Monday, 22 August 2016

Peak Rail Winter Service 2013

In January 2013, Peak Rail was still using 'Sapper', which had arrived to help with the 'Santa' trains in the previous month, as detailed below. The service was running from Rowsley to Matlock Riverside. Although I prepared these notes at the time, I'm afraid they didn't get published until much later!

Events of Sunday, 6th January 2013

'Sapper', running bunker first to Rowsley, pauses at Darley Dale on 6th January 2013.


Since Peak Rail inaugurated its extension to Matlock (Town) described in Matlock Station Festival Reopening, trains have not normally called at Matlock Riverside. In 2013, Peak Rail advertised a Winter Service of four round trips betweeen Rowsley and Matlock Riverside on both Saturdays and Sundays during January and February, so we reverted to the old method of working with one steam locomotive in service running round its train at Matlock Riverside and Rowsley.

I was reminded that 'Sapper' first visited Peak Rail to help with the 'Santa' trains for Christmas 2011 and stayed for a while. I wrote about another day on 'Sapper' on 15th January 2012 in the post Peak Rail in Winter.

'Sapper' returned to help with the 'Santa' trains for Christmas 2012 (sporting new ladders to reach the top of the saddle tank and a modified 'paint job'). Again, this popular visitor stayed to work the Winter Service in 2013. Fortunately, January 2013 was proving much milder than in the previous year. I was 'marked' as Driver on Sunday 6th January when it was overcast, misty and rather cold but without the freezing conditions of the previous year. I was rostered with Richard as Fireman during the morning and Phil taking over in the afternoon. Mike was there all day as our Cleaner.

Locomotive Preparation

No Driving Experience Course was booked, so I was able to sign-on as late as 08:45. Richard and Mike had arrived earlier and 'Sapper', standing on the outside pit at Rowsley, was already in steam. I've written a separate post describing the driver's duties in preparing 'Sapper' for traffic - Preparation of Locomotive 'Sapper'.

Into Traffic

We were ready, with a full tank of water and both injectors tested, by 10:15. Rob had given me the Train Staff for the Church Lane - Rowsley section, which we would need to come through the crossover at the south end of the loop to reach our 5-coach train, so we gently moved off and shunted across to the stock. Our Guard hand signalled us onto the stock, and we gently compressed the buffers before making the locomotive safe for the Cleaner to go between and couple up - regulator closed, handbrake on, reverser mid-gear, cylinder drain cocks open. With screw coupling, steam heating hoses and vacuum hoses connected, we were able to start carriage warming and create vacuum in the brake system to allow the Guard to carry out his tests. There is an earlier post which talks about attaching a locomotive to its train at Peak Rail called On the Footplate (Part 2). The Guard gave me the load - five coaches for a little over two hundred tons nett. We 'synchronised watches'. I always accept the Guard's time. Then we had enough time before the first departure for a snack and a cup of tea.

11:15 to Matlock Riverside

A couple of minutes before departure, the Station Master asked if we were ready and, having confirmed that we were, I set the engine for departure. I fully applied the steam brake so that the Fireman could easily unscrew our handbrake then I left the steam brake partially applied so that the train was under control and could not move even when the Guard wound his handbrake 'off'. Finally, I put the reverser into 'Full Forward' gear, keeping the cylinder drain cocks in the open position.

At 11:15 we received the 'Rightaway' from the Guard, I had a final look ahead, received the Fireman's confirmation that we were "Clear for Ahead" his side, gave one whistle in acknowledgement to the Guard and as a warning to anyone around the permanent way that we couldn't see, fully released the steam brake and judiciously pushed the regulator open. The 'feel' of regulators varies a lot from engine to engine. I wanted enough steam to start moving the train but not so much that the train was jerked into motion or, worse, the engine "picked up her feet" and slipped. An engine should always be started in Full Gear so as to have maximum torque available. On a 2-cylinder engine like 'Sapper', either cylinder could be on 'dead centre' at the instant of starting, meaning that the train needs to be started with the effort of just one cylinder. However, as soon as there's movement, the energy of motion will ensure that passing through 'dead centre' on either cylinder will not cause a problem and maximum torque will no longer be required except on exceptional adverse gradients or with exceptionally heavy loads. After a few 'chuffs' from the exhaust, I 'notched-up' the gear, reducing the demand for steam and allowing expansive working (where more useful work is extracted from the steam by expanding it to a lower temperature before exhausting it to the chimney). Happy that the steam being expelled from the drain cocks had 'purged' the cylinders of condensate, I shut the cylinder drain cocks.

I like to take the train out of the platform reasonably slowly for various reasons. You occasionally get passengers trying to board or alight while the train is moving. The station staff may spot a slam-door improperly closed with a handle 'cocked' (in the old days, one member of staff would normally be positioned near the front of the train as a 'last resort' method of closing such a door without the embarrassment all round of the guard having to 'destroy the vacuum' to bring the train to a stand). In addition, the boiler is suddenly being presented with a demand for steam and the cylinders and motion are being put under load. I like to listen and look to satisfy myself that all is well.

