Thursday, January 28, 2016

Back downhill for the services, and a decision made.

After a few days peace and quiet above Field Locks we were in need of the services at the top of Dobson’s once again. Today looked to be the best day at this end of the week, so, although we could have lasted another day, we decided to head down. It was a fine but cool morning as we set off, it wasn’t to last but we were tied up again by the time Gertrude made her approach felt. The wind is gusting strongly and we’ve had spells of rain. Bad tomorrow apparently, so it was a wise decision to move today.

Dropping down Field Locks.
The sun’s bright, but the woods on Buck Hill leave the locks in shade.

Leaving Strangford bridge.
In the background is Eshton Viaduct, carrying the Ilkley to Bradford line over a valley above Esholt village. Building railways must have been challenging around here, apart from the river and beck valleys to cross there are hills and ridges to tunnel through.

Into the sun
Woodsmoke from the chimney doesn’t help the view forward!

Once again it took an hour to fill the water tank, then we pulled back a few yards to moor up.
We’re likely to have visitors this weekend, then we may be staying a few days longer… because we’ve come to a decision.
We’re swapping our Thetford cassette loo for a composting type, and have opted for the the Swedish Separett Villa 9010. While I’m at it I’ll be refurishing at least part of the bathroom, replacing the hand basin and cabinet, putting a new floor covering down and splashback around the loo and basin area. Everything is on it’s way…
Could be an interesting couple of weeks. Thanks for everyone’s input on the benefits of these units, your opinions and advice helped considerably.

Locks 3, miles 1½

Monday, January 25, 2016

A helping hand, more flood damage and thoughts on wet logs and compost…

There was a chap moored below Field Locks, on his own apart from a pair of cats, who wanted to be up the locks but was a little apprehensive of tackling a three-rise staircase on his own. So yesterday morning at 10 I was back at the locks, setting them up again for an ascent.
An hour later Phil, his boat and his cats were up, cruising past us and mooring a little further on. Although I told him I didn’t want any recompense, later in the day he turned up with a strap of cans of Stella, and insisted I kept them. Thanks Phil, it’s nice to be appreciated. I wonder if he wants to go back down any time soon…???

In the afternoon the towpath was pretty busy with pedestrians and cyclists enjoying the fine weather. One particular group, consisting of one woman and several children from maybe five to early teenage, was spotted poking around in the canal with a stick. Always interested in knowing what’s going on (nosey), I went to investigate. It turned out that that the youngest boy had decided to see how far he could throw a wellington boot. Unfortunately it was his own right boot, and his target was the cut! It’s surprisingly deep along here…
Luckily, with no traffic along here for a while (apart from Phil) the water was fairly clear by canal standards, and we could could just spot it lurking in the depths about four feet out. The boy has got to work on his wrist action…
I went back for Meg’s ball net and recovered the water-filled footwear, much to the delight of the woman who would otherwise have had to carry the miscreant home! Copious quantities of kitchen towel made it wearable again and off they toddled.

A bit further up the canal, at Buck Hill swing bridge, a path takes you down to the river and across a footbridge. From the bridge you can get an idea of how high the recent flood water reached, and what it carried with it...

Rubbish adorns the trees, and that's a shipping container washed up on the left.

The remains of a twin-axle caravan lie up against the bridge support...

...and part of the shell is further downstream, along with oil drums and general detritus.


Now then, for a while now we’ve been burning logs for fuel, only using a handful of smokeless ovals to keep the stove in overnight. This means that a 25kg bag of Excel is lasting for a fortnight instead of three days!
But there is a downside. Apart from the lugging and slicing and dicing that wood entails, it is of course unseasoned. In the morning and last thing at night I stack several split logs around the stove to dry them, they burn so much better dry. But of course the moisture has to go somewhere.
To gauge the extent of the problem I weighed a representative lump of wood that had been cut down and left in the open for around a month before I claimed it, then sawn and split a couple of days before.
After 24 hours near the stove it had lost 75 grams, that’s from an initial weight of 1150g. That’s 6% or 75 ml of water!
A good three fingers in a whisky tumbler!
So if I dry maybe a dozen logs per day, I’m dumping almost a litre of water into the boat’s atmosphere. At least we shouldn’t suffer from dry skin…
The problem is that, much as I’d like, I just haven’t the room to leave the wood longer to allow it to dry outside in the cratch. So I guess we’ll just have to keep the window open.


