Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Close shave

Moored near Lock 67 Apsley

We knew we were getting very low in diesel and my dip stick still showed about an inch of diesel in the fuel tank but this did not take in to consideration that the take off pipe from the tank was about half an inch above the bottom. However the Mikuni central heating unit started at 8am as usual and the batteries were ok so we thought no more of it until I happened to go into the electrical cupboard. The Mikuni control panel was showing a fault which I wrongly diagnosed as low battery power. Because of this I thought I had better run the engine for a wee while but when I started the engine it only ran for a few minutes when it started to splutter. I quickly stopped the engine as I realized that the whole problem, engine and Mikuni were lack of diesel. Bum!
However we knew that our guardian angel would be along soon as Peter on N/b’s Bletchley and Argus had sent us a text last night to say he would be here today with coal and diesel. Sure to his word he arrived at 2pm and including 30 litres of diesel in our emergency containers we took on 189 litres of diesel.
The other project that I have been busy with is modifying the plumbing to the bathroom by placing shut off valves in the system so that the bathroom can be isolated and leave the rest of the system operational. Something I would have thought would have been common sense when building a boat but I suppose it all comes down to cost. Our thanks to City Plumbing of Hemel Hempstead for their assistance with this project.

While all this was taking place Dot had a quiet day with her nose in a good book. She has become a right little bookworm lately. The two photos attached show the Apsley Marina, from the Marina looking towards the canal.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Success and disaster

Moored near Lock 67 Apsley

Due to the fine weather this week-end there has been quite a lot of movement on the canal including the boat in the attached picture.

Narrowboat Tui was spotted just as we arrived back at the boat from the Homebase DIY store. Well, those of you in the know, will be aware that Tui’s are a native bird of NZ so we spoke to the lone boatman who told us that the Kiwi connection was the previous owner.
So if anybody out there recognizes the boat or knows of the old owner please give us a call or email.

The reason for the visit to Homebase was because the vanity unit that we had waited so long for had a cracked basin when we unwrapped it. Luckily I had not done too much work in the bathroom but it’s frustrating as we don’t know how long it will take to get a replacement.

The Manager was going to email all the other stores and try and get a new one ASAP.

The success was in repairing the shower pump which had died on us. We got a pump repair kit from the agents last week and yesterday was the first opportunity I had to look at it. The biggest problem is centralizing the diaphragm which took me four attempts before I got it right, needless to say I could just about do the job blindfold now.

Saturday, 27 January 2007


Moored near Lock 67 Apsley

The temp agency rang me to say my service were not required today (I must have been too efficient) so we decided on a trip to Watford.

The first reason was to visit British Waterways and change our BW licence to a gold licence as we are planning on travelling over Environmental Agencies waterways later in the year. The second was for me to have a good look around my old home town at what changes had taken place over the years.
The bus trip from Apsley to Watford was good in that I saw many places that I remembered from my
childhood days.

The first photo shows the pond at the top of High Street which has been in existence prior to the invention of the motor vehicle, being originally used to water the horses.

The Harlequin centre (shopping mall) is huge as it has swallowed up probably 25% of what I remember of the town centre. We wandered around and found the old shop (H G Cramers Ltd) that my Aunt and Uncle owned and ran with my parents as a toy, models and hobbies and dolls hospital until a fire destroyed it in the early 1960’s. These days it’s a wedding dress shop.

Watford Central School

After walking through part of the Harlequin Centre we came out onto what is left of Queens Road. About a third of the street has disappeared under the centre. Then we found the Watford central school where my grandparents had been caretaker and cook for many years. The house they lived in, in Stanley Road just behind the school, was very handy for my grandfather to be able to nip across to the school boiler house and make sure everything was OK and the central heating was working. The boiler house has long been demolished but the old kitchen/dining hall was there. It all bought back many a happy memory.

Thursday, 25 January 2007


0 Locks / 0 miles

Yes, we awoke to find ourselves surrounded by snow approx 5cm deep.

The weather man has been threatening us with snow for days and it has finally materialized. It was quite funny going to work this morning with the snow crunching under foot, something I have not done for longer than I care to remember.

Last night was another first. We met up with the first of our many narrowboat contacts who we have contacted since this adventure began. It was Les from n/b Valerie who we had exchanged e-mails with before we left NZ.
He is heading North up the Grand Union as stoppages allow with a final destination of Wales and the Llangollen canal. Nice to meet you Les, no doubt we will cross paths again at some stage.

This photo was taken about 9.30am after it was light.

