Saturday, November 29, 2014

Still on Kantara

Well, it's Saturday morning, and we're still here. We spent a very enjoyable Thursday evening with Sarah and Trevor on NB AtLast, but were still playing cards at 2:00 in the morning, and had had quite a lot to drink over the past eight hours. Consequently, we woke late on Friday, and I wasn't happy that my blood alcohol level was OK for driving.

So, in the afternoon we went to see "Paddington", with by far the biggest audience we've ever seen in CineWorld. The film was great. Fun, funny, very well made and performed. The third British film we've seen in a row, and another one Brits can be proud of. A must-see for aging kids like us!

After a fatal earthquake destroys his home in the rainforests of Peru, a young bear (Ben Whishaw) makes his way to London in search of a new home. The bear, dubbed "Paddington," finds shelter with the family of Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins). Although Paddington's amazement at urban living soon endears him to the Browns, someone else has her eye on him: taxidermist Millicent Clyde (Nicole Kidman) has designs on Paddington's rare Peruvian hide.

Well, the rain's stopped, the sky's blue, so it looks as though I can start packing stuff into the car. Perhaps we'll get back to the house today...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Two excellent films

It being our last week this year in the vicinity of a Cineworld cinema (where we can get free tickets, thanks to Tesco points), Grace and I saw two films.

On Monday, it was The Imitation Game, a fascinating story with humour, pathos, intrigue and drama, and a brilliant piece of character acting by Benedict Cumberbatch.
"Genius British logician and cryptologist Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) helps crack Germany's Enigma Code during World War II but is later prosecuted by his government for illegal homosexual acts."

Yesterday, we joined the biggest audience we've ever seen in Rugby Cineworld for a viewing of Mr Turner. It was a film I've been looking forward to seeing ever since I first saw it trailed, and it was a very good film. But I was disappointed that it dealt so much with the character of Turner, and not nearly enough, to my mind, on his art. Nonetheless, it was a story well told, and a superb performance by Timothy Spall.
"Eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner lives his last 25 years with gusto and secretly becomes involved with a seaside landlady, while his faithful housekeeper bears an unrequited love for him."

The film was all of 150 minutes long, so when we left the cinema at 7:00 we drove to The George for our evening meal - delicious as usual.

Tsk! Boats, huh?

Well, boat life's just been made a little more challenging. Yesterday lunchtime, we prepared our first meal without a galley sink, and did the washing up in the shower! A few days ago, I noticed that water was getting into the cupboard under the sink, and traced the fault to the sealant between the sink and the draining board. It looked to me as if the front right corner of the sink had dropped a few millimetres, and the sealant had consequently pulled away along the right side. Water running off the draining board over edge of the sink naturally runs along the bottom edge of the board before meeting the inside of the sink, and it's there that the seal is broken and the water gets underneath.

I contacted Roy straight away, but he was unable to come until yesterday morning. He and Lee found that the oak draining board had warped a little. It, and the sink itself, all needed to be screwed more tightly, but first the wet panels have to dry out, and this will take some days. Consequently, we have no sink! Interesting!

Two or three days ago, I needed to run the Alde boiler. It wouldn't fire up. I called Carl, who'd been responsible for moving gas pipes when Kantara had her new galley fitted, and he came on Wednesday to see what the problem was. There were flakes of rust which had fallen onto the burner unit. He cleaned it up, and the area all around it, but it still wouldn't ignite. He changed the thermocouple, which he had suspected to be the culprit in the first place. Still no ignition. So he had to remove the heart of the Alde, to send it off for repair by a qualified engineer.

A thermocouple - fascinating, huh?
Carl and Roy will both need to come back next week to complete their jobs, but we intend to have left Kantara by then. The office keeps copies of our keys, and will sign them out to known individuals, so there's no problem there. What will happen now is that we'll go back to the house on Friday, return here when the men have finished their jobs, winterise the boat and then leave her for the winter.

The dehumidifier was delivered yesterday, and we set it up straight away and switched it on. Let's hope it lives up to our expectations. We had it on for several hours before going out yesterday afternoon, then all night. It's still on now, and has done a remarkable job of preventing the condensation on the window-frames which normally forms very easily in weather like this.

We'll come back to Kantara every couple of weeks over the winter this year, to check that all is well with this device running all the time. It'll cost us a fair bit for the electricity, but not as much as it costs those who leave their boats to keep warm with their in-built diesel-fuelled heaters, and our solution has the air-drying advantage over heaters, too.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Preparing for winter

Winterizing's pretty much essential for us, since Kantara's going to be without us for a couple of months. And the job's simple enough, and doesn't take much time. However, despite our best efforts, we've had patches of mould appear over the past three winters - on blinds and in cupboards mainly - and we'd really like to avoid that this year. OK, so taking the blinds down and taking them back to the house is no big deal, but there's something very wrong in the feeling that the boat's going to be allowed to get as cold and damp as the air outside - leaving windows open is recommended, in order to maintain an air flow.

