Thursday, 20 August 2015

Painting session 2

This longer painting session (4 days) has got:

  • Starboard side prepared and Fertanned
  • Starboard side primed
  • Starboard side 1st coat of gloss
  • Starboard side 2nd coat of gloss
  • Port side 2nd coat of gloss
  • Deck rail and stern prepared and Fertanned
  • Deck rail and stern primed
  • Deck rail and stern 1st coat of gloss
  • Deck rail and stern 2nd coat of gloss
These before and after shots taken from the same viewpoint show what a difference has been made!


The starboard side was done before the port because I took the boat onto the cut to do the work (marina does not allow sanding etc.) and that was the way I was pointing on the first day.

Had a bit of a disaster after finishing the starboard side. Was untying the boat ready to pop down to the winding hole to turn around so I could do the port side when I managed to sprain my ankle... Final two days of the trip were accomplished with a certain amount of whimpering and painkillers... 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Painting session 1

As can be seen from this picture of Mind Like Water moored outside the museum at Etruria, her paintwork is a bit tired...

The blotches at the front end are from a little scraping and rust treatment done last summer but winter arrived before we could get any top coat on and the rust is re-appearing.

The green section at the stern is from an exploratory session earlier in the year when Andrew tried scraping, priming and glossing. This went reasonably smoothly except for stupid insects landing on the wet gloss and the vagaries of British weather leaving the surface rather rough after an unexpected rain shower.

With the end of the summer break fast approaching, Andrew decided to keep a close eye on the weather forecast and do as much painting as possible to avoid Mind Like Water spending another winter with rust nibbling away at her sides...

Bought a couple of additional batteries for the cordless drill to facilitate use of a sanding wheel where possible.

A hectic 24 hours this week saw the whole port side scraped, primed and a first coat of gloss applied. Have taken a bit of a gamble by not applying Fertan to the scraped areas. (Fertan is a strange chemical which smells like a mix of soy sauce and molasses and converts any remaining rust to an inert substance). Not using it here means that patches of rust may come through but at least we will go into the winter with the surface protected and can treat any spots next year.

Is that a shiny boat I see?
The painting makes quite a difference to the look. Have gone for plain green at this stage just to get a covering on and will review the decoration next year. The red name panels are self-adhesive vinyl graphics which we bought last June to cover the previous name. They seem to have lasted very well so far with no fading of the red. Was even able to use white spirit to remove splashes of green gloss from the surface.

I did the work out on the cut since the marina does not allow sanding etc.

The simple act of turning the boat to come back turned into a more drawn out operation when I picked up a load of chicken wire round the propeller in the winding hole...

There were some wry comments from our kids when Alison gave me a pair of pond gloves for last Christmas. However, in this first use they were fantastic! Protected my hands and arms very well from the cold and mucky water. Even remembered to put some string on my wire cutters to avoid dropping them in the cut.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 14 - Audlem to Swanley Bridge Marina

Engine:5.8h Miles:10 Locks:10

Traffic picking up through the morning mostly going in the other direction - a queue of 6 at Hack Green Locks by 11am.
Through Hurleston locks by 1.30pm - the hill very busy and plenty of mingling crew as boats were worked through.
Sun coming back out and temperature rising appreciably.
Back home to Swanley Bridge Marina

Journey's end at 14:00. 142 miles and 136 locks, by far our longest trip to date on this boat.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 13

Moored at Audlem
Miles: 0 Locks 0
Nice quiet day. Checked out the pubs again in the evening but a bit pubbed out...

Friday, 7 August 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 12 - Goldstone Wharf to Audlem

Engine: 5.7h Miles: 9 Locks 21

Engine started without any alternator squeal so that fix worked (for now!).

Found that the spare toilet cassette fits well under the bathroom sink. Just need to cull some of the myriad cleaning products which were in the basket there!

After the Tyrley locks, we caught up with a 30' Springer who warily agreed to share locks with us. In the event it worked out so well that we continued together to Audlem. Alison says to remind her of this day though if she is ever tempted by a Springer. It handled like a drunkard (though that might have been the inexperienced driver..), had no reverse gear to speak of and an absurdly slow tickover. Alison, who was driving while Andrew worked the locks, had a bit of a struggle to follow closely enough to not cause delays at the locks without ramming them as they dodged about...

Dinner was rather fab Hairy Biker style burgers, patates sautees with salad then to the Lord Combermere (free wifi and papers) for a very pleasant couple of pints.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 11 - Brewood to Goldstone Wharf

Engine 7.3h Miles:18 Locks:1

An early start to cover the long lock-free stretch until Tyrley after which the locks will come thick and fast.

