Sunday, July 21, 2013

Surviving the heat

It's been extreme, hasn't it? The marina grass is dying and the ground is cracking; the water level of the canal is beginning to fall. But then yesterday the temperature fell considerably, and it rained during the night. Today's been warmer than yesterday, but mainly cloudy. The forecast for the next ten days is fascinating,

but then it changes daily.

Because of the heat, it's been hard to motivate ourselves to do much. We've spent quite a number of hours trying to find Grace a dress to wear for a friend's wedding on Saturday - we were finally successful yesterday.

Colin came on Friday to put a new ventilation grille on the starboard stern hull, and topped up the batteries with a bottle gizmo that we'll have to buy for the next time they need to be done. The electrolyte level was low, though, and it may be that the batteries have been damaged because of that. Time will tell. If we need new ones, Colin will fit four (rather than the three we have) sealed batteries that require no maintenance.

Sam arrived unexpectedly the same day, and removed the 240v generator and control box for testing and repair. I've been picking around at odd jobs - preparing the gangplank for painting, starting the same job on the taff rail at the stern, discovering that the boathook and bargepole will also need a new coat of paint to prevent them from rotting.

The highlight of the week has been the discovery of the Canal Route Planner. This is a free, web-based, highly specified application for, well, planning routes on the canal system. It's far too comprehensive for me to go into much detail here, but suffice it to say that I am amazed by it, and spent hours just playing with it, discovering routes for future cruises, looking at maps and photos. It will be a major planning tool for me in the future, and I recommend it unreservedly.

Fellow boaters - this is well worth looking at!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

720 degree panorama of Yelvertoft Marina

I'm not one for making videos, and that shows when you look at this one! It's rather jerky - I was standing rather precariously on the bow of Kantara - and I panned too fast when I was zoomed in. I'll do better another time. But I just wanted to record how lovely it is here in the marina on a beautiful, sunny morning. The sound is recorded, too, but I've not listened to it. All I know is, it was very quiet!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Soaring temperatures!

Ok, so the rest of the nation is making the same comment, too, but... What crazy weather we have! Summer started late, lots of false starts, and, now it's finally here with some conviction, it's too flipping hot! The kind of heat that stops us being able to get on with the things we want to do.

Washing the boat, for a start. I got up early on the first day I attempted this feat, just so that the hull would not have had time to be heated under the blazing sun. I was too late! I washed the side against the pontoon, but found it was already drying too quickly. That was Sunday. On Monday, we turned Kantara around so that I could wash the other side. Same problem. We turned it around again the next day, to get another go at the job, then back again afterwards. The boat's cleaner, but not as clean as I would have liked.

But it's interesting, being berthed the other way around now. It puts the bow out into the pond and further away from the comings and goings of cars and pedestrians. We've eaten out on the foredeck a few times now, and it's very pleasant. We're getting to know the ducks, too!

Views from the front deck now...

...and previously.

Washing the boat, I discovered a bit of damage sustained while we were out on the cut. I remember it happening, although I didn't know the full extent of it at the time. As Grace drove the boat away from a mooring on our last morning out, she had to steer to avoid an oncoming boat whose driver was a little shaky, and, as a result, dragged the stern starboard along the metal banking. It was broken, however, with a horizontal crosspiece sticking out, and Kantara scraped past this with a horrible noise - a ventilation grille being ripped off the side of our engine compartment, as it turned out.

Yes, the paintwork needs to be finished, too!
I have a spare grille, but not the wherewithal to rivet it on, so Colin's coming on Friday to do it for us.

Yesterday, we took our cratch cover to a company in Braunston, to have it repaired. It had developed holes where it was constantly rubbing against the corners of the cabin, and these were getting worse by the week. We've just collected the repaired cover - £30 very well spent! We'll be going back to AJ in a few weeks' time, to get them to fit fasteners along the bottom of the cover so that we can fasten it firmly to the hull. At the moment, the bottom edges of the cover tend to billow in or out when it's windy, letting in water if it's raining. And the stresses of that billowing can't be good for it either. Furthermore, when it snows, the whole cover sags badly, again exerting unwanted stresses. Fastening the bottom will overcome all of these problems.

It's time we checked the fluid levels in the batteries. That's Grace's job - she's smaller and bendier than me for getting into a very restricted space!

The flowers and herbs on the roof are loving the weather, and the tomato plants look as if they'll be giving us fruit soon, too.

Yes, I KNOW the gangplank needs to be painted!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Back to St Albans for a couple of days

We spent Tuesday and Wednesday cleaning and tidying a bit, washing and ironing, and catching up with emails. Simon came on Tuesday afternoon to see what was wrong with the fridge power feed. Tracing back the cable from the socket better than we did, he found that it took a detour through the engine compartment! Not only that, but it had an in-line circuit-breaker unit hanging mid-air above the front of the engine, and this had somehow been switched off - possibly by an inquisitive engineer who forgot to switch it back on again afterwards. Problem solved. The fridge got back to work. Another example of things being done in an odd manner by the previous owner!
On Thursday, we threw a few things in a case and drove back to the house to deal with a number of domestic issues there. It was good to see the kids too, of course. Today, we came back to Kantara. It must have been the hottest day of the year so far.

