Saturday, 29 December 2012

Good Fortune Favours the Brave

This is a short New Years story. It fits between the end of the first book and the start of the next:

Good Fortune Favours the Brave - A short Mallory story..

Monday, 17 December 2012

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Goodreads is an American website for book fans. It doesn't sell anything as such - it is just a great place to find information about books..The Pull of The Tide is now listed there..

The Pull of the Tide on Goodreads..

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

X-Ray Specs

Amazon Kindle launch their new X-Ray feature for their e-books

X-Ray or Ex-Ray

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Towing in the Test Tank

Hull design the 20th century way. They thought big in those days.

A 92m Test Tank

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Woody's Workshop

An interesting look at the workshop of a ships carpenter.

Woody's Workshop on Aspatria

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

New Blog for The Pull of The Tide

I have started a new book blog which is dedicated to the Aspatria series of books. The new blog will have details about the people and places in the first book, interesting facts and news of planned subsequent books in the series.

If this is of interest, please bookmark the new blog address:

The Malachi Jones Blog

Friday, 17 August 2012

Canalworld and I Finally Part Company

I've finally had enough of CWDF a.k.a the Canalworld forum here on the internet and have decided to stop posting there.

It's a good forum if you have a boating question, as it has a hardcore of experienced, but overbearing boaters who have opinions on everything and will put you straight, before arguing amongst themselves to prove their superiority to each other, until the post gets locked or turns to dust.

All large forums have this to some extent, but their mob rule is getting out of hand.

Several wise boaters have told me recently that they use CWDF to gain answers to their problems, but then once the information is gained, they stop viewing the post and let the regulars turn their original post into chaos with their bickering and bitching.

I've been a member for 7.5 years and have around 2600 posts to my name, but it's been getting worse in the last few years, with some posts just resorting to rudeness and open insults. The moderation is very laid back and a minority have effectively seized control.

Half the time, people can't even be bothered to read what you've written and just hijack the thread to talk about what they want to talk about.

I stopped posting answers on my speciality, electrical matters, some years ago because I was finding that I would answer the original poster with my professional opinion and then spend the next 5 posts defending my answer to others looking to pick holes in my response. I found myself writing essays to cover all the angles for even the simplest questions. Life is just too short for that sort of nonsense.

The sad thing is that I have met quite a few boaters who admit they like reading the forum for its wealth of information but do not post or even reply to the posts of others for fear of being trampled by the hardcore.

That is a real shame and of course is a form of censorship all in itself. It's all very well for the hardcore to say "grow a thick skin" and "if you can't take the knocks don't play", but why should you have to ?

Not everybody who likes canals wants to spend their evenings arguing and point scoring..

The end result is that the meek get meeker and the know-all's become the only posters.

There is a distinct lack of respect for varying peoples opinions which is just ignorance.

It seems to me that forums like this have a lot of people on their board who think that an evening's entertainment ideally comprises of large amounts of alcohol and winding people up as much as possible.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

VHF on Canals More Prevalent Than You Think ?

In a recent survey on two canal related Facebook groups, it was discovered that

22 boats carry VHF either permanently or occasionally
12 boats don't and have no interest
15 boats don't have VHF but would consider it if more boats and marinas fitted

To me, this suggests that VHF has potential on our canals.

I don't mean that boats cruise round with aerials up and loudspeakers blaring static to spoil everybody's peace. Quite the opposite.

However, if marinas and some service-supplying boatyards fitted channel M, this would allow VHF equipped boats to communicate about berth locations, pump out availability, etc.

In fact, virtually anything you might normally phone a marina or yard for, except the calls are free.

I'm not even suggesting boats fit VHF specially for this purpose - it just seems that if 44% of boats already have VHF, they could actually get better use out of it.

Channel M costs a marina £75 per year for the licence. A VHF base station can be bought for around £100.
No trained operator is required to operate a set working on channel M. The person who normally answers the phone can operate the channel M set.

Most VHF boat sets sold in the UK, come complete with channel M (or Ch37A as it is sometimes called).

I've spoken to a few marinas and there seems little interest. One even said in their defence, that they had not received anybody asking for it.
I wonder how many boaters know about the merits of Channel M ??

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Do You Have VHF Onboard ? Would You Like Marinas To Use It ?

Having recently struggled to get a dongle signal whilst cruising, so I could look up the phone number of a Marina we would were passing to inquire about availability of services, it occurred to me how bloody useful it would be if I could actually get some use out of the VHF equipment that I carry on board our narrowboat.

Like a lot of boaters these days, we carry VHF for the Thames tidal and other selected waterways where there are commercial vessels.

Most of the time it sits brooding in the corner.

We often need to contact marinas and boatyards to see if they have any visitor moorings, if their pump-out is working, etc.

