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Thursday, January 31, 2013

A nice couple of days

We decided to move from the Stoke Breurne area and hoped to meet the fuel boat `Jules` on the way as they were heading towards us. Our wood stock was low but I had already spotted a fallen tree hidden in the bushes just 10 minutes cruise. With some wood on board we set off again and soon after  we turned a bend and Mother Nature
still on our side with a fallen tree laying halfway across the towpath. So our wood stock has increased a little but a lot more will be needed before winter ends.
Cruising on we could hear distant shotgun fire then just ahead from a tree flew a Barn Owl settling in a tree adjacent to our stern. In the next field a Hare was making off at top speed. Next sighting were men carrying shotguns with dogs at their sides shooting Pheasant.
 No wonder the Owl relocated to a peaceful perch and perhaps the Hare thought he might end up on the kitchen table.  The shoot stretched for about a mile+ with perhaps up to thirty guns in use spread over several fields. A couple of the Pheasant did make it to new cover much to the annoyance of the shooters whose shots went wide. Don`t you just love the underdog winning.
Further along two Bullfinches flew in and out of the trees on the offside just keeping ahead of us, not a common sight so it made me smile.
On arrival at Cosgrove the fuel boat was serving the permanent moorings but all Julia had was coal. Our needs are diesel, propane and a top up of coal for overnight burning. So just an overnight stay as a mooring amongst dozens of other boats is not for us.
We have found a little bit of towpath to ourselves just on the outskirts of Milton Keynes. A couple of days to chop wood and wait out the high winds blowing around us. We will move on soon as the cold weather is possibly coming back next week so we need to refill our fuel tanks and find another quiet spot in case the ice returns. 
So we have  had  two nice days cruising--both quite short--but we are on no time table so as and when we reach London is of no importance.
Now this would see us through the winter. Somehow this Oak even in the state it`s in does not deserve to be firewood. It stands there upright and solid and seems to be declaring `look at me but I`m still standing`

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gayton waste facility

Remember the picture on the left?. Just received the e mail below from CRT. Now we are way past Gayton now so I can`t keep an eye on things but I bet the bins are still there or even if they have been removed the picture on the left will soon be re-created with rubbish piled up. This area has a lot of long term moorings so something needs to be sorted asap.

Any bloggers out there had a problem loading pictures via Internet Explorer? It seems to be ok now but when we first had the problem changing to Firefox when blogging solved the problem.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Out of the Ice

About 2 weeks ago at Blisworth after going back to the services block to fill the water tank and dump the rubbish the engine decided to overheat.
Mmmm! now having looked at that sentence and noticed it makes no mention of the toilet cassette emptying I need to mention the the composting toilet. Ok so if you feel the need to skip  stop here and start to read from under the hose pictures below. We know of people very interested in the Airhead hence the following.
Now all good gardeners will have a compost heap and will know it takes a while to break down the stuff on your pile of leaves etc. The airhead toilet we installed is we think fantastic with no smell and no heavy smelly cassettes to empty and rinse out.
Now we need to empty ours about every 4/5 weeks. These toilets were originally designed for U.S. sailboats that with occasional use and long periods moored in harbour gave the contents time to break down to a dry crumbly matter.
So as ours is used continually the disposal is a bit more than tipping out the contents on the garden. It can be emptied the same as a cassette but as it won`t tip out easily this could be a problem for others in the elsan queue.
We found the old `bucket and chuck it` the best way. Now what this means folks either side of the pond is dig a decent depth hole and bury it. This is usually done when we are moored way out in the countryside away from the towpath.
I have said it before but once again, there is no smell with this system as the liquids are separated from the solids and the continual drawing of air through the toilet starts the composting cycle.

The above was an update for the people who have showed an interest.
OK the overheating engine, a quick check while topping up the water failed to spot the hose pictured on the right as the damage was  on the under side. All I saw was the hose on the left (ignore the horizontal cuts for easy removal). Sitting in the spares box since the boat was new a length of  heater hose. The hose is the engine take off to the Calorfier (hot water tank) and explains why the water has not been as hot lately. The seepage was on to the top of the engine and quickly evaporated leaving me no tell tale puddles on the engine bay floor. Just for ease of not having to bleed it all twice I replaced the return pipe as well. Next time you are close and personal with your engine, ladies it`s a man thing, just check the undersides of your water pipes men. Oh!  take that which way you want.

