Monday, 24 April 2017

A lovely weekend!

We have just enjoyed a lovely weekend on the boat. We were moored at Roundham Lock, just up the back of Kidlington after our family visit. We did shopping in Sainsbury's Kidlington before moving north through Thrupp, Shipton and Enslow. The Cherwell was very quiet, Enslow was pretty tight as usual and we stopped just below Pigeons Lock. It being a lovely day we walked into Tackley and discovered their lovely village shop. It is a village collective, like our local Woodgreen Village Shop and was well stocked with a very wide variety of goods for sale. We will make the effort to walk across to Tackley next time we are in the area. We walked through many fields of yellow...
On Saturday we moved up to Lower Heyford as we were expecting visitors. We spent the afternoon sitting in the glorious sunshine catching up and enjoyed seeing 34052 powering through on the main line. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QTv_m2lU2w (not my film).
Enjoying the sunshine at Lower Heyford
 On Sunday we all travelled north through Somerton, Aynho and Twyford.
Aynho Weir Lock

Judy, Lynda & Charlie at Aynho Weir Lock
We arrived at Banbury, had a quick walk into the town and settled down to a lovely meal. A perfect weekend!

A couple of nuts

Found these guys lying around the other day. couldn't resist taking a photo!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Family day in Oxford

Adrian and Sasha had come over from Australia on a flying visit, taking in as many friends and relatives as possible in the time available.
They had always wanted a trip on the canal boat, so this was organised in advance - we would all come to Constance for the day. Constance was moored just below Lock 43 (Kidlington Green Lock) so we all went to Yarnton Lane to park.
We were joined by Adrian & Sasha and David & Emma so we were a party of seven.
We set off down through Duke's Lock and all the way down to Hythe Bridge Street. Emma, who knows Oxford well, took the party on a whistle stop tour of 'Historic Oxford' whilst I turned Constance around ready for the return journey.
We ended up back near Kidlington, not too far from our respective cars and had a meal on board. It was a bit of a squeeze getting seven around the dinner table but we managed, it was 'cosy'. I was lovely to have the whole family together for the day.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Mothering Sunday

I think my last post was made before I left Fenny Compton Marina.
My next move was out of the Marina and heading south. I needed to be about a mile south of Twyford Wharf for the weekend 11th/12th March for my radio contest. The place carefully chosen as a 'radio quiet' location. There are no houses, railways or power lines nearby so the 'noise floor' is low. I successfully did my contest and moved on further south eventually stopping at Upper Heyford.
Judy, Alison (who had made a lovely cake) and myself came to Upper Heyford to continue our journey south. We stayed the night just below Pigeons Lock as there was a slight delay in the opening of Shipton Weir Lock. When we came to move on there was a little bit of a backlog of boats waiting for the locks.
By now it was Mothering Sunday.
We met up with David (bearing a bunch of flowers) just at the lift bridge above Shipton on Cherwell.
We all enjoyed our lunch (and cake) on board before David & I set off to do a car shuffle.
Later we moved down to Kidlington. In the evening we had a curry take-away. It is so nice to have all the family together for the day...

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Out with the 'wall carpet'

When Constance was fitted out in 2000 after her 'stretch' the walls (bulkheads/hull/vertical surfaces) were covered in a ribbed carpeting material in a dark maroon colour. After 17 years this has become a bit tatty in places, faded nearly everywhere and it moults continually. There is always a layer of dust below any of the carpeted surfaces. It hasn't done badly and I'm not complaining but I feel it is time to do something about it.
Enter the veneered hardboard of the previous post courtesy of Timbmet. I arrived at Fenny Compton marina (in my car) a few days ago and started to work.
 This is how the port side panel looked with its carpeting. One of the seams had become detached and the backing and glue had powdered. Pulling the carpet off was not a problem.
It fell away and the old glue was easily removed with a scraper to reveal the plywood liner.
 Panels suitably cleaned. Then it was cut and shape the 4'x4' pieces of hardboard. Nothing in a boat is: level, square, straight, 90 degrees etc.
 With the port-side panels shaped and in place it was move on to the starboard side.
 Starboard side (on the left of the picture above) and the return bulkhead all fitted out.
 Then into the next room, the dining area. You can see the carpeted areas in the picture above.
 Now in veneered pine board.
Then just the little area above the cupboard where the mugs hang.
The general fitting of the veneered hardboard was finished, now it is time to fill all the panel pin holes and varnish all the surfaces. Tidying up seemed to take forever. Thankfully I have mains electric power here in the marina and can use the vacuum cleaner...
Tomorrow it is more of the same. Fill the mail holes and varnishing.
Still, I am lovely and warm. The wood-burner sees to that!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Birdsong

I have bought some sheets of pine veneered MDF to re-fit (re-decorate) the inside of Constance. Currently the walls are covered in a layer of carpet which is now 17 years old, faded and giving off a lot of dust as it moults. My next move is to strip off the carpet and replace it with the veneered MDF. The outlet from which I purchased the sheets were happy to cut the 4 8'x4's in half so I have 8 off 4'x4' sheets which are much more manageable.

