Sunday 28 December 2014

Humber Bridge

Humber Bridge
December 2014

We spent a very subdued Christmas in Hull this year.

Sadly John, my Father in law, died on the 20th December and there were reminders of him at every turn as the family gathered and offered each other what support they could.

After several days of grey Sunday 28th dawned clear and bright so I took myself off to the foreshore beneath the Humber Bridge, the longest span in the world when built in 1981.

With a low winter sun hovering low over Lincolnshire there there was some excellent light for one of my favourite subjects.

Thursday 25 December 2014

Guess what Santa brought me for Christmas?

My new watery toy
December 2014

Imagine my delight when I opened my Christmas present and out dropped, with a very heavy thud, a bright gleaming Sea Searcher magnet.

Halfie was recently extolling the virtues of a genuine Sea Searcher over the cheaper welders magnet alternative and I had completely forgotten that Helen was present whilst I expressed my desire for one.

Happy Christmas one and all!

Friday 12 December 2014

New Year comes early on Wand'ring Bark

New fire project takes a big leap forward
December 2014

Well, they do say the New Year is all about "Out with the old and in with the new".

Following the removal of the old stove a couple of weeks ago I paid WB a visit and reconfigured the hearth support to accommodate the slightly larger footprint of the new stove which used to grace the saloon of Yarwood.

The hearth was widened by a couple of inches and the front was turned into a more pleasing curve, but the big event had to be postponed. By the big event I am referring to  actually getting the new stove into place and making sure it all fits as expected.

WB's new stove in situ

The old stove was a bit flimsy and perhaps the mark of the difference in quality is apparent in the fact that I carried the old stove to the car hanging it on one hand, whereas the new one is too heavy for me to lift alone, let alone get it out of Montgomery's hold. For this manouver I needed extra muscle in the shape of Mr Whateley, founder member of our recovery crew. 

For the time being both boats are lying side by side in our marina, my neighbour having left last week. With the slot empty agreement was obtained to leave the butty alongside to facilitate construction work on the strict understanding that I will vacate immediately if called upon to do so. With about 10 of the short slots vacant on our side I am hoping this request will be later rather than sooner. 

Anyhow, back to the task. I spent the morning constructing a floor in the front locker of Montgomery, covering the slab ballast and reusing the Hexagrip board which used to be the engine cover till the edges rotted away. I cut off the soft outside two inches and the rest of the board was as good as new.Just as I finished this task in a bracing three degrees along came Martin and between us we hauled the stove over the gunnels and into Wand'ring Bark.

It was with some trepidation that we sat it onto the plinth.It all seemed to fit ok but the real moment of truth was when we dropped the pipe down through the roof collar. Would it fit or would I have to endure the delay and expense of having the pipe cranked? As it happened the pipe slid down and strait into the collar waiting below.Spot on.

Nor the project will enter another hiatus. The fire surround has to be tiled and the necessary bits and bobs are all on order, but deliver wont be before Christmas. 

Saturday 29 November 2014

New Fire project - getting the old one out

New Fire project - Getting the old one out
November 2014

Having completed the front lockers its onto project number two, replacing the solid fuel stove.

As you may recall, we acquired a replacement stove from Joe and Lesley of nb Yarwood back in the summer and since then it has sat in the hold of Montgomery awaiting fitting.

The stove is 12 years old has been struggling of late. In recent years I have had to replace the back flue blanking plate, the window glass, window retainers, door seals and now the flue has broken free of the body of the stove. With the fire bricks crumbling and the throat corroding its time to replace.

Freeing the stove pipe from its collar

I started at the top, drilling out some of the fire cement which was holding the stove pipe on place. With a hole created I ran the jig saw round the old flue pipe and managed to free it from the collar. With the lugs securing the pipe to the stove broken it was simple to lift the pipe up and rest it on a batten over the fire.

Releasing the stove body

Fore some strange reason the stove was not bolted down, which will account for its movement around the hearth over the years, and the broken connection with the stove pipe. However, this did make removal easy as I could just pick it up and carry it outside.

 An empty recess

On removal I had a look at the back and was alarmed to discover rust holes around one of the back boiler blanking plates. This will account for our inability to fully restrict the inflow of air! Looking at the state of it its not really safe and certainly not airtight.

 The rusted back of the stove

Does anyone want any spares to a Valor Arden stove - free if you collect!

Then it was onto the tiled hearth, bashing and smashing with a hammer and chisel to prepare the recess for adjustment (the new stove is slightly wider) and then re tiling. More to follow as the project progresses.

One interesting observation about the relative build quality between the two stoves. I carried the Arden to the car in one hand but lifting the new stove is a two man job.

The deadline for this task is the end of Feb when the boat will be used as accommodation after a friends wedding reception.

Saturday 22 November 2014

New Locker Project

New Locker Project
November 2014

We have a long list of winter boat maintenance projects on our to do list, not least the long awaited front lockers / seats in the bows.

