Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas Album

Some pictures of the river and environs, oh, and some more purely gratuitous 'cute cat' shots.......

I took a trip into Cambridge to pump out before Christmas. James and Amy Duck tagged along to help with the lock and keep me company. It also meant that these two committed boaters could start their journey to a family Christmas in Devon via The River Cam with a trip upstream toward the bus station on a wide beam.

Apt, I thought...

Amy had a go at Pippin's helm:

She started to enjoy it after a bit.......

We all also took turns at photographing the snow-covered scenery on this loveliest of mornings:

We passed our riverside local.....

and poor old "Jester", now firmly ensconced at The Cam Conservators 'naughty mooring' at Clayhithe.

As you can see, it was freezing cold, but Pippin's fire roared in the wood-burner, and James soon had the tea and toast conveyor-belt running smoothly, so we didn't suffer unduly. (Although as it was James Duck toast, at least one slice had to be thrown overboard, presumably as some sort of burnt offering to appease the River Gods....)

We soon arrived at Baits Bight Lock. I was a little concerned that the control panels or hydraulics would be iced up, but all worked smoothly.

Having dropped the Ducks in Cambridge, I pumped out and set off for home. On the way, I saw these cormorants or shags congregating in this tree: It really reminded me of the crows in that scene in "Dumbo" when the flying pachyderm awakes, up a similar tree, having got rather sloshed on champagne the night before...........

And then, to end a perfect day perfectly, we rescued a boat!

Now, followers of this blog may be aware that Pippin only becomes 'The Mighty Pippin' when involved in good turn-type stuff, like defending friends, not mowing down novice rowing crews, generally helping out where possible, and towing to safety anyone who's stuck up the creek without a paddle, or, as in this case, gearbox......

Incidentally, while it has been pointed out that though all I share with Mr Incredible is the tummy he has before he gets back into shape, I do enjoy a spot of "Pippin To The Rescue!!!" type stuff.

Hey, it's a wide-beam thing........Just no capes, darlink, Okay?....

Anyway, a venerable cruiser had been stuck at the 48's at Clayhithe for quite a long time. As this is a favourite venue for those who deliberately overstay, it was small surprise to me when the owner told me The Cam Conservancy wanted him gone asap.
He had hailed me as I went past in the morning and asked for a tow to Bottisham Lock as his gearbox was busted. I'd agreed to tow him up to the lock on my way back. "Simple enough", I thought, "in line-astern straight up to the lock and moor up, then untie the tow and haul him in by hand. Easy-peasy!

Except he hadn't got a rudder either.......

Well, here's how we did it:

Pippin goes astern of the tow, tow is cast off from the bank, tow's stern line is passed aboard Pippin, I haul tow stern-first alongside, tow's owner jumps from his to my bow and makes fast, I make sternline fast to Pippin's rail.

It would have been a lot easier if the tow's owner had had some idea of boat nomenclature, though he was getting the hang of it by the end.

But I musn't be snooty. Everyone's got to start somewhere, even if this means at the front , rather than the bows............

Here's a couple of pictures:

As you can see, the tow's gunwhale was right in line to bash against Pippin's windows, but nothing daunted, we set off for the lock with the tow's skipper keeping the two boats a safe distance apart by the simple expedient of wedging himself in the gap between the two superstructures.

Now, before you all start writing comments about the extreme foolhardiness of such an action, let me just say that at no point was he going to fall between the two boats or get caught, crushed or otherwise damaged.


Anyway, we got to the lock sans mishap, and Pippin executed a perfect Picard Manouvre to deposit the tow safely in the lock. I am pleased to say this was all done under the watchful eye of a neighbour who, some time ago, while watching me reverse Pippin out of our mooring, had the temerity to suggest that I might consider a handling course.......


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

James, your toast was more scoffed than scoffed at!

Either way, the one slice that was deemed inedible certainly did the trick with the Nymphs of Baits Bight Lock, which was with us in both directions.

