Monthly Archives: June 2019

healthy onion bhajis

cookery chat with david & sandra biddle

9: healthy onion bhajis

This month we decided to have a trip from our moorings near Hillmorton Locks on the Oxford canal to Foxton Locks and back. It was a leisurely trip of two weeks, stopping for the odd meal and drink along the way – like you do!!

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falling in love again

falling in love again

a slightly landlocked canal tale

It's been a bit over fifty years since I first stood in the derelict house alongside Shipton Weir lock on the Oxford Canal. The love of all things waterways related started there, and I feel I did the long gone building some justice by letting it live again in my fictional writing. To fall for one moribund structure is probably not that bad a thing for a ten year old but I now find, at the age of sixty-two, that something pretty similar has happened.

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self sufficiency

self sufficiency

As summer arrives, the wooding season ends. Tradition says that now is the time for gathering next season's firewood for chopping and stacking, giving it ample time to cure. But as far as burning to keep warm goes, we're out of the woods, so to speak.

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walking the montgomery canal

a canal wanderer

walking the montgomery canal

maesbury marsh, montgomery canal

At the end of April and beginning of May we spent a week in the beautiful county of Shropshire. We stayed near Oswestry adjacent to the Montgomery Canal. The Montgomery Canal is one of the most beautiful waterways on the network and appeals to many people particularly for its rural and rustic feel.

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widcombe lock

tales from the old cut 2

widcombe lock

On the 30 October 1880, a 23 year old boatman named Thomas Ames stands calmly in Bristol Assizes. He is accused of murder and if he is found guilty, he will surely hang. In an unusual turn of events, he does not. He is charged with manslaughter and sentenced only to 7 years in prison. He takes this information "stolidly" and leaves walking "firmly". It's like he doesn't care that a child is no longer on this earth because of him, and in all probability, he doesn't.

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diesel bug – a layman’s guide

diesel bug - a layman's guide

what is it, and how do we get rid of it?

what is it?

diesel bugDiesel bugs are microbes that live at the interface between water and diesel fuel.

In some places it's also known as diesel fungus or the diesel virus.

The presence of Diesel bug in your fuel tank can be a potential risk to your engine's fuel system, can cause serious damage and eventually lead to engine failure.

If the fuel stored in your tank has been subject to variations in weather and temperature or your fuel has been stored for long periods without usage, then there is a considerable danger that your fuel may be contaminated.

contamination from water

diesel bug

The most common contaminant is WATER, usually building up from condensation.

Because biodiesel is hygroscopic (it attracts water molecules from atmospheric moisture). It is vital that the utmost care is taken to reduce, as far as possible, any contact which the fuel may have with water or water vapour.

Fuel containing any amount of water could seriously damage your equipment’s fuel injection system and would make it more prone to breaking down.

contamination from bacteria & the dreaded fuel bug

Sulphur free diesel containing biodiesel will also be more prone to bacterial contamination than normal mineral diesel or gas oil. This fuel has inherent bacteria and the presence of any water accelerates the growth of microbe colonies which are able to breed and multiply and will eventually completely plug and block a fuel system (see picture below).

This ‘bug’ will form a layer between the fuel and the water and as it breeds it produces waste which is usually  evident as black sludge and slimes or dark lumps. These eventually fall to the bottom of the tank and encourage further problems with the potential to cause severe damage through further blockage of fuel filters and increased corrosion.

symptoms, tests & cure

diesel bug

Your engine will stop, will let you restart, will carry on for a very few miles, then stop again.

Some diesel tanks have a tap at the bottom, which will allow you to run out a little diesel, or run off any water present. (The water sits at the bottom of your tank as it is heavier than diesel). An easy way to check for water contamination.

There are many products to help you test for diesel bug, and many that will go some way towards eliminating it. We would have to recommend our own products, such as our Diesel bug Testing Kit, & Diesel bug Killer. We would also recommend having a Fuel decontaminator fitted (removes any trace of moisture) and a fuel polishing system which would clean and polish your fuel while the engine is idle.

Ian Currie, Fuel GuardIan Currie is the owner of Fuel Guard, and has 25 years of experience  associated with heavy trucks, earth moving, plant hire, construction, marine and the agricultural market -specialising in fuel, lubrication and filtration systems.

Call: 01908 230 579 Write: Email Visit:  Website Link

co alarm testing

carbon monoxide alarm testing

since april 1st 2019 the BSS mandate is that all boats with an accommodation space must have a co alarm fitted

a step forward, but...

co alarm battery testing

test button test

the test button on a CO alarm only tests the battery, circuit and horn.

Detectagas® test

a Detectagas® test is sensor inclusive and the only way to fully ensure that your CO alarm is still sensing gas.

