Monday 30 September 2013


Well, we have reached yet another milestone of 150,000 page views and still counting. I am pleased to say that things are still on the up for visitors coming to view the blog. I don't claim to have any special talents other than having the odd rant at CaRT, twiddling with android apps and observing and giving comment upon other things that interest me. Such as politics, conservation and sometimes even the inland waterways.

Over time I have made some deliberate changes to the blog content, just to test the water so to speak. I wanted to try and establish what interested the readership. I wondered, if I could change the number of pageviews by what I chose to write about. Certainly a single posting was not enough to make the change. That's why sometimes you will see a series of posts with a common thread. Sometimes with each post numbered and sometimes not numbered at all.

You might have noticed that I have a sort of ironic sense of humour. Which I try to inject into my postings.  I have been described by one commenter who knows me as 'Jack Dee in deck shoes' and that observation I will treasure for ever and it certainly made my day.

I took a snapshot of page views at the end of August. This shows the trend over a period of just over three and a half years. The peaks and troughs illustrate two things. The season of the year has an effect as does the topics that I concentrated upon. A second thing that I get from the graph illustration is that page views will plateau in a year or so from now at around 9,500 pageviews a month. That is because the blog topic is a 'narrow' one so to speak. Boating has a limited audience.

The most popular turn on and turn off, as you might well expect is BW/CaRT. 

If I choose to ignore CaRT the trend over time is downwards. If I concentrate more on CaRT the number of pageviews goes up. So one of the staples for the blog should be to continue to pass my observations upon the trials and tribulations of a pre-pubescent CaRT. 

One or two readers and Richard Parry the new CEO have said that I should be more positive about how well CaRT performs. The problem is that positives are much less frequent in arriving than the metaphoric 'I shot myself in the foot again' disasters. Disasters which we have all been conditioned to expect. Disasters which are just like public transport, you stand around waiting for one and then suddenly several wonderful examples arrive all at once.

I have noticed that there is a formula to the CaRT dealing with cock-ups. 

The first point in the formula is: When something goes wrong - there is immediately a bit of spin applied to the report. The cause is never in house and never, ever, down to a lack of maintenance. Yet we all know that the role of the lengths men have been disposed of. Plus CaRT has underspent year on year according to their own published figures.

One of the more recent ones that tickled my humour bone was 'The great tidal wave on the Wolverhampton 21'. It has all the makings of a disaster film just in the name alone. Here is the plot line: A lock wall is in the early stages of collapse and its cause is down to a very carefully choreographed tidal wave perpetrated by a group of unknown vandals. Who seem to have perfected the technique all in one go. There is one problem, the only way that the water could get down is over the bywash and through the paddles. Not all paddles are working. I have been on the flight where the level was low, and it took me almost an hour to let water down the flight.
All this is aided and abetted by the latest new CaRT bogeyman of global warming, which is now the CaRT answer to all water shortages. Which currently is the major blame for causing a loss of the liquid stuff in the cut. Whoops, even after the wettest year on record in 2012 with groundwater in aquifers at record levels. But water saving measures are already in place in the middle of the cruising season. Even CaRT can't blame 'global warming' for a general lack of non water. Or for the deluge of non water creating a non water tidal wave. 
It certainly has nothing to do with the mirage of leaking locks and the mirage of mud bringing the bottom much closer to the top. It certainly has nothing to do with the mirage of a - year on year - carefully orchestrated underspend in the maintenance budget. 

The second point in the formula is: This is then followed by optimism on the grand scale. The spin doctors reported that 'The problem will be sorted by the middle of July' I knew it was a load of old tosh, my dogs knew it was a load of old tosh. CaRT knew it was a load of old tosh. Well gosh and golly by the middle of July work had hardly started. It was a load of old tosh.

The third point in the formula is: The deafening quiet that descends as questions are being asked. It's like a surreal form of the News at Ten opening credits. 

Bong 'are you sure it was a tidal wave' - Silence.
Bong 'are you sure it will be fixed by mid july' - Silence.
Bong 'is it down to a lack of maintenance' - Silence.
Bong 'would it not be better to have a lengthsman back' - Silence.
Bong 'how much will it cost' - Silence.
Bong 'what went wrong. - Silence.

But I digress, back to the blog stuff. 

The most recent popular turn on and turn off - as you might not expect is 'Dear Bill'. When I first started the Dear Bill letters, many readers were mystified by the content. I know that my po faced humour has always been enjoyed by some the readers. Now the Dear Bill letters (which I shamelessly purloined the idea from Private Eye) seem to be amongst the top read content. It has been fun choosing suitable characters beyond the usual ones of old.