Perhaps you stumbled on something last summer, aboard James and Emma's 'Kestrel', with The Emergency Toast-Jettisoning Incident.....!

I can see the sacrifice of The Ceremonial Flaming Slice becoming a Cam tradition.

Now, what to offer the dryads that inhabit The Trees That Remove Chimneys?......

By the way, I'm still having to add this comment as a P.S. as blogger still won't let me comment on my own blog!

It's frustrating. Any bright sparks out there got any ideas how to fix it?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

It's been a long day........

I got back from a very hard day's hole making, (so busy on this late shift that I didn't get my 20 minute supper break...), to a very empty (Jackie in London doing T.V. world stuff) and incredibly cold Pippin. Soon got the fire lit, a beer opened and a sandwich made.....

Small problem.

Ou et le chat? Ne pas dans le bateau... Tiens! (Which had better be French for "sod it".)

Je donnez les Wellies Anglais, avec le seriously warm manteau de l'armee Suedoise, grabbed un assiette et un cuiller, et marchez dans le floodbank et crier "Tom! Tom!", et bangez dans le assiette avec le cuiller......

( Se Rappeller-vous, il est bloody cold avec une white frost, je suis knackered, et mourir de faim...)

Mais maintenant, dans le bushes, 'tinkle tinkle tinkle' from le petite cloche dans le neck de le chien disparu, et il est arrive.

[Edit following Amy's comment: Error line 17: For "chien" read "chat".......!]

Et maintenant, dans le bateau:


Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Stealth Boat Maintenance.....

Twenty-six tons of bright blue wide-beam could never even remotely be considered stealthy, so it's the maintenance, not the boat, which has a stealthy element to it.....

I had a day off from my new and fab hole-making job today. Jackie had to be in London at silly o'clock to do some T.V. editing, so I dropped her off at the local station.

So, how to spend the day? Well, I read a bit, went grocery shopping, then took in Emmaus.

I bought some cork place-mats and an old Port and Stilton wooden box for £3.00.(We'll use this to house our supply of matches and fire-lighters safely....)

The place-mats, however, reminded me that sometime back in the early Thirteenth Century, I had bought a pack of cork floor tiles from Emmaus for the purpose of insulating the inside of our main hatch. (In winter, the lack of any insulation means a half-glass of really cold condensation drips down the neck of the first person to open the hatch in the morning.)

Time to resolve this problem.

An hour or so of cutting and tessallating the tiles to fit the inside of the hatch was followed by a manic glueing session.

It has all worked rather well.

Thing is, how long will it take Jackie to notice.......?

Sunday, 29 November 2009

In Memoriam: Angela Nadine Witts: A life that taught.

My Auntie Angela died last week and the funeral was on Friday.

Angela was mentally handicapped. I should say "learning disabled", or "special needs", or something a bit more modern and P.C. However, I was born in the sixties, brought up in the seventies and that is what we called her then. To change now to a more fashionable description of her condition seems to me to somehow diminish her.

She was born with an abnormally high roof to her mouth that restricted the development of her brain. It was estimated that she had the mental age of an eight year old.

Auntie was difficult.

She was prone to sudden and profound rages, born, I think, not of malice or even of attention seeking (well, not all the time....) but more of an irremediable frustration at the world, its inexplicable complexity, and her own inability to decipher its codes, adhere to its requirements, or bend herself to its shape.

She challenged us. She tried our patience, perplexed us, and was a lifelong source of worry to my grandmother, and, latterly, very much so, to my father and mother.

The way they rose to meet those challenging behaviours says much of them, and all of it good.

For the last 22 years, after Nana Witts' death, the burden of care fell increasingly heavily on Mum and Dad.

Although Angela had been found a place in a block of wardened flats in 1979, (where she lived almost until her death), they not only visited regularly (an often thankless exercise) but also saw to her finances with a care and unimpeachable probity that our politicians should aspire to but won't, should achieve, but can never.

