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Monday, 5 April 2021

All sorts - updates, 'yellow sticker vaccines' Summer and Winter all in One week...

 Ok - I know that has to be one of my crappiest titles...  thing is, if I spend too long thinking about them, I forget what I was about to type... perhaps it's an age thing.

Righty ho.  SINCE my last rambling (eek over 2 weeks ago), loads of bits and bobs have happened.

As planned we left the luxury of shoreline on 22nd (actually I think we planned on the 21st but as that was a Sunday, we'd not be able to give our key fobs back and top up the diesel tank) and chugged off in the direction of the Leigh Branch of the L & L.  Another boat (newbies) left at the same time as us and we followed them for an hour or so until they got too cold and tied up for the night - we, pressed on and after stopping briefly in Leigh outside Aldi to top up the heavy stuff,  continued on to Pennington Flash.  

Moody skies but a lovely view none the less

The bloke who seems to have taken up permanent residence on the other side (and runs his genny until late) is STILL there...  I'd like to live and let live but these folks really do take the proverbial.

You may recall, the main reason for leaving the marina a week early was to test out the batteries to see if we'll get away with this season from them  - first morning  they were at 80 % with the inverter having been on power save mode.   HAVING no shame in regards 'towpath laundry', I ran a load through and then got the little genny out to top up the batteries... I even tilted the panels to make the most of the available solar.

The next day, we chugged on a bit - planning to fill with water and then head to Scotsman's Flash... the sun was out and all was well with the world.

Halfway to Wigan,  I received a text message from my doctors to say I could book a covid jab - either Thursday (this was Wednesday) or Sat Morning back in Wakefield.   Having travelled from Wigan on the train to Wakefeld a couple of years ago, that was going to be a pain - so, mid afternoon, we turned back and chugged back to Manchester ... mostly in the dark.  Besides it being cold, it was a lovely journey.  

We pulled up outside Old Trafford (underneath the Hotel Football) and spent the night there - in readiness to collect a hire car from Enterprise about a mile's walk away.

When I arrived at the vaccination popup place, I was in and out in no time - replete with my first dose of the AstraZenaca vaccine.

I enquired as to how come I'd been called 'early' - (I'm under 50 obviously) and was told quite candidly that the stuff I'd just had injected,  was going out of date on Sunday ... ergo, I'd just had a 'yellow label'  This tickled me and not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I'm pleased it was used rather than binned.

Next day we travelled into Castlefield Basin (to fill with water) turned and then headed to Sale for a couple of days before we set off properly on 29th (when the "stay at home" order ended).

IT was nice enough being moored outside the Kings Ransom for a couple of nights - tbh , I did feel a little under the weather but like I said to the Bosun, back in the days of 'working' I've driven to London - done a days work and then driven home feeling MUCH worse.  

On 29th, we pulled ropes and set off to begin our now elongated journey to  Llangollen  - to be in position for when we are allowed to take guests... I'm losing my patience now with crt  as they've not even started work on the landslide blocking the 'normal route' AND - have closed the only other route available.  More about that later.

We stopped for lunch in Castlefield Basin and just as we were about to set off, a boat went passed which meant we could share the Rochdale 9.  THAT was a relief as having done them on my own the other year, it's SO much easier with another boat.

On this leg of our journey, we were joined by our 'bubble' lady.  Last year, we agreed to form a bubble with our most returning single guest - neither party has deviated from this so we weren't breaking any rules... and as all 3 of us have been jabbed anyway, even if we had done, there'd have been much less risk than a trip to Tescos *other militant supermarkets are available*.

She'd brought along a rather unique  birthday cake for the Bosun (the 29th being his big day)

Bonkers as it may look, it was based on things he likes (being a fussy eater) such as white chocolate and Mince-pies.... scrummy!

WE charged our way up the 9 in record time - the crew struggling with a couple of gates but tied up safely for the night in Telford Basin before an early start up the Ashton the following morning.

The Ashton was a grubby as ever but no major hold ups presented themselves and we made quite good progress....  we stopped in Droylsden to fill with water and as the sun was out, we went beyond Portland Basin (which HAD been our planned mooring)  - almost to Marple Aqueduct before trying up for the night.

