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Archive for January, 2010

Boat Blog: A morning of DIY

Posted by indigodream on 31 January, 2010

Sunday 31st January

Richard’s original plan had been to spend at least a full day on the boat over the weekend but we’ve been down with some bug or other, so a morning was all he could manage. He had a quick visit to charge up the batteries and carry on with assorted winter tasks.

Indigo Dream was fine and Richard enjoyed coming back to her. The moorings are emptying a little, there are now three free mooring spaces between us and the pub though the waterpoint is still a bit crowded (it’s frozen so I guess it doesn’t matter) and the assorted plastic cruisers are still behind us. It must be tough to liveaboard on the cruisers during this year’s winter – they look distinctly draughty.

The batteries were at 78% – down from 84% so that’s not too bad. Richard left the batteries at 95%, but the central heating is set to run on timer for 2 hours every day ( 5 hours on Thursday as he mistakenly thought I was going to the boat on Thursday – I am not, I am busy being a lady who lunches!).

There was a tiny amount of clean water (<1L) in the cabin bilges and the wall in the toilet was dry (but discoloured). Richard attacked the toilet wall with a hair dryer again, fixed the two missing clips on the gas pipe, re-fitted the fridge, sealed up the gas pipe enclosure, improved access to the bilge, sealed up one cable hole into the engine compartment and emptied the trapped, rust-coloured but not smelly, water from alongside the toilet tank (which is in its own ‘bay’ under the back deck).

The real star today was the clear plastic panel we got to cover the gas pipe enclosure – the gas pipe needs to be inspectable so this was an elegant solution. The plastic came from these people: – nice range, all cut to suit, very prompt service.

By the time Richard was ready to leave the boat, a tiny amount of water had percolated back into the same spot in the cabin bilge. It keeps re-appearing, which suggests that the first theory of water percolating down through the ballast  from when we overfilled the tank is now unlikely; repeated drying out of the bilges will be interesting.  The cabin bilge water is clean so it’s not canal water or from our toilet tank; the water’s not soapy so it’s not from the sinks and and we haven’t used the shower so it can’t be that. This leaves either a leak in our domestic water pipework, rainwater or condensation.

Against the leak theory is that the floor downstream of the tank is dry, the pipework was de-pressurised over the last week and the amounts don’t tally – we might expect a water depth of perhaps 10mm over about 4 or 5 months, but 2mm after a week?

Rainwater? Hmm we are not aware of any leaks apart from the mysterious damp patch in the toilet.There’s no staining around the windows/portholes

Condensation, well it is the right time of year and may account for the perception of having less water accumulating over the summer. To be continued ………

People have been talking about the grannybuttons effect. Well we are experiencing the Mutley/Baxter/Bones effect with a surprising number of hits coming in following our trips to dog training classes. Our dogs may well have more to say on the subject – we are to try and teach them the sit command, not easy with a greyhound!.

Note to Sue: Richard has oiled the hatch….

Local Snippet – fancy a cuppa?

I was interested to find a large Tetley building in Greenford (about 500 yards down the road from the canal). I know that tea used to be a valuable commodity and I’ve found some photos of tea barges on the Thames (though not along the Grand Union). The tea barges looked distinctly ‘dark satanic’ compared to their nautical cousins, the beautiful tea clippers, though I’m sure that both played an equally important role in delivering a good cuppa to the nation’s wealthy! Tea was apparently heavily taxed from the late 1700’s right up to the 1960’s, making it a popular commodity for smugglers.

Tetley is housed in a modern tower block – I guess that its site is a co-incidence – there’s no evidence of any relationship with the canal (past or present). However, a lot of land in the area was once owned and developed by Lyons, famous for its tea houses.  I can’t find any business relationship between Lyons tea and Tetley tea but the world of corporate take-overs is very murky.

I was surprised to find that this unassuming tower block is Tetley’s UK headquarters. According to one of Tetley’s websites, the brand employs 1000 people worldwide – I was surprised that it’s so few, I wondered whether they’d missed a nought – our local Tesco superstore employs 500 people…..

