Sunday, 25 November 2012

Life is an equation...

The universe is made of numbers and life is like an equation, both sides gotta balance :-) 

Today's equation

10 miles cycling to get the van on a cold windy morning...

Friday, 23 November 2012

Lord of Lotto Lumber says 'ITS YOU'...

It was such a beautiful morning today that the 'move boat first or move bongo first' question was a no brainer. It was 10 miles from where we were to where we wanted to be and I really wasn't in the mood for a bike ride, yesterdays mere 5 miles was enough! So definitely boat first and van whenever.

Not a cloud in the sky and not a breath of wind as we left one of our favorite moorings just before all oaks wood. Although it was only slightly warmer last time we were here, loosing the genni was a PITA last time and I was glad that it hadn't tainted our opinions of a great location.

We left some CC'ers that we are getting to know quite well as they cruise the same fairly limited area about 40 miles either side of Rugby (mainly cos of work commitments) not strictly within the CC rules but I would prefer they did that than claim bucket fulls of benefits from the state that's, well, in a bit of a state.

Even though we were only there for a couple of days I saw my first crash landing swan one of four cygnets landing with both parents obviously used a touch too much flaps and ended in a heap about 10ft from the waters edge. And also had ring side seats for one man and his dog as they negotiated fields, fences, wood piles and a bridge to cross the canal to the destination field. 

Beautiful Day

Beautiful location

Quiet Neighbours

Arty types

As yesterdays weather got worse 'chainsaw carving man' and his 'painter partner' moved their separate boats back to where we were out of the way of potential falling trees. We had even parked half a mile further away where the tree's looked safer. 

Few boats today and no hurry on our part until we spied...

No tree was gona beat me and my 14" chainsaw

Now where did I put the boat

She was enjoying herself really!

A felled tree ;)  No messing about lugging branches back to the boat this time, straight out with the chain saw and down to work. Roof stacked with logs ready to split (about a months worth) we set off into the blinding setting sun.

'IT'S YOU' - said the lord of lumber as we passed a power station that had been trimming back and had nice neat little piles of logs already cut into 3 or 4ft lengths ready to sling on the roof - whopee our numbers have come up, we were about half a mile from where we are mooring 'til February and we have gone from 0 logs to about 8 weeks worth if we use half and half with coal.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

A Proper Mobile Blog...

Writing this blog from the 15.50 Virgin train from Birmingham New Street to London Euston so a proper mobile blog for the first time. We have been up to Brum because Deb has had a successful interview with a national company for some temp work whilst the canals are grinding to a halt over winter. Bit of a bargain if you choose the trains right, about 14 pounds for the two of us return. At about 45 miles it would have cost closer to forty pounds in the van.

A new fact of the day from Rugby

Deb suited and booted

A quiet Rugby station

Santa and little helpers taking a stroll along the canal

Christmas funfair in front of the new (much needed) library

Library service user!

We would have made a bit more of a day of it but my gallbladder has been giving me some problems over the last week. A few days ago Deb had to leave me in my solitude in the van for an hour whilst pains abated. And yesterday I had a proper attack, not quite as bad as the one that saw me in A&E but not far off

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The price of technology...

A short hop along the canal brought us down through the Hillmorton locks and into Rugby. Even though I know what the Hillmorton masts did it still amazes me that what appears to be a random collection of different height masts (although the biggies all went in 2007) spaced in no particular order carry a time signal that is accurate to within one second per three thousand years - amazing!!

Topping up the water tank

A slow process so time for a brew 

Rather him than me 

Rugby, with adequate moorings, water, an elsan point and a pretty decent sized town on the doorstep is an OK place to stay put for a few days. We had passed through Rugby earlier in the year but hadn't stopped beyond picking up my brew kit from Tesco. 

I popped in to Maplin to buy a cheapish computer cooling fan and wired it straight to a 12v plug. It was tapped to the kitchen to bathroom door to see if it would have any effect on the airflow from front to back. If it had any effect the idea was to put it in a tubular surround and along with a stove fan try and get some of the hot lounge air towards the much colder bedroom and study. 

