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Topical notes and archive about the SBA and the world of steamboats

  • 07 Nov 2015 20:26 | Deleted user

    During 2015 Philip Webster will be giving us a monthly update on his adventures in Banjo:

    The first Friday steam was abandoned, due to Golden Wedding celebrations, fancy having a 'do' on a Friday! However, steaming hours were compensated with an extra trip on Tuesday. Ian, who usually provides a good spread for lunch had just been 'let out' after a hip replacement and desperate to get afloat again. The last time he came we gave a tow to three young maids in a canoe. They had imbibed fairly well and looked in need! All went well, they passed a bottle forward and we responded with chocolates. At that time they were wearing life jackets, but with only a hundred yards to go the canoe inverted and the long haired blond was detached from her life saver. Fortunately she was not wearing a wig, and Ians demonstration of how to grasp a mermaid's tail' will stay in my memory for ever. She slid aboard like a wet fish, much relieved to be in our warm dry saloon.

    This month's activities seem doomed. It is not often that the Friday steam has to be postponed, or even cancelled, but, we all have the 'dreaded lurgie', or to be modern, man flu. It is years since I had an attack and find it most debilitating. However, being confined to the 'indoor shed', I am able to indulge in u-tube videos. Wonderful stuff of Thailand rice factory, powered by steam, saw mills in the US and the recovery of a steam dredger from it's last job, 50yrs. On! All wonderful stories, with explicit commentaries and NO background music or amplified applause!

    She steamed like a witch, the rest did her good
    The curry was great and so was the pud,
    The Gremlins lost out , no problems it seems
    Must be saving themselves for Haloween

    At least we finnished the month on a high, three weeks ashore is classed as 'cruelty to Norfolkmen'.

  • 01 Oct 2015 21:11 | Deleted user

    During 2015 Philip Webster will be giving us a monthly update on his adventures in Banjo:

    Still short of crew, so George and I had a day out on the razzle! George had not stoked recently and found several little alterations. These must have taken his mind off the job in hand as he had three goes at lighting the fire. Coffee at moorings and a short trip to Surlingham for a slap up lunch of liver and bacon.

    George and I are getting the hang of two man steaming. In spite of the adverse tides and strong head wind we completed our planned cruise to Lim's shop and enjoyed every chip. The fish added to the small celebration of the digital rev. counter, laser powered from the flywheel. The lollipop stick is a 'temporary switch depressant', that stayed put all the way there. We now know that 330rpm really is our cruising optimum. I am hoping this may be a significant step along the journey to a digital indicator, which, perhaps will tell me that the valve timing is correct after all?

    On Saturday the 19th. We acted as turn boat for the Triple 'B', setting the up river turn buoy and watching diligently for any misdemeanour’s. This sailing race, raises funds for the 'Waveney Stardust'(see August). This was the 25th. Time we have run this race which usually goes from Buckenham to Breydon Water and back. This year however the bridge at Reedham was undergoing a spot of maintenance and could not open. In order to enable the race to proceed we rearranged the route to include Brundall as the other 'B'. The weather treated us kindly and all the 29 entrants completed the course with no mishaps. The 'Catas -trophy' however was awarded to BSC, as the safety boat could not be started, dead starter. Just proves that steam is more reliable!

    Last steam of the month had a mission. We delivered a '25th. Triple B' mug to the Harbour Master at Reedham. He has quite a collection in his office, where they get well used by the visiting crews.


    George kept up a good head of steam on the way back, and in spite of pushing the tide we caught up some sailing cruisers(oh yes we did). They were enrout for Coldham Hall for the 'Yare Navigation Race', another classic event, twice as old as the 'Triple B'.

  • 06 Sep 2015 09:19 | Deleted user

    During 2015 Philip Webster will be giving us a monthly update on his adventures in Banjo:

    For many years, the first week end of August has been reserved as a charitable event for those less able to enjoy water sports. Banjo usually does several trips with 4 or 5 guests at a time. All went well until the last trip, when a small party of rather heavy helpers came aboard. As we passed another of our fleet, I gave the obligatory whistle and lots of waves. My shirt was wet so , thinking the whistle valve had a leak I stood up to inspect it, and got a wet bum. The bilge water shone prettily in the sunlight as it proscribed an arc from the flywheel to my seat! A bit of baling and load adjustment cured the immediate problem, but a higher bilge pump outlet has been arranged. A Plimsole line might be another addition, or a set of quay side scales!

    Yesterday we enjoyed what could be our last pint at the Burney Arms. Situated at the inner end of Breydon Water it is really only of use to the passing boat trade. This, nowadays is sadly insufficient to continue trading so the owner has applied for change of use to private dwelling.

