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Decluttering and Feminising Pentargon

Posted on May 12, 2018 at 11:45 AM

Shepperton Library. Sat. up for a Bakery Breakfast with Trevor and two stints at the blog 

revisited ... 2018-05-22 Tue14.51 

There are SEVEN discrete 'erm 'areas' to the boat: Underfloor ... Roof ... Engine ... Galley ... Diner ... Berths ... and "Utility" a 2sqm cubicle containing ... the Hampshire, the Airhead, the Shower, the Washbasin ... and a Drying Room for wet sailing gear ... Just like a real boat? Decluttering is of necessity compartmentalised! ... "Berths" is entering final stages late in May, "Utility" is commencing ... and the underfloor space is a law unto itself, but being dealt with piecemeal during rests from the real job in hand. 

Decluttering has turned into a long slog. I started from the front ... Such repairs and improvements as are reasonable are pencilled into a provisional work list with an emphasis on jobs that were put on the long finger years ago. Within the sleeping area there are plumbing, heating, wiring, bedding issues some going back to when the boat was first acquired. 

Living off grid means some things were never high priority. In six years I have only refilled the 200L water tank maybe five times. Many London Boaters bunker as much as 400L a week for toilets showers jacussis baths and such other wonder water wasters as make us 'rather bear what ills we have than fly to others that we know not of'...

There is an overflow issue to be faced with the water tank in that air is not able to escape to the outside as quickly as water goes in. Some years ago the existing through-the hull fitting was modified to accept hozelock devices, which in turn allowed for a pipe to clip directly to the hull and the tap to be turned on. But at some waterpoints pressure can be quite high and in such circumstances, as the water level rises, it can gush out of the top of the tank where at one time the water was put IN. Because the tank is black polythene, water can remain in it for years without developing algae or rust or any contamination at all. Buried in the bow under the main bed and in front of the floor-level crew bunk, it got left and partly forgotten in spite of an ongoing intention of fixing it. Now the jig is up. 

Pentargon will be moving to new ownership eventually and when it does it must not have funny little glitches. We start as we mean to go on with the final clean up before transfer. Ten hours has been spent to date on this chore alone and another ten will be needed to sort it out. I've got new fittings for the modified supply side as the pold ones were modified in a parking incident where the quay won a round. A little protector was fitted to prevent its ever happening again but the crushed brass part was not replaced at the time. That has now been rectified and work is under way to improve the overflow and also the delivery side to a pump long since disconnected. 

Black Birds Are Not Always Crows

Posted on May 5, 2018 at 5:40 PM

The English canal grid provides a priceless conduit for wildlife in, under and over the Grey Green Muddy Water traversed by Pentargon between 2011 and 2018. I am not a "specialist" when it comes to the natural world but take it in its entirety. I abhor "birders" as a group of one-subject anoraks and I can take or leave fishermen and funny mushroom hunters. My lifelong fascination is the interaction between birds and animals and trees and plants and water and [even] humans. On canal or river or estuary or up on blocks in a boat-park I can slot into that matrix and let nature come to me.

When I see a ash tree bereft of leaves in May, when all other trees are furnished, I look for untidy bunches of twigs in the top branches and listen for the sound of that most social and raucous member of the local fauna, Corvus frugilegus. Long ago I learned of the symbiotic relationship  between rooks and ash trees. These crows build their nests on the tree in early May and you think "What a shower of nutmegs; they and their nests can be shot right out of the tree with a side-by-side double barrelled 12bore".  And THEN ... The leaves burst almost overnight in mid May and the nests are totally hidden and totally safe from the gimlet eyed gamekeeper until the rookery has achieved result.  

In cities and particularly in and about brick-built canal warehouses, I listen for the disctinctive clacking of Corvus monedula. The jackdaw often consorts with the rook in winter but builds nests in chimneys and crevices giving away that it was a cliff dweller before cities were built. That is some time ago. In 21st century Britain the most likely place to find your moedula is at the local dump. But the nest is built in disused chimmnet pots high above the madding crowds. Since a surprisingly large number of town dumps and potted warehouses are sited by canals we get to acquaint with their bright beady eye ...

