Saturday, 31 May 2014


A late start today slipping the mooring around 9.30am.  The plan was to cruise to Braunston and find a 14 day mooring.  Failing that, a 48 hour mooring.  This is starting to be a very familiar stretch of canal and we will both be pleased to be shortly heading north.  Despite this, the scenery is pleasant.

First stop was at Hillmorton Wharf where I was looking for that elusive 1/2 inch female elbow.  Whilst I was waiting to be served I examined the composting toilets (as boaters do!)  I understand how the solids and liquids go into the separate compartments but have reservations whether my body is as knowing!  Unfortunately they didn’t have the part in stock so whilst we were moored I asked for the Hurricane tank to be filled (50L – good price at 87p/l).  The engine hasn’t been run much and consequentially we’ve been using the Hurricane to heat the water.

There was a wide beam moored on the north side of Bridge 76. It obscures the view of the bridge hole and limits the canal to single lane.  Fortunately we were closer to the bridge than the boat coming in the opposite direction.  The boat behind was less fortunate.

There is one final winding hole before Hillmorton Locks which we assume is where the boat will turn to head back to the wide canals.

There are a number of particularly attractive spots between Hillmorton and Braunston.  It was good to see a field of yellow that wasn’t rape…… Buttercups!

The last 14 day mooring before Bridge 90 (London Road) was vacant and we managed to squeeze into it.  The road noise isn’t that bad but the speed of some of the passing boats is bashing us around.  It’s not usually a hire boat.  Just privately owned X-Wing fighters doing warp 3.

Jan pegged out the last of the laundry to dry (two loads done during the cruise) whilst I headed off to complete four outstanding tasks.  First stop was the cratch cover manufacturer in Braunston Marina (Closed – failure).  That’s four attempts I made to find them open.  There won’t be a fifth!  Next, I walked to the laundrette to check the machines (£3.50 a load).  Jan may wash the spare bed duvet tomorrow (Success).  After that it was a walk up to Braunston Chandlers below the Bottom Lock.  I wanted to know if they had any Oxalic Acid so I can remove the black stains from the base of the timber porthole liners before revarnishing them (Failure – where do you get the acid Paul?).  They didn’t have the spare alternator belt in the length we require (Failure) but they were able to sell me the brass fitting  which will enable me to fit the water pump pre-filter.

Whilst walking to the marina I passed nb Muleless.  Gary was working in the cockpit and was subsequently joined by Della.  We had a chat and Della subsequently invited us for drinks in the evening.  Should be interesting.

A decision is going to be required about tomorrow’s activities.  If it is fine then should we take advantage of the weather and continue with the painting or go for a long walk.  Probably the former!

Friday, 30 May 2014

Goodbye Ben.. Hello John and Judith

After the last couple of days of rain we woke to what appears to be a change in the weather.  Not sunny…. but at least dry (well apart from some light drizzle around noon).  Jan had been cleaning out the cupboards below the TV and collected a large pile of correspondence.  90% of it was to do with Ben, our first boat builder the boat thief.  There seems little point in carrying around all this documentation and the space can be put to better use.  The grass was wet and the air still. Accordingly we decided to cremate Ben. He went crackling!

Whilst the mooring is nice the moving itch was upon us and we decided to head to Hillmorton with a plan to moor above the locks.  Jan put on the first load of washing as we cruised to the water point below the locks and managed to do a second load as the tap sloooowly filled the tank.  It was only half empty but still took well over an hour to fill.  The water pressure was halved when a Rose’s Narrow boat moored to use the second tap. An Australian couple from Brisbane had hired the boat for a week and had travelled as far as Napton before heading back to the hire base.  They appeared to have enjoyed themselves despite having seen more rain during their week aboard than they had seen in five years in Brisbane. Smile

There were two friendly volunteer lock keepers working the bottom lock which was of great assistance. Jan then walked to the second lock where she discovered a boater had turned the lock in her face and started to refill it.  Not to worry… we’re not in a hurry!  The steerer was male and his wife was working the lock.  Only when Jan arrived at the lock the lady said “Youright!” and walked off leaving Jan to work her husband and boat through the lock. But rather than walk to the next lock she stood on the towpath below the lock waiting to reboard the boat when it exited.  Jan thought that was a bit rich!  Oh well… you reap what you sow…..

To my surprise there was plenty of room on the 14 day moorings above the top lock.  Usually it’s very popular.  We managed to get a prime spot where the “dot in the sky” was easily accessible.  I then walked back to the Hillmorton Canal Centre where nb Serena is currently moored having a new Beta engine installed.  Serena is owned by John & Judith, a lovely couple who we first met in this general area exactly 12 months ago.  They are in the unfortunate position of having their summer cruising plans disrupted by the unplanned requirement to replace Serena’s engine.  I managed to get a peek at the shiny new green Beta.  Apparently Beta have changed the configuration with the large alternator now positions above the engine rather than to the side.  This has reduced the overall width of the engine making it easier to install.  However it now has a higher profile!  Whilst I was walking to the canal centre Jan managed to peg out much of the clean washing on the stern rotary line.

