Tuesday, 31 March 2009
31st March 2009
Belle was clearly trying to tell me something when she gave me a 1:1 session with a style guru for Christmas. You would think that my yellow oilskins set of by a matching hat, waders and harpoon would strike the right note in any setting, but apparently not!
Now before you scoff at the vanity of it all, you need to realise that the Captain shed 2.5 stone in the autumn using the Cambridge Diet. So my girth has reduced from a strained 38 to a comfortable 36 and I find myself in need of a whole new wardrobe. Rather than dash out I have waited four months to see if all the mockers and scoffers were right, and that the weight would" pile back on again". Well, I have changed my eating habits and those pounds lost have remained a thing of the past.
If I am to undergo a wholesale change of wardrobe it makes sense to have a plan, strategy or formulae - call it what you will. The cost of the consult isn't insignificant but it is only half the price of a decent suit. Kully (style guru) tested my "colours", investigated my personality and very critically reviewed my favourite casual clothes, before finally delivering her verdict. As you would expect, much of what she told me I already knew - sort of - particularly in terms of uber smart corporate work wear. But her comments about smart casual were a revelation. Within hours Belle returned from a shopping expedition armed with a lavender v neck sweater, which I self consciously wore to a dinner party that evening. Much to my surprise my new look attracted lots of positive comment which has inspired me to further experimentation in colour and cut.
Before we finished I asked for some guidance on narrowboat apparel. What with Wand'ring Bark's new paint job I want to look the part. For once the style guru was at a loss for words, so it appears that my signature sou-wester married to thermals cant be bettered. Whilst she was unable to enhance my watery persona, I was able to recruit a convert to the inland waterways. Watch out for an immaculately turned out style guru and her family on a canal near you!
Monday, 30 March 2009
Now this is where I have a fundamental problem with the whole boating malarkey. My brain appears to be totally of the landlubber variety and nautical terminology whistles in one ear and out of the other. Captain Ahab gets somewhat exasperated when after numerous boating trips and owning a boat for several years, I still refer to sitting at the pointy end. Seems it just isn’t done and I should by now know my bows from my stern, my port from my starboard as well as being au fait with gunwales, tillers and fenders. Perhaps I should read more Hornblower or watch old episodes of Captain Pugwash. Then again, terminology in general is something I’ve never been very good at, sporting terminology in particular. Half time is when you buy an ice cream at the theatre, isn’t it? Tennis players have just two more points to win before they can stop for a drink from the umpire’s call of ‘Juice!’ And that Rugby is played by gentlemen with odd shaped balls is something that I suspect whoever said it was quite accurate about. Given that I have a lifetime of being terminology blind, it’s not so surprising that I have problems wrapping my head around all this boat-speak. However there is one nautical phrase I have taken to like the proverbial duck and that is knowledge of the sun’s whereabouts in relation to the yardarm. Now I do know enough about narrowboats to realise that yardarms are not a feature, but this is a mere technicality. No self-respecting Galley Slave should be without this most useful of phrases. So enthusiastic am I about this, that you’ll frequently find me imbibing some alcoholic beverage or other simply out of respect for tradition. For once I find myself in agreement with Captain Ahab and can see that correct boating terminology most definitely has its uses. And as the sun is over yardarm by anyone’s estimation, I’m taking my G&T and am off to sit at the pointy end while the Captain uses that stick thing to drive the boat from the back.
We encountered feverish activity in the cutting before Bridge 6, with both BW and the Shropshire Union Canal Society hard at work. BW were trimming back the undergrowth and using a wood chipper to fire the trimmings into nb Hercules. Sadly the chipper was angled wrongly and more chips were being blown into the canal than the hold! I suppose it makes unloading easier... Meanwhile the canal society, on a small flotilla of narrowboats were busy building a lovely picnic area complete with tables and chairs on concrete plinths. They were doing a great job, as they have done up and down the whole Shroppie over the years.
Church Minsull sports the brand new "Aqueduct marina, all bare and new, but surprisingly full of boats.
The rather smart ground of Northwich Victoria lies next to the canal, its prosperity probably more a testament to it also being the home ground of Manchester United Reserves than the skill of the team which bears the name of the nearby town. We parted company with Away4aWhile at the ABC base, recovering the tea mug and promising to meet up again in Birmingham.
We pushed on through the Barnton Tunnel in the gathering gloom, mooring up in the delightful lagoon which separates it from its northerly twin, the Saltersford Tunnel.