Detectagas co alarm testing
warning sign for carbon monoxide

silent killer

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that has no smell or taste. Breathing it in can make you unwell, and it can kill if you’re exposed to high levels. Every year there are around 25 deaths from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in England and Wales.

how to test your CO alarm

Having a carbon monoxide (CO) detector in your home can help protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning, but only if it works properly. Checking your detector regularly will help make sure your family is safe. You should test the sensor on the unit annually with a calibrated test spray, and check the alarm circuitry once a month by pressing the test button.

carbon monoxide alarm testing
Detectagas Carbon Monoxide tester


  • Simple to use

  • Entirely safe

  • Sensor Inclusive Test

  • Calibrated Test Gas

  • 11 Tests per can

  • Low cost per test

  • Sensor tests all CO alarms

  • manufactured to BS EN 5029

GasSafe Europe logoFor trade enquiries please contact:
Gas Safe Europe Limited, 1 Daniels Court, Gas Lane, Mold, Flintshire, CH7 1UR

Call: 01352 860 600 Write: Email Visit: Website Link

batteries – a brief encounter

batteries - a brief encounter

a guide to leisure batteries

size matters

When it comes to choosing leisure batteries for your narrowboat, you need to check the existing batteries for size and amperage rating. If you're living on the boat you will be reliant on the batteries, so it's very important to choose the right ones to power your everyday accessories. The physical size is crucial when choosing a battery. The bigger the battery, the bigger the ampere hour rating.

choose the right type of leisure battery

Narrowboats tend to use unsealed batteries as most designs have the batteries located near the engine bay. Excessive heat will cause evaporation and therefore unsealed batteries, even though most units are maintenance free, can be replenished with fluid to prolong their life. However, most leisure batteries are sealed units these days but are perfectly fine to use.

The most common leisure / deepcycle batteries used are listed below and they range from 110ah - 230ah.

There are 3 different grades of Leisure Batteries, Wet Flooded Lead Acid (the most common and cheapest), AGM Leisure Batteries and GEL Batteries. The pro's & Con's are described below. The physical size is crucial when choosing a battery. The bigger the battery, the more ampere hours (capacity).

standard wet flooded lead acid leisure batteries

Pros: These are the most common and popular type of leisure battery, sealed or unsealed. They are reasonably priced and can be used on most applications.

Cons: You should really only drain these batteries down to 40% of their capacity, so for example, if you had a 110ah battery, you're only using 60% of its capacity. They also drain quickly and take longer to recharge.

agm leisure batteries

Pros: AGM batteries have come down a lot in price over the last few years. They are becoming more & more popular for use on Camper Vans & Motorhomes which is understandable as AGM batteries are sealed, non spill-able and emit minimal gases.
They drain at a slower rate, so will last longer between recharges.
You can also use 80% of its capacity and they will charge almost 3 times faster than a standard flooded type battery.
AGM batteries have high cranking ability, so can power Caravan Movers and Outboard Motors. AGM batteries can also perform more cycles.

Cons: There aren't really any cons regarding these battery types. They used to be expensive and were limited in size variations. Now, there are many different sizes to choose from.

gel deep cyclic batteries

Pros: Gel Leisure Batteries are pure deep cyclic. These can be drained almost completely flat and still recover.

Suitable for deep discharge applications such as catering equipment, security cameras etc.

Cons: Sadly Gel batteries are very expensive, we only supply the best product brand of Gel which is Sonnenschein. The leisure Gel range we supply are not really suitable for starting applications but you can buy Gel batteries products with starting use.

Starter Batteries

We also supply engine starter batteries. Again starter batteries do vary in size and amplitude.

A deep-cycle battery is a lead-acid battery designed to be regularly deeply discharged using most of its capacity. In contrast, starter batteries (e.g. most automotive batteries) are designed to deliver short, high-current bursts for cranking the engine, thus frequently discharging only a small part of their capacity.

At Advanced Batteries, we sell all the top leisure brands like Numax, Lucas, Varta, ABS Leisure and Trojan. You can choose from sealed and non sealed units and we can supply a range of flooded lead acid, absorbed glass mat (AGM) and even Gel type batteries. We are always ready with battery advice, so do get in touch.

Call: 0800 195 9897 Visit our Website: Advanced Battery Supplies

electric boats

electric boats - the way forward

the history, challenges, and future of electric boats

Electric boats (EBs) are a lot more diverse, complicated and varied than cars, because they have to tackle some very tough conditions, but they share some common features. This brief introduction considers the history, challenges, and future of electric boats and shipping.

the history

Historically, both electric cars and ships date back to the invention of batteries and motors in the mid 19th Century. In those days, water transport - on rivers, canals, lakes and oceans - carried most of the world's passengers and cargoes. Muscle power, sails, and later coal/steam power, were the main energy sources, and all three had significant disadvantages, being highly labour intensive. The commercial development of electric boats included small and medium-sized passenger boats, small ferries, and even canal barges like streetcars that used overhead power lines.  But, just as with early electric cars, poor range, lack of charging facilities, and slow speeds were key disadvantages.

electric speeding boatThe high energy storage density of oil, and the internal combustion engine put an end to most Electric Boat development by the early 20th century. Nevertheless, throughout the last 100 years, the need to power silent hybrid submarines and undetectable torpedoes ensured that battery and motor development continued, culminating in nuclear-electric submarines capable of travelling under the frozen ice of the Arctic to meet the threats of the cold-war era. Meanwhile, using manned and unmanned electric submersibles, exploration continues of the mysterious depths of the oceans.

