Friday, 31 August 2012

Masking tape

Most of my students over the years realised that to be able to work successfully with people they needed to know and come to terms with themselves and their own inner dynamics. Their life history inevitably created sticky patches underneath. The surprise with which they discovered such areas was matched by the amazement at how resistant such things can be when you try to do something about them. Many of my best memories relate to students who, against all the odds, dealt with themselves successfully and went on to make significant contributions in the lives of others.

We've been dealing again with stuff underneath that has been left too long to harden. But this time it's the glue from the masking tape around Erin Mae's leaky window! I had to do something to prevent water ingress over last winter, and I had this roll of masking tape that I thought would do the job. It did – but I didn't know then what I know now about what happens when you leave it in place for long periods. So in preparation for the painting repairs and maintenance that are about to follow the sorting of the window, I set to with a range of solutions to deal with the unsightly mess. Hot water with car shampoo, white spirit, paintbrush cleaner, surgical spirit. All had some effect but not the result I was looking for.

We googled it – what a range of suggestions, including WD40 and peanut butter! We already knew about "Sticky Stuff Remover", and that seemed to fit the bill, so off I went to Stafford B&Q. Was a bit longer than intended because of some additional shopping, and when I got back my best beloved said "Have a look at the window." While I'd been out she'd done most of the job with nail varnish remover! I'd been worried about that removing the paint as well as the goo, but it generally seems to be OK. So in a minute I'll go out with my newly acquired magic stuff to tidy up the remaining little bits.

Not sure about simplest solutions being the best. For me it's the solution that matches the problem that wins, every time. And that's for people, as well as masking tape.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


There are a few scary things on the cut. Stag parties already half-cut by 11 a.m. The combination of strong wind and shallow water. For the claustrophobic newbie, the first time you negotiate a lock with a 10 foot drop. Up there with the best is coming out of a bridge on a narrow left-hand bend with a boat tied up on the right hand side 20 yards on, and Chertsey coming at you round the corner.

Chertsey is no mean boat – one of the darlings of traditional boat devotees, since her purchase and transformation by Sarah Hale, chronicled on her blog.

What strikes you under the conditions described above, however, is not the wonderful restoration job, or how good the paintwork is looking, or the potted history that flips through your mind, but how incredibly big the front end is – looked as tall as Erin Mae's roof. I've been reading a new set of novels about Roman times and warfare – for a moment I felt like one of those boats that was destined to be rammed and cut in half.

No hassle. Sarah, of course, was in perfect control, and I played my own part in avoiding any unwelcome scenario. We passed with a cheery wave, though she was left a little too near the moored boat, and having to operate the tiller with some force to squeeze round the corner without contact.

In the morning we got soaked. After lunch the sun came out and we made it back to Great Haywood, as intended. All very satisfactory. Sarah, I hope your day was as good as ours.

Photographs from Sarah's blog, and from Halfie, if they'll forgive me.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Two days in the life

It's not only the weekends you miss when you're retired – yesterday's Bank Holiday came and went fairly unremarked. I played around with blog post titles such as "Battened down at Brewood's Bridge 8", but it was basically a day to forget (if its Creator will forgive me). The most exciting thing was running the engine for a couple of hours to charge the batteries. The steerers of the few boats that went by were huddled in their oilskins, looking as though they thoroughly regretted the decision to take on the Four Counties. Mind you, it was quite a productive day, as I got my mind on writing database scripts for some sensible stretches of time.

What a contrast today! We were up, showered, breakfasted and on the cut before 8 a.m., with the sun shining gloriously, and some wonderful reflections in the water. Down to Autherley Junction and up to Penkridge. That was when I paid the penalty for the database work, as I collected the emails telling me which bit wasn't working and could I please do something about it.