Later in the afternoon John & Judith joined us for a long chat where we mutually agreed a number of measures to solve many of the world’s current woes.  This time I didn’t forget to take the photo.

John & Judith – nb Serena

Jan has taken a ‘Salmon Wellington’ from the freezer for dinner and we have more of the delicious home-made rhubarb sponge and ice cream for dessert.  After looking out the window I think it might be beer o’clock!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Stalked, fanned out, washed out and green boats

OK…. it was one of those days when only the crazys and hirers move.  We were quietly sitting inside when in the distance a grumbling whine could be heard getting closer.  They must be stalking us!  Those damned vegetation cutters went past three times.  They appeared determined to ensure all the boats on the moorings were green.  That’s the third time in the last 7 weeks we’ve had the mowers and whipper-snippers (strimmers) go past and only once did they not cut the vegetation beside the boat.  After they had finally departed I donned my wet weather gear and went out to clean all the cut grass off the side of the cabin.  Better to remove it with a broom and canal water whilst it’s still soft and wet.  Hopefully all this lovely warm rain will wash the canal water off the paintwork.  Actually I don’t think the cut grass on the paintwork is much of a concern.  What does cause me some grief is the thought that the strimmer might violently flick stones against the paint.

It was “clean the back cabin day!”  The bed was stripped along with the mattress covers.  Everything needs to be washed which has resulted in the Candy working hard for half the day.  Jan actually stopped doing laundry because she had run out of room inside the boat to get it all dry.

With the mattress and bedding removed it was possible to reach the storage area underneath.  Everything was removed which gave me the opportunity to look inside the bilge.  Bone dry but full of cobwebs! Smile  Then the area was repacked before taking the cover off the electrical cabinet.  I gave the area a vacuum and decided to replace one of the 12V air circulation fans.  It was running slowly and I realised one blade was missing.  We have a couple of spare fans.

The damaged fan is the one that sucks air into the cabinet.  As you can see from the above photo there is a build-up of dirt on the blades and frame.  The extraction fan is in the same condition.  I actually take comfort from this working on the principle that if the dirt is on these fans then it’s not on the fans inside the inverter.

What might have been a very simple task became slightly more complicated by the fact that the wires on the replacement fan are shorter than the original.

The local weather forecast for tomorrow looks the same as today so I can’t see us moving.  Not a problem…… we’re not working to a timetable!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Not moving!

Another one of those lovely wet English summer days and we’ve decided to stay firmly tied to the bank.

Daniel passed his driving test and I walked with him to the railway station just to ensure he left for London and his EuroStar connection! Smile

It’s going to take a few days for his licence to be delivered which means we need to wait around the general area.  That’s not an issue because we are still waiting for the galley glass splashback to be manufactured. 

This morning we made a visit to the local branch of one of those organizations responsible for much of what goes wrong in the world.  We took in a wad of surplus foreign paper for recycling.  The plan had been to hold onto it hoping things would improve. 

I managed to stop myself giggling as I watched the teller lick her fingers several times whilst counting the notes.  All I could visualize were the number of hands that might have previously fingered those notes after rubbing a camel’s backside!

Unfortunately the exchange didn’t go nearly as well as we might have hoped.  But such is life!  This meant a change to our lunch plans.  Instead of dining at one of the upmarket restaurants we opted for the local Scottish establishment.

It hasn’t been all bad news.  Jan now has an iPad Air and her previous iPad2 has been passed on to me as a replacement for that £20 7” Android Tablet!  I can’t understand why people get so wedded to electronic gadgets made by that company named after a fruit.  In the past when Jan had an “issue” with the iPad I’d tell her I didn’t know anything about the operating system.  Now I’m forced to use it I wish I’d never gone near it.  Give me Android! 

We have a very cheap HP inkjet printer which takes really expensive replacement ink cartridges.  I’m almost convinced inkjet printer manufacturers sell their printers at a loss and more than make their money selling the replacement cartridges.  But I’m digressing.  The printer has inbuilt wifi and after two years I’ve finally decided to connect the printer to the boat wireless network.  Everything went well connecting the Windows laptop.  However it was a different story with the Pear Lemon Apple iPads.  Apple use their own propriety protocol, Airprint.  The HP printer isn’t compatible with Airprint Sad smile  Eventually I found a work around using a free App.  The next problem was loading video media onto the iPad for viewing.  When you plug the iPad into the Windows laptop it’s not recognised as an external storage device.  You must use iTunes.  Even then iTunes doesn’t allow you to transfer media directly from your laptop to the iPad.  I suspect you’re expected to have purchased all your audio and video data from the Apple Store.  But I found another work around for that problem.  I find the whole damned Apple experience unfriendly! 

Tomorrow is probably going to be another boring day…….

