My solar hot water system was'nt holding pressure like it should, so I contact the firm that installed it. 'just cinch up the outflow joint at the collector' they said, 'the large temperature differences can cause this sometimes'. This was in all the appalling weather we had Feb/March/April, so I was'nt inclined to go cavorting around the roof, so I left it as was until things improved a bit. Well they have so this morning up I went, three sets of laders and some nifty ropework and there I was, taking off the insulation and shroud, and just as they said there was a little bleed from the compression joint. I carefully applied the spanner to the joint and cinched it up a bit. The bleed turned into a trickle, so I give it a little more and....... kablooie - the whole connection gave way, spraying me liberally with 60*C antifreeze. since I had'nt shut the pump down [I did'nt need to, I was only cinching it up a bit]. I eventually got off the roof after stripping off my soaking wet and very hot clothes [ I was in real danger of scalding myself], and stomped off to call the fitters. 'Oh dear. please send us a load of photos so we can advise you what to do next'. Well what I wanted was for them to explain how an 18 month old system costing several £K auto-destructs because of the failure of a 10p washer, incorrectly fitted by their expert team. 'We'll get back to you on that' So I wait in vain. Meanwhile a small cloud of steam can be seen coming from the now open-to-the-air system as the remaining coolant evaporates away............
the Lost Coast
a mythical place where the sun always shines and the waves are good, or just a state of mind?
Friday, May 03, 2013
Friday, March 22, 2013
Hols at last!
When I 'retired' two years ago now, one of the things I said I would do before the end of the year was to go on holiday to somewhere different. As it transpired circumstances stopped me from achieving this, not only for that year, but also for the whole of the next -2012. during this time I had been transferring a small amount monthly into my 'holiday slush fund'. It has now accumulated a healthy balance, which I could either use towards a damn good holiday or rely on to take me through a potential lean time money-wise in the next few years. Guess what? I'm going on holiday. Now I've been to Madeira a few times and really like the place, and even though it's a bit touristy, it's not your average euro-resort type of place. But this year I though I'd like somewhere similar, but more remote, so I'm off the the Azores. So 12 days in the middle of May, going independent as always - flying Manchester-Lisbon-Terceira. A few days there then off to the neighbouring island of Pico to do some walking, whale watching, surfing if I get the chance, then back to Terceira for a few more days of something similar. I'll try and take some photos and put them on this blog, Honest.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
February, and bloody cold it is too
Well, what a winter it's becoming. Wet, sunny, cold, miserable, very windy from whatever direction you can think of, talk about four seasons in one day. We've had the lot. And it's not over yet, far from it. Coming after the most god-awful summer and autumn I can remember, it just blended seamlessly in and continued the theme of direness. But spring lies waiting in the wings and I am confident that we will have a cracking spring and summer this year with just the right amount of sun and rain to make everyone happy. well hope always springs eternal as they say, but I honestly won't be putting any money on it being any better than this last year.
Monday, January 07, 2013
happy New Year everypeeps!
Well here we are in 2013 and father Christmas has bought me a late prezzie. My Finn Dinghy has arrived! John turned up in a mizzle of rain which seemed to get in everywhere, making the removal and transference of both dinghies into a bit of a wet slog. But we got it done and then John was gone - on a 4 hour trip back to Cheltenham, and I put my new acquisition to bed. next day I went down with the camera to record the boat and note what needed doing. there's a few jobs, to be expected in a 30+ year old boat but they're mostly of a tlc nature.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Yay! I'm still alive!
Well the op went well; the recovery went pretty well, even though I picked up a chest infection; and the convalecance is going OK. I'm even a bit fitter than expected at this stage according to the rehab guys. That's the plus side. The minus side is that I've gained weight which I have to lose, and then another 10KG to bring me down to a target weight. Now diets have never really worked for me, not enough self-discipline I guess, so it will have to be done via more exercise and less food rather than a strict fat free diet or whatever. It's not really the time of the year for that though, what with winter drawing in and the nights getting longer. One can only pass up a certain number of rice or syryp sponge puddings with custard you know! So in anticipation of having to make a massive effort in the new year I've sort of swopped my single handed, sit on a sliding seat/ plank sailing dinghy for something slightly more sedate, but equally difficult to sail- an olympic Finn dinghy [a la Ben Ainslie]. This should really sort out my back, stomach and quads. At my age this is really the last chance I'll get to sail a dinghy like this. I'll pass it on to someone who has outgrown a Lazer in due course
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
Oh Bugger II
Well it's been a good few months since I last posted. I'm wondering if it's worth it any more, as I don't appear to get any readers. The gall stone problem as mentioned now appears not to be a problem, but unfortunately the reason for the discomfort is far far more serious. It seems I have a congenital heart problem, which can only be sorted via the application of a heart bypass, which is as you can imagine, is not a quick fix job. Mind you there does'nt seem to be any urgency so it's not as if I'm going to keel over any time soon. That's my summer sorted then, no strenuous exercise, no sailing, or biking, or surfing until at least September. I would'nt mind so much but I was just getting fit again, and now all this enforced idleness is starting to pall.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
In the true spirit of handmade houses here's a site devoted to out-of-the-way cabins in places we would all like to be at.
