Tag Archives: River Stort

New Life, Neighbours and News

11 Aug

BB has new neighbours. Just across the river.

Five black fluffy moorhen chicks…003

A delight to watch.

And as they grow older and bolder, they come a whole lot closer to my boat…014 015 016 018 019 020 022 023

Which is great.

They even venture onto my ‘lawn’ now…001 002 004 007 008 010

Tempted by scraps.

Mum even gets up the tree…004

Stealing food from the little birds…001 004 005

Who normally dine here.

I never knew that moorhens could climb trees. We live and learn.

Against all the odds, the moorhen five has survived intact, to date, I’m pleased to say.

We’ve done our bit by throwing bread on the water (or the lawn), which one or both parents make a dash for then feed to their young…001

Beak to beak.

Sometimes the fish beat them to it…002 003 004 006 007 008

But a delight to watch whatever. Well, it keeps me off the streets.

And there really is no place I’d rather be.

Another new neighbour…IMG_20140709_113437

Peter, a thoroughly nice chap, is doing up an old Broads cruiser, which he aims to sell on when finished. He’ll be looking for a narrowboat next. Good man.

Some of the old neighbours are getting a little naughty – escaping and giving me the fright of my life the other morning as I stepped off the boat. Not what I was expecting to see…001 003

Mooching right by my jetty.

John saved the day though, chasing them away…002 004

Otherwise I’d have had to phone work with, possibly, the most implausible excuse for lateness/absence ever.

Notice how the camera shake disappears as the Highlands do likewise.

Now this sighting had me puzzled for a while…013

Is it a bird…?001

Is it a plane…?002

No, I think it’s…012

The John…!011

He’s been hacking back the willows and feeding the goats…009

Who love it…008

As do the horses…007

And now of course they love the John.

He got the call the other day when the goats escaped. All he had to do was wave some willow and walk in the direction they needed to go and they followed him, right back home. Pied Piper or what…?

You need to know – or I need to tell you – that I do get out sometimes. Maybe not enough though.

John and I accompanied a friend into the big city last week to look up the house where his grandfather had lived.

We frittered a whole £11 each on a day’s travel pass, which gave us unlimited travel to, from and around the city for the day. I thought that was excellent, given that from here to Stansted (a stone’s throw) on the train is £12!!

Anyway, we found the street in Islington…GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

But, sadly, the house is no more. Swallowed up by the City of London University but we think the house would have been about here…GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

A most enjoyable day though, culminating in a visit to a pub…GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

By the canal wouldn’t you know…002

Regents Canal, to be precise, one on which John and BB have cruised Hobo a couple of times now. Nice.

Just can’t stay away from the water – or the pub for that matter.

Here’s one of John and friend – also a John so we call him Shirley…001

Only because that’s his surname you understand. My two handsome escorts for the day.

As I’ve been writing the weather has been busy…004001_stitch

Storm’s a’brewing.

And as you know, I’m easily distracted – especially if it involves moody skies, thunder and lightning, rain, high winds, blue skies and sunshine. Well, today we’ve had the lot, about in that order.

Speaking of distractions…

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This is right outside my window, the one right in front of my chair. I didn’t think they’d ever get this brave but sometimes it’s good to be wrong.

I’m still waiting for the woodpeckers to arrive here. They’re about, I’ve seen them on the wing, but so far they haven’t stopped by here. Perhaps they like a different sort of food – wood maybe. Will have to experiment.

So who spotted this in the background of one of the earlier shots…?011

Clever John has made a sawhorse, which he is putting to good use making lots of Morso Squirrel sized nuggets ready for colder times. I’m busy stacking this to dry out. Word is this can take a couple of years but I doubt it’ll hang around that long. Besides, these are small logs – weeny ones – so won’t take as long. Well that’s my story.

Lucky for me, I had some prepared earlier. Yes, I had to light the little stove last night – just a little fire to take off the chill. Maybe it was yesterday’s storms but it seems to be degrees cooler – today too – please don’t tell me it’s autumn already.

Anyway, it did the trick and warmed up Hobo nicely. Just the job.

I hope to be able to write more of the little boat soon. It’s coming along, bit by bit, and John is devising and making some pretty neat storage solutions. But there’s never enough time is there?