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Charging our batteries

Following the blog post about the solar panels I though I might mention our domestic battery bank charging regime.  We have four large 450Ah 6V wet cell traction batteries connected in series/parallel to give a theoretical capacity of 900Ah.  Heavy duty traction batteries can be discharged to 30% but we’ve always used 50% as the lowest level we would discharge the batteries.  Having stated that, they are normally only discharged to 75% before being recharged.
To monitor the battery State of Charge (SOC) we have a Smartgauge which provides a percentage reading with an accuracy of +/- 10%.  Additionally we have a Victron BMV600 battery monitor which I use to measure the amps flowing in and out of the batteries.  Finally, the Tracer solar controller also provides the SOC as a percentage.
What interests me is each of these devices provides a different SOC when read simultaneously.  Normally the Victron and the Tracer show a higher reading (ie, a higher state of charge) than the Smartgauge.  I suspect the Smartgauge provides the most accurate reading as the Tracer and Victron will be showing 100% SOC yet the Victron will be also be showing amps flowing into the batteries.
There are four stages of charging the batteries (Bulk, Absorption, Float, Equalization).  I’ll ignore the latter because it’s a special stage. 
The engine has two alternators providing a combined theoretical output of 225A. 
When recharging the batteries they immediately go into the Bulk stage where they will accept a very high number of amps.  I’ve never seen our battery bank accept the maximum 225A produced by the engine alternators.  The most I have seen is around 168A.  There are two possible reasons for this.  First, the alternators are unable to achieve the theoretical maximum output. Second, the battery bank is already at 75% and is simply unable to accept a higher state of charge.  I’ve noticed it doesn’t take long for the amps flowing into batteries to drop down to 60-70 amps and my assumption is it’s the inability of the batteries to accept a higher state of charge which causes the amperes reading to fall.
The batteries change to the Absorption stage around 80% SOC.  At this point the amps reading drops to around 25-30A.  At 92% SOC on the Smartgauge the amps going to the battery are around 5-7A and we will be at the Float stage.  The Absorption and Float stages take considerably longer than the initial Bulk stage.
Unless we are cruising there seems little point in running the diesel engine for a long time just to recharge the batteries during the Absorption and Float stages. It’s not the cost of diesel that concerns me, but rather the wear on the engine.  We have a petrol generator which costs considerably less than the engine and what I tend to do is run the engine for the Bulk stage, then use the generator for the Absorption.  If it’s a sunny day the solar panels will complete the Float stage and then maintain the SOC until dusk. The process is then repeated the following day.
There are usually only two situations when we will continue to run the engine after the Bulk stage is complete.  It will either be because we are cruising or it’s when we want to use either the washing machine, vacuum cleaner or microwave. 
Our usual summer cruising routine is to move Monday to Friday and moor during the weekend.  Cruising for 3-4 hours daily is sufficient time to fully recharge the batteries.  Therefore we only tend to use the generator on the weekends or when not cruising.
The generator will provide enough electricity for our larger appliances but it “grunts” with the heavy load and as it is our alternative source of electricity I don’t want to use it in a way that might unnecessarily damage it.
Daniel heads off tomorrow and to his horror he discovered his laptop external USB storage drive had decided to fail.  After some frenetic activity he decided it would be better to purchase a replacement 2TB drive.  Whilst doing that he made the decision to purchase a 250GB SSD and a USB 3.0 enclosure.  I needed a walk and accompanied him to PCWorld and Maplin to watch him spend all that hard earned money.  I do love watching other people spend money.  Think of all that VAT going to the swindlers at Westminster!  It means they are less likely to look for ways of extracting it from me.  Unfortunately that theory was shot to hell when I also decided to buy an enclosure. 
At least my purchase was a mere (say it quickly) 20 quid on special at Maplin.  I’m recycling the 500GB hard drive out of the old laptop and it’s now an external storage drive.
Jan thinks I’ve previously written about charging the batteries but she doesn’t realize there have been some subtle changes! Smile

Sunday, 25 May 2014

To Crick

But not for the Crick Boat Show.  Daniel wanted a last walk through the English countryside before he heads to France next week.  It’s starting to get difficult finding a local circular route which includes some footpaths that aren’t already on the Open Street Map (OSM).  Eventually I identified a potential circuit which included Crick Village.  The route calculator described it as just over 20 kilometres and mostly flat.  I’d like a few hills but there aren’t many around here.

It rained cats and dogs for much of the walk.  Actually at one stage it looked like it was going to rain lions and elephants.  At least the rain was warm! Smile  Daniel had treated his lightweight jacket with waterproofing compound late yesterday and consequently was forced to wear his heavyweight jacket which had him sweating profusely.  My lightweight jacket and leggings kept me dry along with the new Meindl boots.  Daniel couldn’t claim the same with his synthetic boots and has now decided he will also buy a pair of leather walking boots.

Because of the rain I elected not to take a good camera and instead relied on the 3.2MP in the gps.  It takes poor photos but at least provides proof we walked the circuit.

The footpath led us to this somewhat overgrown concrete bridge.  Walking out onto it and you discover it crosses the M1 motorway.

The rain just happened to cease when we were standing on the bridge.