Alternator belt tending to slip so unable to cruise at full speed though moored boats - miles of them - tended to keep us at tickover.

Canal quite busy - especiall at Norbury Junction and Gnosall. Sunny intervals and showers made the next coat of varnish a challenge. The brolly got its first use today sheltering the freshly stained back door.

Found a good mooring opposite the pub at Goldstone Wharf. Alison started preparing a very nice bolognese sauce before we tried the Wharf Tavern. Unfortunately the pub didn't open till 18:30 so we headed back to boat to finish cooking then eating the meal. Many wasps attracted by the pleasant smell...

Moored opposite Wharf Tavern at Goldstone Wharf

Andrew had a go at tightening the alternator belt. Some success but will have to wait until we start the engine to see full result. Tightening operation ideally needs at least 3 hands, possibly 4... Made use of a one-handed clamp but not ideal as one of the clamp pads pivots so tended to slip off.

Adjourned to the pub afterwards for a quick pint before bed.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 10 - Penkridge to Brewood

Engine: 7.6h Miles:16 Locks:7

Autherley Junction
Visited Penkridge Market (Open Weds and Saturday) and were well impressed. Well worth a visit.

Underway about 10:35. Filance Lock empty ready for us. Aiming for Brewood on the Shropshire Union today. Need to get some diesel.

12:30 Gailey Wharf. Filled up with diesel and water. Emptied Elsan. Book swap in the toilet. Crew employed on laundry while cruising!

15:30 Autherley Junction and onto the Shropshire Union. Now heading for home!

17:15 Moored up. 2nd coat of wood stain on rear doors.

Went to find the Curry Inn but it was not only posh but empty so we returned to the canal-side Bridge Inn where Wednesday is Curry Night! £6.95 including any drink. Our Hobgoblin Golds were delicious and a very reasonable £3.09 a pint. Curries included rice, naan, poppadom and mango chutney which rather stopped us in our tracks!.

Pleasant evening over more pints discussing how to declutter.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 9 - Tixall Wide to Penkridge

Engine:5h Miles:9.5 Locks:6

Breezy morning. Weather could go either way.

Dry during the night so gloss on bow is dry. A few insects stuck there but not many.

Alison went to seek out the farm shop near bridge 74 on the Trent and Mersey after breakfast.

Andrew cleaned the laundry dryer and hung it in the shower. Did a few pants and socks. Will see how well it dries. Added some extra hooks above the key rack for padlocks.

Under way 10:30. Farm shop well stocked but eye-wateringly expensive! Beautiful meat however - lamb leg steaks a real indulgence. And mint sauce from the canal bank!

Varnish strip continuing while under way. Once moored at Penkridge (14:45) put on a 2nd coat of gloss and 1st coat of wood stain.

Annoyingly then had some rain that wasn't forecast leaving the gloss rather pebble-dashed...

Monday, 3 August 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 8 - Trent & Mersey (bridges 88/89) to Tixall Wide

Engine:4h Miles:7.5 Locks:3

Woke to bright sunshine, swiftly clouding over. Remained variable but mostly dry all day.

An easy run down to Great Haywood although it seemed that every other boat that we met was in a bridge hole.

Moored on Tixall Wide at 12:30. Had lunch then went to visit Shugborough Hall museum and gardens. Quite fascinating especially the Patrick Lichfield apartment and his wall planners.

The weather still cloudy and windy but dry so gambled on a coat of gloss paint over the primer on the bow. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 7 - Etruria to Trent & Mersey (bridges 88/89)

Engine:8.7h Miles:11 Locks:15

Watered before heading off. No. 4 in queue for first lock behind a couple of novice hire boats and another boat. Boat 2 in particular was very slow to pick up the drill so Alison and crew of Boat 3 (Constance May) went ahead to whip them into shape - disappearing for so long that Andrew had donned windlass sling and gloves in case he needed to single-hand!

Sun trying to make an appearance from behind clouds.

Slow heavy locks - by 12:30 we had only got through the first 5 locks though crew had worked the locks several times!

Once boats 1 & 2 stopped at Barleston, progress was a lot better. Stone looked interesting and pretty but we pushed on through. We had heard that there had been quite a queue at Aston Lock this morning so we headed out into the country side to get through.

Towpath beyond is quite overgrown so continued for another half mile or so to find a lovely spot with the railway - never far away - comparatively discreet.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 6 - Caldon Canal - Consall Forge to Etruria Museum

Engine:9.1h Miles:12.5 Locks:15

Debated whether to spend the day painting. Forecast good but cloudy and chill morning not promising. Decided to push back to Etruria and within 30 mins the sun came out. Still, a beautiful day for boating.

