Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Getting hotter

It's a good job we got everything done that we needed to do this morning, because this afternoon it's been a case of staying as still as possible in the shade. We timed our start exactly right for once, setting off at half eight and getting to the shopping mooring in Rugeley just after ten. It was a very pleasant morning's boating with a bit of traffic about but not enough to cause problems through the various bottle necks around Armitage.

Spode House was looking grand as ever and has lost the horrible advertising banner that used to disfigure its frontage. There are a lot of gaps in the long term moorings there; hopefully CRT will rationalise those one day to close them up a bit. Between those and the Ash Tree moorings just through the bridge you spend a lot of time in tickover.

A visit to Tesco replenished our supplies of perishables and we got one or two other bits and bobs at the same time, including another pair of pyjamas for yours truly, short sleeved and short legged ones for these hot nights. Whilst I put stuff away, Sheila went into the town to get a puzzle book from WH Smith and some lens cleaner from SpecSavers. We don't use their glasses any more, but the cleaner is the best value around.

We'd planned to go on to Bridge 69 as I said yesterday, but have decided to stop on the new visitor moorings just beyond the Brindley Bank aqueduct. It's a bit noisier here with the ring road bridge just beyond, but distinctly less smelly in this heat. Braidbars spotted today: Bessie Surtees again as we leapfrog with them towards Great Haywood and Martin and Anna on One Day heading the other way through Rugeley.

Tomorrow, on to Tixall Wide, probably. It's 30º in the shade here now, so not a lot more is going to get done. All the doors and hatches are open and mostly fly screened and we've put the porthole bungs in down the sunny side. Definitely another night for salad, methinks.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Locking up

Another day went to plan today. We got away around 7.15, Sheila locking and yours truly steering. Sheila coped with all eight locks without too much trouble, though I'd have taken over if necessary, naturally. She got a washload running between Shade House and Woodend and we had an excellent run along one of the Trent and Mersey's best rural sections.

Alrewas had been packed solid, so it was quite surprising to see Fradley downright deserted, with just three boats on the Visitor Moorings between Keepers and Junction Locks. Similarly, the handy stretch of towpath moorings just beyond Kings Bromley marina had one boat on it, though that's always less popular in the summer. It's a lurking spot for continuous cruisers, really, there being no facilities like pubs or shops anywhere nearby, and in the summer the overhanging trees encourage birds to sit above your boat and engage in a bit of modern art all over your roof.

Well, the modern art looks a lot like what the birds produce as far as I'm concerned. ;)

We've tied just beyond the winding hole in Handsacre, one of three boats here and with another two on the official VMs opposite the Crown. One of our co-moorers is Dave on Anon..., but he's not advertising any chocolate today to Sheila's disappointment. The washing is drying and we've been largely loafing in the sun after our exercise this morning.

Checking the batteries immediately after we stopped showed that the forwardmost one was a bit too warm, between 40 and 45ºC. The others were progressively cooler until the sternmost block was between 30 and 35º. The steel rack on which they sit was at a similar tempreature, so it's not internal heating of the cells, it's the ambient temperature running too high for comfort. That first block is close to both the skin tank and the engine coolant header tank.

When we get to Braidbar in September I'll have to have a conversation with Peter about better ventilation there, as running at those temperatures will be shortening the battery life. We could probably manage without the first battery, in fact. The electrics are so efficient these days, and we don't do much winter cruising now, that 460 Ah is more than we need. 345 Ah would be plenty, I reckon.

Tomorrow, we'll make a later start so as to get to the Rugeley shopping mooring at around ten. A visit to Tesco is indicated, then carrying on to our usual spot at Bridge 69, aka the Pig Farm.

Hang on, it's going to be the hottest day of the year so far...

Finally, the photo of Sanity Again in Alrewas:

(c) Sheila Napier



Sunday, 28 June 2015

Better and better

Gosh, what a day. The forecast rain did indeed arrive, but that just gave us a chance to try out the new coveralls, which performed admirably, I'm pleased to say. Time will tell how well they stand up to wear, of course, but the advantage of buying workwear, rather than fancy boating gear or the fashion items that Black's seems to specialise in these days, is that it's designed to be straightforward and hard wearing. After a morning of on and off rain, sometimes quite heavy, we were both still bone dry under the gear.

I'd done four locks, what's more, and hadn't sweated up at all. We set off at half seven, stopped to water below Barton and got to Alrewas just after eleven. We'd seen a fair few boats coming the other way for the last hour and hoped that that meant that there would be room to moor when we got here. There was, but only on the bendy bits between Wharf and Hangman's Bridges.

We've managed to tie on the straightest bit and it's fine for an overnight, but it's clear that the season is warming up and I don't mean just the weather.

After coffee, I popped round to the Co-op for some bits and pieces. After working all those locks (aah, I hear you say – sardonic lot, aren't you?) I wasn't in a mood for complex cooking tonight, so I've cheated by getting a pack of fresh tortellini and a jar of tomato and basil sauce.

It's just as well that I did, as on the way back I noticed that Alrewas is having an Open Garden weekend this weekend. After lunch and some post-prandial eyelid internal surface inspection, we went out to see what the gardens of Alrewas are like. We managed about half of the 20+ available to view and very good value for £4 per head they were. All kinds and qualities were taking part, from narrow back terraces to a magnificent Georgian walled garden, from classic herbaceous borders to an "Architect's Garden", very structural.

One of them was attached to one of the new houses that abut the offside of the canal and we had a great view of this excellent looking boat just opposite. Sheila took a photo but she's not uploaded it yet; I'll try and get her to do it for tomorrow. We weren't the only Braidbar on view, in fact. Phil and Barbara in Bessie Surtees, number 92, had turned up just after lunch and could also be seen.

