Sunday, January 27, 2013

Back to the green stuff.

We went to bed last night with ice still on the marina and snow still on the ground. This morning there was an almost miraculous transformation.


We’d heard a bit of bumping around the stern in the night, that must have been the ice breaking up. It’s amazing what a sudden rise of a few degrees can do. I expected the ice to be hanging around for another few days.


It’s been a bright but breezy day, just a couple of short showers to dampen the timber decking on the pier. Another lazy day for us, three walks for Meg, I put a pork shoulder joint in the oven then checked the battery’s electrolyte levels. No need for a top up, since being on mains they’ve not used any distilled water. When we’re cruising they do need a drop every fortnight, the Sterling A-B battery charge controller tends to make them fizz a bit.

Pleased about the batteries, disappointed with the joint. Very fatty, even for pork shoulder. I knew I should have gone to the BBICM…. Still, Meg liked it.

Nothing much planned for next week, we’ll pop down to Dad’s to pick up the mail midweek, and I’m thinking of starting a bit of a project… More later.


Friday, January 25, 2013


After a couple of mild(ish) days and no appreciable snowfall the thaw is well under way.
OK, it makes it easier to get around and the taps on the pier have defrosted, but Megs paws have been beautifully clean for the last week, now there back to being muddy after a walk….

Grass starting to appear through the snowDSC_0065

There’s still ice on puddles and the marina basin, and after a hard frost last night it’s been a cold day, with a bitter north-westerly. The temperature has hovered around 2 or 3°.

Following on from the last posting about wifi, I did some performance tests between my current Mifi dongle and my Sony smartphone. I found that although the wireless signal from the phone was the stronger of the two, it didn’t wasn’t as good as the dongle for receiving data. Watching streaming video, there were far less pauses for buffering using the dongle. The internal aerial must be that bit better in the internet only unit. It’s poor reception here anyway.
With this in mind, I decided to keep a dedicated dongle for internet use. The next question was whether to go for a T-Mobile contract with the E586e wireless pointer, or buy the same unit unlocked from ebay and use a PayG or contract 3 SIM. I rang 3 to cancel my existing contract (it finishes this month anyway) and had a full and frank discussion with someone in Retentions (thanks Jill). The upshot of our exchange was that I now have a new wifi dongle, (ready for 4g when it comes) and an 18 month contract for just over a tenner a month. The allowance is down to 5Gb, but I rarely use more than that and I can always fall back on the phone if I max out.
Will be collecting the dongle early next week, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thanks to everyone for their feedback.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mobile WIFI

I’ve had a contract with 3 for mobile broadband for the last 2 years, the contract has run out this month. I’m a bit miffed with them because I couldn’t cut a deal on an upgrade to the latest Mifi dongle, they insisted on trying to charge me the full price even though I’ve used them for 6 years and now have 2 phones and broadband on their network!

Anyhow, what I’m looking at is T-Mobile, they have a wireless dongle called the Wireless Pointer. Does anyone out there use this bit of kit, and if so what’s the coverage and reliability?
I’ve heard there’s an antenna connection on the unit, and as I’ve got a currently redundant antenna on the roof, that could swing it for me.

A 5Gb contract with them is less than what I’m currently paying, albeit for a 15Gb contract. Historically though I’ve only once used more than 5Gb in a month.

What do you reckon?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mags loves this…

…from our very good friend, Val.


SAM_4560“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired,

And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,

And run my stick along public railings,

And make up for the sobriety of my youth.


I shall go out in my slippers in the rain

And pick flowers in other people’s gardens,

And learn to spit.


You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,

And eat three pounds of sausages at a go

Or only bread and pickle for a week

And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats and things in boxes.


But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,

And pay our rent and not swear in the street,

And set a good example for the children.

We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised,

When suddenly I am old and start to wear purple!”

Jenny Joseph
SAM_4560 cropped
Mags loves purple….. And I have a certain fondness for sausages!
Thanks Val xxxx

Friday, January 18, 2013

White world, daft dog!

The forecast was right, it’s done nothing but snow all day, but mainly fine stuff blown by the brisk wind. We’ve about 4” now, more where it’s drifted. But they’ve had it worse to the east of us, we’re just getting the left-overs.
Although it must be rough for those who have to get about in this weather, Meg loves it!