This was taken at first light looking down the roof as Derek was leaving for work.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Back to work

0 Locks / 0 miles

After such a hectic week in the dry dock it was a week-end to chill out and recuperate which we did very easily. There is still not much movement on the cut at present but there are stoppages not far from here.
Monday morning and we were contemplating what our activities might be for the day when the phone rang for Derek. It was the agency with a weeks work for him so that put paid to our plans and it was all go to get him out of the boat and up to the bus stop A.S.A.P.

He came home reporting another cruisy day, easy money. As for me it was a day of domestic chores and a bit of shopping.

The two photos bring back memories of home. The two signs were on a narrowboat in the Apsley Marina. Real Estate UK style, Real Estate with a difference.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Back on the cut

6 Locks and 3½ miles

As soon as the boatyard staff arrived this morning it was all on. One of the staff was sent to the lock up stream from us to let water down as the pound was low and we were still stuck fast in the dock. After about 10 minutes we felt a surge of water enter the dock and we were afloat. We were then hauled out into the main stream of the canal and moored on the opposite bank because I had not had time to check the boatyards account. After some discussion with management a settlement figure was agreed upon and we set off for Apsley where we are now moored about 2 boats lengths from where we were previously.
The trip down was cold and windy and except for one tree that had been blown down in the storm on Thursday blocking half the canal the trip was uneventful. Once moored at Apsley it was a trip to the marina to use the laundry ( too much to do on the boat) and a visit to Sainsbury’s for some depleted essentials. We had a personal mail delivery from Tracey in the afternoon before she returned to Wimbledon this evening.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

All done and dusted

0 Locks / 0 miles

Due to our webmaster sorting out a problem on our web site our computer was otherwise engaged last night and I was unable to do a blog.

However the work on “Gypsy Rover” has now been completed and we are now afloat again waiting to be let out of the dock back on to the cut.
All the blue on the top of the hull has now been given 2 coats of paint and the stern now sports shiny new red and cream markings.

After leaving it as long as possible for the paint to harden I re-fitted the bow and stern fenders. Luckily I had some spare chain and ‘U’ bolts (shackles) on board as the new bow fender did not have long enough chains so I had to modify them to fit.

Yesterday Britain had its worst storm in 17 years and 10 people died due to falling trees and debris from buildings being torn apart by the wind. Electricity was cut off in many areas and as of tonight there are still thousands of homes cut off. Power companies have even bought engineers from France to help restore power. We were lucky in that we must have been on the cusp of the storm as we had heavy rain and high winds but suffered no damage in this area.
Today British Waterways have posted a long list of closures all over the country mainly due to fallen trees and will be working hard over the next week clearing these obstructions.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Day 5.

0 Locks / 0 miles

With only 2 days left in the dock its full steam ahead to get the painting finished. We have been told that we are to be re-floated Friday afternoon so this might cut our time back by half a day and we will be back on the canal by about 9am Saturday.
All the undercoating is finished so all there is left is 2 coats of top coat but this is where we may have problems. Due to the cold moist air the paint is very slow hardening so I just hope that we have enough time. We did a trial tonight on the gas locker lid to give it a non slip surface. We masked out a pattern on the lid with masking tape and then painted each section separately with topcoat and sprinkled kiln dried fine sand over it.
After a short while we then removed the tape. This will be left to dry overnight and in the morning any excess sand will be brushed off and a second coat of paint applied. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

All measured up.

0 Locks / 0 miles

The hood maker arrived as arranged and bought his samples for us to choose from. What we have chosen is a new material that is burgundy in colour and has a grey lining on the inside. Hopefully the covers will look very nice. He took paper patterns to work from and hopes to have them finished in 2 to 3 weeks.
In the mean time there is no time for me to be standing idly by so it was business as usual.
Grinding off the last of the rusty marks above the gunnels and finally cleaning the new back doors and getting a coat of red oxide primer on them. In between times I have now applied the second coat of blacking all the way around the boat and have some left over so area’s such as the bow and stern will get a third coat. The welder has now fitted 2 flat anodes amidships which should help to reduce future corrosion and has pulled the rudder apart as it was not mounted properly. At slow speed the tiller arm was OK but at higher revs on the engine the tiller became quite hard to hold with severe vibrations. Basically the rudder was hanging by the top bearing as the bottom mounting on the skeg was worn and sloppy. A new mounting with a brass insert is to be fitted which will solve the problem. Anyone recognise this scruffy fellow? The other photo just shows one of the new anodes amidships (the silver thing on the side)

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Nearly there.

