Monday, 30 December 2013

Society Index

BCNS Gauging plate
December 2013

And so we stand on the threshold of a New Year, 2013 and all its interest is now consigned to the history book. We now look forward to 2014 and all it has in store for us.

The future is a strange mix of planning and happenstance. Some events happen by design and others are completely unexpected - good and bad. But I believe that that whilst we can't avoid troubles, we can take steps which improve the chances of positive outcomes.

I therefore like to learn from the past and walk forward with optimism, mixing happenstance with planning and each year indulging my curiosity where possible.

Among the planned activities in 2013 we expanded Helen's Wild Side business - pushing out on a number of fronts including the decision to buy Montgomery - a 2012 dream, a 2013 action and a 2014 execution.

But this policy doesnt stop at boating stuff. I like to sample new cultural experiences too, so 2013 saw us at the opera (Rigeletto) and the ballet (Nutcracker), I am glad I experienced both but whilst the opera will see us again the ballet was a step too far!

So for my final post of 2013 I will leave you with a small gift to myself, bought at the  Black Country Boating Festival in September. It's a limited edition brass BCNS plate in the format of a BCN gauging plate which will grace the front of Wand'ring Bark.  Its as classy as it is heavy with black enamel flooding the recess and making the letters really stand out - worth every penny I paid for it. 

A touch of the past carried forward to the future.

I hope you have enjoyed 2013 and have a great 2014. Maybe we will see you out there on the cut?

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Crescent Dawn - book review

Crescent Dawn
by Clive Cussler
December 2013

I picked this book up at the Norbury Book exchange, a free copy from an escapist author which, when the mood is on me, I rather enjoy.

Its one of the Dirk Pitt novels, this time set between Israel and Turkey where Pitt and his son and daughter become embroiled in a plot to de-stabilise the whole area and we end up with a high octane race against time and the odds.

Of course, as in all such novels, good triumphs over evil and the goodies thwart the baddies on the last turn of the page.

Predicable, yes, but if its imaginative action you want Cussler is a bankable author. You get what you expect but a word of caution - a little goes a long way. One Cussler in six months is plenty!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

A perfect pair

A new acquisition for Montgomery
December 2013

I paid a visit to Montgomery last weekend, viewing its gradual transformation from two big chunks of scrap to a quirky and eye catching butty. Progress has been slow in recent weeks but there has been activity with the lamination beneath the rubbing strakes cleaned out, new steel blocks added and the strakes all fixed up.

All this progress its leading inexorably towards an ultimate launch and with it the plans for the interior are starting to emerge.

Fortunately, the core of the back cabin is already in place and its restoration will involve more a clean up and titivate than major reconstruction, but we are still going to have to fit a new boatman's stove and kit it out with period nick knacks. Which brings me to Christmas.

Back in the summer we bought a little authentic Buckby can from Todmordon and its need for a companion led me to e-bay, a treasure trove of obscurity. After some searching I came across a small milk pail, genuinely old but clearly repainted very recently - the perfect gift for Helen.

In the flesh is is a good counterpoint to the Buckby can in both size and age, both bearing the dents of age and the rust holes of use. Neither will ever see active service again but between them they will make an interesting feature in the back cabin.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Hatching up a plot

New Hatch Installation
December 2013

Every winter Wand'ring Bark is treated to a significant enhancement / improvement. One year it is a new cooker, another a new toilet or a major bit of  carpentry - you get the idea.

Well, this winter the "improvement" has to some extent been forced upon is - as it was last year when the holding tank perforated. The windows on the right hand side (starboard if you have a salty disposition) have always struggled to keep the water out and in spite of refitting them about four years ago, both of the larger front windows started to leak in the autumn.

 The hatch arrives

As ever, the immediate solution was a strip of duck tape along the top which was 100% effective, but it was neither beautiful nor enduring. So a longer term solution is needed and we started to consider the replacement window options. They come in all formats but whichever way you go there never seems to be enough ventilation on hot days, and more importantly, no way of trading off the boat if the weather is windy or a bit wet. What we need is a hatch....

It works!

I remembered Bones having a hatch retro fitted and her blog contains the number for Martin Kedian who specialises in this the fabrication of hatches, doors, even hand made stoves. So I gave Martin a call, discussed the size of the window opening and the available open to us.

