Thursday, 26 April 2018

Two Big Boxes And A Red Dot! 24th April

Sim’s Bridge to Stonebench Turn to Llanthony Bridge Visitor Moorings

P1280901smThere were men on my boat! They were in the big box at the back, that I’m not allowed in! And one leaned into a box I didn’t even know about at the front, I must investigate this one it looked interesting. I’d been allowed shore leave this morning and hadn’t been given a time limit, which always concerns me, it usually means that they  are upto something. I kept an eye on all that was happening, well whilst checking for friends in some interesting holes I could get my arms into.

Tom kept an eye on the two men at the back. They took some things out, Tom didn’t seem too worried about this. He actually seemed quite happy especially when they put more things back. She stayed inside with another man. She said it was a good job I’d gone out as the outside was trying to come inside for a while.

They all stood around chatting, then one of the men walked down my cat walk and started playing with a red dot. What a waste! There were a couple of woofers going by at the time so I couldn’t chase it and all they did was think about it. What were they doing?! It needed chasing!!!!

After our leisurely breakfast we decided to head back in towards Gloucester with a need to be near a train station in the morning. Tilly had obliged by coming home as soon as the Finesse chaps had gone, think she needed to check that all was as it should be.

P1280925smP1280930smThe Gloucester Sharpness is quite wide everywhere, so far, so we possibly could have just winded from our mooring. But there was a very strong breeze and a tree down on the off side. We decided that we wanted some more room between us and the bridge as well. So once a boat had come past we followed it up to the next bridge. They got a green light to go through, which then turned red as another boat was waiting to come from the other side. This bridge has 7ft 7” headroom, so we could fit under it quite easily, but the narrowboat facing us had it’s pram cover up. The bridge keeper jumped on the handle of the bridge and got it moving winding it open. Once they were through he waved us on changing our light to green.

P1280942smAt the next bend we winded and headed back the way we’d just come. Mick had to be reminded that we now have a working bow thruster, so he gave it a quick blast just to finish the turn.

Approaching the bridge Mick assumed the Keeper would see us coming so we sat waiting for a green light. We should have told him we were only going to wind as in the end I bipped the horn and he came rushing out to change the lights to green for us. No need for him to swing the bridge as we very very rarely travel with our pram hood up. Hempsted Swing bridge however did have to swing it having only 4ft 7” headroom. Once through we made our way to the 48hr mooring just in front of Llanthony Bridge.

P1280964smAfter lunch we considered going for an explore, we soon dropped the idea as the rain set in properly and the wind got up buffeting us against the pontoon. Only one thing for it, light the fire and watch the next episode of Breaking Bad and hopefully no need to run the engine before 8pm.

DSCF7114sm0 locks, 3.6 miles, 2 swung, 2 not, 1 wind, 1 wasted red dot, 2 many woofers, 1 great bank of friendly cover, 9 arm sized holes, 1 wet miserable day, 1 squeaking pontoon, 2 sprays of grease, 0 squeaking pontoon.

Severn River level at 9am today Bewdley 0.759m,
level at Diglis, Worcester at 9am today 0.722m,
level at Gloucester Docks at 9am today 0.81.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

All Amped Up. 24th April

Sims Bridge

The alarm went off very early for us and we both got up more or less straight away, none of this sitting in bed with our first cuppa this morning! Last time Finesse came out to meet us they arrived just as we’d put the kettle on, I was still getting dressed. But as it turned out we could have had a bit longer with our eyes shut today.

Sims’s bridge isn’t the busiest and it makes a rumbling noise as a car passes over it. A car came over and then soon reversed, that had to be them looking for somewhere to park.

P1280894smAs last time, as soon as they reached us Kris was straight to work inside as Ricky and Chris/Kev were lifting the engine board.

window leakSeveral months ago we’d noticed a darkening of the oak surround under one of the windows, this had gradually grown into a bigger patch. We’d been instructed to see if we could see anywhere where water might just be getting in around the window, but there was nothing that we could spot. I’ve been cleaning the gutters (for want of a better word) around the window as often as I could hoping that that might help. If it was condensation that was causing it then we’d have had similar happen in the bedroom, but this was the only one.

