May 072013

When is a cruise not a cruise?

With a long weekend booked and a good forecast. The May Bank holiday weekend was looking nailed on as our first overnight cruise of the season but fate was yet to play its hand as my adult daughter came down with mumps and we couldn’t leave her to suffer alone. I say “we”, although his can also be interpreted as “the wife said”.

However by Saturday afternoon the sickness had subsided enough to allow us to leave her alone long enough to get the boat out for an hour of so. Although the promised good weather was yet to make an appearance. I’m pleased to say the engine fired easily after the recent electrickery issues and we had a short but challenging trip in the stiff breeze.

Sunday was middle son’s day off and usually he would visit for some of Mothers cooking. However he hasn’t had mumps yet and thought it prudent to stay away, so we agreed to take him out for the afternoon. Where could we go? A repeat run of the previous day’s short cruise was in order. The only difference was that the wind had dropped and the sun was making a valiant effort to shine.

And so to the Bank Holiday Monday itself. The sun finally made its promised appearance as we headed towards Preston Boat Jumble with the now much improved daughter in tow. After spending far too much money on stuff we didn’t really need, and breathing a sigh of relief when we found out a ten foot boat hook does fit in a Toyota Verso, we left after lunch with the intention of dropping off our purchases at the boat en-route home.

Arriving at the marina we stowed all the new gear on board. The pub across the cut from the mooring was busy and the visitor moorings alongside full. Several boats chugged past making the most of the sunshine. We all agreed there was no rush to get home and the tea would keep. I started the engine and rolled back the canopy and we headed out of the marina for a run up to Tewitfield and back. It was just too nice not to.

Over the weekend we probably cruised more than we would if we had stuck to our original plans but it still felt like a weekend missed. There’s more to cruising than pottering up and down the waterway, pleasant as it is. We still missed out on waking up in the middle of the countryside. Sharing an evening beer with other boaters in a canalside pub. Lazy afternoons drowning maggots or just watching the kingfishers darting back and forth.

But there’s always next weekend…

Feb 162012

This week we had a minor disaster involving a washing machine, several-to-many gallons of water and some extremely soggy carpets. I received a call at work from she who must be obeyed. “I’ve flooded the house!” she cried. I dashed home while imagining burst pipes and scenes from “Das Boot” and “The Poseidon Adventure” to find we had a paddling pool in the utility room along with the adjoining kitchen and bathrooms. Water was flowing at a steady rate from the top of the washing machine, which had decided it didn’t want to pump out anymore.

I turned off the electric and water supplies and set the wife to the task of mopping up… A little while later I returned home with our new mop and bucket. I then resumed my examination of the machine. While it was no longer pouring with water it was still full, REALLY full. Opening the front loading door at this point wasn’t an option and reaching the drain behind was impossible.

I found pulling hard on the bottom of the door just broke the seal allowing the water to drain out slowly. I was able to capture some of the water in a square sided bucket pressed up against the machine, “Keep mopping dear!” This was taking too long and my fingers were starting to ache, so I bit the bullet, positioned the bucket and opened the washer’s door. “All hands to pumps! Prepare to blow main ballast….” Das Boot popped into my head again. “Keep mopping dear!” Eventually the washing was recovered from the machine and mopping up was well underway, so I returned to work with a cheery “Keep mopping dear!”

I was talking to colleagues at work about this and was surprised how many asked, “Is it five years old?” It seems apparent that Washing Machines are built to last nowadays. Built to last five years that is, and no more. The number of people with the same story of a machine breaking down, spectacularly or otherwise, soon after its fifth anniversary was amazing.

I’m sure that the technology is around that can mass produce mid-range washing machines that perform for years and years, however this wouldn’t be good news for manufacturers. Building in obsolescence makes sense if you want to keep on selling washing machines, but the fact that they all seem to go around the same time does hint at some sort of cartel like conspiracy.

I paid around two hundred and fifty pounds for the replacement machine including delivery and installation. Assuming this one lasts another fives years, that’s fifty pounds a year for in-house laundry facilities. If we didn’t have a washing machine I’d happily pay someone fifty quid a year to lug the laundry to and from the launderette several times a week, so I still think it’s reasonable value for money.

If only I could be confident that when it does breakdown, it does so without allowing gallons of water to pour out. If a manufacture was to come clean and state their machine will last five years and then die gracefully without soaking the carpets, I would be first in the queue. Better still, provide us with a warning light that comes on a couple of weeks before it dies so we can replace it before it commits suicide. Now that would be selling point considering the risk of flooding.

Many other items, especially among household goods must be built to a pre-defined lifespan. The manufacturer must have a lifespan in mind when they source their components. Everything is built to a quality standard, be it good, or be it not so good. Expected lifespan of a product is just one element of the quality specification.

Maybe they think telling us when something is likely do break down will put buyers off. If manufactures were more open and honest about the expected lifespan of their products I think they’d find more customers willing to invest in them. I’m not talking about warranty periods; we all expect things to last some time beyond its warranty. However, no one really expects anything to last forever, but knowing how long we can reasonably expect something to last would be a great selling point.

Jul 112011
Bad day for boating

Home from another weekends boating, which got off to rather a bad start. We left the marina on Friday and headed north to one of our favourite mooring spots. Rain had been forecast but if you wait for the right weather before doing something in this country you’ll rarely do anything. So we motored through heavy showers until we reached the Capernwray Arm which was to be our mooring for the night. This short arm is a popular mooring spot set in a wooded area with no road access. The only access to the area is via footpaths across adjacent [More…]

Jun 222011
Degrees of Pride

My Daughter graduates from Durham University soon and convention tells me I should be looking forward to celebrating with her, but I’m not feeling it, if anything I feel a little awkward about the whole graduation deal. It’s not that I’m not proud of her achievement, I certainly am. My Daughter has always been bright, she sailed through school and it was clear for an early age she could go on to achieve anything she wanted academically. She made her choice, went for it, and is now about to receive her well deserved reward. In contrast my sons are dyslexic and [More…]

Apr 192011
Light at the end of the tunnel

Had a day off work in order to take Ann to Preston Hospital for her penultimate radiotherapy session, primarily so I could sit in when she had her review with the oncologist. The review was a bit of an anti-climax but we’re not expecting any further treatments to be required after tomorrow so things are good on this front at the moment and we feel the scary times are over. Later Ann and I were talking about the whirlwind of things she’s been through in the last six months since she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The first thing that [More…]