Next day was glorious and we worked our way up the Marple flight at a leisurely pace - stopping off for lunch mid way (well it was quiet enough not to cause a problem for anyone) and once at Marple, we reversed down the end of the Macclesfield canal to top up with water and (once again non-moving boats were tied up on the 48 hour moorings) then set off towards Bugsworth Basin.

We tied up for the night not far from Strines and the Bosun got his drone out for a couple of shots... only to be accosted by "Mr. Angry" in a house not far from the canal who felt the need to express his dislike of drones invading his privacy.  He didn't even HAVE his house in the shots and anyone who has a baby drone will tell you, you DONT have a zoom function to look at him in his underpants of whatever...  I fought back and politely explained we were just taking shots of the boat and it is perfectly legal to do so when not in a no-fly zone.

Enough for now - I'm afraid my next missive will include a bit of a rant about the NOW CLOSED Macclesfield Canal.., which we NEED!!!!

Until next time...

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Ready for the off, tinkering jobs and de-clutterig - again.

 There's something in the air...  (no - not covid....that appears to be getting under control with half the UKs adults already being vaccinated) - (although by the sounds of things it's going to slow down a bit cause of supply chain problems)... sods law has of course dictated that when it's my turn, I'll be in the middle of nowhere on 'Ellis' without easy access to car hire.  Hey ho.

Still,  outside, nature is doing her thing... new shoots bursting through, birds getting frisky - the Geese more so than ever this year... I really wish we could "mute" them...  horrible things. I've got the cauldron planters on the roof full of anemone and begonia corms ready for summer and bunged in a few pansy/viola around them to I've something to look at in the meantime.  Yes - spring really is just around the corner.

Chore wise, every dry /bright/warm day has seen a bit more paint being slapped on being applied to cover the scratches from last year, lockers cleaned out and even the engine hole has been given a bit of a tidy around.  I still need to make room to fit in the 100m long hose real I bought when we pulled up at the marina for winter but worse case, I'll sling it on the roof and pretend to be a normal boater lol.

This is going to sound contradictory - but despite the winter feeling like it's lasted forever, as usual now it's nearly over, I'm panicking cause I've not finished all my little jobs.  None of them are mission critical... some however simply make life a bit easier.   One I HAVE gotten around to was an easy win of fitting little racks to the inside of the larder cupboard door and also the crew wardrobe - spice racks to clear space on a shelf... it's amazing how much more room there is now to shove MORE things in lol.  Its annoys the ocd bit of me that the racks had to be staggered/spaced oddly to "fit" in with the shelves/dyson etc, but I'm sure I can cope with it... function over appearance being the priority.

I realize having sauce bottles in a wardrobe isn't the norm but let's be honest here... I live on a boat, wear crocs (unashamedly) and spend half my life talking about pump-out verses cassette.... there's already very LITTLE normal about me lol.

The space created is big enough to swallow a  couple of loaves of bread, some part baked rolls and perhaps a 'spare' dozen eggs.  I'm pleased with it.

Whilst in 'tidy' mode, I've also gone through the crew wardrobe in the main cabin - chucking out another 2 bin liners full of clothes that I just don't need ... why any boater needs nice shirts that require cuff-links, or trousers suitable for cruise-ship holidays is beyond me now.  Not so 4 years ago but now I've learned to accept I wear shorts ALL year round, only ever put trousers on for really cold/wet days when chugging and NEVER wear a shirt.  

Remember the TV return....

well it took a while for Amazon to agree to the refund... perhaps cause I'd not been able to return every thing that came with the telly - namely, the solar panel, Wrong power supply, lamps and stand... (I'd chucked some out and given the solar panel away)...

I'd gotten used to watching the gap of an evening anyway lol.  Joking a side, the replacement is now in situ and working fine.... the original one must just have been the cello equivalent of a 1970's Austin Rover "Friday night Allegro"!

In other news -  the other day, I  went in the marina office to buy another 10 bags of coal... ready to plonk on the roof when we chug off... having paid for said coal, it transpired they only had 6 bags of the stuff I prefer left (RED)...  so, rather than faff around with a refund, I perused the shelves for things I might need later in the year... and came away with a new chimney and china mans hat - lets be honest, if I get through a season without either losing or bending one on a low bridge it'll be a miracle. 