Once we were all gardened out and even Sheila had had enough, we came back via the Co-op, ice cream having become essential. We've been chilling with cups of tea since and letting our feet cool down. Tomorrow, onwards and upwards to Handsacre or thereabouts.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Busy morning, quiet afternoon

After a very broken night from a number of causes at once, we were a bit anxious about how today would work out, but in the event it all went very well. Elanor picked us up just after nine and the first port of call was the Trent Washlands where we exercised Sally. She really enjoys romping about there – it was very warm, so we threw sticks into the river for her to collect.

When Elanor first had Sally, the dog was reluctant even to get her tummy wet, but she now swims after sticks enthusiastically, so that she gets both serious exercise and cooled down. Next stop was the tip where we got rid of the used oil that's been hanging about since I did the end of season oil change last October. Finally, we got to Elanor's house.

Sheila got on with weeding the gravel borders to the lawn whilst Elanor with my assistance put fresh felt on the shed roof. She's inherited from me a heavy duty staple gun that made short work of fixing the felt down. The main challenge was finding our way into the little runnel across the back of her garden. This could only be accessed by walking down the Derby Road to a side road, into another bit of the estate along there and so between two houses to find this odd back passage.

We had to explore a little bit before we found exactly the right gap between the right houses, which, since I was carrying a pair of folding stepladders, must have looked a bit suspicious to say the least. No matter, we made it and secured those edges. Finally, we went next door to get at the side of the roof next to the boundary fence and all was done.

After lunching there and admiring the improved appearance of the house and garden as a result of all Elanor's work, we headed back to the boat, calling in at Morrisons on the way for some salad stuff and some prawns to go with it.

We've had a lazy afternoon on the bow since, drinking a drop of chilled white wine and being entertained by the entrants to the Four Counties Canoe Race who have been coming past from time to time. Apparently they were paddling from Wolseley Bridge to Colwick Marina, Nottingham in two days, having visited four counties (Staffs, Derbys, Leics, Notts) on the way. When we first saw their tee shirts, we thought it referred to the Four Counties Ring.

Sooner them than me, it looked cruel hard in this warm weather...

Tomorrow, we'll make an early start to beat the rush and press on to Alrewas. It looks like rain for some of the time, but we're going to have a heat wave later in the week, apparently.


Friday, 26 June 2015

A good start to the trip

Things went to plan this morning, always good at the start of a cruise. We were up and about early, drinking after breakfast coffee by seven and ready to go by half past. We toddled round to the service wharf and pumped out. The tank was barely three-quarters full, so we were able to give it a good rinse. I suspect that there's some sludge building up on the bottom of the tank, a risk of using yeast based tank treatment.

Either that or the gauge is reading high. It would be good if we had a small inspection hatch in the top of the tank, so that you could eyeball the base and use a pressure washer in there.

Off we went at eight. There was an interesting moment at the marina exit since fellow moorer Paul was lining up to come in as we were set to leave. He generously pulled back to let us out, good chap that he is, but of course the wind had now taken our bow and I wasn't able to make the smooth departure I'd lined up for.

Well, that's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it. The tree growth around the exit makes it impossible to see another boat approaching until it's too late.

We had an uneventful cruise to Branston, enduring the occasional light shower and a chilly breeze. Sheila was lockwheeling again; it looks as if we will be able to get back to our usual day and day about routine. There was a load of room when we got here and we've been joined by just two other boats since, although we passed a fair bit of traffic on the way.

We took a walk round the lake this afternoon and spotted a variety of birds. Some of them were a long way away, so apologies for the fuzziness of one or two of these photos:

Greylag geese
A club of coots
Pair of Oyster catchers
That's a snipe, honest!

Great crested grebe

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Brief note

I know I said I wasn't going to post today, but am back on the boat, though much cheese biscuited and thought I should do a quickie update.

We spent pretty well the whole morning in the Eye Clinic, not because they were running late but because my pressures had drifted up again :(. So they fitted me in for a second blast of the laser and then gave me a prescription for some anti-inflammatory drops to use for three days. So that meant another 40 minutes in the Boots operated OP pharmacy to get it filled.

Full marks to the Eye Clinic, nul points to the pharmacy. Was a time you just got a prescription you could take to any chemist, just like the ones you got from your GP, only green, I seem to remember.

We'll need to come back in six weeks for follow up but still plan to go to Stourport in the meantime.

My skin, on the other hand, was pronounced all better and I was in, out and discharged from Dermatology in about ten minutes. Not all bad today, then.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Coming together

It's a case of so far, so good with our preparations to get boating again on Friday. The weather has stayed dry, though now quite breezy and with some rain promised for tomorrow and especially Friday, what a surprise. Shane in the Raspberry van delivered our Ocado order in good time this morning, even ringing when ten minutes away as asked by the notes to the driver. Everything was there, plus an extra Morrisons cucumber as a lagniappe.

By the time we'd put it all away it was getting on for lunchtime. Sheila had run a couple of extra washloads, including doing the bedding a few days early, so we'll not need to run the machine for the first few days of boating. I rang Western Cars and booked a taxi for tomorrow morning; my first appointment is at 10.15, too soon to risk the 9.25 bus being late and the 8.10 would be ludicrously early. Western are very efficient, identifying me from my phone without even asking for its number. They text you on the day to confirm that the taxi is on its way.