Their only thanks was an increase of the burden: as the withering of age compounded Angela's condition, they stepped up their efforts to the point where my now octagenarian father could go no more. It cost him more in pride, love, and care than lesser men would have been bothered with in the first place, to admit that Angela was beyond his ability to support, and that it was time for Social Services to take over.

They did their best in a difficult situation. Indeed, when four of Angela's support workers turned up at the funeral, I was impressed: not only by their attendance, but also by their calibre. Social workers get such a bad press. A bouquet for these from me though.

Angela died of age and weariness in hospital last Thursday.

In her life, she taught.

She challenged.

She tried us.

I learned of her, but imperfectly, tolerance, acceptance of difference, and most importantly, and least perfectly of all, patience.

Her leaving was quiet and fuss free, marked with such terms as "end of life care".

All that could have been done for her was, however, done.

I hope that now she is in a place where she is allowed a full flowering of a spirit denied in life: does a caterpillar know it will become a chrysalis? Does the chrysalis know of the butterfly it shall become?

Rest now, Auntie. No need to be cross any more. Stretch your new-found wings and fly.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Proper Boating, and proper boaters.

Today's trip to Cambridge could not have been less similar to last week's catalogue of disasters, misunderstandings and PR issues.

We set off this morning at about 8.45 a.m. Jackie took the car to Rosemary Road to buy gas. I took Pippin upstream to Bait's Bight where I met Jackie and loaded the cylinders. We had a nice chat with Jimmy, the lock-keeper, who was happy to let us leave the car there while we chugged to Cambridge.

The sun shone brightly, so the world was treated to the vision of me at the helm in full foul weather gear and my ludicrous (but very expensive in their day) 1992 sunglasses. Sort of 'fading movie star meets Sir Ranulph Fiennes'. With a paunch.....

It had the makings of a good trip: fine weather, not too windy, and the rowers would all be safely tucked up having exhausted themselves the previous day in a lengthy series of racing divisions.

(This, incidentally, delayed The Lucky Duck's return to base until after dark. So when the Ducks boarded Pippin last night armed with fresh chicken, peri-peri sauce and a desire to cook supper for us, it seemed churlish in the extreme for them to be repelled. James and I cooked while the girls talked about important stuff. (It is the way of the world.) We had a lovely time so thank you James and Amy!

All this, by the way, was on top of a visit by bro'-in-law David who joined us on Friday night for a relaxing time away from being a high-powered journalist and magazine editor. So Saturday would have been hard to better!)

Now where was I? Oh yes, rowers, tucked up safe and warm on Sunday after their exertions on Saturday.

Some hope.

We saw lots of crack no.1 type crews hacking up and down once we'd past Bait's Bight:(you can't miss them, they splash so much less....) and we gave The Tree of Death a wide berth, despite having un-shipped the chimney before setting off as an added precaution.

No, it wasn't until the railway bridge that things got a little hectic. I lost count of the number of novice eights out, all in fancy dress! Yes, we saw pirates, smurfs, Dalmatians, reindeer, but not, as far as I could see, any crew dressed as Muppets....... Hmmmmmm.

But Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzy Bear et al were certainly present in one boat.....

When they altered course, with the speed of vegetable growth, across our bows and towards the bank, I thought "No, surely not, they're just lining up to come in round our stern so they can form up with the other crews"


Thirty feet from Pippin's stem and they've crossed our tee and aren't moving. Jackie was in the bow and later told me the novice cox was rigid in her seat, transfixed, as 26 tons of widebeam bore down on them. Her crew were similarly 'rabbit-in-the headlights'.

By this time The Mighty Pippin's Beta 50 was bellowing at 2000rpm in reverse. We stopped in time. Just.

I do wish the young people of today would have a little more consideration for the tired old hearts of more senior folk. And the fact that it's not fair to frighten me like that when I've got clean underwear on........

