Hull Grit Blasted

Those who have been following my recent posts will know that we have been waiting for sometime for the new indoor grit blasting facility to come on stream at Debdale Wharf so Albert's hull could be taken back to base metal and an epoxy resin coating applied. Today was GB Day - Grit Blasting Day. The facility has been operational for a couple of weeks and today it was Albert's turn.

Dust Extraction equipment Debdale Wharf
In my last post about grit blasting I showed an image of the first boat through the facility. Above is an important part of the facility that is not normally in full view, the dust extraction equipment.

Albert with the cabin sheeted-up and hull without any bitumen coat
Albert went into the grit blasting bay yesterday and was treated this morning. I went up to Debdale this afternoon to inspect the hull once it was bare. It is revealing to see how she has stood up to almost 20 years in the water. Mike Goode took me over all the areas treated and, although there was some pitting along the water line, she appears to have stood up well. 
Bare hull sides with some signs of pitting
Anodes removed so area behind can be treated
Stern and Rudder

Tomorrow Albert moves into another bay in the building for treatment. The hull up to the rubbing strip will be coated with a two-pack epoxy resin coating and then the gunwales and counter will be painted. The red band on the counter will be reinstated but the paint will be applied over the epoxy base. There are also some extra jobs to be carried out whilst she is out of the water. The gas locker base and bulkhead will be treated with epoxy, because Albert has a wet locker, and we are having the bottom rudder bearing replaced since it has been groaning for a few years (like the crew!).

Nurser Feed Tin?

Firstly, you should note the use of the question mark in the title to this post.

A few years ago now we were lucky enough to obtain a small Buckby can from a local antique shop. Around the middle of the can was written Forget-Me-Not and the style was unmistakably Braunston. We have tried over the years to seek details of the use for the can, the painter and what boat he painted it for. This has included talking to contacts at the The Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne and photographs of the can appearing in the Waterways World, Narrow Boat and Canal Boat magazines. Nothing definite has come from this. However, Tony Lewery has a similar can given to him by Angela Rolt and his view was that our small can is probably from the Nurser yard and from around 1911. We are therefore alert to similar items when we see them.

Small Nurser Buckby Can

Crick Boat Show is not the normal place to source such items, they are usually snapped up quickly, so when we arrived on the last day of this year's show it was much to our surprise that we discovered that one of the antique stalls had a horse feed tin with decoration that looked very similar to our small can. The tin appeared to us to say "Frank Nurser". The seller couldn't vouch for its history but he did proffer the interesting statement "a guy with a beard came and looked at it for some time and said he thought it was Frank Nurser". Not exactly a statement of authenticity, particularly since men with beards are two a penny at boat shows (!), but it got us hooked. The tin is certainly old, although not as old as the small can, and because the painting style looked so interesting we struck a deal with the dealer.

Our Nurser(?) Feed Tin
(Note strap fittings)

Detail showing some recent damage

Detail showing the base
(Note rivets)

Detail of daisies

Detail of roses

So what exactly is a feed tin?  They were containers suspended by straps from the harness of the horse so it could eat on the move. Ours is made from tinplate (as the name suggests) and it measures 9.5 inches high by 13.5 inches diameter (maximum).

Horse with feed tin at the bottom of Bingley Five-Rise 
(from CRT web site)
I have looked at the excellent Nurser web site that has been recently set up to celebrate the family operating the Braunston dockyard from 1876 to 1941. The site gives wonderful detail of the family and employees and includes some good images of typical Nurser decoration. Looking at the cans shown on the site has reinforced my view that our feed tin must have Nurser connections.

Please drop us an email if you have any views.

Happy 50th Birthday Canal Museum

On Saturday night, as a member of the Friends of the Canal Museum, we went to a party at Stoke Bruerne to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The event was held in a tent alongside the museum and true to form the weather was blustery and wet. There was a very tasty barbecue, music and a good bar. It was good to catch up with friends.

David Blagrove cutting the cake at the party.

The highlight of the evening was a short speech by David Blagrove, Chairman of the Friends, who recalled how he helped Charles Hadlow set up some of the exhibits back in 1963 when his boat was stuck in the ice; some of this is covered in his book Bread of Waters. He then cut the cake and we all sang Happy Birthday.