The more observant may notice a new bilge pump...  that arrived from Ebay the same day.  That's a scheduled improvement for a dry day - the existing one works fine but isn't automatic... ergo, whilst the alarm goes off inside the boat to alert me to water where it shouldn't be... nothing happens about it unless I manually turn it on.  This new one is going to be automatic AND manual.  I'm not wiring it to 3 3 way switch (laziness - I cant face running another wire into the control panel.   Instead, I 'm going to ue the existing switched cabling to the 'manual' side of the pump and make a direct to battery (fused) connection to the automatic side (with the built in float switch).  The main reason I'm not doing this just yet, is I'm trying to find a non-return valve to plumb in above the pump to stop it just being on the 'edge' of operation if you follow - I'll report back in due course later in the year on that one.

Another job I've finally gotten around to is re-applying the mirror film again to the saloon - you'll remember last winter I got some from China (coughs) that turned out to be VERY dark tinted... it worked well but did make the lounge rather gloomy.  

THIS time around (whilst still tinted) I've found a lighter version and have re-applied it ready for some summer privacy.  I'm happy enough to chat with walkers on the towpath but I do get a bit fed up of (unruly) children pressing their faces up at the portholes and commenting on the boat's interior... it's ok when it's just things like "Oh they've got a washing machine" but when it's "mum, there's a man sitting in his underpants" I get a bit narked.

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Whilst we've been tied up over winter, I've been looking at meal plans... that's the only thing I find difficult about having guests on board...  feeding them.  Thing is, I'm actually quite good at it (he claims modestly) but I really DONT like cooking.  I know some people do - I'm not one of them... luckily I'm quite efficient at it but it does requite a fair bit of planning to be captaining/ lock-wheeling one minute and serving up dinner the next.

It also gets a bit repetitive  ...   did I mention it gets a bit repetitive  ? - ;-) 

This year, I've added in a couple of different meals to the menu and removed some others that were too faffy.... making a new entry, is a rather nice pea and feta puree poached egg with chili oil for breakfast.  I know it SOUNDS  a bit mad, but it tastes rather nice and can be (poached eggs a side) prepped the night before.... 

It's mainly to have some variation...  I'd LOVE a fry up each day but having tried that with guests, it's just too much work (and too many calories for me) with a busy day's cruising ahead...  

We leave the marina tomorrow (21st) and begin our week testing off grid (with shoreline close to hand in case the batteries DONT bounce back to life).  Jean in the office is on standby to order 4 new batteries at short notice if we get into problems.  I've topped up the genny with fuel and plan to have a chug off to Pennington Flash for a few days to see how we manage with the inverter running 24/7 (in power save mode now that I've turned off the fast freeze button that was keeping it on ALL the time)... It was perhaps a little premature of me filling it with enough meat for the first 4-5 trips BEFORE testing it out but worse case scenario, if the batteries can't do it, we'll just run the engine outside of hours (like a lot of people do anyway) but ensure we are NOT moored near any other boats if having to do so.

Once we've had a few days there, we'll turn at plank lane and try and tie up outside Aldi in Leigh - to make stocking up on soft drinks/wine and other heavy stuff that much easier.  AFTER that, we'll head back to Sale for a couple of nights and then a week on Monday( 29th) begin our journey proper... up the Rochdale 9 and head towards Marple.  NOW having to go to Llangollen the long way to keep to the schedule for when folks are allowed out again.   The first part of the journey - certainly as far as Portland Basin not being my favorite... the Ashton canal is a bit of a dump and full of trollies for the first few miles... not to mention 'undesirables' lurking under bridges selling drugs or whatever.  Still, it's only 1 hard day and then it's the Lower Peak forest canal up to Marple.    I'm quite glad we'll be just about off the Macclesfied too when 'normal boating' begins on 12th April as THAT route is going to become very congested AND more worryingly SHORT of water due to the extra traffic it's going to get - what with work on  the Land Slippage near Anderton STILL no closer to beginning!  I should imagine  too that before long, crt will be saying there's a water shortage on the Leeds & Liverpool canal again...  like every year but not actually DOING anything about it.

Today is going to be a 'spring clean' day - ensuring we're as dust reduced as we can be with all the laundry up to date before we unplug in the morning... I'll top up the diesel tank, buy a bag of logs to give the fire a blast of heat on a morning (I swept the chimney yesterday) as it's that time of year when it's not cold enough to keep the fire in over night but instead, let it die down and start a fresh each morning...  

