Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Just a couple of things I'd forgotten to post...

>> Congratulations to Bob Hurst, husband of Jenny (Marina Manager), who has recently qualified as a Boat Safety Scheme Examiner. When you boat owners need a BSS certificate, Bob can be contacted as follows...

Bob Hurst
BSS Examiner
Yelvertoft Marina
NN6 6AL 

>> Before we went to Debdale, I reported that our trusty Bubble stove had stopped working, the fuel oil simply would not flow. We arranged for this to be dealt with when we got to Debdale. However, arriving there and needing some heat in the boat, we tried once more to light the stove - and it worked straight away! And has been ever since. I have no idea what was wrong, but it's back to its normal self now, and keeping us snug and warm. Odd, huh?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Caution to the wind!

We woke with the lark on Sunday, to find it had snowed more overnight, and it was still snowing intermittently. It was extremely cold, but the canal was not frozen, and the wind didn't seem too bad. So we threw caution to that wind, and set off back to Yelvertoft.

The scene was quite magical.

Foxton Locks were empty, so it was a fairly fast ascent, hindered only by the snow underfoot.

We didn't stop for lunch. We ate at the helm and kept going, getting colder as the day progressed, despite the several layers of clothing. We pretty much had the canal to ourselves, and passed very few other moving boats. The odd thing was that, of those few other boats, we met three at bridges (which necessitates one of the boats waiting for the other to pass through) - a silly and unlikely coincidence. Husband's Bosworth Tunnel, however, had no other traffic as we went through.

Arriving finally at Yelvertoft, we were relieved to find that the wind had dropped, and entering the marina, and berthing, were no great challenge. It was a worthwhile, successful trip, and Kantara's hull looks good. The return journey was lovely, despite the cold. But we'll stay here now until the weather improves - September, maybe? (36 miles and 20 locks.)

Oh, and I lied about the lark - there wasn't a single one to be seen!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The job continues

Thursday's hull survey went well. Paul was incredibly thorough, and talked over a few minor issues with us. We still have to see the full report, but he assures us that all is well.

Gale finished the first side coat, applied a very thick bottom coat, then did the second top coat. Meanwhile, at Paul's suggestion, we had an anode fitted in the bowthruster tube, to reduce corrosion there. We also had a piece of metal cut off which was protruding a few inches from the front of the bottom plate. Paul considered it a safety issue.

Finally, Gale cleaned and painted the weed hatches, and we shut ourselves in for the night. It's very odd, moving about in a boat which doesn't rock, but vibrates as it sits on its supports!

On Friday morning, there was a thin covering of snow (which later melted fairly quickly), and a strong wind. Kantara was lowered back into the water, with a very clean and tidy, black hull. The wind was far too strong even to contemplate starting our way back, so we negotiated with Nicky, Debdale's administrator, to moor outside the wharf, where we had moored when we first arrived. She kindly gave us a mains electricity hook-up. It snowed again that afternoon, and the strong winds continued into the night.

We've awoken this morning to more snow, and I took a broom to clear quite a lot of it off the boat. As I write (11:30am), the snow is melting, but the wind has increased again. The forecast is not promising, but we'll judge the conditions day at a time until we deem it sensible to get back to Yelvertoft - which we'll endeavour to do in one day. Since we have to be moored, this is a good place to be.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kantara gets a washing

Yesterday morning, Wednesday, we took Kantara into the wharf (we'd been moored up just outside overnight - with a mains electricity connection, which was a bonus) and watched as she was craned out of the water and settled down onto railway sleeper supports.

The hull was pressure-blasted with water to remove dirt and old, flaky paint. Then she was lifted higher and rested on trestles so that the bottom could receive the same treatment.

While this was going on, Grace and I strolled down the footpath to Foxton Locks for a hot drink and cake, and to gongoozle the two boats in the locks. It had started to snow by then, and there was a bitter cold wind. The museum was closed, unfortunately, so we bought bread from the little shop at the foot of the locks, and walked back to see how things were going.

When the pressure-washing was finished, the trestles were removed, and the boat was lowered onto the sleepers. And there she remained overnight. It was rather odd, living in the boat, six foot above a concrete floor.

On Thursday morning Paul Smith arrived to do the hull survey, while Gale - the lady doing the painting - got on with her job. It was a cold, windy day, ideal for paint drying, but uncomfortable to be out in. The times we had to leave the boat because she was hanging from the crane, Grace and I sat in the wharf office, read and did crossword puzzles. As I type, Gale is applying the second and final coat to the sides. Tomorrow, we go back into the water. We've decided not to carry on with a bit of a cruise. The really cold, windy weather is most definitely not very inviting, for a start.

We have to have a battery problem put right, too. Late last year, we found that the bowthruster battery wasn't charging. Trusty Colin looked at it for us, and found the reason, but, in remedying that, he found he had connected the battery to the domestic bank, which is not recommended. Colin is not an electrician, so I've contacted Simon, who will do the job for us when we're back at the marina.

Next, back to Yelvertoft.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Off to Debdale Wharf

Saturday was interesting! We drove back to the house in the morning, and loaded the car with all the remaining bits and pieces needed for life on Kantara. In the evening, we went to the Alban Arena to hear Said the Maiden sing their half-hour slot in the Music City Unsigned concert. The show was hosted by BBC Three Counties Radio, and Said the Maiden were interviewed live on air, as well as being the only one of the four groups to have a song broadcast live. As soon as the concert was over, Grace and I headed back up the M1 to Kantara, finally getting to bed at around 2:00am.