So instead of pushing on, we tied up, had a relaxed lunch, some more internet work to sort out the issues, and then walked into the village to get some exercise and a few provisions. But we avoided the temptation to visit Jaspers. It's a beautiful calm evening. Since tomorrow's weather forecast, althought pretty dire, is not as bad as Thursday's, we'll probably join the oilskin crowd and try to make it back to Great Haywood in one hit.

But where did the Bank Holiday go?

Sunday, 26 August 2012

t = s/v

There's a boat coming the other way.

Thing is, which of us is going get to the bridge first? The farther away you both are, the harder it is to tell. Who's nearest? How fast are they going? Are they passing moored boats? Am I passing moored boats? Is that sparkle on the water 400 yards ahead a bow wave, or propellor turbulence, or a flotilla of ducklings?

You take these decisions all the time at 70 mph on the motorway. The brain is fantastic at making almost unconscious judgements about the relative motion of vehicles. At 3 mph on the cut you'd think everything would be even easier, but I've found it more tricky. Distances are deceptive through a bridge, but there's a lot hanging on it. Your nautical elegance is partly a function of how you manage such meetings!

I can see some other decisions coming up. Will Rich be able to do the paintwork? How long will it take? If he can, should we stay on board to learn, or go home and let him get on with it? What if it's raining…  Decisions! It's crunch-time. No – unfortunate expression, especially if the boat coming the other way is a GRP.

The equation in the title is: time = distance / velocity. It's the particular variation of this equation that applies here (who's going to get there first?). I don't remember why "s" stands for distance, but I'm sure it used to when I was at school. And I think velocity is a better concept here than speed because it involves direction as well as speed, and direction sure is important when you're heading for a bridge.

Meanwhile, the heron just got on with applying the physics of motion to the art of fishing for dinner, without even thinking about it.

Saturday, 25 August 2012


Fishermen, it seems, are like the rest of us after all. Smilers and snarlers, grinners and grouchers, half-full, half-empty. Bank holiday Saturday apparently meant competition fishing at Gnosall, and we lost count after about 30, including a fair number along the visitor moorings. I can't imagine why fishing in the canal should have different leagues for men and women, like most other sports except equestrianism, yet there wasn't a woman among them.

I don't really get fishing, except for food. However, each to his own, and I'm quite happy to exchange courtesies with members of homo anglens. I understand it's the polite thing to cruise slowly, but not too slowly, down the middle of the cut, though I've little idea why. Not too far to the right, not too far to the left. But there's no pleasing some, especially those who thought the competition organisers should have got a court order banning boating for the day on this stretch of the Shroppie. Smiles and greetings were generally the order of the day, but some were distinctly unimpressed by the sight of Erin Mae. Particularly the one who sent a shower of something after me. Gravel? Bait? Not quite sure. And I may be mistaken.

So we pulled up at Gnosall, and chatted about fishermen and other pleasant topics with David, a continual cruiser on NB Tom Bombadil. He's on his way from exciting times on the River Nene to tranquility on the Llangollen, and had some good stories to tell – as well as a sad one about a GRP owner who lost the top of his cabin from being too bold under a bridge when the river was running. Perhaps we'll see David again later as we've tied up in Gnosall for the night. But I shan't be fishing. The only lines I've got on board are bow lines, stern lines and centre lines.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Loynton Moss

My best beloved spotted something in Nicholson's guide. Loynton Moss is a floating bog, it said. Conjured up the last scenes of Lorna Doone, but it seemed worth a visit. Fortified by the price of diesel at Norbury Junction, but needing a restorative after discovering just how big Erin Mae's diesel tank actually is, we set out to discover this wildlife wonder.

First attempts were discouraging. The path turned out to be just after Bridge 40, not Bridge 39 (the one with the telegraph pole), as stated in the guide. Having walked almost all the way to Bridge 40 and turned back, we eventually found an entrance to the reserve on the road above 39, which took us on a walk through the woods to 40, and thence down the track to the bog.