The Captain brings the boat through the thin ice
The rise in temperatures and heavy rain over the weekend as good as removed all traces of ice from the canal. So we decided to move down the seven Stoke Bruerne locks and cruise to pastures new. Two locks from the bottom it started to rain and having reached the bottom lock the captain (the real one) decided to stop for lunch. As the wind had increased and the rain was still falling the actual second in command (the one who thinks of captaincy) suggested staying the night so here is as far as we travelled but it sure was good to move after being iced in. We did have some nice evenings with Jacquie and Stein, like ducks 2 water and below is a picture they took of Jaq and I while we all walked in the snow.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ok so tonight looks cold but check out the following days. I am thinking we might be moving soon.

Jaq`s 2 snow tricks

Snow is all around us so Jaq shows me her snow ice cream recipe. I must emphasize use snow from high up off the ground and never never use Yellow snow. We used the top couple of inches from the front bow locker.
One bowl of fresh snow

Add evaporated milk and sugar

Whisk and add Vanilla extract

Viola one bowl of snow ice cream Not to my taste as the sugar is crunchy but Jaq enjoyed it.

 Ok the second thing Jaq does with snow
She makes Angels in the snow

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Iced in

We made the decision with Jacquie and Stein to move on from Blisworth. Both our boats were ice free and we had only to go through about a hundred yards of slushy wafer thin ice before being back in ice free water.

Exiting Blisworth tunnel this Ice sculpture hung in the tunnel mouth. The light in the tunnel is `Like Ducks 2 Water` following us through. It`s usually wet in the tunnel with water pouring from the roof but this was the wettest journey and i got very wet.

Having poured boiling water over the water tap we managed to fill our tank and decided to stay above the locks. I reversed back and moored in front of Jacquie and Stein. The pound below the top lock,pic above, was
a mixture of clear water and ice. Having walked down through the seven locks seeing more ice than water I now declare us frozen in.
Just hoping now for a thaw as my feet start to itch as soon as my freedom to roam is restricted.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Technical Writing--But What Do These Instructions Really Mean???

"Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid" - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

  If you read Les' previous post you are aware we were having some technical difficulties with our Kerstan satellite dish. It appeared we needed a new part for it called an LNB. 
   As Les sat drinking his tea this morning I thought I would give the technical manual for the Satellite dish a gander. Simple curiosity drew me to the booklet.
   While I am not a technical writer per say, I have worked as a grant writer, produced a professional newsletter, worked as a journalist for university and community newspapers, written a blog which will be turned into a book manuscript, and started research for another book.
   I have a degree in English-Creative Writing and I teach writing tutorials online for a University, instructing beginning and advanced students in how to become better writers and how to write at a university level, therefore I am of the opinion I am qualified to critically review the written instructions in our Kerstan manual which should provide clear, concise instructions on how to assemble and operate the satellite dish.
   As I perused the pages certain things leaped out at me. The instructions were rife with typos and misspellings, such as, "With our mobile mini-SAT antenna you needn' t rennonce (sic) your satellite-programs, even on vacation, on camping tours in native- and foreign countries. To that end   you only have to fasten the outdoors system with the roof of your car or caravan." Well clearly an editor or at least spell check and a proof reader would have been beneficial before going to publication.
   Reading on: "With the help of the suckfoot this is very easy." Say what??? Suckfoot?? Is this a technical term--suckfoot? Is it a piece of equipment that came with our satellite dish: dish, LNB, antenna beam, wing screw, capstan head screw...yep suckfoot! I am familiar with the term suck face but this one is new to me. Call me an ingenue.
   According to the Kerstan Satellite manual this is a technical name for the satellite dish stand with a suction cup on the bottom. I am warning you though--do not Google this noun. It will provide you with links to porn sites such as "Cuddly Suck Foot Time" on You Tube, or Isis Taylor Pretty Feet Toes to Suck Fetish. Right, onward to Building Up.
   "You can assemble your off-set satellite dish at a wallwinkle at your window..." Wallwinkle??? Really??? Googling this term brings up Bullwinkle. Perhaps wallwinkle is a distant relative of Moose, companion of squirrel.
   "The antenna beam consists of two pieces ((3.1) and (3.2)) which you can combinate for..." Now wait a minute! I am certain there is no such term as combinate unless you are George Bush Jr. According to the technical writer of this instruction manual one can "'combinate' for the kind of assembling you choose. The arm in front with the LNB-holder and ball of the assembling arm you can (with the help of two parallel tongues) push together with the first arm...we recommend to grease the connexion between (3.1) and (3.2) a little bit.
   Whoa, whoa, whoa! Maybe this is a manual more in keeping with the first Google search! Directions involving two tongues, multiple arms, and a greased "connexion" sound a bit salacious to me.
   The directions suggest "With the help a mast clamp (4) and two wing screws you can fasten the outdoor system with the wallwinkle, mast or railing of your balcony. Now you can easily regulate the vertical winkle of the slope with the help of a slotted hole and the end pieces...when you carfully (sic) remove the connexion between the two clamp pieces with a screwdriver or something like that." Something like that is such a professional term! I always keep one of those handy in my back pack. one never knows when one will need it.
   The manual goes on to recommend you "...put the ball into the suckfoot...with the help of the capstan head screw. Before you fasten the suckfoot at your roof we recommend to put a little bit of water on the rubber." And I thought my husband was reading up on how to fix our satellite. I am not sure these kind of positions are possible in the cabin of a narrow boat but if it helps us get better satellite reception I'm willing to help out.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