After our enforced stay at Granary Wharf in Leeds, and the consequent need to carry a 40lb tank of poo to the sanitary station a mile away twice a week, I started thinking of alternatives to our cassette loo system. A pump-out from a holding tank is a no-no, in the same situation we’d be worse off! But the third choice for boat loos, and becoming more popular, is a composting toilet.
If you’re of a delicate disposition you may want to skip this…
This type of arrangement separates the solids and the liquids (more accurately YOU separate the solids and the liquids by depositing in the appropriate places in the unit), storing the pee in a removable tank for disposal, and drying the solid material in a container by means of a passage of air over it, vented to the outside. This allows it to break down under bacterial action, leaving a dry compost material that is environmentally friendly and which can be disposed of more easily. And shouldn’t need emptying more than once a month! I’m told there’s no smell either… unlike the harsh chemical smell of the blue fluid used in “bucket and chuck it” units. The only external additive is a some sort of dry medium to help out the process, which can be cocoa husks, or even fine sawdust. Of course a loo in daily use will still have a couple of days of the most recent deposits as yet unchanged, which means that spreading it across an adjacent field is not an option! But bagging in a compostable bag and putting in general waste is. By the time the bag decomposes the contents will be a fine, rich compost. Or so I’m told.
Right, that’s the theory, now on to the hardware (rather than the software…).

There seem to be three suppliers to choose from, two US producers and one from Scandinavia.

Looking at several boaters blogs it appears that the Air Head is the most popular, and Nature’s Head is another, but less common unit. These are both from the States and seem to be robust and well-engineered.    
Nature's HeadAir Head   

Either will fit in the space currently occupied by our Thetford loo, the Air Head retails in the UK for around £800, Nature’s Head about £100 less. But they’re so bloody ugly! OK, does that matter in the smallest room? Probably not a lot, But I can’t help thinking of 1950’s budget Sci-Fi movies… “Take me to your leader”…

The Scandinavian option, the Separett Villa, is a far sleeker design.
Separett It achieves this because the urine is diverted away from the unit to a separate tank, or plumbed into the waste system. So there’s no pee-bottle attached to the front. They’re also cheaper, at around £600. But what do you do with the pee? It would need to be piped to a portable tank off to the side, I guess. A drawback is that the outlet for the urine is only 173 mm from the floor, necessitating a low, flat tank. In it’s favour it’s 2 inches lower than the American models, important for those of us who are vertically challenged. But it’s quite a bit deeper from front to back.

All these units require venting, usually vertically through a pipe and a roof vent, and need a 12 volt supply for the fan.

There is an alternative to these units. A company in the UK supplies DIY kits so you can build your own. All the individual bits and pieces are available from The Little House Company near Solihull.
Things to ponder…

Hi Chas, Magpies, crows, rooks, they're all the same family. Good enough for me!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Up a bit to turn around.

Unfortunately there’s nowhere between the top of Dobson’s Locks and the bottom of Field Locks to wind a 58 footer. Looking at the forecast earlier in the week it looked like today was going to be the best day of the week, clear and bright after a frosty start. But the weather front due to push in from the west was running a little early; instead of rain starting tonight it started mid-afternoon, putting a crimp in my plans to slice up the latest batch of logs.

So, not looking for an early start we didn’t get up too soon, but I was still out with Meg soon after nine.

Frost on the fields, ice on the canal.

We’ve had company while we’ve been up here. Howard, Mags’ son, and her grand-daughter Melanie came to say Hi on Sunday, bringing the mail and staying for a late lunch. And we’ve had visits from Sid the swan for breakfast most days, though I suspect that should be Cyd…

There’s also two pairs of those divers that I misidentified while we were up a Gargrave. (Thanks, Debby!)