The far side of the bridge was the only piece of high ground.  Probably why there were a number of wind turbines in the vicinity.  Daniel went off to photograph a wind turbine from beneath only to return and explain (unnecessarily) that they are huge when you’re close to them.

Told you the camera takes cr@p photos.

Daniel takes a photo of me taking the photo above!

About a kilometre from here there was a sign on the gate.  Actually it was the first of four signs we saw.  All bolted to the fence beside the gate.

This made us very cautious about the bovines in the paddocks.  The problem was they quickly spotted Daniel and charged across to get a closer look.  Meanwhile we both started to suffer from back ache.  All that bending over “Girl…Girl…Girl…Girl…Girl”  They were all girls!

“Daniel don’t go….. Don’t leave us!”

They thought he was being bashful hiding behind me when they charged across the field to get a closer look. 

“Hi Daniel… My name’s Penny!  Do you like my yellow earrings?”

We almost forgot to take a photo of the canal at Crick.  The following out of focus photo has been provided by Daniel to prove we actually made it.

I’m glad we decided not to go to the show this year.  It looks very wet and muddy underfoot!

The old fella was starting to tire on the return leg.  Where’s one of your sons when you need assistance?

Reach for it Tom.  You don’t want to fall backwards into that lot!

Hot, sweaty, and wet socks.  Almost a smile on his face!

We had to detour on the return journey as the road down to the radio transmitter building had a high closed gate with CCTV cameras.  Bugger!  My left foot was really starting to give me gip by the time we reached Waiouru.  Bloody silly of me to do such a long walk in new boots.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Solar Panels

When first researching solar panels I identified there are three main types and in order of efficiency they are:
  • Amorphous
  • Polycrystalline
  • Monocrystalline
With the latter being the most efficient.
Additionally, it's not recommended to purchase a panel with a black frame or black backing. Apparently black can cause a heat build-up which has the effect of degrading a panel's output.  The same can occur if the panel is fixed directly to the steel roof of the boat. 
Solar panels are made up of a matrix of silicon wafers (cells). What many people don't realise (I didn't) is that cells are manufactured in four grades. 
Class A. Cells with absolutely no defects whatsoever. No saw marks on the wafer,edge chips, P or N dopant fade, microcracks, Al paste smear or large % of wafer thickness deviation.
Class B.  These are cells that have saw marks still in the wafers (cells) that were not properly polished, have thickness deviation and colour deviation.
Class C.  Chips,breaks and microcracks. Breaks cannot be more than 1/4 of the cells total surface.
Class D.  3/4 broken cells which in effect are just pieces of wafer. Pieces are just that, pieces. They are not graded and are considered scrap for remelt or sale to micro solar appliance producers (China,Taiwan,Hong Kong) for laser cutting and use in walkway lights,etc.
There are only a small number of silicon wafer manufacturers and they tend to keep all their Class A cells to make their own panels. They usually sell their Class B, C, D to other panel manufacturers who do not manufacture their own cells. Often these panel manufacturers classify or advertise their panels as being made from Class A cells (despite being Class B or C) as they are the highest quality they can obtain.
Even more panel sellers don't advertise or inform potential purchasers of the grade of cell used in the panel. It's very much Caveat Emptor.
So the whole process of purchasing solar panels can be rather fraught with potential hazards.
In our case we have two 100 Watt monocrystalline panels connected in parallel.  This gives us a potential 200 Watts of electricity.  The panels can produce more than 12 Volts.  To regulate (control) the output from the panels a solar controller is required.  Controllers for such a small system are usually either PWM or MPPT.  A simple way of explaining the difference between the two would be to describe the PWM as momentarily stopping the transmission of electricity to the batteries when the voltage gets too high.  It might be likened to a switch which is being rapidly turned on and off to prevent the panels damaging the batteries by delivering too higher voltage.  The MPPT controller converts the additional high voltage to amperes.  So a MPPT controller allows the panel to deliver more useable electricity.  This is probably why a MPPT controller is more expensive.
Our MPPT controller delivers electricity from the panels to the domestic battery bank at 14.6V.  We have a potential 200 Watts of generating capacity so the maximum amperes should be 13.7 amps (200÷14.6).  Assume 95% efficiency and you have a theoretical capacity of 13 amps.  However on a good day we might get 10 amps from the panels.  This could probably be improved by aligning the panels to the sun (and constantly moving them to track the sun).  I have considered doing this, but the cost of installing a swivel and tilt solar panel mounting system to gain an additional 3 amps doesn’t look that financially viable.  The positive news I take from this is my eBay panels appear to be made from either Class A or B cells.  It must have been my lucky day!
If it were possible to produce the additional 3 amps for 50% of the year at an average of 8 hours daily the panels would generate an additional 4380Ah annually (((365÷2)x8)x3).  However I suspect this is wildly optimistic.  The boat alternators produce approximately 180 amps which means we wouldn’t need to run the engine for 24 hours each year to achieve 4380Ah.  Not much of a saving on such an optimistic figure! 
Where a solar panel array is useful is during the final two stages of charging the battery bank.  During the Absorption stage our batteries accept a maximum current of 10-20 amps whilst during the Float stage they accept 3-10 amps.  It therefore makes sense to use the solar panels to complete and maintain the final stages of recharging the batteries,` rather than add wear to the engine by running it to produce such a low charging requirement.
My Conclusion
If we wanted to increase our solar power production it would be cheaper to buy a third panel rather than purchase a swivel and tilt mounting system for the existing setup.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Another idea and Dinner Arrives

Jan had another of her brilliant ideas today which saw the boat engineer and his son walk to Wickes in the rain for the required components.

