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?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The folk that live on these “boats” certainly seem to have got the message about reducing and re-using. I’m not sure they can be classified as canal boats and I wonder how the safety surveyors and insurers think when they turn up to assess them.

The better side of cruising to London

Having pointed out some of the down sides I have to balance that with the better bits. Like waking up early at Denham, and locking through Denham Deep lock. Although it is only a few miles from the Northolt and Heathrow airpots, within the M25 it is a peaceful mooring point with nature parks on both sides of the canal.

Southward bound

Spring and summer were apparently here last week in preparation for the season of boating. Working away in the engine bay, with the sun beating on the canopy it seemed a shame to be missing out on the sun. However I knew that if by chance it rained a bit whilst out on the canal at least the newly painted engine bay would have proper protection from any dribble of water that may find its way down there. Having finished up it was with pleasure I started out on the 33 mile, 23 lock trip southwards towards Paddington and the canal Cavalcade festival to be held on the bank holiday.


What is more, this season I have the newly painted roof in a lighter colour that will have less solar gain in the sun. The above photo is me and GB passing the flats which are built on the defunct Ovaltine factory, along with nb Tickety Boo. At that point it was not raining. And then it did, and some more, and heavily. By the time I moored up for the afternoon the deck was awash, my shoes sodden and every now and then I had to lean overboard to empty the water out of the brim of my boater’s hat. The forecast is not for dry weather but never mind, if it wasn’t for the rain we couldn’t have canals.  Us boaters can cozy down inside with our fires and central heating, change into dry cloths and watch the ducks swim by. But I do spare a thought for the visitors and stall holders at the festival. Also for all those unfortunate liveaboard boaters on subsistence living who have not got the facilities aboard to stay warm, dry and properly fed. You don’t see much of that side of canal living on the TV programmes featuring John Sergeant or Timothy West.

Well tomorrow is another day of cruising, along with the Met’s yellow warning for rain and wind. I had better tie the hat on tight!

Knots on boats

I think one of the most useful knots is a virtual knot. I don’t mean one that is visualised in some sort of daft computer 3D head set but the equivalent of a knot in a handkerchief.

That is not to diminish the usefulness of different knots on my boat. There is the lighterman’s hitch for rapid tying up without it ever over tightening, the two half hitches for knotting to a stake. I love the double slip knot tying the centre and stern rope quickly and temporarily together to drop over a bollard whilst closing a lock gate. And how about that highwayman’s hitch or the similar tumble hitch that can be undone quickly by pulling on the loose end (too dangerous for use when climbing though).

The preference for the knot in the hanky was reinforced when I was painting the bilge/engine bay of the boat this week. People often use the phrase “don’t forget to ..” or “remember to ..”. But how do you do that I ask myself? I have an on/off switch on the smoke alarm of the boat. The galley grill is often the source of smoke from bacon or toast so when the alarm sounds I just switch it off and hang an oversized label on it which dangles in my way until I switch it back on and remove the tag. It is in effect a reminder to “remember to” switch it back on.

With much more dangerous situations human error is prevented by more elaborate systems. Such as the multiple pad lock systems used by different engineers working on high voltage systems or transmitter masts.


But what has this to do with my engine bay? I went back to finish off painting the engine bay following a day out on the boat which had interrupted the paint job. Lifting the boards and getting ready to paint I noticed the bilge pump. This normally sits on the bottom of the bay, ready to pump out excess water up its flexible hose and out of the boat. I had needed to move it out of the way whilst putting the first coats of paint on and there it was, still resting on the top of the fly wheel coupling. The coupling that yesterday had been running round merrily whilst cutting holes into the hose and wrapping the pump’s power cable around itself.

So me thinks that next time I do anything that requires rectification before starting the engine I should hang a tag on the ignition switch, effectively tying a virtual knot in my virtual hanky. Oh well, get out the electrical repair and hose repair kits!

Chaplain lock training

Gentle Breeze behaved admirably when she made herself available for lock operation  training / refresher training of some of the local chaplains.

These folk all were all pretty good with the locks anyway. But to be honest helping others through the locks is the last of what they do. They give up loads of their own time they give up make lots of effort to help out total strangers on the waterways.



Boxing day boating in Berkhampsted


This was a lovely sunny break in the weather. Amazingly there were no other boats moving, at least none that I came across. There is loads of industrial history in Berkhampsted, the history boards along the canal give a good insight to the heritage. From the 1067 castle to timber goods for the Crimea war effort and barge building the town made a significant contribution. Now it is mainly a commuter and market town.


The most life seen today were the Boxing day after-dinner walkers. Most boaters seemed to be hunkered down in their boats, which come in many shapes and sizes.  This one seems to have a very durable “canopy” on it!


Ode to Ovaltine



Between the embanked rail line

And slow canal was Ovaltine.

Who turned out drink in orange tins

Which pictured kids with sleepy grins.

Where eggs and malted milk combined

To make a drink for old bed time,

Now tower flats with tinted glaze

And balconys with wrought iron rails

The packing hall has long since gone

In place are residential homes.

No work, not near, so they must drive

When once it’s here that they would strive.

Where the boiler once was found

They park their cars safe underground.

On wharf where barges used to crowd

A sign says “mooring not allowed”

Ovaltine’s factory facade stands

An icon to those workers hands.

But if deserved why wipe away

Its very soul? It should have stayed.


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.