Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Flamingo Back To Base, Once More

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Retrospective post for Tuesday 28th June)

Narrow boat "Aldgate", ("Flamingo is 80 years old as well, though!)
Because we had had to move "Sickle" up to Stockton Dry Dock on the Monday following the Braunston show, "Flamingo" could not be moved back to its home mooring until the following day.

Nelson lock, where several historic photos of "Flamingo" were taken in the 1960s.
We are most grateful to our friends Barry and Jan who were staying with us on the boats, because we had been able to leave Odin and Max with them on "Flamingo" whilst we had moved "Sickle", and they had had a great time ranging around in various fields with Barry's dog Riko, as well as several Lurchers owned by one of the local residents.

Leslie Morton, who ran Willow Wren, was a frequent customer here.
Obviously today's move back to base was another cautious move whilst we were trying to work out what to do about "Flamingo's engine issues.  At least, if we went gently, things seemed to not be getting significantly worse.  It did, however, seem progressively more likely that we would not be doing any more boating for a while, with "Sickle" about to undergo significant hull repairs, and "Flamingo" limping along producing too much smoke.

Odin (left) and Max

Top lock at Braunston, ready for the tunnel.

Braunston to High House Wharf
Miles: 10.6, Locks: 13

Monday, 27 June 2016

"Sickle" Finally Heading Off For Long Awited Repairs.

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

(Very retrospective post for Monday 27th June 2016)

It is actually necessary to go back as far as October 2015 to give the background for this trip, for it is that long ago that "Sickle" was surveyed by a specialist surveyor in the dock at Brinklow Boat Services, and found to need repairs carried out on various parts of her steel-work.  As she is 80 years old, this was not a major surprise, but we had taken her there for a survey only, and the amount of work indicated as required was not something Brinklow could fit in at the time.  Hence some basic patching up was done, but we knew a visit to a specialist repairer would be needed this year.

When I spoke to Brinklow at the start of 2016, they still had huge amounts of work on, and were still not in a position to commit to a date, so we agreed I would instead talk to Stockton Dry Dock.  (Between them these two yards handle much of the work carried out on historic narrow boats, and represent the very best that is available in this field).  At that time, Stockton Dry Dock could accommodate us in a suitable time-frame, but unfortunately before we got to that time, the owner there managed to injure himself badly enough to spend some time unable to work, and hence his schedule of boats booked into the dock was badly impacted.  However "Sickle" was hopefully not about to sink, and we were able to negotiate a time-slot that had allowed us to attend the shows at both Stoke Bruerne and Braunston.  This was not a bad result, although it was likely we would now miss some events later that year.

In practice the work could not start until a week or two after the Braunston show, but the owner was happy for us to take "Sickle" on up to the dock as soon as that was over, and he would then have her ready and waiting as soon as he was able to turn around his large dry dock.

As our friends Barry and Jan were still staying with us on the boats, they agreed to look after Odin and Max in Braunston, whilst Cath and I delivered "Sickle" to Stockton.  In fact Barry also drove over to fetch us back to Braunston from Stockton, thereby making our lives a lot easier.  A huge vote of thanks to Barry and Jan for helping us out.

We have not boated a huge amount with "Sickle" since we discovered its steel-work was thin in parts.  It was a real pleasure to be out again with our fast and very maneuverable boat - we had both forgotten just how enjoyable she can be.

Braunston to Stockton Dry Dock
Miles: 9.1, Locks: 11

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Braunston Historic Boats 2016

(Boats Sickle & Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Very retrospective post for Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th June)

We have no real idea how it occurred, but despite best laid plans the camera that was meant to have accompanied us to Braunston ended up not doing so.  It is true we still had mobile phones to hand, but even they do not seem to have got used for some impromptu pictures, so unusually we have nothing of our own to publish.

Usually a quick use of "Google" will find a few things, and here are some videos from the day

Braunston Historic Narrow Boat Rally 2016 by marcel911, (Sickle featured in opening footage).

Selected Tugs At Braunston 2016 by MrGig2010, (Sickle again, different day, inclusing againat 06:4 with friend James at the tiller).

