Sunday, 12 February 2017

So whats different?

A tale of 3 cars.

Hello people, it's cold, wet, and windy outside, but warm, cosy and calm inside Bracken. 
Graham and Jaq picked me up this morning and we drove down to the cafe at Barton Marina for breakfast. Good food, nice surroundings and good company, what more does a body need!
At the end of my last post I asked if any eagle eyed people had noticed any obvious change in the past 12 months. A bit evil of me really as I didnt give any clues so I will 'come clean'.
Originally, when I came to live on Bracken I drove a VW Polo. This was the vehicle I used as a school car when I was working as a driving instructor and it had done in excess of 150,000 miles in its short life so didn't really owe me anything. 
(If you look at the heading picture of the blog you can see the Polo parked in the parking area.)  
It was a very basic model, no electric windows, no remote central locking, as I say very basic but it served its purpose which was to teach pupils to drive.
What started this story was, my brother changed his vehicle, he had a two door pick up truck and changed it for a Honda CRV what is referred to as an SUV, electric everything, full of bells and whistles and gadgets and so comfy and all for less than a grand!
 So I thought " I'd like some of this"
So, I started looking at Auto Trader, and Ebay and found lots of similar vehicles for sale. My criteria for the vehicle was, it had to be red, (I love red vehicles), Automatic, ( always loved autos but needed manual for the job), with a large enough boot for my electric buggy for shopping. And primarily it had to be cheap! Found a CRV in Birmingham, went to see it, bought it and drove it home. Lovely!..... Kind of.....

Yes I know its old, but its Red, and its Auto, and its got electric windows!
Ok, sometimes you have to wait a few minutes for the immobiliser to disarm otherwise it wont start, but thats the point of having an immobiliser isnt it? OK, maybe sometimes it takes more than a few minutes for it to disarm, OK perhaps its better if I have the immobiliser removed, there, now it always starts!
Lovely vehicle to drive, smooth relaxing, and if I had any Cassettes I bet the stereo would sound good, unfortunately I no longer own any cassettes, just CD's but never mind the radio works.
I enjoyed the Honda, went down to Kent and back and was surprised how well it did on fuel economy, not a lot more than the old Polo would have done.
Knowing the MOT was due at the end of December, in November I got my local garage to give the Car a look over as I was aware of some rust round the rear wheel arches.
The mechanic was very apologetic when he said he wasn't able to lift the Honda with the hydraulic jacks as there were no jacking points on the chassis, they had rusted away to nothing along with the majority of the chassis rails, both sides!
I was quoted approx £750 to have the chassis rails rebuilt to MOT standard, so I scrapped it and went looking for a replacement vehicle.
The moral to this part of the story is, I would never again buy a car privately, from a man of 'Eastern origins' (who leaves a copy of the Koran in the glove box).
We live and learn.
Still on a learning curve, I found a Car sales in Ashton Under Lyne with a Red Auto Renault Scenic for sale.
After a long conversation on the phone during which I was assured the vehicle was in mint condition underneath, mechanically sound and with a long MOT, and after much perusal of photos I drove up to the car sales with the intention of buying the vehicle.
On seeing the vehicle, initially I was disappointed, it was filthy, inside and out, the rear door on the drivers side didn't shut properly and as the salesperson didnt have any trade plates he was reluctant to let me test drive it, instead he drove me around the town at what I felt were scary speeds. In fact I eventually insisted he slow down so I could feel the auto gearbox change up and down, and also get a feel for how the vehicle handled without having to cling on for dear life!
The salesman assured me the water pump and cam belt had been recently changed so we adjourned to his office to complete the paper work.
On line I taxed the vehicle using the green slip from the registration document provided by the car sales so I was now the registered keeper of the Renault
On the way home I found the drivers door electric window didn't work so that was another job to sort out.

Imagine my surprise when I rang my insurance company to notify them of change of vehicle, when relating the details to them I realised the green slip I had used to tax the vehicle did not belong to my car! It belonged in fact to another red Renault Scenic with a different registration number!
I had in fact taxed and registered someone elses car in my name.
In the interest of cutting a long story short, I now have the correct registration document for my vehicle, it is taxed and insured in my name but I am still trying to convince DVLA that I do NOT own the other vehicle!
Despite several letters and phone calls to DVLA I still receive letters asking me to clarify the situation.
One of the first things I did over the next few days was to remove the seats from the Renault to clean it thoroughly.
Put a couple of kids in the back of a vehicle, give them a couple of bags of crushed crisps, some chewy toffees, a bag of broken biscuits, some coloured crayons, oh and make sure they start with muddy shoes and you end up with something like the condition of the car.
A good vacuum and  a strong cleaner for the plastics and door panels made a big difference to not only the appearance but also the smell too.
Bro and I re-aligned the rear door so that shuts perfectly now and cleaning up the switch contacts got the drivers electric window working fine. 
I put the Renault in my local garage for a full service and to give the mechanic chance to give it a good inspection, all ok so far (fingers crossed).
We'll see.

