Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Britannia Cafe, Mumbai - Rick Stein's India, BBC2 episode 2.

We have been to Mumbai three times now, and each time we made the effort to visit Mr. Kohinoor at the Britannia Cafe. [Link to our 2012 visit: Mumbai and the Britannia Cafe.] He is a legend, and at 92, still manages the place after 70 years or so, now with his family. Tonight I watched Rick Stein's India food documentary, episode 2, on BBC2, which featured the Britannia. We want to return again ourselves now! The place is absolute magic. We have exactly the same conversation every time. See for yourself..... here is the link to the BBC iPlayer: Rick Stein's India - Episode 2.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Aldi Gardenline, (Oregon), 45cc 2-Stroke Petrol Chainsaw.

I couldn't resist this! It is a 'Thursday Special' from Aldi - a 2-stroke 45cc petrol chainsaw. Ideal for narrowboaters like me who run a wood burning stove. In my opinion, at £79.95 - not too expensive to be afraid of using it in the boating environment and a genuine 'bargain'..

As usual with products from stores like these - 'when it's gone it's gone', until next time round of course. These went on sale this morning Thursday 20th June 2013. I obtained mine from their Bolton store, and they had around 20 in stock at 9.00am.

The machine is supplied with the necessary tools to build up, adjust and use, a quick start guide, as well as a full instruction manual, which not only includes general operating instructions, but also full safety guidelines and best practice use methods, which of course, is essential, as these are a dangerous piece of kit. An easy fuel / 2-stroke oil mixing bottle is also provided.

From the box, the chain bar has to be assembled, by first removing the two nuts that hold the guard in place. Once the bar is in place, the chain itself is fed on, making sure that the cutting blades face the right way. The chain guard is then replaced, with finger tight nuts, so that the chain can be tensioned correctly prior to use. Full, clear instructions, with diagrams are included. Once constructed, with everything adjusted and tightened, the relevant reservoir for chainsaw bar lubricating oil should be filled, prior to filling the fuel tank with the correct 2-stroke mix. Once everything has been checked as ready to go against the instructions check-list, ensuring the chain brake is set on, prime the fuel bulb, set the choke, and a couple of pulls on the start cord sees it burst into action.

This machine is fitted with safety features that would help stop it getting out of control should the chain get stopped, causing the unit to kick back violently towards the user. It has an easy to operate stop switch, chain lock lever, and a cutting trigger that is equipped with a safety catch. The cutting bar is 40cm, [16 inches] - enough for light amateur garden use, such as cutting up small bore logs for use in the stove. As with all equipment such as this, full safety measures should be taken by the user, which includes safety boots, trousers, gloves and helmet / visor. It has the potential to do serious damage!
Specifications:
45cc 2-stroke petrol engine.
Noise level - 115db.
Bar length - 40cm.
Chainsaw drive links - 57.
Idle speed - 3300rpm.
Chain gauge - 1.27mm (0.050").
Fuel tank capacity - 270ml.
Oil tank capacity - 190ml.
Auto chain lube - YES.
Anti vibration function - YES.
Chain brake - YES.
Auto clutch lube - YES.
Low kick-back chain - YES.

This is covered by a full 3 year warranty, and with it's receipt, is also covered by Aldi's no quibble 60 day guarantee, even if you just change your mind, as long as it remains in it's original condition, for refund or exchange.

There is a full service back up provided over 7 days, with parts availability on 0845 872 2740 (UK). Or the Core Service website link is: http://www.coreservice.co.uk/
For a look at this, and up-coming 'specials' see: https://www.aldi.co.uk/.




Thursday, 13 June 2013

Regulations for using a VHF ship's radio in the UK.

With all the recent narrowboat blog posts I have read regarding trips down the tidal River Thames, I have noticed there have been various comments on the need to have a marine VHF radio aboard, or at least accessible to a boat within a small convoy, (which should in any case have close range radio contact with the VHF equipped boat). What is required to own and use such equipment is a minefield of complicated rules, regulations and basic technical knowledge, that differs between Europe, the USA, and the UK, which itself has implications on how and where to obtain equipment.

Owned before our narrowboat and prior to my decision on what path our future boat ownership would take, our Freeman 24 was used on the tidal River Douglas, Ribble, Lune, and previously, Thames and was fitted with a Garmin GPS tracker linked to a fixed DSC VHF marine radio.
I took my own day course, followed by an examination, and gained my operator's certificate back in 2007. Although I now hold an operator's licence, I currently don't own a radio of my own, so would be restricted to using a fixed radio on another vessel, (not somebody else's handheld - see below), until I again acquired my own equipment with its own relevant fixed or portable ship's radio licence.