P1280886smNothing for it but to see what was happening underneath all the trim. Kris removed the curtains and then drilled out the wooden plugs that covered the screws on the wood surround. With these undone he lifted the surround away from the window revealing the insulation and structure around the window. Straight away he could see that water was getting in somehow, not lots, just enough to have caused the damage. With no obvious gap or anything to be seen, he cleared away the spray foam around the bottom of the window, still nothing. All the fixings holding the window in were given a turn with an allen key. He then went round the window with some silicon sealant followed by some spray foam to replace the insulation he’d removed. The bottom of this window will now be better insulated than before. Once the foam had expanded he then started to refit the window surround.

P1280919smWhat to do about the stain? I have some crystals that when mixed with warm water would bleach the stain, I’ve not tried it, but apparently it works amazingly. Kris had a different idea, he had come prepared with a length of oak precut to fit over the affected wood. This he cut to fit round the Houdini shelf and then stuck it over the top. All staining removed. We decided to do the other end of the same panel so that it looked the same. Job done.

P1280904smHe then moved on to reseal some of the shower and check that all the pipes both in and out weren’t leaking as when we’d had a look behind the pull out shelves we’d noticed a bit of water.

P1280909smMeanwhile, outside Ricky and Chris/Kev were busy. They removed the temporary batteries that have kept us going for the last year. These were never going to survive our needs for long, but we think that our training on battery management with our shareboat meant that we never ran out of power, we just had to run the engine twice a day.

P1280897smP1280972smThe new batteries were slotted into the trays that had been made for them so many moons ago and were secured into position. They then made up new cables (bus bars) to connect them, soldering connectors to the ends. The inverter needed some reprogramming now that the type of batteries had changed. Then everything was tested to check it was doing what it should. It was. Hooray!!!! The display panel read 100% charge.

P1280982smP1280986smChris/Kev now moved onto the bow thruster. On our way up to the Ribble last year we had blown a fuse when some weed got caught around the propeller. Mick had hunted round on the internet for replacement fuses. The Vetus ones were around £12 each, but Mick found 200 amp slow blow fuses much cheaper. He ordered several. When they arrived he replaced the fuse, the bow thruster worked for a couple of seconds and then blew the fuse again. Maybe what had caused the problem in the first place was still there. Buying some waders he then got into the water removed the grill and tried to unblock it. There didn’t seem to be anything there. Then in January we hired the dry dock in Chester for a day to see what the problem could be, the tube and prop were clear of any obstruction.

P1280899smFinesse rang a Vetus engineer on our behalf explained what was happening. He asked what brand of fuse we were using. Apparently not all slow blow fuses are the same, some blow slower than others! So today Chris/Kev put a new Vetus fuse into the bow thruster. Tied up to the bank it was tested in both directions first short blasts in both directions, then longer ones. It worked! A volt meter was used to check that all was well before the lid to the locker was replaced, it was.

P1280913smP1280969smA flush handle was put on the engine board and a couple of CO Alarms handed over.

Discussions were had about our chimney, it being taller than most other boats. Measurements were taken with Ricky’s laser measure so we now have a figure in mind when it comes to low bridges and tunnels. To make it any shorter they would have to amend the flue inside the boat, as double skin flues only come in certain lengths and angles. We are going to think about it and risk trying the low tunnel on the Droitwich next month if the river conditions are good. I’ll also look at Oleanna’s profile and compare it to that for Standedge Tunnel. Height wise we should be okay, it’s just that our highest point is to one side of the boat.

P1280915smThe guys had arrived at 7:45am and their jobs were completed by 10am. A short day, well they had set out from Sheffield at 5am and still had to get back. A shake of hands all round and they were off. Their visit had been as efficient as ever. We then sat down for a celebratory breakfast, cereal.

P1280921smLater in the day I went to open the side hatch which had been getting progressively stiff. But now it moved easily, without the noise. Kris must have worked some secret magic on it whilst I was outside. Just wish we knew what it was as our bow lockers are even noisier!

