Saturday, 31 January 2015

Towards Marsworth Junction

A very nice start to the day with clear blue skies and sunshine.  It was a clear and crisp day.  The first task was to ascend Slapton Lock and top up the water tank.  The weather forecast is for cold and blustery conditions with the probability of snow.  Filling the tank therefore seemed a sound idea.  Unfortunately it turned out to be not quite as easy as anticipated.  The water point wasn’t frozen, but it had a serious leak from the lower tap.

This rather slowed down the process. 

Two locks on we struck our second problem.  Entering Ivinghoe Lock 32 wasn’t the issue.  The problem was both the lower and upper sets of lock gates leak badly.  We didn’t seem to be going up.  Jan opened both top paddles and then walked back to check the leakage from the lower gates.  We were about 2’6” from the top of the lock when I noticed the upper gates had decided to open without any assistance.  That’s when we realised the pound above was very low.

My first attempt to leave the lock was unsuccessful.  Waiouru grounded on the cill!  Jan walked forward to the next lock and ran down sufficient water to allow the boat to get over the cill and I then very slowly crawled forward to the next lock carefully staying on the centreline of the pound.  Jan opened the lower gates on the lock and we both wondered if Waiouru would make it over the entrance cill.  Fortunately we did.  I was rather pleased we had pumped out the toilet tank in the stern and filled the water tank in the bow.  There were no further water level problems for the remainder of the day.

We passed three Interesting boats today.  First it was a small tug (Bantam) and butty (Argus).  I think it’s cheaper to license a butty than a powered boat so perhaps this is a cheap method of boating?

The last time we saw Kintbury she was one of the hire boats at Aldermaston Wharf.  At the time we were told it was the last year she would be hired out and obviously she has now been sold.

You can just see the faded ‘Reading Marine’ words where the decals have been removed.

This last boat looked so sad.  It’s probably been abandoned and the cost of recovery will likely be borne by CRT.

Jan walked on ahead to open Seabrook Swing Bridge.  I couldn’t see her from Waiouru and the bridge seemed to be barely moving.  Once it was open I was able to see what the problem was.  Unlike most of the other swing bridges we’ve seen this one doesn’t have an extended opening bar to provide greater leverage.  Poor Jan was struggling to open and close it.

She managed to get it sufficiently closed for me to cross and assist her with the final push.  The mercury started to fall as we slowly cruised past the moored boats at Dunstable District Boat Club so a decision was made not to complete the final two locks before Marsworth Junction.

We managed to moor in the wind and get the wigwam pram cover erected.  I then raised the TV mast and guessed which way to point it (there being no buildings around to check).  A good guess because we have both terrestrial TV and ‘The Dot’.  We’d not long been inside the cabin when the wind started to seriously blow followed by snow.

Marsworth Bottom Lock

Marsworth Locks

If the weather looks miserable tomorrow we will stay moored and sit it out!

Friday, 30 January 2015

Lost and Found

We had a very tasty evening meal in The Globe Inn last night.  I was rather interested in the history of the pub.  There was a sign on the wall that stated…

The Inn was first licensed in 1830 as a beer shop, serving passing trade on the canal, which is a few feet from the front door.  It was described as a public house in 1838 on the ‘Linslade Tithe Award’ run by Joseph Spires and owned by William Swinstead.  The family ran the pub through the 19th Century.  By 1841 it had got its name The Globe Beer Shop.  The Inn passed to another local family thereafter “The Sayells” ran it until the Second World War.

Cruising commenced at 9am with a short stretch to be covered to reach Leighton Lock. Jan went forward to find a solo boater about to descend.  It started to rain just as she commenced emptying the lock.  By the time we had worked Waiouru up through the lock both of us were feeling decidedly cold.  Jan was lowering the last gate paddle when the safety latch slipped and the paddle dropped.  Her favourite windlass did a wrrrrrrrr and flicked into the air, bounced of the bow and pirouetted into the canal.  Fortunately she wasn’t hurt in the process.   (a loss!)

