Wednesday, June 29, 2016

And yes, we're off!

The weather was lousy first thing this morning. It was dire. We'd wanted to leave for Liverpool last Saturday, and we'd still not moved any further than Yelvertoft Wharf. And that had been in the wrong direction. The weather guess (aka forecast) was that the wind would increase later, but the rain would stop. Best to go now, we thought, while the wind was only gale force, and we could still get out of the marina.

So, at just past 11:00, we left the marina and pointed north. Sure enough, the wind got worse as predicted, but the rain didn't even have the decency to slow down. Crick Tunnel was significantly warmer that the air outside, and drier in the main, too. Watford Locks weren't busy, and we entered them without any delay. John was duty vollie, a nice guy we've got to know a bit over the years.

"Ahh! Grace at the tiller!" he exclaimed as she left the top lock and crossed the exposed, windy pound towards the next.

"I'll give her a mark out of ten. Anything less than six, and she'll have to do it again."

He watched with a smile as Grace shrugged off the wind, and slid Kantara quickly but smoothly into the lock.

"Ah!" he grinned. "That'll be another ten, then!"

By 1:30, we were very much in need of a hot cup of tea and some hot food. We moored just past Welton Haven Marina, and it was clear to us both then that we wouldn't be carrying on after lunch unless there was a significant improvement in the weather.

There wasn't, and we didn't.

No photos today because my camera's not waterproof.

We have the Alde running! It's June 29th!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Alternator alternatives

I'd heard nothing from Simon, but never mind. I had a look at RCR's handbook, to see if alternators were covered in our Bronze membership - and they are! So I rang them, and an engineer was lined up to visit. However, the roadways in the marina are in the process of being resurfaced, and there's no vehicular access at the moment. So I arranged for the RCR guy to meet us at Yelvertoft Wharf instead. It's only a matter of a fifteenish-minute trip by boat. So off we went, the engine hunting pitifully as we went.

Yelvertoft Wharf is no longer much of a wharf, but it's a rather good spot for mooring.

Yelvertoft is apparently well-known by RCR for being an area of very poor phone signal, so communications between us were dire. But a young man arrived around 2:00pm and poked, prodded, tugged and tested, and concluded that, yes, the problem was with our 16 year-old domestic alternator. That is, the one of a pair of alternators that charges our domestic batteries; the other one is exclusive to the starter battery. The problem was that, having diagnosed the problem, there was nothing he could do about it. RCR's service is focussed on dealing with issues that stop boats from travelling. And this problem wouldn't actually stop us from cruising, it'd simply make it more difficult for us! 
So I'd have to get someone else to supply and fit a new alternator. (The two alternators co-exist in a very small space with little access. There was no way I was going to even attempt the job myself!) RCR have a list of trusted engineers, and they could get one of those to do the work for me, so I asked RCR to email me their best quote. I still haven't received that. I texted Simon, too, and haven't had a reply from him, either. Meanwhile, Grace looked on Ebay for the replacement alternator, and found a really good-looking fitting service from a man who specialises in Barrus engines like ours. Ed Shiers of Four Counties Marine Services in Leek. Ed's travelling down to us today, to fit a bit of kit for less than we can buy it for elsewhere. I'll report on the result in my next post.

When Tom, the RCR engineer had gone, we now had to turn around in order to return to the marina. But the nearest winding hole is beyond bridge 28. That's a total of an 8½ mile journey, simply to get us to back the marina just half a mile behind us! But the weather was good, and it's always a pleasure to be cruising. Smiling, we set off. With a hunting engine.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

And we're off to Liverpool!

We were in no great hurry to leave this morning. The weather couldn't make its mind up for quite a while, so we just did the final jobs that have to be done before any cruise - buy bread and milk, fill water tank, change Thetford cassette, check oil and water levels in the engine, put away any clutter, have brunch.

So it was 1:30 when we left the marina and headed north. The weather had settled by now, and it was warm and dry, without the wind that we'd had earlier. There were few other craft out. At the foot of Crack Hill, we saw that the grounded narrowboat that's been there for years is at last being demolished and taken away. Or is someone doing it up?
We came to Crick Marina...
and turned around in the entrance...
and drove back to Yelvertoft.

Within the first half-hour of driving, we'd realised that all was not well with Kantara. She went through spells in which the engine was "hunting" - that is, its speed would suddenly increase, then decrease immediately, and repeat this for a minute or two. And, in time with this, the "not charging" alarm on our control panel would buzz, and the numbers on the battery monitor would fluctuate wildly - between 13.2v and 15v, showing amps between +9ish and -0.4ish. It showed no sign of stopping this behaviour. Clearly an electrical problem, and not something with which we'd happily continue our journey.

