Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Back to work...tomorrow

The Big Melt is on. I've been to B&Q and bought myself a half-price pendulum jigsaw (with an extra ten per cent off because it's 'Over-60s card day'. There's no excuse. It's time to get back to work.


Sunday, 26 December 2010

Our other Christmas guest

You can't help but feel sorry for the birds in this weather - even the pestering ducks - but our favourite is 'Scruffy' the dishevelled pied wagtail who visits the galley hatch every day. We started off feeding him oats but now he has his own finely chopped cheese. And on Christmas Day a little touch of brie and camembert went down rather well!

Christmas Day with the Stars

There are some traditions in a Blick family Christmas Day that never change - even on a boat.
Like the family photo round the table with the ten second delay timer...
Or the monstrous portions - even on a tiny table...

Or the family walk - not always in the snow.Or the chance to inspect another boyfriend

Monday, 20 December 2010

The white stuff

It's white outside and now it's white inside too. Snow has turned the outside world cold and white. Sprayfoam insulation has turned the inside of Harry white too. And hopefully warm.
It's not a nice job is sprayfoaming. Anything that involves wearing breathing apparatus and spraying noxious chemicals around is well worth avoiding as far as I'm concerned. Especially when the foam sticks like sh*t to a blanket to whatever it touches.
It's clever stuff though. Sticks to every surface and fills every gap. The big snag is that it's almost impossible to apply evenly (though our man Andy did his best). The result is that some spots are too thick and have to be laboriously cut back while others are too thin and will need later attention with the sprayfoam can. Fortunately that's Vicky's favourite toy.
But now the sprayfoam is done we can move ahead with laying the floor. The battens you can see in the photo are now screwed down on the steel bearers and the ply floor starts to go in tomorrow.
All we need to do then is put in the armchairs and the tele.
Well, almost all we need to do...

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Mad granny runs amok with knitting needles

You've heard about these eccentric old dears who wheel their pet pooch around in a pram and then leave all their money to it in their will. Well here's Brian modelling the latest in 'mad granny knitwear for dogs' - a woolen bonnet* to go with his coat of many colours and help him cope with -16C temperatures outside. Not that he goes outside if he can possibly avoid it.
*Actually it's a woolly hat for grand-daughter Martha - I don't know if that makes it better or worse. Grand-daughter gets hat previously enjoyed by pet dog!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Window opens - and then closes

After a fortnight of looking like an ice rink the canal returned to water yesterday so Streethay asked me to bring a boat back from Fradley. (The big freeze has disrupted work schedules there badly with boats unable to reach the yard.)
Vicky dropped me there and I - optimistically - waved her off to go Christmas shopping. Big mistake. I walked up to the moorings to the boat and discovered that the ice, barely present at the start, was still two inches thick!
After an hour of ice breaking with the boat and smashing the ice with a three-inch fence post I'd moved precisely two boat lengths. Then the blizzard started and I gave up!
I headed off on the three miles home down the towpath. Ironically after half a mile the ice on the canal had disappeared. If we could have made the first few hundred yards in the boat I'd have got it back.
Looked out this morning to see the snow falling and the canal rapidly re-freezing. I think the window of opportunity for getting boats back to Streethay is closing fast.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Cold? Us?

Starwoman and Stardog model their winter fashions.

Streethay in the snow

It's been pretty cold here at Streethay this past week with the canal frozen solid and the trees white with frost.
The ducks seem to be thriving, though, milking the boaters' sympathy vote for all its worth as they waddle up and down the ice getting fed at every window!
There are only so many snow scenes you can photograph though. I think we've seen enough now. Time for a thaw so we can get the sprayfoamer in on Harry.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Not quite the end after all

Hah! A bit of over optimism in the last post. "Just the tricky odds and ends to finish up" I said. I should have noticed that I'd typed the word "tricky". Took all morning to batten around the front and side hatches. And then I discovered the engine room bulkhead had a twist in it which had to be straightened out. Meaning hours of careful wedging of the battens to straighten it all up.
And we're still not quite done. But another day will definitely see it finished.

I hope.

