Reuse again

My temporary repair to the bilge hose would probably have been sufficient to do the job but if not, and the boat sunk then the insurers would probably claim the boat was not “sea worthy”. Now they use this get out clause whenever they can. There have been boats that have broken down on an estuary and sunk when an un-forecasted storm has hit. The insurers claim the boat should not have been out in the storm. It would not have been if it had not broken down. In other words if you can foresee and prevent all eventualities then the insurance is valid, and not needed!

Well coming back to my repair of my hose by taping a vinyl glove around it, I decided as I was passing the chandlers at Uxbridge I should buy a new hose.


For those wondering why you need a pump in the engine bay I shall explain. First of all the engine is under the loosely fitted deck boards. In England it rains. Most of that water goes down drain channels but as we all know waterproofs leak, just like us getting rain down our necks in heavy rain so the water gets down into the engine bay.

Secondly there is the hole in the back of the boat. Rowing boats, sailing boats and paddle steamers use a sensible means of propulsion whereby the force is applied above the water line. But for boats with an inboard engine there is the need to pass the propeller shaft out through a hole in the hull, normally below the water line. There is a gland with a seal and it is normally set up to allow a mall amount of water to drip through to lubricate the seal surface. During the day the drip can become a dribble and if left unadjusted the dribble becomes a trickle. Moor up for a couple of weeks and you can come back to a sunken vessel. Hence the pump and its automatic float switch. There are other sources of water like waves on rough estuaries and forgetting to secure the weed hatch properly but that will do for now.


Enough about technicalities, I thought it best to get a new hose. I measured it as a 1 inch diameter hose. I bought a 1 inch hose. Later that day I moored up and found that the existing hose had somehow shrunk to a ¾ inch hose. I have yet to find a tape measure that I can rely on. On searching my bits and bobs box (don’t all men have one?) for some adapters I came across a length of ¾ inch washing machine drain hose. It does the job, does anyone want some 1 inch hose?

Sing, don’t whistle

A rough looking boater asked me this week, “so what do you waterways chaplains actually do?”

“Well”, I replied, thinking of the various things from assisting with benefit claims to helping them through locks, “amongst other things we lock people up”. He looked pretty concerned until we both realised the ambiguity in my response.

Apart from passing the time of day on the tow path the boat has been getting a bit more TLC, not that it will notice. A wise sage said to me if it is not broken then leave it alone. However some things do need a bit of attention even when you really don’t want to do it. In this case it involved a bit of up-cycling and dress making to get started.

Having treated the drinking water tank for rust about three years ago I thought I would have quick check to see that it was OK. Most of it looked a bit rusty, but it seemed to be infested with big brown snails. They had rust brown trails and curly shells. If you popped them they oozed rusty liquid which drifted down into the water, the clouds of brown spreading like a fog through the water.

So I decided it did need looking at. Now this is not just a simple job of a touch of paint, more like climbing inside the boot of a car, closing the lid then trying to paint all surfaces without getting paint on yourself.

The hatch is a 16inch square that I can just squeeze through. It is too shallow to turn round and too short to roll over in, plus it has sharp corners of angle iron to jab into your head and elbows, so a bit confined.

Having washed and dried it, two coats of rust converter went on easily enough. But having had enough of squirming around I decided to get a quote for a flexible plastic tank liner rather than paint it. £830 for a big plastic bag, you must be joking!

So how do you paint the inside of a boot without gassing yourself? I found an old rucksack that had been discarded, stitched in a pair of goggles and a ventaxia pipeline. Connected the pipe to a bilge fan, zipped it around my neck and voila! a respirator that looked like a bank robber’s disguise.


As long as the pipeline was not tangled there was not even the whiff of paint. In fact it was almost cozy in the tank, although cramped. At one stage I found myself singing and what a sound box a steel tank makes. Carefully making sure I did not paint my self into a corner I finished up lying in the unpainted patch under the hatch. That was a mistake! As the tank is less than 18 inches high, it should have been obvious that it would be impossible to lie directly under the hatch and then be able to sit upright to get ones head out. It was a sort of one man game of Twister with a board of wet paint.