Anyway, Tetley was established by two ‘Tetley’ brothers in 1837; they later expanded their business to America where, apparently,  they accidentally discovered the tea bag. The story goes that one of their staff started sending out samples of tea in silk bags (cheaper than the tins they previously used) – the customers mistakenly thought that the tea was meant to be brewed in these bags, so the teabag was born (in the late 1800’s). Tetley is credited with introducing the teabag to Britain in the 1950s – I can’t imagine life without them, though the history of coffee might be more relevant on Indigo Dream 🙂

PS: Link to BW’s London Tidal Locks leaflet for 2010: It is here: I have no idea why Waterscape only links to the 2009 version when they have a 2010 version! Anyone know who to contact waterscape?  Last time I tried the published addresses they bounced.

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Dog Blog: Dear Baxter and Muttley…..

Posted by indigodream on 28 January, 2010

Nb Matilda Rose,

Somewhere on a canal,


28th January 2010

Dear Baxter and Muttley

We’ve been giving Boots on nb Bones some excellent tips about dog-training classes but we thought your advice was the best of all….

There are 2 approaches 2 these ‘classes’. The first approach is to do everything she asks, first time, everytime. This boosts her public ego, wins you loads of treats (although we agree you should get an upgrade in the treat dept), and makes you so adored that you get away with murder the rest of the time. The alternative,if you really hate it, is pee on the floor and growl at the other dogs. Be consistent and she’ll get slung out. Love Baxter & Muttley”

We want to report that we tried your methods this evening and they’re the business. Because Lou is top dog she really snarled at this excited thing that came up and sniffed her bottom – the cheek of it! She was very ferocious but she didn’t bit his bum coz we though that might be taking it too far.

I, in the meantime, managed a spectacular wee on the floor and all up the wall but I didn’t get a treat for it – why not?

Mum says we have to go back next week but, like you said, we have to be consistent. Mum says she’s stressed and has had to have a beer – give it another week and I think we’ll have our Thursday evenin’ free for snoozing again.

Yours sincerely

Blue and Lou

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Boat Blog: BCN Bad News

Posted by indigodream on 27 January, 2010

Wednesday 27th January

Key messages:

The BCN Marathon Challenge 2010 has been cancelled

The BCN IS open for cruising …….


I’ve just had a phone call from one of the organisers of the BCN marathon challenge to say that the event’s been cancelled. It’s not my tale to tell, which is why I’m calling this an editorial – there is no way that I can claim or wish to claim that I represent the views of the BCN Society.

There’s obviously been a lot of background discussion but as far as I can make out, the gist of it is that BW have concerns about maintaining the BCN’s water level and have asked the Society to avoid events that will generate too much extra traffic all in one go. Of course, that’s the whole point of the BCN Challenge – getting as many boats round as much of the BCN in one go!

We’re obviously very disappointed – we so enjoyed last year’s challenge and we’ve been getting excited about plotting a route which would enable us to……

  1. Win (ha ha!)
  2. Take in all of the branches that we haven’t explored yet – the Challenge was fantastic for making us explore waterways which we would not have otherwise visited, and I’m so pleased that we did.

I can only imagine how the organisers must be feeling – my heart goes out to them for the work they’ve done to get it to this stage. The only good thing is that the cancellation has come through early so hopefully there won’t be too much work for them in refunding entry fees and suchlike.

I’m hopeful that the challenge will run in future years, though I’m finding it difficult to pray for the wet summer that the Birmingham  reservoirs apparently need 🙂 – Edit:  Specifically the Chasewater Reservoir which supplies a lot of the water to the BCN plateau and is being drained as the dam is not looking to clever. Thanks Adam for the tip. You can see Gordon in all his glory answering a question about Chasewater here

I did have a few wry thoughts about events that could replace the challenge:

  • a walking or cycling ‘marathon’ along the towpaths, with extra points for finding sites where the canals used to be. (We would probably need to disqualify Captain Ahab to give everyone else a chance).
  • exploring the BCN by canoe (maybe big Canadian Canoes rather than kayaks – extra points if you’re brave enough to pitch your tent in Perry Barr….)
  • if the canal got to the stage of being dewatered (I’m sure it won’t happen) then maybe we could have a competition for the most trolleys spotted, or tonnage of scrap recovered (proceeds from sale of metal scrap to China to go to the BCNS….).
  • Exploring the BCN by rowing boat Ankh Morpork style (fans of Terry Prattchet will know where I’m coming from) – the water in the mythical city of Ankh Morpork is so thick that rowing involved cutting the bottom out of the boat and running along the surface – another option if the BCN happened to find itself dewatered down to the mud!