Braunston Historic Narrow Boat Rally 2016 by EsiRuffshassen, (a much longer look - Sickle at about 13:30 from start.

There is also a very good picture of Sickle on Flickr by Jason Rodhouse, but I seem unable to embed it n this blog, even though it can be freely embedded in other things like Facebook and Twitter.  Jason, I hope you don't mind - I have used instead a downloaded copy, credited to you.  Again friend James is steering, an I'm taking a rest.

Jason Rodhouse on Flickr

Friday, 24 June 2016

Working Both Boats Breasted Up Through Wide Locks

(Boats Sickle & Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Very retrospective post for Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th June)

Starting the ascent of Buckby locks
Obviously "Flamingo's" engine woes were continuing, but we were very keen to be able to do the Braunston Historic Boats Festival with both baots, if we could still manage it. As we had had no worsening of the situation with "Flamingo's" engine when returning it to its moorings a few days previously, we decided to go for it, making a point of not rushing.

Lining up for a lock
This proved to be the first chance to try out an improvement made late last year.  We did not previously have means to tie the two boats alongside each other, so one could act as tug for the other, as we worked through broad lock flights.  The very different length of both boats and lack of suitable things to tie to precluded it.  However new fittings on "Flamingo's" gunwale now mean the boats can be breasted up with their sterns aligned, so for both lock flights today we did just that.  Obviously whilst "Flamingo" was struggling to move just herself about, we weren't going to try towing "Sickle" with her, so "Sickle" acted as the tug, with the engine on "Flamingo" shut down.

The advantages of owning a powerful tug.
It is quite "interesting" tying to accurately position the bows of the longer boat into each lock, when the one you are steering doesn't enter it itself until the first one is over 30 feet in, but I quickly got the hang of it.  What I had not expected was just how much the very much greater weight of "Flamingo" over "Sickle" would mean that the boats actually proceeded "crab style" between locks - something that the photos probably make clear.  All in all though, the arrangements worked, meaning both Cath and David could set up and work the locks, whilst I concentrated just on steering, (and stopping!).

The Virgin Trains get through here rather faster than our boats.
For the tunnels, when both boats travel together with a crew of three overall, David normally takes "Sickle" through, whilst I follow on "Flamingo" and Cath concentrates inside on creating distractions, whilst doing an "everything is OK" act.  Since a couple of earlier bad experiences, Odin, who is normally fine on board, has not been a great fan of the long tunnels, and we are trying to ensure he develops no greater phobias, nor causes Max to be apprehensive either.  For my part I am supposed to avoid any scrapes with the side - not always 100% straightforward, given the actions of some of those one encounters coming the other way on a busy day!

Gaining the confidence to do it a bit faster.
Anyway, no new or worsening problems on this trip, so both boats were ready for Braunston after all.

High House Wharf, Weedon to Braunston
Miles: 21.0, Locks :13
(10.5 miles, each boat)

Monday, 20 June 2016

Both Boats back To Base

(Boat Sickle & Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Very retrospective post for Sunday 19th & Monday 20th June 2016)

Sickle is first boat through tunnel, in the charge of David
A simple move of both boats back to their home moorings.

All taken very gently, due to Flamingo's engine issues.

Followed by Flamingo, with Alan in charge.

Stoke Bruerne
to High House Wharf, Weedon
Miles: 20.0, Locks:0
(10.0 miles each boat)

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Stoke Bruerne Family Festival - New Moon Morris

(Boat Sickle & Flamingo - posted by Alan)

So far Stoke Bruerne Family Festival has been the only canal based event that has combined our dual interests not only in canals, but also in music and dance.  New Moon Morris, and also the New Moon Band were asked to perform at Stoke Bruerne in 2015, which was very well received, and we were therefore pleased to get an invite back for 2016.

