Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The missing activities

This retirement lark is quite tiring and I don't think I have been so enjoyably busy for such a long time. Best job I've ever had !

Q.  Do I miss work ?
A. Not for one moment and I really do mean that.

Many I spoke to told me retirement was great but did have that wistful look. I think it is all about having

  1. Hobbies
  2. Ability to do stuff
  3. Fitness to do stuff
  4. Money to do stuff (not as important as you might think)
I am a serial hobbyist and wanna be fixer. I see the cerebral challenge as well as the time and project planning  of working out how to fix, mend and improve as well as  acquire things. It is a singular joy to have the time to do all the above and not have anything niggling in the back of your mind. 

I am even enjoying being the home keeper - cook and cleaner. I can do it my way and it helps Rachel as she can relax a bit more when home from what is undoubtedly a stressful and challenging job.

So  - I'll not detail all I have been up to, for my diary as this blog is I'll drop in the bits along the line to hopefully catch up. I use my Photo library as the reminders of what and where I have been - it's very useful for that.

After we (I) returned from the retirement cruise(ette) family was visited - here is the future Mr Wells ... I was the only son of an only son of an only son - I have two sons and this little fella is the custodian of the Wells surname for the future - Good lad  

Time allows my vehicles to get some TLC - this is my 650 Honda after its clean. The cars are getting done once again by me. I even had the chance to polish the cars headlights to get it through the MOT - more of that later....



Every time we go into the garden down south this little bird appears.


Walking is a simple pleasure that is free and saved gym membership and the views are so much better. I have a staple pack of a flask of tea and cheese sarnie.... This was a beautiful walk 10th October stopped and diverted by a field full of cows a bull and lots of calves  - experience says with a dog, avoid.


The pig farmer had moved his pigs across into the fields nearer the church - they are less interested but also behind electric fences and off the footpath.


Lots of empty countryside especially during the week - all to myself !


Ok, back a few days to a great trip early October with good friends who I ride motorbikes with in the south. It was to Bovington tank museum and then to Yeovil Fleet arm museum. This was over a few days and we started with a visit to Clouds Hill, the retreat of T.E. Lawrence, the person who Lawrence of Arabia was based on.  Most met at Loomies cafe for the obligatory full English  breakfast.




Also the church where TE Lawrances' funeral service was held and he was buried nearby.



On our way to the tank museum  - this is Dorchester, very pretty but ruined by traffic


Reminded me of my action man tank 


 This is the tank used in the film Fury  - good film IMHO


 The group shot - good men all of them 


The Fleet arm museum was better than the tank museum for me - but I like flying things. No need to introduce this plane - it was interesting to walk inside and feel how small it was.



More trips been had and accounts will follow....

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Protecting the P&J

After we had Percy painted John the painter's advice was give it a good clean and polish in October and again in March/April. This protects from the worst of the ravages of bird poo and acid rain. We know the paint will wear and fade and we planned the colours around that as we wanted Percy to age gracefully - like me !

So now I have time I set to in early October. It's a lot of washing and polishing  and by in large it had survived its two weeks with lots of up and down the gunnels etc. My goodness my shoulders ached after the first day - I had done all but one side - well I had washed that side but not polished it .

I brought 20 large mico fibre cloths off ebay that were excellent for washing drying and polishing. Next time however I will invest in a rotary polisher to help my shoulders.

I did give me the  opportunity for a little cruise to Alrewas and back so I could polish the other side the following day. 


This little bird was fishing in the winding hole, helped by me moving the fish about I guess 


At Bagnall lock there had been a stoppage after the balance beam has snapped !! This was the repair waiting for the stoppages to have a gate replacement I think. Can you imaging pushing on the balance beam for it to snap !


The following day I cut back the large willow bush/tress adjacent to the decking I put in. It cast a lot of shadow and we could not see other dogs coming  - Leia is not  friendly dog to dog sadly.

Over the winter I'll dig out the full root ball which will make the mooring much nicer as the grass will grow over extending the size of the mooring.


These were present on the mooring when I arrived  -I chose not to extent my mycophagists tendencies !!




Sunday, 22 October 2017

The donk gives its first trouble

The Lister CS2 in Percy's engine room has up until now performed flawlessly. It gets its bits lubed and oil and air filter changes when needed.  I do check it every cruise day as it is so easy to get around - the joy on an engine room rather than under ones feet.

On the last day of the return trip from Froghall I noticed diesel seeping from the joint above the injector pump on the right hand cylinder. We were just outside of Rugely when I noticed so I lashed cloths around it to get us home which worked.

When the engine cooled a little I got the spanners on the injector pipe.... There was a hairline crack under the 'my words' pressure collar that pushed down on the 'nipple'.


