Saturday, 27 February 2010

First bonk of the year.

To use a lyric by Gilbert and Sullivan “Oh joy at sea oh rapture deep.” A whole day spent down on the moorings messing about with Minnow. Since well before the first frost and snow last year I had drained all the cooling water out of Minnows Bolinder and so I decided that today I would carry out a few jobs on the engine then if there was time I would start her up.

Started by removing the spindle control rodding. This allowed me access to the two bolts which hold the spindle body into the spindle housing which when removed along with the fuel supply pipe from the pump, allowed its removal. This was followed by the spindle housing itself and both cooling water connections, enabling both the spindle housing followed by the flame hood which was then lifted off. With all these removed, next came the five bolts holding the hot bulb in place. The outsides of both the flame hood and the hot bulb were firstly filed to remove any large pieces of rust followed by a good emery clothing to prepare them for painting. These were both given several light coats of Calfire Almond high temperature spray paint before being re-fitted to the engine. A ‘gasket’ was made from greased asbestos string which went between the hot bulb and the cylinder head, then the 5 bolts were sequentially tightened down. The spindle housing and its cooling water connections were re-connected. Having the spindle assembly stripped down, I also re-packed the spindle with greased asbestos string at the same time. When this was finished the fuel line was connected and several ‘squirts’ of diesel were given with the lifter just to check the spray pattern with the spindle screwed down and also with it screwed up. As this was alright, the spindle housing was fitted back to the engine and finally the spindle control rodding was connected back up.

With everything back together, The lamp was lit and I then busied myself lubricating the critical points as well as 20 strokes on each of the four lubricators. After ten minutes on the lamp, and on the third kick, the Bolinder fired into life and bonk-bonked away for the next fifteen minutes. After stopping the Bolinder I sat on the battery bow with a cup of coffee and a contented feeling of another year boating, Mind you I don’t know where as all the local rallies have been cancelled because of the on going problems with Chasewater reservoir and BW’s fears of water shortages through the Summer. By this time it was going into late afternoon and Dawn would be coming home from work and expecting food and hoovering etc. so I made my way home.



Friday, 26 February 2010

Bucket 'N' Chucket

Up until about four years ago, there used to be a garage next door to where I live and I got on great with the owner and the staff there. When they closed down, I had had my eye on a couple of the old galvanised fire buckets with fitted lids, which were kept out the back so I asked if I could have them as I thought that they might come in handy for something at some point. They have been in my garden shed for the last 4 years, untouched, then the other day I suddenly had an idea as to a use I could put one of them – a ‘bucket and chucket’ for an engine ‘ole. Not for mine however as I already have one.

And so I set about it’s transformation, spending one weekend in the shed armed with an old wood chisel, a section of old broken machine saw blade, a kitchen knife (which Dawn does not know about, well she didn’t) and emery cloth and wet and dry. It took forever to remove the years of red paint, as the garage undertook paint spraying they must have repainted them every year for the last 50 years! In places the paint must have been hundreds of layers thick amounting to a layer of at least 2mm in places. After scraping off then smoothing out it was simply a case of painting. I think the pictures are fairly self explanatory without any need for descriptions in any Depth.

Fire bucket as retrieved from garden shed still with hundreds of layers of red paint

Bucket after much scraping and a scrubbing and finally down to the actual galvanised bucket!
The lid with the backgrounds for the roses, daises and leaves
The finished lid. (The words speak for themselves)
The sky and sea base for the background of a castle.
The sun rising over the mountains, clouds and land mass.
Trees, grass and of cause red tarmac!
Castle foundations, brick walls and a bridge.
Doors, windows, roof and flag.

These final two shots show the finished 'bucket 'n' chucket' hopefully it will take pride of place in someone's engine 'ole. As I have not told the person concerned yet or had chance to give the bucket to them I will keep it a secret for the moment, as I have made sure there are no hints!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Chertsey and Minnow moving in together

For any of you who follow that Chertsey Woman’s blog, she announced on Friday that she had managed to aquire a mooring for her big Woolwich motor boat Chertsey at Kings Bromley on the Trent and Mersey canal in Staffordshire. This inspired me to put a little together of what I have found out about the wharf and buildings, which, incidently are listed buildings/structures.

