Thursday, October 18, 2018

A change of scene and christening a new windlass.

We’re up at Gargrave now, having left Skipton on Tuesday, stopping overnight below Holme Bridge Lock, then coming up to the moorings above Higherland Lock yesterday. Three locks done, the first for three months!

Leaving Springs Branch Junction on TuesdayDSCF4903

Cool and gloomy as we headed north and westDSCF4905

Mags certainly would have liked it to be warmer!DSCF4907

With five swing bridges done we moored just below Holme Bridge Lock at lunchtime. The afternoon brightened up quite nicely after the overcast morning.

Yesterday we waited till nearly 11:00 before moving on. We were hoping for a boat to arrive to share the locks with, but when I saw one coming down I thought we might as well take advantage of the empty lock. We were nearly up, helped by the crew of another boat heading down, when one arrived below the lock. They declined my offer of waiting at Eshton Road Lock for them though. At 60 foot long they were concerned that we’d struggle to get both boats in these short Leeds and Liverpool locks. So we tackled all three on our own.

Coming up Eshton Road Lock…
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…and Higherland Lock
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Moored above Higherland Lock after turning in the winding hole.DSCF4918

There were three or four boats here when we arrived, but we managed to secure the sunny spot between the winding hole and the services. Well worth it too, it was a fine sunny afternoon and today is positively warm after a frosty start.
There’s been a bit of traffic today, a couple of Silsden hire boats arrived later yesterday and they’ve turned around and headed back down this morning, then at lunchtime the Short Boat Kennet went past, heading down to Skipton for a bit of a paint job.

Leeds and Liverpool Short Boat Kennet dropping down Higherland Lock.DSCF4920

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(Click on pic to enlarge…)
Sorry about the legs in the last picture. They’re mine and you’ll notice I‘m still in shorts!

Now you may remember, when we came down Anchor Lock all those weeks ago, I lost my aluminium windlass in the canal below the bridge. A couple of hours magnet fishing was fruitless, at least as far as the missing windlass was concerned. I did dredge up several items of cutlery and an assortment of tin cans though…
Anyway, we finished the trip to Skipton with me using a heavy steel windlass, one of several we’ve “adopted” over the years. In fact the ally one I lost was discovered on the Rochdale Canal several years ago...
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With my birthday coming up in August Mags said she’d buy me a new one (I thought about getting her a set of saucepans for hers…), so I’m now the proud owner of a shiny new aluminium windlass, complete with steel jubilee clips to make it attractive to my magnet if I drop it again!

It got it’s first outing yesterday.


On the home front, we’re still waiting on the results of Mags’ CT scan, although they should be imminent. And Meg continues to make slow but positive progress. She seems better in control of her bladder now, although we still have the odd accident, mostly at night. She’ll be finishing her 2 week course of antibiotics early next week, so we’ll have to go back to Skipton by then for yet another vet visit.
I expect we’ll take 2 days again to head back, stopping below the locks maybe Saturday and moving on on Sunday or Monday. We’ll see…

Locks 3 (wow) miles 5¼

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Weekly update…

That’s what it’s turning into at the moment. Nothing of any note to report, I‘m afraid.

We went off to Airedale Hospital on Tuesday for Mags’ scan, picked up and returned by Station Taxis out of Skipton, prompt and efficient too.
The scan went OK, but Mags got a bit fed up with the wait while she had to drink over a pint of water with the trace dye for the x-rays in it. She even tried to give some away to a chap who’d already drunk his! We’ve not heard anything back yet, I’ll give her GP a ring early next week if they’ve not been in touch.

Meg is slowly improving. She’s now on a different antibiotic, delivered by Sam the vet on Tuesday evening and resulting from the lab tests on a sample taken from her bladder a week ago. She’s a little drier through the day, only leaking once or twice and letting us know she wants to go out most of the time. But she’s worse at night when she’s fast asleep. Hopefully, when the infection clears up, she’ll have better control.

We came back into Skipton a couple of days ago. After that bright but cold weekend last week it’s turned mild again but damper. It’s got pretty busy as well, with quite a few hire boats out and about.