0 Locks / 0 miles

While we are in dry dock we are on landline power for which we have to keep feeding the meter with tokens which cost a pound each. On Saturday I purchased 5 tokens thinking this would be sufficient but due to the heavy use of the grinder yesterday we used more than our daily quota. Also a cold overnight temperature necessitated the use of our electric heater first thing this morning which also consumed a fair bit of power. This means we have now used our last token and cannot get any more until tomorrow as they yard is closed on a Monday.
To ensure we don’t run out of power overnight I have stopped using the grinder until tomorrow although there is very little left to do. So it’s back to the paint brush and put the first coat on the port side.
If you read yesterdays blog you will recall my paint brush fell apart and I managed to repair it with a couple of cable ties. Well this held together for a while until one of the ties broke. Only one thing for it, put on a surgical glove, grasp brush head in my right hand and carry on. A bit messy but you don’t have to be too fussy with this stuff and it got the job done. Surprisingly my hand stayed relatively clean even though I was putting it in the tin of paint.
The first tin of paint did one coat all round and I managed to get a second coat on the bow section so another tin of paint will be ample.
I have now started to prime damaged paintwork above the rubbing rail so that I can make a concerted effort on the blue paintwork as soon as I have finished applying the second coat of blacking.
The Hoodmaker is calling tomorrow morning to measure up for both a cratch and stern cover which will give us a bit more covered space and keep the weather out as well.
No photo’s to accompany today’s blog as the photographer has been confined to bed. She has the same complaint as Sue on n/b No Problem.

Monday, 15 January 2007


0 Locks / 0 miles

My aches and pains from yesterday had almost gone by this morning so it was back to the grinder. In fairness to other residents, considering it is Sunday I didn’t start until about 10am. I have now completely cleaned the starboard side and am about ¼ of the way along the port side. After lunch I decide I had had enough of the grinder for one day so got a tin of blacking from the boatyard shop and started blacking the starboard side. Well this blacking is soooo thick, the only way I can describe applying it is to say its like painting with treacle that’s been in the fridge. Needless to say that the 4 inch brush I had bought for the job was not really up to it and came to grief just as I was nearly finishing. As I cannot get a replacement without taking a bus trip back to Hemel Hempstead and wasting half a day I have managed to repair it using cable ties. Hopefully it will hold together long enough because it won’t be of any use after this even though the manufacturer states brushes can be cleaned in white spirit or turps. I don’t know how many gallons it would take because a bath in about 200mls of white spirit did nothing so I have left the brush soaking in it so it doesn’t harden up over night.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

High and dry

0 Locks / 0 miles

Just as well we set an alarm clock last night. Neither of us slept very well for one reason or another and Murphy’s Law prevailed because we had no sooner dozed off when the alarm went off. Dead on 8am the boat yard team arrived and started to remove the boat in the dry dock and within 10 minutes we were being pulled in by rope. They don’t drive the boats in or out as it stirs up too much sludge making it difficult to seal the dock gateway.

After closing the gate behind us and lining the boat up, securing ropes fore and aft, 3 submersible pumps were started to drain the dock. This took about 30 minutes and “Gypsy Rover” gently settled on the 3 wooden bearers without a bump. As soon as there was no fear of any movement a gangplank was placed from the dock wall to the boat. I then set about putting on my wet weather gear in preparation to start the water blasting A.S.A.P. I had no sooner got down onto the dry dock floor when I found a small Perch (see picture) flapping around in the shallow water. So a helping hand was needed for this little fellow to get back to the canal in one piece rather than being minced up going through one of the pumps.
We hired the water blaster which can be used hot or cold but it was recommended that we do the job at 700 C to remove any oil or grease as well as the sludge. The whole job took 4 hours with a brief coffee break.
Lunch was the next order of the day while I waited for the boat to dry.
After lunch the hull was dry enough on the starboard side to set to with an electric grinder fitted with the meanest, coarse wire brush available. The rest of the afternoon was spent wielding this heavy piece of electrical equipment around grinding off anything the water blaster had failed to shift. To date I can report that 25% of the hull has now been finished awaiting blacking and I am exhausted (I was going to write something else here but I’ve been censored) so it won’t be long before I’m in bed to restore some energy for tomorrow.

Just had a power cut after some heavy rain so I am uploading this in the dark, I can't wait for the power to come back on. I hope the dry dock doesn't fill up over night and ruin all my hard work!

