Archive | October, 2013

Picture this…

31 Oct

You will have to because, yet again, I failed to photograph the pic of the year.

And not only did I not get the snapshot, I didn’t even tell you the story. I should be beaten.

So rewind to Saturday’s ‘arrival’ at my mooring if you will. That’s the one; John in the river, big splash, very wet. Now he did have spare clothes for his top half (extra layers in case of cold) but nothing for his bottom. So to speak. Which is all very well by the fire in the cosy confines of Hobo but not exactly de rigueur if one is contemplating a trip to Tesco.

And it seems John was – to buy a new pair of jeans. Did I have anything that would fit him? He asks.

The best I could come up with was a pair of leggings, now a little baggy on me, and some socks. We shoehorned him into said leggings (snug) and, as we hiked across dog dirt alley towards the car, John said he felt a little chilly. Well I think that’s what he said….

My very own Rudolph Nureyev!

rudolf-nureyev[1]Before leaving the car in Tesco’s car park, John asked himself if he was really going to do this. I offered to protect his modesty by nipping in quick myself and buying the jeans while he waited in the car but he decided that as he was with me and not his son TJ (the king of cool) it was OK. I’m still not sure how to take this….

In we both went, arm in arm, this somehow making it alright to be tripping through Tesco – with a man in tights. I didn’t detect any sniggering in the aisles but we did giggle a bit amongst ourselves.

Jeans were located, tried on and taken to the robo-till; we thinking this would be our best chance of a sharp exit, while retaining a modicum of dignity. Think again Rudi…

John handed me (the technical one who has to operate machinery) cash from his wallet which, unsurprisingly, was a little damp. I stuffed it in – it spat it out. I stuffed it in – it spat it out. Nothing if not persistent, I stuffed it in and – Bingo! Third time lucky. Or not…

364-tesco-till[1]You can say that again…

Actually, a different message appeared on screen, “don’t give me damp money/freeze, armed police (American software) /what are you wearing?” Or something like that. But it was well and truly shocked into a persistent vegetative state. Bugger, we had to call for help.

There was a very spotty youth nearby who came to our aid. Ever chatty, John told him the story of falling in the river, but got no response. He just kept a straight (but ever so pimply) face and soldiered on in an attempt to retrieve the cash from the mechanism.

“You didn’t say the money was wet” he said, still poker-faced, when eventually he managed to extricate it and un-jam the works. John had to suggest he swap it for some dry stuff from another till, which he duly did and came back to re-set the till. By this time, John had put on the jeans – no doubt bored with the ballet dancer look – only to be told by spot that he had to take them off so they could be re-scanned.

Cue hysterics.

Well we thought it was funny but not once, at any stage, did zit-face crack a smile. Not even a flicker.

But then if I had a case of acne that bad… acne-patterns[1]I probably wouldn’t either.

All Good Things…

27 Oct

All good things come to en and, so they say, as have my cruising days for the time being. Two – three months I’ve been out there and loved every minute.

Yes, we struck for home on Saturday, having decided this would be the better day of the weekend. And it was. A glorious day – bit windy at times but nothing Hobo and crew couldn’t handle.

I’d fiffed and faffed about whether to return yet or not but a couple of locks en route being due to close next week for maintenance was one consideration. And my inverter bank of batteries needing a 12 hour equalisation charge (to be done on shore power) was another. Then of course there is the predicted hurricane and flooding…

Bit of a no-brainer really.

The belt on the alternator that supplies power to Hobo’s inverter battery bank has been slipping, so not delivering a full charge. This means I have had to run the engine for a couple of hours every day to keep the 240v supply going. The recently installed 6 x 2v single cell traction batteries are capable of delivering at least 4 days of power (and have done so previously) without the need for an engine run.

I understand that this equalisation charge is required, when a full charge is not being achieved, in order to preserve battery life/performance. So be it. There’s no way I am going to jeopardise the health of said batteries.

With new industrial belt fitted, big thanks to Jennie, Steve and Steve, we got cracking at 9.30 am (early for us) as we thought it might be a big ask to cover the 10 miles and 12 locks in the now shortened daylight hours.