The Canada geese at Bradley seem to have had a population explosion recently…DSCF4895

Cloud on the hills, but a bit of brightness trying to break through.DSCF4897

We were joined on the service wharf by a steam-powered narrowboat, the shell only 6 years old but the actual engine over a century. It’s looking good on it…
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It started life powering a steam tug in Canada, then was a museum for a bit before being allowed to deteriorate. The present owned rescued and restored it to it’s former glory.
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The weather looks a bit better for next week, so we might go up to Gargrave for a few days now the locks are open again. We’ll have to come back by a week on Tuesday though for Meg to get checked over.

Locks 0, miles 2¾

Sunday, October 07, 2018

From Summer into Autumn…

…and we’re still here! The weeks are starting to blur into each other now as we shuttle back and forth between Bradley and Skipton.
But this last week has seen a marked change, colder nights and damper days, and the leaves on the trees are starting to turn. We arrived in Skipton in July, and we’re now in October, with still no plan going forward.

A fine, still morning last week at Bradley.
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Those old gateposts are just the right height for a good old scratch!DSCF4876

We moved back to Skipton last Tuesday, not the best of days, a bit damp and with a brisk breeze bowing in from the west.
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We had visitors both Wednesday and Thursday though, and we needed provisions…

Val and John and dachsund Harry came over first, bringing a prepared lunch of home-made steak pie and veggies, so I just had to bung that in the oven for 45 minutes. They stayed till late afternoon before setting off for the trip back to Wales. Then we had three generations of Mag’s family arrive on Thursday, son Howard, his daughters Melanie and Zoe, and his granddaughter Laura. A fun afternoon, even with me spending 90 minutes replacing the screen on Mel’s iphone…
A word of warning in case you’re ever tempted to do the same. It’s extremely fiddly, the screws are very, very small and there’s a lot of them… Still, it worked after the surgery (big sigh of relief).

We took advantage of Howard (yet again) and had him run us up to Skipton Hospital for Mags to have a blood sample taken. This was a requirement prior to her having a CT scan next Tuesday. She’s not looking forward to that…

On Friday I took Meg to see the vet again to check her blood and urine and to discuss her meds. She’s doing pretty well, and an unplanned ultrasound scan showed no abnormalities apart from a thickening of her bladder wall, in fact her liver looks better. So we’ve dropped her daily steroid dosage from 10mg  to 5mg, now she’s not so thirsty she’s not drinking as much which has the knock-on effect of putting less pressure on her bladder, improving her incontinence. Samples taken by needle from her bladder have been sent off to a lab for analysis, but we seem to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now. We’ve just got to see what Mags’ scan reveals now.

We filled up with diesel and swapped an empty gas bottle at Snaygill Boats on the way into Skipton, had Fred Green deliver a load of smokeless fuel to us at the service wharf in town, and with a full water tank and rubbish and recycling disposed of we moved back out to Bradley yesterday.

Heading to the Springs Branch junction to turn around yesterday.DSCF4882

Busy on the moorings near Gallows Bridge.DSCF4883

Mags bringing Seyella through Snaygill Swing Bridge
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The leaves are on the turn now…
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Last night was the first proper frost we’ve had, with the temperature dipping to nearly zero. It was a splendid morning first thing, though.

View from our side hatch this morning…
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…and out with Meg as the sun rose.
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We’ve got a taxi booked to take us to Airedale General on Tuesday for Mags’ scan, then it’s a waiting game again till we hear from her GP.

Thanks for all the comments guys.

Hi Debby, pleased to hear that your Meg is now out of the woods.

Hi Jennifer and Peter. Hope you had a good summer out and about. That tentative plan to meet up near Trent Lock never really had a chance, did it!

Tom, Now that would be something to see! Still, it’d save some fuel and I could sneak a couple of pills into her morning brew!

KevinToo, Carol. Mags reckons she feels OK and doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. Imagine how she’ll feel if they do sort out a problem. I’ll not be able to hold her back! Here’s hoping…

Locks 0, miles 6½

Friday, September 28, 2018

Waiting…

Meg has reached the stage where we’d be happy to move on now. She’s still on steroids and is likely to be for a while, but unfortunately she’s still a bit incontinent. She’s ok when she’s awake, but leaks when she’s asleep. Something we can manage, though.

While we were up here we decided Mags should have her annual review while we’re close to our doctor’s, so she went a week last Wednesday. We had a phone call from the surgery Friday saying that they needed to see her again as soon as possible, so we were back again on Tuesday. Her blood test results were not good, there may be a problem with her liver. So we’re now waiting for a hospital appointment for a CT scan. Should be sooner rather than later, hopefully. Until that’s done and the results assessed we can’t make any plans.