Anyway, no harm done, apologies offered and accepted with no more admonition than a weary shrug, we carried on to the pump-out.

The man who owns the pump-out and water-point was thankfully absent when we arrived, so we experienced none of last week's unpleasantness. Indeed, we chatted with tourists who were curious about the boat, it's generator and that sort of thing.

I decided we needed a treat, so we chugged back down stream to moor up at The Fort St. George for lunch. Here we were helped immensely by Elisabeth from nb Sirius who rendered us a huge favour by taking in our bow line and helping us make fast in a vicious crosswind and a torrential rain shower. She joined us later for a drink in the pub where we lunched, wetly.

Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and the high wind plus sudden downpour seemed to have dampened the ardour of even the hardiest novice crew. The racing had been called off, and we chugged out of Cambridge in very light traffic and in that sublime post-storm light.

Back home now, the wind is blowing so hard that our traffic light says amber, despite having had the Ship's Computer and some lights on all evening.

Good old Windy, our Marlec Rutland 913, is moaning his head off as the free amps pour into the batteries.

Night night, all!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

It's done!

And the bilge is a lot drier too!!

Friends rally round.

Yesterday's tribulations were awful. It left me seriously considering getting off the river and back into nice solid bricks.

Good things then began to happen:

John III and Susan from nb Monteyzoomer arrived back at the mooring. John is an engineer and has been away working in The Congo. He regaled me with some great stories of this last trip over some soothing beer aboard Montey.

Then Jackie popped her head through the hatch to ask me the base diameter of our chimney. I'd just measured it so was able to say "6 inch, why?". Well, some other neighbours had gone over to Whilton Marina to look at bigger boats and were in the well stocked chandlery there. Did we want anything?!!! So they got us a chimney, coolie hat, a new rope (to replace the one snapped while dealing with a Muppet boat at the Cambridge pump-out which I forgot to mention in yesterday's rant) and two cans of Morris's waterproof stern gland grease. FANTASTIC!! This means we don't have to go to the local chandlery who have not, by all accounts, improved one jot since last I mentioned them.......

Our friends dropped all the new stuff off last night, so we paid them, then cooked a big pasta as a thank you. Very convivial!

James Duck also dropped by to swap some fudge for some kindling and left with it and some Codis for Amy Duck who isn't feeling very well.

As I write this, the wind has dropped, the sun is out and I am slowly sloughing off the utter negativity of yesterday.

Better get the chimney up and the bilge pumped out then.........

Saturday, 14 November 2009

A very very very bad day..................

Today we lost our nearly new chimney and coolie hat over the side.

Not a direct result of the high winds we have been experiencing, but to do with a collision with an over-hanging willow tree near The Plough (incidentally, a rubbish rude establishment, so file it under "avoid") public house on the way to Cambridge.

So why did we hit the willow and lose our chimney? Well, I could have manouvered out into the mid-stream and missed it completely. This, however, would have placed the crews of two overtaking rowing eights in such jeopardy that no insurance company would look at them.

Hobson's Choice: lose your chimney or risk drowning, maiming or otherwise injuring the crews of two eights?

The Mighty Pippin held her course, to the rending of metal and scratching of paint and the slow-motion inevitability of £80 worth of chimney going splosh into the 'oggin.

[Choice words of an unbloggable sort deleted here]

The misery of this trip did not end there.

On arriving at the pump-out, we duly hooked up and were nearly done when Jackie noticed the washing machine had run out of water. One of Cambridge's Camboater boats had plugged itself into the fresh water point by means of a 1/4 of a mile long hose. I don't know how much they pay for the right to do this but it is clearly a lot.

I unplugged their hose to take on ten minutes worth of water,at the suggestion of another Camboater boat, "Pyxis". A minute or two later, a young man arrived and delivered a lecture to me on my lack of consideration, decency and respect.