This afternoon, I took a walk down into the village and collected a repeat prescription which I'd ordered last Friday. It means I'm now well stocked with meds and should not need another repeat until we get to Poynton in late August. Sheila meanwhile took herself for a walk round the marina, bought some fresh milk from the shop and collected a bit of post from the office.

We've just had half an hour sitting in the well deck drinking tea and reading, though the breeze is a bit much now so we've retreated indoors. There may not be a blog tomorrow – we'll probably be quite late back from Derby after an afternoon appointment at London Road and will certainly be quite weary.

So hopefully my next post will be on Friday from the towpath, hooray.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Good day AND good weather

It's been really summery again today, hooray. After an early start, we got the well deck washed, rinsed and dried before coffee break. After the break, I masked off the sides of the deck whilst having an altercation with a Canada goose. This horrible bird actually flew up onto the gunwale, scattering water droplets over the carefully prepared surface. It soon jumped back into the water but continued to hang around so I grabbed the empty bucket from the top of the locker and swung it at it.

The clonk was very satisfying and the bird swam off at some speed.

I think I'd got through to it that it wasn't welcome...

It took less than half an hour to brush a good coat of black onto the deck. I thought about rollering it, but there are a lot of uneven patches in the non-slip coating and the brush lets you get the paint well down into them. Once done, we came and went via the stern, though by lunchtime it was pretty well dry.

After lunch, some IT type stuff got done before I set to and removed the masking tape. Sheila had been tracking the delivery of our new Dickies waterproof coveralls, so once she'd finished what she was doing online, we walked round to the office and collected the parcel. I also bought another pump out token so that we can pump out on our way out on Friday without waiting for the office to open.

Back at the boat, I made a batch of dough for rolls for tomorrow and Wednesday. The coveralls are just the right size, though very hot to wear in the present conditions.

Elanor and Sally are coming round tonight, complete with a cooked chicken for us to use with salads for a few days. Tomorrow...


Monday, 22 June 2015

Good day despite the weather

It's really not been very summery today (this is called litotes) but nonetheless we've managed to get a lot done. Being Monday, washloads have been run and recycling taken to the skips. We did that on our way round the marina, calling in at Still Waters when we got to the front to get some perishables and to ask for a gas cylinder to be delivered, the gas having run out as I was making the first thing cup of tea.

At least it wasn't raining then as I had had to pop out clad in dressing gown and pyjamas to turn the changeover valve over. As I've probably said before, we could have an automatic valve, but then you have to keep checking it in order to know when to change a cylinder. As it was, it started raining when I was unfastening the empty, ready for Grahame to bring a full one.

This he did before lunchtime and for once the new one sealed properly straightaway. I further improved the shining hour by descaling the mixer tap over the galley sink. I've discovered that the end cap screws off so that it can be bathed in LeeScale to get rid of the unsightly and drip-causing scale on its rim.

After lunch, we did a bit of work under the dinette, improving the storage space in the corner where we keep the out of season clothes. It now looks quite smart down there.

Sheila, meanwhile, was shuttling to and fro with tumbling as well as lending a hand when I needed one.

Finally, I popped off to Midland Chandlers to get a can of their basic hull black which we use for the gunwales. It's a bit odd, I know – we use the Andy Russell Gunnel Black on the well deck, as it dries quickly and keeps its appearance, and the cheapo MC stuff on the actual gunwales.

Jobs still to be done are the aforesaid well deck and going round the hatch frames with the varnish. The finish does tire in the sun and the answer is to keep rubbing them down and revarnishing, ideally every year. That job, though, can be done on the towpath on a suitably sunny day (if we ever get one again) whereas the well deck really needs doing before we set out again at the end of the week. I'm hopeful that tomorrow's weather will be good for that last.


Sunday, 21 June 2015

Great evening, quiet day

What a good evening in excellent company that was. What's more, the food came together as planned with no obvious disasters. We were quite sensible as regards time, too, so it wasn't an especially late night.

This morning, we finished up tidying and putting things back into 'just the two of us' mode. Elanor arrived a bit before half ten and swapped Sally for Sheila. Sal and I had a walk round the marina then a quiet time in the boat, once Sal had reconciled herself to Elanor's absence. Meanwhile, Sheila and Elanor went off to the stables for some equestrian activity.

They didn't get back until after one, so I lunched on my own apart from sharing an apple core with Sal and then issuing the obligatory carrot. When the other half of the party returned, Elanor and Sal and I went to field two for some tyre chasing, zooming and rummaging. I'm sorry to say that we found the remains of a kestrel in the field. Only the skeleton and wings were left so it's impossible to know what killed it, but from its position we suspect it had collided with the power lines which cross that field.

Back at the boat, we had some family time together before Elanor went off to do stuff like mowing her lawn. Sheila and I have put the rest of the time to good loafing use. We hope for some more decent weather in the week to come so as to get on with the other varnishing and well deck painting that needs to be done.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

A bit wet then very wet

There had been a plan to help Elanor put some fresh felt on her shed roof this morning, but the forecast discouraged that and she went into work instead. In the event, it was only mizzling wet for most of the morning and it dried up over lunch. We walked round to the front to get a few final supplies for tonight then loafed indoors for a bit. After lunch Elanor and Sally looked in and we had a session in field two with the throw tyre.

They went off again and we did a bit more loafing before I got my act together and made a batch of white dough so that we can have crusty rolls with the starter. It's now raining with a vengeance with a bit of thunder thrown in. This being the penultimate weekend in June, a fair few boats have been moving around, doing their ten month shuffle.

With luck we won't be here for the final flurry next weekend.