Meanwhile we’re still shuffling back and forth between Gargrave and Bradley, stopping for a few days in Skipton on the way through.

Flying lessons for the youngsters near Belmont BridgeDSCF4859 

Waxing moon and a pebbly sky…
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We’re back out at Bradley again for a few days, it’s a lot quieter here than in town.

A bit black behind us as we leave Snaygill Swing Bridge heading for Bradley on Wednesday…DSCF4868

…but it’s sunny where we’re going.
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It seems to be taking an awfully long time to do those 27¼ miles…DSCF4869

We can get to Airedale General easily from here by taxi, but if we don’t hear anything by next Tuesday we’ll have to head back to Skipton for supplies. A bit further to travel but quicker by car…

Oh, and I found a poor earth connection on the heater wiring, so the charging and domestic battery modifications I made a couple of weeks ago are doing the job just fine.

We’ve a fine, sunny morning today. Warm in the sun, cooler in the shade after a chilly night.DSCF4872

Locks 0, miles 5½

Sunday, September 16, 2018

And so back to Bradley…

We’re back moored at Bradley again now, after coming back into Skipton from Gargrave on Thursday.

While we were near Gargrave we had a visit from one of Mag’s grand- and great-grand daughters, Melanie and Laura. And on Monday morning we reversed under Holme Bridge, up to the lock, to pick up 8 bags of smokeless, delivered to the lockside by Fred Green, the coal merchant in Gargrave. It’s that time of year again…

The modification to the charging circuit I mentioned in the previous post hasn’t been as successful as I’d hoped, I think the older lead acid battery is past it’s best after all, sometimes the heater will start, sometimes not. Fault number 11, low voltage. I’m going to have a good look at the live and earth feeds connecting the heater, just in case there’s a dodgy contact somewhere.

We came back into Skipton on Thursday, a fairly good day, dry until we had a short, sharp shower just before the town.

Leaving Holme Bridge on the edge of GargraveDSCF4834     
Mags coming through Highgate Swing Bridge, the first of the five back to Skipton.DSCF4842

Apparently that new structure next to the old weaving sheds on the edge of town is going to be flats…DSCF4843

Belmont Bridge, Skipton
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We topped up the nearly-empty water tank then pushed across to moor in a very familiar spot opposite the bush station car park.

First thing Friday morning we were off down Gas Lane to Ashlands vets for yet another visit. Meg is actually quite sprightly now, and Sam the vet was pleased with her progress. Her temperature is lower than it’s been for the last month, there’s now only a trace of blood in her wee, and, with the steroids she’s taking giving her an appetite, she’s gaining weight again. One problem is that she’s now badly incontinent. Not her fault of course, whatever is ailing her has weakened the muscles in her urinary tract, so basically she leaks. It makes her very unhappy, she looks really embarrassed when she does… So she’s on some pills that should tighten up those weak muscles, although the low dose doesn’t seem to be having much effect. I’ll ring the vet’s in the morning to see if I can increase the dosage. Meanwhile she’s getting used to lying on bed incontinence pads.

We timed it well yesterday, leaving Skipton behind a couple of day boats and Dalesman, one of the trip boats off Belmont Wharf. So we were able to pass through Snagill Swing Bridge in convoy.

There’s a couple of boats moored here besides us at Bradley, but it’s quieter than it has been.
We’ll be back in to town on Tuesday, hopefully for the last time before we head off towards Leeds.

On the subject of my rant the other day (see The Blame Game), Paul Balmer has posted an explanation of how CRT believes the Middlewich Breach occurred. Not a gush of water rushing down the canal as reported in some of the newspapers, but a steady trickle, overflowing a low section of bank and gradually eroding the edge. See the comment on the post. Thorough and well reasoned. Thanks Paul.

Locks 0, miles 6¾

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Battery charging modifications.

We’ve all been there; not moving very much so the batteries are not getting a thorough charge. We’ve got four 100 Ah AGM batteries which I installed about 2½ years ago and they are still OK if not in the first flush of youth. They are charged from the two engine alternators through a Sterling A-B four stage charger which performs well, but recently the battery bank has rarely reached 100%.

