Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Six Million Dollar Man

I am getting bored. Well I say bored, but its much more that I am frustrated with waiting for the Memsahib.

It was about this time two years ago that I finally decided that after twenty five years working in academia, it was time to move on. Talking to the management it was indicated that I could leave the following April. After a while I felt like Steve Austin in the opening credits of "The Six Million Dollar Man" the story of a former astronaut with bionic implants. I was walking through treacle. Some nine months later, I was given the news that my plans to leave early had been scuppered. The faculty was about to be re-organised and so was my life.

It was about this time that I was asked to provide a few words about a couple of staff members who like me had notched up twenty five years service. It was a moment of personal revelation, as I thought back over the years. I came to realise that there had not been a period where we had not being put through the mill of reorganisation. No sooner had one reorganisation taken place with a whole new tier of management put in place. Then the new brooms with "new ideas" would start to meddle.

Stability and the security of tenure of employment were always under threat. The two watchwords during this period of constant change were “economy of scale” and “granulation”. I started my academic life in a faculty, moved to a department, paused for a while in a school, went back to a faculty and under the last series of changes which I thankfully escaped. I would have been back in a department.

Economy of scale meant reducing staff numbers and taking on an increased workload. Allegedly reducing duplication of effort and allowing us to work smarter.  Thus allowing for a reduction in staff numbers. Granulation on the other hand meant we needed to take a more focused look at what we were doing. By taking on an increased but more specialised workload. Allegedly reducing duplication of effort and allowing us to work much smarter. Allowing further reduction in staff numbers. The only constant throughout all of this period, student numbers had been increasing as had the amount of additional work.

Out of the blue came the opportunity to walk away from my working life. The opportunity to do something different. I am sure that somewhere in the rarefied atmosphere at the top. Where the lack of oxygen makes your head spin. Someone was again having great thoughts. Our direction of travel was once again dictated by the spinning head of fate. We were back on the academia-merry-go-round and had arrived at “economy of scale” again.


In February I finally walked away, I thought it would be a difficult period. It was – but for a different reason than I had imagined.

Leaving was the best thing that happened. I felt free and comfortable for the first time in a long time. Surprisingly the institution had not come crashing down after my departure. The work colleagues that I see from time to time are still as frustrated as ever. They are still marching on the treadmill to retirement. The ambition and ideas they had arrived with – long since ground down under the heel of new teaching methods. Now HE is the production line of education. Quality and the sense of pride in what we were doing is dead. Numbers in and out of the revolving doors increased, their degrees devalued. Never mind the quality count the numbers.


For me those problems and frustrations had gone and I felt no guilt. I felt no real sense of achievement but I did feel free.

I have had a few months to reflect on where I was then and where I am now. I am much happier now. The last twenty five years are a blur of mixed emotions most of them negative. Yesterday, I found a pack of photographs taken some ten years ago. There were student faces I recognised but names I could not remember. There were colleagues who had passed way years before their time. Colleagues who had burnt out on the academia-merry-go-round, who had moved on to other things. Their passing as unmarked as their loss to HE. Their achievements not acknowledged.

So here I am, waiting for the Memsahib to retire from the same academia-merry-go-round. There are eight weeks to go, before we can at long last have a few months out on the boat. I feel once more like Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man. I am walking through treacle again.


The Memsahib still has strong feelings of care and responsibility towards supporting her students. Dedicated to the end. It will change in time when she  realises that institution had not come crashing down after her departure. Her achivements like the acheivements of others will be forgotten, her leaving unmarked.

Later...

Monday, 30 May 2011

Guy Martin - Boater and TT bike racer.

Its that time of the year again, a time for pilgrimage to the Isle of Man for the TT. Whilst I know that it is supposed to be a blog about boating. There is one tenuous link. Guy Martin - him of the TV and the series "The Boat That Guy Built". Some might argue that it had very little to do with boating. But each to their own. Guy has been described as  a road racer, truck fitter, engine builder, downhill mountain biker, tea junkie. And well known for his droll sense of humour with comments like - Did you know it’s twenty five years since the Chernobyl disaster? Has anyone ever been? Place to go before you die I’d say.

So why draw attention to the TT, well now there is chance to see Guy in his element. He is taking part in the event and there is coverage on BBC 4 starting on Thursday. The IoM TT is a spectacle in its own right. You have seen Moto GP on TV run over various short circuit race tracks. The TT is run over normal roads. Whilst most race tracks are between two and three miles. The IoM TT mountain course is run over a lap exceeding 37 miles. The race lengths vary between three and five laps.

There is nothing on Earth quite like the Isle of Man TT Races. No other motorcycle race is held on such a challenging track as the Mountain Course with its seemingly never-ending series of bends, bumps, jumps, hump back bridges, stone walls, manhole covers and telegraph poles.

Starting today - May 30 to June 10. This year marks the Centenary of the Mountain course, another milestone for this historic event. The skill, bravery and concentration levels required are immense, with speeds approaching 200mph and average speeds over 130mph. The course is difficult to learn and even harder to come first, the rewards for winning on the world famous course are like no other.

Fans around the world will be able to enjoy the action and atmosphere of the 2011 Isle of Man TT on television. ITV4 has an exciting schedule bursting with documentaries, special features and extensive race coverage which will keep viewers glued to the screen throughout the fortnight.

The team of Craig Doyle, Steve Parrish and James Whitham are back to front ITV4’s coverage, plus 2009 TT champion and two-time race winner Steve Plater is joining the coverage this year. Programmes start at 9pm each evening. You can follow the coverage on ITV4 by viewing Freeview channel 28, cable channel 117 and Sky channel 120.

ITV4 Schedule

Monday, May 30 - Hutchy’s Historic TT Year. A look back at Ian Hutchinson's phenomenal clean sweep of race wins in 2010.

Tuesday, May 31 - Murray Walker’s TT Memories. Legendary motorsport commentator Murray Walker takes us all the way back to his first ever visit to the races to watch his father in the 1930s. Eighty years on, Murray will be back to see another Isle of Man TT. He'll show you a uniquely personal insight into the history of the famous races.

Wednesday, June 1 - Isle of Man TT: An Insider’s Guide. Featuring news and stories from the top teams and riders, bringing you the inside track on all matters TT.

Thursday, June 2 - TT 2011 Preview Show

Friday, June 3 - TT 2011 Practice Show

Saturday, June 4 – Dainese Superbike Race

Sunday, June 5 – Sure Sidecar Race 1

Monday, June 6 – Monster Energy Supersport Race 1

Tuesday, June 7 – Royal London 360 Superstock Race

Wednesday, June 8 – Monster Energy Supersport Race 2

Thursday, June 9 – Sure Sidecar Race 2

Friday, June 10 – PokerStars Senior Race

Sunday, June 12 - Highlights Programme 1 and Highlights Programme 2


Good luck to Guy Martin, a boater biker extraordinaire.


Later......

On-line consultation.

The dogs Poppy and Abbey are feeling a bit under the weather. Being a bank holiday its not easy to find a vet to consult. So, I decided to do a search on-line to get some advice about treating their symptoms. I did a Google search - Lo and behold, Google brings up an on-line vet. After making a small credit card payment, I was able to ask for some much needed advice.

The outcome after lots of questions and answers about the dogs history, ages, previous illnesses etc, was - if you can't consult a vet and your dog displays an upset stomach, diarrhoea and is a touch flatulent. It's safe to give them Pepto Bismol which is available over the counter from your local chemist. 1ml for each 10 pounds of dog, given every 4/6 hours. If problems persist for more that 2/3 days, consult a vet for a full examination. Off to Tesco chemist to get the medication. It's a bit early, but it seems to be working, they are looking and acting a bit brighter already.