It`s cold, well it is outside of the boat. Ice forming alongside the patches that have been on the water all day so perhaps an ice in will start tomorrow.

The fridge has decided to play up by forgetting to switch off. Thermostat is on it`s way.

Now the Satellite has refused to work, think I need a new LNB for the dish.

I wonder what else is about to join the mutiny.

Going to have a cup of tea and read a book.
I guess you understand such a small posting.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Waiting to be frozen in.

Well it finally snowed during the night after what has so far been a very mild winter. We did have very light snow on Saturday but it was hardly noticeable. Over the years I can remember two occasions being frozen in before Christmas, 2009 and 2010. Last year Jaq and I were frozen in for 17 days about this time of the month.
At the moment we are near Blisworth and have one eye on the weather forecast as all wise Continuous cruisers should be doing through the winter. Having filled the water tank at Gayton we moored for a few days of RandR. We had an exquisite meal and evening in the company of Stein and Jacquie aboard `Like Ducks 2 Water`. We all decided to turn back on Monday and top up our water tanks and wait the outcome of the expected bad weather. Waking up Sunday to a thin sheet of ice on the canal the water run was brought forward. Looking at the picture above it was a good decision.

 Above is the BBC weather for where we are starting tonight and below the prediction from next weekend. A lot of below freezing figures. Not convenient for a Tesco delivery here so a walk to the village tomorrow for a bus to the nearest Tesco near Northampton.
The overflowing bins I e mailed CRT about have been emptied. Perhaps the Canal, River Trust will get more done quicker than our old masters British Waterways, early days yet.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Canal, River Trust send e mail re rubbish

Here we have the very quick response to my e mail to C.R.T. As to the site being clear now we will be returning that way shortly and I will let you know.

Mr Biggs,

Please bear with us on the service at this site, the new bridge limits either side of the yard and further up the road have prevented Biffa from accessing on the weekly empty with the normal wagon since the 12th of December 23012

We have instructed Biffa to attend with a man and van to clear the site since your picture was taken and weekly thereafter so the site should be clear now.

We are working closely with Biffa to resolve the situation without closing or relocating the facility at this site. In the meantime if you are able to use of alternative facilities it will greatly help the situation.

I hope this helps,

Many thanks


Daniel Barnett
Contracts Delivery Manager
South East Waterway
T 01908 302543 M 07710 175097

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Through Buckby and Weedon

Down the Buckby flight of locks next to the bottom lock opposite the chandlers stood the Spotted Cow pub. The present day picture still has the metal work for the hanging sign above the door.

The former Spotted Cow pub.

We saw several of these flying bird scarers over the fields along the canal. They are pretty convincing and in two fields there was no sign of any birds feeding on the crop.
The video on the site shows the details but it`s basically a printed kite attached to a fisherman's pole and powered by mother nature.
Quite an advance on the old scarecrow standing still in the centre of a field.

I have e mailed Canal, River Trust with this photo and I will let you know if they reply.

This was a mooring we had last Sunday. Across the canal is the church St. Peter and Paul. Now I and also with Jaq have moored here many times but it seems not on a Sunday.
At 9am we awoke to the lovely sound of the bells calling parishioners to church. So we lay in bed discussing whether or not the good people of Weedon needed reminding of the service about to start.
The next we knew it was 11.45am!!!
Oh how nice it is to be people of leisure.

Along the way
Nice to see the hedgerows getting a trim

Monday, January 07, 2013

Away from Braunston

 We left Braunston and made our way up the locks and through the tunnel as we needed to pass down the Buckby flight of locks before they close. The maintenance stoppage was due to start on the 7th for 3 weeks.
This is the old toll house at Norton Junction where the Leicester branch of the grand Union leaves the main line at the top of the Buckby flight. At the moment it is having an extension built at the rear which perhaps has something to do with the `Toll house boat sales` notice displayed on the front lawn.
Back in 1950 the Salvation Army purchased an old butty and having fitted an engine they cruised the canals helping the working boatmen and eventually had a mooring at Hawkesbury junction.  They also took over the toll house and it was eventually the retirement home of the Fieldings who had manned the boat.
The bridge behind the building was once a swing bridge it can just be seen in the picture below.
The toll house as it was circa 1970. Sally army Brigadier Fielding is believed to have died here in the 1990`s. Some information here.