Shy Goosanders


The horses down in the field below can get a bit frisky on cold mornings…IMG_8327

Meg and I went along the towpath and down to the river this morning. The wrought iron Victorian suspension footbridge over the river has been closed, probably a precaution in case of flood damage. The water reached this high…IMG_8336

Great chunks have been carved out of the bank below the bridge.IMG_8338

We reversed to the service wharf to spend a tedious 1¼ hours filling the water tank (it wasn’t empty this time), then set off through the remains of the thin ice.

Our first swing bridge of the day was Mitchell Swing Bridge, just beyond the twin railway bridges. This was soon followed by Strangford Swing Bridge, and then we were at the bottom of Field Locks, a three-rise staircase.

Approaching Field Locks
I had to spend 15 minutes or so setting up the locks; the top and middle have to be full and the bottom empty before you can start up.

Meg waits patiently while I sort out the levels.

Mags will have to keep the back doors shut when we come back down! IMG_8355

We had a gongoozler at the bottom; a cyclist pulled over to watch for a few minutes, then another nearer the top.

They come in all shapes and sizes!


We turned around just above the locks, that was the object of the trip after all. Our feathered companion hung around to watch the manouevre…IMG_8361
…but he didn’t get much of a show. With the canal, even into the winding hole, being only just wide enough, there was no finesse involved. Just stuff the stem into the bank opposite and work the stern around.

We reversed a little way up the cut so we could aim the dish through a gap in the trees on Buck Hill, and moored up. Strangely I can can only get BBC Northern Ireland and ITV Channel Islands! The ads are unfamiliar but Mags’ soaps are still the same.

The crow was still with us, cheekily perching on the tiller bar while I was tying up, so he had a slice of wholemeal bread for his persistence. Another had to be found though, as he brought a friend along! What’s the old song – “One for sorrow, two for joy…” That’s all right then.

As I said, I was intending to get those logs cut this afternoon but with the rain coming in they’ll have to wait until a predicted dry spell tomorrow afternoon.

We should get the latest update from the C&RT website regarding the state of the locks out of Leeds tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

Locks 3, miles 1¼

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Black and white world

All was still, all was white first thing this morning.

Two inches of snow had fallen overnight, but by mid-morning the thaw was setting in.

There was still enough about for playtime, though…

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Have you ever had one of those days…

…where nothing goes right?

It started at 06:15, with Meg restlessly pacing up and down, obviously in some discomfort. So it was on with boots, trousers and jacket followed by 15 minutes of following her, poo bag in hand, around a frosty field. Much relieved, we both came in.
I checked the time and realised that there was a chance to spot the International Space Station as it zoomed across the early dawn sky on one of it’s 16 orbits per day. So another 5 minutes was spent outside with my camera on an 8 second exposure…

…to catch a wavy worm as Tim Peake and his colleagues swept past at around 250 miles up and 17,000 mph.
I didn’t have time to set up the tripod…

Anyway, we weren’t going so far, so it was gone 11 by the time Meg had had another walk and I’d been shopping and we were ready to go.

Just around the corner was Millman Swing Bridge, part mechanised and always busy. I hopped off and jogged up to open it as Mags gently approached, ready to go through as soon as it was wide enough. Which never happened. I turned the key in the control panel, dashed from one end of the bridge to the other to close the manual traffic barriers, and pushed the button to open the hydraulically operated swinging section. And nothing happened. Apart from the large white light illuminating, which according to the instructions indicated a major fault and advised me to ring the C&RT emergency number.
I tried various buttons on the off-chance that it would spring to life to no avail, and with traffic building up either side I gave up and decided to re-open the barriers. Only they wouldn’t unlatch. So there we were, the bridge closed to both marine and wheeled vehicles, and a queue of impatient drivers forming on both approaches. So I went both ways to give them the good news, rang the emergency number, then spent the next 45 minutes trotting back and forth across the span to tell arriving drivers the situation. To be fair, most were pretty good about it, even appreciative of me telling them what was going on. But there were two or three grumpy ones…
I was glad to see Chris from C&RT arrive, he got the thing working again so we could release the barriers to let the cars go for a while, then tried to open it for us. The first attempt failed, so we cleared the traffic again, but the second worked. We were through that bridge like a rat up a drainpipe!
After thanking Chris, Mags took the boat up to the foot of Dobson’s two-rise staircase while Meg and I walked up to get it set. All went without a hitch until I realised that the top chamber wasn’t filling. Looking down I could see the lower of the two was overflowing, running over the bottom gate and out over the copings. I’d left a ground paddle, connecting the two chambers, part open. Doh! Elementary mistake, but I normally pride myself on my good lock-work.