Generally speaking, you can't treat animals with medication intended for humans. The effects on them can be catastrophic. But it seems that Pepto Bismol is one such product safe for dogs and us. Even the on duty Chemist agreed that it was a safe product to use.

This started me thinking about an urgent need to consult a doctor for advice when you are moored up out in the wilds. So I go back to Google, do a quick search and up comes a site with 8 on-line doctors available. There are caveats to this sort of emergency advice. Whilst the sites are very reassuring in their presentation. The term "your mileage may vary" comes to mind. However, there are times when needs must.

Later....

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Other jobs.

Well the weather was quite changeable yesterday. I have been working outside in the periods between the rain showers. I wanted to make a start on fitting the top box cover which finally arrived yesterday. I purchased the waterproof sheet on the Internet last week. I got out my tools from the garage and got everything set up ready to make a start. When I unpacked the top sheet, there were several ring eyelets missing. Damn! I have been on-line and the company is going to send out a replacement. So the job has been put off until next week when hopefully the replacement part arrives.

After the rather interesting first cruise of the season, I have ordered some spares from Beta marine. (replacement keys and engine mountings)  I need to get the engine mountings replaced as the rubber has perished and the amount of engine vibration absorption has deteriorated.

Its the Monaco Grand Prix practice today, so I must go and finish some of my domestic chores before settling down for an afternoon of formula one entertainment. To be followed later by Manchester United -v- Barcelona, come on you reds!


Later....

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Scammers

It's a refreshing change to get an email alert from a company that you are selling some of your property through. In this case the email was about the possibility that we were being set-up for an Internet scam. Now, that's what I call a real "heads up" customer service.

Black Betty
The backgound to this is that the Memsahib has just placed an advert on Motor Cycle News as she is selling her Honda CBF250 bike (Black Betty).  We were going to use the bike from the boat. But we found a better solution in the shape (and smaller size) of a Monkey bike.


The bike has now been sold on MCN to a ex-Police Officer who will be using it with their RV camper van.


Soon after placing the advert, we had an email from someone called "Damian Urbach" who was showing some interest in purchasing the bike from us.

A short time later, we had another email from "Paul Harrington" of MCN. The email was to alert us that the email reply to our advert was possibly bogus and someone might just be trying to set us up for a scam.

The email from Paul said "Unfortunately scammers do go through all internet for sale sites, including our bikes for sale marketplace. As such we have automated and manual procedures in place to try and stop these, and have unfortunately noticed that scammers are using any combination of the following email addresses:

Long list of email addresses....

Damian Urbach (damianurbach@yahoo.de) has recently contacted you.

If you've responded to this person, I'm sure you've realised it for what it is (a scam) but if not please simply ignore this email and do not respond to it. The sender is trying to pull a scam is a whereby they'll send you a cheque for substantially more than the amount of the bike and ask you to forward the remainder to their 'shipper'. If you cash the cheque, your bank will show it as cleared before it is, so that you would be inclined to pay the remainder to the 'shipper'. The cheque will then bounce or be declared stolen, leaving you out of pocket (and possibly charged for a bounced cheque to add insult to injury!)

There is an alternative scam that uses PayPal because it's 'safe', again this scam is fraudulent (Paypal accounts can be faked, and transferred funds withdrawn). For more information on scams, please see: https://mcnclassifieds.bauersecure.com/Popups/Help.aspx. The best advice still remains that if the person want to buy a bike unseen, and with no haggling, and doesn't want to meet in person it is extremly likely to be a scam.

For your information we can and do forward these to trading standards, but as the scammers invariably live outside of the UK they are very limited in their actions. I'd again like to assure you that we actively monitor and police responses, and manage to block the majority of scammers, although from time-to-time emails like this will creep through. I apologise for any inconvenience caused. 

I wish you luck with your sale and hope that you sell your bike to a legitimate buyer soon, if you haven't done so already. 

No further action is recommended, please simply ignore further correspondence.
 
Kind regards,
Paul Harrington

Later.....


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Being a Northerner

Being a Northerner, is not an easy life.  I am a Northerner through and through. Coming from up't north means that we have something of a reputation to live up to. Straight talking, blunt  and very forthright are the main stereotypical characteristics. Flat cap, clogs and a whippet are also included in our mystique. Our case was championed by Last of the Summer Wine, (The green stuff for your southerners by the way is grass) and apparently we all appear to look like Howard.

There are some truths in the way that we are portrayed as having a bluff no nonsense exterior. The crux of the problem is, we were given much more common sense and the innate ability to understand the value of everything. We don't hold that inability against people from the south. After all, drinking warm beer and then paying through the nose for it says a lot. Up north, we treat people exactly as we find them and we don't want to rip folk off.

Yesterday was not a good day, in the main because I had to go down South. I set off in the morning and made my way over to the M1.  Setting my sites on arriving in Northampton for sometime just after nine am. Then into Milton Keynes for lunch time. I am doing a favour for a friend and helping him with a couple of technical support issues on some expensive IT equipment.
Now what I have noticed is, that down south, you lot are not very sociable. Plus everybody runs everywhere and everything must be done as fast as possible. But I don't understand why. Is it something in the water?
Southerners, it seems are without the ability to take their time. Traffic lights are like the starting line if a formula one Grand Prix. They charge off into the near distance where they soon come to a stop at the next set of lights. There is another comparison with formula one - this time rather than have your tyres changed whenever you come to a stop. Down here whenever you come to a stop at traffic lights, some nerd woman with a beard appears from nowhere, starts to wash your screen and then wants to sell you a copy of something called "The Pig Issue".

I went into one of the motorway services, to pay a quick visit to the bog. The name seems to adequately describe the layout, I wiped my feet on the way out. Then I went to the shop get myself a drink. Looking along the shelf I spotted a bottle of "Buxton Water" its good stuff, but then its from up't North so it would be.  However, I can't understand why it would be £1.79 for a bottle of water, when it falls from the sky for free up here. If you Southerners are willing to pay £1.79 for a bottle of water. Then you should carry on buying the bottled water, because if you are prepared to pay £1.79 for bottled water. I can only assume that they must be putting something nasty in the local tap water.

Now, £1.79 for a litre of water that falls from the sky is a tad more expensive that Petrol or Diesel. Why would that be? First you have to get the crude oil. The producers have to drill down thousands of feet to get it. Then its put in a giant tanker and ship it halfway round the world. Then you have to process the crude to refine the fuel. The government then whacks on top a fuel levy, then gives it a double whammy, with VAT. Move it to garage forecourts to sell. It still works out cheaper than a bottle of "Buxton Water".  Now contrast this with the difficulty of obtaining supplies of Buxton Water. First you have to wait for it to rain - which it does most days in Buxton. Then you put it in a plastic bottle.
Now, you tell me, who is the smarter. The southern traffic light racer or the dour northerner selling you water at £1.79 a litre bottle.
Which brings me nicely to the price of beer. Up't north we sell beer in glasses, measured in pints, or half pints, has a guaranteed specific gravity. We like it chilled to perfection and we like it to taste good. Up North you could pay as much as £2.50 for a whole pint of the amber. Contrast this with what happens down south. The beer is warm,  has no measurable specific gravity, tastes like it has been recycled and is served in a half litre bottle at £3.90. Think, light brown "Canal Water".


Cheers!


Later.....


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A new crew member

Abbie -n- Poppy
Well, its about time I introduced you all to a new member of the crew on board Rosie. Meet "Abbie" who is now a permanent companion to our other crew member "Poppy". Poppy or Pops is three on the 12th of June and Abbie is an old retired lady aged twelve. For those who have not met the Memsahib, like Poppy and Abbie she is an identical twin. The Memsahib by the way is also the evil one.