It was a fascinating place – a carefully managed project building on a natural resource to create a fabulous wildlife haven. Circular walks and educational boards make it accessible for all sorts of people. Only two things interfered with our enjoyment of the experience. The first was the general gloom of the day – it would have looked stunning in the sunshine. The second was the lack of insect repellent, combined with our habit of wearing shorts. The local mosquito army thought they'd gone to heaven. In the end we decided the long walk all the way round the perimeter could wait for another day while we went back to Erin Mae and warmed ourselves with some Staffordshire oatcakes.

I've been well impressed with what we've seen of the work of the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. And I suppose the mosquitoes are glad of somewhere to live.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Stuck on the Shroppie

They warned us about the Shroppie. The beautiful, idyllic, captivating, treacherous Shroppie. Roger in particular said get a couple of beer crates as fenders to stop Erin Mae banging against the underwater ledge all night. But nobody told us what would happen if you tried to moor up between Gnosall and Norbury junction. We didn't fancy the dark forest that overhangs the Gnosall visitor moorings, and wanted to ensure we tied up south of Norbury, so that we could easily pull in for diesel in the morning. So we picked a spot with a wonderful view and edged in, only to discover that we couldn't quite get close enough. So we tried again a bit further on, and found ourselves well and truly stuck on the bottom. Concrete shelf we had anticipated, underwater superglue we had not.

I used the long pole to free the front, which then hung out in the most ungainly fashion across the cut. Nothing would budge the back. We tried rocking and revving and transferring weight (now I know why so many boaters find it valuable to have a BMI in excess of 25). Stuck – even though it seemed to be only the last couple of feet of the left-hand side (apologies to my sea-faring relatives for the use of inland terms). I put down the plank to get ashore with the pole, and get my weight off the boat. Still nothing.

Fortunately Tim and Chris on NB Dudley NÂș 3, with about 100 years of boating experience between them, came up from Gnosall. Chris got on the gunwale on the off-side while I shoved from the bank. Slowly Erin Mae swung round and freed herself. I was able to come back across the plank, bring it on board, and reverse away from the peril.

Great to have a helping hand when you need it. We came up to Norbury Junction and found plenty of room on the visitor moorings. So the whole thing had been completely unnecessary! Except that in the great scheme of things, an event today provides invaluable experiene for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


Lovely sunny evening – we moored up short of Brewood. Opposite us a tractor came down the field, hedging. That is to say, it had a huge flat blade it ran vertically along the hedge, cutting off all the bits that stuck out.

A friend and colleague once commented on the difference between this and the older art of hedging, in which you take the bits that stick out and bind them back in, constructing something strong and beautiful. He likened it to two types of theology. If something in life doesn't fit your system, you can cut it off, ignore it. Or you can take it, think it through, incorporate it, work out how it fits into the whole.

Today I read a student's dissertation about the persecution suffered by Christians in Bulgaria during the Communist period, and how they responded to it. That they survived was because they had a faith that could incorporate severe suffering without creating an untenable dichotomy. They wove their experience into their belief system, in a way that was beautiful and strong.

Hedging is a dying art.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Penkridge pastries – again

This is the third time we've come through Penkridge. We really only needed to go to the Co-op for some lacto-free milk. But Jaspers was just a few yards down the hill … well, such a good local emporium deserves your custom. So – some proper nourishment for lunch, and a couple of decidedly unbalanced items (hardly a smidgen of protein and distinctly lacking in vitamins) to go with our coffee  – though we did split them in half so there was some left to have tonight.

Some of the boating blogs I read record journeys that the blogger has undertaken previously – sometimes often. These few days will take us through places we've been before, and it will be interesting to see how we respond to the experience. Today we met a couple on a hire boat from Middlewich doing the Four Counties ring, in a week. They've done quite a bit of boating, but had some friends along for whom it is all new. I asked about the pressures and the long days, and she said it was about recognising the limits of a week's hire, and setting yourself a challenge. But she was also relishing the thought of eventually retiring to live on a boat and having the time to stop and explore the places they currently hurry through.