I’ve been a bit flippant but I’m sure that the BCN will be open for normal business over the summer so if you get the opportunity then do go and explore its many branches – it’s a fascinating place to visit. I’d also like to thank the good folk of the BCN Society for trying to get the event off the ground – please keep trying in the future – the challenge is a great experience.

So, our 2010 cruising plans ,which were starting to revolve nicely around the BCN challenge and a possible adventure on the Thames with the St Pancras Cruising Club in August (more on this later if it’s confirmed), will have to be revised again. But then again, that freedom is what makes it so good to be a continuous cruiser and there is still so much of the network that we have yet to explore, and, even without the BCN,  many places that we’d like re-explore …..

NOTE: AS FAR AS WE KNOW THERE IS ENOUGH WATER IN THE BCN FOR NORMAL CRUISING – so don’t be put off – do plan your own cruise around the BCN – you won’t regret it…..


A few highlights from last year’s challenge……

Hawne Basin - start point for the 2009 challenge

Views at Windmill End

View down onto Netherton Tunnel from the old main line

Wolverhampton Level

View from the Wednesbury Oak Loop

View towards Horseley Fields Junction

On the Wyrely and Essington Canal

Dawn on the Cannock Extension Canal

View from the Daw End Branch

View down from the Tame Valley Canal

Walsall Canal - bit overgrown....

The end of the 2009 challenge - Walsall Town Basin

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Boat Blog: the mysterious leak(s)……

Posted by indigodream on 24 January, 2010

Saturday 23rd January

Richard went up to the boat today to investigate the mysterious wet patch in our bathroom which I mentioned a few posts back. It’s got worse since then and the bottom of the wall panel is sopping wet (though the damp hasn’t tracked much further up the wall since we last measured it.

It’s a mystery – the wall panel at the junction with the floor is sodden but the floor itself, the back of the panel and surrounding woodwork (well, MDF-work) is dry. Richard took out a section of floor under the cooker (which backs onto the wet panel) and the floor is dry underneath.

We’ve looked everywhere for the source of the water without any success – our latest theory is that it’s condensation. We can’t find a plumbing leak (not there anyway!),  and it’s not coming up from the bilges.

Richard partially dried it with a hairdryer today – we’ll see what happens next……

Unconnected with our bathroom panel, we may have a leak somewhere else – there were about 2 or 3 litres of clean water in our cabin bilge though this could be water percolating down the boat from when we overfilled the tank and some water got into the boat out of a loose connection on the tank vent. Richard left the water pump off and the pipes not quite empty but de-pressurised to help with the diagnosis.

Richard had no trouble getting the Webasto working, he thinks that there is a loose connection on one of the 12V positive terminals into the timer but did not have time to properly investigate as he was off to see the Leinster v London Irish game later and obviously we had to watch the Ospreys beat Leicester. 🙂

Richard also continued our exploration of our winter home. Today he found a good old-fashioned hardware store and a very decent bakery next door to it. Cross the canal at Black Horse Bridge and follow the road towards Sudbury – the shops are about a mile away on the main road up by Sudbury Hill Station. The hardware shop (BRS Hardware 020 8422 3957) has a fantastic range of stuff some of it hidden away in tardis-like cupboards.  There is a useful list of London hardware shops here but unexplicably BRS Hardware is not on the list.

Batterywatch: 100% on Sunday 17th; down to 91% by Wednesday 20th; charged back to 100% on Wednesday lunchtime. Down to 92% on Saturday, long use of hair dryer,  wet/dry vacuum cleaner and of course the coffee machine took the batteries down to 84% despite the engine running.

Local Snippets….

I’ve been much impressed by Captain Ahab’s exploration of historic waterways and I’ve been thinking that I should make an effort to write something more meaningful about our surroundings, particularly when we’re cruising such familiar water (or uncharacteristically staying still, as we are at the moment!).

Sadly, though, I don’t have the Captain’s patience or diligence for historical research, so I thought I’d start by finding out and sharing little snippets about the structures/industries that have caught my eye along the way.

I’m not a historian so feel free to correct me when I’m mistaken!

A brief history of Greenford

We’re moored at the Black Horse in Greenford, a curious area with three distinct faces – the green spaces of Horsenden Hill, the industrial estates south of the canal and the low level housing to the north.