Based upon a spoof charity called the 'Cycling Angling Rambling Trust' which is viewed from the towpath by a couple of old boaters known as 'Dear Bill and Cap't Bob' where the two old buffers correspond with each other by mail. You only ever see one side of the conversation. The letters from Cap't Bob and you sort of fill in the blanks for yourself.

Bill 'Willi' Gedit The recipient of letters, friend, bon viveur and raconteur. The reader of regular tidbits of news. Owner of a full set of golf bats and a handicap that can only go down. Famous statement "What! You too? I thought I was the only one."

Cap't Bob A man of letters also known to go overboard at times. A 'typical IWA type' a liveaboard boat owner, who constantly cruises between the water point, the pump out and the £25 a night visitor moorings. We all know such people are fictitious and do not exist. Bob's famous statement "I never forget a face, but in your case I'd be glad to make an exception."

A storyline based around well known locations such as the 'Bucket and Chuck it' one of a chain of 110 canal side pubs. Or the 'Cinque Marina' a struggling business that it trying hard to keep its head above water.

I would like to draw a comparison between my blog and Private Eye. But I can only give a nod in the direction of a team who bring to me, frequent gasps of incredulity and a fair few head shaking chuckles. CaRT seem to having a good run in Private Eye. A magazine read by the people in Parliament and Government mandarins  if only to keep a weather eye on the excesses taking place under their remit.

So I hope you continue to enjoy my ramblings and here's to the next 150,000 visitors.

Sunday 29 September 2013

A days cruise.

Tinsley Marina to Tinsley Marina via Sheffield Basin.

Overnight the weather was dry and clear. The 'Indian Summer' that we have been enjoying seems to be starting to tail off.

Morning: A few jobs to be done before setting off for the Basin in Sheffield. A steady cruise in the sunshine. A few people out fishing and the odd dog walker made up the towpath users.

Afternoon: A small crowd had collected in the basin in time to watch us pass through the swing bridge and wind to moor onto the water point. This is the last black water pump out of the year as we prepare Rosie for the winter shut down.

Wildlife: Not much in the way of wildlife, other than the last few of the summers dragonfly. A few Swallows and House Martins and a scattering of Mallards. But the Swifts were noted for their absence.

Today's Total.
Miles: 5.4
Locks: 4
Swing / Lift Bridges: 2
Tunnels: 0
Pump Outs: 1
Engine Hours: 2.5
Solar Panels: 23 Ah

Accumulated Total.
Miles: 1662.1
Locks: 1121
Swing / Lift Bridges: 279
Tunnels: 26
Pump Outs: 17
Engine Hours: 2723.1
Solar Panels: 10950 Ah 11191

Smartphone Apps for Boaters (22)

No matter which genre of smartphone you own or are thinking to buy. The apps that are available will have an influence on how happy you are with the phone. There are plenty of top quality apps that you can download. However for me There's always a remarkable sub-selection of apps that are totally free. 

The wonderfully named 'Android' phone seems to have cornered the market in the same way that VHS did with tape systems. Android's open source strategy is the main factor for its success. Being a free platform has expanded the Android device install base, which in turn has driven growth in the number of third party multi-platform and mobile operator apps available.

Having witnessed from childhood what can happen with rivers in my part of the country. I have a very healthy respect for their capabilities and unpredictability. If you ever navigate with your boat over tidal sections of rivers. UK Tides is an android application that brings tidal charts and data right to your Android Mobile Phone. 

Provides up to Seven days of tides tables and charts for more than 700 UK locations. The application displays a list of the current tide conditions, along with daily highs and lows with their accompanying times. In addition, you may view the very same tide information in the future, perfect for trip planning. UK Tides is mainly for coastal tide conditions and you may have to calculate the time difference from a known location for the inland part of the tidal range of the river. The UK Tides application is available free of charge.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Richard Parry Groupie.

Well yesterday was an interesting day. It started off when we booked an appointment to take the older of our two dogs to the vet for a check up and repeat prescription. Unfortunately as she is stone deaf and getting her attention can sometimes be a bit difficult. However, this time its another deteriorating condition that she needed checking up. The old girl continues to slowly lose her eyesight due to cataracts. Other than seeing and hearing she is in otherwise good health. Her appetite is good and her nose is as good as it ever was. Chocolate can be detected whilst still in its paper wrapper and still in the fridge.

Jenny and Richard
The second point of interest was when Richard Parry (The new CEO of CaRT) accompanied by Jenny Whitehall the national moorings manager dropped by at the marina. Richard had been invited a few days beforehand to come along and meet a few customers on CaRT moorings. He turned up unannounced and out of the blue. We were able to have a positive conversation touching upon various issues in and around the marina. This is my first time meeting the new CEO and I admit I was won over. That's a good outcome from an old dyed in the wool cynic like me. (cynicism was a requirement of the job in higher education) Richard's attitude is not the one I have come to expect from CaRT staff at senior manager levels. It took a moment or two to realise that he was actually listening intently to what was being said. The big difference was that at no time was he at all defensive. 