This morning with around an inch of snow…SAM_4548

This afternoon, with a bit more!
She was better this afternoon. The hair between her toes picks up snow which forms into hard balls of ice making it uncomfortable for her to walk. So before we went out again she had a manicure (or pedicure, maybe both) and instead of great big woolly plates of meat she’s now got dainty little paws! Can’t do anything with the snow that collects on her nose, though!

They reckon we’ve got several days of this before it warms up a bit. Should be fun, or not depending on what you’re trying to do….


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not a lot happening..

Well, we did get to go shopping on Tuesday, it was a lot brighter and a little warmer than Monday. Groceries at Morrison’s, a few odds and ends at B&Q then the same again at Shobnall Basin. (Yes, Nev, the chandlery IS open).

Frozen Barton Lock yesterday morning
SAM_4538 Barton Lock

Yesterday we had a surprise visit from brother Andy and niece Megan. They were on their way home from Crewe and decided to drop in on us. A very pleasant surprise. Megan is looking at university places to continue her studies later this year. She’s a very talented musician and is looking for a career in music. Her preference is Bath Uni, but she’s keeping her options open and looking at other campus (should that be campuses?)

It’ll be one out, one in this year. My other niece, Samatha, will be finishing her studies at London University in the summer. I’ve no idea where they get the brains from…

Andy cast a critical eye over the bike rack he made for me, now fitted on the stern. He seemed to like it. If anyone wants one I can put them in touch.

Last night was supposed to be particularly cold, but Jack frost must have toddled off elsewhere and we only got down to -4°. And we had a light dusting of snow.

We had a visit to make to the local surgery for more blood tests for Mags this morning. They’re still trying to balance the dosage of the prescription drugs she’s taking. She’s feeling fine in herself, though.

Then I took the car over to Morrisons for a bit more shopping in case the weather does turn bad over the weekend. (Essentials like whisky and Crabbies ginger beer). I can always walk up to the Co-op in the village, but I don’t want to risk Flossie (Dad’s car) in adverse conditions. I think he’d like her back in one piece….

I just got back and spotted a familiar face unloading his tools on the car park. Ed Shiers of Four Counties Marine Services was replacing a central heating boiler on one of the boats on our pier. We’ve used him on a few occasions, mainly for boiler servicing or repair, but more notably when we were stranded up on the Leeds and Liverpool with a failed starter motor. You can’t push start a boat!
He works out of Leek, so is nicely central. If you’re ever stuck he’s the guy to call. Reliable, competitive and a very pleasant chap to boot.

When he’d finished installing the unit today he came back for a cup of tea and a chat (although I think he also needed a warm, he sat right next to the stove).

The water supply to the pier has been off now for 24 hours, not sure whether it’s been turned off or just frozen. I filled on Tuesday, so we should be all right till after the weekend if we stack up the laundry. I could always use the facilities here, but I guess they’ll be pretty busy.

Still water at the marina entrance from across the canal….ice inside.
SAM_4540 Barton Marina

…we’re just on the right.SAM_4541 Us

Bracing ourselves for the dollop of the white stuff that's due tomorrow..... Meg will love it!


Monday, January 14, 2013

We’ve decided….

….to go shopping tomorrow instead!

Sunday, January 13, 2013


We’ve settled into a routine now. Or do I mean rut…..

I get up at around 8, sort the fire out, make Mags a cup of tea then take Meg for a walk. We’re back around 10, I do some breakfast for me (usually Shredded Wheat with banana) and Mags if she wants any, while Meg has a chew stick. We sit together in the bedroom chatting for a bit, then I get stuck into whatever chores need doing.

Mags gets up at around 11, we have another brew then just potter about, a bit of reading maybe or a crossword, before it’s time for Meg to go out for a 30 minute ball chase session.

Lunch for all three of us, then Mags and I settle down to a couple of games of Scrabble or dominos, while Meg snoozes in her bed.

Dog walking again for 45 minutes or so before it gets dark, then sort out something for dinner. TV, laptop or reading in the evening.

That’s about it. How we’re ever going to fit cruising in come March I don’t know!

Of course, there are some variations. Two or three times a week I’m going for a run, so get up earlier. Then the rest of the day gets put back a bit as well.

We might go out, do a bit of shopping.

The weather has been fine today after a cold start, much better than the gloomy overcast days we’ve had recently. Still no snow here, but plenty of early frost.