Saturday, 13 January 2007


6 Locks and 3½ miles

Thursday morning was quite windy and we had heard on the news of 5 lorries (trucks) being blown over on motorways. It was on my way down to the marina that I witnessed a very strong wind gust destroy a collapsible canopy on a GRP cruiser moored outside the marina. This area is very exposed compared to where we have been moored above lock 67. There was a phone number in the window of the boat which I rang only to get an answer phone. I duly left my details and what had happened to his boat but as of yet not received any thanks or acknowledgement. The owner has been back to the boat to secure the remains of his canopy but I have heard nothing. A thank you would be a nice gesture.
Friday morning started out calm as we prepared to move off from Apsley. Our first chore was grocery shopping at Sainsbury’s. While there Homebase rang to say they had found our missing vanity and would we like to collect it which we did.
It was lunch time before we finally cast off and the wind had started to become quite strong. During the course of the trip we encountered some very strong wind gusts which blew us all over the canal and made locking difficult where the locks were exposed to the elements. Along the way we saw 2 huge trees that had succumbed to yesterdays winds and workmen had been busy with chainsaw’s clearing pathways etc. Plenty of firewood for the taking although not for us as we do not have a multi fuel fire. However we had to battle on as we wanted to be moored up at Winkwell dry dock before dusk.
Dot gave the washing machine a work out during the trip to take advantage of plentiful power so all our chores are up to date. This means next week can be totally devoted to the working on the boat.
Upon arrival at Winkwell we found the dry dock was full of water with its present occupant ready to be pulled out tomorrow morning. So it’s early to bed tonight ready for an early start tomorrow morning.

WANTED. Labourers, painters or brush hands. Lunch and dinner provided.

Photo shows Gypsy Rover alongside Narrowboats Archimedes and Ari while refueling outside Apsley Marina.

No prizes for guessing where the first photo was taken by Brent last Friday.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Derby & Joan

0 Locks / 0 miles

Unfortunately Brent was dis-appointed on Monday as his trip to visit the ‘Cutty Sark’ was thwarted because it is all closed up for restoration and not scheduled to re-open before mid 2008. However his visit to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich more than made up for it. The two photos show the laser light with the direction of the meridian line.

The second shows the latitude of Wellington New Zealand. (Our hometown)
He also enjoyed traveling on the Docklands light Railway because he sat where a driver would normally sit and had a perfect view all around. Perhaps I should explain to those not in the know that the DLR is an automatic computer controlled system. Each train has a guard to open and shut the doors who also sets the controls to go and the computers do the rest. It’s quite uncanny having a driverless train.

That night we had dinner in the Paper Mill pub where there is a lot of photo’s of the area circa 1900 – 1930 including a very good aerial photo showing the mill, canal and railway. When you compare this to what now stands on the old mill site you can see just how big the mill complex was.

Tuesday morning was a 5am start as we had to get Brent on the 6.08am train from Apsley to Watford Junction where he caught the rail air link on National Express to Heathrow. First leg of his flight home to New Zealand via, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Perth and Auckland before arriving home in Wellington on Sunday.

After all the walking around London in the last week Dot is now looking forward to putting her feet up for a couple of days to recuperate.

Last week Dot and Brent reported seeing a couple of narrowboats on a stretch of water close to the canal but couldn’t see how they got where they were. So Tuesday afternoon was fine enough for Dot and I to take a walk and solve this mystery. We walked up the tow path to bridge 153 where we crossed the canal and down the side of the old lock keepers cottage. This bought us out into a street which was an industrial area where some of the buildings would have been part of John Dickenson’s mill. There were old steam pipes (the mill had been steam operated) between some of the buildings and there was a water course running alongside the buildings with overhanging canopies. My guess is that this was originally a barge loading dock which has since silted up. At the end of the road we turned left where we found a bridge over the waterway running behind the buildings. This waterway was coming from the canal further north but the bridge was far too low for navigation. After walking down a parallel road from where we had just come from we found an alleyway which headed us back towards the waterway. At the end of this we found the 2 narrowboats Dot had seen earlier. The water way was lined with steel and concrete and appeared to be reasonably deep making me think that it was built for a purpose. We followed the waterway in a Southerly direction and found ourselves behind Sainsbury’s supermarket which is alongside lock 66. Alongside the lock is an off chute of the canal which I had mistakenly taken to be the river Gade as it is not very deep and flows quite fast unlike the canal. However from what we have seen I would guess that this off chute was originally access to one of Dickenson’s wharves and the 2 narrowboats had gone in to their mooring via this entranceway. I would hate to try and get them out now as the entranceway is badly silted and full of supermarket trolleys of which we could see 5.

Monday, 8 January 2007

Preparation for dry dock.

2 Locks / 1 mile

In preparation for going into Winkwell dry dock next Saturday we dropped down through lock 67 to the Apsley Marina for water and a pump out and returned to our original mooring first thing this morning.
This afternoon Brent and Dot went to Halfords and bought a new Kenwood CD/radio/MP3 player which was half price (love those bargains). Brent then got the job of fitting it.