New Moon Morris was not available to dance during the day on Saturday, as it was already committed to attending the St Albans Folk Festival, but like last year the New Moon Band were asked to play on Saturday evening.  This year, however, a professional band was also booked, so New Moon played a supporting set whilst that band took an interval.  Unusually it was easier to line ourselves up along the side of the museum's historic narrow boat "Sculptor", but whilst I felt sure pictures were taken of this, a search of various phones and camera memory cards has so far failed to locate any!

However on the Sunday we had a fairly good complement of dancers & musicians, (New Moon has grown a lot since 2015), and this time I have found the pictures.  Here is just a selection.

(A reminder I give from time to time, for anyone not familiar with Blogger - clicking on any image in any post in this blog should then display it as a larger size).

Stoke Bruerne Family Festival - Ian "Rosie" Rose

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

(Very retrospective post for Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th June 2016)

Making our way own from the tunnel.
I'm firmly in "catch up" mode here, but am trying to at least record the various events we appeared at in 2016, in what has proved to be a difficult year, both for family reasons, but also because of difficulties with both boats, and a need to get work done on them.

Preparing to tie up at the museum.
Since we first owned "Sickle" we have never yet failed to put in an appearance at what has latterly been re-badged as the Stoke Bruerne Family Festival - a title that now gives a clue that it is as much about fun and fund-raising as it is about heritage, although a selection of historic boats is always guaranteed.

For the last two years we have been asked to provide "Sickle" as a platform for the entertainments,  and we have been a somewhat unconvincing Viking long boat for the last two years. 2014 Vikings here, 2015 Vikings here.  This year, we were told that the young men and women who had been very convincing Vikings were largely off doing other things, but would we carry an entertainer who is a Pearly King.  Well it's different, but of course we would!

Yes, we have no bananas.
Ian Rose, (aka "Rosie"), proved to be a popular entertainer well received by the crowds.  For all but one performance we were able to promenade him and his son-in-law, (who played spoons and banjo, and was his roadie and sound man), down the cut, but the usual conflicts between this and our involvement in New Moon Morris meant that for the final performance "Sickle" was simply left tied up outside the museum.

It was enormous fun actually, though I imagine our "street cred" in the world of historic boat ownership is now even more shattered than it was after the Vikings.

There's a video recorded by our son David here.

I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts.
Oh, and when we quizzed "Rosie" about whether he was a genuine Londoner, he said "no, I come from Peterborough!...) 
Also, as already mentioned, Cath, David and I were also there as part of New Moon Morris.  More on this in my next posting.


Friday, 17 June 2016

Second Boat To Stoke Bruerne Family Festival

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

(Very retrospective post for Friday 17th June 2016)

It used to be only Cath photographed doing this!
Alas, poor blog!.........

Is it really nearly 6 months since we wrote a blog post?  Well, we have had a lot happening.

Anyway, I've found a few photos relating to earlier in the year, so will try and remember what they relate to!

We always try to get both boats to the Stoke Bruerne Family Festival, but for several yeras now Sickle has had a role to play in it, so its attendance is expected.  By virtue of all our problems with "Flamingo" it had ended up there already, so today we just a simple trip to bring "Sickle" down as well.

I didn't play melodeon for the whole trip, though.
High House Wharf, Weedon to Stoke Bruerne
Miles: 10.0, Locks: 0

Friday, 10 June 2016

A Very VERY Short Day's Boating

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Last lock of the flight - Museum beyond.
Had we not encountered the problems we did on the trip down to the Rickmansworth Festival, we would, of course, by now been long back on our home moorings.  However we now realised that although we could now carry on North through Stoke Bruerne, we in fact needed to be back there very soon for the Family Festival.  We therefore agreed with Kathryn, the harbour master for that event, that we could leave Flamingo on the museum moorings ready for it to move up to its allocated moorings for the event.

Two Yarwoods ("Northwich") boats together.
So today's trip was amongst our shortest ever, needing only to carry on the final two locks up the flight.  Our next boat moves would not involve "Flamingo", as "Sickle" was booked into the same event, and that would need to be worked down to Stoke Bruerne from Weedon.

