Monday, 30 March 2015

Buy A Boat and Get a Free "Lucky Dip" of tools.....

Posted by Alan

Well it has to be faced up to!

I have reluctantly started to find out what lurks in the several inches of grease and oil ridden water that were residing below "Flamingo's" engine.

Plenty of old cans, and rags, but rather more dangerously, at least one broken bottle which had jagged ends pointing upwards.  I was rather lucky to get away with this unexpected find, as I felt around in the sludge with my bare hands.

However some rather more useful stuff has also started to surface, so here is a selection of what I have pulled from just two very small sections of the engine room bilge that I can actually reach in to....

The cross head screwdriver and the adjustable spanner came up this afternoon when I managed to drop one of my own small spanners in.

As I reached down to try and find it, I captured both of these, before I successfully found what I had actually dropped.

I wonder how much else is lurking down there, although unless engine and fuel tanks ever come out, I don't expect I'll ever find most of it.

Friday, 27 March 2015

"Chalice" Now Advertised For Sale.

We simply can't go on owning three narrow boats!

We had hoped to have "Chalice" on the market sooner than this, but life has rather got in the way.

Anyway we are finally there, and today Rugby Boats at Stowe Hill Wharf near Weedon on the Grand Union have added "Chalice" to their website.

Details here.

Pictures here.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Flamingo - Sky Blue and Orange?

Posted by Cath

This is not a boating post, this is part of an occasional series, which chronicles the work involved with getting Flamingo refitted to our taste and requirements.  It won't be a blow by blow, this is what we did on each day, but more a 'these are the things we did this week'.

Flamingo's previous owner had very different requirements to us. She was permanently moored, and connected to mains 240 V electricity, and was used as a regular 'pied a terre' for the owner who regularly worked in nearby Coventry, some distance from his home in Scotland. He didn't need to consider how much mains power he used, and he fitted a large diesel heating unit in the engine room, which he seems to have used to run the central heating most of the time. There is also a large multi-fuel stove, which can run the radiators, but we think that he ran the heating by diesel most of the time.  There is also a massive bathroom, with a full sized bath. At the moment, for us to have a very shallow bath means running the stove hard, with the radiators turned off, to get the water in the tanks hot enough.  Why are we not using the diesel heater, then? Well, it uses a lot of diesel, and on the one occasion Alan tried to get it lit he managed to singe a lot of his hair and beard - I put a veto on it at that point. We are considering getting rid of it as it is not really practical for our needs, and takes up a lot of space in the engine room, making any engine maintenance difficult.

Our needs will be very different. Flamingo is a historic boat, and was one of the last boats to deliver grain to Wellingborough mill in Easter 1969. Our intention is that she is a cruising boat to replace Chalice, but we also want to take her to as many historic boat festivals as possible. She needs to be comfortable and warm, be able to have guests on board, but she needs to be able to do this largely on 12 V as we will be away from 'shore power' while cruising. We will have an inverter to give some 240 V, but this will drain our battery power. At the moment the central heating pump is 240 V, so we need to think about alternatives, especially as the pump is extremely noisy when run on the inverter.

We will need to get rid of the bath in the future, as it uses so much water, and considerable amounts of fuel to get that much water up to temperature. This means that the bathroom can be much smaller, which will give us more space for the kitchen and living room.

While we were prevented doing very much to the boat at the beginning of the year by Alan's health issues, and because we were getting Chalice ready to go to the brokerage, we have also been thinking about what we want to do with Flamingo, and where we might start what is going to be a major refit. We didn't want to rush into this, because we wanted to think about where the best place to start might be, given that anything we do will have some repercussions elsewhere - for example, anything which involves the plumbing will mean that we cannot then run the central heating.

