Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Ling and I: Braunston, Sunday

Well, not just "I", but also Amy along with Liam, Daniel, Kerry and Sarah from the Young Working Boater's Society.

On Sunday morning, we awoke into a fast heating tent-the sun was up, and the day heating up rapidly! We spent a glorious hour or so on Chertsey, drinking several cups of strong tea from the brown measham-ware teapot, and eating pain-au-chocolat in the sunshine.

We also met Bones and Boots, and it was lovely to see them both. Boots in particular seemed very happy on Chertsey's cabintop, grinning away. I think Bones really appreciated a little present from John- a tillerpin, made out of a child's boot last, that John bought from Emmaus- where else?!

(Picture stolen from Sarah)

Amy and I had arranged to temporarily abandon Sarah and Chertsey for the day, and to travel in the parade instead on the Josher Ling, now owned by another Sarah who is a founding member of the YWBS.

Ling is still in the condition that BW left her in- empty hold with battered plywood shuts, a small cabin with formica bench, a loo (which apparently needed a LOT of cleaning after many years of use...) and a small engine room with air-cooled Lister HB2 engine. There are plans, however, to restore her to full historic condition, when time and funds allow.

I rigged up a support for the banner in the hold, using ex-BW blue polyprop rope- much to thick and strong for them to tie the boat up with, though, they always seem to use blue string!- and the cabin shaft, between the chains and the back-end rail, and we were soon off into the parade.

I was given first go at steering, which was daunting but great fun.

Liam keeps a watchful eye...

The big problem I found was that because the boat was unloaded and unballasted, it was very quick! It has quite a fast tickover, and because of the very slow moving traffic, it was hard to go slowly enough. I managed to get nicely through the first bridgehole, avoided Pelican- the oldest wooden narrow still extant, I think!- and passed the marina entrance, mostly out of gear, with the occasional burst of reverse.

Passing the marina entrance, just drifting forwards-note the lack of wash from the prop (sorry, blade... must get my working boat terminology right!)

The next part was even tricker- oncoming working boats, returning for the next leg of the parade, and a very narrow channel. I successfully passed Themis in a narrow bridgehole, but managed to suck the stern too close to the bank, swinging the bows in line with Archimedes, towing Ara, both of which were quite well loaded and so hard to stop. I handed the tiller over to Liam who extricated us, only for him to receive the good-natured abuse from Tom on Archimedes for my mistake. Not a bad baptism of fire, though! I could get used to steering 72 foot working boats....

We unfortunately had to jump off the boat half-way through the parade and head back to Cmabridge- there was rowing to do....

But we still had a fantastic weekend, both on Chertsey and on Ling. It was wonderful to see Sarah live her dream, of steering her own working boat in the parade for the first time. I also got to steer a working boat, albeit not my own, and I achieved my own dream. Whilst the Duck won't be appearing on any brokerage pages in the forseeable future, in the longer term.... who knows?

Monday, 28 June 2010

Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally 2010: Saturday

Skylark, Chertsey, Chiswick and Victoria

On Saturday morning, at 8 on the dot, we picked up our Streetcar from Churchill college and drove to Braunston. We liked this car more than the last one: although it is also a VW Polo, it is a petrol car, and a bit newer. Unlike the last one, it didn't stall all the time and was much better to drive. Its small engine made hills a bit of a struggle, but that was it. By 9:30 we were parked up at Braunston Marina and ready to go boating!

We headed for the canal, and looked for Chertsey, where we were to be staying in the hold in a tent overnight. It was easy to spot, even amongst all the other historic boats, as we have been following the process of its restoration with some avidity! Thankfully we had arrived in plenty of time to join the Parade which went off at 11am. We sat on Chertsey's backboards as Sarah expertly steered her wonderful boat along the Parade route, past the Marina entrance, up to Braunston Turn, reversing under the bridge and back down to enter the Marina and head all the way through it and back onto the canal. The whole process took about 3 hours! We saw many fabulous boats: there were a record 94 historic boats in Braunston for the rally.