On the return to the boat the King plank was measured and Jan’s idea was fitted.

You can see the chrome towel rail fitted to the underside of the cratch King plank.  Jan intends to dry the laundry on it using coat hangers and her small circular camping clothesline.  My concern was a potential headroom problem (or lack of).  However the lower foredeck meant this wasn’t an issue.

Whilst this idea has come to fruition I still have the problem with the connections for the water pump filter.  The following photo explains the problem.

I still need to find a 15mm threaded female elbow to connect the filter to the barbed connector.  In a few days we should be near a chandlery and I’ll make some enquires about potential solutions.

As I write this there is a duck rescue operation being conducted by the rest of the crew.  Mrs Dumb Duck had led her ducklings down the very narrow channel of water between the boat and the armco culvet piling.  The narrowness of the gap and height of the piling and boat meant they couldn’t fly out and the stern of the boat had closed against the piling trapping them because Mrs Dumb Duck couldn’t paddle backwards.  Loud panicking quacking by Mrs Dumb Duck alerted the crew to the problem.  Whilst the crew set off in the rain to conduct a rescue Mr Sensible stayed inside in the dry and posed an alternative solution (which was rejected). “Duck A l’Orange”!

Another attempt

The weather looked OK to make an attempt on painting the second (and final) top coat to the three Houdini surrounds and and the centreline anchor point.  Following the advice from Darren, who painted Waiouru, I masked around each of the areas to be painted.  He told me the reason for doing this was to make a clear line between the new and old paint.  If this wasn’t done then the difference between the two applications would be very apparent.  The first topcoat was then lightly rubbed down with one of those green plastic kitchen scouring pads normally used to clean pots. Sandpaper wasn’t used.  Apparently the scouring pad will make very fine scratches in the paint enabling the final coat to adhere.  The last thing I did was to add some Owatrol to the paint.  To my surprise this thinned down the paint or perhaps raised the viscosity. Anyway, it certainly made the paint easier to apply.

Darren had explained that once the area had been covered with paint it needed to be “feathered off” with light brush strokes all going in the same direction and following gravity.  The idea being that the wet paint will not “sag” and the lines in it from the bristles with fill in leaving a smooth surface.  All of this sounds fine but I’m simply not a good painter. I don’t have a light touch with the brush or a steady hand.  I’ll also too impatient.

The photos don’t show just how bad my painting has turned out.  But at least the rust has gone.  The last outstanding job on the roof was to remove one mushroom vent which appears to be weeping rust from underneath one of the mounting screws.  But having now been up close and personal with the roof I realised the paint has faded and I need to cut back the paint and get more polish on to protect the area before the summer sun starts to make the situation even worse.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Fellow Blogger

There I was with the toothbrush examining the inside of my mouth and my eye watching the plug in the hand basin when I heard Jan say “Thank you!”  I hadn’t done my good deed for the week so she must have been speaking to someone else.  Apparently I missed Kath on nb Bobcat who was passing and offered a greeting to Jan who must have been at the side hatch.  A quick search on Google and I discovered Kath has a blog.  Great, another to add to our bloglist!
Onto a less pleasant subject, the toilet holding tank.  The tank is large and flat  this means there is almost always a large air draught between the effluent and the top of the tank.  Because the tank goes across the full width of the boat at the rear it has a high and low end.  The inlet is at the high end and the outlet and rinse pipes are at the low end.  This was deliberately done in an effort to ensure the tank is fully emptied when being pumped out.  Additionally the rinse pipe enters the tank at the low end and then runs diagonally across the tank to the high end.  The aim is to enhance the action of the fresh water rinse.  There is a fourth connect to the tank at the low end.  This goes to a carbon filter and “breather” pipe which exits the boat just below the gunwale.  The active carbon filter needs to be regularly replaced as the replaced.
These carbon filters are quite expensive yet the cost of carbon pellets is actually low and I’ve been thinking for some time about making my own filter cartridge using chicken mesh and and old pantihose which could be filled (and refilled) with cheap carbon pellets or beads.
Jan here…..  What old pantihose Tom?  I didn’t know you were a cross dresser!
But then I realised all the carbon does is reduce (not eliminate) the foul odour emanating from the tank contents.  My latest idea is to replace the filter with a 12V computer fan and fit an air vent into the rinse connection on the cabin roof.  The fan would draw air down the rinse pipe and expel it via the breather pipe.  The circulation of fresh air would assist in the breakdown of the tank content and minimize the build up of the foul odour.  This wouldn’t be too hard to achieve provided I can find the right fittings for the proposed air vent on the rinse connection.  More research to be undertaken.
Meanwhile I’ve hit a snag with my plan to fit the new water filter into the line between the tank and the pump.  There is a snap coupling between the filter and the pump which is fine.  However the input side of the filter has a 15mm threaded plastic pipe and the barbed hose connector for the braided plastic water pipe has a barbed end and a 15mm threaded end.  The water pipe needs to turn 90 deg to connect to the filter.  This means I require a 15mm threaded female plastic elbow.  And I can’t find one!!!!  No luck at Wicks or Homebase.  It might mean a trip to a chandlers to see how they managed to connect the filter to the water tank hose.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A brief trip to Rugby

