Friday 31 July 2015

Spring Summer Cruse 2015 ❹❽

Napton bridge (111)  to Knotts bridge (130)

Date 31 July 2015

Overnight the weather was cold, had stove lit!

Morning: Early start, as nine locks of the Napton Flight to negotiate.  The volunteers it seems were not volunteering today and were otherwise engaged.

Afternoon: Arrived at Field bridge mid afternoon. Ran into a couple of boaters that we know on Nb October and so we stopped for the day.

Evening:  An evening of television. (fire lit)


Birds: Carrion Crow, Rook, Blackbird, Mallard, Mute Swan, Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Lag Goose, Canadian Goose, Grey Heron, Wood Pigeon, Kestrel, Lapwing, Buzzard, Black Headed Gull, Common Tern, Sedge Warbler, Swallow and House Martin the highlight being a Yellow Hammer.

Butterflies: Meadow Brown, Common White, Small White, Comma.
Bats: Pipistrelle,  Daubenton.
Damselfly: Banded Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly.
Dragonflies: Ruddy Darter, Four Spot Chaser.
Today's Total.
Miles: 7.8
Locks: 9
Swing / Lift Bridges: 0
Tunnels: 0
Pump Outs: 0
Engine Hours: 4.5
Solar Panels: 63 Ah

Accumulated Total.
Miles: 2427.3
Locks: 1528
Swing / Lift Bridges: 338
Tunnels: 49
Pump Outs: 23
Engine Hours: 3314.4

Solar Panels: 23185 Ah

The View From Over Here (3)

The View From Over Here. Also known as Mick's Musings - Is an occasional series of observations of life along the canal and river network. It gives this writers perceptions of what he sees, hears and learns from other people and various other sources. 

It's over a year ago that I reported what I considered to be a dangerous building on the BCN Birmingham Level Main Line.  I had a return call from the trust. Who said they were aware of the buildings condition and were trying to establish who were the owners.

The empty buildings tower over the towpath and are in a poor state of repair. There were at the time window arches that had already collapsed and other arches that were starting to collapse. These had the potential to kill anyone on or near the towpath below, be it man, woman or child, boater, dog walker or cyclist.

This part of the Inland waterways is out of our usual boating area, so its been some time since I last passed through. So as you can imagine, I took some interest in how well this dangerous issue would have been made safe. 

Well I was to be disappointed with the trust once again.  Now I am beginning to wonder if I am wasting my time and if other people are wasting their time, by reporting safety issues to the trust. The situation has not improved in the intervening time in any way whatsoever. As the photographs will attest.

There is a gradual progression of deterioration. It starts with birds passing in and out of the buildings through holes above the window frames. Because the window is covered in mesh. we watched the pigeons making their way in and out.

The birds loosen up the brick work and the smaller bits of masonry are displaced to eventually fall over the edge onto the towpath.

The next point is when one or more of the archway bricks then start to come loose and eventually fall.  This then destabilises the strength of the arch to support the remaining brickwork above.

Now we have a fast developing situation. Creating the conditions where the complete archway is subject to imminent collapse. No if but when it does collapse it will fall onto the towpath. 

Some of the archways have reached the last stage, The brick work has fallen. You can see here the remains of the window frame are bent and distorted under the sheer weight of the brick work.

Now all it needs is some unsuspecting family walking along the towpath to be showered in debris. In this case made up of eight or more house bricks. falling from a height of 30 feet or more.

This is a towpath disaster in waiting and possibly a fatal one as well. Which will bring with it more unwelcome publicity for the trust. The usual platitudes of 2000 miles of canals are hard to monitor will be trotted out. When the reality is the trust was warned over a year ago of this situation. The danger has not been removed. the towpath is not fenced off. Its in the same condition today as it was back then. 

Thursday 30 July 2015

Spring Summer Cruse 2015 ❹❼

Itchington to  Napton Bridge

Date 30 July 2015

Overnight the weather cool and overcast.

Morning: A quick breakfast was consumed. We noticed a boat coming past and so we teamed up with them to do the Stockton flight of locks.

Afternoon: Teamed up with another boat crew to do the Calcutt locks.

Evening:  More Television.


Birds: Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook, Blackbird, Mallard, Mute Swan, Long Tailed Tit, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Lag Goose, Canadian Goose, Grey Heron, Wood Pigeon, Kestrel, Buzzard,  Black Headed Gull, Swallow, House Martin, Swift and Green Woodpecker.