Saturday, February 18, 2012
I've lost all my photos!
The filehost I used has gone belly up and just shut down; no warning, nothing.
so if you are looking through some of my older posts and cannot see anything, that's the reason why.
I've have a new host, so when and if I get the chance I'll re-up the various photos I've placed on this blog over the years.
If I can find them on the computer that is.
Since I 'retired' last May I've had loads of time on my hands, to do all those things I needed to do. I spent the summer upgrading my wood burner and installing solar hot water and a new plumbing system. This took me as far as the end of July.
The rest of the summer I sent playing with boats and trying to complete the Sibrwd rebuild. Pleasingly I'm about 80% there, 'All' I needed to do now was paint the deck, build the spars, turn the boat over and sand back the hull, prime, paint and install a new keelband, turn her back over and start on the fitting out.
The mast build carried on apace, but in October I went off on a 'creative technology' course which, although great fun, did'nt progress the build whatsoever.
So then it was December and those gall stones I first found out about some 5 years ago have finally made their presence felt. And how! I've spent the last few weeks laid up with excruciating pains every time I eat or do something strenuous. But there's light at the end of the tunnel.... next week I get to see my very own consultant, hopefully with a view to whipping the damn things out and returning to life more normal!
Then I can get the project finished. I may even be able to post some pics again.
Sunday, July 03, 2011
back to basics = mat surfing at HM
what with everything else I need to be doing, I've had no chance to actually get in the water this year, as opposed to being on it.
So today, no wind, tides all wrong for the boat, too hot to sit in the garden, fed up of doing plumbing/painting/masonry I decided to just 'go to the beach'
A quick look at West Coast surfs daily web grab and it would be a trip to Hells Mouth with the mat.
Ok it really was only 2foot dribble, and with a load of guys out, but it was warm,windless and hey it's July - usually flatter than a hedgehog in the middle of the road.
So, in the hour or so window of opportunity as the tide dropped I had what passes for a decent sesh for me these days. I'll keep an eye out and maybe tomorrow will get another visit if anything is building [the + side of not currently working]
Sunday, May 15, 2011
another year gone by.........
... and I've written nothing in this blog. You could consider it moribund, or that absolutely nothing has happened in my life over the last year.
Welllll... that's not true. Quite a lot has happened actually, but sibrwd is still sitting in the shed, a stalled project. But things have changed, since I have now retired from work - or more accurately, I have taken voluntary redundancy from the job I stopped loving several years ago.
So what now? There's sibrwd to finish, a mast to build, another dinghy to refurbish, my house to work on, that shed to build. then there's repainting my mothers house, refitting her bathroom. So lot's to do - none of it paying though.
Oh and a bit more time to add to this blog
Sunday, May 02, 2010
Well, as they say, never look a gift horse in the mouth. However any of you that have ever been given the aforesaid horse will know that what with vet’s bill, feeding the thing and generally seeing to it’s well being, you quickly appreciate that you go from a position of maybe having money in the bank to definitely not.
In some way’s this is what has transpired with Sibrwd. Not that I’m complaining exactly, since I was looking for a reasonably cheap project to begin with and this fulfils that rather nicely. It’s cost a little more than I had envisaged – the biggest item being the sails but there again, I suppose I could have taken her back to a bog-standard 18 instead of trying something different.
So here we are, the boat is coming along well, decks are on, cockpit coaming is on, ash gunnels ready to fabricate and put on, various bits of trim roughed out and ready to go, and lots of sandpaper ready to start sanding down the exterior of the hull preparatory to painting.
There’s still a load to do, like finishing off the new rudder, fettling the heavy cast metal plate and then there’s the elephant in the corner – a whole new mast and all the spars needed to finish the rig off.
So…. It was’nt something I was looking for when I received an email from someone on the Classic dinghy website, wanting / asking me to go and look at another old Merlin Rocket a few miles away. Seems a Lady’s late father had stuck it in a shed when his dinghy sailing days were over – around 30 years ago apparently and there it had languished, until now. They wanted it out and away since the house was being sold, and if they could’nt get rid of it then it would go as scrap.
Anyway it was’nt far so I took a look. There it was in this open fronted shed looking a little forlorn under a tatty old canvas cover. It was pulled out and the cover literally torn off – to reveal a piece of furniture in mahogany and varnish. It looked as though it had been last used yesterday.
After taking some photos and heading off home with the promise to put the word out, I duly did that and posted them up on the board and sent them to the MR association. Cue absolute disinterest from everyone, mainly due to the boat being distant to those who might want a go.
A few days later and the lady contacted me again by now in a bit of a tizz since she had heard nothing from anyone and she wanted rid asap. She’d give it to me. Well I said, that’s nice but I can’t afford to buy it off you, all my available funds are going towards Sibrwd. No she said – it’s yours, just come and pick it up.
So I did.
This was one occasion when looking a gift horse in the mouth would be a bad thing.