February seems like being typical weather, forecast was for an Arctic blast with possible snow, so I bought in extra coal and tinned supplies and after a couple of frosts, and ten flakes of snow they now say temperature in double figures next week. 

Feb 6th.

February 6th.
and next day!

also Feb 7th

Yes it was chilly, but what a bootiful day!

Lately the pontoons have been very slippery, a combination of dirt, tree sap and leaves left them quite slimy so the grounds men in the marina have been scrubbing and jet washing all the pontoons during the days when its not been freezing and its made a terrific difference and so much safer to walk on. 
rotating brushes and pressure washing....

.....makes all the difference.

Well that brings us up to date I think, so bfn people.


Friday, 27 January 2017

Hello again

Hello people, I thought I would try again to bring the blog up to date. Yesterdays news kind of killed my train of thought......enough said, so here we go again.

Well here we are, Christmas has been and gone and whilst we're spending some of our time shivering whilst scraping the ice off our car windscreens, we really can't complain about the weather. As winters go, well it hasn't happened yet has it. 
I always think if we can get January and February out of the way then we're through the worst of it. I mean, even if we get some snow during March it isn't going to last long is it? Ha, famous last words!
Now for some pictures, first one taken just after I wrote the post in November and last one taken a couple of days ago.

8th of November 2016

Great spotted Woodpecker, a regular visitor especially when i've just renewed the suit block!

What I found fascinating was the perfect circles round the Brown Mallard.
 I am always fascinated by sunsets, and have been lucky enough to snap several from the back deck of Bracken. These are just a few  I thought I'd share with you people.



This was Sunrise on 5th December thin skin of ice on the Marina

The next 4 pictures were all taken on the 11th of December 2016, over the course of half an hour.

This was taken on the 18th December.


Following day, 29th Dec, frosty!

Yep, he's back again.

Snow arrived on the 13th of January, but it didn't last long.

what a lovely sight!



And the following day, 25.01.17
What a total contrast!

Well we're more or less up to date now, I wonder if any eagle eye'd people have spotted any obvious changes in the past 12 months. I'll give you a few days to think about it :)
Bfn people.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Sympathy, sorrow, and life is precious.

Thursday 26th Jan.

Hello people, as I hadn't written anything for a while I thought I'd power up the trusty laptop and put pen to paper so to speak.
Its been a while since I last logged on to any boat blogs so you can imagine my shock when the first thing I read was the news that Les Biggs of NB Valerie passed away on Tuesday 24th Jan.
Whilst I was at a low point in my life undergoing treatment for my own Cancer back in 2013/14 both Les and Jaqueline of NB Valerie were kind and supportive to me, so I am deeply saddened to hear that Les has lost his own battle. My sympathy and thoughts go out to Jaqueline Biggs and the family.
click here is the link to their Blog, always very informative and full of history and facts from all the places they explored during their life of continuous cruising.

Life is very precious, and we are never more aware of that fact than when we are reminded that our time here is not unlimited.
Thats all for now people, I will write more soon.  

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Enjoying life.

Tuesday, 1st November.

Hello people, I hope I find you all well and happy in your lives. Life afloat continues to to fill me with pleasure and contentment and a feeling of peace.
I wake each day to the sounds of ducks quacking, birds twittering and occasionally,  the sound of a boat engine. The gentle movement of the boat is a pleasant reminder that I am actually afloat which to me, just adds to the feeling of contentment.
Autumn is definitely upon us now and winter is just around the corner. Entering the marina through the gates brings you into a world of boats many of which have wisps of wood smoke rising from their chimneys whilst the occupants are toasty warm inside. Ive been lighting my fire most afternoons over the past few weeks, just for the evening then letting it go out overnight as it has been really mild. In fact we've had some beautiful days with warm sunshine.

