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…

Monday 29 October 2018


Ice, as we emerged, on the inside of Erin Mae's bedroom window. Frost all over the hull and the pontoon.

But a gloriously sunny morning – all designed to put Dave Freeman in a good mood! Dave was here at 9 a.m. to do our Boat Safety Certificate inspection. First, he had a peek in all relevant spaces and glory-holes, with instruments to measure this and that.

Then he wrote up on the relevant forms what he had found.

All went well, so we handed over the dosh and look forward to receiving the relevant certificate by email. He showed us there was the faintest of leaks from some of the gas burners on the hob – not enough to fail the inspection, but sufficient to consider repair or replacement. Amazingly, it will probably cost more to replace three burner controls than to replace the whole hob. Over the winter we'll look at our options. It seems that, if I source an appropriate hob, it wouldn't cost much for him to install it himself, and that would be convenient.

After he'd gone my best beloved said she'd love some toast and marmalade! Unfortunately we only brought with us a minimum of essentials this weekend, and marmalade wasn't among them. So I capitalised on the moment to earn some brownie points by suggesting going up to the Canalside Café for a bacon sandwich. Approved!

The Great Haywood Canalside Farm business has been doing very well. Last year they made it into the national headlines for the number of pumpkins they sold, and all indications are it's a repeat performance this time around. But we were more interested in other things and headed to the café, which overlooks the Trent and Mersey.

Looking at the menu we settled on Staffordshire oatcakes with bacon and cheese – if you've never had one you've missed out! When they arrived at our table it transpired that, instead of two single oatcakes, they'd prepared four doubles! I followed the waiter back to the counter where he was discussing with the cooks what had gone awry, to make sure they weren't simply going to throw away all that good food. So two of the doubles came back to our table.

Brunch with a vengeance! Very tasty, and very sustaining. So we needed to walk it all off, through the village and back via the towpath. Not much moving on the water, but a stunning day, both sunny and chilly. We had another appointment around lunch-time – Keith Wilson was coming to fit the new side panels to Erin Mae's pram hood.

He took care over the fitting, and we are very pleased with the result.

The material is a slightly different PVC from the original, since that's no longer available. It's a bit heavier, a bit less flexible, and has a different texture – grainy rather than flat. But the colour is a very good match, and it will do very well.

So, in various ways (and with some damage to the bank account), we're covered again. Shucks – that reminds me that the insurance is due next month.

Sunday 28 October 2018


As with most blogging boaters who go back to bricks and mortar during the winter, my posts tail off around this time of year. We took home the first car-load a week and a half ago, combining the seasonal emptying of Erin Mae with a couple of things for which we needed to be in the south. But this weekend we suddenly find ourselves in boating mode again, albeit briefly.

First up was Saturday's annual meeting of the Boaters Christian Fellowship, held this year, as last, in Rugby – a good day of getting together with about 100 of the 600-strong membership. Some of them we have got to know quite well, but the day also provides the opportunity to chat with folk we've met only occasionally or not at all. Others (e.g., probably, Halfie, not least because he's married to the chair!) will post some pictures of the event. I thought I would put up one of Peter Braybrook, of NB Sonflower.

Peter is the BCF General Secretary and, along with the rest of the committee, does a lot of work behind the scenes to keep things developing. Not only is he also active with the Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs, but he and Fran have signed on as volunteer Waterways Chaplains. So this acknowledgement is partly to thank Peter for all he puts back into the waterways. He spent most of the meeting time on Saturday taking notes about proceedings and will be sending out the minutes, etc.

One of the highlights of the day was Richard Parry, CEO of the Canal and River Trust, joining us for lunch, and afterwards speaking for a while before answering questions. He didn't duck the hard ones, either (well, not much!) and his answers provided some insights into the complexities of the system.

After it was all over we drove over to Great Haywood to spend the weekend on Erin Mae – our Boat Safety Scheme inspection is scheduled for tomorrow. This morning we joined with Wildwood Church for worship, as normal when we're in the marina, and then went over to the Hollybush Inn at Salt for Sunday lunch. They're a friendly lot. I've posted some pictures of the outside before, so this time I thought I'd try with one of the interior, taken with the extremely ancient iPhone 4 I've just inherited from my best beloved.

Hopefully you'll be so captivated by the warmth of the scene that you'll think the finger smudge top left is part of the ceiling – I'm only just getting used to taking photos on a phone! Driving back to Erin Mae from Salt we crossed the Trent and Mersey. On this cold, crisp, sunny autumn day, we found one or two things were on the move.

But we're going nowhere! The fire's keeping us snug and I've got an "Essentials of England" collection playing on Erin Mae's audio. I'm racking my brains to see if there's anything I need to do before the BSS inspection tomorrow. If there is, and I don't, no doubt Dave will inform me in the morning.

Thursday 11 October 2018


No piccies tonight – how many pictures of black paint on Erin Mae's stern counter can you take!