Anyway we got out of the top and pulled onto the services just above. I got the hose out, connected it to the tap and turned it on before sorting out the rubbish and recycling for disposal. Then I noticed that there was nothing coming out of the tap. And us with an empty tank. I had a mooch around in the recently refurbished sanitary block and found another, unfortunately the one next to the elsan disposal. But it was the only one available so I gave it a good scrubbing with bleach before connecting up, affording us a slow trickle of water which took 1¾ hours to fill the tank!
It turns out that the contractors who had the job of refitting the block (and made a smart job of it…) failed to reconnect the outside water tap to the mains…

It was starting to get dark by the time we’d finished on the wharf, so we just pulled forward another 100 yards and tied up.
Now I find that the loo flush isn’t working… ah, just the contact breaker accidently turned off. Whew.

I took Meg for a quick walk as dusk fell, and we settled down in front of a roaring log fire for tea. And relax….

Just went to take Meg out for a pee and it’s snowing, quite heavily.IMG_8316
I’d left the side of the cratch cover open, so I’ve a load of snow to shovel out.
I think  should have stayed in bed today…

Locks 2, miles just  ½. But it took us nearly 4 hours!

Friday, January 15, 2016

That’s a bit more like it!

Proper winter weather. Down to -4½° last night, but it’s been a fine sunny day for the most part, with just a short mid-afternoon shower.

Nine AM, the sun is bright and there’s a skin of ice on the canal.IMG_8305

Low sun = long legs!

It was around half-eleven by the time we got under way, I wanted to get a load more wood chopped and in the front well deck, freeing up as much space as possible on the roof…

…for another load of logs.
With no other boats moving on this stretch, Calverley Embankment is proving to be our own personal fuel dump! It’s just too far away from the nearest road access for the locals.

We only cruised for an hour, including the time taken to fill the roof again, but it was enough time to run a load of washing and put some charge into the batteries.

Moored opposite Apperley Bridge Marina

With such a bright afternoon the solar panels were putting in another 6 amps for a couple of hours, so a short run on tickover this evening should do for power till morning.

After a bit of a shop for a paper and perishables in the morning we’ll toddle off up Dobson’s Locks, top up and empty the appropriate tanks and moor for the weekend.

We were tied up today in time for the BBC lunchtime news. The local round-up included an article about the flood-damaged Elland Bridge, crossing the Calder and Hebble Canal. It appears that replacement of the unrepairable structure is the responsibility of C&RT. That’s going to put a big crimp in the Trust’s budget for the coming year. But what really annoyed me was the interview with the guy from C&RT. Although he spoke about the disruption to the local community and the lengthy and costly replacement, he never once mentioned the canal, also closed because of the damage.
It would have been nice to have the navigation authority’s representative mention the navigation just once, eh.

Locks 0, miles 1¾ 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

An uneventful week.

Since arriving at Rodley last Friday we’ve moved four times, dealt with two swing bridges and only covered a mile! That’s what I mean by uneventful! So we’re still within shouting distance of Rodley, moored next to Calverley Swing Bridge.

The river Aire is still running enthusiastically, although the Environment Agency’s river level reporting web-page does indicate a steady drop in the height of the water.

Calverley pack horse bridge…

…and the considerably newer concrete bridge carrying the A6120.IMG_8299


We had a Tesco delivery arrive on time on the moorings where the same road crosses the canal, then moved a bit further on to a quieter spot for slicing and dicing of the logs we’d collected on the way down, over a fortnight ago. I don’t think cutting them on the pontoon in Granary Wharf would have gone down too well.
 Ironicly we’re just around the corner from the stacks left behind from the culvert repairs, so I’ll top up the roof as we pass tomorrow.