Following 2 coats of red oxide paint then 3 coats of bitumen for potable water tanks the job is done. I have two resolutions, I am never getting in that tank again and I really will not be drinking that water.


Why not drink it? A little bit of dirt won’t do any harm but the tank is under the front deck. The hatch is in the deck. One walks on the deck. One walks on the tow path. On the tow path dogs walk, and do other things. The filling hose lives on the deck. Spiders and earwigs live on the deck and like crawling into things. The filling hose goes on the tow path taps. Others use their hoses for flushing toilet tanks. If that is not enough, the taste of bitumen will last for several tanks, so no, I won’t be drinking from it.

And as for whistling, you can sing with a vapour mask, goggles and respirator, but a whistle is silent. At least there were no witnesses otherwise it may have looked like trying to blow a kiss to my paintwork.

On painting the roof

Now the job is nearly complete I can reflect on what I have learnt about painting the steel roof of a narrow boat. I am sure there must be lots of other things that I am not aware of, that I will become aware of as time passes, but for now here is a bullet pointed list.


Do not:

Do not work with your wallet in your pocket or be prepared to do and instant belly flop on the towpath to catch it as it gradually sinks into the murky depths.

Do not believe the claims for any mechanised paint stripping/sanding tools. If it’s serious enough to cut through the old hard gloss then it will also cut up the softer steel. Cup brushes, knotted wheels, flap wheels , overlapping discs don’t do it. A sharp one inch chisel is what one needs and about 300,000 scrapings to get the paint off 13 square metres of roof.

Do not believe that the wind blowing tree debris onto the roof is also strong enough to blow away the sanding dust, wear a properly fitting mask or suffer from a tight chest for several days.

Do not lean the extension cable reel up against the part of the generator marked “Warning, hot exhaust”


Do not blow insects or tree debris off the bit you are about to paint, they will end up on the bit that you just painted, no matter which way you blow them.

Don’t bother telling yourself not to knock over the thinners you have just put on top of the solar panel, that is just asking for that prophecy to be fulfilled.


Always work away from the power cords not towards them or risk the sander catching and trying to wind up the cord, as well as winding up yourself.

If you must get a generator make sure you are going to be able to get it onto the boat, by yourself.

a 42 kg generator

Always keep a salvage magnet on board to retrieve the hand tools when you fumble their safety wrist strap knocking them overboard.

When taking off ones shoes to get on the roof, stay well away from the edge or at least one of them will end up treading water down the gap.

Try to get real, physical colour charts rather than relying on a computer image and description. “Light Admiralty Grey BS381 697” .. Light -yes, Admiralty ? Grey .. no, more baby powdery blue greenish. Oh well, it looks OK under the motorway bridge.


Always check with your fingers whether you have just re-coated a part of the roof before walking on it with woolly white socks.

Always start off by using masking tape rather than part way through once you have already wound yourself up by getting paint where is shouldn’t be. Otherwise the job will take longer and there will be remedial work to do.

Ensure you have ear plugs if you intend to try to sleep under an eight lane motorway, enjoy 3 am to 4 am, it’s the only sleep you will get.

Enjoy whatever company turns up, as long as it stays off the roof.


And seriously

A motorway bridge does make quite a wind tunnel resulting is paint drying as it is being applied and debris blowing onto the roof. It did keep the sun and rain off.

With the quick drying paint it was worth having thinners and a brush to lay off the paint as it skinned quickly.

The matt applied with a roller produced a rough and uneven finish. For me this happens to be much better than the previous gloss because it will give me better grip for walking on without having the dirt holding capacity of a sand impregnated finish.

I should have thinned the primer and used two coats to reduce the roughness that was due to it drying too quickly.

I bought more than enough paint, therefore I will be going for a third top coat and will have some left for patching with the same baby powdery blue greenish shade. Rust treatment was Vactan, zinc oxide primer, top coat (also a anti rust primer and top) was Combi color from Rawlins, mixed to order and delivered next day, great service.


