Thursday, 22 January 2015

blazing the path

Testing Little Willy, the new bike headlight (all the neat names like Blinder and Predator were already taken)

Here at Gert Macky (publishers, bicycles fettled, a song a dance a merry quip), we always have our eye on what's going down on Teh Street. And this winter, what's been going down a lot on both the street and on the towpaths and roads near us has been intrepid cyclists striving for ever brighter headlights. Now, auntie Vera was in the ATS during the war, operating a searchlight on a hill near Bristol, and she happened to mention a disused hangar Somewhere In The West Of England that was stuffed with the things at the end of the war. 

Reasoning that a light intended to pick out a Heinkel 111 flying at 15,000 feet would be perfect for sticking on your bicycle when riding on the Bristol to Bath cycle path, we hot-footed it down there and blew away the cobwebs. Result! They are quite bulky, but with a bit of tweaking we got them to fit on the handlebars of some test bikes, and sent out our researchers to road test them.

Results have been extremely positive. Of course, there have been objections from some antisocial fuddy-duddies, suggesting that things were already bad enough when cyclists used lights more suitable for blazing a trail through the uncharted wastes of the Rockies or Carpathians, than for a gentle commute on a well-defined path through suburbia. As our testers pointed out:

You can always look away
Of course we can't dip the lights, that's how they're set up
I'd fall off my bike laughing if some self-appointed warden told me to dip my light
It's just light envy
F***ing wanker
There's always someone complaining*

*all these points were made by cyclists on a couple of Facebook posts discussing this very topic

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Towing Aster

Jacqui lives in nb Aster, a 1931 wooden narrowboat that's usually moored at Bathampton these days. In December it was towed over to Semington Dock for some work on the hull, and I volunteered to tow it back to its home mooring. 

I checked out the work when I arrived at Semington, though I managed to avoid getting my hands dirty.

Jacqui and her helpers, but mainly Louis, were patching up the hull using challico, a mixture of pitch and horse dung, boiled up together.

flooding the dock at the end of the job

Ian and Jason of Semington Dock ease Aster out into the pound

poling Aster round to the lock

making Aster fast to Eve ready for towing

I was a bit busy keeping a steady course through the wind and the rain for the next two days, so there aren't that many pics of the trip. Here's one that Craig Marshall took as we crossed the Dundas aqueduct, though

getting ready for day 2

top image from

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

fixing a weed hatch leak

Underneath Eve's afterdeck is a dark, cramped place, where, if you pull the steps back and worm your way in, you will find the weed hatch. And if you unclamp it, you can see the propellor and the rudder.  This is useful if you need to clear an obstruction. But Eve's weed hatch seal is old and tired, and started to let water in.

here's the weed hatch removed; you can see the manky old seal.

I cut out a square from my old sleeping mat...

and stuck it into place using gorilla snot*

*silicone sealant, if you prefer

Monday, 5 January 2015


As I moved around the boat, I heard a tinkling noise outside. Pushing out from under the cratch cover and bracing myself against the icy air, I saw that the canal had become iced over; and the gentle rocking of Eve had set the ice scraping against itself, making strange noises, that reminded me of the way the fence wire sings as a train approaches. You know the one?

And then there was the swan convoy.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

bunkering on the canal

Spencer and Victoria came by yesterday on nb Aquilo, their arrival heralded by the clanging of the handbell. They're based at Hilperton, and travel between Bath and Pewsey with fuel and chandlery.

I bought some Calor gas and coal; there's still plenty of diesel in the tank from their last visit, and of course I'm still burning the ash wood that Jim dropped off the other week. So that's the fuel supplies sorted till the new year and beyond...

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

the bicycle thieves

My lovely and very distinctive Strida bicycle was stolen last night from the back of my Morris Traveller, which was parked in Bradford on Avon.

Observe triangular frame, with release mechanism at the front of the lower cross tube allowing it to fold up. Also belt drive, drum brakes, and, the one thing that distinguishes it from other Stridas, the handlebars which have been recently been repainted with Hammerite gloss black.

Here's the mess the thief or thieves made when forcing the back door

....and this is the quick repair I did to allow me to use the car again....

Sunday, 14 December 2014

like some watcher of the skies

Jim was paddling by the other day, because his Seagull was out of fuel. I lent him a cup of petrol, and off he chugged, delivering firewood to someone up Avoncliffe way.

He called by later with my own order for firewood, a nice pile of ash for a tenner. 

Then we had a glass of Jaegermeister, because it was that time of day. As we sat putting the world to rights, a moth wandered over from the back of his beret to the front edge, peered out, then ambled off around the perimeter, for all the world like the Little Prince on his asteroid, or Major Clanger on his; if, of course, the Little Prince and Major Clanger were moths, which they aren't. 

Then off they puttered, Jim and the moth, leaving a slight sheen of Seagull in their wake.