No point in both of us being cold and wet so I suggested she go below into the warm and change her clothes.  By now the wind had picked up forcing me to ‘crab’ down the canal into Leighton Buzzard where the 2 hour moorings outside Tesco were all vacant.  The pantry needs replenishing and we headed off to the Aldi and Tesco.  Jan found someone had left a one pound coin in the Aldi shopping trolley (a gain!)

The rain had stopped so after a quick bite we headed off south.  The rain might have stopped but the wind had certainly picked up and the mercury had fallen.  No doubt the countryside further north has gone white!  The side on wind made cruising difficult but that was nothing compared to the locks.  The first was Grove Lock where lining Waiouru up on the approach proved problematic.  The lock setting is rather attractive, probably more so on a sunny day in summer.

The next lock, Church Lock,proved to be a real challenge.  The wind was blowing Waiouru against the lower lock landing and I was struggling to get her off.  Jan was out of direct line of sight but I could see she had opened one gate.  I’d need to ‘crab’ into the lock and really needed the second gate open.  Just as I managed to get the bow into the lock entrance the second gate opened. “Good Girl” I thought.  On entering the lock I discovered Jan had only opened the one gate, the other had been blown open by the wind.  The direction of the wind was directly behind us and blowing straight into the lock.  When Jan closed one gate and walked around the lock to the opposite gate the wind would blow the first gate open again.  I was down in the lock on the boat attempting to control it with the wind blowing up my fundamental orifice.  We were going to be there all afternoon if we didn’t adopt a different strategy.  Rather than waste her time with the lower gates I suggested to Jan that she open a paddle.  The theory being that the water flowing into the lock would hold the lower gates closed.  It worked!

Surprisingly the wind wasn’t a strong above the lock and we cruised on in relatively calm conditions mooring below Slapton Lock.  John (nb Waimaru) left us a comment suggested we use the tap above the lock as it’s a ‘good filler’.  We’ll probably do that tomorrow.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

More thoughts on Marine Insurance

After reading Peter Berry’s blog posts regarding the sinking of their boat <blog link here> I was even more concerned to read about third party insurance in the UK.  I was very surprised to read it’s not compulsory for a business to have 3rd party insurance.  I’ve used Peter’s experience as the basis for an example of what might happen to an unsuspecting boater.

  • The boater is insured and arranges for a supplier of marine services to complete some work on their boat.
  • As a consequence of that work the boat sinks.
  • The owner employs a marine surveyor to produce a report on the cause of the damage; extent of the damage; and estimated financial cost to repair.  Let’s assume the estimated cost is £30,000.
  • The owners insurance company will only replace any affected part of the boat if it is damaged beyond repair.  Any other repairs are considered “betterment” and not covered by the policy.
  • Engine, start motor, alternators, electrics and timber are all to be dried out.  Only if they have failed will they be replaced.  No consideration is given to potential reduction in total life or premature future failure.  The insurance company assesses repairs at £5000.
  • The supplier of marine services refuses to provide their insurance details.
  • The owner is now £25,000 out of pocket and decides to initiate legal action against the supplier of marine services.  The owner doesn’t know the supplier has no insurance.
  • The owner wins the court case but then discovers the supplier is actually two companies.  Company A does the work but only has assets of £1.  Company B doesn’t do the work and owns all the assets.
  • Now the owner has pyric victory.  Lost £25,000 on the boat and has a large legal bill.  Has won his case in court but Company A has no money to pay him.

So how does the boater avoid this situation?  How many of us request the potential supplier of a service to give us a copy of their 3rd party insurance policy.  Do we then go on to include in writing with the supplier that they must maintain this policy for the duration of the period they work on the boat?  I suspect very few boaters do such a thing.

Our contract with both our boat builders required them to hold insurance.  But I must confess I never demanded a copy.  It’s something I will definitely do in future should we ever want a supplier complete work on our boat that might result in serious damage or loss.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Fill, Empty, Fill

The CRT email advising Soulbury Locks had been opened after I wrote yesterday’s post.  Now the way is open for the next section of our winter cruise plan we decided to move.  It has been almost a fortnight since we last filled the water tank and the gauge was reading just under quarter full.  After preparing Waiouru Jan went forward to set Fenny Stratford Lock, including swinging to one side the bridge that spans it.  This was the easiest lock of the day being about 12” deep.