The day turned out as planned. A second coat of gunwale paint all the way round the horizontal surface of the stern from cabin end right to cabin end left, before coffee. Then, with the sky beginning to threaten something dire, I collapsed the hood and started the engine. By the time we were ready to get under way, the paint was all touch dry, and a few drops were starting to fall. From the Wide to Great Haywood Junction we followed NB Elysian Waters, which had come along as we were winding, so it was only polite to let them through.

At the junction they turned right while we turned left, the few hundred yards to the marina entrance. Fortunately, the wind had dropped a bit, so getting into the marina and round to our berth was relatively straightforward. There we discovered that we have new neighbours, with a very handsome, newly painted boat. I was therefore doubly happy, even though they were not aboard, to get Erin Mae into dock without touching either the jetty or the neighbours. Doubly – no marks on either their boat or Erin Mae's newly finished gunwales. Give them a bit more time to harden (the gunwales, not the neighbours!).

We're glad to be back in port. Firstly, after a week we finally ran out of water this morning – just enough for coffee. Secondly, that promised storm is now flexing its muscles and battering us with wet stuff. We're grateful to be safe and sound and warm inside, relatively protected from the elements, with water suitably contained.

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Everyone's maintainin'

We've seen quite a lot of this wooden boat during our days at Tixall Wide.

Her name is Tamburo. I suppose she would be called a launch of some sort, but I don't know what the appropriate abbreviation would be – presumably not "NB" even though her width is similar to that of a narrowboat. ML? MV? The owners have been doing a deal of maintenance, as have a number of boaters here during these sunny, quieter days.

Our own painting of bits of Erin Mae has really gone very well. Today I put the first coat of gunwale paint on the stern counter. I put it on with a roller, but wasn't happy with the overall result. I'll hope to put on a second coat all by brush tomorrow, and a get nice, smooth, even look to it.

I took the opportunity of having the gunwale paint out to go down the sides, seeing how easy it was to cover travel-damaged bits with a roller-full. First impressions are that this is going to be really good solution. Rubs and scrapes as you cruise are to be expected, and nothing to worry about. But it is really nice to have a system for restoring it all from time to time, and I'm very happy with our decision to change the original green gloss for Andy Russell's satin black.

So after doing Erin Mae's right-hand side we turned her around to point in the opposite direction and did the left-hand side. The Broad Water (Tixall Wide's proper name) is wide enough to allow for this, just by holding the bows with a line and swinging the stern around with the engine. This has the advantage that, when I put the final coat on the counter tomorrow, I'll be a bit more sheltered from the wind.

The forecast says there'll be time in the morning to do the painting and then get back to the marina before the rain comes (and before we run out of water). Tamburo may well come as well – we found her in the marina when we had a couple of days there last week, and understand she's booked in for the winter.

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Steady progress

Progress is a blackened stern counter.

It's a second coat of CraftMaster undercoat. This time I brushed it all, instead of using a roller. I'm intrigued that, while a roller seems to work well straight from the tin, you get best results with a brush by thinning the paint. When Little Rich taught me about painting five or six years ago, he talked about brushing needing a "warm soup" consistency. So that's what I aim for.

Meanwhile, progress in the kitchen entailed my best beloved producing another great soda bread loaf, to eat for lunch with the last of her most recent batch of home-made soup. This afternoon, she's started on another bout of chopping vegetables ready for the pressure cooker. It's that time of year, of course, though today has been bright, sunny and even warm, as will tomorrow be, if the forecast is to be believed.

Monday 8 October 2018

Up close and personal

Or rather – down close and personal!

I crouched for some of the painting of the stern counter, but had to lie right down to get over the edge.

This angle shows not only what's needed to paint Erin Mae, but also the thinness of the thatch of the one doing the painting. Looks almost like a tonsure! Blame my best beloved for having no regard whatsoever for my feelings.

This is the undercoat going on. Hopefully the masking tape will give a nice line, even though it's along a weld.

Sunday 7 October 2018

Up betimes

Got up early this morning to pay a wee visit to the bathroom, and it was cold! So I checked the batteries to make sure they could stand having the central heating on, and started the Webasto. Then, since the coal scuttle contained a fair amount of SuperTherm, I had a go at regenerating the fire and soon had a nice blaze. By now I wasn't feeling much like going back to bed, realised the Japanese Grand Prix was getting under way, and found that by using Channel 4 + 1 I could watch it from the start, accompanied by a warming cup of tea. Haven't had so much fun before 7.30 for a long time!

It was bright, but still damp and chilly, as we set out later to walk to Great Haywood Junction, down to Haywood Lock, and then across the Essex Bridge to Shugborough for coffee.

A heron, pterodactyl-like as ever, took fright at a walker and her dog, and flew across to the island to continue fishing.

The coffee was good, but we didn't think much of what Shugborough was offering for Sunday lunch, so we walked back to the junction and across to the Canalside Café, to find they had a roast on the menu. Very nice too.

I'd hoped to continue with a bit of boat painting this afternoon, but by the time we were back on Erin Mae (or, truth to tell, by the time I'd roused myself again after another coffee) the conditions felt not quite right. I'm not entirely certain what combinations of temperature, timing and humidity make painting a fruitless occupation in October, but it's a sufficiently fraught exercise for me anyway, without having to remove and repeat tomorrow. So tomorrow it will be. The weather forecast currently tells me I should be able to get a good bit done over the next few days.