Once the rear of the train is clear of the platform I pushed the regulator a bit further open and allowed the speed to build. Once the train is clear of the run-round loop at Rowsley, the line speed limit of 25 m.p.h. applied until the level crossing at Church Lane. Only 5 minutes is allowed in the timetable from Rowsley to Darley Dale so, with the gentle start I prefer, it doesn't leave too long for the remainder of the run.

Both driver and fireman are normally on the look-out for Church Lane's Up Home signal - a delightful Midland Railway wooden post signal with a lower quadrant stop arm at the top and a fixed distant for Darley Dale below. Sighting this signal is not ideal at the best of times but the day was fairly cold so the front of the locomotive was wreathed in steam condensed to a white fog even after I'd closed the regulator and dropped the reverser into full forward gear (to minimise wear in the pin joints). Drifting towards Church Lane Up Home signal gave me the first opportunity to see how well the train was rolling and judge the braking effort which would be needed to stop at the signal, if necessary. Before we'd sighted the signal, I had to use the driver's brake valve to drop the train pipe vacuum to 15 inches of mercury to make an initial braking application. Once I was happy with our speed, I 'blew the brakes off' again, optimistically hoping that the signal would clear before we needed to brake further to stop at the signal. The signal arm came off, so I acknowledged with a short 'toot' on the whistle and opened the regulator for a few 'chuffs' to prevent speed from dropping further. I retrieved the train staff for the Rowsley - Church Lane section from the back wall of the cab. The staff travels in a 'pouch' attached to a covered hoop allowing the signalman to 'catch' it by placing his arm through the hoop as we hold it out. Both engine crew and signalman have to lean well out towards one another for the 'catch' to be successful and it's important to observe the speed restriction.

The 'clear' signal we'd just passed confirmed that the motor points ahead were correctly set for the 'Up' platform and that the line was clear up to the level crossing gates at Darley Dale so, as soon as the staff was safely exchanged, I linked up the gear a couple of notches and put on steam in the hope of achieving a 'Right Time Arrival' in Darley Dale. Darley Dale North Ground Frame which used to give access to two storage sidings on the Up side has been abolished and the frame itself together with the points and trackwork have been taken away. At about the location of the frame, I shut the regulator once again and 'dropped' the reverser into full gear.

Approaching Darley Dale I had to judge the braking needed to enter the platform at a comfortable speed, run along the platform and quietly stop just short of Darley Dale's Up Home bracket signal. Before the train came to a complete stand, I released the vacuum brake to reduce the chance of a jerk as we stopped. The drivers' mantra for this is "Stop on a rising vacuum."

There's a slight complication on 'Sapper' in that the application of the vacuum brake on the train does not affect the locomotive steam brake - the two brakes are not 'coupled' so, as the train came to a stand, I made a simultaneous steam brake application to stop the locomotive at the same time. Correctly done, this prevents the locomotive from trying to run on, being restrained by the coupling and bouncing back onto the train with a 'thump'. If the steam brake is braking harder than the vacuum brakes on the train, there's the opposite problem of fore-and-back motion as the train 'catches up' with the engine and then bounces off.

Braking has to be judged according to the actual rolling resistance of the train on the day. All sorts of factors affect the rolling resistance of a train but it always seems to reduce somewhat during the day. I suspect this may be related to the axlebox frictional losses reducing as the oil warms a little but I don't know. Locomotives themselves seem to perform better after a hour or so but whether that's for a similar reason as the oil 'gets round', or related to the temperature gradient through the boiler from firebox to smokebox stabilising or related to condensation losses in the cylinders minimising, again, I don't know. But, for years, I've known the old saying "It's a different engine in the afternoon!".

With only a short pause at Darley Dale, I'd partially applied the steam brake to control the train and opened the cylinder drain cocks (always called 'taps' by enginemen, for an obvious reason).

When station duties were finished, the Guard gave a handsignal to the Signalman that we were ready to depart, the signalman opened the gates to the railway and pulled off the Up Home signal - an LMS wooden post with bracket cantilevered to the right carrying an upper quadrant stop signal. Once we had the green flag from the Guard, it was check ahead from both sides of the footplate, whistle, release the steam brake and ease the regulator open. Once we were moving, I 'linked up' the gear, shut the 'taps' and squatted down in the cab doorway so that I could collect the single line staff for the Darley Dale - Matlock single line section which the signalman, standing on the road crossing, was holding up for me to collect. This staff has a covered hoop (like the one I'd surrendered at Church Lane) but, instead of a pouch, the staff is attached to the hoop by a short chain.

