Archive | September, 2013

Shopping Online

25 Sep

Here comes my delivery…001It adds a whole new meaning to online shopping, doesn’t it?

So civilised. Fired off a text last week to enquire when he was next coming my way and, true to his word, (well only a day late) here he is. And he did keep me informed of his delay.

Michael said he’d get to me sometime around 11am and even texted me to say when he was leaving the nearby lock.

He pulled alongside and humped a couple of sacks onto Hobo, right where I said I wanted them, and then got busy with the diesel pump…003And pulled Victoria over and tied on…005My diesel tank took a staggering 141 litres – I didn’t think the tank was as big as that even. Must be 200 litre capacity then, not 100. It’s all guesswork with boats – no gauges that tell us where we are or what is what. All part of the fun.

Our business was conducted in double quick time in an impressive and efficient manner. And he didn’t spill a drop.

I’m not easily impressed so that’s saying something, service with a smile and a friendly chat, what more could a boatbird want?

Off again, heading towards Hertford. See you later…007I managed to source a charging relay for my ailing service battery bank too. Being despatched today so should have in my hot little hand tomorrow. Midland Chandlers I thank you.

As for the thermocouple for the gas geyser… my friendly towpath trekking engineer called to say that, if his company supplied and fitted the part, it would cost me in the region of £200 – maybe more, given that they charge £45 per hour and start charging from the time they leave the last job. So more than a new water heater would cost and not really an option.

He gave me the name of the company (in Ireland) that would have the required part and suggested I order this online and fit myself (for myself read John). LPG doesn’t carry the same requirement for work to be carried out by a registered gas fitter and is a 5minute job. Allegedly…

If I was a total cynic, I would say that he didn’t want the job but I prefer to think that he was just a decent bloke doing the decent thing. Rare I know but in this instance that’s what I believe to be the case.

He wished me well, said to have fun and not to let the boat sink.

As ever, there is a cloud to this silver lining. I had a call from Hamilton Gas Products in Ireland informing me that they have no stock of said thermocouple and it would be a week before new ones arrive with them. At least they let me know though and you can’t ask for more than that, apart from not being out of stock in the first place.

So at least another week (and probably more) of boiling the kettle in order to carry out my daily ablutions and begging the use of a friend’s shower for when the hair just has to be washed.

Well, two out of three aint bad.

A Railway Rant

24 Sep

I suspect you’ll have heard me talking trains before. Fact is, when you live on the water, they are never very far away and the tracks often run parallel. They actually cross the river at Kecksy’s Bridge, near to my winter mooring.

I’ve no axe to grind with them really – before today that is – I like to see them slice through the countryside, I like to ride on them and I even like some of the sounds they make.

In truth, it’s not the trains that have wound me up today but the level crossings… 010And probably not even them, more the people that operate them or, in all probability it comes down to the dreaded Health and Safety Rules.

This was one of the 10 trains that held me up for 20 minutes this afternoon in sunny Cheshunt. I kid you not – 20 minutes during which the barrier didn’t lift once.  That’s an extraordinarily long time when you are static.

And I thought Roydon was bad.

It’s not like it was a train every two minutes… no it was two or three together then a stonking great long wait. This happened a few times and each time you get to thinking ‘Right, now the barriers will lift’ but no, another brain numbing 3 or 4 minute break before the next sighting.

They even keep you behind bars while the train is stationary in the station.009 Could this be the origin of the word stationary?

So tell me, why can’t they let a few cars/pedestrians/cyclists through while people embark/disembark? This would ease the congestion I’m sure. There were huge tailbacks both sides as you might imagine.

Is it a little man in a uniform exercising his power, having a laugh at the poor, frustrated motorist – already penalised, picked on and punished till their ears bleed. That same motorist. who was by now largely out of their vehicle, stretching their legs, leaning on the barriers looking up and down the track and actually talking amongst themselves.