Now we have a couple of weeks to get as many of the cleaning, tidying and painting jobs done as we can before returning to St Albans for a friend's wedding, and to have a family celebration of Grace's 60th birthday. I just hope the temperature falls a little.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Speeding back to Yelvertoft

We decided that the best thing to do now, in view of our problems, was to leave early and finish the journey back to the marina in one day. So we set out at 9:00 - another very sunny, hot day already, but with a pleasant, refreshing breeze - and enjoyed a fast pace down the broad Oxford Canal towards Braunston and the Grand Union.

Arriving at the bottom of Braunston Locks, we found it empty and ready for us, and we were joined in the lock by another couple in their boat. With two of us now manning the locks, and every one of the flight of six being in our favour, we made very good time, and headed off to the Tunnel.

Grace isn't keen on Braunston Tunnel. It's very long - 2042 yards - and has a bend and other restrictions in it. All would have been well had it not been for a pair of very short boats travelling close together who met us on the bend, but made no allowance for the fact that Kantara, coming out of the bend with her 60' length sticking out towards the opposite wall, couldn't avoid them - they had to avoid her. There was a collision. No-one hurt, and, we think, no damage done. None to Kantara, certainly, but the boat we hit was a fibreglass cruiser, so we did have visions of it cracking and sinking!

Emerging from the tunnel, we sped (well, in canal terms) towards Norton Junction, left onto the Leicester Arm of the GU,and then to Watford Locks. We had a short wait here, just enough to eat a quickly-made sandwich, and then ascended in good time.

Crick Tunnel (only 1528 yards) had no boats coming towards us, and we were through in record time. We finally berthed in the marina at 3:00pm, hot (burned), tired, and still with food in a defunct fridge. Almost the first thing we did was turn our attention to that. 

Thankfully, we did establish that the fridge was not faulty. I connected it direct to the battery bank, and it ran fine. The 12v fuses were all intact, but it was clear that the wall switch into which the fridge was wired was itself faulty, or some other part of the wiring was.

I put out email SOS messages to Colin and Simon about the fridge, and another to Sam about the generator, then we collapsed and cooled down.

It has been an excellent cruise!
165 miles
115 locks
6 counties

  •     Northamptonshire
  •     Leicestershire
  •     Nottinghamshire
  •     Staffordshire
  •     Warwickshire
  •     West Midlands
in 38 days
And we gained the IW Helmsman's Certificate, too. We had a really good time. Now we have to... well, let's say we have a to-do list that looks awesome! (Adjective - Causing awe or terror; inspiring wonder or excitement) and more cruises to plan!

Sunday - pushing on back towards Yelvertoft

Sunday was another scorcher of a day. Cruising was relaxed, and traffic in our direction wasn't nearly as heavy as that going the other way. Boats were queuing to descend Hillmorton Locks, but we ascended with ease and speed.

Our enjoyment of the day was somewhat marred, however, when an alarming noise was made, apparently from the propellor, and we were forced to cut the engine and drift over to a reedy bank. At first, we thought it was something metallic wrapped around the prop or prop shaft, but an inspection found them to be totally free. Looking into the engine, however, I found two drive belts (that's right - the ones that were fitted last week!) had shredded. The noise had been the frayed ends whipping various parts of the engine as they flew around their pulleys.

I called RCR, whose engineer had fitted them last week, and two guys arrived within an hour and a half. Apparently, one of the belts fitted last week had been too narrow, and this had caused premature wearing. What had caused much the same to happen to the other belt, they could not say.

After a quick visit to the (fortunately) nearby Halford's shop to buy a belt, the engineer (the other young man was an apprentice) fitted it, but had been unable to buy a replacement for the generator. However, since that one isn't needed for the engine to run - and the generator control unit had already broken down - we were able to continue on our way, after a hasty lunch.

We finished for the day, overheated and somewhat scorched, at bridge 81.

Oh! And the fridge stopped working! In this heat! I checked the fuses and all the other obvious things, but zilch. Keeping food edible over the next couple of days will be a challenge!

Saturday, July 06, 2013

A very sunny Saturday

As we moved on this morning, it was another hot and sunny day, but with a pleasant breeze on the canal which we missed yesterday. Again, there was a lot of traffic on the water. Just as we moved away from our mooring, an unfortunate walker along the towing path had his way blocked by an angry and threatening swan. It wouldn't be lured away by food, and nothing would scare it off. A couple of cyclists arrived, too, but were not prepared to try to ride past on the narrow path.

There being nothing more we could do, we left the scene, but looked back to see the swan finally get into the water and swim off, still looking rather ruffled, and the cyclists and walker continued on their ways.

The journey was again through lovely countryside, the canal broad in many places, and rather more winding than earlier.

One source of amusement for much of the journey was a day-hire boat with a number of Japanese tourists. They were enjoying themselves a lot, but had little idea how to control their small craft, resulting in some rather hairy moments. Hitting the bank and other craft didn't seem to bother them a bit!

A beautiful roof garden
We saw what must be the smallest canal boat on the system. It couldn't have been more than 10 foot in length, and appeared to have an inboard rather than outboard engine! Get the scale of the craft from the trough of flowers on the roof.

Arriving in Rugby, we laughed to think that we were now no more than 30 minutes car drive away from the marina, but don't expect to be back there by boat until Tuesday.

We took advantage of being close to a large Tesco, and stocked up with food for the next few days.