Every time I’ve cruised through here I’ve been surprised at the abundance of green space. Well, I shouldn’t have been – Greenford is an ancient parish with settlement dating back over a thousand years (apparently recorded in 845, then mentioned later in the Doomsday book of 1086). Back then it was a small settlement and it seems to have remained that way for many centuries – right up to the 1800’s the parish was still described as ‘small and isolated’. Miraculously the old parish has managed to retain some of that green space, thanks to the green belt, and maybe to the geography of Horsenden Hill which rises 278 feet above sea (or river) level. So that explains the first, and arguably most attractive face of Greenford.

The settlement apparently grew around a church and a few ‘big houses’. The canal is a relative newcomer to this ancient landscape, which may explain why Greenford doesn’t feel centred around the waterway (which is where I think it should be, of course!).

Even the arrival of the canal in 1801 doesn’t seem to have impacted on the area’s rural facade. There seems to have been some attempt at establishing an industrial base here in the 1850’s but the dye factory that was first built here dramatically exploded (tragically killing two workers), so that was the end of that! Interestingly, the canal is apparently 100 feet above sea level – I’d never thought that the Hanwell flight (to the West) or the locks from Camden to Limehouse (to the East) added up to such a big drop, obviously they have to or or we’d have to re-write the rules of physics!

BUT…… (here comes Richard the Engineer)  how does the maths work out? Well not that well! Limehouse cut is kept at near enough 11″, there are 12 locks up to Camden each at 8′ so that adds up to a surprising 107′. We need to look at this again.

The industrial and suburban faces didn’t emerge until the 20th Century – far more recent than I would have imagined. The railway arrived here in 1904, but the greatest influence seems to have been the arrival of the then giant Lyons company, famed for its tea houses. With better transport and prospects of employment, affordable housing soon followed. I found a site with some charming photographs of the staff at the Lyons factory when it was in its prime.

In 1086 the population in Greenford (presumably the parish) was around 130; by 1911 it was over 8,000; by 1931 it was around 14,000 and 20 years later it was almost 33,000. I wonder what it is now? Small wonder that one of the history sites says that “the peace and tranquil of the countryside in Greenford was largely lost forever”. But that seems like bleak assessment to me. Compared to the hustle and bustle of London, Greenford, from the canal, feels like an emerald oasis, so I’d rather celebrate it for what it is rather than what it used to be.

You can read much more about Greenford’s history on the websites highlighted here – the sites manage to be both concise and eloquent – no mean feat…..

Bored yet?

I hope not, in the next few posts I’ll be taking a little look at how some of life’s little essentials have influenced the area i.e. beer (the Black Horse), tea (Lyons and Tetley) and bread (Hovis)…..

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Boat Blog: BSS Success!

Posted by indigodream on 20 January, 2010

Wednesday 20th January

Andrew Phasey, our ultra-helfpul BSS inspector came back to check the new gas works today – it’s all passed – Hurrah!

Now we have our BSS Certificate and don’t have to worry about it for another 4 years (hard to believe that we’ve had Indigo Dream for that long), when any issues should be ones of wear and tear rather than random stuff left over from the original build. Unless, of course, they change the standards by then…..

Note: the BSS certificate comes as two copies – we keep the white one for reference and the blue one goes to the licensing authority when we next renew; ah, that’ll be next December – oh my goodness, better file that blue copy somewhere safe….

It’s been a productive day – we got a local joinery firm to come out and inspect the ‘electrical’ cupboard doors and a very nice man came and gave me a rough quote there and then (about £80 excluding fittings) – bargain! We don’t know how much this stuff costs but based on our experience of getting quotes for a storage box we hadn’t thought to get away with less than £300.

I appointed them on the spot and he’s taken the panel away for his joiner to play with. We’ll post photos of the finished results; not that you’ve seen the original, but we’re so excited about finally getting round to fixing something that’s been irritating us for over 3 years that we’ll just have to tell you about it regardless. Let’s hope it’s a positive post – I’ve just appointed a joiner based on the fact that their estimator seemed like a helpful guy………

So, the gas is sorted, we’ve got the BSS and we’re fixing the cupboard – it was all going too well really……..

The Webasto refused to come on today – possibly a loose connection to the control panel. This is hardly surprising as we had to take it out of the panel (the one being converted to a cupboard door) and it’s been dangling off a coat hook!

I don’t think it’s serious but it meant that I had a very cold couple of hours on board today. I generated some internal heat by washing the floor (it was beyond description – just as well the BSS doesn’t include a requirement to be ‘shipshape and bristol fashion’!). I had to go to the pub to warm up, oh yes I did, where else was I to go? New Year dieters won’t want to know that the Black Horse does really good chunky chips….

