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Everything posted by Tony1

  1. Sometimes appearances can be awful, but not even your own fault. I remember climbing a lock ladder in cheshire on a cold, wet muddy winter day, carrying the centre line up in one hand. The rope was full of mud and slapped me in the face as I went up, leaving my face liberally splattered with mud. There was a couple enjoying a few romantic moments on a bench at the lock side, and the woman gave a yelp as my muddied face suddenly rose up from the lock a few feet away. I got out of the lock and stood for a moment, pondering the right words for this rather awkward moment. The couple looked alarmed at the sight of my mud splattered wellies and clothes, and my face looked like I'd just lost a mud wrestling final. "I'm sorry" was all I could manage to say, before starting on the paddles.
  2. I never expose myself to the sun, so I'm probably not vitamin D flavoured (as per the normal eloi types). But with morlocks, I feel like you never really know. Awful people. Present company excepted, etc.
  3. Much as I'd like to the see the population thinned out, I can't get on board with the idea of eating anglers. Most of the specimens I've seen are spectacularly unappealing. And I know its not politically correct, but I do like to know when a morlock moors nearby. I'm normally the tastiest boater in the vicinity, and so one does feel a certain vulnerability.
  4. Since Morlocks share 98% if their DNA with the simian aerobaticus, I would have expected you to take a more sympathetic attitude to your winged cousins. I am hoping to lash a brace of them to the bow cleat (I mean monkeys, not morlocks) and use them to clear the towpath of anglers during those periods of severe infestations (I mean the infestations of anglers, of course- not monkeys). I've no doubt morlocks would be highly effective at angler-cide, but they have a reputation for turning on their owners. The whole thing always ends in a bloodbath. Awful things, really. Present company excepted, etc etc.
  5. Well you are in luck young sir. Just last year I qualified as a narrowboat hydrodynamics engineer (specialising in mooring) from the University of the Whitchurch Arm. I can tell you quite categorically that if you tie your ropes at anything other than a 45 degree angle, a pack of flying monkeys will attack you during the night. Cynics will say its not really a CRT issue, but you'd think they would at least keep an eye on the flying blighters. And what is my license money really going towards, if not the monkeys? We need answers.
  6. As has been stated above, interior space is a major factor, especially for a full time liveaboard. I feel that a cruiser stern would always be my personal favourite for a boat of say 55ft or more, because of the extra floor space for people and dogs to stand, sit, socialise etc. But on a boat of 50ft or less, it does become more of a close call. That stern, much as I love the space, does take up some interior space that could be really really useful. I guess the answer is to separate out the two factors of stern type and interior space (assuming your budget will stretch to a longer boat). They are not co-dependent criteria at the point when you are buying your boat. In other words, you choose a boat big enough that it has the interior space you'll need, and you also make sure it has the stern type you prefer. Admittedly, a trad stern will allow some extra 'contingency' space in case you ever need it, and it seems like you can never get enough interior space on a narrowboat- so there is that. But as a full time liveaboard you'll probably be using a bike (either to reach your car, or as your full time transport), so the stern/boat choice might have to factor in a location to store the bike. The cratch might be ok, as long as there is something to attach a chain to, but the cratch does tend to get full of gubbins in its role as exterior store room/shed/garage, and maybe a place to put spare toilet cassettes, bags of household rubbish, broken stuff etc, until you reach a facilities point. Not to mention the bodies of the odd duck that you've savagely murdered (and don't try to tell me I'm the only one who savagely murders ducks on a weekly basis). I even had a broken bike plonked in my cratch for two weeks on the bridgewater, which was a right pain. And when you're using a bike on an almost daily basis, its very handy to just chain it to the stern rail, as opposed to lifting it into the cratch (especially if its a 25kg ebike). But again, it all depends how (and how often) you use a bike. And how many ducks you kill. Re getting onto the roof, you need to do that anyway, regardless of how you do locks. Sometimes you'll need to clean the roof, or the solar panels (which as a full time liveaboard you will definitely want). Or just to rearrange the half dozen bags of coal that might be up there during winter. I fitted a fold-up trucker's step on the rear cabin wall above the stern locker, and getting on and off the