Abbie joined us on test to see if she would settle on the boat OK. She stayed for our three week Easter cruise. She proved to be a good sailor in that she never fell overboard. She tended to prefer sitting on the side in the cockpit watching the world go by whilst keeping me company at the tiller. Poppy true to form went over the side on our return back to the marina. So she has maintained her record of at least one dunking per trip!

Abbie also has the endearing habit of inviting herself onto any boat to carryout a full inspection. So far her list includes Narrow boat Wayward Spinner, Dutch barge Aquarius and Cruiser Lazy Daze. (I think she is working down a tick list of boat types) If nothing else, an inquisitive and slightly over friendly Wire Haired Fox Terrier soon helps you to make a few new acquaintances on boats moored nearby.

I love the picture as it creates a Harry Worth reflection like composition.

Later.....

Monday, 23 May 2011

Bits and Pieces

I just happened across this forum intended for people who live aboard their boats. It seems to be quite newish and in need of some membership and content. Live-Aboard Forum.




On our Easter trip, we spent a bit of time moored at Eastwood Lock. one of the joys of this place is the flying display put on each evening by a large group of swans. I took a few photographs which I have finally got around to downloading off my camera.


Here are a couple of examples that I took. The birds which must exceed fourty in number. Frequent a cafe where the customers often feed them. The cafe is quite close to Tullys boatyard in Rotherham. As dusk starts to approach, the birds move along the canal in the direction of Eastwood lock. When the birds reach the section of canal that runs alongside the Parkgate retail park.


As soon as they are clear of the foot bridge that passes over the canal and railway. They then collect together for a mass take-off along the straight section of canal. By the time they have reached Eastwood lock they have managed to get up to speed and take off. They seem to set off in the direction of Thrybergh Country Park where I think the birds stay over night.

Sometimes the numbers of Swans taking off at the same time can exceed twenty birds. There can also be several waves of birds taking off in groups one after the other.


Later....

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Things to ponder.

Being a retired person now gives me time to think in greater depth about those issues that I had little time to cogitate about before. I have also noticed that my awareness of the passage of time has changed from one of days, to one of months. When you retire from your working life, your centre of attention tends to fall on other issues.

The Memsahib finds this change has distracted me from issues on her own agenda. It was then that I realised that the Government and Magicians have a little trick that they share. It is called slight of hand and distraction.

I have been pondering why what has been described as "a small increase" in personal taxation is going to cost me several hundred pounds each year. Yet on the other occasions when the government of the day have said that they are going to make a "significant benefit change" to my allowances, I only gain a few pence. I know better, but I still keep getting taken in by their weasel policies.
Why do we believe them.

I have been pondering why there is a sudden plethora of David's in the news. In a David Blane like manoeuvre, David Cameron has come up with the Conservatives version of a smoke and mirrors trick. The so called "Big Society".  In another slight of hand and a distraction,  a new white paper  will set out Cameron's plans for charitable donations and volunteering to become a "Social Norm". The Government will then announce a "Round Pound" initiative to encouraging people to make donations. Supermarkets and Banks will now be urged to round up customers' bills to the nearest pound. and give the money raised to charity. A whole raft of plans are to be used to bolster  Cameron's smoke and mirrors Big Society. 
Why do we believe them.

If all this volunteering is the answer, if all this charity giving is the way forward. I would like to see it start with British waterways senior management all giving their time free of charge. Setting an example and leading by example. I know it ain't going to happen. The government know it ain't going to happen. The BW board seem to be the only people who think that it will happen.

I have also been pondering that, David Fletcher has jumped on the Big Society band wagon. In a Kafkaesque move the ex head of British Waterways has come out with his own Smoke and Mirrors addition to the Big Society. Fletcher said "I commend the leaders at British Waterways, many of whom I recruited, for having the vision and indeed the courage to revive the charitable trust concept in the modern ‘Big Society’ format." I think that Fletcher has confused The Big Society with the British Waterways concept of The Big Salaries. If it was me, I would not want to remind people that I had recruited the current senor management at BW.
Why do we believe them.

I have also been pondering that the good old Guardian newspaper has adapted Karl Marx's slogan "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" for the Big Society: "From each according to their vulnerability, to each according to their greed".
Now I do believe them.


Later....

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Off on a trudge!

I love the English language, because similar words can convey so many hidden meanings. How often have you heard the phrase "we are going for a walk" or "we are going on a ramble." Yet quite often what should have been said was "we are off on a trudge!" Some people enjoy walking whilst others can't find any real pleasure from taking part in the activity. I used to do a lot of walking years ago, at the same time, I also played a lot of squash and did a bit of jogging. Over the years squash took its toll on the knees and I had to have some surgery done on the cartilage in each knee. The long distance walking pleasure I used to get a buzz from came to an abrupt end.  Going up Jacobs Ladder and doing the Edale Horseshoe are now a thing of the past. Don't get me wrong, I can still walk good distances as long as there is a limited amount of the steep stuff involved. The surprising part of this is not the going up that's a problem its the coming down that seems to stress the joints more. A few hours of light climbing and descending can still result in a few days of joint discomfort.

Today we took the dogs out for a gentle walk round Old Moor nature reserve and the nearby Manvers lake boating complex. We met up with a couple of friends and let the three dogs have some fun in the water. After an hour at the lake, we made our way back to the car park at Old Moor. I opened up the boot, chucked my Jack Wolfskin walking jacket in the boot. Then I got the dogs to jump up in the back. Dropping down the lid, the car auto locked the boot and at that moment I realised the car keys were in my pocket.

First it was the panic realisation of what I had done. Which soon turned to deep concern for the dogs. The car was stood in the sun and getting quite warm. I phoned out our emergency breakdown service. I also phoned our friends who brought some cloth sheets so that we could shade the car. The breakdown service took over half an hour to get into the car. I am not going to outline how they eventually did it. Suffice to say that there was not a single mark on the car. I now have more respect for the anti theft and other security features of Audi cars. Vorsprung Durch Technik as the saying goes.

The Memsahib was quite laid back during the whole experience. And no dogs were harmed in the making of this classic "Foo Bar" of epic proportions.

This reminds me of a story from about twenty five years ago. My regular walking companion back then then was Arthur. One day we decided to do the Edale horseshoe because the weather had been good for several weeks and we knew that the boggy stuff on the tops would be quite passable. We had been walking for a while and we reached the bottom of Jacobs Ladder. I can't remember after all this time what started the conversation topic off.  The outcome was that Arthur decided he would do the rest of the trip walking backwards. To cut a long story short Arthur actually completed the twenty mile ramble walking backwards. I thought he was mental to even try. The curious thing was that Arthur had a long term Achilles tendon problem.  Which would sometimes flare up when we were out and he would sometimes have to remove his walking boots. He always carried a pair of leather sandals in his pack, just in case.  After this day out walking backwards, he never had the Achilles tendon problem again.

I remember it well, as I recovered from the knee surgery. I continued to do a limited amount of walking. But, I would have to carefully choose my route and one where I could easily short-cut back to civilisation. This usually involved doing footpaths along the old railways lines because the gradients were quite gentle. I also did a bit of canal walking because again the gradients were never so steep that I could not manage comfortably. The one thing I do remember was that the canal walks were not very good to undertake in wet weather. Conversely, the railway routes were always good even in the wettest of conditions. In the main because drainage was always good on the old railway lines. The canal footpaths were often a quagmire in wet weather.

Now, I seem to notice more and more people walking the canal towpaths. Far more than I saw during my convalescence walking period. The fishermen can hardly put the long rods out for people squeezing past. Julia Bradbury has a canal walking series on the BBC so I expect we will see even more. Its the same with the push bikes along the canal footpaths now. Last week as we returned back to the marina. Whilst passing through Jordans Lock there was an off road motorcycle traveling at a fair old speed along the towpath. The problem is that the bikers, walkers and off road riders don't pay anything towards the infrastructure upkeep, as the boat owner and fishermen do. I wonder what the new waterways charity will do to rectify that anomaly.

