Thursday 30 June 2011

Useful Internet sites for boaters.

Useful Internet sites for boaters, an occasional series of snippets.
MetCheck, supports the most popular small talk subject for the British, on a boat or ashore, the weather. The big conversation subject on a boat being, the merits of cassette toilets -v- pump-out.

I find that MetCheck is a good site for wasting away the hours when its raining, snowing, hailing, or blowing. Our very variable British weather means that now I am quite adept at setting all the on-line MetCheck options.

There are however times when even MetCheck reports the kind of weather for the next millennium that you would like to avoid. So its always useful to have an alternative weather checking location which may be able to supply the required weather prediction. That’s one of the good things about weather prediction standards, there are so many different ones to choose from.

Billions of pounds are spent every year on weather forecasting. One curious thing about our brand of weather is, statistically, if you predict that the weather tomorrow will be the same as it was today you will get it right more often than predicting a change in the pattern of the weather.

I thought you might find of interest the following weather research paper extract. The research was aimed at the "Effect of cloud-scattered sunlight on the earth's energy balance" I know its a catchy little piece and would make for ideal bedtime reading for insomniacs. But for years I’ve thought that insomnia was nothing to lose any sleep over.

Abstract: The spectral changes of the shortwave total, direct and diffuse cloud radiative forcing (CRF) at surface are examined for the first time using spectrally resolved all-sky flux observations and clear-sky fluxes. The latter are computed applying a physically based approach, which accounts for the spectral changes of aerosol optical properties and surface albedo. Application of this approach to 13 summertime days with single-layer continental cumuli demonstrates: (i) the substantial contribution of the diffuse component to the total CRF, (ii) the well-defined spectral variations of total CRF in the visible spectral region, and (iii) the strong statistical relationship between spectral (500 nm) and shortwave broadband values of total CRF. Our results suggest that the framework based on the visible narrowband fluxes can provide important radiative quantities for rigorous evaluation of radiative transfer parametrisation and also can be applied for estimation of the shortwave broadband CRF.

Researchers after long periods of study discovered:-
  • The amount of the Sun's energy that reaches the Earth's surface is the main driver of the Earth's temperature.
  • Comparing values for cloudy sky to the values for a clear sky, the researchers found that, on average, puffy fair-weather clouds cool down the earth's surface by blocking sunlight.
  • Sunlight is scattered by clouds and is the reason why beach-goers can get sunburned even on overcast days.

Kassianov one of the researchers in a moment of pure genius said "If you want to study how aerosols and clouds interact, you need to look in the region of the spectrum where aerosol effects are significant. If you want to fish, you go where the fish are biting."

Kassianov, E., J. Barnard, L. K. Berg, C. N. Long, and C. Flynn (2011), Shortwave spectral radiative forcing of cumulus clouds from surface observations, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L07801, doi:10.1029/2010GL046282.

Like astrologers there are many cranks out on the streets making predictions on everything from the end of the world to tomorrows weather. Their predictions are made from such sources as the scattering chicken entrails, reading tea leaves, positions of the planets on the background of stars and listening to the voices in their head. I prefer the chicken entrails for the accuracy.

I heard a story about one such long term prediction of the weather. A couple of years ago, the autumn was fast approaching and a narrow boater was wondering if the winter this year would be as bad as the last winter. The seasoned boater looked at the sky, checked his seaweed and pine cone, but he did not have any chicken entrails and so was unable to predict what the weather was going to be.

The boater chose to err on the safe side and so he rang up British Waterways to find out what they knew. He figured that British Waterways would need accurate long term predictions of the weather so that the carefully organised winter stoppage program could be planned in advance. Speaking to one of the British Waterways Board members he asked "Is the coming winter going to be cold?" "It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold indeed," the board member replied.

So the old boater started to collect wood in order to be prepared. A week later he called British Waterways again to enquire if there had been any change in the long term weather forecast. The British Waterways Board member replied, "it's still predicted to be a very cold winter." The old boater started to collect every scrap of wood he could find. He even told every other boater he knew and everyone passing by about the British Waterways long term weather predictions.

A month later he called British Waterways again. He asked "Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?" the Board member replied "Absolutely, it's going to be one of the coldest winters on record." "But how can you be so sure?" the old boater asked. The Board member replied, "Take it from me, we know, after all its what we get paid for. Our few remaining staff and dwindling numbers of volunteers are reporting that the boaters everywhere on the system are collecting wood like crazy! Take it from me, we know, it's going to be one of the coldest winters on record."


Wednesday 29 June 2011

Has it gone over your head!

Ever sat outside on a nice clear, warm, moonlit evening with the sounds of the countryside all around you. The soft chirp, chirp, chirp of a Cricket or the odd hoot of an Owl. When combined with a glass of wine, good conversation and lively company. This is the idyllic sort of situation that we would all enjoy.

Yet it is also possible to enjoy any clear, moonless, evening even in the depth of winter by observing the night sky. As boaters we get the chance to moor up away from the bright lights of the towns and cities. Its only then that you get the chance to appreciate and enjoy the real wonder of the night sky.

My introduction to the night sky came as a child, with my mother naming and describing the stars she had been taught about when she was a child. That lit a fire in my imagination that smoldered for many years. Occasionally fed with the late night "Sky at Night" presentations of Patrick Moore. I had my own simple equipment, I much preferred to use binoculars rather than a telescope.  My interest turned from a hobby into an obsession. Many years later in a galaxy far far away,  I used to teach astronomy for a while. We had a good set-up with a purpose built observatory and a very good Meade telescope.

Yet, you don't need a purpose built observatory. You don't  even need to use a telescope. It is surprising what can be observed with just the naked eye. The interesting thing is that when you are observing the night sky, you also become much more aware of other things that are happening around you.

The tools needed are a moonless night, a folding deckchair, a sleeping bag and a pair of low power binoculars are optional. Set the deckchair to its lowest point, so it feels like you are almost in bed. What we are going to observe is going to be overhead. setting the deckchair low will save on any neck discomfort from craning your head back.

