Friday, 31 December 2010

Continued Growlings........


Cam effing Conservancy.....worthless bunch of snot-gobbling pl**kers......


Okay, that's 'The Daily Rant' out of the way.


Some clarification might be needed for those reading this blog who aren't familiar with the geography of The Cam or indeed East Anglia.

(According to stats, I do have readers in such far-flung spots as Russia and Slovenia don'tcha know.....okay go ahead and spoil it: they're just the origin sites of spammers, spam-bots, phishing scammers and other internet ne'er do wells: but a man can dream.....)

The Parish where we and our fellows moor up is above the lock that marks the boundary between E.A. and Cam-Con waters. We are about 200 metres inside the Cam-Con controlled zone.

None of us, out of choice, would willingly take our boats into Cambridge.

These are the reasons:

The journey is fraught with tension. Idiot rowing crews vie to exceed each other in manouvres of such suicidal stupidity that one can only conclude that they are either tired of life or have a large amount of Lemming in their genetic make-up.

Joking aside, we have had some truly awful experiences/ close shaves/ near misses/ lost chimneys etc. (see blogs and rants past)

So now we don't go into Cambridge unless it's absolutely unavoidable.

We normally head through the lock, into E.A. controlled water, and off to Ely.

It's further, takes a lot longer and is expensive in terms of both time and diesel, BUT, (I can't make the BUT any bigger with this font....), it is actually pleasant, which is what boating is supposed to be about.

Further, having hacked your way through the congested waters of the upper Cam, (above Baits Bite lock), what awaits you?

Visitor moorings horrendously abused by 'continuous moorers', so no room at the inn if you want to stay overnight, (not that the Cam-con seem to give a second-hand tinker's bugger) and a pump-out facility that costs £3.00 a go, so £6.00 for the most basic pump and rinse.

If it's working.

Which it often isn't, due to the fact that neither Cambridge Council or Cam-Con have had the wit to protect it from vandalism by installing Abloy locks on the doors.

So, to sum up, if you are in East Anglian waters, file Cambridge under "AVOID".

Which is what we have been doing, except in the case of direst non-term-time emergency.

But Cam-con's new proposals, (to charge us the E.A. fee again just for being unlucky enough to moor up 200 metres inside their zone of control), mean that if I wish to avoid the university's and the city boat clubs' membership, Cambridge's rubbishly maintained, weak and unreliable pump-out, and no available mooring space for GENUINE visiting boats because all the space is taken up by feckless scroungers deliberately over-staying, then I must, perforce, pay AGAIN for an E.A. licence that will permit me to navigate the lower Cam and Great Ouse and get me once again to the Blessed Isle that is Ely.

In short, The Conservators of the River Cam can get stuffed.

In the immortal words of Dario Fo "Can't pay, Won't Pay!!"

Having re-read this, I rather hope Maffi will come to visit us........

Having just re-read this again, I should like to wish all Pippin blog readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011.

Unless you are a member of The Cam Conservancy of course, in which case may 2011 prove, in every possible respect, to be the most interesting of times for you.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Conservators of the River Cam

.....are broke, it seems.

What better way to remedy their parlous financial state than to levy a surcharge (amounting to several hundred pounds a year) on powered craft already paying the official E.A. licence fee, for the dubious privilege of mooring up in Conservancy controlled water?

For this is what is proposed in a "consultation" (HAH!!) document we have recently been given.


Our chums James and Amy, of nb Lucky Duck, have already been appraised of this, and I don't doubt are already rallying the Camboaters to fight this iniquitous and wholly unjust tax on only one of the many groups who use the river.

I have only this to say: if savings must be made and more money found to ensure the future of the River Cam as a community resource, then surely it is high time the quaint relic that is the Cam Conservancy was abolished in it's entirety and responsibility for the river passed on to the Enviroment Agency.

This will, of course, require an Act of Parliament, but I am certain that a coalition government desperate to make savings in these straitened times will have no problem with the removal of the inefficient, wasteful and wholly unnecessary tier of bureaucracy that is The Cam Conservancy.

Further, savings can be made through the redundancy of staff and cash raised through the liquidation of Conservancy assets, such as the pathetically under-used weed-cutting and dredging equipment which is moored at Clayhithe for 51 weeks of the year.

A further, larger, cash injection into the river's continuing welfare would be the eviction of the now redundant conservancy workers from their current 'Grace and Favour' apartments in the prime piece of real estate which is the Conservancy house at Clayhithe and its immediate sale on the open market.

It alone must be worth in the region of £750,000 at least.....

I think The Camboaters first action should be to meet with the local Cambridge M.P.s and have a Private Members Bill calling for the immediate abolition of the Conservancy drafted at once.

With the E.A. in control, then things might actually get done around these waters!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010


Having just returned from a wonderful Christmas in the ample bosom of The Witts/ Baker/Bee families at my mum and dad's and my sister and bro'-in-law's place, I have little to say other than it was all magnificent, I shan't need to eat for at least a fortnight, and booze ban Jan. starts on the 5th.......

On a much less happy note, Andreas tells us that some low-down-no-good-son-of-a-second-hand-dog's-cock-sucker has cut the business-end off the pump-out hose at Ely.

Yes, the pump hose nozzle, handle and window have been stolen!!

Apparently, all Ely based boats are now chugging towards Cambridge to empty their poo tanks.


Good Grief.

The world's most rubbish, least well maintained, and certainly, most-jealously-guarded-by-the-locals pump-out.....

I am torn between two lyrics:

"I Predict a Riot" by The Kaiser Chiefs.

"I See a Bad Moon Rising" by Creedance Clearwater Revival.

It ain't goin' to end well........

Friday, 17 December 2010

A Christmas Tale....

....from The Hole Making Shop.

Yesterday at The Hole Making Shop, I had a wonderful moment.

An apprentice who had just completed her FY2 level came in to The Hole Making Shop.

She wanted to have her material punctured and the juice within extracted.

While the process was in train, she told me she had just been for a job interview at the Big Repair Works opposite The Hole Making Shop.

Her speciality was the engineering of heads.

Towards the end of the hole making process, her phone bleeped. (It was a Blackberry.) She had just got an email from the Big Repair Works saying she'd got the job!!!

Hurrah hurrah hurrah!

Well done Lesley!

It was such a pleasure, a priviledge and a blessing to be with someone at the start of a career!!

She will no doubt do well and become a serious player in the re-engineering of heads.

Good luck, go well, and Merry Christmas from The Pippins!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Or what passes for it aboard The Mighty Pippin.

Our list has disappeared and we and all our neighbours are afloat again and back on an even keel.

Thank goodness for that!

Thomas Cat has been very cuddly and kept Jackie company through a couple of days in bed with a streaming cold.

He is a good son, and we love him lots.

If any non-pet owner/animal lovers read this blog, then see the pictures of himself, and be converted!

This is why we were so upset when the Ginger Menace went AWOL......

I have no further news on the fate of the poor 'Jester', but do wonder how much toxic effluvium made its way into the waters of The Cam in the process of bailing out her diesel soaked and filthy bilge.

That Funny Silly Little Man from the Cam Consevancy who is entirely responsible for 'Jester''s sorry plight would seem to be operating under the time-honoured maxim of 'don't do as I do, do as I say....'

If we see a big diesel bloom in the water thanks to his negligence, then you can bet your life the E.A. will be informed pronto, (before that is, the FSLM attempts to blame it on the Cambridge Motor Boat Club, the Yacht club or The Parish......)

We will be watching this space and the surrounding waters closely.

For some time to come........

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A heavy list

Christmas presents?



Definitely not.

To Port?

Oh yes......

This morning the Pippins awoke to a "roll out of bed" style list to port.

The E.A. have been at it again.

In order to protect Cambridge from flooding ( a worthy objective with which I have no quarrel), they have opened the sluices at the lock near The Parish and lowered the river level by about a foot.

Severe weather is forecast.

As a result, this morning , all The Parish boats were ahoo, wind turbine masts at drunken angles, hulls fast aground, and mooring lines twangingly taught.

It is the latter that bothers me more than anything. It strains the lines to a very severe degree. If they were to snap ( Pippin tips the scales at a portly 26 tons laden), then we would all be in a bit of a pickle.

The Parish boats are very good at looking after each other. Jackie went round this morning slackening lines on Caboodle, Hullabaloo and Innocenti (the other boats were well served by their own crews), and we have, in the past, all mucked in to retrieve boats that have pulled pins in high wind etc.

If only the E.A. ran a text service warning of immenant low water in the way they offer Strong Stream advice, we could avoid any problems.