Sunday, 29 March 2009
29th March 2009
The Shroppie Fly PH
Just above Audlem Bottom Lock we passed nb Debdale. Sadly the current crew of this shared ownership craft were not the editors of the Debdale Blog but awarded me 10:10 for observation.As we exited the second Hack Green Lock we caught our first sight of our destination - the Pennines, three days cruising away in the north east.
We moored just short of Nantwich at the wide section between bridges 90 and 91, well away from both roads and rail. Time for a spot of fishing in the evening sun. I caught a tiddler and Jeff lost a good specimen - he therefore claimed a moral victory but as we all know, the ones which get away don't count!
Confessions of a DIY'er - Signwriting
29th March 2009
Part six of seven
I had planned to have a go at the signwriting myself, and even bought a copy of A J Lewry's Signwritten Art. But the more I read the more I realised that the standard I was looking for was beyond my abilities. As Clint Eastwood once said, "a man's got to know his limitations".
Don't tell Belle, but I do have some limitations. Not many, but they include:
- Plastering walls to a perfectly smooth finish
- Bricklaying to a standard good enough for house walls
- Brain Surgery - but Mortimer Bones may be able to help out here
- And yes, Sign writing!
Jim is a proper commercial signwriter and canal boats is a preferred sideline. He is particularly interesting in that he integrates technology with the traditional art, using a Computer Genarated mask to achieve the body of the letters quickly, and then applying the artistic shading. I liked the sound of this and sent him the exact measurements plus an outline of what I was looking for.
I had spent several months trying to work out exactly what I wanted , eventually resorting to taking photos of boats with appealing letter work. With the benefit of about 20 photos I defined exactly what I wanted, which I would describe as basically "block letters with a slight serif" (flicky out bits on the corners) divided by bold industrial lines and circles. This is in no way a "best" design, merely one which works for me. Anything goes in this area, so the world is your typographical oyster.
I worked up a detailed plan, allowing for the differences in panel sizes on each side, and demonstrated how I wanted the Wand'ring to arch over the Bark. I also sent him a photo of the boat plus one of another boat which was similar to what I had in mind. A couple of days later he responded with a computer generated image of the boat in its new livery. His interpretation was exactly what I wanted and nothing needed changing. Jim takes the view that he is there to deliver what the customer wants, and isn't at all precious about using a preferred style or anything - very businesslike.
The CGI was then converted into full sized stencils, complete with cut out lettering. This was carefully fixed to the cabin sides and and the basic lettering picked out in special one shot signwriters paint. He went to some trouble to match the main colour with the ceam I had used on the coach lines.
He then cut out the 3d shading with a sharp knife and applied the contrasting paint before removing the mask. This removal was rather like a magicians trick. One moment it at all looked a mess and then, in an instant, the lettering was revealed in all its glory. Jim finished the project off by applying the graduated shading freehand and, as a final touch, inserted his trademark "Jim" tag so discretely that you have to hunt really hard to find it. The whole job on both sides took a mere 5 hours including an hour of downtime as we sheltered from a heavy shower.
Real signwriting is something of a dying art, which happily lives on among the boating community. Even here there is a move towards self adhesive PVC letters which are functional and reasonably priced, but don't quite hit the spot for me. So, how much did all this cost? Well I am not going to tell you! It was more than I wanted to pay but in the end it was worth every penny. I enjoy looking at the back panels every time I see Wand'ring Bark rise up out of a lock - and you cant' put a price on that sort of thing.
Saturday, 28 March 2009
An extended Easter trip has become something of a habit for the Captain and his crew. It's a glorious time of year with those first hardy daffodils giving way to the snowy white of the Blackthorn, and then that sheen of green which adorns the hedgerows heralding the first deciduous leaves of the year.
Its a time of renewal, freshness, a year reborn. How better to celebrate than with an Easter boat trip?
My personal countdown to Easter is measured by the progression of the Magnolia tree in our front garden. I bought this plant as a frost bitten sapling which was so near death the nursery refused to accept anything more than 50p for it over 15 years ago. This particular tree has has defied the odds having had that near death experience at the outset. Initially it has to overcome the transplant following purchase, then my brother in law drove over in in his MR2, breaking one half off, and then I had to move it again to allow for a drive expansion project. Now Magnolias detest disruption ,so all credit to this specimen which has survived and thrived in spite of its maltreatment.
Even before its leaves are seared away by the first frost of Autumn, its buds are plump and ready to wait out the long winter months. Throughout March the flowers tentatively poke their noses out of their thermal overcoats, sniffing the air, ready to burst out in all their glory the moment they thing that the risk of frost has passed.
