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

Cleaning mushrooms

I took the boat down to central Watford, or at least as close as the Canal gets in Cassiobury Park. Originally the seat of the Earl of Essex (the Capels) the canal runs right through what used to be their grand gardens and deer park. Unfortunately, from a heritage point of view, death duties did for the family in the 1920’s and the house and formal gardens are no more. Instead the open park and golf course is enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors every year. And there are housing estates built on what used to be the grounds of the house.

DSCN6571The weather was just right for a quiet cuppa and a bit of TLC. Listening to the Kitchen Cabinet (Radio 4 chaired by J Rainer) I was amused to hear the responses as whether or not one should peel, brush or wash mushrooms before using them. Brush them was the advice. Well that advice didn’t help me. I sat on top of the boat for over 3 hours with Brasso and all sorts of mild abrasives to try to get a bit of shine back into the mushroom vents.


However the brass bands looked OK on the chimney.

Well I was just enjoying a bit of peace and quiet and thinking of making a coffee when I looked out the back and saw what looked like a boater coming along with the intention of ramming me. It was definitely lined up and closing. He then had the audacity to blast me on some noisy claxon (I know what he got for Christmas!).



Then I realized it was Phil on Persephone with Lynne pulling up for coffee, which turned out to be a very nice evening meal as well.



Having fed me last night they have bumbled off today leaving me in peace and quiet, and having to sort my own diner out. I think I’ll get some mushrooms to cook.

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 …

March Blacking

Once in two to three years the boat has to be taken out of the water and the bottom of the hull painted with a black bitumen paint to stop it rusting. Alloy anodes are attached to the hull because tend to corrode rather than the steel.But they have to be renewed once they become worn.

So with the help of Phil we took her up to Cowroast Marine Engineering.


She also needed a hull survey so while waiting for the surveyor I sent for a walk to the Ashridge estate that over looks the valley. On the estate there is a monument to the third  Duke of Bridgewater, one of the main founders of the canals in Britain. Although the Grand Union Canal which it overlooks was after his time.



It is a lovely estate to while away some time and they do a great breakfast, though I am not sure about their source of mushrooms.


The views are pretty good, even in Spring before the bluebells bloom.


At the end of the week I collected GB and she positively shone (underneath, the top needs a wash). Daren had added the new anodes, they are the grey bits, and welded two patches on the hull. There is hardly any original hull that has not been patched. If I were to rename her she might end up being called Trigger’s Broom.


That’s a proper job

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.


On listening to a mirror

Some things are just plainly wrong, others obviously right, and all the rest, well my thoughts on that below.

Mirror mirror on the wall,

Who is the fairest of them all?

“You are, that is what you think you see,

And thus you do agree with me.”

“But if I said another’s fair,

To whom your youth does not compare,

You’d state you firmly disagree,

And would not put your trust in me.”

“And so with subjects high and low,

You seek opinion just to know

Your preformed thoughts are always right,

And others lack your deep insight.”

“So when you think that someone’s wrong,

Think deep and high, and wide and long,

Try to look from other’s view,

And you may see a lovelier you.”

Annex on the water

Its been good to host a few friends, new and newer, on Gentle Breeze this last week. Our house overflowed and we used GB as a nearby annex to put up guests.

Chris flew in from Inverness, Emily drove down and picked him up from the airport, and joined us with her friend from Chorleywood, with Chris Short the baptist minister from Park Street. We had a pleasant cruise in the evening but as Chris J had come straight from a night shift and not slept for over 24 hours I think he must have been glad to  be rocked to sleep on board. I was

Katye and Gwyn

Katye and Gwyn

Meeting the swan family

Meeting the swan family

Gwyn’s friend is staying at the house prior to her wedding and seemed to be taken with the idea of living aboard. However the idea of coping with frozen canals did seem to deter this bubbly young lady from Kansas City.

Other guests are expected soon, but that’s what it’s for. And GB has her name painted on both sides now.

Shy signet

Shy signet