    On our way down river we met the flood about a mile from Breydon. We also met two gin palaces who had enjoyed the unrestricted Breydon Water but had forgotten the speed restriction in the river!. Banjo sliced through the wash without hesitation, no green stuff over the bow this time. However, who should be following us, just around the bend, the Broads Authority patrol boat. To catch two speeders together made their day! If we had been in a canoe things might have been a bit fraught. Ironically our trip back to BSC was done in record time, with the tide flooding all the way Banjo took a little time  to cool down at moorings !

    There are very few things that interrupt our regular Friday steams, but a bulging sick bay and a leaking roof are two of them. My part was the carport roof, built 30yrs. ago to house the mobile home, (now scrapped), it works well as a winter maintenance bay. The canopy can be winched up and stored while machinery is lifted out. I had used a sort of corrugated cardboard sheeting, a new product at the time, but thirty years proved well past it's usable life span. The galvanised replacement will, I am sure last me out. I now know the real meaning of 'a cat on a hot tin roof'!

    The last trip of the month found the Burney arms still serving. Another minor achievement this month was the control of cylinder lubricant. Flow from the displacement unit is controlled by a needle valve, until recently. The sudden excess clogged the infeed pump filter, as well as everything else. A 'new', larger valve from the 'stores' allowed a bit of modification. The spindle reworked to accommodate a spring which bedded onto a brass jumper, (courtesy of George's stair rods). The resulting adjustment features control to acceptable level.

  • 01 Aug 2015 14:06 | Deleted user

    The month started with a sizzling heat wave. The Gremlins, unused to such weather decided a swim would be in order, inside Banjo. A sorry sight when we arrived Tuesday morning for a day's sailing. The tide would be flooding for the next four hours so we sailed away, looking forward to an evening baling! Joyfully, on our return we found Capt. Liberte had dropped in a mains electric pump, job done, except for the wet seats etc. . The heat wave worked for us then for by Friday, nearly everything was back to normal. Cruised up to Surlingham and lunch ashore and overtook the Albion, the wherry that tried to catch us on Breydon. We offered them a tow, naturally, but our thirst overcame chivalry!

    IF the battery had kept the pump a'pumping'
    IF the coal had not been used from starboard side,
    IF the leak had been addressed when first was noticed,
    Then the Gremlins would have missed their gala day.

    The low ebb proved no problem to the re-hashed trailer. The new axles with smaller wheels, the drawbar dolly and extension pole made recovery a doddle, home by coffee break and repair to the leaky plank half done. After lunch the fire tubes were given a birthday treat inside and out.

    Damage from the total immersion is a lot less than feared. A few rusty bits and a bit of mud is only to be expected, but electric rev counters do not like it! A mechanical model is to hand, but a higher mounting point is being considered. However, after stripping and a few days dry out we seem to have revs again.

    During this week's 'rest' I have made the helm's and engineer's windows open outwards. I hope now that they will be rain proof. The extra couple of inches freed up inside will also be welcome, Banjo is fairly slim amidships, 4'6” for two adults and an engine.

    The rainproof windows have had their test, and they are draught proof as well. We had the pleasure of following the fleet on the down river race to Reedham. The fore cast was for rain and wind so we had a good excuse not to sail! On the way back we had the pleasant company of the Club newly weds, Steve and Sara. The foul weather could have strained relations a bit, but a ride home in the warm dry saloon on Banjo, will, I am sure, be a pleasant memory, for all.

    The last day of the month and summer has returned. The record temperatures, high and low, plus the extreme rainfall and wind certainly tested the windows. Another job I should have done years ago.

    Our last trip of the month, with the 'guest stoker' restricted to 160psi, a pleasant cruise up river to Whitlingham for lunch aboard. An 'all in' with fruit and custard, home brew and coffee. Tomorrow we are steaming again, giving rides to disadvantaged club guests.

  • 31 Jul 2015 11:43 | Deleted user
    The National Trust’s Steam Yacht Gondola is sending out an SOS to ‘Save Our Sidney’, the sea serpent figurehead which gives Gondola her distinctive look. More accurately, a new version of Sidney will have to be created.

    Affectionately known by the crew as ‘Sid’, thirty five years on Coniston Water have taken their toll on him. Regular repairs, refurbishments and makeovers have kept Sid looking his best during this time, but there’s only so much filling and patching that can be done. The wood is now rotten to its core which means a new Sid now needs to be commissioned.

    The Gondola team is looking to raise £5000 to have Sidney re-carved in hardwood and decorated in gold leaf paint. The cost of replacing Sidney is unfortunately beyond the level that can be absorbed in Gondola’s general running costs.