Although part of the joy with Erin Mae is doing the unexpected, I think we may also want to plan our stops a bit differently second time around, making sure we give some attention to spots we simply passed through last time.

Monday, 20 August 2012

The moment's spur

Woke up this morning with two things on my mind. First was to see our friend Rich about repairing the paintwork under the (now fixed) leaky window. Second was to work out what on earth is happening with our TV reception. There's an omnidirectional aerial on Erin Mae's roof. Very cool-looking, and very convenient because you don't have to re-set it whenever you moor up, even if it is less efficient than normal aerials. Following a wet spell on Friday, partly due to a downpour and partly to me washing tons of avian poo off the roof, we noticed that (a) the indicator light on the aerial had gone out and (b) we weren't getting any TV. I did lots of diagnostics and came up with nothing. I refashioned the aerial end of the cable, just to be sure, and on Saturday evening the indicator light was on again, though we still had no TV. Sunday we got some TV, though very few of the regulation (if largely useless) 110 channels. The signal amplifier in the boat was the chief suspect, but appeared to be working.

I rang the manufacturer and they said the best thing was to send them the aerial and the amplifier for testing. That's great, except for having to rig something to cover the hole in the roof. But at least I could see a possible Next Step. Meanwhile, it appeared that Rich was off on holiday, boating somewhere, and would be back at the end of the month. So the window will have to wait.

That left us, at about 4 p.m. this afternoon, wondering what to do. Drive home and do some database work on site, where it's much easier. Or go boating. Quick check of the weather forecast settled it – we go boating. There's time for us to get to Norbury junction before any real rain, where we can fill up the diesel tank and still be in pocket. So, replenishing the larder from the farm shop, we set off about 5.30.

Tranquil it was. Any sensible person had already moored up for the night. Lots of reflections in the water as we drifted through Tixall Wide, past our friends Dave and Jenny on NB Misty, and Paul and Lynne on NB Piston Broke. Down to Bridge 101 on the Staffs and Worcs (still haven't worked out how to say it) where the canal bends sufficiently away from the railway for us to have a wonderfully peaceful evening.

Does anyone know what the "spur" in "spur of the moment" actually is?

Sunday, 19 August 2012


One of the things we've appreciated about boating is the chance encounter. You come across an extraordinary range of people, in the marina, at the locks, where you moor up for the night. They are normally uncomplicated meetings, with little hanging on them, but they often have more substance than a friendly chat with the supermarket till-operator. Time is the significant factor. Usually nobody's in a particular hurry, and you can't do much about the rate at which a lock fills.

Either side of Erin Mae's berth at Great Haywood are a couple of spaces they use for visiting boats. So we got to know Steve and Sue on NB Pitch while they were here from Ripon for a while. This weekend, after our dash back from Alrewas, we found Ray and Val in NB Holly's Wander, down from the Leeds and Liverpool. Ray came out while I was gently playing my guitar as evening fell, and we talked first about music and then about scouting, which has clearly been a life-long enthusiasm of his. Guitars around a camp-fire evoke particular memories for him, and for me, though I was never a scout.

They've gone away and left their boat here for a week, and then their son and family will be taking her out for a while – all in all it's unlikely we'll see them again. But it's been good to meet and to share more than just the fleeting moment which is all that busy lives so often allow. One thing I shan't forget in a hurry is that they grow lettuce on the roof of the boat and had some, freshly cut, for tea last night!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Elephant's ears

That's what I call them, anyway. They come in large clumps along the bank, but they're nowhere as invasive (or attractive, depending on your taste) as the Himalayan balsam.

My best beloved thinks that the name I've chosen belongs to something different. She has several books that identify fauna and flora along the cut, but unfortunately they have neither this particular plant, nor anything else that owns the name. So for the moment, "elephant's ears" they are.