Later...


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Boat maintenance chores.

After our recent Easter trip, I spent a few days catching up on some much needed maintenance chores. The first job was to remove all the batteries off Rosie and to test them with a battery hydrometer. This was a much harder job than I had imagined. The confines of the engine bay makes handling the batteries a job for someone with super human powers. It was a real struggle to remove them from the battery box and onto the mooring. I found that one of the four leisure batteries has a bad cell. In fact it has an internal short circuit on cell number three. I have disconnected the faulty battery from the bank and at the moment it is acting as an extra piece of engine room ballast. The engine starter battery was also in good fettle when tested. I am hoping to finish this season on three batteries in the domestic bank before purchasing a full set of replacements in the spring.

Job number two was to do an oil and filter change. Little Steve (there are three Steve's) who shares our moorings put me in touch with a nearby parts supplier for large road transport trucks. I saved £17.00 on the price of the replacement oil and filter when compared to the same materials from Halfords. The people were very obliging and I am sure that they are more used to supplying materials in much larger quantities to their customers.   I shall be enquiring about the price and supply of leisure batteries through the same source in the near future.

A few weeks ago I was engaged in conversation with another boater who passed a remark that struck a chord. He said "Wet cell batteries can be supplied in a dry state if you ask the suppliers. The battery comes with the acid solution supplied in a separate plastic bottle." Why would you want to do that I innocently asked? My boating friend said "Because any wet cell battery that has been filled up with the acid solution. Could then be stored on the suppliers shelf in a discharged condition for months before you purchase them if the suppliers turnover in batteries is slow. This may have started the battery to deteriorate if it has lost some or all of its charge. Not many suppliers have constant top-up charging facilities. The shelf life of a dry stored battery is years and years. If you get a dry stored wet cell battery, you will know that it is in pristine condition." I recently needed to fit a new battery to one of my motorcycles. I asked the supplier if they could let me have the battery in its dry stored state. I was surprised to get one provided straight off the shelf complete with a separate bottle of battery acid.

The third job was when I started to polish the brass window frames and mushroom vents. I have not done this for a while. I was surprised by the level of tarnish that had built up since last autumn. But then thinking back to last winter, I suppose I should not be surprised by their condition after all.

I checked out the Beta 38 engine mountings and I found that they are showing signs of wear and tear. So another little job will be replacing the flexible engine mounts.

Later....

I would imagine that most boaters are familiar with the Canal Plan website. I enjoy using canal plan and being able to pre-plan our boating journeys. The site is configurable so that you can choose the amount of daily cruising time you want to do.  Choose starting, via  and finishing points and the site will display a list of major points along the route like locks and bridges. Suggested mooring places to suit your daily cruising times.

Later....

I read the following excerpt on the CanalPlanAC website. Somethings change very little over time.

The Old Curiosity Shop

The boat came close to the bank again, and before she had had any more time for consideration, she and her grandfather were on board, and gliding smoothly down the canal. The sun shone pleasantly on the bright water, which was sometimes shaded by trees, and sometimes open to a wide extent of country, intersected by running streams, and rich with wooded hills, cultivated land, and sheltered farms. Now and then, a village with its modest spire, thatched roofs, and gable-ends, would peep out from among the trees; and, more than once, a distant town, with great church towers looming through its smoke, and high factories or workshops rising above the mass of houses, would come in view, and, by the length of time it lingered in the distance, show them how slowly they travelled. Their way lay, for the most part, through the low grounds, and open plains; and except these distant places, and occasionally some men working in the fields, or lounging on the bridges under which they passed, to see them creep along, nothing encroached on their monotonous and secluded track.

Charles Dickens 1841

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Easter Trip on Rosie 2011. (Week 3)

Friday. Day thirteen. Sprotboro Lock. - Eastwood Lock.
The six men in a boat saga continued when Westmoreland left the moorings early. However we had a more leisurely start to give them time to get ahead. We had an interesting altercation with fishermen and boats moored on the landing stage at Waddington lock, as reported elsewhere. click here

We passed Westmoreland again when they moored up at Swinton Road bridge. Which is coincidentally outside a pub. We pressed on and later I was treated to the sight of a Ring or Water Ouzel at Aldwarke Lock. Which is slightly smaller and a bit slimmer in size than a Blackbird. The give away being the striking white blaze across the birds chest. This sighting was almost in the same place as we saw an Osprey last year. We soon arrived at Eastwood Lock to meet up with the crew of Nb Wayward Spinner again. The Memsahib, was feeling the need for some more shopping therapy and soon disappeared off down the towpath in the direction of the Parkgate Retail Park.

It was good to watch the evening departure of the large group of swans that frequent the area around Tully's boat yard. The mass take off (in several waves of up to 20+ birds) each evening is a sight worth seeing. The best views are from the moorings at Eastwood lock.  However the morning inward flights tend to be a bit more fragmented and birds arrive in smaller groups.

We spent an interesting evening swapping tales with the crew of Nb Wayward Spinner. Nb Westmoreland passed us as it was going dark, obviously needing to moor closer to a canal side pub. Rotherham town lock being the closest location for a selection of local hostelries and hostilities. An uneventful and quiet night was enjoyed by all.

Saturday. Day fourteen. Eastwood Lock - Ickles Lock
We were up early - the Memsahib needed to go back to the retail park to buy a coat that she had seen but did not purchase. I don't understand why, but it seems I was also required to visit the retail park as well. The outcome - she bought two coats but not including the one she went back for in the first place. Me, all I got was wet through and a pack of three rubble sacks. The Memsahib however was able to wear one of the coats she had just purchased. I wore a tee shirt, shorts, sandals and a grimace.

We had an interesting time at Rotherham town lock as a very young fellow accompanied by his mum asked all about what we were doing. I did a running commentary of what and why we did each step. When we had finished he was quite satisfied. He did however turn down our offer to be the  cabin boy operating the locks for the rest of the voyage and trotted off with his mum towards the town centre.

On our outward bound trip we had noticed that there was a build up of mud where the Sheffield canal deviates away from the River Don just after Rotherham Town lock. It was no better on our return, hopefully when the flow of water returns with the rain it will be flushed away. Soon we arrived at Ickles Lock, the sluices have to be opened gingerly on this lock as the flow can be very fierce. We moored up close to the site of the Sheffield and Rotherham Canal Association for the night. We helped to lock Nb Phoenix through the lock.

Sunday. Day fifteen. Ickles Lock – Tinsley Marina
Today was something of an anti-climax as we progressed from our overnight moorings at Ickles Lock, passing through Holmes and Jordans locks to reach the bottom of the Tinsley Flight. A couple of hours going up through the flight in company with Widebeam Toad has us back at our moorings. Just in time for the Memsahib to do a quick mucking out session and for me to draw up a list of jobs to catch up on.

Distance 104  miles
Locks 77 locks
Swing / Lift Bridges 16
1 Pump-out

Rosie's Running Total
Distance 227 miles
Locks 156
Swing / Lift Bridges 25
2 Pump-outs

Later....

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The World Ends Today!

The World is about to come to an end as we know it – Blogger is down, so I can't get my daily fix of the blogosphere. Whatever shall I do. Retirement has given me much more time to read other blogs. I much prefer reading blogs to reading the piss-poor press. Which these days is populated by sycophantic stories about celebrities, scratch cards and other low mentality offerings.