I’m used to boats with adults and kids

And picnics with photos and sun

A chance for catching up with the news

With drinks to add to the fun

DSCN7020All aboard

They bring along bags with all of the food

With camera, sun cream and hat

With some at the back and some at the front

We slip into hours of chat

But never before have I been as awake

As lock-waters around the boat swirl

More care than before for my latest of crew

A precious and helpless new girl


First cruise

Pleasantly surprising or Wow!


Previously was Oveltine factory wharf, no mooring allowed now

Yesterday’s spring weather just begged to be enjoyed on the boat so most reluctantly I went out. To be honest I was virtually kicked out by Gwyn who said I’d only mope about the garden if I didn’t go, thanks Gwyn.

The boat has always started, stammered, and more than not needed to be restarted. She had to be cranked over quite a bit, even after 30 seconds of glow plug heating. Even my trusted engineer at Cowroast remarked on it, and that was following a skim and compression test. But yesterday, she started straight away, and there was just a short cloud of black smoke.  Now come on, you need some smoke, it’s a BMC after all. Not having a bit of smoke would be like owning a Harley Davidson motor bike with a decent silencer on it, it ain’t done. But following the initial puff I could not see any smoke and had to search the hull to find the exhaust outlet. When Calcutt had advised the injector service I thought, yes, will probably make a little difference, but wow! So come on lads and lasses, it wasn’t a hard job, get em out and serviced, you know it’s worth it!

And what a lovely day for a short meander down to Hunton Bridge. Only 5 locks, but all empty (against me) and 4 out of five with both downstream gates left open. Let’s not go into Grand Union lock protocol here, again. It was a lovely day on which I unexpectedly met some friends.


No didn’t mean him in the armour. Jackie, previously my PA, and Pat were walking towards the pub, or away from the veggie restaurant, depending on what you wish to believe, it was lovely to meet up again after a couple years. Then there was tea and eccles cake with D, who is sleeping rough. The kites were flying overhead, the fish were nibbling, the swans were brooding and the M25 and A41 were crawling to a standstill. What more could a non-liveabord boater want? Well I know I shouldn’t but don’t half fancy one of these houses with a mooring at the foot of the garden. In your dreams!


Paddington’s Pool

Over the May day bank holiday the Canal Cavalcade is held and I am on my way there. It is held in what has become known as Little Venice, mainly in the Pool at Paddington. Now to me Paddington’s pool sounds rather what an unfortunate bear may have left behind after an accident while searching for the public conveniences at that great station. It is actually the junction between the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal, the Regents canal and the Paddington Basin. There is an island in the middle which the band occasionally share with breeding, noisy, wildfowl. There are main roads around and above the venue with emergency vehicles always on the move day and night. The train station backs onto the basin, it is a commuter route for pedestrians and cyclists and a tourist attraction. It is far from quiet and in a way reminds us that the canals originated as industrial and agricultural utilities.

But here be people, determined to enjoy and share what remains of this heritage with their friends and others. Do visit if you get the chance.

So far my run down towards Paddington has been pretty uneventful depending on what you may consider a significant event. To me it was significant that when, putting supplies on the boat, I dropped my car keys and they landed on a drain grating and didn’t drop through.


Picture for illustration purposes only and may be different to the actual one, as they say.

I met a set-building crew converting the outside of a lock cottage for use in the sequel to a popular tv series. There was the elderly couple on a hire boat trying to get it back for its due date with the husband declaring locks to be a mystery to him, as he was about to open the wrong paddles.Then when the weather turned cold and rainy my prop  must has decided it was too cold and found a pair of jogging bottoms to wrap around itself. The boat stopped and drifted side on to the canal and the wind started to blow her sideways up the cut. All minor events.

Then there was the stranger looking in through the window and asking first for brandy, then beer, then any alcohol. Not being successful he asked for money. His attire indicated that his religion forbade consumption of alcohol. I dealt with it, it was for me another minor event. But I am left wondering how he experienced that situation, I may never know.