roof is easy using that. So for me, the semi trad having those seats is not a major advantage for getting onto the roof. So a lot depends on your personal preferences and lifestyle approach, but I imagine a single person would usually have enough interior space on a 58-60ft boat, even if the boat has a space-eating cruiser stern. And it'll still be short enough to cruise most of the system, if that is your aim. This is very much a personal viewpoint, but I don't really put much weight in the advantage of the trad setup keeping your legs warmer when cruising in the winter. If the cruiser stern suits you for other more important reasons, its the one to go for. Just wear thermal leggings under your trousers, and get a pair of fur-lined wellies. Or eat more lard and get fatter legs - there are options. As a liveaboard CCer, you'll probably have more flexibility to choose what days you cruise on, so you tend to avoid cruising on the days when its chucking down with rain or very windy. I cruised on the coldest days of the last two winters, when the previous night had lows of minus 9 degrees and the daytime temps never got above freezing- and it never changed my mind about wanting a cruiser stern. But I am a northerner, and its illegal up here to complain about the cold. (Disclaimer- no ducks were harmed in the making of this post. Any references to duck murder were entirely fictional and for entertainment purposes. And there are almost definitely no dead ducks in my cratch)
  7. There are some very nice (and expensive) bags for the front mounting, but sadly since mine is the electric model, that space is taken up by a mounting that supports the battery, held inside a small bag. I bought the larger size battery bag, so I can get maybe 15 litres of stuff in there (stuffed in around the battery), but there is I think about a 10kg weight limit on all of those front mountings, so its not a solution for a weeks shop. You could add a rixen and kaul klickfix seatpost clamp, that will allow a 20 litre shopping bag to be attached to the seatpost. So by using maybe 4 smaller bags combined, you can have 50-60 litres of shopping space held around the bike- but that can start to feel like a faff. Many times I just grab the large rucksack to save time. And there's that annoying situation where you take enough bags to hold the stuff that you anticipate buying, but on the journey you see something else that you'd like to buy, but you have no luggage space left for it. So I do try to leave some contingency luggage space nowadays. But people do get around the shopping challenge in different ways, as you'll already know. E.g. many people spending 3 months aboard or living on a boat will use the supermarket delivery service, and get their shopping delivered to a local pub car park, or even a bridge (so I've heard). I've still not tried this service whilst on the boat- I remember when I tried it from home a few years ago I received a lot of very short dated stuff, and on a boat that is worse than useless. I like to get to the supermarket in person, so that I can reach right to the back of the shelf and pick out the longest-dated items. But if shop deliveries work for you, then the brompton becomes more of a single-item or quick-dash ad-hoc shopping tool, or for local exploring. But here's a live scenario: I'm in Manchester now, and I need to go to a launderette about a mile away (I carry the laundry in a very large rucksack). I cant take the 20 inch ebike because of fear it will be stolen if chained outside the laundry- so in this case, when in a big city with typical big city bike theft problems, I have to take the brompton because I know I wont be challenged if I take it inside the launderette with me. So in this case it has to be the brommie, and I can put up with some rough surfaces for a one mile ride. Here in the big city, because it can go indoors anywhere, the brompton has become the mandatory choice for any bike trips. Any other ebike probably couldn't be safely left outdoors in any city centre location, even with a good chain.
  8. Apologies for turning this into a bike thread! Its a bit of a hobby horse of mine as I've spent almost 3 years looking for the ideal bike- and ended up with two of them! I hate to pile on the brompton as it has some great qualities, but one thing I must add is that it won't hold normal size panniers- the rear rack is so low that 20 litre panniers drag on the ground frequently, and your heels scrape against the front of the bags when pedalling. The biggest panniers I can fit on mine are ones intended for use on a front rack, they hold about 12 litres each, which is not a lot. So I frequently have to use a large rucksack for shopping with the brommie, and as we know, its safer and more comfortable to carry the weight lower down. All that said, I've seen touring brompton riders rig up a rucksack so that it sits on the rear rack, with the top attached to the seat or the seatpost- so there are possible solutions out there if you dont mind some farkling around.
