Monday, 22 July 2019


When Dave Freeman did our boat safety certificate examination at the end of last year, he noted that one of the burners on the gas hob was leaking very slightly – not enough to fail it, but an advisory that we should probably do something about it. I asked about repair, and he responded that it would probably be cheaper to buy a new hob. I asked who he would recommend to fit it when I'd bought it, and he said "Me!" So over the winter I researched hobs and found that the obvious replacement would be exactly the same model from New World, who were extremely helpful on the phone. Doing it that way worked out cheaper than getting something via Amazon. Today Dave came to fit it.

Getting the old one out was easy enough. But putting the new one in place was not. It transpired that even though it had the same part number as the old there were some significant differences – not really surprising after twelve years. The main problem was that the protective cover underneath was considerably larger, and wouldn't fit into the hole in the work surface.

In the end we removed both covers and put the old one on the new hob. It needed some bending and an extra hole for one of the screws needed to keep it in place, and was a very tight fit, but Dave finally managed to get it firmly in position.

At that point he decided he certainly wasn't going to take it out again to attach the gas and electricity supplies – it was fitting snugly and needed to be left alone. So the supplies had to be worked on from underneath. Out came the oven and grill!

When everything was connected and ready for testing, he found that the push button ignition switch had previously been supported underneath by the protective cover – which we had removed. The cover from the old hob wasn't big enough and the whole switch was dropping through its hole when pressed. It had a thread but no nut to keep it in place. Fortunately the switch on the old hob did have a nut on its thread, of the right size to fit the new one.

So now Erin Mae has a working, safe hob – and we're ready for tea!

Sunday, 21 July 2019


The café beside Haywood Lock was always a bit quirky, but there would sometimes be a nice open fire when it was cold, a crowd of coffee-drinking gongoozlers on the outside tables when it was hot, and Sunday lunch done in two formal sittings. But for the last few months…

it has been closed, and shows every sign of being converted into residences. Just up the towpath Great Haywood junction, of course, is the Canalside Farm Shop and café, where we went for lunch today.

I know – should have taken the photo before we started eating! My best beloved had  a beetroot wrap (!) with chicken goujons, chips and bits and pieces on the side, and the chips were large, well cooked and crunchy – just what chips should be . I had one of their double Staffordshire oatcakes with four different fillings and a salad on the side – it's one of their more unusual and satisfying dishes.

Farm, shop and café all seem to be doing really well, which we're glad about, but you wonder whether it's this competition that has led to the closure of the lock café. Perhaps they're just doing a total re-furbishment and will re-open as an eatery in time.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019


At long last we've come up to Erin Mae for more than just a night. Earlier in the year we paid a couple of visits. The first was to get the systems back on after the winter, and the second was to relieve my nervousness about one or two things after a sizeable time away. But various events and obligations conspired to keep us in the south for an extra two months, so it's good to have been able finally to travel up yesterday with what's required for a longer stay – though we can't yet push off on an extended trip.

I've installed a new type of water filter cartridge under the sink, and have been astonished by how fast the water is running through it. Mind you, I'm very suspicious. The last time I got anything more than just a trickle from the tap's cold water position we found, at the end of the season, that it was because the cartridge hadn't been seated properly, and was letting water flow round it instead of through it. Somehow we'd survived a summer of drinking unfiltered water with no ill effects. So I've re-inserted the current one, trying to be very careful about its position – but it's actually very difficult to be sure, as you screw the holder into place, that the cartridge inside is exactly where it should be. Ah well, let's hope it's the drinking water that runs, and not our insides!

Less rapid has been the flow down the plughole in the bathroom basin. The drain pipe has an uncomplicated path to the outside, and we're pretty careful about what goes down it, so I've not a clue what was causing the blockage – and I don't really want to think about it! Filling the basin and using a towel to pump things out had no effect, so finally today I took a plunger to it, and that did the job. Normal flow restored!