There was good water pressure at the tap on the services above the lock but it still seemed to take ages to fill the water tank.

Jan made the most of the main water supply and put on a load of washing whilst we waited.  The former local mooring warden stopped for a chat whilst the tank was filling.  He told us what we had already surmised.  Many of the boats around here never leave the Milton Keynes area. Apparently he had a never ending job of trying to keep boats moving.

We cruised on down to Willowbridge Marina for a pump out.  The lady was very friendly showing me the pump out equipment and informing me it was a self pump out service.  Once I realised it was untimed I was quite prepared to complete the task.  We had a very good pump out for £15.

Stoke Hammond Lock came and went without us seeing a soul.  At Soulbury Locks (3) Jan went forward to check the locks and found two boats in the middle lock descending.  We moored Waiouru and then went to the bottom lock to assist the two solo boaters through the bottom lock.  There were a few gongoozlers braving the cold wind outside the lock side pub.

All three locks were in our favour and the boaters coming down had kindly left the bottom gates open for us……. Even if they didn’t know we were ascending! Smile

The fuel boat Beverley was still moored around the corner from the locks so we stopped to top up all three tanks at 75p/ltr. [Thanks for the information Adam!]

It was now after 1pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch.  However neither of us was hungry and as it as starting to get colder we elected to press on.  Jan noticed the Norman style St Mary’s Church at Old Linslade about half a mile short of our planned destination. 

You almost circumnavigate it on the canal.

We managed to find a mooring just past The Globe Inn opposite the Officers Swimming Club.  There would be more vacant moorings here if boaters were to share rings and close up slightly!

Hopefully dinner will be in The globe tonight.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Leighton Lock

A 22 kilometres walk to Leighton lock and back today.  I need to this more frequently and my feet are getting soft.  CRT were still back pumping at Fenny Stratford Lock.

The pump is in the following structure beside the old pump house.

You can see the inlet pipe from the canal below the lock.  The next photo shows the outlet.

Yesterday I theorized that CRT were back pumping all the way to the pound below Leighton Lock.  On today’s walk I was interested to see if I was correct……. I wasn’t!  There was no back pumping at Stoke Hammond lock or Soulbury Locks (3)

Les (nb Valerie) had left a comment about the canal markers mentioning he hadn’t seen the stone marker.  Today I took a photo of the area.  It’s on the towpath side at the long term mooring in Fenny Stratford between the Railway Bridge and Watling Street Bridge.

The stone marker in the foreground and the canal boundary marker behind.

I think I can also confirm Les is correct when he stated the reason for the construction of Fenny Stratford Lock.  I came upon a plaque which mentions “The Lock That Should Not Be.  The original survey for the canal proposed a long level pound from Cosgrove to Stoke Hammond.  It was difficult to maintain water levels north of Fenny Stratford because of leakage and a lock at Fenny Stratford was constructed in 1802 to divide the canal into slightly different levels.”

So the problem wasn’t with the sump pound but somewhere between Fenny Stratford and Stoke Hammond.  Perhaps this is why the back pumping appears to occur on a daily basis.

I’ve previously mentioned the signs at Willowbridge Marina and today I took photos.

All boaters require insurance as a prerequisite for obtaining an annual CRT license.  This sign seems to imply the boater is responsible for loss/damage if an “incident” occurred during a lift.   I’d be more interested in knowing If the boatyard had the necessary insurance.  Actually, with a sign like this I would be demanding to see a copy of the boatyards insurance before I allowed them to touch our boat.

In my opinion this next sign is partially correct.  A place of business does have a legal responsibility to warn visitors of potential hazards.  However the business cannot absolve itself from any responsibility by erecting a sign.  They must be able to demonstrate they have identified the specific hazards and taken all measures ISFARP (in so far as reasonably practical) to protect all personnel from that hazard.  A sign isn’t sufficient and is actually counter productive because it implies the business has identified risks/hazards and has not taken measures to prevent incidents occurring.