    The origins of Gondola’s sea serpent lie with the connections to the 7th Duke of Devonshire, who was then-Chairman of the Furness Railway who commissioned the original Gondola in 1859. The Devonshire coat of arms adorn Gondola’s prow and Sid was added to the boat to represent the coiled snake emblem used by the Devonshire’s on the frieze of Chatsworth House.

    Suzi Bunting, Visitor Experience Development Manager for Gondola, says:

    "Sid not only represents our link to Gondola’s Victorian history but his forked tongue, according to maritime myth, is said to ward off bad weather. That’s some achievement in the changeable climate of the Lake District. Gondola just wouldn’t be Gondola without Sid so we’re working hard to ensure enough money is raised to keep him sailing across Coniston.”

    You can find out more on Ivan Corlett’s blog here.

  • 05 Jul 2015 18:52 | Deleted user

    During 2015 Philip Webster will be giving us a monthly update on his adventures in Banjo:

    May certainly left us with a roar, setting a bad example to June. Hopefully she will not continue in the same vogue for too long.  Our last trip up to Norwich tested the 'righting reflexes' of the three ex dinghy sailors aboard.  Banjo is fairly tender, and a savage gust amidships on the rigid super structure can feel a bit 'hairy'. We have never actually shipped any water but have experienced some uncomfortable seating.


     Our 'Steamy weak end' turned into an interesting experiment. My 'new trailer' idea proved to be impractical. I had hoped to use one trailer for my two boats, but I was wrong in my assumptions, further thought required. A few little improvements to Banjo in preparation for next Friday's trip( 12th.) to the Museum of the Broads at Stalham, an eight hour trip, including Breydon Water.  Looking forward to a Christopher curry en route.

    'We are enriched by our experiences', a reality often seen in adventure books. Our trip across Breydon Water was truly exciting and educational. When about half way towards Great Yarmouth the wind freshened and backed ten degrees. The water responded with a sharp chop, pushing green water over the fore deck and through the galley window! When the bell joined in the malaise with a 'ding  ding ding dong dong dong ding ding ding, prudence forced a bit of left hand down to travel on the other half, in smoother water on the windward side of the channel. A few cruisers looked a bit baffled at us steaming on the wrong side but suitable evasive action avoided any unpleasantness. The remainder of the trip was a delightful experience of steaming perfection, i.e. no breakdowns and a wonderful Chris curry of sausage and egg washed down with home brew IPA. Forty miles in nine hours including two stops, bliss.

    On Sunday (14th.) our haven for the week came to life with their 'Steam Day'. Cars, lorries, traction engines, and stationary models, complemented with the steam launches Banjo, Falcon, Garlandene, Lollipop and Ursula, . A great time was had by all, especially those on the steam bus ride to the pub  Saturday night !


    The trip home was equally delightful, but the tides could have been a bit more helpful. Our slightly longer passage, including an extended lunch saw us back with just enough light, steam and water, the latter going smooth and still on the last two miles. The longer lunch was due, not to over imbibing, but an adventurous search up a 'new' creek. Half a mile up this very narrow channel we saw a notice, 'pub 5 mins. Walk. It took ten, but was worth it. Upton Red Lion gets full marks for ale and food.

    The tide, weather and time was right , project for the last Friday in June was to wish Lydia Eva a happy birthday. At 85, she deserved a treat, we sang 'Happy Birthday' , much to the amusement of the crew. I knew the brass megaphone would come in handy !

  • 31 May 2015 19:46 | Deleted user

    During 2015 Philip Webster will be giving us a monthly update on his adventures in Banjo:

    May day, may day, what a … day! With our guest stoker shovelling coal into the boiler like it was going out of fashion, we stormed up the Yare, cutting ten minutes off the journey to Surlingham. Just around the corner past Woods End game over, the HP linkage parted from the weight shaft. A temporary fix with a short piece of six mil. Copper pipe (I wonder why that was in the tool box?) and a short plank, part of the sleeping arrangements and never used, and a piece of kindling, got us to the Broads Authority workshop. A scrounged six mil. Bold secured the broken arm  and good speed maintained whilst lunch of curry, rice pudding and peaches were consumed on the run home.

    To be fair, the broken arm has a long rusty side and a short shiny one, indicating that this was a disaster waiting to happen, the L.P. arm was replaced years ago. Perhaps the coffee table should be lifted off more often.

    In '95 she came alive,
     And steamed off very slowly.
    From gas to oil and finally coal,
    Four boilers, two engines and a whistle,

    We learned a lot, to do, and not
    The knots came one by one,
    From many hours of turn and cut
    Four boilers, two engines and a whistle.