The Trent and Mersey Canal is a total of 93 miles long from Shardlow inNottingham to Preston Brook, Runcorn. Work began on its construction in 1767 and took ten years to build and cost £300,000. By 1810 canal traffic had increased to 100 boats a day with 30 stopping at Kings Bromley Wharf. When this canal was constructed in the second half of the 18th century, the then lord of the manor, John Newton, insisted the canal was kept a mile away from Bromley Hall. The money to build the canal was raised by a share issue bought by local landowners, manufacturers and merchants. Around £30 per acre was the purchase price of the land, and the canal's original estimated construction cost was £130,000, but at completion it cost around £300,000.

Bromley Wharf brought a great deal of canal trade through KingsBromley. At its peak, thirty boats stopped there each day. This included a fortnightly load of coal, from Rugeley pits, for the Edwards Creamery.

The creamery no longer exists but its buildings still stand and also it’s wharf.Today the wharf and it’s buildings are used as industrial units and workshops andhosts the moorings for a total of seven narrow boats including my boat Minnow and now Sarah’s Chertsey.

Mainly only pleasure craft now use the canal, the development of a new marina along side Kings Bromley Wharf and a general increase in the number of people who use leisure craft on the canals, mean that once again the canals are busy with traffic and the section between Fradley Junction and Great Haywood Junction has to be the busiest section of canal in Britain.

Just for you Sarah, your mooring is virtually where the two existing boats are moored on photo.
(Photo's courtesey of Kings Bromley Parish Plan)

As always, and especially when you bring Chertsey here,
Don't bang 'em about.

Friday, 19 February 2010

When coal was King – Part 2

As I hinted at in part one, I was one of these young lads who did not like school and sort every opportunity to ‘wagg’ off and explore things that I was more into – canals – I have said before that I think that this was a result of following my elder sister through school. She was the studious one becoming head girl, a prefect and then going on to become a teacher herself until retiring a couple of years ago. It did not matter how hard I tried at school, all my teachers, who had also taught my sister, just used to say to me “your not a patch on your sister” “your sister would have done better” etc. until by the age of about 13 I believed them and so gave up! And so by this time I would cycle to school along the canal via the Birmingham New main line and the Toll End Communication Canal to school, if I met or passed any boats I knew, my bike would be thrown on at the next bridge ‘ole and a days tug and joey boating was on the cards. Some days I wouldn’t even attempt to go to school but just ride round the cut on my bike until I found ‘something’ going on.

At this point I feel that there is something that I must mention. Those who know me well know that I am a devil for detail and get uptight when I hear people misquoting names or descriptions like cabin roof instead of cabin top or forward and reverse instead of astern and ahead. Well another of my pet misquotes is the term Joey boats. You read things like an event at the Black Country Museum where they might have a ‘tug weekend’ where you will be able to see tugs towing joey boats around. Sorry WRONG - tugs towing ‘B.C.N day boats’ or ‘railway boats’ but not joey boats. Joey boat is the term that is reserved for the basic design wooden narrowboats where the rudder or ‘ickey’ as B.C.N. folk called them, could be hung from either end to save winding and sometimes with a very basic cabin about 5foot long with two bench seats and a bottle stove. With that off my chest I will get on with the blog

Born and bred long distance boating stock were very suspicious of people ‘off the land’ and, until accepted, interacted very little with them. Children at bridge ‘oles or lock sides would either be ignored or told in no uncertain terms to go away. So to shout “gizza lift mate” to a Thos Clayton tar boat was a complete waste of time and breath. However most of the people who worked on the B.C.N. were not of the same boating stock but simply people ‘off the land’ who simply worked all their lives on the cut and as such tended to be a little more approachable, like Harry Arnold (anybody from Tipton knows the Arnolds – a very big hard family) who used to horse boat slack from Sandwell Colliery to Ocker Hill Power Station.

