Friday, August 30, 2013

Down the broad locks

This end of the Trent and Mersey is unusual in that it changes from narrow to broad locks east of Burton on Trent.

The first is at Stenson, and comes as a bit of a culture shock for boaters used to the easy, narrow locks further up. This one is a monster, 12¼ feet deep and with ferocious paddles to catch out the unwary. In fact all of these broad locks need to be treated with respect, a premature raising of a gate paddle when going up could lead to disaster.

Dropping down Stenson Lock, sharing with NB WaterhomeSAM_6257
We were lucky here, they were just closing the gates as we came around the corner, so opened up again to let us in too.

We shared Swarkestone Lock as well, then followed them to Weston where we pulled in above the lock and they picked up another boat to join them as they carried on.

One man Two men went to mow…

Swarkestone Lock and the junction with the Derby CanalSAM_6259
The Derby Canal was completed in 1796, it’s primary cargo being coal, carried to the canal from pits at Denby by tramway. It ran for 5½ miles to Derby, then a branch connected with the Erewash Canal at Sandiacre. An active restoration society intends to re-open the canal, although Swarkestone Junction will be resited to below the lock.

After a quiet night at Weston we were just getting ready to move out when NB Snowdrop came into view, and became our locking partner for the morning.

Weston Lock with NB Snowdrop
Notice I’ve done a bit more work on the bow flare design?

Down the Trent ValleySAM_6265

Just a short run today, 3 miles to Shardlow, with just Weston, Aston and Shardlow locks to negotiate.

Mags carefully lines up for Shardlow LockSAM_6267
Meg is keeping an eye on her from the towpath….

Topping up with water below the lock.
The Clock Warehouse in the background is one of several surviving canal-related buildings constructed when the village was transformed from a small rural community to a thriving inland port with the arrival of the canal.

We moored in the village, unusual for us, we normally carry on through to moor above the last lock at Derwent Mouth. But we’ve got visitors tomorrow…

This afternoon I’ve run the comms cable for the remote from the new inverter to the galley. We had one here for the old unit, it’s handy for turning it on and off without going through to the engine room. It’s a shame that the cable for the Mastervolt was wired differently, but it made a useful pull-through for the new one through the awkward bits in the roof space!
Of course, the new remote is a different size and shape to the old one, so I’ve got to make a blanking/mounting plate to cover the old hole in the galley cabinet.

Locks, 2 yesterday, 3 today, miles 6 yesterday, 3 today.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Out with the old…

…in with the new.

We spent a bit of time examining options for getting our mains circuit operational again.
  1. Mastervolt operate a repair service, I could drop the unit off in Shardlow to be collected and shipped to Holland. The unit may not be repairable, if it is the cost would be minimum £550. Return in 2-3 weeks.
  2. Bite the bullet and replace the unit, like for like. The advantage would be that the MICC (Mastervolt’s optional extra battery monitor) would still be useable.
  3. Replace with a new unit from a different manufacturer.
Both 1. and 2. would require the purchase of a temporary solution, a quasi sine-wave 100W unit, for around £50. But there would be no guarantee that the LCD TVs and chargers for laptop and phones would work OK from such a cheap unit. It would also be taking up space and collecting dust as soon as we were sorted. Another issue is that the repair of the old combi would be guaranteed, but we’d still have a seven year old unit…. and a new one, with as much discount as I could squeeze out of the supplier, would still be in the region of £1300.

We looked at option 3, the other two main providers of this kit are Victron and Sterling. Both offer a combi of the same sort of rating, and both were available locally. The Victron is slightly dearer, and I’ve used Sterling kit before, we’ve an alternator-to-battery charge controller fitted. So we decided to go for the Sterling.
A quick solution, another full 2 year warranty, £400 less than the Mastervolt and £200 less than the Victron. And I got a 15% discount so it was just less than £1000. Still a hefty lump of money, especially as we hadn’t budgeted for it. Contingency funds….

Yesterday we had a lovely cruise down from Branston, with a stop in Burton for some bits from Shobnall Wharf, and ended up mooring about 1½ miles short of Willington.

