... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Wednesday 30 June 2010

On our way home

A couple more books to add to the list - but at least that post stepped in yesterday when I couldn't get a signal. June's boring waterways picture will, however, have to wait. We're well and truly on the way back to Kings Bromley now. We stopped in Atherstone last night, feeling completely worn out as the exertions and excitements of the last week caught up. However, a bit of a wash and a cup of tea perked me up and we set off for the drink I'd promised myself at the Market Tavern. This was a bit of a disappointment though; while still a nice enough pub, gone were the Church End Brewery beers. Haveing been too exhausted to make sandwiches, we'd checked out the various takeaways on the way up the High Street (Atherstone has loads of fast food joints, and about eleven pubs. I don't know what the population is, but it's certainly well-served) and settled on the Raj Mahal, where the man who took our order was somewhat unenthusiastic, but the food, when we returned to collect it and served it up on returning to the boat was super, and exactly what was needed. Lacking an outdoor taple, Jim took the cabin slide off and laid it on the grass to provide a base for our repast.

While waiting for the food, we completed a survey of Atherstone High Street in preparation for a shopping trip this morning. There is one shop, called Toolbox, which looks tiny from the outside, but when it was open, and its wares spread across the pavement, turned out to be an Aladdin's cave of oldfashioned hardware; still tiny inside, a warren around which only one-way perambulation was possible, where we were able to furnish ourselves with fuse wire, paraffin, net curtain wire and various other arcane essentials. Atherstone also boasts a few charity shops, where we were quite successful, acquiring (ahem) a set of kitchen scales (to take home, I hasten to add), a lemon squeezer, some shorts and a brand new pair of boots for Jim, a 1953 coronation mug (I have an Edward VIII one, so now I just need George VI) and a couple of books.

But what of the boating? Well, it's becoming less eventful, in terms of groundings and collisions, and consequently even more enjoyable. Met a couple of people today who knew or knew of the boat, including one man whose parents had steered it in BW days. We didn't leave Atherstone until one (oh yes, we got pies too of course) and have stopped just short of Hudddlesford Junction, leaving a relatively short run to Kings Bromley tomorrow. Then tidying up, packing and.... Well, it doesn't bear thinking about really.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Books I read in June

Phil Rickman The Fabric of Sin
Enjoyable in complicated romp through Freemasonry, the Knights Templar and Welsh Nationalism with a female C of E exorcist.

Cath Staincliffe Bitter Blue
Short (read-at-one sitting) female private eye, completely predictable plot.

R.D. Wingfield Frost at Christmas
Managed to avoid seeing the TV dramatization (not a fan of David Jason). Good story; good characters.

Monday 28 June 2010

The end of a perfect week

Give or take the odd bump and grounding, this week has been absolutely sublime, culmimating not only in the Braunston experience, but actually being part of it this year. The weather has been wonderful, unbelievable, both for the festival itself and the journey to it. Starting to feel part of the old working boat 'community'; having things in common to talk about. The brilliant - as always - atmosphere. As I strolled around very early this morning as mist from the canal wreathed the boats in the basin, I wondered if life could possible get any better. And when Tom and James left with their coal boats, Archimedes and Ara, immaculately turned out, I understood how those people felt who ran away to join the boats.

Life went on however, as boats either left or were locked up and themselves left, and we set off in search of some half inch stern gland packing, the box at the Braunston chandlery turning out to have been empty. Eventually we secured a length of rather grubby stuff from Tony Redshaw, which Jim has fitted (stuffed in? Whatever the technical term is). We set off from Braunston at half past one, and have averaged a very steady two miles an hour, for six and a half hours, bringing us to Hungerfield where we have caught up with Bath.

Sunday 27 June 2010

Social whirl

Sunday saw more visitors, including Bones and the highly photogenic Boots. We went in the parade again, but I got someone else to steer this time so that I could just relax and enjoy it, and the moveable ballast had a party in the hold with beer AND crisps. We got through the parade more smoothly today, largely because Chiswick and Victoria didn't stage their tug of war this time.

Saturday 26 June 2010

On parade

Oh dear, two posts to backdate; I really must be slipping. But a combination of the lack of signal at Braunston (no hint of the free wi-fi that the marina offered last year) with being rushed off my feet during the day and exhausted at the end of it, finally pushed blogging off the agenda. I will make up for it now though. Today we paraded for the first time, with me steering, and although it was slow and sometimes lass than graceful, we neither hit anything nor got stuck anywhere, which I count a success. Because I was on the boat I didn't get any photos, but I was later given a print by a reader, who is goung to send me an electronic version, of a really brilliant photo of Chertsey at the end of the parade, having survived the obstacle course through the marina, complete with its rather neat (even if I say so myself) chalk signwriting. So a photo of us setting off instead.