It really is unfathomable when trying to time a cruise as so many factors can delay you/speed you on. Take locks. If a lock is set when you arrive it is so much quicker to negotiate, not to mention easier on the muscles, and probably more than halves the time you spend there. There’s also moored boats (polite to slow down when passing) and other river traffic and so on.

So, this being the case, we set off with  open minds and hopeful hearts. We would get back if we could but not stress if we couldn’t.

As it happened, 10 out of the 12 locks were set for us, which is unheard of. We stopped for a bacon sarni at the first one that was against us and, just as we finished, a boat came down and therefore left it set. The other one was a) semi electric and b) sporting an enthusiastic family that insisted on helping with the winding and pushing at the manual end. So really an incredible result.

We were going to do this easily. What could possibly go wrong…?

Well there was the odd shower but, more disappointingly for me, an almost total lack of autumn colour. By the time the leaves get round to providing that spectacular fiery golden backdrop to the river, the expected wild winds will blow them all away.

I tried…009But the colours just weren’t… 011 There…010Shame.

Never mind.

There was this though,… 008Whatever this is. Doctor Bob, I salute you and would love the guided tour of all the gadgies. Do click on the pic and take time to look closely.

Oh, and there was the scary moment when, on entering a lock, the throttle/gear lever came off in my hand…015Just when you need the engine to control the boat! But I did manage a temporary fix and avoid a crash till John could get on the case…017Restoring normal service…018Thank goodness.

So, on we go. We are making record time and in less than 5.5 hours we are passing my home mooring. We have to go on for another half mile in order to turn as Hobo has to be the other way round so that the front doors end up in the right place for getting off and on. It’s an awkward spot but it’s home and I love it dearly.

Takes a bit of roping into place, which we have down to a t now and not normally a problem. But the two boats behind have crept forward in my absence so Hobo won’t fit. She has to be in exactly the right spot for the ropes we leave behind to reach the cleat on the bow. And they wouldn’t.

By now we have an audience of neighbours, braving the now heavy-ish rain, welcoming us all home and trying to help. How nice.

While I was trying to convince the skippers of said boats that they were the problem and needed to be hotched back a bit,  John decided to walk round the plastic boat in front to access Hobo’s sharp end to assess the problem from there.

It might have been unsuitable footwear. It might have been slippery when wet. It might have been the three bottles of Old Speckled Hen…

But it sure was a big splash. John was in the river!

Now we’ve never had a man overboard situation when cruising together and I ran from stern to bow in record time – worried I was. But he was fine; not deep, not cold, not even shaken as he slipped and slithered and finally scrambled onto my rotten old jetty… 100_0899Seen here during last year’s flooding.

True to form, this manky old structure saw fit to collapse further at this point…

I must have been in shock, didn’t even get a picture. Bugger, would have been a goodie..!

Well, well, well. What an end to the day. We left the ropes in a secure but untidy mess as I insisted John get out of the wet, muddy clothes, jump in the shower and get warm and dry by the fire.

We could get ship-shape tomorrow. That’s the royal we of course – it would be me.

All in all a brilliant day, mission accomplished and a tale to tell.

That was yesterday. Today I have, in-between showers, made some sort of sense of my bit of riverbank, neatened up the roof and tried to prepare for the high winds and torrential rain that is forecast for tonight/tomorrow morning. Hatches are battened and anything likely to be picked up and hurled at the boat has been tied down, nailed down or buried. The inside of Hobo has been mucked out and some semblance of order restored – boating to a deadline plays havoc with my usual orderliness and mountains of washing up/detritus appears from nowhere – half the riverbank seems to have gravitated to my floor. And the can of evaporated milk that fell out the fridge when I opened the door during a coffee making expedition didn’t help, the rugs in the kitchen took the full force and were hastily booted in to a corner and replaced with newspaper – to be dealt with later.

Now I sit and wait for the full force of the storm (raining already) and wonder if the willow tree that leans over my boat (branches now grown back and overhanging) will still be standing in the morning… 007

I hope so.

Level: Critical

15 Oct

With the threat of worsening weather, I was contemplating heading for home. As much as I am still revelling in playing at the continuous cruise, it felt like time to get Hobo back to her home mooring and all tucked up for winter. It will be November before we know it.

Over the years I have developed a sort of sixth sense when it comes to the state of the water tank and my antennae were twitching. I had no water point to hand so I resorted to dipping the tank – the only way to estimate how much is left. I will get a gauge fitted. One day.