Here I will attempt to detail the basics of acquiring, owning and using equipment in the UK only, with various links at the end so that the reader can make a more detailed analysis.

What is a ship's radio used for?
Primarily for safety, and the safe navigation of vessels. It is used to make distress calls during an emergency, vessel to vessel calls relating to navigation, and calls to shore based stations such as marinas and locks to warn of an impending visit. It should never be used for general chit chat.

Why would I require one for inland waterways use?
Obviously, some lakes and rivers, particularly tidal reaches, have dangerous aspects, with implications to the safe passage of small vessels, so it is not only good practice to have equipment available in these circumstances, but is often a requirement of the navigation authority.

What type of equipment is available?
There are both fixed and handheld portable radios, in standard and DSC, (Digital Selective Calling), form. DSC is the way forward in this type of equipment, and although there are many differences over a standard VHF radio, the main advantage in use is that in a distress situation, an automated distress call will be put out, with a position, (when connected to a GPS), on pressing a single red (protected) button on the radio. Handheld DSC radios should have built in GPS. Fixed DSC radios will require a position entering hourly if they are not connected to a GPS, which of course, in best practice, they should be.

What licenses are required to use this equipment?
A fixed radio within a vessel will be required to have a ship's radio licence, where a unique call sign will be allocated to identify that vessel. DSC equipment will have an MMSI, (maritime mobile service identity), number allocated, which will have to be entered and stored in the radio prior to use. This is then transmitted digitally when an automated distress call is sent, for example. Once in-putted, this number remains with the radio and vessel, and if the equipment is sold, it must be removed by a qualified radio technician prior to the sale.

Handheld equipment is registered on a portable ship's radio licence, and rather than a unique vessel call sign, a 'T' number is allocated to identify the owner, so that it can be used on any vessel. One handheld radio can be licensed as an extension to a vessel's fixed licence, but can then only be used on that vessel. Each subsequent handheld radio has its own portable radio licence.

Marine VHF radios can only be operated by the holder of an operator's certificate, or under the direct guidance of the certificate holder, such as crew, (unless there is an emergency situation which necessitates use by an unqualified person). The operators course, exam and licence issue is overseen in the UK by the Royal Yachting Association, (RYA). The course is usually a day, followed by an examination of competency, although, if you feel confident enough, the exam can be taken alone.

The holder of a pre-1999 ship's radio operator's certificate cannot use DSC equipment until a DSC extension has been obtained, requiring further training. Current courses now train in the use of DSC and the relevant certificate is issued.

Can I buy equipment off somebody in the pub, or second-hand off the internet?
Great care has to be taken when buying in this way. Equipment built for the American market for example, will have different channel configurations, and there is the issue of stored MMSI numbers. Any equipment should also be checked against the Ofcom website to ensure it complies with UK specifications. A reputable dealer will help with this.

There are also regulations relating to which countries handheld equipment can and can't be used, with reasons why not. Fixed, vessel radios can be used internationally. The specification of many cheaper, non-DSC handheld radios will state ' Not ATIS, (Automatic Transmitter Identification System), compatible - can't be used on inland waterways'. My own understanding is that this system is required for use on mainland European inland waterways, but cannot be used in UK waters, as UK licences don't allow for the installation or use of ATIS enabled equipment. What's more, an ATIS capable UK spec. handheld cannot in any case be used in Europe due to it being covered by a UK portable licence, which only covers use in UK waters, and an ATIS number relates to a vessel, where a UK portable licence relates only to the owner of the equipment! The adverts don't always make this clear by not differentiating between European and UK inland waterways. As I said above - a minefield. Below are a list of resources which should be studied prior to obtaining your new radio equipment.

http://www.dschandheld.com/

Ofcom guide to marine VHF channels.

Ofcom ship's radio licence information sheet.

Ofcom ship's radio licence FAQ.

Ofcom handheld DSC radio FAQ.

ATIS - the facts.






Sunday, 9 June 2013

Narrowboat Painting

It's back to boating matters with this post, and just a little information I gathered this weekend.

I have, like many no doubt, been taking advantage of the recent fine weather days, with the prospect of another similar day to follow, to touch up various nasty bits on the boat's superstructure, particularly the roof. In the past couple of years, and in order to try and keep the boat looking its best, I have touched up small areas of paint blemish as and when required. This is something that is done on an ongoing basis to avoid the prospect of one day noticing that the whole boat could do with a re-paint! The paint used on her original finish is Oxford Blue gloss enamel, Oxford Blue matt non-slip, and Azure Blue gloss enamel - all from Craft Master paints. In the past, and probably due to insufficient fine weather two days together, I have just quickly sanded the area to be touched, followed by a quick application of top-coat from the same maker. Several of these areas have now started to 'peel', most likely due to my complete lack of proper surface preparation. The last few days has been spent with a wire brush, varying grades of sandpaper, followed by a proper undercoat - left to dry overnight, then finished by an application of top-coat enamel. The roof now looks much less shabby, and being a matt finish non-slip, has blended in very well.

