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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An expensive oversight

News has reached me of a shared ownership narrowboat that got stuck behind one of the scheduled stoppages and was unable to return to base for the next owners.

The boat had to be craned out on to a low loader, transported back to the base and then another crane was needed to get her back in the water.

Because the owners had not checked the stoppages before they set out, they were liable for these costs - so it proved to be a very expensive trip indeed.

To avoid such a problem, please make sure you check the stoppages before you leave your home mooring.

A section of one of the Canal & River Trust's
scheduled stoppage maps.  The stoppages
are colour coded according to their dates
The Waterscape page that provides a search for stoppages is still in being.  This includes both scheduled and unexpected stoppages and should, therefore, be checked immediately before you leave.

If you are planning well ahead - perhaps to get your boat to one of the boat shows next year - then the Canal & River Trust provides links to its PDF format maps and the complete stoppage schedule as an Excel file here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Leaves on the line

It used to be almost a tradition at the old Ownerships annual meetings that the topic of leaves on the prop was raised.  It always caused a laugh.

Leaves round the prop - thrust is sideways
and much reduced, with a lot of turbulence
We don't normally go out in November, but we're on Sundowner this week.  We started with two glorious days followed by two nights of frost followed by some wind.  The effect has been to bring the leaves fluttering down into the canal - and they certainly do get round the prop.

If you do what you usually would when you think there's something round the prop - moor up, open the weed hatch and check the prop - you find nothing. The only resolution is to put the boat into neutral before giving a quick burst of reverse.  This will normally disperse the leaves and you can can carry on cruising - until some more of the pesky things form a ball on the end of the prop shaft.

After a quick burst of reverse -
the leaves are dispersed, the thrust is
now directly backwards and the
turbulence is minimal
We've encountered plenty of them this week, so I took some pictures of what the water looks like at the stern.  In the before shot, you can see the main thrust of the water is sideways with a great deal of turbulence.  In the shot after the burst of reverse, the water is being pushed straight back and the turbulence is much reduced.  

Both shots were taken with the engine running at about 1,100 rpm.

The difference in thrust between the two shots was dramatic.  When the before shot was taken, the boat had almost stopped moving.

We've seen plenty of other shared ownership narrowboats on our cruise from Aston south towards Fradley - Compton, Invincible, Farndon, Ramsden, Hawksmoor, Padworth, Goosemoor, Orchid and Yelvertoft to name just a few.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Carbon monoxide monitors

The introduction of legislation in Northern Ireland to make CO monitors compulsory in all new homes and with every purchase of a new gas, oil or solid fuel stove is a reminder of their value on board a narrowboat.

A typical carbon monoxide alarm
This one costs around £16
This is especially true where there is a solid fuel stove, as on most shared ownership narrowboats.

BCBM tells me that the topic has been raised at many of the AGMs of syndicates whose boats they manage, and they have confirmed the advice that every boat should have one - with a battery fitted!

They have drawn owners' attention to an informative article in the Lancashire Telegraph following the tragic death from carbon monoxide poisoning of the owner of a boat moored at Salterforth Wharf on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Obviously it is important, when using a solid fuel stove on a narrowboat, that all ventilators on the boat are clear and the flue is not restricted.  Flues should be swept at least once a year.  The stove's door seals should also be sound and making good contact with the stove when the doors are closed.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Aston now has full workshop facilities

The purpose built workshop at Aston Marina - near Stone on the Trent & Mersey - is now fully operational with experienced staff.  The workshop now offers a full engineering service, boat lift out, blacking and painting.

Aston's workshop and slipway are
located in the marina's southern basin

"We have invested around £350,000 in the workshop facility at Aston," says marina manager Alex Clayton.  "It has taken a little while to get to this fully operational stage as we needed to ensure other facilities were up and running smoothly first."

"Owners are understandably cautious about putting their boats in the hands of a painter with whom they are not familiar, but there are now several boats moored at Aston that have been painted here, and I think they provide an excellent advertisement for the quality of work we can offer," comments Alex.

The timing will be particularly helpful for syndicates with their shared ownership boats moored at Aston, as most are now deciding what they want done for their winter maintenance.  Painting slots have already been allocated for several of these boats, so any others need to reserve their slot promptly if winter works are not to curtail the cruising season.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How long does an engine last?

One of the questions I've been asked most often by prospective owners of a share in a narrowboat is 'How long does an engine last?'

It's one of those piece of string questions, but I've generally quoted between 10 and 13 years, particularly in relation to BMC engines, which were the most common in the Ownerships fleet.

But I think I need to revise that.  When I was at Alvechurch for the recent show, Dave Taylor, ABC's technical manager was trying to save the engine in a boat that was just 8 years old.  I've since heard that the engine had reached the end of the road.  The clincher was the worn camshaft - a common problem with ageing BMCs.  With various other problems and the fact that the engine has to come out of the boat to have the camshaft replaced, the economics were clearly in favour of replacement and Ophelia now has a new Beta engine.