The other really notable thing about the day - and indeed the whole weekend - was how many people dropped by to see Chertsey. It was wonderful to see you all, and I'm sorry if you didn't all get the attention you deserved, it was just such a hectic day. One of the visitors was Richard Pearson, a long time friend of Richard Barnett who knew both him and the boat when Richard B. first bought it. He shared many anecdotes and it was just lovely listening to someone who knew the boat back then.

Friday 25 June 2010

And to prove it

I'm now writing this crouched on the grass in the shade of one of the Admiral Nelson's outside tables. The sun's still beating down and everything is idyllic. Here's a picture of us arrriving yesterday.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Better late than never

I really am writing this on Thursday evening, although I won't be able to post it until the morning, and then only if I'm lucky... That must be a clue in itself – where on the canal network is mobile reception so famously dreadful? Yes, we've made it to Braunston. We left Hawkesbury at ten to seven and arrived here about six tonight. As luck would have it, Chertsey is tied up between Chiswick on one side and Victoria on the other, with Skylark on the inside of all of us, if you want to come looking for us, although there's every chance we might have moved.

Today was another splendid one, although it started a little cooler. Mike came with us as far as Newbold, where we stopped to drop him and the dogs off, to collect his car from Rugeley. Today's travelling was relatively uneventful; the North Oxford has plenty of water compared to the Coventry and even though the level was down by as much, we didn't get stuck at all. On the final approach to Braunston we had a lovely surprise – spotted Mike in a bridgehole. Rather than face the rush hour traffic going home from Rugeley, he'd decided to come back to Braunston. I wasn't half pleased to have him on board to advise when we were requested to go through the marina and back out ontto the canal to get into position. It's jolly tricky, I can tell you, but although I might have managed it with a bit more sang froid, I was delighted at this stage of the game to complete the manoeuvre without touching anything, bank or boat. Mike had even brought us provisions of fresh milk and cakes, and he stayed for a cup of tea and a look around before finally heading for home. What an absolute star!

Tonight I had to cook the pie we bought in Atherstone on Tuesday, so I fired up the Epping in spite of the heat. The pie was super and we had lots of hot water for washing as well, and finally doing the washing up properly. Then I left it, hopefully to burn out and cool down while we went to check out the beer tent. It was quiet but we had a chat with Andrew and Andrea from Dove.

And so ended Chertsey's first journey under its own power for a quarter of a century. It took us five days, at about ten or eleven hours a day, on average, to complete the trip. We were definitely slow compared to most of the other boats, but even if we did only average about two mph, as an average I reckon that's not bad. The engine hasn't given a moment's worry, and it does sound lovely too. I suspect the stern tube does need more packing as it's OK as long as I keep greasing it, but starts dripping after a few hours running, and grease is squeezing out of the inside end. We still don't know whether the battery is charging. And... er, that's it. Can't think of any other problems or concerns.

I think Chertsey is a fantastic boat and I'm sure there are few better. Credit must go to all the people who have worked on it, advised or in any way been involved with the project. An enormous thank you to you all. And please do come over the weekend and see what's been achieved so far.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Learning a Pole's worth

Tempted to start every post with the words 'It's been a long day' - today certainly no exception. Fairly eventful... and not everything went right. Included quite a few more episodes of getting stuck, including one entailing us calling on the aid of others. Happy endings though... Mike lost his phone on the towpath whilst walking the dogs - but someone handed it in to the police station... so he had to go back to Nuneaton to fetch it. But how wonderful that it was handed in.

All's well that ends well though and my biggest achievement today was getting round the turn at Hawkesbury without touching the bank at all... I heard Mike's voice in my head (though he was on his way back from Nuneaton at the time) saying 'reverse now'... and I did and it worked. Amazing how much I'm learning.

Anyway, spent evening in the Greyhound, of course, and need to make a really early start if we're to have a fighting chance of arrining in Braunston tomorrow. The top pound of the Coventry was very low and lots of people have been getting stuck; just hope things will be better tomorrow. Pic taken in Polesworth this morning, an eternity ago.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Sticking point

Day three, Kings Bromley Wharf to Polesworth.
First things first. In the early hours it suddenly occurred to me that the Primus stopped working after Jim had filled it with paraffin, and believing that you can never have too much of a good thing, had probably put too much in, meaning that there wasn't enough air to compress to pressurise it. So in the morning I emptied some paraffin out, and it worked! So tea all round. Then I put some more water on to wash my hair, and just as I was doing so, dripping over the counter, who should come by but Liam on Ariel, filming as he went. Ariel looked great and it was lovely to see it at last.

I put some more grease into the stern tube (think it might need repacking but it's manageable at the moment); we topped up the oil, and were ready for the off at eight thirty, breakfast deferred as Mike highly recommended a cafe at Fradley (at the caravan site, not the one opposite the BW office) for bacon rolls. The sun was already shining as I steered us to the junction, negotiated the many lovely boats moored there, and was greeted by Andrew and Andrea from Dove, as well as Liam on Ariel and others we'd followed down yesterday. By some miracle, I got around the bend and into the Coventry Canal without a hitch, so I do hope Liam was filming that too - it looked as if he was. At that point it felt as if the boat was enchanted... there's been a few times like that actually.

