Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Christmas

0 Locks and 0 miles.
We can report that our first Xmas afloat was a complete success. We had Tracey who lives in Wimbledon and Brent who is over here from NZ for 3 weeks with us.
Our Xmas day menu was a combination of New Zealand and British fare. Stuffed turkey breast (the oven isn’t big enough for a full sized bird) and a leg of lamb, NZ lamb naturally.
We had bought the usual Xmas pudding, mince pies and custard but a last minute decision by Dot on Xmas eve was to try and make a New Zealand Pavlova. Tracey had not had a traditional pavlova since being domiciled in the UK for the last 6 years. Well to do this she needed a whisk which she found at the local Sainsbury’s store in the form of a Braun Multiquick Professional which is a sort of hand held electric whisk, blender and food processor all rolled into one, (and at a bargain price too)
The next thing was to find where she had stored the recipe on the computer. That found, the final hurdle was cooking it in a gas oven which she had never done before.
Well we can report that the outcome was a total success with a lovely marshmellow centre, that soon disappeared like magic and there were no left over’s.

Boxing Day turned out warm and overcast and as Tracey had her car with her we decided on a trip to St Albans to show Brent something of Britain’s history by visiting the Abbey and some of the very old and quaint buildings that still exists around the town. Brent needless to say was completely overawed once he stepped inside the Abbey and was in no great hurry to leave.
Even though St Albans is not very far from where we are moored there was a distinct difference in temperature. When we left the boat our thermometer was reading 8.2 0C but after walking around St Albans for a while it was quite noticeable that the temperature there was considerably colder. Perhaps it had some thing to do with St Albans being at a higher altitude than Apsley.
The first two photos show the Pemberton Alms houses from the 1600's and the last one of the St Albans Abbey itself with its history dating back to 250AD.

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Fog & Bl#@%y buses

0 Locks and 0 miles.

In the last 2 days we have had 3 separate incidents concerning buses. Two scheduled services never materialized leaving me to freeze in a bus shelter for 30 minutes waiting for the next bus. Dot had the infuriating problem of a bus sailing past without stopping to pick her up even though she was waving her arm franticly. And they wonder why people don’t use public transport more often! We both finished work yesterday as we had jobs to do on the boat today before our 1st UK Xmas. (For Dot anyway). As I had done some painting inside the boat this morning we decided to go for a walk in the fresh air after lunch. Did I say FRESH air, that’s a laugh, it was so foggy and cold but we did manage to explore another part of the area as yet unseen by us both. We can now confirm there is such a thing as a pub with no beer, The Lime Kiln pub on St Albans Hill Road which had all the doors and windows boarded up. The sign outside the pub, as was another sign extolling the beer garden and meals were still there for all to see but that was all. Is the great English institution of the “Local” falling on hard times?
During our walk we found the local “Tesco’s” super market so as we needed a few things we went in. Well what an eye opener, all the checkouts of which there were at least 15, had queues which extended down every aisle with about 10 trolleys in each queue. I know its Xmas but we are not used to this kind of hustle and bustle. Luckily we qualified for the 10 items or less checkout which was less congested.
The unit in the photo was a extendable radiator cabinet from Homebase DIY centre which I modified into a book case. Fitted in very well under the gunnels and it looks original matching the existing timber work.

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Busy, busy, busy.

0 Locks and 0 miles.

You tend to forget how busy life can be when you are working but with both of us working up to 9 hours a day we have not had much spare time. The company we are working for import and sell ‘Pure’ digital radios. They are apparently the best on the market, at a price.
We have had heavy frosts over the last 2 nights but a fine chilly day has followed.

It’s funny what you see when you are out walking which most people in cars would miss.

The attached picture is one such item. Did the developers forget the sign or has the work dragged on that long?

