Thursday, 28 April 2011

Gunning for Star

Poor old Star has taken a bit of a back seat these past few months as we've slaved away on Harry but this weekend it gets its turn.
We came out of the water and onto the slipway today to give a well deserved spring spruce up - a new coat of blacking on the hull, a strip back and repaint of the tug deck and some touching up of the sides.
Which gave me a chance to try out another boatyard toy - the pneumatic needle gun. This is a fiendish device which batters the steelwork with a cluster of steel needles about the size of the knitting ones but a lot more powerful. They tap away at the steel and blacking and paint goes flying.
In only a couple of hours the sides above the waterline were back to bare metal so the blacking will look smooth and flat rather than patchily hiding years of scrapes and dings.
It's a great tool though a bit of a beast; my hands are still shaking from the vibbrratttionn and there's a decent size blister on one of them.
Tomorrow are alternative royal wedding enterprise will be another coat of blacking and a coat of paint. Maybe followed, like today, with some beers and a takeaway.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Spot the difference

Yes, at long last that photo from the front of the boat looks different. The bulkheads are in. The bathroom is finally about to be separated off from the rest of the boat.
Even thought they are only temporarily pinned in place it feels like a huge step forward - finally the interior is starting to take shape.
Building bulkheads is harder than it might seem. Nothing's square, level or straight in a boat you see. The trick is to find the centre of the floor and the centre of the ceiling, drop a 'vertical' stick between them and take your measurements from. Which I did, and all seemed fine - except I'd failed to appreciate that the floor wasn't level either so the bulkhead didn't line up against the cabinside. Much fiddling with block plane and sandpaper later and we finally had a proper fit.
At least I then had a template for the opposite bulkhead. More or less. The two sides of a boat are never quite the same but some slight alterations and more planing finally gave me two bulkheads with an equal space between them from top to bottom in which to hang the door. One day!

Boating bling

We've been hunting one of these elusive things for a while and now we've found one - a genuine copper dry sump oil tank for our Lister JP3M engine.
When we bought it it was covered in several decaying coats of various shades of green paint but some hours of scraping and stripping by Vicky brought the copper back to gleaming life. Just the brass tops remain to be done before it takes pride of place in the engine room.

We went for a cup of tea and came away members

Enjoying a coffee - in a proper cup and saucer at Whittington Wharf

V and me are now paid up members of the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust. We'd spotted there was a bric a brac and coffee morning sale in aid of the society in a canalside house just down the road in Whittington. So we pottered along on the off chance of finding a few paperbacks and maybe a pretty plate or some such.
Three hours later we departed with a sack load of books, a pack of raffle tickets, replete with tea and shortbread, up to speed on the canal restoration - and signed up as members.
And all because they were such a friendly bunch of people - happy to chat and explain what the L&H is up to and at the same time very professional in their approach to the whole restoration business. Everything from coffee mornings like this one to funding multi-thousand pound projects like the M6 Toll aqueduct.
When they're finished - as they certainly will be one day - the Lichfield and Hatherton canals will transform boating around the Birmingham area. All power to the Society.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Three locks = one pie and chips

You've heard of lock miles, well say hello to pie miles.
We delivered a boat from Streethay back round the canal corner to Kings Bromley Marina. That's five miles and the three Fradley locks away - or eight lock miles. Took us two and a half hours.
In a fit of madness we decided to do this in the early evening and WALK BACK! But with a pit stop half way at The Swan at Fradley junction where we aimed to down a pint and a pie and chips (or in Vicky's case since she's a tad more health conscious, a lamb shank and new potatoes).
We left Church Bromley at 7.0o p.m., reached The Swan at 7.40 p.m., enjoyed our pints and food and left at 8.30 just as the sun was setting. A brisk walk - well as brisk as you can be carrying a load of pie and chips - and we were backat Streethay at 9.30 p.m.
So two and a half hours there and two and a half back. Therefore pie and chips and a pint = three locks. Or three pie miles.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Something is happening, honest

