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

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.


Different, eh...

Locks 0, miles 0

Friday, September 07, 2018

Same old, same old…

Not much happening up here in the north, I’m afraid.

We could have headed off eastward, but we’ve chosen to stay up here rather than lurk about on the edge of Leeds. Meg is still making regular visits to the vet and it’s a little quieter now that the ankle-biters are back at school and several boats have headed off at least part-way to Leeds.

We left Skipton last Saturday, heading out to Bradley for a few nights, before returning to town on Wednesday. Shopping and another visit to Meg’s vet done, we untied this morning, filled with water and got rid of the rubbish and headed out of town towards Gargrave.

A sunny morning as we left the quieter Gallows Bridge moorings last weekend.DSCF4796

Busier than recently at Bradley, though.

Every so often the cows in the field opposite get fed up with Canada geese (don’t we all…) and form a line to herd them back into the cut.DSCF4804 
The geese don’t like it, kicking up an indignant cackling, but there’s no way they can argue with a ton of beef bearing down on them…

It’s certainly turning autumnal now, with chilly nights and often a heavy dew. Wednesday was definitely a cobweb morning…


It was Wednesday when we turned around and headed back to town.

Mags coming back through Bradley Swing Bridge after we’d turned winded just beyond.DSCF4808

We timed it well, soon after we pulled pins the mower men arrived…DSCF4809
I know they have to do it, but the grass cuttings get everywhere!

Just reflecting on life…

Back into Skipton.

A couple of nights in the bustling metropolis was enough this time, and as I already mentioned, we headed out the other way to Gargrave this morning.

Brewery Swing Bridge, our first this morning.DSCF4816

We chose to move today as the weather is set to get damp and windy over the weekend. It did stay dry but it was certainly breezier than we anticipated!


Sharp Haw rises on the right hand as you approach Gargrave.DSCF4821

We turned around below Holme Bridge as the locks here are still closed, reversed back and moored below the lock landing. We’ll stay here now till the middle of next week, I reckon.

We had another visit to Ashlands Vets yesterday morning. Meg has been on a new antibiotic since last Saturday, and she does seem to have improved a little. But the latest blood test results are not encouraging, they do seem to indicate some sort of cancer somewhere. The only way to be 100% positive is to perform biopsies on her bladder, liver and bone marrow under general anesthetic, but she’s too old and frail to go through that sort of trauma.
Anyway, knowing doesn’t help as we’d already decided that she’d not be suffering a course of chemotherapy. She feels rough enough as it is. So we agreed that keeping her comfortable for as long as possible is the best course of action, she’s staying on the antibiotics that seem to be making a difference and she’s now also on steroids. She had these when she had that bad lung infection last November and the change in her was dramatic. This time too, after just two days on them she’s more responsive, is eating well and is steadier on her feet. It’s not a long term solution, we’re aware that it’s now a matter of time before we have to make that tough decision, but while she’s well we’ll enjoy her company a little longer.
I can’t praise the Ashlands practice enough, they’ve been brilliant with her over the last seven weeks (has it really been that long?) and Sam who has been looking after her has been great. She even brought some medication out to us at Bradley on Saturday evening!

We’ll be up here for at least another couple of weeks anyway, so we can keep Meg monitored and Mags is due her annual health review shortly too, so we may as well deal with that before we head off. We might have some water in the reservoirs by then…

Thanks to all the kind comments about Meg. It’s possible we might be over the worst for the time being…

Locks 0, miles 10

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Another update…

We stayed out near Gargrave till Tuesday, a fine day after a wet weekend. Heading back to Skipton we had the five swing bridges to do, and had to do every one ourselves! That’s not happened for a while, often we’ve met or caught up with other boats at the bridges, but although there were boats about we kept missing them. Not to worry, they’re all easy apart from Gawflat, where a waiting runner helped me close it. 

Leaving Holme Bridge, Gargrave.

Mags coming through Highgate Swing Bridge, the first for the day.DSCF4786

Towards Niffany I spotted this odd conversation going on…DSCF4790
I wonder what a pair of sheep and a goose have to talk about? Maybe the goose is saying “I wish ewed shove off!” (groan).

Back into Skipton, and it’s very busy on the moorings near the junction.DSCF4793

It was also busy around the corner opposite the bus station, but we managed to get in just past Gallows Bridge. A little later a boat moved off, so we pulled back to take his spot, filling with water on the way.