It can take quite a while for your eyes to fully acclimatise to the dark, but when they do, its surprising what we can actually make out of our surroundings. Our peripheral vision is usually the more sensitive to low light conditions. So when observing an object, look slightly to one side for best effect.

Position the deckchair so that you are looking towards the South. Put any other items that you might need close at hand. Make yourself a small red light torch (cover over the lens with something a deep red colour, like a sweet wrapper for instance. (the red coloured sweet wrapper contents should be eaten first) I think that Quality Street make for good coloured cellophane wrappers. The red light can be used to illuminate our surroundings if need be without spoiling our night vision. A thermos flask of hot coffee for the very cold nights in winter helps. Climb into the sleeping bag and then settle back in the deckchair and let your eyes begin to adapt to the low light conditions.

As your eyes become more accustomed to the dark, so do your ears, and you will become aware of  the even the faintest of sounds. First there are the obvious sounds of the local wildlife. More intriguing at times are the mystery noises that you have never noticed before. All the sounds have natural origins, the difficulty comes from deciding what the origins actually are.

It is surprising what will come close when you are sat quiet and still. My best so far is a Stoat that was out foraging. It even ran over my feet.

I usually spend up to half an hour just listening with my eyes shut. I have sometimes managed to fall asleep during this! This is when an MP3 player comes in handy, with some good rousing music to help keep you awake. Try not to sing along, I have forgotten myself and done that as well!

So what can we look out for.

We are all aware of the stars and the constellations, or are we?

It is good to be able to pick out some of the more prominent constellations. Typical of this is the constellation of Orion. The best time to view Orion is during the winter months.

Remember that you need a good imagination to visualise what the stars are intended to represent.

Orion, often referred to as "The Hunter" is the most prominent and easy to identify constellation visible in the night sky. The name refers to Orion, a hunter in Greek mythology.

Remember the nursery rhyme. "Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky." We have all taken the time to teach that to our children, in the same way it that it was taught to us by our parents. Its only later that we learn that the stars in the night sky are not diamonds, just small pinpricks of white light.

Here comes the first surprise, not all stars are white. Some are blue and some are red, its just that we don't notice the colour until we take the time to look. There are several interesting coloured stars in Orion that can be be observed with the naked eye.

Rigel the star in the left leg of Orion is a young blue-white star. One of the most luminous of all stars. It has been estimated that Rigel's luminosity is something like 36,000 times that of the sun. 

Betelgeuse the star in Orion's right shoulder is not shining with a steady light.  It is a red star, expanding and contracting spasmodically, but so irregular that no one can predict exactly when it will expand or contract.

The main stars that make up the Orion constellation are :-
Rigel Orion's left leg.
Betelgeuse Orion's right shoulder.
Bellatrix Orion's left shoulder.
Mintaka, Alnilam and Alnitak Orion's belt.
Saiph Orion's right leg.

What we are observing is not what is happening now in the constellation of Orion, but what was happening a long way back in time. The light from Rigel set off towards Earth when Henry III was on the throne. Light from Betelgeuse set off when Henry the VII was on the throne.

One of the hardest things to comprehend is the vast distances that the objects are from us on planet Earth. Measuring the distances in miles or kilometers would give such vast numbers. So we use the speed of light to measure distance.  Light travels at 186,000 miles per second or 300,000,000 metres a second in new money.

Light from the Sun reflected from the Moon takes just under one second to reach the Earth. Light from our own star, the Sun (93,000,000 miles) in about 8 minutes and 19 seconds. The next nearest star to Earth is Proxima Centauri at approximately 4.2 light years away. Rigel is 773 light-years away. Betelgeuse is 522 light-years away Bellatrix is 243 light years away. Mintaka is 900 light years away. Alnilam is 1359 light years away. Alnitak is 800 light years away Saiph is 724 light years away.

In our own galaxy the Milky Way, light takes about 28,000 years to reach Earth from the galactic centre. For light to travel from one side to the other of the Milky Way is about 100,000 years. Our nearest galaxy neighbour is the Andromeda galaxy, light takes about 2,500,000 years to reach Earth.

There are billions of other galaxies out there.

I must dig out my copy of the Hitchhikers Guide to the galaxy and my Red Dwarf videos.


Tuesday 28 June 2011

Piss and Moan club member.

Does British Waterways want our boat licence money?

Our boat licence is due, but we have not had the reminder from BW. We did not get one last year until I complained about the issue. So I thought I could try a few different methods.

  • First attempt, I decided to phone - Got the message - we are busy try again later
  • Second  attempt, I tried to use last years reminder number on line. Did not work.
  • Third attempt, I decided to phone -  Got the message - we are busy try again later
  • Fourth attempt, Email request sent for the reminder number - Two weeks later nothing.
  • Fifth attempt, I decided to phone - Got the message - we are busy try again later
  • Sixth attempt I tried to email the moorings manager so enlist his help - one week later nothing.
  • Seventh attempt,  I decided to phone - Got the message - we are busy try again later
  • Eighth attempt - added a plea to the comments on Robin Evans blog. Awaiting Moderation.
  • Ninth attempt,  I decided to phone - Got the message - we are busy try again later
  • Tenth attempt,  complain by letter to Robin Evans. One week later nothing!
  • Eleventh attempt, Ask my local MP to ask the Minister if he could remind BW that I would like to pay them our boat licence. 
  • Success, four days, later letter arrives from my MP saying he will forward my request to the appropriate department.

Do BW actually want our money?
Does this explain why so many boats are unlicensed?
Why do I have to fight BW to give them money?

In a recent posting titled "Water Water Everywhere" I drew attention to the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his poem of the Ancient Mariner. This set me off thinking about a radical local poet of some renown, who is buried in Darfield church yard near our home. The poet is Ebenezer Elliott, also known as the "corn law rhymer" Elliot is a son of this part of Yorkshire. He led something of a chequered life, but the thing I admire most about him was his radical political views. Wikipedia has a good write-up of Ebenezer Elliot Here.