The Coventry is shallow and bendy but all was going well until... We got stuck in a lock for the first time. Glascote top lock, to be precise. We went up no problem, but the top gate wouldn't open fully; something hard and immoveable was behind it. It seemed as if it might just be marginal enough to squeeze through (though to be honest I wouldn't have tried if it hadn't been suggested by others) but it wasn't, and the inevitable result was that Chertsey got about six feet out and then could move neither backwards nor forwards. Other Braunston bound boats were now backing up behind us and came to offer help and advice. After trying crowbars to no avail, we got the boat free by a combination of rocking and reversing, then after quite a while managed to remove the obstruction by moving bricks that had seemed to be displaced from the lockside towards the middle. The gate then opened fully and we glided graciously out.

We had hoped to get to Atherstone tonight, for a drink in the Market Tavern and to stock up on pies, but we were so desperate for a drink and some food (chips in Jim's case) that we decided to stop in Polesworth instead. Big mistake. Most of the pubs were really horrible, though the first one we tried didn't seem so bad after looking at the others and they did have a Local Character and well kept beer. In the meantime we'd ordered pizza etc from Turners Bistro (and Steak-Away!), where the proprietor was really cheerful and friendly and helpful. We the retired to the boat to eat it, and it was very nice. It's a shame that we won't be in Atherstone for an evening, nor if things go to plan, at Hawkesbury, as these are the pubs we'd really like to visit.

Monday 21 June 2010

Longest day

And we made the most of it. Penkridge to Kings Bromley Wharf. We didn't set off too early, just after eight. At the first lock, we me up with a chap we'd seen on a hireboat yesterday, following us for some of the way. His name was John, and it tranpired that he was making a trip around the waterways, south-north, on hire boats, going with other people etc. The trip is being done in stages, but each stage had to start where the previous one finished. He asked if he could hitch a ride with us to Great Haywood in return for helping with locks... We happily agreed. It then emerged that among other things he was a Friend of President and had been involved in its epic trip up the Thames, so he did some steering too. It's amazing the people you meet boating.

In the end he stayed with us to Rugeley, where we had arranged to meet Mike (Zulu Warrior). We had been very much looking fuorward to a cup of tea at Rugeley but disaster - the Monitor stove (sorry Carl, I was using Primus generically, rather like Hoover) wouldn't light. After three attempts we gave up and had juice instead but it wasn't the same. We also realised that this meant no hot water at all, for anything.

After a very fruitful trip to Wilkinsons (always the high spot of a visit to Rugeley) we were under way again, having decided to spend the night on the mooring at Kings Bromley Wharf that I've been paying for since April. We got there at 10.15, and had a supper of salad and beer... and a lovely (and very interesting) fellow moorer very kindly boiled her kettle to fill my giant teapot.

But you don't want to hear about that, do you? You want to know how the boat is going. Still going great, is the answer. Had a few more bottom-related incidents but none so bad as yesterday; the worst occurred when I was attempting to drop John off at a particularly tricky bridgehole, so fortunately he was still around to help extricate us. One of the Penkridge locks sent a stream of water straight into the engine room... but seems to have done no harm. tomorrow. Finding the T&M a worthy challenge with its tight bends, angled bridgeholes and narrows, but still no disasters, not even any collisions. Chertsey's ability to stop is so goos that all there have been are the lightest of nudges. Still loving it and starting to get a real feel for it now. Sorry no decent photos yet; I forget the camera everry time I get off the boat.

Sunday 20 June 2010

Chertsey's travels: Day 1

Stretton to Penkridge. By car, ten minutes. By boat, ten hours. But here we are, and with barely a hitch along the way. The worst thing that happened was going aground a few times - only one of which gave us any real difficulty, and we still got off, unaided, in the end. The good things - too numerous to mention. The sunshine; the engine running without a stutter, the way the boat handles - like a dream. It stops. It goes backwards. It steers going backwards. It steers in neutral. It is very responsive to 'rowing' the tiller. It goes exactly where you want it to. I nudged a couple of locks; I scraped lightly around one or two bridgeholes. But I can honestly say I didn't hit anything (except occasionally the bottom). It's bloody brilliant.

We left Stretton at about nine fifteen and just went without stopping, eating hummous and crisps for lunch and drinking juice... by the time we stopped we weren't half ready for a cup of tea. First thing was to fire up the Primus (a skill exclusive to Jim, at present) and, to avoid having to boil the kettle twice, make a big pot of tea, six teabags for two mugs each; it's a long time since a cup of tea tasted that good. Then after we'd eaten our supper sitting out on the towwpath in our new lurid pink and lilac folding chairs, the landlord of the local pub, the Cross Keys, came down, very enterprisingly rounding up trade. So we have just been in there wwhere they had a man playing the piano, and it was actually a very nice pub. I'd always had it in my head that all the pubs in Penkridge, and all M&B pubs, were horrid, but the Cross Keys proves me wrong.