Starlings are found everywhere. Well! ... Except late August into September when they take their annual holidays in Somerset ... Sturnus vulgaris is an accomplished mimic and how many times have I been puzzled to hear a cuckoo or a train guardsman's whistle in entirely inappropriatriate circumstances like miles from a railway in July. (The cuckoo comes in April and sings a song in May. In June he changes tune and in July he is  away). The starling's classic habitat of forests, parks and gardens reflects classic canal territory and the starling will be seen as readily in built up areas as in wild country.

Mention of 'wild country' reminds me of my favourite, the carrion crow. A solitary bird, Corvus corone is invariably seen (like the raven) as a pair, preferring the remotest stretches of the canal grid. Being my favourite, this beautiful bird has gained a separate entry in my blog.

The commonest black bird of all, on any available water, has to be Fulica atra, the Common Coot. And. Yes! They are as common as muck. Much loved of the London Canal Community (LCC) who hang tyres over the side of their boats as soon as Winter passes in the hopes one will build a nest there, thus giving the opportunistic LCCer respite from constant cruising. They are not very bright (LCCers) because they could optimise their  mis-interpretation of The 1988 Countryside and Wildlife Act by actively encouraging the equally daft coot into building a nest and laying eggs, before moving boat, coot, nest and eggs to a prime mooring in the middle of the night ... and THEN advertising the fact that a breeding bird has set up on their boat and therefore they cannot move until the chicks are hatched ...

... there is more ... keep calling ... this is an active website ... this entry last visited ... 22thMay 2018



 NEXT Raven, Dipper, Starling, Cormorant, Blackbird, Moorhen.

Crows are Black Birds

Posted on May 5, 2018 at 5:35 PM

This article is going to write itself

 ... as if ... !!!

It's about birds of the canals ... black and blackish  birds  ... other colours may be covered elsewhere 

On Grey Green Muddy Water, one is close to nature all the time and nature is frequently even closer to one.

Birds don't rate a boat, even with windows or doors open ... so you can get right up close and comfortable ...

I'm a country lad; I've lived and loved in a rural setting most of my life.

I've learned more about the ways of birds in the past seven years on the cut than in the previous sixty on salty water.

1. All the herons in Bucks. sleepover in Hemel at weekends ... on the cricket ground by the lock.

2. Canada geese are top-class grazers but  totally devoid of food value ... unlike the swan which could make a fine dinner.

3. Kingfishers migrate down river in winter and are commonly observed in Limehouse Cut and Deptford Creek in the heart of the big smoke.

4.Sand Martins nest less than 500m from Bow roundabout and in man-made burrows on the tidal Thames.

5.Mallards can perch on a rooftop as can herons as they size up the potential of a fishpond for fresh takeaway.

6. Egyptian ducks are geese; their young are goslings.They're first-class food and breeding like rabbits around London 

BUT: This article is about black birds of the canals and waterways.

"Corvus corone" is the carrion crow and provided me with one of my greatest birdie surprises the first time I saw them on the wing.  I thought they were ravens but the territory was wrong. (it wasn't remote Iceland or Ireland!) and they were smaller than ravens anyway. The colour got me: a magnificent deep black, no shine, no iridescence,  just like my work boots when the polish is laid on but not yet buffed. There were two and they were monitoring movement on that crazy bit of the Oxford canal where you are watched by a lofty TV mast for hours ...

the article will continue to write itself ...

by and by ...

A whole range of birds has migrated into the London area to make their homes there

while the umble sparrow has moved out to the dormitory suburbs

(followed closely by the exotic ring-necked parakeet).

Brandon Groves 12.22Tues08May2018


Posted on May 3, 2018 at 5:45 AM

Sunbury Library 10.473May2018 ... Shepperton Library 09.30Sat3May2018 ...

Decluttering of Pentargon is under way and stuff not seen for years is coming to light, literally and figuratively.

There are six discrete 'erm 'areas' to the boat: ... Roof ... Engine ... Galley ... Diner ... Berths ... and "Utility" which is the cubicle containing ... the Hampshire, the Airhead, the Shower, the Washbasin ... and a Drying Room for wet sailing gear ... Just like a real boat? So decluttering can and will be compartmentalised! ... "Bunks" is in final stages and "utility" is commencing ...

A hull survey was completed by Ben Evans using ultra sound to locate weak points at the stern and a welder has been approached with a view to beefing up the rear end of the uxter plate, the only place on the whole boat which has gone below the magic 4mm figure that insurers want for the wetted surface. The rest is structurally sound and ready for another 25yrs of full on use. Everything else in the wetted surface came up trumps at 4.7mm+ which is the original thickness of Sam Springer's 3/16" plate, which was laid down in 1973. The surveyor took a test reading inside the boat, down in the bilges in the galley, which returned a reading of 4.75mm = 3/16". So much for Springers rotting away.

Back in mid March I had a marine welder in to price work and give me a "date". Today is 12th May and he has not come back in spite of some gentle reminders which are becoming more strident as the weeks pass. he has now been passed over (20th May) and the work has devolved to another equally good or maybe better marine welder who we hope will be on the job before I go away?

All 'blacking' to waist height is being progressively scraped  back to the red oxide put on in Market Harborough. As soon as the weather warms enough and my bucket of bitumen softens enough, blacking will proceed, coat by coat, until I'm satisfied it will not have to be done again for at least 10yrs. The companionway is the last piece of unacceptable carpentry on the boat and I am very lucky to have a friend at Shepperton Studios who is a set designer. Need I say more? ... well ... he is a sailor/boater ... and Damien is a marine/welder ... tempus fugit ...

Pentargon's sole plates ... [aka "floor boards"] ...  are seasoned pine, 6"x1", planed, stained and running athwart. Each plank goes to the midline, locking against its partner on the other side with the chamfered out-ends resting on the top of the chines. This detail is something I have only ever seen before on professionally built boats in the 60s but certainly not on any Springer I have actually viewed in this century. It makes for considerable storage space in the [totally dry] bilges along the whole length of the cabins and is enhanced by the slight dihedral.

During the past seven years lots of excavations were done below the sole plates and recently a 400amp cable was fitted down the centre line of the boat, spurred along the way to the bows to supply fridge and galley needs, the boat's lighting and onwards to the forward facilities such as searchlight, nav-lights and "ships whistle" ... (this is the CORRECT name for the 'audible warning of approach' on a proper boat).

I have NEVER seen a canal boat wired properly and Pentargon was unbelievable when I met it first back in 2011. During the survey, the fuses could not be found by the very competent marine engineer whom I had contracted to fail it (stet). It was obvious to both of us on that day that the wiring was done by a house electrician and, worse, someone who had missed quite a few items off whatever course he did not do. In 2012 I found over 20 discrete faults any one of which would have got me into serious trouble when I was training as an auto electrician in the 1960s. Six years on, this is only now in the final stages of rectification!!

hang in there ... there will be more ... 

Sat05May2018 ... ... ...

Tue08May2018 ... ... ...

Sat12May 2018 ... ... ...

Tue 22May18... Shepp.


Posted on May 3, 2018 at 5:15 AM

WORK IN PROGRESS Staines Library 03/05/2018 1130 to 1230


on the use of a computer and especially on how to navigate my website via "webs dot com". I spent almost an hour this morning at Sunbury Library (10oc to 11oc) figuring how to upload photos from my phone to this site. Off-grid living always turns up surprises and withdrawal from farceburk is going to be interesting. For almost five years farceburk has been my "preferred" means of making friends on the cut and keeping in touch with them.

Before that it was down to person to person contact, e-mails and texts on my mobile when I could get a signal.

NOW! My working e-mail is PENTARGONSPRINGER AT GMAIL DOT COM. The dots and @ have been intentionally omitted to prevent bots harvesting my data. The great news is that having assiduously harvested mobile phone numbers for the past six years I can contact almost ALL of those friends who are REALLY friends.

Now starts the next phase of my life: to write the book.

The book is already secreted in this website and in other websites linked to ... ... www pentargon webs com (Put in your own dots)

SARAH HENSHAW you have much to answer for. It was your volume "The Bookbarge That Floated Away" which set me on a huge circumnavigation of southern England during 2017 which has led to this. It gets worse. Because I am about to pepper your magazine with articles and make you and Nick really sweat.

"Grey Green Muddy Waters" may be my by-line although I'm considering digging up the "walltoall" identity by which I was known in Ireland.


Posted on May 3, 2018 at 5:10 AM

Silence has rained too long. It is the 3rd day of Bealtaine 2018 and Pentargon has been ashore for over four months, by far the longest period in seven years. The winter was effin awful so no regrets. Now at last the weather is breaking fair and Pentargon is getting the mother and father of a clean up. It started at the bows and worked ever so slowly backwards until the berth was cleared. All sorts of time-consuming repairs and mini modifications were completed as the de-clutter proceeded inexorably towards the utility room...