If we have heavy usage in the evening, maybe running the hard-drive recorder as well as the TV, charging the laptop and with the fridge and freezer running overnight, the voltage can often drop to below 12.25 volts. Not a problem with the AGM batteries, they are far more resilient than standard flooded lead acid. But those of you with diesel-fired heaters, Eberspacher, Webasto, Mikuni et al will know that they are power-hungry on start-up, drawing maybe 13 amps initially, and they are very sensitive to low voltage so may fail to start as the voltage drops due to the amps being drawn.

Our old but generally reliable Eberspacher starts at 08:00 on a timer and runs for an hour to provide hot water for abluting, but we’ve had this situation a couple of time recently, easily fixed by firing up the donk for 15 minutes but a nuisance none the less.

When I swapped the old lead acid batteries for the AGM ones I had one that was only 6 months old and in good condition, and space to keep it in the battery bay. So I did and it’s been sitting there since, getting a top-up charge once a month but otherwise enjoying a life of leisure. So I thought what about dedicating that one battery to the heater and nothing else, isolated from the main bank. Obviously it would need to be charged more often than once a month, so today I’ve fitted a Voltage Sensitive Relay between it and the main domestic bank so it will charge when the engine is running and the alternators are pushing out the amps, but will be disconnected when the voltage drops below 12.8 volts.DSCF4833
That’s the chap, below the Sterling charge controller.
It will actually pass 140 amps, far more than normally required, and both feeds to and from the batteries are protected by fuses. It trips in when the voltage on the main domestic bank rises to 13.3 volts, and drops out when the combined voltage falls to 12.8. The power supply for the Eberspacher, and nothing else, is drawn from the single lead acid battery. It remains to be seen whether it will be effective or not, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t.

I got the unit and a fitting kit including cable, fuses, battery clamps and comprehensive instructions from a company called Simply Split Charge, delivered within a couple of days.

Thanks all for the kind comments regarding the saloon doors; Kath, it’s not real stained glass of course. Stick-on lead strip and translucent glass paint. But it looks good if you don’t get too close…

We’ve reduced Meg’s steroid dosage today, she’s now on 10mg instead of 20mg. Hopefully she’ll still be OK on the lower dose. She’s going back to the vet on Friday morning, and I think Sam will be pleased with her progress.

Locks 0, miles 0

Sunday, September 09, 2018

The Blame Game

shropshire-union-canal-damageNow, as regular readers of this blog will know, I’m not one to be controversial, but I do feel quite strongly about the tone of the latest updates on progress to repair that dirty great hole in the canal near Middlewich.




No doubt based on a press release by Canal and River Trust, the Telegraph, Express, Nantwich News and others have reported that the March breach, which will cost around £3m pounds and will take until Christmas to repair, was caused by a boater leaving lock gates and/or paddles open on the upstream Stanthorne Lock.

Now, there’s no suggestion that this was deliberate vandalism, and no mention of damage to the lock itself, so I’m confused as to how water could have “ended up gushing down the canal, washing away the banks and leaving a huge gaping hole in the waterway”. After all, opening both lower gate paddles at once is normal practice when descending a lock…
Even if both top and bottom paddle paddles where opened at the same time, the flow would still be restricted by the size of the lower paddle opening, about 3 square feet in total. In operation it takes around 5 minutes to drain the lock through these openings, dumping around 360,000 gallons of water into the lower pound. But the turbulence caused is resisted by the construction of the wash walls below the lock. By the time the water has flowed down to where the breach occurred it would be a shallow wave, no more. Not at all of the Severn Bore proportions implied by water “gushing down the canal”.

Sorry CRT. I know that a lot of occurrences of structural damage on the canals can be placed at the doors (or bows…) of boaters, especially during the silly season, but I don’t believe this is one of them. Aqueducts over waterways are vulnerable from both the canal above and water erosion below, and as such need to be checked and maintained rigorously. With cut-backs in staff maybe that’s not possible any more… 
OK, rant over.

Meg continues to improve, she’s getting about better now, is eating like a horse and is more alert. We’ll have another visit to the vet next week to check her vitals, but we’re cautiously optimistic.

And I’ve finally finished the saloon doors, and I’m quite pleased with the result.
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Different, eh...

Locks 0, miles 0