Saturday, 30 April 2016

Gosh it’s light outside!

… outside the dry dock that is!
 5 past 8 this morning waiting for the dock to be filled so that we can move out
 There’s some space over the canal but we need to put the stern round to the right just where that boat is moored!

Here they come ...

 Opening the  sluice on the lock gate ...

… and the water pours in

 Removing the posts which slot into holders within the dock bed to enable the gates to be opened
 15 minutes past 8 and the dock is quickly filling over the plinths on which Still Rockin’ is sitting
Meanwhile the guys need to move the silt from behind this gate or it won’t open fully ...
 … and George is waiting for Still Rockin’ to float off the plinths … and there she goes, the rope has is now taut.

The reason the silt builds up is because whilst in the dock the water pump automatically pumps out the water/silt which leaks in from under the gates out through the pipe you can see by the men’s feet and so dumps the silt outside the gate. The problem could easily be solved by moving/extending the pipe to discharge round the corner into the main canal
 The water both inside and outside of the dock is now equal so hopefully the gate will open smoothly

Removing a long strip of polythene which had become trapped between the gates … wouldn’t want this wrapped around the prop as we exit!

Left-hand gate fully open

The gate sluice is closed and he pulls it open

Untying the rope which has held Still Rockin’ stable as she is refloated and will be used to guide the boat out of the dock, there’s another guy doing the same from the front

 … getting close to that boat as we cross the canal with the bow still in the dock mouth
 George fending-off the boat
 Brilliant! we’re out thanks to the efforts of the three members of staff who were guiding us around that 90 degree bend
Free at last … the bright sun hurt my eyes after being in the dark for 7 days! 
 Right outside the dock we meet another boat so bow hard over to the right.
 The moon is still in the sky
 45 minutes later we arrive at the only lock we’re doing today
 Availing ourselves of the services, there’s a boat coming up Cowley Lock so it’ll be ready for us as soon as we’ve finished
 We’ve pulled over to allow this boat through the bridge
… there are some very nice dutch barges down this stretch
Our usual mooring spots were all taken today so we moved on a little way and have moored opposite the services.

This will do us for a few days while we George washes off all the dust and grime from Still Rockin’ that blew about whilst in the dock after she’d been jet-washed.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Nearly done!

You may just be able to make out the stern of Still Rockin’ inside the dock at Uxbridge Boat Centre.  It doesn’t seem so dark inside when we’re working but the bright sunshine we’ve had these past few days has hurt my eyes on the few occasions I managed to escape the dock!

One of those few times was late yesterday afternoon when we walked into Uxbridge to buy another paintbrush! Just one more coat of blue paint on the portside gunwale and were done!  The hull has had its four coats of bitumen, is dry and looking good.

The General Elliott pub is opposite the boatyard and on the way back from the shops I stopped to take the top photo and noticed that the pub did take-aways.  I popped inside to see what they offered and asked on the off-chance if they welcomed dogs - they did - so we all went in for dinner.

The pub is spotlessly clean (no sticky tables here), the furniture was polished to an inch of its life, the staff were friendly and although the menu is standard ‘pub-grub’ it's plentiful and at a good price.  George had London Pride which was at just the correct temperature  (Bombardier was also available), wine is limited but there is a selection of red, white or rose and again at a good price.  We shall probably visit again when in the area.

Today once that gunwale is painted we can finish packing everything away and cleaning up we’ll be ready to rock n roll first thing tomorrow (Saturday).  River Thames here we come!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Uxbridge Boat Centre

I noticed these old bricks in part of the dry dock here at Uxbridge Boat Centre whilst we’re here blacking the hull of Still Rockin’; they're laid in a herringbone pattern and I reckon that they are original so I thought I’d do a bit of research into the boatyard.

It apparently was a Fellows Morton and Clayton boatyard and wooden boats and butties were built at Uxbridge from 1896 until 1948 when the company was taken over by the British Transport Commission.  

Up to 1912, 40 Town class boats had been constructed here and in 1922 Uxbridge started to build 27 butties which were named after girls, the last one being ‘Joan’ in1933; she was the last butty to be built by FMC.  For more FMC history click here.