Does anyone know what they actually are?

Friday, 17 August 2012

Fresh at Fradley

The Brazilians must be the cleanest nation on earth. When we went to work there I wasn't looking forward to all the B.O. in the crowded buses, given the heat. It was a non-issue. I soon learned that even the poorest rural Brazilian, with no access to running water, will rig up a perforated can so he can have a shower at the end of the day. After we'd been there six months, the 12 year-old daughter of our neighbours plucked up the courage to ask me: "Martin, is it true that in England  people don't shower every day?" (remember – this was 1980). Somewhat embarrassed, I  talked about the difference in climate and this and that, and probably left her very confused. But, in Brazil, my ablutions became Brazilian – at the end of the day, when you come home, shower and change your clothes before you do anything else. Eating your evening meal before you shower is anathema! Showering again in the morning is optional, but preferred. Any time you get too hot, have a shower! When we returned to the UK, the principle was ingrained, though the pattern changed a bit. No day had really started until I'd had my shower. As for putting on again any garment I'd worn the previous day – ugh! And so it remained for 25 years.

But then we started boating. Parked in the marina – fine. The showers are great. Out on the cut – good if you've been boating into the afternoon. There will still be some hot or at least warm water the following morning. But if you've been stationary since lunch-time yesterday, and especially if you want to make a quick and early start, it's a cold shower or nothing. At my time of life, that's a nothing. But it cuts violently across the habits of half a lifetime.

This morning we set out quick and early from Alrewas. I was unwashed and had yesterday's clothes on – it was disgusting! However, by the time we'd made it to Fradley, the water had heated and it was time for a break. My best beloved wandered down to look at the sights. I got in the shower. Wonderful! The relief was almost as great as the cleanliness.

Fradley was fresh in other ways today – wind and rain competing. During a reasonably dry spell we thought we'd make a run for it. The run continued … and continued. Lunch on the hoof. We'll make it to Rugeley, we thought … Wolseley Bridge. In the end we made it all the way to Great Haywood. Some day's boating! It's amazing what a good shower can do for you.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Ambiguity in Alrewas

We left the National Memorial Arboretum in thoughtful mood, like most visitors. For the most part wonderful in both conception and execution, it provokes reflection in the way that, presumably, was intended. But for me, as ever, it was ambiguous. Some might see a monument to valour, others to folly. It's easy, following the success of the Olympics, and the national pride they rightly engendered, to see these commemorated service men and women as having given themselves for the protection of worthwhile values. The elements of truth in that ensure that we shall going on remembering in the ways we do.

But as I looked at the names of those killed while on duty since the Second World War, I calculated there were between 16 and 20 thousand. Looking at the years heading each section I tried to think who they would have been, and the names of some trouble spots that I was aware of since childhood came to mind. Aden, Kenya… Do we feel the same today about the values we were fighting for then? The troubles in Northern Ireland still create their own discussions, let alone the political and economic complexities of the conflicts in the Falklands and Iraq. To get public support for fighting there is often the need to reduce the issues to something very basic, and sound-bites are the enemy of rational consideration.

The Chapel embodied some of these tensions. It is the "Millennium Chapel of Peace and Reconciliation". Not much to look at yet from the outside, but inside it is airy, and I liked the unusual tree pillars. It has two lecterns, and each has an embroidery – one with a quotation from Revelation 22:2 ("The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations") and the other with the BBC motto ("Nation shall speak peace unto nation") which is loosely based on Isaiah 2:4. But the Chapel also has that strange amalgum of Christian and military imagery that often seems to go beyond the rightful provision of pastoral support for those engaged in fighting. I never had much time for flags in churches ("God bless our war"), though this is not a church as such and I didn't actually check out what the flags were. But, in addition, the huge cross on the wall is in fact a sword, and the quotation underneath it is strange: "Raise up a living nation, a single sword to thee". I don't know if that is a quotation from somewhere, but it seems to be rather more militaristic than thousands of last-night Prommers singing "Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, till we have built Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land."