Single Line Procedures

Once I'd collected the staff, I made sure it was the right one. The Church Lane - Rowsley staff is rectangular with the place names engraved on it whereas the one I'd just collected was round engraved 'DARLEY DALE - MATLOCK'. Before I hung it on the back wall of the cab, I held it out for the Fireman to check shouting "Correct Staff!" Single Line Working with a Staff is safe, as long as people follow the procedures. Failure to do so can have tragic results such as the Abermule Disaster in 1921 (see the Wikipedia article and the newsreel film of the aftermath here.

Adjusting the Regulator

I'd set the regulator so that the whole train would pass over the road crossing and the points at the south end of the loop at a sensible speed then I eased the regulator a little further open to start to accelerate. I glanced at the boiler pressure gauge to make sure that the increased steam consumption was not causing distress and, satisfied, pushed the regulator to give full 'pilot' (also called 'first') valve. This was nowhere near the locomotive's capacity using 'main' (also called 'second' valve) but quite sufficient for our reasonably "featherweight" train. There's a bit more explanation of regulators in the post Locomotive Regulators.

Foot Crossing

With speed picking up, I sounded the whistle for our approach to the foot crossing at Red House Cutting. Both driver and fireman should be looking out for trouble at this point. The whistle, of course, is to alert people near the crossing to our approach. The sensible thing is for pedestrians to stand clear and wait for us to pass, then cross in safety. But I'm afraid you do get unwise people from time to time who decide to run across, rather than wait. They never seem to consider that, if they stumble, they're putting themselves at risk. A train is not like a car and, even at our moderate speeds, if a driver makes an Emergency Brake Application, the train will take some distance to come to a stand. In a car, the driver can rely on passengers being seated and strapped in but, on trains, passengers can be standing, walking or carrying hot drinks. It's possible to injure a number of passengers in the train with an Emergency Stop and a driver should be aware of that.

Red House Cutting foot crossing, looking towards Matlock (the picture was actually taken from the brake van of a freight train heading north).

On to Matlock Riverside

There was a temporary speed restriction extending from the foot crossing down to Bridge 35 (the Derwent River Bridge) so, having got the train rolling, I had to partially close the regulator to prevent the speed from rising on the falling gradient - it's about 1 in 400 until Bridge 35, then it's uphill (see gradient diagram below).

British Railways Gradient Diagram Ambergate - Bakewell

There's another whistle board approaching the accommodation crossing a little further on and, near there, I shut off steam altogether, place the reverser in 'Full Gear' and let the train drift. There's another whistle board and accommodation crossing a little further on. Apart from the intermittent farm vehicles going to tend the stock in the fields on our right, we get quite a few fishermen who take their cars into these fields to park, then walk to the Bank of the Derwent to fish.

The accommodation crossing used by fishermen, looking towards Matlock


Peak Rail Winter Service 2013.
'Sapper' Austerity Tank Locomotive.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Peak Rail 1940s Weekend, 2016

In 2016, the Peak Rail 1940s Weekend took place on Saturday 5th August and Sunday 6th August. I was rostered as steam driver with Dave P. as fireman and Colin D. as cleaner on the Sunday. The event enjoyed fine, sunny weather and excellent attendance figures.

We were booked "Off Shed" at 10:15, so it was not a very early start for me. As I walked through the site to reach the locomotive shed, there were many uniformed re-enactors around. The programme listed ten re-enactor organisations as attending, representing German, Russian, American and British combatants, together with civilian groups.

The wooded area was temporary home to numerous tents.

Although it had been a mild night, I didn't envy the re-enactors who had camped overnight.

Following a night under canvas, re-enactors enjoy breakfast around the campfire.

There were armoured vehicles, including a tank, various lorries, motor cycle combinations and Jeeps spread around the site.

There was plenty of military hardware, both restored and replica, on site.

I spent the next hour with Dave and Colin preparing the 'Austerity' tank locomotive 'Lord Phil' for traffic. We were to operate with the locomotive turned to face north and attached to the north end of the stock. This change had been made the previous weekend, when I had also been driving, so I was already aware of the operating arrangements. We were operating with a 7-coach train, top and tailing with the 'Class 31' (which had been left coupled to the stock overnight) at the south end. During the previous year's 1940s weekend, when I was also driving, 'Lord Phil' had similarly been coupled at the north end of the train but hauling 'bunker first', eliciting critical remarks from certain photographers who, quite reasonably, favoured a 'chimney leading' composition.

Having tested both injectors and the brakes, we shunted from the locomotive yard to Rowsley Station and were 'hooked on' to the train in good time. There were lots of people arriving, many of them in civilian or military dress for the 1940s period. The first departure at 11:00 was completely full. Of course, the 'Class 31' hauled the train to Matlock Town, so we suffered the indignity of being 'tail end charlie' to an anachronistic diesel electric locomotive. The 'Class 31' were originally known as the 'Brush Type 2', introduced as part of the British Railways 'Modernisation Programme'. They were built from 1957 to 1962. Our steam locomotive was only just 'in period', being built by Hunslet in 1944. However, the locomotive committed the first faux pas of the day by being slightly younger than the driver.