Victoria and Chertsey ready for the off

Sarah steers

James relaxes

Passing Branston Marina, with Archimedes and Ara looking fantastic fully loaded!

The Young Working Boaters Society (YWBS) stole the show with Dan's kit car parked on Liam's cut down BW boat Ariel!

James on Chiswick makes reversing round Braunston Turn look easy!

Here we are enjoying the ride. Note the excellent signwriting!

Entering the Marina

A boat unlike all the others!

As predicted, the intrepid punters who are on their way from Cambridge to Oxford in aid of Help for Heroes made their way through between the two parades. They're nearly there now, on the Oxford Canal. The Parade commentator made sure that they were well received.

The morning Parade over, we headed to the beer tent, having met (big)James and Emma on the bank. There, we found a conflab of bloggers, some of whom we'd met before and some we hadn't: the Alnwicks (there despite Graham's crutches), the Herbies, the Hadars and Simon from Tortoise. (We met various other forum members and bloggers throughout the weekend, on the towpath, on boats, and in the beer tent!) After a convivial few hours, and having bought a hippie dress for £3 from the hippie clothes stall, we headed back to Chertsey to make sure that our accomodation was sorted for the night. We set up a little tent in the hold, next to Jim's which was already up (he doesn't fit in Chertsey's cross bed!)

In the evening, we went for a walk, and came across a gathering of the YWBS guys in the hold of Sarah E's newly acquired Ling. Dan, Sarah, Liam and Kerry were there along with some others who were playing an accordion and singing! We spent the evening with them, which was a lot of fun, eventually heading to bed at about 11:30. James was very excited, as he was going to try his hand at steering Ling in the Parade on Sunday morning. To be continued...

Thursday, 24 June 2010

A new toy!

We've always had a problem on the boat with dust. The solid fuel stove generated quite a lot, and living as we do next to a field, the floor and doormats would often be dirty and require cleaning quite often.

We had a small hand-held vacuum cleaner, bought for roughly £10 in Argos when we first bought the boat, but that gave up the ghost long ago; and only having a 500w inverter we didn't have any other vacuum device.

A dustpan and brush is effective, but very time consuming, and it's hard to get into all the little nooks-and-crannies. The carpet and rugs in the bedroom are also quite coated with cat hairs- the bedroom floor is the coolest place in the boat, so Lyra seems to qpend a fair few of the warm evenings flopped on her side, quietly moulting away!

James and Emma on Kestrel have a constant battle with Jess' hair, which comes out in great volumes when she's moulting, and they have a very snazzy handheld Dyson vacuum cleaner. We've long admired it, and so now we have bought our own- £150 new normally, but we got ours from Amazon, reconditioned, for just under a hundred quid.

Yes, that is rather a lot of money to spend on a vacuum cleaner, but having used James and Emma's, and seen that several other boaters also have them, this type appears to be the bee's knees for cleaning boats.

It has a rechargable battery, which charges in 3 hours, giving 10 minutes of normal vacuuming, or 6 minutes of suck-up-everything-super-high-power. It's very good for all the little gaps and corners on the boat, such as under the kitchen units and along the edges of the floor and the sides of the boat.

But, most importantly, it's quite fun to use! It's loud, technological, and has lots of gizmos, so it's really a big toy. For now, I'm very happy doing the vacuuming...

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

200 Mile Punt

An intrepid team of punters left town a few days ago in order to punt from Cambridge to Oxford, beating the current Oxford to Cambridge record of 14 days and raising money for Help for Heroes (donate here). They will be punting in shifts through the night in order to try and make it it 12 days.