Lock, stock and batten

Pretty much all battened out now - I just have all the tricky odds and ends to finish off today. A quick bit of adding up and I reckon I've used about 125 metres of batten. Which is a lot of wood considering I'm only battening out 10 metres of boat. Where the hell has it all gone?
It's been a slow job. Tricky too at times, especially hanging battens from sky hooks under the deck and trying to level up the roof battens so that looking at a wavy ceiling won't make me feel seasick.
And doing it all in sub zero temperatures. Electric screwdrivers and gloves don't mix well. You have to keep reversing the driver to unscrew your glove!
Now we just wait for the temperature to rise so we can get the sprayfoaming down. Could be a long, cold wait...

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Mercury falling

Minus 9 here last night. No wonder Brian was trying to get under the covers instead of sleeping on top of the bed. The canal is seriously frozen today. Yesterday a few ice breaking types crunched their way through. Today all was quiet except for ice skating ducks.
Eerie creaks and groans accompany my movements through the boat as it rocks against the embrace of the pinching ice sheet. I can't imagine what it must have been like to hear and feel real ice floes crushing your wooden hull as Shackleton and his crew experienced on Endurance in the Antarctic.
For my own endurance test I've finally donned my reserve fleece. So I waddle into Harry wearing tee shirt, long sleeved tee shirt, lightweight sports top, high neck fleece and finally zip neck fleece (fortunately an extra large purchase from the charity shop). Plus thermal long johns and my great new Heat Holders socks. And Thinsulate lined woolly hat. And 'magic gloves' from the local market. Another great buy - thin, loosely knitted that trap the warmth with the bonus of 'knobbly' grippy palms so you can wear them while working. (They don't like getting wet, though.)
Battening out is going steadily on Harry but this weather will cause a problem if it lasts. You can't sprayfoam insulate if the interior is either running with condensation or wreathed in ice!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Not a three pairs of socks day any more

Spotted these "Heat Holders" in my local Wickes and my frozen feet demanded I buy them. Best five pounds I've spent in a while. They actually work! I've gone from three pairs of socks to one and my feet are warm. Well, not cold anyway.
They're big, thick sort of quilted socks; very soft and very warm. Take up a bit more room than regular socks - but no more than three pairs do.

Brian begs to differ

It's all very well him saying he wants more snow. Bet he wouldn't think that if he had six inch long legs and just one thin coat. Three pairs of socks and four jumpers. Huh! Got chucked out for a pee this morning and almost got my willy frozen.
I'm back to my bed and I'm not getting up again until there's some sunshine to lie in.

All white now

The snow has finally arrived. Got up this morning after a tense hour listening to Strauss and Cook scratch their way through to the close of play in Oz and the world had turned monochrome overnight.
Not a lot of it. Just an inch or so but it sounds like there's more to come. Bring it on. A decent covering will put Harry under a nice white overcoat and hopefully make things a bit warmer inside. I'm pretty much on my limit of socks and jumpers without turning into the Michelin Man.
Spent yesterday squashed up under the tug deck devising fixings for the battens. Came out feeling three feet tall. Had to spend the next hour persuading my knees to straighten out.

Friday, 26 November 2010


Ice on the cut this morning for the first time this winter. Some consolation in hearing England's half-decent performance down under but it's going to be a cold, cold day in the steel bowels of Harry.
Yesterday the concrete ballast slabs I'm standing on felt so cold I came back for a third pair of socks. I'm not sure I'll be able to get four pairs on!
More battening out today - I'm under the tug deck now and trying to work out how to hang battens on fresh air in some places.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Now for the inside

Hmmm. When in doubt stop for a cuppa and pretend to be thinking

With the outside looking reasonably shipshape it's time to go inside. First job is fitting the battening that the inside surface panels and boards will mount to. Even in the seminal narrowboat builders book (seminal because it's actually the only narrowboat builder's book) and called unsurprisingly The Narrowboat Builder's Book, battening is dismissed in a few paragraphs. Which isn't a great help when you're confronted by some random tags sticking out of the sides which the battens fix to and rather more empty spaces where you think there should be more.
Even the all-seeing internet isn't much more help. The dozen or so pictures of battened out interiors I found were all quite different. Every shellbuilder prepares differently and every boatfitter has his favourite way of doing it.
So after much musing, some swearing and general advice seeking I think I've finally worked out how to do it. Or I hope I have.