The Ovaltine factory site re-development was of interest to Derek as his mother and aunty worked there when they left school back in the 1930’s. It’s nice to see they have kept the original fa├žade instead of just bulldozing it down and are building very expensive apartments inside. You can check out the Ovaltine apartments here.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Back to Work

2 Locks and 1/2 mile.
Yesterday we went through lock 67 down to Apsley.marina for a pump out & water fill. It was a bit breezy at the time but we still managed to get in & out of the marina without any mishaps.
After going back up through lock 67 we turned & got our original mooring as nothing is moving on the canal at present.
As we are compelled to stay here until after January we called into a employment agency to see about some temp work and bingo Derek got a job straight away starting 8.30 tomorrow morning but Dot may have to wait a day or 2 until something suitable turns up.
So, no more sleeping in, it’s back to reality for a wee while.
The attached photo is at a relatively new business estate of 4 commercial office buildings next to the canal at Hemel Hempstead, all named after famous canal pioneers.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Change of scenery

6 Locks and 2 1/2 miles.
Woke up to a really good frost this morning, second one in a row. The steel work having now been completed there is no need for us to stay at Winkwell so we have moved back down to Apsley Mills which is closer to civilization and supermarkets etc: As Middlesex & Herts Boats had run out of diesel we had a choice of going to Watford or returning to Winkwell later in the week. We had half a tank of diesel but we didn’t want it to get too low. However as we arrived at Apsley we ran into Peter Hawker on n/b’s Bletchley & Argos delivering coal and diesel so we bought diesel from him which turned out to be a bonus as his price is only 49p per litre. After a late lunch we nipped over to Sainsbury’s supermarket for a few essentials just before they closed. We are now settled in for the night but we are being buffeted by wind gusts which we have not had a problem with before this but hey that’s boating for you.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Alterations progress

0 Locks and 0 miles.
We have now been at Middlesex & Herts boat yard in Winkwell near Hemel Hempstead for 2 days and we now have ½ a cratch frame and new front fender mountings. We got fed up with the front fender or tipcat not hanging properly, it was always lopsided. We will also leave here with a new hemp rope fender which will be soaked in oil and creosote to keep out earwigs.Derek has not been idle either, he is re-varnishing the bathroom to protect the woodwork and when it’s dry he will fit a new shower assembly and shower screen. No more cold shower curtains wrapping around us while showering.The fan/light that he fitted last week has now been modified so that it has its own switch and doesn’t come on every time the lights are switched on. He has also caught up with routine maintenance by checking the batteries, greasing the rudder and refilling the propeller shaft greaser.
Last night we abandoned ship for a while to get away from the smell of the new varnish. There is a little pub just across the road which has been in existence since 1535. Its claim to fame are the 4 fireplaces, uneven tile floor, original oak beams and the 2 friendly ghosts who were a highway man and an old lady.

Christmas is coming to the canal.
This photo is taken on the Grand Union canal at Winkwell, the boats are moored in front of us. Making our own christmas lights look almost insignificant. Pity more people cannot see the magnificant display.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Bats in the belfry

6 Locks and 2 1/ 2 miles.
We are on the move again after a nice break at Apsley Mills returning to Winkwell to get a cratch frame and rear doors made. We will also get the covers measured but probably won’t get them this side of Xmas.
Our timing was perfect because after we arrived at Winkwell it stared to rain.
Just before we set off from Apsley Mills we loaded and started the washer drier to give it a trial run. The wash cycle seemed to take for ever but that may have been because of the setting Dot set the machine on but it eventually did complete the full cycle. We monitored the inverter the whole time and were pleased to see that the load monitor only went up to 70% so we are more than happy with our power supply and the washer drier.
The wash cycle had finished by the time we arrived at Winkwell so we decided to give the drier a run. As the battery monitor was only just showing 12v we left the engine running to be on the safe side. By the time the washing was dry the batteries were also fully charged so everything worked very satisfactorily.
Just before we arrived in Winkwell we passed under a railway bridge and what Derek thought was a small bird flew very close to us and then skimmed across the water surface. In the period of 10 minutes this happened again no less than 3 times and the last time it flew so close to Derek’s head he said that had he had a net he could have caught a BAT. Now we thought that bats were nocturnal and this was only 3.30pm but it was dark and overcast.
On further investigation it appears that there is a bat colony living in a dis-used chalk mine at Roughdown Common which is probably only a mile or so from here. The main inhabitants are Pipistrelle bats which feed on insects and there were certainly plenty of them flitting around this evening.

