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Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Have now turned myself around and i am heading away from London. Having taken on water and emptied the loo i set off on Monday leaving my good friends and travelling companions Andy/Tina & John. Ahead of me about 20 hrs and 40 odd locks.

Cruised through ice at Harefield for about 1 1/2miles but this was no surprise as the canal at this point is very open and surrounded by lakes. So far have managed to team up with other boaters to share some of the locks but still have ben on my own through some.

At Watford my daughter in law stopped by on her way to work to drop off prezzies and surprised me by her having a non work day that meant we had a nice cuppa well 2 actually and a natter. Thanks Bev i enjoyed your company.

Two more stops on the way as i met people i know but as i`ve got plenty of time it was nice to stop.

This time last year i had on board some veneered panels to make my Dinette and again i have more panels this time to add a floor to ceiling cuboard near the front doors to hang coats and for extra storage. This time of year well just after christmas anyway is a good time to do a few jobs while waiting for all the winter stoppages to finish and when i have finished the alterations i will blog some pics.

Well i`m looking forward to seeing some of the G`children open their prezzies and all that remians to do is wish you all a very happy christmas and most important a very healthy new year. Thankyou all for your support and kind comments And "Annon" if you do happen to still read my lifeless blog my good wishes also go to you, i bear you no malice.

Working boats outside the Shroppie Fly on the Audlem Flight of locks

Saturday, December 15, 2007


A few months ago i fitted a smoke alarm and a Carbon Monoxide alarm. Just as with many insurances you have them and hopefully never need to claim but god help you if something happens and you are not covered.
Well sitting here yesterday evening doing the blog the C. Monoxide alarm suddenly went off and after recovering from a near heart attack, boy is it LOUD, i silenced it and first went out and pushed the brush down the chimney thinking the logs i have been burning lately had caused tar to form on the inside and cause a blockage. Having satisfied myself all was ok i then checked around the joint where the chimney enters the top of the stove, i had at the beginning of winter renewed the fire cement here but worth checking i thought but no all was ok. Next the door seal, not easy to check other than looking for any breaks or overly compressed sections that might allow fumes to seep out. By now i`m mystified no explanation so i decided to shut the front doors, these were thrown open before i even silenced the alarm-- fresh air first sort it second, after 2 hours the alarm was still silent but just in case i decided to leave the fire out.
This morning after a nights sleep a closer look at the problem revealed the glass in the door had cracked and because the heat tends to craze the glass it is not as obvious as say in the clear boat windows.
Luckily i managed to get a new glass today from a boat chandlers.
I blog this not to you at home although fitting alarms is a good idea because your central heating boiler can emit C. Monoxide if not in good order, no it`s to other boaters i appeal to. Our small living space can quickly fill with fumes so please check your stove door glass carefully and fit an alarm. If mine had not been there it is a very real possibility i could have been poisoned while i slept that night.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I`ve been asked how i manage to travel the canals without the help of a crew. Well the same tasks have to be undertaken ie mooring the boat and operating the lock but obviously being on your own it takes longer but hey time is on my side and if i don`t get there today then tomorrow will do.
Mostly i have been travelling with friends Andy/Tina and John and between us we get into a routine. With 3 boats going through wide locks as here on the Gd. Union we usually take any 2 through the lock first and 1 of the 2 will go ahead and prepare the next lock while the other helps the 3rd through. If i go ahead i might have the lock ready with the gate open so that the following 2 can go straight in and i then become the 3rd boat and the sequence carries on with one of the others going ahead. Sometimes the boat going ahead will have the kettle on and by the time we lock 2 boats through everyone has a cuppa.
So cruising alone and no one to brew up so my first task before setting off is make up a flask, very handy when winter cruising.
Lets say i`m going uphill and as i approach the lock and from a distance my first hope is i see another boat coming down towards me in which case i stop mid stream and wait for them to exit the lock and i can go straight in without having done a thing.
In the absence of another boat coming through my next hope is can i see a slight gap between the gates showing the lock is empty. If no gap can be seen then all i can do is moor up and walk upto the lock to prepare it. Another alternative is to put the bow against the gate leave the engine in gear slightly and step off the back with a rope, empty the lock and the boat will gently drift in as you open the gate. I`ve given up doing this for many reasons the main one being that the boat usually pushes the opposite gate open and you then have to go all round the lock to shut it.
Right there is a slight gap so i edge the bow upto the gate and gently repeat gently nudge the gate open. Now remember i`m going uphill and if i stay on board and take the boat into the lock i then have to climb up onto the roof walk along and then climb the lock ladder to get upto the lockside. All movements on /off and around a boat in a lock can result in an accident the least being a slight tumble and the worst falling in and either side of the boat will find you not only in deep water but also the sandwich filling between a brick wall and 17 tons of steele boat.
My way no matter if i`ve nudged the gate open or opened it by hand is to slowly bring the boat in and as i pass the steps as pictured below i take a centre rope, i have one each side of the boat coming from a roof fixing half way down the boat to within easy reach of the tiller,
and step off not jump as these steps can be slimy and walk up to the top of the lock lifting the rope over the lock gate i then take the rope around a bollard to bring the boat to a standstill before it hits the top gate. Just a small bump on the gate can be enough to empty a book shelf or a worktop of whatever you might have left out.