Fortunately, Flamingo has a back cabin, with a small stove, so whatever state the main cabin is in, we will aways be able to retreat there. However, when I took the mattresses from the cross bed home to get the covers dry cleaned our sons complained about the strong smell of diesel in the house. The foam mattresses had been permeated with this smell, so I washed them in the bath - this was a mistake. The resulting stench of diesel filled the entire house and was so bad that I got the mattresses out of the house to go to the tip by getting our son to throw them out of the bathroom window. We have now ordered new mattresses on line, but one of our tasks while we are here this week is to find out what it was that caused the mattresses to smell so strongly.

This week

We spent some time first on Chalice, polishing things and making sure that she was clean for the brokerage. Then, the following day, we went boating on William (already blogged by Alan). Then we had to think about getting on with sorting Flamingo out.

Alan lifted the floors in the back cabin which confirmed that there was no liquid or any problems under the cabin. However, we know that there is a quantity of oily water under the engine - we think that this is the most likely cause of the diesel smell in the mattresses in the back cabin which is right next to the engine room - unless the previous owner had stored oily rags in there.

Alan's tasks this week have been to look at the liquid under the engine and try to sort out the electrics to be more suited to our need.

Several times in my life I have understood electrics enough to get through exams, however, as soon as the exam has been over the information has left my brain. This does not worry me in the least, I know that I am never going to need to use it.  Alan has so much better and deeper knowledge and understanding of all things electrical that I couldn't possibly pit my paltry understanding against his. If there is an electrical task, then he is the man for it. I don't bother to retain this information, why would I need to?  I generally leave him to it when there is something electrical to be done.  If necessary I can hold things, make coffee, supply biscuits, but if he needs a second opinion, I am most definitely not the person to provide it.

So, Alan spent several days testing electrics and batteries, and pumping mucky water out from the engine room.  How did it get there? We don't know, until it is investigated we won't be able to make any guesses.

My first task was to try to reduce the clutter in Flamingo. 

Last week we moored Chalice at Flamingo's mooring before taking it to the brokerage, and emptied everything on board into Flamingo - which has a great deal more space, but a great deal less storage.  The general effect was something like a very untidy garden shed.

Over the previous week we had visited our local second-hand furniture store, and bought a fairly large pine cupboard (which Alan had to modify to add another shelf). I spent much of the day going through the bags of dumped items from Chalice and the few cupboards on Flamingo to rationalise what we want to keep on board - and then find space to store it - either in the ridiculously limited kitchen cupboards, or the new pine cupboard (mainly crockery) or the set of drawers that we had bought a few weeks earlier. I was left with several large bags of clutter and duplicates to take home.

The following day I was supposed to be rubbing down and undercoating the steel cover that Alan had attached to block off the old cat flap that made it impossible to fully open the doors and so made it hard for Odin to get into and out of the cabin. However, I thought that I would just rub down the paintwork which had been tar damaged from the chimney, and then I found some other bits that needed attention...

Eventually I had rubbed down large areas of the back of the main cabin.

In medieval times they used to reuse vellum documents when it was considered that they were not needed any more.  They would be scraped, or washed down to remove the old writing. These are called palimpsests, and are of interest to historians because traces of the original writing can often be recovered. I found that Flamingo is something of a palimpsest, with traces of the old colour schemes underneath the Willow Wren livery that she sports these days.  The most surprising is the sky blue roof and orange back to the cabin. 

The formerly orange back to the main cabin on Flamingo. Alan's repair to the cat flap is currently in pink primer. The black markings is anti rust treatment prior to a coat of primer.

Nowhere to Nowhere else
Miles: 0, Locks:0

Doesn't It Look Empty Without Our Stuff!

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

Chalice is now with a broker, and should be on the market soon.

It certainly has not looked this empty (or tidy!) since we bought it!



Friday, 20 March 2015

An Excellent Spring Day Going "Bolinder Boating"

(Boat William - posted by Alan)

Today we had the opportunity to go "Bolinder Boating" - something we have never done before.

"William" is an absolutely gorgeous "Royalty" boat, and its owner Tim has recently fitted it out as a 12 berth camping boat, giving more than a hint of a return to the basic boating of the 1970s, when such things were commonplace.