We are also part way through re-working Hobo’s engine room – a job we’ve talked about so often. The woodwork (cupboards etc) has always been a bit wonky and just removing a couple of screws saw the whole lot collapse. But that’s a good thing. We can set about implementing our long awaited plans for smarter storage – start afresh with a better idea.

The stern gland greaser and bilge pump switch are both inaccessible so will be moved and the 12 volt wiring and fusebox need work – lots of work – by way of a damn good tidy. Good housekeeping really.

I’ve been threatening forever to clean and paint all those black holes one finds in engine rooms with white/silver in order to light up the space and make it more usable. It will also make it easier to find those things one inevitably drops in said awkward places.

Now  the floorboards are up and the whole room has been emptied of clutter (a task in itself) I have no excuse and tomorrow and Wednesday are my days off so looks like I could be busy.

I’ll try and get some before and after shots, which might make a little more sense of what I’m on about here and, you never know, you might find some of it useful.

I’m thinking…100_1161

Again. I do hate to feel cold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottoms Up!

30 Jun

Hobo has a very nice bottom. It’s official.

Three weeks ago now, we had the old girl pulled out of the water to have her bottom re-blacked. The last time this was done was four years ago now (and four years before that, just before I bought her). This is probably twice as long as recommended but, I’m happy and relieved to say, that she has fared well – despite mental pictures of lace curtains that haunted me as the day approached.

But none of that – she is fine and in very good shape.

Her first two ‘outings’ were at Welford’s dry dock where I believe they did a splendid job. This time, Welford being so far to cruise to when you are constrained by having to go out to work, it seemed favourite to make use of the facilities here – ie the slipway with its bomb trolley, as John calls it, and the  excellent workmanship of Andy and Jess.

We’ve witnessed their handiwork on many occasions; business here picking up no end since they took on this service. No surprise really as they do a brilliant job.

I was at work when they decided to pull her out and couldn’t wait for me to get back – time and tide waiting for no man (or even boatbird it seems)  – other boats already lining up to take their turn. So I authorised John to skipper the operation to drive her up the slipway. Not that I had any fears on that score; just a bit miffed to miss the event.

Perhaps as well. I can turn into a real old woman when it comes to Hobo’s well-being. And driving into the yard to see her sitting safely atop the trolley on the slipway was a huge relief…003

As Jess made a start on scraping off the sludge…001

Andy pronounced Hobo a very well made boat and her hull in great condition. Music to my ears.

I always thought she was a good boat but there’s nothing like hearing it from someone that knows about these things and is totally unbiased.

They set about grinding her back to the metal, observing strict health and safety regs of course…011

Even the, now eight year old, anodes had stood up well…010

But I decided to add four new ones…008

As I didn’t think they’d go another four years.

On closer inspection, there was one place that caused concern, this being on the waterline where the red stripes around the stern…004 (2)

As much as I wanted to keep this traditional cream over red design, I conceded it would be prudent to lose this to further bitumen. Really quite nasty pitting so best get rid.

Protection over cosmetics every time.

And here it is gone…007 (2)

After all, I can always re-instate it at a later date if I feel so inclined.

Actually, I’m quite liking the green stripe that has been used for masking – called frog tape and apparently brilliant.

On the bow too…009 (2)

We shall see. More work to bring the superstructure up to scratch first though.

I’m getting more and more ideas for decoration and I reckon, by the time Hobo is tiddled up enough and ready for some artistry, I shall have a plan.

The truly marvellous thing when it comes to slipway versus dry dock is that boatbird can still live aboard while work is carried out, courtesy of some giant steps…002

The noise and dust is a bit of a pain but that stops in the evening so not all bad. I do struggle to walk half sharp when she’s not floating though. Feels so weird.

We were so lucky with the weather – the whole three days were glorious, sunny and, most importantly, dry. Well done, for once, to whoever arranges the weather. Just check out that sky…023

Not forgetting the good old digger that pulled her up and kept her there…024

My rudder and propeller. Before…009

And after…008 (2)

Minus the tangle of wire/weed/whatever.

The team in action…001 (2)

Supervised by the John…002 (2)

Looking good now the paint is going on.

Notice which gender isn’t standing around/watching/chatting?

That said, they both grafted furiously. Indeed, once we saw how hard they worked, any guilt at not having done it ourselves (and saving loadsamymoney) simply evaporated. We conceded we are just too old disinclined to undertake that level of physical effort.

A view from afar…

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Because I can.