So first I went into the back garden and cut some logs for the wood burning stove for a couple of hours. At the same time I was mind musing over the sad 8th birthday anniversary of Madeline McCann which I had listened to on BBC radio yesterday. The family have been treated quite badly by some members of the public as well as the gutter section of the press. Now, it seems that the only way they can deal with the police in Portugal is through a Portuguese police lawyer.


It was particularly poignant  moment when Madeline's mother Kate recalled a dream. In the dream Madeline was found safe and well in the school creche. Only to wake up to the realisation that the dream was a short release from the ongoing nightmare. It was good to hear on the BBC news that the government has at long last invited the British police to look into the case. Albeit far too many years after the event. Yet, even the web is not immune from profiting on the McCann family torment. There are so called "humour based" web entries around this terrible tragedy. There are some sick people and media publications out there.

I came back to check – and Blogger is still AWOL. I started to trim the hedge to tidy it up. When I had filled up the green garden refuse bin with cuttings. I decided to check again on Blogger. Blogger is still AWOL. So I reluctantly started a job I should have done a long time ago. I decided to back-up my Windows 7 machine. There are a few tutorials on the web about doing this task. One of the best is Fred Langa's guide. You can find this here on the Widows Secrets website.

Well, that's a job well done. Just as well, because now Blogger has returned and brought back some of my draft postings, from an earlier time, minus some of the recent changes I had made. So its a nice warm feeling to know that I had all the materials backed up.

I have a plan for an uber-system to ensure that things don't get lost in a blogging single point of failure. But that's enough for today, more on this subject later.


I must go and prepare for the FA Cup final. (crosses fingers) As a Manchester United fan, I don't have an axe to grind on this one. (un-crosses fingers) So I shall be supporting Tony Pulis and the magnificent managerial season he is having with Stoke City. So its up to Mrs Jones'es little boy Ken to Win it for the potties. Maybe after the impromptu dressing room training session (after Stoke shot the Gunners down in flames last week) James Beattie will win it with a header.

Stoke City are playing  some other team.

STOP PRESS

The whole of Manchester will be celebrating today because Manchester United have won the Football Association Premiership.  Stoke City lost the Football Association Wembly final to some other team.

Later....


Friday, 13 May 2011

The Easter Trip on Rosie 2011. (Week 2)

Friday. Day six. Eastwood Lock - Sprotborough Lock
The trip from Eastwood lock to Sprotborough Lock was in the main quite uneventful. We passed through Swinton which I would describe as a quaint place where the local people lean on things and seem to shout a lot. Conisborough seems to have a fair selection of kids frequenting the canal. They were all quite good natured, enjoying a Budweiser and one even raised his bottle and wished us "cheers mate".

The Doncaster Rowing Club had a few people out on the water. A last practice session before their rowing competition which is planned to be run on this section of the river tomorrow. We passed a few other boats going up river including our friend Granville on Nb Bonnie who gave us a cheery wave.

When we arrived at Sprotborough we were the only boat on the moorings. (If you are visiting Sprotborough for the first time the best moorings are across the canal from the tow path) A large grassed area is available with some seating. The short footpath leads up to the point where the canal divides away from the River Don. There is a large weir behind the grassy area. Later several other boats turned up to moor for the night. Our friends John and Tracy turned up for a free lunch.

Don't be surprised if a large group of noisy, rowdy young people turn up on the wharf on the other side of the canal. The youngsters are about to embark on a "booze cruise" on the Wyre Lady. The boat will be soon gone in a haze of revelry, ale and loud music. The booze cruise will be heading off in the direction of Doncaster. A couple of hours later it will return passing in the direction of Conisborough. An hour or so later the booze cruise returns and regurgitates the well stewed youngsters back onto the wharf. Where friends and relations wait to collect them in the car park. Soon peace and tranquillity will return once more to the canal.
Distance today 10 miles, 6 Locks 0 Swing/Lift bridges

Saturday. Day seven. Sprotborough – Long Sandal - Barnby Dun.
I awoke early and took the dogs for a walk along the footpath. It had been a cold night and there was a hint of fog on the water. Dawn was breaking and the birds were in full song competing against the rumble of the water passing over the weir. I watched idly as a fellow boater went about his preparations to leave. Everything was done, just so and very orderly. Lines neatly coiled into wheels. Everything seemingly had its place. Personally, I find it a bit disconcerting to to be neat and tidy and know where your keys are, without the need to frisk yourself.

It was about time for our next problem and true to form it arrived. This time in the guise of needing an urgent pump out. The bulb had blown on the high level indicator. It seemed that there was some back pressure being created, filling the toilet basin with evil smelling brown Windsor soup. I quickly opened the drain cover on the gunwale and a pungent cloud of escaping gas gave warning of how urgent the pump out was needed. Now that the back pressure had been relieved - so to speak - I turned to consulting Nicholson's guide. Long Sandal lock was the nearest place where we could off-load the poop. So we set off to do the biz at Long Sandal.

It was on arrival at Long Sandal that we had the second problem of the day. This came about when we realised that we were short to the tune of one British Waterways pump out card. As Long Sandal lock is unmanned and it was a holiday weekend we were unable to obtain a pump out card from the usual sources. We would have to look for an alternative pump out point. Long Sandal has some very good visitor moorings complete with a fenced off area, with wooden seats, tables and brick built barbecue stands. However it does not have a sanitary station.

Consulting Nicholson's guide again, we were able to find an alternative stopping point. We pressed on and moored up for the night at Barnby Dun after passing through the lift bridge. There is a British Waterways sanitary station located here, so we were able to do our ablutions off the boat.

We wandered off into the village and found ourselves a local pub for the evening. In a curious Royston Vasey moment, we were given the silent once over by the locals before the indifference and the noise of background chatter returned. I expected at any moment that "Tubbs" would announce "this is a local pub for local people". We survived the experience, but the Memsahib keeps pushing up her nose and saying "There's nothing here for you". We later watched a League of Gentleman DVD that I eventually found lurking in the back of a cupboard.
Distance today 10 miles, 3 Locks, 1 Lift/Swing Bridge.

Sunday. Day eight. Barnby Dun – New Cut – Knottingley
We were under way quite early in the morning after a hot shower and all the other necessities had been completed. As if to add to our discomfiture in the toilet department - the wind was very strong and making progress quite difficult. Soon we arrived at the junction of the "New Cut" and headed off towards the Aire and Calder Navigation passing under the two guillotine locks. At the end we turned left to join a very windswept Aire and Calder Navigation.

On entering Whitley Lock, there was a loud bump under the boat. I knocked the Morse control into neutral just in time to avoid the prop hitting a large solid plastic post about the size of a railway sleeper used for supporting large portable fences. The block which was almost invisible was floating just level with the water surface. We noted a number of similar large plastic blocks stored on the lock side.

Soon we were in Knottingley where we quickly got ourselves stemmed up. My excuse for this is "due to the lack of rain, the water levels were low than usual". A bit of manoeuvring soon had us back in deeper water. At which point a Sybil Fawlty like character appeared in a factory doorway. Just like Sybil, who Basil always claimed had a degree in "stating the bleeding obvious". She advised us that the water was quite shallow just here! We did a U turn and pointed our red faces towards the River Aire and moored up for the evening.

We had a walk around the high spots of Knottingley, it did not take long. Then we happened upon a small supermarket where we topped up our dwindling supplies of food and drink. The supermarket had a good selection of cigarettes and drink on offer, but something of a restricted food menu. Knottingly has its own set of priorities I suppose. There were a good selection of moored boats in and around the junction boatyard. We met up with Ken and a lively dog called Magoo who was re-homed by Ken to live on board Nb Phoenix.

It was at this point where we realised that we had now lost so much time, that we would not be able to make it to Ashton under Lyme. We had intended to use our friends Ian and Diana's home mooring as a base for some weekend cruising. So Baldric like, we had to consider a new cunning plan.