The yard was left derelict for a number of years before being taken over by Uxbridge Marine for a few years before going into liquidation.  In 1976 the present owner Alan Boswell took over and  the business was mainly repairs to wooden boats, but as time passed the majority of todays business has become nearly all steel boats.  For more information by Jim Shead on Uxbridge Boat Centre Limited, click here

I’ve found 10 boats built at Uxbridge by FMC (click here) including 

Clee built in 1947 at a cost of £972 was eventually abandoned and sunk in one of the flashes at Anderton from where it was raised in 1983 to continue working on the Oxford Canal.  Clee is once again underwater at Alvecote Marina where there are hopes that she could once again be restored.  The above photographs and the excerpt below about life on Clee, plus more information, is available here

"According to health survey records, in 1948 Ethel and Mary Meredith, aged 10 and 3 at the time, lived on Clee with their parents John Henry Meredith (b. 1912) and Sarah Meredith (Nee Rowley (b.1918). Usually health records only give the number of resident children but Ethel and Mary were named because at the time they were suffering from scarlet fever. Both Ethel and Mary now live in Loughborough”  Ethel and Mary are standing on the deck of Clee in the old photo above.

For the past two years whilst cruising the Grand Union Canal during the colder months of the year we’ve used Uxbridge boat centre many times.  It’s always busy boats being craned out for repairs/blacking etc., and although the frontage isn’t very large it’s always possible to come alongside for diesel, gas and coal, the staff are always helpful and the chandlery is well stocked.

… and what have we done today?
Well I’ve been busy!
George has been busy too doing the parts that I can’t reach - where the hull meets the gunwale and under the swim (the back of the boat in the picture which overhangs the propellor and rudder).  That’s the first coat on and I’ll do four coats altogether.  A good day.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

In the dock

We pulled pins at 08:30 yesterday for the couple of hundred yards to Uxbridge Boat Centre and on the way we saw these nesting moorhens ...
... both parents here, the female on the left is feeding her chicks and I noticed as we passed that there were at least three eggs not yet hatched.
They certainly nest in the most precarious places!

In no time at all we arrived at the boatyard just in time to see the previous occupant of the dock coming out to moor alongside and then it was our turn ...
 Engine off … ropes are used to guide boats into the right angle turn into the dock
There are moorings opposite (not sure if visitor or longterm) and there was no escaping touching this boat.  The owner was not at all phased and came out to take a rope and pull Still Rockin’ round.
He’s holding the dock/lock gate open and guiding her away from the concrete edge ...
… whilst this chap pulls and pushes on the roof struts to get Still Rockin' in the centre
Here he’s tying together our middle ropes to fasten to the railing to keep the boat still whilst it descends as the dock empties. (We only have short middle ropes as Still Rockin’ is too heavy to take a long middle line off from the back to bring her in to moor up.)
Closing the gates
A good throw, this rope was also used to stabilise the boat and they also used one at the front too.
What’s going on? Just keep the noise down I’m trying to sleep!
Pumping out the water (it’s 09:20)
… and the big boat comes back to its mooring and shuts us away from the canal
Unfortunately the pump failed a couple of times and it took a while to get it sorted, it was now 11:30 but we’re nearly there
11:50 and we can see the plinths on which Still Rockin’ is sitting
… and 10 past 1 when when the dock was empty
We rang the office to let them know and our escape route arrived...  George has since secured the steps to the boat.
During this time other boats were being craned out and we could hear the jet-washer being used so we didn’t expect to be using it for a while and we took the opportunity to get warm inside for lunch and several hot drinks.
At 3pm we noticed that the gates were leaking, water was coming in and we needed the pump started again
… trying to stem the leaking gates.
The pump should have been set to automatic but the problem was soon fixed.
Glad those holes are over our roof so we shouldn’t get too wet  if it rains whilst blacking the hull and repainting the gunwales.

It wasn’t long after that George managed to jet-wash the hull which took less time than he expected as there is only 24 inches of Still Rockin’ under the water (Rock n  Roll, our previous narrowboat) was about 31 inches below the water line).

George checked all around the hull and apart from a few rust spots all was in good order. Alan the owner came to apologise to George for the delay, the member of staff who usually oversees the dock was off and the younger guys helping today were still learning the ropes.  We didn’t mind as the first day of blacking in our experience is always the same!

That was enough done for the first day.  No tv signal in here so we spent the evening catching up on the serial Ripper Street previously recorded, that should last us for the next few evenings.