So far, so.... bloody wonderful. Fingers crossed we can keep it up - it's almost too good to be true.

Saturday 19 June 2010

At last

I feel I should be writing something really momentous here, but one one hand it just seems like the logical outcome of everything that has gone before; on the other, like an unimaginable achievement. Today Chertsey travelled under its own power for what might be the first tome in a quarter of a century. Yes, we really did it. At last.

The day started so long ago, with Chertsey going back into the water. After all the planning and positioning last night the actual operation (excluding stopping to take photos) took just three minutes - and how lovely it was to see the boat in the water.

Lots of little jobs remained to be done, the most important of which was the final lining up of the engine (which Jim did while I was optimistically out stocking up on provisions). Three big ballast tanks have gone into the hold, and been filled with canal water, plus our freshwater tank.

The plan had been to take a trip into Wheaton Aston to fill up with diesel at Turners, but as usual time ran away from us and by the time we realised, it was too late. Disappointing taht if we leave tomorrow we'll have to fill up somewhere more expensive but not the disaster I'd first feared as at least there are alternatives.

But we went for a trip into Wheaton Aston anyway; effectivly Chertsey's maiden voyage, with this engine and since coming out of retirement. What can I say other than it went wonderfully well. The prop, which we'd feared might be on the small side, seems perfect; the boat stops and reverses really well. It moves through the water and steers beautifully; the engine sounds great (and is very loud!) and touch wood, toush wood, touch wood, there seem to be no major problems. Minor ones are that the throttle needs adjusting (although I was getting used to it anyway) and the regulator on the dynamo may need adjustting too; we couldn't be sure it was charging. (So we'll be taking a spare battery with us in case, courtesy of Tufty.) But what a joy it was to see that boat stretched out in front of me. Toomorrow, then, we leave for Braunston.

Friday 18 June 2010

Final furlong

Well at long last, tomorrow is make or break day - a bit later than planned, but isn't that always the way. When working to a deadline, whether on writing an article or getting a boat Braunston-worthy, not only does the task expand to fill the time available, but activity is inevitably increasingly concentrated the nearer the deadline you get.

So, first thing tomorrow Chertsey will be lowered back into the Shropshire Union Canal, and, hopefully, by the end of the day will be travelling under its own power for the first time in, possibly, a quarter of a century.

My proudest achievement today was finishing and fitting the canvas section to the cooling ducting. Not perfect but pretty neat and hopefully will serve the purpose. There would have been a photo but I left the camera in the kitchen....
Meanwhile, Jim finished the ad hoc lengthways flooring of the hold (last year one boat at Braunston, I think it was Monarch, sported a sign saying something along the lines of 'Work in progress: Fuck off rivet-counters'. I feel I should have one saying 'Fuck off floor-direction-checkers and plank-measurers'. But I'm too polite, of course.)

We have cleared up all our detritus from around the boat and it is now in position to be lifted in before all the hire boats are let out in the morning. Then we shall see whether it is watertight... whether the engine starts... whether the controls work... the battery charges... and all the other things that could go wrong that I haven't even thought of yet. It won't be the end of the world (and I promise not to cry) if it doesn't work first time, even if we don't make it to Braunston. It's been good to have a target, but it's no the be-all and end-all really; we just have to pretend that it is.

This evening Andrew and Andrea from Dove came to collect their trailer, the kind loan of which really saved our bacon, and we went into Brewood for a quick drink at teh Bridge. Oh god. I knew there was an Ingerland match tonight, but hadn't foreseen that they would have erected a TV in every bar plus one outside, so we stood and shivered literally on the bridge with our first pint, and by the time we had finished that the national heroes has achieved another ignominious draw so we were able to squeeze into the now thankfully quiet bar.

Thursday 17 June 2010


What a difference from when it was last in the crane's chains.

Today we went shopping again, and bought a set of fenders this time, as well as numerous nuts and bolts - hopefully it will be the last big expedition. Jim spent ages browsing the stock of old, quality, brass screws in Kelsalls, and came away with a selection - I think he would have liked to buy them all.

The major task today was getting on with the floors, to get them done (and the timber out of the way on the bank) before going back in the water. All was going well and Jim was very pleased with the new Triton circular saw he's bought for this specific job, when - disaster! - it stopped working. This rather threw plans into disarray and the wa we have found round it is to put the planks in lengthways pro tem, so that they don't need to be sawn. Then at a later date they can all come out again and be made up properly.

We've put the deckboard on, and it looks super. We need this to mount the headlight on! We would have liked to have built the false cratch but although we have most of the bits, there are no gunnels to built it up from.

The headlight, starter motor and dynamo are now all wired up, and we've been able to utilise the lovely old brass and ceramic switches that were already wired up in the cabin - they'll be for the headlight and the pump in the hold. I am going to cheat slightly with the addition of one 12v socket hidden in a cupboard in the cabin, to charge my phone and hopefully the netbook. If I go quiet you'll know it hasn't worked!