    When freedom came and bonus rained
    A Leak from castings pleased us
    We gained some ground with boiler round
    Fourth boiler, second engine, same whistle

    The ducks we left behind at last
    Horizons Broadened weekly,
    The galley grew some kit as well
    Four boilers, two engines and a whistle.

    Now twenty years of steaming trips
    On Fridays mostly favoured,
    A mobile lunch for gentlemen
    And lots of chat of days gone by
    Four boilers, two engines and a whistle.

    I like it when it all comes together, as it should. Our V.E. day went with a swing, and a swig, or two. The menu was familiar, the center of Norwich reached in two hours, who could ask for more.

    I did not ask but was pleased to change duties as all worked well and Mr. Mate wanted a spell astern (new puppy fatigue!), No. 2 stoked and I had the rare treat of steering my boat! Mr. Mate usually steers as he is the only one that can concentrate long enough to steer a straight course, he says. I am never happy unless something is wrong and needs fixing, he says! i.e. I like to be busy. No. 2 likes stoking occasionally, No. 1 is in charge of the galley, and feeds us well.

    Like it or not we get one more each year, I make mine Ladies Day. It makes a good target date for getting everything working properly, and clean. All went well, a short trip around the Broad and lunch at the Beauchamp Arms, which is now under new management, who seem to know what they are about. The fire was a bit reluctant to burn, tubes must be cleaned, but a bit of extra throttle kept us moving with less interruption, to the chat, and wild life. Creeping through 'secret waters' we witnessed a family of newly hatched signets sampling the world .

    Next Friday 5th of June we plan to test the 'new' trailer, wilst awaiting the arrival of guests to our 'Steamy Weekend'. Then on Friday the 12th of June we will convoy up to Stalham to the Museum of the Broads 'Steam Day' on Sunday 14th. June.
  • 30 Apr 2015 19:40 | Deleted user

    During 2015 Philip Webster is giving us a monthly update on his adventures in Banjo:

    April, showers an' all! Takes more than a bit of weather to deter this 'Gentlemen's Luncheon Party'. The gale a day earlier had lifted the canopy off the locating cleats, leaving it a couple of feet askew and the windows following suit.  Needless to say we were a few minutes late getting away but once we had steam up and air lock cleared we beat most of the Good Friday rush at Surlingham.

    This week the advised late start was due to the fitting of 'exciting new equipment', i.e. two whistle valves, proper ones, thank you 'Ernie'. They work very well and do not leak. The single note whistle came off the first Frolic 18, now converted to electric. I had the boiler in Banjo for a time, the whistle came with it.

    I think it was jealousy. A mile up river the engine laboured, vacuum disappeared, and 'oh dear', 'oh dear, oh dear', the v...........pump seized. A rapid by-pass was skilfully deployed whilst surrounded with canoes and 'humorous' suggestions. A 'Gremlinic' influence is suspected as on inspection in the workshop the pump freed off! A detailed inspection, with bright light and spectacles is scheduled for Monday morning.

    We started off with high hopes. The vacuum pump, simplified to single acting, without the seizing guide bars, gives the impression that it would suck a barnacle of Walrus. However as I turned the crank on warming through a loud thud welcomed in 'plan B'. The HP con rod had parted company from the small end yolk, the lock nut hadn't. A Monday morning routine!

    Plan 'B' swung into action after coffee ,scones, and a big think. Tug Liberte started faultlessly, steered well and the hooter must have frightened all the clouds away. The therapeutic effect of an hour on a big wheel worked wonders on the blood pressure!

    The 'duty fitter' earned his reward this week! Not only does the vacuum pump work, but the new con rod fits!  The simplified design, i.e. less threads and lock nuts brings to mind the old  saying 'simplicity is the cornerstone of efficiency'. Ah, but it it the simple solutions that are harder to come by.

  • 11 Apr 2015 11:29 | Deleted user

    During 2015 Philip Webster is giving us a monthly update on his adventures in Banjo (a bit late this month due to a forgetful webmaster):

    A 'bewtiful' spring day  to start the month. With two guests, making a total of six plus one small dog, made a full load for our second 'live' test run up river to Surlingham. Andy, our once a year guest had just returned from New Zealand, where he had travelled on a 'real' steamship. He had also learned how to guarantee another trip in Banjo by observing that Beryl (the engine) runs much smoother than last year.