Tomorrow, Sheila's going off with Elanor to see her ride whilst I dog sit, probably. Sally and I will have a quiet time together.

Better stop there; I've got a bit of cooking to do...

Friday, 19 June 2015

Hanging around

In the end it all went well, not least thanks to Wonder Woman Jo, but for a while it looked like we might have a problem. Sheila had been told by Charles Taylor, the patio furniture people, that the driver would be delivering the new furniture this morning and would give us an hour's notice of his arrival.

So we had one of those mornings of hanging around, doing bits and pieces but not liking to get heavily involved in something. After lunch and the post-prandial internal eyelid inspection session, we gave up waiting and took a walk round the marina, popping into the Farm Shop to stock up on bread flour now that I'm baking regularly again. On our way back we stopped to chat to John off George and no sooner had we finished than the phone rang.

"I'm at Dale Farm but I can't see your lodge."

Aaargh. I shot back to the vehicle gate to find him waiting there and Sheila went round to the lodge, phoning Jo as she went. We all rendezvoused at Walnut, where I'm pleased to say the furniture fitted onto the patio very nicely.

With Jo's help we moved the old stuff to a store from which it will hopefully be collected by someone who wants it, or if not, Jo will advertise it in the newsletter to go to a good home in exchange for a donation to the Air Ambulance fund.

Back at the boat, I've started some tomato and garlic dough which I think/hope will make a good focaccia. After that, a quiet evening is indicated, getting the personal batteries fully charged ready for tomorrow, when we have Jo and Wynne for dinner.

Very tasty!


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Normal service resumed, but with wind

The sun is back with us, hooray, but so is the wind, boo. We put up with it, however, to get the outside jobs done. I've now repainted the starboard side hatch frame and Sheila rubbed down the lower tread from the bow steps. That's now been varnished and Sheila is sticking the non-slip pad on it as I write this.

Sheila needed to go to the village this afternoon, so it was particularly useful that Jo turned up and offered her a lift. On their way back, Sheila collected an early birthday present from the office in the shape of a Kindle Paperwhite. It's in the summer that you realise the main downside of reading on the iPad, whether on iBooks or the Kindle App, namely, you can't do it outside. We kept one of the keyboard Kindles when we got the iPads and I use that to read when sitting in the well deck. This addition for Sheila means that she can do the same and use it to read in bed too.

Apart from that, it's been a day for going gently and getting on with the routine, meaning not a lot to report, I fear. Never mind, tomorrow the new patio furniture arrives, so I'll try and get some photos of it to post here.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Change of weather, change of plan

It's been an odd sort of day with dull, windy weather and the occasional splash of light rain. Not at all the conditions for working out of doors, so we've been inside mostly. We did manage a walk round the marina this morning, calling in at the shop for bits and pieces as we passed. Sheila's been pottering and I cleaned out the drawer under the Squirrel which gets very messy with coal dust and the like.

Apart from that, it's been largely routine housekeeping stuff; I've started another lot of bread dough, we having finished the first lot of rolls with lunch.

I think the only other thing of note is the improved performance of Canal World. The moderation took a turn for the better earlier this year, so that although it's still a place for robust debate, by and large the discussions focus on the issues and are much less prone to descend into playground name calling. By the standards of such forums, that's quite an achievement.

In addition, the site has just moved to a better host so that loading times are much quicker with far fewer failures with fatal error messages. All this is costing the site owner more money. The site is still free to use, but there is a voluntary scheme to sign up to donate £1 per month via Paypal. At £12 per year, it's frankly better value than any of the print media, especially if you need technical help or advice about any aspect of inland boating.

Finally, I managed to take some photos of the newly arrived Shepherd Hut and Garden Pod whilst we were out:

Shepherd Hut with Pod in background
A mere £24,950 for this...
Inside the pod. £14,950 for this one


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A little extra visit and job

As we were having a preprandial loaf on the bow yesterday evening, we had a call from Andrew Denny of Waterways World. He needed a minor new product testing for the mag's Boats and Pieces page and Jo had suggested we might oblige. Nothing loath, we agreed to him calling round. In the event, we'd had dinner, washed up and were back out on the bow enjoying a glass of wine in the evening sunshine when he arrived.

We had quite a long catch up natter, not having seen him for a while. I'm not going to go into detail about the product until the magazine is out, of course – more anon. This morning we washed the starboard side of the boat, deployed the product, took some photos and emailed one to Andrew. He asked for some info about the Owners' Group, too, it having come up in conversation last night, so it looks as if we may get some free publicity out of it.

Having done our chore, we set to on the main programme for the day. I rubbed down the side hatch frame, prepped it in the same manner as the port side one and applied a coat of Owatrol. Meanwhile, Sheila rubbed down the top tread of the bow steps and I applied a first coat of polyurethane varnish. It's quick drying stuff, so the tread was ready for a second coat after lunch.

I'd put four of yesterday's rolls in the oven at mark 7 for five minutes and they tasted fresh baked when we had them. This may be the answer to baking on the boat; do it the afternoon before and freshen up in a hot oven the next day.

Jo popped round after lunch which was very pleasant and gave us a chance to tell her all about our visit from Andrew.

Whilst the second coat of varnish was drying, we took a walk round the marina, did a bit of shopping, ate an ice cream apiece and saw the New and Used Shepherd's Hut and glamping pod arrive. They were having all kinds of fun getting them into place in the prepared spaces in the front car park so we left them to it. I'll try and get some photos of them for tomorrow's blog.

Back at the boat, Sheila stuck a Treadmaster non-slip patch to the tread which was now hard dried. She'll do the lower tread tomorrow, whilst I'm putting a coat of paint on the side hatch frame. It's all go these days, an effect of some decent weather at last.