Butterflies: Meadow Brown, Common White, Small White.
Bats: Pipistrelle,  Daubentons,
Damselfly: Common Blue Damselfly, 
Dragonflies: Four Spot Chaser.
Today's Total.
Miles: 5.2
Locks: 13
Swing / Lift Bridges: 0
Tunnels: 0
Pump Outs: 0
Engine Hours: 5.5
Solar Panels: 15 Ah

Accumulated Total.
Miles: 2419.5
Locks: 1519
Swing / Lift Bridges: 338
Tunnels: 49
Pump Outs: 23
Engine Hours: 3309.9

Solar Panels: 23122 Ah

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Spring Summer Cruse 2015 ❹❻

Leamington Spa to Ichington.
Date 29 July 2015

Overnight the weather was overcast and cold.

Morning: Some essential shopping before setting off. A very steady cruise with a few boats seen on the move.

Afternoon:  Stopped early as the moorings looked to very inviting and the solar panels would be in the clear.

Evening:  Television as usual.


Birds: House Sparrow, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook, Blackbird, Mallard, Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen, Canadian Goose, Wood Pigeon, Buzzard, Black Headed Gull, Sedge Warbler, Swallow, House Martin the highlight being a flock of around 50 Lapwings.

Butterflies: Meadow Brown, Common White and Small White.
Bats: Pipistrelle,  Daubentons,
Damselfly: Banded Damselfly and Common Blue Damselfly, 
Dragonflies: Ruddy Darter, Emperor.
Today's Total.
Miles: 5.9
Locks: 10
Swing / Lift Bridges: 0
Tunnels: 0
Pump Outs: 0
Engine Hours: 6.0
Solar Panels: 69 Ah

Accumulated Total.
Miles: 2414.3  
Locks: 1506
Swing / Lift Bridges: 338
Tunnels: 49
Pump Outs: 23
Engine Hours: 3304.4

Solar Panels: 23107 Ah

Boat Improvements (3)

As always things in life undergo gradual change. This started me thinking about what changes I could make to the boat and its equipment to improve life aboard. My old boss had a rather interesting question that he put to the staff at meetings. It would go something like this - "I know that we may not all be happy working here. But if there was one thing that you could change to make things better what would it be." Over the years some changes were made to working practice as a result of ideas being expressed.

Like my old boss, I would never make a change just for the sake of it. There would always need to be a tangible benefit from making any change. Since we purchased the boat, we have made a few small but significant changes. In this instance because of the readily availability of strong magents. 

Do you have one of those popular aluminium windlass. Lighter in weight than the traditional steel windlass for carrying around. Just the one problem, with them. If you drop it in the water, there is no way to recover it with a sea searcher magnet.  We have a couple of them and over the years we have lost and recovered the odd steel one. I remember going fishing at one lock and recovering someone else's windlass as well as our own. 

This started me thinking, of how to make an alloy windlass magnetic. I tried first by fitting a small steel ferrule on the end of the handle. Made from a short one inch length of steel conduit. I tested it with our sea searcher and it works. 

I have also seen a hole drilled through the end of the handle and a steel spring clip (like the ones on a key ring) threaded on the end to provide a magnetic bit. Take care that the clips are not stainless steel which is not magnetic.

Then I had a better idea. I have a selection of small but powerful magnets that have been recovered from various computer disk drives which I mechanically destroyed for security purposes when I made then unreadable with a lump hammer. 

We all know that nothing attracts a magnet more than another magnet. So I drilled a small hole, slightly larger than the diameter of the magnet in the end of the handle. I was able to put three ex computer magnets together, slide them into the hole and then with the hammer gently close up the end of the handle to stop the magnets from coming loose. It would just about support its own weight when hung from a steel object.

Then I remembered on eBay seeing some small round Neodymium magnets for sale. These are very very powerful magnets and are very cheap to buy. I sent off for some which were 10 mm diameter by 5 mm in length. The magnets are very powerful and you have to take care when handling them not to nip your skin. (I have a blood blister as evidence)  I drilled a 10 mm hole 32 mm deep in the end of the handle. I put 6 of the magnets in the hole which had been smeared with a bit of lock tight but any glue would do. I knocked over the end of the hole by way of extra security. Then filed the end down to make a smooth flat finish.

Now if the sea searcher comes within an inch of the end of the handle the windlass will slide along the floor. A few tests have been done and all seems OK - However so far we have not been forced to test the system under several feet of canal water and covered in mud. 

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Spring Summer Cruse 2015 ❹❺

Saltisford to Leamington Spa

Date 28 July 2015

Overnight the weather was frequent heavy showers of rain.