Monday, March 08, 2010
The news from Madeira lately has been shocking, but maybe not so surprising. Given the way the island was deforested shortly after it was discovered, the Maderenese have been paying for it ever since. Friable volcanic rock and steep unstable slopes in a semi-tropical oceanic position, flash floods like this appear to be a seasonal occurrence, although in most years these floods, although devastating, are fairly localised and small scale in their effects. I saw many landslips whilst walking on the Levadas last November, and they were all being fixed by the resident workforce the Levaredos within hours of being reported. This time it is’nt going to be so easy to sort things out.
From the photos and video reports I have seen so far the flood appears to have come from the area to the east of Monte in the Barbosas /Curral das Freitas area, where a huge bowl in the escarpment funnels much of the seasonal rains into the two main Levadas, which on this occasion were probably overwhelmed and destroyed.
When I was there last November, the locals were already complaining that it was the wettest Autumn they could recall and one of the guides on a walk I did thought that it would’nt take much to cause a significant event, although I think he expected it to take place in Ribero Brava [which in any event was hit quite badly] but not in Funchal with it’s pretty wide and efficient flood channels. As it was the flash flood was so ferocious it just overwhelmed the defences and as usual the debris brought down the slope blocked up against the bridges linking the old and new towns.
I found this photo on one of the News sites and it shows the channel that ran down the middle of the main drag into downtown Funchal. That channel is at least 3 or 4 metres deep at this point and at least 10 wide – so that’s a lot of water heading down to the sea.
The hotel I stayed in is just behind the red roofed building and the trees on the left of the picture, so I’m hoping they got away with little damage. This channel leads right down into the old town, the market, bus station, and lots of small local shops and cafes, restaurants which make this part of the town the best part of Funchal especially if like me, you are a low cost frugal traveller.
So what now? I guess it’s going to depend on how quickly they can get things cleared and repair the damage, although the tourist trade – which the island depends on to get by- will have inevitably taken a hell of a knock.
Was I intending to go back? Well yes, but I had’nt really put a date on it. I like the place and there is something good about acquiring a familiarity for somewhere else, where you can go and relax in your favourite harbour front café and watch the world go by without having to discover something new, because it’s your first trip there. I can still ‘explore’ as I’ve not been to the neighbouring island of Porto Santo yet and there places on Madeira that I’d like to take a look at.
Having said that, for this year I was actually intending to go exploring – in the western Canaries- which are largely free of the lager/family type of tourists, and probably worth a look, before mass tourism takes hold.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Fat Man Goes Walkabout
Well here I am in sunny Madeira, or rather in a wet and windy Funchal.
having left the UK just as a rather nasty low pressure system brought in the real Autumn with rain and howling winds, I felt rather smug when I arrived in a sunny and warm Madeira.
The smug feeling did´nt last that long though when I discovered that I had left all my short-sleeved shirts at home and that- apart from the shirt I was wearing, everything else was aimed at high level walking in cool conditions - this should have been OK since it was the reason for my being here in the first place.
The purchase of a couple of shirts has moved up the priority scale though, after a guided walk I went on started out badly and got worse.
I´d signed up for the trip back in the UK, it promised the lakes of Madeira - somewhere near to Rabçal on the Paul da serra, the western plateau which gathers all Madeira´s waters and channels them into the numerous ponds, falls and rivulets before being diverted into the Levada system.
On the morning of the walk it was´nt promising, clouds covered the tops and since the wind was in the west it was likely there would be rain at some point. By the time we reached Urze - the meeting point for the walk - the rain had reached biblical proportions, more Capel Curig on a bad day than a semi tropical island. We as a group decided that it was´nt a good idea and that a lower level walk would be more suitable, so we headed down slope a few miles to the Levada do Norte for a pleasant if misty and somewhat windy walk of around 10k. All went well, until the last 15 minutes or so when the rain that had been lashing down at Urze decided that it might as well give us a seeing to as well and within minutes we were soaked through. Even my super-duper new Marmot raintop gave up the ghost, although it might have been the fact I was pretty warm anyway.
By the time we reached the bus I was wet through, everything was sodden, and now not only am I short of shirts - but I was short of trousers, pants, socks - you name it, it´s drying on the balcony.
The forecast is for more rain, with some bright spells. Oh well it´s just like home but at least it´s warm.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Well, I’ve really gone and done it now.
Well, I’ve really gone and done it now.
I tried to put it off until next year, but it’s something that has to be done and whenever it happens it’s going to cost money – quite a bit really.
I prevaricated about it and no matter how I cut the cake, there was no shortcuts, no utilising cheaper materials, or doing it myself. No I was going to have to spend and let an expert do the job.
So yesterday I gritted my teeth and went to see JKA and ordered a new engine for Sibrwd.
I already have an engine, two actually – a 3 hp evinrude which although working is’nt a the best looking thing around, is heavyish and does’nt really set her off at her best. I also have a 1.5hp seagull of uncertain vintage, but has bags of character and is just so for a modern trad boat like Sibrwd.
No this was for the real engine in any sailing boat, the massive expanse of cream coloured cloth forming the lugsail – the main driving engine, the bit that makes it go, as silent as an albatross gliding over the sea in a zephyr with just the sound of the ripple from the cut of the bow in the water or the exhilarating hissssssss as she planes down the face of a wave in a broad reach.
