Wednesday 30 June 2021

a Map of the Canals and Waterways of England and Wales

This is the new map I've just finished. I hope it gives a clear and useable view of the canal network without getting bogged down in detail. And it's decorated with local things, and with coastal vessels of the sort that use the coastal and inland waterways.

There's a Thames sailing barge, a dutch tjalk (you get a fair number of those along the canals these days, as they make nice homes), a Severn trow, and a Clyde puffer (like the Vital Spark, in the Para Handy stories). They're all flat-bottomed and in the case of the sailing boats, with leeboards that can be lifted.

But the most useful aspect of the map is that it shows the interconnectedness of the English (and Welsh, if only just) canal system. Some folk are surprised when they learn that I could get from here in Wiltshire up to the very north of England. There are a few places where you may choose the intrepid option of tidal waters, like the lower reaches of the Thames, the Severn between Bristol and Sharpness (I've done that a few times in either direction and it is Jolly Exciting, I can tell you), the Wash, and the Ribble link that was recently added to allow traffic up onto the Lancaster Canal.

The big picture is deliberately lo-res here, but here are some detail images to give you a better idea of what it's like. (I did encounter some folk on a hireboat who'd downloaded and printed off one of my canal maps, which was admittedly ingenious but a bit downheartening when you're trying to make a living on your art...)

You can find the map in A4 and A3 sizes over on my Etsy shop (link on the sidebar there). They're £5 and £10 respectively. 

Sunday 20 June 2021

the deer that nibbles the buttercup

A roe deer appeared across the water, treading lightly through the long grass of Horse Field, and nibbling delicately at the buttercups. I started filming just as this Shostakovich began on Radio 3, and they seem to go together rather well.

After I posted it up on Twitter, somebody told me that I was most likely mistaken, because the flowers were probably crowfoot, and animals don't eat it because it's not good for them.

Never argue with that sort of person on the internet, says I, not least when you know what you saw and even filmed it, and they saw but evidently did not see the film.

But I did get curious about this 'crowfoot' business, and looked it up. Crowfoot is another name for the meadow buttercup, and derives from the three-pronged leaf's supposed similarity to a crow's foot.

Anyway, I wandered over there early the next morning. The path wanders up the hill in the meandering way that paths do when they're not imposed by a ruler on a map

And closer to, you could see where the grass had been pushed aside and the dew had been brushed off by the passage of the wild creatures in the night.

And in the shadier places there was Bath Asparagus, or Spiked Star of Bethelehem. It is really quite common in this area, the country south of Bath; hence the name. It's not an asparagus but a lily, but is edible and used to be harvested and taken to market in Bath. But it's protected now, although I do know someone who still picks and eats it, the rascal.

Friday 18 June 2021

replacing the rudder stock bearing on a narrowboat

The rudder was getting very wobbly on Eve; lots of play at the bearing, and graunching when the tiller was swung. So I got the tools out and got stuck in.

Before taking anything off, I put a rope through the hole in the rudder and secured it to the stanchions. Because you really don't want your entire rudder falling down to the bottom of the canal.

Pulling off the swan's neck was hard work; it's secured to the rudder stock by a large bolt, and sits on a tapered shaft. After many years in place, it was reluctant to come off. 

After several attempts at levering, I succeeded by using a bottle jack, pushing against a pry bar secured to the swan neck by heavy chain, like this.

I pumped up the bottle jack till everything was bar tight, then rapped the side of the swan neck with a hammer. And it popped off.

Sometimes there'll be a Woodruff key down there too, but not in this case. In fact, this arrangement is identical to that on my old MZ motorbike clutch, which sat on the end of the crankshaft on a taper just like this.

Before I went any further, I made sure I'd got a replacement bearing to fit in place. I used the information on the cast bearing housing, which told me that it was an FL208. This gave me all the info I needed; otherwise, knowing the stock diameter (this one is 40mm) and the distance between the securing bolt holes, should give you all the info you need.

The bearing is held to the stock by two grub screws. The easy way to take the bearing off is 

remove the securing bolts

clean the shaft above the bearing with emery or a file, and oil it; this makes it easier to take the bearing off when it starts to move

Raise the rudder a little, enough to insert wedges under the housing

Rap the top of the stock with a hammer (I used a copper mallet).

If you're lucky, this should get it moving.

I wasn't lucky, though, and it showed no sign of wanting to go anywhere at all. (In fact, I clouted the top of the stock rather too vigorously, and ended up needing to dress it and the thread inside it, later. )

So I used a disc cutter to slice down the bearing, taking care not to cut into the stock. I also took care to cover over the bolt holes, as they go down into the fuel tank, and I didn't want to blow myself up.

...and then I used a puller to slide the now loose bearing off the shaft.

and there it was, safely off

Next, clean everything up, and push the new bearing into place, having liberally greased it

I also added the plunger that I usually use to unblock the sink, to keep the rain out.

And that was that!