Saturday 6 October 2018

Down below

As well as the horizontal surfaces, I'm painting with gunwale paint the top couple of inches below the stern deck above the drainage channels – the channels themselves are done with bilge paint.

That led me to lift a couple of the deck boards to do some preparation. Which (inevitably!) led on to other things…

In the A-shaped cavity you can see the drive shaft, lubricated as it passes through with water drawn from the weed-hatch above the propellor. The first ring through which it runs is a seal to keep that water where it should be.

The seal has a screw on top, which you remove to give it an annual squirt of silicone grease. I'd done this a couple of weeks ago, but noticed that there was a small puddle on the floor below it. I thought I probably hadn't squirted enough, and that I should turn the propellor as I did so to spread it all around. So, off came the weed hatch to give access to the prop. All went as planned with, hopefully, no more drips.

However, I noticed that the top of the weed hatch cavity was showing signs of a bit of corrosion. Since I had the Fertan handy, I painted some all over the upper surface and edges. But that left me with another problem. The Fertan took longer to dry than I was expecting, and I wanted to run the engine to give us some electrons and some hot water. The second quickest way to sink your boat is to have the weed-hatch open with the engine in drive. I would be running the engine in neutral, but accidents happen! I thought about leaving the deck board up all night as a check as to remind me – but the rain was coming and the side panels of Erin Mae's stern pram-hood (you may remember) were lost to the wind a couple of weeks ago.

In the end I dried off excess Fertan with a paper towel and then left it to dry for a bit longer before putting back the weed-hatch cover before starting the engine. Better safe than sorry. But I haven't yet checked to see whether the Fertan has (a) glued the cover in place, or (b) destroyed the seal on which it sits…

Friday 5 October 2018

Stern paint

There are two related painting jobs around Erin Mae's stern.

The first is to paint the surface at gunwale level with Andy Russell's satin black gunwale paint (or, as he has it, Gunwhale Paint). Yesterday I applied some Fertan rust converter to the bits that were lightly corroded and today I put down some primer over that. Tomorrow I expect I'll apply a second coat of primer – probably not necessary, but the manufacturer recommends four coats on bare metal! Then I'll have to decide whether to use some black undercoat, or just apply the gunwale paint over what's there. I'll also need to decide what to do about the dollies. I expect that the mooring lines will rub off in no time anything I apply to them. Is it worth the hassle? And what do other boaters do? I'll have to find out.

The second job is to do something about the tunnel bands – the red and white sections which are looking a bit sorry for themselves. Their rather tatty state will only be emphasised by the application of Andy Russell, and by the boat blacking to take place in November. The upper band is the same colour as Erin Mae's ivory detailing, while the red can be done to match the main bodywork panels, and I've got paint and suitable undercoat for all of that. The main problem will be getting at the panels. With the dodger off to get at the rusty bits I tried lying stretched out on the cruiser deck, and it looks at though I can probably manage to lean over far enough. My best beloved has been emailing me references to fisherman's waders, but I'd rather avoid going in if I can avoid it!

Thursday 4 October 2018


We've been dithering a little about how to spend this period. We had to be in the marina for Keith Wilson's visit on Tuesday. Erin Mae's hull needs to be blacked, and I've now arranged for that to be done in November by the engineering department in Great Haywood. So now we have a couple of weeks before Keith finishes our cover panels. The weather isn't particularly conducive to doing more cruising, but nor is it really cold enough yet to prohibit painting.

So, having had to take Erin Mae off her mooring for a pump-out, we just carried on out of the marina down to Tixall Wide (again!), which is still the most delightful local spot for doing odds and ends. Late this afternoon I went over some bits at the back of the boat with sandpaper and rust converter, and tomorrow will hope to report, with pictures, on how getting over the stern to apply some paint has gone.

Meanwhile, I found that Amazon were offering me the chance to read the first two Harry Potter books on my Kindle for free. Whenever we see one of the Potter films (and they're on the box weekly at the moment), I remind myself to re-read the books to catch up on the extra bits. So I've devoured the Philosopher's Stone and the Chamber of Secrets, with great delight (yes, I know they're really children's books, but they are good fun). So "pottering" pretty much describes what we've been doing.

Tuesday 2 October 2018

Measuring up

Keith Wilson came to our jetty today. He'd been doing some repair work on a boat cover for some friends of ours, and used the opportunity to measure up Erin Mae for her own new suit of clothes (replacements for the side panels for the pram-hood cover that we'd lost in the wind two weeks ago). He believes he can get hold of the correct material. He's pretty busy but hopefully we'll have a fully functioning cover in place within two or three weeks.

Meanwhile it's cold and drizzly, so we're happy to do indoor things like reading and putting on the kettle. We had the remains of the soup for lunch, so my best beloved decided to make another loaf of soda bread. Keith joined us in enjoying some of that! And then I've discovered that my BT Broadband account gives me a certain amount of access to live sporting events, so I might just watch a bit of Champions League footie, once that kettle has boiled. It's a hard life.