The team leave Cambridge (Lucky Duck's bow is in the background!)
Photo: Cambridge News

Interestingly their route takes them up the Ouse, across the tidal stretch to Salters Lode and the Middle Level, then along the Nene, the GU and the Oxford Canal. Personally, I would have looked into heading to Bedford and thence to Milton Keynes and the GU. It would probably involve a short portage, but they don't seem to be averse to assistance, having secured tows across the tidal stretch and Braunston Tunnel! I'm sure there is a reason that they chose the long way round, I'm just intruiged to find out what it is.

So if you'll be on an of those waterways in the next two weeks, keep an eye out, and cheer them on! They will be in Braunston for the Historic Boat Rally, which will be interesting. They have a blog so you can keep track of how they are getting on.

Incidentally, we'll also be in Brauston for the weekend, meeting up with Sarah and Jim to see Chertsey for the first time! The car is booked and we are very excited.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Mid Summer

So here we are, the Summer Solstice. This is as long a day as we are going to get! We plan to make the most of it by continuing the second coat of undercoat which we started yesterday. We had hoped to do both sides of the boat, but events intervened, such that we ended up co-ordinating the mooring of a flotilla of boats which came to moor with us in the Jesus Lock basin!

Why were we moored in the basin in the first place?

That's why!

Midsummer Fair has begun setting up, and all residential boaters who normally moor on the Common are allowed to colonise the visitor moorings at Jesus Lock for as long as the fair is in town. We got there on Thursday, as did Kestrel, and soon other boats began to arrive. Some have gone out of town as well, but we would really rather stay in Cambridge!

We spent Sunday afternoon (after a lazy moring reading the paper) sanding and painting one side of the Duck in another layer of undercoat. It's coming up very nicely, although doesn't look any diiferent in photographs- still the same lurid blue. We were considering turning the boat to do the other side, when a flotilla of shiny narrowboats arrived, all within about 20 minutes of each other (they are part of a cruising club and had come from Nottingham!). So the basin soon resounded with the sound of bowthrusters, and sparkled with their shiny brass mushroom vents, dollies and tiller pins (from which coiled ropes dangled). Adrian the River Bailiff was about, and instructed them not to moor on the lock side of the basin. This left us to find spaces for them, breasted up to the boats already moored up. We would have been happy for them to moor against us, but there was a little plastic cruiser behind us, whose width meant that they couldn't. So they ended up truple breasting against Kestrel and Sirius. Merchant unfortunately already had Samson double moored against them. This all means that the Riverboat Georgina is going to struggle to wind in the basin... But Adrian seemed happy with the set up...

Jesus Lock basin yesterday

We had already contacted Caxton and Matilda Rose who are on their way down the Ouse that this week would not be ideal for visiting Cambridge, as most of the visitor moorings are full. We suggested that perhaps they explore the Little Ouse to Bedford first and return to Cambridge when the fair's been and gone!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Late Licence

The mooring scheme in Cambridge runs March to March, and when we arrived, we were given the yellow 09-10 stickers to display, with the promise that the 10-11 stickers would be with us soon.

Well, they just arrived today, only 3 months late, in a tasteful share of lilac!

That will complement our sludge-brown river licence nicely!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Rowing and Regattas

All those not interested in rowing, look away now!

I just got sent through some pictures of our races at Peterborough Regatta the weekend before last. My womens' crew came 3rd (out of 4 in our heat) but it was close, and a great race.

Me at bow (photo S. Andrews)

Looking good! (photo S. Andrews)

James' crew were pipped to first place twice on Sunday. As the second placed boat the first time round, they went on to the Repecharge, and then came second again, just missing out on the final by fractions of a second! But they were pleased with their performance.

So close! (photo S. Andrews)

We're currently heavily into Bumps training (the Bumps races are on the 20th-22nd July), and its going well. James is coaching my W2, and I feel that we have got potential to do pretty well. James' M1 beat the club record for a 2.6km head course and recorded a time fo 9.19 at the X-Press Head on the Cam on Monday night, which they were very happy with.