A fairly typical ‘day off’ for me would be – up at 7.30am, dressed in school uniform, (luckily black trousers, grey socks, black shoes and black blazer) breakfast and off. Sandwiches into satchel, satchel fastened over bike cross bar, kiss, tarrah and away. Cycle down to the end of the street and up ‘the banks’ onto the towpath of the Birmingham New Main Line opposite Dudley Port railway station. Look into the distance in both directions to see if any boats were visible and I’d be off in that direction, if none about then I would decide which way I was going to go, left or right.

Left. I would head off towards Factory Junction, under the sounding bridges, over Puppy Green akerduck then onto the cross brige over the rivet factory arm then along the long straight to Watery Lane Junction where the Tipton Green three locks went off to the left, then on up to the bottom lock of Factory three. Over the split bridge and up the flight to Factory junction at the top, if no boats about then I would retrace my route but on the opposite towpath so back down the flight. Next to the bottom lock at Factory used to be a tiny brick building. Many hours were spent in this hovel talking to the BWB. Employee who I only ever knew as Jack. This short but rotund lock keeper, looked after this and other lock flights in the area. He rode what I can only describe as a ladies shopping bike with large white bulbous tyres on small diameter wheels and a huge carrier over the back wheel. In this he kept a windlass and a can of oil for lubricating the paddle gear. The hovel itself contained various canal paraphernalia including spares, boat hooks and a keb. Which he used for removing rubbish from the locks which would then be burnt on the lock side. Off again towards Birmingham past the arm to Lee Howel pump factory under Owen Street Bridge and then past the disused railway interchange basin which was to later become Caggy Stevens yard when he moved from Whimsey bridge. Next to Watery lane Junction then a left turn onto the Ocker Hill Communication canal and down the flight of Toll End locks to the back of Tipton County Grammar School, and another boring day with the ‘masters’.

Right I would head off towards Birmingham over the old Dudley Port ackerduck then on to Dudley Port Junction and the Netherton Branch, or as we called it ‘the cross bridges’. At this point I would cross over to the opposite towpath, unless looking towards Dunkirk stop, Matty’s chemical boats were unloading at the marl hole, if not continue on to Albion Junction and left turn down the Walsall canal , past R B Tudors coal yard with their little Ricky motor boat Albion (Antaries) and their Joey’s Stroud and Endeavour. On to then Riders Green Lock flight, which were known as ‘the greasy eight’ , down the flight to the junction of the other end of the Toll End Communication Canal and on up to school.

At any point I could meet any number of local ‘boaters’ who would let me on, if for no more than setting locks or helping bow hall the joey’s through the locks and pounds.

C W Mitchards Had a wharf on the inside of the tight turn by Owen Street bridge, opposite the Tipton Slashers old pub The Fountain. They had a powerful wooden tug called Jubilee about 45 foot long. I was told by the tug driver that it was made from the old Dudley Tunnel tug George. This was a double ended tug with a bolinder mounted in the middle with a propeller at each end. When no longer needed for the tunnel it was bought by Mitchards and they had the one counter cut off and a bow put on. One thing I do remember was it’s bright paintwork in green, red, and yellow lining which made a change from the many ‘tatty’ boats about the B.C.N. The other thing I remember about Mitchards was difficulty in getting round the sharp turn sometimes due to the many loaded unloaded joey’s randomly zig zagged across the canal.