At the moment, the only 'warning' we get is a lot of gurgling as water rushes out from under the hull followed by a disconcertingly drunken angle to the deck.

I kid you not, it is that dramatic: literally like someone pulling the plug!

River life, for you, as opposed to life on the canals, I suppose.....

In other news, I drove over the bridge at Horningsea on the way to work today to see that poor Jester, a venerable and very rotten sea-going wooden fishing boat, had sunk at her moorings at Clayhithe.

This is where The Cam Conservancy moor the boats seized through non-payment of licence or those deemed so unsafe as to warrant a hazard to navigation.

Poor Jester was listing heavily to starboard, probably bilged on the bottom as a result of the E.A.'s mucking about with the water level.

Someone had got on board and hooked up a high capacity pump as water was streaming over her side, but I don't hold out too much hope.

Once a boat falls into the ignorant and uncaring clutches of That Funny Silly Little Man from the Conservancy, then it is most surely doomed.

They should sack him and get in someone who knows something about boats.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

J'ai cherchez le chat.......

Ooh blimey what a scare.

I had thought that I would be blogging about Thomas's demise this evening.

He didn't turn up last night, though we both went out looking for him....

This morning, he was still absent without leave. Jackie went looking for him and returned cat-less and distraught.

I then got up and did a four mile walk around The Parish boundaries calling out for the Ginger Menace all the time.

No sign.


So a very sad Pippin crew went about their business, filling water tanks, fetching wood, coal and diesel and then stopped about 2.30pm. for cheese on toast.

We were trying to decide what to do next, (Tesco? Recycling? Pub....?) when through the cat flap he came, hungry, tired, and very dirty.

Having eaten a lot, drunk some water, he curled up on the bed and went to sleep.

Emotionally exhausted, we did the same.

Tom is home.

All is well.


Saturday, 11 December 2010

An Ely Trip the pump out.

This morning dawned crisp and bright, with a light frost that soon melted.

The ice in the basin we moor in seemed to have loosened its death grip on Pippin's hull, so a quick tap of the tank to show we were overdue for a pump out run had me lowering the wind turbine mast, fetching extra diesel and poling Pippin from the bank.

And all before Jackie had got up!!

Well, not quite. She stirred stumps to top-up the gearbox oil (still leaking....thanks CUBC...) while I got the post in.

(Our copy of "The Week" magazine was sadly absent...This mucks up the weekend good and proper. Never mind. We shall enjoy "Last Week" when it eventually arrives......)

Incidentally, Jackie stayed down in town on Thursday night at mum's as she was at a wrap party for one of her editing jobs. I went down yesterday to see the Eadweard Muybridge exhibition at Tate Britain with her.

It was fab!!

I used to work at "The Museum of the Moving Image" as an actor/guide. Muybridge's work is very close to my heart. To see it, in the original gorgeous silver prints, cyanotypes and the incredible panorama of San Franciso was a joy. To see the ground-breaking work he did on the photography of human and animal locomotion in the original was just amazing.

Jackie then went to get a spa treatment while I repaired to my favourite London watering hole, "The French House" on Dean Street.


No sooner was I through the door than I was assailed by lots of old chums who insisted on buying me halves of Guinness.

By the time Jackie arrived, I was three sheets to the wind and glad to to be gone...

Oh dear....

We then went for supper at Carluccio's in St. Pancras, of which I remember little, apart from the fact that our friend Louise was there.


Memo to self: When in The French, drink less, talk more.


This morning dawned crisp and bright, with a light frost that soon melted......

And I had a bastard of a hangover.

But the lock gate stood with us so we motored off to Ely, the throbbing at the temples assuaged by copious quantities of good coffee and a small amount of buttered toast.

It was a lovely trip.

The weather could not have been better, and we saw no rowers and but one or two other boats the whole trip.

In Ely, we pumped out, despite the official notice saying the pump-out was frozen (it wasn't) and no water was available (true, but we improvised with a watering can through the rinse-out hole....).

We then headed home into the setting sun and arrived back at The Parish at about 4.00pm.

Now, where is Thomas?

J'ai cherchez le chat.......

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Roast beef for les rosbifs, soup a l'oignon, and, best of all,Dripping Toast!!!

Anyone looking for a boat in this blog, look away now: it's all about what's been going on in the galley.....

Oh, and if you are a vegetarian, READ NO FURTHER!!!

You have been warned.

On Saturday, I got two small slow-roast beef joints from the reduced section in Tesco (£1.80 each: down from £6.00 each....)

I cooked them up on Sunday in a pint of OXO vegetable stock with added clove of garlic, a little olive oil, a teaspoonful of Chilli Sherry (weapons grade..) and a good glug of red wine.

Our oven is small but effective, though turning the pan regularly helps even out the cooking.

Three hours and a goodly few turns later, I lifted the lid to reveal two beautifully cooked pieces of beef thet melted under the blade of the carving knife.

Hurrah! (Or, 'Phew, that seemed to work...')

The meat was put in reserve for that evening's Parish supper -see previous post-.

(It was not needed: Andreas's lamb kleftiko would have fed another four if chairs could have been found......I couldn't finish all of mine..... it and the beef have made some delicious sandwiches that I have taken to The Hole Making Shop for lunch)

However, the incredibly rich gravy/stock that remained in the roasting dish could not, in all conscience, be ignored.....

French Onion Soup!

I have tried on several occasions to make as good a bowl of this as I have enjoyed in France.

My efforts seemed doomed to dismal failure:

The first attempt, following a recipe in 'The Week', resulted in a thin, anaemic, vaguely oniony tea that was consigned to The River Cam pronto. (There is a chance this admission will get me into more trouble with that Funny Silly Little Man who works for The Cam Conservancy....)

Other efforts have included Tesco's (reduced) beef stock, which bought the brew to the level of nearly palatable, but still a million miles from the sublime concoction I first tasted in a little place in Monmartre in 1989.

oh God.

Re-reading that sentence has sent a chill down my spine....

Pretentious? Moi?

No, actually. I was working over there, for very little more than accomodation and a reasonable per diem, singing Beethoven's 9th and the Missa Solemnis at the Palais Omnisport in Bercy. (This was in my opera chorus days.)

But there I go again.....

Good grief!

Talk about handing out bricks to those who would stone you!

Ah well......

Where was I?

Oh yes, onion soup.

I think few will disagree that a properly made soupe a l'oignon, with melted cheese over rounds of toasted French bread afloat in it, is possibly one of the nicest dishes to have in this frost-bitten weather. (A properly large glass of Robust Red is an essential accompaniment).

Yesterday, I managed to make it properly! For the first time ever!

I had the potfull of stock left over from le bif rosting.

(It was gorgeous: A thick layer of dripping had formed on the top.)

I just bunged it on the stove to warm up, while prepping 400g of onions to the recipe in Jackie's copy of 'Silver Spoon'. The onions are cooked in 100-odd grams of butter until soft, unctious, and yellowy. Then you bung the stock over them and heat for a bit. This gives time to toast french bread and grate cheese. The recipe says Gruyere, but we used Parmesan as it was all we had, though I'm convinced a strong cheddar would be fine.

On serving it, I realised I should really have skimmed the dripping off before heating the stock: the soup lay under a clear layer of melted fat.

Nothing daunted, we spooned it off each serving into another bowl, then, ravenous, set to with gusto.

It was lovely!

Not as good as the real deal Monmartre soup, but not far off.

I shall polish this recipe up a bit before risking it on unsuspecting guests, but the lesson here is that it clearly stands or falls on the quality of the stock.

Now, this evening, I returned from a day's Hole-Making feeling more than usually cream-crackered. Pippin was in darkness and Tom Kitten was raising a rare complaint about the low levels of food in his bowl and the absence of drinking water in the bathroom sink. A text revealed Jackie had been summoned to London to rescue another TV programme from disaster. (She edits......rather well.....)

Having been left in a hurry, Pippin was quite cold.

Worse, no supper was in the offing.

After I saw to Thomas's immediate needs and mended the fire, my thoughts turned to an evening of self-catering.

What to scoff???

It was then my eye was drawn to the bowl of last night's rejected fat, now happily congealed into as perfect a plate of beef-dripping as a man could wish to see.

The remains of the French bread was soon toasted, spread with dripping, sprinkled with salt, and consumed, without guilt, with last night's left-over red.

An awful job, but someone had to do it.......

Monday, 6 December 2010

Drying out......

That got your attention, didn't it!

No, The Pippins aren't abjuring the delights of seasonal alchohol use/abuse.

We were, however, suffering from a bad case of The Dreaded Interior Condensation Problem.

Boats are not, contrary to received opinion, inherently damp.