Specialist solar racing boats may use foils to reduce friction, and can travel on pure solar power at speeds of up to 30 mph. There are annual student competitions in the USA and the Netherlands. One such craft, an experimental offshore trimaran, will attempt a cross-channel record in August 2019. Broadly speaking though, whether conventional or highly specialised, all these kind of smaller EBs are roughly equivalent to electric cars: they are designed to transport small numbers of people safely, and make use of widely available components and materials, batteries, chargers, controllers, motors, and so on.

the challenges

electric boat on canalLike an electric car, a conventional modern electric boat can be either pure electric or hybrid.  The huge advantages to the boater on the water are the quiet motor and lack of smell from fumes, and there is no risk of fuel spillage either. What's more, unlike converting a car, a boat conversion can be as quick and easy as replacing an old petrol outboard engine with a modern electric alternative: simplicity itself. These light craft are ideal for fishing, leisure or exploring nature.

The most popular types of electric boats are small dinghies, canoes, rowboats, sailboats, speedboats, or inflatable ribs powered fully or partly by a simple outboard trolling motor or a more powerful outboard linked to a battery pack. They may also use wind or human-power as a main or supplementary power source as and when needed or available. The battery pack might be integral to the outboard (if it is lightweight like lithium) or separate if using heavy lead acid.

More sophisticated, specialised and larger EBs generally use a built-in (inboard) propeller and motor - and the electric motor itself may be built into a pod underwater to keep it cool, or placed inside the hull and cooled using some other means. Conversion to inboard electric of e.g. a heavy canal narrow boat or yacht is not cheap, and is still fairly rare, but is becoming more popular for environmental reasons.

Some more advanced larger electric boats and ships also combine wind power (conventional cloth or solar-impregnated sails and/or small wind turbines), solar panels, nuclear, hydrogen fuel cells, diesel, biofuel or petrol generators. Multiple power sources are not unusual, for example the yacht Electra, moored at Bute, uses sails as a primary power source, supplemented by a plug in 10 kWh l-ion battery and Lynch motor, solar panels, a small petrol generator for emergencies, and a regenerating propeller for use when the boat is under sail. Modern sailing and motor boats need a steady source of low-voltage electricity for navigation, radio and instrumentation, as well as for lighting and other functions, and they may be at sea for long periods of time without access to shore facilities, so every kWh gained or saved really counts. These small currents can be mission-critical on a yacht undertaking a long passage, or when the wind fails.

the future

As battery prices reduce, and if there were political support through e.g. diesel scrappage schemes and VAT incentives, it would be relatively easy to replace most small-boat inboard and outboard engines with electric power as and when existing fossil-fuel units wear out and need replacing. It will probably happen eventually anyway.

But the climate emergency we now face sees heavy marine oil as the major problem, and there are increasingly urgent international measures and directives to reduce reliance on dirty oil. One large cruise ship can produce as a much particulate matter as 1M cars, and according to Channel 4's Dispatches, the air quality on deck is as bad as our inner-cities. A wide number of measures are being developed to tackle this, including modern wind-assisted ships, conversion to gas turbines, sustainably generated hydrogen, hybrid-electric propulsion as used by some modern cruise ships and even plug-in ferries.  Iceland’s first electrified ferry, a 70-meter long vessel, will be powered by a massive 3,000kWh battery pack with a diesel generator that will serve only to supply backup power. Despite the considerable engineering and financial challenges, with good planning, much of Scotland's ageing ferry and marine offshore fleet could be replaced with hybrid-electric by 2035.

electric boat association logoRobert Malcolm Kay, is General Secretary of the Electric Boats Association, 'connecting people with an interest in promoting electric boats and ships since 1982'
photos by kind permission of Torqueedo: inboard and outboard electric motors
Further reading: 'Electric Boats and Ships' by Kevin Desmond: published by McFarland, 2017: a definitive, lively and well-researched history of electric boats to the present day.

Call:  08707 605 846  Write: Email  Visit: Website Link

jogle blogle

old no. 38

jogle blogle

Hello everyone and welcome to my latest column for, CanalsOnline Magazine. I hope you’ll indulge me just this once. When I started writing for the magazine some months back now I promised that we take a look together at what was just beyond the normal ‘canal-scape’  - which I hope that in some small measure we have managed to do.

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