Morning: Late start as we were only intended going a short distance to the nearest supermarket. However, we pushed on after shopping.

Afternoon: Stopped early as we sat out the showers of heavy rain that started just after we moored up.

Evening:  An evening of Television.


Birds: Mallard, Mute Swan, Pied Wagtail, Coot, Moorhen, Wood Pigeon, Black Headed Gull, Common Tern, Swallow and House Martin.
Today's Total.
Miles: 4.3
Locks: 2
Swing / Lift Bridges: 0
Tunnels: 0
Pump Outs: 0
Engine Hours: 5.0
Solar Panels: 82 Ah

Accumulated Total.
Miles: 2414.3
Locks: 1506
Swing / Lift Bridges: 338
Tunnels: 49
Pump Outs: 23
Engine Hours: 3298.7

Solar Panels: 23038 Ah


I woke this morning a bit later than usual. I could not be arsed to wait to make the equivalent cup of percolated coffee - which is the equivalent to a Capstan Full Strength cigarette as a non smoker can get. So it was to be the instant Nescafe original for my first fix of the day. The coffee container had been placed on the kitchen counter top, with the back facing outward. 

Looking closely at the back of the bottle, as I stood in my boxers waiting for the kettle to boil, I noticed that the label on the back said - 'Part of the Nescafe plan is to manage all waste in our UK coffee factories, achieving ZERO waste to landfill.' When I turned the bottle round to make it face the right way it said in bold lettering 50% extra free.

Is it me?

Monday 27 July 2015

Smartphone Apps for Boaters (36)

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.

Worried about speeding cyclists on the towpath. You and a lot of other people need to collect evidence and make it available to the Canal and River Trust. As cyclists use applications like Strava to record their best high speed performance time. Boaters can also use SmartPhone applications to record the speed of passing cyclists.

  • Turn your android device into a full-automatic speed camera.
  • Speed measuring of moving objects.
  • Measure and save the speed of cars, trucks, bikes, planes...
  • Works like a velocity measuring photoelectric sensor.
  • Works from nearly any direction (best from the side).
  • Can measure m/s, km/h or mph.
  • Takes photos with speed information for viewing later.

Anyone who can take a photograph. This app will help to make you into a speed camera operator.

Saturday 25 July 2015

Spring Summer Cruse 2015 ❹❹

Hatton to Saltisford

Date 25 July 2015

Overnight the weather was overcast with showers of rain.

Morning: Hatton flight in company with Nb Serendipity. Three and a quarter hours and we were at the bottom. 

Afternoon: Passed the Saltisford arm and found a mooring just before Cape Lock.

Evening:  Meal out in the Cape of Good Hope.


Birds: Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook, Mallard, Mute Swan, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Pied Coot, Moorhen, Wood Pigeon, Black Headed Gull, Sedge Warbler, Swallow, House Martin, and Swift the highlight being a Green Woodpecker.

Butterflies: Meadow Brown, Common White, Small White.
Damselfly: Banded Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, 
Dragonflies: Ruddy Darter
Today's Total.
Miles: 2.9
Locks: 21
Swing / Lift Bridges: 0
Tunnels: 0
Pump Outs: 0
Engine Hours: 4.0
Solar Panels: 10 Ah

Accumulated Total.
Miles: 2410.0
Locks: 1504
Swing / Lift Bridges: 338
Tunnels: 49
Pump Outs: 23
Engine Hours: 3293.7

Solar Panels: 22956 Ah

It's raining...

As a child, I remember the nursery rhyme that we would sometimes chant. Often, chanted as an aid on a Monday morning, to make the rain go away. In my home wash day was always on a Monday. No matter what, the weather might do. The washing was always 'done' on a Monday.

Rain rain, please go away;
Come back, another day.

I lived in a small terrace of four houses and there was a communal passage from the road at the front to get to the back yard. Each family had their 'day of the week' because the back yard was so small that people would have to share washing lines. If only to have enough drying space. There was a wash house, complete with a wood and cast iron mangle, a brown shallow ceramic sink, a glass rubbing board, two galvanised tubs, a copper 'Ponch' and a brick built copper boiler. The boiler required a fire to be lit underneath. So it was infrequently used because it would sometimes throw up a bit of soot that might land on the washing and pride dictated that could not be allowed to happen. 

Our house had a new 'gas copper' it was enamelled in a speckled off white and black. The gas copper boiler was much quicker to bring water to the boil. It had a long rubber hose that would be brought inside through the kitchen window and plugged into a gas tap on the wall. Just under the kitchen wall mounted hot water boiler called 'Ascot'. Then came the day when the washing machine arrived. Large, square and cream coloured with an electric mangle. It even had a silver drip tray so that the squeezed out water would go back into the tub. The washing machine, like the copper boiler, was kept in the wash house but always wheeled out into the yard for use. 