Heading towards Branston LockSAM_6223

Shobnall Wharf, the original entrance to the Bond End CanalSAM_6224
The canal linked the Trent and Mersey to the then-navigable River Trent, but all that remains now is the basin at this end.

Dallow Lock is the last of the narrow locks heading in this direction.

Dallow LockSAM_6227
When Brindley surveyed the route he recognised that the canal would have to compete with the river navigation as far as Burton on Trent. So, against opposition from the river traders, he had the final locks on the downhill slope to Shardlow built broad to take river craft. With the canal not prone to flood and drought like the river, traffic soon switched to the new route and the the river wharves and docks withered and died, the river locks deteriorated and the navigation closed.

We were certainly heading in the right direction, there seems to be a lot more traffic going uphill. Most locks have had a queue of 4 or 5 boats waiting to go up.

Beyond Burton the canal crosses the River Dove, nearly finished with it’s 45 mile trip from near Buxton in the Peak District.

Crossing the Dove aqueductSAM_6230
The Dove loses itself in the Trent just a mile downstream. The stone bridge used to carry the A38, but the new dual carriageway now carries the heavy traffic just a little further north.

We pulled ion near Bridge 25, within earshot of the road but with clear line of sight to the spot in the sky for the TV.

Lesley and Joe on NB Yarwood had been in touch; we knew they were heading this way and that our paths would cross, so we arranged to meet in Willington this morning.

Into Willington, there’s Yarwood in the distance.SAM_6233

A handy gap for us was right astern

Lesley had the kettle on so we went aboard for tea and cake, and to have a look around their fine boat. We’ve not seen them for some time, since when they’ve had Yarwood built, selling their previous Caxton

They’ve incorporated some interesting ideas into the design, experience of living aboard Caxton has helped here.

Joe, Lesley and Mags, and of course Meg in the cornerSAM_6242

Mags and I don’t often get a picture together, Lesley kindly obliged…SAM_6244
The dog behind is one of Yarwood’s, Floyd or Fletcher, not sure which.

We could have stayed and talked all day, but my bank card had a reluctant appointment with Midland Chandlers at Mercia Marina.

Into MerciaSAM_6246

Midland Chandlers, just inside the marina entranceSAM_6247

I was pleased to see that someone has spent more than me today… launch day!SAM_6250

We pulled back out of the marina and moored just along the canal, just in case I needed anything else.

Then the Mastervolt came out….

SAM_6252…and the Sterling went in.

Everything connected up and working now, I‘ve just got the remote control cable to run through to the galley and the remote itself to fit.

It would have been a doddle, but I had to rewire the mains input and output connections as the previous cables weren’t long enough. The connections on this unit are on the top, the Mastervolt’s are on the bottom. Still, it was all done and dusted in 2 hours.
And the good news is that the MICC still works! It still shows domestic and starter voltages, amps in and out, hours remaining and percentage charged. The only thing it doesn’t do is remotely switch the combi on and off, which it’s not wired to do anyway.

Mass Inverter Charger Control, call me MICC.SAM_6254
It’d have gone on ebay otherwise, these are £500 new!

Locks 0, miles 2¼

Monday, August 26, 2013

Snap, crackle, pop!

No, it’s not a Rice Krispie ad, it’s the noise a Mastervolt Combi inverter/charger makes when it goes terminal!
It died last night with no warning, one minute working fine, next there was a crack!  from it’s cupboard and all the mains electrics shut down. When I switched it off and on again I was treated to an impressive pyrotechnic display from inside the case. And we really wanted to watch the start of the new series of Vera, too.
The nearest Mastervolt dealer is Miller Marine in Shardlow. At least we’re heading that way…
Meanwhile I‘ll have to buy a cheap small inverter to charge this laptop and power the TV. I hope I can get away with a modified sine wave unit temporarily.

I’ve made a temporary lash-up using an old pre-digital TV which can run off 12v, and the satellite decoder and dish, so Mags can watch her soaps, but until I can get an inverter this will be the last post I can make.