Mick Davies: was a big man, I always remember being fascinated by his huge hands and his ability to hand tie even the smallest of fishing hooks! He was employed to unload joey boats at B. Masters coal yard at the end of the Ocker Hill Branch. Himself and another guy, who I can’t remember his name, would unload a fully laden joey in a day. A joey boat would be loaded with about 25 tons of house coal. This would be loaded into three piles called ‘rucks’ between the cross beams, and armed with nothing more than a No 10 coking shovel, would work all day throwing the coal out onto the wharf. Mick used to say it was a bugger to start off with until you had cleared a spot down to the boards, then it was easy. All the years took it’s toll though for in the 1980’s he would always be seen either wearing or carrying a gabardine Mac to disguise his huge hernia. Sadly not long after having it ‘fixed’ when he was well into his eighties, he died and so another B.C.N. character was gone, in fact there are probably only a handful of people left who I would have known at that time, such as Geoff Bennett who worked for Caggy Stevens, but that’s another blog perhaps, so until then as always,

Don’t bang ‘em about


Thursday, 18 February 2010

Almost - When coal was King – Part 1

Following on from my inability to think of ‘subjects’ to blog I decided that I would blog on some local canal peoples, boats, wharves from my early days. As I sat deciding about a particular coal yard and it’s employees, my mind started skipping about, as it usually does, about lots of other things connected with, initially the original subject but then other random things, and this got me to the conclusion of thinking how strange life is and our interaction with other people or families, to the point that sometimes it seems quite spooky – just to explain. And I promise it is canal related, (eventually) here are just three of the spooky things that I thought of.

First ‘spooky’ thing

My elder sister had a school pal by the name of Susan Barker who used to visit our house quite regularly so I saw her quite a lot both at home and at school as they both went to the same school as me and when I was about 13 and getting heavily into canals, my sister, being about 15, she went on holiday with Sue’s family to Woolacombe in North Devon, while I went on holiday with my parents to Croyde Bay, about 5 miles away. One evening both families met up, never having met before, and to my total surprise to me, her dad was the owner/operator of F Barkers coal yard between Factory locks 2 and 3, where I had turned up several times on tug and joey’s (wagging off school) Frank Barker looked quizzically at me, slight recognition perhaps, but thankfully he never said anything. (Phew)

Second ‘spooky’ thing.

In my early secondary school years I was a ‘part time’ friend with a lad in the year below me by the name of Lenny. In my mid to late teens I used to play quite a bit of snooker (another sign of a misspent youth) at the M.E.B. club in Ocker Hill, Tipton and I got to know a lad very well by the name of Kim. (Fiery red hair and a good scrapper, had to with a name like that) I am married to one of three sisters from Toll End, Tipton; the other two sisters are married to Lenny and Kim. – Although the three of us knew each other, we did not meet and marry the 3 sisters because of that. In the 1980’s, the three of us lads all joined, at different times, and fished for the M.E.B. angling club (still before we had married the three sisters) Another chap who fished for the M.E.B. club was a big guy called Mick Davies who also happened to live next door to the 3 sisters and when the eldest sister was about eight, he used to take her fishing with him and he taught her to fish ( she has always been a bit of a tomboy) Mick Davies worked at Masters Coal Yard in Ocker Hill, another place I turned up at on tug and joey’s whilst wagging school. How spooky is that.

And finally the third ‘spooky’ thing.

My father was an accomplished musician and by the age of 11 he was a concert pianist. He played trumpet in local dance bands through the 1930’s – 40’s and also played cornet in local brass bands up until he started loosing his front teeth and was unable to play (in his 70’s) A band colleague of his, who lived locally to us, was a guy called Reg Barnett. (who incidentally had a daughter named Sue who went to school with my sister) The Barnett’s were friends of our family and as a very small boy I spent quite a bit of time with them. Occasionally they would baby sit me and my sister when our mom and dad went out for the night. I knew Mr Barnett was a coalman as I had seen him come home from work on a number of occasions with blackened hands and face but I just presumed he was a collier as there were many in Tipton at this time. I was to find out later, when I turned up on tug and joey’s while wagging off school, that he worked on the wharf at Mitchards coal yard in Tipton, but again he never let on to my parents or said anything. That is unless I am being na├»ve and my parents knew all along that I was wagging off school!