He lives yet, but only by the grace of a God he doubtless refuses to acknowledge.

Pippin left the pump out mooring with Pyxis' skipper and our new-found moral guardian discussing the finer points of water-point etiquette.

I hate Cambridge.

I hate Camboaters.

They all rhyme with 'bankers', and from now on we will dump our sewage straight in the river just like all the dutch barges that moor up in town and NEVER EVER EVER go to the pump out!!!!


Saturday, 7 November 2009

Sinks, boxes and a short discourse on architecture

Well, the standing box by the tiller has well and truly had it: it has got very curly on the top where the veneer has lifted. I plan to fix it today with some marine ply and some spare moulding.

I bought another box from Emmaus the other day. I popped up there while Jackie was out with friends walking their dog in Thetford Forest......

Here it is:

In scale, it's a lot smaller than would have been ideal for standing on, but I liked its grain, the smooth 1930's line and its little bakelite handle. It was scruffy where the varnish had been rubbed, but responded really well to the old 240 grit sandpaper/wire wool treatment. It was then wiped over with meths, massaged with linseed oil, then brought up to a nice sheen with Briwax.

I then gave it to Jackie as a present. It went down nearly as well as last week's surprise flowers.......

A worthwhile afternoon's tinkering then!

The Belfast sink is going to be sold, though. Our friendly carpenter, Ian, dropped by to have a look at the job, and while it's all do-able, with new taps and his labour, we'd probably be looking at £200-£300. This, then is no longer the bargain I thought it was. I will ring Mike P-J and see if his chums are still interested. If not, ebay it is, then....

I had thought when starting to write this, that I might sound off about the windows that besmirch many of Cambridge's lovely buildings, then I remembered Amy Duck actually is an architecture graduate, and may have many post-modernist ideas and opinions that would make my amateur ramblings seem reactionary and even twee.

But what the hell? Here goes!!!!

Why oh why oh why do shops in Cambridge have to disport their wares through acres and acres of bland, flat, dull, boring plate glass?

I mean, here we are, blessed with some of the loveliest streets which have grown up, unplanned, in that empirical muddle that so delights the eye, and which no architect, town planner, (not even with a Royal Warrant - sorry Prince Charles!-) can hope to replicate without pastiche, and what do we do? Rip out the original shop fronts and install plain plate glass, which is then brutally lit to produce cold, antiseptic sterility in what was a characterful and charming ground level view.

Of course, this is no new thing. It has been going on for years. So long, in fact, that we have forgotten what a shopping street should look like. Is this because they now all look the same?

Boring, Boring, Boring!!!!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Boxing none too clever......


The box I rescued from the tip and restored with loads of Mahogany Satin Varnish has started to delaminate rather badly.

I had thought it was solid teak: turns out the top and bottom definitely aren't. About 4mm of veneer is all you get and it is peeling off the substrate quite badly, having been left to fend for itself on the cruiser deck in the wind and rain for a month or so.

So what to do? Well, the less than exhorbitant purchase price (£3.00) means it could go back to the dump without any great gnashing of teeth. Or I could renovate it again by replacing the knackered lid and base with marine-ply.

As it's a handy standing step for seeing forrard in busy conditions on the Cam, this may well be the preferred course of action.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

That Sinking Feeling.....

Panic not, and neither man the life-boats.

All is well aboard Pippin: all the water is where it should be (i.e. in our tank or on the outside of the hull).

Check this out though:

Bought from the tip at Milton for a princely £15.00.

It was a "sudden rush of blood to the head" purchase, as I was really after the set of dolly wheels it is on (for moving the spare Alvis engine around on).....

I drove from the tip to Emmaus to have a nose round. (Jackie was in London so I was in the highly dangerous position of being alone near junk having just been paid).

While there, I almost decided to forget the £15 and donate the sink!