Last week with the outside temperature at about 4°c at 11pm and the stove ticking over heating the lounge to about 26°c; the kitchen (roughly  midships) was 22°c and the study struggling to get much above 14°c. Last night at 11ish the lounge was 25°c, kitchen 22°c and study about 18°c which was a much more even temperature all from a 0.08amp fan. 

If it works, it will be housed in a timber tube

Talking (as I quite often do) about power consumption I have tried the final fix for my sick PlayStation. It is stuck in a constant software update loop that even motherboard battery removal won't stop. The only other option would be to try a new hard drive and operating system. I had a quick Google search to see how much power it uses and was quite surprised that whilst being used for DVD's or games it draws nearly 200w, a huge amount for a luxury item on a boat, so its all packed up ready for storing in Pip's loft. 

As today is 11th of the 11th we walked the couple of miles into Rugby at the appointed hour to pay our respects. 

Crowds gathering outside the memorial gates

Maroons marking the start and finish of the two minutes silence came as a shock to the kids and dogs

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Not a nice day for a stroll...

Four miles in the cold rain was enough though. I wrapped up in my full winter kit, more as a test than anything else really. When the weather does turn colder I'll need to be prepared. 

So with thermals on, and waterproofs we set off back in the direction of Braunston. The rain soon changed from light to incessant, and about two miles in the first of the clothing items were failing. Neither of us had waterproof gloves, my thinsulate ones did a lot better than expected and lasted about a mile and a half, Debs mittens looked a bit saggy though! My leather, non waterproof Mendle boots have done a fantastic job over the last ten years or so and in wet weather are supplemented by waterproof socks. Debs goretex  ones bought at the same time now leek in places. If anything I got too hot, we were walking at little over three miles per hour and the last mile in increasingly heavy sleet I could have done with loosing a layer.

Rather than move the van further up the canal (and increase the walk by another three miles) we parked as close to LJ as possible and retreated to the fire to start drying out. The following day we moved to the top of hillmorton locks in chilly morning sun. In fact the temperature had dropped below freezing in the night and the cabin temperature was hovering at about 8 deg C (colder in little pockets) when we woke up. We have used the stove to tick-over during the day at the mid twenties but backed it off at about 8.30 to save on coal. The problem being that not enough hot air is getting fifty foot further to the back of the boat. 

So cold today my blister pack shattered!!!

I have been looking at stove fans and the one I really want, based on a sterling engine is back in production so I may have to give the ISA a hammering and splash out. I think that coupled with something 12v and made from computer fans half way down the boat should do the trick and even out the temperature a bit. 

Whilst we were moving I had a text alert from Birmingham hospital reminding me of an appointment to see my consultant on Tuesday. Its a good job they do the text reminders as I hadn't had a letter from them. I called to see if I could find out a bit more info but all the call centre could do was confirm the appointment time. As I still hadn't had any results from my liver MRI scan I presumed it was to discuss the results. The evening before going back to Brum Pip had got back from holiday and in the postie pile was a letter from the MRI department saying that there was nothing abnormal which was a bit of a relief. I have been reading the blog of a fellow boater couple who have been a lot less fortunate and sadly the gent is undergoing the necessary evils to rid his liver of cancer. My appointment confirmed no nasty liver problems or any stray stones left in my bile duct and I am now on the list to go back and have the offending gall bladder whipped out. Unfortunately its only an over night job so I doubt I will be able to sample their goat curry ;)

We even went out for a beer and burger at the local in hillmorton which for £5 each was better than expected. Actually Deb had two pints of cider and spent the rest of the evening laughing at me cos I had hiccough's.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Back in Braunston...

Postie arrived in the form of Pip and John on Monday morning with the bongo's tax form (boo), and my new Google nexus cover/Bluetooth keyboard turning my mini tablet into and ultra mini notebook but with a much better battery life and power efficiency than the big old sony Vaio.

Like a kindle cover but with removable wireless  keyboard

Whilst Pip and John were here the cold tap in the bathroom started playing up. There was quite a lot of air pressure building up and unless you opened the tap just a crack to release the pressure it would send about half a pint of water across the bathroom with such force that it wouldn't hit the floor but shoot across the wall. I suspected a leak somewhere and just hoped it was nice and accessible.  As the main pump is the easiest part to get to (under the kitchen sink) that's where I started. A fairly small weep was enough to make it quite wet under the cupboard so I've stripped the pump down, cleaned it out and tried resealing it with the help of a little marine silicone (as in small amount, I haven't taken any silicone from little marines) It seems to have done the job for now at least.

