can be found located alongside the towpath.


The remains of the brick toll office at the Bumble hole end are heavily covered in graffiti. 

P1030576At the next bridge we came upon two specialist graffiti removal contractors hard at work.  I suspect they are wasting their time and clients money.  Our experience in Adelaide is that graffiti must be removed very promptly.  If removed quickly and regularly those applying the graffiti give up.

We eventually reached the ‘narrows’ on the approach to Gosty Tunnel.  Despite only being on tick-over we came to a grinding halt with no forward or reverse.  There was something very serious around the prop.  Whilst I hated the idea of delving down the weed hatch into the damned cold and dark water I was grateful it had occurred before we entered the tunnel.  Eventually I was able to remove a large piece of carpet from around the prop.


Stopped here


The offending item

Gosty (Gos as in gossip and ty as in tea) Tunnel is just over 500 metres long and starts off with a high air draught.  About 50 metres inside the roof height drops considerably.  We guessed it had started to collapse and the height was reduced by the relining.  The new arch is painted which reduced the likelihood of hitting your head.


After another 50 metres the roof rises back to it’s original height before dropping down again at the far end.  The trip through seemed to take ages, but then we were doing tick over.


There was a sign on the canal retaining wall advising it was the location of Stewarts & Lloyds.  At one time they were one of the largest tube makers in England


During WW1 and WW2 they switched to manufacturing ammunition.  They also manufacturered much of the ‘PLUTO’ fuel pipeline under the Channel which supplied the Allied invasion forces.

It’s a very tight turn into Hawne Basin with a low brick bridge over the entrance.


You can see that not every boater makes it into the basin without hitting the bridge.


The bow thruster is most useful in situations like this! Smile

We moored on the services mooring with the bow facing south-west.  The lady from the shop suggested we turn because the fuel hose wouldn’t reach the stern.  Everything became clear when we explained there were diesel tanks at both ends.  Once the bow tank was full we winded to fill the two stern tanks.  Diesel was 51ppl (domestic).  We bought 13Kg of calor gas £23 and had a pump out for £8.01.  


The Trust have a covered slipway and if I remember correctly hire is £100 per week.


The entrance in the distance with the winding hole immediately beyond.

After parting with some of our hard earned money we made a right turn and lined Waiouru up on the bridge hole.


The successful exit strategy was to drift through the bridge hole stopping in the winding hole where we would pivot to the left to go back up the canal.

The turn went well but we picked up something nasty on the prop inside Gosty Tunnel.  I wasn’t going down the weed hatch again and we persisted with the unwanted object around the prop all the way back to Bumble Hole where we moored.  It will be a task for tomorrow! Sad smile