Hopefully we'll see Elanor and Sally tonight, traffic permitting.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Getting lots done

By nine this morning I'd been down to the village for some top up shopping. By ten we'd rinsed the port side of the boat and used a microfibre to dry it off. There's still plenty of polish on there but the dust needed clearing off. Having got that side looking good, we unhooked the shoreline and so on and turned the boat round so that the bow now faces out and the starboard side is ready for attention.

Sheila had already run one washload and once everything was connected up again she started another. Various odd jobs got done and there was time to sit out in the well deck and enjoy the sun before lunch.

Afterwards we had a call from Kath on the cleaning team to say that she'd rearranged some of the appliances in the kitchen of the lodge as she was concerned that the steam from the kettle was damaging the underside of the cupboard over it. We popped up there and checked it out for ourselves. The rearrangement actually works better than the way we had it before, so it's an ill wind and all that. The damage to the side of the top cupboard, some of the melamine facing showing rippling, isn't too bad but obviously couldn't have been left to get worse.

Just as we were all packing up, it was discovered that the dustpan and brush had disappeared, again. As it was now gone two o'clock and the next tenants were due in at three, we dashed over to Still Waters where, fortunately, they had a dustpan and brush in attractive shades of pink. That's been put in the lodge, but why on earth do the tenants keep walking off with the cheap dustpans?

Very odd.

It's been a time to relax since, though I have improved the shining hour still further by getting back into baking bread. Some rolls are proving as I type this and should do us for tomorrow and the day after.

If this weather holds, I'll treat the rust on the starboard side hatch tomorrow and Wednesday. After that, there are various areas of varnish which will benefit from rubbing down and recoating.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Quietly recovering

It got so cold last evening that we had to light the fire in the end. I'd run the Hurricane for a bit earlier so as to have hot water and warmth in the back of the boat, but there's nothing like the real fire in the Squirrel to drive the damp clamminess out of the saloon. The Hurricane did one of its "shall I start or not" double start ups for the second burn, having had a very long first one. I wonder if it's overheating a bit sometimes.

Although we were pretty tired by the events of yesterday, we'd not had a lot of physical exercise, so it wasn't a brillant night's sleep. Fortunately, we had no reason to leap out of bed this morning and indeed have had a generally peaceful day. Sheila went on the WeBS walk at ten and I pottered about in the boat before taking a brisk walk myself.

After a relaxed lunch, Sheila's been doing the accounts whilst I loafed about mainly. I did go out again to buy distilled water, the last battery top up session having left the stock a bit low. We've finished the WiFi data we got from the office, 1.28 Gb in four days, so we're back to using the 3 connection via the iPhone. It's not been bad, to be fair.

The iPhone has its plus points and its own drawbacks, I find. The data flows a bit faster, as occasionally the iPhone makes a 4G connection, and it remembers that the hotspot is turned on after the phone's been off. Under Android, every time the phone had been off, there was a sequence of four screens to work through to turn the hotspot back on. The iPhone only needs a visit to the Settings page and so to the personal hotspot page if it needs turning on, but as I say, most of the time it remembers for itself.

On the other hand, its battery life is nothing like as good and if it doesn't have an active connection to the hotspot, it disconnects and has to be woken up. All this persuades me that once the 3 contract has expired, it will make sense to use giffgaff when cruising, buying a goodybag with the right amount of data each month, and to use the marina WiFi in the winter.

Finally, I've been the target of a fellow blogger's sense of humour: click here. I guess it's fame of a sort...



Saturday, 13 June 2015

Everything done

A wet day but a good one; things went pretty well to plan. We've had a great time with the gang from Lincolnshire, signed what we needed to sign for Peter H and had a quieter session with Elanor. Sally and the boys got on well together.

Hopefully, it will be a bit drier tomorrow!

Friday, 12 June 2015

Quiet day

The bruising on Sheila's leg from the embrace of the fender line continues to give her some grief; the superficial stuff is clearing away, but it's apparent that the rope gave her a deeper hematoma that's only just working its way out. Accordingly, she's spent the day in and around the boat with her leg propped up as far as possible.

This was quite handy in its way, as the first thing I did after breakfast was to mask off the wood around the side hatch frame (having first recovered the bag of rolls of masking tape from the deep bow locker) and then to apply a coat of Oxford Blue to the steel I treated yesterday. It's gone on reasonably tidily, I'm pleased to say, and, of course, we needed to keep the hatch open for as long as possible.

This was great during the morning, which continued fine and sunny, but the forecast thunderstorm has been threatening all afternoon. It's got to the point where we'll be glad to see it arrive and relieve the close muggy feeling.

I put in a walk round the marina this afternoon, collecting the parcel of temperature indicator strips from the office as I went. We are very pleased with the new WiFi arrangement – the only thing is we're ripping through the 1.28 Gb allowance we set against the lodge provision, so it looks as if we may need to make a more substantial arrangement. Going back to the erratic 3 connection would be very hard.

Tomorrow, the Lincoln branch of the family is coming over for the day and we have another signing session with Peter and Katie in the afternoon. Don't be surprised if the blog is late/brief/doesn't appear at all...


Thursday, 11 June 2015

Relaxed but productive

It's been a fine day in several ways, starting early and then pottering to some effect. The frame of the dinette side hatch has been showing some rust where the damp gets trapped in the winter, so after breakfast I rubbed down the offending sections and applied a coat of Owatrol. It's particularly effective in this sort of situation, being both penetrating and rust inhibiting. I also put some on the hinges, which can't be kept painted where the parts rub over each other in operation. It needs 24 hours to go off, so the hatch has been propped open most of the day.

