Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cruising soon!

Incredible! A hot, dry, sunny Bank Holiday Weekend! Excellent weather for the Crick Boat Show, which we went to on Saturday. We walked again, this time without injury - last year I sprained my ankle very painfully right at the start of the return journey. As last year, we bought a number of bits and pieces, including various very special, tasty edibles. Mostly, we learned a lot about various equipment and technology, and looked into a number of mooring possibilities for the time when we decide to move from Yelvertoft and base ourselves on another canal.

We're going back to St Albans today for a couple of nights. The car needs service and MOT, and I want to have it done by our usual Marsh Motors, where all but our first car have been serviced. It's well worth the return journey.

We plan to set out on Saturday for Sawley Marina on the River Trent, where we will be doing our two-day Inland Waterways Helmsman's Certificate course. After that, we'll continue anticlockwise around the Leicester Ring, which we failed to complete last year. The whole trip could take us five or six weeks, and we're really looking forward to it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nothing new really

Early in our time on Kantara, I wrote a rather idealistic post about the weather, basically saying, if I remember rightly, that it's just one of those things that boaters have to put up with, and we just smile and get on with life regardless. How naïve that was!

The fact is that, though there are stalwarts out there who cruise the UK's inland waterways throughout the year, come rain or shine, hail or snow, Grace and I are not that hardy (or is it foolhardy?), and we feel very much at the mercy of the weather. While chugging along the canal in a strong wind may not be too bad because of the trees and hedgerows along most of the banks, we still have to get out of the marina! 

At the moment, we need warm, dry weather. Without it, we can't paint the hull and we can't have our cratch cover repaired. Well, we could but for the fact that we have developing plants on the foredeck at the moment, and don't want to run the risk of adverse weather damaging them - it may well have been frosty last night, for a start.

In fairness to us, we could be cruising. The weather's not that bad, and we've certainly been boating in weather far worse than this in past years. But it's just not convenient to be on the cut at the moment, since we want to attend the Crick Boat Show next weekend (and already, nearby moorings are closed to casual would-be users), and I have to have the car serviced and MOTed next week. We're banking on better weather the week after the Show, that the painting and cratch cover may be done then.


We still feel the need to have the bubble stove on for a few hours each day.

The weather forecast is hopelessly wrong, promising good weather when we have bad, and bad weather when we have good. Yesterday there was a strong wind for most of the day.

Using a couple of the free cinema tickets we get in exchange for Tesco Club Card vouchers, Grace and I saw "The Great Gatsby" the other day. Grace enjoyed it more than me. I found it rather tedious, and light on content, and I couldn't help wondering why Peter Parker was in it. Tobey Maguire really can't be anyone else, it would seem.
A Midwestern war veteran finds himself drawn to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbour.

Oh, and I finally got around to taking the two gas canisters out of the bow locker, and removing the piece of old carpet on which they had been standing. As I had suspected, the carpet was not damp, and the painted floor underneath only had mild surface rust. Nevertheless, I replaced the carpet with plastic tiles which stand on feet, away from the floor, and which have lots of drainage holes across their area, and won't need to be concerned about the possibility of rust developing in future.

Monday, May 20, 2013


We woke this morning to dull, drizzly weather which thwarted our plans to take Kantara out of the marina to touch up her paint. There are a number of patches of undercoat on both sides of the boat which have been awaiting the top coat since last autumn, but today was clearly not going to be the day we did that.

We were awoken, in fact, by the sound of ducks on the roof. They can make a considerable noise as they land heavily above us, then patter off down the length of the roof. Today's kerfuffle was fairly extreme, and it occurred to us to be concerned that they may be eating the flowers from the troughs up there. I got up and went out, and sure enough two of the flipping creatures were standing on the middle one of the three troughs, apparently devouring the newly-planted marigolds, pelargonia and lobelia. I chased them off, hoping to catch one of them and wring its neck to warn off others. I failed.

In actual fact, they ate little or none of the plants. Instead, it would seem, they were clearing a space in the middle of the middle trough in order to build a nest. In the process, they had pulled out the plants and dug down to the bottom of the trough, throwing compost and plants over the roof as they did so, and trampling over the plants in the other two troughs.

I'm told that the offending potential dinners have been working their way around the pots and troughs on boats moored here, wreaking havoc as they go. I'm looking for a duck and orange sauce recipe.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A week of weather

The whole nation's just had a week of bad weather. For us, it's been lots of rain and some strong winds. We've even had to have the bubble stove alight for parts of some days. Today's not too bad, amazingly. It's been a week of doing jobs.

On the one day it was dry, I took the cratch cover off, laid it out on the ground and scrubbed off the dirt - dust, mud, green-tinged water stains and bird poo. There are several areas which need repair, and we're hoping to get that done next week.

The cover - clean - last year
Last year we discovered an area of floor under the carpet which was damp, and had been for some time. We dried it out over the winter while we weren't here, rolling the carpet back to allow the wood to air-dry. A few days ago while it was raining, we found water dripping off the pull-cord of one of the 240v wall lights. Clearly, rainwater was getting in somehow. The most likely place was one or more of the bolt-holes for securing the gangplank/bargepole rack onto the roof. Picking a dry moment, I took the rack off and found evidence of water ingress. I cleaned up around the bolt-holes, applied silicone sealant and screwed it all back together again. Fingers crossed!