Lunch on the move once through Hazlehurst Junction - BLT in pitta. Cloudier again and headwind appreciably slowing progress. Topped up with water and offloaded rubbish at Park Lane Wharf (recycling bins not reached there yet).

Several heavy rain showers during the afternoon (which validated decision not to do any painting!) and quite windy at times too.

Shadowed a green boat all day that made good progress away from us but was slow at locks. Couple from Durham with two very chatty kids.
Moored at Etruria Museum by heritage boat Keppel

Arrived at Etruria and were able to take the very last berth right outside the Museum and under the nose of the heritage narrowboat Keppel - celebrity neighbour!

Really enjoyed the hot free showers before spending the evening at the Holy Inadequate - a very good real ale pub.

Friday, 31 July 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 5 - Caldon Canal - Endon to Black Lion pub at Consall Forge

Engine:5.8h Miles:9.5 Locks:9

Bright sunny start. Up and breakfasted in good time.

Watered up at Park Lane Services. Esso garage visible from Bridge 31. Possible grocery source?

Met a boat coming up Hazlehurst Locks so all set for us!

Arrived Froghall 13:30 for lunch.

Churnett Valley very beautiful but canal very narrow and twisty for much of the way - the helm is never bored!

Part of the way we join the river itself - lots of space beside and below the boat - quite a different feeling.

Crew (Andrew) employed on voyage with scraping and painting the bows.

Beautiful sunny day and a top mooring opposite the pub. Definite advantage of having a shorter boat which can squeeze into small lengths!
The final tunnel - too low for us...

Nice meal and beer at the pub. Free range chickens wandering around the pub garden and occasionally indoors. Wide range of beers and ciders.

Another top mooring!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 4 - Trent & Mersey Westport Lake to Caldon Canal Endon

Engine:6.8h Miles:10.5 Locks:9

A gentle start after the exertions of the previous couple of days. Alison stiff and Andrew nursing a sore shoulder after trying to stop a lock gate swinging open...

Raspberries foraged while waiting in yesterday's queue with muesli for breakfast - delicious!

Stopped at Etruria Wharf at 11:15 for water, Elsan and waste.

Staircase locks not straighfoward but negotiated eventually. (What Alison means here is that I managed to ground a boat coming down the locks by forgetting to close the paddles on the bottom lock... Owner was very understanding...- Andrew).

Bridge 9 - they were certainly were not kidding about the low headroom. Had to remove the chimney and Alison had to dismount from her steering stool!

Did some shopping at Milton which was mostly closed apart from the bookshop and a Coop and Nisa in competition.

Teamed up with 30ft Civente to go through the locks together. They are based on the Lancaster Canal and get onto the main system with a tow over the Ribble Link from the pilots @ £60 a go (interesting idea!)

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 3 - Trent & Mersey Rode Heath to Westport Lake

Engine:5.8h Miles:6 Locks 12 & Harecastle Tunnel

Steady progress through the remaining Cheshire Locks.

Passed Linda King (teapot) with Liz (Laus Deo choir!) as crew. It's a small world...

Queuing from Red Bull services and major queue at the Harecastle Tunnel. A Health and Safety survey in the morning meant late opening plus canal much busier now the rain has calmed down.

Entered the tunnel at 15:56 and exited at 16:40 after a trouble free transit. We were last in our convoy of 8 boats and the tunnel was therefore lit up for us by the lights of the other boats. Quite relaxing really. Even managed to spot the skeleton this time!

A sunny evening at last and a pretty mooring overlooking Westport Lake which we walked around after dinner to stretch our legs - very pleasant.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 2 - Middlewich Branch (Bridges 24/25) to Rode Heath

Engine:7.4h Miles:11 Locks:21

Shared 2 locks with 30' Aslan II.

Paused for shopping 10:15 at the Mace stores near Kings Lock Middlewich.

Heavy rain at start of morning clearing with SW breeze.

Lunch stop just past bridge 158 on outskirts of Sandbach.

Pushed on during afternoon to find top mooring outside the Broughton Arms at Rode Heath. Not our first visit to this pub and we had another nice meal with good beer!

Heavy rain and hailstorm in the evening forced us to stay in the pub and have another pint while waiting for it to ease. This on top of belly pork and black pudding + banana cheesecake sundae for Andrew and steak and ale pie + chocolate crownie for Alison...

Still.. We had earned it with 21 locks today!

Monday, 27 July 2015

4 Counties Ring - Day 1 - Swanley Bridge Marina to Middlewich Branch (Bridges 24/25)

Engine:5.3h Miles:12 Locks:6

Start of our longest trip to date.