They always get it wrong of course, tempted out way too soon into their majestic display a bit like the first mini skirt of spring. I guess that Darwin would say that its the early bird that catches the admiring glances!
Well, my Magnolia is flashing her assets for all who care to glance in her direction, so that means that Easter is upon us once again and we are off. This time it's a trans Penning treck taking in both the Huddersfield Narrow and the Rochdale. The planning has been beset with uncertainty, what with the delayed decisions about Standedge Tunnel, the washed out Weir at Cooper Bridge and most recently the oil spill on the lower Peak Forest. These issues have been resolved and the appropriate bookings made with BW for the three critical stages:
Standedge, West to East - Friday 3rd April
Rochdale Summit - Wednesday 8th April
Rochdale descent into Manchester - Thursday 9th April
So, if you see Wand'ring Bark making a solitary passage to and fro over the Pennines this Easter, give us a wave.
Index of posts in this series:
1. - Calf Heath to Goldstone Wharf - this post
2. - Goldstone Wharf to Nantwich
3. - Nantwich to Barnton
4. - Barnton to Manchester
5. - Castlefields to Portland Basin
5. - Aston under Lyne to Millbrook
6. - Millbrook to Diggle
7. - Standedge Tunnel
8. - Marsden to Booth
9.- Booth to Huddersfield
10. - Huddersfield to Salterhebble
11. - Salterhebble to Hebden Bridge
12. - Hebden Bridge to Rochdale Summit
13. - Rochdale Summit to Chadderton
14. - Chadderton to Little Bollington
15. - Bollington - the final twist
Friday, 27 March 2009
Confessions of a DIY'er - Coach lines
27th March 2009
Part five of seven
The difference between a classy looking finish and something that is just "OK is surprisingly fine. In the same way that accessories can turn an ordinary looking outfit into something special, so some quality detailing can lift a paint job out of the mundane.
I am not one for masses of frills and scrolls, tending more towards the understated and classic. Mind you, that probably says more about me and my personality than what represents good taste! I therefore set about about the detailing looking for something simple yet traditional, impressive but not fussy. Most importantly, I wanted the finishing touches to be achievable to a reasonable standard for an amateur painter.
We had decided on a three colour approach, Ferrari Red for the main body, Union Green for the side panels and Cream for the coach lines.
I started with the cabin side coach lines, which would be 2cm wide and bordered by 5cm of red, which looked about right. I could have opted for some PVC stick on lines, but I wanted all the colours to match plus, I wanted to paint it all myself. The key was getting the lines straight and even more importantly - parallel. The eye will forgive a slightly wavy parallel but and widening or narrowing would be painfully obvious.
So, armed with several rolls of 2cm low tack masking tape I set about defining the lines. As with paint preparation, expect this phase to take much longer than the application. In this case about four times as long, but the investment in time will really pay off. After a few abortive attempts I managed to get the first strips parallel with the cabin roof and gunnels, joining them with various straight and curved uprights.
To achieve perfectly parallel lines I stuck a second line of masking tape inside the last, covering the area to be painted. This gave me a line to follow for my inside strips of masking tape. All that then remained was to remove the middle strip and voila! a perfectly parallel 2cm line ready for painting.
The Rapidpaint product's high opacity means that it covers well, even cream over bright red and green. I might have got away with one coat, but there was no point in half measures at this stage. I left the first coat to dry for a couple of hours and then applied a second, removing the masking tape as soon as it was touch dry. I found a few bleeds under the masking tape (top tip: buy better quality masking tape) but these were easily remedied with the application of some more red and green with a very fine artists brush. Watercolour painters avert your gaze - I used my best camel hair rigger brushes!
With the coach lines done I turned my attention to the two hatch covers, one for the water tank in the bows and the other over the rear cabin entrance. I could have gone for a fancy design complete with a heart, spade or other geometric device. However, I stuck to the less is more approach and simply applied a narrow 1cm coach line in cream. The effect was fantastic - a tiny detail which took 30 mins to apply brought the whole project to life.
As for the sign writing? I will tell more in a couple of days time.
Thursday, 26 March 2009
24th March 2009
As you can imagine, I'm not a bling sort of bloke. And yet, if you had been tailing me recently there is evidence to suggest otherwise.
You would have found me deeply engrossed in the bling section of Halfords. Don't worry, I havn't bought a Renault Clio (the boy racers car of choice), tinted the windows, lowered the suspension, added alloy wheels and a big fat exhaust. Neither for that matter have I been tempted by a Vibe Technologies Super Sub Woofer which fills the boot, or worst of all, fitted those stupid blue lights underneath the car!