So why do I have a good feeling about how things went? 

Because we did not get the 'usual' platitudes offered, which are intended to fob us off. Some of the replies from Richard were quite challenging and demonstrated that he has a very different mindset. As we reached the end of the conversation, Richard enquired why I am so negative about CaRT in some of the articles I write on NBW. I could have trotted out a platitude or two, just to fob him off. Saying something like 'there are so many negative issues to choose from.' So I chose the diplomacy route and said nothing. I am however, anticipating a seed change as a fresh perspective is brought to the senior management role and with that the inland waterways. When the positives arrive, I will shout them from the roof top. I could never be a member of the Tony Hales fan club. As far as I am concerned, that remains as just another space primed to be filled. But I could certainly be a Richard Parry groupie.

Friday 27 September 2013

Patrick Moore

One year after the death of astronomer and Sky at Night presenter Sir Patrick Moore, the BBC is reviewing the future of the programme. The plans to potentially axe the iconic show have caused outrage among the stargazing community.
Within days of hearing this news Karen Barker, a student of astronomy, started a campaign to urge the BBC not to stop the programme which has been running for over 50 years. 
Karen doesn’t want to see this staple of British broadcasting axed and already over 30,000 people have joined her by adding their name -- will you?

Plankton Portal

It’s always great to be in at the launch a new project! Plankton Portal allows you to explore the open ocean from the comfort of your own home. You can dive hundreds of feet deep, and observe the unperturbed ocean and the myriad animals that inhabit the earth’s last frontier.

The goal of the site is to classify underwater images in order to study plankton. We've teamed up with researchers at the University of Miami and Oregon State University who want to understand the distribution and behaviour of plankton in the open ocean.

The site shows you one of millions of plankton images taken by the In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System (ISIIS), a unique underwater robot engineered at the University of Miami. ISIIS operates as an ocean scanner that casts the shadow of tiny and transparent oceanic creatures onto a very high resolution digital sensor at very high frequency.

The dataset used for Plankton Portal comes a period of just three days in the winter of 2010. In three days, they collected so much data that would take more than three years to analyze it themselves. That’s why they need your help! A computer will probably be able to tell the difference between major classes of organisms, such as a shrimp versus a jellyfish, but to distinguish different species within an order or family, that is still best done by the human eye.

If you want to help, you can visit Where a field guide is provided, and there is a simple tutorial. The science team will be on Plankton Portal Talk to answer any questions, and the project is also on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Old Boat

So  go on then, how long do you think your current boat will last? 

There are plenty of old working narrowboats around that are around a hundred years old and a smaller number that are almost half as much again. But a six hundred year old boat has been found in Norfolk, and its in remarkably good condition. Considering it's been buried in peaty soil alongside the River Chet, near Loddon, for much of that time. It was found earlier this summer when an alert driver of an excavator spotted the timbers and called a halt to flood defence works being carried out as part of the Broadland Flood Alleviation Project.

Archaeologists who were called in spent three weeks working on the site. They found the small boat (six metres long) was very skilfully made, using thin planking fixed by copper and iron nails as well as wooden pegs. Waterproofing was achieved with tar and animal hair. There would appear to have been provision for a sail but experts think that it might have been rowed or quanted as well (a quant is a punting pole with a prong at the bottom which allows it to be pushed against the river bed).

Site, archaeologist Heather Wallis said that it was "very well preserved and an extremely rare and important find. No boats of this date have previously been found in Norfolk, so this has been a unique opportunity to record and recover a vessel of this date and type. This area has had a strong reliance on water transport and related industries, particularly since the creation of the Broads by peat digging in the medieval period."

Plans for the boat's preservation are well underway. Loose timbers and then the main part of the hull have been lifted and placed in wet storage; they will eventually be freeze-dried. A better idea of the age of the boat will be known after tree-ring dating has been carried out. That will give the date that the trees were felled and it's likely that the boat was constructed within a year or two. In the long term is is hoped that a place will be found for the boat in a Norfolk museum so that people can find out more about the way boats were used as day-to-day transport in medieval times.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Association of Constant Cruisers

Well for the past few months there has been a great deal of speculation on Canal World Forum about the best way for boaters who are not aligned with any particular group or association. Initial euphoria turned to despondency and reverted into a heated debate with even managers within the Canal and River Trust joining in the melee. 