Its nice to think back, to a time when wash day was such a big event. Now we have a machine tucked away under the kitchen work surface. A tumble dryer in case of rain is always on stand by. But whenever the weather allows, we still put the washing 'out to dry' whenever possible. We even have a washing machine in the galley on the boat. The hardest chore is drying the washing. But we have a small rotary dryer that clips onto the tiller arm. Which has enough capacity to a couple of washer loads.

Now, on wet and windy days when we are out on the boat and not on the move. Provides a chance to read a few extra boating blogs, write a few articles, do a bit of reading and also provides a break from the hard life of skippering a boat on the Inland Waterways. 

Yes, its a hard life is retirement and someone has it to do!



Friday 24 July 2015

Lucky 13!

I have a question for you to muse over. 

I call the question, lucky 13.

What does the Canal and River Trust have in common with the thirteen largest countries in Europe by size of their population?

While you mull over that question, Let me fill you in on population numbers to the nearest million. It could help with giving you a clue to the answer. In first place is France with a population of 66 million people. In second place comes the United Kingdom with 65 million. In third place is Italy with 60 million. Then comes Spain with 46 million. Closely followed by the Ukraine with 42 million people.

I wonder, can you see the answer yet?

Following the Ukraine comes Poland with a population of 38 million. Next up is Romania with a population of 19 million. Closer to home comes the Netherlands with 16 million people. Even little Belgium has a population of 11 million. Three European countries tie on a population of 10 million people each, Greece, the Czech republic and Portugal. Not forgetting Hungary with a population of 9 million. 

The running total is 400,000,000 people.

That by the way is almost half the total population of Europe. This staggering amount already easily exceeds the total population of the United States including Alaska and Canada put together. 

Still not got it? 

OK, I will give you the answer.

This is the same number of people that the Canal and River Trust claim are visiting their waterways each year. This number is stunning and the trust has to be congratulated on such an 'unbelievable' performance. In three years, the numbers have grown from a low point of a paltry 10 million visits. To a staggering 400,000,000 and the number is still increasing. By the end of this year the number should be approaching half a billion visitors.

There is some confusion over the 'Billion' so for clarity I am using the American one. Because it is now generally accepted across the internet. A billion is a difficult number to comprehend. One way of putting that figure into perspective. A billion seconds ago it was 1984. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
I love contrasting and comparing numbers. (There is an old anecdote that says the best form of contraception is to marry a mathematician) But I digress. 

Because often its difficult to imagine such vast numbers of people. That's equal to a 1,095,890 visits a day. The Canal and River Trust manages 2200 miles of the inland waterways. So that's a mind boggling 498 visitors for each mile of canal. But, as we all know the canals are pretty much deserted at night. After all its not a safe place to be after dark and with the increase in high speed time trial cyclist, its not much safer in the day time either.  But I digress, so if we take a 12 hour day as being typical. A time when the vast majority of people are going to be around, that's  996 people per mile.

There are a number of other authorities that also manage their own waterways. Such as the Broads Authority and the Cam Conservators for the River Cam. There are also Peel holdings for the Manchester ship canal and the Bridgewater Canal. The River Avon is managed by the Avon Navigation trust. The National Trust manages the Wey Navigations, We must not forget the Environment Agency which has three regions Anglian Region, Southern Region and the Thames. There is also the Basingstoke Canal Authority, as well as councils including Bristol, York, Chester, Devon and Exeter. Plus Essex waterways Ltd and the Middle Level Commissioners. I may however have missed a few so I apologise for any omission.

I wonder if the other Inland Waterway are seeing such an increase from stratospheric to ionospheric levels.

Thursday 23 July 2015

Spring Summer Cruse 2015 ❹❸

Lowsonford  to  Hatton

Date 23 July 2015

Overnight the weather was clear and cold.

Morning: Late start today and most of the locks were against us. Only three boats seen on the move. Some of the lock gates were very heavy.

Afternoon: Stopped for lunch at the junction of the Grand Union. Took on water and had a shower. Hatton flight visitor moorings. 
Washing machine on and another batch washed.

Evening:  Television problems. Rewired antenna, now back to normal.


Birds: Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook, Blackbird, Mallard, Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen, Canadian Goose, Wood Pigeon, Black Headed Gull, Sedge Warbler, Swallow, House Martin and Swift.

