Friday, 6 October 2017

Maintenance, BSC, Ducks, family, and stuff.

Thursday Oct 5th.

Hello people, I hope I find you all well.
Last night was a bit rough with gales and rain, but the weather now is gorgeous. Still very windy but bright and warm in the sunshine.
So, what have I been up to? 
During a short 'trundle' up the canal one day I spotted this Terrapin/Turtle/ mouldy meat pie, basking in the sunshine. He was almost the size of a diner plate and seemed totally unconcerned as I went past.

I mentioned in my last blog that I was fitting a NASA battery monitor to give me a constant readout of the state of charge in the leisure batteries.
Well it's fitted, calibrated and works a treat.
As you can see by the following pictures, it tells me that the batteries are showing 12.9 volts and 0 amps are being drawn because everything is switched off. If something is switched on it shows the amount of amperage being drawn.
On the next picture you can see the batteries are showing 95% charged and at the current usage would take in excess of 199 hours to discharge. A very useful tool indeed

Looking down the Marina from the entrance off the Canal (just to my left)

L to R
Jenny, me Graham and Jaqui.
We'd just been out for a meal and came back to Bracken for Coffee.

Mother duck appeared one morning with 12 ducklings and became quite a regular visitor.

What food the ducks don't eat, the fish do!

I had to crush the food up in the early days as the ducklings couldnt eat it.

Having eaten their fill, they followed mother duck along the pontoon......

c'mon kids, follow mum.....

wheee in we go!

Water was so still, almost a mirror reflection.

I was sitting in my armchair and just happened to glance out the window...
Taken with my phone camera from a distance of approx 20 feet through glass, I was amazed how well this came out!


Friday 6th

In August I had very welcome visitors from Kent, namely eldest son Matthew, daughter in law Louise, Grandson Lee and Granddaughter Elise. Although only a flying visit,it was great to spend a day with them and we enjoyed a short 'trundle' up to the winding hole and back followed by a spot of fishing in the Marina. 

The 'Smith' clan.

we did shout him to 'duck' under the bridge.

Elise on the tiller, doing a great job of keeping us out of the bushes.

So proud of his  catch
Also in August, Bracken's BSC was due for renewal.
The Boat Safety Certificate is like an MOT for boats and covers things like fuel delivery, wiring, CO2 safety on the heating stove, gas safety on the gas appliances, Batteries etc etc.
The certificate is valid for 4 years and as Bracken was last done in 2013 just before I bought her, she was due to be done again.
I was a bit concerned as to whether it would be a pass or a fail as this was the first check under my ownership and in 4 years I have made many changes. 
I thought it would probably fail, but at least then I would know what needed doing.
I was quite right, it did fail the examination on a few items, but nothing too tragic.
It seems that when I removed the gas fridge I inadvertently also removed the gas test point so that had to be replaced, gas system then checked out ok.
I had to have 2 brackets welded in the engine bay so that the Batteries could be strapped down in position - sorted.
I think the biggest surprise was when the examiner checked the fire extinguishers and found they were dated 1997 ! Now the date is the renewal date so they were probably the original extinguishers from when Bracken was first built in 1994 !  So, 3 new fire extinguishers later and I had a Valid new BSC in my hands. Great news and good for the next 4 years.
The examiner also advised me that the engine bay wasn't the best place for the inverter to live due to damp atmosphere etc, so I had it moved and it now lives under the 'L' shaped seating in the saloon.
Talking about the saloon, I've recently ripped out the old carpet and replaced it with some carpet tiles.

I suppose the only other bit of news is the fact that at the beginning of September I spent a few days in Burton hospital after suffering what they call a TIA. (mini stroke). 
I woke up on the Monday morning feeling very tired, had my porridge breakfast and took a mug of coffee up on deck.
As usual the ducks were milling around waiting for their breakfast and I greeted them with a hearty "good morning ducks" well that's what I meant to say, unfortunately it didn't come out like that. Imagine being so drunk that your words don't form but slur into an undecipherable gobbledygook and thats how I sounded.
It's strange when you can think clearly, hear clearly, but just not speak clearly, very unnerving.
Jenny took me to the doctors and the doctor immediately phoned for an ambulance which took me into Burton on Trent hospital where they did a CAT scan which confirmed I had had a TIA which actually stands for A Transient Ischemic Attack. To cut a long story short gradually my speech came right, and after 2-3 days of being monitored, poked,pulled, and woken up in the middle of the night to ask me how I was feeling, I was released with instructions not to drive for 28 days.
The 28 days were up on the 2nd of October so was able to drive down to the supermarket and 'do a shop'.
I am very fortunate in having some good friends in the Marina who ferried me around to shops, doctors appointments etc, and who just were 'there' to keep an eye on me. Paul, Dougie, Noella, Andy, Jane, Aileen, and of course Jenny my sister and Grummy and Jaq all deserve a thank you.
Well thats about it for now people, take care,

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Part 3

Saturday 10th June.