We knew that we urgently needed a pump out and Selby offered that opportunity, as well as a new canal to cruise. I rang Ian to explain our predicament, I explained to him that we had lost so much time that we would never be able to make up the difference. I felt sorry that after they had made all the plans on our behalf that we had to turn down their offer. British Waterways have some brownie points that they owe us.
Distance today 16.5 miles, 3 Locks and 6 Swing/Lift Bridges.

Monday. Day nine. Knottingly – Selby Basin.
We were under way quite early in the morning after a hot shower. The toilet or lack of was causing some discomfort as was the wind which was making steering difficult. We made a few forays ashore wherever possible to find ongoing relief. The River Aire was not running a deal of water. At Beal Lock the weir had a much reduced flow than normal.

We were sharing the River Aire with Ken and Magoo on Nb Phoenix. Alternating through the locks. After Beal Lock Nb Phoenix put on a bit of a spurt on and disappeared off into the distance. We met up again at West Haddelsey Flood Lock. Then we shared most of the Selby canal together at a quite sedate pace. This canal definitely takes your mind off whatever you might have been thinking about. It is a most attractive place and stuffed full of wildlife.

We rang the Selby Boat Centre to find out what time they closed and arrived with about 15 minutes to spare. To get a pump out was a relief in more ways than one. We also filled up self declared diesel 55 litres at a cost of £51.00 this works out (with the duty included on the propulsion element) at 92.7p per litre. We moored up on the visitor moorings in the Selby basin where we had a very quiet night.
Distance today 11 miles, 3 Locks and 1 Swing/Lift Bridges.

Tuesday. Day ten. Selby Basin – Beal Lock
We had a leisurely morning and spent some time considering a tide assisted trip up river to York or to return back home via Goole. However, the tides were not at a suitable time for going down river to Goole. It would have meant arriving in Goole in the dark, so we passed up on that as an option. I did a bit of a spring clean round the boat whilst the Memsahib went to visit the supermarket. We decided to return back the way that we came.

At about 11am we were ready to set off. I turned the key to start the engine and the key snapped off in the lock. Our problems had come back to haunt us yet again. A quick rummage in the cupboard and we knew that the spare key was at home. A telephone call to friends John and Tracy who nipped over to ch√Ęteau "Wits End" to check if the spare was there. In the meantime I stripped the ignition switch and managed to retrieve the broken part of the key from the lock. After consulting the manual I was able to hot wire the ignition and get the engine running. We set off for Haddlesey Flood lock at the junction of River Aire and Selby Canal. Whilst at the same time John and Tracy made their way to us with the spare key. Its a good feeling to have an ignition key in your hand rather than a hot wire cable.

Later, we set off along the River Aire at a leisurely pace. The wind had dropped and the weather was glorious. We were making easy progress due to the reduced flow of the river. However, when we reached the twisty tight bends about a mile below Beal Lock. We discovered (on a blind bend) that the inside bank had collapsed into the river creating a large mud bar.

I over steered the tiller, the front end missed the mud bank, but I managed to stem up the back end. First we pumped out our water tank almost dry to remove some weight from the boat. We were about eight inches higher in the water than normal. Then leaving the engine ticking over in reverse, working from the stern to the bow. I managed to break up the mud round the sides of the boat using the pole. I cleared the mud down below the level of the base plate. This created a moat with Rosie perched on top.

By waggling the bow end from side to side we slowly squeezed out the mud from under the base plate. From initially being able to only move a few inches from side to side. By repeating the moat digging exercise and letting the prop wash move the freed up mud clear. We improved the bow swing up to about a hundred and twenty degrees side to side.

We managed to eventually extract ourselves. Rosie did this by sliding sideways off the mud bank when we were diagonal across the river. This was however, some three and a half hours later. I now have a long handled post hole spade for mud clearing in my boating armoury. I also have a set of waders in the top-box as the water was just to deep for my Wellingtons. The water I found was much to cold to spend long periods paddling in it.

We passed through Beal Lock by which time it was turning dark. So we moored up for the night on the upstream pontoon. It was a clear night, and I was overjoyed to watch a Little Owl on a nearby tree preparing for his night time activities. I've never suffered from insomnia as I don't think it's anything to lose sleep over. But that night I slept like a log.
Distance today 8miles, 2 Locks and 1 Swing/Lift Bridges.

Wednesday. Day eleven. Beal Lock River Aire – Long Sandal Lock
I awoke early, to take the dogs for a walk. I thought it had snowed in the night, everywhere was covered in a heavy frosty rime especially on the bank side vegetation and the grass. We took up the opportunity to fill up water tank again. Talking to other boaters, everyone thought the level was a couple of feet below normal. We set off about nine wanting to be clear of the pontoon in case any other boats arrived. Our trip to Long Sandal was very quiet and uneventful. The Memsahib had me searching the Internet when she spotted a property for sale in the area. Unfortunately it would have meant me having to sell my kidneys to the highest bidder as well as the chateau. So that was a none starter. The dogs met up with Jess a brilliant and very friendly Staffordshire Bull Terrier off Nb Sorrel. We have another quiet night wondering what trials and tribulations tomorrow might bring.
Distance today 21 miles, 5 Locks and 7 Swing/Lift Bridges.

Thursday. Day twelve. Long Sandal – Sprotborough Lock.
Another early start saw us on our way to Doncaster Town moorings. We tied up and went shopping in the nearby Frenchgate Centre. We were passed by a hire boat from "Shire Cruisers of Sowerby Bridge" Nb Westmorland with six "senior" men on board. This was to become something of an ill omen as they dogged our heels all the way home.

It all started an hour after they passed us. When we set off to cover the short distance to Doncaster Town Lock. On arrival, we were surprised to see that the Westmorland was still in the lock. The Memsahib went ashore. She called me up on the radio to say that there was a 10 inch log caught in the bottom lock gates. Both of the sluices were open on the top gates but the Westmorland crew could not understand why the lock would not fill.

The Memsahib pointed out the log stuck in the bottom gates. Then one of the more sober crew members brought the pole off the boat. He then tried to pry the lock gates open to release the log. The Memsahib and myself watched the performance with astonishment for a while.

Eventually the Memsahib gave him a bit of advice in the form of an edict. It involved a string of expletives and directions on opening the lock gates to release the log. She said "just open the (fill in the missing words) gates to release the (fill in the missing words) log and we will also pass through the (fill in the missing words) lock at the same time." The Memsahib has such a command of special words that carry the emphasis she wishes to impart. However, as the Westmorland crew had a key in each control panel it was fraught with a number of disagreements that broke out between themselves. Eventually the lock gates opened about two feet. The log floated free. The gates closed. So now we had to wait for the crew of the Westmorland to complete locking.

I could clearly see that the Memsahib looked a little bit tense, this is not a good thing to happen. Eventually they cleared the lock and we moved inside. We next encountered the Westmorland on the lock exit pontoon. The boat was tied up and the crew were on their way into Doncaster to visit a pub. If you make the Memsahib tense - she tends to do the same to you. They received short shrift from SWMBO. However, they still refused to clear the pontoon and went off in the direction of the nearest pub. I had to restrain her from opening the sea cocks on the Westmorland.

The rest of our cruise to Sprotborough proved uneventful. We arrived to find the moorings empty and we tied up to settle down for the evening. Some time later another boat arrived and also moored up. It was getting close to dusk when the Westmorland arrived. There was the usual disagreement between the occupants going off. However, they decided to moor for the night on the wharf. We tried to offer them advice about the Wyre Lady and the booze cruise. However, in the typical drunks macho attitude they chose to ignore the advice.