Anyway I think I have waffled enough for now so the rest (which was going to be my original blog) I will relate in “when coal was King – Part 2”


Tuesday, 16 February 2010

St Michaelmas Day

Firstly sorry for the lack of blogging. I could go on to say that this is due to being very busy with work family etc., but that would be a lie. I have no trouble in writing blogs – it’s just I can never think of anything to write about, but while at work today, I was reviewing some of the presentations that I have not used for a while and clearing the Company server of unwanted junk and, as you do, I got distracted by one of the presentations on ‘fire risk assessment’. I spent the next hour looking through this and came across to the section on the history of fire legislation, and there it was, a bit of trivia I have forgotten all about, that of Curfew. And so this has primed me into writing this blog. Although nothing directly to do with canals/narrowboats there are a couple of loose links. Now I know that Sarah, or Chertsey girl as I like to think of her, reads my blog and so the one loose link is specifically for her as I know she likes anything to do with the town of Chertsey, so here goes.

St Michaelmas Day is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel celebrated on 29 September.St Michael being the patron saint of the sea, ships and boatmen.(first loose link) He was the Angel who hurled Lucifer down from heaven for his treachery. St Michaelmas day is traditionally the last day of the harvest season. The harvest season used to begin on Aug 1stand was called Lammas, meaning ‘loaf mass’. Farmers baked loaves from the newly harvested wheat crop and gave them to their local church.

Michaelmas used to be a popular day for the winter night 'curfew' to start. The first hint that winter was on it’s way. Curfew took the form of a tolling of the church bell, usually one strike for each of the days of the month that had passed in the current year and generally rung at about 8pm.

The word Curfew is derived from the French word couvre feu, meaning ‘cover fire’ Curfew was the time when household fires were supposed to be doused, and so a bell would be tolled every night except Sunday.

n. curfew; scuttle-shaped device for covering fire at curfew

A benefit of covering up the fire in the evening was the prevention of destructive fires caused by unattended live fires that were a major problem then since most of the structures were made of wood and would easily ignite. The curfew bell acted as an ancient police on fire prevention in towns of the northern hemisphere and acted as way of stopping sparks and burning embers from getting out and causing damage. (Not much different from the modern use of the term when applied to badly behaved youths by stopping them getting out and causing damage!)

Chertsey (second loose link) is one of the very last places to still ring a Curfew bell at 8pm from Michaelmas day to Lady day (29th September -25th March ) The oldest Curfew bell dating back to 1380.

I have a head full of this useless junk, like many of the urban myths that surround such things as 'Nitty Gritty' being something to do with slave trading ships (bulls**t) or 'cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey' being something to do with early sailing ships and storage of cannon balls (more bulls**t) so perhaps I will fill in the times when I can not think of anything 'boaty' to write about with some of these, I'll have to see, in the meantime,

Don't bang 'em about


Sunday, 7 February 2010

The door to ecstasy

Hurah it’s Sunday again and so I went off down the boat. As soon as breakfast was over I loaded a few bits and pieces into the car and I was off. These included the new chimbley and some copper pot hooks for over the range.

After stowing the pot hooks on the brass rail above the range I tried the new chimbley just to make sure, and yes it fitted a treat and looked good I might add. Next was to pump out the couple of inches or rain water. I have never understood why but for some reason on Joshers, the door which leads from the back cabin into the engine ‘ole always open inwards towards the back cabin. This means that when the bed flap is down you can not open that door to gain access to the engine ‘ole and beyond. So if while sleeping you find yourself in need of relief, you are trapped, so to speak. This leaves you with three options. Option one is to have a bucket/guzunda in the back cabin with you or Option two is to get out of bed climb out of the back cabin onto the counter, along the gunnel to the engine ‘ole door, open it and climb in. And option three is to wake your partner, both get out of bed, roll the bedding up and lift the bed flap so as to allow the door to be opened inwards and allow you out into the engine ‘ole/toilet. For me the options were limited. As we have a large clumsy Labrador called George, it would be asking for trouble to have a bucket or Po under the bed. It is impossible to open our engine ‘ole doors quietly to climb in and there is no way I would even attempt to wake Dawn during the night.