I was thinking of solid doors and a chunk of perspex inserted when its wet, but then he suggested glazed doors which let in the light when closed, and the air when open. Great idea and no more insecure than the existing window.

Undercoat applied

And so Martin arrived yesterday with a freshly painted hatch frame in the back of his van. The original plan was to go and measure up first but because the window it will replace is a standard size he had made it straight away and we went to the boat just to check the fit. No problem - it will fit like a glove.

So now its time to do the preparation at home before canalside fitting. First task is to get it undercoated, and then glossed up in Union Green to ensure its all protected from rust. Then it will involve sticking in battens to carry the glass and finally I will have to carefully open out the curved bottom corners of the old window hole to accept the rectangular frame, which is simply tapped to the steel sides and bedded onto two silicone beads.

It costs twice as much as a new window, but we gain a fully functioning hatch - great!

I will let you know how I get on.

The final snag is that the other window in the saloon is also leaking so I can see the I will still be on the lookout for a new window before the winter is over. In the meantime thank goodness for duck tape!

Monday, 16 December 2013


Chester with Areandare
December 2013

If I have a fault, and I very much doubt that I do, it is that I suffer partial blindness. But not blindness in the usual optical context but rather bus blindness.

I have suffered this affliction all my adult life and whilst I can see them to step out of their way as they rumble their smoky way down the road, I have always been blind to their use as a credible means of human conveyance.

But Sandra and Barry rely on the vagaries of public transport and we were duly inducted into the dark ways of the omnibus to journey into Chester, suffering rain and chill to add to the heady mix of life's rich pageant. As you can tell - I am a convert, I love buss's (not)!

Chester's Jubilee Clock

But the redeeming feature of the bus journey was that it followed the canal route into town and we crossed the ribbon of silver repeatedly. We immediately scaled the wall at the second most photographed clock in the UK and found ourselves looking down on the canal as it runs beneath the walls, under the bridge of sighs and down past the Northgate Locks.

 Chester's Bridge of Sighs

Below Northgate Locks, Chester

I have never completed the full circuit of Chester's walls during my earlier visits but this time we remedied the omission,  completing all 360 degrees in a couple of hours. A two hours I hear you ask.... why so slow? 

 Walls of Chester

The answer lies in Albion Street in the shape of the amazing Albion Inn - a pub decked out in the style of the First World War. We crept in 10 mins after the notional 3.00pm closing time but negotiated out way into four delicious pints which we consumed in the company of the bar staff and two pub cats who had a taste for discarded crisps.

Chester was looking fine decked out inits Christmas lights, a stunning town and well worth another visit on the boat.

 Illuminated Chester at Christmas

The weekend held one final novelty - Helen on the radio. Saturday morning found her sharing the delights of WildSide on air - a novel experience which she entered into with great enthusiasm and no little skill.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

A little rest and relaxation

R&R in Chester
December 2013

My apologies for the lack of posts recently. The sad fact is that I have had no boating in recent weeks, and no meaningful waterways related activity - and therefore nothing to blog about!

But all that changed this weekend when we finally got a boaty fix courtesy of Barry and Sandra aboard Areandare at their winter moorings near Chester. We may not have moved the boat but we did get to spend two nights afloat tucked up snug in their front cabin, rocking with the wind and listening to the trains sighing their way past the marina.

We spent the day in Chester which offered lots of scope for photography and beer - lots of beer come to think of it. Barry's home brew, my home brew, sampling the selection of Woodfordes  bottled ales and then there was the real ale served in the Albion Inn - but more of that another day. Then there were the chocolate girls, handing out Galaxy bars to all who passed by. These chocolate girls may be generous but they had lousy memories - we were handed a bar every time we passed and we found reason to go through the cross roads no less than three times!

Barry and Sandra have made themselves very much at home in the marina, adopting a pair of persistent ducks who were as fat as they were skilled at blagging bread. But perhaps the most notable adoption is an abandoned swan whose father died and whose mother's new mate took against him. But undaunted the swan has found himself a new dad in the shape of Barry who has developed a trusting route to satisfying a swan sized hunger:

Then there was the six handed rummy which extended through the evening, northern hemisphere facing south and after three long hours we came to an emphatic stalemate - with  a drawn score and honours even. Its a shame the English cricket team cant aspire to such mediocrity!

Barry and Sandra - thanks for such a lovely weekend.