Well another gloomy day outside, still it's given me chance to bring the blog more or less up to date.
I forgot to mention in yesterdays tale, on the miserable journey back after clearing Colwich lock there was steady rain all the way. Just after passing through Rugely I heard a loud bang as a 'missile' hit the side of Bracken and a further splash as another 'missile' landed in the water. Two half brain 'yoofs' were to be seen running into the trees, busily re-arming themselves with stones as Jennyanydots came into view. I shouted a few descriptive comments in reference to their lack of brain cells, and pushed on, glad to be leaving that  area.
Anne told me later that they too were hit by stones thrown by the same morons, fortunately neither boat sustained damage.
Yards away from a very busy main road, right next to the proverbial shopping trolley, mum and 5 or 6 newly hatched Cygnets. Isn't nature adaptive?

First job back in the Marina was to empty the loo, refill the water tank, and then remove the alternator and take it back to CJS and get it exchanged for a standard 70 amp unit. Less resistance on the drive belt hopefully will cure problem. After refitting the replacement I ran the engine up to temperature and it seems all is ok. I'll do more checks with the inverter switched on later, but at the moment I am halfway through fitting a NASA battery monitor so's in the future I will have a visual reference of the state of charge.
I'm nearly up to date with this blog now but there's a few pictures I'd like to share with you. The earliest were taken back in February after February's post. the rest were taken over the past few weeks and even this morning. Hope you like them.

Not often seen on inland waterways. A Cormorant

After diving into water to catch his dinner, the Cormorant stands with his wings outstretched allowing them to dry in the sunshine.

Not often you see two Robins together as they're quite territorial. I'm pretty sure this pair is Mum and Dad as They are quite regular visitors.

Male parent, Greater Spotted Woodpecker.
See the small red cap on the back of his head.

Has to take the prize for the biggest Ahhhhh!.
Blue-tit feeding youngster.
No wonder Parent looks scruffy whereas youngster is fluffy, Parent works so hard constantly feeding young.

Jay, beautiful bird, but a bit of a predator. A member of the Crow family.
He was watching me, and well aware I was there.

Tree creeper.

Not my best photo but good show of markings on this Female Greater Spotted Woodpecker urging junior back to the nest. He's actually hidden in front of her.

Junior. Large red cap on his/her head. Adult males have small red cap on back of head, not visible on female.
This photo taken this morning.

Nearly finished, just one more photo to go.

A regular visitor, Matilda duck having a snooze on my roof.
Bfn people.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Still living the dream pt 2

Friday 9th June.

Hi people, so to continue the story.....

We had moored at a quiet spot near Ingestre and so far the weather had been kind to us, not hot but at least the rain had held off.

As it was Anne's birthday on the Monday, we had decided to moor at Tixall Wide for the birthday celebrations where we hoped the weather would allow us to have a bit of a BBQ on the towpath. We'd had a mini BBQ feast moored at Ingestre but we were really aiming for Tixall 'on the day'. So we upped pins, turned at a winding hole (turning point) and headed back towards Great Haywood junction where we intended to make use of the facilities at the Anglo Welsh yard, (empty loo, fill water tanks etc etc) before turning right onto the Staffs and Worcester canal, through the Viaduct over the river Trent and on to Tixall Wide. 
Ironically I was at Tixall Wide around this time last year when my friend Sharon came down from Sheffield for a weekend.

Such a pretty area on the way to Tixall Wide

Jennyanydots just about to disappear round the bend in the distance.

The weather wasn't being very kind to us as we had numerous showers on the way and the forecast for next few days wasn't very promising either.
Tixall wasn't particularly crowded and we managed to find a good space for both boats to moor.