Good job I had the courage of my convictions, though. Jackie's ringing the guy who fitted our kitchen worktops tomorrow to see how much it will cost to install the thing.

If it's exhorbitant (we do have a perfectly good stainless steel sink already), then all is not lost. I chugged into Cambridge yesterday to pump-out and met up with Mike fom Innocenti. He may know someone who wants a Belfast sink!

We shall see.......

The trip back was fun. Lots of novice rowing coxswains and crews about. The Mighty Pippin took her shoes and socks off and tip-toed past them with out incident. Indeed, a couple of very nice ladies from Magdalene were very pleased with my lack of concern as a very new eight they were coaching from the bank span rather inexpertly very close to Pippin.

Everyone has a right to use and enjoy the river. Everyone has to start somewhere. It's only paint, after all......

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Portcullis, stealth wheel-barrows, and a lame Duck

We've installed a cat-flap for Tom Kitten!

Jackie bought the item from Notcutts Garden Centre in Horningsea. A swift burst of newly-rejuvenated generator coupled to the trusty Angle Grinder widened the hole previously occupied by a grille vent. I then borrowed James Duck's drill (mine has developed a wobbly chuck...),Tom got the hang of it and is now making his own way in and out of Pippin.


I have also given the wheelbarrow which lives in the woodpile a coat of Dulux Anonymous Beige.

This is an undercoat for the various greens, browns, sludge colours etc, that I have bought cheap from the Dulux shop in Milton ( a great place for cheap paint that has been mixed in error...). It's looking good......

The Ducks, however, have been having a bit of a time of it.

They have to be on the way to March for the much blogged about Thorough Sorting at Fox Narrowboats. Sadly, the Duck motor was refusing to start.

A long story cut short: we recommended they join RCR as they have been brilliant with us. RCR don't send out one of their own blokes (who are brilliant), but a 'local contractor'.

This muppet has mucked them about so severely that I am embarrassed to have recommended RCR in the first place.

A sorry state of affairs.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Ely in Autumn

Certainly less crowded than Ely in the summer.....

Most of The Plastics are craned out and littering the banks in spots such as Cathedral Marina (home of expensive diesel and people with no regard for local planning regulations...) like so much cholesterol clogging the sides of vital arteries, or like the bottles, yoghurt pots and other detritus that gets washed up on a lee shore after a good gale.......

But one wasn't.......

How's this for a perfect example of why the pillocks who own these wholly unnecessary menaces to navigation should be discouraged:

The Pippins had headed to Ely for the pump-out to avoid clashing with The Rob Roy Boat Club's rowing regatta which was taking place upstream towards Cambridge.

A jolly time was had: we stayed overnight, there being, at last, plenty of room to moor, and we finally got to enjoy a tea at the sublime "Peacock's Tearoom". (Tearoom connoisseurs please note, if you are within a 50 mile radius of this place- 65 Waterside, Ely, CB7 4AU, then it is a MUST VISIT!!!!)

We set off for home on Sunday at about noon, chugging from our mooring at the 48s just upstream from the pump-out, with our revs at tickover: cool, serene, autumn Sunday boating.

Then it happened: A Plastic rounded the sharp bend just before the mooring at "The Cutter Inn", saw us, then executed what can only be described as a hand brake turn, some 20 feet from our stem, to come to rest in the centre of an 80 foot mooring.


The only answer is that the selfish, miserable, low-down, no-good, son of a failed pig-fondlers apprentice was seeking to deny us access to a public mooring.

Okay, so we weren't planning on stopping at the pub (which does do a jolly good lunch, by the way), but we might have been!!!!!!!!!!

Also, the fact that he manouvered across our bows, inside of 30 feet of the stem of a moving 26 ton steel boat, suggests, to me at least, that the perpetrator had probably sounded the noon-day gun at 11.00 or earlier, and was probably half pickled with gin.

God help me, I could have shot him.

The range was close enough!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Apropos of nothing.........