Ebenezer Elliot always blamed the English "corn laws" for his loss of his fathers fortune. Though he did go on to become a wealthy man in later life. Wikipedia has a good write-up of the Corn Laws Here The corn law rhymes can be read here.

Tonight we walked a part of the old Elsecar branch of the Dearne and Dove canal. There are some parts that are still hold water and a few short sections that have been reclaimed. I hope that one day the sections will be drawn together and the canal made good for navigation once more.

I expect Ebenezer Elliot will arise from the grave and the  Elsecar branch of the Dearne and Dove canal re-opening, will both coincide with BW sending our renewal number. But maybe not!


Monday 27 June 2011

My Timeline.

This century opened with some amazing feats like the first flight by the Wright brothers, Henry Ford's first Model-T and Einstein's Theory of Relativity.  World War II was already underway by the time the 1940s began and it was definitely the big event of the first half of the decade. The Germans launched first true rocket. America exploded first atomic bomb. When World War II ended, the Cold War began. My timeline has many things of significance to me included in it.  Political, electronic, astronomical, recreational, sporting and many more.

What would you add to your timeline?

My timeline starts in June 1947.

1947 Mick was born.
         Transistor invented.
         India declared Independent.
         Coal industry Nationalised.
         Chuck Yeager breaks the Sound Barrier
         Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered
1948 Gandhi is assassinated.
         Creation of the British Transport Commission.
         Inland Waterways Nationalised.
         Olympic Games at Wembley.
         Israel-Arab conflict.
         Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
         NHS formed.
         Apartheid arrives in South Africa.
1949 Mao Tse Tung declares the Communist People's Republic of China.
         First Non-Stop Flight Around the World
1950-1953 Korean War
1950 First Organ Transplant.
         Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union began.
         Timothy Evans last innocent man hanged - granted posthumous pardon.
1951 Festival of Britain.
1952 First Integrated Circuit created.
         Elizabeth II crowned.
         Polio Vaccine Created.
1953 DNA double helix discovered.
1954 Hydrogen bomb exploded at Bikini Atoll.
         Roger Bannister Breaks the Four-Minute Mile
1955 Fibre optics invented.
         Rosa Parks Refuses to Give Up Her Seat on a bus.
         Ruth Ellis last woman to hang.
1956 First Nuclear power station.
         Suez Crisis.
         TV Controller Invented.
1957 Mick met Mags for the first time.
         Sputnik I becomes the first man-made satellite.
         Hydrogen bomb test.
         EEC European Economic Community Established.
         My first trip on a working canal barge.
1958 First motorway, the Preston bypass.
         Hula Hoops become a popular craze.
1959 Great Britain starts using postal codes.
         Castro becomes Cuban Dictator.
1960 Lasers Invented.
1961-1975 Vietnam War.
1961 Yuri Gargarin becomes the first human in space.
         Berlin wall built.
1962 Marilyn Monroe found dead.
1963 President Kennedy is assassinated.
         Martin Luther King makes his "I Have a Dream" speech.
         British Waterways Board created.
         Canals transferred to BWB.
         My First motorycyle
1964 Nelson Mandela sentenced to Life in Prison.
         Cassius Clay becomes world boxing champion.
         Peter Anthony Allen and Gwynne Owen Evans the last men to be hanged.
1965 UK Death penalty abolished.
         Malcolm X Assassinated.
1966 World Cup Win for England
1967 Che Guevara Killed.
         First Heart transplant.
         Six-Day War in the Middle East
1968 Martin Luther King Assassinated.
         Prague Spring.
         Robert F. Kennedy Assassinated.
         The Transport Act re-classified the nationalised waterways.
1969 Moon Voyage.
         Neil Armstrong walks on the surface of the moon.
         Concord flies.
         ARPANET, the Precursor of the Internet, Created.
          I Got Married.
1970 Computer Floppy Disks.
         Beatles Break Up
1971 India-Pakistan War.
         UK Changes to Decimal Currency.
         My eldest daughter born.
1972 First email.
         Britain joins EU.
         Mark Spitz Wins Seven Gold Medals
         Pocket Calculators Introduced.
         Watergate Scandal Begins.
         My youngest daughter born.
1973 Yom Kippur War.
         US Pulls Out of Vietnam
1974 President Nixon Resigns.
         Terracotta army discovered in China.
1975 Margaret Thatcher becomes British Prime Minister.
         Microsoft Founded.
1976 First Personal Computer.
         Nadia Comaneci given seven perfect tens.
1977 Elvis Found Dead.
1978 BBC bans Sex Pistols
1979-1989 Afghanistan - Soviet Occupation
1979 Mother Theresa Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
1980 John Lennon Murdered.
         Rubics cube takes off.
1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War
1981 Ronald Reagan president.
         Humber bridge opened.
1982 Falkland Islands War.
         Mary Rose Raised After 437 Years
1983 Grenada - American Invasion
1984 Miners strike.
         Indira Gandhi, India's Prime Minister Assassinated.
1985 Famine in Ethiopia.
         Hole in the Ozone Layer Discovered.
         Gorbachev Calls for Glasnost and Perestroika.
         Wreck of the Titanic Found.
         End of the Cold War.
1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion.
         Chernobyl Nuclear Accident.
1987 DNA First Used to Convict Criminals.
1988 Pan Am Flight 103 Is Bombed Over Lockerbie.
1989 Tiananmen Square Protests, China.
         World Wide Web.
         Panama - American invasion.
         Fall of the Berlin Wall.
1990 First Gulf War, Desert Storm.
         Hubble Telescope Launched Into Space
         Lech Walesa Becomes First President of Poland
         Nelson Mandela Freed
1991 Collapse of the Soviet Union
         Operation Desert Storm
         South Africa Repeals Apartheid Laws.
        Tim Berners Lee invents the World Wide Web.
1992 Official End of the Cold War
1993 World Trade Center Bombed
1994 Rwanda Genocide
         Channel Tunnel Opens
         Nelson Mandela Elected President of South Africa
         Rwandan Genocide.
1995 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin Assassinated.
1996 Mad Cow Disease Hits Britain
         Two Royal Divorces
1997 Hale-Bopp Comet Visible.
         Hong Kong Returned to China .
         Princess Diana dies.
         Scientists Clone Sheep.
         Blair Elected PM
1998 Viagra on the Market.
1999 NATO Attacks Serbia.
         The Euro the New European Currency.
         First draft of the human genome.
         Began study at university for MSc
2000 Israel withdraws from southern Lebanon.
         Vladimir Putin elected president of Russia.
2001 World Trade Center is destroyed.
         Foot and mouth epidemic.
         MSc Graduation
2002 Bush/Blair produce fake evidence of WMDs in Iraq.
         Purchased our home "Wits End"
2003 Iraq War.
         Space shuttle Columbia breaks up on re-entry.
         England wins Rugby World Cup
2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
2005 Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans.
         Blair re-elected to third term.
         London awarded 2012 Olympics.
         Boating holiday on the Shroppie.
2006 Rose of Arden built.
         Cash for Honours Scandal
2007 Boating holiday on the broads.
2008 Barack Obama elected president.
2009 Search for a narrow boat began.
         First posting into this blog.
         Britain officially entered recession.
         United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal.
         Speaker Martin sacked from Parliament.
2010 Rose of Arden purchased.
         Recession turned into a crash.
2011 Mick retired.
Newly-discovered asteroid 2011 MD will pass only 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) above Earth's surface on Monday June 27 NASA analysts say there is no chance the space rock will strike Earth. Nevertheless, the encounter is so close that Earth's gravity will sharply alter the asteroid's trajectory.