However, this time of year, the windows can weep buckets of condensation, which, when the woodburner's going full tilt, makes the interior seethe rather unpleasantly.......

Yesterday was bright, dry, and milder than of late. Jackie went off to the shops in the morning, so I availed myself of the oppurtunity of opening every available window, door and hatch, and chugged the twenty-odd minutes to The Bridge pub at Clayhithe, there to wind, moor up for a pint of Guinness, then sail back.

This highly civilised manouvre worked a treat.

All traces of condensation were entirely gone by the time I had moored up back at The Parish. The boat was cold, but in a pleasantly dry way. So I fired up the woodburner and soon had the ambient temperature raised to a very comfortable level.

Three other parish boats joined us for supper, for which we supplied the entrees, Andreas the main, Rhoda the dessert and a group effort ensured a plenitude of beer and wine.

"Drying out" properly?

Sod that for a game of soldiers!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Apologies for Absence......

Yes, it's been a while since last I blogged.

(No doubt a relief to those who find these ramblings tiresome, but then again, without me, however will they manage to assert their, no doubt entirely deserved, sense of superiority......?)

I have been extremely busy.

Not only has The Hole Making Shop been breaking all records for Holes Made in the last four weeks, (we exceeded our target by such a ridiculously large margin that the Area Chief herself arrived with cakes on Monday....), but I have returned to Birmingham for Round Two of the Manual Handling "Training the Trainer" Course.

I passed!!

Hurrah hurrah! It makes me that bit less sackable, which in this day and age has to be a plus.......

Incidentally, Amy, I have repented of any notion of blogging about this.(See previous post). There are legal issues which preclude it.

I'll either email you some stuff, or you can allow me to practise my first full training presentation in your company....!!

I'll go easy on the powerpoint....

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Manual Handling.

I have been up in Birmingham for a few days on a "Manual Handling, Training the Trainer" course.

It's been quite interesting.

The presentation part of it held no terrors for me as that's sort of what I used to do.

But the bio-mechanics of lifting and moving heavy stuff.......Hmmmmm.

It set me thinking about the kind of lifting and shifting that most boaters do on a very regular if not daily basis.

Gas bottles.

25kg sacks of coal.

Indeterminate loads of firewood.

Bags of laundry.

Large loads of shopping, bottles of drinking water etc.

All very high up in the risk assessment index.......

Now, in previous posts, and comments on the posts of others, the well meaning tumble of advice I have given has annoyed some bloggers.

I was, of course, mortified.

It has left me wary of further offerings.

However, if any one is interested in sharing what I've learned about how to avoid getting injured while doing the heavy work, then please leave a comment.

I could then either email you some info direct or put it on another post if that's easier.

I'm not being entirely selfless, by the way. The exercise will help me revise for the exam on Tuesday!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Sailing into the sunset..........

Says it all..........


Yes, now the nation is gripped with Royal Wedding Fever, it seems impossible not to be drawn into the vortex of speculation surrounding it.

First, the location:

St Paul's - too many sad associations of That Other Royal Wedding......

Westminster Abbey - really sad associations of That Royal Funeral......

So why not Canterbury Cathedral?

- epicentre of The Faith that William will one day pledge to defend.

- big enough for quite a few guests

- out of London, so a nice change.

-lots of oppurtunity for people to line the route and cast flowers in the way they did for Diana, only happy this time......

Or, of course, they could go by cab to Westminster Registry Office, have assembled friends and family hum the famous air from Lohengrin as the bride enters, then cab it to The French House Restaurant above the pub in Dean Street, have lunch, then in the evening, a blessing followed by a huge party in the church hall of St. Anne's, Soho.

Well, it worked for us...........

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Fine days, wet cats..... incredible people

Thomas Cat fell in again this morning.

The first I knew of it was when the soggy one jumped on the bed and dripped on me.

I tried to towel him off a bit but he was having none of it, so I lit the fire to warm things up and left him to it.

He's now fully washed and dried out and off out a-mooching again.

The weather is fine today, and I should really stir my stumps and do stuff.

If you've found this post a bit dull, I'm not surprised, really, but at least visiting Pippin's blog gives you a link to Rhian and Andy's 'Smiling Footprints' blog.

A beautifully written post by an extraordinary woman having a A Really Big Adventure.

So read it!

Thursday, 11 November 2010


11 o'clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

I was at home on Pippin as the tolling of Big Ben heard over the wireless marked the beginning of the two minutes silence.

I am not a Warrior, nor am I warlike. I have never worn uniform or served my country.

But every November 11th, I try to stop, and think of those that did and those that do.

The brave, the fallen, those with no known grave......

And those who I know I would have been like: those that died afraid, and wanting their Mum.

I try to stop at The Silence, just to give them my thoughts for a little space: my gratitude, my thanks.

It didn't happen today, though.

Just as Big Ben was chiming the last few tolls of eleven, a neighbour knocked on the boat with some small matters of business that I could help with. Our conversation lasted almost exactly the duration of the silence, and then he was gone.

I suppose I could have told him to shush.

Should have done, perhaps.

But I didn't.

I felt it would have been rude. A bit like banging on about one's own version of faith to someone who holds very different opinions and values..

Perhaps I was wrong, but maybe choosing not to honour the sacrifice made by the dead of our land in the defence of our freedom is, in some way, part of the freedom for which they died.

So long as it is not, simply, 'forgetting'.

That will never do.

They shall not grow old.

I shall not forget.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Sense Memory.....

We have the wireless on at The Hole-Making Shop. It is normally tuned to The Light Programme, aka Radio 2.

Today I had one of Proust's "À la recherche du temps perdu" moments, thanks to Steve Wright in the Afternoon's 'Non-stop Oldies' spot.

It was absolutely spine-tingling.

All the power of the trace of a loved-one's remembered scent on an old letter or book.....

Grandad Coles's Old Spice aftershave.....

Nana Witts's mothballs and paraffin heater in the sitting room....

Or the infinitely less comforting reminder of first days at school: floor polish, orange peel, boiled cabbage and wee wee.....

So what was the song that did it for me?

You'll probably be surprised, and, no doubt, deeply disappointed.

It was "Four Non Blondes" with "What's Going On".....

Still makes the short hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

That'll be Linda Perry's amazing vocal, then.

Those totally unpredictable yet gorgeous intervals take me right back to 1995, when I first heard the track.

If you have no idea what I'm on about, download it.

Meanwhile, I'm off to sit outside a Parisian Cafe with a coffee and some biscuits.

I may be some time.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Maggot-danglers Anonymous......

A couple of mornings ago, there was an unscheduled meeting of the aforesaid group on the stern-deck of a neighbouring boat, nb Innocenti.

Andreas, (who is renting Innocenti from Mike P-J while he is in the Antarctic), was woken up very early by the sounds of scuffling and general commotion aft.

(We moor up miles away from anywhere, but we do have a public footpath running through the middle of the land to which we all moor.)

Andreas expected the worst: Dawn-Raiding Thievery!

He hastily donned some long-johns and opened the hatch with all due expedition to defend life, limb and property fom the nefarious intentions of early rising ne'er-do-wells.

He was confronted by a large, mostly harmless looking, monoglot Pole, who indicated Andreas's bike, securely chained to Innocenti's cruiser deck.

Now, this could have led to a tragic misunderstanding, but for the fact that Andreas followed his uninvited guest's gaze and pointing finger to see another visitor, on the other side of the river, holding a fishing rod......which was firmly attached to the aforementioned bike by a river's width's worth of 12lb line.....

The chap was simply trying to extricate his mate's line and spinner fom the bike's spokes.


It was often said of me, in the days when I thesped, but that bit of miscasting takes the ship's biscuit.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Hello Mick, Mags and Poppy!

Thanks very much for the comment on the battery blogpost!

Sorry I can't leave a comment in return: Blogger won't let me, even on my friends The Lucky Ducks' blog......

Unfortunately, we aren't able to make use of the info this time round as we've replaced the twelve 'duffers' with six new 'uns plus a starter battery.

I think the Epsom salts idea is a bit on the fanciful side, but the other plan may well have legs...

Our neighbours (who are a bit cash-strapped due to a new baby) have three of our old ones, so I may prevail on them to follow the advice and attempt to rejuvenate them.

I, however, shall watch.

From a safe distance.

King's Lynn, perhaps......

Seriously, thanks again for the info, and for reading the rubbish I write.

You deserve a medal!

(Here, here, here, here, here, here, here, says most of blog-world.

Anyway, thanks again,


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Lazy Sunday.....

Today, despite the unseasonable fair weather, nothing could persuade the Pippins to stir from their bunks much before 11.00.