There’s even a short/boring/vaguely amusing video of Hobo as she comes off the slip – I was present for this – but I’m too mean to upgrade this site so it can’t be shown here. Maybe I’ll just post it on fishface instead.

There was a bonus too. My kitchen sink has been bloody useless decidedly inefficient since day 1. Any waste drained (or not) into the u-bend then into a thinner pipe, which actually went uphill – I may have mentioned this before – a right royal pain in the arse.

Being on the hard was the perfect time to work on her so we did just that. With Andy’s advice and a borrow of his tools, John drilled another hole (eek) in Hobo’s hull (lower and larger than the previous one) to take a 38mm skin fitting, this being provided by a kind neighbour who just happened to have one going spare. This then linked to a larger hose, pointing downhill, we did away with the u-bend altogether and BINGO – the water now actually drains away. Quickly.  Along with any gunk I happen to carelessly throw down it.

And John has plumbed it in such a way I even have more under-sink cupboard space, which on a narrowboat is back of the net.

All in all a pleasant experience. And you can’t always say that about routine maintenance.

 

 

Up River

8 Jun

I’ll have you know that right now I should be busy with the painting. It is neither raining nor windy, I have bought more primer and there are no other pressing issues.
No excuses then.

So why am I on here and not on the roof or dincing along the gunwale and just getting on with it..?

Well, it’s like this..

My new neighbour, who is re-fitting his boat and has been threatening to give me the guided for some time, invited me aboard earlier to show off his handiwork. Be rude to refuse and anyway, BB was curious. So he talks me through his efforts so far, as we clamber over tools and discarded materials during the tour. He's doing a great job, I have to say, and has come up with some ingenious solutions to the old storage/accessibility problem.

Then of course it was time for coffee so, after the reciprocal tour of Hobo, we do just that. A bit of a natter then he's back to work and I decide it's time for lunch.

By this time, I've lost the will to work and really just want to tell you about our mini cruise to Bishop's Stortford on Monday/Tuesday. And besides, the sun has done a disappearing act and it feels a bit cold outside..

Monday, you may remember, was a glorious day – perfect for a bit of boating, so we took the old girl out. She's moored facing downstream and Stortford is upstream so an about-face was required. Normally, we'd chug round the first bend and go through the lock, below which there is water to spin her round. This time, however, we decided to back up past the slipway and turn her there.

Backing a narrowboat is never easy (they don't steer well – if at all – in reverse) so much fending off as concerned neighbours watch and snigger silently assess our manoeuvring skills, awaiting the imminent and inevitable bump. It is a contact sport though and nobody minds. Much.

That said, we did a pretty good job, once we sorted out our communication deficiencies, and didn't disgrace ourselves or do any lasting damage. Unless of course you count my shattered nerves…

We remember to crouch low, so as not to knock our heads off as we pass under the railway bridge, after which the countryside opens up for us. Buttercups in the meadows, May and Chestnut trees in full blossom – it all looks glorious. After the first lock the river gets very windy, snaking this way then that, pretty as a picture.

Can’t say the same for this bridge though…
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whichever way..
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I look at it..100_1591

It just doesn’t do it for me.

See the Chinese to the right of the picture? We got the wave and usual questions about the boat – at least I think that’s what they were saying. I don’t speak Mandarin or whatever it was they were speaking. But lovely smiles.

The things you see when you don’t have your canoe…
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Perfect for a paddle.

I liked the look of this rustic bridge though…
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Much more my style.

We took our time, not that there’s ever any rushing on the river, but an even slower than normal tootle. Simply enjoying the moment, no mission to be on and no place on earth I’d rather be.

Even in chilled tortoise mode we are soon at Stortford, only four locks and as many miles (ish) away from base. We turn again, tie up, do lunch and stroll into town for some charity shopping and fresh bread.

Hobo looks good from the bridge as we return, the angle hiding any nasty bits that I’m working on (or not as it happens) and spurs me on to continue the great spruce up. Just not today…

A quick cuppa and we’re off again.

On the way up we’d seen a pile of nicely sliced and stacked willow left by the BW workers that had lopped off overhanging branches. They looked dry so we thought we’d hoover them up on the way back. I nosed Hobo into the bank and the ever agile John leapt ashore and hurled them on board. It was easier getting off than back on but he made it without injury or taking a dip so a good result. You can’t have enough wood so tend to scoop up any that presents itself.