P1290002sm6:30 alarm, 7:45 arrival, 1 Kris with a K, 1 Chris/Kev, 1 Ricky, 3 chaps straight to it, 1 rainy day, 1 window leak sorted, 1 can expanding foam, 1 clear silicon, 1 coloured silicon, 1 white silicon, 200 amp fuse, 2 to 3, 100 to 150, 24 volt, 2 men pretzelated (in the words of Jaq), 2 men in the box under the back, 1 man in a box at the front, 1 man in my bathroom! 4 crossed legs, 1 celebratory bowl of cereal, 1 bottle fizz that’s been in the fridge for a year, 2 smiling boaters, 1 boat completed at last, 1 Oleanna big grin.


Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Sims. 23rd April

Gloucester Docks to Sims Bridge
Over the last two and a half years we’ve been getting our internet through EE. We’d come across a Black Friday deal that gave us 50GB a month for £25 which we jumped at. 3 who we’d been with before couldn’t compete with the deal. Gradually EE has increased the tariff, now £29.03. So when Mick came across a deal with Virgin it was worth looking into.
For a limited time (ending today!) Virgin were offering a Sim only deal for £20 which would give us 100GB. It looked like it was only available on line and the sim card would have to be sent to our billing address, in London. Not ideal, but we will be seeing my brother in a few weeks and the saving we’d be making would pay for having two sims within a couple of months. So we decided to see if it was possible to get the deal in store , luckily there is a branch here in Gloucester.
P1280880smThe very nice chap said there was no problem with doing it all in store and sorted it all out very quickly for us. Credit checked and sim card handed over we now have an abundance of data available. It took a little bit to get our EE contract cancelled, which actually involves 30 days notice. So for the next month we will have what ever data is left on our EE contract and a full 100GB on the Virgin sim. Anything that hasn’t recorded perfectly on our PVR will be down loaded instead, just because we can.
P1280822smWith that all done it was time to visit the services. For this you need to pass through one of the 16 moveable bridges on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. Many of the bridges are high enough to just cruise straight through, but others are far too low to limbo under. Before we pushed off Mick called the Bridge Keeper at Llanthony Bridge to ask to pass through. We were told to approach and wait for the green light before passing through.
P1280832smP1280835smP1280840smIt being quite a busy bridge both with traffic and pedestrians a suitable gap was waited for, then the barriers came down and the bridge started to lift. I often wonder when using  a lift bridge whether it’s better to lift it all the way of just enough to pass through. Here they automatically open the bridge right up, so high that it looks like it is about to fall over backwards. We got the green light and we were soon through. Oleanna was winded almost straight away and brought in to moor at the services.
P1280841smWhilst the water filled, we emptied the yellow water tank and disposed of our rubbish. Mick found an Elsan in the little hut up the ramp next to the bins, so no bushes were going to get a treat from us today.
Next we winded again and pootled up to Sainsburys. Here there is a 4 hour shopping mooring which we made use of to stock up a bit for the next few days, only two boxes of wine!
Over the last few days we’ve been trying to find a suitable mooring for Finesse to visit us. Ideally we wanted somewhere close to a road, somewhere to park a car or van and some friendly cover for Tilly to play in. With the assistance of Google Earth, Street View (of which much of the towpath has been covered) and Waterways Routes maps we had short listed a few places. The closest we could get to a parking place the towpath would have been level with the roof of the boat. Other moorings were by bridges, they had parking places on the off side and a bit of a distance to where we could tie up. So we set off to see which would be best.
P1280846smThe new housing estate had plenty of parking, but the towpath was as it looked on Google too high, also Tilly wouldn’t have felt comfortable there. So we carried on.
P1280860smP1280862smA call to Hempsted Bridge was made. We could see the Keeper rapidly doing various things on the bridge, then run over to lower the barriers of the off side. Here there are few buttons to press, much of it is done by hand. Once the barriers were down and locked in position he could then wind the bridge open. It took a bit to get going, but once he’d got the momentum up he easily turned the handle. Reaching into a box he turned the lights to green for us to pass. When we were through he did the whole process in reverse to close it, only for a trip boat to want to come through a couple of minutes later. It looks like quite a work out being on Hempsted Bridge.
P1280868smP1280873smNo such problems at Netherbridge Swing Bridge as there is 14ft 9’’ clearance. This and other high bridges are not manned fulltime as they only need to open when tall ships pass through. Round a couple of bends and the next bridge, Sims Swing Bridge. The light was flashing red and then it turned to green for us to pass even though there was masses of clearance. Just on the other side there was what looked like a gap nearest the bridge for us to pull into. We checked with the keeper that we were allowed to moor there, as long as we were past the bridge lights it was fine. There was sufficient space for us.
P1280876smMick walked up to check on the parking situation by the bins. There was enough space for a couple of vans, first come first parks. Our coordinates were emailed off to Finesse and we waited to hear back.
A couple of hours later we heard from Chris/Kev, they would be on their way at 5am.
DSCF7114sm0 locks, 2.28 miles, 1 lift bridge, 1 swing bridge, 3 ducks, 2 winds, 100GB of data, 150GB this month! 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 0 rubbish, 4 hour shopping mooring, 2 boxes wine, 2 lamb steaks, 1 Oleanna sized gap, 1 M worth exploring, 4 hours of freedom at last!followed by 4 quiet cat sleeping hours, 1 early night, 1 alarm clock set.
Severn River level at 9am today Bewdley 0.835m,
level at Diglis, Worcester at 9am today 0.739m,
level at Gloucester Docks at 9am today 0.8755.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Going To The Docks. 22nd April