We listened to the wireless, read papers, and didn't attempt to further knacker ourselves painting nb Caboodle.

Life is too short.

At about midday, we surfaced: Jackie headed off to the market to do the big shop. I hung around Pippin to replenish the wood supply from the wood pile and attend to a couple of little maintenance jobs.

I fetched and reduced two wheelbarrowfuls of wood to stove size, then opened the stern deck covers to fill the stern gland greaser with Morris's K99 Waterproof Grease. (We experimented with other, cheaper, grease some time ago: a mistake. Stick with Morris's. It is what it says on the tin......)

I then removed the weed hatch for my annual poke about (canal based boaters may be horrified by this interval: in fact, on a river like the Cam, the amount of rubbish likely to wrap itself round one's prop is much less: the river is a living thing, not a man-made construct, so people are perhaps a little more circumspect about what they chuck in it...though the results of various Cam Clean-ups suggest that 'a little more circumspect' is a highly relative term!!)

Anyway, After removing a goodly length of blue rope that had wrapped itself in a lovers embrace around the prop, I replaced the weed hatch with a proper-job dollop of shower and bathroom sealant all round the edge. Hopefully this will stop the leak from the weedhatch which has been an annoyance for some time.

If it doesn't work, no matter, I shall just replace the rubbers and use a stronger sealant. If anyone out there has experience of this problem and wishes to share any ideas, please do! That would be great.

Wb Hullabaloo's engine thumped into robust and newly seviced life this evening as Rhoda finished the work the wrong filters had held up. Well done Jackie for sharing her RCR notes and lending a helping hand. I kept well away. I only really know about paint......

Andreas is now renting Mike P-J's boat while the latter is enjoying an Antarctic Summer Sojourn under canvas at an outpost of The British Antarctic Survey.

(Sounds effing cold to me......)

Andreas is very happy to be back on the Parish and living on a boat again.

I picked up a copy of 'Towpath' as I went through Bait's Bight Lock on Wednesday. I gave it to Andreas as there's a chance he may be able to buy another boat of his own when the sad ritual of splitting up is finally finished.

We have just bid goodnight to Pam and Trevor, who popped round for supper.

At work at 0700 tomorrow.


Saturday, 6 November 2010

Busy Saturday.......

Today, we got going early-ish on the remaining work to do on nb Caboodle.

Jackie took the forrard well-deck area which she duly attacked with one angle grinder, while I merrily rubbed paint off the treadplate of the stern deck with a knotty wire brush in the other.

As with all these things, it never takes long to type.....

We finished painting the primer on as the last rays of sunset disappeared.

Tonight, spaghetti and meatballs, some red wine and a dvd on the computer.

We're both jolly tired.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Old batteries still have some zap!

This will not be news to experienced boaters who are advised to look away now.....

There was money to be had in the old, knackered, never to go again batteries that we pulled out of Pippin's engine room.

The twelve of them tipped the scrapyard scales at a hefty 160-odd kilos.

We pocketed £53-00 for the priviledge of divesting ourselves of all that dead weight.

We had thought to take them to the tip before Jackie very sensibly looked into the metals recycling option.

Worth a thought if you've got some old batteries to dispose of and a car to make the trip to the yard in.......

Though I don't doubt most of you were well ahead of me on this.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Boater's Serenity Prayer.........

Today, I took Pippin into Cambridge to pump out.

Jackie stayed on the mooring to fix Rhoda's engine (the new filters had arrived) and continue paintwork on nb Caboodle.

So I was Cambridge-bound.


You just know this isn't going to end well, don't you.....

Actually, the rationale behind choosing Cambridge over Ely as the pump-out destination of choice was perfectly sound: limited hours of daylight, not wanting to leave Jackie homeless and bankside while I chugged back from Ely, and the hope that the university rowers might possibly have some lectures to attend/homework to do etc etc.

And so it was that I chugged in this morning, breezing Baits Bight Lock, which stood for me, and passing but one or two training tubs in the whole trip.

I pumped out at Cambridge with surprising ease, given the handle on the pump-out hose has been broken off and the whole thing is held together with duct tape and goodwill.

Also, having three-quarter filled the tank with rinse water, even the coin-slot jamming did not perturb me: I pushed my £1 coin through the slot with the edge of a handy 10p.

So the rise-out went okay.........

No, it was on the return trip that it all went pear-shaped:

As I chugged out of Cambridge, past the Commons, I lost count of the number of eights, fours, sculls etc being put in the water and then overtaking me.

It was the angler at the footbridge that did it:

"Why are you so close" he said indignantly to me as half the membership of CUBC rowed passed me.

'WHAT!' I said, 'Why do you think!!!!!!?'

He then said something rude, to which I responded by inviting him to go and dangle his maggots in somebody else's ditch.

Thus it was that, thoroughly adrenalised, I took The Mighty Pippin up on tip-toes to allow the rowing fleet to pass.

I caught up with them at The A14 over-bridge. Here, a priceless ginger wing-nut on a bike tried to hail me.

He utterly failed to make himself heard over the sound of the traffic roaring across the bridge, although the W.I. could have made jam with all the plumminess.....

I made out some vague exhortation to 'be careful'.

Good Grief.

Like I was about to be anything else?

Anyway, I got Pippin past the assembled throng of Cambridge's Finest and into the lock and onward to The Parish without further incident.

(However, my money is definitely on The Other Place in next year's race.....)

And so, Brothers and Sisters, now John has shared with the meeting, let us close with The Boater's Serenity Prayer:


Please grant me

The Grace

to accept the things that I cannot change,

The Strength

to change the things that I can change,

And the Wisdom

to properly weight the corpses of those I had to drown because they pissed me off."

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Hole Making Shop.

Athena, friend of the Lucky Duck's, dropped by the workshop today.

We made a small accurate hole in the material she presented us with, extracted the material therein and sent her on her way rejoicing.

I'm glad to say all was well.


Next time James and Amy come to supper, Athena and chums must come too!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

What a lovely weekend!

Anyone looking for paint advice, please see the previous post featuring 'Primer'....

Anyway, this weekend, The Pippins have had a lovely time!

I was all alone on the eponymous boat on Saturday morning.

Jackie was having to work a Saturday on the editing job she was doing in London. She was needed to pull it all out of the fire in the inimitable way which gets her so much repeat work...

I, however, was home alone.

Well, I read 'The Week', then got up, washed up, cleaned the bathroom really thoroughly, swept the boat through, did a load of washing, then took the re-cycling to the tip.

I wandered back to the mooring via Emmaus, (where I dropped off a hideous Christmas bauble on behalf of some friends and bought a paperback for 50p)and picked up a call from James Duck on the way.

He and Amy were heading toward the Parish on nb Lucky Duck!

I was heading to Tesco....

A quick call to Jackie to confirm that she felt able to entertain and wasn't too knackered, meant a return call to James to invite him and Amy to supper.

I decided to do Pippin special lamb.

This involves at least half a bottle of cheap Red, three cloves of garlic and 60g each of Rosemary and Mint, and quite a lot of capers.

Just on the lamb.....

James doesn't like veg much, so I did roast spuds, parsnips, and swede and carrot mash. ( With James, if you stick to the root stuff, you can't go far wrong....)

We also had some broccoli too.

For starters, I did Jackie's special recipe fried mushrooms on pate toast.

Amy doesn't do fungi.... But she did today!!

This was my fault. I meant to do her a mushroom-free pate-on-toast-type starter. Sadly, I forgot. (Beer may have been the issue here....) But Amy chomped away personfully in a way that suggested to me we may have found a version of mushrooms that she found palatable.


The gravy featured some of John's special "Weapons Grade" Chilli Sherry.

None was left over........

This morning, we were all celebrating the end of British Summertime by enjoying an extra hour in bed.

Jackie read 'The Week', I read "Practical Classics".

Round about 11.30, I put my head out of the hatch to see The Ducks returning from a rowing outing in Cambridge.

'Would they be interested in bacon eggs and sausage' was the text. 'Words cannot describe how interested we are' was the reply.

Thus, the Mighty Pippin's grill was lit, sausages were started, showers were taken, bacon was grilled, eggs were scrambled, tomatoes and mushrooms were fried.

There was a ton of food.

How unlike Pippin.....

(There was toast also.)

Fortunately, Andreas (lately of nb Rowanberry, now sadly boatless) rocked up, and Rhoda from wb Hullabaloo stuck her unsuspecting head round the hatch cover. Both were duly brought in and fed.

A lot.

It was so nice!

After tons of grub and gallons of tea, I decided to head to Jones's boatyard for some red diesel. The Ducks were keen to have some too, so off we duly trolled.

