Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Daddy's Girl

My dad came to visit last weekend, to see the boat for the first time. As the owner of a sea-going trimeran, the pace of narrowboating was a bit of a change for him, but he enjoyed it, I think. He meant to buy me flowers on the way, but decided to get me some coal instead. It was very welcome! He just sent this lovely photo that he took when we went for a little cruise.

A few days after returning home, he was taken into hospital with a minor heart attack. It happened while he was alone on his boat and he had to be air-lifted to hospital. Thankfully, he was brought to hospital in time and has had a stent put into his heart. He is now back home, and recovering well, I am pleased to report.

"The best bed on the waterways" - Canal Boat magazine

Well, one of their columnists anyway!

These are for Bones, who was mightily impressed with the design of our folding bed (not by us, but by the Duck's previous owner), and has been wanting one for herself ever since. We have been extremely tardy in providing these details, but here they are at last!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Fenland morning

Although I would love to moor in Cambridge permanently - we are now 33rd on the waiting list, so its closer to being a reality! - there is something wonderful about cycling through the fens of clear, sharp, frosty mornings like this one:

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Lucky Duck v. Fotheringay Bridge

nb Kestrel has recently uploaded this photo they took of the damage we did to Fotheringay Bridge, on the River Nene!


Grease is the word

Apparently we've been using the wrong type of stern gland grease, which isn't waterproof enough, and therefore unsuitable for using to keep the water out. We just continued using the tube that came with the boat when we bought it without really thinking, but it might go someway to explain why  the stern tube drips pretty much constantly... It was Kestrel's Emma who pointed it out, so thanks! And I have now purchased the right sort. 

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Batteries again

Ever since we took posession on the boat, we've been having problems with our battery bank. Well, the problems didn't actually surface until, two weeks in, we stayed in Cropredy for a day to meet fello boaters and for the first time, didn't charge the batteries for eight or so hours, as we had been for the preceding days. The fridge was the indicator: we were playing host to that well known double-act, Bones and Maffi when it sounded like there was a hamster trapped in the fridge. This, as we came to realise, indicated that the batteries had dropped to a voltage too low to support the fridge's heat pump. The length and small diameter of the power cables supplying the fridge wouldn't have helped matters either; although the fridge stopped working at 12.1 volts measured at the batteries, the voltage the fridge was receiving- reduced by the resistance of the wires- were even less.

This went on for months. Every time we were unable to run the batteries during the day, we'd not have a fridge. In fact even after a full charge, it would be merely 8 hours before we could no longer run the fridge. While cruising it wasn't such a problem; we charged them enough most days. Once we arrived in Cambridge the issue became more pressing. Finally able to spend time to get the wole bank apart andtest them individually, James found none of them to be obviously deficient, and we resigned ourselves that we needed new ones. However, we decided that before we did so ( we couldn't yet afford to buy them anyway) a Canal World thread was required! As always, there were many helpful answers, but the breakthrough came when James realised that they were actually wired up incorrectly. This page (from SmartGuage) explains why. Basically we need them to be wired up so that they act as a single large cell, and this wasn't how it was done. Three of the five were never being fully charged or discharged, which wasn't ideal.

So during his half term, James rewired them. And we charged them up fully in Upware last week, only to return from the pub to a very sulphurous smell, and a very unhealthy battery, as described in a recent post! This was clearly a dud one, probably bringing the whole bank down.

And things are definitely improved. the bank holds a ~12.7V charge for much longer than it ever did. We just have to get back into the habit of actually using the fridge, rather than storing milk on the baseplate!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Well Met By Moonlight

Last night we travelled from Ely to Little Thetford by moonlight so bright it cast shadows and precluded the use of a torch... A sight rarely seen in the city I felt privileged to be on the counter of my boat, watching the moonlight on the water, in the middle of the Fen wilderness.

This post REALLY should be accompanied by a photograph, but it was impossible to capture. Andrew Denny would surely manage but I didn't, alas. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


Last weekend, we were in Upware, and felt that it was time to explore the possibilities of mooring somewhere that wasn't Cambridge, Waterbeach or Upware, so for the first time, when we left the marina (in the daylight! - a novelty since we normally move after dark, when we've finished work) we turned right and headed North, rather than South.