Sunday 26 June 2011

Laying down on the job.

I did it, I started to take the boat to pieces. Well I say started, in reality I struggled to even make a start to take the boat to pieces. Rosie, was put together so very well, far too well to be honest. Three brass screws were used where one or two would have been more than enough. To add to this, a very good quality wood glue that had been used to add additional strength. Then about three coats of varnish. Oh, and every screw hole had been filled and topped of by one of those small wood blanking plates. I would say that quality oozes out of every joint, but in reality every joint could never ooze because of the way its been put together. I am only talking about the seating in the saloon here. 

What is obvious is that the level of craftsmanship and care to detail of the saloon couch/bed speak volumes about the finish on the rest of the boat. Well done to Richards Narrow Boats of Henley in Arden who fitted out Rosie. Seven years on the build quality has withstood the test of time. I had decided to take the couch/bed apart and to store it flat pack style for future use. Now, I have taken out only the necessary fittings to let me remove the seat as one single piece.

Next to be tackled was the flooring, which was made up of white shag pile carpet. (You can imagine how easy that was to keep clean with two dogs on board). removing the carpet tiles let me get down to the floor. I had always wanted to do a visual inspection, just to see what things were like under the floor. I am please to report that everything is actually very dusty and dry. The steelwork has been covered in some sort of bitumen sealant. The ballast is made up of very heavy block pavers, the type used to lay house drives. Now, came an ideal opportunity. Rosie has always had a slight list to port, a bit like me after a Friday night out with the boys. This list gets more pronounced, especially when the pump out tank is half full or higher. To keep a good level, I usually move heavy items around in the roof box to compensate.

So talking advantage of the opportunity, I moved some of the brickwork from the port side to starboard to help settle the trim a bit better. Because the weight being moved was below the waterline, it was a surprise to see that moving a small number of the pavers, had a much more pronounced effect than manipulating a larger weight around in the roof box. I need to look further forward on Rosie to see if I can move some ballast in the same way. So that the change in position of the weight is along the length of the boat rather than just at one end. The bedroom has similar carpets down. I might replace the floor in there as well at some point.

The next task is to identify some suitable floor covering. The galley has Amtico on the floor which is very hard wearing and looks good. The problem with this type of material is the need for it to be glued into place. This means if I need to go under the floor in the galley for any reason.  It will be problematical and would cause a good bit of damage to lift the floor up again.

The other possibility is to use the tongue and groove type of wood effect laminates in the saloon, this should be easier to remove if the need should arrive later. A third alternative is the RhinoFloor Vinyl type of floor covering. So many styles, colours and finishes to choose from. This could take a while to get the right covering in the right pattern and the right colour for the job.

Once the floor is back in place the next job will be to fit a Pullman style diner that also converts into a bed.

Under the seat on one side we want to install a freezer chest.  To give additional long term storage of food. I need to identify the freezer before building the Pullman so that the seats are built to a size sufficient for the freezer unit to fit inside. The other side of the Pullman diner is to be used for general storage.

If you are thinking about a fridge or freezer for your boat. A good source of 12vdc/mains/gas fridges or freezers on-line is Mini-Coolers.


Saturday 25 June 2011

Fund Raising Magician.

British Waterways has hired the appropriately named Ms Ruderham to steer the Leviathan that is British Waterways into the maelstrom of raising charitable donations for the waterways. I hope she was a pupil at Hogwarts, because Ruth is going to have to be a fund raising magician.

Presenting BW as a charity to the public will be as difficult as selling sand to the Arab nations.  The perception of BW is as a Quango and everyone and their pet cat has a dislike of the old Quangos. That's why the government wanted to disband them - It appeals to the public perception that they are a thing of the past. Not to be resurrected and re branded as a charity, wearing the kings new clothes. Everyone can see through that one with the exception of the highly paid and pension privileged few at the top.

According to the Tax Payers Alliance "In the year 2006-07, tax payers funded 1,162 Quangos at a cost of nearly £64bn the equivalent to £2,550 per household. Since the coalition government was formed over 80 public bodies funded by government have been abolished under plans to reduce the size of the public sector, as a route to reducing the overall budget deficit. However about a thousand still remain."