Cycling around Cambridge today, I saw a T-shirt emblazoned with this logo:

"More people have read this shirt than are reading your blog"

Food for thought, eh?

'narrowboat', 'canals', 'british waterways'

Monday, 12 October 2009

Hole Making

Today was my first full day of closely supervised hole-making under the watchful eye of a Grand Master of the Guild.

I did ten holes, eight of which were successful. The other two were very nice holes, but sadly the material which exits them didn't do so quickly enough.

So they don't count.

Eight good 'uns though!

Tomorrow, I am assigned to a Guild Master to continue my apprenticeship......

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The "Tom Kitten Fanclub" Special Edition

At this rate a certain feline is going to have to start his own blogspot.....

Due to massive popular demand, I devote this post entirely to gratuitous cute cat pictures.

So if you don't like cats, look away now.

This is his favourite curling up spot: the polystyrene is probably nice and warm, especially when in the sun.

To the right, a scratching post type thingy, (bought at some expense), ignored in favour of the much more interesting and fun cardboard box that the new chimney came in......

Repeat after me, Tom, "That is not a recognised food source"......

A snooze is essential after a hyperactive toe assasination attempt......

Outside for the first time, eye-ball to eyeball with the swans, and looking out over the steering step.

Safely back inside having had a good explore of the area and passing his Level One Tree Climbing (Practical).

A Toast to Autumn.....

No, not the clinking of glasses, (for once...)

I mean the bread sort.

Forgive me if you are a seasoned boater and think I'm daft for blogging about what to you may be a re-invention of the wheel, but the Pippin method of toast-making has caused much amusement amongst guests.

Thing is, it's seasonal. Yes, the nights are drawing in and the autumn morning chill makes a fire in the stove a weekend essential:

When we first moved aboard two years ago, we tried making toast on the top of the stove. The problem was that the toast stuck on to the stove-top resulting in a rather unappetising crumbs and carbon mess.

Our friend Nicola, (who's house in Ware we have stayed in, painted and kitten-minded while the family was on holiday) came up with the answer:

Her kitchen is equipped with an Aga, and to make toast, she uses a sheet of special Aga paper on the hot-plate. This doesn't burn, but produces a layer on which the toast cooks without sticking. Brilliant!

However, the proper Aga item is produced in circles to fit the oven's hot-plates, and being Aga, is a tad expensive.

We found an alternative at John Lewis in Cambridge. "Bake-O-Glide" is a reuseable, non-stick cooking liner. It comes in a roll so can be cut to shape to fit your stove top (I made a paper template first out of newspaper). You can leave the paper on the stove top once it's cut to shape. It washes easily in the sink and lasts about six months before getting frayed.

I have to say that I think stove-top toast is infinitely preferable to the gas-grilled variety: it saves gas, is easier to keep an eye on, is more evenly done and best of all, spreads the appetising toasty waft through the boat very efficiently.

Et voila!

This blog was bought to you by The Toast Marketing Board:

"Eat more toast! It's tasty and nutritious"

(See the wonderful world of author Jasper Fforde's series of books featuring the literary detective Thursday Next. Start off with 'The Eyre affair'.......)

It Lives!!! It Lives!!!

Actually, the fixing of our monster generator was a bit less dramatic than that of the monster from Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein".....

Indeed, selling the brass propeller on ebay had a lot to do with it......

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Jackie had contacted a generator sales, hire and repair firm in Ware, who not only knew what a Pramac P6000s was (which gave them a real edge over the previous bunch of muppets), but were prepared to send a van to collect it and take it to their laboratory, (oops, sorry Igor), workshop.

This left us with the problem of how to lift the generator off the fore-deck. Enter our landlord with the offer of his vintage tractor (I love living here!!) which is equipped with hydraulic bale-lifting forks. Perfect!