Diglis Lock to Gloucester Docks Pontoon

Plenty of miles to cover today, so no Sunday cooked breakfast for us today.

P1280486smP1280489smOur push off was a little bit later than planned, but we still had plenty of time to make it down the Severn to Gloucester in one go. We reversed out from our space and backed up past NB Chrysalis, we’ll most probably see them in the week as they are heading all the way to Sharpness and then have a pilot booked to get them to Bristol! One day we might just be brave enough to do this journey.

P1280496smWe winded nearer the lock, avoiding being anywhere near to the weir and called the Lock Keeper. All the locks on the Severn are manned and a phone call or vhf radio call stirs them into action. We had a short wait for him to set the lock for us with the red flashing light, then once the gates were opening a green arrow pointed us towards the small lock. There are two locks here one small, which we could have shared and a large one, which looks like we’d have fitted in eight times. The large lock is currently closed, but I suspect we’d have been directed to the small one anyway.

As we pulled in, I first of all couldn’t see the dreaded wire risers. But they were just metal wire, not covered in a blue sleeve like they are on the Trent. Mick slowed Oleanna down and I passed my bow line round it as calmly as I could. Even though my rope had been coiled well it decided to tie itself into a knot just as Mick was wanting to pull the back in to get his line round a riser too. Fortunately the knot gave way and we pulled Oleanna into the side. Phew! I don’t like risers (only click on the link if you are not squeamish).

P1280527smP1280526smDropping only a couple of feet we were now on our way, fast along the river. Boats like being able to go faster than most canals allow, Oleanna slipped along with ease doubling our normal cruising speed. At first we were reminded of the Ouse with trees down to the water line and not much view. Then the Malvern Hills came into sight as the channel opened out a bit.

P1280531smP1280547smThere was a bit more traffic than we’ve been used to of late, but not too much to start with. A small cruiser passed us slowing as he did so, then cranking it up leaving us to rise and fall with his wake.

P1280572smP1280580smShould we have wanted to stop there was nowhere until we reached Upton On Severn. A 48hr mooring and another for partons of the many river side pubs and hotels. Here we spied NB Henry Thomas whom we’d met in Llangollen. With what looked like an interesting church tower topped with a copper cupola Upton looks like a place we may stop at on our return.

P1280551smP1280588smIt being the weekend we weren’t going to meet any gravel barges, they were all moored up at a wharf side by side waiting for Monday.

P1280610smMythe Bridge spans the Severn shortly before the turning onto the River Avon and Tewkesbury, I do like a good Tewkesbury! Designed by Thomas Telford it was built in 1826, one large elegant iron span with a criss crossed structure. In 1992 the bridge was strengthened so that it could withstand modern traffic weighing up to 17 tonnes.