A recent document from the government suggests that another 177 public bodies could also face abolition. The focus this time has been on bodies that facilitate arts, health, business, education, policing and the environment. I wonder how many of these ex quangos will be going cap in hand looking to the public for charitable donations.

I know that BW has had a hard time with critics. However, to its credit BW is very supportive of the critics, by giving them so much to choose from.

This started me thinking about who is actually going to donate money to British Waterways and why they would want to do it. The problem is I can't think of anyone who would want to throw good money after bad. In the main because BW gets such a large amount of stick from the waterways users.
Charitable fund raisers in the UK are already deeply concerned about the fund raising issues in the present financial climate.

You have to be seen to be a worthwhile charity, to get people to put their hands in their pockets. Donations given to charities like Cancer Research has a feel good factor for the donor and something of a ring to it. People on the street generally would contribute to such a worthy cause. British Waterways the charity does not have a feel good factor about it. Quite the opposite.

The public perception is one of the government quietly euthanizing quango's to save money. If the change to charity status for BW was to take place, it should have been done twenty years ago. You could not pick a better time as a charity to crash and burn in flames than now.

So the first big hurdle is to overcome is the piss poor perception of BW in the public mindset. If you approached the average Joe in the street and said, would you like to give a donation to help support and run the canals systems in the UK. The answer would be very sharp and not so sweet No, Nada.

Corporate Donations. I don't have an opinion on corporate giving, other than it is going to have to fill a huge hole. Plus, what is in it exactly for the corporates anyway? They could get equal if not more kudos from supporting any other charity that has a proven track record. BW as no track record that anyone would want to hang their corporate hat onto. Sucking up to the corporates would be one way, which allows them to purchase a great deal of influence. I can see it now, on the charity website. BW is proud to be sponsored by Incontinence Knickers "R" Us.

Other charities such as the RSPB have a membership. I pay about £60 a year for our family membership. I am happy to do that because I can see the outcome, as more and more reserves and conservation areas come on line. I can read about their positive outcomes in the quarterly magazine. I can see a large number of volunteers doing their bit to keep the wheels running. If you ask a volunteer in the RSPB why they do it, one common answer will be to make the charitable donations go further.

Would I be prepared to pay anything like £60 pounds a year membership fee to the "BW the charity" or alternatively would I work as a "BW volunteer", I don't think so.

In the first place I would want to be able to see real tangible evidence that the donation was being spent in such a way that, I as a boater (who is already giving a couple of thousand a year into the pot) had confidence that significant improvements were being made. I will not put any money into a existing black hole. I need to know that a sensible business plan for improvement of the canals and rivers is actually in place and I need to know that it is working. I also want full accountability and not to have to go via the FoI act to get the clarity.

A second reason why I would not contribute is because of the high pay and pension provision for the top people. I feel that the inflated terms and conditions are beyond the pale. The pay regime would have to undergo drastic realignment for me to spend my hard earned money.

The third reason is a lack of confidence that the transition to charity team will make the correct choices. I see three of the old BW senior management siting in the transition team and my sphincter tightens. This is a bit lower down that the more usual gut feeling, but could be an indication of where we are soon going to be. 

But there are other big chasms on the horizon. The Treasury Select Committee has re-opened its investigation into the proposed abolition of all bank cheques by 2018.

nfpSynergy said "Loss of income, particularly from valued older donors. Increased admin costs and poorer procedural transparency. Lack of payment alternatives; and lack of research into whether donors would indeed use any available alternatives come 2018. Concern that changes are being done primarily for the benefit of the banks - at a cost to charities and other parts of the economy. Loss of the personalised ‘feel-good factor’ arguably unique to writing cheques."

Joe Saxton former chair of the Institute of Fundraising - comments: “Cheques have a different role in raising money for charities than in most business models. When somebody makes a donation to a charity there is no greatly desired or needed ‘product’ to buy, by whatever method the producer deems necessary. So, if the mechanism through which a donation must be made is too difficult, donors may simply not bother at all. The vast majority of charities are saying that over 50% of income comes from new and existing donors via cheque.

Charities are already being hit by a sluggish economy and government spending cuts. So any abolition of cheques would be a triple whammy indeed, were it to happen. Fundraisers expect high levels of income to still be coming from cheques in 2018. So, if that deadline is to be kept, then the charity sector will need far more support than they presently get in converting donors to other payment mechanisms, to avert a potentially catastrophic resultant slump in revenue and just as we enter an era of undoubted increased charitable need.”

The biggest chasm of all, is going to be the competition around charity fundraising.

There is a finite amount of charitable money available. Many charities that previously did not actively seek funding, are going to join the ever growing throng. Many charities that have been around for years have their "regulars" who give frequent donations. On a significant number of occasions long term donors leave large amounts of money in their wills to their favourite charity. Small charities who are feeling the pinch will only have to raise relatively small amounts to continue their activities. BW the charity is huge, it dwarfs all other the other charities who will be scrabbling in the pile for new donors.

Ruth Ruderham herself says her new role presents an unusual opportunity. "It's not often a new charity of this size and status is born. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a fundraiser to have a start-up charity that's not tiny. The organisation has an ambitious fundraising target: it wants to become one of the top 100 charities by voluntary income within the next decade, which would involve raising £13m a year. It [BW] has been working with Think Consulting Solutions to achieve this goal.

Now, I have one big concern with the above. The £13 million one can only assume is a target, it has not yet been achieved as a goal. So why the need to "big it up" as an achievement! I will put that down to new girl exuberance. Being able to set a target is not in my opinion an achievement, now meeting the target is a different thing.

Ruderham says "The launch will provide a critical fundraising moment. You're new only once, she says. We've got an amazing opportunity. Individual fundraising will be the main focus initially. British Waterways will attempt to build a strong supporter base, either through membership or by asking people to give by direct debit."

Trainee volunteer
donation collectors
If you don't have the right mindset to start with, I see troubles ahead.