I took advantage of the good day to fit the bike bracket our Andy made for me, then struggled a bit with the tipcat and button, but it all went together in the end.
I did intend to match the angle of the tiller swan’s neck, honest!SAM_4532

Although bright it was cold, and my numb fingers succeeded in dropping not one but two shackle pins into the oggin. Lucky I’ve got spares….

I treated us at the The Butcher, The Baker, The Ice Cream Maker yesterday. Home made pasties (yet to try), apple and leak pork sausages (tried before so I know they’re good) a cracking pork pie (mostly gone!), two fine looking pork chops and a beautiful cut of local beef for dinner today. Not cheap, but you have to pay for quality, don’t you.

A shopping day tomorrow, groceries from Morrison’s, a few bits from B&Q, and a visit to the chandlery at Shobnall will get us out for a bit.

Looks like another cold one tonight…


Thursday, January 10, 2013

A steady week….

We’ve not done so much this week, a trip to see my folks down in Sileby on Tuesday was good, then today we had a visit from Dave and Barbara, boaters who live in Newark but moor at Shobnall in Burton upon Trent.

We first met on the Trent while waiting for Cromwell Lock, then again by chance down on the Thames a couple of years later. Our trip up on to the Lancaster Canal in 2011 also coincided with theirs, also by chance. Spooky or what! Then last summer, while heading north on the Trent, we moored at Newark overnight and met up again!

Dave and Barbara arrive at Savick Brook on the Ribble Link, August 2011Z__DSCF0077 LB Arrives

Today has been the only get-together that has had any degree of planning!
It was good to see you again, folks.

We got a call from Barton Surgery yesterday afternoon, they weren’t entirely happy with Mags’ recent blood test results, so we were invited to make an appointment for today. A contrast with Mags’ own doctor up in Yorkshire. She rang for an appointment to keep her up to date and there’s nothing available till February!
Anyway, the doctor here has adjusted the prescription a little and we’re back for another blood test next week.

On Tuesday, down at Dad’s, I picked up the frame for my bike (John Sage) to hang on. Made by my brother Andy (he owns a fabrication business) it’s just the job.

Just clamped on at this point….DSC_0057   
It’ll bolt to the fender hangers, the mounting plates will have holes in for the fenders. Neat, huh.
A couple of straps and a cycle lock will secure the bike to the frame.
It’s awkward to get the bike on and off at the moment, the stern hangs off the end of the pontoon. But when we’re tied to the bank it should just be Ro-Ro.

Not on this scale, though….

After a few fine days the weather has reverted to January today. Grey and murky, and with a cold night last night. It looks set to stay that way for a week or so.

Even though it’s been dry the lakes are still pretty full….DSC_0053

This coot is either an early starter or optimistic…


Sunday, January 06, 2013

It’s a big one!

Yesterday we went over to Shardlow to visit our friend Carol and her partner Amanda on their new boat. We first met Carol on the Soar at Birstall while waiting for the river to go down (again), then we shared the locks down to Market Harborough.

We’ve met up since, we spent one summer cruising together, painting her old narrowboat, Corbiere, as we went.

Carol and Corbiere at Shireoaks on the Chesterfield Canal, 1st April 2008
April 2008 001  Corbiere at Shireoaks B

Having met Amanda she decided that old Corbiere was a little too small to live aboard, and At Last came up for sale in the marina so they bought it. Corbiere sold in a matter of days and is now somewhere down south.

We knew that At Last is a wide-beam but were nor prepared for the size of the thing.

It’s pretty big….DSC_0049
That wheelhouse is as big as our saloon!

It doesn’t have an engine or stern gear as yet, having been built purely as a house-boat, but that’s to be rectified this spring. They can’t wait to get her cruising, but at 12 feet wide and quite high with the fixed wheelhouse some of the bridges might be “interesting”….

It seems massive inside compared to a narrowboat.DSC_0051
Sorry about the poor quality, using the phone camera.

Friday, January 04, 2013

January weather? Nah!

Another warm, dry day today. Those shepherds know a thing or two!

Coots on the lakeSAM_4521

Big SkiesSAM_4526

I did an oil and filter change this afternoon, it was due and it’s better to leave the engine with fresh oil inside while it’s idle.

Not much else to report, off out tomorrow to visit Carol on her new boat at Shardlow.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Meg’s got a new bed!