This also has other implications, not just financial. Although I had gone down the route of having an unstayed lugsail rig in the eyes of the boat, I had also taken steps in the design to allow for a more conventional rig if everything else turned sour. Now it’s too late. The deed is done. It will be a lugsail for Sibrwd, nothing else
So over the next few months, in addition to finishing off the hull, sanding down and repainting the exterior, rebuilding the rudder and stock, I will have a 20’ mast to build, a 12’ mast to build, 8’ of bumkin to build and install and joy of joys 14’ of ultralight, ultrastiff carbonfibre yard to shape and glass up – all to hang a large hankerchief off.
The timber for the mast is here already 20’ of 5”x 4” Douglas fir to be sawn up into thin lengths for me to shape and glue back together.
Well it will keep me out of mischief until next summer.
Oh and the car really could do with being replaced. It’s done over 200k miles, but you know, it really does’nt strike me as being a priority right now ;).
Saturday, October 10, 2009
the cars of Walmart
Another of those gems of the wierd and wonderful that you find on the web
Can't help thinking that if this was the UK the vast majority would'nt get more than a mile from the house before being pulled and taken to the crusher
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Well, I'm still building!
Things are moving along slowly but surely. The cockpit sole is down all sealed and proper like, and the side deck framing has at last been finished - just a couple more bearers to install, but those can wait until the ply deck is glued in so that I can make sure that I have a decent landing for the joint on the quarter.
of course like all boats, glass or not, there is a bit of asymetrically to the hull, nothing extreme, but enough to ensure that you need to measure both sides and not assume what fits one side will automatically do for the other.
The next bit is sanding back all those drips and smears, applying another coat of eposeal, installing the c/plate case top, painting everything that needs painting inside the boat, and then turning everything over so I can get to the underside.
I had intended to do that as the first job, but I thought that the shell was too flimsy to do that and decided to add some stiffness. I got sort of carried away and now have to possibly resort to 'plan B' careening her over far enough to do one side and the bottom and then shifting her the other way to do t'other side. It's no biggie really.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Sibrwd - still at it
The 18 project is still puttering gently along since I decided that an all out, one-hit rebuild was'nt on.
the realisation that given that the time available to me was'nt going to be enough to get the job done before the end of the summer, I might as well just take my time, do the job methodically and think things through before applying saw to wood or even glue to hull. as someone said 'measure once, curse twice'.
So from getting the boat undercover last winter, I have spent my time acquiring wood, sawing it, measuring up, buying epoxy and sealer, measuring more wood and ply and just generally feeling my way forward, essential when you have few plans to go by and have to make it up as you go along.
So today was a bit of a milestone, the cockpit floor has gone in, and has been glued and nailed down, edges sealed and sikaflex applied to make it nice and watertight.
The hatches are cut out and when the ordered stuff arrives [3 weeks and waiting]I can bond them in and that part of the build will be done- for now. i am reasonably happy with the outcome; it's not perfect but it's ok, and to the cursory glance you would'nt know that it's ever so slightly twisted.
The next and more difficult secion is about to start - building the decks.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
THE 18 PROJECT
My new project is running somewhat behind the schedule I had set myself.
After picking up the boat – hereafter renamed ‘Sibrwd’ , which is welsh for ‘Whisper’ and getting it back to
I decided against leaving Sibrwd at Sian’s some 8 miles away and after we returned from holidays in October, I carted her home where she sat on the trailer for the next couple of months whilst I made abortive attempts to grind away all the loose and suspect glass fibre inside her.
Whilst this was happening I was also vainly looking for a suitable building to use as a workshop, so she could dried out and worked upon in somewhat more comfy surroundings than the parking area opposite the house. After a couple of weeks of looking, I stumbled upon a building barely a mile from where I lived, in a place I had long known about but had completely overlooked.
There was room aplenty at the new site – an old stable/garage attached to the outbuildings of a large house, now a restaurant. The range was still owned by the original family and although in a state of some disrepair would do nicely. The rent at a mere £10 a week swung it. I spent Christmas clearing the ivy off the roof and trying to push some of the looser slates back into place. Then I lined the interior with the tarp that was covering the boat; tacking it to the principal rafters with battens. This would ensure that any rain getting in would run down the tarp and then the stone walls, not that much would. Once summer is here I can do a better job of it. The place was a bit damp, a brick floor ensured that, but I can warm it up courtesy of a gas fire donated by my sister. Once I’ve salvaged the decent workbench which I found in the ruins next door, I’ll be ready to go.
The boat was duly installed, sliding of the trailer and onto wooden bearers without much bother. Now I could start work in earnest; grinding back the nasties being the first job, followed by prepping the floors and cockpit sole, turning the boat over using the already installed Large Piece of Timber up above to attach my block and tackle to. I fired up the generator and prepared to do battle, only for it to die some minutes later. The engine was running lovely like, it just wasn’t pumping out any juice. So it will be off to the repairers and I guess I’ll be hiring one in for the w/end.
Sibrwd ensconsed, ready to go
I’ve been quietly amassing the timber needed for the rebuild and seem to have most of what I require for the first part. Now I have to go and be nice to an old guy who has a nearby timberyard and sawmill.
The rebuild brief is simple: put in a new cockpit sole on new floors, seal the edges to make a watertight compartment so that in the event of a capsize the boat won’t sink – easier said than done I suspect given the ease by which water can get into things – especially boat shaped things. For years I was pumping out rainwater from the Soling, and wondering where it all got in. I eventually traced it to a tiny screw hole in the deck that had’nt been sealed properly.
Once the sole is down and the gunnels, inside and out are renewed I can start on re-building the deck: again this is reasonably straightforward on paper, or would be if I had plans. No, I’ll be doing it ‘by eye’ where things will sort of *hang* where I want them to be, whilst I make up bearers and wedges and whatnot to make them permanent.
Then, once all that is completed and the bright work done and everything painted and varnished, and all the hardware installed, I can start thinking about building two masts, various spars and then acquiring sails…
But that’s a way off yet so I’ll just have to entertain you with all the trials and tribulations I meet along the way.
Monday, March 02, 2009
I HATE ORGANISED SPORT!
Ok maybe a little OTT but this rant is aimed at the tv orientated, big money and egos end of the the scale band I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of this.
So, the recent news that the recession and semi-demise of some of our major financial players has resulted in the cutting back and even the curtailment of sponsorship deals is music to my ears.
Sure I love rugby and will watch most televised matches, but the sports I want to do involve a more non-competitive slant even to the extent that I abhor surf contests – believing that getting money for how well you can zip up and down a wave goes against the whole ethos of the sport/ pastime/ experience or whatever you wish to call it.
The usual organised sports, by and large pass me by; either I’m not interested in them or if I am they are things that cannot really be televised in the normal way. For example I enjoyed a series of programmes on the Iditarod dog sled race which transcends the usual idea of a race – in that it takes around 10 days over several hundreds of miles in extremely inhospitable conditions – ‘match of the day’ it surely aint, but it's an event that cannot be televised in a way a football match can be, and does require a level of interest that transcends the usual 90 minutes of either running around kicking something or sitting on your bum eating sweets.
Maybe that’s what it is – I don’t like the way things are neatly packaged up to conform to tv schedules and the attention spans of the more ‘slow’ in society – believe it or not there was a serious move to try and split international rugby matches into 4 quarters not so long ago, in order to appease the advertisers. They were rightly told to go take a run.
So what if the lack of advertisers sponsors etc mean that some sporting events are downscaled or even become extinct.
I’ve always thought football is alive and well and taking place on myriad muddy fields every Saturday and Sunday followed by a pint and a pie for all the players.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Get a Grip!
as a trained environmental scientist I was aware that there was something seriously amiss with both the way we as a species 'conduct our business' and the long term impications of this: overuse of resources; an exploding population; pollution; imbalances in wealth; and underlying all this - those impossible to measure things which only become apparent when the whole process is in train and getting harder and harder to sort out - the whole climate change/global warming is a case in point.
I'm afraid I'm a cynic when it comes to mankind's actual ability to do something about the man made elements of this process - not the practicalities - stop driving cars, use less co2 producing energy.
No, the difficulties lie in the business-as-usual mindset of most governments, be they western capitalist economies, centrally organised dictaorships or emerging third world powerhouses.
The rows between those who believe that climate change aka global warming is a done deal and those who deny it's existence or think we might as well carry on as we are because it's a natural event we can do nothing about are unhelpful in the scheme of things and just give ammo to the real blowhards like Jeremy 'big car' Clarkson; who are making a great living from rubbishing the environmental community as yougurt eating beardies... a stance made easier by some of the deep green crusties out there who see the environmental field as a lifestyle choice rather than a field where hard science, together with it's proofs must reign supreme if we are to move along with the major problem we have ahead [a similar argument is occuring within the homeopathic/alleopathic medicinal field]
So it was with some surprise and relief that i was sent this little nugget which emenates from the UK Met office which [BBC weather forecasts aside!] are not noted for their sensationalising of facts.
Go take a read and then take a deep breath stahnd back and look at the situation rationally and then take appropiate action.
Friday, January 30, 2009
RIP John Martyn
One of my favourite singers/guitarists died on Thursday; it's a sad day, even though all his fans knew he was on borrowed time and had been for a while.
John Martyn was a gentleman, a pain in the arse,a brilliant and sensitive songwriter, a man of principle, a pisshead, and someone who could reduce 3000 people in a concerthall to tears with an extraordinary rendition of somewhere over the rainbow, and the next minute have everyone stand openmouthed as he fought with his band over something the bass player said.
Some gigs were superb, some rather less, all were memorable.
If you have never heard John Martyn then I urge you to pick up the double album 'Sweet little Mysteries- An Island anthology' which will turn you on to this hidden gem.
Carry on raging against the night John
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Are you one of those who does't know their LOL from their ROTFL?
don't know the meaning of YMMV?
or are you always getting the correct wording of NASA and OPEC wrong?
Then go take a look at the latest of my weird sites on the interweb thingy:
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
another weird and wonderful place
number 233535 in an occasional series
go take a look.. most interesting [well it is to me anyway :) ]
Monday, September 15, 2008
A New Project or Making a Rod for My Own Back?
Well, it looks like I’ve gone and done it again.