I have to say that there was no real impatience or rowdy behaviour, as you might expect in this situation, but rather it was a sort of get together. Maybe this is the way that Cheshuntonians socialise – never mind the pub, café or market place, let’s all go down to the station at 4 o’clock and hang around the level crossing. A kind of enforced, non-negotiable break from the daily grind. Got to be good for twenty minutes or so…

It’s quite interesting to see how high the tolerance of the pedestrian is too. They seem to hang around for so long (and notably longer still if they have a bike/pushchair to haul across) before they give in and trudge up the metal stairway to get to the other side.

We are all fond of knocking the ridiculous health and safety malarkey, and no wonder, but I would go so far as to say that it is having the reverse effect. I can fully understand that, in this situation, why folk might dodge around the barriers and run across the track (often with tragic consequences) or hit the throttle and try to beat the barriers when the red light starts to flash.

But tell you what…

The little man in the office didn’t half get those barriers up quick smart when he saw me snapping away with the old camera.


Maybe I look like a local journo, looking for the next opportunity to slag off the railway?

I sure I don’t know.

This and That

23 Sep

Last week’s full moon..002 (3)Bit special..

004 (4)But..

We didn’t make it to Bow Locks or Limehouse..LimehouseBasin_FromAbove[1]this weekend.

In fact we didn’t make it to anywhere past Ramney Marsh. Nor did the sun make it through the cloud, not until it was almost time for it to be setting anyway. Things conspired against us – as they do.

Things like John only having just one day to play, work needing him back early on Monday morning, so Sunday and Monday became Sunday.

Things like me tying to unblock the kitchen sink (a perennial problem due to a combination of a) fittings being too small for the job and b) plumbed in such a way that waste water is required to flow up hill – never going to happen is it) and flooding the cupboard underneath with horrid, smelly, gunky stuff. Yuk.

Things like my service batteries (not to be confused with the inverter bank) ceasing to charge. I only noticed this when the pump that empties the shower tray stopped working, highlighting the need for a monitoring system/volt meter for the service bank.  If  this is left undiagnosed and un-fixed, will result in total loss of power to lights, pumps and all things 12 volt. Therefore important that this be investigated which, as boaters can probably identify with, means that the boards covering the engine and battery compartment have to be lifted in order to provide access.

This in itself isn’t a problem but moving all the stuff stored on top of them is – Workmate, Aquavac, tools, spares, mooring pins, lump hammer, spare fenders, roof cushions, jumpleads, artist easel and paints, mops, brushes, long handled net, cuddly toy and all those things that will come in handy some day. The storage thing has improved lots but there is still work to do. It’s a case of deciding what simply has to be kept and then coming up with a cunning plan.

Sometimes the solution is obvious, sometimes it takes a little time and thought but, more often that not, it requires a master craftsman to construct the ingenious bit of kit that you come up with. And master craftsmen being beyond my means, it requires favours from friends which, in turn, means much patience has to be exercised as one cannot demand instant action from the unpaid help.

So, in the meantime, I end up chucking it all on my bed/back deck, while the necessary work is carried out, like many a boater I know. Welcome to our world.

Funnily enough, the shower pump not working doesn’t matter right now as the geyser..009 (my only source of hot water except the kettle) has packed up too.

The engineer was thrilled by the long walk along the towpath in the dark and will no doubt charge me double for all that unwanted exercise. He reckons it’s a sensor gone wrong, failing to detect the supply of gas (which there is) and so invokes the automatic safety cut out manoeuver, shuts down and deprives me of that nice hot shower.

I’m waiting for his call right now to confirm that said sensor is available, the cost and when he can come back to install it. The fact that he hasn’t rung today makes me think he’s not too keen to repeat the towpath trek…

Typical eh? The way that appliances and devices seem to break down in sympathy with each other.

We conducted experiments and tests that involved taking voltage readings of starter and service batteries while running, when not running and again after engine being shut down for a while. I won’t bore you with the actual figures, suffice to say that a new charging relay needs to be acquired and fitted. Shouldn’t be too expensive and wouldn’t be too onerous a job – except where the current, faulty one is located (awkward or what) means it will be a schlep of note. Hey ho, that’s boats for you.