So we returned to our Yelvertoft berth. Jan from NB Emma Jane was on the pontoon, feeding the local goose families. "Liverpool was closed", I told her. I texted Simon. It might be something to do with his inverter installation. Perhaps we need a new alternator. Sigh.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

It grieves me to write this

Something momentous has happened, and I'm writing about it here, not to inform or otherwise benefit readers, but to log it for posterity, for me to read and reflect upon in years to come.


Grace and I were back at our house from Sunday to Thursday. The EU referendum was imminent. We discussed it as a family, read about it, watched TV programmes about it. We each knew how the others were going to vote. It seemed like a no-brainer to us all. The political and social commentators we read and respect had detailed all of the probable outcomes of a Leave vote. But we were not blinkered. Remaining was not going to be perfect, either. It, too, would have its fair share of problems. Europe's no more perfect than its constituents. But we felt that the presence of the UK in the EU put us in a good position to help develop the Union, help to iron out its crumpled bits and help to make it the best possible for all of its citizens. As Erini, an ex-pupil of mine, said, "The EU needs a lot of reform, in the same way my house needs doing up - but I can't do any repairs if I lock myself out!"

We did the shopping we needed, Grace did some sewing, I had the car serviced and MoT'ed, we voted, and we drove home to Kantara.

On Thursday, we woke up to the awful news that the UK had voted by a small majority to leave the EU. We were shocked. It was too awful to contemplate. All of the warnings given by experts in finance, trade and industry, politics, european affairs, history, had been dismissed as scaremongering by 52% of those who had voted. 

One non-expert Leaver said it all. "All the garbage about how we'll be worse off outside the EU is just that. People should stop rubbishing the country and realise that we will be far stronger outside the crippling undemocratic commission's edicts." He had no evidence to support those beliefs. I didn't realise so many thought the same way. I wonder if he regrets it today.

Two days later, we hear that many of those same people have suddenly realised that they'd done the wrong thing in voting Leave. They're saying they didn't realise it would have such devastating effects as they are now hearing about in the media. As if they hadn't been told. Some are asking if they can change their votes. They seem genuinely shocked at the enormity of the plight they've created. Shocked to hear that the value of our pound has plummeted. That we've already lost millions of pounds in stocks, several times what we've been paying into the EU annually. That their mortgages will probably cost more, their petrol, their holidays abroad. The value of their houses may well fall. Businesses are already saying that they'll move out of the UK to Europe. Unemployment will rise. Recession is likely. The list of possible consequences is very long, and very little of it is good. The bottom line is that this may actually cause the collapse of both the UK and the EU. And the Greatness of Great Britain seemed to be so important to those wishing to separate from Europe.

I'm trying to fight off the negativity in myself. I'm angry, I can't deny it. Angry that such ignorance can decide the direction a nation takes. I shrug. It's happened throughout history, though; it's nothing new. But my anger has to go. The Brexiteers have landed themselves with the same problems that they've landed the Remainers with. It would be foolish to suggest that they should leave the EU while the rest of us stay (though I can't deny that I find a certain attraction to the idea at the moment). We have to work together to turn this around, regardless of how we voted on Thursday. Without Europe, we have to be more interdependent now.  

I suppose this might be likened to a world-war situation. Life-changing, history-hingeing. But the UK has come through that twice. Much of Europe has. And there was recovery then, and redevelopment, healing and reconciliation. There has to be, now. And the sooner, the better.

As in the aftermath of the wars, there will be suffering. And there will be no quick fixes. It's a dreadful irony that many of the Leave voters will be dead before we're out of the mire - it was largely those over 60 years of age who voted Leave. What they will Leave behind on the day of their demise is younger generations who are still picking up the pieces of their parents' and grand-parents' ill-advised vote two days ago.

But pieces can be picked up. Things can be mended. At the age of 64, I'm hoping I'll live long enough to see a new, healthier, happier UK. I don't deserve it. It's not my right. But that's what I voted for on Thursday 23rd June 2016. And that's what I'm sticking with.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Without apology...

I've not posted on the blog for a week now. Doesn't time fly? There's not been much to write about, really, even as an aide memoire for myself in later years. But...

We went to a wonderful wedding last Sunday. A friend of ours, Liz, our sort of age, widowed a couple of years ago and now marrying a man whose first wife died of much the same condition as Liz's first husband. They make a lovely couple.

