Sunday, 25 March 2012

Bound for Oz

Tuesday 20th March to Sunday 25th March 2012
No boat travel this week

Banjo was following everyone around with a familiar nervous look in his eye – the sight of suitcases coming out and being packed has the only connotation for him – we are leaving and its off to the kennels for him.

And so it was on that Tuesday morning – well the packing at least was finalised and I had everything that I needed to take with me back to Australia.

Diane had booked a taxi for 1:30 and we would have a nice leisurely lunch at Wetherspoons before it was up to the station and our goodbyes – she back to the boat, me to Manchester and a flight home.

Change at Stoke and then Manchester Piccadilly and arrived at the airport a bit later than my customary 5 hours early – the virtues of on-line check-in the night before cannot be stressed enough – the avoidance of a long queue to drop-off bags is the outcome.

Through the usual passport controls and procedures with passengers readying to fly out – and it was a relatively short wait for boarding and then a 40-minute wait for departure as a family decided to arrive late and disrupt people in their attempts to find space for a ridiculous amount of carry-on luggage.

Finally back in Melbourne after 22 hours in transit including a 2 and ½ hour stop in Dubai – time enough for a shower and change of clothes – gotta love a nice hot shower between flights.

Cleared customs in near-record time – I was out in under 30 minutes after touch down in Terra Australis – and Sam was there dutifully waiting for me (her favourite Dad) – she was there straight after her night shift had finished.

One of the joys of living not too far from the airport is the short drive back there after the flight and so it was that we were home in les than an hour after landing.

Both of the children are well – Sam and Mitch – and they have been pretty good at looking after the place.

No matter how many times you fly, you never know how the flight will affect you until you have landed and been back for a few hours – after initially feeling fine I realised that I was tired when I kept reading the same thing over and over again without really understanding it.

Coming home is then about catching up with everyone – neighbours, friends and relatives – and it is just the same again.

A day at work on Friday helped – I needed to get back into the routine and actually going into work defined the start and end of the day better than another day at home trying to work.

So now the weekend arrives and I am off to Mortlake (western Victoria) to visit my favourite aunt – Brenda.

In between all of this there has been catching up with emails as well; a doctors visit; starting on the list of things that Diane wants me bring back for her.

The Curse of the Dragon on St Patricks Day

Monday 12th March to Monday 19th March 2012
2 Miles, 2 Locks  – for the week

Totals:  1034 Miles,  856 Locks, 28 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 20 Swing Bridges

The focus of the week for a few of us was the imminent finishing of seats onto the backdeck.

In addition to ourselves, Andy and Jean (nb Josephine) were waiting for Jon to get back to us to be able to have these installed. They were also in a position that they wanted to get some cruising done before they needed to be back to sort out things outside the boating arena.

We needed to get them done as my return to Australia was looming large on the horizon and this would be the last weekend before my flight.

As with any plans there were last minutes glitches – we had assumed, very much incorrectly, that we would be able to get this work done within the marina itself, but this was not to be as the necessary insurance information was not available from Jon – next plan was to take all three boats up to Stone and do the work from the towpath.

So on the Friday there was a mini-exodus of craft to the 5 day moorings below the bottom lock.

As this might be the last time that we were altogether – Janet and Howard (nb Compass Rose) were moving marinas – we booked in for a meal at The Star – also joining us were Stella and Mike (nb Isobel).

And a mighty enjoyable night it was.

Jon was very early arriving the following morning – Saturday – and after we unloaded his gear, we set up for the first installation. We were to work off the 240V from the boats (engines on and creating enough to run the welder)

All was going quite well until there was a sudden loss of all electrics from the inverter on our boat – half the job for our seats was done.

Fortunately, the local scouts group were in their hall, with the band practising – they agreed to give us access to the power for a donation to their group.

Power back on and because of the positioning of the boats, Jon got to work on Josephine.

In the meantime, we needed to find the source of the problem on our boat – all we had was 12V power.

I removed the inverter to see if there was anything there that might show the cause, but nothing could be found.

We have been continually amazed at the willingness of others to help and now we were again fortunate to have an electrician on the boat moored behind us – my memory tells me his name was Clim and I cannot remember the name of the boat.

Anyway, he could overhear our problems and offered his help – there apparently should be a flat fuse between the batteries and the inverter and this may the problem.

Removing seat covers and other things he eventually located the fuse and as usual it was placed in the least accessible location – he was however able to confirm from the meter that it was dead – all we needed to do was replace it.

We were thinking and hoping that the most difficult part would be hoping that the chandlery would have a replacement, but removing it proved to be more fun than a pair of thumb screws.

One of the battery leads needed to be removed – at least disconnected from the batteries to make it safe, but working left-handed down a small space and not being able to see what you were doing revived memories of working on the engine of my Morris mini too many years ago to count.

Clim was right in one thing – by doing it myself it meant that I learnt more and would know for next time.

Fuse removed and there was no visible sign that there was anything wrong with it – just the confirmation from the prongs on the meter that it was not letting anything through.