No. in fact I was paying homage to the new love of my life - a 120 gigabite i-pod classic. Until recently I viewed i-pods as an affectation beloved of adolescents and poseurs, but I am a convert. When I worked in the Venture Capital Industry the rule of thumb was that for an innovation to be really successful it has to be five times better than its predecessor. How this multiple was measured was open to debate, but the i-pod certainly fits the criteria.
If I could take one item back into my past to show and impress my teenage self it would be the seemingly humble i-pod. A machine no larger than a calculator that can store my entire extensive music collection, and then twice as much again! Absolutely mind blowing and such a far cry from my treasured box of 15 favourite cassette tapes. They were even called compact as I recall!
Having succumbed to Apple's techno wonder, I find myself wanting to use it wherever I go. The car was a problem initially because being old (4 years!) the stereo doesn't have an i-pod plug. This was overcome by one of those radio widgets which transmit a signal that can be picked up by the radio, and powered by the cigarette lighter. But what of the boat? I can't go away for two weeks without a way to access my favourite tunes - or even worse - a power source to re-charge the object of my infatuation.
Aint she cute!
This brings me back to my visit to Halfords. I figured that if my radio thingey can work in the car, then why not on the boat radio / CD? The problem was a lack of power, or rather the fact that I built a 12v power supply in the wrong place and only included one. These boy racers know a thing or two about power supplies for all their bolt on accessories, so if you can't beat them why not join them?
I am now the proud owner of a 12 volt power supply splitter which plugs into the inaccessible socket and delivers three sources of yummy 12v, all backlit by a lurid pulsating blue light. Very hip, very trendy, very boat boy bling!
Whatever next? Perhaps a spoiler on the back, furry dice in the front and some spinners down the sides? Who knows!
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
25th March 2009
I spotted this picture of two narrowboats braving some squally weather on Liverpool's waterfront on the BBC's website today. They were part of the opening flotilla, with the section becoming available to the wider boating community in April.
I have to admit that they don't look too comfortable. Apart from the Three Graces in the background, the walled section looks rather like the Maud Foster in Boston (Lincs)!
Confessions of a DIY'er - Application
25th March 2009
Part four of seven
Different paints come with different instructions, or on the case of Rapidpaint, no instructions at all! You see, Rapidpaint exist to supply the trade market and you are expected to have a good idea of what you are doing. That said, they are extremely knowledgeable and only too happy to share their insights on the application of their products. Just ask.
I was blinded with technical info regarding the quality of resins used (very good and wear resistant) and the proportion of pigment (very high - 70%?) which means that scratches can be polished out. They also showed me all the mixing machines and the non slip polymers and generally won my heart as well as my wallet.
Quality paint isn't cheap so don't expect any change out of £20 for a 1 litre tin, but if you are doing the job there is no point scrimping on the paint itself. Go for quality every time.
We were told to build up two coats of undercoat first and then apply two coats of top coat, lightly sanding each coat before applying the next to ensure a smooth finish and to get good adhesion. As the undercoat is made to the same specifications as the top coat this would mean that we end up with four layers of very durable paint, which should keep the rust at bay for many years to come.
The paint was rather thick, and as it was applied on hot sunny days, it tended to cure very fast. In fact became touch dry in about 15 minutes, so it paid to do small sections at a time and to keep progressing along before an edge formed. Working on Rapidpaint's recommendation, the paint was applied using a small foam roller and covering about a square metre at a time. As soon and the paint had been applied I used a high quality long bristled 2" brush to "lay it off". Basically this involved drawing the brush over the wet surface very, very lightly in both directions, smoothing off any little bubbles or unevenness. You finish with the lightest touch possible, just like drawing a feather over the surface, which leaves it completely smooth just before it dries and becomes unworkable.
Don't try to save money by using a cheap brush. It's a false economy and a good brush will improve the finish immensely. But having invested in a good brush make sure you rinse it out thoroughly in white spirit / turps and then wash it in warm soapy water before drying it with the bristles all smoothed together. I wouldn't say that a good brush will last a lifetime, but with care it will serve you well for many years.
Give the paint time to dry between coats, and taking good care not to apply it just before it rains or you are inundated with flies. If you look closely, Wand'ring Bark carries the scars of both!
A good quality paint, such at the product we used, is quite forgiving and not prone to running. The chances of a run on the cabin sides is much reduced if you use a roller to apply the paint and leave the brush for feathering off. What is more, a nice thick paint with good opacity covers well and the thickness of the resin settles into and fills any small blemishes you may have missed in the filling / preparation phase.