The catalyst for this particular task was the purchase of two sheets of Buffalo Board to make new engine and gas locker covers. The old ones were 12 years old were so weary that there was a significant chance of water getting in so new boards became essential. In for a penny and all that so I bought enough to construct the long awaited lockers.

The basic frame is built

This it a tricky job as there are no right angles to work with so everything is built by eye, fitting where it touches. I settled on a freestanding approach, with a false floor in one locker to take windlass's etc and the other one with no base to accept water bottles, water hose and other wet stuff.

... and then covered with Buffalo Board

The project started with the rusting floor being stripped repainted to give a good base.

After spending a couple of mornings on the task things are shaping up. One locker is just about complete with its  Buffalo Board sheeting applied and a hinged lid fitted on. The other has its frame built, a mirror image of the first, and the main panels cut out.

Just one more session and they should be complete, leaving me ready seal the raw edges and then move onto the big job of the winter, the replacement of the solid fuel stove.

Update 29th November:

I spent another three hours on this project and completed the second locker, a much easier task with something to copy.

 The finished tesult

The end result is pretty good, although I still need to seal the raw edges to prevent water ingress.And then there is the table.......

Sunday 16 November 2014

In search of the lost loops

Waterways World December edition
November 2014

Among my various activities some of you may know that I am an occasional contributor to Waterways World, sometimes supplying articles on request and sometimes offering speculative items on my own initiative.

My main area of specialism will come as no surprise to you - exploring the abandoned canals. I have to admit that I really enjoy this writing, coming up with an idea, laying out a structure and then pulling all the bits together, often drawing data from my old blog posts.

The December 2014 edition includes my latest offering, a four page exploration of the lost loops of the BCN, the sections created by the straightening and realignment of the Old and New Main Lines.

This particular item has been a long while in gestation. I realised I has a credible article way back in February but was missing the Oldbury Loop and the Tat Bank Branch. I wrote the bulk of the content way back last winter but left gaps pending an opportunity to get my boots on and go exploring.

Our lives are very full and it was seven months before these gaps were researched, and the article was ready for submission. These items usually linger in the the editors in box for many months, but on this occasion the proofs were returned inside a week and it was out there on the news stand just ten days later.

If you are interested in the old canals, particularly the BCN get a copy and take a look.

Friday 14 November 2014

New sheeting for Montgomery

New sheeting for Montgomery
November 2014

When we pressed The Jam Butty into service back in May it was unquestionably a hurried affair.

The limited window of time between acquisition and formal launch saw the purchase of a large tarp on the internet which was designed to offer protection from the elements whilst the boat was being painted. With insufficient time or resources to get some proper sheeting the temporary duty tarp was cut and refitted as side sheets and a top sheet.

Side Cloths

This temporary solution worked ok - up to a point. It certainly kept the worst of the rain out but with the side sheets not properly sealed to the gunnels it was always going to leak a bit. With all the rain we have been having this temporary solution (which involved lots of gaffer tape) needed a better remedy. In fact, in the three weeks since I was last able to visit the boats there has been a lot of rain and I discovered that the water was sloshing around up to the floor boards.

The depth hadn't quite reached the level to activate the automatic bilge pump but this sprang into life the moment I stepped aboard and caused it to rock. Needless to say, it was all a bit damp in the hold.

Acing on the advice of Sarah (Chertsey) I contacted Peter Boyce to have some proper sheets made. After a few abortive attempts to meet up for measuring we decided to use my measurements and trust that all would work out well.

Peter has the sheets made in rapid time and they have sat in our garage for the last two weeks waiting for an opportunity to fix them on - and today was the day.

Firsts the old sheets were removed and abandoned.

Then the gunnels were drilled to accept screw which will attach the oak battens.

Ultra adhesive sealant was applied to the gunnels and the side cloths were positioned and then down fixed with the battens. All was screwed down hard and a good seal achieved along the entire length.

Then it was on with the top cloth which was all tied down with strings provided.

The only bit of this job left outstanding is to paint the gunnels, and the exposed bits of sealant black.

The end result should be waterproof and durable but only time and the winter rains will tell.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Happisburgh highlights

Happisburgh Beach and Ebridge Mill
November 2014

To all you non Norfolk philes out there, its not Happysberg - its Haisbro!

Yes, we are back in North Norfolk enjoying what has to be one of the very last dog days of a glorious Indian summer which has clung on, and on, and on. Temperatures over 20c in November with shorts and tee shirts in evidence on the beach was all a bit surreal.

The trip out started with a pause at Ebridge where the restored canal glistened under a blue sky, the water cascading over the remains of the lock gates just as it did when I was at school here the better part of 40 years ago.

November at Happisburgh beach

Then it was on to Happisburgh where coastal erosion is at its most aggressive. As I wandered on the beach it was odd to think that my old school friend Jonathan Morris, had his home about 30 feet above my head! The scoured beach laid bare the cause of the problem. The top layer is soft sand but this sits on top of maybe 10ft of slimy clay, which in turn sits on yet more sand. I could hardly walk over the clay so its not hard to understand that as water percolates down through the top sand it then runs along the top of the clay and that the top layer then simply slides off into the sea when encouraged to do so by the waves.