Before and after

Well here's Harry! Aside from a touch of red oxide acne on the front, it actually looks like a proper boat at last with its steelwork repaired and its portholes polished.

And in case you've forgotten what it looked like a month ago, here's the 'before' picture.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

So what's been happening?

Quite a lot. Despite the cold, damp, windy and decidedly horrible weather. Mark has kept bashing on with the welding - we now have an enlarged rear hatchway, welded-on mushroom vents, answer pins (shackles at the back of the boat) and decorative rings on the front bulkhead and lots more.
Vicky has been painting away to seal all the new metal up against the weather and finally I fitted the windows. Now that was a game. The portholes had all been removed before we got the boat. Innocently, I thought screwing them back on would be a doddle. BUT the six screw holes in each rim proved to be in slightly different positions. Sooo...matching a window to the existing screw holes meant offering up one of the nine existing windows to one of the seven surviving window holes (the other two had been re-cut on new steel) and then turning it through each of the six possible positions. Nine windows, seven holes, six positions on each. That's a lot of permutations - and some of them were frustratingly similar to each other.
But I got there in the end and then drilled and tapped the holes for the four windows that mount into new steelwork. Now the job's done and they look great - no pictures, though, until we're out of the work bay next week when we can reveal Harry in all its glory.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Hand signals!

The Master Painter indicating how many coats of primer she has applied...

I think!

Night callers

Each night at around ten we get roused from our pre-bedtime doze by loud rapping on our galley side hatch plastic window.
Bang, bang, bang it goes - loud enough to make you jump.
But it's just our night callers, the local family of swans - ma, pa and two youngsters - rapping for their supper.
I must admit I'm not generally a great fan of swans. Beautiful they may be but they shove in front of any other water birds if there is grub around – and then thank you for your offering with some aggressive hissing and threatening. But this noisy family are the exception with their noisy nightly calling.

Getting better all the time

Spot the difference - several coats of primer and undercoat and 'planking' lines angle-ground into the deck have turned Harry from a charred hulk to something resembling a handsome tug. The master-painter at work, below. And in case you're wondering about why only part of the boat is painted, this is just a holding coat to protect the new and repaired steelwork while we get on with the rest of the work. The paint job proper comes next spring.

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Worx

Meet my new favourite tool ...

This brilliant little device lets you boldly saw where no one has sawn before. You just push the oscillating head onto a piece of wood and away it cuts. Perfect for cutting box shapes out of sheets which would previously have meant drilling holes and fiddly cutting with a jigsaw. Or in my case cutting away just a small part of the tongue and groove lining in the back cabin so we can enlarge the back hatch - a job that would have entailed ripping down most of the woodwork before.
I want one. Hint, hint Santa!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Granny takes a trip*

A visit from daughter Nancy and grand daughter Martha gave us a break from boat duties and as part of the grand-parenting entertainments we took a little trip up to Fradley Junction for some duck feeding and tea & cakes in the cafe at the old BW yard there.
I never fail to enjoy a visit to Fradley - there's always an assortment of interesting boats to see and usually something else going on as well, usually centred around The Swan. This Sunday it was the venue for a classic car meet with a selection of gleaming fifties metal in the carpark.
The tea room is great too with a fine selection of extremely eatable cakes and pies. There's a little gift shop on the site as well but the potential is surely there for something much better. The new Waterways charity needs to take a leaf out of the National Trust's book and create a range of quality souvenirs, gifts and books for outlets like these. At the moment there is precious little to separate holidaymakers, visitors and gift hunters from some cash bar a few nick nacks and postcards.

*Only grannies and grandpas will be old enough to get the gag in the headline - Granny Takes A Trip was a psychedelic boutique opened in the Kings Road during the 'swinging sixties'.

True grit

While we've been busy spending money on 'extras' we have managed to make a substantial saving on our budget by deciding not to get the shell grit blasted. With nearly half the boat now new steel and the rest actually looking in not too bad condition we decided to go the labour intensive hand prep route instead. And chief painter Vicky has thrown herself into the job (and thrown the power sander into the cut - fortunately it worked again after dripping dry!) Her hard graft with the sander, the linisher and much elbow grease has already made great improvements.

Spot the deliberate mistake!