Blue and Lou, in the meantime, were toasting in Richard’s office, eating their customary share of sausage sandwiches 🙂

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Boat Blog: BCN Marathon Challenge 2010

Posted by indigodream on 18 January, 2010

We received our copy of Boundary Post today (the BCN Society’s newsletter).

The exciting news is that the BCN Marathon Challenge is on again this year – put this date in your diaries….

May 29th – 30th 2010

We’ve decided to take part again this year and work our 2010 Odyssey round it – this means that we may not get so far north but there’s plenty to explore in the East so I’m sure we won’t get bored.

If you have a boat in the vicinity of the area in May then we can thoroughly recommend taking part.

If you don’t have a boat then get in touch via the comments – we have room for up to 8  ‘day’  crew members but we can only offer overnight accommodation to 2 ‘night’ crew, preferably people who don’t mind sharing a bed (with each other and possibly with Lou the greyhound!).

Health warning: we may be grumpy at 5am and towards the end of the second day!

Readers will already know that we did a ‘live’ blog of the challenge last year – looking back I can’t quite believe we managed that. I wonder if we could do the same this year. I have to point out that our account of last year’s challenge is definitely not a guide on how to win 🙂

I’m so looking forward to getting our application sorted – the planning last year was almost as much fun as taking part – that map of the BCN will soon be adorning our lounge wall again……..

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Boat Blog: BSS Chores

Posted by indigodream on 18 January, 2010

Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th January

Richard went up to the boat on Saturday – it was an early start – the gas man was coming to do our BSS work at 9am. I stayed at home with the dogs – we’d just have been in the way and, as the hob was being fixed, I couldn’t even have spent the day making tea for the workers!

Note: The batteries, with the Webasto running for around 2 hours a day, was down to 50% – still lower than we expected but not as scary as the 2% we’ve previously achieved.

I must mention that Andrew Phasey, our BSS inspector, has been very supportive. I don’t know if all BSS inspectors are as helpful, but Andrew’s been generous with his time and expertise to discuss solutions with the gas man and come up with a realistic solution (without re-routing the whole run of gas pipe). The final solution was to sleeve the gas pipes running through the cupboard with the electrics.

The gas work took a surprising amount of time – the men were there all day and needed to go back on Sunday to test the system and sign off the work.

Note: We finally got our proper mooring permits for Black horse so we’re all ‘legal’ now!

I joined them on the Sunday as the gas man was due at a far more civilised time in the late afternoon. We went up for lunch at the Black Horse and enjoyed their huge roast dinner – what a luxury!

Richard had a long chat with our lovely neighbour on nb Donela – she’d recognised us as ‘the boat from the CWF forum’. But we weren’t the only bloggers out today – nb Marmaduke was moored outside the pub – her new owner presumably having discovered the delights of the convenient afternoon’s cruise from Willowtree marina to the pub and back. We didn’t see nb Marmaduke’s owners – they were probably in the pub at the same time as us but I didn’t quite have the gall to shout out “will Marmaduke’s owners please make themselves known” – maybe we’ll catch up with them another time!

Moorings are tricky at Black Horse at the moment – despite the ice’s retreat, the visitor moorings are still full (admittedly some were winter moorers like ourselves) so the water point seems to have become unofficial pub mooring. Maybe we need more mooring rings here, say on the other side of Black Horse Bridge – it’s a popular spot.

After lunch went back to the boat – firmly holding on to the dogs – Donela’s kitten has a distinct deathwish – he’d actually come on board Indigo Dream yesterday (no dogs -phew) – I hope the kitten’s not thinking of including our boat in his territory – big mistake!

Richard had to take down a few panels to give better access to the cupboard at the back of the boat. This has led to some new plans. We’ve been wanting to extend the doorway into the cupboard for a while – for some reason our boatbuilder put in a 6-inch wide doorway into a 2’6″ wide cupboard. Now that we’ve seen how good the access is with a full width opening we’ll definitely be looking for a carpenter to convert the panel into a proper cupboard door. Richard also considered the wiring and reckons it would be easy to install some more lights at the back – it’s a bit dark there.

So, with panels and wires strewn across the boat, Indigo Dream’s definitely got the feel of a PROJECT – who knows, we may even finish this one!