The photo is of an unusual duck? Dot and Brent sighted in St James Park on Friday. Anyone have any ideas on what it is?

As Brent leaves us on Tuesday to fly home to New Zealand and back to work he is going into LondonGreenwich
with Dot for one final visit tomorrow with a trip on the Docklands Light Railway to visit and the sailing ship “Cutty Sark”. He is also hoping to meet up with his sister Tracey for lunch. I will remain on board in case the agency rings me with some work, if not there are still jobs to be done on the boat.
There has been more movement on the canal today than we have seen for some time.

Thursday, 4 January 2007

First cruise for 2007

8 Locks / 4 miles
Last night I thought I had better check to see how much diesel we had left and found we had less than a quarter of a tank (about 30 litres) so I emptied our emergency supply into the tank for good measure. It was then a case of where to go to refuel, Winkwell, if they had any, Watford or Tring. However an evening stroll down to the marina solved our problem as a working pair of narrowboats was just mooring up outside the marina. This was Candle Bridge Carrying Co who operates from London up to Apsley Mills selling the usual coal, gas and diesel.
An arrangement was made for us to move down through lock 67 first thing the following day and refuel before CBCC departed on their return trip to London.
The following morning turned out fine but very windy which made things a little tricky while trying to moor alongside CBCC to refuel but we succeeded without any mishaps. It has now become obvious that our fuel tank holds at least 30 - 40 litres more than the manufacturer states in our owner’s manual which is handy to know.
Rather than just turn around to go back to where we were moored previously, we took Brent on a short cruise down to below Kings Langley lock 69A and turned around behind the new Ovaltine apartment development so that he could go home saying he had traveled on a narrowboat and worked some locks.
He also got to see a bit more of the countryside.
Thanks Jeannie and Benn for your email, please send us your email address or post to your profile on blogger so that we can reply personally.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

City of light (Paris).

Our lack of up dating the blog has not been due to inactivity, far from it, we have only just returned to “Gypsy Rover” to welcome in the New Year with 2 hours to spare.
We have in fact been to Paris, the City of Light, for 3 days. The city certainly lived up to its name with all the usual tourist attractions well lit and all the Xmas lights around the streets which I’m afraid put London’s lights to shame enough to say there was no contest.
As Brent has traveled all the way from New Zealand, his Xmas wish was a visit to Paris while he is in the UK. Not to be left out Tracey also joined us so that she and Brent could visit Euro Disneyland for which we conveniently had a free pass. We traveled via the Eurostar so that I could tick off another train trip off my wish list. The train journey to Paris was unbelievably smooth and quiet but unfortunately we did not get to see much in the way of scenery as we were shrouded in fog for most of the trip and the return journey was at night. Upon arrival at the Gare du Nord in Paris it was only a short walk to our hotel.
The hotel was listed as a 3 star rating but we felt that even a 2 star rating was an exaggeration as there was no tea or coffee facilities in the rooms only a dispensing machine in the foyer at a Euro per cup. The shower in our room was broken and you had to stand and hold the shower rose over your head which was a pain.
As we were on the 6th floor we had to use the hotel lift which can only be described as a shoe box which had a carrying capacity of 3 persons or 225kgs. Now Brent, Dot and myself could just squeeze into the contraption but our combined weight was over the maximum weight limit so what do you do in a situation like that? Perhaps French people are lighter than Kiwi’s. On 2 separate occasions the lift was out of action and we had to walk up the stairs, needless to say we were exhausted by the time we got to our rooms.
The day we arrived in Paris the weather was cold and dry (0Âșc) and the last 2 days we had occasional showers. We walked for miles and visited all the usual places and took the open top bus tour when of course it rained. It was surprising how many tourists there were around Paris even though it is winter and queues for places like the Louvre and the Eiffel tower were still over an hours wait.
Unfortunately we did not travel on the canal St Martin which passes through Paris, but we did visit it and checked out the locks which were all securely locked with gates on all sides, the actual lock gates are steel and hydraulically operated by gate keepers.
Upon our arrival back in London we waited an hour for the train to Apsley and arriving back at Gypsy Rover just before 10pm on New Years Eve.
As midnight struck, large firework displays were being set off in towns all around us and it was hard to know which way to look to see the biggest and best displays in the sky. The noise was also so horrendous that the poor old ducks were swimming around in circles not knowing which way to go to get away from the noise.
Because we were away for 4 days the only appliance we left switched on was the fridge, the batteries held up very well and were just under 12volts upon our return. A quick half hour of engine running restored the batteries enough to switch on the Mikuni central heating for hot water in the morning.