Nev Wells is selling `Waterlilly` as he is now the proud owner of Percy. Link for the boat sale is below.

Fellow blogger Ross aka Bert the Gnome came to visit today. Sorry Ross forgot to take a pic. Anyway Ross has sold his house and is now looking at boats with the intention of being a live aboard.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Move along the boat please, your needed at the rear

Almost 7 years ago when I first started living aboard I had read of the many boaters who used an Eco-Fan. This device sits on top of the solid fuel stove and is powered via heat from the stove top feeding a built in Thermoelectric unit that generates power to the blades. I believe mine lasted about 5 years before giving up although to be fair it had fallen to the floor a few times after my early days of bad steering into locks.
Even from new I was not convinced of it`s ability to move hot air down the boat. With the Eco-fan sitting on the stove the bedroom in the stern was always the coldest place in the winter. We have no tall bulkheads to stop the heat until the corridor past the bathroom into the bedroom over half way down the boat.
The stove on Nb Valerie is 27" off the floor so the fan has more of a chance to push the heat over the chairs and would think.

So following the demise of my Eco-fan some 18 months ago I rigged up a square computer fan in a wood frame. It worked fine and the difference in the bedroom temperature was very noticeable. The problem was I was not happy with the look of the unit and took it down. Since then I have been half heartedly looking for a solution.
While in the U.S. I purchased two 4" fans that were intended to clip on a car air vent.   Now all that was needed was a means of mounting them from the ceiling.
Woodcraft unlimited  is a company owned by friends Larry and Lael Turnbow on whose ranch we stayed while in Idaho. Larry makes custom cabinets, handcrafted woodworking, domestic or commercial, and the work is beautiful. After showing Larry the fans and telling him roughly what was needed within a half an hour he produced two very nice frames as in the pictures. These are beech and I have given them 4 coats of clear lacquer.

As you might have noticed the fans have  Blue Led`s that look quite nice but totally un-necessary.
The heat through the fans is tremendous and just a few minutes is enough to push the heat down the boat in, and this is my opinion, a much more efficient way than the Eco-fan. Problem with the Eco-fan is it does not affect the heat that rises and sits at ceiling height.
Anyway like boat toilets boaters will have different opinions but I have replaced something that in my opinion was not up to the job.
I am at the moment in the process of replacing something else on the boat, NO not my lovely bride Jaq, but a future blog will reveal all.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Grand Union/Junction canal

The last time we were on the Grand Union was almost a year ago. We had left London mid December and passed through Braunston about the second week of January on our way north.
 The picture above is a few days old whereas the one below is from the Frith Collection and is circa 1960. This was the original route of the Oxford canal past the buildings and across the road into the fields crossing the present route at bridge 97 along the puddlebanks then turning back near bridge 98. On both sides of bridge 97 the old canal is still in water and on the towpath side amongst the greenery a small section can still be found.

copyright of Frith(link above)
ISBN 0715357506 
 In 1793 an act of Parliament authorised the Grand Junction to build a canal from here at Braunston to Brentford. A much shorter route than the Oxford canal that went via the River Thames. The G. J. route was to be 60 miles shorter and even with more locks would still be much faster. The Oxford raised many objections but could not overcome the might of the rich backers behind the Grand Junction. The Oxford planned amongst others a canal from north of Oxford itself to Marylebone in London a distance of 60 miles. Routes to join up with the Grand Junction at Marsworth were as you can imagine turned down by the G. J. To cut a long and interesting history the Grand Junction had to guarantee the Oxford £10,000($15,000) for lost tolls as boats chose to leave their canal in preference to the G.J. 
The book is fascinating. 
 So London is our destination although not Brentford. We intend a return visit to Paddington for a 7 day stay so I can show Jaq more of London.
So ahead of us we have 100 miles and 90 locks. The canal planner states that travelling 3 hours per day the journey will take 52 hours or about 17 days. Well we can quite definitely say our journey is to be at a slow pace and will take.................who knows.

We still have our Oyster cards from last year so just a small top up. I have my national bus pass so will need the Oyster card just on the underground train system. After Paddington  our route will be the Regents canal through north London and onto the Rivers Lee and Stort. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year

Wherever you are in the world be it afloat or not. We wish you all good health and as much happiness and contentment as flows through the 58 feet of Nb Valerie. 
Looking out from the bow doors as the darkness of 2012 slowly gives way to the first dawn of 2013.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs