Saturday, 10 June 2017

Part 3

Saturday 10th June.

Well another gloomy day outside, still it's given me chance to bring the blog more or less up to date.
I forgot to mention in yesterdays tale, on the miserable journey back after clearing Colwich lock there was steady rain all the way. Just after passing through Rugely I heard a loud bang as a 'missile' hit the side of Bracken and a further splash as another 'missile' landed in the water. Two half brain 'yoofs' were to be seen running into the trees, busily re-arming themselves with stones as Jennyanydots came into view. I shouted a few descriptive comments in reference to their lack of brain cells, and pushed on, glad to be leaving that  area.
Anne told me later that they too were hit by stones thrown by the same morons, fortunately neither boat sustained damage.
Yards away from a very busy main road, right next to the proverbial shopping trolley, mum and 5 or 6 newly hatched Cygnets. Isn't nature adaptive?

First job back in the Marina was to empty the loo, refill the water tank, and then remove the alternator and take it back to CJS and get it exchanged for a standard 70 amp unit. Less resistance on the drive belt hopefully will cure problem. After refitting the replacement I ran the engine up to temperature and it seems all is ok. I'll do more checks with the inverter switched on later, but at the moment I am halfway through fitting a NASA battery monitor so's in the future I will have a visual reference of the state of charge.
I'm nearly up to date with this blog now but there's a few pictures I'd like to share with you. The earliest were taken back in February after February's post. the rest were taken over the past few weeks and even this morning. Hope you like them.

Not often seen on inland waterways. A Cormorant

After diving into water to catch his dinner, the Cormorant stands with his wings outstretched allowing them to dry in the sunshine.

Not often you see two Robins together as they're quite territorial. I'm pretty sure this pair is Mum and Dad as They are quite regular visitors.

Male parent, Greater Spotted Woodpecker.
See the small red cap on the back of his head.

Has to take the prize for the biggest Ahhhhh!.
Blue-tit feeding youngster.
No wonder Parent looks scruffy whereas youngster is fluffy, Parent works so hard constantly feeding young.

Jay, beautiful bird, but a bit of a predator. A member of the Crow family.
He was watching me, and well aware I was there.

Tree creeper.

Not my best photo but good show of markings on this Female Greater Spotted Woodpecker urging junior back to the nest. He's actually hidden in front of her.

Junior. Large red cap on his/her head. Adult males have small red cap on back of head, not visible on female.
This photo taken this morning.

Nearly finished, just one more photo to go.

A regular visitor, Matilda duck having a snooze on my roof.
Bfn people.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Still living the dream pt 2

Friday 9th June.

Hi people, so to continue the story.....

We had moored at a quiet spot near Ingestre and so far the weather had been kind to us, not hot but at least the rain had held off.

As it was Anne's birthday on the Monday, we had decided to moor at Tixall Wide for the birthday celebrations where we hoped the weather would allow us to have a bit of a BBQ on the towpath. We'd had a mini BBQ feast moored at Ingestre but we were really aiming for Tixall 'on the day'. So we upped pins, turned at a winding hole (turning point) and headed back towards Great Haywood junction where we intended to make use of the facilities at the Anglo Welsh yard, (empty loo, fill water tanks etc etc) before turning right onto the Staffs and Worcester canal, through the Viaduct over the river Trent and on to Tixall Wide. 
Ironically I was at Tixall Wide around this time last year when my friend Sharon came down from Sheffield for a weekend.

Such a pretty area on the way to Tixall Wide

Jennyanydots just about to disappear round the bend in the distance.

The weather wasn't being very kind to us as we had numerous showers on the way and the forecast for next few days wasn't very promising either.
Tixall wasn't particularly crowded and we managed to find a good space for both boats to moor.