M1 out training last night

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Part of the furniture

Our roof furniture in the process of being painted up

We'be been too busy to paint another coat, but need to do so soon, as the undercoat isn't going to be weatherproof forever! One evening this week, we might get the time, amongst all our rowing training. We're both in Bumps preparation gear again, and as James is cox of M1 and I'm Captain of W2, its only going to get busier!

Friday, 11 June 2010

A Smashing Time

So, more on that tarpaulin-covered window. We had been reluctant to post much about it until it was safely fixed!

On Friday, while we were still out at the Clayhithe visitor moorings, I got a call from James saying 'something bad's happened, one of our windows is smashed'. It was a flying piece which had broken off the Perago while James was removing paint from the tiller which he'd set down on the bank. Being toughened glass, it smashed safely, into tiny glass cubes that went all over the kitchen. We both went into panic mode, as it seemed like such a major thing to break! We arranged for a boatyard in Ely to fix it, at great expense, and thought about getting the insurance to cover it. We anticipated spending hundreds on a new window.

We were very busy over the weekend, and had to put it to the back of our minds, while we spent two days racing at Peterborough Regatta. But from talking to various people, we began to realise that we could fix it ourselves without much hassle. While I subbed into a college boat (Caius W2) on Sunday evening, James helped (big)James take Kestrel back to Cambridge from the Clayhithe moorings that evening, and they met a chap who seemed to know all about windows and offered to help if we couldn't do it ourselves. But he said it was so easy that we'd probably not even need to ask him! The window is pop-riveted on, and big James offered to lend us his, so that we could fix it back on.

On Monday, I rang various glass cutting places in Cambridge, and found that several places would cut a piece to shape for £20-30. In the evening, (big)James was coming out to Clayhithe to collect his car, and stopped by to help us see if we could remove the window. James drilled out the pop rivets and then they both levered the frame off using screwdrivers to break the mastic seal. It was surprisingly easy, and we soon had the frame off and ready to take to the glass cutters. That evening, we cruised in, with tarpaulin and a piece of plywood keeping the window rain-proof and secure.

Pop! The window comes loose

I took the frame over to Glass World, as they were the nearest place and they were very helpful. They took the whole frame, plus the unbroken top pane, and cut a new pane to fit the broken bottom section. I asked them to fit it too, since I wasn't sure how easy that job would be and wanted to leave it to the professionals. When I collected it today (with (big)James who came in his car to fetch it) it was securely sealed in and the whole unit ready to fit back into the vacant hole. And all for £29.77!

This evening, it was a 15 minute job to gun some mastic around the opening, put the window in place and pop rivet it back on again. We're very pleased with how easy it all turned out to be.

Off comes the weatherproofing (made from an old tarpaulin bag)

Black goo goes on

Fixing the last rivet on

For both of us it was a lesson is several things. Firstly, in not panicking, and trying to fix things ourselves (albeit with help from friends) the way we always used to rather than assuming we needed to throw money at the problem. Secondly it was a lesson in how simple narrowboat hopper windows are, and how easy it is to fix/remove them!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Now That's Something

Bath and Petrel, moored just down from the visitor moorings at the Fort. We've seen Petrel here before, but not Bath, which is a Town Class Big Woolwich of the type collected by Sarah in her 'sticker album'.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

True Blue

The Duck is now undercoat blue. I'm quite taken by it, but it will eventually be Craftmaster Union Blue. And the window? It needs a bit of extra waterproofing following a mishap! More on that later.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Prime Time

(thinking up new puns for the title is becoming harder now the Herbies have used all the good ones for their painting blogs!)

So, yesterday, another mammoth day of Peragoing and grinding for us! James did most of it, but I was on hand to relieve him of his duties and take over now and again, having decided to work at home and provide moral support! We both had to go into town for rowing, so had to be done by 6pm. Amazingly we managed to take the entire side of the boat back to bare and prime it in time to go back into town. for 6:30. So the entire boat had a coat of primer by the evening!

Battleship Duck!