Moored near Calverley Swing Bridge.

Yes, tomorrow we’re moving on up to Apperley Bridge. Loo tanks are getting full and the water tank is going the opposite way, so the sanitary station at the top of Dobson’s Locks is beckoning. We were originally planning to move today, but the cold wind and frequent showers of snow and sleet put me off.
Better weather tomorrow, so they say.

The sunset agrees…

Hi KevinToo, Carol. Yes, it's good to be somewhere else. And trees and green fields are a welcome change from tower blocks and tarmac!

Locks 0, miles 1

Friday, January 08, 2016

Heading in the wrong direction, but at least we’re moving!

Yesterday was taken up with preparation for leaving the city today. A trip “up town” for some shopping, a mile walk to the services with a rucksack full of poo tank (hopefully the last…), then an ascent of Office Lock to water up and moor ready for an early start today.

Several railway lines converge from the west near Granary Wharf, heading to Leeds Station on a long brick viaduct. The arches have been developed as eateries in the wharf area…

…but four still carry the River Aire under the station.


There used to be several stations around Leeds, and in 1866 the decision was made to build a new, modern structure, straddling the river. It was completed in 1869, and, although having been redesigned since, it still sits on the original Victorian arches, four of which carry the river.
The Dark Arches, as they came to be known, always had a slightly nefarious reputation, disreputable activities taking place in their gloomy recesses. Prostitution and muggings were regular occurrences, and more recently a cannabis factory was discovered by British Transport Police!
Most of the “dry” arches are now used for car parking, and others are trendy cafes and bars, although there are still some obscure corners…

My route up to Morrisons took me past City Square and the bronze statue of the Black Prince.IMG_8268

I wondered what the connection is between this warrior prince and the city… apparently there isn’t one. Leeds was awarded city status in 1893 and the centre was redeveloped to produce City Square. Of course, a square in the centre of a new city needs a spectacular centre-piece, equestrian in nature and commanding in presence. Unfortunately Leeds doesn’t have a son famous enough to fulfill the role, so Edward, the Black Prince was chosen, fairly arbitrarily, it seems.
The sculpture was designed and cast by Thomas Brock, and erected in 1903.

We braved the gusty wind yesterday afternoon to reverse off the pontoon that’s been home for the last fortnight, and headed up Office Lock, filling the tank with water at the top. Then we pushed across the canal to moor for the night. The first time we came up here we were advised not to moor here, but now the area’s a lot safer.

Just before daybreak today, Meg’s not sure why we’re having our morning walk in the dark…IMG_8272  
 We were on the move at 08:15, with just 10 minutes to St Ann Ings Lock. But first I had to pause to salvage a bike from the bottom of the canal that looked in good condition. It actually isn’t quite as good as it looked, but it works. I’m waiting for West Yorks Police to get back to me, to let me know whether it’s been reported stolen or not. If it has they’ll pick it up, if not I intend to keep it, clean it up and flog it. Recycling, eh.

Mags in the two-rise Oddeys Staircase Lock

The locks have been recently painted, but it was a bad decision to also paint the setts in the cobbles with white gloss…
They’re very slippery when wet!

We met our C&RT chaparone at Kirkstall Lock, and he took us up this single and the two three rise locks at Forge and Newlay.

Forge Three ready for us

Newlay Locks have a stone gully to carry excess water from the bottom chamber.IMG_8284

C&RT Andy closing up after we left Newlay.

After a showery morning the sun finally made an appearance as we left the last of the locks, but it made no difference to the cool temperature.

Old coal loading chute by Newlay Bridge.
Although in retrospect I think it’s for loading quarried stone…

There is a length of linear moorings beyond Newlay Bridge, amongst the variety of boats is one with a proud history…

MV Abbey Pride, one of the “Little Ships” that rescued the beleaguered BEF from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940.IMG_8290


Two more swing bridges in the last mile saw us arrive at Rodley and pulling onto the wharf on the offside just before Rodley Bridge.

A couple of days off again now.

Locks 11, miles 6.