Canal World Forum I have found to my cost is not the place to find a concise opinion. Predictably, the way forward has been seen by those leading the debate to be the formation of yet another association. However, the revelation of the new association has been the match used to light another small scale conflagration. But eventually the smoke and flames will disappear and common sense will prevail once again. 

I have often said that the IWA was not for me because it is too broad a church in trying to represent all waterways users. There are other associations in existence which already fill the niche roles such as cycling angling, rambling and boating. Other associations one of which I am a member have formulated their articles of association to address a specific area of interest within the wider sphere of the inland waterways and its differing users.

Association of Constant Cruisers.

The new association has not yet fledged, I believe its articles of association have not been signed off and are still to be published. There are already some statements around the remit being specifically to represent boaters without a home mooring. However, the remit has been further refined to allow membership only from boaters who are also seen to be compliant with the bye laws applicable to boaters without a home mooring. How the test of being compliant is to be applied has not been divulged.

For me the compliance and noncompliance lies in the remit of the Canal and River Trust who can take to court a non compliant boater without a home mooring. Now I can see some difficulties for the association in identifying compliant and noncompliant boaters without a home mooring. I can see difficulties if a previously compliant boater in good standing then becomes identified as being non compliant boater but still in good standing. Rather than being a full member, the person them becomes an associate member with certain loss of representation.

Whilst we have spent up to eight months of the year cruising we also have a home mooring where our boat is stored when we are not cruising. In this instance as we have a home mooring we could not be a member in full standing. Yet, another boater who does not have a home mooring could choose to take on a winter mooring whilst at the same time being a member in good standing. This anomaly and there are many others like it, will cause confusion, distrust, jealousy and deep divisions. There are a whole raft of similar anomalies the outcome of which may not be to the benefit of anyone.

My personal preference would be to simplify the whole remit. If you have ticked the box on your licence application for not having a home mooring them you should be automatically made a member upon application and the payment of the appropriate fee. Other boat owners who have a home mooring could automatically be ascribed as an associate member. 

Whilst there is the possibility of the association becoming a clique. Complete with stringent vetting that would be an open invitation to spy on each other. An encouragement and invitation for reporting one another. Maybe giving some the chance to wage a personal vendetta. Then its not for me as a full or associate member.

However, I know that the individuals who make up founding members have given both time and money in creating the Association of Constant Cruisers. I applaud what they have attempted to achieve. I sincerely hope that their endeavours will prove to be worthwhile in the fullness of time. If I have trodden on toes and bruised egos that was not my intention.

Stop Press: The ACC website is now live -

Ethylene Gas Absorber

Ever tried to keep food fresh on a boat without a fridge or cooler box. It's hard as the food soon goes off. We tend to keep vegetables in a cooler box or rattan box and other foodstuffs in the fridge. Even then food sometimes is past its best before we have consumed it all.

I came across a little gadget that you can place inside your cooler box or fridge. Its intended to extend the freshness of food items. It's called an 'Ethylene Gas Absorber for Fridges.' The principal is that it slows down the ripening process and keeps fruit and veg in the fridge fresher for longer due to an active natural principle. Attracts and holds up to 97% of the ethylene gases that fruit and vegetables naturally give off. Lasts about 3 months.

There are various versions available from various makers. Different containers and colours but do the same job. All vary a bit in price. Available on eBay

The full blurb:

The ethylene molecule is very reactive and is readily oxidized into a state that will not do damage to produce. There are several ways that may be used to remove ethylene from produce storage areas. One of the simplest and safest methods is to oxidize it with potassium permanganate. This reaction can remove ethylene to very low levels. Potassium permanganate (KMnO4) is used in a number of familiar applications, such as in drinking water treatment systems. 
Since we have chosen to use potassium permanganate as our oxidizer, we need to choose a way to make it the most available for reacting with the ethylene gas in our refrigerator. We need a support medium that will allow the ethylene to contact the oxidizer so it may be reacted away. Industry does this in several ways, or course, but for the home refrigerator application we like the use of natural zeolite. Zeolite is a pure form of volcanic ash that has a very high surface area, providing an ideal substrate for the ethylene oxidation to occur.
Natural zeolite is often used as an odor absorber and a humidity stabilizer in refrigerators, closets, and automobiles. The very high surface area traps odor molecules and absorbs water when humidity is too high - releasing it back into the atmosphere when it gets too dry. Of course, the zeolite used in the Ethylene Gas Guardian serves those purposes, but its function as a support medium for removing ethylene is its main purpose.
The zeolite used in the E.G.G. is from an exceptionally high quality deposit. After the crushing and grading of the zeolite, there are no fines and virtually no dusting. The potassium permanganate is applied to the zeolite using a patented process that lays the active chemical on the surface uniformly all the way to the center of the zeolite. The resulting product has the highest reactive chemical, 6%, and the best cationic exchange capacity of any in the industry.
The KMnO4 coated zeolite is then packaged in Tyvek packets that are water resistant, but are highly permeable to ethylene. It contains the zeolite and prevents any fines from getting out and onto your produce. Although the contents are not harmful, they can be colorful, making the produce less attractive to eat. 