  9. Yes, I knew you'd be aware of the limitations, and I understand the choice of a brommie as the compromise solution. But I am beginning to feel that in Britain we are developing a problem with road quality. I used to commute 7 miles each way, and although it was a 700C bike, I dont remember the roads being as poor as they are now. To be fair, I was in my 20s and 30s, and a hell of a lot fitter and stronger, so maybe I just adapted to it. But this year, because my third cheap ebike failed (a Byocycle Boxer, supplied by decathlon), I've been forced to use the brompton exclusively for several months, and it has not been a pleasant experience. If you like, I will send you a link to a video I did of a typical shopping trip on the brommie, demonstrating that riding a brompton could at times be a pretty challenging experience. If I was in your situation and I had to choose one bike, it would be incredibly difficult. The thing is, I know the brompton will not let me down. If the road permits, it will get me there. The cheaper ebikes are a bit of a lottery. From my own experiences, I feel that one morning you're going to switch the bike on and it'll be dead. So there is that. But gun to head, I would go with a 20 inch folder (with off road tyres) as my least-worst compromise, and just hope that I could get it onto a train (folded up) without being challenged, in high summer when the bike compartments already have 6 bikes in them. Another plus for Halfords is that you have a nationwide network of stores that you can wheel your faulty bike into, and ask for it to be fixed. Chinese imports on ebay and amazon may be cheap, but I've found out the hard way that if something major fails, the supplier has usually ceased trading by the time you contact them, or just doesnt answer your emails. Halfords will generally tend to use the cheaper end of the components range, typically Shimano Tourney and the like- but they are functional, and you can keep them adjusted and working fairly well. That said, the brakes I've found to be a bit disappointing on the cheap models, but that was on ebikes which are pretty heavy- maybe they work better on lighter bikes.
  10. Yep, no doubt about it, the costs are pretty naughty. But the benefits could be worthwhile, for some people. These bikes last for a a couple of decades, so its a long term decision. They have that superb build quality. My electric brompton is the only one that still runs fine out of the four ebikes that I've bought since moving aboard. Cheaper ebikes can be a minefield of abysmal quality. But this does illustrate the problem of finding the ideal bike for a liveaboard, or a person who cruises for a few months at a time. There's no one answer, it depends on each person's needs and preferences. I carry 20kg of shopping sometimes for say 3-5 miles over hilly terrain, and so I insist on using ebikes to make it more pleasant. But there are so many variables depending on the individual - eg when do you cruise? If you're a May-Sept cruiser only, you could live happily with the compromises of a standard brompton. On the muddy days you'll get by with just walking the towpath, or maybe not bother making the trip (because the bike is taking too much of a battering from the ruts and potholes). You'll find a way around the problem of not being able to use the bike for that particular trip. But as you'll know, once you start spending a month or two cruising in winter, the limitations of 16 inch high pressure tyres become more apparent, and you might find there are more compromises involved than you realised. I've found many stretches of towpath that in winter were not safe on the brompton, but could be done on the bike with fatter tyres. I've found many rural roads (and actually many urban ones) where the brompton was battered by numerous ruts and minor holes, and in the dark or in the rain it can feel a bit sketchy. One of these days they'll invent a full size bike with 2 inch wide tyres that folds down to the size of the brompton. But until then, I'm still using two bikes. The Brompton for anything involving a rail/bus journey, or a posh town where the roads will probably be well maintained - or to take inside supermarkets (they fit into the large trolleys). And the fat tyre 20 inch wheel bike when it gets rough, muddy, and wet- i.e. most of the time. My new ebike is 20kg, which is a fair bit of weight, but manageable for me at the moment. The problem you have is not lifting them onto the deck or whatever, its more getting the bike up a flight of stone steps from the towpath and through a narrow stile onto the road, or getting them over a gate if you're using a footpath etc. Or even lifting them into the cratch (and at that point you're lifting the 20kg with outstretched arms, which is pretty risky for your back). If weight is a priority there are some reasonably light ones coming onto the market- e.g. this one is not too dear and only weight 16kg: https://www.adoebike.com/en-gb/products/ado-air-20?variant=44953452511552