"William" was built in 1931 by W J Yarwood and Sons of Northwich, and actually shares this builder with both our "Sickle" and our "Flamingo".  However "Sickle" and "Flamingo" are 1936 builds, making them mere mere babies by comparison.

"William" has a magnificent single cylinder Bolinder engine, and the irreguar beat of a Bolinder is one of the best known sounds of historic narrow boats.  However at 20 horsepower "William's" engine is more powerful than the 9HP and 15HP models that were the mainstay of the Fellows Morton & Clayton fleet.  These smaller Bolinders are actually put into "reverse" by physically causing the engine to reverse its rotation, but apparently the much heavier flywheel on "William's" Bolinder makes this less practical, so "William" does actually have a separate reversing gearbox.  This however in itself apparently does not guarantee the engine will not anyway reverse its rotation in some circumstances - I'm glad I didn' have to "drive" the thing.

Tim Collier (left) with his brother Andy used to operate camping boats in the 1970s
The trip was organised by the Leighton Buzzard Canal Society, and went from Buckby to Braunston and back, so we got a good mix of just boating, but also locks and tunnels on a particularly fine spring day.  Of course there was also a planned lunch at the Admiral Nelson. I would like to thank the Nelson for their flexibility of allowing "Odin" to sit quietly in part of the pub where less well behaved dogs are not normally allowed - well done to them!

Looking back whilst entering Braunston unnel
The only slight problem of the day wsas that the normally very calm "Odin" had to sit just ahead of the Bolinder, as we couldn't get him down into the deep hold, (accessed only by ladder).  The noise of the Bolinder in the confines of Braunston tunnel proved to be thunderous, and Odin really wasn't enjoying it at all.  As soon as we got to the locks he was absolutely fine, funning about on the towpath, but we decided not to give him any more anxiety on the return trip, so Cath walked him over the tunnel, and brought him back on when the cacophony of sounds was over.

My extreme thanks to the Carters, who own "William", to the Leighton Buzzard Canal society, and once again to the Admiral Nelson pub.  A cracking day out!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Final trip with Chalice ?

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

Reversing off our temporary mooring.
The task seemed simple - clear the remaining things from "Chalice", clean up as much as possible, then deliver boat the final half mile or so to the brokerage. ("Polish the outside" is missing from this task list, as it was raining lightly as we got up, and continued to do so intermittently.)

The reality seemed rather different, and maybe an alternate title for today's blog post might be "Two into one won't really go".  I think the amount of storage space in "Chalice" should maybe a major selling point, because for a boat we thought we had at least half cleared already, I couldn't believe how much "stuff" was still on her.  Apart from a car, all we had available was "Flamingo", which whilst large really has no fitted storage at all at the moment beyond one already full kitchen cupboard.  So, on the whole, much of what "Chalice" proved to still contain is now randomly distributed about "Flamingo" in all manner of highly inappropriate temporary skips, boxes and bags.  This is going to be fun when we start serious work again on "Flamingo"!

Setting off past "Flamingo".
Despite this, the car was packed so full there was no view out the back, and once again poor Odin could only squeeze in the front with Cath

I was under pressure to try to be back home to attend a CRT meeting in the evening, so eventually I called time on any further cleaning, and started the engine for maybe my very last trip on "Chalice".  Cath maybe had already had hers, as she travelled to the same place in the car, with Odin.

Arriving at the brokerage at Stowe Hill.
A strange feeling, both seeing the boat stripped of most of our junk, (how much more space ther seems to be!), but also realising that after 10 years she will hopefully get a new owner, and that our great canal adventure will start to involve a very different boat.

I failed to take any internal pictures, but will try to get some when we go back up for a final clean up.