Time for Replacement
The reaction between the ethylene and potassium permanganate oxidizes the ethylene away and, or course, reduces the potassium permanganate away, too. The amount of potassium permanganate available will last at least 3 months in most home refrigerators. 

Don't throw the spent zeolite away !
We recommend that you put the spent zeolite on your plants. The zeolite is a natural soil and the MnO2 provides trace minerals to the soil. Your plants will love it.

Monday 23 September 2013

Eager Beaver

Dear Bill.

Not a great deal to report I'm afraid by the junior galley slave on Nb Dulwich Dishwasher.

It seems that Scottish Waterways are  in a partnership project between themselves, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. I chanced upon Angus McCoatup (street philosopher) selling the 'Pig Issue'. He said Scottish Waterways have taken a march on the Cycling Angling Rambling Trust.  Scottish Waterways have been providing some assistance in reintroducing various kinds of wildlife to their inland waterways. Water Voles are considered to be small cheese. Even Beavers have been reintroduced into the Scottish waterways.

Not to be outdone, Alvin 'buster' Spotte the trust environmental scientist is still promoting the reintroduction of voles. Which have been predated into extinction by the mink. In an effort to cull the numbers of mink he wants to reintroduce a couple of top level predators. In the form of two types of long extinct bear. 

As you might expect there has been a bit of a furore created by the usual vociferous boaters. But as suggested by Ally Slash it seems that the trust now discounts boaters from amongst its target clientele. After conducting a two hour consultation with all the interested parties and conservationists in the bar of the 'Gusset and Flies'. The trust has gone ahead  with a small scale reintroduction of Water voles and the two types of bears. The trust is now installing advisory notices on visitor moorings and along several sections of river and canal such as the Kennet and Avon. In particular places with a high number of overstaying boats. Other areas include sections of the Rochdale Canal where the bears are expected to integrate well alongside the existing wildlife.

The text reads:
Warning Notice

"We currently advise all cyclists, anglers and ramblers to wear high visibility, stab proof clothing similar to the type we provide for our staff and volunteers. We also advise all cyclists, anglers and ramblers to wear noisy little bells on their clothing. To give a pre-warning, so as not to startle bears that aren't expecting them.

We also advise all cyclists, anglers and ramblers to carry pepper spray with them at all times, in case of an encounter with a grizzly bear. It is also a good idea to be observant for any fresh signs of bear activity. 

Cyclists, anglers and ramblers should remain alert at all times and ensure that they are able to recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear droppings. Black bear droppings are generally smaller and contain the remains of lots of berries and mink fur. Grizzly bear droppings are generally larger and often contain little bells in it, bits of windlass, occasional bits of mink fur, bits of yellow reflective plastic and sometimes smells of pepper."

I bumped into Marina 'nails' Clout (office cleaner) in the tap room of the 'Ferret and Finger'. She was her normal ebullient self. Nails, told me a wonderful story that's doing the rounds. Apparently the Inner Sanctum, back orifice volunteer was busy doing a bit of cold calling trying to get some donations.  The Cyclist Angler Rambler Trust database highlighted that the trust had never received a donation from one of Londons most successful Silks. As the Trust had put plenty of work his way. The volunteer in charge of contributions, cold called him to try and persuade him to contribute. The volunteer said "Our research shows that out of a yearly income of more than £600,000 you have not donated a penny to charity. Wouldn't you like to give a donation to the Cyclist Angler Rambler Trust  in some way?"

The Barrister mulled this over for a moment and replied. "First, did your research also show that my mother is dying after a long painful illness, and has medical bills that are several times her annual income?"  Embarrassed, the volunteer mumbled, "Um er, No." The Barrister then said "Second, to that my brother, a disabled Afghanistan veteran is blind and is now confined to a wheelchair?The stricken volunteer began to stammer out an further apology.  But he was put off when the Barrister said "Third, that my sister's husband died in a traffic accident." Then with the barristers voice rising in indignation, he added "Leaving her penniless with three children?" The now humiliated volunteer, completely beaten, said "I had no idea..." Now that he was on a roll, the barrister cut him off once again, "and seeing as I don't feel the need to give any money to them, so why should I give any to you?!"