  11. From the liveaboard perspective, the roof is not the option it might first appear for bike storage. In my case the roof is full of solar panels, and the little space left (around the centre line ring) has to be used for 10 or 12 bags of coal between Oct and March. But theft would be a concern for me. I'm a lazy bugger so I use ebikes- that way I have the option to get some exercise, and also to get some assistance on longer/hilly rides if I need it. Also, lifting a 25kg ebike onto a roof would be a bit of a stretch (although I have gotten mine over a few gates and fences). And you really need to protect them from rain with a cover, which of course get blown all over the roof as soon as there are some strong winds. I did pass a boat a while back with a bike rack (that I think was designed for use on the back of a motorhome). The bike rack was firmly attached to the stern rail, and a couple of compact folding bikes were hanging on it, well away from the sides and thus no risk of damage from lock walls etc. It looked like a really neat solution if you need to carry two bikes- even a cruiser stern is going to get a bit crowded with two folders on it. What is brilliant about a brompton, even though the ride is harsh, is that you just fold it up and take it inside with you- so its never in the weather. But for me, there are just too many situations, especially in winter, when it is not very pleasant to ride. But it is, to be fair to it, an urban focused bike. All that said, this company are producing some tweaked bromptons that might be half decent on a towpath or a rough rural lane, and this could make the brompton an acceptable all rounder: https://www.kinetics-online.co.uk/category/custom-builds/
  12. I routinely use a brompton electric for shopping and visiting local places. and I wouldn't really recommend the experience. The tiny 16 inch tyres are inflated to around 100 PSI and are bullet hard, and the ride is unforgiving. On some towpaths it is almost unrideable, and if it gets muddy it gets a bit skittish. And on the rather rough and rutted rural roads you often have to use, it can be a harsh ride. I would imagine that the cost of a 3 month brompton hire is not much different to buying a cheaper folder outright. In fact if you keep the shipping boxes in a friends garage, you could repack the folder and leave it with a friend when you leave, and maybe they could ebay it for you and get a few quid back. You wont get the super-small fold of a brompton, but you might not need it. A 20 inch folder would not fit into a supermarket shopping trolley so easily as a brompton, or sit underneath a pub table with you, but then it doesnt have to. Because its cheap, you can chain it up outside a place you visit (with a proper chain) and it'll still be there when you come out (the exceptions are big towns, where anything is fair game to be nicked). The ride will be much smoother on 20 inch wheels with slightly wider tyres (I know because I use both), so the trip into a local town will be more pleasant. I think the UK roads have gotten worse in recent years, and nowadays I sometimes dread the thought of riding the brompton over a route that I know has lots of rough and rutted stretches. In the summer, in dry weather, and avoiding badly rutted roads etc, a brompton can work- and often does for me- but I enjoy riding the 20 inch folder more. ETA- in terms of permission to keep the bike indoors, you could get a fabric cover- that might persuade the hire company. Or you could chain it to a stern rail- mine folds small enough that it doesnt get in the way at all, on a cruiser stern.
  13. Just a side note really, but if your daily practice in sunny weather is to maintain the batteries at 100% for many hours at a time, you might end up reducing their longevity. Other people like Ian and Nick will know the latest data on this, but my general understanding was that to maximise the lifespan of the batteries, the 'full' level should be regarded as being 90% or less (at least on a day to day basis). I personally use a SoC of about 85% as my day to day 'full' value, so my MPPTs will switch off at that point. Its a shame to waste solar energy, but if I understand it right, the batteries will be less stressed if I keep them below 90% on a routine basis. Apparently the other side of looking after them is running them down to around 10% every so often, to stretch their legs a bit.
  14. I lost what I think was about 90% of my sense of smell in 2018 after catching the Australian flu, but I didn't actually notice the loss immediately, because it was lost gradually over several days. If there is even a question mark about it, I would test your smell sense, eg try opening a couple of jars of strong smelling condiments or foodstuffs, and see if they smell as strongly as you recall. It's admittedly a long shot, but worth checking. This reminds me that a while back I was pondering a gas detector device that I planned to install, as I can't rely on my nose to inform me of a gas leak.
  15. Well bugger me, I must have missed the one way signs. I wonder if I could get away with it next time by going through facing backwards.....