Finally, I shoved a tin of grease into the sterntube. Not as simple a task as it sounds as Chertsey still has the original type of greaser, which consists of a cap about two inches across and an inch and a half deep, which has to be filled with grease and then screwed down on a very fine thread (I didn't count the turns but it's a lot). To get the tin of grease in took about eight capfuls - the hardest part is getting the thread started. By the time I'd finished it was squeezing out around the propshaft so I hope that means that's enough.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Well I'll bee...

Alternative title: bees in my breast piece. Ahem. Up until now, the front end of Chertsey has been somewhat neglected; that is to say that the foredeck and its wooden cants have received no attention whatsoever. But I was prevailed upon to at least superficially clean up the fore end with a lick of red oxide (a sort of reddled sepulchre, perhaps) so this morning that was the first task I set about. As I swept and hoovered the sand and leaves etc off, I noticed a number of insects buzzing around, one of them carrying a suspicious green parcel, but as they weren't the giant hornets that are found around these parts I was more annoyed than frightened. Then, having scraped out the moss, I started to dig away at the rotten wood of the breast piece and to my amazement, bits of fresh green leaf emerged from deep within it. Suddenly I realised that the rotten wood had been colonised by leafcutter bees. I left the wood alone after that, and they came back, bringing new bits of leaf and dragging it in through a number of different entry points into what must be a warren of little tunnels and hollows within the timber. How extraordinary. I did however get the steel painted - they didn't seem at all put off by this - so it looks better than it did. What a turn-up though, and I wonder what will happen when we move off. And indeed whether these are local bees or have been in there since Oldbury.

After getting over that I returned to the back end when I put the final black paint onto the counter bands. The red and (old English) white are Sikkens paint, which is wonderfully shiny. I had to dig the old hated B&Q black out in the end though, but it turned out OK.
Meanwhile Jim has been in the engine room much of the day, bolting the engine down ready for the boat to be lifted in, and the propellor fitting completed. The electrics are progressing nicely. I have made the canvas tube for the cooling air outlet and Jim has attached the final bit of tinware that it attaches to.

Hopefully we will be ready to leave this weekend. The plan was for Jim to go and fetch Warrior, so that we could have comfort and cleanliness at Braunston, while I would take Chertsey. However, while I have my crew in place, he is having more trouble pinning his down... so if anyone fancies Saturday/Sunday/Monday on the Nene, do drop us a line.

Tuesday 15 June 2010


What have I done today then? Another coat on the tunnel bands, a coat over all the cabin top, Jim in the engine room attaching the gear mechanism and fitting the exhaust. We couldn't find a vital part of the throttle mechanism but to our great relief after turrning everything upside down it did turn up. Phew.

The the timber arrived which was rather marvellous, very good service, and Jim got started on making the floors for the hold. And that's all for today as tthere's beer to be drunk.

Monday 14 June 2010

Ups and downs

A day of some small successes and some frustrations... Successes include getting the trunking attached to the hole in the top of the engine room; buying large quantities of nuts and bolts from Midland Fasteners in Cannock, which Jim thought was fantastic. I didn't go because I was painting the starboard side of the cabin. This was frustrating because there was a horrible cold wind today, and it was blowing bits of oak tree into the paint. Half the paint on the port side it is now apparent has measles, because of getting rained on before it was dry. Also counted a success is that Clive has made a start on the electrics, and will be using all the old conduit and panel, plus we tested the dynamo and it appears to be in working order.

I started to make the canvas connection for the cooling air ducting, using some proper green canvas kindly donated by Derek. It would have been a piece of cake if I had access to a sewing machine, but sadly I omitted to bring mine with me. Too heavy to sew by hand, so Jim found some very promising looking glue in B&Q (washproof, flexible, heatproof) but when I tried to use it I found a thin trickle of liquid and the rest of the bottle solid. So that will have to go back tomorrow.

Jim started to fit the exhaust but found that where it was meant to screw together, the thread was so knackered it wasn't holding one end, while the other was stuck tight. However, a measure of success has come out of this, as he successfully cut off the connector and apparently there is another wonderful place next door to the nut and bolt shop where we can get another one. Fingers crossed. So things are coming together but it's been another bitty day, and the weather has been very depressing. I have decided that wind - especially cold wind - is my least favourite weather. I would rather have rain or even snow without wind... I think.

Sunday 13 June 2010

Wet paint

Nothing really meriting a photo again today, but a few more jobs ticked off. First we refitted the bulls eye, sticking its broken edges together with clear sealant before lowering it into place. The broken bits can't be seen once it's in place. What we have learnt from this exercise is that the top layer of the cabin top, under the steel, is ply (rather than a double thickness of wood) and this is delaminating to wonderful wavy effect where the bulls eye leaked over the years. I would suspect, on the basis of those 1970s/80s photos that the cabin sides were ply too, were it not for the porthole which definitely is surrounded by two layers of wood.