The Memsahib has paid another visit to the Khan corner shop, boat yard, sandwich bar and now its opened up as a lettings agency. Looks like the entrepreneurial Khan has discovered another way to make a few quid. He is expanding the close season for his hire boat business into short term winter accommodation.

Well I must run, toodle pip old boy.

Cap't Bob

Sunday 22 September 2013

Improved diesel hybrid engine

I am always interested in things that can improve propulsion power. A recent innovation comes from a group of Swiss researchers. They have developed a natural gas-and diesel-powered hybrid engine that they claim emits half the CO2 of equivalent conventional systems. The Engineers at ETH Zurich redesigned a VW Golf diesel engine to run on 90 per cent natural gas. But unlike traditional gas engines, the new design is ignited by a small amount of diesel injected directly into the cylinder rather than a spark plug.

At the same time, although I love gadgets, I have a healthy instinct for the 'KISS' principle. (Keep It Simple Stupid) when it comes to engines. We have an Audi car that we pay almost nothing for when it comes to road tax. Yet at the same time it requires a computer plugging in to resolve any of the computer systems warning alerts! 

But I digress - 

By continually monitoring and adapting the injection using pressure sensors and control algorithms, the researchers say they have increased the engine’s efficiency to a maximum of 39.6 per cent. This gives it a fuel consumption of 3.2 litre per 100km or 88.3mpg for the latest VW Golf diesel model’s. Compared to 2.4 litre per 100km or 117.7 mpg for the new engine. Which works out at an extra 30 miles per gallon of fuel.

Natural gas-diesel engines already exist and are not a new technology. However this kind of engine arrangement is typically used in industries where power is generated and used in the same for example, to operate large machinery. As Tobias Ott, a doctoral student at ETH who worked on the project explains 'In a vehicle, the engine speed and load are changing constantly, which in turn means the engine management system is far more complicated.'

But while the idea of a gas diesel hybrid is a good one. The main aim is to reduce emissions  reducing emissions requires computers and sensors. Therefore the control system is going to be very complex. The researchers are concentrating on increasing the temperature in the catalytic converter by modifying control of the engine during the warm-up.

As Tobias Ott explains 'Our combustion engine converts heat energy into mechanical energy with such efficiency that the exhaust gas is not warm enough to create sufficient heat, particularly after start-up.' The researchers also linked the engine to a small electric motor to further reduce fuel consumption. Dr Christopher Onder, another of the engineers involved, said he believed the engine could be readied for series production in five years.

So it could be awhile before we see a marinised version for boats.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Class War

Following on from yesterdays 'water gypsy' posting. I thought I would explore where we are today in the canal 'class war.' I find it such a juxtaposition, that for the majority of people in our towns. The word 'canal' holds a connotation of being a dirty, dank and a place to dump rubbish. Also the canal is an unsafe place for children to be. To a point - that perception - is correct. But not when that generalisation is carried over onto boaters in general.

As a charity seeking public funds, you might think that CaRT would want to change that public perception. There are no better ambassadors for the canal, than boaters. Boaters could have a significant impact upon changing that perception of the dirty smelly dangerous canal.. The problem is that there seems to be just one type/class of boater that holds any sway with the Trust. Its those shiny boaters living in marinas. The 'weekend warriors' who complain about the lack of mooring spaces. Usually the moorings are just a short distance away from their home mooring. So rather than be ambassadors for the trust a large number of boaters now feel disenfranchised by this 'class war' exclusion. With the imposition of ever more 'draconian' set of so called fair and proportionate 'rules.'

As things go from bad to worse on the cut, there is no better illustration that the whole new identity that has slowly metamorphosed from what were generally known as boaters. As far as I knew, boaters were and are people who enjoy life in or around boats. The only other kind who had an interest in boats and the navigation were the 'gongoozlers' or those people who liked to observe boats.

In a way this is where the real division starts. 

The boaters for a long time were subdivided into GRP or 'Tupperware' owners. The other division were the 'ditch crawlers' or steel boat owners. Generally the two groups got along with just a little bit of rivalry as the two colloquial names might suggest. 
Within the two groups there is a certain amount of 'willy waving' and unsurprisingly its often based around size. For the steel boats its either a wide beam or narrow beam. I prefer to think short and stubby or thin and long. For Tupperware its often based around speed and engine power.

Now however we have a sort of underclass developing.

First there is the 'Mrs Bucket Brigade'  made up of a group of people who have a new or newish boat, who also take an obsessive compulsive sort of pride in the appearance of their boat. At their happiest when polishing the brass work and the paintwork. Life for this type of person revolves around a marina where the boat is kept between the odd weekend or holiday cruise. 
The Bucket Brigade are 'serial whiners' they can whine whenever a boat gets too close or is not following their version of marina etiquette. They like to look down on other boaters and consider themselves to be custodians of the inland waterways. They never share passage through locks because they consider their boat is at risk of getting dirty or scratched. Marina etiquette dictates that visitor moorings are provided exclusively for this class of boater. 