I really  can't wait to be moving again.... lovely as it's been to be here, I'm sick to death of Manchester now... 

Until Next time...

Friday, 12 March 2021

That burning feeling, Way too much varnishing and Wading!

 There are some things I really don't like doing on the boat.  No, it's not emptying the black water (although that can be a nuisance) ... ONE thing is sanding and varnishing .  Mainly cause I can never get the matt look I like - even when trying with the 'Satin' effect varnishes available.  The water based Morrells that I've used inside from the beginning really hasn't been as good as it should have been... (FOR the cost anyway).  The side hatches windows have suffered water-staining (through poor user operation I suppose) and the panels on the outer hatches pretty much the same.    

Id' been putting doing them off for ages but a brief window of nice weather meant I HAD to pull my finger out.  Unlike last year, THIS time, I took them off and outside to sand them down on the workbench.  A bit of a faff I admit but it kept a lot of the dust out of the boat.... not that you'd notice given how much the fire creates.  It's funny but when planning a boat, you convince yourself quite easily about how lovely a coal/wood burning stove is... cozy, welcoming etc.  It's true of course but the reality is that it creates MASSIVE amounts of dust everywhere... that no sooner have you cleaned  away, returns and jabs 2 fingers firmly in your face.  I digress.

I sanded down the windows as much as I dare to remove the grey stains - any more would have left 'dimples' in them and then put them back on to varnish.  Having decided the stain effect really WASN'T, this time it was all I could get in Wilkos.  I've managed 3 coats so at least they are protected for the season... NOT a brilliant/neat job but they'll do.  I've also decided that NEXT winter, the outside panels are going to change from wood to Grey... that'll make it easier for future years.

Sod's law dictates the photos are showing back to front order wise but you can work it out I'm sure lol.

Whilst the mild/dry weather was here (it's gone now btw and as I type this it's absolutely chucking it down like something out of a horror movie) I thought it wise to touch up the blacking down to the water line...  MUCH of last years now having come off.  Thing is, I can't reach down to the water line easily and after doing all I could, my back was really not happy.  Port side I had a solution for the last bit that sticks out beyong the floating pontoon - get the waders on and climb in.

A simple enough plan and in theory easy win.

Hmmm - I'd intended going in at the stern and then wading my ware around the front (out of sight of the marina incase things went belly up)...  it was obvious when I climbed into the water that the mud was VERY deep.  I'd not got even halfway down when I chickened out - the water being up to within an inch of the top of the waders (nipple height) .  

and boy it was cold.

SO, plan b...  reach down from the bow as much as possible to to that bit and then take the boat alongside the marina diesel point when they closed for the day (3pm) and slap some blacking on then.  Which as it happened went ok - I made another school boy error of also touching up the paint work TOO close to the dew point - ergo, it dried to a dull finish ... If I'd been able to do it earlier in the day before the temperature dropped, it'd have been ok.

Staying on the diesel point overnight, I chugged back to the pontoon the following morning and went in head first - so as to be able to do the other side...   Obviously the same problem would occur with the port stern as the starboard bow (check me out - I sound like Star Trek).

Trouble was, the NEXT nice day, a broken down boat was firmly ensconced on the diesel point... which left me back with the idea of trying the waders again - THIS time from the back of the boat  into the channel. Using the pole off the roof I tested the depth - the sun being out meant I could see a firmer bottom... Which as it turned out it was... so THIS time, I climbed off the end of the pontoon "in public" much to the amusement of the nearby boaters... no mater.  Armed with my floating tin of black, in a bain-marie of warm water to ease application, I had it done in no time . As I was doing it, a boat sped past causing a bit of a wave to swamp my waders... karma dealt with that shortly though as on it's reverse to turn, it's prop fell off! - I even tried to help find it in my waders but it DID get too deep then.

One thing to bear in mind when in the water in February in Waders... TEMPERATURE... I wasn't in long but it really was freezing.  I really should have been wearing trousers rather than shorts I suppose.  Then again - given only a week or so before it had been frozen over for days, it's no wonder .