The golden rules:
- Use good quality paint. (Craftmaster is great stuff too).
- Apply it with a roller and feather off in both directions before it dries.
- Do small bits at a time but move on before the edges dry.
- Use the most expensive long bristled brush you can find.
- Give the paint time to dry between coats.
- Always, always, always apply two top coats.
Monday, 23 March 2009
And very pretty it is too. The lack of rain helps, as does the occasional glimmer of sunshine. But what puzzles me most is that every trip we undertake reputedly takes in the most picturesque canal in England. At Easter, the Llangollen canal held this title. Last year it was the Peak Forest. Another time it belonged to the Kennet & Avon. This year it was the reason we were heading to Stratford. Before long I anticipate the whole of the BCN will have this honour bestowed upon them. But then again, maybe not. Regeneration has come along way since Captain Ahab’s days as a Cabin Boy when dead dogs were found floating in Gas Street Basin but picturesque may be stretching things too far even for him. Perhaps it’s a title that should be awarded annually, a bit like Britain in Bloom? Interesting concept. But possibly misses the point. I suspect that this award belongs firmly in the head of Captain Ahab and is his attempt at luring me back for yet another week as galley slave and ornamental figurehead aboard the Wand’ring Bark. Well I’m onto him. There’s no fooling me. Besides as temptations go, it’s fundamentally flawed. It rests on the assumption that I can differentiate between different stretches of canal. This I can do only up to a point. I notice when we’re going through stretches of dismal urban deprivation and decay. I notice when there are trees and bits of green stuff. That I notice the difference is largely because in the dismal places we get rocks hurled at us. And that makes me look up from my books. If it’s really bad I even lose my place. As for the other bits, to be honest, they all look much the same. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate them. I do. They’re lovely. If the sun is shining they mean I can read outside, all day, and sit at the pointy end in true figurehead fashion. See? I know my place.
Sunday, 22 March 2009
British Waterways – generating interest22nd March 2009
Following on from my earlier blog about BW’s plans to build 25 small scale hydro electric plants, a bit more detail has emerged about their power play to become a force in electricial generation.
Sorry about the truly terrible puns, but the subject matter is such fertile ground.
We are told that the first five plants will be built on existing weirs on the Severn and the
Clearly these major rivers hold potential for many generation stations, so I guess that these are pilots to see how they perform throughout the seasons. BW also point out that they own about 90 feeder streams which deliver running water to the canals and that many of these have electrical generation potential. Or is that Kinetic… I think Kinetic is the latent power within an already moving object whereas potential is merely something that has, well you know, the potential to be turned into energy…. Or maybe it’s the other way round.
These schemes are going to cost £120m of which £20m has already been pledged by Climate Change Capital. However, they will have to get their skates on if they are to hit their objective of 40 megawatts flowing into the National Grid by 2010.
I am all for schemes like this, which increase our sustainable energy production and opens up a new source of income for cash strapped British waterways. So, if you are travelling these rivers over the next year or so keep you eyes peeled.
It sounds as if BW are entering a powerplay from which there can be no losers.
Saturday, 21 March 2009
Confessions of a DIY'er - Preparation
21st March 2009
Part three of seven
I know it's a trite little saying, which is usually used about the need to plan, but it is very applicable to painting narrowboats.
Its hard to emphasise just how important preparation is - or how great the temptation is to skimp on this vital stage, especially when your arms ache from hours of hard sanding. However, it's a false economy to short change the preparation stage, and a few extra hours at this end of the project will add years to the life of your finished paint job.
Be very thorough to sand everything down, probably using wet and dry paper to achieve a good key, smoothing off all the blobs, chips, stray lumps of weld and sundry imperfections. A smooth clean surface at this stage will give you a fighting chance of a good glossy finish at the end, but any imperfections left on will be magnified by the topcoat.
I started my preparations on Wand'ring Bark with good intentions. I wasn't going to skimp of the preparation and I was going to work at it till the surface was perfect. My problem is that I am somewhat lacking in patience and always willing to accept a compromise. You may not agree, but I think that being a perfectionist is more a curse than a blessing!.
The need for preparation on Wand'ring Bark went deep. When built, the shell was fabricated proficiently, but no effort was made to hide the welds. As a result the joins in the sheet steel were very visible with "blobby" welds running down the cabin sides, rising above the surface in some places and dipping into little craters in others. I resolved to rectify this deficiency so I attacked the welds with my trusty 110mm angle grinder and, 1.5 hours and 12 discs later, all the raised bits had been neatly abraded away. This process was followed up with the application of a layer of automotive body filler, which concealed any residual depressions, all smoothed off with some fine wet and dry paper.