What many people do is have their built-in heating systems switch on automatically when the temperature falls below, say, 5 degrees Celsius. The systems are diesel-fuelled, and it's not an expensive solution. We don't have such a system. Our only option would be to have a thermostatic device plugged into a mains socket, and a bar heater or similar plugged into that.

But we've worked out that this could be very expensive over the period of two very cold months, and we reckon, too, that such low heat would do nothing to keep the air dry. And mould might well grow better in the slightly warmer, damp atmosphere. Not a solution.

However, I read what seems to be a really good idea in an online forum this morning. A dehumidifier. This can be set to reduce the humidity in the boat by set amounts (which is far smaller than the house which these devices are said to be able to deal with), and go to standby when the set level is achieved. It checks 30 minutes later to see if it's needed again. If it is, it reactivates, if not, it goes back to sleep. Obviously, we don't have the windows open when this is working.

The given energy consumption makes it far cheaper to run, and would pay for itself within a year; there are many times it could be used, even when we're on board - wash-day is the prime one.

The device we've just ordered is able to send its collected water through a hose into the sink - surprisingly, most of them don't have that feature - so we don't have to empty a tank two or three times a day! It's been highly commended by other boaters, and by Sailing Magazine, who voted it "Best Buy".

We'll be able to test it before we leave it alone to get on with the job. Fingers crossed!

After using the kettlebell Grace bought the other week, she decided that it's fine for some exercises, but too heavy - at least at the moment - for others, so we returned to the warehouse shop yesterday to but two more, one at 4kg and one at 6. If Grace doesn't get stronger and fitter now, there's something very wrong!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


With this year's cruising finished, it's time to start thinking about next year - and probably the next, too. We expect to be back on Kantara at the start of February. The boat has to be at Debdale Wharf for painting on 2nd April, which gives us eight weeks when we could do a good cruise. The paint job is likely to take three weeks, so we should be able to start another cruise by 2nd May.

This will be our fourth cruising season, so we'd really like to have a lot of time on the cut. I've planned enough trips to fill about 58 weeks if we did them individually, but it will work out in practice that we incorporate several of them into just one trip, reducing the number of excursions to perhaps five. And we couldn't possibly fit them all into the one year.

These are the trips I have in mind, then, in alphabetical order. The start and end points are always Yelvertoft. The Leicester Arm of the Grand Union Canal is our first and last waterway on every journey. Other waterways involved are listed.


  • Avon Ring (Grand Junction, North Oxford, Warwick & Napton, Warwick & Birmingham and Stratford-on-Avon Canals, Rivers Avon and Severn, Worcester & Birmingham Canal)
  • Cheshire Ring (Grand Junction, North Oxford, Birmingham & Fazeley, Trent & Mersey, Bridgewater, Rochdale, Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals)
  • Cromwell Lock (Nottingham) (Leicestershire & Northamptonshire Union Canal, River Soar, Erewash Canal, River Trent, Nottingham and Beeston Canals)
  • Four Counties Ring (Grand Junction, North Oxford, Coventry, Birmingham & Fazeley, Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcester, Shropshire Union [Birmingham & Liverpool Junction and Middlewich Branch], Chester and Middlewich Canals) 
  • Hertford & Bishops Stortford, via Tring (Grand Junction Canal, Grand Union [incl. Paddington Branch], Regent's and Hertford Union Canals, Lee & Stort Navigation)
  • Kennet & Avon Canal, full length (Grand Junction Canal, Rivers Thames and Kennet, Kennet & Avon Canal)
  • Liverpool, Salthouse Dock (Grand Junction, North Oxford, Coventry, Birmingham & Fazeley, Trent & Mersey, Bridgewater and Leeds & Liverpool Canals, Liverpool Link)
  • Llangollen (Grand Junction, Oxford, Warwick & Napton, Warwick & Birmingham and Birmingham & Fazeley Canals, Birmingham Canal Navigation, Birmingham & Liverpool Junction and Llangollen Canals)
  • Staffordshire Ring (Grand Junction, North Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley Canals, Birmingham Canal Navigations, Staffordshire & Worcester Canal)
  • Stourport Ring (Grand Junction, Warwick & Napton, Warwick & Birmingham, North Stratford and Worcester & Birmingham Canals, River Severn, Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Birmingham Canal Navigations)
  • Trent & Mersey Canal, full length (Grand Junction, North Oxford, Coventry, Birmingham & Fazeley and Trent & Mersey Canals)

I'm excited already!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Our last trip of the year

It was quite foggy when we awoke yesterday morning, but the water was mirror-like, and the idea of doing one last trip for the year was very appealing. So we set out, a mist still heavy across the fields, down to the winding hole after bridge 28. It has been dredged somewhat since we last used it, and it was an improvement, though we still think a 70-foot boat would find turning there quite a challenge.