Anne preparing a birthday feast aboard Jennyanydots as the weather put paid to any chance of a BBQ.
lurvly grub, and good company Anne and Ray.
We had moved further down The Wide into an area that was bordered on two sides by trees and woodland, a very pretty area when the rain stops. 
It was around this point in our travels that a problem had developed with the charging system on Bracken. You may recall I had fitted a new high output alternator shortly before we started our little adventure, which at the time I thought was a good idea. As i started the trip with fully charged batteries there wasn't much load on the alternator to maintain the charge. Unfortunately over the next few days with the weather turning lousy, therefore we didn't go anywhere, when I did run the engine I found the alternator wouldn't turn at the speed of the engine, ie the resistance was so high the belt slipped. Even replacing the belt for my new spare one didn't help, no matter how tight i made the belt, it wouldn't turn the alternator more than about 300 RPM.
Obviously the first thing I did was turn the inverter off thereby reducing the drain from the batteries and consequently reducing the load on the alternator. This meant my fridge/freezer was now just a cold box.
 The engine ran fine but my biggest fear was that the belt would snap which of course would mean the engine water pump would cease to circulate the coolant which would result in the engine overheating. I thought better to lose a freezer full of food due to no power than snap the belt and potentially cook the engine to death.
Wednesday was the worst day as the rain was continuous all day, so we agreed we would head for home (Marina) on the Thursday regardless of what the weather was like.
I did take a few good photos whilst we were kept indoors by the rain.

Mum, Dad and youngsters.

If I zoom in a bit more........

5 cygnets only a couple of days old.

Peace and tranquillity.

And just as I was trying to zoom in closer.....

......He took flight
Thursday started dry and bright so we left Tixall and the Staffs and Worcester, came back to Great Haywood junction and turned right down the Trent and Mersey canal, through Great Haywood lock, on our way home. Next stop would be Colwich lock. When we got to the lock there was a boat already in the lock going down stream, the time then was about 11 am so we were hoping to be home around 3 or 4 pm Unfortunately, you know the phrase 'the best laid plans etc etc' ??
What happened was this;-
The boat already in the lock was unable to shut the ground paddle on the upstream side, it was jammed open and constantly letting water into the lock. This meant it wasn't possible to empty the lock, therefore the boat in the lock was going nowhere.
We phoned CRT, (Canal and River Trust) to advise them of the problem and eventually a man came out to see if we had closed the paddles correctly! Duh! Eventually he decided that a work crew was needed to rectify the problem. So more time passed by whilst we and several other boaters waited for the work crew to arrive. Around 1pm the crew arrived, dismantled the paddle lifting gear, scratched their heads and decided the problem was under the water and so they would have to drain the lock to get to the paddle board. Now this is where it gets really interesting. Remember in the photo I spoke about the mini shed with the roof on it? Inside there are what they call stop planks which are inserted in slots in each side of the mouth of the lock, each one on top of the previous one all the way down to the floor level in the lock thereby creating a dam effect and stopping the water going into the lock. Then they can drain the lock by opening the gates at the downstream end and letting the water out. Once the lock is empty the offending ground paddle is exposed to scrutiny. Hopefully these next photos will make it clearer.

Just arrived at Colwich Lock, one boat already in the lock going down.

Waiting for work crew to arrive, queue of boats behind building up. See the little shed with the stop planks?

Queue of boats on the other side waiting to come up through the lock.

Decision made, stop planks being inserted to dam off the flow of water into the lock.

First plank very tight fit due to a boat having bent the metal guides the plank slides into creating a 'pinch point'

Next plank on top of preceding one and so on till first plank hits bottom, I think there were 5 in total.

stamping planks down trying to get a seal between planks.

Gradually slowing the inflow of water, the level in the lock drops

....and drops

Tarpaulins dropped in upstream side to help the seal.

The culprit is revealed, the yellow handled fork was used to fish out debris from under paddle, the lifting shaft is bent at an angle from the paddle board. Board and shaft should be straight and vertical.. 
 They were unable to repair the bent shaft and paddle, so as a temporary measure they blanked the water gully behind the paddle so that the lock could be used, thereby releasing all the boats waiting to pass through the lock. 
As the lock was now clear, yours truly was first in line to go down, followed by Jennyanydots.
Time then was around 4.30pm and we had roughly a 4 hour journey back to the Marina. Oh and it started raining, again! 
This pile of sandbags is what they pulled out from under the faulty ground paddle.
I wonder where they came from??
We arrived back at the Marina, cold, stiff, and extremely wet around 8.30, and I was so relieved to plug in to the shore power and get the fridge/freezer up and running.
I didn't actualy lose anything as everthing remained frozen for the 24 hours or so the fridge had been off although I did eat my way through everything in the freezer over the next couple of weeks to get it cleared.

I'll write some more tomorrow as I'm getting a numb bum.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Still living the dream.

June 8th.