Soulbury Locks were locked.  We had already received an email from CRT notifying us they had been locked in an effort to maintain the water level above the locks.  Both the top and bottom lock were padlocked.

Note the former pump house on the right.  The pub/restaurant beside the lower two locks looked well patronised.  There was also evidence the locks might have previously had side ponds.

About half a mile from Leighton Lock is The Globe Inn.  The moorings look good and the pub looks interesting.  We might try and stop here for a meal.

On reaching Leighton Lock I discovered the stoppage was over and the lock open.  That’s 3 days early!  The water level in the pound was normal, so why are Soulbury Locks still closed?  Could this be a left hand - right hand issue?

Leighton Lock

Monday, 26 January 2015

Minor Task and Strange Boat

I must add something to our last blog post.  In one of Adam’s (nb Briar Rose) earlier comments he had mentioned the theory that the reason for the small change in water level at Fenny Stratford Lock might be due to a potential problem with water pressure.  I had overlooked this in the post.

Further information was received From Les (nb Valerie) and Paul (nb Waterway Routes).  Les’ research suggested the sump pound had to be lowered due to a problem with water leakage.  To lower the entire pound by 10 inches because of a leak in the top 10 inches seems rather expensive and radical.  Paul suggested another theory.  Perhaps a recalcitrant landowner forced a change in the planned route which required the additional lock.  This seems plausible as adding a lock would probably have been cheaper than the cost of lowering the long pound.  

All very interesting!

There are a couple of interesting boats around here this Is one of them.  The boat below looks like a wide beam that has had it’s bow cut off and an extension added to the stern.

Two tasks completed today.  Jan did a load of washing and then hung it on the rails under the gunwales inside the cabin to dry whilst I finally got around to fixing the 12V socket in the computer workstation.  The female part of the plug has been coming out of the wall socket.  When I removed the wall socket off the wall I discovered rediscovered there was no retaining ring on the reverse.  It’s my error omission as I wired the boat.  For some reason I must have forgotten overlooked the need to fit the ring.  We don’t have a ring which meant I needed to identify an alternative method of securing the female plug in the socket.  My solution was to fit a plastic cable tie as a surrogate retaining ring and then smear construction adhesive over the tie to hold everything together. 

Rear of the 12V socket on the right

Applying the adhesive proved to be easier said than done.  I had half a tube of adhesive left over from fitting the glass splashbacks in the galley last year.  But it had gone semi solid.  I didn’t want to start using a new tube so after many different attempts I reverted to cutting the filled part of the tube in half and scooping out the necessary amount of adhesive with a screwdriver. 

It’s all back together now and won’t be touched again until the adhesive has set.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Leak and the Markers

Several days ago I wrote that we planned to go down through the Fenny Stratford stop lock immediately ahead of our mooring.  Adam (nb Briar Rose) left a comment mentioning we would be going up rather than down and it wasn’t a stop lock.  Adam thought the lock might have been required because “someone” got their water level calculations wrong.  Today I was reading that the lock was built to reduce the water pressure in the long pound between Cosgrove lock on the north side of Milton Keynes and Stoke Hammond Lock on the south side.  The long sump pound has at least one spillway and so I can’t see how there could be too much water in the pound.  I suspect Adam’s suggestion is more plausible.

I’ve also taken photos of two buildings that were originally pump houses.  The pumps would have been fuelled by coal and driven by steam engines.  Yesterday Jan and I noticed water was being discharged into the canal from a culvert immediately above the lock.  The culvert was located on the low side of the canal and as water doesn’t usually flow uphill it seemed strange.  Today I noticed a small and low structure beside the original pump house.  It had a 10” steel pipe running to this “shed” which crossed the towpath below the lock.  I could also hear the sound of machinery.  My guess is the shed holds an electric pump and CRT are back pumping to the higher pound above Stoke Hammond Lock.  However we haven’t seen a boat come down through Fenny Stratford lock for at least 4 days so why the need to back pump?  I can only think of three reasons

  1. The pump is working unnecessarily;
  2. There is a significant leak somewhere in the pound above the lock.
  3. CRT are back pumping water all the way back to the pound above Soulbury 3 Locks because of the stoppage at Leighton Lock.