Regular readers of this Blogg [are there any left out there?] will no doubt remember my attempts at de-cluttering and downsizing that took place a couple of years back. This was largely successful in that I disposed of a stack of things I was unlikely ever to have use for again, but they were replaced to a certain degree by new stuff which to be fair is being used.
However having sold Inside Out and being left with just a catamaran which to put it bluntly I was too fat and unfit to sail without making myself ill, so it hasn’t been used for a couple of years – I found myself missing going on the water in a boat. Sure the Canadian was good fun, either solo or tandem, but the days one could get out onto the sea in this part of the world are fairly rare and anything over a force 3 and 2’ chop stops being fun after a while.
So when Ted [at Helen’s prompting] offered me the tatty old 18 in the field for a ‘small consideration’, I decided it was a worthwhile project and said yes. The getting it back from Oxford was an epic in itself since sourcing a trailer at a reasonable price proved well nigh impossible and I ended up re-vamping the old catamaran trailer I never used. New wheels, new suspension, new rollers and a new spine later I essentially had a new trailer which I hoped would be man enough to do the job required [it was]
Once the inevitable problems with the lighting board were sorted out I was ready to go, and last weekend I set out on the 200 mile drive to fetch the boat, on a day notable for it’s storminess even for this washout summer. All around rivers were in flood and spray and rain were everywhere. The words ‘is your journey really necessary’ kept on coming back at me as the empty trailer bounced along behind the car. Keeping to the motorway I made reasonable time considering the conditions and arrived to find Ted already working on getting the boat off the trailer.
Now the situation as was is that the boat weighing some 250 kg sat on a massively heavy launching trailer which in turn sat upon and equally heavy bilge keel trailer. The question now was how we could get the boat off this rig and onto my much lighter set up. Ted wanted to sort of get it back to a balance point and then sort of waggle it onto my trailer and slew it round to fit, so for a while this is what we did. It wasn’t long before we realised that this wasn’t going to work and that a plan B was required. Eventually we did what I had envisaged our doing all along; we dropped the boat off the back and onto the grass, with the bow propped up on logs and my trailer in front. Suitably blocked, wedged, braced and stropped back to my car the trailer was as solid as we could make it and with Ted’s 4x4 pulling the boat it rolled up and on. It did’nt actually fit that well, but we chocked and braced anew until it was on ok and not liable to drop off anywhere between Oxford and Wales.
All this had taken a couple of hours so when the rain started falling again we retreated to the house for tea and toast. It was agreed that since the weather was still abysmal, and that better was promised for the next day, it would be best to stay overnight; a much more sensible idea than my go-for-it return that same day.
Next morning dawned reasonably clear and dry, so a hasty breakfast and I was off. I stopped twice during the first ten miles, in order to check the tyre pressures and to make adjustments to the load. Six hours 230 miles and a largely uneventful journey later I had the boat tucked up at home, with the solid aluminium centreplate locked away.
The next day I started on the task of clearing out all the muck and rubbish from inside the cockpit, whilst trying to salvage what I could.
The main problem was that whoever had last done any work on the boat had used ordinary ply, which is fine if a] it is maintained properly and b] all the edges are well sealed. Unfortunately neither of these applied and the glue bonding the layers together had dissolved away turning the once tough ply into the texture of a digestive biscuit, and a soggy one at that. I literally had to shovel out the contents of the cockpit floor- it was more like gardening than woodwork.
Three hours later the enormity of the task ahead became more obvious. Not only would the cockpit floor need replacing but so would all the bearers, the wood around the centreboard casing, the coaming and the all the woodwork around the mast area. At least the decks were ok – so far as I could see but I’m prepared for more nasty news as I delve further and rip out more manky rotten wood. There’s still a load of badly fitted buoyancy to rip out as well as some weird bits and bobs. I have no idea what significance they have, but they’re gone. The more I look at it the more I think that trying to ‘make good’ just about anything except the deck and the hull is a non starter so it will be rip and replace.
So I’m back to my original question – Have I made a rod for my own back? Funnily enough I don’t think so. Once the rubbish is out and all the remaining woodwork and glass can be ok’d the next stage- that of rebuilding is well within my capabilities. It will cost for sure, but the potential for coming up with something well finished is quite high. And I have plans for that something to be a little different to what went before, but I’ll leave that for future postings.
Now, where’s that wrecking bar?
Thursday, July 17, 2008
the upper Thames and the most expensive baguette ever
Having to try and get some time off during July in order to use up my holiday allowance before September [don't ask - it's a new rule] I thought I espied a window of good weather in this somewhat disappointing summer so I decided to bring forward my long planned but never done trip down the Thames from Cricclade to Oxford. I thought four days should do it as a crew of fellow SoTPers had recently done something similar. So following in their wake I would head out and do the same....
My timing was off... I did'nt know that the air show at Fairford was on, and even though it got cancelled because of the rain the previous week, there were still throngs of people making the drop off a slow affair. Since time was slipping by we decided to ditch Cricclade as a start point and try and launch at Castle Eaton. The nice lady at the Red Lion was more than happy to let me launch so we had a pint to say 'Thanks'. The river was running higher than usual because of the rain, so high in fact that I simply stepped into the canoe off the front lawn and off I shot, into a maze of downed trees and a green slalom course.