Jobs done, (I do tend to work in a messy clutter)

I went off for my daily exercise (I'm still managing 10 miles a day but eating and drinking what I like - the result being the fat is no longer being lost but nor is it going back on ... for now.

I came across a trolley that had been fished out of the canal - it just goes to show that even in the current state of covid hysteria, folks still have a sense of humor - I chuckled about it all the way back to the boat.

Oh I nearly forgot ....  remember that replacement battery powered TV I got recently? - well, whilst it's been working fine, the other evening I had reason to fiddle with the ariel (the boat was pointing the opposite way around to usual) - having rotated the ariel outside to point the right way, the picture was still rubbish... so I did the "remove cable from tv, blow in the hole and put back in" thing...  ONLY to discover the coax was melting at the back of the telly.

This threw me.   First thought was the amplifier had gone belly up - so I quickly checked it and all seemed fine.. then I checked the other 2 tvs plugged into to it... all fine there too.    On testing the Ariel socket on the new one, I found it was showing  5.3 volts....  this in theory can supply power to an amplified Ariel but must have been finding a way back through the ground on  the coax to the boats batteries - ergo, enough power to melt the cable.  Thinking logically about it, since I got the telly, I've mainly been watching netflix so the power to the ariel hadn't been activated by the telly.  With no obvious way to turn it off in the online menus, I had a paddy and decided to get in touch with amazon to return it.  THAT was a bit of a faff too but in the end it's gone back to be replaced.

More worrying I suppose was that HAD it been on for longer/I'd fallen asleep, it might have gotten hot and melty enough to set on fire and burn the boat out... rest assured, I will be testing out the replacement as soon as it arrives.  Meanwhile, I'll be getting on with more external painting touch ups as soon as the weather allows.

Until next time...

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Easy Wins, Monsoon February, an early engine service and Fast Freeze foolery.

 Hey up.

NOW that dry January is over,  a week into February I declared it to be known as 'Monsoon February.'  Having proven to myself I don't NEED a drink, I've pretty much let myself have one whenever I've fancied one of late - it's not helped with the weight control - ergo I've put on a couple of pounds of that stone I'd lost ... Still, it's not the end of the world and I've been continuing my daily walking routine.  I'd much rather be boating - even skippering helps keep the weight off but until we leave here in late March, I'll just have to rely on the walking.

I do admit to have been avoiding this place again - no particular reason other than just pottering along doing little jobs here and there.  It's very difficult to keep motivated at the moment - perhaps a little less so now we've had (as in the nation) a carrot dangled our way by Boris.  

I don't know if you're aware, but here in England (can't even say UK anymore thanks to Sturgeon and that Welsh chap) we're still in an open ended lockdown - which began 4/5th Jan and was suggested to be at least until 15th Feb... that slipped to an announcement being made on 22nd February about the "route out" of it. 

Long and short of it is, (and think playground here) IF we all behave like we are being told/ordered/guided - (pick your own synaptic) we MIGHT be let out to play - a bit at a time with a few key dates being suggested.... and that's the bit - they are SUGGESTIONS that can be changed to suit what ever the agenda of the day is at the time.   I'll just roll with it and take each day as it comes.  I have to say though, that this continued hysteria is grating now - more so with over 17million already been vaccinated.... I mean, if the whole point of crippling the economy was to "save the NHS" from being overloaded by covid patients, once the higher risks have been jabbed,  WHO are we protecting it from being overloaded by?   

If I were cynical, I might be inclined to think that a lot of people who have tasted "POWER" for the first real time in their lives have rather gotten to like it!

I'll say no more about it for now - point is, since I began typing this, we're probably closer to 18million folks protected by one of other of the vaccines which can ONLY BE GOOD news.  

SO then - 'Ellis's' winter works program has been continuing in fits and starts.  The exterior really does need some warm dry days so I can deal with touching up the paintwork here and there - AND the blacking needs tidying up down to the water line... much of last years NEW stuff, having been knocked off on the Llangollen I presume.

The grass at the back has been replaced with a ribbed rubber mat which I'd ordered from Ebay on a 'click and collect' basis to a pick up point a mile away... suffice to say, 5 m x1.2m rubber matting is VERY heavy!!!

There was enough on the roll to cut a spare for the  counter, replace the grass in the well deck too and also make a few 'mats' to go under coal bags on the roof.  All in all, a good value easy win.  