Out of the Water

Albert has been moored at Debdale Wharf since May waiting for their new grit blasting facility to be completed. The facilities, much delayed by the awful weather of the winter and spring, are now completed and the first boat is in the facility being blasted and metal sprayed. 

A boat being grit blasted at Debdale Wharf

We got a phone call yesterday that Albert was about to be lifted out of the water with the plan for her to be grit blasted next week. This is the first time while we have owned Albert, and possibly the first time ever, that Albert has been lifted out of the water rather than use a dry dock. We travelled up to Debdale to look at her out the water and discuss details of the work to be done.

Out of the water

Pressure washing

After lifting, Albert was pressure washed and lifted high enough the have a close inspection of the base-plate. Albert has a 15 mm thick base-plate so I have been quite comfortable about subscribing to the commonly held view that base-plates, out of the heavily oxygenated area near the water surface and subject to lots of attrition from grounding, do not need blacking. However, Debdale were keen to get me to inspect it. 

Having a cup if tea underneath Albert!

After almost 20 years in the water, the base-plate was in good condition but with the odd sign of pitting. I have therefore agreed to the plate being treated with blacking on the basis that the bitumen, at the very least, will fill the pits where it will not be abraded, and will therefore provide some increased protection. It will be interesting to see how the coating as a whole survives until the next blacking.

Onto the supports

So far as the blacking on the hull sides was concerned, the blacking has done its job but certainly needs re-coating. In places, particularly near the bows, the ice breaking earlier in the year had done a good job of removing the bitumen.

Blacking removed on the waterline during ice breaking

We look forward to the grit blasting and the boat being back into the water shortly after. 

Where is the towpath!

Cherwell Valley from Aynho

Last week we decided to organise a walk for our local walking group involving the section of the Oxford Canal between Twyford Wharf and Anyho Wharf. Although we were generally pleased with the condition of the towpath one section of around 100 m length, just south of Kings Sutton lock, was in poor state with very large weeds growing in the margin near the canal and the hawthorn hedge on the field side encroaching well into the normal track. In places where the bank had become eroded it appeared that some walkers had slipped into the water.
Where is the towpath! Hawthorn to the left Burdock to the right

No much left to walk on!

As a result of this we contacted the Canal and River Trust. Their local office had the hedge trimming on their list for action in a couple of weeks but the "aquatic margin" was not due to be cut until November. However, a short email exchange brought the response that whilst cutting the hedge they would try and sort out the other weeds. The local  manager also stated " I think we need a towpath" - you certainly do.

Sloes (left) and Burdock (right) - both used to flavour drinks!
(Sloe Gin and Dandelion & Burdock)

The huge weed alongside the canal is burdock. Very impressive growth!

The rest of the walk was delightful with views across the Cherwell valley. Just by King Sutton I saw a mink or otter dropped into the water just ahead for me and made for the other bank underwater. I have looked on various sites that give identification clues and quite honestly I don't know if it was an otter or unfortunately a mink. On the balance of probabilities it was probably a mink but I remain hopeful.

Lift Bridge and Bulrushes, King Sutton

Aynho Weir Lock (diamond shaped)

The section below Nellbridge lock where river flows into the canal was benign and you could hardly discern a flow by Aynho Weir Lock unlike last October where there was a huge flow that made it difficult to get under the bridge (we bumped) and a standing wave below the weir. Also, last year all the surrounding field were underwater.

Aynho Weir Depth Indicator, August 2013 - little flow and well in the green

Depth Indicator at Aynho Weir, October 2012 - well into the red

Fields near Aynho, October 2012

As a postscript, I found the following image of an unusual use for burdock leaves on the web.

Iron Trunk Looking Refreshed

I have posted about the Iron Trunk aqueduct before, notably about its 200th birthday and my 65th birthday watercolour, but we had not been able to view the aqueduct from below since it was refurbished. Last weekend we were able to walk in glorious sunshine along the River Ouse to Cosgrove from Wolverton Mill and see the new paint scheme.

Iron Trunk, Cosgrove (West Side)
Iron Trunk, Cosgrove - Towpath side (East Side)

It looks a lot smarter and the colours highlight the unique structural details. There was a lot of deliberation about the paints used before the work was carried out last year.