I took Meg back to the vet in the afternoon, we wanted to get a benchmark set of results – weight, urine sample, temperature and bloods. The idea was to leave it for two or three weeks then do the same again to see if there are any changes.
Her temperature was fine, weight was down a bit more but that’s expected as she’s still not eating well. The pee sample still shows blood though, and Sam the vet recommended that the blood sample go off to a lab for a comprehensive check. The results came back today.
Her red blood cell count is way down, and her white cell count is way up. With another couple of indicators this implies that her bone marrow, which manufactures these cells, is not performing as it should.
I took her back in this afternoon for another blood sample for tests aimed specifically for identifying a particular condition. You’ve probably guessed that we now suspect she has a cancer in her bone marrow (Myeloma). These latest results should be back tomorrow, then we’ll have to see where we go from here.

On a more positive note, CRT have re-opened Bingley Locks and those following down to Shipley. The way to Leeds is still closed, though, from Newlay Locks on down. Whether or not we’ll soon be able to take advantage of the improvement in water supply remains to be seen.

Locks 0, miles 4¼

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Whatever happened to the summer?

As I sit here writing this it’s chucking it down with rain and the outside temperature is just over 11°. Nice and warm in here, though. The stove’s lit…
I feel sorry for those who’ve organised events for this, the last Bank Holiday of the summer. Most will be a washout, I expect. It was cool but dry and sunny yesterday, though, as we moved out from Skipton. For a change we’ve headed east, back towards Gargrave, for a few days.

I’d been using go-kart tyres as fenders on the Gallows Bridge moorings, and when I lifted one of them I found a stowaway…
This chap was sitting inside one of the tyres, and looked quite put out that I was evicting him. I put him/her back in the canal, which turns out to be the wrong thing to do. Later investigation identified it as a Signal Crayfish, an invasive species originally from North America and responsible for the decline of our own, native, White-Clawed variety.

We filled with water then pushed off, through the two swing bridges and out towards Niffany.

There’s a new building going up on the edge of town, overlooking the rows of terraced mill houses on one side and the canal on the other.

The site was originally occupied by Canal Saw Mill, but I’m not sure what the new building will be.

We made steady progress towards Gargrave, of the five swing bridges we had to negotiate three were opened for us by boats either ahead or coming the other way.

Heading towards Thorleby Swing Bridge, with Sharp Haw rising in the backgroundDSCF4775
This is one of the two I had to open…

With the Gargrave Locks still closed due to the water shortage we turned around in the winding hole just short of Holme Bridge and reversed the couple of hundred yards to moor on the lock landing. It’s not as if anyone’s going to be using it for a while…DSCF4779

We we were joined by a family on a hire boat for a couple of hours, then another Silsden boat turned up and spent the night moored in front of us. They set off in the rain this morning. We’ll be here till Tuesday, I reckon. We’ve a visitor tomorrow, then others coming to see us on Wednesday back in Skipton, probably.

Meg’s latest tests once again proved inconclusive. She’s not being very co-operative. She’s much the same, not eating much and sleeping a lot. She just looks so sad…

We’ve some decisions to make regarding further tests which will be rather more intrusive than those we’ve done so far. I‘ll be ringing the vet tomorrow to discuss things.

Thanks for the comments in support, and those about the leading on the saloon doors. I can’t do the tinting yet though, the doors will have to come off and lay flat for that, so it’ll need to get warmer again! Might be next year then, eh…

Locks 0,  miles 4¼

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Not a lot going on…

Well, we’re still here, shuffling around near Skipton. Even with the recent rain there’s no sign yet that that CRT will be reopening the locks down to Leeds anytime soon. We’ve been spending most of the time out at Bradley, returning to town for a few days every week of so for water, rubbish disposal and shopping. And of course Meg’s regularly visits to the doggy-doctor.

Despite various tests there’s still no definite conclusion as to what is ailing her. She’s still listless and off her food, she’s lost three kilos in the last three weeks. We’ve tried different antibiotics and the one she’s on now seems to be the most effective, but that’s not saying much. As of yesterday her urine sample was still showing blood and a high white cell count, indicating an infection. We’re now waiting on the latest test results, hopefully we’ll know more tomorrow.

Meanwhile, on the human rather than canine front –

We had Mags’ son Neil and his wife Val stay with us for a few days, enjoyed a social gathering with family over at Ingleton, and attended a family funeral near Blackpool.

Neil after we’d gone back out to Bradley last week.DSCF4760

We came back into Skipton yesterday, luckily dropping into a space opposite the services as a hire boat was just leaving. On the way we’d pulled in at Snaygill Boats to fill up with diesel and swap an empty gas bottle.

I mentioned some while ago that I was changing the leaded design on the glazed saloon doors. Gone is the geometric diamond pattern, now we’ve an organic, art nouveau inspired design.

Leaded, but there’s the colour to apply now.
It’s taken two whole days to get this far… but considerably longer to agree on the design!

Not sure what we’re doing next, depends on Meg’s test results. We’ll probably toddle out to Gargrave for a change for the weekend, but then again the weather is supposed to be turning decidedly cooler. And damper. We’ll see…

Locks 0, miles 9.