We passed just two other moving boats on the two-hour trip. It was cold, but it was lovely to be out on such a day, in such countryside. The autumn colours through the mist were wonderful.

We saw at least two kingfishers, but of course they didn't stay still very long. The best photo I got was blurred by my hurrying to capture the moment as we passed the bird.

I threw the last of our seed bombs. We're looking forward to seeing the results of the two dozen or so I've now thrown along several canals.

Back at the marina, we filled our fuel tanks, ready for the winter - it's recommended to leave them full over winter, because it reduces air contact with the diesel, and reduces the chance of diesel bug (although we also add an anti-bug liquid to both tanks). And while the engine was still hot, I bled the air out of the skin tank, and topped up the cooling system - a job of less than half an hour.

Now we start Christmas shopping!

Friday, November 14, 2014


The other day we visited a place, the like of which we'd never before entered, nor are we ever likely to go to again - a huge gym-equipment shop! It was for real hardcore strength and fitness fanatics. We felt like aliens!

Grace had been feeling the need for some way of exercising more than just her legs and cardio-vascular system, something she could do in the small space of the boat. She came up with the kettlebell.
Ours is 8Kg
This can be used in a variety of ways, exercising core muscles in particular. I'll be using it, too, I'm sure.

This is just a selection of the possible exercises. The "Windmill" is the only one of these she can't do - the ceiling's too low!
Grace has just started her own Twitter stream - @GrassGreene. NB Kantara's tweets have for some time now been about more than just our life on the canals, and have become increasingly political, with particular focus on environmental issues. Incidentally, we've just joined the Green Party. @GrassGreene has taken over this side of our lives, so follow her for a "green" look at life.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


We're hoping for a day soon when the weather is good enough for us to take Kantara out for one more short trip before the winter. The skin tank (part of the engine cooling system) has air in it, and the only way to get that out is to open the cap when the engine is fully hot (and both thermostats are therefore open). The coolant water will then completely fill the skin tank, and I'll fill the system from the radiator cap. We don't need fine weather for this, but it would be nice not to get too wet!

Colin came this morning to do the annual service - well, the bits of it that I'd rather not do myself, anyway. And we're expecting a visit from Pete of Harris Hoods (NOT, one hopes, a bunch of crooks!) to agree a specification for a new cratch cover, and to measure up for one to be made, price allowing.

Yesterday, we went to see "Interstellar". IMDb gives it an astonishingly high rating (for IMDb) of 9.1 out of 10, from 127,577 users, so it had to be worth seeing. Surprisingly, it's only been made in 2D. It would have benefitted a lot from 3D, we think. It was tediously long at 169 minutes.
"A group of explorers use a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer an interstellar endeavor."

It didn't live up to expectations for me. At least the ice-cream was delicious, though!

Friday, November 07, 2014

Down to Somerset

Some weeks ago, Grace's eldest sister, Dorothy, underwent major heart surgery. It was very successful, and she was discharged from hospital within a few days, after which Grace's next eldest sister, Christine, stayed with her and looked after her. A week later, Grace and I drove down to Wellington to take over from Christine for a few days, stopping off at our house for a night on the way.

We were amazed and delighted to see how well Dorothy was recovering, and we enjoyed our stay with her. We returned last Sunday, again spending a night at the house on the way north. All of our driving had been badly affected by hold-ups on motorways, and it was nice to take a break! It's always good to spend time with the kids, too.

Back at Yelvertoft, we've had various jobs to do. We'd missed the Halloween event here, which had been a great success - as usual. I helped to dismantle the marquee on one of the two days the job took, but couldn't help on the second because of our extreme need for a major food-buying shopping trip.

On Wednesday we saw "Gone Girl" at the cinema, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
  1. This film unearths the secrets at the heart of a modern marriage. On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne reports that his beautiful wife, Amy, has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick's portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

The weather's been very changeable. We've had a couple of lovely, sunny days, but a fair bit of rain, too, and... the wind! It's rumoured that the owners of the marina are going to erect a wind turbine to generate electricity.

Grace is practising her canal art as I type, with a view to painting the roses and castles on Kantara when we have her repainted next year. I've done a lot of promoting of Said the Maiden, and got them airplays in eleven radio stations so far in the States. I have a long way to go still! In weather like this, it's good to settle down to doing things in the cosiness of the boat!