The Isuzu engine that replaced the
11 yr old BMC in Sundowner a couple
of years ago. It's quieter and more
efficient -and hopefully longer lasting
At the other end of the scale, Shadow, launched in July 1995, is still running happily on her original engine - although it did have a camshaft transplant and other work a couple of years ago.

So that piece of string is even longer than I thought - the life of a BMC engine in a shared ownership narrowboat is probably within the range of 8 to 17 years!

Various engines have been used to replace BMCs.  We replaced the one in Sundowner a couple of years ago with an Isuzu.  Unfortunately those are no longer available, but a new engine such as that should give a longer life with more efficient operation.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New boat announced for ABC Show

A new 65ft, 6-berth luxury semi-trad narrowboat for shared ownership has been announced by ABC just ahead of their show this weekend (22nd September).  The new boat, Harmonia, is due for launch in June 2013.  She is being equipped with hydraulic drive, led lights throughout and a self-tracking satellite system.

Shared ownership narrowboats on show at Alvechurch
during the ABC open day included
Centurion, Spellbound, Cookley and Maia, pictured here
When I spoke to Edward Helps, MD of ABC Leisure Group, he told me that there was just one share left in Isis (2010) and that all the shares in Maia -launched a year ago - were now sold.  Orders are now being taken for shares in Harmonia and these are priced at £9,750 for an 8% (4 week) share.

ABC staff were being kept very busy at their show talking to interested prospective owners, and Dave Taylor told me that at least four shares had been sold on the day.

Most ABC marinas welcome shared ownership boats, and I have now received the details to put on this site along with other bases.  These extra pages will be available shortly.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sun shines on Ownashare

Ownashare's MD Phil Capp alongside one of the
company's new shared ownership
boats, Forget Me Knot
Lovely September sunshine was an added bonus for Ownashare's show at Fradley Junction this weekend - at least on the Saturday.  It was a welcome contrast to the snow and fog that blighted the company's show earlier in the year.

When Pippa and I were there, there was a steady stream of visitors looking at the new boats and enjoying the activity at Fradley.

“The weather smiled on Fradley Junction this weekend and helped us to deliver one of our best open events to date with lots of interest and sales. Only a handful of shares now remain in our latest boats Minuet and Forget Me Knot,” said Phil Capp, Ownashare's MD.

Ownashare also took the opportunity of the show to announce their new packages and prices for 2013.

There are again several options, but the full management package with all the options works out at £4,800 (including VAT ) on a 12-share boat.

Cruiser stern Minuet on view at
the Ownashare show last weekend
The idea of breaking up the total management package into a number of options has much to commend it, but the options remain as additions to the core package.  

I wonder whether there are any self-managed syndicates that would welcome these options being offered as 'stand-alones' - particularly the pre winter maintenance inspection and report and the supervision of the winter works.  Please let us know what you think, either by emailing us or posting a comment.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

'Warm' welcome on Canalworld forum!

The website received a warmer than expected welcome when it was announced on the Canalworld forum!

Some members felt that it was wrong to post news of the site in a general discussion forum.  One member lodged a complaint and the moderators briefly removed the posting from the site.
Andrew Cooley

It was, however, quickly re-instated and the site owner posted a message saying, "Andrew and I have been in contact and this thread and his website has my support.  It's a free to use site aimed only at bringing information to its readers, much like Canalworld itself."

"The thread contains many positive comments from members who value the sort of information this site can provide, and I am most grateful for their support," comments Andrew Cooley. 

One of the results of the controversy was that that many members of the forum used the links to this site, which resulted in more than 2,780 page views within the first 12 days of it's existence.  The second largest number of referrals has been from the ex-Ownerships forum.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

First price rise in 5 years

Boat management company BCBM has announced that it is increasing its management fee for the first time in 5 years.

Andrew Barton, MD of
BC Boat Management Ltd.
MD Andrew Barton told owners, "We have absorbed the VAT increase of 2.5% introduced by the government in January 2011.  This increased the amount each owner was paying to the government each year by £7.10 - from £59.57 to £66.67"

The increase in the fee per share will be £25 - from £400 to £425 a year - and will take effect from 1st October.  Most owners in BCBM managed syndicates pay the management fee on a monthly basis by standing order, so this will increase from £33.34 a month to £35.42.

"I hope that owners will understand that with rising costs we have held our prices as long as physically possible," said Andrew Barton. "Apart from anything else, the cost for getting our Area Managers to bases is a significant one.  When BCBM started nearly five years ago, we didn't have anyone doing this and fuel costs were significantly lower for the traveling we did."