Butterflies: Meadow Brown, Common White, Small White.
Bats: Pipistrelle,  Daubentons,
Damselfly: Banded Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, 
Today's Total.
Miles: 7.1
Locks: 9
Swing / Lift Bridges: 0
Tunnels: 1
Pump Outs: 0
Engine Hours: 5.0
Solar Panels: 13 Ah

Accumulated Total.
Miles: 2407.1
Locks: 1483
Swing / Lift Bridges: 338
Tunnels: 49
Pump Outs: 23
Engine Hours: 3289.7

Solar Panels: 22946 Ah

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Spring Summer Cruse 2015 ❹❷

Wilmcote to Lowsonford

Date 22 July 2015

Overnight the weather was overcast with showers of rain.

Morning: Late start but had a good run with most of the locks in our favour. Now the locks seem are of the narrow kind we seem to be moving much quicker.

Afternoon: Mid afternoon arrived in Lowsonford. I had a walk along the towpath to see the Gormless Gormley exhibit.

Evening:  Meal in the Fluer de Lys (recommended)


Birds: Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Starling, Blackbird, Mallard, Mute Swan, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Wood Pigeon, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Sedge Warbler, Swallow, House Martin, Swift,
Butterflies: Meadow Brown, Common White, Small White  Skipper, Comma. 
Bats: Pipistrelle,  Daubentons,
Damselfly: Banded Damselfly, Beautiful Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, 
Dragonflies: Ruddy Darter.
Today's Total.
Miles: 8.0
Locks: 9
Swing / Lift Bridges: 0
Tunnels: 0
Pump Outs: 0
Engine Hours: 4.7
Solar Panels: 21 Ah

Accumulated Total.
Miles: 2400.0
Locks: 1474
Swing / Lift Bridges: 338
Tunnels: 48
Pump Outs: 23
Engine Hours: 3284.7

Solar Panels: 22933 Ah

Health and Safety on the Inland Waterways

Our cruise this year is providing me with much to muse upon. Its not often that I have time for politicians of any flavour. When it comes to political parties segregated by their colour. Blue is not good for me, neither is Yellow though I do have a liking for Green because it matches my spots. But I still hold a bit of a crush on the colour Red! Not the new rosé red or labour lite, just the old red.

When it come down to the Inland Waterways, the choice of colour however is a stark one. There is the Environment Agency Blue. Or the Canal and River Trust Grey. So until such time as the Environment Agency gets its act together again. Unlike like the Henry Ford choice of colour, the trust will continue to perform in it usual 50 Shades of depressing Grey.

Take for instance the grey area of Health and Safety.  There is more stupidity spouted about protecting people from themselves - presumably done in the belief that everyone is Extremely Stupid. However, sometimes the extremity of the stupidity scale, is extended by those who are expected to act sensibly towards implementing Health and Safety. I'm not in favour of the nanny state or wishy washy health and safety bunkum. Even the HSE has a section on its website debunking the mythology of health and safety used inappropriately.

In a previous working life, I would sometimes as part of my job move bits of equipment between two buildings. Then like 'political correctness' before it - health and safety became the current fashion trend in the workplace. We had portering staff who had been subjected to a round of  Health and Safety training. Who on their return had for some reason, implemented a 'risk assessment' on their job. Afterwards, it seemed they were now absolved from portering. So we had to do it for ourselves.

The first thing was I had to undergo was some health and safety awareness training. Just to be able to make my own personal risk assessments. So off I went on a course which lasted 14 weeks. (that's not a typo) it was 14 weeks long and conducted in a place about 20 miles from my place of employment. As luck would have it, the training was about 5 miles from my home. So it was easier and less fraught from the dangers of riding a motorcycle through heavy commuter traffic to work each day.

Then there I was, 14 weeks later and ready for the task in hand. I walked between the two buildings which I had done hundreds of times before. I made copious notes to identify every risk I could find. This was then incorporated into a lengthy document on which the health and safety audit with its associated risk assessments would be based. For each identified hazard, a further risk assessment was made. The size, weight and shape of the items to be moved was established. A route was then chosen (from a choice of one) to minimise risk. A suitable means of transport was chosen. (A small four wheeled hand cart was purchased) So how did it work out. Whenever I went between buildings, I would just pick up the items and carry them as I had done before. It was quicker and easier than lugging a small trolley about!

Shortly afterwards, this over reaction, best described as the 'institutional approach to health and safety' was abandoned by my employers and replaced once again by good old common sense. The health and safety training certificate was consigned to the bin. The porters returned to portering and all was well once again in the world of academia.