Cor never done so much typing lets take a christmas ad break and put the kettle on.
Des Lynam is dressed up as santa with a very pretty Mrs Santa selling something but all the bloke wants for christmas is some puppies?

Some jeweller is selling diamonds so bright they leave a trail of light behind as you walk, bit like the vapour trail behind a plane in the sky.

Woolworth are doing some deals on DVDs that have been out for ever, never the latest ones are they.

Oh and all hurry down to Tesco and you might bump into the Spice Girls.

But wait a minute, Phil Collins music now they`ve got my attention...........chocolate! Mr Cadbury i`m your best customer but please please tell me .. HOW on earth did you teach that Gorrilla to play the drums.

Right i`ve got me cup of tea and put another log on the fire so i leave the rope around the bollard so i `ve always got contact with the boat and i shut the gate. The ground paddle has to be raised to fill the lock and lift the boat to the next level. On single locks both paddles can be raised as the boat has very little space to move around in but on these double locks the sudden inflow of water can cause the boat to be thrown around not a problem if 2 boats are using a double lock but i am here on my own so i just half raise the paddle on the same side as the boat and the water will sweep in under the boat to the rear and hold the boat to the side of the lock as the lock fills i can fully raise the paddle and can then cross the lock to raise the other paddle as by this time the lock has filled to such a degree that incoming water will not have a dramatic effect as when the lock was empty.
Now this tip i learnt from a lady when i first started life on board, she was waiting to lock her boat through from the other direction why in 90% of couples on a boat is it the lady doing the locks? We`ve got lady bus drivers and pilots so what makes it a must for the bloke to stand on the back of the boat and watch the ladies struggle with lock gates. That little tip would have come in handy on one of the first trips out when i opened both paddles and the boat went diagonally across the lock and one of the single steps fitted at the eachside on the curved part of the stern became caught in a gap between the bricks of the lock wall, as the water went down one side of the boat didn`t and it tipped at an alarming rate but because of another tip i learnt i was standing next to the gate paddle watching the boat( never take your eyes off a boat in a lock) as i dropped the paddle down to stop the water draining and the boat tipping anymore it slid out of the gap in the brickwork Phew could have been nasty.
With the lock full i open one gate and slowly exit as i clear the gate a little reverse will stop the boat as i step off with a stern rope, no the ropes not stern just plain rope thats attached to the back, shut the gate step back on and away i go.
So thats going uphill, going down is much the same but as the boat enters the lock i am already level with the lockside so no walking up the steps with a rope this bit is done as i exit and shut the gate but the rope i use is the stern one.
Swingbridges are a pain thats the hand operated ones as opposed to electric key operated. The problem is they always pivot on the non towpath side with no where to moor because of bushes etc, goes back to the horse drawn boat days when the horse can walk past without the tow rope coming in contact with the bridge. What i do is get close to the bridge and take the front rope with me across the bridge open same and pull the boat through grabbing the stern rope as the boat passes close the bridge walk back across and pull the boat towards the towpath and away you go. With electric operation it`s a case of mooring and keeping traffic waiting while you open the bridge and walk back to get the boat moor again and close the bridge.
There`s lots of little things to help a solo boater on his way but with time being no matter you just accept that it will take longer A to B but it`s not impossible.

