Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The cruising starts!

No more hanging around now, well until this morning that is when wind and rain stopped play again.  Joe didn't fancy steering a narrowboat in 27mph winds with gusts of 40mph so we wimped out and stayed put on last night's mooring.

Yesterday we had been up bright and early to get into position to meet the crew of Nb. Clarence, Derek and Sheila, who were due to come down the Foxton flight.  They started down at 9.45 and Sheila and I made short work of the ten locks.  After a cuppa and a quick look at the guide we decided to head for Kilby Bridge, stopping at Newton Harcourt for a spot of lunch and a visit to the weed hatch for Derek.

 Derek bringing Nb. Clarence out of the fifth lock on the Foxton flight....the one where many boats smack the entrance to lock six.....he didn't.

 Nb. Clarence making the turn towards Leicester ( Nb Yarwood in the background) after descending the flight and mooring up for refreshment and a 'planning meeting' in Bridge 61

 Back to normality, the two dogs and I tramping the towpaths

 Post Saddington tunnel where the dogs and I rejoined Yarwood for the trip through and we approach our eleventh lock of what would be twenty-two lock day.

 Sheila my loony lock buddy of the day
Narrowboats Yarwood and Clarence
We arrived at Kilby Bridge at 6.30pm, knackered but satisfied with a good day's cruising.  Every lock had been against us and a number of gates left open and when we got to Kilby there was only one mooring left.   After a lovely HOT showers we found ourselves in The Navigation where conversation was primarily politics and the men downed pints of Pedigree and the ladies sampled the mothers ruin. Dinner was a packet of crisps.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Sunday lunch at the Black Horse Foxton

What an awful day, rain much of the night, wind and rain much of the day.  I was up at 5am, Floyd's appetite has returned and he wanted to share this piece of important progress with me....
At 7am I as out walking the dogs in full wet weather gear, me not the dogs, and we wended our way through Foxton Village and out across country to Debdale Wharf and then back to the boat. I have spent some of today cleaning brass and sorting paperwork but the highlight was lunch at The Black Horse Foxton. The landlord and landlady, Darren and Kim, had very kindly allowed us to park our car in their car park for a few days before it was put it back into storage. We had a super traditional Sunday Roast and left the pub with a supply of freshly cooked vegetables for the dogs - they had expected us to bring Fletcher and Floyd with us so had set a table up in the bar where dogs are allowed, how thoughtful is that? 
So if you are in Foxton give the Black Horse a try, they keep good beer and pub food are really very fine hosts.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Dog update

Floyd went into the Vet yesterday morning for his dental operation. I walked with both dogs from Foxton where we are currently moored, into Market Harborough this partly to exercise dogs and self and partly to occupy/distract the dogs who had not had their breakfast. Floyd was forbidden food and it seemed mightily unfair to feed Fletcher and starve Floyd...well he thought so anyway.
Joe met us at the Vet's where we completed the paperwork and left Floyd in their care... Back at the boat we all broke our fast, much to Fletcher's relief and then started a few hours of frenetic activity where I waxed and polished Yarwood and Joe re routed external aerials for the WiFi.  At three the phone rang; Floyd was out of the theatre and had come round we could pick him up at four thirty and see the nurse about aftercare etc.
The upshot is that Floyd had six teeth removed.  The little guy was a bit wobbly but happy to back with his pack for the drive back to the boat, a bit of light food and his warm bed. He has been fine all night, has just eaten some scrambled egg and boiled rice laced with antibiotic and is now fast asleep again.  I will give him a gentle walk today and then he and Fletcher can supervise me while I attempt to restore order to a few cupboards here on Yarwood.  We are on the move again on Monday heading towards Nottingham in the company of Nb. Clarence so we have arranged car hire for next Friday when Floyds needs to return to the Vet for a post op check. Hopefully all will be well and he heals quickly.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Visit to the Vet

Tuesday morning we set off to retrieve the dogs, Fletcher and Floyd, from Norfolk where they have been staying with family while Yarwood was blacked. Our two dogs had been great company for Riley, my brother's young Labrador and he is surely going to miss his canine 'cousins' now they are gone.
 Tuesday evening I noticed Floyd mouthing something and then discard it and on closer examination I found it was a tooth or part of a tooth.  Returning to the boat on Wednesday we swung into to Market Harborough and a Vet to get Floyd looked at and the upshot is that he is booked in for a dental operation on Friday....at least four rear teeth had shattered and need removal!  We think that the most likely candidate for causing the damage is walnuts. Floyd developed a taste for them in Spain and was inclined to rummage under any Walnut tree he came across for the nuts.
I gave him a dose of Metacam, an animal pain killer, last night just in case he was suffering. So tomorrow morning early we have to take our 'little man' into Market Harborough and leave him in the tender hands of the Vet.  Poor little man.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Black bottomed and proud of it

Joe and I presented ourselves at Debdale Wharf pretty sharpish this morning as Yarwood was coming out of the shed that she had occupied for the last week and being returned to us and the canal.  After a week in a hotel we were glad to be heading back to our home.

 Pristine tunnel bands

 After loading her onto they trailer Mike drags her clear of the shed and reverses her down to the dock and crane.