Helen and Ted who were minding the car and picking me up later on lost sight of me within seconds and wonderd if I'd make it to St Johns, let alone Oxford.
into the green
After a couple of hourse of avoiding branches and pushing through and in several places, getting the saw out I made it through into clearer water near Inglesham. The current was still running fast and it was some relief to get to St Johns without any problems. I had a chat with the lock keeper, who told me that the Trout was no longer accepting camping unless by prior arrangement - which left me scuppered as it was a fair old paddle down to Rushey lock where there was a camp. Anyhow he phoned the pub and sorted it for me.....
all safe and sound at St Johns
The next morning, after a not so special sleep, the campsite is close to Lechlade bridge and the traffic noise kept me awake, I made a brew on the the woodgas stove and toasted a [proper] muffin on the embers for breakfast and off I went on the long haul down to Shifford all of 15 miles downriver.
Stopping off at Buscot I had a chat with the lock-keeper as we waited for a narrow boat to enter the lock, apparently the groundswell against selling off the houses is gaining and the 'management' might be having second thoughts.
tied up at Buscot
Heading down to Grafton Lock I was was ready for the grumpy advice from the Lock-keeper who wanted to know where my licence was - stuck on the bow like everone else, except of course he was on the other side of the lock. I was warned about Radcot bridge... which I heeded- basically by going down the right hand stream where it said no entry and floated serenely through the old bridge arches.
the killer bridge at Radcot
Unfortuately this knackered any plan I might have had for heading back upstream to the Swan pub for an early lunch, since the flow was just to much to paddle against, so I had to settle for a trip downstream to the Trout at Tadpole Bridge and The Most Expensive Baguette Ever.
I should have guessed when I got there really... there were 'reserved' notices all along the bank and gin palaces and jags all around the place.. but I was hungry and just wanted a pint and a toasty, or a ploughmans or just a sarnie. Why the cost did'nt register I don't know but there was'nt much change from a tenner, but I sat outside with my pint and waited. When it arrived I did'nt dive in immediately, I probably thought there would be more.. like some chips or a decent salad... but no this was it.
A retired colonel type and his wife were sitting nearby and exclaimed that they would never eat here 'too damned expensive for very little' was his opinion. They only came for the pleasant setting and a decent pint.
The worst thing was that I was somewhat- unwell - later on so I was hit twice as it were....;(
After the shock at Tadpole Bridge it was some relief to reach the tranquility of Shifford Lock and I set up camp in the orchard and had a pleasant time of it, the only sounds being the weir and the wildlife, and the growling of my upset stomach.
The next day was going to take me to Eysham, but I was making such good time I realised I could make it to Godstow in one hit, but I needed to call Helen to get her to pick me up a day early. Despite the modern advances in telecom technology, mobile phones are pretty damn useless unless you turn them on, which Helen had'nt. Since I could'nt be sure whether the message would be read I decided to stick with plan A and camp at Eynsham after all. With a stong current and brisk wind from behind I made Bablock Hythe in very quick time, only to find that the pub was shut and that the rest of the place consisted of a massive caravan site... so I pressed on.
The day was glorious, the only problem being the plethora of large and larger planes spoiling the tranquility..
plane. big. noisy.
I was at Eynsham Lock by 2pm and was glad I had decided to stop over. The tent was up in no time and lunch was ready. I spent the rest of the day wandering around and reading, then had a reasonably priced meal up at the Talbot.
Eynsham camp- tranquility base
Since I only had a few miles to go the next day I lingered the next morning and then literally floated down stream, letting the current do the work, and picking up the obligatory SotP water shot-
All too soon Godstow Lock was up ahead and once through that It was a hard and fast pull up against the still fast weir current into the backwaters under one of the arches of the old Godstow/Wolvercote bridge for an exit into the watermeadow park
So was it worth it.. yes, since it was my first multiday trip on a river of any consequence, and I wanted to solo it, so that when I take S down in a few weeks it won't be a complete trip into the unknown.
Next time I'll take a lot less gear, camp at the quietest of the lock sites, and make sure I bypass The Trout at Tadpole Bridge!
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
canoeing at trefor
Life had got in the way again and what with every weekend seemingly being taken up with work, house matters or the flu, any chance I had to get out was restricted to last minute plans for heading out on coastal walks.
But this last weekend dawned bright and sunny and for once there was no wind to speak of. Ditching the south coast as being too full of idiots on jetskis [the last gasp of the whitsun half-term was still in full swing] I opted for the rather more craggy and less frequented north. The tide would be out during the day, but it was neapy so it was’nt a huge problem; if anything it would be more fun as I could get into some of the sea caves and in amongst the rocks.
I wrote a blog on just this a couple of years back, but that was back when I had the 13’ boat, the 16’ Clipper had’nt been out here before. Also in favour was the fact that Trefor beach is hard pack sand, so the car can be driven right down to the waters edge for unloading, a fact not lost on half a dozen sit on top users already there when I arrived.
I got some ‘you must be crazy taking that in the sea’ looks from a few, but one old guy spent a a couple of minutes looking my canoe over – it transpired that he had used one identical in Canada years ago.