We arrived at Matlock Town and Dave walked along the platform to meet the 'Second Man' off the 'Class 31' to collect the Train Staff which we needed to carry as authority for our journey back to Darley Dale. I climbed onto the front framing of the locomotive to 'set the lamp' which had served as a tail lamp on the way to Matlock Town and now needed to be placed on the 'chimney' lamp bracket to indicate 'Ordinary Passenger Train' on the way back to Rowsley. Meanwhile, Colin made ready for our return journey, topping up the boiler with the driver's side injector.

Then, I'm afraid, the locomotive committed the second faux pas of the day when the driver's side injector failed. A shout from Colin hastened me back to the footplate and the unusual sight of a column of hot water rising through an aperture in the footplate in the driver's corner. Colin was using a spanner to close the injector shut-off valve (correctly called the 'Delivery Stop Valve') which stopped the unexpected discharge. The injectors are mounted under the cab floor and it appeared that the non-return valve in the boiler feed outlet from the right hand injector had failed to close correctly, allowing the pressure in the boiler to force hot water back into the injector, which then discharged itself through the path of least resistance (usually the injector overflow pipe). Once I'd satisfied myself that the stop valve was properly isolating the faulty injector and that the left hand injector was working normally, I decided to work the train back to Rowsley where assistance could be more readily provided since we'd seven coaches full of passengers and I was reluctant to 'strand' them at the wrong end of the line.

Problems with injectors are quite common, which is why most locomotives have duplicated injectors. The non-return valve in the boiler feed is often called the 'clack' and there's a short piece on clack valves here. There's also a report about injector problems with another 'Austerity' in the post A Saturday at Peak Rail. The Davies and Metcalfe 'Monitor' Live Steam Injector, used on 'Austerity' tank locomotives, has a good reputation and it's well-worth studying the manufacturer's publication here.

We had no difficulty working the train back to Rowsley where the engineering staff were able to have a look at the problem but, as we expected, concluded that no simple repair was possible. The fireman's side injector was still behaving itself so I was happy to work the second round trip to Matlock Town whilst arrangements were made for the rest of the day. We arrived back at Rowsley after the second round trip and took water. We were informed that the remaining three round trips would be undertaken by the 'Class 31' working alone to Matlock Riverside only and running round its train at Matlock Riverside and Rowsley. Accordingly, we uncoupled and moved the locomotive across to the shed. We had a little shunt to do as we had been instructed to draw the 'Class 14' out of number 2 shed road and stable it outside on number 3 shed road. Once I'd 'cleaned' the fire, this allowed us to position 'Lord Phil' inside the shed on number 2 road (where the 'Class 14' had been), ready for attention to the misbehaving driver's side injector.

I was disappointed at not being able to complete our 'diagram' but the consolation was that I'd be able to lock-up the shed in time to watch the 'battle re-enactment'. Footplate crew normally miss this event, which takes place whilst the service train runs down to Matlock and back.

Peak Rail 40s Weekend 2016: A view of the 'Class 31' arriving at Rowsley, following 'Lord Phil' being taken out of service.

Of course, there's another 'Austerity' on site - 'Royal Pioneer', currently undergoing a 10-year 'Heavy Repair'. This was displayed on the turntable (minus boiler). Although the 'Austerity' is large as six-coupled shunting engines go, the picture below emphasises the short wheelbase, which allows the class to operate on sharp curves.

'Royal Pioneer', under repair, displayed on the turntable at Rowsley. The short wheelbase allows operation on sharp curves.

Once the 'Class 31' had departed, the delayed battle re-enactment, complete with pyrotechnics, took place in the wooded area facing Rowsley Station platform. As usual, the long platform formed a safe viewing area for the spectators. Paul Harper, who was providing E.N.S.A. entertainment in the large marquee during the day, provided a very useful commentary clarifying the action.

Paul Harper provided a commentary on the battle re-enactment.

The outline description in the programme read:-
A small Russian reconnaissance patrol is returning from a mission and is being pursued by the enemy. The Russians take cover in the woods to form an ambush. The Germans stop a short distance from the woods and open fire with cannon and machine guns. The enemy call up more armoured vehicles including a halftrack, tank, armoured car and prepare for the inevitable battle.

Re-enactors 'take a bow' at the end of the battle.

In the large refreshment marquee, Sue and Steve Mace were dancing to the typical '40s music of Ashby Little Big Band

The large marquee with Sue and Steve Mace dancing to the music of Ashby Little Big Band.

There was lots more to see at what has become a major event for Peak Rail. A display of period civilian vehicles which included a 'Fordson' tractor was watched over by two '40s police.

Peak Rail 40s Weekend 2016: '40s police at the display of period civilian vehicles.