We were headed for Ely, where we had moored on our way into Cambridge for the first time at the beginning of September, but stopped off at Little Thetford to check out the mooring scenario there and deciding that it was pretty good! We arrived in Ely just as it began to get dark, and found a nice mooring just by the train station, which has proved excellent for cummouting into town for work. The train fare is just £2.30 return, as opposed to the £5 that it costs to get the bus in, and Cambridge is only 17 minutes away. We can also take our bikes with us which gives us a lot more flexibility.

Today we are planning to move to the Little Thetford moorings after work, and take the no.9 bus into town. Tomorrow we will move on again, and moor overnight in Upware, check the post before moving on again the next day to Waterbeach. All this is because my dad is visiting at the weekend, and it would be nice to be in Cambridge itself.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Batteries burn and casing bubble...

Finding a battery that's emiting a sulpherous stink, electrolyte, is too hot to touch and is actually smoking visibly whilst being charged are all good indications of being

Edit: ...somewhat unhealthy!

Stop Thief!

Bicycles are very necessary and useful things, especially if one lives in Upware some of the time. Faced with a two-hour walk to the bus stop, or a 30 minute (if that!) cycle ride, I know which I choose.

However, a week ago today Amy's bike was stolen- along with many others- from outside Sainsbury's in the centre of Cambridge. It's not an unusual occurance- gangs with vans cruise around, throw great piles of unsecured bikes in the back, and make off to sort out the bikes and count their loot.

The hunt for a replacement was on. Unfortunatly, new bikes are for the moment way out of our price range. Second hand, too- Cambridge has bike prices as inflated as its house prices (which, incidentally, are defying the national trend and are still heading upward!).

Amy was kindly lent Emma's bike for a few days, and then we managed to secure a second-hand replacement from a friend. It needed £40 of work to the back wheel to make it rideable, and it still needs new brake blocks, but for the moment it's far, far, FAR better than walking! At the moment, we really could have done without the hastle and expense of having to sort out that replacement, but luckily enough it's worked out all right in the end.

Colours of the Cut

Wow, its been so long since we last posted! And not for lack of happennings either; the fact that its been a hectic few weeks, with a lot of moving about has contributed to the lack of blogging. There will (hopefully) be a few blog in quick succession now we both have internet access for a few hours - in the Cambriridge University Library.

Firstly though I'd like to say a huge thank you to all the readers of the blog who sent me birthday presents! The most recent arrival (late due to it being difficult to source) was a book that Jim of nb Warrior had recommeded that I read: Colours of The Cut, by Edward Paget-Tomlinson. I have, ever since getting into the world of the canals, been excited and inspired by the beautiful signwriting of the old working-boats, and of the new boats that draw on this tradition in contemporary signwriting. It was given to me by James' paternal grandparents, avid blog-readers - so THANK YOU!

Colours of the Cut is compiled from a series of short articles written by E P-T, for Waterways World in the '80s and '90s. Meticulously researched and beatifully illustrated in simple gouache paintings, they together form a compendium of signwriting examples found on a myriad of canal carrying companies' working boats of the early C20th. Many of these boats no longer survive in their original liveries if they survive at all, so the use of old black-and white photographs was vital - it may see like a contradiction in tems but often these are the only record of how the boats were coloured. Amazingly, it is possible to get a good idea of the colours, by using careful analysis, comparison, and written descriptions.

It is my plan, when I can afford it, to redo the signwriting on the Duck, in a way that will certainly be influenced by the old working boats' liveries! It will be a challenge, but I can't wait. Eventually, I'd love to do signwriting full time - with my passion for type and font design, combined with my love for the world of the canals and their traditions, it would be my ideal job!
When I can afford some paints and brushes, I'll also get to work practicing my roses and castles!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Recent Happenings

Firstly : Phew! We are now licenced again. The EA never did send us its forms but I printed them off at a library in my lunch hour and they are now safely with the EA. What a relief!

James has also made use of his half term to fix the battery wiring system which wasn't ideal. (more details will follow when I have more than 5 minutes online!) We'll still need new batteries when we can afford them though...