Soggy cupboard

Repaired for a while
As we were opposite the chandlers I thought it was as good a time as any to buy some oil and filters and do a mini engine service. Not quite as easy as just popping the bonnet and changing the oil as everything (or most things) that were stored in the engine room had to come out and decorate a very muddy towpath. So with the anchor, workbench and two pieces of the five piece engine acoustic cover to interest dogs and trip their owners up I set about pumping the oil out with the rather handy built in sump pump. Unfortunately the pump had other ideas and gave up the ghost about two Litre's into the process. By now it was getting quite cold and miserable so I made a hasty retreat to the comfort of the lounge fire to carry out some earnest research.

I very nearly bought a 'pela' pump a few years ago when we had three motorbikes, a petrol lawnmower and two outboards to try and keep running but now it seemed the only solution to remove the sticky black stuff from LJ. I shouldn't have moored so close to a marina, I've already spent nearly 60 quid on oil and filters! Back from the chandlers and another 50+ lighter I quickly warmed the remaining 7ish litres of oil and started the 'ultra clean and efficient ' process. It actually works really well (so I will be able to do the bongo and its ATF soon as well) you just stick a hose down the dipstick hole and a few pumps starts the vacuum and a while later (long while if the oil is as bad as mine) 9ish litres of oil is sat in a bucket ready for containerisation and disposal. Next stage, using my useless chain type oil filter that just slipped then squashed the filter case, saw another trip back to the chandler for a belt type filter wrench that soon saw the filter loosening with, well a bit of a wrench. Now I now you think that I am going to loose the sticky contents of the filter all over the bilges but  I have a plan. One of the very nice carrier bags from the chandlers was put around the filter to catch the drips. Sounds easy doesn't it? Now what I haven't mentioned is that the filter is tricky to get to, If I kneel on the last bit of engine casing and make a leap of faith/belly flop forwards, I can rest my head on the, now muddy and oily, deck and stretch as far down as I can, I can just about reach it. Luckily most of the pressure is taken on the side of my neck hat has its full compliment of working arteries so all should be well. 

Four litre oil extracter

My hand is on the bag, the filter is in the bag, a couple more turns and...... shit'n'bugger I've dropped the bloody thing. At about eight inches lower than it was I've got no hope of getting it. What I need is someone just about small enough to bung down the 'ole and get it out, Luckily I think Deb likes it down there more than she lets on. Getting the hose out of the dipstick and clearing up wasn't perfect but most of the oil is cleaned up now, oh and Deb managed to extract herself eventually.

The engine ran happier and sounded sweet. Unfortunately there was no drive to the prop. It has happened  once before when we had dropped something onto part of the wiring loom and separated a connection. Not this time though, all conections clean and and tight but still no drive, then a little wimpy burst of action from the prop and then  nothing. Hmm looks gearbox like. Bad light stopped play and I retired to carry out more research.

Over night I had decided a gearbox oil change would be the best place to start and headed out with the waterproofs on. The last engine cover (and only place to stand) came out to let me gain access. I didn't even know what gearbox we had but knew it was hydraulic and most forums pointed to a PRM 150, possibly a larger 260. Like most things on LJ it had to be the biggest that would fit so I headed back to the marina for more oil as the PRM 500 takes an extra couple of litres of oil and more than I had. I used the Pela pump or the second time and instantly found that the drive problem was caused by very low oil level (level checking now added to weekly checks) Oil change completed all systems ok. I would have liked to give the engine a good run but we are very low on diesel so a quick 20 minute battery charge up and call it a day before it gets dark. 

Yesterday was just a quick level check, and with all ok put all the bits and bobs back in. We reversed a short way and moored on the opposite bank to take on water and make one last trip to the chandler for a couple of sacks of coal and some more anti-freeze. Luckily we have been putting aside about 70 pounds a month for servicing so our few days shouldn't hurt too much.

We had a really nice couple of hour cruise heading up towards hilmorton locks in search of the 85p per litre red diesel and are back to being moored in the middle of nowhere.