A 10 minute walk to the chandlery and the reply “Oh we sold the last one of those yesterday” was the next part of the day that had turned from good to worse and then back to good and now was heading back into the red again.

“We don’t have a 250A fuse but there is a 300A one – if you want that one” – back to better again; “We have more coming in on Tuesday”; knowing that we only needed to get back to the marina and the landline power and we were not expecting to put a high load on the inverter, I replaced the 250A fuse with a 300A one.

Resinatalled the fuse; reconnected the power leads; reconnected the inverter and bolted it back into place – throw the switch – Yes – 240V power again.

Just as well, because “she-who-must-be-obeyed” was expecting to be able to watch her Welsh dragons defeat the French and win the Grand Slam.

By this stage all of the work on Josephine was practically finished and Andy and Jean were preparing to leave us and start there delayed cruising – which made space for us to move down and finish the job on Ferndale.

Everton v Sunderland was on the telly as well as the highlight of the Melbourne Grand Prix practice and the Scotland v Italy match -  Jon was an Everton supporter, Stella liked the Grand Prix and Diane just likes sport, so we set the TV up outside the boat, chairs just on the towpath; table with drinks and doughnuts as well as crisps and there were the two girls sitting, chatting, drinking, snacking and discussing the state of play of each sport with passers-by; flicking back the Everton game whenever Jon had a short break.

The up-and-down-and-up-again day was most definitely at a peak again – this was turning out to be a good day again – so much so that the girls had reconfirmed our plans for the evening – a few drinks at The Swan to celebrate St Patricks Day – Andy and Jean were coming down from the marina as well.

It wasn’t that long before the Wales game kickoff that Ferndale was completed and we moved her out of the way so that Compass Rose could started and completed.

We had been rather lucky with the weather – rain had been forecast – as Compass Rose was being finished the weather forecast became reality.

But we did get all of the boats finished; I got a coat of primer onto the steel; we got Jon reloaded back into his vehicle; the scouts were great and the donation duly made; four of us made it back onto Ferndale and Mike took great delight in trying to interrupt Diane’s view of the TV as Wales completed the Grand Slam.

From my point of view, best of all was the knowledge gained about the boat and the electrics – which would stand us in good stead for the following day.

With all of the drama during the day, a night at the pub was certainly to be enjoyed and we had a few there before the day finally caught up with us and we returned back for a good night’s sleep.

The following day we needed to get back to the marina for a pumpout and a diesel top up before I headed out; Diane also decided to get a load of washing done on the move.

We were also like excited schoolkids and wanted to tryout the new seats – they were wonderful and very comfortable, if not a bit cold on the bottom.
The new seats - primer and undercoat so far

Half-way back to the marina, Diane went to check on the washing only to come back with the advice that it had stopped and there was no power to it or from the inverter – oh bother, what was it now.

Once we were safely back, pumped out, refuelled, and moored up -magnificent reversing in very windy conditions (well a slight wind anyway) – we reattached the landline – no power.

Relief in one sense as I knew it wasn’t the bigger fuse that I had put in, and it wasn’t the inverter; it wasn’t the landline cable as the battery charger was working.

We called the electrician that comes to the marina, but being a Sunday we expected to at least to have to wait until the Monday – he happened to be in the area and was there in 10 minutes – result was that he felt there was a loose wire somewhere, but couldn’t fix it then, he would be back at 8:30 in the morning.

8:30 Monday morning and Clive was there; he spent a good half hour checking all of the electrical connections on the board and without knowing the culprit we had full power back again – it appeared to be just one of those things – there were some wires that were a little loose and just coincidental.

Of course the West Wing reference “Post hoc, ergo propter hoc” immediately came to mind

We had returned and despite everything else we had survived the weekend.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Summertime - well a preview at least

Monday 5th March to Sunday 11th March 2012
3 Miles, 5 Locks  – for this week

Totals:  1032 Miles,  854 Locks, 28 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 20 Swing Bridges

We braved the windy conditions to move the boat down three locks to moor just near The Star Inn – a lot closer to town for she-who-must-be-obeyed and her shopping; I was only too happy to leave her to it whilst I got stuck into some work.

We ventured out at lunch time to La Dolce Vita – someone had recommended it to us - can’t remember whom, but it was an excellent choice. A most wonderful lunch and at a reasonable price. My hand is up to go again (soon)

Tuesday was forecast to be a mild day; sunny and pleasant; it turned out to be quite foggy early on in the morning – boats were moving – 2 or 3 had gone through by 9am.

One boat on the move was NB Klara (Bev and Roland) from Aston Marina who were moving up to Canal Cruising Co. to have the bottom blackened before they head off cruising.

Cheerful waving and a bit of backdeck teasing was the order of the morning.

We waited a little bit longer and eventually moved off after 11am for the short trip back to the marina; a fill of the diesel tank (131 litres – most we have had to fill in one go, but it was over a month since the last fill); reversed into the mooring with a bit of pulling to straighten her up, but very quickly the back canopy was up, the electricity reconnected and the water tank being filled again and a load of washing on. We were home again.

