Monday, 29 August 2011

The Cows !! – BW Cut Costs

Monday 22nd August to Sunday 28th August 2011

11 Miles, 3 Locks – for this week

Totals: 711 Miles, 595 Locks, 22 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 12 Swing Bridges

It used to be that when you were younger, the day after you got a haircut was always a lot colder than the day before and because of the haircut you thought you were freezing; well the boating equivalent was this week – Richard from RML Services (Mobile Marine Engineers) came on Thursday to take away the diesel heater for a service in preparation for winter – what happened the next day? – Winter arrived – well, Friday was a very cold and wet day and probably would have been a day when the heater would have been on, but it wasn’t there – in fact Thursday was a fine and sunny day up until 5 minutes after he disappeared around the bend below the Hillmorton locks – then it got colder.

Thursday was also a memorable day, as earlier on it seemed to me that BW must have read my blog last week and seen the two guys mowing the towpath grass, when we were moored at Hawkesbury Junction – at Hillmorton we had a mother and child double act achieving a similar result but at a much reduced cost (see pictures); so I am thinking, were BW the real instigators of this escape from the adjoining field to get the grass trimmed on the cheap.

"not quite my best side"

"try that again - I forgot to smile"

Back to being a single-hander means that locks are a potential place to hold up other crews and I was aware that the Hillmorton locks with three relatively close together should be traversed early; with this in mind I set off on Saturday rather early but quietly; I also needed to fill the water tank so a stop at the water point – the one nearer to the locks than the other – knowing that the boat in front (on the long term moorings) was empty – hadn’t seen anyone there at all and it was all locked up – I gently and quietly pulled in – obviously not quiet enough for some. The woman from the boat 50 metres back poked her head out and whilst I could not hear all of the words, the ones that I did told me that unlike the name of the boat I might be wrong to say she was lady-like.

Seemed strange to me, because standing at the back of my boat I could clearly hear the noise from a major road nearby and the trains from the line – both of which were more audible than the engine on the boat.

For my favourite sister-in-law, Vivienne, I have including these pictures of Banjo as she has requested.

Looks just like a gremlin before he is fed after midnight

The left-ear up, right-ear down technique

This is the same dog that this week has achieved the following:

1. decided that he would lie on his back and scratch it on the grass on the towpath – on the towpath grass that was sloping down to the canal – the same grass that was still wet from the overnight rain – the wet grass would have been fine – the splash into the canal gave him away – yes – slid down the grass and straight in – he did manage to scramble out himself

2. as I was about to exit the top lock at Hillmorton and before I had engaged the prop, the sounds and the water splashing onto the back deck gave him away again – despite telling him to stay on the boat he has decided to jump on/jump off on either side of the boat – I guess this time he mistimed – he had a few more miles to think about what he had done.

3. has decided that canal water tastes better than fresh water from the tank on board

Moving along the part of the canal shared by both the Oxford and the Grand Union a sad sight for those whose interest lie in the boating heritage – a boat moored on the bottom

Someone will see value in restoring it
- not me

NB "Iceberg" - 90% below the water

A walk into Braunston on Saturday, was followed by a thunderstorm on the way back to the boat and not just the lightning and the thunder but we had hail as well – result was a drenched dog; my umbrella protected all of me but my shoes.

He is a bit cleaner now after the bath – a pastime he decidedly doesn’t enjoy.

So we have settled in for the long weekend – a long weekend signifying the end of summer – I think that arrived last Thursday at 11am.

Sunday was a chance to have a day off from work and anything else to worry about – first real day off in two months – a phone call from James on Friday to see where I would be on Sunday and then another this morning to make sure of where we should meet – The Boathouse (on the canal) – walked into the pub at just after 12 and didn’t have time to even order a beer when he was there – neither Debbie nor the two girls – Rachel and Kathryn – knew anything about it and were very much surprised to see me walk out to the car to greet them.

Had a really nice day – walked back to the boat so that they could spoil Banjo; talked a lot and then back to the pub to have a meal – they left about 5 hours after arriving, but it was such a good afternoon.

Above everything else for this week the very best news of all is that Diane has booked her return ticket and will be back in mid September – so we now only have to count the days off the calendar.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Can you hear the hum, Fernando?

