Friday 29 March 2013

Ready To Go

Well me and Cal are ready to go on our Easter cruise but we are missing one vital piece. The skipper. He is still at work!

Come on Liam. We are ready to go.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Local Waterways Part 3 - The River Trent

Despite our best efforts we have still not cruised all of the Trent that is avaliable to us. We have done the section from Trent Lock to Trent End but the last remaining section up to Sawley still eludes us. For this post I will focus on the sections we use on a regular basis.

Beeston on the Nottingham Canal is the limit of where we usually cruise on the Trent Navigation. We have been further but not very often.

Onto the Trent proper at Nottingham.

The river has a wide choice of moorings each with their own character. Here is the leafy mooring at Stoke Lock.

And the excellent island moorings at Hazelford Lock. A great BBQ spot on a sunny summers day.

The jewel in the Trents crown has to be the fantastic market town of Newark.

 Cromwell lock marks the start of the tidal river.

16 miles downstream on the tidal river is Torksey Lock, the start of the Fossdyke Navigation.

The next town of note on the tideway is Gainsborough. Once under the road bridge the river is governed by ABP Humber and the speed limits are lifted.

Not far from Gainsborough and you reach West Stockwith Lock and basin  at the foot of the Chesterfield Canal.

 Yet further downstream you reach the road bridge at Keadby. It is here that most narrowboats will head into the inland system not venturing further downstream.

The blue crane of Burton Stather Jetty signifies that you are almost at the end of your journey on the Trent.

The Apex Light marking the end of the Trent and the start of your journey on the Humber. It is here that the Rivers Trent and Ouse join to form the mighty Humber.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Local Waterways Part 2 - The River Witham

For Part 2 of this little feature we will take a look at the River Witham from the navigable head of the navigation at Lincoln to the salty waters of the Wash Estuary.

 The head of the navigable River Witham is marked by the guillotine lock at Stamp End. A facilities block is avaliable here on the upstream side of the lock by the sluices. 

Once through the lock and out of Lincoln City limits you will be greated by mile upon mile of stunning Lincolnshire countryside.

 Bardney Lock. The only lock between Stamp End and the Grand Sluice at Boston. Again good visitor moorings and facilities are avaliable here.

 Once through Bardney you have mile upon mile of river flanked by flood banks which are home to a vast array of wildlife and farm animals. As you approach Boston be sure to keep an eye out for seals. They often enter the non tidal river in search of easy fishing!

The Boston Stump signals your approach to Boston. Visible for miles around due to the flat fenland surrounding Boston. Good visitor moorings are avaliable in Boston but the facilities block, although excellent is a fair walk away by the lock.

 Once through the Grand Sluice you are on tidal salty waters. The cruise through the centre of Boston is not to be missed and be sure to give the fishing fleet a friendly wave as you pass through the docks.

And finally after a six mile cruise on the salty tidal River Witham you will be greated by the sight of the wide open waters of the wash estuary. The end of the river marked by the unmistakable Tabs Head marker post.

Monday 25 March 2013

What a difference...

What a difference a few miles can make to the weather. We left Lincoln this morning under bright blue skies only to arrive to a dull and bitterly cold snow bound Sheffield.

Oh well. Only four days of work this week. Hopefully it might warm up a bit between now and Friday!

Saturday 23 March 2013

Lovely Weather

Despite it snowing heavily in Sheffield when we left yesterday evening, we have got hardly any snow here in Lincoln.

Strange how much the weather can change in just 40 miles.

Friday 22 March 2013

Wet Weekend

With yet another wet, miserable and cold weekend in the pipeline we don’t have any major plans. It is the last weekend before the Easter break so we will most probably spend it fettling, polishing and cleaning to ensure that Naughty-Cal is ready for the break even if the weather isn’t.

We are quickly running out of things to fettle, which is of course a good thing, but I’m sure we can find enough to keep us occupied for yet one more wet and cold weekend in the marina. At least it will be scenic with all of the snow on the ground. Maybe a walk to the pub armed with the camera will be in order.

We expect the drive from Sheffield to Lincoln tonight will be challenging with the snow but we will allow extra time and make sure we get there safely rather than quickly. 

Thursday 21 March 2013

Spicy Slow Cooked Pasta

We had another break through with the slow cooker at the weekend. Slow cooked spicy pasta. It was delicious and so simple to make. It took literally minutes to throw together then you leave it to its own devices.

So for this recipe you will need: tinned tomatoes (we used chopped tomatoes with garlic and olive oil), steak mince, one moderately hot chilli and a couple of handfuls of uncooked pasta.

Preparation was super simple. Chuck the tomatoes and mince in the pot and add the chopped chilli. Mix the whole lot together and add a little water if necessary. Leave on high power for a couple of hours; stir the mixture then turn down to low power. We left it for four hours on low. About an hour before you want to eat add the pasta to the mixture and stir well.

The result was quite simply amazing. A lovely thick sauce coating the pasta. This dish is very filling, you really don’t need much of it per person. Enjoy.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Preventative Maintenance

We were asked at the weekend by a fellow boater why we spend so much time and money on servicing and maintaining our boat. To us the answer was simple; we use our boat, cruise extensively on our boat and rely on our boat. We can’t afford for it to become unreliable. Prevention is most certainly better than the cure in our case.

It may seem strange to some that we give the boat a full service in March each year and then change the engine oil and filter again in June or July and again in November or December. It may seem excessive but with the use we give the boat it is good to keep it serviced and the oil clean. The winter service is perhaps the most important as during the quieter winter months the engine can be stood around unworked for weeks on end, much better to be stood with clean oil then with dirty contaminated oil.

It isn’t a cheap affair keeping the big green lump serviced but at the same time it isn’t a cheap affair replacing it with a new one either. Regular servicing highlights the early signs of any potential problems which can then hopefully be rectified before they become a major and  expensive problem.

It is equally important that we keep the stern drive and underwater gear in good order. The boat is of no use if the propulsion system isn’t functioning as it should. A yearly fettle and oil and seal change helps keep it running smoothly. Also important and more often than not overlooked is to check the anodes and ensure that they are working properly and also that they are wearing evenly. Changing them on a regular basis isn’t high on the list of some people.  Excessively worn anodes can lead to corrosion of the stern drive, which is why it is important to check and change them.

So people may think we are strange or overly obsessive with our maintenance regime, but we think that they are strange and a little bit unkind in expecting to get away with years of use with little TLC given back in return. It is of course often the exact same people who are the first to complain when they are let down by their boat. You can’t have it both ways I’m afraid!

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Flipping Belts

For the majority of last year we had an issue with a screeching noise coming from the engine bay whenever the supercharger was engaged. This started at the same time as the water leak from the raw water pump. At the time we attributed it to a slipping belt due to it being wet so paid it little attention.

As the water pump was fixed we also tensioned the supercharger and alternator belts however this failed to remedy the problem. So we changed the alternator and supercharger belts for new ones. Still problem not sorted. By this time it was late in the season and we were quickly coming to the conclusion it was a supercharger bearing at fault. A job for the quieter winter months.

In one last bid attempt to not write off the supercharger, which happens to be quite expensive, we changed all four of the belts for new ones at the weekend. This time following the manual to the letter, tensioning the belts in the specified order to the specified torque settings. Guess what? It worked. No more squealing supercharger. Phew, wallet relieved.

It would seem that these engines are very fickle beasts and everything has to be done in the correct order for them to be happy. We must have just been lucky in the past when changing the belts and got the tensions near enough. So lesson learned, in future follow the manual and start with the easy and cheap options when diagnosing problems. In hindsight we would have done this much sooner but you know what they say about hindsight.

Monday 18 March 2013

More Servicing

This weekend it was time for yet more maintenance. This time it was the turn of the engine. Each spring it is treated to a full service which includes the usual oil and filter change, fuel filters replaced, air filter replaced, supercharger oil replaced, all four belts changed and the crankcase filter replaced as well as checking the impellor condition and changing the antifreeze and the trim ram hydraulic fluid.

As we use Naughty-Cal on some pretty serious waterways and the coast it is important that we ensure the engine is kept serviced and well maintained. We can’t afford for her to become unreliable due to lack of maintenance.

After the service Liam also had a good clean around in the engine bay; keeping the engine and bay clean and tidy means that should we get a leak somewhere it is easy to spot where it is coming from.

Whilst Liam was busy in the engine bay I set about giving the vinyl cockpit seating a good scrub. Ideally this would be done in sunny weather so that the seats dry out quickly but we just had to make do with the weather we were given, sunshine and showers. At least the breeze helped to dry them out.