The 4'x4' sheets were scattered around the garden, stood on anything that would raise them off the ground and varnished during the only dry day this week. The varnish is a quick drying type and I was able to get one coat on each side. They will go up to the boat next week and be fitted. Then extra coats of varnish will be applied to the side that shows, as required.
But, I could not help but notice that the volume of bird song has gone up a lot this last couple of days. Yes, it really is time to mark territory and find a mate. Spring is coming, hurrah!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

It is 2017 now, where did the time go?

I am sat on the boat in Fenny Compton Marina. This is where I put Constance for December, January & February so I can winterise her. I have no running water but I am very warm. The wood burner is doing a fantastic job and so is the little 'peltier effect' fan. I have read various reports of these things, a lot of people reckon they are a waste of space, but I am very impressed. Ours is a VonHaus and was just less that £40.
Well, where did we go last summer?
I think I left the Blog at Braunston - we went on to Hawkesbury Junction and then into Coventry.
In the basin at Coventry city.
Whilst in Coventry we went in and saw the various sights of the city. of course there is the Cathedral and the bombed out Church next door, but more interesting was the St Mary's Medieval Hall nearby. I love a bit of history and it had loads.
Then we went on past Bedworth (we decided that we would leave 'The Ashby' for another year), Nuneaton, Atherstone and Tamworth. From there we took the Coventry Canal north from Fazeley and headed towards Fradley Junction.
We were by then experiencing two problems with the boat. The first (which actually started earlier in the year) was getting worse - the grub screws holding the prop-shaft in place were working loose (and letting the prop-shaft walk-out as soon as you went into reverse. It was getting to the point where these had to be tightened every couple of hours or so. Whilst at Braunston (earlier) I had bought a replacement split-coupling, however this thing was HUGE and would not fit in the space, so I returned it and obtained a full refund. Stopping every couple of hours was not really a problem but finding a smaller version of the split-coupling was.
The second problem which started sometime after leaving Hopwas was that the engine would not run smoothly. It kept speeding up and slowing down. By the time we arrive at Fradley village it would only run correctly on tick-over. The whole of the next morning was spent changing the fuel filter and doing a full fuel system bleed. Problem solved!
When we arrived at Fradley Junction we joined the T&M and headed for Rugeley and Great Haywood.

The very narrow cut at Armitage
Once at Great Haywood we went on to the Stafford and Worcester Canal, through Tixall Wide on our way to Penkridge. Here we met up with friends and had a long overdue reunion.
Chris, Cath, Paul & Judy helping me through Filance Lock, Penkridge
 Yes, I was remembering to stop every couple of hours to tighten the grub-screws on the prop-shaft. I still had not really formulated a permanent fix. It seems that all split-coupling thingys are that size!
Southwards we went, passing Autherley Junction and then turning right at Aldersley Junction to go up the Wolverhampton 21.
Then it happened! Half way up the Wolverhampton 21, suddenly no reverse! This time the prop-shaft had become badly scored by the tips of the grub-screws and would not go back in. It was a lovely hot day. I was in the stern section filing the lumps and bumps off to try and get the prop-shaft back into its housing. It seemed to take forever. The prop-shaft is always greasy, just about impossible to hold and relatively hard to file away. Eventually it went back in and we were able to make our way to the top of the hill (Wolverhampton) and then on into Gas Street Basin.
Definitely the scruffiest boat in Gas Street basin!
We enjoyed two nights in Gas Street basin, it gave us a good opportunity to have a look at central Birmingham while I pondered on my problem with the prop-shaft...
We left Birmingham through the leafy suburbs of Edgbaston and stopped at Cadbury World. When we saw the price to go in (and the queues) we bought some chocolate, decided that we had been there anyway (well the visitor centre) and went on.
Through the guillotine lock on to the North Stratford

And under the lift bridge at Shirley
We stopped not far from Hockley to go home for a few days and went via Braunston to buy back the split-coupling that I had previously bought and returned. I took it to a local (to home) engineering works and got them to shave as much metal off it as we dared. The bolts to fix it were also considerably shortened. hopefully this would be enough to get the thing in, if not the stern gland stuffing box bolts would have to be shortened and I did not want to do that.
Out came the old coupling...

And in went the new (with a couple of millimetres to spare)
Job done at last.
We then went down the Lapworth Flight to Kingswood Junction, down the Hatton Flight to Warwick and enjoyed a meal in Warwick town centre.
After that it was on through Leamington Spa, along to Napton and back on to the Oxford. Judy tends not to come to the boat once we start September so I come and do a bit of painting and enjoy the good weather during September and October.
It is a bit difficult to see but this panels has been stripped and re-painted.
 Whilst in Banbury I took out a new contract with '3' (cheaper) and now have 4G (when you can actually find 4G) but it works better than the old one. Once at Banbury I turned round and headed back to Fenny Compton...
This is the VonHaus on the wood-burner.
For Christmas and New Year we all went to Malta. Enjoyed the sunshine and the food.
Now I have caught up ready for our adventures in 2017.