Here's to everything else flowing in a reasonably smooth fashion over the next few months.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018


The prevailing wind at Great Haywood marina is south-westerly. But overnight on Monday / Tuesday, what with the machinations of the jet stream, it had become a bitingly cold north-easterly. We got the diesel central-heating going immediately on arrival on Monday evening and that, together with the effect of the 500 watt convector heater I'd brought, meant we were able to take off our outer jackets and scarves just before bedtime, though we were rather tempted to keep them on all night.

I'd been a bit concerned about the wind the Met Office had been promising, because I wanted to take Erin Mae across to services in the morning, and thought it might be tricky getting out of the mooring. In the event, the 180˚ switch from normal meant that as soon as I had backed out, the wind caught the bows and swung them round the way I wanted to go. We got a pump-out, filled the diesel tank, and pushed off to go back to our mooring. Unfortunately, the north-easter was now pushing us straight onto the service jetty. I tried the cunning "reverse against a secured stern-line" trick, but made little progress against the strengthening wind, and was a bit worried about what I was doing to our nice, new blacking. In the end I had to push and then drive the stern out, and reverse back to a point where I could finally swing Erin Mae's nose round in the right direction. Boats in reverse frequently demonstrate that they have a mind of their own, and I think she was objecting to being put to bed for the winter.

Once securely tied up again, we went through the procedures for protecting the water system against the coming freeze. It's pretty straightforward, and it took only (!) half-an-hour for the water-tank to empty. Then I siphoned the water out of the calorifier (the hot-water-tank), and we were ready to go. Conditions on the road did not look promising, so we fortified ourselves before leaving with Staffordshire oatcakes from the Canalside Café before braving the motorways.

So that's Erin Mae in hibernation for a few months. Hope she's going to be OK. And that I haven't forgotten anything that I should have done to keep her snug.

Friday, 16 November 2018


Engineering have just finished the blacking of Erin Mae's hull, and it's looking good.

They've also freshened up the paint of the tunnel bands – not that anyone has yet ever caught me up in a tunnel!

We've followed their advice to renew the anodes – those blocks of aluminium attached near the bow. Erin Mae is nearly 12 years old, and this is the first time they've needed attention. I'd thought that Engineering would replace the old anodes, but they've simply added the new ones, which presumably makes sense.

Science lesson: For those who don't know, aluminium is a more reactive metal than steel, and corrodes in preference to the steel, providing extra anti-corrosion protection for the hull. They're called anodes because it's an electro-chemical process, with the aluminium adopting a positive electrical potential in comparison with the steel. It's exactly the opposite effect from what boat builders discovered when they tried to cover wooden boats with copper sheeting, using iron nails to hold it in place. Iron is more reactive than copper, so the nails would corrode in no time and fall out, rather defeating the purpose!

So now Erin Mae's back on her mooring, looking very nice. We plan to get up on Monday afternoon, with the hope of winterising on Tuesday morning.

Monday, 12 November 2018


Engineering were meant to start Erin Mae's blacking last Thursday. I checked the jetty's webcam from time to time to see whether they'd come over to fetch her – nothing doing by the weekend.

This morning, however, there she was – gone! 4th space up is empty.

Actually, the delay is probably no bad thing. The Met Office is indicating that the weather should be mostly a bit warmer and drier this week – better conditions for getting the hull cleaned and coated. I'd had two concerns about getting the blacking done this late in the year. Firstly, that the weather would prevent them doing a good job. Secondly, that icy weather would arrive and freeze up Erin Mae's interior before I'd had a chance to do the winterising. Looks as though everything should be OK.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Home again

We're a bit more accustomed than we used to be to packing up Erin Mae and driving south, though it's still a bit sad. Interestingly, what I'm really looking forward to, when next year's activities start, is tackling the work on the windows and the painting that was such a source of trepidation at the start of this year. My main concern is about getting out the window fixing screws without breaking them off.

Erin Mae is booked in next week for hull blacking. I've been watching the weather forecast, hoping it won't be too cold or wet for engineering to do an effective job. They'll check the anodes at the same time – I've really no idea how many years they're meant to last, but they were fine three years ago. They're also going to freshen up the paint on the tunnel bands. So when we pay a brief visit in a fortnight or so, to put her to bed for the winter, everything should be looking very good indeed.

Well, that's the plan…