The second group is the 'shiny boat squad'. This tends to be an older boat that cost half the price of a 'Bucket Boat' with paintwork that is getting a little bit tired. However, the regular application of Johnson's baby oil makes up for the care worn condition of the paintwork if only for a few weeks at a time. Life for this boat will be spent in an around a marina with extended trips in the holiday season. 
Maintenance is a constant requirement for the shiny boat squad, as scratches and blemishes are polished away. They try to keep their boat conforming as close as possible to the bucket brigade standard. This group looks up with reverence to the Bucket Brigade. Marina etiquette dictates that visitor moorings are not provided exclusively for this class of boater. But they are tolerated by the Bucket Brigade.

Its at this point when the boating class division becomes much more obvious. 

Boat owners who do not have a home mooring are designated as 'Constant Cruisers'. Bucket Brigade and Shiny Boaters because they pay for a mooring look down on this class of boater. The perception is that the Constant Cruisers get something for nothing because they do not have to pay for a home mooring. But as I see if you are travelling round the inland waterways why should you have to pay for something you are not going to use.
The crazy thing is, that the 'shiny, bucket' boats in the marina pay to be in the marina whilst doing nothing. They also pay a licence to cruise the system which however they chose not to do. So rather than rail against paying for something that they believe they don't need or use. They blindly pay twice and then complain about everyone else.

A further interesting issue is when the shiny, bucket boats come out of the marina usually in the middle of the school holidays. They expect that the visitor moorings will be empty. When the shiny bucket finds that the visitor moorings are full or there is limited space. In their warped minds, the lack of a free mooring is because of constant cruisers, who are stealing their mooring. Because at that moment in time, the CCers are not cruising.

This then identifies the next group of boaters.

The boater of mythical proportions in the minds of the Bucket Brigade, Shiny Boat and Constant Cruiser. The 'Constant Moorer'. No matter what the status is of a boat on a visitor mooring. The mooring must be filled with mythical constant moorers.
Because of the obsessive compulsive disorder of the shiny buckets. Plus their penchant to whinge and complain. Any boat that does not have a tidy roof that conforms with the standard of the marina etiquette. Then that boat is a 'water gypsy' or 'benefit swindler' or  'dirty boater'.

Some people live on boats because for them its a lifestyle choice. It might not be my choice or your choice of lifestyle. But it has nothing to do with us. Often the life choice means that these kinds of boaters are living on a very limited budget. So having cut logs on the roof means that they collect winter fuel throughout the year and save money. They might be the owner of an old boat that fits into their budget. They are usually perfectly respectable human beings.

Last but not least are the newbies.

For most boat owners 'Hire Boaters' are the most maligned. We all had to learn sometime and it seems the moment you become a boat owner. Your memory of being a newbie hire boater is forgotten. But of course the bucket brigade and shiny boat squad will still see these as undesirables. Any boat that is not operated in a way that conforms with the standard of the marina etiquette should not be on the waterway.

The Class War, is a comedy sketch first broadcast in 1966, in an episode of the late David Frost's satirical comedy programme The Frost Report. It has been described as a "genuinely timeless sketch, ingeniously satirising the British class system" Written by the late Marty Feldman and John Law. The sketch features John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett.

Cleese, tall and patrician in both appearance and demeanour, represents the upper class. Barker, of average height, the middle class, and Corbett, short in stature, the working class. Each in turn describes their social advantages and disadvantages as against their neighbours. An effect which is emphasised by the actors' relative heights as they look downwards or upwards to each other. Barker: "I look up to him [Cleese] because he is upper class, but I look down on him [Corbett] because he is lower class". Corbett: "I know my place."

It is this situation that gives Corbett the pay-off line. As the others describe their advantages in the form of "I get a sense of superiority or inferiority." His character finally looks up at the others and says "I get a pain in the neck.The twinning of height and social position, combined with a minimal script, created a classic TV moment.

So what is the truth.

When you go out on your boat and arrive at a visitor mooring that is some distance away from your marina mooring. It might by purely by chance be full of boats. How long any particular boat been there is unknown to anyone other than the boat owner. No one knows if people are overstaying. No one knows if individual boaters have been given dispensation to stay longer. No one knows if a boat is broken down or any one of many other reasons. 

However, for the bucket brigade marina etiquette dictates that visitor moorings are provided exclusively for their 'class' of boater. The Bucket Brigade are also 'serial whingers' they whinge whenever a boat is not following their version of marina etiquette. After all, they consider themselves to be custodians of the inland waterways.