So christmas looms and this year i am spending the festive period with another of my offspring so i will be heading back away from the London to Herts / Beds area anyone seeing me if i pass your way is welcome to a mince pie and a cuppa.
I hope to post a Christmas card for you all in the next few days.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Coming south from Hemel i spotted this widebeam ahead and my first thought was shiny new

boat it must be Les D & Heidi on their newly launched "BLUE PEARL". No sign of you two being on board so we will have to meet another time. By the way Les the e mail is on the comments box & mine is 15a.

Further along whilst moored at Croxley i caught site of this narrowboat on the back of a lorry

crossing the canal. One place for sure it wasn`t heading was the Earls Court Boat Show because as you can see in the picture below it consisted mainly of high priced yachts.

I decided to have a day out in London to visit the show so clutching my off peak travel card, off peak? even insisting i was in the peak of condition it was still £7.80, i bravely ventured onto the train. Now the first part of the journey to Baker St. was fine although part of the underground system the trains are quite large but changing onto other lines in particular the piccadilly the tunnells are smaller so of course are the trains, height wise that is. Noisy and stuffy with people sitting with faces like you get at the dentist, not used to this i`m a fresh air man. Did you know boaters do it breathing in fresh air.
Anyway i knew knew in my heart of hearts there wouldn`t be much in the way of canal boats and i was right, in fact just 5 inland waterway boats. One was a Hoeseasons holiday boat another a Trail-boat ( can be towed on a trailer waterway to waterway) so that left just 3 builders showing their wares. Disapointed but not surprised the idea was to have a day out so i had a good walk around and at least there were some sales people on stands such as Solar to chat to.
Now this event is publisised as a Boat Show so can anyone tell me why Bentley had 2 of their cars there and hot tubs were on display next to Armchairs that gave you a massage!
Anyway i met Tony Brooks who answers technical boat questions in Canal Boat magazine and made a good usefull contact on a Vetus dealer stand. NB Valerie has a Vetus engine below decks.
So all in all not a wasted day.

Anyone been watching the BBC programme £800 million station recently concluded on BBC2.
Having watched and enjoyed the story of how St Pancras Stn. was restored and transformed into the new terminus for Eurostar trains i couldn`t miss out on a visit on the way back to the boat.
St. Pancras Stn. was designed by William Barlow and building started in 1866. It has a roof of 689` in length, although this has now been extended in glass to accomadate the Eurostar trains, the height was 100` and the 243`span made it the largest enclosed space in the world, a record held for many years.
The basement of the station was opened up and now contains many big name retailers, M&S,
and Hamleys being two that spring to mind. Upstairs at platform level following Wm. Barlows

record largest enclosed space another record has been set by way of Europes longest Champagne bar. Above not a clear picture but if you enlarge it just above the escalator rail on the left part of it can be seen separated from the Eurostar train by a tall glass panel.
On Dec 9th First Capital Connect are relocating from Kings X Thameslink stn so St Pancras station looks to be very much a major London Termini.

This 9 metre high bronze of a couple embracing is by sculptor Paul Day and its siting at the end
of the platforms is meant to become a meeting place for travellers, bit like `meet me under the clock at Victoria i`ll be wearing a carnation` well for a so called meeting place it`s a bit short of some comfortable seats in fact any seating would be nice.
Sir John Betjeman was mostly responsible for saving St. Pancras from demolition in the 1960`s and personally i`m glad because i think the new mixes in with the old very well.
So London-Paris 2hrs 15mins. I wonder how far the steam trains of the late 1800`s would have travelled in that time.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs