Review Of The Bison  

   Electric Outboard

   100 lb Trolling Motor 

Welcome  to my review of the Bison 24 volt 100 lb electric outboard trolling motor. 

     

     I have decided to produce this review for those like me who wanted to use it as an outboard motor on a lightweight GRP motor cruiser. The only reviews I could find were short and not terribly informative. Certainly way short of what I wanted to see and nowhere near enough to make a balanced informed decision about the wisdom of purchasing one for my boat . It looked as if the Bison 100 lb trolling motor would suit my needs but I would have to be my own guinea pig.

       The trials I have given it aim to produce  very much close, but, it must be remembered that they are  approximate figures.  Rigorous testing would be preferable but Hey ! no one pays me to do this. It has been written  for the benefit of those who know little or nothing about the subject. So remember these are my figures for my boat and are only designed and should only be used for rough guidance purposes.

The Bison 100lb Trolling Motor

The Bison 100 lb is the largest and most powerful in the Bison range. If there had been a more powerful motor I would probably have bought that just to be on the safe side, although I felt sure that for the purposes of inland cruising on canals or at most very slight current from a river  the Bison 100 lb will be sufficient.  Rivers like the Thames or similar. I think not.  

 

The Boat 

The boat is a GRP 30ft Dawncraft with a modified wooden top.This means its a little heavier than the standard GRP Dawncraft, but it is still a lightweight craft especially when compared with a steel boat of a similar  size.

 

Engine Power

Power is provided by 2 by 110 amp hour leisure batteries connected in series. They have to be connected in series and not parralel because this size Bison motor operates on 24 volts. This size boat could, if one chose easily accommadate 4 batteries or more if desired thus providing a greater cruising distance.

 

Battery Power 

Battery power at the moment is provided by 1 by 100 Watt Solar Panel. For extensive cruising on a daily or near daily basis this is not enough. For such purposes 2 by 150 watt panels would I imagine be needed. Possibly more but at the moment I cant say. I will be buying, in the near future at least 1 more 100 watt panel. It would be appreciated if at some time someone would let me know what I should have bought.

 

Winter Cruising 

I only do short distance moves at most in the winter and solar panels will not produce anywhere near enough power to be used for lengthy daily cruises. A back up system power supply provided by a generator will be required in the winter for extensive cruising . 

 

The Tests 

The tests will be based upon speed per mile at each setting  and distance per battery charge. They will be performed on the Grand Union Canal and on a day or days with very little wind from any direction. 

 

Pre - Test Issues 

1) Very poor wiring instructions for the Circuit Breaker, which incidentally I suggest is essential and should  perhaps be provided. The instruction booklet says to wire the negative directly to the battery and the positive to the circuit breaker and then to the battery. The label on the motor says to do the opposite. For the record it is negative to the battery and positive to the circuit breaker and then to the battery.  

2) Given the instructions about keeping the motor dry because of the possibility of water ingress, arguably a tailor made waterproof  cover should be provided.  

3) The supplier has recommended that the engine is not left in the water for extended periods of time due to the possibility of water ingress. If this is the case it might have been an idea if the seals were of a more durable quality, after all they are not the most expensive item but there ability to prevent water ingress is crucial.    

4) A reasonable sized metal "O" ring through which to thread some chain and a padlock would have been nice   

 

Advantages and Pleasures in Brief 

1) Without any doubt cruising without either smelly or odourless fuel exhaust fumes is an undeniable pleasure.

2) Without any doubt cruising without much / any appreciable noise at the lower speed levels is also an undeniable pleasure.

3)  Although there is an initial set up cost with panels and batteries  it is not long before the costs of fuel quickly begin to be offset by the amount of free cruising.

4)  Time will tell but the supplier assures me that these motors require very little if any attention. All petrol outboards will have a basic servicing cost each year  and not inexpensive repair cost. At about 60 pounds per hour plus parts 3 hours of repair/servicing pays for a new electric outboard .

5) The engine is very light and can easily be fitted  on and taken off.  In complete contrast to an outboard which is a heavy awkward lump for anything of a meaningful size and I think is best done as a two man job. 

6) The engine itself is very cheap at 200 pounds  to buy.

7) On Canal and River Trust waterways there is a 25% reduction in the licence fee  which almost pays for the engine in itself! (Correct at time of writing April 2019)

7)  There is no need for  having highly flammable fuel on board. 

 

The Tests

The speed tests were conducted early in the morning on a ccrips but sunny morning with very little if any wind  1 measured  half mile at speed setting 5 took 12 mins. 10 secs. giving a speed of   2.479 mph

1         "             "     "     "     "           "      4    "      13     "     28   "          "      "      "     "     2.259  mph 

1         "             "     "     "     "           "      3    "      15     "     20   "           "       "      "      "     2.027  mph   

1         "             "      "     "     "           "      2    "   18       "      10   "           "        "     2      "     1.657  mph

No test was done for speed setting 1 because it is very slow.     

The Maiden Voyage 

Up very early, its a fine morning. Began procrastinating with one tea after another, followed by breakfast. About 10 ish set the engine up on the transom and then connected the leads to the 24 volt battery arrangement. Would it work? Why wouldn't it. Of course it did. A very, very quiet hum even as I was a couple of feet from the motor itself  An immediate problem is identified. Steering this is not as as easy as I would like. The extending arm does not extend very far and is soon pushed back into place by the tiller I have fashioned. In the long term something will need to be done about this. Its not a fault of the manufacturer, its me putting the engine to a use not envisaged.             

         Delightful voyage of 1 mile. Amazing, its almost totally silent in the lowest setting and not much louder in its highest . I can hear people speaking on the towpath, the bird noise  in the trees or on the water. There was even what sounded like an alarming splash behind me. It was just 2 coots arguing. I can listen to T.M.S. for example at a normal volume instead of louder than I would like to in order to overcome engine noise. 

       I would have gone further but my 2 test batteries are 2 old ones close to finishing point. One is a starter battery and one a leisure battery which is not an ideal mix. 

       I tested all speed levels. At lower speeds the boat tends to wander a little more. The higher speed levels are at   speeds  that are  perfectly adequate for inland canal waterways cruising. Top speed is a speed that would be considered  too fast for passing moored boats at. 

       I have not been far but  under no circumstances could I recommend cruising  upstream of a river like the Thames. Whilst I think it possible to move along at top speed, progress would be slow and there is always the potential the higher up one goes of stronger  currents, especially after a lot of heavy rain. One summer a few years ago now, the Thames was closed for weeks and weeks because of the amount of rainfall in the form of very heavy showers making cruising dangerous.  I heard that one boat actually  became stuck high and dryish on a weir. It is i think highly inadvisable to travel against tides and current in areas and rivers such as the Norfolk Broads.   

         But that is the Thames, Norfolk Broads and similar. My next short cruise will be along a short stretch of canal into which 2 small streams enter.  It has very slow moving water and should cause few problems. Its also very clean and clear freshwater, which means there is a lot of marine vegetation growing in the water. Huge green leaves waving around beneath the surface.   

 

The Second Test 

   This second test is necessary to see how the boat engine performs against a modest  outflow current  and travelling upstream against a downstream flow. How much of a struggle at full speed is it.  

        In actual fact on the day of this test there was also a bit of wind against me, just to make it a little harder. I put the boat into speed setting 2 and moved off. Not terribly far and not terribly fast, but progress against wind and current at a slow speed setting  is possible. Obviously progress will be better at a higher speed setting.

        More of a problem was mooring up with the wind and current behind me a widebeam boat to pass by and only a small space after to moor in at the precise moment the battery is about to fade away. Moral. Try to be aware of how much power is in the battery.  

        I have spent a short time practising reversing. The boat can be turned  180 degrees almost on its own axis. Its not particularly potent at any speed setting in reverse but it moves the boat. This fact is one reason at least for not fitting to a heavier steel? boat. The lack of reverse thrust power makes stopping quickly unlikely because of the forward momentum. 

 

Below is a photo of the first stream's outflow. A current can be seen as it discharges. Above the lock water flows over the gates and is usually a sure sign of recent rain thus adding a small amount more to the downward current. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

         

 

 

The Third Test

      The third test  is to see how far the boat can travel before the two 110 amp hour batteries  batteries need recharging. The test will begin just below Cowley Lock and I will go as far as possible into London. This a distance of approx. 23 miles with no locks. I will travel at speed setting 3. I do not like just standing all day long so there will be stops every couple of hours or so but the batteries will not be recharged at all. The solar panel also will not be connected to the batteries. This is because the panel's input will vary depending on how much sunlight there is; is it cloudy or sunny, do I travel at dawn or midday to name two adequate reasons.   