So when home I ordered a pair of injector pipes from Stationary Engine Parts plus some mid Brunswick green paint. They are my go to supplier for bits for the CS2.


 The new pipe needed some judicious bending to get an unstressed fit.... the vice in the engine room came good again for this work.


I set up a little jig to paint the pipe, first with some metal undercoat then a top coat of Brunswick green.

When all dried I fitted the pipe and the donk started with a little smoke until enough diesel was getting through and no more leaks.


As you can see the engine needs a few touch ups but that can wait until warmer weather. Almost a proper mechanic !!

Thursday, 19 October 2017

A close call and 4 more years !

I had a day at Tom's  my eldest son's house on Monday, DIY'ing and gardening. The wind and a weird sun were ever present and on leaving at dusk I got two messages from my good neighbours at the moorings saying they had moved Percy as a large branch was on its way down adjacent  to the boat - thanks gents. Nothing I could do about it and Kev and Harry gave me confidence they had made the boat safe. So early the next day I headed off via Screwfix to the boat.

Screwfix was for a couple of bits to give me some reassurance about the boat safety exam I had booked. Some stove cement for the Morso and a cooker chain.

This is what was hanging when I got to the boat.....







Basically the top of the Willow had snapped  - it is rotten inside so I guess it really needs taking out but as it is more on my neighbours mooring it is for them to decide as it will remove a bit of privacy. The problem this year is we have had no frosts so all the leaves are still on the trees meaning the storms put more pressure on the trees and it finds the weakness. Yesterday I walked up to Kings Bromley marina  - such a nice walk and there was a very large Willow branch down just off the tow path. Storm Brian is on its way tomorrow apparently.... lets see what that does !

Anyhow I cut back what I could with the pole saw (very handy) then it was back to boyhood and tree climbing  to cut through what was holding the large trunk on - it went into the canal with such a smash. If it had come down on Percy or Sam it would have caused damage for sure.

Anyhow, we both have firewood for next year !

It was also Boat Safety inspection day - only 9 months out of date.... yes I know, just been a busy year. I meant to get it done early spring but then it was house selling and house buying then other stuff..... anyhow, Percy passed, an advisory on low level ventilation.

I intend getting a bubble tester fitted soon so I can keep a check on the gas system. So thats another job done for 4 years. Percy was blacked last year so next year will be new flooring in the bathroom and kitchen, maybe re tiling the bathroom and fitting a stove in the back cabin.



I did replace the old guards stove  - see here  but then thought it would not pass the boat safety as there were gaps in the door and the lower baffle plate did not fit so well. Anyhow talking to the examiner he said it would pass but with an advisory ! So not sure if to replace the guards stove or not now - I do like the look of the little stove and it performs well. However I have seen one at Stone chandlery that I may drive over to to  get another look at .... plenty of time  !

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The retirement trip all in reverse ...

This is the detail of the return trip of my retirement cruise to and from Froghall basin  - the terminus of the Caldon canal.

This one took a little planning to ensure we were at a pub for food every night... I had to make a few changes as we progressed, mainly due to weather. In fact the out trip was very specific weather, dry in the mornings with rain appearing in the afternoons. The wind was also a constant companion - weather wind that is !

So a crew change with the retired one staying on board and the worker going back south on the Sunday afternoon. My two new crew came from the south west of Scotland. Both accomplished crew having been on my other boats in the past. John and Mick came bearing gifts of copious amounts of beer, wine and frontier whisky plus a copy of Three Men in a boat - a winter read in front of the fire (finishing off the dregs of the whisky !)

We made a rights pigs ear of the exit from the basin lock with Mick getting marooned on the far bank and loosing the pole in the canal.... then the trip boat arrived so we were the comedy for the patrons of the boat as well as a few local walkers !!

We eventually cleared the trip boat and the turn and headed for the tunnel. With two large gentlemen on the bow, a full water tank and lots of extra weight (beer) in the forecabin we cleared the tunnel and struggled a bit as C&RT had left work boats near the entrance, but we cleared it and were on out way back.

It was a short days cruise as we were heading for the Black Lion for food and a drink or two so soon made our destination and were on the same mooring as Friday night ..... The Black Lion was buzzing Sunday evening much more than Friday... for such a remote pub is does do very well....



We then repaired to the boat for more socialising




Much was consumed and much laughter was made  - especially while trying to make up the bed for John with Mick sitting drunk as a lord on the bog !! Proper belly laughs where you struggle to breath  - good old beer !!

Monday was a 5 hour cruise on the Caldon to Stockton Brook. The river section was bucolic, in fact this whole section was so very rural and remote, truly beautiful and a canal everyone should visit  -ideally to its terminus if your boat will fit !