With the plumber due, I took the dogs off for a long walk (by our standards) – wow, the dog walking here is even more magnificent that I’d realised. I followed the towpath towards London (and Horsenden Hill), turned off onto the common by Uxbridge Road Bridge where the dogs had a good rummage; I then crossed the canal at the footbridge with the intention of giving them a run on the playing fields. What I hadn’t realised was that if you turn right (away from the playing fields), you reach Horsenden Meadows – hundreds of acres of open meadows around the foot of Horsenden Hill. This was perfect greyhound country – generous hedgerows for rummaging and wide open spaces for running. The meadows had the largest colony of crows that I’ve ever seen – their glossy plumage as black as holes in the universe against the bright green grass. Lou raced around joyfully while Blue rooted around – we had a slightly longer walk than I intended – I accidentally went one field too far, but the dogs had a great time.

So, here’s a message for F & F on Caxton – come on down, there’s plenty for doggies to see and do in the big city!

Apparently Horsenden meadows are medieval pastures, now maintained by a mixture of mowing and grazing. Fortunately the cattle weren’t there – Blue’s love of rolling in cowpats is legendary! The useful information board showed a range of beautiful meadow flowers and butterflies that may be be seen here in the summer. If all goes well we won’t be here to see them, we’ll be on the 2010 odyssey. Never mind, the winter-short grass suits the greyhounds better 🙂

We were out for over an hour, just enough time for the gas man to finish testing the system and pronouncing it safe. We were well-impressed with the gas man – he was a personable young man, very thorough, conscientious (turned up when he said he would!) and reasonably priced. Here are his details:

Gas Safe engineer with boat experience: W R (Bill) Beauchamp 07966 402252 – he’s based at Perivale so very convenient for the Grand Union.

It was slightly less effort to leave the boat today – it’s a complete tip! We can’t put all the panels back until Andrew Phasey’s had a chance to re-inspect the works next Wednesday.

When we got home I found out that I’d overdone the dog-walking – Blue and Lou hurled themselves onto their duvets, too tired even to explore their food bowls; they slept through the night, unbothered by the foxes in the garden. It’s 12.30pm on Monday afternoon – the dogs are still fast asleep in their beds, looking warm and contended wrapped in their blankets – what a life!

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Boat Blog: Quick visit….

Posted by indigodream on 10 January, 2010

Saturday 9th January

The dynamic duo....

This is more of a log entry – I want to make a note of when we’ve visited the boat so that we’re not scratching our heads in a few days time trying to work it out! It feels very odd not to be cruising, though it does give us an opportunity to explore the moorings (which we’ve previously only visited for a matter of hours while we were at the pub).  Don’t read on unless you’re interested in the state of our boat batteries or the minutiae of our doings…

We will throw in more than a few dog photos – they are very funny in the snow….

We needed to go up to the boat to check the batteries and do some preparation work so that the gas man can get to the relevant pipework next weekend. It was a nice change of scenery for me and the dogs – we’ve been stuck at home with the snow for the last 3 days (though our home is a very fine place to be stuck!). Once we got out of our road the journey was straightforward – the main roads and motorways were pretty good on the way there.

Blue showing off his lovely white teeth following his 'scale and polish' in November...

The moorings at Black Horse are now full with a mixture of narrowboats and a few odd looking cruisers. The waterpoint was also occupied, but with the tap frozen solid then I guess it’s academic! The canal’s frozen but maybe not as solidly as in other parts of the country – there’s liquid water under the bridges and after a few hours with the heating on there was a good buffer of liquid water around our hull. We had a chat with nb. Donela – the lady here was kindness itself, offering to help us get coal etc.  She also has a kitten which was prowling the undergrowth flanking the towpath – Blue and Lou were firmly kept on their leads!

I took the dogs for a stroll up the towpath (towards Willowtree Marina) while Richard got the engine running. The towpath was treacherous where the snow had been compacted by passing walkers (especially near the boats) but not too bad further on. However I was certainly too busy watching where I was putting my feet to notice any other sights, though I couldn’t miss the warming smell from the nearby curry factory. We chatted to a couple of other boaters on our way – one was breaking up a stack of pallets for his fire – what fine fuel – the physical effort of breaking it into stove-sized bits keeps you warm and you get a second burst when you burn it – splendid! He was complaining that local marina had hiked up the prices of their gas cylinders (now £30) since the cold weather had set in. I’m not sure how true this is…..

Lou showing off her tongue - her teeth aren't quite as dazzling as Blue's...