I am particularly proud of the end result as a mixture of diligent application and judicious positioning of the side panels, has resulted in a weld free cabin.
However, I did make a bit of a mistake on the roof. The roof was covered in a thick cream non slip finish and as I ground away the top welds, I created a shallow saucer like indentation, more in the non slip surface than in the underlying steel itself. The presence of the thick anti slip coat meant that body filler would stand out badly, so I had to rely on the flattening capacity of the paints which would be applied. More of that in a later blog. I would have made my life easier if I had used a larger angle grinder as the tendency to create a rounded depression would have been lessened.
With my angle grinder to hand I also decided to remove a rather strange and pointless bit of steel scroll work which adorned the end of the hatch cover. It looked a bit like a Flemish Gable and had no link with any other part of the boat. The end result is a much more discrete 5mm raised lip which is just enough to close the hatch. I suspect that I destroyed the manufacturers "signature" but hey ho - its my boat.
So there you have Wand'ring Bark, my pride and joy, sitting at her moorings with all her paintwork scratched to a dull matt finish, interspersed with strips of grey filler concealing the welds. I figured that if you are doing a job you may as well do it properly, so I took the wet and dry to the sign writing, removing all traced of "Piccolo" in about 60 minutes flat. At this stage she looked in a right sate!
It was here that I took a bit of a shortcut that I later came to regret. Whilst I had done a thorough job preparing the cabin sides and roof, plus the strip round the gunnels, I didn't go as far as removing the mushroom vents or the window frames. The books say you should, but it seems like a lot of hassle for items which were very firmly fixed in place and holding the water out vary adequately. It seemed like a case of "if it ain't bust don't fix it"!
Two years down the line and I see the errors of my ways. The mushrooms and windows are screwed in to a bed of silicone and a bit of silicone inevitably oozes out as they are fitted. Paint does not adhere well to silicone and within twelve months, the new paint was lifting up at the edges. I have subsequently removed the vents and painted under them, as I should have done at the outset, and the same process will probably be needed for the windows. You live and learn!
The take away thought has to be that you can't spend too much time on preparation. Allocate at least twice as much time to preparation as you do to applying paint and you probably won't go far wrong.
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Confessions of a DIY'er - Planning
19th March 2009
Part two of seven
Now you have decided on your preferred approach to the task (professional or DIY) its time to select a colour scheme. There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to colour, its all a matter of personal choice.
Once you have chosen your colour scheme the boat becomes very much "yours" and will inevitably say something about you. It's a bit like personalising your new home when you decorate rooms. Until it is repainted you can blame it on the last owners, but you never feel that you truly possess the house till you have stamped an indelible mark on it. Its the same with your boat, but because its a big step its worth taking your time.
I would suggest that you make a point of looking at other boats, comparing the colours they have used, how they work together and the sort of finish that has been achieved. It is very hard to remember exactly what you see, so I would recommend that you carry a small digital camera with you, snapping off some photos when a boat catches your eye. Then, in the peace of your own home, you can work out exactly what you like about the boat and gradually build up a plan of what you want.
Whilst you can use any colour you like, I would offer a word of caution. You may need to sell your boat in the future and in the same way that you probably wouldn't buy a wacky Laurence Llwellyn Bowyn "romantic" style house, prospective purchasers may well be put off by very individualistic styles. I would suggest that vivid geometric designs or zebra stripes have limited appeal - but I might be wrong. A nod towards the traditional seems easier to sell.
But its not just the colour - layout also plays a big part. You are not working with a blank canvas, as all boats are different and offer varying opportunities / limitations. Take a good look look at the layout of your hull and work out what balance would look good. Probably the best way to achieve this is to measure the boat very accurately and then to draw it out on graph paper. Don't use one page because it wont give enough detail, so stick two or even three sheets together and map it all out, including windows, vents, fenders and other "furniture". Don't worry if the curved bits are not exactly right - its the overall sense of balance you are looking for - not a work of art. Next, mark out the proposed panels, lines, wording and decals and colour them in with crayons, finally standing back to see how it all works together. Better still, set it aside and sleep on it, returning to it with fresh eyes in the morning. Is this how you want your pride and joy to look?
Oh, a thought. Its quite likely that the positions of the windows are not identical on both sides of the boat. They may look alike, but when you measure then there not! This variation can make a big difference if you are planning to apply sign writing to any panels you create.