Hello again people, long time time no hear so I thought I'd put pen to paper, or even fingers to keyboard and attempt to bring you all up to date.
As the title suggests, I am still very happily living afloat. Bracken suits me and gives me all that I require in the way of material possessions. Compact and bijou is the phrase I think. I am now into my 3rd year of being afloat, certainly I've had 2 full winters aboard and can honestly say I've not been cold or uncomfortable at all. Mind you, we've not had much of a winter for some years now, 'not like I remember as a lad' but I'm confident I could withstand the worst the weather could dish out, comfortable and warm on Bracken.
I still attend Derby hospital every 3 months for check ups on the neck and so far so good. (fingers crossed)
So, what have I been up to since I last wrote?
The Renault was due for MOT in March so I handed it over to the chap who has been looking after the vehicles, offered a prayer to the great god of MOT's and crossed my fingers all would be well.
The Renault was returned at the end of the day with a new certificate and just one advisory to change the bulbs in the rear indicators as they were discoloured. Good news eh?!
In April I popped down to Kent to visit family and friends, the trip coinciding with Easter and my birthday. (well I thought they can't very well forget it if I'm there can they)!
On the Saturday my friend John, (who I stay with) and I took his 1957 MG Magnette to a car show being held at Tenterden railway station which is a steam preservation line.
Yours truly chatting to one of the owners, Johns car is 3rd from the left.
The preservation society allowed the car park to be taken over by the MG Owners Club for the day and quite a number of Magnettes attended. The majority were restored to a very high standard though there were a couple in original condition though still roadworthy. When you consider all the vehicles were in excess of 50 years old they are a credit to the designer, manufacturer and owners. 'They don't make 'em like that nowadays' is such an understatement.
Built by BMC (British Motor Corporation), which became British Leyland, which became Austin Rover, which became Rover, which became bankrupt allegedly due to mismanagement, the cars are good examples of  Britains' Heritage.

Yes that is snow on the roof of the Renault!
Taken at the end of April.

...and a few days later, bootiful weather and double figure temperatures.

I occasionally run the engine on Bracken up to temperature even if I'm not intending to go anywhere. It puts some charge in the batteries and reassures me I have a good engine!
Well I came to start the engine which as always started readily (smug grin there) unfortunately the red light on the panel stayed on, and the voltmeter remained reading barely more than 12 volts. On putting the multimeter on the output terminals I found the alternator was not putting out a charge so it was off with the alternator and a short drive over to CJS at hednesford to get the alternator checked out.
After a chat with them I came away with an upgraded unit which was capable of putting out 130 amps instead of the nominal 70 amps the old one generated. 
A good idea in theory but this would come back and bite me later on.
In the marina I am connected to shore power so the batteries are topped up regularly by mains charger but of course if I go cruising I rely on the alternator to keep the batteries charged, especially as i have an inverter to power the fridge/freezer. 

Nice new alternator.

My next door neighbour Anne with the 2 golden retrievers, plus husband Ray and myself, decided we would take both boats up the canal for a few days ending up at Tixall before returning to the Marina. Altogether lasting about 7 days we thought it might be a bit of an adventure,with Ray doing the locks and Anne and I driving the boats..
We set off in convoy up the canal, past the Handsacre turning point which meant we were then committed to going at least as far as Rugely where the next turning point would be. 

Through Armitage tunnel.

..and Armitage narrows which used to be part of the tunnel till they took the top off due to constant subsidence.

Photo doesn't do this Hawthorn bush justice, it was a glorious crimson.

We moored for the first night in a quiet spot between Wolsey bridge and Colwich lock, open fields,looking across towards Cannock Chase.
I say a quiet spot, although the geese in the next field seemed to have plenty to say for themselves!
The following morning we continued on to Colwich through the lock to Great Haywood lock and  the Junction with the Staffs and Worcester canal.
We had decided to continue up the Trent and Mersey past Great Haywood Marina and through the next lock, Hoo Mill Lock and moor for a couple of days at a nice quiet spot Anne had found on a previous trip, at Ingestre.
See the mini shed with the roof, inside there are stop planks used when they have to stop the flow of water into the lock. I'll talk more about them later.

On the approach to Great Haywood lock.

Just passing Great Haywood Marina

Moored at Ingestre, lovely quiet spot.

What a glum looking trio, actually we'd just been laughing at my attempts to set the timer on the camera and get back to my seat before the shutter clicked!

View behind me.

View from my bedroom window, takes some beating doesn't it.

Wherever you go, they find you.

These youngsters couldn't eat the usual duck and swan food, they didn't know what to do with it.
Much more to come.......