So, we spent the weekend at Alrewas, moving on around 10:00 this morning and filling with water above Alrewas Lock, the one just before the delightful river section.

While we were waiting for the lock we met a couple of our readers, who’ve bought and moved onto their own boat.

Gary and Caroline NB IncaSAM_6207
Hi both, good to meet you. We’ll have a proper chat when we meet next.

Alrewas river section

The short bit of river ends at Wychnor Lock, then the canal runs alongside the busy A38 for the next couple of miles.SAM_6214
Almost in the footsteps of the Romans, the A38 was built as Ryknild Street or (Icknield Street) by those redoubtable civil engineers, to connect the Fosse Way in Gloucestershire with Templeborough in South Yorkshire.

Barton Lock is next to where we spent last winter with Mags convalescing, you can see the first bit of decoration on the bow flares now the masking tape is off.

Barton Lock

We ended up moored at Branston Bridge, near the water park. Meg has already topped up her ball store at the expense of a less conscientous pooch…. It’s very dog-friendly here.
Burton tomorrow.

Locks 5, miles 6

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Watching the boats go by…

We moved from Fradley Junction to Alrewas yesterday, our 48 hours there was up, and we needed some basic groceries. There is a shop up in Fradley village, but there’s not a huge choice of products there.
Another reason was the towpath alongside the moorings. When they were refurbished a mixed grade of grit was laid to give an all-weather surface. A pain though even in dry weather, it tends to stick to the soles of your shoes and get tracked aboard. But in wet weather it’s a nightmare. Especially if you’ve a dog with hairy feet!

There were quite a few boats on the move but we timed it well, dropping into a space where we hardly had to wait at all.

Above Keepers Lock

It took us just about an hour to negotiate the 3 locks and 1½ miles to moor just above Bagnall Lock on the edge of Alrewas.

Shopping done it was a chill out afternoon, the weather was still looking dubious for painting following the heavy showers on Friday night, but I did get the fore-end cants and gas locker hatch rubbed down again.

This morning, with the weather set to steadily improve throughout the day, I set to, masking off the bow flares so I could mark out the design of circles, half-moons and diamonds, then cutting and removing the tape for the first colour.

Work in progress
Not too clear what’s what there, but it’ll be more obvious when the rest of the tape is removed.
Between yellow coats I got an acceptable coat of blue on the cants as well, although I may re-do the hatch cover, not entirely happy with that.

There’s been a steady stream of boats up and down yesterday and today, one of which was NB Black Pig owned by the garage man here in Alrewas who was so helpful earlier in the year.
Sorry, can’t remember the name, and didn’t get a picture, but I did break off from what I was doing to have a chat at the lockside.

And that’s about it. We may move on tomorrow, or then again, maybe not. Either way, we intend to be down at the bottom end of the Trent and Mersey next weekend. Shardlow here we come.

Locks 3, miles 1½

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Moored in Fradley…

Now there’s a whole blog post in one short sentence. At this time of year the moorings at Fradley Junction are usually stuffed, but we timed it just right today.

First, though, Meg and I had a walk back up the canal to see Kym and Tracy, and came away with a shiny new stainless steel chimney.SAM_6193


Even with my spot of shopping we were on the move before 10 o’clock, about 30 minutes to Woodend Lock.SAM_6189
A preceding boat was just going in the lock, and with a couple waiting to come up it wasn’t long before we were down and through, heading past Fradley Wood to Shadehouse Lock.

Mags waiting above Shadehouse Lock while a boat comes up.SAM_6191

The next one down, Middle Lock, had a queue of four boats waiting to come up, and only us going down. Then Junction Lock was completely deserted, not a boat in sight.

We popped out onto the pound with moorings on one side and the service wharf on the other, and got another surprise. The wharf was empty, and there was loads of space on the moorings.

We quickly availed ourselves of both, and are now moored opposite the cafe.