An investment in planning before you lift the phone, buy the paint of break open the first pack of sandpaper will really pay dividends.
So what of Wand'ring Bark? Well, having looked and looked we (actually Belle) decided on a bold and lively red with green cabin sides approach. This is a pretty traditional configuration which looks vibrant and eye catching, hopefully adding something to the overall canal landscape. Having looked closely at the layout it was apparent that the traditional stern cabin approach would be difficult to achieve, but a slight variation using a small "engine room" panel between the two rear windows created a good overall balance.
But which red and which green? We tried the International paint range on the cratch and gangplank as a sort of tester zone and found them to be far to acidic and bright for out taste, so we looked up Rapidpaint of Digbeth (Birmingham) and sought expert advice. They mix all their paints in house and mainly serve the automotive refinishing market, so they know a thing or two about colour matching. They can mix over 2000 colours, but they also sell a range of stock narrow boat paint, which is particularly high in pigmentation and resin quality. This, we were told, will resist fade, abrasion and because the pigment is so dense, most scratches would polish out.
Our final selection was Ferrari Red for the main colour with Union Green for the side panels and detailing in Cream. Because the colours are made as a suite they all work in the same tonal range, which is techno speak for "they go together well". They also supply non slip paint made from the exact same resins and pigment, but with 30% being polymer granules which absorb the pigment and the paint therefore never scraches off. We took a litre of the red non slip for the front and rear cockpit floors, plus the walkways down the gunnels. We also later went back and bought some loose granules so we could paint the engine and gas locker hatches in a contrasting non slip green.
So we had a plan and we had the paint. All we needed was the weather to get the job done... but it was the summer of 2007. More of that another time.
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Confessions of a DIY'er
17th March 2009
Part one of seven
If you have arrived at this page looking for tips on watercolour painting, and how to achieve the perfect canal reflection using mixtures of Burnt Umber, Raw Sienna and Vermilion you will be sadly disappointed.
Whilst I do like to dabble in watercolour painting, and the inland waterways offer a ready supply of inspiration, I am talking about actually painting narrowboats. You know - sandpaper, two inch brushes and oil based topcoats - that sort of thing.
So, if you are thinking about repainting your boat the big decision isn't "what colours do I want?". The real question is "do I tackle this myself or leave it to the experts?". If you are pondering this weighty issue I would suggest you consider the following issues:
- Money. A professional job is likely to set you back up to £5,000 whereas a DIY repaint will cost maybe 10% of that. That is a big saving in these days of fiscal constraint
- Time. Time is money and painting a narrowboat takes a lot of time - that's why it costs so much. If you do it yourself, out in the open air all the preparation, priming, undercoating, topcoating and finishing off takes an age. This especially true when you have to dodge the showers and wait for coats to dry in between driving to and from the boat. By contrast, leaving it to the professionals is a simple, pleasant cruise to their base and then a return journey a month or so later as the proud owner of the shiniest boat on the cut
- Quality. Its said that in life you only get what you pay for and you can expect a top notch job from an experienced boatyard. However, you do have to ask yourself what you are really looking for. A flawless two pack automotive standard sheen is hard to achieve yourself but on the other hand, a DIY job may well be good enough, and cause you a lot less stress when the first overhanging branch gouges a dirty great scratch down your newly painted cabin side.
- I can achieve cheapness at the expense of time, and possibly quality
- I can achieve quality at the expense of cost
- I can achieve speed at the expense of cost
Wand'ring Bark is cruised quite heavily and my interest in the exploration of the less travelled extremities of the system means that she has quite a hard life. Her paintwork can therefore take a hammering, so it is just as well that I subscribe to the school of thought that says that paint is first and foremost to protect against rust. You paint a boat so that you can have fun knocking it all off again!
With this mindset in place I decided a DIY paint job would be be ideal, providing the end result looks smart and professional. As well as being so much cheaper, it has the added advantage of being touch up-able (is that a real word?) when the inevitable scrapes happen.