Jackie, meanwhile, was helping Rhoda with her engine service.

Sadly, the diesel filter Rhoda had was the wrong size, so the poor girl is now living at her Mum and Dad's until the correct filter arrives from Beta Marine.


It will all be sorted soon.

The Ducks headed off to Cambridge in the lowering clouds of a Fen winter evening, James bravely espousing the well known fact that 'there's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing...'

Amy, meanwhile, decided, very sensibly, to stay inside and 'tidy up'.

Clever Girl!

Ducks, it was lovely to see you!

Andreas, when one door closes another opens.

Rhoda, filters/schmilters. It will all be okay soon.

Bones, see the previous post for paint advice!

Love, John x

A Primer (probably not a Latin one though).

Quid et demonstrandum.

Okay, that's enough Latin.

Bones, thanks very much indeed for your lovely comment on the post 'Paint'.

What a relief! I re-read it and thought 'oo-er, that might be considered a bit patronising.'

I know from your writings in "Canal Boat" that you are a skilled DIY-er, so if I do stray inadvertantly into "I knew that" territory, then please forgive me..

Primer is the first coat you put on. Water-based, or acrylic, primer is formulated to be thin and has very good penetrative qualities, so it gets into the grain really well. However, it will warp MDF and plywood like nobody's business if only applied to one side, as the paint tightens the flexible board down one side as it dries.

It is quite safe to use a water-based primer on wood and then over-paint with oil-based under and topcoats. The water-based primers soak into wood much better than oil primers. This only works on wood though. You MUST use an oil-based primer if painting steel, and mixing oil and water-based paints willy-nilly on any surface will cause all kinds of trouble, so Bill Rodgers comment is quite right.

Undercoat is formulated to provide a good surface for the top-coat to stick to.

Under-coat is a solid-rich paint, unlike topcoat which is lots of varnish with a bit of pigment in it.

A good undercoat, then, is essential to provide 'body' to the final top coat.

It sticks really well to the primer, and if the correct shade is chosen, provides not only a stable foundation for the top-coat, but also contributes to the way light reflects off the topcoat, giving you the desired shine (matt, semi-matt or gloss).

I'm not sure where you are with the panels on The Good Ship.

If you've already put on a few coats of Crayola Paint and hate it, you can either sand it all back to nearly bare wood and start again, (which would be dispiriting and dull), or try Dulux Diamond-Hard Acrylic Eggshell.

This stuff may be the way forward.

It's not gloss. It's semi-matt in the way oil-eggshell is. But you can paint it over existing water-based colour coats with no fear. (It will need a 100 grit rub down to give it a good key, though.)

It is water-washable (unlike emulsion which is rubbish on boats), and is actually quite nice to apply. (Inhaling oil eggshell fumes in a confined space can give you bad headaches and weird dreams.....).

Your Dulux mixer shop will be able to mix Dulux Diamond-Hard Acrylic Eggshell to whatever colour you require.

As I say, this may be the way ahead. It's water-based, but it's so-oooo not Crayola!

Please let me know how you get on.



Friday, 29 October 2010


Mortimer Bones has been bemoaning the state of the DIY paint industry on nb Bones' blog.

This post is to replace a comment that I started to make and which grew like Topsy.

Anyway, cut to the chase....

Forget Homebase, Bones.

You need a proper Paint Factor.

Try googling for your local Dulux branch, or Leyland SDM if they have a branch in Oxford, or any good local builders or decorators merchants.

These guys will match oil-based paint to the shade you require either from an example or from their own range of colour charts.

(You will not believe how many shades of grey there are, even if they do have rather poncy names)

Instead of gloss, ask for oil eggshell.

This is a semi-matt finish oil paint that will do the job well.

If you're painting ply panels, use a water-based primer and do both sides at the same time or they may warp badly.

(This isn't as hard as it sounds as the primer flashes-off very quickly, so you will be able to handle the driest part of the side you've just painted while supporting the panel on it's edge to do the other.)

Once primed, the panels won't warp, so you can undercoat and topcoat at leisure.

Use an appropriate grey oil-undercoat before the topcoats, (light grey for a lighter grey topcoat, dark grey for a darker one.... bleedin' obvious, I know, but it does make a difference.)

This may seem extravagent, but the difference it makes to the final finish has to be seen to be believed.)

A small foam roller is a good weapon for the primer application, but a brush is better for the undercoat and top-coats.

Purdy synthetic brushes are really good. They don't shed hairs, and are lovely to use. Not cheap, but make the process of painting so much more pleasurable than the £1.00 each B&Q jobs that they are well worth it.

It's best to prime x 1, undercoat x 1, topcoat x 2.

If you want it to look totally spondicious, rub down the first topcoat with 100 grit production paper manually with a rubbing block before doing the second and final topcoat.

That will give you a superb finish that will last you for years!

Good luck!!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Feel-Bad Thursday

Today was utterly rubbish.

I did not enjoy it even slightly.

I'm tired, fed-up, annoyed and worst of all, alone.

Jackie is in London until Saturday evening, so I don't have her wonderfully benign eye-rolling at my 'woes', imagined and otherwise, to keep everything in perspective.

Fortunately, Thomas Cat is here, and he understands instinctively.

I have no idea where he learned all those rude words, though.......

Oh well, another day at The Mushroom Farm tomorrow......

Monday, 25 October 2010

Feel-Good Monday!

Yes, a rare occurence in most people's experience, yet today is definitely a 'feel-good' day.

Today I got to work at 0700, which doesn't presage feelings of goodness, but at least felt better than being late. (We open early at The Hole-making Shop three times a week...)

I then spent the day operating the Holemaker's Guild's Difference Engine while processing the results of the workshop's efforts today.

Last time I did it, it was an absolute sod.

(Sorry, Auntie Mary, but there's just no other word for it).

The blasted thing was running so slowly, even by its own glacial standards, that I would have had time to nip out, plant a row of spuds, and then bring them to harvest between operations.

It got on my nerves good and proper.

Today, however, Sid, Neville, Barry and Lionel , (the boys in IT Support who operate out of a Nissen hut somewhere on the South Downs) were throwing the big brass switches a lot quicker.

It actually worked quite well.

I got all the results processed and ready in time for each of the pick-ups (by big Gardner-Diesel engined Foden lorries), so didn't have any hairy blokes from Transport looking at me funny, which was a plus.

So it was with a song in my heart that I motored home to Pippin.

Jackie is doing a week of telly editing in London, so when I got home, I raked over the coals of the fire she had banked up before leaving the boat at 0830 (lightweight!) and soon had it blazing.

I then divested myself of the protective clothing (Hole Maker's Guild Standard Issue Body Armour....) and donned my scruffs for a foray into the engine room.

I connected up the two new batteries to the rest of the bank with neither sparks, drama, profanity, or indeed, much discomfort.

The genny is whirring away to itself bringing the whole lot up to 'float', so I am feeling good.

The stove is toasty warm, and I have a glass of Robust Red to hand.

Oh, and the engine starts too!


And one of our neighbours has just popped round to say that all our old batteries were well and truly snookered. They'd done a drop test on all twelve and they weren't holding at much above 10.5....

Shagged, then...... Pity.

(I had offered them any that were still holding a charge for free, as a new addition to the family has left them a bit short of cash.)

Oh well, at least we haven't replaced the old lot unnecessarily.

We may well be investigating the possibility of selling the old batteries for scrap.

(Even a few quid a knob will be good news as there are twelve of them....)

We'll see.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A bit more boat-related shopping......

This morning, Jackie disappeared into the depths of Pippin's engine room and mopped up about two litres of oil which had leaked from our very sickly gearbox. This was carefully tran-shipped from the bucket into a suitable receptacle for taking to the Re-cycling Centre's waste oil disposal point.

Jackie also put a new jubilee clip on the weeping skin-tank-to-engine hose, bled the air out of the skin tank and topped up the coolant with anti-freeze.

So where was I while Starship Pippin's version of Montgomery Scott was de-coking the Warp Engines?

Shopping, actually.

Yes, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.........

Actually, I had been sent shopping, by The Chief Engineer, which makes it okay......

Our neighbour Rhoda, from wb Hullabaloo, is going to service her Beta engine soon. Jackie has given her all the notes she made during her Beta 50 diesel one-to-one maintenance course she did with Pete from RCR this spring, along with a list of serial numbers of filters, belts, etc etc.

So Rhoda was off to Jones's boat yard at St. Ives to raid the well stocked Chandlery there.

Jackie asked Rhoda if I could tag along, as 'we needed some bits too'.

(I do have a sneaking suspicion that all Jackie really wanted was to get me out from under her feet so she could fettle in peace....)