Despite all this, we cruised down to Ramney Marsh – 4 miles, 4 locks and 4 hours there and back. Lovely. We had fun near to one of the locks, where a little girl had dropped something in the water. Still don’t know what it was – purple and made of foam. BB to the rescue. John deftly guided Hobo to the right spot and I fished it out using afore-mentioned net. You see, I knew it would come in handy. She was highly delighted and beamed a lovely smile as she said thank you.

All this excitement and no photos! Too busy fishing. Obviously.

So, we are about a boats length away from where we started. We did toy with the idea of mooring at Waltham Abbey for a change but, on going there, decided it was too busy and within sight (so no doubt sound) of the M25. It’s fine right here and, anyway a good spot to continue my maintenance job.

Today has seen me applying some green paint, at last, to the nasty looking primer splodges along her starboard side..004 It will need a bit of a sand and further coat/s and still won’t be perfect but looks better than the primer and much better than the rusty scabs.. 007It was always going to be a big ask for the paint to match, given that the original has been on for 7 years. It should dry darker but I still might need to overpaint the whole side. We shall see.

BB isn’t perfect so I can’t really demand this of Hobo.

Also had a go at my lovely red hatch. The one that didn’t winter at all well..003Whilst I did go the proper primer/undercoat route and use products recommended by the experts, it just started peeling off. Very tempting to pick at when hanging around in a lock.

I took the screwdriver to it to remove all the loose stuff – just like stripping wallpaper..008Looking better already. I’ll give it a good sanding tomorrow, re-prime and paint. It’s only the top surface, sides are fine, but the marine environment is a harsh one so maybe I will cover it when the bad weather kicks in.

John also has some oak in storage. He’s always said he’d like to use this for the hatch; after all, this one was made from old potato boxes and only ever meant to be a ‘try out’.

I was distracted by a couple of Chinooks..002They do sound good.

And closer..001There’s often interesting aerial activity over here.

I plan to do more river shopping tomorrow and have ordered more coal to be delivered on my man’s return from the city, Think I shall also top up the diesel tank as it should be filled up for the winter.

Will try for more pics.

Can’t help but think of the coming season. See how the nights are drawing in now?

Is it Bill or is it Ben?

19 Sep

Little Weed can’t say

001 (7)

She’s looking to see but knows no more than BB

But wait, it’s our John on his own special day…100_1414John, Annie & Reg at Hampton CourtHAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN!!


Bow Locks…

17 Sep

Yep, it’s that time of year again…005That time when we poor unfortunate boat dwellers shiver inside our damp, cold, leaky metal tubes that drip with condensation, are dim, uncomfortable and uninviting. We have to bundle ourselves up in many, many layers to keep the elements at bay and eat gruel to try and keep body and soul together and rue the day we took to the water.

We long to visit friends whose houses are spacious, warm and welcoming, have proper facilities, modern technology, are safe, secure and free from rats and plague.

Believe that? Nah, course not. Load of rubbish. Although still a popular misconception. Curious passers by often quiz me about the lifestyle and one of the first questions they always ask is…. “Is it really cold in the winter?”

Truth is…

It’s really not. This is the warmest, cosiest house I’ve ever lived in, thanks to my Morso Squirrel stove, and I do have a fully functioning bathroom, kitchen, all mod cons/technology and the comfiest bed ever. I’ve never seen a rat on board either, nor do I suffer with colds (hardly ever) let alone the plague.

Don’t tell anyone though – they’ll all want to move onto the river. And that would spoil all the fun.019

John here is sitting in the ‘hot seat’, usually given away after a short while in exchange for somewhere cooler or, if no takers, it has been known for him to strip off. Good enough reason to leave him sitting there I’d say…

Often I’ll have to fling open the front doors and maybe also the hatch. Honest. Even when there’s snow on the ground. But the boaters among you will know that.

Nope, wouldn’t swap it for any mansion, no way, no how.