Carla Miller said " I'm always disappointed to see charities express their goals in terms of comparisons to other charities eg British Waterways aiming to be one of the top 100 charities by voluntary income in the next decade. It seems like a slightly soulless goal to me. Personally I'd rather raise funds for, and donate to, charities which express their goals in terms of their purpose, passion and the difference they plan to make. Let's stop talking about being the leading, top, biggest or best charity in our field and focus on communicating about the ways we change lives and the world and how donors can be part of that."

I wonder if BW have a "Purpose, passion and a difference they plan to make."
Ah! The penny has dropped, you will have to be a member of the charity to get a licence for your boat. So that will be £60 a pop for each boater, and plastic please as we don't do cheques.
Rather than paying out to Think Consulting Solutions, BW should just download the 2011 Sunday Times Rich List. Target the 1000 wealthiest people in the country. Nip round in the van and shake the collection tin under their noses, they are after all collectively worth about £400 billion.


Thursday 23 June 2011

Batman and Dobbin

Glastonbury Festival time again, you can always tell when the festival is due to start. The clouds roll in and the rain tips down.

I took the dogs out for a walk last night a bit later than I usually do. I took with me my trusty bat detector to see what nocturnal wildlife was around. There are 18 species of bat in the UK (17 of which are known to be breeding here). I have so far over the last two years detected six different species.

All bat species are diminishing in numbers, possibly due to their diet of insects reducing because of pesticides and habitat loss. Bats hibernate in winter when their food source is at its most scarce. Bats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, The Habitats Regulations 1994 and the Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000.

We have a large farm field hedgerow in the back garden. There are several horses in the field beyond and it seems that Dobbin's poo must be good for attracting insects. The bat detector picked up a few Daubentons bats. Daubenton's tend to frequent all kinds of waterways as their preferred habitat. There is a large lake about 150 yards away behind the house. So I assume that its the lake that attracts them into the area and our back garden is on their flight path to the lake.  Daubentons are known as the "water bat" as they fly low over the water, fishing for emerging insects on the water surface.

Daubenton's Sound.
Daubenton's Factsheet.

I also detected a few Common Pipistrelle bats hunting along the hedgerow. Pipistrelles are the commonest British bat. A single Pipistrelle can eat several thousand tiny insects in just one night! When I reached the field where I let the dogs run free. I detected another Pipistrelle which went on to do a master class in hunting down insects. There was just enough light to be able to see the silhouette of the bats and the larger insect prey. It seemed that the bat at times would only be able to catch an insect after many attempts, but they are persistent little furry beasts!

The moths had a curious tight spiralling downwards flight whenever they detected the ultrasound of the bats. The bats were not agile enough to spiral as fast or to turn in as tight a circle as the moths. The Pipistrelle bats seemed unable to detect the moths once they were very close to the ground.

Pipistrelle Sound.
Pipistrelle Factsheet.

Later, I detected what I think is a Barbastelle bat, the habitat, flight pattern, size, sound and the frequency 37khz seem to fit this little flying mammal's modus operandi. I will get Dr Steph to bring her professional bat detector on her next visit. A sonogram is the only way to confirm if Barbastelle are in the vicinity. There are nine known species recorded by the bat group in my area and the Barbastelle is not one of them.

Barbastelle Sound.
Barbastelle Factsheet.

From time to time I could detect a fourth kind of bat, but one whose sound I had never detected before. At the time I had no idea which kind of bat it was. After about half an hour messing around in the dark during a heavy rain shower trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive bat. The penny dropped and I suddenly figured out which kind of bat it was. It turned out to be a very rare WHFT bat.

Chameleon ELF tm-1
Our two Wire Haired Fox Terriers have just been fitted with new metallic name tags in addition to their metallic "chip ID" tags. The ultra sound of the tags jiggling together are not audible to us humans. The bat detector picks them up without a problem. The standard test of a bat detector in the absence of bats is to jiggle a set of keys, I should have known better.
Magenta Bat5
Two soggy doggies and one soggy bloke arrived home feeling a bit of a twerp!

I use a Magenta Bat5 digital hetrodyne detector, which is a mid range device. I am looking forward to being able to do some bat observations. Using the detector and a Chameleon ELF tm-1 night vision monocular when we are out on the boat later in the summer.


Wednesday 22 June 2011

A chance search.

 © Wivenhoe and Rowhedge
Yacht Owners
Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, so we are now heading back towards the winter folks! Now that I have made your day, I will witter on with another topic.

A chance search on the web brought up some information about Christopher Nicole. He is the author of over a hundred novels in virtually all the genres of popular fiction. Christopher is also a keen sailor, and therein lies the start to a coincidence. Born in Georgetown, Guyana in the West Indies in 1930, Christopher Nicole developed a love of sailing in the Caribbean and went on cruise thousands of nautical miles with his Bermudan yacht Rose of Arden. The namesake of our Rose of Arden.
© drascombe-association
Christopher Nicole is now a resident of Guernsey and one time was Commodore of Royal Channel Islands Yacht Club.
Built by Whisstocks, in 1939, Rose of Arden is a 30-foot Bermudan Yacht designed by Dr Thomas Harrison-Butler.
Rose of Arden was the first of four vessels built to the same design, all involving the 'metacentric shelf formula' which was much favoured by the Doctor. Another of the group, WaterMaiden, still survives having made many crossings of the Atlantic.

Publisher Andrew Cocks is the current custodian of Rose of Arden, which is stationed at Brightlingsea in Essex. Rose of Arden (the yacht) featured on the cover of the thriller “The Eliminator” 2011 printing some 45 years after it was first published.

An email from the present custodian "My Rose of Arden (we are not really owners but custodian for a period of their history) was thus named because Harrison-Butler was an Ophthalmic surgeon practicing in Birmingham but living in Hampton in Arden. He designed a sequence of boats Edith Rose, Rose of Arden, Dream of Arden as a quest to find the perfectly balanced boat, under sail that is. A long keel and offset propeller gives me a turning circle barely competitive with your own but when sailing she’s a stunner."