Anyway, off we duly trolled to Jones's, shopping lists in our hot little hands and money smouldering gently in the pocket.

I was impressed by Jones's.

There is a chandlery in a nearby cathedral town which is much closer. However, I have refused to shop there since one of the staff was very rude indeed to Jackie.

None of that nonsense at Jones's.

The boss there went through Rhoda's shopping list carefully and helpfully. They mainly deal with Vetus motors, so didn't have all the Beta stuff in stock, but promised to get it asap.

I mooched about, looking at expensive toys.....

However, my own list involved
-one more leisure battery
-some oil soak mats
-some diesel.

I got two more batteries!

(Well, six in the leisure bank is still only half what Pippin had, and you can never have too many amps, I feel.....)

I also purchased three mats, 60 litres of red and a replacement seat and back for a Nauticalia Talleyman chair bought from Emmaus for a fiver. (Photos to follow)

When they totted up that little lot, I paid up like a man and hardly whimpered at all.

Actually, as Jackie bought the other four batteries, it's only fair.

Good job I got paid on Friday, that's all.....

We spent the remainder of the afternoon working on boats: Jackie rubbing down more of Caboodle's paintwork, me filling various diesel tanks.

When I finished, I helped with the rubbing down. We are very close to finishing the primer coat. If we can get it done before winter sets in, then good.

Spring-Time for Topcoats!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Christmas Cake Recipe.

My good friend Jo Zagni has just emailed me the following recipe which has such merit, I just have to share it with you :

Once again this year, I’ve had requests for my Tequila Christmas Cake recipe so here goes:

1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup brown sugar
Lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 bottle tequila
2 cups dried fruit

Sample the tequila to check quality Take a large bowl; check the tequila again to be sure it is of the highest quality..


Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.
Add 1 teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.

At this point, it is best to make sure the tequila is still OK. Try another cup just in case.
Turn off the mixerer thingy.

Break 2 eegs and add to the bowl and chuck iin the cup of dried fruit.
Pick the fruit up off the floor.

Mix on the turner.

If the fried druit getas stuck in the beaterers, just pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the tequila to test for tonsisticity.

Next, sift 2 cups of salt, or something.

Check the tequila. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.

Greash the oven.

Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.

Don't forget to beat off the turner

Finally, throw the bowl through the window.
Finish the tequila and wipe the counter with the cat.

Cherry Christmas

Sparks Are NOT Flying!

The problems posed by the re-configuration of Pippin's battery bank are on the cusp of resolution.

Firstly, Mike P-J had a look.

Mike is an 'ologist of note with slightly more letters after his name than I have in mine.

He's also just finished a Phd in 'Things That Spark', so we were happy to go with his suggestion of keeping the wiring as it was and trading the starter battery for another domestic one.

However, when Jackie put this to Garf, he was very unhappy.

Apparently, the distance between his head and roof level reduced with alarming rapidity.

Clearly a man of trenchant opinion who will brook no contradiction.

So perhaps sparks, of a sort, did indeed fly......

Anyway, Jackie backed away whistling a calming tune and rang up Andy Rankin at Midsummer Energy for a 'Third Opinion'.

Andy is popping over soon to install the starter battery for us, fit a domestic cut-out switch and a battery monitor. (We've previously relied on the 'traffic lights' on the Tristar solar controller).

So that's all sorted then.

Thanks to Mike P-J, Moominpapa for the offer of help and advice and Andy for being a brick as usual.

Hole Making for Experts!

I hope I didn't offend Andrew on wb Cinnamon Girl with a previous post title of 'Hole Making for Beginners'.

He is clearly an expert!

Cutting new window apertures?


That would call for nerves of, er, steel....... (as well as some really good cutting kit!)

I only mentioned the angle-grinder/generator offer as it had proved itself well-up to the chimney-hole job on nb Innocenti.

Sorry we missed you in Ely, Andrew. After Garf had reconnected gearbox to propshaft we headed home: the rebuild of the 'box will take a fortnight or so, and we didn't want to hang around that long. (Being in Ely would double my commute to work. Also Thomas Cat would doubtless have had some sort of nervous collapse at the prospect of being shuttered-up aboard for that length of time.)

We'll hopefully catch you another time!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Holkham Beach

Jackie (the wife) here... Just thought I'd show you some pictures from our walk along Holkham Beach last week.

Plus, John has added some photos to his earlier blog about our trip up the Backs on n.b Lucky Duck.

Hole-making for Beginners.....

It is really rather irritating that I cannot post a comment on my own blog!

I can reply to comments, (indeed, not doing so would be most unmannerly) though having to do so in a new post each time does make the whole process a little unwieldy, so apologies for that......

Andrew from wb Cinnamon Girl has asked me if The Hole-making Shop where I work can supply him with a 6" hole for his boat's new chimney.

Sadly not.

(The precision holes we make in the highly reactive material with which we deal are tiny little things.)

However, I did use our trusty 5.9 kva generator and my angle grinder to help Mike P-J make a very substantial hole in the roof of nb Innocenti for just that purpose.

He was very pleased with the result!

Mike and Innocenti are currently moored up outside The Cutter Inn at Ely, so pop down and say hello if you are around, Andrew.

We may be able to arrange a visit to do you a similar hole if you like....

(A spot of assistance with the starter battery wiring (see previous post) would be an ideal reciprocation!)

Battery and gearbox woe.......

Our visit to Ely has proved to be actually and potentially rather expensive.

Garf, of the boatyard by The Boathouse Restaurant, had a good look at Pippin's Newage PRM 260D gearbox and pronounced it more knackered than originally thought.

The main seal has indeed gone, but the reason for this is the play in the end bearing. This cannot be reduced to correct tolerance with shims, it has to be replaced. Either way, it's a gearbox out job.

Further, it will then have to be taken up to Gearbox Graham in Warwick for a complete strip-down and thorough examination of the internals for other wear/damage.

This has the potential to relieve us of a worryingly large sack of coin.

So that's the bad news.

The good news is that Garf reckons the gearbox removal/replacement is straightforward enough for me to do, which will save a few quid.

I'd popped into Ely to run some errands while all this was going on. I returned to find Jackie had bought four new leisure batteries and a starter battery from Garf. I'd hoped to nurse the battery bank through another winter, but they are all at least three years old and already past their prime, so I bowed to the inevitable.

I then spent a very hot and uncomfortable hour or so bent triple in the engine bay fitting the leisure ones, and I confess to an unreasonable amount of profanity in the process.....

The new batteries also pose a problem.

Pippin's original bank of 12 x 110 amp leisure batteries also started the engine. I have now got to wire up the new starter battery to the engine but must also surely make sure it gets it's fair share of charge.

The starter battery is currently (DEFINITELY no pun intended....) sitting on the back deck while I wonder what to do.

Electrics are not my forte. I can work okay on an established system provided I label clearly and do lots of notes, but wiring something up from scratch is outside my skill set.

So, how is this done? Anyone out there got any ideas?

It's not crucially urgent, as I've wired up the leisure batteries to the starter motor as it was before, so we can at least start the engine.

(Also, with the gearbox issues, we won't be starting the engine or going anywhere for a while anyway.)

However, any help and advice would be much appreciated, especially as Boat Safety is due next June.

It's important to get this right!!

Monday, 18 October 2010

A post entirely about boating (well, almost....)

To post solely about boating on what is ostensibly a boating blog may seem barely worthy of comment, never mind a mention in the title.

However, Pippin ramblings do tend to encompass a rather catholic variety of topics, so I felt the urge to flag this up in the title.

You can't say you weren't warned........

Bottisham Lock was out of action for a while last week while Men in Green stood around staring at it and scratching their heads. Eventually, one arrived with the correct Whitworth adjustable spanner and tweaked it back to life. The uncorked Cam was then a flurry of boating for a day or so as cruisers, narrowboats and widebeams all resumed their interrupted journeys.

With the lock fixed, the Pippins were up with the sparrows yesterday, refitting newly topped-up and re-charged batteries, fetching diesel cans, wood for sawing up, getting the washing in, emptying gash, the recycling and the compost bin in readiness for the voyage to Ely.

It was a beautiful morning: golden in the way that put one in mind of John Keats' Ode. The mooring and river were mill-pond smooth and sideways lit, but sadly we were too busy with preparations to pick up the camera. Here's a photo from the archive to give you the gist:

We would be staying overnight in Ely so attempted to corral Thomas Cat and bring him along.

Tom used to be utterly unbothered by the engine noise or the boat in motion.

Until that is, I banged into Bottisham Lock quite hard in high wind last winter.

