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.

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 …

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.”

It’s all them others

It’s all them others


Sunrise on Aylesbury Arm

Sunrise on Aylesbury Arm

I bike and drive and boat and walk,
But whichever one I pick,
There’s us and them, at odds again,
They’re getting on my wick.

There’s one or two, perhaps a few
Who wind me up anew,
But most are fine, just take the time,
To see it from their view.

When with the boat and working locks
Those bikes rush past at speed,
They never slow or ring their bell,
They never think of me.

When in the boat and pouring tea,
Boats pass too close and fast,
They never slow to tick over,
They never think of me.

When cruising late with far to go,
Moored boats is all I see,
Can’t they use marina berths,
They never think of me.

And what about the lock-side pubs,
With drinkers sprawled awry,
With cans and glass all o’er the grass,
They never think of me.

When driving down to get the boat
There’s cyclists in the way,
I can’t get by, they cause delay,
They never think of me.

When biking on the towpath track,
The walkers ramble free,
With dogs and phones and music on,
They never think of me.

I think I’ll take up angling,
And bid the rest begone,,
That way I’ll tend to not offend,
Or have I got that wrong?

There’s one or two, perhaps a few
Who wind me up anew,
But most are fine , just take the time,
To see it from their view.

There is one way that I can think,
To live in harmony,
To walk a mile with them and smile
And not to think “poor me”.

What’s new?


Before I start you may wish to check out Gwyn’s blog, see the link on my home page.


The problem with a blog like this is, well, let’s start right there before I get onto letting you know what is new.


Yes the trouble starts with knowing your audience and that word “BLOG” is a prime example of the problem. Don’t you just dislike the word? Where did it come from? What sort of traditional language could give rise to such an unpleasant sounding word? See, those of you who don’t flinch at it probably represent one part of the readers with more modern outlooks and those of us that really don’t like it would probably prefer the more sedate musings found in this blog web site. So for whom am I writing? 


Ah well it’s up to you, I’ll just keep putting thoughts and experiences on paper the web and you can take it or leave it.



it's down here somewhere

it’s down here somewhere


So what is new? Well nearly all the plumbing including the kitchen sink has been changed.  Now that was not intended, in fact I only wanted to stop the kitchen/galley floor from getting wet. Most people who get on a narrow boat at the blunt end (back) and walk towards the sharp end (front) will realise that they are walking up hill (even though the top of the canal is flat. That is apart from when it is blowing a hooley outside. And even then it is flat on average). So if the floor goes up towards the front what would you think happens to the water on the sink drainer if you fit it to the back (lower down) of the sink? Yes it does not drain the right way, wet dishes on the drainer mean wet floor!


As was

As was

What with the kitchen taps being hand basin taps and the worktop falling apart I thought I would pop a new sink, taps and work top in. All bought new for about 80 pounds total it went in quite well. I have to say at this point that the Fein multi-tool that my dear kids bought me for Christmas was a really useful bit of kit for doing this job. From cutting through old screws to reaching and cutting holes where I could hardly reach, brilliant and saved hours.

Small sink, separate drainer

Small sink, separate drainer

Anyway so far so good, other than the other side of the galley now looked tatty and I had enough work top to replace what had been chopped out before I bought the boat. So I thought I would replace that and build cupboards to replace the open shelves.

I knew that under the boxed in shelves lurked a demon that I did not want to think about whilst preparing food, yes the black water (toilet effluent) tank was under these shelves. Having removed the shelves I thought a quick brush over would remove old dust and cob webs from this nice solid steel tank. A nice grey solid steel tank, with little rust molehills on it, around it, and dribble stains down it and along the floor…oh oh!

A case of “rain stopped play” in a most unpleasant way! I won’t go into the in’s and out’s of the tank (so to speak) but it had to come out.

I really didn't want to be reminded of what I (and a load of others) had done

I really didn’t want to be reminded of what I (and a load of others) had done!

A all had to be cut out to remove it, the lads had to help me off load it to shore and finally I cleaned it out, cut it in two and took it to the tip.

Now there is a nice new cassette toilet, new cupboards doors and worktops. The toilet spent some time getting in the way at home before it got down to the boat.

Relaxing on the sofa after tea

Relaxing on the sofa after tea

Catching the sun on the patio

Catching the sun on the patio

convenient but a little out of place

convenient but a little out of place at home

Unfortunately the jobs (sorry) cost me a bit more than the original £80 so if you know anyone two wants a porcelain traveller toilet it’s on ebay, no really it is, it could be a collectors item because I am sure it is not just a bog standard one!


For sale not sail

For sale not sail

New look

New look

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 http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/. 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.