The tank at one end was getting low whilst the tank at the other was half full.  Time to do something about both of them.  Rugby Wharf couldn’t help with the pump out because they had 7 boats returning so we called into Falls Bridge Wharf which is just north of Newbold Tunnel.  Jan had read they do a good pump out and we can now confirm that is correct. 

Daniel is teaching himself about the use of “depth of field” with his camera and today’s photos are all from him.

The first photo was taken as we passed under Bridge 66 immediately before Clifton Cruisers.

Passing at ‘tick over’ gave us plenty of time to wave to Phil & Victoria.  We met a “Yellow Peril” at the narrows just past our winter mooring.  The steerer was taking it very slowly and thanked us for our patience. “No problem, it’s not a race!”

We slowly glided passed the boats moored at Brownsover coming to a slow stop under Bridge 58.  Yes, we had run aground on something and I couldn’t get over it.  Jan and Daniel went to the front of the boat to move the centre of gravity whilst I gave the engine more “wellie” which did the trick.

Newbold Tunnel now has even less working lights but it’s not all that long.  Just short of Falls Bridge Wharf, whilst passing under Bridge 48, we got something around the prop.  Just what we wanted; trying to moor without centrelines (the anchor point is being painted).  Liberal use of the “girlie button” solved that problem. 

Rue Yates set up his pump out equipment.  He uses a portable 240V pump and a couple of hoses, one of which goes to the sewer main.  There was plenty of suction and he also did a good rinse.  The cost was £15.  There was time for a couple of Daniel’s cold beers.

“Daniel, are you sure you have them chilling in here?”

“Still haven’t found them!”

I just hate it when you go to all the effort to clear the rubbish off the prop only to find it’s already gone!  We reversed back off the wharf and put the stern into the disused Arm adjacent to the bridge thus enabling us to wind.  Of course I picked up another piece of rubbish around the prop going back through the bridge hole.  This time I ignored whatever was around the prop and eventually the leech departed after deciding we were offering poor hospitality.  There was a boat on the water point at Newbold and another waiting, so we opted to keep going and fill the water tank at Rugby.  The pressure from the tap was quite good but with a three quarter empty tank it took 50 minutes to fill the tank.  Shortly after we started to fill the tank another boat stopped behind us.  They had an extra long wait. 

In the late afternoon I managed to do more of the roof with the TCut and have also masked up around the Houdini hatches ready for the second topcoat.  Jan did a trip to Tesco whilst Daniel fitted in another driving lesson.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Rusty, Faded and Burned!

Daniel and I went for a walk.  I thought the flowers smelt wonderful but he was preoccupied.  I did warn him not to walk through the stinging nettles as they can bring tears to your eyes when they brush sensitive areas.

There has been some very light sign of rust forming on the steel roof frame that forms the mounting of the three Houdini hatches.  Also some sign of rust on the DTV aerial mount and the anchor rope mounting eye in the centre of the cabin roof.  The change in the weather gave me the opportunity to rub back all these areas removing the rust and repainting them.  I suspect the problem with the Houdini frames is a lack of paint when Waiouru was first painted. The plan is to apply a coat of primer and then undercoat followed by at least two top coats.  The rubbing back, primer and undercoat all went well.  I struck a problem with the first topcoat when my back gave out halfway through painting the first Houdini.  Daniel managed to help me off the cabin roof and after walking slowly around the pain abated to a background ache.  I then managed to get back up onto the roof and complete the first topcoat.

Caught by the photographer painting the DTV mast mount.

One thing became very apparent when applying the first topcoat.  The roof paint has faded quite severely!  Initially I thought I’d have to repaint the entire roof, but after having a rest and thinking about the situation I got out the bottle of TCut and experimented on a patch of the roof.  The TCut bought the roof paint back to its original colour.  Having proved to myself there is an alternative solution I ceased the experiment, but not before burning the palm of my right hand on the steel of the very hot cabin roof.  I’m now going to experiment with the Craftmaster polish and see if it will also bring the faded paint back to it’s original colour.  There is a hell of an area to cover and somehow I think I’ll be doing the entire roof over a number of days.