We've had a couple of walks round the marina, the first in the morning whilst a washload tumbled and the second after lunch. It was fine enough to justify stopping outside the shop for ice creams.

Sheila has placed her order for the new patio furniture and got a call from them to arrange delivery a week tomorrow. We've asked the office to warn the tenant who'll be in then that we'll be turning up to install it all. All we need now is to find someone who wants the old table and parasol. Tony in the office has taken first refusal subject to the consent of his other half.

Elanor didn't make it again last night. It looks like the roadworks between Willington and the Toyota roundabout are causing traffic to back up getting on and off the A38. Sally had to be content with a run on the Washlands yesterday. Elanor plans to have another go tonight, here's hoping.

Tomorrow, I should get the paint on the side hatch frame, taking advantage of the last fine day for a few days.


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

More help from the James's

Not only did Jo James give me that useful lift into Derby yesterday, she also passed on our message to Wynne that we were interested in the wifi booster system he supplies to boaters in the marina. Accordingly, he popped in as soon as he got back from work last evening and set up this handy piece of kit. It consists of an aerial outside joined to a router in the boat by a USB cable. In this way, the marina wifi signal is rebroadcast inside with the router's own identity and password.

We've been trying it today and it is indeed potent, giving very adequate data speeds. The only problem we have is how to arrange the cable permanently; at the moment we're just running it in through the open bow doors, fine in the summer but not so good in the winter. Methinks we've got another little task for Peter Mason when we go to Braidbar in the Autumn...

It's been a day for pottering again. I've pretty well finished setting up the iPhone and Sheila took a trip into the village to get her hair done. The new ironing board cover arrived and has been fitted on the lodge board. Sheila has also ordered some better patio furniture from Charles Taylor of Leek. It should arrive before we leave the marina again and is of a chunky wooden design. Photos in due course...

The 1Gb Acer Liquid E2 has no resale value that I can see. The later versions all have much more memory and even the phone recyclers don't offer anything for this one. This afternoon I spent a bit of time resetting it to remove all personal data and doing the same for a couple of old Nokias I found lurking. I will however keep the 6310 as the real emergency back up phone; the others will be donated to one of the charities, probably.

Traffic jams meant that Elanor didn't make it to us last night – we're hoping she does tonight so that Sally can enjoy a run in the marina field.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

More done than expected

Things started off pretty much as expected today, with a relaxed start and then the wait for the Ocado order. Mark in the Onion van was early and only gave me five minutes notice of his arrival, so I did a bit of power walking to let him in.

We'd just got started on the checking and putting away when Jo popped in. She was going to Derby in the late morning, and did I want a lift in to get the 3 SIM sorted? Since this would save giving up another half day to do it, I was very pleased to accept. We had time for the checking and storage and even a cup of coffee beforehand.

Things were very straightforward in the 3 shop in Intu, chwarae teg, as they say in Wales. It cost me a fiver to have the micro SIM in the old phone replaced by a nano SIM in the iPhone. It all seems to be working fine, though there are one or two things I need to get used to, rather different ways of doing stuff compared to Android or Nokia systems. Enabling the hotspot is much quicker, though the connection seems to drop with non-use, something to explore over the next couple of days.

After lunch we took a walk round the marina, stopping to admire Ian and Alison's new mobile home with which they are very pleased. It's been a quiet afternoon, pottering and playing with the new toy. Wynne is coming round later to talk about wifi aerials and routers and Elanor and Sally are due at some point too.

Tomorrow, more of the same, like as not.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Into Derby again

We woke early but had a quite lazy start, as we didn't need to be off the boat before ten. Sheila got a washload running and we did a bit of pottering before setting off. Things went smoothly when we got there; shopping was done and we walked up to the London Road Community Hospital where Sheila was seen pretty promptly.

This was an interesting session for both parties as the physio had never seen a toe joint replacement before, the op not having been available on the NHS until this trial started. He confirmed that the exercises she's been doing are what's needed, so it's a case of carry on as you were. They discussed whether she needed to be followed up, but the conclusion was no, in the end. If a problem does arise, she can always be referred back by the GP.

We hopped on the bus back to the Intu centre and indulged ourselves with excellent Thai noodles for lunch. Some shopping at Sainsbury's and a look at waterproofs on a stall in the Eagle Market completed our business. We had half an hour to wait in the bus station before the V3 took us home.

Once there, it was a case of unloading the goodies, setting the washload to tumble and going round to the office where my new-to-me iPhone was waiting. I've had a quick play and all seems to be well; we'll need to go back into Derby later to get my 3 sim swapped for the nano version to use in the new phone.

We needed to pop into the lodge to sort a couple of things; the ironing board cover has died, for example, and needs replacing. It's been a case of sitting down quietly since, a strategy that we plan to pursue into the evening.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Settling back in

After a well earned night's kip, we've had a busy sort of day catching up with routine chores. Much washing has been done, the bed changed, some of the post sorted out. Sheila did her winter to summer clothes change at last and was quite draconian with weeding out unused or no longer suitable clothes. We also took a dressing table mirror up to the lodge and installed it in the twin bedroom. A wheelchair using guest had pointed out that none of the other mirrors are quite low enough for someone seated in front of them.

We've had a couple of walks round the marina; it was warm enough to justify ice creams in front of Still Waters this afternoon. There was a goodly crowd of visitors, too, and a couple of couples looking round the moorings.