After another snack stop we decide to continue by way of a sunset cruise. We were aiming to get through all locks then park up for the night, leaving a short jaunt back home for the morning.

I light the fire and John chops the newly scrumped wood into stove-size pieces as we wait for the lock to fill…
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See the join on the roof..? That’s where I got to before the paint and the weather ran out.

Then I look astern and take in the sky…
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Wow…
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Double wow..
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So good, I did some stitching, like this…
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and this…
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by way of the panoramic.

Into the lock and as Hobo and I sink down, so does the sun.
100_1613.

Fabulous.

We camped out on the lock landing (naughty I know) but didn’t really think anyone else would be coming through now..it was dark. And we’d be gone in the morning.

I’d been roasting a bit of John’s home-reared pig as we cruised. Just the job for supper after a beer or two. We toast our toes by the fire as the newly foraged wood burns hot and bright. The perfect end to the perfect day.

A short, slow hop in the morning sees us back on the mooring in time to get back to the real world. John to the farm and me off to earn a few more pennies.

So we hang up the ropes…

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but hopefully not for long.

Moving Bella – Day 1

4 Jul

Into July already and the Hobo hasn’t moved an inch, not even the sniff of a cruise. Static R us. Whilst this was always the plan for this year, knuckle down, earn some money and tart the old girl up, I was definitely getting withdrawal symptoms and missing being on the move. So you can imagine that when asked to help move another boat we jumped at the chance.

Our good friend Reg has sold Bella, his 50 footer, to a very nice young man called Dave who has secured a mooring at Isleworth on the River Lark in Suffolk. He was going to cruise the boat there – a good two weeks from the River Stort (with ten-hour days, lots of luck and a following wind) but with limited boating experience, and none at all of locks, he was in the market for some assistance in the early days, until other friends could join him.

A mission in itself to get to his destination within his deadline but we also had to be clear of the ‘Olympic Zone’ before it was closed off at 8am on Tuesday. Originally we’d planned to get going on Sunday but decided this was cutting it a little too fine and brought it forward.

Reg suggested to him that John and I could share The Knowledge and provide some tuition/advice as well as being another couple of pairs of hands to speed Bella on her way. We were more than happy to do this and we all got cracking on Saturday.

It was warm and sunny as we tied up at the first lock, which Reg and Dave went to fill as we waited for John (who had gone to lose the car) to join us. He pitched up right on cue so I set about supervising as our new boater took Bella into the lock.

Tednambury

It’s a very open spot and the strong gusty wind did its worst… Suffice it to say that it took three of us and much reversing to keep Bella off the bank for long enough to motor her into the chamber.

Bella is a lovely boat, of which John and I are very fond  and have driven before. She responds beautifully but is a different animal to Hobo; being a cruiser stern for starters, meaning the driving position and technique is strange at first to that of Hobo’s trad, and the engine/gearing is all different. Well, that’s our excuse anyway..

Still, all good fun and an invaluable first lesson in narrowboat versus wind, which I would like to say was deliberate but, you know me – boat (honest) bird – I have to tell the truth. It wasn’t.

Next up is a very low rail bridge (mind your head), successfully navigated, followed by a stretch of moorings where Hobo lives. I am impressed by Dave slowing down on approach to these moorings with no prompting from me – something I still have to remind John about. Even now. We say hello to Hobo as we pass and trundle on.

As we chug along, we discuss boatie things, living aboard and, inevitably, embark on the great toilet debate: pump out v cassette. It is not humanly possible for any gathering of boaters not to get on to this subject sooner or later; new ones no exception.

Dave seemed to be a natural; his boat handling skills developing rapidly as we let him do the majority of the tiller work while we answered his questions and imparted our knowledge. It was great to be out on the river again and we were enjoying the ride and the company. It’s different somehow when it’s not your boat (I think that’s a responsibility thing) and also being four of us made the workload lighter and progress faster.

Our journey started at 3 o’clock (ish) and some seven miles, nine locks and four and a half hours later we tie up for the night at Hunsdon Mill. This is a lovely spot in the middle of nowhere, just the odd cottage or two, with the sound of rushing water from a mini weir to drown out the road noise from the A414, which runs parallel at this point.

We had a lovely time on the river and Dave is, I think, a happy bunny after his first (short) day of cruising as we leave him to his first night on board his new home.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           The lovely Bella.