Tuesday, September 05, 2017

So we took the boat out for a jolly...

Just a short one, about an hour's jaunt to Crick Marina and back.

The sole purpose of that was to see if the guys had fixed the water-heating problem yesterday. They hadn't, so we'll have to rely on the gas boiler to heat our water while we're out next week. Meanwhile, I've posted the problem in the Canal World Discussion Forum, and we'll see if anyone else can suggest a solution.

We were back at the house over the weekend, mainly to collect various items needed for our cruise, and clothes for the approaching winter. While we were there, Steve played us the tracks for Said the Maiden's upcoming new album "Here's a health". He's not entirely finished engineering it, but three tracks will be going out to radio stations very soon, and the official album launch will be on November 1st at The Water Rats in London's Kings Cross - a prestigious venue! Their promotional 22-venue UK tour has already started, though. Is there a gig near you?

If you don't already know this fabulous trio, there's a wealth of videos on YouTube spanning five years of gigs. And this is the video they made to accompany the release of their last EP.

Ah! I have a reply on the forum already! Please excuse me! (Fingers crossed!)


Please note that another update to "Hints and tips..." has been added to the Addendum Blog.


Friday, September 01, 2017

Do I have to think of a snappy title for every post on this blog?

Sorry, but I just can't manage that today.

Roy arrived this morning, at a boater's 10:30 (the time he said he'd arrive) that was an actual 12:00. He brought with him Lee as usual, and Pete, a mechanic I've not seen before. Roy was here to fix the blockage in the engine cooling system that was stopping the domestic water from getting to its normal maximum temperature. Lee came to tile around the basin in the shower-room, and Pete's task was to figure out why the engine played up last week.

He ran the engine, poked and prodded things in the engine, listened to it, felt it, smelled the exhaust ("the scent of the exhaust"), watched the gauges and came to the conclusion that the symptoms we experienced were down to the alternator kicking in to do a deep charge of the battery. The governor does its job of maintaining the engine revs, but the power the engine generates fluctuates as a consequence of the charging operation. Hence the apparent poor firing. That's what he said, anyway, and he seemed pretty convinced. He was keen to set our minds at rest about the general state and condition of the engine. He thinks there's nothing wrong, and it's not about to let us down again. I'll take his word for it.

He did give us a useful tip about the batteries, which will go into the Addendum Blog of "Hints and Tips...", and he confirmed our beliefs that lead-acid batteries are far more complex that they look, and are generally misunderstood by most of us who use them. He is one of the inner sanctum of the enlightened, it would seem. And very helpful indeed.

He then helped Roy, who was struggling to understand the heating problem. While Lee worked very effectively on his own doing the tiling job, the other two tried to chase an air lock out of the system. After two hours of getting some air out but not solving the problem, they had to conclude that the problem is with the twin thermostats - or one of them, at least. Roy will order that and fit it next week, in the hope that we'll be able to offer Dorothy, Christine and Mike hot water to wash and shower in when they come faring with us for a couple of weeks from next Saturday. Fingers crossed!

The weather suddenly became summery over the Bank Holiday weekend, and remained that way for the rest of the week.

Having finished all the bitty jobs we had to do, Grace and I drove out to Kenilworth Castle for the day. We're fascinated by castles in all degrees of ruination, and had a really good day out.

Not being out on the cut has its upside!

Saturday, August 26, 2017


At last, we got to take Kantara out the other day. We went not knowing how long we'd be out for, though we'd have to be back by September 9th to pick up Christine, Mike and Dorothy, to give them a two-week holiday. And that, we've decided, will be a trip down to Oxford and back. Though we might wind at Thrupp, Oxford itself being such an unpleasant stretch of canal. So anyway, off we went into the wild blue yonder. It was warm, dry, still, very encouraging. But...

...the engine started to misfire, or at least run unevenly. And quickly, not the slower hunting that we'd experienced when our alternator failed last year. All the gauges were reading fine. I checked all that I could, and couldn't find the cause. So we sighed, winded as soon as we could, and drove back to the marina.

Where we found that the domestic water had not been properly heated by the engine, so there must be an air-lock in the system, or a faulty thermostat. A call-back for Roy, methinks.

We're still waiting to hear when he can come to us.

So Grace gets back to door-painting, and I get back to being stir-crazy. We've done so little faring this year, it's ridiculous! There are a dozen things I could be getting on with, but I just can't raise the necessary enthusiasm. Sad, huh?

But yesterday, we took advantage of the continuing decent weather, and we drove out to Calke Abbey in Leicestershire.

 This is not a stately home. This is what the National Trust delight to call an "un-stately home".
"Hidden away in a hollow within ancient park land, Calke Abbey appears to have turned its back on the modern world. The telephone first rang in 1928 at Calke and electricity wasn't introduced until 1962. The often eccentric Harpur-Crewe family preferred a solitary life which excluded mod cons."
The park around the house is huge, with herds of deer and flocks of sheep. The gardens are large, and beautiful at this time of the year.

The house itself has suffered from generations of very eccentric folk adapting the place in very strange ways to accommodate their own particular circumstances and desires. Hence it has a very random, disorganised, interior, with most of the upstairs rooms and several of the others being stuffed full of  paintings, trophy animal-heads, and dead animals and birds in glass cases. And junk. Lots of it. They collected "stuff".