My next job was to take off the cabin slide and wire brush/scrape/sand all the flakey scabby bits off and get a new coat of paint on it. Then I turned my attention to the cabin top, removing stray bits of sealent and cleaning it up. Next, I set to painting the port cabin side, including the engine room, from handrail to gunnel. This turned out very nicely, and I was having a well deserved lunch when I was informed that it was raining. Just a light shower, I thought, as forecast.... but no, it rained solidly - and heavily - for the rest of the afternoon.

I retired to the back cabin with a tin of cream gloss and Radio 4, while Jim looked at the exhaust. Another hour or so later and it was still raining and everyone else had gone home. Now this morning, while I was doing the painting, Jim was fixing Fang (the Volvo that broke down last time we were here). It turned put not to be the petrol pump itself, but either a faulty pipe or faulty connection. After he took it out and put it back again, it was fine. We are now starting to think about the logistics of the forthcoming trip(s) and it seemed to be a good idea to take Fang up to the mooring at Kings Bromley, where the plan is to keep it anyway (certainly for me alone it will be cheaper to come up and down by train). So we set off in the lashing rain to do that, a convoy of 240 estates.

By the time that was done it was quarter to eight and time for supper - another 12 hour day done and less than one might expect to show for it. How time flies when you're doing real work!

Saturday 12 June 2010

Long days

I do love these long days - shame they'll be starting to get shorter again all too soon. Sometimes the day's so long I can't believe that something I did in the morning was all part of the same day. I managed a slightly earlier start this morning so put in about twelve hours in total. Jim spent the whole day sanding the cabinsides and top, ready for me to paint tomorrow - we've decided to try and look our best for Braunston, should we make it there.

But what did I do? Well, I painted all the new nuts and bolts inside the engine room (goodness, was that really today?); at least, I primed them. I now have to undercoat them in white and paint them cream. It was only after I finished that I remembered that the new tin of undercoat is also a primer - aaagh!! Then I thought about putting another coat on the tunnel bands, but decided against it as Jim was rubbing. I sorted out all the electrical stuff to show the electrician ('The only experience I have of dynamoes is throwing them away to fit alternators') and decided that while I was at it I could clean out and paint that locker under the crossbed. So I did that, and then the bit of the swim under the stove and part of the floor in the cabin (I'm leaving the middle section unpainted but cleaning up the edges with some red oxide). Then I got the old tin of cream paint and finished it off on some of the cabin woodwork - not the best move, or at least, leaning against it and putting my feet against it wasn't, and nor was knocking over the white spirit later.

I took a brief break to wash the old rag rug which actually seems to have been quite successful. I squished it around in a very big bucket of detergent for a bit then laid it out on top of two beer crates and rinsed it with the hose. You can now see that it is made up of different colours, not just brown.

Finally we took the bulls eye off - some bits of glass flaked off the edge but thankfully nothing too major. This has been fairly leaky over its lifetime, and recently an emergency repair was made with lots of sealant, but that has all cleaned off nicely, and hopefully a. we will get it all nicely sealed in tomorrow and b. it won't rain tonight. My last job of the day (apart from tidying up and microwaving dinner) was to make a start on cleaning its brass.

So I think that's everything I did today....

Friday 11 June 2010

Yesterday's efforts

As promised, a few (only a few because I'm still using my phone) photos of yesterday's activities, and a bit more detail. We didn't start particularly early - since the weather stopped being sunny our internal clocks seem to have decreed that we need a couple more hours in bed each morning!
But my mid morning we were ready to roll back the tarpaulin and begin, starting with the tanks. First the old wooden bearers went back in, then the tanks themselves were carefully manouevred through the gap and into place using the crane at one end and Jim at the other - final positioning being done with a very large crowbar. Jim connected up the balance pipe without any problems, but we did have trouble getting one of the securing straps back on - there was a bit of swearing and banging, and it's still not perfect but it will have to do.
Then after lunch we were ready for the engine. This is an enormous lump and only just fits through the gap, especially as the throttle control rod was still in place. And of course it had to be landed millimetre perfect on the bearers, which were not themselves fixed. Well, all credit to Keith's precision craning and Jim's instructions, it went right first time; it's in, and the five bolts that we have left from the original six are all in place.
Then for the roof (which is indeed now the cabin top once again) - quite a tricky job to get that lined up with all the right parts inside and outside of the cabin sides and the various angles it's bolted to - but again it was done almost before I knew it. Then I had to step in to my traditional job of doing up the nuts, all sticky with sealant. We got most of them done last night and Jim is just finishing off the more recalcitrant ones now. We're using domed headed bolts, like those we used on Warrior. The ones we took out were slotted - and we could have got some the same - but at 60p each the requisite 150 would have worked out a bit dear. Or we could have used modern hex bolts, which lots of people do and they probably have a good pedigree - but don't look so good.

I'm back to painting duties now.