We’ve had a couple of favourable comments today about the paintwork as we headed downhill. Mags was being really careful as she manoeuvred for the locks, avoiding other boats and the architecture. She did well, we’ve not got a scratch yet, not even on the below gunwale bit! I’m going to try to get the fore-end cants prepped and painted again this weekend, if the weather is favourable. Then the bow fender can go back on, and I can carry on with the flare decoration.

Thank you all for your comments on the blog.
Steve, you’ll be pleased to know you’re now on my blog roll. Rob Wagg out of Stoke was the sign writer, by the way.
Graham, thanks for the tip regarding vaseline… I’d never have thought of using it for that!
Hi Jaq, thanks for the kind words. Our best wishes to you and Les. Chin up!

Locks 4, miles 2½

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Busy, busy, busy through Rugeley

Wow, there’re lots of boats about! Almost every bridge, every blind bend leads to a close encounter.

We cruised into Rugeley yesterday morning after I put a final coat on the right side handrail.

The new offside moorings near the Trent aqueduct are finally being used. I think they’re quite useful, but a little too far from the town centre for shopping.SAM_6177

The chap who has a home-made Gatso camera pointing at passing boats has now added an enforcement option…SAM_6179

The moorings around Bridge 66 were busy but we managed to squeeze in near the bridge, in the “crumple zone” where boats would have to pause to give way to oncoming traffic.

I wasn’t long, a trip to the well-stocked DIY shop then Morrison’s and we were on our way again.

We were running a wash load so I wanted to fill up the water tank, and we took the opportunity at the end of the permanent moorings at Hawkesyard. There’s a gravel access track from the road past the water point, and it got me thinking. I’d shopped at Morrison’s, but only for fresh meat and veg. My wine rack has taken a caning recently, and we could do with some beer and more canned dog food. All heavy stuff to carry.

We pulled across to moor on the towpath side and I set to to get a postcode for a Tesco delivery. That done I placed an order, not a huge one but concentrating on items best carried in a van rather than on my back.

The delivery was scheduled for between 11 and 12 today, so we stopped opposite the water point overnight, quite noisy with traffic from the close A road for a start, but quieter later.

After my morning run, breakfast and Meg’s walk, I reckoned I had time to get the last coat of red on the left handrail. I had just 6 feet to go when the Tesco van arrived on the opposite side of the canal, at 20 to 11! So I had to break off, push over the canal to collect the delivery, then back to finish off.

After finishing the painting, then putting away the groceries and having a bite to eat, we were ready to go at 12:30. Just along from here is the narrow section which used to be Armitage Tunnel, opened out shortly after construction, but now partially roofed over again by the road bridge.
I tagged on the end of a convoy of boats, so I didn’t have to check for oncoming boats, but we all had to wait while several others come the other way.

Waiting at Armitage “Tunnel”SAM_6183

Our turn through the narrows.

We made our way slowly through the bendy, sometimes narrow section through Handsacre, taking care on the blind bends. The chap behind had no such qualms and regularly ran right up behind us. He can’t have been in a rush, we lost him when he moored near The Crown at Bridge 58.

We passed NB Tailwind a little further on, the home of The Little Chimney Company. The butty is the workshop where the chimneys are made.SAM_6185
Made from stainless steel the chimneys aren’t cheap, but will last a lot longer than the conventional mild steel ones. I think we’ve gone through 4 of these in the last 7 years. Might be a good investment if we see them further down the cut.

We intended to moor near Bridge 55, but these moorings on Armco were, unsurprisingly, full, so pulled in on a bit of rough bank a hundred yards further on, near Kings Bromley Marina.

Moored near Kings BromleySAM_6188

We’re on pins here, and I’ve had to re-set them once already with all the boats going past. Only here overnight, though. On to the mayhem at Fradley Junction tomorrow. I wonder if we’ll get a mooring there???

Locks 0, miles 3½

Monday, August 19, 2013

Meetings and farewells at Great Haywood

We moved down to Great Haywood on Friday, securing a spot on the visitor moorings near the junction. Ann met us at the water point, then they moved Moore2Life up from below Haywood Lock and joined us.