No we didn't fit the wrong doors. Having re-hung the right doors with new hinges we then decided that an eyebrow roof hatch would be a great thing to have. And it is...but it does mean the doors have had to be re-made and re-hung. God job we bought a few spare hinges.
The doors will lead down into the galley via steps with drawers in them unashamedly copied from the Norton Canes tug Resolute that Dave Moore generously spent a morning showing us round. Thanks Dave!

The planning process

Having been put on light duties for a few weeks following my eye op I spent my time (well such time as wasn't spent watching dvds or surfing the web) trying to plan out the interior of Harry.
And discovering that planning out a narrowboat isn't as easy as it might seem. At least it's not if the living space is just 20 feet long. That's 20 feet in which to crowbar saloon, galley and bathroom. The bedroom goes under the tug deck of course.
Twenty feet wouldn't be so bad but all the damned windows seem to be in the wrong places! The bathroom portholes leave no obvious location for a shower. The galley hatches are in the wrong place and so are the ports.
Not that I'd want to change any of them - from the outside everything is elegantly symmetrical.
So on we went filling page after page of squared paper with floorplan variations. Each one seemed perfect when we closed the page and went to bed but I always woke up thinking of an irreconcilable problem. But now I think we may have got it - though I'm keeping it secret until we finally start the fitting out and discover if it really does work.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Eye eye captain

Vicky got something in her eye last week and it never quite stopped hurting. On Saturday she got something in her other eye and that's been hurting like mad. So after dosing them with Optrex for days she finally surrended and went to the GP. Who sent her to the A&E because only hospitals have the equipment to properly examine your eyes.
Result: she has scratches on both her eyes.
So now she's putting drops in my bad eye and I'm putting drops in hers!

Eyes right

We've been on land for a few days so I can have my second cataract operation. The first was eye opening -literally. When the eye patch came off I was staggered at how bright the world was, how vivid the colours, how far I could see.
The second one could never match that impact but even so it's pretty good to have two decent eyes to look through. And a side benefit is that I'm not allowed to do any heavy work for a month so it's been feet-up, daytime tv, dvds and Lee Child books for me!
It's a curious operation is the cataract one - scary to contemplate but actually very similar to going to the dentist. In fact it's quicker than having a filling. And even less painful.
After a few preliminary eye drops to dilate your pupil, you walk into the operating theatre fully clothed, lie on the table, have a protective sheet put over your face, a few more drops to numb the eye then "keep staring at the microscope light please" and off we go. You see nothing except a bright light. You feel nothing. At all.
And believe me, there is no temptation to move your eye or your head!
Ten minutes later it's done. A protective eye pad is put over the eye and you can stroll off. Well, actually you have to hang around for a while to check all is well before heading home.
Next day the eyepatch comes off and the new sharper, brighter world gradually comes into view.

History in a hinge

Way back in 1790 a certain Mr Gold started a firm in Birmingham making hinges. It was quite successful. More successful than Mr Gold was at gambling. And to pay off a particularly heavy gambling debt he gave away his company.
And the descendants of the person he gave it to still run it. In Tamworth, just down the road from Streethay. As we discovered when we went in pursuit of new hinges for Harry's doors.
Gold & Wassall ia a wonderful place, full of clattering machines stamping out every conceivable sort of hinge. Crowded with boxes of finished ones. Hinges that you never knew existed. Hinges so curious looking it's hard to imagine how they work. Hinges so heavy you can hardly hold them and so delicate you admire their fineness. Bespoke hinges - like our 30 withe their phosphor bronze pins - or standard ones by the hundred and thousand.
So if you want a hinge you know where to look.

The work goes on

Tug decks are nice to sleep under but nasty to work under, as I discovered when hauling out all the old burnt rubbish and Mark has now discovered too. He's been cramped up in the bow welding in a new gas locker bulkhead and looking less comfortable than a Chilean miner.
Meanwhile we've been taking a fresh look at the state of the exterior of the boat. The original plan was to have it grit blasted but looking at the amount of new steel we've put in and the condition of the rest of the boat, well we've had second thoughts.
A grit blast would cost around £3000, allowing for the craning and transport to the blaster. That buys a lot of wet and dry paper. So we're going to do it the hard way but the cheap way. And as you can see, Vicky has already started...

Sunday, 10 October 2010

And this is our new gas locker lid

Another smart piece of fabrication by Mark.

