It’s been 5 months since the last blog entry, and guess what.. were still in Banbury.
What with arriving here months ago, the Banbury area going into tier 4 (which meant we could not move), the “unsociable” Christmas everybody had last year, and then the third lockdown aka The Nightmare After Christmas – we haven’t really gone far. So why a blog entry now.. Well, I figured posting up the usual batch of “were going to get water” entries would start to grate over time – considering that they would all state the same thing, week in, ,week out – for 5 months.. So I figured – no blog posts until were near to actually getting out of here..
For now.. a recap over the “lockdown gap” between posts, which in this instance should cover the last 5 months.
November was a fairly quiet month, yes the fire was on as it was getting rather cold in the evenings – much to the delight of the cats..
And.. if not trying to get nearest to the fire.. its whoever can get to sleep on Celeste’s head first!
And followed by a very cold night..
And just as cold a morning..
And yes, for a winter mooring – Were still the only one’s here… although someone still believes people should be at home, and not on the tow path!
Now – December was not without it’s problems, not just for us but for a lot of people in and around Banbury..
Firstly, the fresh water pump finally gave out. Not quit as such, more a case of the pressure switch that turns it on and off decided to stay on. It’s been on it’s way out for a while now, with us having to bang the pump occasionally to get the switch to turn the pump on, its now gone the other way and the pump is on all the time and doesn’t turn off. The first we knew of this the pressure relieve valve kicked in and started squirting water overboard (A valve on the fresh water system designed so that the pressure created from a run-away pump can be relieved somewhere, and not blow a joint in the pipework located behind a bulkhead or a wall! )
So, stripped it down, and the switch at the bottom of the pump is all corroded up, and it looks like the diaphragm between it and the pump has been leaking into the switch but and there is not a lot I can do to fix that at the moment, certainly not in the run up to Christmas – so re-wire the pump to bypass the pressure switch and we will have to run the pump manually from the fuse board every time someone wants water.
To date, I still haven’t sorted this, it’s on the list for next month, after the BSS Cert and a new set of batteries – and TBH.. everyone occasionally shouting down the boat for the “pump” is working reasonably well! 🙂
Another water run early in December, and the weir’s are not faring well this year – in total, 4 times we have seen this one blocked up with reed’s and other detritus, each time, CRT have been out at some stage to clear it only for it to block again..
But for December – it’s a lovely day!
The rest of December was fairly standard, and thankfully free of snow and ice – which was nice! It did get close to Christmas, and not wanting to be moving the boat about during the holidays, we decided to do a final pre-Christmas water run to Banbury and back the same day before Christmas eve. After the tank was filled, it was still fairly light, and not wanting to move on a second day, we decided to run back to Hennef way and moor up. This ultimately proved to be a good choice as there was a lot of rain in the run up to Christmas – and Banbury did get flooded.
Thankfully, come Christmas eve we were fairly safe, with the weir near our mooring topping out and keeping the canal level under control, much to the detriment of the creek that runs along side the canal. Usually this is just a trickle.. this time.. it was 5 feet higher than normal!
Further down in the centre of Banbury – the river Cherwell broke it’s banks and The Old Mill was flooded out with the river having a higher level than the canal..
Eventually, the levels did fall back to normal –
After the issues of Christmas, we headed to Cropredy for services, and the evening before New Years there was yet another problem – whilst Dawson was out walking the dogs, Dixie who can’t see at the best of times, managed to walk straight off the towpath and into the canal – managed to keep going, in a straight line, right to the other bank.
Now, there was no way to see where she was, we could only hear the cries and screams from her.. and there was no other choice.. time to jump in. Now – that water is feckin’ cold! After rescuing the dog, getting back to the towpath side of the canal – it was time to jump in the shower and warm up a bit!
The year ended with us back in Banbury, and wishing for a better 2021…
January arrived, and all seemed good until I realised that the BSS Certificate on the boat was due. For those that don’t know, The Boat Safety Scheme, or BSS, is a public safety initiative owned equally by the Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency who’s purpose is to help minimise the risk of boat fires, explosions, or pollution harming visitors to the inland waterways, the waterways’ workforce and any other users.
Every 4 years, a boat needs an inspection and is certified as safe (it’s an MOT for boats!), and this certificate is a requirement of the boat licence and our insurance – and ours is due – during a lockdown. Now – not only is finding an inspector during lockdown going to be difficult (thankfully, as we are in a lockdown, there is a small grace period – so whilst it’s needed, it doesn’t need to be done yesterday!) I need to get the hob sorted as a long time ago, a pan fell from the cupboard and smashed the glass. Yes it was checked and still safe, but even so – it’s going to need replacing before the examination or it will fail on that alone.
So, time to get a new hob fitted :
First thing first.. turn off the gas at the bottle and under the counter, and check that there is a test point – going to need a gas safe engineer to test for leaks after this is done before we use it!
Remove the oven.. again (as this is not the first time I have had the oven out).. then rip out the hob unit. This is the nearest to the old unit I can find, a general hob I got from Screwfix would not fit, and would need the cabinets hacked about with to make fit.. so that was no good and went back.
It was off to Braunston Chandlers for one from the same manufacturer – but the gas feed is on the other side of the new hob compared to the old, so this is going to need new pipework bent to shape and fitted. The BSS specifically states that flexible pipe cannot be used (due to vibrations etc).. so I’m going to need new 8mm copper gas pipes, fittings and a pipe bender! The pipework fixed to the cabinet I don’t want to change or touch.. the pipe on the hob I also don’t want to bend or touch – so I’m going to have to bend a new piece of pipe to go between the two points..
So.. ( The hob was actually swapped out in March, not January! 🙂 ) the new hob is in, and the new pipework run..
And the oven is back in again..
After turning the taps back on, I did a quick leak test with the “spray”, couldn’t find any gas escaping, and this was confirmed when the system was tested – so, were all good again on the gas front and ready for the scheduled BSS test on the 31st of March!
The end of January was also a fun time for other boaters – two canal breaches didn’t exactly help the winter maintenance works.. The Shropshire Union Canal breached through the embankment and drained about a mile of canal.. ( more here on CRT Website )
Firstly.. The towpath gave out, but the pilings held in place… but not for long after being undermined by the loose soil being washed away..
And of course.. the usual effect of a breach is boats do get stranded!
A few days after the breach, winter decided to hit a bit harder.. Snow.. Ice (yes, the canal froze.. if only for a few days thankfully!) and it comes to something when you are frozen in, and the water tank is empty.. time to improvise a coffee and melt some fresh clean snow! ( on the old, smashed, yet to be replaced hob! )
Whilst someone gets on with some school work!
January still hasn’t finished with us.. yea, we had a bit of snow.. but eventually, that has to melt and go somewhere.. and here, on the Oxford, that meant that locks were getting flooded out – but not Banbury thankfully… and no, were not moving with the canal flooding out – CRT closed the navigation anyway, so could not even if we wanted to!
And even when they do want to go out.. they don’t go far!
As for February and March.. it was pretty much all the same, simple water and services runs ending up where we started, back at Hennef Way! Nothing really eventful, other than having to strip down, unblock and re-assemble the toilet macerator yet again. I’m also going to replace the toilet control panel. The relays within the panel are starting to stick closed – sometimes during the flush cycle, the relay sticks closed causing the motor to keep running. Considering it’s £150+ for a new panel, and we have never really liked how it works, I’m going to get some push buttons, relay’s and cable and make my own. We would all be happier with a button to feed water, and a button to run the motor – and how long it needs to run for is how long you hold the button down! So that’s an extra job on the list.
One thing is for sure.. As long as all goes well with the survey, at the end of March I am going to lay out or trip back to the Thames, via Braunston and down the Grand Union – and complete the aborted run we could not do last year (due to lock 71!). Roughly, the plan is to get onto the Thames at Brentford, go all the way (or as far as we can) towards the head of the river, turn around at the furthest point and then come back and exit at Oxford. From there, who knows – that in itself could take most of the shortened summer!
Until next time!