       This test began at 5.30 in the morning on a quite beautiful day. Speed setting 3 was originally chosen but because the propeller soon became clogged up with weed speed setting 2 was used. When clogged up one feels an immediate loss of power and when looking at the engine its obvious by the way it seems to start and stop, again and again that something is wrong. Its a simple but slightly disgusting task to disentangle the mixture of rubbish and weed. A few times old carrier bags were met with. These puller the tiller one way or the other and are then gone. I now only travel at speed settings one or two. 

      There is a lot of floating rubbish in the London waterways. In places it really is absolutely disgusting. Shame to say but looking at the way black bin bags are left neatly tied up  en masse beside the towpath I would guess that it is boaters leaving much of the rubbish, Its not just boaters of course leaving their rubbish for someone else to pick up, there are the fisherman, the drinkers, and not to be forgotten the dog shit bag leavers. What possesses someone to pick the dog shit up in a plastic bag and leave it either hanging on a tree or chuck it in the canal. 

       I did not go as far as I would have liked. 5 miles was the distance traveled on 1 charge. 2 sets of batteries are therefore recommended. Recharging is dependent upon solar but in good sunny weather each battery takes about 5 or 6 hours to recharge with the 2 panels I have.

 

The Fourth Test

     The fourth test will be an assessment of performance over time and will appear perhaps in September.

      I had proposed to do an extended cruise from London to Oxford. However the difficulty with moving westwards out of London has meant that this section may not appear until next year.   

Conclusions.

     There is no doubt in my mind that electric engines such as this will become more and more popular. Cheap to buy, economical to run, environmentally friendly, lightweight, quiet and  together with the predicted, soon to happen improvements in battery storage capacity and increased battery recharging speeds etc they are the future. It would be helpful if CRT would introduce battery recharging  facilities at say water points  but, regrettably, I would be very surprised at CRT doing anything, anytime soon.   

     The 100lb trolling motor on smaller GRP vessels for example the 18 to 25 foot range will of course be speedier than mine and presumably travel further. Having said that for the extra expense of another battery and the higher price of the larger trolling motors even if the smaller engine would suffice  I would say "Get the larger engine" you will not regret having a little more power but you might well wish you had a little more power.

    Sooner or later I envisage that 150 and 200lb trolling motors and quite possibly even more powerful motors will be available although I suspect they will be running off 36 or 48 volt battery systems. If a larger motor  had been available I would have bought it instead. Perhaps my next one.  

     The solar panel set up I have is probably not what those who know about these things would recommend for the task that  has to be done. Advice as to what should have been done will be gratefully received.

      Solar panels are fine in the summer months and even if cloudy batteries can still be recharged,, perhaps a couple of days. But in winter it could take a fortnight maybe longer. Solar sounds a great idea until the reality of available sunlight in winter is understood. 

       * Had I known then what I know now about solar I would have bought 2  by 350 watt  panels  or similar rather than 2 and then 2 more 100 watt panels.   

Bison 100lb Trolling Motor   

     Below is a photograph of the Bison 100lb trolling Motor attached to my boat and taken in Paddington Basin. The engine has been in the water for 5 weeks or so  It is perhaps a little lower in the water than I would ideally like but it works. Underneath can be seen a green plastic bag, a modern day blight . On the surface of the water is duckweed ; another modern day blight. The water itself however is very clear.  

      

The date today as I write this is July 4  2019.  I have encountered a severe problem with this electric motor. It is terrible when travelling through blanket weed. It becomes entangled so quickly whether in forward or reverse. I highly recommend that where there is any expectation of blanket weed DO NOT GO THERE!!!

 In London at the moment blanket weed is not the only problem for these electric engines. Over the last 6 weeks or so there has been a steady build up of duckweed. 6 weeks ago it caused few problems and was easily brushed aside, but now it covers the whole canal and is growing increasingly thick. It does not stop one moving but it causes a frictional resistance that ensures slower movement for the same power usage. This is ok for short hops but of course whereas one could get 4 miles from one set of batteries this distance will be reduced. Its not possible for me to suggest a figure because I can not move more than a few yards   because of the blanket weed. 

Below is a picture of the propeller taken out of the water after travelling about 20 yards forwards  maximum and punting back to the bank side. Nobody is going far with a propeller clogged up in this fashion and this quickly in these conditions.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is duckweed at Kensal Rise stretching right across to the other bank

Thank you for reading my review 

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Diary Preamble 

 

August 1

Initially I had intended to write a diary about a significantly longer trip to The Fairport Cropredy music  festival at Cropredy whilst also testing the Bison 100 lb trolling motor.  However the quantity of blanket weed and duck weed growing  in and on the canal made movement problematic to say the least.  This weed issue has now resolved itself and I can move a reasonable distance without having to stop every few minutes to remove weed from the propeller.  I tested this a few days ago and was able to move with complete freedom a mile or so west of Sainsburys at Ladboke Grove.  It is from here that my trip to Northampton will begin. 

     It's an unpromising place from which to start.  Behind me is the train line into Paddington and a huge shunting area. Noisy throughout the day,smelly with diesel fumes, rubbish and graffitti everywhere and what looks like an industrial war zone  for the first few miles to Alperton.  10 / 15 years ago almost nobody moored overnight  anywhere between Kensal and Alperton but I imagine with the increasing number of boats what was thought of as a "don't stop here for anything other than an emergency spot  "is now becoming more and more popular if thats the right word.  It's still bleak around Park Royal and so awful is it especially in winter it  is likely to stay that way. 

     In the morning and evening is the raucous sound of parakeets to be heard.  Behind  the shunting area and  the Hitachi building is their roosting site.  There are hundreds if not thousands of birds here.  Early this morning  I saw 4 seperate flocks heading North East that by rough counting appeared to be well over 100 strong.  Despite such a large number leaving there  appeared no loss in numbers at the roosting site.

      I first came across these not unattractive brilliantly coloured, green birds with red beaks birds in 2005 when I saw a small flock screeching their way along the Thames at Richmond.  This I think was in the very early days of the history of yet another invasive species.   It was thought then that they would not become a problem.because they did not have the ability to survive a cold winter.  How wrong can you be.  They survived because they either learnt to or naturally huddled together for warmth when it was cold.  15 years later there are now estimated to be at least 30, 000 breeding pairs.    They have been incredibly successful.  What will another 15 years do to their numbers.

     The diary will be written on a daily basis and uploaded as soon as  possible.   I will be having several stops of a day or more along the way particularly in Northampton  which will not be written about.   Seeing people. bad weather, laundry,  I hate cruising in the rain , charging batteries other stuff  etc. but weather permitting. 

Tomorrow, at dawn, I leave. 

 

DIARY  OF A TRIP TO NORTHAMPTON 

 

 

Aug 2

It's just gone 4 in the morning, its dawn and according to my preamble, today at dawn I should be leaving. 

 That's not quite what I mean, although its dawn it's not light enough to see what I am doing, or where I am going for starters and secondly I have had no tea and I like at least 2 cups of tea before I do anything.   Today is uuusual for tea making.  Yesterday I ran out of gas.  Down the Harrow Road half a mile to the garage with a Londis shop that sells gas.  No good they only sell Flo gas.  I need Calor.  So up the hill the other way to the other garage that sells gas and the other Londis shop ... that only sells Flogas.  Brilliant Fan bloody tastic. 

     So between 4 and 5 this morning I'm sat beside a small fire and a kettle perched on top boiling water for my 2 cups of tea. 

    It's a warm morning I am sat outside in just Jean's and a tee shirt.  Behind me is the runble of trains and above me is a beautiful clear sky.  What a morning  to begin.  I can't believe more people don't make the effort to cruise this early in the morning on such a fine morning.  Thank goodness they dont.  No procrastinating today.  Another half hour and I will put the Bison in the water connect the leads to the batteries and off I go  for the 3 mile trip through Deadsville to Alperton  a.k.a. Park Royal and the light industrial areas around the A40 and North Circular. 

     Parakeets flew back to their roosting site by the Hitachi building last night flock after flock after flock, literally hundreds and hundreds of birds. I may well be wrong about the origins of these birds. I heard from a fellow boater that it was Jimi Hendrix who released a few back in the seventies and it is from these few that these flocks descend.

     My knowledgeable mate Vince stated  before I asked that the Jimi Hendrix connection  is a myth.  He says they are aviary escapees.  Given the simple logic  and as a man who has had his own aviary I expect he may well be right. 

     Problem no 1.  Within 300 yards

It's just gone 4 in the morning, its dawn and according to my preamble, today at dawn I should be leaving. 