The new roof paint doesn’t look quite the same colour as the original paint and I’ve decided to mask around the Houdini’s and the anchor point to ensure there is a distinctive line between the new and old paint.

But now it’s time to rest the back and drain a cold can of lager whilst watching Jan prepare dinner.

Saturday, 17 May 2014


Having short and wide feet has always posed a problem for me when looking to purchase suitable sports footwear.  The problem gets compounded when manufacturers cease production of a model which fits.   In 2009 we were in the UK and I discovered Meindl made a boot which fitted me like slippers.  They felt like they had been tailor made for my feet.  I managed to get some good walks whilst wearing them in the UK but discovered to my horror on my return to South Australia that I would be in agony after wearing them for more than 30 minutes.  The problem was the higher temperatures in South Australia resulted in my feet swelling.  The boots were put in the back of the wardrobe until our return to the UK in 2011.

I’ve been wearing my Meindl Burma Pro’s on weekend walks since our return.  The soles have now started to wear which got me thinking about replacements.  The boots can be resoled for about £60 but I found a website where I could purchase a new pair for slightly more than double that price.  Rather than risk something going wrong with the uppers on the old boots I opted to purchase a second pair.  I might have the original pair resoled at a later date and use them as boaters boots.  But not at the moment because both Jan and I purchased a pair of NorthWest boots from Daventry last year.  They are significantly cheaper than the Meindl and do a good job as general boating boots, bit I wouldn’t want to walk long distances in them.

The surprise in all of this was Meindl have stopped making the model that fits me.  I suspect manufacturers supersede an existing model so they can raise the price.  Anyway, I’ve been able to find a source for the Burma Pro and have purchased a pair half a size up from the original boots. 

What i should really do is purchase three pairs of footwear when I find a model that is a good fit!

Back to the NorthWest boaters boots.  Jan and I discovered we take the same size. So how do we tell the difference between her boots and mine.

She loves her new laces.  I’d probably have a resurrection if they attempted to bury me with laces that colour! Smile

Nb Pukeko went past today flying a bloody great NZ flag.  I’ve eaten Pukeko.  It’s a NZ swamp bird.  After catching, killing and plucking it, we slowly cook it in a large pot of water with three stones.  When the stones were soft we threw out the Pukeko and ate the stones!

Nb Sanity Again also went passed.  Bruce was at the tiller and there was only time for a very brief conversation before they were out of sight.  According to Sheila Brownsover was very busy.

Walk & Pump

Recently Jan has been telling me she thinks the boat water pump sounds noisier.  I haven’t noticed it but that’s one of the advantages of getting old!  However it did make me think about whether the water pump is an essential piece of equipment.  Logic says it is a rather important item for people who live aboard.  We could draw water from the canal with a bucket to flush the toilet but washing and showering would be more of a problem.  We could wait until the day that the pump fails and manage the crisis.  Hopefully any failure of the pump will occur several years from now.  Well I’d expect it to be several years from now because it was the most expensive pump I could find.  It’s a self priming FloJet!  Despite this we decided to purchase a spare.  The problem is I forgot to check water pumps when we were at Braunston and again when we stopped for the filter and oil at The Canal Shop.  Saving money by forgetting things is another advantage of getting old!

Last night I sat at the computer and compared the data on the OS website –vs- the OSM and managed to find some public footpaths around Barby Straight which are not on the OSM.  By walking to the location via the towpath I’d be able to call into the Canal Shop.  Daniel was volunteered to come in the vain hope he would carry any heavy purchase.

We started from the mooring (top red arrow) and walked to the Canal Shop (right red arrow) where I looked at all the water pumps before selecting a similar FloJet.  I had already realised our existing water pump doesn’t have a pre-filter so one was added to the list of purchases.

I’m now going to have to fit the pre-filter to the existing pump.  The spare pump will be wrapped in a plastic bag and sealed before being stored beside the existing pump.  The bad news is the debit card screamed in pain and Daniel failed to volunteer to carry the purchases.  Fat old dad ended up carrying them on the walk.

We managed to record six sections of public footpath on the gps.  Daniel was slightly puzzled with the routing as I had to back track a couple of times to reach the end of another path.  The walk took us through fields of canola (rape) and Daniel commented about the smell from the crop.  What smell?  That’s another advantage of getting old!

Daniel had sensibly carried a bottle of water with him and was able to rehydrate on the walk.  Being old, I’d forgotten to take any water with me.  Fortunately we were able to stop at the cafe beside Hillmorton Bottom Lock where I treated him to a pint of cleansing ale as a reward for carrying the heavy pump.  Old age again.  I’d forgotten it was me that had carried the pump!