I took Meg to a vet in town today for her annual check-up and boosters. The surgery was in the Just for Pets store, called Easipetcare.
No appointment required, and they were very pleasant and reasonably priced. And I got a 10% off voucher to use in the shop, so invested in a smart new dog bed.
She’s not looking very happy, not because of the bed, she doesn’t like the camera…
There were no problems, even though she’s a bit late. She was due in November, but we had other priorities.

We had another of those fine sunsets again this evening. Looking good again for tomorrow.SAM_4519

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Into 2013

Wow, what a way to start the year! Spectacular displays of fireworks, starting in Samoa, moving through New Zealand, Australia and the Middle East, through Europe and to the Americas.
American Samoa (the one that didn’t move Time Zones last year) was the last, at 11:00 GMT today.

London put on a fantastic display, a fitting end to a remarkable year.
Stole the pictures off the TV last night this morning. Ta Auntie Beeb…

Of course, if the French had had their way we would have been celebrating around 10 minutes earlier….

It all goes back to Hipparchus, a Greek mathematician and astronomer around 2200 years ago. He devised a method of dividing the globe up with latitude and longitude lines to chart the then known world. Charting was all very well, but navigation for the early mariners was tricky.
Latitude, north/south position, could be obtained fairly accurately by measuring the height of the Pole Star (or the Southern Cross in the Southern Hemisphere) above the horizon, and comparing the result with astronomical tables. But with no fixed reference points east or west, dead reckoning had to be employed, with estimates of speed and drift not always accurate.
Another problem with dead reckoning was being able to reliably measure the passage of time.

This was acceptable during the period of early exploration, but as maritime trade increased a solution to the accurate time measurement problem was considered vital, so important in fact that the British Government offered a prize of £20,000 for a reliable timepiece design. Clocks had been around for a while, but none were capable of withstanding the rigours of a long sea voyage and still keep good time.

A Yorkshire carpenter and self-taught clockmaker, John Harrison, designed and built a prototype “Sea Clock” in 1730 which was accurate in calm conditions but suffered during pitch and yaw of the boat’s hull during rough weather. After 43 years of experiments and tests he finally perfected a reliable model, able to keep good time in all conditions. Unlike the earlier models, the “Sea Watch” resembled an oversized pocket watch, but  far more intricate inside.
Sea Watch

Although he claimed the £20,000 prize, supported by Captain James Cook and even the King, Parliament refused to accept that his design met the criteria laid down, and grudgingly awarded £8,750.

Use of a marine chronometer is basically simple. Knowing that the sun is highest in the sky at a fixed point at noon, the distance around the globe can be calculated by checking the time of the noonday sun at the sailors current position. If it was +6 hours different (6 o’clock in the afternoon according to the chronometer), for example, the position must be at the 90º from the fixed starting point. 6 hours/24 hours x 360º (one earth rotation).

Now you can see how important it was to have an accurate timepiece. Of course, it’s all done by GPS now….

Anyway, to get back to the French.  As maritime commerce increased a global standard for time was needed. Of the three contenders for the “Prime Meridian”, the 0º meridian, Antwerp in Holland was an outsider, the observatories just outside Paris and at Greenwich were the favourites.
Greenwich had an advantage, however, in that seamen from all over the world were loading and unloading at the docks in the city, and habitually corrected their timepieces to Greenwich time.
At a conference in 1884 Greenwich was almost unanimously voted for, France abstaining.
GMT was born.
France, having taken the huff, didn’t adopt the standard for another 30 years.

The Paris Observatory lies 2º20’ east of Greenwich, so the sun is at it’s highest around 10 minutes earlier here. And midnight would also occur 10 minutes earlier….

Back to the present, we had a great surprise today, George and Carol (The Rockers) and Chas and Ann (The Lifers) came over.
They are moored over on the Shroppie and had transport available so decided to spend the afternoon with us.

Last year we were together in convoy at this time, this year it’s not been possible but this was the next best thing. Thanks guys!SAM_4508

It looks finally like the Mayans were wrong, the world didn’t end on the 21st December 2012. Although, strictly speaking, they didn’t predict apocalypse, it’s people’s interpretation of the fact that their calendar ended then. If they apply the same criteria to my calendar, the end of the world will come on Thursday. I’ve no more diary entries after that….

Now we know we’ve got one,
have a Great New Year!