Monday, 31 October 2016

End of autumn and and extra hour

Jan appeared to become quite animated yesterday evening whilst browsing on her tablet. Apparently Aldi had some interesting weekly ‘specials’.  I’m not usually sensitive to these ‘vibs’ but for some reason they made an impression.  I knew it would mean an early start as the Aldi is on the opposite side of Tamworth.  However daylight saving ended today which gave me an additional hour.  I examined the map and selected the shortest route before leaving just after 9am and with plenty of spare time I wandered around the centre of Tamworth before arriving outside Aldi at 9.50.
No wonder the centre of Tamworth was empty; the entire population had formed a mass gathering outside the supermarket.  All the blue and pink rinse little old ladies had grabbed a trolley and formed a protective wall in front of the door.  It was like joining a herd of sheep outside the shearing shed.  Everyone was evaluating everyone else as a potential competitor.  At 9.58 we were under starters orders poised to make a dash for the door.  At 10am the doors automatically opened immediately resulting in 15 trolleys forming a jam.  Much jostling followed as I joined the herd.  Like sheep, the majority of them followed each other down the first aisle whereas cunning me diverted around the first checkout counter and got a clear run to the specials.  I’d managed to grab the first two items on the list before the blue and pink horde descended upon me.  Some of those little old ladies play rough.  In particular those height challenged would try and sneak under my outstretched arm to grab something in my trolley.  I know how to play dirty and either stood on a few feet or jabbed with the elbows (whilst apologising most profusely).  However it didn’t take long for me to realise that if I stayed much longer the herd was likely to tear me down and trample me underfoot.
I was back at Waiouru by 10.45 showing Jan her Christmas presents.
I knew she would love the 800 Watt reciprocating saw so I bought her a pack of spare wood and steel cutting blades.  She is going to have endless hours of fun with it (practicing vasectomies).  I know she has been looking for a step drill set and the countersunk drill bits.
Apparently I could have done better and there was some significant disappointment about failing to obtain the last item.   I felt guilty about this and, after lunch, walked back for a second visit.  Fortunately whilst scavenging through a basket of left handed screwdrivers I found the item I was looking for.  Somehow the blue and pink horde had missed it.
So that was my 10km walk and calisthenics for the day. 
Oh….There was no Sunday roast lunch for Jan because I spent all the money on her in Aldi.
A couple of interesting observations during the walk.
Tamworth Castle is Grade 1 listed Norman motte and bailey castle built on the banks of the River Tame.There has been a fort on this site since Saxon times.
P1030489The oldest part of the castle appeared to be the gatehouse and that dates back to the 15th century.  The outer wall is made of brick (not Roman) and you can see in the above photo that there are glass windows. 
The market hall in Market Street didn’t appear to be very old, however researching the history of it provided a few interesting facts.
The hall appears to have been built in 1912. But the interesting part comes from the Visit Tamworth website.
“Thomas Guy’s Almshouses stand on Lower Gungate, The Almshouses were built in 1678 at a cost of £200 by Thomas Guy.  They provided housing for 7 poor women.  Each resident had their own entrance and living room and the large central garden was used to cultivate vegetables.  The original Almshouses stood for 234 years before being demolished in 1912.  The were rebuilt on the same site in the ‘Free Georgian’ architectural style of the original.  They were later amended and extended in 1928 and 1936 and have remained unchanged since.
In 1708, Thomas Guy banned residents of Tamworth from the Almshouses.  Those able to benefit from the Almshouses were restricted to his own relatives and people living in the outlying villages of Amington, Bolehall, Glascote, Hopwas, Wigginton and Wilnecote.  This restriction is still in place today, with the stone plaque above the main entrance reading ‘Guy’s Almshouses for relations and Hamleteer”
Apparently Guy banned residents of Tamworth because in 1708 the population refused to re-elect him as their member of Parliament.
“Rejecting Tamworth, he turned his attention back to London where he personally financed the building of Guy’s Hospital, Southwark in 1722.”

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Boy Racers

We were woken up at 11.45pm by the noisy and nearby sound of the local ‘boy racers’ having a “meeting”.  Screaming of engines and tyres along with a number of explosions.  Not the crack of rifle fire; more like a loud shotgun.  My guess is they were using the roads in the adjacent Ventura Business and Retail Park.  These guys obviously earn too much money!  The noise died down around 2am.

More boat painting yesterday and today.  You can see the blue masking tape on the rear doors in the photo below.


I’ve prepared and painted the graphite grey area inside the door jamb.  The masking tape is there to protect the light grey paint on the exterior.  I also sanded and painted the sliding hatch making a right pigs ear of the finish.  It was my error as I failed to add Owatrol to the paint.  The paint was too thick and the finish had huge brush marks in it.  Today I sanded the hatch back and had a second attempt.  But only after I’d added Owatrol to the paint.  The finish isn’t much better.  This time the sanding was too coarse.  It is now going to need a number of coats to get the desired mirror finish.

We ran the Refleks stove today and it warmed the boat so well we had to put the bungs in the portholes to prevent peepers looking into the nudist colony!Smile 

I discussed the Refleks flue with the UK distributor when we passed through Shadlow several months ago and identified a couple of interesting facts.  The first was his comment that the stove could be run whilst on the move by removing the straight sections and just fit the top directly onto the cabin roof.  It this is done then turn up the stove slightly to increase the draw.  The second fact was the long sections of flue are the same price as the short sections.  The stove came with one of each but we now have two long sections (same price).  This has improved the stove’s performance. 