P1280616smP1280632smWe continued round to the right on the Severn towards Upper Lode Lock. When it came into sight Mick called the Lockie, but only got the answer phone. Up along the side of the lock we could see him being busy cutting grass, no chance he’d hear the phone. So we trod water as there wasn’t really anywhere to tie up to until he spotted us. The light flashed red and then turned to green and we were in. We started to sort our ropes out, but the Lockie said we needn’t as we were on our own. The lock is an unusual shape as it widens out towards the bottom gates. The Lockie had set the lock for a boat coming down stream, but it hadn’t shown, most probably stopped somewhere enroute, so he’d had to refill the huge lock for us. The river level board was showing green above the lock, and amber falling water levels below.

P1280635smupper lode lockVerbal instructions were given to us about our approach to Gloucester Lock. You need to call the Lockie as you approach Upper Parting, where the river splits three miles out, take the channel to the left. Then as the lock comes into sight slow down. If the red light is flashing hang back, pass a stern rope around the chains on the wall and wait for the light to go green. This is because in this lock you go up and the paddles that empty it can cause quite a bit of turbulence. Then on the green follow the profile of the wall, don’t pull outwards, into the lock with a bit of umph so as not to get pulled to the right and down the channel that leads to the weir. Instructions received and understood we were allowed on our way.

P1280654smThere were plenty more possible moorings along this stretch, numerous pubs with their own pontoons looked enticing. Should we stop for lunch, we decided not to.

P1280661smWhen I bobbed below to make sandwiches I could hear the engine tone change from ahead to reverse, what was happening? There was a dinghy tacking it’s way along the river, so Mick hung back until it had passed our course and then full steam ahead to get through before they’d turned and headed straight for us again. Collision avoided. But up ahead there were even more dinghies. Mick did his best and the boats did their best. I looked out of the window to see one chap let go of the pontoon as the sail filled, his face suddenly struck with panic as he realised he was on collision course with us! Then the strain dropped from his face as he realised he would actually just miss us. Phew all round!

P1280702smThe phone call was made at Upper Parting and we were asked how long we thought we’d be. ‘No idea, we’ve never been this way before!’ We were now in a cutting rather than a river, a whole different feel to it. A dart of blue shot across the water top. This is only our second sighting of a Kingfisher since the canals froze, I suspect the lack of water to fish in had an effect on numbers.

P1280712smMonitoring the VHF radio we started to hear crackles of conversation. One audible extract was ‘It’s half empty’. Would the lock be ready for us? After several bridges the wall with chains came into view, soon followed by the lock entrance. The light was red flashing, but the gates were open and the lock empty. The light turned green, we wouldn’t have to cling onto the wall.

P1280719smP1280728smOnce in the lock, we passed our ropes around the risers slowly and with care. Looking back towards Mick signalling that I was ready I could see that over the lock there was a road bridge. The Lockie came out from his booth and crossed the road. All three of us gave a thumbs up, we were ready to go up. It took forever for anything to happen, I wondered if he was going to have to open the bridge before we rose in the lock, but still nothing happened. Bigger boats would necessitate the bridge being opened, but we’d miss it. After a few minutes I could at last see that water was being let in, very gently holding us against the wall. It was one of the most gentle river locks we’ve been in, we hardly needed the ropes.

P1280736smP1280749smWe had a choice of where to moor. Either on the wall where we could hook up to electric or round on the pontoons. Opting for the pontoons we winded assisted by the wind and pulled up. We’d made it, an easier cruise than we’d thought, narrowly avoiding dinghies and having done a load of washing and a dishwasher load full too, bonus. What a place to moor, surrounded by refurbished warehouses, tall ships with rigging, quite a sight.

P1280741smP1280744smDSCF7121sm3 locks, 28.67 miles, 1 reverse, 2 winds, 2 rights, 2 lefts, 5 hours cruise, 1 flymo, 1 length of string, 2 many places to stop on the way back, 1 pot bellied lock, 0 bucket, 7 rowing boats, 3 cruisers, 2 at really bad times, 6 dinghies, 1 panic stricken face, 1 topiary motorbike, 1 Kingfisher, 9.75 digits still, 2 dry docks, 1 full, 1 not so full, 1 more day without shore leave!

Severn River level at 9am today (at Bewdley a mile upstream from Stourport) 0.895m,

level at Diglis, Worcester at 9am today 0.763m,

level at Gloucester Docks at 9am today 0.872m.