    Friday the …............................................................! Whilst not being the slightest bit superstitious these  special days seem to clock an extra tally of woes. Before we had started, George, our No. 2 phoned to say he had had a tumble, nothing broken, the missed day's steaming hurting as much as the bruises. On arrival at moorings, plan 'A' had to be cancelled as the water had turned into mud. We had planned to go down river then up the Chet to 'Lim's' for fish and chips, the best in Broadland, but floatation did not happen until eleven thirty. Option No. 2, another nice meal at Surlingham.

    'Gremlinity' did not end there of course. The leisurely lunch allowed the fire to burn out , the rekindled job lasting to a mile from home, then fading miserably. Frantic stoking beat the tide and rising head wind, just averting a night in the reeds. By the time we had docked we had a lovely fire, then triumph of the day, my modification worked!

    The fire grate is round and in three sections. The half moons used to fall off the support ring when dumping the fire, so I have welded on two pegs to each to locate behind the support ring. The centre section now lifts on it's own, the fire neatly extinguished in the ash pan.

    We must go down to Lim's again
    For fish and chips and peas
    With just a little salt perhaps
    No vinegar for me please

    The Grenlins must like chippys too
    They could not find bad things to do
    Accept to pull the clouds across
    To keep the eclipse from our eyes

    Last Friday in the month and the sick bay is bulging! In spite of the lack of crew, No.1 helped me clean the tubes. 35 hrs. steaming with lots of Cyprus logs, although 2yrs. Old, were very sticky up the flue.

    Cruising along at six knots we had good feed pressure and a bit of vacuum, but at 3knots, as we crawled up the Chet, the feed was a bit below par and the vacuum likewise. The drive ratios had been altered to quieten the feed pump and 'test' the vacuum pump capability. The ratios have now been restored to last year's spec..

    Whilst admiring my handiwork a voice over my shoulder enquired 'is that a crack line on that fitting'? Sure enough there was a line, my new torch illuminated a groove in the metal. Not a crack, it looks like an attack with a grinder! This 1/2” T piece has been fitted on the infeed water for the last 20yrs. ! It has been replaced with a new one. Another pair of eyes are always useful.

    We did get the 'BIG' whistle to sing eventually, but is way out of character and will move on to a ship equal to it's size. Now that all others have aligned their clocks,i.e. Banjo Steam Time, we can look forward to some longer trips. Chris has discovered a new curry mine near the limit of navigation, that's a definite target.
  • 01 Mar 2015 21:29 | Deleted user

    During 2015 Philip Webster is giving us a monthly update on his adventures in Banjo:

    As if by magic, the temperature has taken a dive, so the greenhouse heater is doing something worth while, in the boiler! The workshop stove is eating sticks, the new trailer taking shape.

    I think they call it a 'senior moment' when you forget something. I forgot the last 50 years when I lifted what should have been on a hook. A couple of days off and a hot bath (that will be two this year), the trailer should be mobile by the end of next week. Or next.

    The bung is in and the date set. Feb 20th will see us afloat, Capt. Chris has a large whistle that needs dusting!

    King Dick rules o.k. This is not a statement or recommendation of aristocratic rule, but an appreciation of the old tool that I inherited from Dad. This much used and abused adjustable spanner has served at least two lifetimes of active service. It has now found a new use, as a brake shoe lifter. I was not familiar with the brakes on the Bradley axles, so, inevitably , when I removed the first hub a shower of springs rent the air. When all were found and hooked into the correct holes, I needed a 'special' tool to lift the upper shoe enabling refitting of the activating lever assembly. This old fool found the old tool did the job in seconds. A learning morning well spent. The second hub was much quicker!

    Didn't we have a bootiful day ! No snags on the journey, launched easily with the extension pole and my feet never got wet. Just as well as the water was freezing.

    One lesson learned, coal sacks float! For a short while that is, just long enough to drift out of reach! Fortunately we carry a 'fender grabber', a recycled hoe handle with the business end formed into a hook. I must confess that I have never bought a fender. I have copious stocks of 'rescued' flotsam
    and jetsam, all collected as 'navigation hazards'.

    So that was winter, I hope. We of tender years remember 1947, and the POW's that dug us out of the snow, in March! This year we have only had a sprinkle of the white stuff, the snowdrops making a better show.

    Steaming dates anticipated in 2015 will be every Friday as usual, plus:

    20 May - Ladies Day.

    5,6,7 June - Steamy Weekend at Buckenham, all welcome

    12 June - Passage to Museum of the Broads

    14 June - Museum Steam Day

    19,20,21 June - Surlingham Ferry, carnival.

    3 July - Passage to Beccles.

    4,5 July  - Beccles Regatta

    26 July - Reedham Race, escort.

    19 September - Triple 'B' turn boat on Breydon.

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