But what is important, what is a significant “event”. Is it only what affects our own experiences, now or in the future? Is it how it effects others’ experiences? If it is then we do things to enjoy ourselves, we do good and creative things to help others have better experiences. And so life goes on based on having better experiences. Or is there something outside of this? Something that echos in the song of the sky lark, that is stirred by the faint perfume of the bluebell, by the knowing smile or sympathetic hand shake.

To me creation, the material universe, can be considered to be a bit like a clock. The clock has no purpose in isolation. The clock may be accurate or wrong,  ornate or plain, all parts working together like clockwork or worn out, but it has no purpose to itself. It only has purpose when there is an outsider who has an interest in the clock.

For me I think the purpose of creation is love, and the outsider is a loving God, at all events. What a great reason to enjoy sharing one’s enjoyment with others!

Back to the boat and  boating …

Good Will & NVQ on the cut

In the last post I mentioned the help given by the engineer at Cowroast marina and it is remarkable how much people do go out of their way to look out for others on the canals and help them if needed.

DSCN4848A while ago one of the commercial boat owners noticed that an old boat, which was not in good condition, was gradually getting deeper in the water. He found out that the owner was away and not able to do anything to stop it sinking so ensured that the Waterways Chaplaincy, along with someone from the Canal Ministries team, knew the situation. Then he lent them a battery pack and pump so they could pump out the excess water and save the boat from sinking. This all cost time and effort but it is what happens. They look out for each other even when they are strangers. Some may be comfortably off and chose the life style, some may be virtually living on air, for a few others it is their means of earning a living. There are those who are competent and yet have a mishap, others are total novices and are somewhat to blame for a situation but when trouble comes most boaters first reaction is to stop what they are doing and help.

It is a refreshing attitude.

I was reminded starkly of this when we finally managed to finish my little trip this week. We were some distance from a lock and I could just make out that there was a boat exiting it. Because it was so far away I drew attention to ourselves by a flash of the tunnel light, hoping that the other boater would see us approaching and not close the gates.

Getting closer, through my binoculars I could see he was holding back behind some moored boats and was waving us to come on past. When we got there we could see he had two fuel boats breasted up (tied side by side), had pulled in for us and was waiting for us to pass so he could carry on. This was a pair of heavy 70 foot boats, some 3 foot of draft when laden, with only one motor and steered by just the one rudder. He joked, loudly, as we passed that pleasure craft are supposed to give way to commercial traffic. He then had to manoeuvre that pair of beasts out and around the moored boats, not a task I would relish.

Can you imagine the equivalent happening on the roads? It would be like some huge truck train with right of way pulling into a tiny lay-by, on your side of the road, behind a parked caravan, to let you drive past on his side of the road in a motor home. All I can say is it may happen, but I don’t often see it when I am on my bike.

But why the difference? I think it is because you either accept the slower pace of life, that time is no longer critical, or you get off the canal. You can not fight it, canals run slow. A walker who stopped to help me with a lock joked that he was hoping to get a NVQ (National Vocation Qualification) in lock keeping. I let him know that on the canals NVQ is the universal philosophy, Not Very Quick.


en route up north

The problem with a blog is it can become a long list of “what I done”, or “what I’m doing” or even worse “what I might do”. I have always believed in saying nothing unless I have something which I think may be worth hearing. So this not going to be a boring list of canals that I have cruised, locks opened, or even canals that I have fallen into. What I am trying to work out is what do you want to hear (if there is anyone out there that is). Gosh, now there’s a thought, if you are not there then I can say what ever I like … but,  you might be there mmmm.

Getting back to the subject of the blog, yes I am taking some time out from inactive retirement to cruise further up north, at present the boat is at Rugby. You may imagine a Midlands working town, grey and dirty etc, the canal with tyres and supermarket trolleys in it. But no, see the photo, like many of the canals these days they really are very pleasant green routes for walkers, cyclists and boats. Check out the Canal River Trust web site You can even become a member for a small regular donation. Had you noticed that the last part of the CRT title is “rust”, that’s pretty appropriate for most narrow boat owners.