Walking the towpath often leads to sights that might pass unnoticed when boating.  On today’s walk I came upon three different types of canal markers.

This one was just a baby hiding in the grass and I nearly tripped over it.  GJC is obviously the initials of the Grand Junction Canal which was the former name of the Grand Union.  I assume it became the Grand union when a number of different canals were combined, or united!

I do wonder what purpose it serves?

Meanwhile, this is a more common canal marker.  It’s taken us almost two weeks and we’ve moved the amazing distance of 40 miles!

Now I haven’t seen one like this before.  Rather quaint!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Stoke Hammond Lock

Off to Stoke Hammond Lock… but on foot!  We awoke to the heaviest frost of the year and the canal frozen over.  Jan managed the get the ice breakers working.  A relatively simple task.  All she had to do is throw a few of MY crackers out the side hatch and the two swans did the rest.  She (Jan) is hopefully at the peak of her winter cold and can start on the road to recovery.  I suspect she is becoming stir-crazy trapped inside Waiouru.

I can report the towpath to our next lock (Stoke Hammond) is in good order.  But even if it was muddy, it would have been frozen mud.

Something caught my eye just beyond Fenny Stratford Lock.  My initial reaction was these lock gates had been installed for a future restoration.

Then I realised they were decorative.

Further down the towpath there were signs of CM nests.  I’m not sure if they have been scared off by my passage or gone scavenging.

We will be passing this way so I wanted to check on the price of diesel at Willowbridge Marina.

79.9p/ltr.  We haven’t seen it that high in several months.  Perhaps the price will rise as we head south.  A few phone calls may be on tomorrows ‘to do’ list.  Interestingly, they had a sign on the wharf stating boat owners will need to provide proof of insurance before their boat would be lifted out.  I’d be more concerned to know the boatyard had insurance and their crane had been tested and certified safe.



The initial impression of Stoke Hammond Lock was that it might originally have been paired.

Two bridge arches with the same span? 

The single lock has a former lock keepers cottage on one side and a pump house on the other.  The latter has been converted into a home.

This foreigner appears to have ruffled the feathers of one of the locals.

Last night’s weather forecast was for rain this afternoon…… But it didn’t happen here!  It’s been a beautiful day, albeit cold!  Tomorrow I might head back to Lidl.  Their weatbix Is far superior to anything we’ve purchased from the other supermarkets.  I’ve managed to fit the small kiwi flag onto the end of the piece of dowel purchased from Wickes.  We don’t have a saw on board but the Leatherman multi-tool had a blade that did the trick.  Walking around the exterior of Waiouru I can see some touch-up paint is required in a few places.  But that won’t happen until the weather gets warmer.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Codebreakers–Part 2

Another trip to Bletchley Park today but this time to the Museum of Computing where I was able to view more decoding machines.

In the previous post I mentioned the German Enigma machines and how Alan Turing played a key roll in developing the bombe machines which assisted in identifying the daily ‘key’ to the various Enigma codes.  Alan Turing had very little involvement with the deciphering of the German high level codes which were created using the Lorenz encryption machines.

The British had received an Enigma machine from the Polish codebreakers but they had never seen a Lorenz machine.  Imagine you knew someone was going from A to B quickly using something you had named a car.  You also needed to get from A to B quickly and built your own car to do this.  The chances of both car’s looking the same are extremely unlikely.  And so the British Lorenz machine looks nothing like the original German.

 A Lorenz cipher machine

The Enigma machine was first built with 3 wheels (cogs) each having 26 ‘teeth’.  During the war the Germans added a 4th cog along with two additional cogs as replacements. 

From 1941 onwards the British knew the Germans had another machine for high level communications between senior commanders.  They nicknamed the machine ‘Tunny’ but they couldn’t decipher the messages.  Eventually a German operator made a mistake and sent the same message twice without changing the machine settings.  This gave the British two one foot lengths of paper punch tape with different punch hole positions but they knew the message was the same.