High House Wharf to Stowe Hill Wharf - both near Weedon
Miles: 0.4, Locks: 0
Trip totals: Miles: 43.7, Locks: 23

Sunday, 15 March 2015

"Flamingo" and "Chalice" (Almost!) United.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

We had planned to make an early start awsay from Stoke Bruerne, but as it happened it proved to be a good thing that we didn't!  Instead we decided we would take Odin for a walk through the "woodland trail" before we set off, and as we descended back down towards the tunnel mouth I noticed two CRT employees down there, one on the mobile  It was fairly obvious to me that they must be there for a passage of a wide-beam boat. 

Blisworth tunnel was designed wide enough for two 7 feet wide narrow boats to be able to pass, but nowadays when a boat of over 7 feet width needs to traverse it, it is essential to avoid the mayhem that would result if it met something coming the other way.  So you have to book a passage, and Canal and River Trust use staff at each end of the tunnel to ensure this doesn't happen - than k goodness for mobile phones.  The odd thing is that for some time only passages at 8:00 AM, Monday to Friday have been allowed, so I have no idea why such an event was today taking place on a Sunday.

So had we got away as planned, we would have been held maybe an hour at the tunnel mouth.  Sometimes procrastination pays dividends, (and Odin got a walk).

I got very cold in the tunnel, parts of which were wetter than usual, and once I emerged the otherside it was by far the coldest day of the trip.  Thankfully Cath and I were able to swap steering fairly regularly, and then go inside to enjoy some warmth.

Our aim was to get to where "Flamingo" is moored, so we could empty the contents of "Chailice" into her, but I reasoned some tasks that still needed doing could be more easily achieved on the towpath, so we moored up for a while at Bugbrooke.  I was able to wax polish the frnt half of the cabin on that side - we are really pleased with how well the topside paintwork has revived - we worked hard painting it 4 years ago, and after much intensive use of the boat since, it is generally in remarkably good condition.

Probably as close as we will ever have Flamingo (left) & Chalice (right).
Eventually we pressed on to "Flamingo's" current mooring, and sought permission to briefly put "Chalice" on the same moorings.  We have not made much progress yet with emptying the boat, but have washed more things, and even put some paint on a hatch that had been unfinished for months.

Our son Michael drove up from home, and then drove me back to where this trip had started, so I could in turn bring a car back up.  This became a slight worry as the daylight went earlier than expected because of an overcast day, as although my eyesight has been passed fit for driving, I am uncomfortable driving in the dark.  Fortunately I was still confident I was OK by the time I got back, but for complete safety would not have cared for it to be any later, even if they say I'm OK.

A dull day, but definitely becoming a "shiny boat" again!
A planned trip for a meal at the nearby Narrowboat pub faltered, when we arrived there shortly after 07:30, and they had already stopped taking orders.  Never mind, the alternative of the Tesco "meal deal for two" provided a very acceptable meal, including a reasonable bottle of wine for a tenner - that's a few more quid we have hung on to that will undoubtedly quickly get spent on "Flamingo"

The reality that "Chalice" may not be our boat a lot longer is really starting to hit me.  I feel more emotional than I thought I would about trying to sell on what is basically a large lump of steel!

Stoke Bruerne to High House Wharf, near Weedon
Miles: 9.9, Locks: 0
Trip totals: Miles: 43.3, Locks: 23

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Possibly our last ever locks wih "Chalice"?

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

Approaching re-opened Bridge no 84 at Woolstone.
After a distinctly relaxed day yesterday, and with confirmation that the closed bridge at Woolstone was now finally open, we felt we really needed to put in a fuller day today. Up until now wev had not had a lot of control over the timetable, and could anyway have been not much more than an hour further on in our journey, because of that stoppage.

Still very much "work in progress"
Unlike when we started on Thursday there were now quite a few boats moving, several going past before we got started.  When I did get ready to go, a particularly slow and wide boat was approaching, but although I knew he would be far slower than us, I wasn't going to push off just as he was getting very close.  Fortunately he clearly recognised he was slow, and as we passed under the first bridge of the day, we found him pulled over ready to let us past.