On reflection

Assuming boats go both ways along canals then a boat must have come out of half of the locks you come to and the lock will be ready for you to enter.

This must be true even when half of them gradually fill and half gradually empty depending on which end leaks most.

Therefore, as from my experience, it seems rare that a lock is ready for me, what I want to know is why are most of the boats going the same way as me and the locks rarely set in the “right” direction? If I am on a long journey I worry that there will be no where to moor in front, leaving a canal devoid of boats behind me! Am I being paranoid? I don’t think so.

Sometimes you can see someone leaving a lock coming your way, and you hope they see you and leave it open for you, saving the trouble of mooring up and reopening it again. They may not see you and close it, even all your jumping up and down, waving frantically and flashing (the tunnel head  light) does not attract their attention. If you are tired and, as usual this is the only boat today going the right way for you, then it can be irritating. It does not lead to canal rage, but perhaps a less than genial greeting to them as they pass.

And it is always “them” that do it. The training boats, the hire boats, the day boats, the birthday party lot who don’t know what they are doing, not keeping a watch properly, don’t care for others. Yes, THEM.

Oh dear, I did it today, I accidentally became one of THEM and HE wasn’t happy.

Perhaps we all need to try to see it fro the other’s point of view.


The Family

The Family

On a lighter note I came across this family of swans. The pen and chicks were mildly curious, looking for an easy source of food. The cob thought he would be more proactive in the search. The picture is taken as he is nipping me, he has a surprisingly strong bite actually.




The cob

The cob

Really throw myself into the Ricky festival

Moored at Ricky

Moored at Ricky, gang plank can be seen behind my seat ( and life ring!)

Here’s a right collection of boats at Ricky, the picture is taken from my roof and you can see I am hemmed in by boats with tales to tell.

To the left is the back of Persephone, the Bassets boat, often used for training and advertising Boat Shed Grand Union, the one on which that Chris and I did the helmsman’s course. When it arrived the water heater was not working well and we spent some time trying to get the pressure better regulated. Next clockwise was an original restored wooden butty (working boat with no engine named Nutfield), towed by the next one along named Raymond. I think they worked OK but as you can’t walk over the back of the butty because it is too high I put my new gang plank between Persephone and Raymond. (more about that mistake later).

Next comes the reproduction red and blue working boat ( I forgotten the name). That had a major problem and the owner spent the whole weekend stripping the engine ( an original) down and reassembling it. I lent a hand a couple of times when more muscle power was needed. He still supplied most of that to be honest.

Next along was the Hillingdon training boat. That was gradually sinking until (reportedly) a Tesco bag was stuffed into the stern gland and the pump run long enough to lower the water away from the fly wheel. That enabled the engine to be started and the boat to join in the tug of war.

Elk on my right in this picture was not suffering any major issues at the time, and of course I had just fixed my major oil leak. Like I said, a right collection!

As you can see we did leave enough room for the trip boats to blast up and down past us, one is just coming into view. At least we left room apart from when the outside boat was swung across the canal to form a bridge to Tesco. When it comes to making a festival go well for your friends every little helps.

Now that is were the gang plank came in useful for most. They would pop along from Persephone to Raymond and off to Tesco via a swinging boat. We just got to Ricky on Friday and I had mentioned I needed to go to Tesco so my dear friends urged me to join the trip, “Quickly, they are going.”  “No, I’ll go later” “No you may as well, hurry up!”.

“Ohh where’s my wallet and phone, got them, OK, I’m coming”

I’ll just step onto the gang plank from my boat, into the middle of it, at an angle, onto the unsecured gang plank,.

Err, why does it feel like I have stepped on ice, why is my foot moving away from under me, oh no, not again, I wish I was able to blame someone else for this. splash..

Silence, not too cold, no pain.. that’s good and lucky considering there is virtually no room between these boats, .. B ** ell,  my phone is in my pocket.

“Are you OK, did he fall in, is he OK, get the rudder over under his feet, here hold onto this, can you get out, put you foot on the rudder, you OK?”

Now they were all very good, they should be considering there were at least two instructors, several professionals and only experienced handlers. I would like to see the pictures though, yes I did see a camera when I was still in the water.

Well the phone dried out, eventually, my provisions were got by Phil for me, and I paid him in soggy notes. However the whole festival seems to know that I fell in. even complete strangers were overheard saying in whispers, “that’s the guy who fell in.”

The rest of the weekend was good. With the boaters having impromptu jamming sessions, boat tug of wars ( or is that tugs of war) and drink sharing all around.