The next day it snowed - hard! It was big snow, and it fell fast. Grace said, "Oh, it won't settle", but twenty minutes later it was well and truly settling.

We began to get a bit concerned about our trip to Debdale, to get the hull blacked, but by the middle of the afternoon it had thawed, and the sun was showing through the clouds.

Monday morning saw much better weather, though frosty enough to leave the ducks walking across the marina pound, and we set off up the canal at 2:00pm, after the ice had gone. Two hours later, the engine coughed and stopped - mid-channel. Grace steered her to the bank and we moored. Checking all that we could think of, we found nothing amiss, but the engine simply would not start. I called River & Canal Rescue. Luckily for us, an engineer was able to get to us within half an hour. It was surely the easiest job he had ever been called out to do! Within five minutes of checking, he found that the main fuel stopcock was turned off! We could not remember doing it, but we much have closed it when we were winterising the boat. How silly did we feel? It's just as well the man had a sense of humour, and was far too nice to make us feel worse than we already felt! How we travelled for two hours with the fuel valve closed, we have no idea. The engineer was a bit mystified, too, though he muttered something about diesel possibly being sucked up the return pipe. I'll have to read up on this!

We moved on to a more suitable spot for overnight mooring, and spent the night there in silent seclusion. One boat passed us in the 14 hours we were there.

Back on the move at around 8:00 the next morning, we made fast progress to Foxton Locks, and finally on to Debdale. We've seen very few moving boats, and most of those we have seen have been hire boats with people enjoying an off-peak holiday. It's a good time to be on the cut!

Friday, March 15, 2013

We're back!

We made our first trip back on Wednesday, with a carload of things for another year on Kantara. She was very cold - a jug of water had a layer of ice on it - but it was good to feel that this was more than just a visit. We came back again yesterday with an even fuller car, and spent much of the rest of the day and this morning simply putting things in cupboards and drawers. De-winterising was problem free except for the connection of a pipe to the outlet of the water pump, which meet each other at an awkward angle and proved rather difficult to join. But that and a bit of an initial leak under the sink were the only setbacks.

The first thing we did upon arrival was to put on the central heating at full heat, and the boat soon started to feel warmer and drier. Something we experienced this year which we did not last time was that some of the wooden surfaces in the boat, mostly shelves inside cupboards, had developed a thin coating of mould. We'd left windows open as recommended, as a precaution against this, too.

We're going back to St Albans tomorrow to collect those things for which there had been no room in the car yesterday. Said the Maiden are singing at Music City Unsigned in the evening, with the three other groups/bands who won the Lemonrock poll last year, so we'll stay to attend that, and drive home here afterwards.

On the day back in December when we left Kantara, the oil stove was working beautifully. On the day we returned to it, the oil would not flow, so the stove wouldn't work. We tried everything we knew to put this right - and few other things we made up! - all to no avail. It's just as well we have the gas heater, otherwise we'd be very cold at the moment! We'll get it fixed at Debdale next week while Kantara's having her hull blacked.

We ate at The George last night, since we had no food on the boat. Today we had lunch at Sainsbury's (still no food), then spent ages shopping, to last us for the next week or so. It's good to be back!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Back home soon!

With Said the Maiden's extreme busyness mostly over, we're planning to return to Kantara this week. It's snowing as I type, so who knows what the weather is going to be like, but we'll not let it bother us. We have to be at Debdale Wharf by March 20th, so we may have an interesting couple of weeks ahead of us!

Said the Maiden have their own website, Facebook and Twitter presence, but I have to record here, as proud dad and massive fan, that they've just had a brilliant few weeks since their massive achievement supporting Fisherman's Friends.

Last Thursday, they returned to Redbourn Folk Club where they started just over a year ago, to launch their first CD - an EP of five tracks. They sang for around an hour and a half - two sets, with some excellent floor acts before each set - and packed the venue to overflowing. Lots of CDs were bought, and several more on their website, and 37 advance orders had been sent off the day before.

They now have a manager who has done a fantastic job of promoting them. Tracks from their EP have been played on local radio across the nation. They've done some fun gigs in pubs and clubs, and supported a couple more major acts. They sang at a BBC Three Counties Radio live event in a Redbourn pub a last week, and are live on radio twice today, with music of theirs being played on another, web-based radio station also tonight.

In the poll of local talent I told you about some months ago, Said the Maiden were one of the four winning groups, and will be singing to an expected full house next Saturday at the Alban Arena. Last year's similar event sold in excess of 1500 tickets.  The day before yesterday, at the request of the organisers, they were out promoting the St Albans Folk Festival by singing at eight pubs in three hours!

Oh, and Jess got asked to be the interviewer in a series of short films of local folksy folk, now being shown in a Folk Music exhibition in the St Albans Museum. She is due to have her own folk show once a week on Radio Verulam, too, but I really don't know if she's going to be able to commit to it now that the group are this busy.

Grace and I love it, but it's going to be good to get away from the hectivity now! Kantara, here we come!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Getting ready to go back home

Home on Kantara, that is. As I write, the weather is milder that it's been for a long time, and the sky is a sunny blue. If only we were back now! But we have things to do still - not least attend Said the Maiden's EP launch gig on Thursday - and it'll take at least two journeys by car to get all our stuff back on board.

We visited Kantara the other day, just to make sure all is still well with her - and it is, of course, with Jane from "19th Hole" keeping an eye on her, and having dealt with a good deal of snow piled up on her over the past weeks. The engine fired up first time, and we ran it for half an hour, checked a few things, returned carpets and furniture to normal, and left her, feeling that she is now readier for our return.

Roll on next week!