Now even the sound of the engine sends him kitten-crawling under the nearest chair with a look of feline terror on his face.

That he had rumbled our intentions and scarpered was beyond doubt. We left him to play on the mooring all day and resolved to fetch him via car later.

The trip itself was unremarkable in the best sort of way: nothing happened to mar our enjoyment of the lovely autumn morning.

We did see a Fen Harrier. I insisted Jackie try to take a picture.......

I don't think we'll be up for too many awards with that one......

We also had a little game of Grandmother's Footsteps with a rowing eight and their coach as we approached Ely, but it was conducted with good humour, so definitely no harm done.

At Ely, we moored up at Garf's boatyard (where Pippin is having her gearbox seals sorted out today) then jumped in the car, which Jackie had cleverly driven up on Friday evening, and headed for Cambridge for "A Day of Boating: Part, The Second."

It was Amy Duck's Birthday Bash: a trip up the Cam from Jesus Green along the college nb Lucky Duck!

Powered craft are prohibited from this stretch of the river during the busy summer months, but from October navigation is permitted if a written application is made to The Cam Conservancy.

James and Amy had sorted all this out , so we were good to go.

This shot suggests Brave Captain Tidy may have been having second thoughts......

We were joined by a lovely group of James and Amy's chums, so a jolly party was soon under way as James threaded The Duck through narrow bridge holes and numerous surprised punt crews with an expert hand.

I refuse to dwell on the one incident of a punt operator being truly unpleasant, as the time and his number were recorded, so his hash will, no doubt, be settled in due course......

At the head of the navigable river, we moored up and said goodbye to Bones, who had sneaked in a spot of boating before visiting her mum. Sadly, Boots was not in evidence as he would probably been unable to resist the temptation of snacking on Lyra, Lucky Duck's cat.....

The return trip was lovely and accomplished with flair. James is jolly good at this sort of thing!

We were soon all in The Fort St.George for a bite of supper, then home to the mooring to fetch Thomas and head off to Ely.

Doesn't take long to type, but took a while to do! Thanks to The Ducks for the loan of Lyra's travel box and to Rhoda for tea and help finding The Ginger Menace.

He mewed pitifully all the way to Ely, but perked up at once when in the more familiar environs of Pippin, and seems now to be exhibiting no further signs of trauma.

Thanks again, James and Amy, for a truly memorable afternoon!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

On the matter of Gin.....

Andrew is right, (See comments to previous post), gin should really always be served with lime.

When I worked at The French House pub in Soho, Gin Rickey (a drink, not a person....), enjoyed a brief vogue amongst the workers as a post-shift pick-me-up.

The vogue was brief because one picked you up, two steadied you, and three knocked you sideways....

Happy Days.

My memory of the exact composition of the aforesaid is, for some unaccountable reason, rather hazy.

However, it did feature a lot of freshly squeezed lime.....

I do remember my dear friend and oppo Annie Wolohan disappearing off mid-lunchtime shift to Berwick Street Market on an urgent lime-buying mission and returning with a large sackful.

None were left by the end of the night.......

The old wardroom hangover cure is of course Pink Gin.

I tried this once.

I have to say it must be an acquired taste as it really wasn't very nice.

(If one is going to deploy Angostura Bitters in any quantity, then, for my money, better use can be made of it in a Horse's Neck. Now that really is a nice way to either get rid of a thumping headache, or, perhaps, acquire one. But as it doesn't feature Gin and does contain the zest of a whole lemon, it isn't really relevant to this particular discourse.)

My mention of lemon in Amy's Birthday Post was, I suppose, a misguided attempt to modernise or be trendy.

An alcohol version of Dad Dancing, I suppose.

Not a good look.....

So Amy, it's lime in the gin from now on, and remember not to drown it with too much tonic.........

Friday, 15 October 2010

Happy Birthday, Amy Duck!!!

who knows instinctively how to make a happy man feel very old......


Good Grief.

In 1985 I was still at Drama School. I was Egeus and Robin Starveling in The Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Cliveden.

A life-time ago.......

So the acting career never came to anything. I never was James Bond, or at the RSC, or on telly, or even moderately successful.

I remember the year of Amy's birth with fondness and regret.

I still had my very best and my very worst moments ahead of me.

But if I could go back and start again, I wouldn't.

The mistakes I made, the errors, the loss of compass, the foolishness, the vanity and the defiance....... all have led me here, to the place I am now, doing what I do for a job, living with the woman I love and am lucky enough to have married.

Amy Duck, may your road be straight, the wind at your back, and the Gin cold, strong and served with lemon...

If you never regret, but simply seek to learn, then you won't go far wrong.

Birthday blessings from The Pippins.


The Abolition of British Waterways

What to say?

The government have abolished British Waterways.

Just because the government have done this I am very tempted to say it is A Very Bad Thing.

But is it?

What will replace it?

What will their attitude be to us boaters?

Who will enforce the licences?

Are current licences still valid or will they have to be re-negotiated/paid again to whoever the hell is now in charge?

Are 'Dave' and his cronies now going to abolish The Cam Conservancy?

So many questions. So few answers.

The Mighty Pippin has resolved to keep heads down but crew closed-up to action stations, plenty of slow-match, and, of course, the trusty forrard six-pounders treble-shotted.

If nothing else, we'll make their eyes water!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Evening of the Day....

I type this one-handed as Thomas Cat is firmly ensconced on a cushion on my lap.

My left hand supports His Majesty's head, so, lowly serf that I am, I'm loathe to move it.

Tom's fans please don't worry: I think this is an onset of "Feline Autumn-Cold-Related Cuddle Syndrome", nothing more serious......

(Well, he normally throws up when he's proper poorly, which gives a clue........)

I've just had a couple of nice beers after a hard day.

Yesterday, I was sent out from The Workshop to join the Mobile Hole-making Gang as they were very short staffed.

This normally fills me with a nameless dread, as some of the members of the Mobile Gang (exclusively male as it happens) take great delight in belittling us Workshop types and generally making us feel unwelcome and second class.

However, the reason for my being called upon was staff sickness, so, with a heavy heart, I trundled off to the peripatetic venue:( never leave your oppos in the proverbial- it will come back to bite you on the bottom.....).

The dreaded three were all absent!!!!

So I spent a lovely day with the good people of the Mobile Team making lots of holes in quick succession. It was fun, I enjoyed it, and the good folk were grateful for my presence as it did take the pressure off a bit.

So, a good day's work.

(Incidentally, if you are new to Pippin ramblings and are a bit confused, let me attempt to explain:

I work for an organisation that is very strictly governed by rules of client confidentiality. To blog 'En Clair' about what I do could be construed as a breach of that privacy.

I would then lose my job.

End Of.

So I have to refer to it in rather obfuscatory (when was the last time you saw that lovely word?) terms to avoid at least an Interview Without Coffee or at worst my P45......)

Anyway, other news:

Pippin is off to Ely this weekend to have her gearbox seals sorted.

I have also been attempting to re-vivify our battery bank, but the signs aren't good. We may have to replace the lot. Thats 12 x 110amp batteries. Eeek!!

Oh well, it's only money.......

We are looking at doing this plus upping our solar grid before 'Dave' Cameron's VAT increase kicks in.

While I'm on the subject, I used to be a Liberal Democrat.

Now the time-serving little twonks have got into bed with the very people who will give them and us the absolute shaft at the earliest given oppurtunity makes me feel sad, betrayed, and actually rather ill.

Clegg, you've done more damage to the Liberal Cause than ever Jeremy Thorpe did when he shot that rent boy's dog.

And Nick, my boy, you are going to know exactly how that feels: to be a rent boy, a dog, and shot....

First and last political blog-rant over.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A quick bargain bog blog.......

Okay, okay, that's probably the naffest title for a post this year.

But hey, there's still three months to go!!

Anyway, to business, as it were......(oh blimey, how deeply mired in 'Carry On' style innuendo am I going to get? Good Grief!!)


Our friend Rhoda on wb Hullabaloo is selling her brand new never been out of its box composting toilet.

'Why?', you may well ask..

Well, Rhoda used to live on The Great Ouse. Sea toilets (and the liquid effluent from composting toilets for that matter) are de rigeur down there.

(I am bursting to deploy some devastating witticism featuring the expression 'Shit Creek' at this point, but shall refrain out of deference to my readers in Cheltenham, Bournemouth, Newbury and Tunbridge Wells......)

Sea toilets et al are prohibited on our stretch of The River Cam, (unless, of course, you are a Cambridge based disco boat, or, indeed, the operator of a hire cruiser fleet based in Ely. Allegedly.)