The tapes were given to Bill Tutte, a brilliant mathematician who spent a month on his own examining the tapes and from them deduced the Lorenz had 12 cogs and each cog had a different number of teeth.  He even correctly identified the cog sequence.  This was an incredible feat. Tutte went on to create a methodology for identifying the starting point for each of the cogs.

The Tunny messages would be received by British wireless listening stations in the SE of England and then sent to Bletchley Park for decoding.

The radio receivers would have looked like those in the background

Because the British were now able to identify the starting position of the Lorenz and knew how it worked (albeit they hadn’t seen one) the encrypted messages could be manually decoded by staff in the ‘Testery’.  But it was slow work and the volume of messages was dramatically increasing. Max Newman then designed a machine to do the decryption.  The female naval ratings who operated the machine named it ‘Heath Robinson’ after the cartoonist William Heath Robinson, who drew immensely complicated mechanical devices for simple tasks.

Heath Robinson

The Heath Robinson ran two synchronised paper tapes in the “bedstead” where the punch holes were read by a photoelectric cell.  The problem with the machine was the paper tapes would stretch and get out of synchronise.  Additionally, the speed of the tapes was limited to 25mph.

Tommy Flowers then designed a new machine which would operate using electric vacuum valves.  Many of the key staff were sceptical about his idea but he was given approval to design and build the machine.  Flowers and his team managed to build it in 11 months and on it’s first run it amazed the cryptologists by breaking the Lorenz code in the 10 minutes. 

The WRENS who operated it named the machine Colossus

Colossus was one of the first electrical programmable computers.  However it didn’t have a memory.  It’s major components were:

  • A tape transport and photo-electric reading mechanism very similar to Heath Robinson's.
  • A coder and adder that simulated the Lorenz machine using thyratron rings.
  • A logic unit that performed Boolean operations.
  • A master control that contained the electronic counters.
  • A printer

At the end of the war Churchill ordered all the Bombe, Heath Robinson’s and Colossus’ be destroyed.  Except that two new Colossus under construction were completed and sent to what is now known as GCSB where they operated until 1960.

Churchill distrusted the Soviet’s and they were never told the Allies had broken the Lorenz cipher.  However the Soviet’s knew Enigma had been broken.  After the war the Soviet’s extensively used captured Lorenz cipher machines.  Perhaps the British were listening?

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Stoppages and the Aussie

We have been watching the CRT winter maintenance stoppages and deciding whether to move slowly or quickly.  Today I produced a simple spread sheet to automatically calculate the dates.  There is a stoppage behind us at Bridge84, Milton Keynes.  Originally it was planned to commence on 12 January but we received a subsequent email from CRT advising the start date had moved to 19 January.  Not wanting to be caught by a date error, we moved through the bridge before the 12th.  Today I walked back and had a look at the repair work being undertaken by the CRT contractors.

I must admit I couldn’t see any sign of the contractors either!  Smile

There is a stoppage ahead of us just before Leighton Buzzard.  There are two pounds between us and the stoppage and CRT sent us an email to advise access to the second pound must be booked whilst the stoppage is in place.  We can’t see any reason to move whilst the stoppage is in place and will probably wait until 27 January to move forward to the end of the next pound.

The critical window is between Leighton Buzzard and Hemel Hempstead.  There are only five days to get past the stoppage at Hemel Hempstead.  Once past there is plenty of time to pass the remaining stoppages on the way to London.  If we don’t get through the Hemel Hempstead stoppage then the earliest we can reach the greater London area is mid March.  Covering the distance to Hemel Hempstead is feasible, but we would have to cruise longer every day.  Moreover we wouldn’t be able to visit Aylesbury.

We are not working to a tight timetable and we’re therefore likely to take our time and visit Aylesbury. 

The canal didn’t freeze overnight which made it easier for the swans to visit the side hatch and be fed my biscuits by Jan.  The householder opposite keeps hens and Jan heard the announcement of a fresh egg.  Then she told me “There’s a Koala Bear in a tree opposite us!”

Well I couldn’t see it!  Perhaps one of us has been on recreational chemicals? Winking smile

“It’s there!”  Nope… still couldn’t see the bear……

He’s a big bastard and probably fell out of the tree because he has no claws!