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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!

2 Responses to “Boat Blog: Quick visit….”

  1. Neil said

    You can still drain your plumbing without having to empty the water tank. You should have a stopcock by the tank. Turn that off and the water pump, turn all other taps on and they will empty quite a bit using the existing reserve pressure and if you can find drain taps (my bet is just inside the back door somewhere) you can drain most of the rest of the pipes into a bottle (not normally more than a pint or two. Leaving the taps open gives a bit of room for ice expansion, and because you probably have plastic pipes even a small freeze up should cause no damage.

    All you have to worry about then is the main water tank, which should be OK if not too full, and the calorifier which is lagged anyway. If like us you also have an instant gas water heater you have to drain that too. All this takes about ten minutes. When you return to the boat all you have to do is open the main stopcock, close the taps and switch on the pump. Any air in the pipes will cough itself out of the taps when you use them. 2 mins.

    As far as I can tell we seem to have got away with it so far this way. When you think about it, any water left in your plumbing will be well below the canal waterline, and inside your insulation, and the canal itself is not frozen at that depth.

    Good luck with the batteries. Let us know how they fare.


  2. indigodream said

    That is a useful comment about draining the cold water pipework, I will do that next time.

    I think we still need to run the heating on a very limited basis in these cold snaps as it is the calorifier that I am concerned about. Ours is the engine compartment so not inside the boat insulation. Based on previous years, we believe that we can get away with what we are doing but I do watch the weather forecasts – if we had anything much colder then I think we would need to drain the whole system.


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