I collected my chimney from Kym and Tracy on the Little Chimney boat. Stainless steel, and double skinned so it will last indefinitely it is a perfect fit and looks great. Excellent workmanship, thanks Kym.

I took this sunset picture on 27th September, bootiful aint it.

Then 3 days later this rather dramatic cloud picture.

I started rubbing down the wooden rail round the stern, hard work trying to get rid of all the old dark stain

Eventually I got it down to this.

After 4 coats of clear varnish with sanding down between each coat, I think it looks great. The varnish has really brought out the natural colour  of the wood.
I had a run down to Kent to see friends and family for a few days.My timing was better this trip as I drove down on the Saturday, people were not at work and grandchildren were not at school so I was able to spend time with the people that matter, unlike last time where i got it so wrong and hardly saw anyone!
I stayed with my good friends John and Dee who always make me feel very welcome.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip and great to spend time with those people who are never far from my thoughts, I look forward to the day the grandkids can come and 'crew' for me.

Last Thursday I had a little trundle up the canal as it was such a bootiful day, the sun was shining, the sky was mainly blue and the canal was so quiet and peaceful I just had to take a few pics as I pottered along.

Just a few pics to show you people how beautiful the canals can be. 
Autumn is one of the most colourful and picturesque times of the year I think.

Well I think that's about it for now people, take care, enjoy your lives whatever you're doing.


Sunday, 25 September 2016

paint, paint, and more paint!

Written on a sunny Sunday, for a change.

Greetings people, well after last nights rain I half expected to wake up to the flood of Noah. I was woken in the early hours by the rain hammering on the roof, but on waking this morning the world is sunny and relatively dry tho a little breezy.
I've been continuing the painting over the last couple of weeks, in fact I've almost finished the superstructure which is just as well as I think we've had the best of the weather. The evenings are certainly cooler now and it wont be long before the fire will be needed.
Rubbing down the tiller arm and the  uprights under the wooden stern rail wasn't a hard job as I did most of it from a sitting down position and the end result looks good.

Tiller and uprights looks nice in their new paint. I'm intending to rub down the wooden rails back to clean wood and then clear varnish them.
 The wooden seating rails round the stern were previously stained dark brown but I'm hoping to be able to sand them back to clean wood and then clear varnish them. It depends how well the sanding goes whether I manage to get rid of the dark staining.
You may remember the front and rear doors were also stained dark brown, well I decided to 'lighten' things up a bit and painted the front doors what was supposed to be a 'cream' colour.

I wasn't happy with 'cream' so I tried yellow.

Meanwhile, whilst I'm busy painting, the wildlife are busy doing what they do best - eating or rummaging around for grubs.

I wasn't totally happy with having yellow doors so my final attempt was red.
I'm still not 100% sure but that's it for now. Each door has had two coats of each colour making six coats in total so I think the wood is well protected if nothing else!

When it came to painting the back doors, red looked right straight away

Kym at the Little Chimney co has notified me my new chimney is ready to be collected, so thats probably tomorrows job to go and find them down the Coventry canal. Depending on the weather, I will either drive down by car, or maybe have a trundle down the canal in Bracken, we'll see.

Thats all for now people.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

A long awaited catch up.

To cover the period from June when I last updated the blog, to September. Today is Friday 9th.

Hello people, yes it has been a while since my last post. Apologies to all especially Chris, Dee and Bukan Saya, people who have contacted me asking for updates.
This update will probably take a while as I have several photos to upload so bear with me if it takes a few days.
Bird life always captures my interest, I can easily spend a great amount of time just watching them come and go to the feeders I regularly keep topped up.
I think this is a Bullfinch.

Blue tits, a Great tit, and a Robin,

Yes I know its a common duck, a Female Mallard to be precise, I just like the symmetrical colours of the feathers 

Group of Long Tailed Tits

Towards the end of July, Anne and Ray brought Lydia and Martha down and took Jennyanydots out for a few days. Originally I had planned to follow them up to Tixall but my youngest son Simon and daughter in law Emma announced they were bringing Neve and Erin to see me for a couple of days so I stayed in the marina to await their arrival.

(and they say teenagers are forever texting on their phones)

Simon and Emma with Neve and Erin arrived around lunchtime on Monday 1st of August, so we all went down to Kingfisher cafe at Fradley junction for some lunch, after which we watched the coming and going of boats going through the locks.  
On Tuesday we planned to have a trundle up the canal to the winding hole at Handsacre and back. Typical after a nice sunny day Monday, that it was drizzling with rain Tuesday but we didn't let it put us off and so we had a nice leisurely potter up to the winding hole, turned and then moored just past bridge 56 so the girls could stretch their legs on the towpath and have a bit of lunch, and feed a mother duck with 6 little ducklings.

