Monday, July 21, 2008

Cave Dwellers!

Since earlier this year, we have been increasingly aware that it would be a good idea to 'black' the bottom of the boat. As with all steel boats, it had a coat of protective bitumen on the hull when it was new, and this normally needs to be renewed every couple of years. It seemed like there were too many rusty spots showing on ours already, but when we talked with Ian at Pennine Cruisers in Skipton, he reassured us that this was not unusual, as the first coat often doesn't 'take' very well. We had spotted his cave-like dry dock on the way into Skipton and so, after checking available dates and that it would be OK for us to go on living on board while in dock, we booked in to hire the dry dock and do the work ourselves – useful education, as well as saving some money!

It all fitted very well. We arrived back in Skipton on the Monday afternoon and moored close to the railway station again. After seeing Shireen and Thor off on the train on Tuesday morning, we chugged about a mile along the canal to the dry dock, reversed in, and very soon Zindagi was jacked up ready for us to start work.

The first job was to scrape off the worst of the sludgey weed growth. This gets worse on rivers, where the water is fresher, and in fact there was less on Zindagi's hull than there had been only a few weeks ago on the Ouse. Rather a messy job, but soon followed by a bit more fun with the pressure washer! The cloud of spray gives you some idea of the force of that jet – it removed the remains of the weed growth, any loose paint, and even the rust!

By Tuesday evening, the hull was dry again, ready for the first coat of bitumen. The pressure washer had really done well, though now the hull really looked like it needed blacking! Although the bitumen can be put on with a roller, we were recommended to use small stubby brushes for the first coat, painstakingly making sure that the coating got into every little crevice. Here's Val doing her bit, and you can certainly see the difference between the freshly-stripped hull and the rich satin black of the new coat.

We only managed half the boat that evening, and so continued on the Wednesday morning and finished the first coat all round. By that time, the first half was ready for its second coat, which went on with a roller, just using brushes for the edges and tricky bits – much quicker, so there was time to do the second half in the afternoon. This was ideal, as it gave nearly 48 hours for the bitumen to cure before it went back in the water.

Meanwhile, of course, we were still living in the boat, but in rather different circumstances. As it was jacked up, it didn't rock when we moved around, as it usually does. As we were effectively in a cave under the timber yard above, when the fluorescent lights were off it was really dark and we needed an alarm to wake us in the mornings. And then, of course, we were several feet off the water and the ground, and had to get in and out with a ladder!

Finishing the blacking early meant that we could get on with a few other jobs, like touching up some paintwork scratches and making sure that the front and back fenders (bumpers) were attached a bit better.
By Friday mid-day, we were ready to go again, and it was a much sleeker-looking 'Zindagi' that emerged from the dry dock. Inevitably, even by the time we had gone down the canal to turn around and come back to settle up with Ian, there were a few marks on the nice new bitumen, but they do say that boating is a contact sport! Besides, we have some left over in the can, so we can do some touching up just as we normally do when the lower bits of blue paint get scraped, as they always do, however careful we are in locks or when mooring up .

Enjoying The Dales – and The Family!

We seem to have been pottering up and down in this beautiful part of the world for a long time! After Colin and Jan left, we had a few days before Shireen and Thor were coming to visit, so we just chugged back south a bit, down near the village of Kildwick, where the canal seems to perch on the edge of the broad sweep of Airedale. None of our pictures really do this area justice, but you will not be surprised to learn that we have been enjoying it immensely. There are dramatic views and 'secret' corners – great!

After enjoying this view for a couple of days, we went on to Silsden and a little beyond, where we turned the boat around and enjoyed another two days in one place. The tennis was on, so no need to tell you what Val was doing!
Then back to Skipton, where we filled up with diesel (getting more expensive!) and moored withing very easy walking distance of the station to meet Shireen and Thor on July 3rd.

As expected, Thor had grown lots since we last saw him in March. Not just in size, either – he is taking an active part in feeding himself, and seems to be by-passing crawling in favour of walking, so there were plenty of walks up and down the length of 'Zindagi'. All this at the tender age of 8 months!

So, back up into the wilder areas again. Here's a view from the locks at Bank Newton – as you can see, the weather was a bit cloudy, not exactly what we were expecting in July!

With Colin and Janet, we had turned around just east of Foulridge Tunnel. Now, with Shireen and Thor, we had the opportunity to go a little further before turning round, as we didn't need to be back in Skipton until July 14th, so we went through the tunnel and down Barrowford Locks to Nelson in Lancashire. Foulridge Tunnel is controlled by 'traffic lights' so that boats are only travelling through it one way at a time, so here we are going in on the green lights. About 20 minutes through a dead straight tunnel, with surprisingly few drips after all the rain of the previous few days!
The seven locks at Barrowford are the first of the long descent down the western side of the Pennines, and all that we were going to tackle this time – back to those a week or two later! On the way down, we spotted the oldest-dated lock gates that we have seen, built in 1967, the year Dave first went to India and five years before we were married! Certainly seems to prove that steel lock gates last longer, though there were probably very few boats through the locks 41 years ago, as commercial traffic was on the wane and the canals had only just started to be 'discovered' by the leisure industry!

At the same lock, Thor showed some interest in the tiller, but the boat wasn't moving at the time!

At Nelson, we turned around and headed back up the locks, through the tunnel and on our way back to Skipton. On the way, despite more rain, there were still great views to be seen, this one near Salterforth.

. . . And just to round off the pictures of this visit, here's one of Thor responding to funny faces from his granny!