The Peak Park area had various other military encampments. A portable field telephone cord exchange particularly caught my attention.

Peak Rail 40s Weekend 2016: Military encampments in the Peak Park area.

There were also a number of trade stalls selling memorabilia, clothing and militaria from the '40s.

Peak Rail 40s Weekend 2016: Trade stalls and part of the military encampment area.

Well, the day didn't quite go to plan but it was interesting and a reminder of the hardship and loss suffered by millions during the '40s which I always find salutary.

Related posts/pictures

I've participated in the 1940s Weekend at Peak Rail on a number of previous occasions.

Peak Rail 1940s Weekend, 2015 2014 event (pictures only).
2013 event (article with link to pictures).
2012 event (article with link to pictures).
2009 event (article with link to pictures).
2008 event (article with link to pictures).
2007 event (pictures only).
2006 event (pictures only).

My pictures of the 2016 event

Peak Rail 1940s Weekend, 2016.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Teddy Bears' Picnic

Back in 2012, my Teddy Bear, Captain Chocolate, wrote about attending Teddy Bears' Picnic events in the post The Bear's Story. Having just attended the 2016 Teddy Bears' Picnic at the Battlefield Line together, I invited him to record his impressions.

Captain Chocolate, after another day on the footplate.

Hello! Captain Chocolate again, just back from the 2016 Teddy Bears' Picnic at a railway called 'The Battlefield Line'. It was good to see so many bears enjoying the warm weather and they had each brought a child with them - usually a young child but, occasionally, an older child like my Mistress, Jan, whom I might dare to describe as "elderly". Jan is a steam engine driver, so we went to a special barn, called an 'Engine Shed' to find the steam engine we were going to use which she said is called 'Cumbria'. A lot of steam engines have names, just like bears.

'Cumbria' in the Engine Shed

At the Engine Shed we met a nice man called Steve, who was going to look after the big fire inside 'Cumbria' which boils water to make steam to make the engine go. I'm becoming something of an expert on what are properly called 'Steam Locomotives' because Jan likes nothing more than lecturing on the history and operation of railways. Steve had also brought a Teddy Bear which actually belonged to one of his two daughters. Later in the day, we met both his daughters. Once Steve and 'Cumbria' had made enough steam, we spent the day hauling a train of five coaches, in which all the bears and their friends could travel, between stations called Shackerstone and Shenton.

The five coach train.

In between these two places, we stopped at a station called Market Bosworth.

Teddy Bears' Picnic 2016: Market Bosworth Station.

Next to Market Bosworth Station all sorts of food and entertainment for Bears (and their friends) had been laid on around a 'Goodie Shed'. Jan says I should call it a 'Goods Shed' but I think my name is better. I had to stay on the steam engine so I wasn't able to examine the 'Goodie Shed' properly but we always waved to the bears and people as we passed and they waved back. There was a 'Bouncy Castle' and 'Slide' for the children which they seemed to enjoy.

When we'd finished, the engine was put back in its 'Engine Shed' and we all went home after a good day. Jan said she was tired but I wan't a bit tired, although I'll have to have a trip through the Washing Machine to get clean again.

Jan has asked me to tell you that you can find everything she has written about the Battlefield Line here (there's lots) and you can look at her pictures at:-

Teddy Bears' Picnic 2016.
All Jan's pictures at the Battlefield Line

Goodbye for now!
Captain Chocolate.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

The Mergui Archipelago (day 5)

Events of Wednesday, 27th April, 2016

Following breakfast, the guests readied themselves for a landing by dinghy on Oh Way Island for more swimming and snorkelling. As we approached the island, we passed close to a motor boat towing three or four dugout canoes. The motor boat had a wooden, framed hull and the usual long-tail arrangement driving a 2-blade propellor.

Passing local fishermen on our way from 'Meta IV' (moored in the
background) to the beach on Oh Way Island.

I'm confused as to the total number of canoes as they appeared to be at the point of 'parting the tow' so that the dugouts could operate independently but nobody seemed very interested in actually doing anything and the boats were slowly drifting into a tangle in front of us. I clearly hadn't quite adjusted to the slower pace of life in this area. I knew from earlier observations that, when action to manoeuvre the dugouts became essential, this would be achieved by rowing whilst standing, using the T-handled oars 'crossed', left hand working the right oar and right hand the left one.

Detail of the dugout canoes, showing how the T-handled oars are tied to the posts serving as 'rowlocks'.

We left the local 'fishing fleet' to disentangle itself and they passed out of view as we rounded a small, rocky headland to make our landing. Each beach we visited seemed to be trying to exceed the tranquility and pristine beauty of the previous one.

The shore at Oh Way Island with 'Meta IV' at anchor and our dinghy beached.