Always busy service wharf at Great HaywoodSAM_6159

Rock’n’Roll is moored in the marina for a bit, and Carol came round and joined us all for tea in the afternoon.

Saturday’s weather was a bit iffy so I took a day off the painting, having a couple of good walks with Meg and just generally relaxing. Sunday looked better, so I set to and repainted the fore-end cants first thing, before getting lunch sorted for us and the Lifers. It was a bit of a rush paint job, but I was confident it would be fine.
New can of paint, clean 2 inch brush, well rubbed down surface and thoroughly wiped down with white spirit. So you can imagine my reaction when the paint refused to flow and level out.

Rippley paint finish.SAM_6175
I just downed tools in disgust! I’ll have to leave it 2 or 3 days before I can flat it (again!) and reapply the paint.

Peter and Jennifer off NB Mactras Filia stopped by for a chat, they’re heading back to Anderton in a round-about way, leaving the boat at Uplands then heading home to Oz for the winter. We’ll look out for them next spring.

Then after lunch Maggie (NB Forever Young) came to find us, and joined us for the evening. Several bottles of wine were consumed throughout the day… but it was great to have good friends around.

Today was move on day, Carol came to say cheerio, so did Maggie although she’ll probably catch us up later in the week, and Chas and Ann helped us down through Haywood Lock.

Waiting for the lock, Mags and Ann nattering, Chas and Molly waiting patientlySAM_6160

Coming up the lock was Mactras Filia
See if you can get that roof finished this year, Peter!

There was a queue of several boats waiting to come up, so there were plenty of helpers on the lockside.

Haywood Lock queueSAM_6163

Our final brief encounter occurred near Little Haywood. We slowed down as another boat approached a narrow stretch with a few moored boats about, and the oncomer turned out to be Sue and Ken on NB Cleddau. Shouted greeting were exchanged as the boats moved apart again. No time for a pic, too many moored boats to avoid…

Queues were once again the order of the day at Colwich Lock. We had three boats ahead of us when we arrived, but it was worse in the other direction. The crew due to come up when we dropped down had arrived well over an hour previously, and had helped six boats up ahead of them!

Water squirts around the top gate and cill at Colwich LockSAM_6167

A bit chaotic below the lock as two new arrivals hadn’t realised that the line of moored boats was a queue….SAM_6168

We’d planned to moor just beyond Taft Bridge, and pulled in under the bridge for eggs…SAM_6169

…then just beyond for diesel.SAM_6170
NB Ibex is a new addition to the canal scene here. And yes, the sign does say 74p / litre!
At that price it’d be rude not to stop, even though we only took on 45 litres. Cash only, at the moment.

We pulled in just a little further up the canal, and, after lunch, I got ready to put a coat of red on the bow flares and the right-hand rail.
All wiped down and I started putting on the paint – and the same happened again! The paint just wouldn’t flow, collecting in ripples like a ploughed field! Bearing in mind that this is a different can of paint and a different brush, there must be a common denominator. And there was. The cloth I’d used to wipe down with white spirit before painting. It can out of my rag-bag, a bag which stores the discarded old towels, tea-towels, and various other sundry items of clothing no longer fit for purpose. Close examination of the old tea-towel I’d used from the bag revealed a distinct aroma of furniture polish. The cloth was contaminated with Pledge or Mr Sheen! By wetting it with white spirit, I’d merely succeeded in applying diluted polish to the surface. No wonder the paint wouldn’t flow out.

It was too late to wipe off the blue, that is already hardening, but the newly applied red came off with a spirit-soaked cloth, then the whole lot was cleaned once again with an old, clean tee-shirt before painting again. No problem this time around. Whew.

So there’s my last boat painting tip. Make sure you know where you’re cleaning cloths have been before you use them!

Nicely flowing out paint on the bow flares and handrailSAM_6174
Another coat in the morning before we move off, then there’s only the left side handrail to finish, apart from the decoration on the bow. Not counting rubbing down and refinishing the fore-end….

Locks 2, miles 3