Thursday 10 June 2010

What a day

Tanks in
Engine in
Roof on
Off to pub
Photos tomorrow.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Bitty bits

Well, one thing to celebrate - the blacking is finished! I should think that should do it for about five years. The rest of the day has been rather bitty - rather like the weather. More rain overnight, then it looked better in the morning, then in the afternoon, the wind got up... just as we'd decided to put a giant tarpaulin over the whole cabin to keep the rain out of the newly dried-out engine hole. We got it lashed down eventually but it wasn't much fun. I finished painting all the bitty little bits that we'll need in the engine room, because... the engine might be going in tomorrow.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Shopping and painting

Just a quick update of the last couple of days... Yesterday, as planned, we did painting. I started with a third coat on the engine room baseplate, and then we tackled the hold. We'd sucked out the water on Sunday, along with a lot of vegetable matter (if you'd asked me whether oak trees had flowers, I suppose I would have said they must do, but I had never actually had to give the matter any consideration until this week. I can now state categorically that they do indeed, lots of them, with little petals that once wet and then dried out get stuck to everything). So once it was dry yesterday we had to brush all of the detritus off and hoover it up again. And then, hooray, what might be the final coat of red oxide in the hold (that's at least five, up to about a foot, and three above that). And then, not fed up with painting (ha) we disposed of two gallons of blacking in the course of starting a fifth and final coat. Needless to say I was knackered by the end of that, and fell into bed at ten, only to awake at one to the unfamiliar but unmistakable sound of rain on the cabin top. Thank goodness the red oxide's quick-drying! - and we don't have to worry about the finish.

This morning it was still raining, so painting was out of the question (my disappointment, obviously, knew no bounds), so we did the obvious thing and went shopping instead. In fact first of all Jim had to track down a bit of the ducting that was missing from the new engine (because of the way it had previously been installed), and when he had successfully done so we went off to fetch it, which was very interesting and I got to meet Ian Kemp at last, and look at his PD2 in Comet, which is instlled exactly as Chertsey's should and will be. Then on the way back we dropped into Midland Chandlers for a brass shackle for the chimney chain (more on that soon), and left with two giant mooring pins, a spare windlass, a sixteen foot ash shaft, a cabin shaft (in kit form), 30 metres of exhaust lagging, a headlight, and a few little bits besides. What's more, we left with everything that was on the list, which is a very rare occurrence.

Monday 7 June 2010

Warm glow

Thanks to Paul and Liam for your comments about the ventilation - I shall check that out before doing anything drastic like drilling holes or buying stuff. Paul - I'm afraid there already is a vent in one of the doors... so maybe that will help.

Turning to other BSS considerations, yesterday Jim put up the heatproof board behind the stovepipe, and on the side of the cupboard above the level of the stove, where I'd noticed it getting quite hot in the winter (before I'd got the hang of controlling the stove properly) although it never actually scorched, it was hot enough to worry me.

The board at the back is covered by the sheet copper recycled from the Ely chimney hood. It's worked really well, utilising the angled bit that already existed - there was even space to slip a strip of board inside it - to cover the join over the framing. At the moment it's fixed with those special sharp screws, as it's into oak, but later they'll be replaced with nice brass ones Part of my yesterday was spent in polishing it all up - now I have to keep it that way. If I remember rightly, copper polishes more easily than brass, but tarnishes quicker too.

I also cleaned and dried out the hold (again) and the engine room, and at half past nine last night finally got a third coat of paint of the engine room baseplate. Today I think we will do... painting.

Sunday 6 June 2010

So far so good

Well, stage one was achieved without a hitch - we collected the engine in the trailer and got it safely to Stretton. Just a few more jobs to do now before it can go in. I've started this morning by hoovering the water out of the engine hole, just letting it dry now before cleaning it up ready for a final coat of paint.

We have now also turned our minds to the little matter of the boat safety certificate - something I would imagine has never troubled Chertsey before, seeing as it was last licenced in 1983. I'd thought of the fuel system, electrics and stove installation, but hadn't really given any thought to ventilation, where we may well have a bit of a problem, inasmuch as there isn't much and 'leaving the hatch open' doesn't meet the BSS's standards.... So we are now planning on reinstating the 'letter box' vents which should be high up on the cabin side, towards the back. Jim is currently putting in the heatproof board behind the stovepipe (it's already been installed all around the stove) and this will be covered by a piece of that super copper he found in Ely. Meanwhile, I have to find some new batteries for the camera.

Saturday 5 June 2010

Now for the tricky bit

The day has finally arrived (with not much time to spare). We are leaving shortly to collect the engine. Getting that safely into the trailer and to its destination will be the first challenge. Then the tanks have to go back in, and then the engine. Then, once the propshaft is adjusted for backwards/forwards alignment, the whole boat goes back in the water, and the fun starts. The Petter manual is adamant - it puts it in CAPITAL LETTERS - that the engine's alignment up/down and sideways-wise must be done WHILE THE BOAT IS AFLOAT. This seems to be the critical bit, and with PD2s' reputations for breaking crankshafts (whatever the cause) is something to be taken very seriously. The tolerances quoted in the handbook are minute - down to two decimal places of a mm; thousands of an inch. So that should be fun.