  16. I went down through those locks about 5 or 6 weeks ago and there were no issues at that time, although mine is a standard width boat and 50ft long. Surprisingly I didn't see a single other boat coming through when I was there.
  17. I mentioned whilst chatting at a chandlery that I was due for my BSS in 6 months or so, and a staff person gave me the contact details of a local gas safe engineer and electrician whom, they said, was recently qualified to do BSS exams. I asked how keen the new BSS inspector was likely to be, and the staff member said 'probably pretty keen.' I said no more- the card went in the bin as soon as I was back aboard.
  18. Thanks again Ian, that's interesting to know. Does this approach have limitations? For example, who do you call when you want to end your contract, and you want to port your number over to a new provider? Is that stuff done on a website? Obviously I dont know, but I imagine there are some issues that require the direct intervention and action from someone with administrator-type access to the network, and to the systems that manage user accounts?
  19. I think that sounds a sensible approach, but its hard to imagine most/all of the thousands of Smarty customers surveyed would never need to use customer service (and thus respond with NA). So you would think there would be enough respondents to post a score with some degree of validity. But who knows, that's just guesswork on my part. I guess my thinking is that if all other aspects are equal (ish), then you might as well choose the option with a known (and good) score, rather than one which is probably good, but you cant be certain.
  20. Thanks for that info, that does somewhat change my views about Sky. Re the customer satisfaction thing, I take your point that the bar is perhaps lower for some of the customers who use the cheaper providers, and that some of them might be more generous in their ratings. But the cheaper providers do also have plenty of well informed customers who can spot a good deal (e.g. Ian's partner, and Loddon of this parish)- so there is that. Whatever the breakdown and the 'savviness' of their customer base, it is still worth noting that Tesco mobile have higher ratings than most others. My new conclusion is that even if the satisfaction scores for cheap providers are falsely elevated, it may be that since Tesco stands above the others in that segment, Tesco might perhaps be in the same ballpark as EE and the other major providers. In other words, maybe a score of 4 for a cheap provider like Tesco is roughly equivalent to a score of 3 from a major provider like EE?
  21. That plusnet approach can't be common to all the piggybackers, surely? I cant imagine tesco mobile trying that with customers, and still getting such high customer service scores? But either way, without a visible score for smarty, I won't be using them. Tesco do look very impressive.
  22. Just to offer a contrasting experience (although admittedly only one person) the guy from whom I bought my Liverpool boat actually went back to them. After my purchase, he was on his way to collect a brand new widebeam from them. But I am absolutely not trying to denigrate the many (alleged) reports of quality issues. There is no getting around those. That said, with a snagging list you can at least get the faults fixed for free (usually), so there is a decent chance you'll still end up with a half decent boat after the hassle of the first few months doing fixes. There was a period when I was considering a different type of mobile lifestyle- a motorhome. I recall many people voicing the opinion that the build quality of UK motorhome manufacturers was so poor that it was preferable to buy one that was a year or two old, so that the previous owner would have dealt with the stress and inconvenience of fixing the quality 'snags'
  23. I take your point about 57ft narrowboats being more spacious and more luxurious than 32ft GRPs (and I do use the word luxurious in a very limited sense there)- but I have to say that if my budget ever got cut back such that I was struggling to pay for blacking every 2 years, plus the increased license fees that are surely coming our way, then I might consider a viking 32cc or similar. I certainly dont have any objections to GRPs that are based on aesthetic grounds. At the end of the day, there are some people who like living afloat but would struggle to pay the running costs of a 57ft narrowboat. As an example, if you use a 15hp or 20hp outboard, you do not have to pay the £200 plus per year for RCR membership- and that saving will really add up over the years, in addition to blacking costs, anodes, etc.
  24. In fairness I did say 'something like this', rather than 'this'. I don't have any links, but I bet a very compact SF stove would be available from a UK supplier. Maybe its because you can buy diesel from marinas at the side of the cut (or even fuel boats)? Whereas to get petrol you have to go a bit further afield. So from a convenience viewpoint the diesel looks attractive. But they cost way more than petrol models, which is a somewhat less attractive feature. But there are enough petrol gennies around for me to feel reasonably confident that its not a significant hardship for a boater to fetch petrol.
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