The Cheddleton steam railway was operational  - I suspect a train 'driving' day - about £600 I think  but if it is a dream realised well worth it IMHO.


This old pumping house at Stockton Brook is ripe for a conversion to a palatial home  - but at some cost I guess.


So we dropped down the Stockton Brook locks, very pretty. I was a little concerned I'd not adjusted the tappets on the donk since getting the boat. With no feeler gauge aboard I set of on the Brompton into Stoke to buy a set..... what a waste of time, none had any in stock and I cycled over 10 miles trying different shops and automotive suppliers.... says something about home servicing I guess. In the end back at the boat I ordered a set from Screwfix and collected them just yesterday (17th October about a month after this trip) now I just need to have a play.... maybe later today.

We could not find a place to eat so I rustled up some man food - pies, beans  and tatties then we repaired to the local pub for beer !

I had the back cabin drop down bed that is very comfortable and useful for such multi occupancy trips as it puts the loo between the two cabins. 


As we were having a post brekkie chat there was a knock on the cabin from Irene and Ian  from Nb FreeSpirit  . It was lovely to finally meet up with you both. Proper cruisers covering decent daily distances on their travels.   





A lovely well cared for boat


The canal here has lift bridges and turns from rural beauty to metro canal with some horrible turns and some much in need of cutting back vegetation. It really is a canal of two characters - I know which I prefer ! It was at bridge 18 at Milton the boat took a scrape  - when going up I got off and pulled the boat through - never mind it happens and it did polish out just about. Just CART need to pay more attention to the vegetation - it really is bad here 







We stopped at the Etruia services and serviced ourselves with hot showers while the boat filled up and waste was emptied. We then dropped down the 5 Stoke locks to end up as planned back at The Plume of Feathers at Barleston



No photos for this day as I was quite hungover thanks to this poison drink. We did the Meaford flight then stopped in Stone for much needed chips to help the hangover disappear. 


The plan was to stop at Barleston and frequent the Greyhound (a favourite pub) but the weather for the day after  was heavy rain all morning so we pressed on to Great Haywood and ate at the Cliffird arms. Chatting to the landlady she said there was planned to be a large 'encampment' for HS2 workers close by and she had been advised to have bouncers on her pub when it all comes to construction !!   

As we passed a boat close to Barleston Jaq from NB Valerie came to the window.... A emergency stop and I jumped off to have 10 minutes with this very brave lady.  Please do click the link above, her story is sad, beautiful and inspiring. I know I'll call over later in the year to her winter mooring for a longer catch up  (and cake) Take care Jaq.


I set a record on this day of over 24,000 steps .... it is a great stretch of canal to cruise and walk being so remote. We moored opposite Great Haywood marina and immediately noticed lots of cow pats on the canal.... their owners soon showed themselves  as escapees from a close by field, mooing to those still locked up ! I did phone CART in case they could track a local farmer - they were pleasant but not too interested!

Thursday was a short hop to Woolsey bridge as the forecast heavy rain arrived at 11am and stayed till 4pm.  More beer and food in the local but the beer was very expensive  - as a retiree I need to be aware ! The only noticeable event was passing Longfellow.... we tried to buy this boat (build by Harland and Wolfe) way back as our first boat as at the time we got the mooring with the boat and this boat was moored at Hunts lock. We wanted a survey and the owner sold it to someone who did not - can't blame him for that. 



The final cruising day was from Woolsey bridge to the mooring. A fine days cruising on a favourite stretch. We stopped for fish and chips (it was Friday)  at Hansacre


Another favourite (that I'll be walking to later today) is Woodend lock  - Percy approaching


Another known boat - Phyllis May II did the turn from the Coventry - no doubt on its way back to Stone, no Darlingtons aboard.


As I came through the engine room I smelt diesel and on investigation spotted a leak from the pipe out of the injection pump on the right hand side, not too bad so I wrapped it up in a cloth and limped back to the mooring  - more on the repair later. Only time so far the donk has given an issue.

Last night at the Mucky Duck saw Mick embarrass  himself with the Mixed Grill. No doubt the large fish and chips with a large sausage at lunch time took its toll ! I had liver and onions - not had that since Rachel was expecting Tom 30 odd years ago  - the food and service was much improved from my last visit.

The poison was not quite seen off and it sits behind me as I type this .... I recon I can clean the engine with it if needed!


Saturday saw a decant and a drive back to the staffs cottage where John and Mick set off on their 6 hour drive to Scotland - thanks gents a great week.

So for the two weeks it was a 96 mile trip and 86 locks  - not too shabby and very enjoyable.