Canal through Rugby

Canal through Rugby

How come that the boat is at Rugby and I’m in Watford .. well train and bike of course. Now I know that for commuters the train fares are expensive but can I urge you to consider the trains for leisure use. An off peak return from Rugby to Watford was £20. That is about how much it would cost to drive one way, and I could do the crossword whilst travelling, you normally have to wait until the next traffic jam to do that on the motorway. I would have used National Express but their service coverage has really gone down over the years. Unless you want to go to a major city (Watford is not one) or an airport, then expect to have to change many times and spend one or more days getting there. If you don’t believe me try their route planner .. no don’t, I don’t want to ruin our friendship!

What have I been up to on the boat, I will post other updates on this but as a taster : fixing the electrics on the gas stove (yes you read that right), a new switch / fuse panel, fixing and clearing up the two hot water leaks/floods, and beginning to paint Narnia scenes on a cupboard door. I know I can’t paint, that is why it is inside the boat. Also I can’t paint partly because I have never really tried.

Finally what about all that pressure from work, the responsibility not only for the staff but also the patient? Well, next time you walk past a lock, watch the guy opening the paddles and letting 300 tonnes of water out and away, that is how it feels! that’s all my rambling for now, byeee.


spring maintenance

Am I getting more like Victor Meldrew or are simple things really getting harder to get done? Perhaps that’s why that company is called Saga, because once you’re over fifty everything turns into one. All I wanted to do was pop a new filter in the boat.


Now not a lot has happened with the boat over the last few months as I have had my mind on other things, like retiring in March. But that means I want to ready her for cruising in the spring.


But first things first, I went on a weekend engine maintenance course arranged by RCR. What a mixture there was. Plenty of Captain Bird’s eye chaps, some couples both old and young, those who went to brush up on their knowledge and yet others that seemed to know how to hold a screw driver, because it hurts if you hold it by the other end!


The instructor started by asking around the table what engines our boats had. I was last in line, “ a 1500 BMC” said I proudly. He replied, “Ohhh, mmm, we always get one!” From there on in nearly every story of difficulty, obsolescence or breakdown ended up being attributed to a BMC, and I saw pity, sympathy and amusement in various faces. It culminated with the comment “and if you have one of these on your boat, get rid of the boat!, it’s too old”. I just whimpered at that, guffaws ensued.

It got better when they were talking about the modern accessories that go wrong, most of which I do not have, and how BMC’s do just keep going if looked after.


We all seemed to have one thing in common, a need to write a list of what was needed to be bought or changed or added to our boats.


Well  to get back to my story I decided that I really must add an extra fuel filter and replace the fuel lift pump. Not too much of an engineering task. The picture shows the filter on the right, with a grey metal bowl, the nice new lift pump and the two hose tail fittings needed to connect the hose to the filter. Simple eh. Order them , fit them.


Pump and filter

Pump and filter


Well the filter was ordered with  hose tails to fit from one supplier, the pump from another. The pump arrived fine. No problems, other than it was delivered to the neighbour’s and they forgot to tell me., but I found it after a few days.

The filter arrived at the local sorting office that I can only get to on  a Saturday. So on collection I found it had.. a glass bowl, not allowed on the canals! So went to phone the supplier .. they don’t provide a phone number. Emailed the supplier, they don’t work Saturday. Monday they agreed to send a replacement, which arrived Wednesday, at home. Great.

Not much doing Wednesday night so I thought I’d just check over the filter, it was fine, but the hose tails were the wrong thread and did not fit! So as I am writing I await replacement hose tails. I only ordered the filter from that company because they had the right tails in stock to fit the filter.

Hopefully on Saturday I can pop it in. I have just counted that to on the old and new filters, and the new lift pump, when I put it back together there is a total of 20 different places that diesel can leak out and air can get in. Any air leaks and the boat won’t start. Am I being pessimistic? I won’t be smoking when I do the job.

Fingers crossed that it won’t be another saga,