You may have been wondering why I started off today's musings by reference to politicians.  Well unusually, myself and a politician of a blue persuasion actually agreed with each other.

'They are now the most powerful lobbying force in the land. You can see the results of their campaigns on park benches, on street corners, on station platforms – and now their hectoring signage is sprouting on desolate beaches and once unspoiled stretches of moorland. They are more energetic than the RSPCA. They are more effective than the birdwatchers, the child‑protectors and the petrolheads put together. Indeed, for manic dedication they are only rivalled by Fathers4Justice. Ladies and gentlemen, let's have a big hand for this year's winner of the prize for the Most Successful Special Interest Group. I give you – the Royal Society for the Extremely Stupid.'  So said, Boris Johnson writing in the Daily Telegraph.

Now you also might also be wondering why I had also set out with a reference to the Environment Agency and the Canal and River Trust. Well its because they seem to have very different views with regard to implementing Health and Safety and the subsequent management of the risk. Walk around the inland waterways system and you will find its a dangerous environment. There is going to be a risk of drowning and the ground underfoot is going to be filled with potential tripping hazards. Experience has told us about these ever present dangers. Life is full of life long learning opportunities (personal risk assessments). In other words we live and we learn. 

There is a whole new branch of Health and Safety implementation. One that suggests that people can become desensitised to assessing personal risk and become reliant on someone else watching out for their safety. I remember one of the questions we were asked on the Health and Safety course was. If you put up a 'beware of the dog' notice on your garden gate are you making people aware that you have a dangerous animal. Or are you making people aware that you just have a dog. Where a simple 'please close the gate' notice might be more appropriate. 

Producing safety signs is a big business today. Much research has gone into producing images and words blended together to create an eye catching impact and an instant understanding of the potential risks. In other words, you can fulfil the requirements of much of the current Health and Safety legislation with appropriate signs. 

Now if a pothole suddenly appears in the towpath. The risk can be mitigated by temporary fencing, until a repair can take place. It would not be appropriate to place a sign instead of a temporary fence. However, placing occasional blanket notices or catch all notices along the towpath about the risk of potholes occurring would not be appropriate either.  

There are going to be times when new risks need to be signed. In some cases the risk will need to be fenced. There is always the temptation to think that a sign attached to a broken bit of machinery can be used as a stop gap. Until a some time in the future when its more convenient to make a repair. The problem with this is as the signs grow in number. So does the public awareness of a growing back log of repairs. The signs begin to predominate and their impact is then lost.

A regular Health and Safety concern is when someone drowns, usually a teenager or child. There are then calls for the canals to be fenced. However, it would be totally impractical to fence off the canals. In some cases the fencing could itself provide its own hazard. Placing a fence round the edge of a lock would be impractical for many reasons. Placing a fence round the perimeter of a lock might be more feasible, but what real Health and Safety purpose would it serve. There is also the visual amenity to consider as well as spoiling the heritage aspects. 

Now to further the 'grey sky' lock gate poetry, we have 'grey sky art installations' appearing alongside lock edges. Totally out of character with the canals industrial heritage. Such items placed well away from the lock edge but within the vicinity of the lock. It might well have some merit. But its intended to attract people to the lock edge. Now art it seems takes precedence over common sense. Art and poetry have no place on a lock, where it will only act as a momentary distraction from the danger that a deep lock chamber offers. My idea of 'canal art' is steeped in the industrial heritage and the gaily painted boats and the odd barrel and buckby can.

A further 'gray sky' case in question is the proposed fencing of the Marple Aqueduct.  The aqueduct was built to carry the Peak Forest Canal over the River Goyt. The aqueduct was completed in 1799, and opened for business in 1800. The difference in water levels between the river and canal is around ninety feet. The aqueduct is scheduled as an ancient monument and in 1966 was given the distinction of being listed as Grade I. Seven men are recorded as losing their lives during its construction. 

Now 215 years later, the canal and river trust have decided in their wisdom. (which will for many people be something of an oxymoron) As a result of a Health and Safety risk assessment, the ancient monument now requires safety fencing. In its 215 year history, one person is known to have committed suicide by stepping off the aqueduct from the towpath side. Which to be blunt, installing a set of railings on the off side would not have stopped anyway. 

The aqueduct parapet running along side the towpath has a rounded coping stone surface, the parapet on the off side has a flat surface. It seems that people have been known to step onto the aqueduct on the flat surface side from their boat. Now call me old and cynical, but if a rounded parapet wall on the towpath side discourages people from walking along it. Why is a rounded coping stone not installed on the off side. This would be a visually more in keeping with the original heritage structure than railings. There would be no confusion about if its a safe place to step on and off a boat. 