 That's not quite what I mean, although its dawn it's not light enough to see what I am doing, or where I am going for starters and secondly I have had no tea and I like at least 2 cups of tea before I do anything.   Today is uuusual for tea making.  Yesterday I ran out of gas.  Down the Harrow Road half a mile to the garage with a Londis shop that sells gas.  No good they only sell Flo gas.  I need Calor.  So up the hill the other way to the other garage that sells gas and the other Londis shop ... that only sells Flogas.  Brilliant Fan bloody tastic. 

     So between 4 and 5 this morning I'm sat beside a small fire and a kettle perched on top boiling water for my 2 cups of tea. 

    It's a warm morning I am sat outside in just Jean's and a tee shirt.  Behind me is the runble of trains and above me is a beautiful clear sky.  What a morning  to begin.  I can't believe more people don't make the effort to cruise this early in the morning on such a fine morning.  Thank goodness they dont.  No procrastinating today.  Another half hour and I will put the Bison in the water connect the leads to the batteries and off I go  for the 3 mile trip through Deadsville to Alperton  a.k.a. Park Royal and the light industrial areas around the A40 and North Circular. 

     Parakeets flew back to their roosting site by the Hitachi building last night flock after flock after flock, literally hundreds and hundreds of birds. I may well be wrong about the origins of these birds. I heard from a fellow boater that it was Jimi Hendrix who released a few back in the seventies and it is from these few that these flocks descend.

     My knowledgeable mate Vince stated  before I asked that the Jimi Hendrix connection  is a myth.  He says they are aviary escapees.  Given the simple logic  and as a man who has had his own aviary I expect he may well be right. 

     Problem no 1.  Within 300 yards

pular place for people to come to with the idea of feeding the pigeons and water fowl.  The  hedge area that runs along side  the towpath is very much overgrown and carpeted with ivy. Thistles nettles brambles etc.  Its a perfect habitat for rats. I saw at least 10 different rats in an area of approx. 30 sq. yd.  Where you see one there are probably 10 maybe more  close by that you dont see. 

     I thought that was an amount the manager of Sainsbury ought to know about.  So I told him that he might have a rat problem.  He was entirely unconcerned.  They are not in the store so I do not need to bother was his attitude.

     A local man like me also thinks differently.  He sees them every day and he knows the area, he has seen more than I and he too thinks this is an issue deserving of attention.  Wonder whose right.

     Rats are a problem nationwide.  True.   But they will be much more of a problem when plenty of food and a  perfect habitat are provided together with when those who ought to be concerned are not.

      So I moved  up past the golf course to Perivale and moored up.  It's been an enjoyable morning listened to the cricket  while I cruised in virtual silence.

   The duckweed which has almost disappeared from Kensal to Alperton is back.  I'm hoping the blanket weed is not. I cannot see any floating on the surface so fingers crossed.

 

Aug 3

   Cracking morning.  Beautiful sunrise, clear sky, blah blah.  Its 5.45 and I have just been passed by an early riser in a small yacht.  Interestingly he has an electric outboard too.  Even more interestingly his engine appears to be  fixed in place and he has a seperate tiller.   Interesting to me that is because steering my boat is a problem  due to the way the engine has to be set up  and steered and there, passing me by,  maybe a  solution.  

     The 2 batteries that I drained of energy yesterday are nowhere near fully charged so  I will not leave until probably lunchtime at the cricket. 

      The batteries still not charged so I have had to use the other set. I managed to reach my target mooring at Southall but power in both sets of batteries is low.   Although the day was warm the sunshine was very hazy at best.   Charging with solar is slow.  I anticipate being here for 2 days at least  perhaps 4 waiting for the batteries to recharge if the sunshine levels stay low.  

      There were large quantities of duckweed most of the way.  I remember a summer holiday trip with my then teenage daughter and nephew  round about late July early August.   There was none of this weed growth then, particularly the thick blanket coverage of extensive  areas.   A couple of long term boaters who regularly used to go to London do not remember it either.   It would appear to be a modern day development.

     Its cause apparently is an excess of nutrients. Nutrients come from many sources.  The water products of animal life, the breaking down of vegetable matter leaf mould duckweed etc  rubbish food etc and finally human waste mainly from boaters but not exclusively.

     Duckweed growth can be curbed by the use of barley straw in the water.it would seem.  Why then have CRT not used it.  They employ a resident ecologist and should  know of the use of barley straw. But still they have not used it. 

     They could also explore the possibility of introducing grass carp.  Grass carp guzzle plant growth grow to a substantial size and  provide goid sport for fisherman Grass carp are not a native species so of course this needs to be thought about. However the water temperatures are supposed to be too cool for them too breed.  Could they  interbreed with native carp.  If they could would it matter.  In the long term duckweed is a problem that needs to be addressed.

     My theory as to why they have not used barley straw is because it would cost money and CRT it seems to me runs something like a system of "crisis management " ie if it is not essential to do something then dont bother. 

      Currently, every other day a barge is being transported by a tug to Adelaide dock where the contents are loaded onto 4 or 5  trucks 30 tonners I would imagine.  To go I dont where.   How much does this cost, wages, fuel, equipment, cost of disposal.   CRT pay for this to be disposed of.  EH!  I would have thought  that maybe  somebody  somewhere has a use for this and is willing to pay ie green manure.

      So I phoned CRT to find out.  I was told that they do pay to have it disposed of.   

     Why dont you  find or look to see if anyone will pay or at least dispose of it free for usage as green manure I asked.  

      Oh, that's a good idea said the lady who knew about the disposal of duckweed.  Unbelievable.   

      *This year though such a course of inaction has brought an unexpected problem. A few days ago down at Little Venice /Paddington hundreds of fish were found dead.  The cause of death seems obvious to me de-oxygenation  of the water caused by the excessive growth of duckweed.  It is quite likely that CRT think this is the cause to, because the other day they have 3  teams at Little Venice oxygenating the water.    But when it came to the news report there was no mention of de-oxygenation and excessive growth of duckweed as the cause.  Instead we learn that tests are to be done to check that it is not pollution.

     Damage limitation.  Duplicity that borders dishonesty?  I have no issue with checking that it is not pollution that is the cause but to make no mention  of the excessive growth of duckweed and the fact that this is caused because CRT have been incompetent  surprise surprise is misleading to say the least. 

    Prevention so it is said is better than cure. So perhaps rather than trying to cure the problem with their daily  duckweed gathering operation  and goodness knows how much this costs perhaps they could look at  preventing it in the first place.

       In all probability it could duckweed growth could not be completely prevented but I feel certain, absolutely certain, that there would be a lot less to cure.

      And the dead fish.  It turns out to be a combination of factors .  Duckwed growth is a major cause, but contributing was some very heavy rain showers introducing cold water to the canal which in turn caused the sediment to be stirred up and thus were the fish deprived of oxygen.  

      The next appearance of the diary is likely to be at least August 6. This is due to the batteries needing to be recharged and the weather being very cloudy and overcast. One of the limitations of solar power.

 

* I contacted CRT about the dead fish and the barges carrying duckweed etc. I found out as I expected that the dead fish had nothing whatsoever to do with pollution.   A report is to be sent to me and explaining why these fish have died on masse.  I will print it below for the benefit of those interested if it ever appears. 

      At the moment CRT pay to have 4 or 5 truckloads every other day  to have this duckweed  loaded onto trucks and taken away.  PAY TO HAVE IT TAKEN AWAY!!!

 2 Questions.

Is there nobody willing to pay for this.  There  must be hundreds if not thousands of tons of product convertible to green manure on the whole system .

Perhaps there is nobody willing to buy it.  I cant quite believe that but surely there is somebody willing to transport it away for usage as green manure and  at no cost to CRT.  Isnt there?

*see Dan Barnett Contracts Manager CRT

 Aug 6

     Its quite a breezy day today.  I have put off moving for some time.  Finally at about 1 o'clock  I cast off. First obstacle literally just around the next corner was a tug pushing a houseboat.  The roof of the houseboat was higher than the tug's cabin and because of this and the wind he was all.over the place. With the breeze, a headwind with some gusty crossings I was not exactly  steering a direct either.   I moved to the bank and waited.   He's a lot bigger than me and if he hits a stationary craft it's all his fault.

   But he passed by ok.   I carried on a little further but this engine is low powered and really is not capable of handling with full control  when at any moment a gust can blow you across the canal  where waiting you  on the  opposite  side  is the immaculately well tended bank by CRT.   Immaculately well tended that is if you want jumbled matted growth 10  feet high and stretching 6 feet out into the canal. There is more to say about the inspirational vegetation management as practised by CRT and their contractors Fountains. 

     I gave up after half a mile and moored up just before Southall.  Total progress today half a mile. 

    I will leave at dawn tomorrow when hopefully the wind is lighter.

     I dont mind wind behind me.  It gives a little bit of oomph to my progress.   I  would have to say  I'm not keen on a headwind but a light headwind is Ok.   But gusty cross winds and a stiff headwind  are a definite No! No!

     Over the last 2 days while waiting for the batteries to re-charge is the realisation that  2 ×100 watt panels are not really sufficient for longer distance trips. Cloudy weather provides a very small amount of solar even with summer daylight hours.  Of course if its sunny  with little cloud things are better but still not great.  With that in mind I am contemplating the purchase of 2 more panels.   Double the energy.  Double the distance.     

     I will also try wiring the panels up in series  and connecting to the engine leads and thus have power feeding in whilst moving.    

    It's as well as I did stop.   A short distance further on is a large development of an old gas works.  This has a huge area for the wind to sweep across unchecked.   I would have to stopped here anyway.

 

 

Aug  7

   Set off for Bulls Bridge a little later than intended.  The first glint of the sun's ray's could be seen.  A very calm and still morning with a crystal clear sky. 

    That didn't last long.  20 minutes later the clouds  start appearing and the wind starts to blow.  The wind factor is important because up ahead is huge development site  which has been cleared.  There are significant cross winds which I hoped to avoid.   If I cant avoid them I must moor up or pull the boat. Luckily for me I passed by. 

    On the way I could not help noticing several large clumps of knotweed 12 feet high  and sometimes spread over 100 feet of bank.  The power of this plant is awesome.  Normally little makes its way through bramble but what does has a fight on its hands, but knotweed masters  the bramble. 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above part of a massive clump of Japanese Knotweed 

 

  Turning right at Bulls Bridge I see there is no end to the duckweed anytime soon either.  There is blanket weed as well and I had to stop ( had no choice) and remove a large clump.  But they are not the only issues that needs to be addressed.  Water lilies,attractive to look at in a pond are appearing and spreading.  They have a considerable root system.   At the moment I do not know for sure whether there is a long term problem for boats but 

2 things

A they will cause me a problem 

B  I dont suppose CRT have  plans to address this issue unless of course it becomes a crisis. 

    Later today I will try to have a chat with CRT 's resident ecologist and see what he has to say .

 I want to know to what extent barley straw would help and also would dredging help.   I suspect dredging would help.  This weed problem did not occur years ago.   Years ago the canals when built were 5 feet deep bank and towpath side and 6 feet deep in the middle.  This is often not the case anymore.  In many places boaters will find it impossible to moor up because there is only a foot or less of water depth. 

     I know the Grand Union quite well between Rickmansworth and Berkhamsted for example.  I have never known it to be dredged except for one small stretch south of Berko.   2 years ago I spotted a small official looking grey tender with 4 official looking people on.  "What are you doing"  I asked.   "Surveying the bottom for future dredging. "  "When would that happen"   I asked.   "Next year." they said.   "Really"  "Oh yes for sure they" assured me. 

2 years later guess what

Absolutely  fuck all! What a surprise.

 

   I have just been to library to upload diary for the last couple of hours.   The sky looks rather grey but I dont really want to hang about in Hayes.   So off I go under the bridge 200 yards away a gust of wind blows me into the well maintained opposite bank of brambles and nasty shower of rain begins.   Moral if the weather looks shit or could be about to turn shit WAIT.

     So now I'm moored up and stuck in Hayes. 

     Later I moved another mile.  Past  the Hanson cement works ." I award the Hanson cement works part of the Heidelberg Cement Group first prize for designing  the most aesthetically pleasing cement  works "  No chance.  It would still be no chance even if the prize were for least aesthetically displeasing.  It really is awful.    

       I stopped for what I thought would be the day, but lo, the wind dropped and the water looked calm and placid.   An hour or probably less to a more auspicious mooring.   Why not.   It was good for 500 yards and then there was the wind blowing me around. 

      So I finished for the day.  It's just too windy. 

 

Aug 8

I set off in the morning at 5.15.  As calm as can be . Last nights mooring was rather poor.  Just outside West Drayton underground.  Noisy, well lit  and until late at night.  Bad nights sleep. 

     The towpath beside me  is having a path /cycleway installed.  This seems to be part of a programme to make the towpaths user friendly even in winter and all the way to London.

      Nobody wants to walk far on a wet puddle strewn towpath so this would appear to be a good idea and in so far as it goes I would generally agree.   But there is a problem, and it's a problem growing every month if not day.  The problem is that in building such a smooth highway free of traffic, cyclists will be attracted to it.  Most cyclists are fine but there are some "psycho bikers" who are not fine. 

    There are 2 types.  

Type 1 dressed in lycra and all the gear to go with being an enthusiastic amateur and riding an  expensive lightweight racing bike.  He wants to go as quickly as he can, to be in the "zone"and this cycle way provides an ideal opportunity.  

Type 2  has the potential to be lethal.  He and it's generally a he has an electric bike.  At the moment these bikes are limited to 19 miles per hour.  They could easily go faster and there is quite a movement desiring a change in the law so as to be able too.  Psycho biker no.2 has an electric bike.  He's s young and in close to peak physical condition.  His bike must be  going a lot faster than 19 miles per hour because he red-faced with a slight bead of sweat  and  pedaling as hard as possible. 

     On  any towpath are the general public, adults with children dogs oaps joggers many people with earphones oblivious too what's going on around.  Wherever there is a bridge there is often a blind corner.   Psycho biker sings his bell loudly.  Nothing wrong with that but may not slow down enough.  I predict that sooner or later an accident is bound to happen.  It could be prevented by the use of speed barriers.  I see no sign of speed barriers Sadly it looks as though accidents will.have to happen first

      So off I went with dawn chorus.  I came to a low bridge and whenever I come to.a low bridge I pull the boat through.  This is because the back cover is rather high and sometimes the profile of the bridge is not enough for the boat to go through. 

       So I moved towards the bank just before the bridge.  Ignomy,  Ignomy.  I nearly left this bit out.  I had made a slight mistake in aim.  There was further to jump than was best to chance, but I thought I would do it.  The grassy bank had morning dew upon it  the stony  cinder covered bank  dipped sharply towards the water a foot and a half below.  I took aim left foot on the grass right foot on the the stony slope and slid helplessly into the water.  A lot of areas of the canal need dredging but this one didn't.  Up to my neck I went at 6.00 in the morning.  Nobody around to help , the boat whilst I help the rope  trying to drift away to the middle. A difficult climb out of a high bank with soaking wet clothes.  At least the water was warm.  Still I managed.  Change of clothes memo to self and off I go.

     An hour later I'm at Cowley Peachey for the 1st lock.   It's the first lock I have had to do for months. It's the first of many still to come over the next 20 miles between Cowley Peachey and Marsworth. 

 

Aug 9

     Moored above Denham Deep Lock so called for the obvious reason that it is a very deep lock.  

     This scenic location set  in the middle of   Denham Country Park.   Woodland behind me and some lakes, formerly gravel extraction pits  that I cannot see but know are there are in beyond the trees in front of me. 

      It's a place I remember from nearly 25 years ago and my first boat a Dawncraft  named Natterjack Toad.  This was  a boat that myself and then girlfriend  Sally lived on in the summer  and traveled far away from in the winter.  

      For the May Bank Holiday in Denham  one year we cruised down with a friend  of hers  and moored up virtually opposite where I am now.  In those days it was possible, and many boats could, had they chosen, to  have moored here.  Going further back in time  for one reason or another there must for a short distance have been a towpath on both sides.

    100 yards north of this point is a footbridge built specifically  for a canal related purpose but I dont know what.   At the foot of this bridge is a long neglected  wooden post with some arrow direction signs one of  which points south and  reads " Grand Union Canal Walk London"  One arrow points across the bridge the other to what used to be path.   25 years ago this section on the opposite side of the main  towpath was part of a short circular walk that took one from the bridge past the lock and down to another bridge a few hundred yards away  and back up the other side     

      25 years ago it was possible to moor easily enough along this short stretch and to walk all of this circular walk , but now this is no longer possible.   Like so many  banks opposite the towpath  the vegetation has been aloud to grow uncontrolled.  Brambles in particular but all kinds of other scrub growth have made this circular path totally impassable.   Amongst the many trees that have taken root are mainly  ash elder hazel and willow trees that  can only have been saplings or maybe were not even there  25 years ago.  All these trees are to commonly beside canal waterways.  Ash I think is concerning because it readily roots into and grows from the side walls of the canals.  Willow grows quickly spreads way out into the canal and snaps.   Many of these trees  are now 15 / 20 feet tall and stretching over the canal.  A foot here 5 foot there like the brambles but higher.  My main surprise is that Japanese Knotweed is not represented yet but I feel sure it will arrive in the future.  It's a question of when not if.

      Should anyone be unduly concerned at nature taking back control.   Nobody at CRT is otherwise something would have been done years ago before the name change fronm BWB to CRT  when it was simple quick and easy to sort out. 

    In the long term there is cause for concern for certain because of the long term effects of such growth  but also  in the short term too because of what it says about the ruling authority CRT and their modus operandi that they can allow such a situation to develop. 

      Let me explain 

       This pound is approx. 1 and a half miles in length.  At its northern end it adjoins the extensive former gravel extraction pit now known as Harefield Marina.   A short distance before Denham Deep the canal crosses a stream.  On both sides of this stretch of the canal  up from the lock for several hundred yards the canal has been formed by the creation of embankments.  These embankments are steep and rather high 10 feet above the surrounding land perhaps a little more.

     What long term good I ask myself is done by allowing such unrestrained tree growth along this embankment.   Absolutely zero.   Pretty as such unrestricted growth may look.  100 years ago this  vegetatal growth would never have been allowed to happen along an embankment whether it was used as a towpath or not. 

     What good is  root growth down into the embankments.   Does it strengthen or weaken the structural integrity of the embankment.  I would have thought the latter. 

      If a flaw develops in the embankment how easy will it be to detect when no can get near to have a lock.  

      Then there is the leaf fall into the canal  breaking down and helping to add nutrients.   Falling branches and trees cant be good  and will happen .

        The restriction in the width of the canal that is usable.  The inevitable silting up of the bank. 

        It might all look rather pretty and green right now, but that's not a good enough reason to allow this problem for future generations to  develop.  Just because it is not an issue today, or next week, or next month, or next year does not excuse CRT from  their duty of care  and management  of the canal system. The essential  ethos of CRT is " It's not a crisis at the moment  so leave it "  really is not good enough.

     Nor is pleading poverty.  If there is money to pay directors  substantial bonuses, then  there is money to sort these issues out and if there is not money to sort these issues out then there is not money for  directors bonuses.     And if the answer to vegetation management as practised  by their  works contractor Fountains  is the best that can be arrived  at ...  they are dreadful.  I will come back to Fountains another day. 

   As I look about I can only say  in my assessment of CRT's management of the system is  that it is absolutely deplorable.   

     Of course it's easy to complain.   Easy to find fault, and to  criticise.   However I fear greatly for the long term future of the canal system  of this country whilst the management of the canals  remains in the hands of CRT.   With that in mind at the end of my trip to Northampton will be a short piece  entitled "What Would I Do" One thing is for sure though .  Things would  change if I was charge. 

    Poor sunshine levels and low battery charge  leave me with a  less than perfect choice.  Stay where I am or pull the boat a couple of miles.  I need to get to Ricky so as to order and collect 2 more solar panels.  For my own use I do not need 2 extra panels but if  I am to get to Northampton  at anything  like  a decent rate  ie.  5 miles per day I have to be able to put in more amps per day  and that means 2 more panels soon.

    So pull or punt the boat with a good wind behind or stay where I am.  The weather forecast tomorrow  is shit.  If I pull and punt I can be in Ricky maybe.  That way I can order the panels and charge the batteries up by Wednesday morning perhaps even Tuesday.   Also there is the chore of laundry to do.  So I pulled and punted with the wind behind. 

   Play nearly abandoned so to speak due  to rain and particularly wind just above the  Copper Mill Lock. It was more like an Autumn gale. But in the end I made it as far as Springwell Lock.

Aug11

Moored up above Springwell Lock and the remarkable bridge 176.  This 200 year old  bridge is situated on a single track road with a 7.5 ton weight limit.  It is of a conventional arch design of which there are many of this type along the Grand Union Canal.  It may have some concrete reinforcing or it may just have concrete surfacing.  What makes this bridge remarkable is the use to which it is put and has been put to for the last 25 years at least.   A photograph below illustrates  1 of the 12 wheeler fully laden tipper lorries that regularly use this bridge.  The haulier  J. Byne has a fleet of  trucks mainly skip lorries or tipper lorries that cross this bridge at about 7.30 in the morning 4.30 in the afternoon and at various times throughout the day.  It is common to see some these trucks fully laden.  It seems remarkable to me that this 200 year old bridge has withstood such use way beyond what was ever imagined for it.

     But I have a question . When this bridge is deemed unsafe as over use will hasten who will pay.  The Highways Agency who look after roads, CRT.who own the bridge or J. Byne whose trucks will be the prime cause of this bridge's premature failure. Who will Pay?

 I cant quite believe that CRT allow an old bridge like bridge 176 that can not possibly have been designed for such excesseive use to be used thus. 

     Just above Springwell Lock is a stretch of hawthorn hedge.  I remember it being planted 20 odd years ago. Small trees I suppose 30 inches high.   It's just been allowed to grow.  No trimming for years.  In places it is now nearly  15 feet  high and 6 8 10 feet wide.  When planted 20 odd years ago I imagine the aim would have been that this was regularly trimmed to about 5 or 6 feet high.   But in common with the dont bother unless you have to policy  it's been left to become a right nuisance that every year is a little bit harder to remedy.  

 

   

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above Bridge 176 showing 1 of haulier J. Byne's fully laden 12 wheeler 32 tonners.  To the right is part of the hawthorn hedge planted 20 odd years ago and through the hedge can be seen  the cab of another of J.Byne's 32 tonners. 

Aug 12

     Moved up to Rickmansworth proper today . Past the long term moorings  past Stockers Farm where the T.V. programme Black Beauty was largely filmed and above Stockers Lock and past the aquadrome entrances. The aquadrome is a very popular place to come.  Lakes, canal, walks, cycling, dogwalks  and plenty of  car parking. 

      I cycled this stretch of towpath at about midday on Saturday  with a powerful wind pushing me all the way.   Spent a couple of hours in Ricky and  2 hours later when I returned  a huge branch from an ash tree had fallen on the towpath and into the canal see photo below. It is left hanging by a thread so to speak. It's easily 12 inches diameter at its thickest  Fortunately no body was walking underneath when the branch fell. 

      It was very neatly  cut down and cleared on Monday by a company called CSG Usher who do a lot of sub contract work for Fountains who in turn  are subcontractors  to CRT. The owner Rod Usher I am sure is  something of an arboreal expert.  In the past I have sold him some quite expensive  books  on trees. Although the rarest and most expensive  Pinetum Woburnensus one of  a limited edition of just  100 by James Forbes was just out of his financial reach.  I would think that when it comes to trees he's a good man  man to ask because he probably knows. 

       Is there any reason to be unduly  concerned that such a large branch fell on to the towpath.  Nobody was hurt or worse died.  No damage was caused . Clear it all up. Trees falling  it's an Act of God.  Move on. 

       A few years ago a very large  tree fell on to a boat and both damaged and sank the  said boat which was moored on a paid for  CRT mooring. Its owner attempted to claim compensation but failed in his efforts because it was deemed an Act of God.

      2 years ago almost to the day a storm similarly strong  to the one a few days ago caused extensive damage. The owner of a boat on the Aylesbury Arm was found dead on his boat underneath the fallen tree that had killed  by the workmen called out to cut and clear the tree. 

     One evening last winter during a storm a boat owner returned from a nearby pub to his boat in Apsely to find it was sunk and badly dented by a fallen tree  

       I have to say that I do not know whether CRT were responsible for the trees in each of these cases.  But. 

      Should We Be  Concernerned ?

      Act of God?

Are these events and there may well be others similar replicated over the canal system simply "Acts of God" that just have to be borne 

       Or are they inevitable.  The wholly   predictable  results of the long term  negligence and complete  although gradually enacted dereliction of the duty of care by CRT and before them in their earlier guise  (same people different name) BWB. This neglect started 50 60 years ago and maybe longer . Leave it for now , rush,  dont bother, do it badly etc. 

       To me the seeds were sown many years ago. The harvest is only now beginning to ripen. The full fruits are yet to appear. This is not an annual harvest or generational harvest this is the harvest of a lifetime and I think its coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is a picture of the huge branch. 

    I will have to stay a few days in Ricky  awaiting 2 solar panels. I have decided that if I want to go to Northampton  in anything like a sensible time scale these 2 extra panels are essential. 

 

Aug 19

    Left Ricky today and made it all the way the way to Hunton Bridge. I have never seen quite so many boats in this stretch.  There was a time 10 years ago there would only ever be a few boats.  Those days are gone.  The way things are going the day will come when  it will be one continuous line  of moored boats  between Hunton Bridge  and North Grove.

      Before I left Ricky I had a quite a good look at a book by Ian J.Wilson  The Grand Union CanaI  with many good life as it was lived photographs going back over a century.  As one might expect  there has been a lot of change over the years but much is still there and recogniseable.  I found it interesting also took at how well  the vegetation has been managed.  On the towpath side it has been kept very much under control.  Wide towpaths 8 or 9 feet perhaps more  usually with either a neat  cut and laid hedge or just open ground.  Very few trees are to be seen on the towpath side at least.  No leaves or small twigs and branches into fall in the  the water.  No huge trees  to be chopped  up as they fall and die.  No consequent sediment build up thereby necessitating dredging.  No overhanging branches etc.  It's a far  cry from today's miserable, lamentable  efforts.  As I write this paragraph the hedge right beside me has overgrown so much that there is now only about 2 feet of towpath left. 

      It  is a different story the other side.  More trees, more vegetation, trailing into the water but nothing like today.

       Another point that is very noticable are the views around corners.  Most of the time nowadays whether on the left side or right side towpath  most corners  to the left or right and either left or right with anything like a decent curvature are now blind corners.  One cannot see what is coming beyond the corner from the other direction.  In almost all photographs  where the towpath is on the left  and there is a leftward bend it is easy to see beyond the curve and into the distance and observe anything coming in the opposite direction .

      There are places today where the vegetation growth is under control.  This is mainly where there has been  some development. The area where Dickinson paper mill wharf above Common Moor lock is one of the best  Barely a weed is growing out of the bank side. 

      Literally just around the corner is yet another example of willow trees running amok.  On the towpath side is a huge albeit pretty hanging willow hanging right out over the canal.  On the other side the willow crack or snap willow has fallen rooted grown  so much that in and in places it is now not  possible for a widebeam to be moored and leave enough clear room for another to pass.  This is a decent length of long term neglect. I shall be surprised to learn that anything is to be done about it this Autumn but who knows 

     A few hundred yards further on is Croxley Marina run by P. and S. Marine.  This modest sized marina is where I bought my first boat 25 years ago.  I moored in here for a few weeks until the owner realised I was living aboard.  I left the day a bill for residential mooring appeared.  Had I realised how much more rewarding it is to be outside the marina rather than inside I would have left the day I bought the boat.

      This marina is the drop off point for new boats who are basing themselves around the London area and in particular widebeams.  The cost to be craned into the water, perhaps an.hours effort at most ...a whopping 700 quid.  Once in the water beginners have to negotiate there way in their brand new shiny boat out of this small marina and onto the cut This kindly ,generous spirited pair of scalkywags can assist and will.guide the boat out of the marina and onto the cut for a further 50 quid !!!  

       Just before Croxley Lock is a disgraceful example of the way CRT ignore maintainance work that really should be attended.  A photograph is below.

  This sizable hole is about 1 square. ft. or so right and  beside the bollard where people are bound to be walking when mooring up for the lock.  It  has been left like this I think for many months.  I know that one has to take a little care and watch where your going.  But seriously.  Should such ankle breaking hazard  be left for months on end. I think it should have sorted out soon  after CRT were first notified. I notified them today.   

      I spoke to an engineer about such holes and whether they cause many injuries and consequent injury claims.  Apparently CRT  spend fortunes in compensation.     

      So  I have an idea instead of waiting for someone to hurt themself, paying out compensation and then remedying such holes why not fix the fuckers  in the first place ASAP.

      Onwards and upwards through the delightful Cassiobury park with its plethora of overhanging branches,  through 4 locks and I come to the Grove.  Football fans will know of this as the Grove Hotel.  It's where the England football team stay for home internationals. 

The canal runs along part of the golf course belonging to the Grove Hotel.  I dont particular like the game of golf for all sorts of reasons but especially... All that walking just to stick a ball into 18 holes.  

However I do like mooring here. It's a lovely spot with as pretty a road  bridge over the canal and  up to the hotel as you could find. 

      Cup of tea and a nap only here.  I need to move on. Past yet another  almost as bad snap willow plantation as at Croxley. Through Lady Capel's and up to Hunton Bridge for the night.  

 

Aug 20

     6.00  in the morning.  The season of Autumn mists and mellow fruitfulness has arrived it would seem

  I'm at  the M25 lock. The boat is rising in the lock, the sun is rising in the sky, and mist is floating if not rising  all around.  Chilly though. 

     Just before reaching the next lock at Kings langley I notice a particularly nasty hole has recently appeared right in the middle of the towpath.  I assume its recent because a gentle push on the side with my foot causes the side to collapse immediately and the hole to double  to about a cubic foot in size.  Did my duty.  Reported its location along with hole in Croxley.  Fixed tomorrow I'm assured.  

      Lot of willow has fallen down in the next pound. Reported this too ditto result. We'll see.  

    The next lock is the first of the Apsely locks and in the first pound is where the widebeam boat was sunk a few months ago.  The back end of the boat was also broken huge falling tree.  Fortunately nobody was on it at the time . 

Photograph below shows the size of the rounds  that were later cut up from the trunk that sank the boat. Lying horizontally can be seen the rest of the main trunk. A huge lime tree.  Judgment of the size of the rounds and therefore the size of the tree is assisted by an unknown litter lout. 

      Why cant the company's whose products are so casually thrown on the ground when finished with be the ones to pay.   A special litter lout tax added to the cost in this case of each coffee.      

The old boy  who lives in the lock cottage beside the next lock told me all about it.  Photographs of it sunken somewhere are to be found somewhere on Facebook.   

      I gently cruise through this dark pound. Through the next lock High trees all round, and then around the bend under a simple painted white bridge and I am at Apsely .

     Moor up by the marina.  Chit chat with the marina warden who I know slightly, about the possibilities of converting heat from the stove  in winter  to electricity and thus charging the batteries.  Eminently feasible he thinks.  He could do it easily enough for himself  just to lazy.  

      I learnt a little more about the sale of Apsely marina.  It is part of BWML British Waterways Marinas Limited.  There was at least one person perhaps more who wished to buy it for about 1.2 million.  A very fair price apparently for its size. CRT refused to sell any of their marinas separately.  CRT eventually accepted a management buyout funded by LDC (who are they ) The price paid about 24 million somewhat down on the initial 30 odd million agreed upon and importantly much  less than the offer by a leisure company from Portsmouth?   What's the fucks going on here.  CRT accept a BWML management buyout  offer at a price far lower than initially agreed upon.   An offer  far lower than another offer made earlier.  They declined  to explore selling the marinas separately which may well have raised even more money.  CRT claim poverty but can throw millions away.  Cant be that poor or is something a little stinky going on.  If this situation were meat I'd throw it away.  

     BWML has something in the order of 2500 berths. Income roughly 100 pounds per boat per week. Income 250,000 per week. Turnover  minimum 12,500,00 per year before costs. Other income streams Chandlery, bar, restaurant  brokerage etc a little more on top.  Sold for  24,000,000 pounds.  Not enough.  In fact nowhere near enough. 

     Tonight I'm in the pound above.  A fisherman beside me claims to have caught a 3 and a half pound brown trout and on the same day missed 2 more.  It's possible, the River Bulborrne, a chalk stream enters the canal here. 

     Solar panels arrived today.  9 days early.  How could Amazon have been so early with delivery or suggested such a late date.  Chris a mate kindly brought them to me. They are 100 watt panels.  Same manufacturer same wattage but different physical size.  Big question will they be better,worse or pretty much the same. 

    Too be fair to CRT. I reported the 2 holes and was assured they would be fixed the next day. The one in the middle of the towpath at bridge 158 has indeed been fixed.  It's too far for me to cycle and check the bollard just below at Croxley lock but fingers crossed. 

Aug 22

      A relatively early short journey again today.  Just over 4 miles to Berkhamsted or Berko as locals know it. 

      Moved off as usual nice and early, through the first lock, CRT's entry  for the Lock Gates with  Best Wild Flower Arrangement  see photograph below.  Of course I'm being sarcastic but there is a point. 

 The point to be made applies to the bridge above this lock which has shrubs and weeds growing out of its sides and the locks further up before Berko.  Some of the locks have signs on them requesting boaters to leave gares closed and paddles up usually because of side leakage.  Fair enough.  But, because the lock walls are now above the water most of the time they too have vegetation growing on the side walls. 

      Firstly, I cant believe that this leads to either an improvement  in or maintainance of long term structural integrity.  Surely root growth burrowing into the walls of the locks, the walls on the lock gates  or bridge and growing in such profusion cant be a great idea. 

     So secondly, at least  once a year when the lock repair teams are travelling around the country might it not be an idea to remove all this stuff. 

      Is a management team that allows this to happen routinely fit to be in charge.  Put it a different way.  If I want a good quality 3 course dinner do I want someone who cant make toast without burning it, make a pot of tea  properly, cook an omelette,  tell the difference between good meat and meat on the turn etc. etc.   Of course not, but this is the capability of the buffoons in charge.  The walls, the bridge, and the lock gates are I think  just a few of the visible consequences of people in charge who should not be.  

Unfair.  

Well, I have heard while chatting to a boater but dont know if this is true  that  CRT were warned 5 years ago that the sluice gate at Whaley Bridge was unsafe and chose to do nothing.  It would not surprise me for a second if they had known.

     Through this lock at Apsely to the water sewage and rubbish disposal point.  There is a small yard and a few buildings belonging to CRT  on this site as well.  Earlier this year in May or June it was announced that rubbish could no longer be  disposed of here.  The reason given was that rubbish disposal trucks could not gain access.  For years and years  they have been demonstrably able to  empty bins and then one fine day in 2019 they cant.  Uproar.  What crap is this?  Where is rubbish to go.  Out on the cut.  There is enough boaters doing this already nobody needs more. 

      A few of us boaters, call us cynics if you wish, believe this was the  first stage in a conniving plot to rid this site of the rubbish disposal initially but more importantly the sewage disposal point at a late date.  The site then becomes a much more marketable building development site.  Say 8, maybe more, desirable canalside  living flats made more desirable because there is no smelly sewage disposal point. 

     Not having a sewage disposal point is crucial.  Purchasers of luxury developments ie up at Marsworth (circa 600 k a pop) another CRT development dont like the pungent stench of toilets on a fine simmer's day.

      And why would CRT not be planning another housing development site on land they own.  Seems like that is happening eferywhere else.   I could not say with any certainty but my money says that every scrap of land that CRT currently owns has been looked at with a view to future  building development.   No matter what it's current purposes are. 

      In the last 14 years that I know about there has not been 1 new rubbish/toilet /water etc in the south east. This is despite the fact that fact that there are at least 12,000 more  boats on the water (approx. 10,000,000 more in licence money) A great number of these new boaters are based in the South East area.  NOT ONE NEW FACILITY!!!

      But in this time there is there is one  less facility.  This is in the marina at Apsely part of the formerly BWML subsidiary.  This facility used to have showers and a washing machine paid for in part by boaters.  We no longer have access to this.

     There is the demand for more, the need for more, the money particularly cumulatively over the last 15 years has been there but  NOT ONE NEW FACILITY!!!       

     Coming to the end of this pound but just before the next lock are the premises of Smith's Coffee Company.   During the daytime there is usually  the smell of roasting coffee.  Smith's sell amongst others a  type of coffee known as Kopi Luwak.  Coffee aficionados will recognise this name.  It's one of the more expensive coffees one can buy.   Made from the undigested droppings of a Sumatran civet cat this coffee is supposedly superb.

      So when a mate of mine Robert who buys this coffee and offers it as an occasional treat to people he knows offered it to me I jumped at the chance to try it.

    It tastes very different to instant coffee brands like  Cafe Noir  or Nescafe and also very different to filter coffees Lavazza etc.   But to me it was not an unfamiliar taste.  It tasted exactly the same as my memory of the coffee I drank all over Sumatra many years ago.    

    Many hours later I finally cruised into Berko.  It's taken most of the day.  A single handed effort  through most of the  dozen or so locks usually against me and usually by myself. 

    I feel completely knackered. 

Aug 24 and 25 

    I have combined these 2 days.  This is because I have only done a relatively small distance in 2 days but many locks about 15.

     Up past the northern entrance to Berko and its light industial  outskirts  hardly noticeable because of all the trees, and into and out of Northchurch. 

      A few miles further up at Dudswell I bumped into "the twins" who unsurprisingly pretty much travel together everywhere. They have been on boats for nearly 40 years.  Lovely back then according to them, nobody else around, pounds often locked and inaccessible at night. Very peaceful. 

      Has a long chat with them and learnt more about the dam at Whaley Bridge.  I dont watch television, have not read newspapers for a couple of weeks and so have missed developments.  Apparently CRT WERE TOLD THAT THE DAM NEEDED URGENT REMEDIAL WORK TO THE SLUICE GATE  5 YEARS AGO.  Some proffessor from Brunel was on TV  giving the heads up.  Well, what a surprise it was to learn that CRT knew about the problem, had been advised that urgent remedial action was required, and then chose to do nothing. 

     I was going to leave my next comment until the "what would I do " section. But have decided not to wait.     Question 1 Is there anywhere else where CRT have been told that urgent action is required and to date have done nothing. 

      The dam at Whaley Bridge is by no means the first time that CRT HAVE BEEN ALERTED TO A PROBLEM REQUIRING URGEBT ATTENTION AND DONE ABSOLUTELY FUCK ALL. On the Aylesbury arm they were alerted to a crack in the lock walls. For 7 years they did nothing. Eventually the wall collapsed. The consequent bill was in excess of 1 million pounds 

     We are paying for these ( according to them ) bonus deserving clowns  and their stupidity 

     So the first thing I would do is sack the entire board.  They are collectively responsible for the parlous state of the canals at the moment, they have collectively created and perpetuated the culture that allowed it to happen. And the longer this lot are left in charge the worse it will all become.

     I am a little surprised, but not that surprised that Richard Parry chief exec. has not felt the obligation to resign. He is in overall charge and must bear much of the responsibility.  I am also surprised, but not that surprised that the individual director or directors responsible for choosing to ignore expert professional advice have not felt the need to resign either.  But then it would mean giving up a fat salary, a fat bonus, and mean ownership of an unenviable ugly  cancer  on the C.V.  Not a huge chance of such a directorship turning up anytime soon with Whaley Bridge dam on your record.  

    What were they thinking of?! 

     Too risk the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people. Property, businesses animals, "Sod the lot of them "     

     I am nothing but appalled at the level of professional competence on offer and the resultant display of integrity or  rather lack of integrity of those responsible  

     One of the twins showed me 2 amusing and relevant clips on youtube that maybe of interest. 

They are 

"The last day in the canal and river trust office" 

and

 "Interview for the post of Chief Executive  Officer  with the Canal and River Trust

     They were also able to confirm that it was indeed the case that one could and did see beyond the next corner/s  and on both sides.  Teams of skilled  workman who knew what they were doing  (now no longer employed) on specially made workboats (virtually all sold off along with all ancillary equipment)  would cruise up and down the system maintaining it.

     To take a small example  anywhere at locks requiring greasing would be greased once a month. Nowadays according to one of the few workmen employed by CRT in his area it's a task done maybe every 6 months to a year if there is time.

     Mostly those who knew what to do are gone, retired and not replaced  except by contractors.  Some like Fountains who from Day 1 and ever since  have been  awful and who since day 1 have  been duplicitous if not downright dishonest. 

        I have personal experience of their lack of  admission to causing  damage to boats and in particular boat windows.   The Fountains way is to immediately deny that they have caused the damage even though they know perfectly that they almost certainly have. The reason for such denial.  Well I think if you break say 10 windows and admit all 10 how good is your safety record.  Whereas if you break 10 windows and deny every single one if possible a much better but untrue safety record is created.      

     Its breakfast time just above Cowroast Lock.  An idyllic spot  and still to come today is the for me the  atmospheric  2 mile long Tring Cutting.  Whenever I cruise through I have previously always cruised at minimum revs.  Today I can cruise through this special place in near silence.

      Stayed at Bulbourne and listened to the final incredible hours  of the best ever cricket test match 

 

Aug 27 

Cruise through the Bulbourne to Marsworth pounds late yesterday afternoon.  A journey short in distance but long in length of time.

    My partner in the locks fenders  with mine and snapped the eye of my fender.  My rope was  dangling close  to the fender and was pulled into the water. It then  became entangled in his propeller.  He tried revving back and forwards to disentangle it but could not free it.  The only solution,  weed hatch off, cut what could be seen of the rope and then cut everything away from the prop.  He was useless so I had to do it.  Half an hour of sweat and toil in a hot engine bay on a hot day.  

   Today I'm off to Leighton Buzzard.  A mate describes it as a complete shithole.  Surely not it has a Waitrose         

     The view through the few gaps in the hedge across the vale of Aylesbury  is beautiful.   Fields of golden stubble  a large stack of bales and the huge bales  even further off.  I see these huge bales  with a tinge of sadness.  Many years ago I especially looked forward to  summer holidays  and making  huge bale huts in the fields near where I lived .  The farm workers would kindly take our hut away last.   My brother and I and a few others would go off as early as possible with a packed lunch soon eaten and a bottle of Corona  and  flask of coffee only returning as it began to get dark or fetched by my dad.  

      The gaps in the overhgrown hedge.  I came this way 13 years ago.  The hedge was neatly cut and laid and about 4 foot high as I remember.  Nothing has been done for years . What was a 4 foot high hawthorn hedge is now a mass of bramble and elder and hawthorn growing into trees. The hedge 10 12 15 feet high.  