In an attempt to emulate the local 'pace', I neither swam, went beachcombing nor took photographs but 'enjoyed the moment', merely managing a couple of pictures of flotsam. In addition to the usual broken coral and pieces of wood, there was a well-preserved fishing 'creel' and, disappointingly, lumps of expanded polystyrene and a plastic bottle.

Beach visit: Flotsam.

I'm not sure how long we were on the island before Aung announced that it was time to return to our yacht for lunch. It's amazing how doing nothing stimulates the appetite. Our exploration of Lampi Marine National Park had come to an end. In the afternoon, we sailed back to where we'd spent our first night at sea, Ba Wel Island.

The crew 'set sail', literally, and to the accompaniment of only slight splashing noises from the sea against the hull and occasional flapping sounds from the sails as the wind altered, we made out majestic progress back to Ba Wel Island.

Under sail back to Ba Wel Island

The guests spent the next few hours mainly relaxing on deck whilst the captain and crew took turns at the helm.

Under sail back to Ba Wel with our Thai lady cook at the helm.

From time to time we passed fishing vessels of the types with which we'd become familiar - smaller wooden craft with 'long-tail' propulsion, larger vessels with inboard engines similar to the one we'd visited earlier in the trip (see The Mergui Archipelago (day 3)) and, finally, squid fishers with ungainly-looking booms deployed sideways, supported by a complex array of ropes.

One of the smaller fishing vessels we passed as we were under sail back to Ba Wel Island.

We anchored off Ba Wel Island in early evening as other fishing vessels returned for the night, clustering around us in a number of friendly groups.

Fishing boats clustered in an overnight group at Ba Wel.

The dinghy took us ashore for what was our very last beach visit. Although the landing beach was deserted, a child's swing, comprising two ropes suspending a wooden seat from the branch of a tree, suggested that children came here to play. Having tested the soundness of the construction (I wouldn't have wanted to damage their play equipment or myself), I couldn't resist trying it out, to the amusement of my fellow guests. A short walk led us to a second beach, with views in a different direction. Here, there was a broad, white sand beach, shelving very gently into a flat, calm sea.

Return to Ba Wel: A gently-shelving white beach and a flat-calm sea.

Since this was my last opportunity, I had a very gentle swim in the wonderfully warm water. As I emerged from the sea, I noticed that, further out, a number of squid fishing boats appeared to be preparing for a night fishing. As I walked back up the beach, I was attracted by the leaf-pattern formed by sand excavated by an unseen sand-dweller.

Return to Ba Wel: The leaf-pattern of sand excavated by an unseen sand-dweller.

As usual, I couldn't resist an attempt at an 'arty' shot of the sunset.

Sunset on Ba Wel Island.

As one of the last 'day' fishing vessels returned for the night, there was just time for a last picture of 'Meta IV' at anchor in the sheltered bay before boarding the dinghy for the short trip back to 'Meta IV', our final dinner and our final night aboard.

Return to Ba Wel: 'Meta IV' at anchor.

After it was fully dark, I was fascinated by a line of eerie green/blue lights stretching across our horizon. Of course, this was the fleet of squid fishing boats I'd noticed earlier. I was quite content to leave them to fish whilst I slept.

Return to Ba Wel: The eerie green/blue lights of a number of squid fishing boats working at night.

Related posts

A report on my final day on 'Meta IV' will be added later, in the meantime you can read about the rest of the trip after my 'Meta IV' interlude starting here.

All my posts on my trip to Myanmar in 2016 can be found here.

My pictures

If necessary, pictures in this article can be viewed uncropped by clicking on the image. To view in other resolutions or download, select from the albums below:-

Beach visit (60) and local fishermen.
Under sail back to Ba Wel.
Return to Ba Wel Island.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Brewood Garden Party 2016

The Brewood Village Garden Party was held on Saturday, 16th July 2016. Once again, the venue was the garden at Brewood Hall.


Although the Garden Party was open for just four hours, preparations started many weeks before. A number of planning meetings were held at Brewood Hall, deciding exactly what attractions would be offered and allocating the various tasks to volunteers on the organising committee.

Part of the organising committee pictured at a planning meeting
(L-R: Andrea, Becky, Marion, Marilyn).

In advance of the event, advertising 'flyers' were distributed around the village and various posters displayed, including one on the wall of Brewood Hall. Repairs were also carried out on the garden paths at Brewood Hall.

Path repairs at Brewood Hall.

On the afternoon prior to the Garden Party, the tents, marquees, tables, chairs and all the paraphernalia required were transported to Brewood Hall, involving a number of journeys by the organisers involving cars and trailers. In the evening, a team of Scouts appeared and, directed by the Scout Leaders, the piles of equipment were erected, producing a large double tent for refreshments, a large single tent for the musicians, two futuristic-looking Coleman Event Event Shelters and the large, traditional canvas marquee. Then, all the tables, chairs and other equipment was temporarily stored in the various tents, in case of overnight rain. It was fairly late when all this work was successfully completed.

Setting up the Brewood Garden Party 2016.

Setting up the Brewood Garden Party 2016: Assembling the large Coleman Event Shelter with the completed refreshment tent in the background.

Erecting the large marquee.

The Scouts returned on Saturday morning to complete the setting-up. Fortunately, it had remained dry overnight. Volunteers from the Church arranged a major houseplant and produce stall. Donations for this had started to arrive on Friday afternoon and more arrived on Saturday morning. The refreshment tent required a major effort to prepare and lay out the food, set up the tables and chairs both inside and outside the tent and provide floral displays of real flowers on each table. Electrics were laid on for water heating and for the Public Address system. An elaborate tent clad in netting was assembled to house the Catapult Range in complete safety. Other games were also set-up. Various other tables, tents or gazebo were erected for the Pimm's stall, raffle, tombola and the Staffordshire Corps of Drums. Volunteers from Brewood Scout's own shop 'The Trading Post' brought some of their stock to set up a stall at the garden party and the large marquee housed a number of craft stalls. Later, the Friends of Cannock Performing Arts Centre manned their Sales Stand. After a lot of hard work by the volunteers, all was ready for the opening, advertised for noon.

I've outlined this "behind the scenes" effort to illustrate the commitment of the volunteers to ensure a good experience for all the guests.

The Garden Party

Admission was via the double entrance gates in Sparrows End Lane which were specially opened for the event. A few minutes before twelve, the first visitors started to arrive and after a while the garden was thronged with people discovering the wide selection of attractions.

Brewood Garden Party 2016: The Admission table.

The mild weather encouraged visitors to wander from stall to stall or sit at one of the refreshment area tables to enjoy a hot dog, a cream tea or a Pimm's.

Brewood Garden Party 2016: The Refreshment Area.

Brewood Garden Party 2016: Houseplant and Produce and Raffle Stalls.

Brewood Garden Party 2016: Raffle Prizes.

Staffordshire Corps of Drums.

One of the innovations in 2016 was the Catapult Range.

Queuing for the Catapult Range.

Once again, the accomplished musicians from the Cannock Performing Arts Centre entertained the guests, with performances by both the Wind Band and the Big Band.

Brewood Garden Party 2016: Two bands from the Cannock Performing Arts Centre entertained the visitors.

For the first time, Banjo the Donkey and his owner offered rides in a modern, two-wheel donkey cart.

Brewood Garden Party 2016: 'Banjo' the donkey.

At the end of the event, Ian Morris made a presentation of flowers and chocolates to Jan Ford and announced that proceeds would be divided between Brewood Scouts, the Church and the Jan Ford Foundation. There was then an 'official photograph' of representatives from Brewood Hall, Brewood Scouts and the Church.

Brewood Garden Party 2016: Jan, Ian and Jane.

I am happy to report that all the visitors I have spoken to, both during the afternoon and subsequently, have confirmed that they enjoyed the event.

Reports on earlier garden parties at Brewood Hall

Brewood Vintage Garden Party 2013.
Brewood Vintage Garden Party 2014.
Brewood Garden Party 2015.

More information on the charitable work supported by the Jan Ford Foundation in Myanmar (formerly Burma) can be found by following the links below:-

Education Support
Medical Support.

Pictures of the event

Brewood Garden Party 2016.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The Mergui Archipelago (day 4)

Events of Tuesday, 26th April, 2016

Once again, we enjoyed a very adequate and varied breakfast in the dining area towards the rear of the open deck. I'm afraid we made some good-natured fun of the captain and crew reminding them that it was our fourth day on a sailing yacht and we hadn't yet seen a sail unfurled. They explained that the morning's itinerary was a journey of a few hours to Kyunn Philar East to replenish our fresh water tanks and they set about raising sail for the cruise. There wasn't a lot of space on deck for handling the ropes and windlasses which control the sails and the inexpert help of the guests was not required, so we watched with interest whilst keeping out of the way.

I mentioned in an earlier post that 'Meta IV', though originally having a ketch rig, had been simplified to a 'Bermuda-rigged Sloop' with simply a headsail and main sail, both supported by the mainmast. The 'mizzenmast' originally used by the ketch rig, whilst still present, carries no sail.

Under sail to Kyunn Philar: L: Headsail R: Mainsail. Note 'Guest flags', celebrating the countries of origin of the Guests.

When not in use, the triangular mainsail is stowed horizonally, folded into a canvas 'pouch' carried by the horizontal boom to which the bottom edge of the mainsail is secured. A headrope attached to the top corner of the mainsail is carried over a pulley at the top of the mainmast and led down to deck level where a winch or windlass near the cockpit is used to manage the raising and lowering.

The headsail, also triangular, is managed by a furler mechanism. The 'forestay' (which runs from the top of the mainmast to the bow) becomes a shaft which is rotated by ropes to unfurl or furl the headsail. When not in use, the headsail is thus tightly coiled around the forestay, ready for use. The control ropes are also taken to winches or windlasses near the cockpit. Bringing the winches and windlasses near the cockpit makes sail management easier with a small crew.

Most of the windlasses on 'Meta IV' are from Maxwell Marine. Headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand the company produces a wide range of winches/windlasses/capstans and associated equipment for boats.

Windlasses by Maxwell Marine on the starboard side of 'Meta IV'.

The headsail furler on 'Meta IV' is from Harken Inc. who are based in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. Their product range includes headsail and mainsail handling equipment, winches, pulley blocks and related accessories.

Lower end of Harken Headsail Furler on 'Meta IV'. Note the coloured scarves attached to the bow.

Once the sails had caught the wind, the diesel engine was shut down and we continued at around 8 knots. As we made our silent but majestic progress toward Kyunn Philar East, we passed a group of squid-fishing vessels. Although the basic boat design was similar to large, wooden fishing vessels we'd already seen when squid fishing is in progress, with massive, elaborately-guyed horizontal booms extended on both sides, and a complex system of ropes and pulleys for handling the lures, the vessels acquire a very weird appearance. I hope to write more about this interesting industry later.

Squid fishing vessel.

After around three hours cruising, we approached Kyunn Philar East so the foresail was furled, the mainsail was lowered and our diesel engine was restarted as we manoeuvred towards land. Three fishing boats were anchored together in the bay. Steel hulled, fairly large, they appeared rather more modern than other vessels we'd seen and the wheelhouse was perched on top of the superstructure with all-round windows. A massive net was piled high on the foredeck together with a novel design of derrick presumably for handling the net. Three crew members on the nearest boat viewed the visitors with interest.

Fishing Boats anchored at Kyunn Philar.

A low, wooded hill led down to the water's edge. There were few buildings visible but one narrow patch of hillside had been largely cleared of trees and a flight of concrete steps led straight up from the shore to the top of the hill where a golden pagoda stood on a concrete platform supported by concrete piles.

Kyunn Philar Pagoda.

Looking to the right, there was activity about 100 yards off the beach where three smaller fishing boats clustered around a rectangular, moored raft which carried a building with a corrugated iron roof and woven bamboo sides.

Kyunn Philar East, Mergui Archipelago: The floating Water Station.

Seeing a number of plastic hoses dangling from the raft, I concluded that this was where we would replenish our water tanks. I assumed that a pipeline ran down the hillside and extended across the sea bed to the raft. There was no sound of a pump on the raft, suggesting that, having dammed a suitable perennial stream, the hose permanently discharged freshwater into the sea. As we slowly approached the raft, the three fishing vessels moved away and 'Meta IV' attempted to throw a mooring line to a man on the raft.

The Water Station raft. One line is already attached to the raft on the right and a second has been thrown.

It took a few minutes to secure two lines to the raft and receive the end of one of the plastic hoses. Set in our deck on the port side was the filler for the one freshwater tank. With the metal cap unscrewed, the end of the hose was inserted and the watering process started.

The Captain filling the port fresh water tank.

When the port tank was full, the hose was transferred to a similar filler on the starboard side deck to fill the other tank.

The sea around the raft was teeming with fish in a circling frenzy, presumably after food.

Fish in a frenzy by the water station raft.

On completion of taking on water, we manoeuvred away from the raft using the engine and then went back to 'sail power'.

Sail power: Unfurling the headsail.

With the Captain at the helm, we sailed around Kyunn Philar Island towards the west side, passing various fishing boats on the way.

The Captain at the helm of 'Meta IV' under sail.

We anchored off a beach with coral reefs and transferred to the dinghy which took us nearer to the shore allowing my fellow guests to take to the water for snorkelling. I stayed in the dinghy, quite happy in the peacefulness of the spot. Even when Aung, who was the 'boat driver', donned snorkel gear, left the boat and swam to make sure that all the snorkellers were safe, I was quite content to be adrift, alone in the dinghy. Aung returned and we landed on the beach, ready to take the guests back to 'Meta IV'.

Kyunn Philar: We spent the afternoon in this tranquil bay.

I had neither the inclination to swim nor explore very far: I was content to sit in the sun and enjoy the moment. As dusk approached, Aung summoned the snokellers and returned us to our ship in the dinghy.

As dusk approached, we returned to 'Meta IV' in the dinghy.

As usual, dinner was the main event of the evening, after which I was ready to retire for the night.

Related posts

You can read about the following day aboard 'Meta IV' here.

All my posts on my trip to Myanmar in 2016 can be found here.

My pictures

If necessary, pictures in this article can be viewed uncropped by clicking on the image. To view in other resolutions or download, select from the albums below:-

Sailing Vessel 'Meta IV'.
Under sail to Kyunn Philar.
Kyunn Philar East, Mergui Archipelago.
Sail power.
Viewing coral and on the beach.