War is a profoundly sorrowful thing, though I have come to think that sometimes it is probably necessary, and that there are things it is right to fight for physically. It's strange that I can mix all these thoughts and emotions with the enjoyment of books or films based in war-time or on the premise of conflict. But that's ambiguity for you.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Working windows

I take a lot of pleasure in seeing someone at work who knows what they're doing (with the possible exception of synchronised swimming), and especially in learning from it. Yesterday it was Lyndon of Aqua Boats taking out our leaky window, and re-working the way it was secured to the boat. The hull had properly tapped holes for machine screws, but at some point in the past someone had decided it was better to put wood screws through these and secure it straight into the wood of the internal window frame. Not particularly well either – one or two were too near the edge of the wood and made it split. No wonder I got confusticated when trying to look at it myself last autumn.

Don't think the window is completely water-tight yet. There's some light showing through one of the aluminium frame's mitred corners that needs some sealant, and where water had got in before there's a bit of steel that needs to be rubbed down and re-painted. But I do now know a lot more about how to work with windows, and have a much better idea of which bits I could do myself and which I should get someone more skilled to look at. I also discovered that you remove the opening part of the window by just lifting it out! Such a simple ruse had never occurred to this muddled brain – oh the sleepless nights wondering how to clean the bottom quarter inch of glass and the rubber it sits in! Just lift it out!

Lyndon had acquired his traditional engineering expertise the best way – starting with keeping his own motorbike running at age 7. Together we lamented the lack of incentive for young people to gain practical, worthwhile skills. He wondered, as he worked, where the next generation of engineers was going to come from, while I watched, and admired, and learned.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Willington WiFi

Mobile broadband isn't cheap (about £11 for 3 Gb at Amazon prices) and the connection can be a bit variable. So when you stop near a pub offering free WiFi, on a day when you're planning to do some internet work anyway, the eyes light up.

The Dragon at Willington seemed a friendly place, even if their bar food menu was a tad expensive, and they were quite happy to give me the WiFi key. Unpacked the MacBook and worked my way down the available networks to the one that responded. I could immediately see a list of connected devices, but internet connection there was none. The bartender was also trying to get a link on his iPhone. "Needs a re-boot", he said, "It was working this morning – it's a nightmare". With that confidence-booster, it was back to the table to wait, but to no avail. Since I'd yet to purchase any liquid refreshment I was on the moral low ground, so I packed up, went out to the garden and tried to get a mobile broadband signal.

Unfortunately Willington's Three signal was also rather flaky. Managed to get off an email, but there was no chance of doing any database work. Eventually thought I'd see whether the Dragon's link was working by now. Success! For about 10 minutes, and all rather slow. Just enough for me to make a couple of changes before the whole thing packed up again.

Free WiFi is easy to advertise. I doubt if you could get them under the trades description act, but you ought at least to be able to apply the Ronseal test. Perhaps there should be a universal understanding that if the WiFi doesn't work, it's the coffee that's free. Now to send this blog-post. Assuming Willington will let me.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Rocks, blocks and shocks

You can never quite tell what you're going to get between the water and the towpath. Last night, looking for somewhere to tie up for the night, we encountered long stretches (mile after mile would be an exaggeration, but that's what it felt like) of jungle – reeds and nettles and who knows what. Just above Wychnor lock we finally found a suitable place where the canal is edged with the sort of piling you fit a mooring hook behind. But this morning, pushing north-east in as much rural idyll as you can get 30 yards from the A38, it was disconcerting to see that for considerable distances it was lined with random blocks of stone, just below the water. I imagine it was originally above the water-line, forming a proper edge to the canal, and that its position now is due to subsidence. Horrible to run on to with a steel hull – lethal (I suppose) for a GRP cruiser.