Steerer well wrapped up against the cold.
After this progress was good, and other than a few warning signs there were no impediments to passing through the bridge that had resulted in such a long stoppage.  However it is very obvious that the works are yet nothing like complete, so lets hope nobody does anything that damages things before the several holes that now need infilling are actually attended to.

Approaching Wolverton
Somewhat unusually before Wolverton Odin made it fairly clear he wanted to be let off the boat, so Cath pulled over to let me an Odin off.  I continued to walk him up past the train mural approaching Wolverton, and on through the recent developments where some parts of the former railway carriage works  have been incorporated.

Only a small part of the "train" mural.
Then onwards to Cosgrove, where a Canal Boat Club hire crew made a bad enough approach to share the lock that we were already in to take off some of the newly replaced paint on our upper hull sides.  Not all our sprucing up of Chalice has even managed to survive a short trip North!

Wolverton, incorporating parts of railway carriage works,
The day got progressively chillier, so Cath and I were each taking relatively short perids at the tiller, and certainly not complaining when stood down by each other, allowing us to go inside to warm up.

At Stoke Bruerne locks a boat had clearly just gone up through the bottom lock before we arrived, but fortunately they were only at the next lock, so waited and allowed us to catch up and share the remainder.  A nice easy passage followed, with ample crew available, such that locks were being set in advance.

Could this really be the last lock we ever take Chalice through?
It seemed very odd to me as we passed through the top lock of the flight that it is quite possible after 10 years of ownership that we may never take Chalice though another lock.  Well more than "odd" actually - I'm quite sentimental about it, even though she is not yet being marketed.

Using the water point outside the Boat inn gave me access to the side of the boat where the paint still needs cleaning up, so I got on with that as the water tank filled.  I couldn't quite believe how windy it was though!

We then moved on to the regular moorings, and whilst I took Odin for another walk, Cath added some further paint to doors and hatches.

Sadly we have not really been impressed by meals at the Boat for a while, so elected for the Navigation instead, and it was really rather good.  A shame when a Marstons chain pub consistently does better than somewhere that has been run by the same family for generations, but to some extent the Boat really does seem happy to just rely on its history and prime location, but to not actually try that hard.

Fenny Stratford to Stoke Bruerne
Miles: 18.0, Locks: 8
Trip totals: Miles: 33.4, Locks: 23

Friday, 13 March 2015

Very relaxed boating day for us!

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

"The ones that got away, number 2" "Ajax" languishes on its mooring.
I'm not quite sure how we have taken much of the day to do a relatively small mileage and number of locks - it is not really our usual style, although we have got better about not rushing about when there is no great need.  I guess in the back of my mind I knew there was a stack of boats up at the bridge in Woolstone that has been closed for repairs, and that this stoppage was not predicted likely to end before the published time at the end of the afternoon,  So not a lot of point in rushing to be part of a procession of boats, really.

Odin observes the action at "Three Locks"
We got up not particularly early, and had a very relaxed breakfast, before getting going, but we knew we were going less than a mile before stopping again.  We had promised Dave and Betty from Canal World Forums that we would stop and show off Odin, and they were moored well short of Leighton Buzzard itself.  Odin thought meeting Dave and Betty was great fun, and used theextra space available on a wide beam boat to go even more bongers than usual when new people show him a lot of interest.  How we avoided coffee pot, milk jug or cups being swept from low tables by his vigorously wagging strong tail I'm not sure, but we managed a visit with no breakages.

Fenny Stratford lock - "Sickle" just visible beyond.
Probably less than another half mile saw us stopping on deserted visitor moorings at Leighton Buzzard to do a supermarket shop,  We decided that for once we would have a proper sit down lunch, rather than our regular habit of lunch at the tiller whilst underway.  We were not going to break any records today!