We are quickly getting down the list of jobs to do before we go away for a few days at Easter. Naughty-Cal is, from the outside at least, looking as good as she ever has done whilst in our care. With a few finishing touches in the cockpit and cabin we will have her finished, well as finished as they ever are. 

Friday 15 March 2013

Speed Seal

Early last year we had a bit of an issue with the raw water cooling system on Naughty-Cal resulting in a not very convenient raw water leak in the engine bay, which of course coincided with us being as far away from our home berth as we would be that week.

The problem was simple enough to fix with a new seal kit for the raw water pump when we were back home but at the same time we treated the raw water pump to a new cover plate. The original one had become pretty scored over the years.

 Our choices for a new cover plate were a genuine Volvo Penta item at £60 or a Speed Seal equivalent for £65. The original Volvo plate is held on by six nuts whereas the Speed Seal has just four quick release thumb screws, ideal for quickly changing the impellor if necessary. The speed seal also claims to improve the lifespan of the rubber impellors and increase the amount of run dry time should an obstruction restrict or stop the flow of raw water.

We chose the Speed Seal purely for its quick release mechanism. Mooring on a shallow canal means that we usually go through three or four impellors a year due to raw water obstructions so ease and speed of access is important. To our surprise since changing the cover plate to the Speed Seal we have not needed to change the impellor once. Maybe the manufacturers claims are true!

We will continue to monitor the situation with the speed seal and see if we just had a lucky year last year but if it really does do what it says on the tin then it is a worthwhile modification to any raw water cooled propulsion system. 

Thursday 14 March 2013


As the waterways are starting to get busier again there are bound to be the usual suspect’s whinging about boats passing too quickly. It’s a yearly occurrence much like Christmas or Easter.

One look at the whingers ropes is usually enough to spot the problem, inadequate mooring. Whilst two loosely tied ropes at 90 degrees to the boat might be enough to keep you tied up on a shallow narrow canal it isn’t going to offer much protection on larger waterways and rivers frequented by much larger vessels that move large amounts of water around.

Moorings using spring lines will greatly reduce the surging and movement of a moored boat and will make for a more comfortable mooring experience. It will also provide for a more secure mooring in fast flowing waters with the lines working together to keep the boat adjacent the bankside.

Spring lines don’t need to be excessively tight to be effective, in fact on river navigations it is important to allow some slack to allow for fluctuations in water level. The flow of the water will act in conjunction with the lines to sit the boat snugly at the bankside whilst sitting back on two lines. The remaining two lines will reduce surge from passing boats.

I don’t expect the whinging boaters will ever be happy, however slow people pass them and for that reason I also don’t expect they will ever heed any good advice. But if just a few people take notice each time it is a point well made.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Considerate Mooring

As Spring rolls ever closer, although with the weather this week we would be forgiven for assuming we were heading into winter again, it is worth mentioning considerate mooring once more. At the risk of sounding like a broken record each year it is worth reminding people of the need to use visitor mooring space sensibly and economically.

We all know that there are a limited number of visitor moorings available, more so on river navigations where casual bankside mooring is often not possible or not allowed. In these instances it is important, especially so during the popular summer months, to use the space sensibly and economically.

Sharing moorings rings, bollards and cleats with adjacent boats is allowed and you don’t need to leave huge gaps between moorings boats. This does not make the best use of the available mooring space. Where the navigation width allows rafting up allows more people to use the moorings.

With more boats entering the UK’s inland waterways it is becoming especially important that we all do our bit to help the mooring situation. By mooring considerately we can all ensure that as many people as possible can make use of the available facilities.

That’s it; I’m not going to harp on about it any longer. This year’s reminder is over and done with.

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Naughty-Cal's Diet

For 2013 Naughty-Cal has been put on a strict diet. Every unnecessary object and item is being removed from the little ship. Over the past four years she seems to have accumulated a lot of gear which is having an adverse effect on her turn of foot.

So as part of her major spruce up, she is shedding some pounds. We are being ruthless this time, every single item is being scrutinised and of it is felt it is not needed it is being taken home, given away or as a last resort thrown away. Even the TV has gone home. We don’t watch it during the summer so why lug it around?

The food cupboard has been thinned down dramatically. All that is left is some pasta, pasta sauce and some cereals. Anything else we can buy along the way but we still have enough for a quick meal should we become stuck somewhere. The galley cupboard has been stripped of unused items, even the pint glasses and unused pots and pans have gone home. Any excess weight is going to be shed this season.