I've sika-flexed it to the weed hatch cover so it doesn't blow away but lifts up on the hinges for access... a lesson learned there losing a previous matting during high wind in Granary Wharf Leeds.

. . . . . . . . . . . 

Since I was last here, Winter briefly made herself known and one morning (sods law some ginger idiot  the Capt. had let the fire die down too much overnight) it was  down to Minus 6.2 outside and only 15.3 indoors!

It looks nice I'll grant you but the problem with being frozen in is - when the winds blow and the boat moves around a bit on it's ropes, you end up slamming into the ice around it which is both noisy and disconcerting during the night.  I DID have a brain wave on the 2nd day of the freeze to run the engine in gear (reverse) for half an hour whilst tied thinking being that the friction of the prop on the water would generate HEAT, pushing warm water under the boat to the front and thus melting a decent area around the hull - it worked too.  The result being a more comfortable night's sleep... until it froze back over again and the cycle needed repeating the next day.

JOB wise,  I've had a squeaking floor board outside the crew loo... you don't notice it until you reverse in during a middle of the night wee ... but it's very difficult to avoid and like most noises in the night, seemed really loud.

The solution was to take up the oak floor, cut a hole in the subfloor and then brace it... simple but effective and squeak is now totally cured.  WHAT took 5 seconds to type however, in true Ginger style, took most of an afternoon!

I did take a video clip of before and after but can't for the life of me find it now - trust me, it's sorted though.

Another easy win was the remote inverter switch - I'd bought one when I got the inverter eons ago... it had been 'filed' away somewhere...  well, whilst servicing the engine, I found it (whilst looking for an oil filter)...  Alas, having fitted it, I discovered that 4 years stored in an (un airtight) box in the engine hole isn't conducive to working operation of delicate electronics .

The "on" switch element works fine but the "power save" side didn't... so I took it apart, sanded down the connections and briefly brought it back to life... I say briefly as within a couple of days it had stopped working again... SO a replacement has been ordered from Photonic Universe (now only 14 quid - twas 29 when I bought the first one)

The reason for fitting it now was because (if you cast your mind back to the new fridge freezer installation) when we are away from shoreline, the inverter needs turning off on a night before bed and back on first thing... mainly because 'something' in the fridge wouldn't let it go onto power save mode... ahem, well... I might have found what that was.  You see, INSIDE the fridge is a button ... on or off...  I presumed it was power on off ... well,  For some or other reason the other day, I opened the fridge from the 'wrong side' and noticed a label ... THIS label .

In layman's terms - the ginger idiot installer had had (good English) the thing on FAST FREEZE since it was fitted.  NO WONDER the inverter couldn't go on to power save mode!


ANYWAY - Having disconnected from the mains power, turned off the fast freeze and "waited" - sure enough the power save mode kicked in and the inverter went from drawing 5 or so amps down to 2.  Ergo, the batteries MIGHT last another year after all.  Time till tell on that one as it's an expense I can really do without right now.

So, when the replacement switch arrives, I'll remove the old one, wire it in and then have the convenience of not having to open my tool cupboard to control the inverter.  Simple things bring so much pleasure sometimes.

I mentioned a few paragraphs back  I'd done an early engine  service - 125 hours early to be exact but not without good reason... you see, last time an oil change had been due I'd not been able to get hold of the right stuff so 'made do' with an api sf grade instead of the cc it SHOULD have.  The result being a bit of white smoke on start up ... NOT the end of the world, but this engine needs to be in tip top order given all I ask of i so having now picked up a few containers of the proper stuff , it seemed a good idea to do a pre-season service.  

I'm very pleased with the compatible diesel filters I've sourced instead of the engines plus ones...  they are  26 quid a pop whereas when buying a few, I think they are now coming in circa 12 quid each.  Result!  I've also FINALLY found an oil filter too to use in place of the deadong ones...  not such a saving (circa 5 quid cheaper) and on handling them, I noticed they are WAY lighter... so much so, I actually put them on the scales... the "proper one" being 15 oz and the compatible one only 11 - on that basis, I think I'll stick to the "proper ones"...for the sake of a fiver, I'd rather know the engine was getting  the clean oil it deservves.

Until next time...