However, before the Massey Ferguson could be brought to bear, our lovely neighbour, Paul, took the trouble to look up our generator on-line. He read various manuals, articles etc, and concluded that one or both of the capacitors had gone. (Paul is an electrical engineer who has a doctorate in broken washing machines, tumble driers and other things that can emit lethal sparks when prodded inexpertly, which is all I would have been able to manage....)

The firm in Ware had mentioned that the capacitors were a likely source of the trouble, so we were confident enough to order a couple on-line from Radio Spares for a very reasonable £15 each. They delivered next day....

Then we had a moment of joyous synchronicity.

The man who had bought my 20" brass propeller and 88" stainless steel prop shaft on ebay sent his friend to pick it all up. I was at work when he arrived, so it was left to eagle-eyed Jackie to spot the "I repair generators" logo on his overalls. He very generously agreed to have a quick look at ours and confirmed Paul's diagnosis.

Paul then very kindly fitted the capacitors for us yesterday, and low and behold, the amps flowed forth!

A massive thank you and the promise of a Pippin roast lunch is still not enough. A big round of applause for Paul here, please.

It also goes to show how everyone rallies round when there is some bother. Thanks to all who offered help, advice, tractors, tools and sympathy.

It Lives!! It Lives!!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Hole-makers Guild........

Well, I passed the Theory Paper.....

I'm a long, long way from being a full Guild Member though.

I've got to do a fairly long apprenticeship under a Master Hole-Maker, then a further stint being indirectly supervised by the same and then pass an assessment as Fit to Practice before they will let me loose on the delicate, valuable and volatile material we make small, acccurate holes in......

I'll keep you posted.....

Saturday, 3 October 2009

A sad sight........

Above is a picture of the wooden sailing ship "Jester". She's currently lying at Clayhithe on the Cam having been seized by The Cam Conservators, I assume for being unlicensed. (Don't qoute me on this though....).

She's a lovely looking boat, well to me anyway......

There's something poetic and very sad about a venerable old lady like this mouldering away.

I'd love to take her on, but wooden boats can be a hole in the water that you pour money into.

Unless there's someone very brave and very rich out there, it looks like she'll be broken up if not claimed and redeemed by her owners. Indeed, it seems the process is already beginning: every time we chug past, it seems another large and presumably valuable brass port hole has been removed.....

Looks like the last laugh, and not the loudest, for poor "Jester".

Friday, 2 October 2009

The Faraday Cage Problem....

Sounds like a Sherlock Holmes story doesn't it?

Actually, the difficulties of trying to use the internet with a mobile phone system will be familiar to boaters. For the landlocked, then, an explanation:

Boats like ours are made of steel.

Incidentally, Watson, a boat not made of steel is not technically a boat at all, unless it is made of wood, which is God's other boatbuilding material of preference. (See "Ark, Noah, flood defence, for the use of"), or concrete. (See Smiling Footprints blog: Andy and Rhian's trans-oceanic yacht "Zephyrus" is made of this). Anything else which floats is actually just a lot of over-elaborate plastic wrapping around a drinks cabinet.....


But I digress.

Steel, while a glorious material for the building of boats, is very good at blocking mobile phone signals. This is a bit of a bummer when you rely on one for your internet access.

Thus we present, for your delectation and delight, "The 'Pippin' Solution":-

Our wind turbine mast.

Close up of same: note carefully modified Vitamin C tablet container taped to the mast. It provides a water-proof container for the dongle attachment. This connects to The Ship's Computer via the grey wire.

This shows the grey dongle extension wire entering the boat through the mushroom vent at the base of the mast, (as do the feed wires from the wind turbine).

Not very tidy....

Jackie drops the ceiling panel and conceals the wire..

Extension wire attached to window frame with cable clips after drilling a small hole in the wooden cable-conduit cover.

So we now have a dongle outside of the Faraday cage which is Pippin. Our internet reception is much better as a result!

Give it a try if your boat-borne internet is not as reliable and easy as it should be.....!