Saturday, 29 October 2016

Fradley to Tamworth

There is a SOLD sign on the canal cottage at Shadehouse Lock.  I think the cottage has been on the market for a considerable time and I wonder if the new owner knows how close the cottage is to the proposed route of the HS2 high speed train.

We didn’t stop at Fradley Junction.  Just slowed enough for Jan to take the obligatory photo of The Swan. We’ve eaten there twice and and on one of those occasions were weren't that impressed with the food.


Something new near Fradley Village.  Temporary pipes across the towpath are discharging water into the canal.


On the other side of the road adjacent to the canal was a partially obscured collection of large brick buildings with large pipes rising from the ground.


My assumption is this was a sewage works or a water pumping station.  However I can’t find the buildings in Google Maps or Google Earth?

At noon we moored opposite the boats at Streethay Wharf.  Where we received another two ‘westies’.   Both boats had attempted to wind (turn) in the wide are between the towpath side of the canal and the boats moored opposite.  We were minding our business inside the cabin when the first boat “T boned” us square on with his bow (no fender). Their bow missed one of Waiouru’s portholes by two inches.  The second boat misjudged their turn and proceeded to reverse back down the side of us banging against us as they did so.

For those who don’t know what a “westie” is then it’s an expression I picked up from Sarah’s blog(db Dolcie Blue).  The expression comes from the actions of actor and boater Timothy West who has been recorded hitting a number of boats, locks, bridges, etc and heard to say “It’s a contact sport!”  So any steerer who hits something he shouldn’t has done a “westie”.

The eastern end of the Litchfield Canal can be seen at Huddlesford Junction.


There is a proposal to restore the canal through to Ogley Junction on the BCN which would provide another route into Birmingham but I doubt I’ll see it in my lifetime.  This end is currently an arm of moored boats.

P1030479Jan is enjoying the autumn colours. 

P1030481P1030483Not so pleasing is the effect of falling leaves in the canal at this time of the year. They cling to the propeller forming a ‘leaf ball’ which can reduce speed significantly.  Several bursts of reverse usually clears them. 

We reached the northern outskirts of Tamworth around 4.30pm finding plenty of vacant moorings.  A little retail therapy for Jan tomorrow whilst I shall visit Halfords to buy more engine oil. 

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Our ‘Westie’

Jan made a final trip to Tesco for her magazines before leaving Rugeley (Roo-g-lee).  It was only a short cruise to the water point and along the way Jan noticed this rather appealing pale blue garden seat.


We stopped at the water point before Armitage Tunnel for 30 minutes and then Jan walked ahead with one of the 2-way radios to check If the narrows were clear. 


The roof of the tunnel was removed in 1971 after subsidence from nearby underground coal mining.  It’s now just a narrow cutting on a blind bend.  Jan radioed that the way was clear, however I waited for the obligatory blessing before engaging the prop.


Looks like we got him out of bed! Smile

There was an overgrown and narrow section of the canal just east of Handsacre and of course (as you do) we met a boat coming the other way.  I was trying to keep Waiouru as close to starboard (the right) as possible when we hit a solid submerged object and bounced across the canal to hit the oncoming boat.  We apologised to the steerer who acknowledged it wasn’t deliberate or incompetence on our part.   Our first “Westie”!

Only one lock today and we somehow managed to collect a number of unwanted hangers-on around the prop as we exited. 


Some bursts of reverse removed most of them and we slowly cruised on to find a vacant mooring above Shadehouse Lock.  The mizzle appeared to have moved on so I boldly wiped down the first coat of paint on both handrails before rubbing them with a pot pad (see below) 


The pad is sufficiently abrasive to add some fine scratches to the ‘'”green” (soft & new) paint.  I don’t want to remove any of the paint but rather ‘key’ it so the second coat has something to grip on to.  The handrails then received their second coat.  This now leaves us with handrails around the cockpit to paint.  I’ll need to remove the pram cover and frame to do them, which means we need two clear days.

Jan just had to take a photo of the boat and butty that passed us later in the afternoon. 


I was slightly perturbed about the cratch on the boat.  The cratch had been enclosed with a timber frame and then been clad in plywood.  A stove flue extended out the port (left) forward corner of the plywood and I guess the stove was against the gas locker bulkhead.  It screamed “fire hazard” at me.

Halfie our Beta Engine manual states The engine oil should be CF (CD or CE) 15W/40 (depending upon ambient temperature)  The note states   A good quality SAE 15W/40 mineral based multigrade oil as used in most car diesel engines will meet requirements.  Do not use lubricant additives,and the use of synthetic oil is not recommended.

Mobil Super 1000 X1 15W/40 is a premium mineral multigrade oil.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Mostly boring

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Bloody Steps

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

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

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


Taft Bridge

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

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


It didn’t look like a £65,000 boat!

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


Bloody Steps to the left at the bend

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

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

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

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

Monday, 24 October 2016

More painting

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Signals and hot air

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


No queue today

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


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


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

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


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


Now moored at Great Haywood.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

More on the dehumidifier

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


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


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


Thank you for the encouragement gentlemen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 21 October 2016

The Dehumidifier Experiment

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


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

Input is 240V and 1.5A = 360W

Output 12V and 6A = 72W

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

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

I needed a few things to complete the conversion.


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Continuing south

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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