Set off around 12:30. Through Barbridge Junction and mooring by about 14:30.

Needed long throw windlass for Church Minshull lock.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Sorting out the gremlins...

My previous work had left us with a new new control unit but also a couple of troublesome issues which took a while to sort out and, for a while, baffled a variety of canal engineers...

The first problem was that the engine would mysteriously cut out for no apparent reason when put into gear. It would start OK but then when the throttle lever was returned to upright position would quietly die... 

This made it pretty difficult to carry out most manoeuvres such as setting off from a mooring or winding. Pretty much anything really... Once restarted it would run fine.

At one point I even had to abandon the boat by the side of the canal at Wrenbury Mill and yomp back to the marina in order to go down to Worcestershire for (irony of ironies) a boat maintenance course! I picked the instructor's brain about possible causes, all of which sounded potentially expensive.

Alison and I returned to the boat the following weekend ready, if necessary to bow-haul the boat 4 miles back to the marina. We had the engineer from Wrenbury Marine on the boat for about two hours trying to locate the problem. He could replicate but not identify the issue.

This was eventually solved by a guy walking his whippet along the tow-path. He asked whether we had checked the stop cable... Turned out that the throttle cable was just touching the stop cable and would pull it enough to stop the engine whenever it was put into gear! The engineer, who had returned (100 yards) to base to consult with colleagues, was amazed when I wandered along to tell him that I had fixed it!

The second problem was an annoying problem with the alternator which would randomly decide not to charge the batteries. Would be fine when starting off from the marina but after spending a night moored somewhere else would fail to generate.

After removing the alternator, getting it refurbished, checked and tested didn't solve the problem, I eventually tracked this down (thanks Google!) to lack of excitation!

Apparently alternators need some current up front so they can remember what electricity is... This is normally provided through the warning lamp on the control panel.

Now... I had replaced the old style warning lamp with a nice purpose built job with nice neat symbols on it. Turns out that this does not draw enough power to excite the alternator... It was presumably OK when starting from the marina because the batteries were fully charged from the shoreline.

However after mooring overnight, the batteries were still plenty charged to turn and start the engine but not enough to excite the alternator.

I fixed this while moored in Middlewich at the Folk and Boat Festival by putting an old style bulb in parallel inside the control box. Now works fine. Go figure!

Since then things have been fairly trouble-free. (Did I really say that.... Touch wood!)

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Constructing the new control panel

As described in the previous post, I was planning a new control unit to move the ignition and gauges from behind the throttle lever. I had done a lot of preparatory work but the final construction would have to take place on the boat.

The key (and rather scary) points are that 1) I would be making this up as I went along to some extent as it would be a totally custom made unit and 2) at some point, I would probably have to break the boat when I removed the old control unit before final connection of the new unit. One possible plan was to make the new unit plug into a large connector near the engine allowing me to retreat if it all went pear-shaped. However this turned out not to be viable... Scary! This gives an idea of the state of the wiring in the engine hole before I started.

That corrugated trunking looping round and round in the engine hole is, according to the manual is not meant to be longer than 1 metre ...

Anyway, I had prepared as much as possible at home. The various gauges, switches and lamps were fitted to the box lid and the shoreline connector to one side of the base. An LED strip on the other side of the base would be a cunning light that would help with late night returns to the boat.

This shot shows a trial run to position the new unit and work out how to run the wires into the engine hole (which involved drilling and filing smooth a new hole in the deck!).

The next couple of shots show the painted box being firmly fixed with self-tapping screws to the back wall of the cabin and the shoreline wiring being routed in.

Unfortunately, I didn't take any more pictures during the actual wiring of the engine controls as I was a bit busy... But I was quite pleased with the outcome!

The old control unit looked a bit sad though...
So I had to make a trip to B&Q in Crewe to buy some aluminium bits that I would be able to work using the tools I had on board. Then took the boat on a little trip towards Wrenbury and made a new cover for the throttle unit while moored up by the side of the canal. Et voila!

A pretty successful end to a fairly long and, at times, scary process!

There were a couple of minor complications which surfaced later which I will cover in the next post... 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Planning major engineering works!

When we first bought "Mind Like Water", all the controls were in one box on the stern rail.

Not very well designed as the ignition key was postioned behind the arc of the throttle movement making it very easy to catch one's knuckles on it... Also needed the cork key-ring to be secured out of the way like this...

So... Andrew started laying plans for a new control box!

 This involved a lot of time searching the internet for information about narrowboat control systems which are mostly bespoke units. Not much available off the shelf.