 Preparing to lift Yarwood from the trailer..a delicate procedure to ensure they have the balance just right

Once suspended the trailer is driven away.  We had the baseplate blacked as well this time.
 After carefully measuring the area treated on the hull Mike goes off to work out the bill and Yarwood is lowered in the dock.

 After a quick wash down and our luggage loaded back aboard we paid the bill and headed off to find somewhere to moor up for a few days.

 I washed down the other side of the boat so she is ready for a bit of wax in the next few days but first...we are off to retrieve Fletcher and Floyd and get the crew together again.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Back in the UK and Yarwood is in for some beauty treatment

We arrived back in the UK from our extended stay in Spain about three weeks ago.  We had a couple of weeks staying in Essex with Mother before farming Fletcher and Floyd out to my brother in Norfolk while we dashed up to Yelvertoft and recovered Yarwood.  All this week Yarwood has been at Debdale Wharf where she has been taken out of the water, jet washed and transferred to an enormous shed for a bit of deep cleansing...

Yarwood after her washing with a powerful jet spray is loaded onto a trailer for transportation to the gritting shed.

Mike carefully reverses  the trailer into the shed

Carefully placed under the tent canopy, four jacks are put in place to take the load and the trailer is carefully removed. At the press of a button Martin lowers the jacks to bring  Yarwood to the optimum height for work to begin.

The tented canopy is secured to protect the upper half of Yarwood and then the lower hull is grit blasted to get her back to bare clean steel before a hot coat of molten zinc is applied.

Joe examines the 'gun' that applies the zinc coating

It's Friday afternoon and the two-pack blacking coat has been applied and work is starting on the bow sides/flare

Masking removed and one bow flare is revealed

Starting to layer paint on two of Yarwood's three tunnel bands
Yarwood will stay in the shed over the weekend to 'cure' and then Monday morning we will present ourselves to pay the bill and get our boat back.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

There be oil...or, a visit to an olive oil processor...

Yesterday I accompanied Helen our host here at Olive Grove Farm, in Trujillos, Spain to the olive oil processor that she uses for her crop of olives. We went to see Jose at Milino Gumeil, a processor that has been operating at the same site for over two hundred years...well not Jose exactly but his ancestors....
As soon as you arrive the first impression is cleanliness.. there was not a scrap of dust or debris anywhere, everything is pristine.

 Milino Gumeil Olive Oil Processors
We start the tour looking at the ancient plant that was once used here. Housed in a large side room at the front of the plant are a series of olive presses that were installed in 1803!  In 1803 Spain had just 'sold' Louisiana to France, Charles IV was ruling Spain and there was a pause in the Napoleonic wars..
Four years later France had invaded and installed a new head of state and the English Duke of Wellington was leading the allies trying to defeat Napoleon in the Peninsular wars...I imagine Jose's ancestor's were busy pressing oil while this mayhem went on around them.

 Here are a series of olive presses that were operated by water power.  Similarly to how cider is traditionally made, the olives were washed and laid in layers on mats and stacked into 'towers' under the presses. When pressed the oil run out into channels and collected in a series of subterranean tanks.

One of the old subterranean oil tanks
There were/are a series of eight tanks and the oil passed from one through to eight as it gradually lost its sediment and became purer.
Below ground is also a series of large water tanks, 3 metre diameter by 5 metres deep.
Jose, the proprietor of the Olive Oil Processing plant and Helen, the owner of Olive Grove Farmhouse where we are staying.
After seeing the historical part of the plant we were then taken on a tour of the current operation.
Starting at the point where the olive farmer delivers his/her trailer load of freshly harvested olives including leaves, twigs and stones. The trailer load is tipped over the grid below and the debris is separated from the olives. The olives are weighed and logged against the farmer's account they are then washed and a 1kilo sample taken for analysis.
 The freshly picked olive crop is deposited here over the grid

 With twigs, leaves and stones removed the olives are moved along conveyer belts to be washed.

 The I kilogram sample is mashed and warmed here

A  sample from each load is taken to the lab where it is processed to identify the oil content.  Typically you would expect 20%-25% yield so 100kgs of olives would be expected to 23- 25 litres of oil.
 A centrifuge is used to extract the oil
The now washed olives are now fed into a machine that bruises and breaks the olive skin and stirs them for 25 minutes or so before they are transferred to another machine where heated water is added.

 Grinding, bruising the olive skins

 The  olives are mixed with heated water and form a mash

 The first separation of the oil and water
The olives undergo two cycles of this mash/heating in this processor's before the oil is collected into racking tanks to allow the oil to stand and sediment to settle.

A series of racking tanks
Storage tanks
 The finished product, virgin olive oil is stored in enormous stainless steel tanks, 45,000 litres in each tank.
 Olive pips being removed from the mash

The olive pips are a waste product that is now being used as a heat source with many households installing pellet boilers that burn the pips.

A barn set aside to store the olive pips before they are sold.
The residue of the 'mash' is sold on to other processors that extract the last of the oil chemically.
It was a very interesting tour around something that is not normally part of my day to day life and I am grateful to the lovely Jose for spending the time and Helen for making the effort to arrange the visit and accompany me.
Just one last thought...be aware that the olive harvest in the Mediterranean has been very poor this year so olive oil prices are about to rocket, and with that in mind I bought us a 5 litre supply.