Would the installation of railings provide a hazard of their own. Fitting railings would certainly provide an anchor point for abseiling or the adrenalin junky, bungee jumpers. Should one of the abseiler or bungee jumper have an accident or their is a fatality will this then require a subsequent 'risk assessment' and the railings to be removed.

Installing railings as a real health and safety issue - this has as much worth as putting a safety railing on top of the Stonehenge Monoliths. I am willing to bet there have been more people on top of the Stonehenge Monoliths than have ever been walking on the off side of the Marple Aqueduct.

While we are on to aqueducts. Perhaps David Baldacchino, from the Canal & River Trust, would also like to share with us what plans the trust has for the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, I wonder what plans the trust have in hand for the huge Health and Safety problem that the off side presents at Pontcysyllte.  Will the trust be desecrating yet another bit of our national heritage. The aqueduct was added to the World Heritage List in 2009.

While we are on to Health and Safety. Perhaps David Baldacchino, from the Canal & River Trust, would also like to share with us what plans the trust has if any (other than duck lanes) for mitigating the issue of speeding cyclist. After all there are a regular series of incidents where the high speed cyclists come into conflict with members of the public walking on the towpath. Its been going on for years and has been reported as an issue of concern in various newspapers and periodicals for about a decade. There is evidence in chapter and verse on Strava to support a positive stance is required to this growing issue. Maybe the trust could consider sending a box of sticking plasters to each victim.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Spring Summer Cruse 2015 ❹❶

Stratford upon Avon to Wilmcote

Date 21 July 2015

Overnight the weather was quite windy and the odd shower of rain.

Morning: Move on day started with a short but heavy shower. Then it was time to make our preparations. The Memsahib went shopping and I had the immensely enjoyable task of packing the stern greaser. A simple breakfast and on our way just before noon. Met two boats going the other way.

Afternoon: Stopped for lunch just above the last Stratford lock.
Plenty of locks to look forward to today. Including the Wilmcote 11 with a rise of 77 feet. There was a couple of volunteer lock keepers on duty and we were soon at the top. We moored up in the village of Wilmcote - the home of William Shakespeare's mother.

Evening:  A relaxing evening with a bit of television entertainment.


Birds: Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Starling, Blackbird, Mallard, Mute Swan, Chiffchaff, Coot, Moorhen, Wood Pigeon, Black Headed Gull, Swallow, House Martin and Swift. 

Butterflies: Meadow Brown, Common White, Small White.

Today's Total.
Miles: 3.5
Locks: 16
Swing / Lift Bridges: 0
Tunnels: 0
Pump Outs: 0
Engine Hours: 4.1
Solar Panels: 102 Ah

Accumulated Total.
Miles: 2392.0

Locks: 1465
Swing / Lift Bridges: 338
Tunnels: 48
Pump Outs: 23
Engine Hours: 3280.2

Solar Panels: 22912 Ah 912

Essential Boat Maintenance...

Time for a bit of essential boat maintenance...

So I started off by changing the engine oil. I had a 5 litre of oil container that was empty. So I pumped out the sump. I also had a 5 litre container of oil that I had been using to top up the engine when doing oil changes. The engine (Beta 38) hold 5.5 litres. However, it turns out that there was only about three litres left over in the container. So off I go shopping. There was no Halfords or similar outlet available, so I had to pay top dollar for the oil. Ouch! 

We had noticed a small leak on the galley tap and despite my best efforts. I was unable to find a source for a set of replacement seals. So we decided to purchase a new tap. The mixer that we have is low over the bowl and its hard to fill a kettle. So a new tap was ordered up. It arrived today. Looks to be spot on, should be able to fill the kettle easier. Only problem is it comes with a 45mm threaded work surface stand off. Turns out that the work surface on the boat is 50 mm. So I had to order up an extra long stand off. Merde!

Ordered up a new antenna for the new digital radio that I have fitted on the boat. I have all the cable threaded up ready. However, after a week it has still not arrived. Just used our spare domestic alternator belt. So a couple of new spares ordered up. The new ones arrived, only to find that instead if being 1210mm they are 1265mm in real money 2 inches too long. So had to pack them up to go back to be exchanged for the right length.

Think I will call it a day somebody up there does not want me to get on today. 

Monday 20 July 2015

Cycleopaths and CaRTgate!