Dawn had decided that she wanted the door turning round so that it opened into the engine ‘ole allowing access even when the bed is down. There was a major problem with this in that the Door jams would have to be removed and replaced on the opposite side of the jam, and also the door would be too wide to open more than 12” due to the proximity of the clutch lever. After studying it I came to the conclusion that this could be solved by having two half doors which both opened outwards either side of the clutch lever. As the door was an original, I was not going to slice it down the centre and so decided to remove it, put it into storage so that Minnow’s next owner could have the option to put it back.

So with this in mind I had set off down to the boat. The original door has three 3” flap hinges fitted the top two would be no trouble to remove however the bottom hinge was to be a different story for when I looked closely at it, it had being fitted to the inside frame before the inside fittings had been replaced. This resulted in the ‘side bed’ part of the cross bed had been built over the top of the hinges and so one of the screws were inside the cupboard. Access was via a cupboard door measuring about 12” square so, as anybody who knows me would tell you, to get by head, arm, one shoulder, torch and screwdriver into this hole was quite a feet! Eventually I managed to remove the offending single screw rapidly followed by the other, easy to get at, eight screws, and the door was off and stowed under the cloths ready for removal to ‘the garden shed’ at home. Whilst stowing the door under the cloths I couldn’t help but notice that we had had a visitor. For the black bin liner bag full of rubbish and recycle tins and tots had been shredded and scattered all over the boats bottom. The next half hour was spent sweeping up and re-bagging the rubbish. I finished off today’s visit by taking the measurements of the door ‘ole, packing everything away and heading off back home, contented with the thought of doing something on the boat, but also in the knowledge that roast beef and Yorkshire pud was awaiting my return.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Time to get knotted!

In previous blogs, I have put down my thoughts and knowledge on the miles of both decorative and practical rope work used on working boats. I thought I would just finish this ‘topic’ off with what I know about making and using this rope work.


Rope can be made from a variety of fibres. There are mainly two groups which are natural fibres and oil-based synthetic fibres. Natural fibres are sisal, cotton, jute, coir and hemp. Nowadays, however, the majority of ropes produced in the World are from oil-based synthetic fibres such as nylon and polypropylene. The main differences between the two groups are that natural fibres will rot if soaked over a long period of time, due to the action of micro-organisms. Although man-made fibres are stronger than the strongest natural fibres and will not be damaged by micro-organisms, they will deteriorate in bright sunlight and melt at a lower temperature than the natural fibres. The skill of rope manufacturers has changed dramatically over the years, and the rope products now on the market bear no connection with the rope of old. Ropes used to be made by the traditional method called the 'the rope-walk', which was considered more versatile because it was able to produce a greater selection of rope widths.


Wild’s rope walk in west Yorkshire in 1910

The rope-maker worked at the "rope-walk" (sometimes known as the "band walk"), where hemp was spun into yarn. Hemp fibres were tied to a hook attached to a wheel which was slowly turned whilst the rope maker walked back down the rope walk, feeding out additional fibres from the supply he carried. Groups of yarn were later twisted together to the desired thickness of rope.

Hemp, sisal and manila are especially resistant to sunlight. They hold knots firmly and stretch very little. They must be stored dry to avoid mildew Chemicals will cause manila rope to deteriorate. These suit the demands of working boats.

Polypropylene rope is so light it floats. For this reason, it is very popular for modern day boating. It is affected by sunlight deterioration, more so than any other synthetic or natural fibre rope. When wet it is flexible and does not shrink.

Polypropylene begins to weaken and melt at 150F, the lowest melting point of all synthetic ropes. It is not as strong as nylon or polyester, but 2-3 times stronger than manila. It's highly resistant to acids, alkalis and oils. Because polypropylene is less expensive than other fibres, it is one of the most popular all-purpose ropes. It can be used for almost anything and it normally is. Synthetic ropes tend to be very harsh to handle and easily cause friction burns if allowed to slip through the hands.