Monday 15th August to Sunday 21st August 2011

12 Miles, 1 Lock, 1 Tunnel, 1 Swing Bridge– for this week

Totals: 700 Miles, 592 Locks, 22 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 12 Swing Bridges

The newest crew member has had a very good week continuing to learn about boating life and sleeping in a bit past 4 am when he came to check if I was awake – I pretended to be sound asleep – I am sure he wanted to go out for a pee – have to hold on for a bit longer

We had moored almost at Hawkesbury Junction – well only 500 metres away.

Over and back many times across the lock gates at Sutton Stop Lock – a old dab hand at this he has become.

So an easy walking area with a nice towpath – not muddy or really that dirty – plenty of boats moored along the line – as is always the case.

we didn't actually cruise past this but did walk past it a few times -
bridge decoration on the way into Coventry
Banjo’s attitude this week during the regular 3 times a day walks was to poke his nose into everyone’s cratch if it was open and, if he could get away with it, walking onto the back deck to see what was happening.

The ducks have not caused any concern – he walks along and really without deviating from the towpath, they seem to want to go onto the water.

The first encounter with a swan went well – well it went well for the swan who reacted, as could have been predicted, when a dog gets too close; raised itself to full height with loud hissing and didn’t back off an inch when the dog was barking – the dog however wimped out of it.

The Greyhound has become a firm favourite with him especially around lunchtime – seems something finds its way from the plate directly to him and usually other dogs around to get to know.

not only police travel in pairs -
 how many does it take to cut the towpath grass

why does it seem to cost double to cut the grass

The moorings are pretty good here really, the only thing that could be said against them was the constant humming from the M6 motorway which is only about a kilometre away.

Inside with all of the doors and windows closed, it can still be heard quite clearly through the mushroom vents and is a constant in the background when outside; further down the towpath and near to the crossover point it can be quite noisy, so not sure how the natives feel about it.

Moved just a few miles on Friday down onto the North Oxford – still the continuing hum of the M6 in the distance; he alternated equally between the roof, the back deck and the seat.

that pesky M6 - funny that it was noisy only on one side
- after we passed underneath the noise disappeared
- must be uni-directional mufflers on the trucks
Don't get me wrong, the hum is not causing any problems to me, it is just that I wonder about the people who live around and near the motorways and the fact that there is enough traffic in the early morning to be causing the hum that it does.

A pleasant morning cruising down to Rugby, where we caught up with Geoff and Jackie from nb Benson, whom we had met at Hawkesbury Junction – we chatted again for quite a while and Geoff took no pity on the woman from nb Suant when she was enquiring about some porthole covers – stirred her unmercifully – she took it all very well.

Sunday – a day of rest – that would be nice – but I did manage to find out how to carefully remove the windows from the boat – Steve on nb Vivien Anne was doing two of his – removing any underlying rust, painting and resealing, so very much an instructive day – now all I need to do is be confident enough to put the theory into practice.

Banjo is finding his place when moving; has found his place when moored; and will find his place pretty quick again at 4 in the morning.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

If the dog floats, does that mean he is a witch?

Monday 1st August to Sunday 14th August 2011

25 Miles, 2 Tunnels– for this fortnight

Totals: 688 Miles, 591 Locks, 21 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 11 Swing Bridges

I decided that for the first week there really wasn’t anything worthwhile talking about – just a lot of time spent working, no travelling and nothing really worth disturbing anyone’s napping time.

A family of swans "terrorising" the end of the Ashby

The highlight this week has been the arrival of our dog, Banjo – a gold spoodle, now 10 years old. He flew in by Qantas and arrived on Wednesday morning at Heathrow.

No trouble with duty-free or declarations and no rabies either. No need for quarantine as he had his paperwork and vet certificates in order. So a trip down to the Animal Centre at Heathrow to pick him up.

Do you ever wonder what has gone wrong when you encounter a government run department that actually runs efficiently; is friendly; and ahead of time? Well you will have a lot to be wary of regarding the Animal Centre because all of these apply – I arrived a bit ahead of time – about an hour – you can never be sure of traffic; I entered the door which was marked for pick-ups; followed the instructions on the inner-door. A person appeared within 10 seconds; asked me my name and the name of my pet; within 2 minutes was back with the paperwork – I only had to sign that I had received it and then a further 5 minutes and Banjo was out.

From the time I stopped the car in the carpark until I drove out, the elapsed time was no more than 20 minutes – surely these people are able to run a whole country – on that basis England would be out of the mire in which it finds itself.

But I guess they are different to the politicians – the animal people are sticking to something they know about.