John and Judith (nb Serena) were moored in the Hillmorton Arm and we were able to have a brief chat before heading back to Waiouru.  This old bugger was stuffed and very sweaty by the time we reached the boat for a late lunch.  Jan said I stank but fortunately I can’t smell it (old age).  The gps record indicates we walked about 20 kilometres which is OK.  What wasn’t so OK was Daniel’s suggestion we walking into town that afternoon and purchase food for a BBQ tomorrow.  I’d forgotten (age thing) young’ins recover faster than the oldies!  We reached the centre of town after a brisk walk and topped up my backpack with the heavy items from ASDA.   Daniel volunteered to carry the loaf of bread in his small backpack.  I don’t know where he learned all these tricks and I should really remember them.  He decided we should take fish n chips back to Waiouru for dinner.  Unfortunately we arrived at the shop 50 minutes before opening time and had to sit around the corner solving the world’s problems whilst waiting.  On reaching 5 O’clock and attempting to stand I discovered my legs had gone on strike and my bum had gone to sleep (an age thing).  Eventually I was able to waddle across the road to the shop where I gradually straightened out!  Daniel then said we had to get back to the boat quickly or else dinner would go cold……………  I’m going to sleep well tonight and no doubt Jan will complain about me cutting firewood all night with that noisy chainsaw! 

Friday, 16 May 2014


Waiouru has a beautifully made set of timber stable doors leading from the main bedroom to the cratch.  The issue was privacy, or lack of it! 

Initially Jan was considering blinds or curtains but couldn’t think of a method of securing them.  Then she discovered quite by accident that if both wardrobe doors were opened they covered the windows.  A solution had been found. 

Unfortunately it became apparent this wasn’t a permanent solution as the wardrobe doors would automatically close as the water tank emptied and the bow rose.  Jan then started hanging clothes on a coat hanger across the doors which held them open for awhile.  But a more permanent solution was required.  Back to thinking about blinds or curtains.

Today I had a good look at the problem and identified a solution involving cup hooks.  A walk to Wickes at Brownsover resulted in the purchase of two 152mm chrome cabin hooks.  I taped the cabin hooks in place to check if the idea would work.

When the wardrobe door is shut the long arm is concealed leaving only the eye exposed above the door.  By pressing on each piece of tape I was able to define the four screw holes.  Remembering how the joiners at Aldermaston had fitted screws I then drilled a pilot hole followed by a 2.5mm final hole.  Using a “sacrificial” screw I threaded the four holes and then fitted the two cabin hooks.

The method appears to be a success.

Earlier in the day I gave the port cabin side another wash and dry before applying a coat of Craftmaster polish.  The new 240V polisher made short work of removing the bulk of the polish leaving the awkward corners to be completed by hand. 

After that there was time to dive down the weed hatch and check the propeller.  It was still there. <phew!>  Reaching the propeller isn’t a task I enjoy.  It requires me to lie on the floor and get my head and shoulders down the weed hatch.  That’s the only way I can reach the propeller. A boat went by as I was wriggling back up out of the hatch and a voice with flat Kiwi vowels said “I know where that place is! (Waiouru) I did my army training there. It’s a cold miserable place and I got put on a charge for throwing snowballs!”  I didn’t get to my feet in sufficient time to read the boat name but Jan told me it was a Maori word.

I phoned White & Bishop mid afternoon to enquire about the delivery of my new Meindl Burma Pro walking boots.  Apparently they will arrive on Saturday.  It won’t be in time for this week’s walk because Daniel and I are planning to do that tomorrow.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Hot stuff

I knew she was up for it and my first tentative embrace indicated she was hot.  The quivering ceased when I reach out around and pressed the right button.  The position was awkward and as a consequence it I now have a knot in my right calf. All this action had me hot and sweaty. Twiddling underneath resulted in a hot and wet release. But the thing that really got her going was the long drink of amber nectar.

Now I suspect your mind has wandered, but I am writing (of course) about today’s 250 hour service of the Beta 43.  After purchasing the oil and replacement filter yesterday it seemed a good idea to take advantage of today’s sunny conditions.  I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be able to do these engine services.  The old body isn’t as flexible as it used to be and the location of the damned oil filter is almost out of reach.  However we are now good for another 250 engine hours.  Which reminds me….. I must update the servicing sheet in the Beta Manual.

Jan and I wandered into town in the morning.  I wanted to check if my new walking boots had arrived in the shop (they hadn’t) and Jan needed to give Asda some of our hard earned money.  On the way back to the bus we stopped at Wilkinsons to buy another container of white spirits.  It’s cheaper than Vodka and tastes OK provided you strain it through a loaf of bread.  Just joking….. more touch-up painting is on the maintenance program.

Later in the afternoon Daniel and I walked to Tesco.  He needed the ingredients for an Italian dish he was planning to cook for dinner tonight whilst I wanted some distilled water for the domestic battery bank.  No luck with the latter at Tesco, but I managed to buy a large container at Halfords for 2.99.  I asked in Halfords about alternator belts and was informed they don’t stock them.  A spare belt is the last item on our list of required on board spares.

I can’t fit in there so how did the old fella in the blue boiler suit do it!.  Note the new matting on the engine bay floor.  Hopefully it will assist in reducing the need to repaint the floor.

The engine appeared to love this Golden Film.  I’m not surprised because it almost cost its weight in gold!    When the old fella got out of the engine bay I realised how he managed to fit down there.  He’s a midget!