Monday, 4 December 2006

No more launderettes...

4 locks and 1 mile

On Friday we moved back down to Apsley marina to get the toilet tank pumped out and make arrangements to moor the boat when we are away in France just after Xmas. The marina is still relatively new with toilets, a shower and a laundry with 1 washing machine and 1 drier.
Getting into the marina is definitely not for the faint hearted. First the warden has to raise the drawbridge which is a foot path across the entranceway which is only about 12 feet wide. Next problem is that the pump out berth is immediately on your left which is a 90degree turn as you enter the marina. This is where a bow thruster comes in handy but we ain’t got one.
After the pump out you have to reverse out of the berth and then turn around to face the right way to get out again. There is plenty of space in the centre of the marina but you have moored boats on both sides. There is a sign which states “No entry allowed in high winds”. Why ever not I ask myself?

After this mind boggling exercise was completed we moored up between locks 66 and 67.
Saturday we trotted off to Wimbledon again to collect our mail which included our licence plates and registration stickers from BW. Not quite as easy to go by train from Apsley as we had to change trains at Harrow and Wealdstone, Willesden Junction, and Clapham Junction which took 1hour 40 minutes.

When we returned we called in at Comet which is an electrical retail chain to order or buy a Candy washer drier. When Derek finally got the attention of a salesman who was busy chatting up a female member of staff we were told that he was unsure of when this particular model would be available again as it was showing as unavailable on the computer. Derek then tried to barter for the display model which the salesman said he would have to consult the Manager. Surprise, surprise, he said we could have it with another ₤30 off even though it was on special with ₤100 off. As we were moored virtually behind the store but on the wrong side of the canal Derek moved the boat across the canal in the dark where we could load the washer drier onto the front deck straight off the concrete wharf. Once safely stowed aboard, we then had to reverse back across the canal by about 200 yards to where we were originally moored. No easy task especially as it had now got dark with night fall. Can’t get used to this darkness at 4pm which happens so rapidly.
Sunday saw us up early as we wanted to install the washer drier as it was in the way in the lounge. Problem, how to get it into the kitchen when it had to pass between a wall and the gunnels. Derek had measured it all up and was confident that it would fit but he had to take off a passage door and a few other bits and pieces first. He had a bright idea of putting a loose carpet down on the floor with his tool box on top. We then laid the washer on its side on top of the tool box and dragged it through the gap which went off without a hitch.
Once into the kitchen it was relatively easy to push it into the space allotted but then Derek had to re-run some electrical wiring which had originally been in the cupboard over the oven for the microwave. As we had changed our minds over where to put the microwave this power point was superfluous where it was, so he had to pull it all out and run it back under the bench. This meant all the cupboards concerned had to be emptied so he could get into them literally.
After lots of cursing and grunting and groaning he finally got it done. Bit of luck and I will give it a test run tomorrow.

Watch this space.......

Friday, 1 December 2006

Still here.

0 Locks and 100 metres.
Because it is nice and peaceful here above Boxmoor lock we decided 'why move if you don’t have to' (except the 100 metres we pulled forward as we were sitting on a ledge and the boat was leaning over (most uncomfortable)). Not only that, but it’s nice and handy to Hemel Hempstead town centre which is the equal of any shopping centre’s in London without the crowds and hustle and bustle. There are plenty of home improvements / DIY stores around within 15 minutes walk so it’s very convenient for Derek to get bits and pieces for the modifications he is working on.
Our new power supply set up is working well and providing we are careful with our usage each night we only have to run the motor for less than an hour a day to restore the batteries.