We were a bit horrified by the cruiser moored behind us – it wouldn’t qualify for a BSS because it barely qualified as a boat – their flue was slung haphazardly over the side of the bow and I might have worried about their Carbon Monoxide except that the roof looked like a collection of plastic sheets and tarpaulins so I guess there’s plenty of ventilation. I was a bit cross that the ice by this boat sported a heap of empty beer cans – now boaters know where this stuff goes when it thaws…..

As Herbie alluded to in this post, we are keen followers of ‘batterywatch’! It’s useful to know how other people’s batteries are performing (or not), especially in these extreme conditions. When Richard left the boat on Wednesday night he had run the engine long enough to take the battery status up from a worrying 2% to 54%. When we got back today our smartgauge showed they were at an encouraging 50% – this was with the main fuses off, and on the assumption that the Webasto (which was set to come on for one and a half hours a day) had a direct feed from the batteries.

Cooling off.....

Alas, as we left today we realised that the Webasto hadn’t been firing with the main fuses off (no direct feed) so we’ve been a bit lucky – the batteries hadn’t drained because the Webasto hasn’t been coming on, but on the other hand, the pipes hadn’t frozen – phew….

After running the engine for almost 4 hours the batteries are now at 100% and the right breaker is on, so it should come on while we’re away. Our backup plan to drain the water out of the system (so that we don’t have to worry about frozen pipes) was scuppered by the frozen waterpoint as it wouldn’t be straightforward to refill the tank when we needed it.

Weather permitting we’ll go back up to check the electrics midweek – we suspect that we’ve got a weird power drain from an unknown source – we don’t think that the Webasto (allegedly 32W, or less than ½% of our battery capacity/hour)  is responsible for the previous drastic drop in power but we’ll see…..

Lou attacking her toy pheasant.... Great to see her play - Ex-racers only get to learn to play and get time to play when they retire.

We’d hoped to get our pottering around done before lunch but it wasn’t to be. We needed to get the oven out and dismantle the shelf above it to give easy access to the gas piping. But our boat builder has used a unique ‘system’ for the carpentry involving screws with square holes that can’t be undone by standard screwdrivers or allen keys.

Before we faced the task of finding a DIY shop which sold the relevant square-headed ‘key’, we headed off to the pub for lunch. The Black Horse is very welcoming and we enjoyed a huge meal with four very good sausages for the dogs. Richard went off to look for the relevant part while Blue, Lou and I stayed in the warmth of the pub. I drank coffee (the pub does a good cappuccino) and the dogs stretched out on their sheepskins enjoying an inordinate amount of fuss from the staff and the other punters. Richard had quite a search, eventually finding the square-headed ‘key’ in a nearby Screwfix store (one which we’ve previously visited by boat!).

We're forever rescuing toy pheasants from the garden - I wasn't sure that this one would survive but they're only wussy greyhounds...

I was quite contented sitting in the pub, but after two coffees I thought I really should move and take the dogs for another walk before it got dark. I was very reluctant – it was warm in the pub and I wasn’t keen to drag my layers back on and go out into the cold – it’s bitter out of the wind, I’ll need new words to describe how cold it is with the added wind chill.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve cruised this section but I’ve never walked it before. We set off down the towpath – this time towards Horsenden Hill. I knew there was parkland on the offside but I hadn’t realised that there was a fine section of common land, perfect for dog rummaging, off the towpath just past Greenford Road Bridge. The dogs had a joyous rummage, though Lou was a bit less keen than Blue (nothing new there) – her elbow has recovered from her tumble the other day but she’s a bit sore from a small cut on her paw (from running round the garden this morning). There’s always something……

A good day's work - snow? sorted; Blue? chased; toy pheasant? pacified....

Richard and I arrived back at the boat at around the same time; we finished our chores and headed back to Surrey. Funnily enough, Lou automatically turned towards the pub door when we were walking to the car – she’s already learnt the main source of local comforts. 🙂

Just as well we left when we did – the M25 at Reigate Hill (Junction 9 – 8) was already down to three lanes because of  new snowfall and the third lane was rapidly disappearing.

We slithered home, wondering what the awful forecast would deliver overnight – as it happens the promised snow hasn’t materialised – long may it continue without snow. These canadian whippets have it a bit tougher but the video here is great!

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Just a few more…..

Silly hound....

Why do greyhounds have long noses? To stick into deep snow of course!!

I'm tired now - time for a quick kip.....

Ooh is something happening? - food maybe....