My attention then turned to the hull blacking, which had suffered the usual minor grazes during our outings last week and the week before. I like to keep things looking pretty! I had also noticed while locking, that the waterline was showing signs of rust, even though re-blacking was only completed this time last year. For those new to steel boat hulls, and interested in the blacking process, I wrote a more detailed piece on this subject here: Narrowboat Hull Maintenance.

I wondered if, when the re-blacking was done, (in bitumen paint on this boat), whether the boatyard actually went to the trouble of undercoating rusty areas in red metal primer before applying the blacking, and if they didn't - could this be the cause of the waterline rust so soon after. Questions at two boatyards, and research in an old Canal Boat magazine this weekend, has now made me aware that, generally, bitumen blacking paint will not adhere to undercoats other than those that possibly  might be developed and sold to be used by the brand of paint. If bitumen based blacking is applied in this way, it will simply 'drop off' revealing just the undercoat, within a short time back in the water. This is not the reason we have a rusty waterline, it is just that I found out about this phenomenon before I went to the trouble of undercoating with red oxide on a future hull blacking job, which would have possibly landed me with more problems.

Apparently, it is widely accepted within the trade that, as part of the hull preparation, the hull and waterline should have all loose material removed, before re-coating the bare metal directly with the new paint, allowing an overnight gap before applying a second coat and so on. That method is completely opposite to what is required to properly apply a stable coat of enamel topsides, where undercoats are a requirement.

One local boatyard also suggested that owners of hulls of around 10 years old, should consider grit blasting, before re-painting in whatever type of paint you choose, over clean, bright metal. Sounds expensive!

Being the owner of Blackpool Tower springs to mind!



Friday, 7 June 2013

How Do I Hide My Email Address Within A Link On My Blogger Website?

Following on from my last post, I wanted to include a contact email address for my readers to use, within the main body of my website, while minimizing the risk that I would be inundated by unwanted emails.

It is of course easy to just type your email address into the text of your website, so your readers can contact you. It is also foolish, as there are some unscrupulous internet users out there who trawl websites using little pieces of software, or 'crawlers' to harvest email information to be sold and used by 'spammers' later. A much safer method of publishing your email address, and minimizing this risk, is to embed the address within a link, that when clicked by the reader, will activate their own email client programme, with your email address already placed in a new 'create new mail' box, ready to type and send.

As always, this information is provided without any warranty that it will work for you, and this particular tip may alter the layout of your site. So, if you are not confident in your ability to experiment, it would probably be best to leave well alone. I take no responsibility for crashed websites as a result of you trying this!

However, this is how to do it, and the code required. This example is quite straightforward. Type exactly as is, or copy and paste, but insert your own email address within the relevant place as shown:

<a href="mailto:xyz@gmail.com">Email Me</a>

This, when inserted into the web page, (which I will describe how to do later), would simply be a link 'Email Me', which, when clicked would open a 'create new mail' script on the reader's own computer with your email address already inserted. You can change the 'Email me' text to whatever you prefer. The above is the option I use on both my websites, with the phrase 'Contact Us'.

If preferred, but slightly more involved. Rather than a text instruction link, you could use an image link, such as an envelope for example. To do this, you first have to upload your own image onto an image hosting website such as Google's Picasa, Photo Bucket or Flikr - your choice. Once the image is on there, make sure it will have public visibility by changing privacy settings in its properties as necessary. Then you will need the link to that image on it's host site. In Picasa, that information is on the right of the screen under 'Links to this photo'. The image I will provide as an example has been provided for free web use to me by Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


For the purpose of this example, say the link address to my photo is:

http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/xxxxxxxxxxx-xxxxxxxxxx?feat=directlink

If we are to use the email address xyz@gmail.com then the code to use this image as an email link would be as follows:

<a href="mailto:xyz@gmail.com"><img src="http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/xxxxxxxxxxx-xxxxxxxxxx?feat=directlink" alt="Email me" width="100" height="100" border="0" /></a>

The height and width settings dictate the size of your icon, and can be adjusted as required.