Stoke Bruerne Long Pound to Stoke Bruerne "Tunnel" Pound
Miles: 0.5, Locks: 2
Total Trip Miles: 120.3, Locks: 138

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Steady Progress Back North

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Nothing to report really from this fine sunny day's boating.  The alternator problem finally appears to be full fixed.  The engine is clearly not in the best of health, but fortunately, if not driven hard, the smoke problem doesn't see any worse.

At the recently renovated Wolverton Trunk Aqueduct a disused gas supply main used  to cross the valley at a lower level than the aqueduct trough, and always spoiled any photos you tried to take.  This has now been removed, so we took the opportunity to photograph the newly painted aqueduct without this ugly thing in the background.

Crossing Wolverton Trunk Aqueduct.

Shortly afterwards in the shallow Cosgrove lock.

Ascending the Stoke Bruerne lock flight.

Fenny Stratford to Stoke Bruerne Long Pound
Miles: 17.3, Locks:6
Total Trip Miles: 119.8, Locks: 136

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

No New Issues, Thankfully.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Descending Seabrook Locks
Well other than the smokey engine, our troubles now seemed to be behind us.  The alternator fix was holding up, and we had a pleasant day's boating, albeit progressing a bit slower than usual, so as to hopefully not make engine problems any worse.

We are very pleased "Chalice" is clearly still much loved.
Once again we passed our former boat "Chalice" looking very well cared for as we arrived and looked for moorings at Fenny Stratford.  On a bad day, as I struggle with some of the current issues with "Flamingo" I do wonder what we were thinking of selling a nice "modern" 20 year old boat with few reliability problems, to replace it with an 80 year old boat needing lots of work.  On a more positive day, I realise we are both so bitten with the historic boat bug, that, for the moment at least, nothing else will ever quite satisfy in the same way.  "Flamingo" will eventually be very special, but we have some way to go!

Marsworth to Fenny Stratford
Miles: 16.1, Locks: 17
Total Trip Miles: 102.5, Locks: 130

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Can We Fix It? - Yes, Possibly!

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Approaching Marsworth top lock
So we had abandoned Flamingo temporarily whilst we contemplated the issue of the overcharging alternator.  By now the old external controller had been disabled, and the alternator's own regulator replaced, but it was still delivering too much voltage to the battery bank.  If it were easy, I would simply have swapped out the alternator with a more modern replacement, but the engine mountings were not suitable for this, and most cheaply available alternators come with a pulley suitable only for  smaller drive belt than that mandated by the pulley on our engine - so a swap wasn't going to be 100% straightforward.

Fortunately Canal World Discussion Forums are usually an excellent resource in matters like these, and the forum's expert on alternators and charging was on the case.  Jerry, (specialist guru in alternators and all things 12 or 24 volt), reckoned he had a fair idea what the problem might be, and offered to drive all the way up from Southampton to take a look.  This seemed generosity beyond belief, but he insisted on coming - unfortunately on what proved to be a miserably wet day, about which we felt rather guilty!  He quickly diagnosed the problem, but it was not what he had thought the most likely cause would be, as it was an internal intermittent short circuit on the rotor, (the moving part) of the alternator.  Although he had come with lots of bits, this is not something he could reasonably have been expected to have.

Approaching Marsworth bottom lock.
However we now knew the cause, and a bit of phoning around revealed that a nearby automotive electrical specialist could still source a rotor, even for this obsolete alternator.  It took a few days, but eventually we got back the whole unit ready to fit.

Once again we fired it up, and once again it seemed to be performing as it should - the batteries receiving some charge, but not too much.  It seemed we were finally there!

So once again we were ferried to the boat with dogs and supplies, and once again we set of North.  It was late in the day, so we would only go down the Marsworth flight, ready to put in much bigger mileages the next day, if all was OK.  Unexpectedly our friends Pete and Louise turned up, and helped us lock down the flight.

Cath was even able to get a lift to her regular practice dance session with New Moon Morris.  I however had to remain on board to dog sit!

Bulbourne to Marsworth 
Miles: 1.4, Locks:7
Total Trip Miles: 86.4, Locks: 113