Ok so that’s my bit of background on ropes and their manufacture, now lets get down to business as to what to do with these ropes and I intend to go through the three basic things we do with ropes, which I have seen many people struggle with! That is Coiling ropes, Throwing ropes and Lassoing things with ropes


Ropes have a natural lay, depending on which way the strands have been wound in manufacture, that is if they have been wound clockwise or counter clockwise. This is easy to establish just by a glance of the rope. Always coil a rope in the same direction that it has been ‘layed’ and always work from the fixed end towards the loose end, this then allows any twists/kinks to work off the loose end of the rope. Hold rope in left hand (for right handed people) where the coil is going to end. Slide right hand along rope to arms length then grip rope with right hand. Roll rope between fingers of right hand, in the same direction as the ‘lay’, as you form a loop. Pass the loop into your left hand. Slide right hand along rope to arms length and grip rope, roll rope between fingers of right hand as you form a loop. Pass loop into left hand and continue until rope is coiled. This task when mastered is so simple but I have seen most people end up with the rope forming a natural figure of eight in their hands as they coil, due to going against the ‘lay’. This usually results in the rope tangling into a knot, especially when trying to throw the ‘bundle’ to someone on the bank. And so to my next basic use.


This is a skill that needs a lot of practice. Especially for that special event when you need it in an emergency, and you only have one shot! My advice to anybody is:- when tied up on that lovely quiet, deserted stretch odf towpath, miles from anywhere, on a lovely Summers evening and you have nothing to do – get a length of rope, practice coiling and then throwing the rope straight along the towpath until mastered.

Start by coiling the rope, laying each coil neatly next to the last coil. Swing the coiled rope underarm, then throw the rope at the person, not to the person catching it (Aim for their face as it is surprising how well people catch a wet rope heading for their face)


There are many occasions when you do not have the advantage of someone else to assist by catching the end of a rope to tie it round for instance a bollard, or trying to tie up alongside another boat which you are just too that little bit too far away to step across. It is at times like these that you need the skill of the ‘wild west’ so as to lasso the stud or bollard.

Start off by neatly coiling the rope laying each turn next to the last in order, exactly as for throwing a rope. But this time, when coiled, split the coils into two holding the first half in the left hand, and the second half in the right hand leaving a short length (2 foot) between the coils. Grip the very end of the rope between the first finger and thumb of the right hand, holding the coils in the last three fingers, swing the two sets of coils underarm, then throw the two coils aiming to get one each side of the bollard/stud. Again this is something that can be practiced of and evening whilst moored by putting a mooring spike or similar some distance away on the towpath, (Try not to trip up walkers or cyclists) and practicing until you master the technique.

Ok so enough of the basic things we do with ropes. Now to a more specialist area to do with ropes and that of tying knots.


These are what boatmen used to call


Now we have got the ‘Buggers Muddle’ out of the way let us look at some simple knots that are used on working boats:-Braunston Hitch, Clove hitch and Crown knot


The knot appears to be quite a universal ‘water user’ knot and I have heard called various names such as tugmans hitch, waterman’s hitch, boatman’s hitch, but I have always known it as a ‘Braunston hitch. In all the years that I have been boating I have only ever known and used one knot. I use it for:-

Mooring, breasting, etc. to a :- Bollard, stud, dolly, etc.

The rope from the boat is passed twice around a bollard. A loop is made in the loose end and passed under the rope from the boat. The loop is then lifted up and dropped over the bollard and the loose end is then passed around back of bollard. As the rope comes back round the back of the bollard, a loop is made in loose end and again passed under the rope from the boat. Loop is lifted up and dropped over bollard. That’s it, simplicity itself. This knot never slips, and never tightens up on itself, and is easily untied by simply lifting the loops back off the bollard. Here is quite a good link to the Braunston hitch being tied.

The next knot we are going to look at is the clove hitch.



The Clove Hitch is included here primarily to condemn it. Its only advantage being easy to tie. However, it has two major failings: it slips and, paradoxically, can also bind.