Next time we are down in Essex we will certainly make a point of going to have a little peep at the other "Rose of Arden" our boats name sake.

Another, chance encounter was a picture by Arden Rose, who is an artist who paints scenes from around the world in the French impressionist style. I love art, I love the French impressionist style, more than any other form. So much so that I went to Rome just to see three Monet's a few years ago. One of Arden Rose's pictures is titled Henley and the subject matter is the River Thames at Henley. I remember admiring the picture in the past. When we saw Rose of Arden for the first time I had feelings of Deja Vu at the time but could not bring the reason to mind.

To see some of Arden Rose's work Click Here

I timed my Monet visit to Rome by chance (April 2005) to fit-in exactly with the late pope's funeral. I managed to get myself into St Peters square. I was stood right in front of the all the worlds television cameras. I spent so much time on TV that friends were ringing my mobile to chat. Another friend living in India even recognised me and phoned to ask me to buy her a crucifix whilst I was there. (but that's another story for another posting)


Tuesday 21 June 2011

Water, water, everywhere.

My Pan European motorcycle has now gone to an new owner and I am missing it more than I thought I would. Ah well, I shall be working on my Honda 600cc four cylinder, pocket rocket for the next few days. Its the end of my infatuation with the Pan Euro. You have to own and ride one to understand.

But as usual I digress away from my topic of the day...

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner relates the events experienced by a sailor who has returned from a long sea voyage.

Day after day, day after day;
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship;
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, every where;
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where;
Nor any drop to drink.

In the on-off drought in parts of the UK the ancient mariners words might well strike a chord.

Canals and the fabled water grid seem to have hit the big time once again. With newspapers, television and radio all having various news items over the last few weeks related to the on-off drought issue. To understand the background to the national water grid you need to have a look at some of the old as well as the new research that is being done.

There is no way that I could begin to address all the issues around the water grid provision using existing and new constructed canals on my blog. But as waterway users we should take a keen interest in what is going on.  There is a possible funding opportunity here for the new waterways charity if some sections of the canals become part of the water grid infrastructure. Widening and deepening for a start.
In terms of positive impacts, from drought conditions. It is good for people to learn to use water with greater efficiency. Which can go some way to help to keep the precious water from being unnecessarily wasted. Saving water by its self is not enough to address the problem.
The main issue for a national water grid, centre around having enough water for various essential human needs. The water grid would kick-start more research into the environmental matters such as the impact on existing habitats.

The Environment Agency said "The idea of a national water grid had been looked at many times: In engineering terms, a national grid is feasible, but the question is whether we should build one. It needs to be looked at in terms of the pressures on water resources and what is the most sustainable solution."

The curious thing for me about the EA stance is that only a small number of drivers are being looked at. Rather than starting on the premise that the provision of a water grid is a good thing. The questions then being, what are the negative impacts that the water grid would create. What can be done to mitigate those impacts. Look at the savings to be made. Then examine the positives impacts on our life style and the environment. A national water grid should be looked at in much greater detail with checks and balances that don't only address the business interests of the water companies. The reason for a water grid go far beyond the economics of the water provision business.

Desalination. The water grid provision should also create a reduction in any need for ultra expensive desalination treatment of sea water.

Farmland irrigation. The water grid provision as a project should also be part of any system intended to help mitigate crop losses in time of drought.

Habitat and Leisure. Additional wetland wildlife habitat creation and additional waterways leisure provision is another hidden benefit of the water grid, but only on the parts that are not underground..

Reservoir projects. The distribution canals will themselves provide for a large water storage volume. In times of local flood condition the water grid infrastructure could also be used to syphon off large volumes of flood water. This could be a much cheaper option in some areas than building large flood containment structures.

Electrical power generation. Small scale generation of power is now more economical than ever. If the power users are local to the generation site then so much the better. This is not a new idea, using water to generate power for grinding corn has been around for centuries. Replacing the grinding wheels with a generator is the basic change. The water grid could also look at power generation provision issues.

Estuary Barrage Systems. Research into the construction of barrage systems as an anti flood measure and power generation systems in some of our major estuaries is already going on a pace. Some estuaries could change into fresh water lagoons. This could be a better option than loosing land to reservoir storage provision. 

Water transport. Canals and rivers have been used for hundreds of years to transport materials. The economics of canal transport are looking to be a bit more of an attractive solution as road transport costs increase. Rail has increasingly diverged into passenger carrying with limited amount of containerised freight movement. As before the the location of the canals to the site of the industry is one of the deciding factors. But some waterways are also used to transport various types of effluent, in the form of flood run-off, agricultural land run-off and treated sewage run-off. This use of canals and rivers as a part of a water grid would require many existing sites to be improved with regard to their impact on the water quality.

Redistribution of population. Population growth in certain areas like the south and east exacerbates the problem. It has been predicted that the water supply for more than half a million new homes in the south and east of England will probably be inadequate without investment in new resources and measures. Why create the problem then look to find a solution. Provide the water provision solution before the major building projects start. It is easier to provide a new water grid canal so that the building projects can be designed to use the visual amenity that such waterway canals would bring. It can also be a solution to over excessive migration away from the city into the surrounding suburbia and the additional commuting chaos that would bring.

Employment long and short term. There are many different perspectives on the water grid policy, one key factor would be the provision of employment during the key building phase. Then the provision of employment throughout the system for long term maintenance. In other words the water grid should not be part of the water companies portfolio. It should be a national asset and a public asset.

I could conclude that we can’t yet predict what the real benefit of the water grid provision for local livelihoods will be in the future. But we already know what the impact on livelihoods are in a time of drought. We should be starting on the premise that the provision of a national water grid is a good thing and proceed from there.


Monday 20 June 2011


It was fathers day yesterday for those of you with a poor memory. It was also a very poignant day for us canal blogsters as well. Some of you might enjoy reading the Blog of Alan (Al) aboard Nb Buggerlugs. Always interesting and written in a vary relaxed conversational style. For those who don't know, Al had a serious accident when he fell into a dry dock and suffered a life threatening injury.