I just thought it would be good if more marinas and boatyards would buy themselves a cheap base station and get a licence for Ch.M.
 A fixed set these days can be bought for £100 or less and the Channel M licence costs £75 per annum. As its not an international channel, the users don't need to undergo any test or certification.

Some of the MDL marinas on the Thames have this facility (probably because they are often dealing with GRP cruisers that go down the estuary) and it seems to work quite well.

It would certainly save that long slog off the canal into the marina basin, only to reach the services berth to find an out of order sign.

Or to ask about the price of their diesel

Or to ask where they expect me to moor on the umpteen finger pontoons around me ?

and of course, it might stop my VHF gathering dust..

Saturday, 30 June 2012

I've always been a bit concerned about using expensive smart phones out on deck and when working locks etc. We have a Blackberry and an iPhone and they are expensive to replace (not to mention the loss of valuable data when they disappear into the cut leaving only bubbles).

Hearing about yet another boater who has lost their phone overboard (Alison Tuck on NB Davinci), I bought myself one of these JCB Tradesman phones from Ebay for £57.

I didn't expect much for the money - even the cheapest phones in Tesco are about £35.

The Tradesman, apart from being sexist, is rated at IP67, which means that it is waterproof.

Not trusting IP ratings particularly, I set about dropping the phone in the bath.

Not only does it still work after a dunking, it actually floats and there is a natty little LED torch on the top that can be switched on at night to aid location in the event of a dropping.

Admittedly, after smart phones, it's more of a dumb phone, but it is fine for calling and texting.

It has a very loud ringtone, which is great for hearing over engine noise, although the choice is a bit restricted and it is really simple to use (I downloaded the full manual from the JCB website, although it's not essential). It works with my car hands-free when I'm driving to jobs and its pretty tough.
JCB who sell the phone make a big thing about driving a JCB over it - I think I'll give that test a miss - there's only so much you can get for £57.

So on our boat, we keep the smart phones down below so we are connected to e-mail and the net and we use the "Tradesman" for keeping in touch on deck and when on the towpath.

It's even useful when the first mate is steering and wants to ring me at the lock to tell me to get a move on...

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Whipping Wapping

Spending a few days in the old slum areas of Wapping and Tobacco Dock for the Queens Diamond Jubilee Pageant were somewhat of an eye-opener.
First the narrowboats in the Pageant, as I'm sure you're keen to see them, as the BBC coverage was so bad.

Click to enlarge - From the far side: Fulbourne (name obscured by steam), Tarporley, President, Beatty and Gort

 Click to enlarge - Hazell Nut (grey), Orlando (blue) and Pirate Prince (red)..

Click to enlarge - From the far side: Barely Awake, Lord Toulouse, Diamond, Ernest..

Click to enlarge - From the left: Lord Toulouse (green/cream), Barely Awake (red), The Floating Salon (black), Quercus (red), Ketura (with Union Jack umbrella), Bream (far side), Shropshire Lad, Swingbridge 2 (green) and Frances Anne (bow only)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

SMS Alarms Mk2 - There's More.

Following my April 1st blogpost (no it wasn't an April Fools Joke), I've refined the design slightly so that you can alternatively tell when your bilge pump is running (if this is preferable to just knowing when your bilge alarm has been activated by water ingress). Some boats leak and the bilge pump starts and stops a lot - when you visit the boat, the pump has emptied the water so there doesn't appear to be a problem. All is fine - well until the pump burns out or the battery goes flat..

It will text you when the pump starts and text you again when it stops.

The free phone call feature can also be used to start your heating or switch your lights on. Another phone call turns them off. Sometimes easier than texting codes...

Sunday, 1 April 2012

SMS Alarms MK2

Some of you may remember my work a year or two ago on SMS Alarms..

I have been diligently beavering away at this, as a little project and have reached my Mk2 design.

In essence, this is a little box on your boat, not much bigger than a cigarette packet.

Fitted with a Pay As You Go Simcard and mobile phone chip and designed primarily for people like me who leave their boat unattended on a remote mooring, sometimes for weeks at a time, it is hard-wired to sensors supplied with it.

It could detect if your bilge started to fill with water or if somebody broke into your boat.

It would even detect if your batteries were discharged below a specific level or somebody disconnected your shoreline.

An independent internal battery supply provides a battery-back up, so the system will still work even if the DC supply is disconnected to the unit by a clever burglar.

Any of these events will cause the unit to send a text message to your mobile, telling you what the problem is.

A secondary use of this device, is that it works the other way - you can send a text or make a free phone call to the device, to activate boat equipment (e.g turn the heater on before you get to the boat to warm the cabin through, switch the fridge on or switch a security light on for a variable time period to make people think somebody is on-board).

You can test everything periodically by sending a text to the device and it will text you back with a full status report, including information about signal strength and your boats battery voltage.

An optional GPS module also allows it to tell you the exact location of the boat whenever you ask by text message - could be good in case of theft or trying to keep track of a rented boat or hireboat fleet.