It's good to learn lessons from your mistakes, but it is even better to learn from the mistakes of others. I will explain all in a series of seven blogs on Painting Narrowboats:
Monday, 16 March 2009
A very long time to be precise. It’s taken us two days of what can only be described as gentle cruising to make it as far as the Staffordshire town of Stone. Even by narrowboat standards that’s slow. By car the journey would take approximately forty minutes. But I am told that speed is not the point of canal cruising. Indeed, there are people whose life ambition it seems, is to make narrowboaters slow down even further. Captain Ahab is known as a courteous and conscientious helmsman. He nearly always sticks to the Waterways’ Code, the first requirement of which must surely be to slow down when passing moored boats. So he receives it with some disgruntlement when the turtles pop their heads out and accuse him of speeding. Turtles are those boaters moored in the most inappropriate spots – the outside of a narrow bend, directly on exit from a lock, etc. They are always just inside when another boat passes, and their heads on the end of their long scrawny necks, pop straight up through a hatch crying ‘Slow down!’ in a threatening manner. Captain Ahab is generally very polite to them but he has recently expressed an interest in investing in a super soaker water spray gun. My technique would be to rev up the engine, slam on the throttle and go so fast they could only hurl abuse at my wake. Maybe we should double up with the Captain as gunner? We could be the Bonnie and Clyde of the Inland Waterways. However, as no one has committed a bank job using a narrowboat as a get away vehicle, there is every possibility that this plan would come to naught.
Sunday, 15 March 2009
Black Country Museum
One particular image that caught my eye was a photo of the Tipton portal at the eastern end of the Dudley Canal Tunnel, taken from the Birmingham Road bridge. The photo shows the Black Country Museum in its infancy in the late 1970's and the early restoration work completed by the Dudley Canal Trust.
Here is the same scene thirty years later:
Saturday, 14 March 2009
The lower reaches - Ebridge to Dilham
14th March 2009
Before we move downstream from Ebridge I thought you might like a final backward glance at a wherry tied up alongside Ebridge Mill.
There are no bridges between Ebridge and the next lock at Briggate. The lock runs out of the Briggate millpond with the the remains of the mill festering in the undergrowth. This was a splendid example of a Norfolk watermill but unfortunately it was burned down in an arson attack during the 1974.
The Lock chamber is well preserved and even sports a couple of complete (but very rotten) bottom gates with their balance beams in place. They look almost "boat ready" but don't be deceived, even 35 years ago a small gang of us vainly tried to close them!
The East Anglian Waterways Association have been active again and the site is all spick and span with the lock and its surrounds more visible than it has been since my schooldays. The area is all fenced off for safety so sorry guys, I admit that my enthusiasm caused me to dive over the bridge wall to take a closer look. It was a shame that the ground on the other side was 2ft lower because I had a heck of a struggle to get back over!
Canal crossings are few and far between in these parts and the next structure is Honing bridge alongside the recently dredged Honing Staithe. With the Yarmouth and North Norfolk Railway running behind the staithe (closed in 1953 and now part of the Weavers Way footpath) I suspect that this was another transhipment basin.
The Canal Bridge is in good condition but the iron road bridge over the railway bed is well worth a look as well.
The final lock on the canal is Honing or Dilham Lock. No one seems to be quite sure which hamlet "owns" it as it is equidistant between the two of them. Finding it is a bit of a puzzle as well and the only clue is to identify a dead end track usefully called "Lock Lane" and then, just as you become convinced that you are going to end up in farmyard, or stuck in axle deep mud, there is a path leading off to the right into the woods. Follow this path for a couple of hundred yards and the splashing of water will become audible and then, voila, the lock complete with an EA monitoring station. The lock is in pretty good condition, built to the standard NW&DC dimensions of 50' x 12' 4" and 3' draft.
The lock comes complete with a bottom gate which is just visible under the water.
Beyond Honing / Dilham Lock the canal enters the open expanses of the Broads, continuing for a mile or so and passing a short side arm to East Ruston and under Tonnage Bridge which was rebuilt in the 1980's after it collapsed under the weight of farm machinery.
The canal finally joins the Ant above Wayford Bridge on the Wroxham to Stalham road. Whilst it isn't strictly part of the NW&D canal, a short canalised arm of the Ant extends to a staithe in Dilham, complete with a close replica of a NW&DC bridge.
So there you have it. The North Walsham and Dilham Canal in four chunks. A unique construction in Norfolk and one which is rapidly being brought back to life by the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust. But before you get too excited and start making plans to have your narrowboat craned to the Broads, remember that the max length is 50 feet (that's OK because Wand'ring Bark is a mere 42' 6") and also the course of canal restorations rarely run smoothly. I seem to recall a certain Mr Hutchings paying the canal a visit in the 1960's and observing that it would be a relatively easy restoration job. Here we are, 40 years later and the task remains.
But hey, I am an optimist. Given the lack of obstructions on the line all the way up to Swafield, an enthusiastic owner and a dedicated team of restoration volunteers I think I might just see it finished before the bottom of Wand'ring Bark rusts through.