There's a bit of a problem with condensation in the corner of the long term storage under the dinette. We've bought a calcium chloride type damp trap from the shop and popped it in there. We'll leave it there for a week then use some of the budget carpet tiles to cover the hullside and stop more mildew from forming.

I posted a query to Canal World about the batteries. General opinion is that the rising charge current could well be a result of excess heat in the bank; the question now is what to do to ameliorate it. Since it only occurs after very long runs, if the batteries prove to be still in good nick when I check them with the hydrometer then no action may be required. If there are signs of deterioration, we may have to find ways of improving ventilation round them, or removing spray foam from under them so that they get some cooling from the hull which is underwater below them.

When I've posted this, I'll do a final update to the Ocado order for Tuesday, since we'll be in Derby for most of the day tomorrow and unlikely to want to faff around with it when we get back.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Getting sorted

Yesterday was a truly epic bit of boating, Streethay to Mercia, seven hours on the move and a total of nine hours boating. We're still pretty weary today, not least because it's not been a recovery day (that will be tomorrow – I hope) but a day for sorting things out. We'd seen odd behaviour from the batteries again as the day wore on. Having dropped back to a charge current of about 7.5 amps as usual, the value started rising again.

When it reached 16 amps, we stopped long enough to lift the engine boards and make sure there was still no sign of one battery seriously overheating and boiling, which there wasn't. We carried on whilst I gave our supplier, Pb Batteries, a ring. The service manager was reassuring but suggested that I check the individual cells with a hydrometer and that I watch what happened with the Mastervolt charger when we got onto a shoreline. I left putting this last on until this morning, to be sure that the bank had cooled down, and we popped into Midland Chandlers today to get a hydrometer.

The batteries spent a lot of time on the absorption phase of charging, but eventually the charger switched over to float as it should and they've seemed fine ever since. Checking the cells will involve removing the batteries, so that will keep until next week; Sheila needs the engine room this weekend to catch up with the washing. Reading up the manual for the Mastervolt reminded me that temperature affects battery charging. There's not a lot of ventilation under those boards – enough for the engine to breathe properly, of course, and for the hydrogen generated to disperse, but a long cruise on a hot day probably means that things are around 45 or 50ºC by the end of the day.

I suspect that this leads to the increased charge current. When I've got my head together a bit more, I'll try that thought out on CWDF.

So, what else has happened today? A lot of washing has been done and Sheila and I got a walk round the marina this morning, collecting post, buying milk and some Scotch eggs for tonight, generally having a mooch. Elanor and Sally came over this afternoon bringing some chicken in Madeira and wild mushroom sauce and the post she's been looking after for us.

Sal had a run in field two which she greatly enjoyed but began to overheat after a bit. We then had a pleasant and relaxed family catch up, part of the reason why this blog post is late. Tomorrow, as I say, we'll take things easy apart from yet more laundry...

Friday, 5 June 2015

Home again

For meteoriological reasons, we've come all the way back to Mercia today, nine hours non-stop boating. Almost like a hire boat... ;)

As may be imagined, we are a bit on the cheese biscuit side*, so I'll do a proper blog tomorrow.

*Cream crackered? Sorry, blame the fatigue! And this excellent pint of Tanglefoot.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Lazing on a sunny afternoon

"In the summertime..." I know, showing my age again, but the music you dance to in your late teens and twenties is what you think of as proper pop for the rest of your life.

Anyway, things went pretty much to plan today. A seven thirty start and an uneventful but extremely pleasant run on a warm sunny day got us to our present mooring by half ten. We're just short of the new King's Orchard marina and will carry on to Alrewas, another run of about two and a half to three hours tomorrow.

It had been a bit of a broken night for me and a bad one for Sheila, her bruises having come out with a vengeance. I've put her back on the ibuprofen + paracetamol regime for 24 hours. We did a good bit of loafing on the bow in the sun until lunchtime, waving cheerfully to those boats which slowed down to pass us and with less bonhomie to those who didn't, including the one which towed a breaking wash past us.

The former category included some well known faces, in some cases friends, especially Yvonne on Fizzical Attraction and Peter and Janet on Sanity.

After lunch and a discussion about chicken purchases with Elanor, more loafing was undertaken, though I did break off to do a couple of routine jobs. I fired up the Mac Mini to sort out my mailboxes and to back up the iPad and I got the clothes bag out from under the dinette. Winter wear was put away or out for the wash and summer stuff, polo shirts, shorts and lightweight pyjamas, got out and stowed in my drawer. I also condemned some t-shirts and spare underwear I've not needed for the last year.

Tonight, another carbonara, I think, it's definitely a bit Mediterranean out there.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

A therapeutic sort of day

Things are looking up, including the weather, though it's not quite flaming June yet. With no locks for quite a while, Sheila did one of her flying starts and was boating by quarter past six. I took a bit more time to rise and shine and took over steering an hour later. It was pleasantly dry and sunny, albeit with a chilly breeze still hanging around. We had a good run through Polesworth, Alvecote and Amington to the Glascote Two. The top lock was full and the bottom one empty, probably because the top gate of the one and the bottom gates of the other were leaking merrily away.

As we came over the aqueduct over the Tame, we could see a mud hopper drifting about across the cut. One end had come free of its blue string mooring alongside the CRT maintenance yard just there. I tried ringing CRT to report it, but the central board couldn't get the Fazeley office to answer. Accordingly, we stopped briefly outside Peel's Wharf and I nipped in to let them know.

By eleven we'd reached Sutton Road Bridge where we found a mooring amongst some liveaboards. This is one of those locations where there are either no boats at all, or quite a lot, presumably because of the floating community that wanders about these waterways.