The newly eroded bay at Happisburgh

We may be able to influence erosion but we will never control it!

Beach defences at Happisborough

Anyhow, the low sun made for some excellent photo opportunities.

Sunday 26 October 2014

The Bond Autumn Market

The Bond Autumn Market
October 2014

The Bond in Digbeth played host to its third quarterly Market on Saturday.

This event originally attracted us due to its proximity to the Grand Union Canal with its two boat basin still intact, that and its proximity to the Edible Eastside site. Its a foodie event which we initially attended in the craft hall in the spring, then with The Jam Butty in the summer and now back into the hall as the weather cools off.

I have to admit that I rather like this event, its so different from the sort of thing we usually attend. It is run by a group of young people for young people with a taste for street food. The star attraction were the original Patti Men - winners of the Burger category in the national Street Food Awards. They attracted huge queues as punters (and hungry stallholders) who were prepared to wait 30 minutes and pay £7.50 for one of the tastiest things I have ever found under a bun.

The interesting thing is to see this event developing. It started as a foodie core and a craft market on the side but increasingly the food dimension is spreading into the craft hall. Last weekend half the hall was taken up with interesting food stalls including:

Artisan bread, specialty cheese, posh pies, organic veg, Greek food, hand made chocolate and of course preserves.

Out in the basin there were two trade boats : The Home Brew Boat and Da Vinci Crafts.

This event has a really good vibe to it and is one not to be missed. 

Don't worry if you overlooked this one, there will be a Winter Market on Sat 6th December.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Walsall Wood Coal Seams

Walsall Wood Coal Seams
Daw End Canal
October 2014

I keep an eye on a number of local historical sites, one of which is Brownhills Bob Brownhills Blog which is linked to the Aldridge Historical Society's Facebook page.

A recent post included a map of one of the Walsall Wood Colliery's coal seams (there were more than one) which was overlaid on a Google Earth image. The thing which caught my eye was the Daw End canal which cuts through the image just south of Catshill Junction.

I have often travelled along this stretch of canal and noted the extreme depth of water, a situation attributed to mining subsidence. This image reveals the exact extent of the mine workings on one level and was produced on a six foot long sheet of velum for the benefit of the railway engineers.

The mine was closed in 1961 and was never mechanised, with the abandoned shafts filled with industrial waste in the 1960's and 70's.

A word of caution as you try to orientate the above image:  North is to the right with the Angelsey Arm exiting at the extreme bottom right of the image.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Parkhead Boat Gathering

Parkhead Boat Gathering
October 2014

After my last post about Banbury Canal Day I am now jumping back in time to the Parkhead Boat Gathering which took place two weeks previously.

 Parkhead 2014

Parkhead takes place every two years, following two weeks after the Black Country Boating Festival which takes place a few miles along the Dudley No2 at Netherton. Given the proximity of the two events we decided against taking the boats back to Calf Heath so we accepted the kind offer of the guys at Hawne Basin and left both boats in their tender care.

Work commitments meant that I had to be in the office on Friday morning and we finally made it to Halesowen for a 1.30pm departure, arriving at a crowded Parkhead at about 4.00pm and was helped into the lock by the crew of All Things Spanish and Charlie from Felonious Mongoose. The festival team had a good crew on the locks and I had little to do apart from steer the boats and answer questions about the butty.

The basin at the top of the locks was interesting. Most of the working boats had arrived and my challenge was to wind immediately above the top lock and then reverse up the arm towards the tunnel portal and our mooring, three boats back next to The Home Brew Boat.

Winding the butty is a challenge at any time but reversing the two boats is pretty much an impossibility and this maneuver was conducted under the watchful scrutiny of a whole host of working boat experts. In the event the wind went well and both boats ended up in the right position  and the move back was achieved with the aid of another boater who took the stern rope from the butty and bow (or stern) hauled us in.

Parkhead is a compact site and boats were always three abreast and at times the congestion was such that boats spent the night rafted up from one side to the other.

The BCBF and Parkhead may only be 4 miles apart but the nature of the events couldnt be more different. BCBF is one huge community event attracting tens of thousands of visitors whilst Parkhead is lower key and is primarily an event for boaters and particularly for historic boat enthusiasts. As well as boat movements we had butty legging in the tunnel and perhaps the highlight for me was horse boating a BCN day boat up and down the locks. 

With President fired up, a steam showman's engine fired up and plenty of boat chimneys smoking away the site was shrouded on smoke which offered an extra dimension of authenticity to life in the Black Country 150 year ago.

For all its attractions, the event is not so well known in the local community. Its a very porous site with many entrances but my guess it that it attracted perhaps 5,000 plus external visitors over the two days. But size isn't everything and all four trade boats did steady business and provided scope to get ashore and enjoy the attractions more than usual.

All in all a special boating event put on by boaters for boaters.