It won’t be long now before I start to keep the stove burning 24/7, which ensures I don’t have to get up in the freezing cold in the morning. I hate to be cold. I’m not too keen on mornings either but that’s another story.

But for now I’ll spark it up late afternoon (or earlier if it’s a bad day) and let it burn out overnight.

So I came home from work today and got the fire going (definitely the first job) popped the kettle on top and by the time I’d sorted myself out it was boiling, ready for afternoon tea in my nice, warm front room.

Out on the back deck as I start up Hobo’s engine to top up the battery bank (and in turn anything else on board that needs a charge – phone, laptop, dustbuster) and I see this through the fug of the chimney smoke…004Not quite sure that I believe what I’m seeing – could there really be someone out there on the lake sailing…?003Seems so on closer inspection. All very patriotic sporting the red, white and blue. Don’t they look great?

You may have gathered, having waded through the above, that nothing much exciting is happening down by the river, just thought I’d wax lyrical about life on the water talk Bow Locks for a while.


They do say that the weather might pick up by the weekend and, John willing, we could be off to Bow Locks… a place that has long fascinated John (though initially provoked a perhaps predictable one word answer from me) but I am warming to the idea.

We’d both like to poke around the East End a bit and this might be a good place to start.

Watch this space.

Pleasant in Cheshunt

16 Sep

BB has moved home again.

But before BB leaves BB, if you follow my drift, here are some shots from the other weekend when John’s no. 1 son came to play.

Like father…003 like son… 002Will these gates ever open…?005And I think Hobo has another fan…IMG_20130826_180323 (2)Roof’s looking good don’t you think…?

We admire this pair…013And like the look of this almost tropical river garden… 014And John covets this aluminium canoe…017

After a very happy month (really – a month?) in Broxbourne, Hobo has taken us further downstream to Cheshunt and pastures new. A new stretch of water for Hobo and towpath for me, new neighbours, new views from the window,  new roads/pubs/shops to discover and a new mooring for the car. The emphasis, you may have noticed, on new.

That, for me, is the beauty of the continuous cruise (albeit limited to the River Lea for now). Call me a gypsy but the prospect of learning and making home of ever-changing surroundings is a joy;  constant stimulation and a true antidote to boredom and stagnation. And, of course, a source of inspiration and ammunition for this blog.

We did some river shopping on the way…002

BB negotiates a deal for a sack of coal – fire season being here once more – and establishes his round for future reference, just about managing to ignore the mess it makes on the newly painted roof…001

What a wonderfully civilised way to do one’s shopping eh? Bye for now then…006But not for long as we share a lock further on… 008Where John could drool over the Lister JP2 engine, which does sound rather good..009

So, my new spot…


Because I have to remain mobile, land-wise, we usually start by finding  safe and convenient parking for Hobo’s car. Turns out that this neck of the woods is just about perfect for this; Lea Valley Park running alongside the river from Waltham Abbey all the way up to Ware. Not only is this a marvellous place to walk and cycle but it also provides vast, free car parking space adjacent to the towpath. And comes complete with a WC,

A café…004 even an ice-cream boat…003

Spot on then.

There’s been loads-a-money thrown at this area – just a mile’s walk away is the Lea Valley White Water Centre, which we duly investigated during the gale-force winds and biting cold of yesterday. We concluded it was a good facility, albeit in a structured/health and safety conscious sort of way. You know how it goes – stay away from the edge, keep behind the fence, no swimming and so on – 2 out of the three which we totally ignored, it being rather too cold for taking a dip…

Didn’t seem to put these partakers off though…002003014015See the girl up front, hanging on to the sides and no paddling to do?016 Well that would have to be me. John though would prefer the wild ways of the river itself, with all its unpredictability, danger and especially the lack of that annoying coach chappie, constantly shouting instruction to pump up his charges. Horses for courses. Or canoes. Whatever..

So, back to the immediate neighbourhood. This is what I see from the boat, looking across the towpath…002I’m surrounded by water… 005

And these are some of the locals…006 007I’m liking it here already.