Friday 4 June 2010

And Hampstead at last

One more addition to the sticker album - long overdue because I never had quite the right photo. Possibly the very first big Woolwich I ever saw, certainly the first I had a good look at, and so quite possibly the root of this expensive addiction....

Thursday 3 June 2010

That bedspread at last

So sorry for keeping you in suspense, but suddenly there were so many more interesting things to write about. Anyway, here at last is the new bedspread, purchased a couple of weeks ago in the newest Newhaven charity shop. This one isn't part of a national chain but is a long-established local charity supporting disabled adults. Local charity shops like this I find are in general not so good for clothes, but better for bric-a-brac; a bit more like a good old fashioned jumble sale.

Anyway, I couldn't resist this multi-coloured crochet treasure trove. And it - and similar crocheted blankets - do have a use. The cross bed has a solid base and a foam mattress, which can attract a lot of condensation. Putting a blanket like this under the mattress seems to help reduce this, by spacing it out and providing some airflow.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Some wonderful photos

Thanks very, very much indeed to Richard Pearson for sending me these photos, and giving me permission to post them. All of them were taken by Richard Pearson, as were the ones I've already posted of Chertsey on the Edstone Aqueduct in 1973, and on the bank in 1986.

These two were both taken in 1970, and show Chertsey pretty much as when Richard Barnett bought it - as did that one on the Wey which I posted before. The tunnel bands (rather unusual?) are the same as in the 1964 Stratford rally as photographed by Max Sinclair.

This one again shows Chertsey (on the right) loading coal at Gopsall Wharf on the Ashby Canal, to be delivered to Croxley Mill.

This one (above) was taken in 1972, just prior to the cabin rebuild. Richard P. tells me that Richard B. had already acquired the oak by then, from Colne public library. This picture was taken just above Barton Lock, which was then the limit of navigation on the Upper Avon.

And this one shows Chertsey in 1978, with the new cabin well established. You can actually see the difference in shape, I think. Richard Pearson has confirmed that the oak framing of the cabin is original - perhaps the planked wood cabin follows the lines better than the previous ply one did. How many large Woolwiches have any of their original framing left, I wonder?

Finally, in 1986, Richard P. helped Richard B. re-rivet the knees after the major rebottoming:

Once again, many thanks to Richard Pearson for these. I hope to meet him soon....

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Change from a Shilling

Yesterday we finally managed to catch up with Michelle and Bill on their boat Shilling. This is harder than it sounds as Michelle and Bill actually live in North Carolina and are only in Britain for a few weeks two or three times a year. This was our third or fourth attempt to make contact this trip. Firstly we were going to meet them in London, but electrical problems meant that they didn't make it there. Then we were going to catch up with them on the way back from Stretton - but Fang broke down and we ended up getting a lift and the train to get home. Then we planned to visit on Sunday and give Tufty a trial run - fortunate that we did as it was still overheating and we had to abort that mission (we had done all we could over the bank holiday weekend; first thing this morning we went and got a new radiator and all is now fine, huzzah!). So finally we said that we would get there by hook or by crook and we would go by train, and meet up with Shilling at Wolverton.

So that's what we did. Michelle and Bill always make us so welcome and are great company, sharing a deep love of boats and beer. As Wolverton itself is none too appealing (although it is a very interesting place) we set off by boat to Cosgrove to have lunch at the Navigation. It was nice to be boating again and steering the 31' Shilling made quite a contrast from Tarporley and even Warrior. Despite initially being a bit nervous, I managed it fine. Jim also enjoyed having a go and (of course) getting up a bit of speed. He even spun it right round in the middle of the canal, just because he could!

On the whole though we took it nice and steady and tied up at the bottom of the Navigation's beer garden in time for a late lunch. Not the cheapest pub food, but pretty good, and a choice of four beers. We were amazed to find that by the time we got back to Wolverton it was half past six, and not long before we had to leave to catch the train(s) back. We had just been talking the whole time. We find so much to talk about, especially things like comparing the health and education systems in our respective countries. Also, Michelle does the most marvellous patchwork, and was interested to know why, unlike crocheting and rag rug making, patchwork had never become a comon practice (at least not sufficiently to be considered 'traditional') on canal boats. I'm afraid I didn't know the answer... does anyone?

After I got back Michelle read yesterday's post about the boring calendar - inadvertently not so boring with its May picture. Jim had already suggested that the boat featured might be the one belonging to the chap who writes for NarrowboatWorld, as a couple of comments on yesterday's post have also pointed out. Michelle sent me a text to say this too - and that he was the original owner of Shilling! Not only that, but just after he had sold it, but long before they bought it, they shared a lock with him. Another one of the strange coincidences that we had been discussing only that afternoon.