So the rest of the week was taken up with acclimatising Banjo to his new surroundings; making sure that he got used to the sounds of the boat; starting up, stopping, getting up and down the back steps – not an easy task for a small dog.

Later in the week we moved the boat; let him get the wind in his hair and then moored up; long walks to let him familiarise himself with the English smells.

Saturday was a longer cruise and involved mooring up for water, so we needed to start working on where he should be and he was fine; he was almost mesmerised by the sound and flow of the water from the prop and laid down on the back deck to watch it – the ducks did not deter his concentration and he wasn’t concerned about much else.

After a while he decided to move up onto the roof and wander back and forth to see what was happening around him.

All went well until…..

Being a single-hander, there is always a time that comes for the need of a natural break (as they say in cycling) – you can’t just duck downstairs and spend a penny; I needed to moor up and ‘do what I gotta do’.

Well, anyway, I couldn’t quite get the back of the boat in close to the edge – well it was out a fair way – so far that I needed to move down the gunnel to midway to jump to the towpath and tie up.

It was during this process that Banjo decided that he would emulate what I had done; so he walked carefully down the gunnel, got to where I had jumped from. It is worth saying that he is not the type of dog that is really gung-ho about doing things – in fact he is pretty timid. Not on this occasion – and jump he did.

He is not known as a dog that jumps far and he didn’t astound me on this score – straight into the canal; but no panic, he was on the water, not under and it was only a matter of quickly pulling him out.

Looking like a drowned water rat, he shook himself off and I tied up and went below, leaving him on the towpath.

As I finished there was this strange scratching noise on the outside of the boat – yes – he had tried to jump back on again and missed. Plucking him out again and onto the roof; getting clear of the dog spray as he shook, I untied and got under way again.

Banjo was left to think about what he had done and, not being too cold, he dried off relatively quickly during the rest of our cruise.

In his defence I can say that he has mastered everything else that he has been asked to do – he is very good at getting off and getting back on – when the boat is right along side the towpath.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Evidence of Things not Seen

Monday 25th July to Sunday 31st July 2011

14 Miles – for this week

Totals: 663 Miles, 591 Locks, 19 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 11 Swing Bridges

No cycling this week, football hasn’t started yet (well that’s only if you don’t count the SPL), the Olympics are a year away, so what is there to do for watching any sort of sport – well I didn’t count the European Darts Championship as truly a sport – only in the sense that the training revolves around drinking alcohol and eating – it’s a bit like saying the jockeys are sportspeople because they weigh next to nothing and can steer a horse – in my mind it’s the horse that actually does the running.

But I did poke my head into the realm of the aforementioned darts this week – now I know how to throw a dart or two, but not with any sort of accuracy, but I saw something that had the commentators in ecstasy about yesterday – what was the equivalent of a perfect 300 ten-pin bowling game (another “sport” based on alcohol and food) – the 9-dart leg – reaching 501 on a double with only 9 darts – you find something new everyday and now I can cross this one off my list of things I must see in my life – and I didn’t even know that I wanted to see it.

However, one of the things that I did want to see and I did (in fact) see it – or not see it – not quite sure.

The Ashby runs along side the Battle of Bosworth area, so I went for a bit of a stroll (long walk) to see it all.

The exhibition in the Battle Centre is very good and explains a lot of the history surrounding this period in England’s past, but with the re-examination of the area in the last 5 years, it was still unclear to me where exactly the actual battle took place – I know that they are in the process of moving the commemorative stone and signs and that this does take time – it just means I will have to go back again to see the battle site for sure.

The weekend had for a little while, been assigned as the time for re-varnishing the two sets of back doors and the frames of the wardrobes – it had taken a little while to actually be able to get what I wanted and it would take some time to apply the necessary number of coats of the varnish.

The varnish in question is a marine-grade waterborne polyurethane satin – very low odour and suitable for exterior as well as interior use.

Preparation and removing everything in the area took some time and then on Saturday it was into it – 4 coats in the day – 2 hours between each coat. Sunday came and time for the second round of varnishing – I consulted the data for a second time for recoating information – mmmm!! – one says the maximum recoat time is 6 hours and the other says ….. 6 days ??? - both sets of glasses said the same thing
Took the advice on the can and resanded before reapplying.

After all of that it was off for Sunday lunch at The Globe which was excellent by the way.

Where emphasis is placed on the result, without the public necessarily associating the people in the same way as you would an athlete or swimmer – what was SkySports showing – Formula 1 and Superbikes.