And afterwards, back to base at Apsley for some much need paint touch up and to repair the shower. Roll on next year.

salzburg 020 salzburg 022

Collection from the painters

It has been a while since I posted to this blog. That was expected because the boat was taken down to the painters to be spruced up. I left her at Bull’s Bridge with 30year’s worth of multiple coats, some professionally done, others not. I was really looking forward to getting her back all shiny in her new livery.

After a couple of weeks I was imagining all the sanding down and rust proofing. Soon the phone would ring and Steve would ask if I had decided on the final colour scheme. I couldn’t wait. And then it came, a voice mail from Steve. He’d started on her, he was really going to be able to make a huge improvement on her, he just had to scrape all the old paint off first, by hand, slowly. In fact he did had not really allowed enough time for so big a job. He would get it done, somehow, but it might be longer and yes, that as well!.  So I proposed he put it off until he had a bigger slot in his diary and agreed to collect her and return in June. So, with no coach line on one side and big patches of red oxide where he had started work, she looks even more of a mess, just in time for the carnivals grrrr..

But it’s only a boat, so I went to get her, what a great day!


As the sun rose the early mist seemed to linger stubbornly in the hollows. For March it had been a reasonably war  night so there wasn’t any frost about. I left the car at Rickmansworth guessing that I would get the boat no further that afternoon. There was very little traffic about that early on a Saturday as I biked down to Hayes. I stowed the bike on the boat and sorted out the essentials for the trip back towards Watford. They were:- ropes in the right place, pins, boat hook and pole ready just in case, and of course a cup of hot coffee to get me going. The mist was just burning off the canal as I headed westwards, the sun on my back, it was only quarter to eight.

That rather set the tone for the day. At Cowley lock , about ten thirty, I was getting peckish so  ordered a bacon sandwich at the canal side café which was prepared whilst  the lock. However no time to stop so ate it on the go and made another brew through the next lock.

There was remarkably few boats moving during the day, may be half a dozen, so I did not get chance to share the locks and I needed to empty most of the locks prior to entering so that rather slowed progress. My packed lunch was also eaten at the tiller and by mid-afternoon my supplies were running down. Hunting about I found a part box of bread sticks which went down OK with a cup of tea. They were rather tough, having been on board for quite a few months. Well, there was no sign of ergot or other mould, I didn’t fancy suffering from St Anthony’s fire, Gentle Breeze could become the next Mary Celeste!

Mid afternoon saw me passing through Ricky, where I was torn between getting the car or cracking on. Such a lovely sunny day, why stop now?

One reason would have been to avoid the most frustrating lock to single hand through. The tow path is on the left (going up). But between the left bank and the lock is the entrance to a spur in which a trip boat is moored. There is only one bollard between the spur and the lock so unless you want to risk it swinging about when the paddles are raised it would not be good to moor there. That leaves the right bank, where there are three bollards. Yes but…the canal side steps up to the lock side have been fenced off at the top so you can not step off and drift the boat in whilst holding the rope. To get up to the top to raise paddles and set the lock you have to negotiate a car valeting service. Yes, four cars were parked abreast of each other right next to the canal side with vacuum cleaners (with their cables) and buckets strewn about and between them. Come on what would possess anyone to totally obstruct the safe access to the lock, what are they thinking, are they thinking, is it just me? So to save the possibility of someone falling down the steps, that have been there for a couple of hundred years it is made more risky for those performing the actual task of moving the boat (for which the lock is there in the first place!).

Well I had a nice little chat to a couple of east Europeans who wondered why I was opening the lock gate that they had been sitting on when they could not see a boat coming. Having explained that, yes, it was that boat moored down there that was coming up and that yes I knew because no, I was not the lock keeper but the owner of the boat. Having explained that and persuaded them to move rather than fall in we went our separate ways.

Saw a mandarin duck, and a king fisher and a great crested grebe. They all played “wait almost as long as it takes him to get the camera, then skedaddle.”

The light was beginning to fade as I got to Iron Bridge lock (gongoozlers lock) at Cassiobury. Again it was full and by the time I had finished there must have been 30 onlookers. I was leaning on a beam to see if the water levels had equalled when a lady helped her 4 year old over the gates then came back for another one and her scooter. It even astonished a onlooker who remarked I’d be able to open it as soon as she was across, “or in the middle” I heard my self remark. Must have be getting tired.

Chris joined me for the last couple of locks as the light finally went, we moored up alongside the Grove hotel grounds at six fifteen, 17 locks in all. It was not quiet over for the day as I helped Chris paddle the two man kayak up the canal to stow her on top of GB. All in all a successful if not physically relaxing one. And the following day I intended to finish the trip back to Apsley marina.