On Monday, I was due to have the car serviced and MoT'd, but the muppet who took the booking over the phone weeks ago failed to put it in the book! I rebooked for next Monday. We came back to Kantara on Tuesday.

Boaty things... I did an engine oil change, and fitted a new battery to the bowthruster. The old one has been with us from the start, and was beginning to show signs of age, and a bowthruster's not something you want to die on you in the middle of use!

And yesterday, Simon fitted our new inverter and battery protector. We tested them today. Grace vacuum-cleaned the whole boat solely on inverted battery power. Excellent! After she'd finished, she left the cleaner running to get the battery voltage down to the battery protector's cut-out level, but it failed to cut out. No harm done, and we'll probably never drive the batteries that low in real usage, but I've emailed the manufacturers to see what they have to say/do.

I've not promoted my book on Twitter or Facebook for ages, and not on the blog for even longer. But since I'm going to be very busy blogging our next cruise (which starts next weekend), I'm going to plug it again now.

"Life with our feet under water" has been on sale on Kindle for nearly six months now. It's received very good reviews - some readers, of course, a small minority, weren't so enthusiastic! - and has spent almost all of the time in the top 20 in three categories of Amazon's best-sellers lists. It's been number one several times. This was some time last month...

and this is how it stands right now.

(All of the books bounce about a fair bit, jostling with each other for the number one spot.)

So I'm pretty pleased with that, of course. But there are folk out there who've not yet read it, so, if you're one of them, please give it a try. Go to the sale page on Amazon, and read the first three chapters at no cost. Download them onto your Kindle, tablet, phone or PC.

Lots of my readers are now following this blog because of the book. Many came to the book via my Facebook page, or Twitter stream (@NBKantara). It'd be good to have you along, too!

Enjoy the read!

Oh, and if you're into vlogs (video blogs to those who are not into them) and you're interested in narrowboats, then you must visit Cruising the Cut. But more of that another day!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Wouldn't it be nice if boats had gardens?

We used to have troughs of flowers on the roof of Kantara. Tomatoes, too. But they really messed up the paintwork, and got in the way of Grace's view from the stern when we were on the move, so we stopped. Back at the house, however, there's nothing to stop Naomi from creating a fabulous garden, which is going to be open to the public on 21st August as part of an Open Food Gardens project by Transition St Albans
And this is Naomi's garden...

I miss this on the boat!


I don't think I'm likely to be doing anything bloggable for the next couple of weeks. We're back at the house at the moment, currently upgrading my laptop from Windows 7 to 10. Gulp! I've been dreading this for ages, but knowing it's inevitable.
Tomorrow, we're going to a friend's wedding. Car service and MoT test on Monday, back to Kantara Tuesday. Simon will be fitting the new inverter on the Friday (having over-run a job on Thursday and not been able to do it then). But then we'll be back here again next Sunday for various bits and pieces, including THE referendum on Thursday. Back to Kantara immediately after voting, then setting off for Liverpool on Saturday or Sunday.

Then the fun starts again!

Friday, June 10, 2016

A short visit from friends - Wednesday

And so the weather remained. I think the woman on the boat next to us must've been looking at the weather forecast for Chicago. An easy mistake to make.

As I was doing my daily checks on the engine, I heard an unusual splashing in the water around Kantara's stern. If it were a duck, which would have been most likely, then it would have been a small and frantic duck. But I could see no small, frantic creature, just the ripples it was causing. The animal itself was hidden under the armco and overhanging grass. I went closer, bent over, and was amazed and delighted to be looking into the tiny face of a mole.

I've only seen one other mole, ages ago. This was photo-worthy, but I didn't get the opportunity to go and get my camera. This poor thing was desperate to get out of the water. It was swimming down the armco now, stopping every now and then try to climb its vertical, metal surface. I had to help it. I grabbed a pair of gloves. If it doesn't have loads of sharp teeth, it certainly does have very strong, sharp claws. Donning a glove, I kneeled down at the edge of the water, and bent down towards it. That was enough to frighten the poor thing even more. It turned to face the opposite bank, and swam into the reeds there, disappearing quickly from view. A remarkably good swimmer. I expect it was able to get back onto land from there, so I suppose I did help it in one respect.

Cute, huh?
photo -
photo -
Our return journey to Yelvertoft was just as lovely as the outward. The canal was quiet. We met few boats all day. Two followed us from a distance. It was a joy to be out. 
Back at the marina...
turning in...
swinging left...
crossing to our berth...
and reversing in