Lets just say - they had spent an interesting evening and for some reason cleared off very early the next morning. All of them looking like they had missed out on a lot of sleep. A noisy lot those kiddies who party on the Wyre Lady especially when they have a load of other inebriates to torment.

But I digress.

The Memsahib was enjoying the late afternoon sun, and dozing off surrounded by the dogs. I was talking to a business colleague on the phone when - screech, bang, tinkle happened on the road bridge. I knew in an instant that there had been a road traffic accident. On arrival I could see a Ford car with a crushed front end. Also involved was a new style Mini with a few bumps and scrapes on the back. However, the lady driver in the mini was not in a good way. She had suffered whiplash, I went into first-aider mode. I kept her relaxed in her seat and engaged her in conversation. I found out that she had neck pain and a numb feeling on the side of her face. In the meantime I found out that the lady had recently had surgery to remove a brain tumour. She was feeling sleepy and wanted to close her eyes. This is not a good sign, so I knew it was time for the Paramedic to attend, pronto! I summoned the ambulance service and a paramedic was on site soon afterwards.

By this time the Memsahib had arrived on the scene after discovering that I was missing. (the Memsahib had heard the bang and tinkle and assumed it was the crew of the Westmoreland throwing a sack of empties on to the wharf) I got the Memsahib to climb in beside the lady who I now knew was called Pat and told her not to let her go to sleep. I asked the Memsahib to interrogate her for any other health conditions that she might have. I turned my attention to the other car. The Ford driver was shaken up and was in the throws of the adrenalin rush. Cold and clammy and a bit incoherent. But I could see he carried no outward sign of injury. At this point I started to direct traffic to clear the road for the paramedic who's twos and blues I could hear coming. I appraised the paramedic of what I knew and he said an ambulance was also on its way. I returned to directing traffic and cleared the road in front of the on coming ambulance. There were now two ambulances and two cars on the narrow bridge. So I kept directing traffic until the police arrived.

There is a lot more to this story, but I will save it for another time.

Then we wandered back to the boat for a cup of tea. I thought I might get myself a job doing 24 hour days in air traffic control - I am prepared to do anything for a quiet life.
Distance today 6 miles, 3 Locks and 0 Swing/Lift Bridges.


Click here for Week 3

Later.....


Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Fawlty Towers or BW, I can't tell the difference.

We have arrived back on our home mooring and I can't remember the last time we had such a challenging trip out with Rosie. The highs and lows will make for interesting reading. I will put together a comprehensive trip report for a later posting. However, here is a snippet to be going on with!

As I said in a previous posting (click here) about - British Waterways - is worth throwing a brickbat or two at, if only because British Waterways prove to be such an easy target.

Fawlty Towers or British Waterways, I can't tell the difference, can you!

Here is my second example, which highlights a very simple and basic lack of forethought by British Waterways to allow a practice that is so dangerous.

After carefully taking aim, BW have emptied a full magazine of dum-dum (or in their case dumb-dumb) into their foot.
British Waterways, have in their finite wisdom given over the lock landings at Swinton (Waddingtons) Lock as boat moorings. I kid you not, a narrow and now an additional broad beam boat (as claimed by the operators) have been allocated the lower part of the landing as a home mooring, which is level with the gunwale for most pleasure boats. British Waterways have even installed mains power points.
To get off your boat now, you have to approach the landing with your bow and enter a narrow gap between the moored boats and a large barge that has not moved position for years. If this was not difficult enough. You then have to climb an eight foot steel ladder to get to the foot path. The top of this ladder is just level with the footpath. So if you are not a nimble person you are at risk of falling back onto your boat or into the canal. Imagine what this is like when working single handed. To help matters further, the footpath is covered in brambles which also make for excellent trip hazards.

Now, even the nominated village idiot from a village fully populated by idiots would be able to spot the simple hazard that this represents to life and limb. However, this task is beyond the capabilities of British Waterways health and safety auditors. So maybe, I should arrange a visit from the HSE (health and safety executive) British Waterways, owe me and members of my family a duty of care. Inclusion in the boating press and publication in my blog might help matters along.

God forbid that anyone should get hurt or even a far worse fate. I don't want to be placed in the position of saying "I have told you so".

But wait there is even more. The local fishermen are now in on the act. They like to fish from the side of the lock landings as well. They don't like boats coming into the lock landings where they are fishing. So much unhelpful advice is offered to boaters. For instance, “The correct place to get off your boat is on the other side of the canal” and as one twerp said to me “We live here, we own this land, you can't walk here and there is no right of way” I pointed out to the Fisherman  that he may not have noticed that I was in fact walking on water. Some seed fell on stony ground.

There are 8 foot high pilings at this fisherman suggested "landing point" on the other side of the canal. With no real access point other than climbing up a rusty ladder. With no usable mooring bollards. We watched a couple on a boat follow the proffered advice and attempt to clamber up onto the pilings. They could only gain access by climbing from the roof of their boat.

This started a train of thought, I have never seen any moorings come up for auction at this point or on any other lock landing for that matter. I checked the British Waterways site for previous auctions. It looks to me like the two boats permanently moored on the landings may have some sort of special on the nod deal with the British Waterways boatyard which perchance just happens to be next door.
Just so there is no confusion – "It is my opinion that British Waterways have knowingly created what is obviously a very dangerous practice. By allowing boats to permanently moor on a safe lock landing area. British Waterways have also done nothing to mitigate or remove the danger of falling or tripping in any way."
British Waterways continue to ignore complaints made by other canal users about this dangerous precedent. Allowing boats to moor on any landing stage for any other reason than locking, is setting a precedent for the future. A form of monkey see monkey do, and we all know where the monkeys are!
Yet there is a very simple solution to this issue. That is to move the craft which are permanently moored, further along the lock landing to the higher part. Access to the boats could still be gained from the lower part of the landing area. However, I still feel that this practice of allowing boats to moor on lock landings is setting a dangerous precedent and should not be allowed.
I think Albert Einstien had British Waterways in mind when he said "Any fool can make things harder and more complex. However, it takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction."

I don't expect any improvements in this situation within the foreseeable future.

Later...


 

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Easter Trip on Rosie 2011. (Week 1)

Good Friday.
The papers are full of news about a wedding and everyone having a day off work. Well, for us good Friday was “The Real Wedding Of The Year. This special wedding took place between family member Mark and new family member Lindsey. Like the Royals (the royal wedding was just a copy cat one) at Westminster Abbey. Our wedding was also held at an Abbey but this time at Wroxall Abbey. We wish them both well for their future happiness as man and wife.

Easter Saturday
The day for the Memsahib to recover from merry making and a day to make her unsteady way back home. Just in time to get ready for our much anticipated Easter boating break. A flurry of last moment jobs like cutting the hedge and other gardening tasks to take my mind off the Easter cruise.

Easter Sunday. Day one.
We decided not to take part in the Sheffield Egg Run "a Charity Motorcycle ride-out organised by the South Yorkshire Police and the Three Shires Motorcycle Club" but to get off early on Sunday morning with the boat. We had a longish one-way trip planned to Ashton under Lyme. The trip was planned to a tight time-scale dictated by the Memsahib's working requirements. However, we had not planned on the lack of planned maintenance by British Waterways. Swinton lock was declared a stoppage, which stopped us in our tracks at our berth. So we stayed over night in Tinsley Marina.
0 locks 0 miles Total 0 miles.

Easter Monday. Day two.
Swinton Lock was still down and so we lost another day on our trip. We did a bit of shopping and socialising with other boaters in the marina. Which was followed by another unexciting night of anticipation in Tinsley Marina.
0 locks 0 miles Total 0 miles.

