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

Old smokey

Braunston Church

Braunston Church

It has all been a bit quiet on this blog for  a bit. Not that  there hasn’t been things going on, just that I wasn’t sure where things were leading. “What things?” you may ask. “you get on the boat, point it one way or the other and off you go. After all canals basically go one of two directions, not exactly easy to get lost is it? And when there is a junction it is not like approaching a motorway slip road when you have about 30 seconds from seeing the junction to working out whether you have to turn off or not. More likely you have time to make a brew, and sit pondering the next turn whilst drinking tea and eating several custard creams.”

Anyway that’s not what I was getting at. As Lance Armstrong would not have said ”it is all about the boat”.

One of the narrow canals (Coventry)

One of the narrow canals (Coventry)

The last few days coming back from the potteries it got noticeably smoky. In fact the last day I had to vacate the boat whilst the exhaust fumes dispersed after starting it up. There was definitely something seriously wrong and the fumes were leaving me with an inflamed chest. Was this the end, for the boat not me, mind it wasn’t that great. Mike, my mechanic whizz son, suggested it could be air starvation and I should check the air filter. I was surprised to find that it was oiled up.


I’ll not bore you with my attempts to put it right: shopping around to find “Restore”; the correct fan belt being too tight; an air filter change; problems with oil filters; dismantling and overhauling the starter motor.

But I read two things about using Restore to reduce smoke from an engine. One said it worked great on their canal boat, another said don’t touch it with a barge pole because it nearly wrecked his truck engine. Except he didn’t say barge pole, that is something we boaters use, they don’t fit into truck cabs.

Anyway having done this work the engine sounded much worse, perhaps the truck driver was right.  So I called out a professional engineer for an opinion. The noise when started was really like a bag of spanners, he thought at first it was terminal.

We talked about the cost of a new engine, about £7000 installed. So we thought we would have another listen, he reckoned it was not the engine but the gear box, drive shaft or something else. The smoke was not so bad now probably due to the change of air filter.


“What filter is it?” he asked.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you do wish the expert had not asked you that question, the one you hoped he was not going to ask? There was a pause, he put his head on one side and raised his eyebrows, obviously encouraging me to answer.

“Well, err, it was one of those disposable mesh type ones, like you get in a vacuum cleaner or cooker hood. I err .. heard you could make a new one from cooker hood filter, err.. so that is what it is.”.

This time it was his turn to pause. I wondered if I had spoiled a boat for a ha’p’orth of filter.

“Oh , OK “ he said and that was that. Phew!

His conclusion was that there was nothing too badly wrong with the engine but something serious with the drive gear. He gave me a few hints on how to dismantle and his details should I need his help if I got stuck.

During the following couple of weeks I dismantled this and that, frequently considering if I would have to get the boat towed into dock, if I should chuck it all in and sell the boat. Even if I could sell it without getting it fixed.

So that is the reason for no blogging, all a bit depressing, going nowhere and through my mind the old saying was on constant replay.

How do you make a small fortune with a boat?  Start with a big fortune.


And what’s the outcome? Well I never did get the drive plate out, the gear box felt OK (who am I to know any different?), several bolts were missing or loose (I am still working on that) and one thing that had been niggling me. That starter motor. I had asked the guy if the noise could be made if I had put it back incorrectly, he didn’t think so. Neither did I , but… I took it out to check and sure enough it seemed fine, as expected, as reassembled and engaged. It started the engine fine and no longer made the groan that it used to. But I could not see that it could work properly the way it went together. Why? Doh! Because I put a spring in the wrong place. For those of you who are mechanics I had accidentally converted a pre-engaged starter into a permanently engaged starter. Guess what, properly assembled the noise seems to have gone away. The poor starter was trying to tell us that it hated spinning round at 60,000 rpm.

So here I am again with an ageing boat, that is a bit smoky, but not too bad at the moment and may improve due to Restore and a cooker hood filter.

Drat Missed him!

Drat Missed him!


Some of the features along the Trent and Mersey in the Stoke on Trent area.

Entering the bottom of Staircase lock Stoke

Entering the bottom of Staircase lock Stoke

199Brindley, originally a mill designer surveyed and helped build the early canals067this is a horse tunnel under the road, note where the tow ropes have worn into the stone work081

This is an unusual rotating stonework/rope protector

Below you can see the split bridge that allowed the tow rope to pass through the bridge when the horses towed the boats out of the lock. it also allows steve to keep a semblance of control as he drags GB out of the lock. 209

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

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,

Choose my colours for me

Gentle Breeze is back at the painters to get stripped back to metal and repainted.

Therefore there is little to report. However I can not decide on what colours to have her painted. The canopies are dark blue. And red tends to fade badly so I am not inclined to have red. Here are a few ideas created on the computor. Have your say on what you prefer, post a comment, I might take you up on it.

GBs current colours

Two tone blue with white name patch

Blue and cream

Blue and maroon

Light blue, gold trim

Cruising in a different style


It had been a  bit of a long day to get the boat back to Watford, but that meant after church on  Sunday I should be able to get her most of the way back to Apsley. She was moored alongside the Grove hotel golf club, a lovely little spot. What is more my youngest had seemed keen to join me so I would have some help. During the Saturday evening and Sunday morning he seemed to be getting more and more help lined up, first Cat, then her parents as well.

We agreed to meet at the boat, Cat and Mike having deposited one of their cars where I anticipated we would get to. Lynn and Phil were strangely ordered to bring a barbeque and a couple of seats. Cat and mike turned up with three bags of shopping. Oh they were going to make lunch at some point en route, good idea, cruise, eat, help at locks what more can a boater want.

Well as it was fine weather and past mid day it was decided by all that we should eat first, so on went the charcoal, and Mike and Cat took over the kitchen and started to the burgers from scratch while we, well, just sat on the tow path, drank and chatted.

Out came the starters, very nice too, great accompaniment to the drinks (though my stock of beer was non-existent and the wines were decidedly of questionable quality).

Eventually the burgers went on the grill, together with the prawns, and sausages etc, so while it was cooking we sat, and chatted, and drank.

We weren’t much put off by the bikers and walkers that passed right through our lounge cum dining room, nor were they.

Finally the burgers ( stuffed with cheese) were ready so we piled on the salad, pickles, bread cheeses etc whilst we sat and chatted, and drank.

After a while, about five in the afternoon, Chris turned up and the lads had a go in the kayak while the rest of us sat chatting and drinking (tea and coffee by this time).

Some how all this activity overtook us so we decided we had better stop it, so we packed up, washed up, and went home. Well apart from Chris and I, we couldn’t resist taking her up just a few locks close to home.

There we are, that was just another way of cruising, infinitely more relaxing than the previous day and very social.