Our new roof

This is our new roof - well it will be in a few days when five or six strapping Streethay-ites have hefted it into place and Mark has welded it up.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The light stuff

Excuse the excrutiating pun but with the sides filled in and a new roof about to go on the interior of Harry will resemble a steel tomb.
Which is why we want one of these.

There was a large steel pigeon box in the saloon roof before the fire twisted it to bits but it must have dripped condensation all over the place so we want to go the hardwood route.
If we can find someone who will make it – because with my sawing skills I'm certainly not going to try.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

We're off!

It's all finally happening. Tug Harry has gone into the workbay here at Streethay and repair work has begun. And now the flag has dropped the accelerator has been floored and everything is happening at high speed.
On day one the fire twisted side panel was repaired. What looked an ugly kink sprung back straight after just a single cut with the grinder - it's remarkable all the tension that hides in such seemingly placid lengths of steel.
Next day our talented fabricator Mark began re-fitting the recessed cabinside panels – despite the suggestion from a few observers that we could have left the spaces as big picture windows. Well maybe but Everest double glazed tugs aren't very traditional.
And after the side panels went in the roof came out. Mark welded in some cross braces to hold the shell in shape then applied the cutting torch to the fire twisted front third of the roof and soon Harry was a convertible.
Meanwhile we've been working away in the engine room. I've relocated the tanks and pump from the rear to the forward bulkhead, making access to the non-corridor side of the engine much easier and got part way through re-plumbing. But Vicky has made the real difference. She's cleaned and re-painted the smoke stained walls and has been meticulously cleaning and re-painting the engine in the correct shade of Lister Mid Brunswick Green. It's half done now and already looks cracking.
There's plenty more to do (understatement of the decade??) but now work has begun we've both cheered up and can see a dim pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel ahead.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Senior spottie?

In my new occasional role as semi-skilled senior (as in years) Streethay spottie I hauled an engine out yesterday. Well, not exactly out, to be fair. It's still sitting in the boat but I undid all the connections ready for the haul-out today.
All I can say after that is thank god I've got an engine room to work in on our own boat. Hunched up double in the engine hole trying to undo the engine mounts left me with knotted muscles that took some hours to untangle themselves. I'm glad I've got a simple old diesel to take apart too: no fiddly Morse controls, electrics and flexible driveline couplings to figure out.
But it's all done and I've notched up another skill. But taking apart is a whole lot easier than putting back together -- I'll be leaving that job to the professionals.

Friday, 10 September 2010

The one handed bowline and other stories

Star has had its own artist in residence these past few days plus a frontiersman, mountain rescue specialist and wine guru. All in the form of our great friends from Canada, Gerry (the artist) and Gordon (the all those other things).I have to admit we were a bit worried about inviting people to stay somewhere where the bedroom ceiling is a foot above their heads, the toilet is in the engine room and you have to earn your keep by operating locks and heaving on rope.But they loved it. And so did we. They came well prepared - carrying a big bag of food, a small bag of kit and some clinking wine bottles. We took them on a gentle cruise from Streethay up to Tixall Wide at Great Haywood.
Tixall is, the guidebook says, "noted for its kingfishers" and Gerry desperately wanted to see one. Sadly she didn't – because we all know that wildlife have learned to stay well clear of anywhere that the guides say they're supposed to be.
While Gerry sketched Gordon entertained us with tales of canoeing adventures in northern Canada and demonstrated how to tie a one handed bowline. This is a vital skill. One day I may be stranded on a mountain ledge with a broken arm. My only chance of survival will be Arnie Schwarznegger hovering above in a helicopter and lowering a rope which I have to tie round myself. But I'll be ok - I can do it now. So long as I break my right arm. If I break my left one, I'm doomed - I can only do the knot left handed.
On the way up we had a pretty decent round of pub grub at the Fradley Swan and then at the Plough, Huddlestone just south of Streethay we celebrated our final night with a magnificent meal.
All we can say is roll on next autumn and a trip over to canoe country.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Plastic fantastic - not