"Chalice" passes "Sickle"
To continue the theme of regular stops, I had agreed with Canal World Forum member Allan that we would also stop at his boat, as he had been changing the VHF radio installation on his boat, and needed someone else with VHF in order to check he was sending and receiving voice as he should.  I was happt to oblige, and had brought along my portable VHF - not used in many years by us, as we have not been for a long while to anywhere where VHF radio is used

Tied up for the night at Fenny.
Looking at our watches, we were clearly going to not get to the bridge where the stoppage has been by daylight so we pushed on to Fenny Stratfordm where we could do "services" for toilet and rubbish.  I quickly also checked out "Sickle" - it seems very odd to realise that if we succeed in selling "Chalice" quickly that this is the last time "Chalice" & "sickle" will be together in our ownership, and I' still having moments of sadness that "Chalice" has to go, as she has served us very well over 10 years now,

Fenny Stratford visitor moorings proved to be quite well occupied, but there were still spaces away from the lock, and we are now tied there, after a really undemanding day.

Grove Lock near Leighton Buzzard to Fenny StratfordMiles: 10.0, Locks: 7
Trip totals:
Miles: 15.4, Locks:15

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Finally Boating in 2015

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

Moved near a bridge to load up "Chalice"
As many of you may know, the first part of my year has had far more to do with NHS hospitals than it has had to do with boating.  This has severely impacted our ability to sort out very much with any of the three boats, beyond occasional checks that they are still floating, and trying to keep the two that have water systems from suffering frost damage.

In an ideal world, what should already have happened is serious attempts to get "Chalice" sold, but we felt it only fair on whoever buys her that we made some effort to tidy her up a bit.  Fortunately she is a sound and reliable boat, but after being boated very intensively last year, (more than we have ever done before), some bits were looking decidedly in need of a bit of TLC.

"Ricky" boat "Taplow" remains sunk at Cheddington.
Then there was a very very long stoppage to allow Canal and River Trust contractors to repair one of the more "hairy" looking bridges in Milton Keynes.  It had some very bad cracking, and (very worryingly) some detached brickwork in the arch which has looked for some time that it could fall on boats and boaters passing underneath.  The stoppage was planned to run over about two months, and not scheduled to end until March 13th.  This would have meant if we had try to move "Chalice" to a broker for sale, we would have had to try to do so many weeks ago, and then not only avoid this stoppage, but also others going on around that time.  We realised this would rule out doing any makeover on the boat, and frankly I was not really yet well enough to do a lightening move of "Chalice" anyway.  So we reluctantly accepted that about now was the earliest we might take the boat for sale.

Odin is absolutely overjoyed to be boating again!
All was not lost however, and I have felt more able to do serious work on boats between hospital and GP visits.  The weather has on the whole been kind, and has allowed touching up and general cleaning up of outside paint.  We may do another post on this, but basically "Chalice" now looks far more like the boat she should, and I am happier to pass her on to a new owner than had we not been able to find this extra time.

"Sudbury" shares a Willow Wrewn livery with our "Flamingo"
But we are now into what we hope will be her farewell trip with us.  A bit sad in a way - we absolutely loved the Cooks Wharf mooring, but it is only 52 feet, so no use for "Flamingo", and is really too expensive to consider moving "Sickle" to.   So we had given notice for the end of February, and have been a "boat without a home mooring" since.

So today we loaded up, and set off.  No great rush, as the feedback is that the bridge stoppage is highly unlikely to end early, so if we arrived there any earlier than tomorrow evening, we are unlikely to get through.

"Tasmania" is for sale at the moment, but seems very expensive.
We haven't seen another boat move while we were, and found every lock fully against us, and needing "turning".  I hadn't realised the degree to which my still very damaged shoulder, (which has had further X rays and an ultrasound scan in the last week or two), would affect my ability to whizz paddles up - it was often painful, but thankfully always possible.

Had we left Cooks Wharf about half an hourearlier I would be tying this in Leighton Buzzard, but with failing light and my eyesight issues, we sensibly decided to stop a lock and a couple of miles short.

Cooks Wharf to Grove Lock near Leighton Buzzard
Miles: 5.4, Locks: 8
Trip totals:
Miles: 5.4, Locks: 8