The shower room has not escaped our attentions either. Cleaning products have been reduced to just two items EVM and disinfectant, just one shower gel each, one shampoo and one hand wash. Why carry extra? When we run out buy a new one.

Hopefully this ruthless weight shedding should see Naughty-Cal back to her sprightly self this season with an improvement in fuel economy to boot. We have a long season of cruising in the pipeline so it is essential that we are getting the best from Naughty-Cal.

Monday 11 March 2013

Battery Update

Well it has been over two years since we upgraded our domestic battery bank and replaced our batteries with two 105 amp Varta leisure batteries. So how are they going on?

Well I am pleased to announce that they are still in fine shape and are coping admirably with our power demands. Capacity has yet to drop noticeably despite two years of weekly weekend use and holiday use.

The previous one domestic battery completely gave up the will to live in a little under two years so it seems that the upgrade to two batteries has been well worth it. At the same time as we changed the batteries we also made a few power saving modifications which also seem to be helping the situation.

It had been our initial intention to swap the batteries after three years however we will review this decision later in the year nearer the time that they are three years old. If they are still performing adequately then we may delay the switch. We are however firm believers in changing our batteries at the first signs of unreliability. Some people choose to limp along with dead and dying batteries but to us that seems to be a false economy. Why waste fuel running the engine to charge the batteries for longer each day?

So watch this space later in the year to see how we get on.

Saturday 9 March 2013

More new bits!

Naughty Cal sure is being spoiled this year. Today we have yet more new bits to fit.

Her shiny new fenders have arrived. They should look good against her shiny polished hull.

Now who is going outside in the pouring rain to fit them to the boat?

Friday 8 March 2013

New Developments

It would seem that our quiet corner of Lincolnshire is under threat. 

Two large new marinas are planned for the River Witham. One below Lincoln at Cherry Willingham and one a little upstream of Boston.

Now the Witham doesn’t exactly have many marina facilities so this sounds like a good idea at first glance. But looking further into the proposals highlights the fact that the berths are aimed at narrowboat owners. And the problem with this? Well the simple fact that there are not enough local visitor mooring spaces to accept the proposed 300 extra narrowboats.

Being a river navigation the Witham has limited visitor mooring space on floating pontoons. There is little if any chance for casual bank side mooring as on canals. In the summer months it can already be a pain finding a mooring due to visiting narrowboats. Get three average length narrowboats on most of the moorings and they are full.

The other issue, more so with the Boston marina is location. Boston is a sea port. Surely they don’t expect narrowboats to head out to sea. In which case where do they expect them to go? The lower section of the Witham is not the most interesting section of waterway even for us and we can travel a damn sight quicker than a narrowboat to ease the burden. Until the Fens Waterways Link is completed, which wont be anytime soon, there will be few cruising options for these boats. What is the point?

Now don’t get me wrong I don’t want to sound like  NIMBY. I am all for development, anything to help the local economy. But it needs to be thought out and reasonable. As far as I can see from the information currently available, neither of these marinas has been thought through, yet both now have planning permission in the bag. Only time will tell I suppose how successful they will or wont be.

Thursday 7 March 2013

More cleaning

Last night we made another push forward towards getting ready for the Easter break. We washed the cockpit rug which we had taken home a few weeks previous.

It didn't really look too grubby but the colour of the water we got out of it told a different story. It now looks much brighter and fresher and smells cleaner.

Another job crossed off the list and the rug will be back on the boat come Friday evening.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

She's in

Well Naughty-Cal has been dipped back into the water today. She still floats and there was no trouble during a quick run around the marina so signs are good for a run out at the weekend.

Monday 4 March 2013


So naughty cal is ready to go back in the water today. It has been a couple of weekends of hard work but the end result is definitely worth it.

Sunday 3 March 2013

Drive complete

Well the drive is now back together and fully serviced. Unfortunately the new props didn't arrive on time so the old damaged ones have been put back on. These will be changed in a couple of weeks for the refurbished ones.

So today. More polishing and waxing before finally applying the antifoul paint. Hopefully we will be finished by lunchtime.

Friday 1 March 2013

We could be on

Things are slowly falling into place. We could yet get the boat launched on Monday. As we speak the shaft is having its new bearing installed. All we need are for the refurbished props to be delivered.