One of the interesting this we found was the many layers of varying colours that the Duck has historically sported!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Duck's New Clothes

We are currently on the visitor moorings at Clayhithe, well away from the centre of town, where the halingway is set back from the moorings and the passing traffic is light compared to our normal mooring on the common.

After a hard day's work yesterday, all of one side of the boat- from the rubbing strake up to the lip of the lid-, plus the top tunnel band and the foredeck and cants, have all been stripped back to bare metal using a combination of angle grinder, Perago on the drill, and a sheet sander.

John and Jackie on Pippin came to inspect progress last night, and after Amy and I had a wash and brush up, we headed over to the Bridge pub for CHIPS as a reward for a VERY hard day's work, before showers and early bed.

Today, at 11:47, we've already sanded back half of the top plank (well, it's not really a plank as this isn't a wooden working boat, but it't the bit between the top rubbing strake and the gunwale) and all of the gunwales, plus about a third of the cabin sides.

The plan is to finish stripping this side of the boat today, and prime that too, before putting on a second coat of primer tomorrow morning and then, in the evening, the first layer of blue undercoat, with further undercoats and topcoats going on in the evenings of next week.

Pictures to follow.....

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

To Crick (and Back)

At 8:30 on Monday morning, James and I excitedly unlocked the little grey VW Polo that was to be ours for the day. After a few hitches involving unraveling the mystery of the warning light (the handbrake wasn't fully off) and the scary 'CLONK' when it stalled (its a diesel and it stalled very readily and noisily!) we were off on the A14 towards Crick. As an inexperienced driver, I needed all the help I could get and was glad of James' support and extra pair of eyes, even though he can't drive himself. As he put it, 'every overtake is an adventure!'. It took us just under 2 hours to get there (with a stop at the Bar Hill Tesco for refuelling) and it flew by.

Soon we were safely parked at the Crick Festival, and went off for our canal fix. It was lovely to walk along a stretch of proper canal, with a tunnel and everything! Soon we came across nb Alnwick, and had a much welcome cup of tea aboard, with GC sleeping off a busy night catching mice in the corner. We were pleased to see that Jane is looking very well, after her ankle operation. After that, we headed off into the festival itself, where we had a few purchases planned:

As avid blog readers may have noticed, we are always talking about the Grand Repaint but never actually get round to doing it. Well, this could not carry on, so we took the opportunity to head to the Craftmaster paint stand and speak to Phil Speight, who knows all there is to know about painting and signwriting. We want to base our new paint scheme on the 'two blues' used on the early GUCCCo boats, without aiming for anything like a replication. We just like the colours. He suggested using 'Off-white' as a liner, and a little bit of red to warm up the colour scheme. He had a tin of the dark 'Union Blue' which we bought, as well as blue undercoat and grey primer. (The Light Union Blue will come along later). Now, with our Perago, and the half term off, James (and me to an extent) can get going! No excuses now: we have all the tools and the paint ready.

Last night we got started!

Next was to find ourselves a new bow fender. Our old one was rubbish - so flat that it barely protected the stem at all. We shopped around, and found a great deal from Trafalgar. On the web, a black U shaped bow fender is £69.99. Not a bad price, but we got it at the special show discount price of £55. We are very pleased with that!

The old bow fender, about to be replaced with the new one

We also picked up some International Atlantic Grey to touch up the roof, as well as a couple of new mooring pins, and an Arnco piling hook.

While at Crick we also caught up with several other people from the CWDF forum in the Beer Tent. As well as Graham and Jane from nb Alnwick, Rosie from nb Oakfield was there, and Dr Bradley who we met at Cropredy hears ago, and a chop from the forum called Peter.

The journey back was uneventful. We we glad to be able to park as close as we could to the boat to drop off our heavy purchases before dropping the car back in its designated spot. We were impressed with Streetcar. The only hitches came from my inexperience, and they will go with practice. Other that that, everything ran smoothly, from unlocking using a card, to refuelling using a fuel card.

Boot full of purchases!