I guestimated there was probably less than a quarter of a tank. Add to that the rapidly filling toilet tank (as well as the full spare festering behind the shower curtain) and it was clear that it was pretty crucial to head for the nearest sanitary station, if one was to continue to live in a civilised manner.

Fortunately, John was able to escape from the farm – currently full pelt on the potato harvest – for just long enough to assist me in this on Sunday. Call me a wimp, but I don’t relish the thought of ‘going it alone’ – apart from anything else, I just can’t shift some of these lock gates.

The nearest tip out/top up venue is back on the Lea, a couple of miles away, so a turnaround was required. And before I could do that, I had to negotiate the low bridge followed by a 90 degree bend. Easy peasy. Then a nicely controlled turn just up the way, followed by another ‘mind your head’ moment and under the rickety bridge once more – thankfully without incident. It would serve me right though, given I’ve been critiquing the aptitude of random helmsmen and women for the past fortnight….

Of the three locks on the way, two were set for us – which is just as well as time was of the essence. Not that one should ever be in a hurry when boating but, as we’d not got going till 4.30, it was likely we would run out of daylight before reaching our chosen next mooring. We’d nominated a couple – Carthagena or Dobbs Weir depending on our progress – so had placed my car in Broxbourne within easy walking distance of either.

So I won’t be heading home just yet…

On approaching Dobbs Weir, cabin lights aglow and daylight fading fast, a Hobo size space appeared along this busy stretch so we nabbed it quick. We rapidly realised it was empty for a reason – a shelf that prevented Hobo’s rear end getting anywhere close to the bank. Such is life. Someone will move on at some point and then Hobo could acquire a better spot.

John was off back to the farm at sparrow fart and, as I was leaving to retrieve the car, saw how horribly Hobo was parked (one of the pins was almost out too) and just had to rectify this. Lucky for me, the wide beam behind had gone so we had somewhere to go. I spoke sweetly to the man on this pretty little boat…

[At this point you will have to use your imagination as afore-mentioned pretty boat, in pink and green/both ends pointy/flowers on the roof, had done a runner when I went to snap it this morning].

And enlisted his help to walk her back and re-tether her. It’s all piled along this stretch with railway line so he nipped back to his boat to fetch some spare string to loop around this. Perfect to tie to, no need for pins. We positioned her and tied her back up.

There, that’s better, sitting pretty…001

Many thanks.

Had a nice little walk back to Frogspawn, car still where I left it in the pub car park, and drove back to DW. Very handy towpath-side car park (thank you Lea Valley Parks) just a hop, step and a jump from the boat. I can actually see the car from here… 004

There she is, so not far to lug the shopping. Bingo.

And here’s some I lugged earlier …002

Before John took off, he managed to fix my non-functioning shower pump so, with working water heater and a tank full of water, I was looking forward to a shower. Then I began to wonder at the state of the gas bottle – antennae twitching again – last thing I need is for it to run out while I am all bubbles in my birthday suit.  Been there, not funny.

As luck had it, the gas went while boiling the kettle for my afternoon cuppa. Told you, sixth sense, though some say I’m a witch. Friend Reg had fitted these smart quick release couplings and, together with an extra regulator, makes changing the cylinder so simple. No spanner needed (lefty loosey, righty tighty or, when it comes to gas bottles: righty loosey, lefty tighty).

You laugh….

It’s the best feeling, when the loos are empty, water tank full and new gas bottle hooked up. What could possibly go wrong…?

Now I mention it, I’m on the last few nuggets of coal and the woodpile is long gone. I texted my marvellous coalie on the river but he won’t be this way for a couple of weeks. Damn.

I had toyed with fetching some from the yard in Spellbrook but, with the cupboards resembling those of Mrs Hubbard and the yard closing at 4pm, the shopping won out. Anyway, I couldn’t face both chores on the same day, no sense in over-taxing myself.

Reckon there’s just enough for this evening if I eke it out a spoonful at a time. Could be an early night…

Here’s a peek at the park across the river…003I look forward to the leaves turning and snapping some sensational autumnal views to delight you with.

But for now, I have to put that shopping away. Back soon.

Gertrude comes to Grief

5 Oct

Well almost…007It was the sudden, sharp burst of reverse thrust that alerted me to this one.

