Stern Fenders

Albert has (unusually) sported four stern fenders for some time. When we originally bought Albert back in 2003 the stern had a single tipcat and a single long extended button braced by turn buckles. Both had seen slightly better days so I renewed them in 2004 with the usual arrangement of two standard tipcats and a button. After some time a realised that the fenders didn't actually cover the whole of Albert's ample rudder, probably because the tipcats were not particularly deep and they had also started becoming compressed. I therefore took the easy way out and six years ago I added another tipcat to the stern array, making four fenders in total.

Albert's Three Fenders 2017

With the passage of time this arrangement became more and more scruffy and the fenders became more and more compressed making adjustment a regular process. Just before Christmas I decided enough was enough and I would start again with a complete set of new fenders. Again I went to Tradline Fenders in Braunston and after some discussion I decided that a normal "working boat" arrangement of two wide deep-bellied tipcats (26 and 24 inches) and a long button would suffice. They arrived last week (there's a waiting list) and today they were installed on Albert. I think they look the part and they certainly cover the rudder.

Albert's Four Fenders in 2011

Towpaths of England by Brian Bearshaw

Nowadays I rarely get second-hand canal books given as presents since most of my friends and family find it difficult to find books that are not already part of my collection. However, for my recent landmark birthday a friend of ours managed to discover an interesting book that was not on my radar.

The book is Towpaths of England by Brian Bearshaw.  Hard backed leisure books like this were already a dying breed when it was published back in 1985 and nowadays they just don't feature. Most modern travellers would simply log on to walking web-site, or even try Canal and River Trust web pages for the sort of information it provides. The book is organised into a number of walks (twenty -six in all) with details of sites local to the canals concerned. The narrative provided by the Lancastrian author is interesting but of necessity draws on many familiar historical texts.

The local colour provided by the text has, of course, changed a lot over the 30 years since this book was written. For example, the Kennet & Avon walk rarely includes much about boats because of course the navigation was not fully open when the book was written. The text reports what a daunting prospect the Caen flight would have been during the days of canal carrying and notes that restoration is required since the flight was closed in 1951.

All the walks are along canals (no river navigations) and the emphasis is on northern waters which is no surprise given the authors background. However, some southern walks are included, notably the Regent's Canal and the Chelmer & Blackwater. Stretches of the Grand Union are included but the author fails to cover the Grand Junction and concentrates on the Market Harborough to Leicester section, a section near Solihull and the Northampton arm.

The jewel of this publication just has to be its illustrations. It is very well illustrated by some excellent pen and ink drawings by David Chesworth. To me its the drawings that make the book. Many illustrations are of locations that don't often get recorded and some are just great pieces of art.

Examples of the book still appear to be available through the usual channels, and for not much cost. If you enjoy good drawings of canal scenes then this book is definitely worth considering.    

Another watercolour - but not of Albert

We are partial to watercolours, particularly those that represent boating subjects. When I reached 65, Maggie bought me a lovely watercolour of Albert crossing the Iron Trunk by Peter Bowtell as a present.

Last week, when I reached the three score years and ten milestone, she surprised me with another watercolour, this time a scene of the Grand Union near Marsworth by Brian Robinson, an artist who lives near Berkhamsted. We visited his gallery a few years ago and admired his series of paintings "Boats and Water".

Winter Afternoon near Marsworth by Brian Robinson 

I particularly like Brian's treatment of the reflection of the trees and the smoke rising from boat chimneys. It makes an evocative scene.

Waterway's Royal Mail Stamps 1993

Decoration has long been part of the boating scene and that has helped keep canal boating in particular in the public's eye. The other day whilst tidying up some long since overlooked stuff I found some packs of first-day covers. As I moved the pile into another container one fell on the floor and it just happened to be a commemorative set from 1993 celebrating 200 years of canals.

The design of the stamps was down to the well-known author, artist and designer Tony Lewery whose books Flowers Afloat and Narrow Boat Painting are probably the best texts ever written on canal art.

On the back of the pack are details of their production and size etc. and some historic and "modern" images that include Cosgrove which is local to us. The pack even includes a post card invitation from British Waterways to enter a competition (very easy) to win a boating holiday; that helped firmly date the pack because the closing date was the  end of August 1993.

I will keep the twenty-three year-old pack in a safe place. Mind you that can be dangerous because I often forget where my safe places are.

Albert's Coal Box

Solid fuel heating on board means lots of ancillary equipment. Most of the coal for our stove (Brunel 1A) is stored in bags under the seats in the well deck but we keep a daily supply in a copper coal scuttle beside the fire, The lighting materials (fire lighters and kindling etc.) are stored under the step in the cabin. We also have an ash tin and various brushes for cleaning out the stove and an Eco Fan to help distribute heat. Along with a pan to roast chestnuts, a stove temperature gauge, a pair of tongs, a set of bellows (decorative) and a trivet, you would have thought that we have everything we need so far as fire accessories is concerned. In a sense you would be right, but when we recently spotted a remarkable Victorian coal box in a market in Christmas Market in Berkhamsted we fell in love with it and just had to but it. The market seller was keen to explain all its other uses but we were determined it should be used as it was intended and just had to install it on Albert.

Coal box

Coal box and our stove

The box has a pair of magnificent large brass hinges and a fine brass carrying handle. It also has an integral scuttle with its own carrying handle so it can be easily refilled. The box has some wear but great patina. Maggie wonders what grand fireplaces it has served in the past. It will brighten up our evenings by the fire.

The copper coal scuttle that has served us well over the years will probably be recycled through our favorite local charity shop.