Neve, Erin with dad Simon hiding behind Erin.

On Wednesday morning I met up with them all for breakfast in Lichfield town centre, after which they left to start their journey home to Kent.
Although Simon and Emma have been to see me before, this was the first time Neve and Erin have been on board Bracken. I think they enjoyed their day out up the canal, and I look forward to seeing them again soon.

yes I'm still feeding the Carp that gather round my mooring.

Anne and Ray and the girls returned to the Marina on the Wednesday as Ray had an appointment elsewhere, and Anne wanted to collect a new chimney she had ordered from 'The Little Chimney Co'
 So on Thursday we drove by car down to Hopwas school bridge on the Coventry canal to collect the chimney from Kym and Tracey on the Butty boat Molly, which is a floating workshop where Kym manufactures stainless steel chimneys to order.

The new chimney is mainly for when Anne is moored, as it is 18 inches high and has a rotating cowl on the top so it acts like a weather vane therefore giving the fire a good 'draw'. 
I'll take a better picture when Anne fits it in place.
The workmanship is superb, and being stainless steel it should last indefinitely. In fact I have ordered one for Bracken.

On the Friday I decided to give Bracken a little run up to the winding hole so of course Anne, dogs, and girls came too. After winding in the hole I reversed back a bit and moored up to give everyone chance to stretch their legs, (dogs and girls) and coffee for the adults. On the way back the girls sat on the roof at the front leaving the back deck for the adults and dogs. In response to my shout of 'smile for the camera' I got this excellent shot of the girls.

notice the scruffy paintwork, that's about to change when girls and dogs have gone home.

look closely where the cabin sides meet the gunnels, (side decks), a line of rust which i had to machine out before treating with rust killer.

I've started the painting of the outside of Bracken. In fact as you will see during the next few pictures Bracken has been transformed in appearance. Over the last few months I have gradually been working my way round the boat, firstly taking the boat out of the Marina and using a 4.5 inch angle grinder with a scouring disc to machine the rusty areas before rubbing down all the exterior paintwork with firstly 120 grit wet and dry paper, followed by 400 grit wet and dry.  All the rusty and bare metal areas were treated with rust killer before being primed ready for painting. The colours I used are Grass Green and Post office Red, obtained from Midland Chandlers. The green covered the original colour green in one coat, but the red needed two coats, three in some places.

Starboard side new paint.

Just proves that it even rains in paradise!

Remember the fat Mrs Moor hen that climbs the tree to the bird feeders? 4 chicks only a week or so old.

To machine the Port side of Bracken I enlisted the help of my brother. This side was definitely worse than the other side and even with Graham's' energy and stamina it took the best part of three hours of machining to get rid of the rusty areas, followed by a lot of washing and rubbing down before the rust killer could be applied.

'Super Grum' hosing down the roof and sides.

Saturday 10th September, to continue.

As you can see in the photo below, the black areas are where there was rust which has been machined and treated with rust killer, this was before being primed with a high build primer then 3 coats of top coat.

rust killer applied, next job is to apply primer before topcoat. I could have used an undercoat but decided to stick with the primer as it came 'ex gratia'  (free of charge).

On the 30th August I waved goodbye to Gill and Geoff on 'Tarka' as they pulled out of Kings Bromley Marina for the last time. Nice people, they were moored a few boats down from me. They had decided on a change of scenery after mooring in Kings Bromley for some years and have gone down to Calcott Marina.
Good luck Gill and Geoff, was nice knowing you.

Not every liveaboard is a steel narrow boat.

doesn't it look smart!

Good view of the small well deck on Bracken.

Bracken in her smart new paint, still have the white lining to do with vinyl striping, and of course new names which will also be done in vinyl.
Next job will be the woodwork. That is front and rear doors, and the wooden rail round the stern deck. It's been suggested I should paint the wood work a cream colour to match the striping and the roof, an idea I am coming round to, we'll see, watch this space. 

Remember the picture of 4 baby Moor Hen chicks? well this is the sole survivor, still a ball of fluff but like a lanky teenager, all legs, following mum and dad around.
Well I think that about brings us up to date so I'll close for now  and I'll try not to leave it so long till the next update, best wishes to all readers, bfn.