A close shave; poor old Gerty’s chimney nearly getting a headache – or worse.

And this is precisely why Hobo has a pre-flight checklist – chimney off, aerial down etc etc – not at all influenced by John the pilot’s strict discipline.

No, because we (too busy looking at the scenery/too drunk chilled) might not spot the impending collision in time, like these good folks did, and do some real damage.

Onwards and backwards…

5 Oct

It was beginning to feel like I’d put down roots, or should I say dropped anchor, at Cheshunt. Nice as it has been, it’s time for a move. So last weekend saw us doing a bit of a backtrack manoeuvre.

As we get ready to leave, an interesting double-decker affair arrives…001 (4)003 (4)I’d really have liked a look inside to see how the space worked but owners not aboard. Have to leave it to my imagination then.

We spin round by the ice-cream boat and head upstream on waters which, after several weeks playing about on them, are now familiar to us.

Perfect timing at the first lock we come to…004Not only another fine example of a working ‘working boat’ and opportunity to top up on gas/diesel/coal, but their coming out means a set lock for us. Hooray!

We know this lot from their time moored close to my permanent mooring. Nice peops…005 (2)Who just happen to favour the same brand of beer as John…OSH-MG-Crowner-1[1]

This is more to my taste, though I’ve not seen one of these hereabouts – more’s the pity…711492_10202166538346066_1323660107_n[1]Sent to me by a friend who saw this in Berkhamstead and thought of me. Now that’s what I call essential shopping!

Anyway BB get back to the point.

We didn’t get going till quite late, due to much mechanicing (thank you John) in order to fix the relay and battery charging issues. It is brilliant that it’s sorted but means we reach the lock at the junction of the Lea and Stort in total darkness. Not something I ever fancied negotiating but, with tunnel and cabin lights on, was surprisingly workable.

Even less planned was the twilight toilet tip out. But hey, who wants to see when one is doing this job?

There’s mooring on the left as we leave the lock and, having managed to pass right by the best available spot, we execute a turn in what seems like a lake, then moor up for the night. Turns out our new neighbours think we are a UFO as the tunnel light is still ablaze!

Now I thought we were being a little rash – cruising in the dark – but, as I was just drifting off to dreamland, two other boats chugged by heading for the lock. It must have been around midnight by then and the driver of the second boat was singing at the top of his voice! Never not interesting this cruising lark.

In the morning we do a little tootle towards Stanstead Abbots, very pleasant too, before turning once more and hanging a left onto the Stort.

John has work to do at the airfield so makes sense to place Hobo close, and we decide that it will be a good move to revisit the Stort. Roydon to be precise.

Not at the same spot as last time – I like to think we learn as we go – but on the towpath away from the noisy road…

001An altogether quieter spot with great views of the countryside…002Turkey farm…001Pretty bridge…003

Which provides entertainment for me – mind your head…005But to date nothing more than a rapid run along the gunwale by the first mate to remove the chimney. That said, there are a few boats about with mangled chimneypopples so there is fun to be had/witnessed. Just need to be in the right place at the right time. As ever.

On the other hand, the view from the kitchen sink is less than stunning…006I shall have to spend less time on the washing up then. Shame.

I’ve managed to put a coat of primer on the ailing hatch, another required before topcoat…005

I think will only be a temporary fix though – the wood is buggered – until one day John manages to craft another from oak that he has in readiness. Tidies it up for now. I have, finally, come to appreciate that these ‘little’ tasks must be tackled sooner rather than later, before they turn into A Big Job.

My gas water heater is still out of action; new thermocouple still not arrived and supplier  (7-10 days down the line) still quoting 7-10 days. Currently trying to track down a supplier of thermocouples, rather than a supplier of parts for my Rinnai heater, who could, maybe, match to a sample. Means the existing one has to be removed, by way of a pattern to match to, but it’s not like the geyser is actually doing anything useful right now.

My good friend – a very helpful and multi-talented chap – will be here on Monday to do some re-wiring work for me so…..

Nothing to do with anything but a couple of my current favourite landside things.

My surrogate kitty…018Morning Glory…001 (5)

Anyhow, no immediate plans so unable to say when/what/where will be next.

But stay tuned. You’ll be the first to know.