Coming to Branston Water Park we pulled up to go for walk. Not so much subsidence here – just a nice example of a gravel pit reclaimed by nature with a bit of help from the Council. There we met Eddy and Jean sailing their boats. But these weren't children – they're 73 year olds, and the boats are radio controlled yachts. It was fun to chat with them about the stuff they and their friends do, though we were amazed that you actually need insurance to sail one of these models. It's apparently all about the possibility that someone keen to see what you're doing might get a bit close and end up with your antenna in his eye.

Bridge 25 on the T&M tonight. Food in the pot, it's stopped raining and we're looking forward to the Olympic closing ceremony. Happiness is…

Saturday, 11 August 2012

On the water again

Spent some days commissioning the college database I've been developing. Now we enter the phase reputedly used by Microsoft – let the actual users do the beta-testing! More excuse for me, I think, since this has basically been a one-man project. First indications are that it's going pretty well.

So – back to Erin Mae on Thursday, and then yesterday we started out down the Trent and Mersey for our Tuesday appointment at Mercia Marina to deal with the leaky window. It's been briliant boating weather. Today we got to new territory, running past the winding hole at Rugeley which was the furthest we'd previously been in this direction.

We followed NB Barnaby for a considerable part of this morning, and discovered it can be very useful to have another boat 200 yards in front when negotiating a tricky section. Looking at his behaviour indicated potential hazards – not much traffic today but you can guarantee what there is will be coming at you just as you hit a narrow section right before a bridge on a blind corner. It was especially helpful to have him in front as we went through the rocky, single file section that used to be Armitage tunnel, and has a bend just before the far end. He was able to tell the hire boat coming the other way that we were following, so my best beloved was saved the exercise of walking through ahead.

On to Fradley tonight, a famous junction where the Coventry canal meets the Trent and Mersey. What will we do this evening, now that I've already done a blog post for today? Probably iron out a few database glitches via the internet, and then there's the little matter of the Olympic hockey medals matches, if all this boating hasn't got me in a muddle as to which day it is today.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Home again

What with all the showers it was touch and go to complete the varnishing of Erin Mae's front doors and frames, but in the end we managed it. That was the main target for the last week, in addition to making arrangements with Mercia. So we're well content.

There was so much sport on the radio on the way home, what with the test match as well as the Olympics. Comes from having DAB. In the end I had to turn it off because of the need to concentrate on the heavy traffic. So we've been catching up tonight. Pendleton, team pursuit, Jessica Ennis, Murray, Rebecca Adlington, and those are the ones I already knew about. How much more can a body take! Stopped for coffee on the M40 and had a good chat with a couple coming home from a holiday in the Dales. Hope you find the blog tonight, folks – enjoyed our natter (and hope the coffee spill dried out!).

IT work over the next few days – getting the database live and sorting out any initial issues. Then hopefully back up on Erin Mae towards the end of the week, and some more cruising.

Thursday, 2 August 2012


At Greatwood camp when I was 11 we learnt to tie a round turn and two half-hitches (along with a clove hitch, reef knot, bowline, sheet bend and sheepshank). We were told it was used for mooring boats, because it stayed secure no matter whether the line was tight or slack. I've used it ever since whenever messing around with boats, and taught it to Lewis and Charis when they were on board Erin Mae for a day in June.

Yesterday I noticed Dawn of Great Haywood Marina using a different hitch when we tied up for a pump-out. I'd seen her use it before, but this time I asked her to show me. She said it was used by all the old working boats, so I've been busy rehearsing it (in my mind, at least).

Today I found it on a boating knots website. Unsurprisingly it's called a Lighterman's hitch, though it no doubt has other names as well. Dawn tends to tie it without a complete turn for temporary mooring. Another boater looking on said he always ties it with a complete turn, and that its advantage over the RT2HH is that it doesn't over-tighten under a day of other traffic moving you back and forth.

New skill – good fun. Now to build it into muscle memory.