The roof has been cleared of all the stuff considered totally essential while cruising but now definitely "optional extras".  And the roof needs painting preparation. One of the windows is out temporarily to fit a new glass. It was smashed by Storm Katerina while tied up in Reading 18mts ago. Luckily I had panes of toughened glass made by Vicarage of Upminster some years ago to cover such an eventuality. Channelglaze have gone gagga and can only supply a whole window now with a lead time of six to eight weeks ... for £500 a unit!  I got four panes AND four shaped sheets of Makralon for a FIFTH of that ... 

TBC ...

Shepperton Lawn Lie-over

Posted on December 8, 2017 at 11:15 AM

Dave and Pete and Paul and all

The Weir Hotel Lie-over

Posted on December 8, 2017 at 11:15 AM

... The Weir Hotel in heavy rain as darkness closes in. And away in the morning early for whatever lies ahead ...


I slipped Sunbury wharf, four and two and puttered gently downstream past The Magpie to port and a moored fleet of river cruisers to starboard til clear of them. pulling the tiller over into a wode sweeping four and one which planted Pentargon broadside on and convenient to throw a warp around the top bollard of Sunbury lock landing stage. The weather was turning nasty but I was in the lee. Leaving the engine ticking over to charge up the leisure batteries, I took myself topside to empty the lock and open the gates. The way Sunbury is designed, you end up on the 'wrong side' after opening the gates and need to walk the length of the lock to cross over the top gates and retrace your steps on the other side to get back to the boat. Of course those who have loads of crew will not have this challenge. This is a SHNUG event. Back on the wharf, the warp was shipped and the front pushed out before stepping onto the boat to engage the gearbox and give her way. This allowed the boat to proceed gently and diagonally across the open lock, fetching up in the top right corner where the steps are, and in "Very Slow Speed Mode".

 "Very Slow Speed Mode"  (VSSM) is the solo sailor's best friend and I teach it to my students as a first principle. Whatever a boat can do, it will do it better in VSSM.  Within seconds I've scarpered up the steps (in VSSM!) carrying a centre mounted painter which is very tightly bound to an available bollard.

Normally 'very tightly bound' is not a good idea in a lock, but the boat will be rising once I lift the paddles and the contol panel is close to the top right corner.

sunbury wharf lie over

Posted on December 8, 2017 at 11:10 AM

check atlas and remember hurst park before that

Molesley Lock

Posted on December 8, 2017 at 11:10 AM


Brentford to Kingston

Posted on October 17, 2017 at 2:00 PM

I'm just readying this one for the future!!

Booked to leave Brentford at 1oc tomorrow for Teddington and Kingston.

rain or no rain.

check diary for real date times

Limehouse to Brentford solo Tue 17/Oct/2017

Posted on October 17, 2017 at 1:55 PM

I had booked for release from Limehouse "as early as was reasonable" and the lock-keeper suggested 9.30 am 

At 9.30 am, I nosed into the tide and pointed the bow West. 

Tower bridge at 1010. On tickover .... never raised a rev in anger at any time ... let the flowing tide do the hard work ...

Hammersmith at 1230 ... Chelsea Bridge at 1300 ... pulled up outside Thameslock at 1330 on the button

to debunk a few theories ... and deliver more than three bags full .... to Parsley ... and then go in the townside lock to tie up ...

Charcoal on the Lea

Posted on October 17, 2017 at 1:50 PM

The way the tides were timing, the boat had to be out on the river, maybe behind Lot's Ait, maybe tied longside John Kenton for a dawn departure. She came out of Thameslock on a flooding mid afternoon tide, but the flow outside was so strong she could not make against it and had to tie up til the flow slackened, about sundown! Having overnighted alongside John Kenton's "Thames Queen", she slipped early morning and under cover of darkness with the last of the still rising tide to be out on the fairway at slack high, about 7am.

We then had to wait til dawn (well official sunrise if you must be pedantic) because Pentargon has no working nav lights at the moment .