Matt, Al's son has taken over running the blog these are his words from the 23rd of May. "At approx. 4.30pm on Saturday 21st May it was the end of the world as we knew it for all those closest to Alan, my father and author of this blog. He has fallen into the dry dock and has suffered a life threatening head injury, his skull is fractured, he has multiple broken ribs and other minor injuries. He has a bleed onto his brain and is in the critical care unit, he is in a coma but stable all that can done is being done."
Latest update. Saturday the 18th of June. "Couldn't believe my eyes no nccu ward, no wires, no tubes just the old warrior sat there raising his hand into a pistol shape and pretending to shoot us as we walked towards his bed, the smile said it all no words needed to be spoken we just looked at each other with a nod. It was better than any fathers day I could of planned."
I am sure that many of you boaters would like to offer your best wishes to Al for a very speedy recovery. Click Here and post a comment.

Well, I am expecting that we might get some visitors tomorrow. A phone call at 8:45 this morning proved that the advert for the Honda Pan Euro was online on Motorcycle News. This was followed up by a couple of email messages.  I think I was secretly hoping no one would be interested and I would keep it for another couple of years. The Memsahib is wanting to downsize the house and so that also means downsizing the garage.

Latest boat news: I have just been authorised by the Memsahib to take up the carpet tiles in the saloon on Rosie and lay a wood laminate floor in its place. Guess what I will be doing next week.

Sunday 19 June 2011

I'm Going Batty

I think I maybe losing it!

I have bitten the bullet and put my beloved up for sale. After being infatuated with her for a number of years, I had finally realised the time had come to move on. Described as being in reasonably good order for her age, considering that she has been round the block a few times. Scrubs up well and is quite frugal when it comes to the liquid stuff.

No not the memsahib, do keep up! My 1300cc Pan European motorcycle has been advertised on MCN (Motorcycle News) But I still have four other bikes to play with.

Yes, OK, I admit it, I've gone batty.

BCT (Bat Conservation Trust) is the only national organisation solely devoted to the conservation of bats and their habitats in the UK. Monitoring bats is essential as over the last 60 years it would seem that many of our bat species have declined dramatically. British Waterways recently launched this year’s Wildlife survey with bats as their target species.

Did you know that the Bat Conservation Trust are trying to map sightings of bats. The project is called the "Big Bat Map" and it can be found here. Click Link I like bats I have one of those ultrasonic bat detectors which is good for identifying the different kinds of bats as the frequency range is specific for each kind.

Information is available about the 2009  Urban Bat Survey Project, you can read the survey report here. Click Link 

Bat Detectors.
The sounds that you get on a bat detector depend considerably on the type of detector you are using. If you are considering the purchase of a bat detector. Colin Catto, former Director of the National Bat Monitoring Programme, has written a down loadable and detailed paper on which mini bat detector is appropriate for different purposes.

There is a down loadable Bat Detector Information Pack, which gives a summary of bat detectors, a list of those currently available on the market, their design features and approximate cost.

Detectors are available to buy at the Bat Bazaar website.

There is also a Bat Conservation Trust Blog available. Click Link.
What would be good is if interested boaters who see bats can make a note of what they observe. then create a login and add them to the map. You don't have to identify the type of bat you have observed if you are unsure.

Location - a post code or a location name will do.
Time of day - Dusk, Evening, Night and Morning.
Numbers seen - Single, 2 to 5 etc.
Behaviour - What they were doing, circling, passing through etc.
Notes - Any additional notes you care to add.

An Identification Chart by the Mammal Society can be found on eBay for less than £4.

An 8-panel laminated fold-out chart includes all 16 species of bats that live and breed in Britain. Produced in partnership with The Mammal Society, it has two parts; a guide to bat identification using flight patterns; and a key for bat identification in the hand.

This chart is part of the FSC's range of fold-out charts, designed to help users identify of a wide range of plants and animals. Each chart is laminated to make it shower-proof and robust for use outdoors. Clear colour illustrations and text by experts in the subject make these a valuable resources for.

Later .....

Saturday 18 June 2011

Blog Milestones.

Well, I have reached another couple of milestones with the blog. This is my 250th posting since starting the blog back on the 27th of December 2009. Here we are some 537 days later. That's almost one posting every two days. I imagined back in December 2009 that there would be very little interest in what I was doing.  The blog then was little more than a series of regular notes that I could refer back to.

I have always enjoyed putting pen to paper. After some 25 years working in academia it is only natural. I find that by researching  and writing about  a particular subject, I get a much better understanding for myself. This is of course the basic teaching model for students. Talk about an issue or topic. Send them off to the library to read and research about the issue or topic. Then get them to write about the issue or topic. Old habits I suppose.

The second milestone is that the blog as also had its 15,000 visitor. So 537 days after the 27th of December 2009, The average number of visitors a day is 27.9, now that is a real surprise. However, is is only 49 days since the 29th of April 2011 when the blog reached 10,000 visitors which is 102 visitors a day.

I have made a more concerted effort to vary the content a bit. Boating as a subject has plenty of people who are blogging about their day-to-day activities. For me I changed the content to offer more observations on life and at the same time injecting a large dose of wry humour and satire along the way. Being a technological nerd with a sense of humour is breaking away from the traditional stereotype of the twelve pen shirt pocket.

A new gadget has been purchased for use aboard Rosie. A small fold away rotary washing line. Small enough to be attached with a TV antenna clamp to the tiller arm. You could also set it up on its stand if you have some space on your mooring. At just under £17 each they are available from your local Lidl store.

Sturdy, lightweight aluminium construction – only 1.95kg
Ideal for boating, camping, balconies and patios
Quick and easy to assemble/disassemble
Top and base sections separate for easy storage
UV-, weather- and corrosion-resistant
Drying area approx. (m): 14
Size open approx. (cm): 145 x 152 x 152
2 year manufacturer’s warranty