Streethay Ray asked if we'd do a little job for him today - move a boat from Kings Bromley marina back to Streethay.
It's a nice little trip, through three locks and Fradley junction so we said yes, even though the weather was very windy and rain was promised. Then he told us it was actually a little plastic cruiser with an outboard motor. "But I've never driven anything like that," I protested. "You were the editor of a boat magazine, you should be able to drive anything!" he laughed.
There followed two nightmarish hours! (After I'd spent some time trying to work out how to actually drop the outboard into the water that is.) First we bobbed around the windswept marina as I tried to get to grips with the steering, the controls and a boat with the stability and solidity of a windswept leaf surrounded by unyielding steel hulled narrowboats.
Eventually I lurched out onto the canal, see-sawing desperately at a wheel the sort of size you'd steer a racing car with – and down at crotch height too.
Gradually I got the thing under control, learning that faster was usually better than slower and that you needed to count to five after applying steering to find out what the likely outcome was. Which was fine except when a possible outcome of not applying enough steering was hitting an oncoming narrowboat or spearing a tree.
Generally though things were happening more or less as I intended them – except that every time I tried to relax a big gust of wind sent the boat spinning sideways and nothing would pull it straight again.
But we made it and tied up just minutes before the heavens opened. Apparently the boat's new owners reckon that if they find they like cruising they'll buy a narrowboat. Well all I can say is don't take it out on a windy day!

Shackerstone Festival

We allowed ourselves a day off from boat work to visit the nearby Shackerstone Festival by the side of the Ashby Canal. Main reason for going was to see the working boats - we'd watched a steady number of them come past Streethay en route to the event over the previous few days.
But we weren't prepared for the sheer scale of the whole Festival - to be honest it would put the IWA National Rally to shame to think that a village can organise something of this size every year.
Classic cars, classis bikes, traction engines, dog show, horse show, military vehicles, kids' motorbike display team and all the usual stalls too.
To top it off on the Saturday we watched a Mk IX Spitfire do aerobatics and on the Sunday the Red Arrows gave a display. Wow!
There was a pretty impressive collection of what a friend of ours likes to call 'crusty boats' too - 20 or more of them. They were great to see but, to be honest, I think some of them could have done more for the general public - after all they were there as part of the Show and not just as part of a rally to meet other old boaters, lock up and disappear to the beer tent. A few had informative signs out; some were happy to chat (I learnt more than I'll ever remember about steam power from the owner of Adamant) but I thought too many boats were either closed or empty. Maybe an hour twice a day when the owners were there to chat, run engines and generally do some mingling with punters would be good.
That little grouse aside, it was a great day. I spotted a rare Hesketh motorbike but my show favourite was the 1951 Nash Ambassador with Hydramatic transmission. Takes you right back to that great era of American cop shows, gangsters, dusty highways, Edward Hopper paintings and neon lit roadside diners.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

First new part for Harry

It might look like a workbench but under all that paper and paint is our first serious purchase for Harry's rebuilding - £900 worth of stainless steel water tank. It's shaped to slide under the front deck and up into the bow and was beautifully fabricated (in double quick time) by Mark Littler's Marine Fabrications.
It looks odd and lost in the bare shell of Harry but it had to be bought first because once the new side panels are welded in place there won't be any way to get it into the boat.

Back in the black

How about that? After anti-rust treatment, repainting and stove blacking - plus serious elbow grease from Vicky our back cabin Epping range looks good as new.
And it works really well, lighting in an instant and boiling a kettle nearly as fast as the gas hob.

Too busy to blog

Engine back together and partially painted in smart new Lister green
I don't know how some people do it. Blog, tweet, Facebook...and still find time to work. We've been too busy to even think about blogging these past few days.
So, a quick update. Having finished all the hard-core ballast cleaning we've moved on. Vicky has been rubbing down and painting ceilings and walls in the back cabin and engine room - as well as starting to paint the engine,
Me, I decided to have a go at replacing the blown head gasket of No1 cylinder. This was a job I wasn't anticipating having to do but having seen the way oil and water had emulsified into a mess I realised it was a must before we could even think about moving - not that we'll be moving for a while since all the recent heavy rain has wreaked havoc with the Streethay welding schedules - boats have been sitting out on the hard standing for a couple of weeks now waiting for the rain to stop so the welders can get started. It's a pain but it can't be helped.
Dismantling the JP3 made our little Petter seem like Mecanno. Every piece I took off seemed almost too heavy to lift. The cylinder head itself is a six inch cube of steel - and you don't want to drop that on your finger.
But it all came apart reasonably well apart from a couple of those nightmares all users of workshop manuals are familiar with. "Remove the valve rockers by removing the shaft". Er, how? Took me an hour to fathom that out. Or "remove exhaust manifold" - except it wouldn't remove so I had to work around that little snag.
Anyway, it all came apart and, more importantly, today it all went back together and fired up! I can't tell you how relieved I was.
By the way, big engines use big quantities of oil. The dry-sumped Lister needs six gallons - yes GALLONS - every oil change. That's eighty quid a pop. But at least the oil drum makes a tea break seat.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