Anne preparing a birthday feast aboard Jennyanydots as the weather put paid to any chance of a BBQ.
lurvly grub, and good company Anne and Ray.
We had moved further down The Wide into an area that was bordered on two sides by trees and woodland, a very pretty area when the rain stops. 
It was around this point in our travels that a problem had developed with the charging system on Bracken. You may recall I had fitted a new high output alternator shortly before we started our little adventure, which at the time I thought was a good idea. As i started the trip with fully charged batteries there wasn't much load on the alternator to maintain the charge. Unfortunately over the next few days with the weather turning lousy, therefore we didn't go anywhere, when I did run the engine I found the alternator wouldn't turn at the speed of the engine, ie the resistance was so high the belt slipped. Even replacing the belt for my new spare one didn't help, no matter how tight i made the belt, it wouldn't turn the alternator more than about 300 RPM.
Obviously the first thing I did was turn the inverter off thereby reducing the drain from the batteries and consequently reducing the load on the alternator. This meant my fridge/freezer was now just a cold box.
 The engine ran fine but my biggest fear was that the belt would snap which of course would mean the engine water pump would cease to circulate the coolant which would result in the engine overheating. I thought better to lose a freezer full of food due to no power than snap the belt and potentially cook the engine to death.
Wednesday was the worst day as the rain was continuous all day, so we agreed we would head for home (Marina) on the Thursday regardless of what the weather was like.
I did take a few good photos whilst we were kept indoors by the rain.

Mum, Dad and youngsters.

If I zoom in a bit more........

5 cygnets only a couple of days old.

Peace and tranquillity.

And just as I was trying to zoom in closer.....

......He took flight
Thursday started dry and bright so we left Tixall and the Staffs and Worcester, came back to Great Haywood junction and turned right down the Trent and Mersey canal, through Great Haywood lock, on our way home. Next stop would be Colwich lock. When we got to the lock there was a boat already in the lock going down stream, the time then was about 11 am so we were hoping to be home around 3 or 4 pm Unfortunately, you know the phrase 'the best laid plans etc etc' ??
What happened was this;-
The boat already in the lock was unable to shut the ground paddle on the upstream side, it was jammed open and constantly letting water into the lock. This meant it wasn't possible to empty the lock, therefore the boat in the lock was going nowhere.
We phoned CRT, (Canal and River Trust) to advise them of the problem and eventually a man came out to see if we had closed the paddles correctly! Duh! Eventually he decided that a work crew was needed to rectify the problem. So more time passed by whilst we and several other boaters waited for the work crew to arrive. Around 1pm the crew arrived, dismantled the paddle lifting gear, scratched their heads and decided the problem was under the water and so they would have to drain the lock to get to the paddle board. Now this is where it gets really interesting. Remember in the photo I spoke about the mini shed with the roof on it? Inside there are what they call stop planks which are inserted in slots in each side of the mouth of the lock, each one on top of the previous one all the way down to the floor level in the lock thereby creating a dam effect and stopping the water going into the lock. Then they can drain the lock by opening the gates at the downstream end and letting the water out. Once the lock is empty the offending ground paddle is exposed to scrutiny. Hopefully these next photos will make it clearer.

Just arrived at Colwich Lock, one boat already in the lock going down.

Waiting for work crew to arrive, queue of boats behind building up. See the little shed with the stop planks?

Queue of boats on the other side waiting to come up through the lock.

Decision made, stop planks being inserted to dam off the flow of water into the lock.

First plank very tight fit due to a boat having bent the metal guides the plank slides into creating a 'pinch point'

Next plank on top of preceding one and so on till first plank hits bottom, I think there were 5 in total.

stamping planks down trying to get a seal between planks.

Gradually slowing the inflow of water, the level in the lock drops

....and drops

Tarpaulins dropped in upstream side to help the seal.

The culprit is revealed, the yellow handled fork was used to fish out debris from under paddle, the lifting shaft is bent at an angle from the paddle board. Board and shaft should be straight and vertical.. 
 They were unable to repair the bent shaft and paddle, so as a temporary measure they blanked the water gully behind the paddle so that the lock could be used, thereby releasing all the boats waiting to pass through the lock. 
As the lock was now clear, yours truly was first in line to go down, followed by Jennyanydots.
Time then was around 4.30pm and we had roughly a 4 hour journey back to the Marina. Oh and it started raining, again! 
This pile of sandbags is what they pulled out from under the faulty ground paddle.
I wonder where they came from??
We arrived back at the Marina, cold, stiff, and extremely wet around 8.30, and I was so relieved to plug in to the shore power and get the fridge/freezer up and running.
I didn't actualy lose anything as everthing remained frozen for the 24 hours or so the fridge had been off although I did eat my way through everything in the freezer over the next couple of weeks to get it cleared.

I'll write some more tomorrow as I'm getting a numb bum.