So what is CaRT's role in all this?

I wish I could say, but I fail to understand how their logic works. Well, I almost fail to understand how it works. Because the more I look at the non issue of overstaying. The more I believe its down to the complainers and we all know the answer to a complainer is always a knee jerk reaction.

What is the answer to all of this. This is an easy question to answer. Get the facts, collate the evidence, publish the findings and consult with boaters.  What is the reality of all this. It seems that the current order is to ignore the facts, decide the outcome and then inform consult with boaters.

Friday 20 September 2013

The new Water Gypsy

Whilst we were out on our summer cruise, I had an interesting experience. At Swinton on the South yorkshire navigation there is a new housing estate that seems to grow ever larger each time we pass. Then we chanced upon a young boy cycling along the road that runs alongside the canal at this point. It was clear from his interest in keeping pace with us, that there was some deep fascination with the boat. My antenna was 'twitching' and as we were coming up to a road bridge where we might be the recipient of a few stones being thrown. I took the precaution of taking a quick photograph when he was momentarily off guard and looking where he was going. 

We continued side by side for a while, when he engaged me in conversation. 'Have you nicked the boat' he says. I must admit the comment was a bit of a surprise. 'I do it all the time' I replied. 'Had a wash' he enquires. 'Only last month' I replied This did not bode well for the road bridge ahead. I was not ready for his next challenge which was more of a statement than a question. 'Dirty fucking water gypsy' he says. I think there was a fair bit of bravado on his part from the 20' of canal water that separated us. So I took another photograph only this time whilst he was looking. 

He stops, passed another comment that I missed. Turns around and peddles off furiously back the way he came. And turns into the new canalside housing estate. We continued on our way and once under the bridge the canal soon leaves the road. As we were plodding along, I was musing at his comments. I thought he was in all probability just reflecting the expressed views of his parents. As the new houses in the area were all overlooking the canal. Maybe this is symptomatic of problems between boaters and new housing. Housing that seems to be built to dominate, almost on top of the canal rather than alongside.

The number of houses that can be squeezed onto a bit of land is how the developer makes his money. There is this certain 'look' about such developments. They are starting to be the new horizontal form of the much discredited tower blocks and high rise where peoples homes were stacked as if on pallets.  Maybe in 20/30 years, such properties built with little external space between them (where the houses are packed together like sardines in a can) will take on the look and feel of the old 'back to back' and 'lines of terraces' that were swept away in the clearances of the 50/60/70's. 

The more I look at them, the more I know I could never live in such a place. But then I remember that the concrete monstrosities that were built to address the post war boom. Which, in many cases have and are thankfully being swept away. As for my little friend, I can live in the hope that his misunderstood prejudices so carefully nurtured by his parents. Will one day be swept aside by his new found, educated awareness. Maybe it will happen at the same time as he watches the old home of his parents swept away because of the rat run alleyways that they have become. Who knows, maybe one day when he is older, because he was nurtured alongside a canal he will buy a boat giving it the twee name of 'Water Gypsy.'

The more I think about it - the more I am starting to enjoy being a Water Gypsy, I only hope I can meet the grade! This takes me back to two and a half years to May 2011, Over a year before BW became CaRT. I wrote a bit back them titled 'Pride and Prejudice' which touches upon the same theme. In that time, nothing has changed, on land or on water. If the truth be told things have gotten worse. To read the posting Click Here.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Improved Solar Panels

We have solar panels fitted on Rosie. I have never regretted for a moment fitting them. Now, researchers have devised a new technique for improving the connections between stacked solar cells, a development that should improve the overall efficiency of solar energy devices.

The new connections developed at North Carolina State University can allow cells to operate at solar concentrations of 70,000 suns worth of energy without losing much voltage as heat.

Stacked solar cells consist of several solar cells that are stacked on top of one another. Stacked cells are currently the most efficient cells on the market, converting up to 45 per cent of the solar energy they absorb into electricity. But to be effective, solar cell designers need to ensure the connecting junctions between these stacked cells do not absorb any of the solar energy and do not siphon off the voltage the cells produce, effectively wasting that energy as heat.

Dr. Salah Bedair, a professor of electrical engineering said 'We have discovered that by inserting a very thin film of gallium arsenide into the connecting junction of stacked cells we can virtually eliminate voltage loss without blocking any of the solar energy. This should reduce overall costs for the energy industry because, rather than creating large, expensive solar cells, you can use much smaller cells that produce just as much electricity by absorbing intensified solar energy from concentrating lenses. And concentrating lenses are relatively inexpensive.'