In the same Tesco carpark where I lost my tooth the other day Starwoman found a £20 note! It was lying on the ground with a Tesco receipt.
After the "woo hoo, twenty quid!" reaction we had a brief pang not so much of guilt but of sympathy for the loser who maybe could ill afford to be without the cash. But there wouldn't have been any point in handing it in - or would there? Should we have given it to the police or to Tesco customer service?
I don't think so: I'm pretty honest about this sort of thing - I saw someone drop a twenty once and ran after them to give it back. If I found a wallet I'd hand it in. But an unidentifiable note; no. On the other hand, if it had been a wad of twenties what would I have done? I honestly don't know. Probably kept it and reckoned that if the person was that casual with their cash they could afford to lose it.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Crazy paving

A concrete slab weighs about 80 - 90lbs. And over the past week or so we've moved about 70 of them. Several times.
The slabs are the ballast in project tug Harry. And they were all filthy with soot and dirt from the fire that gutted it. So first we had to clear them out from under the tug deck, stack them further down the boat, scrape out and jetwash that area, jetwash off the slabs, move them back and re-lay them.
Then we had to progressively work our way through the boat doing the same thing. But you can get slabs up faster than you can clean and prepare the area to re-lay them so we soon had slabs everywhere. Those building up at the back were in the way of clearing that end so they had to be moved to the front – then moved back to the back to be laid. And so it went on.
We left the boat tonight with just three rows of slabs left to lay - 18 slabs and then we'll be finished. Trouble is I think we'll be walking bent double for several weeks.

Brian's Revenge

We got back to Star from a long, hard day working on Harry to find the water pump whirring away water in the tank.
Neither of us had left a tap on so where had all the water gone? A few spots on the work top and some damp doggy paw marks gave a pretty strong clue – Brian had jumped up on the work surface (as he can) and somehow knocked the tap on. (I think we'll accept that he didn't do it on purpose because he was feeling a bit thirsty.) Result: about 50 gallons of water into the cut and a quick trip to the water point to refill.
And I can say is it's a good job we hadn't left the plug in the sink or we'd have two boats to refit not just one.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Lost - one tooth

I lost a tooth yesterday - twice.

I came back to Streethay after a few days' grandparent duties in London nursing a howling toothache and a dental appointment two days' away.
A pleading - change that to begging - phone call changed that to two hours' time. This time the dentist did manage to numb it which I thought was good news. It wasn't. Turns out the tooth was terminally ill - cracked in two and not savable. It had to come out.
And ten minutes later there it was - gone. I'll spare you the details though you ought to know that it was a bit uncomfortable but certainly not painful.
Anyway I thought I'd take it home as a gory souvenir but when I got back to the boat the tooth and the little envelope it was in were gone. I'd parked in the Tesco carpark next door to the dentist (sorry Mr T) to make a call and all I can think is I pulled it out of my pocket with my phone and it fell on the ground.
I wonder if someone picked up the little white envelope thinking it had something good in it?
Bet they got a surprise!
I wonder if they handed it in to the police station?!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Wild Bunch

We've got our own gang of Hell's Angels up at Streethay. First thing in the morning they come roaring into town, waking us up by banging on the hullsides and then shouting at the windows.
But our Wild Bunch are wild fowl - a gang of local ducks that patrol the stretch of canal, noisily demanding food from us boaters.
They always arrive mob handed - and a mixed mob they are too; white, brown, brown and white, all sorts and sizes. A frothing mass of bread catchers and snatchers.
But there are always exactly 13 of them in the Streethay Mob. And if the day ever comes when only 12 turn up we shall feel just a little bit sad.