Easter Tuesday. Day three.
I had a mysterious electrical problem with starting the engine, but after an hour I managed to find a cure (by accident) when I kicked the isolator switch to the starter battery. We got under way by 10:30 am. By pushing the pace a bit we hopped to recover the lost two days. After descending down the Tinsley flight to lock 11, BW's lack of maintenance caught us out when we discovered that the lower paddle(s) were both broken. BW stoppage number two for the trip was declared and we had to reverse back up the flight to Tinsley Marina. So after fifteen locks, and two days of stoppage we had not in real terms moved a yard.
15 locks, and we are still on our mooring!

Wednesday. Day four.
We had all day Wednesday waiting for the repair to be done.  We found out that one paddle had been broken for four years. The repair consisted of a replacement bolt to fix the problem. For the last four years lock eleven like lock six has had a single point of failure. As the lower pound had to be drained as well as the lock, you might have thought that BW would have repaired the other paddle. No, they only had one bolt, so only one paddle was fixed. So after the four year wait for repair, lock eleven like lock six still has a single point of failure. We spent a second night in Tinsley Marina waiting this time for the pound to fill.
15 locks, and we are still on our mooring!

Thursday. Day five.
Today saw us descend all 12 of the locks on the Tinsley flight. We had both Lockies (Dave and Derek) in attendance as there were other boats that had also been waiting for release. Jordans lock and Holmes lock were passed without incident - we now feel that the Easter break has started at long last.

We had an uneventful journey to Eastwood lock. Eastwood is a good place for the Memsahib to go on a shopping spree. So she did just that when friends John and Tracy came to visit. 

The crew of Rosie met up with a fellow blogger Nicola on Nb Wayward Spinner at Eastwood lock, just in time for a bit of mutual narrow-boat admiration. Wayward Spinner is a stunning boat, we came away with lots of ideas for modifications to Rosie. The Memsahib is one of those people who likes to get ideas and also to get me to implement them.

Abbie
In the evening, I was alerted by the dogs to a noise coming from the boatyard. It sounded like someone smashing their way into one of the buildings. I sent for the Police, who arrived on the wrong side of the canal. More noise was heard from the buildings, so the police set off with two's and blues to arrive a while later, on the right side of the canal. Surprisingly the police arrived to find that the scrotes had left.
Today 16 locks 4.5 miles.

This weeks total.
31 locks 4.5 miles Total 4.5 miles.

Click here for Week 2

Later....

Saturday, 7 May 2011

BW is like Fawlty Towers

Tonight we are moored up at Ickles lock. (sounds like icicles without the ice) Early tomorrow, we have to make a dash up river before the heavy rain causes the levels to rise and put a stop on movement. The raised water levels are expected around 10 am. 

British Waterways is worth throwing a brickbat or two at, if only because BW is such an easy target. Easy, because reminds me of Fawlty Towers. Why at any moment I expect Basil to come goose stepping into view.

However, in all fairness BW still manages to maintain the huge payments to the top echelons for their "Basil like management" skills. 

I will give you an example.

On our recent trip out over Easter, we met up on the canal with a BW engineer. He was out inspecting a lock, where there had been a long history of complaints about its workings. (Think of a lock that includes a manual swing bridge and a set of manually operated road barriers) This lock takes half an hour or more to pass through. It has little in the way of meaningful instructions. (In reality, the instruction provided actually help to confuse first time users even more) All the various bits are interlocked and most people meeting the lock for the first time end up operating the lock by a process of trial and error. It's a much quicker option than trying to follow the instructions.

The Memsahib has only ever passed through this lock once before. But she had mastered most of the locks idiosyncrasy the first time. The inspection engineer says “I am glad you are here, I have been unable to figure out how the whole mechanism works” Now we are not aiming our brickbats at the engineer. It was a task that he had never taken on before. However, he did make notes of the way the structure and interlock system worked or in some cases did not work. Like a release catch on the swing bridge that had to be held open. Because the item could not be locked in the released position. We pointed out that, to the engineer that the water level could not be adjusted in the lock, unless the road barriers were in the closed to traffic position and the swing bridge was open.

Picture the scene, you come to the lock moorings and tie up. Close the road barriers, open the swing bridge then start to set the lock to favour your direction of travel. This is a very big lock, it takes quite some time to fill or empty and all this time the road is closed and traffic is building up.  Throughout this period nothing is moving on the road or on the canal. Irate drivers don't help by shouting “advice” and blowing their horn in frustration. When the level is eventually set some time later. You can begin to operate the lock in the normal way. Its a joyous sound of gurgling water, birdsong and shouted expletives all mixed in with a cacophony of car horns.


The lock keepers cottage which has been sold by BW in the past and now sports a sign saying the lock operation has nothing to do with the owners.

Now, imagine this scenario when you are single handed and managing your boat as well. You have left the BW key in one of the three control panels and the buttons are there for anyone to press. Like the driver who gets out of his car, then presses the button to close the gates. Swings the bridge into the closed position and opens the barriers to drive through. Whilst at the same time you are trying to move your boat into the lock. The driver is frustrated, he is self employed and time is money to him. Frustrated because the day before he was caught in the self same position for an hour. When a couple on a boat were as confused about the lock + road barrier + swing bridge interlock operation as the BW inspection engineer. At least the driver did not remove the key or break it off in the lock. I expect either one of the scenarios is only a matter of time.

Later....

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Boat security

We spent last night moored up at Long Sandal. A quiet night in the company or friends John and Tracy. Pooches Poppy and Abbie met up with a very friendly Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Jess from Nb Sorrel.

Having more time on my hands I started to mull over the idea of leaving boats unattended in a safer environment. Recent figures show a rise in motorcycle thefts around Britain.  Organised criminals have realised that bikers when they leave their bikes often can’t find anything to secure their bike or scooter to (lamppost or railings etc) and have to leave their bikes with their chain or wire lock merely wrapped around the wheel to prevent it from being wheeled away.  

A few riders already practise daisy linking security chains as a form of additional security but limited to friends and acquaintances. The problem with locking your bike or scooter to a stranger’s security chain is that it encroaches into personal privacy etc. Lockit2me interlocking provides a form of security that overcomes this. The scheme provides riders with free choice because Lockit2me interlocking is one solution to motorcycle and scooter theft. As only the locks chains are linked, any rider is free to unlock and leave at any time.

Everyone at one time or another needs to leave their boat unattended. It could be as simple as a quick visit to the shops or you may need a day or two to return home. As boaters we do not have many options for leaving a boat unattended for short periods. We could book into a marina but space may not always be available for short term mooring.

Are there alternatives?

On our streets we have organised neighbourhood watch schemes that provide a similar sort of service to householders in a give locality.  Neighbourhood Watch first came to the UK from America during the 1980s. It started in a Cheshire village called Mollington in 1982 and spread quickly throughout the UK. It is sometimes known as Home Watch. However, on public moorings their is no nationally organised boat watch schemes available because boats can be so transient. Yet keeping an eye on other moored boats when the owners are away should not be a problem. It is not beyond our capabilities to organise a boat watching scheme. What is needed is some way to recognise others who would participate in such a boat watch group. There are many Watch schemes based on the original Neighbourhood Watch. For example, Church Watch, Horse Watch, Business Watch, Pub Watch, Farm Watch, School Watch and many more.

There are some Boat Watch schemes in place but they tend to be localised within a marina. BBC click link. Cambridgesire Boat Watch scheme click link. Polruan boat watch scheme click link. Falmouth boat watch scheme click link.

A few ideas!
  • What about an inland waterways group or boating magazine taking up the challenge, to organise a national boat watch scheme. 
  • Is there scope for a boat sitting scheme and are there people available for such a short term role?
  • What about a mooring swap, many people have a home mooring for their boat. The mooring is empty when you are out. Would you allow a boat to spend a night or two empty on your mooring?

Later....