So poor Rhoda can't fit the composter without contravening The Conservancy bye-laws. Thus it must be sold.

It's currently on Apollo Duck in the chandlery section with lots of pictures of its' pristine and unsullied condition plus Rhoda's description etc. She can be contacted through Apollo Duck in the usual way if you are interested in availing yourself of a bargain.....

The First Law of Conversational Mechanics.....

I think it's a well known fact that when two or more boaters are gathered together, the conversation shall turn to either toilets, electrics, or both, within a given amount of time.

Now, my background in The Arts ill equips me for a serious attempt at a mathematical expression of this, but as is well known, that's never stopped me before, so here goes:

N = the number of boaters gathered together

T = time elapsed

Q = start of the conversation

X = the point in elapsed time when toilets/electrics/both become the sole topic of conversation

B.var. = the variable quantity of beer consumed

The equation is to show the observed shortening/lengthening of T between points Q to X in direct relation to the increase/decrease in the value of N

I throw in B.var. for good measure as it has been observed that:

T between points Q and X
decreases in inverse proportion to the increasing value of B.var

Come along then all you 'ologists, lets have a tidy little equation to wrap this up....

The prize is you get to have your name forever associated with it.

I'm now going for a lie down.......

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Attention All Shipping!

Well, everyone on the Cam, Great Ouse, Middle Level and Nene.

A well known Cambridge narrowboat called Roe of Ely has recently been sold.

("Roe of Ely" is not a typo, by the way, unless her signwriter didn't like flowers or couldn't do esses very well......)

Today, The Pippins helped her new owner, Charley, and her lovely mum through Bottisham Lock.

It was their first proper go at setting a lock, and, what with the newness to boating, Roe's seventy odd feet of length, and it blowing a hoolie from the east....well, they were in a bit of a pickle......

We soon got them through safely and sent them onward toward Ely (and eventually The GU and London).

I think the most important bit of advice I managed to impart was "Don't Worry!! It's Only Paint".

If any of you see 'Roe' and Charley on their travels down to London, please give her a wave, as she seemed jolly nice.

Actually, I remember only too well the steep gradient of the learning curve when we took over wb Pippin......... so along with waving, please add some help, encouragement, support, advice and kindness as needed.

We all had to start somewhere.........

Friday, 8 October 2010


Today I spoke to my old chum Martyn (used to be David...) Jones for the first time in over 22 years.


It was absolutely brilliant!

We talked for ages. Until my phone ran out of battery, to be precise.

I then rang him back and talked a whole lot more...

What his lovely wife Sian makes of it all is as yet unclear: (Yes , I spoke to her too. At length. Poor thing.....)

Just now, though, I sit writing this in the lovely warm saloon of The Mighty Pippin,
Jackie sipping a glass of rather nice wine on the comfy chair behind me, Thomas the cat outside persecuting mice (and annoyed with me for leaving him for too long bankside while I went to Cambridge to pump out......) and I think of old times, new times, and times yet to come.

Life can seem bad and horrible sometimes.

It is absolutely crucial to one's health and general welfare to treat such times, however long they seem to last, as the momentary abberations that they truly are.

A quick 'thankyou'.. Bill Rodgers for the info re:tempalias!

David has got in touch with me via this method so hopefully we'll be chatting soon, and without opening the floodgates on a veritable tidal wave of spam!

Actually, it's ironic that David caught up with me on the blogpost all about the perils of the internet.

That it is a powerful force for good is beyond doubt, but like all tools, it's benign or malign application depends solely on the mind behind the hands of the user.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Blast from the past!

Wow! I've just checked in to blogworld to see a message in the comments section of yesterday's post from my old friend and room mate from student days David Martyn Jones!!

How fabulous! The problem I now have is getting in touch with him without publishing personal details on this public forum.


Anyone out there got any bright ideas?

Meanwhile, David, if you're reading this, my old Bournemouth address is still works (if you still have it) as Mum and Dad haven't moved in the intervening 22 years since we last saw one another.

It's great to hear from you and I hope all is well. Please get in touch if you can or via the comments section if needs be!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Email Spam Virus Warning

Most of us have email, so pay attention at the back, this is important.

There is a computer virus doing the rounds presently which I think is particularly sneaky.

I opened an email purporting to be from my sister the other day. It was an advert for the usual load of discount "Medicines" which is usually dumped firmly in the spam box by our security software.

In opening it, I may well have granted the spammers access to my own email address book. It's possible everyone on it will now be getting an email purporting to be from me but actually a similar advert with 'Trojan Horse' attachments.


I've emailed all my contacts to warn them. Hope I was in time......

The way to spot this is in the Subject Box of the incoming mail. If it is composed of apparently random letters and numbers, then its the virus.

Don't open it!!!

It might be worth us all keeping our eyes open for this for a while, as it's going to spread......

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Don't shoot the piano player, or even The Player Piano.....

We have just had a rather bizarre but nonetheless wonderful weekend.

Our chum Tom, who owns The Last Alvis, asked us over to a party at his place last night.

Tom is blind. He lives in a beautiful 18th century rectory. He runs the Cambridge Pianola Company.

He also has a superb collection of fine Alvis cars, which is, er, where we came in....

We went along last night to listen to some great renditions of late ragtime and early jazz music.

Nothing particularly unusual there, I suppose, provided you have a talented pianist and the relevant sheet music.

Unusual, then, in the sense that neither were present, yet the evening was a great success.

Yes, we were treated to an evening of music by the likes of Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, and many of their less famous but equally talented colleagues, brought to us, kind of ghostly, via the magic of the player piano and pianola rolls which were originally cut between ninety and one hundred years ago.

Actually, the device in use wasn't a player piano, but a much rarer 'piano player'. It works on the same principle of vacuum actuated keys, but is bolted up to an ordinary (in this case, Bechstein, so perhaps 'ordinary' isn't right...) piano, which it then 'plays'.


Today, we returned to The Old Rectory for the Last Barbecue of 2010.

Fitting, then, that I should have the honour of bringing The Last Alvis out of its armoured bunker and on to The Queen's Highway and over to Tom's place for an Alvis Owner Club/ Alvis Register/ Pianola Enthusiast/ Quaker meeting House/ Everyone Else Jamboree in honour of Tom's birthday.

What a lovely Day!

Only wish The Ducks, and Mike P-J, who we know well, and Mortimer Bones, Maffi, Jim and Sarah, and Halfie, who we've yet to meet, could have made it along, as it was lots of fun and I think they'd have enjoyed the truly eclectic mix of people and interests!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Good Friends.

Yesterday we were going to go into Ely to pump out.

It was a beautiful morning for it, which was nice, as when you've got to go, you've got to go......

However, Bottisham lock, just downsteam from The Parish, was stuck. As a boat was in the lock and there was no clear indication of what was wrong or how long it would take to fix, we decided to turn about for Cambridge.

We haven't taken Pippin above Bait's Bight lock for a year or so, the density (and I use that term advisedly) of rowing crews being the main problem; the attitude to visitors of certain "Camboaters" being another.

The day however, could not have been better.

The sun shone in bright crisp autumn light. We shared the lock with a very nice couple on a cruiser, (actually the boat that had been stuck in Bottisham Lock, but had managed to free themselves after some opening and closing of paddles and re-setting of the system), and enjoyed the view, so much less wild and woolly than the run through the fens to Ely.

The Cam Conservancy have yet to prune back some of the waterside foliage, though. This is going to cause a bad accident one day. No doubt The Funny Silly Little Man won't be on hand to pull the bodies out of the water. He will most probably be elsewhere, pestering law-abiding boaters, when it all goes horribly wrong.

Of rowers, only one or two city crews were out, and they seemed to know more or less what they were doing, which was a nice change.

We also managed to pass that hulking great brute of a Trip Boat 'Georgina' without incident, or, indeed, any exhibited unpleasantness from her fabulously rude helmsman.

So all in all, an incident free trip in to Jesus Green.

Which is all you can ask for really........

When we arrived, we were met by James and Amy from Lucky Duck. They'd hailed us as we passed and came down for coffee and a natter while we did the necessary.

It was then decided that they should join us for a cruise back to The Parish. A quick pasta was cooked, to which James and Amy kindly contributed some ingredients, and we took it in turns to scoff and helm Pippin back home. Amy took advantage of the opportunity to do some serious carb-loading in preparation for a huge rowing event they are doing today (Sunday). They finally got to have some of our crumble too!!

Jackie then gave them a lift back to Cambridge as she wanted to do a bit of shopping, while I prepped some roast lamb for dinner with Jackie and Neil, our friends from nb Olive.

They arrived about 7.00 and a lovely time was had by all.

It's so good to have such friends.