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 we 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.

Another watercolour of Albert

A few years ago I received a wonderful watercolour of Albert crossing the Iron Trunk, by Peter Bowtell. I recently received another watercolour (well water-based felt tip pen actually), this time from a far younger artist, my 4-year old granddaughter Florence. She and her sister Amelia recently had a sleepover on Albert and in the summer had taken a trip on Albert along the London Waterways. She was obviously taken by the trips.

NB Albert by Florence Fink

It is a very good effort at capturing Albert's main features - the right cabin colour (green), the correct window style (rectangular), an engine exhaust in the right place, flowers on the roof and a swans-neck tiller at the stern. It's all very closely observed and I will treasure it.

A Published Photographer!

A few days ago, quite out of the blue, I was contacted by Waterways World wanting to use some of my photographs that appear on this site. Of course, I gave my permission.

They had seen my 2013 photographs of horse-boating on the Grand Western Canal. The Tiverton Canal Company, who operate of the few horse-drawn canal boats on the canal system, had recently lost their star horse, Taffy, and WW wanted to mark his passing with a news item - not quite an obituary. 


Taffy in action in 2013

Taffy featured on the front cover of the 2012 Country File Calendar that raised £1,234,577 for Children in Need. The news item appears in the December WW issue along with my photographs.

There is more on Taffy in the local Devon press and Horse & Hound.

Blisworth Tunnel Ghostly Video


With Halloween upon us there is a lot of spooky activity and Stoke Bruerne has joined in with ghostly trips being offered on NB Charlie. However, the most unusual Halloween-linked local event appears to be the You Tube video posted my Mike Askins who operates the Royalty Class working boat Victoria. Mike takes great videos, mostly of his own boating exploits but occasionally of others, His video channel should be regular viewing for waterways enthusiasts. I particularly enjoy watching the video he took of Fabian Hiscock and David Blagrove explaining all you need to know about handling working boats (and were afraid to ask?).

Mike's latest offering is plain brilliant! Its a video taken inside Blisworth Tunnel which features him playing Thriller (the Michael Jackson song) on a melodeon (diatonic button accordion). The Lister JP2 even joins in enhance the effects. I hope you enjoy his offering.

Home to Yardley

Yesterday, we finished our River Nene trip with a short trip down the Stoke Bruerne Flight to Yardley Gobion. We managed to pair-up at the second lock with a Alvechurch Boat that were out for a long weekend. They were helpful but our experience reinforced our hypothesis that the efficiency of a crew at locking is inversely proportional to their number, in this case seven crew.

Jules Fuels boats ready for autumn deliveries at Stoke Bruerne Bottom Lock
(motor Towcester & butty Bideford)

Our DAB/FM/AM radio had been playing up with poor erratic reception on all channels. On investigating back at Yardley Gobion I discovered the magnetic base of the DAB aerial, which had previous served for many years as an aerial for mobile phones, had corroded away and obviously reached the end of its life. When I removed it FM reception improved dramatically (separate aerial). The DAB aerial was probably making a connection to earth and upsetting the whole radio. I ordered a replacement on-line.

Must start planning my other winter boat maintenance jobs - oil change, getting small damage to cratch cover repaired, engine service and of course touching up those hull scratches caused by locking. For the first time for a while we also need to replace lost windlasses - two.