     Into Cheddington where I moored up for breakfast. It was here in the quiet village of  Cheddington that the Great Train Robbery took place in 1963. 3 million pounds or more. A large sum now but huge back in 1963.       

      Thinking about that large sum of money leads me onto another huge sum of money  that being the money that CRT takes in and where does it go. See the next day 

   Towards the end of yesterday I noticed some curious red stuff plastered over the paddles and lock gate  hinges.  I have become so used to dry paddles that it took a second or to realise what it was. It was of course  grease but its so long since I have seen any I didn't recognise it immediately 

Aug 28 

    I.made the short distance from  Marsworth to Leighton Buzzard. I can go little further today for reasons all to do with power.

My batteries are close to empty.

Peak solar power is produced during May June July and the first half of August.  I no longer get as  many amps per hour  nor for so long.  

The day at the moment is very cloudy and  it does not promise a huge amount of solar not enough to recharge  the batteries.

The swallows, some of the first I have seen this year are flying low at the moment always a sign of  less than fantastic clear sunny weather.  So I'm going nowhere far today and the prospects for tomorrow on that basis are not good either.

This means the trip as far as to Northampton will have to be abandoned because of time available pressure. 

      A day of thought.  So I'm thinking about money and CRT.

I'm bothered because so much is coming in but so little seems to be spent on the primary function,  the raison d'etre of CRT namely the care and maintenance of the canal system .  Anything else is that CRT indulge in is of secondary importance 

    Each year the area of the canal system that I know deteriorates in condition a little more. Hedges , locks towpaths vegetation management etc.  Everything is worse except perhaps cycleways. 

   So:

     Beginning with licence and mooring fees . With well in excess of 40,000 boats on the system ( well over 1000 brand new boats  a year since at least 2005 when I bought my second boat plus imports )many on permanent long term moorings this generates an income of circa 40,000,000 pounds. Collection of this money is relatively straightforward  and whilst there are expenses to be met from change of ownership new registrations removal of non payers etc most of this 40,000,000 pounds is available for the system.

      There is slightly in excess of 2000 miles of canal on the system so that figure breaks down to about

20, 000 pounds  per mile . 

      To this figure can be added the easily earned money . The  high income with low cost generated by rents from Canary Wharf, Paddington Basin, the hundreds of millions of pounds lying in cash on deposit and until a few months ago the 8,000,000 per year generated by BWML. 

      How much more per mile does that break down to. 50,000 per mile? Approximately?  Cant be much less and could easily be more.  At least 50, 000 per mile is available to be spent on the system   Where does it all go because the state of the canals the maintainance  and repair each year becomes a bit worse. Despite increases in income, less and less seems to be spent and much that is done is done badly.

    Could money be spent better  

     Well over the last few years has been the stupidity of the decision to spend 8,000,000 pounds or so on a name change.  To claim poverty as CRT do and yet choose to spend 8,000,000  pounds or so on a name change (changing signage from BWB  to CRT ) is quite simply idiotic.  And why did the name change.  Answer because of a desire to become a charity ( What a laugh that idea is.  A charity in name only) 

            Unfortunately the mere changing of name does not equate to  an improvement in the way an organisation operates.  Why would it.  Same people in charge, same modus operandi, but as it has transpired not  the same useless incompetence.  But worse.

      If there was a genuine need for a name change that was to cost so much money might it not have been an idea for CRT to  investigate the possibility of setting up their own sign producing company. Employ a few people to produce  the signs. Cost ?   A lot less than 8,000,000 quid  and they might have created a long term profit making business. 

Sunset near Leighton Buzzard 

       Another 8,000,000 pounds or so is spent on sub contractors Fountains.  4,000 pounds or so per mile to do 5 cuts per year of the towpath plus other stuff. 

       The staff race through the cut doing it badly but as sufficiently  well as they can get away with. The consequences.  each year the vegetation encroaches  a little more onto and over the towpath.   Saplings, particularly ash and rhododendrons  growing into substantial shrubs proliferate.

    4,000 pounds per mile.  Even if half the money goes elsewhere that is still 400 per mile to cut the grass on the towpath. I really do not think that that is good value for money either in terms of expense and especially workmanship.  Much is not even done and nowhere properly and 10 years after Fountains first started it shows.  

     And then there is the damage to boats that the hurrying causes.  Firstly the knowledge that they have for example broken windows and secondly the first port of call the  denial of causing damage. 

      For those who dont know.  If you return to your boat and find 1 window has been popped it is almost certainly Fountains who  have caused it.  The signs are grass that has recently been cut and no other obvious cause.  Sadly fountains even though they are fully aware that they are almost certainly responsible will or used to just flatly deny it.   

       I know a lot about the way fountains operate having experienced a broken window.  their chief executive at the time richard haddon can only be described as fundamentally duplicitous if not downright dishonest.  Things may have changed in the intervening years. 

Japanese Knotweed  

    

      Japanese knotweed as anyone who studies it for a while knows  is a truly formidable opponent.  A plant whose widespread appearance across the world seems to be unstoppable.  The first choice tactic at control is the repeated use of the weedkiller glyphosphate.  There are a few other suggestions but nothing that really guarentees termination.  So just out of interest I decided to have a look and see if I could figure out a way.  I do not know if my method  works.   I do not have the equipment to try it out but the situation as regards knotweed is such that any untried suggestion at control that carries a  logical possibility of success needs to be considered.   So below is what I would like to try.   

    Firstly,  I have looked at  where it grows.  Well within a hedgerow  environment and especially one with dense brambles and close to water does seem to be a favourite location.   Observing it overwhelming a thick clump of brambles it is clearly a powerful force with which to contend.  Once established it then spreads outwards becoming if unchecked much larger.  Dense clumps 50 metres, a 100 metres in length and no doubt more can be found as it covers an ever increasing area.    

      Secondly where does it not appear.  It appears as if it needs a rough environment in which to exist.  Clumps appear through areas thick with high standing vegetation.   But I have not seen any  appearances  in areas maybe 20 feet away or less of open grassland.  Why not?  

     It may well encroach over time onto the grassland 20 feet away but it does not shoot up in an area of just grass on a, one plant here and one plant there basis.  

      There are many clumps along the Grand Union where I have recently passed  that CRT have just given up on. 

    So I would begin at one of these huge clumps.  Every plant including the knotweed in this area would need to be cut to just above ground level  and burned.  Particular care would need to be taken with the knotweed to ensure that  every single shred was burnt.  Wherever there was a knotweed stem I would then insert a sharp and long probe as far as I could.  Coming out of  a number of holes in this probe would be high pressure, super heated steam for a time period of 10 - 15 minutes.  I do not know for how long would be required, but, its a very tough plant, so  initially I would go for overkill and try an extended period of super heated steam.  Where the probe enters the stem would need to be covered so the steam did not escape.  Super heated steam for 10 or 15 minutes through the stem and into the plant's underground root system would kill off large parts of this root system in the nearby vicinity of the stem making regrowth td ime much longer.  I would also guess that at the beginning of a seasons growth when the plant is weakest would be the best time to do this but the best time could only be found after attempts at different stages of the plants growth    

      Once all the vegetation is burned, the spring growth is back close to ground level and the stems have been exposed to super heated pressurised steam  I would  try a few  ideas  with grass to see if there was any difference in long term effect.  First and most logical would be to lay  turf over the bare earth.  Second would be to sow grass seed. Thirdly.  I would scatter a mixture of grass seed and hay.  Fourthly all the above.   All would be well watered.  Then I would return once a week to see if the knotweed reappeared.  If it did so, wherever it appeared I would cut the plant back to ground level and retreat with steam.

      Or cut the knotweed and all other vegetation in the knotweed vicinity  right back to ground level and change the environment that it must grow through.  From  tall thick thorn, lilac, nettles etc  cover the area in hessian cloth or plastic tarpaulin or cover it in sand  or something else in that area totally different to what was there.  What happens after 3, 6, 9, and 12 months.  All plants thrive better in some conditions than others.  They all have ideal growth conditions.  Find what the plant does not like.   Surely there is something, isnt there. 

       Knotweed does not like to be submerged so on the canal system where there are huge clumps alongside the canal why not create an area that can submerged under a few inches of water or at least permanently sodden. from February to October.         

       I have no idea if any of this would work to any extent but if anyone knows or is willing to try it I would be much obliged to be told the results and will upload any comments.   

Just in case the above about Japanese knotweed works 

Copyright Nigel King 29 September 2019

Dan Barnett Contracts Manager CRT

   

 

          What I Would Do If I Was In Charge 

    

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