By this time the downflow should be just starting and from then on it was a matter of taking the increasing flow right through London to arrive at Blackwall point at low water. By sticking the nose into Bow Creek and either fighting the outflow of the Lea or going aground or anchoring. the tide would eventually turn and once we had 5m at Silvertown we would have enough water to take up up to the lock at Bow. We had booked the lock through official channels with a date and time. That was the bookwork side sorted. We then established direct comms with the lock-keeper an old friend who knows right well that book plans and tidal reality rarely co-incide.

Between us we decided the best time to come in was on the 5.30am tide. Adjustments were made and we tied up at the lock cottage on top of the flood about 4.30  to let an ebb and a second flood pass us by and ready for a very early entry to the Limehouse Cut. Everything went to plan and we tied up for a cuppa at the magic ring about 6.30 and later went up VickyE20 and onwards to our bunkering. Suffice to say almost 150kg of best quality paraguayan lumpwood was stowed on the roof by 9.30 when we said hello to Laurie Watkins and admired his lovely new (104yo) dutch barge.  

I'm just reserving the blog dates.The stories will come later. (1858/17/10/2017)

Brentford solo descent to Bow Creek

Posted on October 12, 2017 at 4:55 AM

Including almost being rolled by a City Cruiser.

A previous phone call from Lennie to lock in on Weds morning tide. At 6oc!. meant having to go down on Tuesday as there are no [working] nav lights on Pentargon. Sunset is 5.20pm today in London.

Tues.10th October. Sunrise 7.15am BST 

6.20 Tide reaching top at John's boat but still flooding. Cast off at 6.30 and tied up outside Thameslock by 6.45am. Walk to Morrisons for 7oc opening and a bottle of milk and change to canary suit. Cast off at 7.30

Chiswick bridge 8am and Hammersmith 8.30. Albert Bridge 9.30. Tower 10.30 and Cutty Sark 1130 on slack side of the river. For the first time today the engine was revved higher than tickover. 12.10 rounded Blackwall Point in VHF with VTS on Ch14 and crossed over. With some difficulty as the last of the outgoing was on the north side right across Bow Creek mouth. Eventually cleared the lightship about 12.25 at a crawl and then hit the outgoing of the River Lea as the tide was gone from the Creek. Recollections of the Avonmouth entry into Bristol but much more tedious as the wind was competing with the flow to impede progress. 

Could not be arsed by 1oc and I got 17hrs to get to Bow Lock so I tied up and went for a siesta. By 14.30 there was plenty water under the boat and an inward tidal flow. By 1500 Pentargon was off BowLocks but unable to get in due to a very intrusive mudbank and fukn shopping trolley; in exactly the wrong place. But half an hour of faffin abart got the boat alongside and tied after a fashion. The next two hours was spent cleaning up the landing ala lengthsman. The site is in rag order. 

The four hour estimate from Brentford to Bow was well withing compass. I intentionally chose to use tickover all the way. But Greenwich reach and the outflow of Bow Creek put a full hour on the trip. The climb to Bow Locks is entirely down to tide lift, just as is the case at Dartford. 5m actual at Silvertown is needed to float Pentargon outside of BowLock. In the event Lennie arrived early the following morning and had opened the outside gates before 5.30, so befoe 6am I was already trawling up through duckweed scummed Three Mills with an hour and a half to go til sunrise.

later I'll tell you how a city cruiser tried to roll Pentargon over abeam Surrey Quays by powering past with no thought at all for what the bastard probably thought was a fragile narrowboat. And the fuck you attitude of London VTS when I contacted them. The cruiser put up 2m waves and suffice to say I lost only my boathook

Escape from Brentford

Posted on October 12, 2017 at 4:50 AM

Fun in the afternoon as we locked out at 3.45pm but could not fight the flow at the corner to get into The Thames Queen. 

Brentford Stay

Posted on October 12, 2017 at 4:50 AM

So Pentargon spent the day on Lots Ait while Mick went home and Pogue Took a look or two underneath

Kingston Brentford

Posted on October 12, 2017 at 4:50 AM

Seriously bad planning meant we missed the gate at Richmond! Read all about it later.

Shepperton Bottom

Posted on October 12, 2017 at 4:45 AM

Sunbury Molesey K-on-Thames

Beyond Windsor

Posted on October 12, 2017 at 4:45 AM

Staines Laleham (Abbey Molyneux) Chertsey Shepperton top

Beyond Cookham

Posted on October 12, 2017 at 4:45 AM

Maidenhead Bray Windsor