I watched a fellow off our moorings trying to moor his 50 foot pleasure boat. Each time the mooring line was handed to his assistant (SWIMBO), she used a clove hitch to attach the line to the mooring post. The strong wind was hard blowing the starn away so he used his engine to swing the stern in. Each time he did so the strain was too much for the Clove Hitch, which slipped undone. This process was repeated several times despite increasingly forceful requests by the steerer that some other knot be employed to secure the line. Reviewing the events later it became apparent that the assistant was using the only knot she knew.


Finally, if you make the knot secure by stacking on additional half hitches, i.e., multiple clove hitches, then you are inviting a major strain to cause the earlier turns to bind tightly and be impossible to untie. So, if you feel an urge to use a clove hitch - resist! Choose something else: or get a sharp knife ready!

The only reason I have included this knot is that it forms the basis of a decorative rope, the ‘Turks Head’.

Decide the position along the rope where you require the knot.

Form a loop in the rope
Form a second loop, the same way up. Both loops should be identical
Cross the loops one above the other to form the knot instead of two loops, second loop above the first
Place the knot over the post and there you are, done.


The final knot we are going to look at is the crown knot. Is the basis of nearly all decorative rope work used on the boats and it is also one which we use in splicing.

Unwind enough strands to complete the task. (ears, swans neck, mast dropper)

Form a loop in the end of one of the strands. Pass second strand over the top of first strand.Pass third strand over the top of second strand, Pass end of third strand through loop formed in first strand. Pull all ends tight then continue going round and round until you have either run out of rope of you have the desired length.

Ok so there you have it all I say now is go out and get knotted, get some rope and have a practice. Until next time

Don’t bang ‘em about


Thursday, 4 February 2010

It’s getting ‘Otter. Or fish keepers beware!

No I'm not talking about global warming, but just a response to something I read tonight. Reading an article on the Narrowboatworld site about “Otters back on the Soar” got me thinking about one of my other interests that most folk are not aware of and some may find of some interest, perhaps. The article read “For the first time in around 30 years, an otter has been seen on the River Soar near Leicester.” Adrian Lane, senior riverside officer, remarked “their return is excellent news for the waterway. This has been the most positive news we’ve had. It’s fantastic to have them back. They are beautiful creatures and it will be great when the population is such that people can regularly see them again. However Otters are veracious fish eating mammals, and are certainly not welcome by anglers.” My comment is that they are not liked by fish keepers either, so I say anyone living on the Soar valley with a garden pond or pool with any type of fish in it, beware for they will find them and eat them and keep returning until your pool is empty.

Ok. Enough said. From this you have probably guessed my other interest- it is that of keeping water! I have three pools in my garden all of which are filled with water. The smallest (1000gals) is only a wild life pool and as well as plants contains newts and frogs, the largest pool is an ornamental pool (14,000 gals) contains a mixture of Goldfish Golden and Blue Orf, Grass Carp and Ghost Koi as well as a wide variety of lilies and aquatic plants,but in one of them (10,000gals), I ‘keep’ water in which there is a collection of Nishikigoi or as most people incorrectly call them Koi Carp (being as the Japanese word Koi means ‘Carp and so what people are saying is Carp Carp!) Over the years I have found that the fish tend to ‘keep’ themselves. Last year we had an Otter visit the pools several times over a period of several weeks taking about six of my largest Koi (all over 24” in length) and several of the smaller ones (12”-16” fish) and I don’t even know how many goldfish etc. he took.

To give you some idea of scale and size, the ‘brown’ fish in the centre of this picture is about 28” long and weighs about 18-20lbs. (it is not actually a Koi but a Ghost Koi which is a cross between a Koi and a common type carp)

This was some of the smaller fish that the otter ate, when they were purchased as 4” fish

My Koi are what keeps me sane, when I cant go boating, I just sit by the pool watching the Koi for ten minutes and all the stresses of the day disappear, they are so peaceful and restful.