Then needed to try and identify what the current connections were. Can be summarised as "a bit of a mess"! For example, one of the warning bulbs in the control unit only had one connection. Now even a rudimentary grasp of electrics will tell you that one connection does not a circuit make... These shots of the wiring show what I was up against...

During the investigation work it became clear that access to any part of the engine is pretty difficult. Something else to bear in mind when looking for boat II...

One purchase that helped quite a bit was a USB endoscope! This is a long cable with a tiny camera and LED lights on the end which plugs into my netbook PC and allows me to reach most parts of the engine and take pictures. Such as this one!

With this sort of detail, I managed to identify the exact model of engine and even buy a manual on the internet!

Had a bit of a hair-raising moment on one fact-finding trip when I managed to totally dismantle the ignition switch when trying to work out the connections in each key position. Alison was due to take the boat out with our son later that week, so I was very glad when I managed to gather all the terminals and springs and work out how to reassemble it....

Found a nice range of weather-proof boxes from RS Components. and gradually gathered parts for the new control box.

Plans started to take shape...

See next post for the actual final construction which took place over the Easter break..

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Making deposits in the sanity bank!

We both have quite hectic and stressful jobs.

More and more we are finding that time on the boat is an invaluable counter-balance.

In fact we have come up with the term "making deposits in the sanity bank" to describe the way that even a single night on-board helps to replenish our depleted reserves ready for the demands of the working week.

In fact, with a little mental gymnastics, even going to the boat in my mind can help! Not as good as actually being on board with the stove lit and a glass of something refreshing though...

Good to know that we have several trips already planned during 2015 with plenty of weekends as well!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Cholmondeston Lock Open Day

Hail at Cholmondeston Lock Open Day 21st Feb 2015
On Saturday 21st Feb 2015, as members of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) we helped out at an Open Day at Cholmondeston Lock which is near the Shropshire Union end of the Middlewich Branch. The lock was drained for refurbishment of the gates and walls. Apparently there were increasing troubles last summer in getting a decent seal on the gates. This slowed traffic down and increased the already frequent queues at this busy lock.

The lock was open to visitors on Saturday and Sunday and it was a great opportunity to see what happens under the water.

Apparently there were about 250 visitors over the 2 days of the Open Event which is not bad considering that the site is well away from the main roads and the weather was not great. There was a heavy hail shower just after we had set up.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Short trip to Audlem for Valentine's Day

We had a nice Valentine's Day trip to Audlem and back. Travelled to the boat on Friday night ready for a prompt start on Saturday if the weather looked OK.

It was a bit nippy pleasant enough so after a quick visit to the marina office to top up the electricity card, we got under way about 09:20. The trip to Audlem took about 5 hours with a brief stop for lunch. We are getting pretty familiar with the Hurleston Locks though do need to remember that you definitely need a short throw windlass on one of them.

Past through the Hack Green locks and the signs to the Secret Nuclear Bunker that we visited way back in August 2001. Read about our trip on the Shropshire Union canal in August 2001 on our website.

Got turned in the winding hole at Audlem and moored up by about 14:30. Had a wander round the village and got a few bits and pieces in the Co-op followed by a pint at the Shroppie Fly.

Then back to the boat for a very nice meal of steak and jacket potatoes with chocolates for dessert. With a bottle of wine to wash it down, it was a very pleasant way to pass the evening.

Uneventful journey back to the marina.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Replacing stove door glass

Having your own boat is quite a learning curve!

Latest challenge was cracked glass on stove door. Bolts holding it in place sheared off when tried to undo them...

A little light Googling showed this to be a common problem. Managed to drill out the existing bolts and replace with new ones. Didn't try to tap holes, just went for through bolts which seem to work OK. Put a little stove rope like washers to stop the nuts grinding directly on the glass inside.

 While Googling, did discover a source of replacement doors which are not too expensive if needed in future. Better stove design where door hinges sideways rather than down would probably be useful to avoid danger of dropping coal on glass! Something to look for in boat II.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Fitting new curtain rods and spice racks

For some reason all of the curtains on board had nice solid brass rods at the bottom to keep them from flapping but rather flimsy telescopic plastic/metal ones at the top.

Result was that whenever you tried to open the curtains, if you didn't hold the pole together with the other hand, the pole would fall apart.

Now with some solid brass end and middle posts from and brass poles from we have a full set of sturdy curtain rails.

Andrew spent Friday and Saturday nights on-board to do the work. During the same trip, he fitted some small spice racks that Alison had found online. They fit perfectly at the end of the plate rack in the galley and are very convenient for cooking. Great use of the space!

Friday, 2 January 2015

New Year on our boat

Nice quiet New Year's Eve on the boat avoiding another party back at home.

Think we managed to stay up till midnight, just...