We had time to get some retail therapy in before lunch. A visit to Sainsbury's got some provender that hadn't been available at Aldi. I also bought some more rechargeable AA and AAA batteries from Maplins and we had a look at hose reels in B&Q; our current one isn't the most convenient to use. We were really looking for an empty reel we could transfer out existing hose onto, but instead got a nice Hozelock job with 25 meters of new hose. It will need a good rinsing before we use it to fill the tank, though of course our Seagull IV water filter will strip out any nasties left over from the manufacturing process.

We've been pottering after lunch, sorting the new hose reel, potting up a basil plant that we got in Sainsbury's, refilling the handwash dispenser. Serious efforts have been made in the sitting out on the bow and crossword completion directions too. Tonight, a salad since the weather is even better than it was, Melton Mowbray pork pie, cous cous with bits in it, fresh basil leaves, stuffed olives, chilled white wine and so on.

Could be a good evening...

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

A bit of a wind up

Whilst wind has been the dominant feature of this year's weather, April excepted, I've also noticed something about the pattern that I hadn't before, possibly because the wind hasn't been as strong. This is that the worst of the wind follows, rather than accompanies the rain. So this week we had a lot of rain yesterday afternoon, with chilly temperatures and some wind, but today has been much warmer and largely dry with a lot of wind.

We set out at half seven after a quick breakfast and got to the top of Atherstone at eight. The first half of the flight went by uneventfully, Sheila locking and yours truly steering. There was room to tie just after the A5 bridge for the obligatory visit to Aldi. Having bought mostly fresh food, we got back to the boat at ten. I only stopped long enough to put the chilled stuff in the fridge before doing my share of the hard work.

Things went much more slowly now. There were a lot of boats going our way and not many coming up, so it was nearly twelve before we emerged from lock 11. The wind, which up until now had merely been awkward at worst, became a serious problem with fierce gusts making it necessary to crab along at times. Rather than slog on towards Polesworth or even to get past Grendon Dock, I spotted an enticing bit of Armco about halfway between the long term moorings and Grendon and decided we'd done enough for the day.

It proved difficult to get the bow close enough to the bank, what with the effect of going astern in pretty shallow water and the wind which had decided to blow up the stern and push it into the bank, forcing the bow out. Eventually, Sheila made a jump for it, only to find that one of the big fenders had formed a passionate attachment for her ankle and tried to come with her.

She fell awkwardly onto the towpath with her feet tangled up in the fender line and still projecting over the edge of the Armco. I finally managed to get the stern near enough the bank to get off holding the centreline whilst Sheila managed to roll clear. I was left holding the baby boat until she was able to sort herself out. Fortunately, it's her ankle, not her toes, that took the damage, mainly a large bruise on her calf. Once the first mooring lines were secure, I sent her on board to get her boots and wet weather gear off and to take a dose of ibuprofen to help control the inflammation.

Once I'd tied Sanity Again and done all the end of boating things, I was able to put the rest of the shopping away and get lunch ready. Sheila has spent the afternoon with her leg elevated and swathed in a towel containing the last of a bag of frozen peas, which strategy has reduced the bruise quite a bit, I'm pleased to say.

It's been an afternoon for loafing and dozing, as may be imagined. I've rescheduled the Ocado delivery to next Tuesday, done a couple of emails and a posting to Canal World, back online after a prolonged outage over the weekend, about changing a CAV 296 filter. The wind has been tremendous, rocking and rolling the boat on her mooring. I'm just sorry for all those who had to carry on boating this afternoon.

Tomorrow we'll make an early start, Sheila's battle scars permitting, with the aim of catching up on the schedule and getting to Sutton Road Bridge.

Monday, 1 June 2015

On we go

Today's weather was forecast to be an OK start, turning seriously grotty later. We wanted to get a pump out and diesel at Boot Wharf, so set off just after half seven. In the event, we took a bit longer than usual for this section, being held up first by a short privateer, who however stopped by where the Navigation Inn used to be at Bedworth, and then by a very slow moving ABC hireboat.

We weren't in a desperate rush, so apart from the mild frustration of not being able to take advantage of the deeper water between Suttons and Bedworth it wasn't a big deal. Arriving at Boot just after half nine, we were expeditiously dealt with (72 ppl and any declaration) and on our way by ten. Sheila took over the steering and I started another washload running.

By a quarter to twelve we were approaching Hartshill in a rising wind and with rain threatening, so decided to call it a day. We'd no sooner tied on the towpath beyond the official visitor moorings, well away from the road bridge, than it did indeed start to precipitate. Since then it's been very windy; we've had to move the broom and the spare boat hook down off the roof into the well deck to stop them blowing away. Sally's water bowl was already in the well deck and startlingly suddenly rolled around it. It's been stowed in the bow locker.

So it's been an afternoon for browsing the internet, spending money and catching up with crosswords. I've carried out our plan to buy an unlocked iPhone 5c on eBay, a factory recon unit with a new battery. When we get into Derby next week, I'll get 3 to change the SIM for a nano one and go over to using the new phone. May I never have to wrestle with Androids again!

Frustratingly, Canal World has been offline all day; it looks as if they have a major problem there. More reassuringly, CRT have confirmed via a stoppage notice that Lock 6 at Atherstone has reopened after the problems with the top gate were fixed on Saturday.

Tomorrow we'll head on down that flight, stopping to shop at Aldi as we go, and aim to finish at Alvecote. A longish day by our standards but one which pretty well gets us back into the local waters for Mercia.