Next, this code has to be placed within the layout page of your Blogger website. To do this, sign in to the Blogger dashboard, and go to 'Layout'. Here you will have the opportunity to 'add a page element, or gadget as they now call it', which you will have probably done before, whilst setting up your site. Choose the one which will give you the opportunity to use html/javascript within it, place your own code, modified from above, into it, and save the changes. The new 'widget' can then be moved around the layout page by clicking and 'dragging', to place the link wherever is best suited to you, saving the changes again. Once published, you can try it for yourself to see if it opens up your own email client programme.

And that is how an email address can be added to your blog, while minimizing the risk of receiving unwanted contacts.
  

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

How Do I Place An Active Link Into The Text Of A Blogger Comment?

Many of the 'technos' will of course already know what I mean by the title, and how to do it. I was one who didn't, but luckily I have a son who is employed in IT and web design, so I do now, so I will share for the benefit of those who wish they could - but don't know how!

Have you ever, like me, wished you could place within your comment to a blog post, a link, perhaps to a relevant post of your own, or an external website which would assist in illustrating your point. We have all had those advertising type comments which always have links in them to promote the business of those making the comment for their own benefit, so please don't abuse the knowledge by becoming a 'spammer' yourself.

This is how to do it.

Open a new browser tab that contains the web page that you want to include and link to in the text of your comment.

Highlight the web address of the website. You will see it in the top address bar of your browser, right click your mouse, once highlighted, and from the drop down menu, select 'copy'.

Go back to the blog post that you wish to make a comment on, and start the normal process to do that, writing the text as normal. When you reach the point that you want to create the link, think of a word or phrase to describe it, such as, for example here, "TITLE" then type the following within the comment text:

<a href="the address of the web page to link to">TITLE</a>

Put a space in exactly as above - after <a and before href= and don't forget to include " " around the web address section, that you will have right clicked on your mouse and selected 'paste' from the drop down menu to insert. Remember 'TITLE' will be the actual link wording that appears in your comment without any of the surrounding code or web address.

Continue to write text to the end of your comment, and then publish in the normal way. Once published, all that will be seen by the reader will be the 'TITLE' section of the line of code, and once clicked on, will take the reader directly to the web address you inserted.

Be aware though, that many website owners moderate their comments, and might not wish to have your link in their comments list - so use this function wisely, and don't be offended if they choose not to publish it. If the link is relevant to illustrate a point, then there should be no problem.

Give it a try - it should work, it does for me. Now, when I receive advertising comments containing links, instead of immediately deleting them as spam, I now click their link to visit their site, and if that has the facility to make comments, and is a suitable site, I will now make one on there with my own link back to my own site, before publishing theirs.

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Cruise On The Canals of India.

In April this year, during our tour of India, we called at Alleppey, or what is now known as Alappuzha. We take our canal system here in the UK for granted  as being part of our industrial heritage, now using for leisure what is left of a network that was designed purely for the transport of industrial goods and food produce. Much has been written and photographed about its history, and how the network is used now, but India also has a network of canals that have developed over hundreds of years, and are still used for transport as part of every day life as well as for leisure and tourism these days.

Alleppey is one of about eight 'backwater' regions in the state of Kerala. The Kerala Backwaters are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast of Southern India. These lakes are interconnected by both man made and natural canals, and are fed by 38 rivers. The town was established in 1762 alongside a canal that ran through the strip of sand between the backwaters and the sea. It soon developed into a bustling waterway, with shops, factories, and commercial establishments springing up alongside its banks. This attracted merchants from other parts of India, and by the 19th Century, the sea had receded a mile, offering further land beside the canal to develop into a busy port with trading vessels visiting from other nations, transshipping goods to and from smaller vessels that used the canal system.

In 1859 the first coir, (coconut fibre), loom was established here by an English sea captain, and soon other British owned weaving establishments followed. The commercial importance of Allepey began to decline in the late 1920's as nearby Cochin was developed in to a major sea port. Today, tourism thrives alongside the coir, coconut oil, and fishing industry. The canals themselves still form a large part of everyday life for the local population. The town is no longer a working port, and the beach is now cleaned daily, to be used by the locals, mainly in the evenings and weekends. For those interested in history, as I am, it also remains much as it was in its hey-day, with the old port buildings still in tact but derelict, alongside a now derelict railway, complete with sidings and station that run into town towards the sea front loading pier that is also now derelict, although clearly visible, with railway lines now buried in sand. Our hotel here was The Raheem Residency, which until 2003, had been owned by the family of one of those merchants mentioned above, who came here when the port was thriving over 100 years ago. Use the link to visit their website, the history page is very interesting.



Above - our boat for the day. More like the African Queen than a UK canal narrowboat.


For those with an engineering interest, this is the engine - a 2 cylinder diesel, but what make? It is situated by the helm at the fore end of the boat.