When we had the new shower room built last year, we had the shower pump replaced, but the old one was still working, so I kept it. Yesterday, having bought a few bits and pieces for the job, I put it together to be used as a portable, general-purpose pump. Its first use was to get water out of the bilge  just outside the shower room where it has been slowly accumulating on and off ever since we bought the boat. Another case of rain leakage perhaps, possibly around windows, but we've not yet found the source.

Today, I've mopped up the water in the stern, propshaft bilge. Water's expected to drip here from the stern gland, and bilge pumps fitted as standard here are never able to pump out the last quarter inch or so. When it's all dry, I'll paint it with hull blacking, the better to rust-proof it.

I have to check the condition of the floor of the bow locker, too. I don't think there's any rust problem there, but the pair of gas canisters there sit on a piece of carpet (to cushion them from the steel floor, especially when they're being hauled out of the locker, or lowered in), and it's as well to check that it's dry and clean underneath. I'll take the carpet out, in fact, and replace it with some of the plastic tiles we bought for the foredeck last year, but which turned out to be totally unsuitable for that purpose.

We have a 16kg anchor for use on rivers, with 7 metres of heavy chain attached (another 7kg in weight). It needed around 60 foot of rope on the end of the chain, too, so we drove out to Tradline Rope and Fenders in Braunston and bought 17 metres of nylon anchor rope, to which he generously added a complimentary shackle to attach the rope to the chain. Casting this anchor and retrieving it after use will be part of our training for the IWHC certificate.
We still have a number of patches of undercoat around the hull, where topcoat has to be applied. We had hoped that we'd be able to do that this week, so now our hope is on next week. The week after that, we hope to be headed up to the junction with the River Trent, where our helmsman course will be.

I've just looked at the weather forecast for next week, although goodness knows why, since I've long since given up trusting them. If the weatherman's best guess turns out to be accurate, then we have some decent painting weather ahead, and a dry Crick Boat Show next Saturday!

Oh, I've entered one of last year's photos in a Canal Boat Magazine competition.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A weekend away

On Friday, we drove down to Wellington in Somerset, to celebrate with Grace's  family the 40th birthday of Kathryn, one of our nieces. We stayed in The White Hart Hotel in Wyveliscombe, just a few miles from Wellington, going to the party on Saturday afternoon, and taking in a couple of National Trust properties, one on Sunday, and the other on the way home today.

It came as something of a surprise to us that Kathryn was sharing her birthday celebration with her five year-old son, Jake, and three hours of the afternoon were filled with numerous small children and the attendant chaos. The magician/balloon modeller and the bouncy castle were a huge hit!

It was good to see a big chunk of Grace's family, and our three kids drove down to join us all, too. It was a good day.

Barrington Court is a beautiful old Tudor manor, once reduced to dereliction but fully restored in the 1920s by the Lyle family (of Tate & Lyle).

Hidcote Gardens were beautiful, despite the occasional rain and sleet showers. Unfortunately, all of the plants, trees and flowers are three to four weeks late because of the weather of the past months, but there was a lot to enjoy, and the visit made a welcome break in our journey home.

Back on Kantara again now, buffeted by high winds, but under a sunny, clear sky, we're contemplating the list of things to get done, and the cruising we hope to do in the months ahead.

Monday, May 06, 2013

May Bank Holiday...

...got off to a bad start here; cloudy with some rain, and a chilly wind. But it improved as the day progressed, and a large number of boats hurried out of the marina for a short cruise. We stayed here, and I'm glad we did, for NB Herbert returned a couple of hours ago, and they'd not gone far because of the large number of boats on the move. They decided to moor up, enjoy the sun (which did come out), and watch the boats go by instead.

Grace is making a couple of dresses for Jess, so she's been busy at that while I've been doing a number of odd jobs around the boat. It's been hot and sunny yesterday and today, and pottering around mainly outside has been good. We planted three troughs of flowers and one of herbs. I put them on the roof, but they'll have to come in under the cratch cover at nights until there is no more danger of frosts.

I've been concerned that we need a spare bulb for the tunnel light on Kantara, but when I tried to look at the bulb today, I found that the light is a sealed unit, and there is no way to get the bulb out. Does this mean we'll have to carry a complete spare headlamp? How absurd!

Here's hoping that this sort of weather will continue now, although we will need some rain, of course. We don't want the water shortages we had this time last year.

Friday, May 03, 2013

And we're back!

A day later than expected, but never mind. The journey from St Albans took over three hours longer that it should, with problems on the M1 bringing northbound traffic to an absolute standstill, but never mind - we're back.

Today, I booked a two-day helmsmanship course at Sawley Marina on the River Trent. This will be in the last week of June, and we'll make it part of our re-run of the Leicester Ring trip which we had to abort part-way through last year. This time, we'll be doing it anti-clockwise, arriving at Sawley after the first week.
The course involves one day on the river and the second on the canal, earning us the Inland Waterways Helmsman's Certificate, having demonstrated (hopefully) competence in handling the boat on both river and canal, and in a range of cruising situations. It will be an enjoyable couple of days, and we're looking forward to it. I expect we'll have a fair amount to learn, and we'll come out of it with increased proficiency and confidence.

I need to make sure our anchor has the required 5 metres of chain and 60 meters of rope, ready for use on the river.