Some of the rooms are in a fairly good state, but much of the pace is very run-down; cracks in walls and ceilings, wall-paper peeling off or long-gone, paintwork badly deteriorated. The NT has done a lot of work to preserve the building, largely by fixing leaky roofs, walls, windows and doors, but the sheer size of the job of complete restoration is so huge that it would be beyond their resources. They've done the wise, clever thing of making its condition its attraction. Where their other houses paint a picture of the rise of noble families, this one tells the story of a fall. And if yesterday was anything to go by, it's a very popular attraction indeed.

The one thing in the house that's in good condition is a magnificent bed, a wedding gift three hundred years old, but never having seen sunlight! It's absolutely pristine.

It's a fascinating, haunting place, and we had a great day out there.

Now back to those jobs...


Please note that another update to "Hints and tips..." has been added to the Addendum Blog.


Sunday, August 20, 2017


I told buyers of "Hints and tips..." that I would notify them on social media whenever I post updates on the Addendum blog. So this is the first notification! There are two additions to Chapter 3 - At the helm. The link to the blog is at the bottom of the table of contents.


Amazon have now confirmed that all previous buyers of "Life with our feet under water" and "Hints and tips..." have been emailed with a link that will give them access to a free upload of the new editions of the books.

In the case of "Life with our feet under water" that's primarily because the book has a new and vastly improved photo gallery, so all of the links have been changed. Also, the body of the book has undergone some revision. (And it has a much better cover than before!)

In the case of "Hints and tips..." a number of web links, particularly in Chapter 1, had broken (the pages had been taken down), and these have now been replaced with live links. Furthermore, the table of contents now has a link to the Addendum blog, where any further such changes - and new hints and tips - will be made available to readers past, present and future.



Friday, August 18, 2017

Fair-weather farers

Life on board NB Kantara is all rather... not very lively at the moment. OK, it's true that we'd be out enjoying ourselves on the cut right now if we weren't bothered by the weather. But it's also true that it's currently pouring with rain yet again, with a very strong wind, and there's a cracking thunderstorm. We've had a few decent days, sure, but generally we're not encouraged to venture out at the moment. Fair-weather farers I guess we are. I know several folk who've been out for a few weeks, and the bad weather's featured large in their experiences.

It's not as if we've got nothing to do while we're here. Roy and Lee came a few days ago to replace our central-heating pump (which alone cost £180!!), then to flush gallons of black, gunky water out of the system and top up with fresh water/antifreeze mix. They'll be back soon to do some woodwork and tiling in our shower room, too. And Grace is painting castles and roses on the cabin doors.

My role at the moment is that of "the domestic". Well, why not? I ask. Grace played that one for thirty-odd years!

Kantara is sitting in a wide, open space at the moment. Lindsey Ann vacated the berth two away from us on one side for a couple of weeks, but she's back now. The space between her and us was empty for some months after Cream Cracker left, until The Hodma'dod came along, but she was only there for a few days, and I suspect they won't be coming back. And, on our other side, Emma Jane has now been away for several weeks, and no-one seems to know where they are or when they'll return. It is rather nice to have good light and views on both sides.

Whether or not we get to cruise for a short while in the next few weeks remains to be seen, but we will be out with Dorothy, Christine and Mike for a couple of weeks in the middle of September. What we have to do now is decide on a suitable route. Four Counties Ring starting at Fradley Junction? Leicester Ring starting from here? Decisions, decisions!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

It gives me great pleasure

Yesterday evening, with excitement and some trepidation, I published my third boaty book on Amazon Kindle.

I'm really pleased with it. Somehow, one copy was sold overnight, several hours before I started to promote it on social media! It'd been hard work, but I love writing, working with words and ideas - and working with the photos I've taken so many of! The photo gallery that goes with this book - there are links to it throughout the text - is hosted on Blogspot, like this blog, and it works really well.

Having discovered that, I set about righting a wrong that happened with my first book,"Life with our feet under water". I used Flickr for the photo gallery for that, only to find shortly after publication that readers were presented with adverts randomly throughout their visits. I tried two other platforms for the photos, but failed to find anything better. But then came my idea about Blogspot.

So I  moved all of the photos for that book onto the new platform, and yesterday I republished the book with the new links. Kindle should be emailing all past buyers of the 1st edition, inviting them to download the new version for free. I'm very happy about that.

Then, feeling really inspired, I cast a critical eye over "Hints and Tips".

And I found, to my horror, that a number of the web-links in that book were broken, and these links are a very important factor in the content. A number of web pages had simply been removed. I was more than a little annoyed that I hadn't seen that coming. OK, it wasn't too big a problem to put right. I simply found new pages that served the purpose, and replaced the duff links with new ones. (Those of you who've bought the book will know what I'm talking about. Those who haven't should buy the book! 😀 )

But what could I do to stop this happening again? Nothing!

And what could I do to prevent having to keep re-publishing, every time I found a broken URL? And also...

I'd added a couple of new hints/tips to this 2nd edition. What with those and the correction of the several broken links, Kindle would surely see fit to advise previous customers and let them download the new version. But what would I do when I came up with a new hint or tip (what's the difference between them?)?


I created another new "blog". This one will be used to post all future corrections of broken links, and all new content. There's a link to this "Addendum Blog" in the new edition of the book, and readers are encouraged to check it every now and then to see what's new.  And also I'll announce updates in this blog, as well as on Twitter and FB.

So, dear readers, it gives me great pleasure to introduce/reintroduce you to these three books. They're all for sale on Amazon, and can be read on PCs, tablets and phones as well as Kindle e-readers.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I've enjoyed producing them!