A working boat being loaded with rice. The paddy field is just to the left of the picture.


Another working boat - apparently overloaded, as are many of the vehicles used for transport in India.


A desirable canal side residence. 


Above is a Kettuvallam, or Kerala houseboat. They are based on the design of the original working rice boats, just as our narrowboats are based on the design of the original working boats. These can be hired by the day, or longer, with overnight stays if you wish. They are crewed by a driver, an engineer and a cook. This is the cook preparing vegetables at his work station in the galley. I will provide links to a hire company at the end of this post.


This view is similar to many I have taken on English canals.


Above is a floating supermarket where everything is available to sustain the local population.........


.........and this is how you get to the shop.


Just as we have available to us, there are canal side services along the route.


The marinas are very similar, it is the boat design that is different. This marina is located in Vembanad Lake.


Another working boat. This time the goods are building materials. Unlike our canals today, the Indian canals are still part of everyday life, and are used for washing the dishes, cleaning teeth, and daily hygiene.


Interestingly, boats navigate on the left, and pass starboard to starboard, even though road vehicles in India drive on the left just as we do here.





Here are several links to companies that specialize in this kind of trip.

River and Country is the company we used to hire a Kettuvallam with an overnight stay in October 2011. In April this year we chose a day boat at random from one of the many businesses that operate from the side of the canal in the town of Alleppey.

Here is another company who specialize in this type of hire: Rainbow Cruises.

Our travel agent in India arranged the tour for us, including the hire of the Kettuvallam: http://www.elandholidays.com/

And if I was to make a future trip to India, I would again use Etihad Airways to fly in to Cochin, arrange a driver to be with us for a tour of Kerala, to take in a canal trip of course. But, I would stay around 4 nights in each of these hotels:





Before flying home out of Trivandrum Airport. That would provide a spectacular, and luxurious 3 week holiday in the affluent South of India to anyone who has an interest in canal transport and its history, as well as getting to see many of India's historical sites by road. We have stayed in all but one of the above hotels. They are fabulous! Finally, a slideshow of images from the 2011 trip, which focussed on Kerala as the destination.

Here is a link to the Official Kerala Tourism Website, together with some of their images..... http://keralatourism.org/ and http://greatbackwaters.com/




And finally, a link to their blog.....http://keralablogexpress.com/kerala/about

India is the most fascinating place in the world and we can't wait to return.


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Wind, Rain......and Sunshine - it must be June!

At last! A day's cruise without getting blown around and soaked to the skin! We took the boat down to Kings Lock Chandlery in Middlewich during the day on Wednesday, for a pre-arranged appointment on Thursday, which meant we had to travel no matter what the weather was doing. That day was a six hour cruise endurance in wind and rain.
However, after the work was completed, and an overnight stay, the sun came out for the return trip, which showed us the very best that this beautiful rural section of The Shropshire Union Canal has to offer. We could also keep a much more leisurely pace.



Church Minshull Lock



Cholmondeston Lock looking back towards Venetian Marina.
We arrived at The Olde Barbridge Inn just in time for lunch, and the weather was just right to sit out in the gardens adjacent to the canal, with moorings available for several boats, and a handy run of 48 hour moorings directly opposite. The last time I stopped here by boat was in the 1970's, during a hire boat holiday from Bartington Wharf on the Trent and Mersey Canal to Stourport on Severn using a small narrowboat called 'Benjamin Disraeli', from Premier Narrowboat Hire.

NB Benjamin Disraeli circa 1973
Today, we moored in the same spot, so just had to have the same drink - a refreshing glass of cold Thatchers Gold draught cider, although in 1973 I had yet to meet Margaret!

Awaiting lunch
Step off the boat, and into the pub here.

Not far to stagger, should you make an overnight stay of it!
A simple, but delicious lunch, served al-fresco.
After the short break, it was time to be off again, making our way along the section of canal that was once named 'The Chester Canal' to its junction with the Llangollen Canal at Hurleston, where Margaret is to be found chatting to one of the two lock keepers on duty. The day was Friday, so later in the afternoon there would be many newly released hire boaters through here, and the locks are not the easiest to navigate, particularly for novices. The two keepers for today, were a part time, fully paid, Canal and River Trust seasonal employee, who was working the top section, and his companion, a volunteer for two days a week, who was working the lower section, which is the part that contains the bulging lock chamber, where fenders must not be used, and occasionally, boats get stuck.


The view down from the top of Hurleston Locks.
Now safely tied up alongside our home mooring after three days away, having experienced a mixture of our Summer weather - wind, rain and sunshine.