We haven’t done an awful lot for the remainder of the week – Wednesday we welcomed Stella and Mike back from their Spanish break; we have finally sorted out a date for Jon to put the seats in – obviously very disappointed that they haven’t been put in earlier.

We have had a couple of meals out in Stone again.

 Generally been a very quiet week with a bit of cleaning of the boat inside and out and sorting out things in preparation for cruising, but we are still a good 8 weeks away yet from that.

Have to say though, Sunday was a glorious day – sunshine with a coolish wind and we tried to enjoy it as much as possible – we were still sitting outside on the cafĂ© deck after 6pm enjoying a drink, when we finally had to call an end to the day – a preview of summer to come, or at least for some very enjoyable days ahead.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Oh Silly Me

Monday 27th February to Sunday 4th March 2012

18 Miles, 25 Locks  – for this week

Totals:  1029 Miles,  849 Locks, 28 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 20 Swing Bridges

We thought that we had been needing to refill the water tank seemingly more regular than previous; you sometimes lose track of things when its on tap (so to speak).

But it did seem that way; it also seemed strange that the taps had continued spurting after our return and that it was the cold water as well as the hot – I could believe that there was still a bit of air in the calorifier (but that seemed a bit long as well).

Something not quite right – of course the first thing you think of is that there is a leak in the tank – no that was OK – no loss of water overnight when the isolating tap was closed.

Is the connection to the pump still OK – the one that we disconnected and then reconnected – turned the tap on and there was no leak there, so all OK. 

We suspected another problem when noticed it was a bit damp around the radiator in the bedroom – so turned off the radiator taps and turned the diesel heater system off – see how it is in the morning. 

It was a bit wetter in the morning and started to dry it all up until we opened the wardrobe and there was a lot more water on the floor in there. 

When it kept on coming back I was more than concerned – we finally managed to open the inspection hatch to the bilge and lo and behold it was indeed full of water. 

So there was a water leak, we (read as I) didn’t manage to find it. 

We had left the marina planning to spend a few days cruising with Mitch who had made his way back from Ireland, but signs were not looking good. 

First things first – we needed to get the water out and then to see exactly where it was coming from.

The bilge pump in the engine bay wouldn’t reach; so up to Canal Cruising Co (at Stone – the next lock up) – “bring it up and we’ll get the water out; the guy who normally looks after these things is off today, but he is back tomorrow.”

A start at least, we got the boat there and they pumped the water out. We discussed where the problem might be and one of the lads had a look at it along with the boss – BINGO – they found it after a few minutes. 

Apparently there a little “O”ring missing from the elbow connection on the water line – the very same connection that I had disassembled for our trip away to prevent the pipes breaking during the freezing conditions.

It must have dropped out and whilst they were sympathetic indicating that it would have been hard to see it go, I still felt like a complete idiot to reconnect without checking properly. 

New seal in; pipework reconnected properly; we were now fine – well except for the little matter of an unknown but considerable amount of water in the bilge to remove and a wardrobe full of clothes needing to be washed. 

Fortunately I have an understanding wife who was wonderful through the whole thing. 

In the end I was extremely pleased to be looking pretty silly than to be faced with a far more extensive and expensive outcome. 

Anyway we were able to continue cruising and continue to dry things out. 

The cruising was not in anyway hampered by the our wet beginning and we had a thoroughly enjoyable and at times funny few days out. 
Just cruising along

Up to Barlaston and then onto Stoke – we do so enjoy mooring up at Stoke – and no problems at all. We then repeated this in reverse.

Our only hiccup during that time was that we failed to properly read the days that the Plume of Feathers was open for meals in the evening – we realised that Wednsday + Friday does not mean the same as Wednesday – Friday. None of us read it the way that it had been written – no problems – back to the boat for a wonderful stand by meal.
The favourite son - Mitchell
We have to say that Mitch enjoyed doing the locks – far better than he would have enjoyed being on the boat going through the locks. He understands why we enjoy the lifestyle that we have, but it really isn’t for him.
Father and Son

He is not the Toad of Toad Hall type; the only messing around with boats that he is likely to do is with those in the bath-tub. 

Moored up in Stone at week’s end and an extremely enjoyable and over-filling Indian meal at Al-Shiekhs. 

Saturday was off to Birmingham to catch up with Debbie, James, Katharine and Rachel – they hadn’t seen Mitch since he had been over here – in fact hadn’t seen him since their visit to Australia in 2006. We saw the changes and updates that they had made to the house since we were last there – not long ago – all looks wonderful – and not much more to go, but as with all older houses it is not the length of the list that matters but the money to do it all. 

You will get there guys. 

Sunday was farewell day – also a rainy day – first that Mitch had seen since he had left Melbourne – which by the way had experienced near record rainfalls since his departure – we have christened him the “Rain-Go-Away Fairy”.
Mother and Son

But he was away just after 11, leaving me with his teary-eyed mother. 

We went back to the boat for a reasonably comfortable afternoon watching the France v Ireland match (a 17-17 draw), and we only then had to think about when we would move back into the marina.