Well it seems that a couple of new words have entered the canal vocabulary through the usual channel of social media 'Cycleopaths and CaRTgate!' The furore over cyclists on the towpath and the seemingly - 'rabbit caught in the headlights' - stance, employed by the caring sharing Trust.

I don't believe it, is the well known Victor Meldrew catch phrase. Uttered by Victor, usually when something seems to be completely out of kilter with the basic rules of common sense. Something that causes consternation and beggars belief.

Well I'm with Victor on this one 'I don't believe it' either!

I have to question the priority being given with regard to the general levels of safety for the visiting public to the Inland Waterways. It might be useful to contrast and compare two issues which have a common safety concern.

Quote CaRT: Marple Aqueduct is a scheduled ancient monument on the Peak Forest Canal in Greater Manchester. The Aqueduct has an unfenced parapet on the off side, there is a substantial fall and any fall from the Aqueduct would almost certainly lead to a fatality. Since 2003 there have been near misses recorded and a suicide relating to falls from the unfenced parapet. There is anecdotal evidence of unauthorised access to the area. The ongoing refurbishment project will attract more people to the area, increasing potential risk of accidents. It is the Trust’s view that it is becoming an unacceptable risk and that a parapet should be installed.

Now compare this with the growing number of incidents involving cyclists. Where people on foot are coming into conflict with cyclists on the all weather, upgraded sections of the towpath. There is no segregation in the shared space, as long as you ignore the recently published 'Duck Lanes'. At a time when there are pensioners  getting mowed down - our caring sharing trust comes up with 'Duck Lanes'.  Maybe when someone gets killed - it will be lanes for the resulting 'Funeral Cortège' next.

I don't remember any meaningful consultations being held to garner peoples opinions and concerns over what would become high speed sections of the upgrades to the towpath. Particularly with regard to the types and nature of safety measures to be installed or in this case not to be installed. I would imagine a safety audit (including a risk assessment) would be made for each section being upgraded.  With the changes that are being made to the various sections of towpath.  If the obvious reduction of 'safety level for people on foot being compromised' was not flagged up in a risk assessment. That would call into question the worth of such a health and safety audit.

I acknowledge that there are significant and growing numbers of cyclists on the towpath. I acknowledge that from my own experience the majority seem to conduct themselves in a sensible way. I also acknowledge that there are significant and growing numbers of visitors to the waterways. (CaRT's own figures have grown from 10 million to 360 million in three years.)  The majority of which we all know will be on foot. I don't want to discourage the numbers of people on cycles and I don't want to discourage the numbers of people on foot.

However, I do want the Canal and River Trust to realise and acknowledge that while many millions of pounds will now be spent on fencing Marple Aqueduct. If that is a fair and proportionate response to such an infrequent safety concern. Then that level of commitment or even more should be given to where the vast majority of visitors will be. On the towpath.

The whole idea of the 're-eduction of delinquent cyclists' who now see the recently up graded (should that now be down graded?) towpaths as providing a convenient time trial and high speed racing venue. The whole notion that you can educate this sort of people into such a change beggars belief. This re-education is not going to be achieved by the handing out of  leaflets. This is not a fair and proportionate response to a serious safety concern that grows and continues to grow day by day. If that were the case, why don't the police just hand out leaflets rather than fines for speeding or driving dangerously on the roads. Continuing with the police metaphor, it is just another CaRT 'cop out.'

Strava provides direct evidence of locations, numbers and the competitive speeds being achieved by the Cycleopaths! Its not a few tens of competitive competitions. Its not even measured in the hundreds of recorded timings. Its not even measured in thousands of instances. Its now measured in the tens of thousands. There are other similar applications to Strava available for smartphones. Where speed measurement and performance between way points can be logged. Who knows what the real number might be!

So my question is - If fencing can be provided for the Marple Aqueduct at a cost of millions of pounds. Then why not also spend money on the installation of speed calming measures. Which to be honest, I would have expected to be provided on the upgraded, all weather, high speed, shared spaces anyway. Safety in the form of speed calming should be built in at the time of the surface upgrade. Not as an after thought, when some court or coroner passes verdict.

Now, we see on line petitions being made to draw even more of the public's attention to the vexed issue that the trust seems to be ignoring. There is also a growing belief amongst some boaters that they have to all intents and purposes been abandoned to face the onslaught. There is also a belief that the trust should be renamed to the 'Cycling and Racing Trust.'  Because in the dash for Sustrans cash - we know who will ultimately be paying the heavy price. So, just who is setting the 'health and safety policy' for upgraded towpaths. Where is the accountability - that is missing from this whole event.