I quickly loaded up with the usual gear, plus the wood gas stove, which I wanted to ‘field test’ at some point.
It was approaching low water slack tide as I exited the harbour and what was left of the ebb wafted me along to the west. I was trying out my ‘new’ grey owl paddle, bought at the symposium last year and only now getting wet for the first time. It was some 6” longer than the Langford otter tails I like and has a spade blade which grabs the water really well. The first few minutes went well, then I began to realise that it was just too long as a solo paddle. I changed to the Langford and the difference was immediately noticeable. The paddle was much easier to use, the shaft length being just right for a paddler in the middle of the boat. OK it did’nt shift as much water on each stroke, but once up to speed you forgot it was in your hands. The best £15 I’ve ever spent on fleabay, and for that I got a matched pair in maple and black walnut!
Ahead of me was a stack called ynys cachu [guano island] where large numbers of cormorants used to nest, now though it seemed to be the sole preserve of gulls
I couldn’t get to the inside gap of the largest stack so moved around it where I espied a sea cave, only accessible at this low state of tide. It was calm enough to risk going in and it was then I realised that the sea cave had outlets either side and I was in fact inside the stack – literally! All that stone above me and the beginnings of a little swell made me back out of there in a hurry!
I continued along a pretty forlorn bit of coast, all boulder beach and scree from Yr Eifl, heading for Trwyn y Gorlech and then the beach at Porth y Nant where I hoped I’d have it to myself since it’s quite difficult to reach. Porth y Nant would be my turnaround point, some 4.5 k from where I set out.
Beaching the canoe on the coarse sand beach, I found a handy driftwood log and set about firing up the stove. I got a handy rolling boil in the kettle in around 5 minutes, having charged up the stove with offcuts of softwood stacked vertically and lit up with a fragment of firelighter. This one charge boiled water for my coffee and then did my noodles, with enough left over I reckon to do a fry up and boil a litre of water to sterilise it.
As I contemplated starting back a SoT hove into view, with the same idea as me I’m sure and I vacated the beach so he could have it to himself…….. not for long though as I encountered a couple more SoTs and a Klepper Aerius heading in the same direction.
The northgoing tide was just starting up and I had a great paddle back to Trwyn y Tal, where I got back right into the rocks for a spot of pretend rock dodging and thence back to the beach…. 9km 4 hours, lovely.
Friday, May 23, 2008
have fun with these charts, graphs and pies:
good clean fun for a Friday afternoon!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
the great fig roll shortage
The national fig roll crisis: how will we cope?
Martin WainwrightMonday April 21, 2008The Guardian
If the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil can trigger a tornado in Texas, then it is perhaps no wonder that Britain's current fig roll shortage can be traced back to wasp problems in Turkey.
We were alerted to the absence of the legendary biscuit by a concerned reader. Further investigation revealed that supermarket shelves are indeed empty. Some branches of Sainsbury's have even put up notices, informing customers of the current crisis, which began with hard times for the pollinating fig wasp of Anatolia.
"It's been so exceptionally hot and dry there that the fig harvest is down by half from previous years," says Christine Welberry of the Food and Drink Federation. The wasps are wilting, while in the background the internet buzzes with frustrated roll seekers.
"Just got back from Waitrose - the man told me that two weeks ago he'd been told to take the price ticket off the shelf ... seems like fig rolls are no more (well for the foreseeable future anyway)," says A Lot Ment on Digital Spy's food forum. "I order online from Asda at the minute and I have noticed you haven't been able to buy these for the past few weeks," responds Louismum.
The crunch came because the heat coincided with the discovery of contamination. At the end of March, Paula Waldron, head of the food incidents unit at the Foods Standards Agency, wrote to all British companies importing Turkish dried figs. Eurolaw-busting levels of a poison called aflatoxin had been found in consignments, she said, and everyone needed to carry out their own additional anti-toxin tests. The poison comes from a natural mould that is a parasite of figs, and has been linked with cancer.
Such crises aren't uncommon in foods, but the disappearance of a line as venerable as the fig roll is. As Welberry warns: "Buffer stocks have been used up and so the continuity of fig supplies has been affected."
Rolls should be back on the shelves in a month or so, but if you can't wait that long, you could always grow your own figs. This is perfectly possible, even in the north of England, where mass concern about fig rolls first surfaced. In Victorian Sheffield, steelworkers' lunchtime figs ended up in the city's river Don whose water was heated by factory effluent. Hence the fig trees growing along the riverbanks near the M1 viaduct. If the summer's nice, get harvesting.
so if you are down the co-op looking for your favourite fig rolls and can't find any - you now know why.
Personally I prefer Jaffacakes
Monday, April 07, 2008
Here's a cracking site devoted to debunking all these weird alternative therapies that regularly pass us by in our daily lives:
Not that I'm totally anti alternative thereapy though. Acupuncture certainly sorted out my painful frozen shoulders a few years back and herbal medicines have a long history and form the basis of many modern cures.... it's the strange things that, hand in hand with medieaval methods such as burying a piece of bacon to cure warts or other such idiotic quackery... reduce the ones that really do work into the same tarpot.