Blue looking very dignified considering that his belly is totally bald, in contact with the snow and it's only minus two degrees!

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Odds Blog: Snowed in and iced in….

Posted by indigodream on 7 January, 2010

Thursday 7th January 2010

Boaty things….

The trees are very beautiful in the snow....

We need some gas work to be done for our BSS, but getting a gas man hasn’t been quite as straightforward as we’d hoped….

The first man that we tried promised to come and meet us at the Fox moorings between Christmas and New Year. It all seemed too good to be true and so it proved – Richard went up to the boat specially, but there was no sign of the gas man. Many phone calls transpired – the gas man said he hadn’t received directions to the boat (despite the fact that our email trail suggested that he had – grrrr); he asked me to send them again so I hoped he was on his way. But when I rang him a little while later he promptly told me that we’d now ‘missed our slot’ and no way was he coming out. We’ve moved the boat out of his range now though it’s doubtful whether we’d bother with him again

It's the landscape that's black and white, not the 'film'....

Anyway, we arranged a meeting with a different gas man – sod’s law dictated that we made the appointment for Wednesday evening – just after we’d received a bumper load of snow at home. I’m confined to barracks with the dogs but Richard escaped with the help of his latest gadget – snow socks! These are for the car tyres not his feet! The principle is that they’re made of a grippy material which really seems to improve performance in the snow – they seem easier to fit than chains and, unlike chains, will adapt to a number of different tyre sizes.

One thing I noticed yesterday was the silence – partly the blanketing effect of the snow but also the absence of trains,  planes and automobiles. Gatwick was shut for most of the day and although we’re not blighted by airport noise, it was very different without the usual traffic.

Richard toiled into work and later up to the boat – just as well, the batteries were down to just 2%. So whatever happened, his trip definitely wasn’t wasted as he ran the engine to bring the power up. We daren’t leave the Webaso off in these temperatures (unless we drain down the system), but we obviously need to keep a close eye on our batteries. Thankfully the gas man from Perivale DID turn up – hurrah! He’s looked over the job and will be back to do the work on the 16th January – if all goes well that’ll give us plenty of time to get the boat re-inspected.

Richard did report that the canal didn’t look too frozen at Black Horse – it was much milder there than out in the wilds of Surrey where the temperature hit minus 7 last night.

Doggie things…..

The bird feeders were totally covered with birds at one time...

We’ll never tire of taking photos of the dogs in the snow – they’re so joyful. We hope you’ll forgive us for posting more photos – they’re for us to look back on when the dogs are too old to run or have trotted over the rainbow bridge where the souls of dogs are said to dwell.

That’s a little melancholy – I’m hoping for a fair few years of their company yet, though typically today Blue ran into Lou, giving her a big tumble in the snow. All seemed well until she came inside, warmed up and realised that her elbow really hurts – she’s being very pathetic but I’m hoping that my extensive home supplies of doggie anti-inflammatories and painkillers will keep us out of the vets. I’m not sure how we’d get there -it really is horrible outside – I’m not a fan of the snow and ice.

For the record, I melted a hole in the ice covering the pond today – I’m not sure how often to do this but we do have a LOT of fish (including some big ones). The water level seems to have dropped, despite the fact that water supposedly expands when it freezes.  Not much chance of topping it up though – I’m pretty certain that the hose pipe will be totally frozen.

I WILL grumble about the weather but I shouldn’t really – we’ve got gas, electricity and water on tap so we’re having a luxurious time compared to the poor liveaboards carting water drums down the towpath…..


A contender for the 2011 calendar???? 🙂

The snow's a bit deep for running...

Definitely NOT for the calendar - Lou looking totally demented...

And she's off.....

Lou spent a lot of time rolling in the snow - you'd never believe that she really feels the cold and spends a large part of the day snuggled into a nest of duvets and blankets!

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Boat Blog: Updates

Posted by indigodream on 2 January, 2010

Saturday 2nd January

If you’re interested, we’ve updated our rough guide to moorings and the index to our 2009 odyssey (tabs at the tops of the page).

I’m sorry it’s taken so long – tables used to be easy to transfer from Word to WordPress but for some reason that doesn’t work any more – all the formatting is lost. We now have to transfer from Word to Livewriter then to WordPress and do a few tweaks along the way……

Anyway, it’s all up to date now – I hope you find them useful – the rough guide to moorings is still the most popular page, despite hot competition from the pages about how to maintain a Webasto!

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