Apologies for the lack of progress reports on the Harry refit. Stuff is happening though it's painfully slow.
The big news is that we have a bath. It may still be covered in its protective cardboard but it's in place and plumbed up. Well almost plumbed up.
The calorifier has been squeezed into the engine room which has saved space elsewhere but has meant that every connection has had to exit through a steel bulkhead. Which means drilling a 3/4 inch hole through three inches of wood and steel. Slowly!
We hummed and hawed for ages about the bath. Bath? Shower? Shower? Bath? We couldn't decide. We opted for the bath (which will have a shower over it of course) because it was easier to fit. But when we bought the bath, we put it place and thought it looked awful. We went straight off and advertised it for sale on Ebay!
It was a low, low point. We seemed to have spent weeks debating the bathroom and still got it wrong. Fortunately Streethay's boss, Ray, came to the rescue with some words of encouragement and the advice to throw away the feet the bath came with and mount it much lower. It was transformed and so were we. The Ebay auction was cancelled. Work resumed.
We're up and running again. Well, not quite running. More plodding steadily along.
Once the bath is in, the bulkheads can go in and, at last, I'll be able to show you a different photo of the interior.

A day out on land

The Peak District is less than an hour's drive from Streethay so when daughter Olivia came up for a visit last weekend we looked at the glorious weather, piled into her Peugeot and headed for the hills.
And what a fabulous day it was. After a stroll around the mini-Bath that is Georgian Buxton we went on to Chapel en le Frith then headed deep into the hills for a picnic and a not-too-strenuous stroll along the hilltops above Edale, gazing at the wonderful views all around us.
At the end of the day we gave the poor little 1.1 Peugeot a stern test up the spectacular 1 in 5 climb of Winnats Pass to bring us back to the main roads.
But you can't keep a canal-er away from the canals for long and a short diversion took us to Bugsworth Basin for a pint at the excellent Navigation before heading home.

A day out on the water

Hang around Streethay too long and you'll find yourself roped into helping out on odd jobs. But this must have been one of the oddest.
Last week Pete and me pointed the Discovery truck south and headed for Enfield. The back of the Disco was weighed down with four huge lorry wheels, 30 odd sacks of shingle ballast and a couple of hundred feet of chain.
Still guessing what we were up to? I'm sure you are. We were off to Enfield Island Village, a housing and commercial development built on the site of the Royal Small Arms Factory, where the famous Enfield rifle was produced.
Centrepiece of the redeveloped site is an ornamental basin in the middle of which sits a restored butty resplendent in RSA cloths and colours, recollecting the importance of the waterways in shipping arms and munitions from the factory and down the River Lea.
The problem that we were out to solve was that the butty kept slipping its anchors in high winds. Our lorry wheels, weighed down with those ballast bags and anchored by chains were the solution.
We spent the day - which fortunately was warm and sunny - wading around the basin. And, yes, I did fall in.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Into the woods

We've been living in a log cabin for a few days. No we haven't left the canals and disappeared into the backwoods. This cabin had underfloor heating, big flat screen tv, wi-fi and double glazing.
We were in the Forest of Dean on a Forest Holidays break thanks to our generous daughter and son in law Lucy and Nick. I think they felt sorry for us, stuck on our little Star and battling away on Harry.
Well we all had a great time. The Forest of Dean is not somewhere I know but it's a fascinating area. Remote, rural, picturesque and yet laced with disused coal mines as part of an all but vanished industrial past. Some bits survive - like the Dean Forest Railway we rode on Sunday down to Lydney.
And at Lydney itself where there's a restored docks that leads into - yes you've guessed it - a canal! Not that there's much of it left. Just a few hundred yards beyond the sea lock and the basin beyond it. The docks has been restored and is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument as an example of a 19th century harbour. It's hard to imagine, though, that this little harbour shipped out up to 300,000 tons of Dean coal a year.
The locks are impressive, built to cope with the huge tidal range of the River Severn. And the views are even more impressive; a huge panorama way down beyond the two Severn bridges and equally far up-river.
Our other day out was to somewhere quite different - Puzzlewood where the eroded limestone, overgrown old iron ore mine workings and tangled, overgrown woods have created a magical labyrinth of a spot. If you're a fan of 'Merlin' you'll recognise it right away.
Now we're back afloat but already thinking about another log cabin break when Harry wears us down.