OpenCanalMap UK for iOS – release notes v0.7

The first public version of the Open Canal Map UK App for iOS has now been released to the App Store.

I’m calling this version 0.7, and estimate that by version 1.0 it’ll have all of the features that were requested by Beta users.

Please check it out, and provide feedback or feature requests to me via Facebook Messenger or using the email link in the App Store.

Features and changes, v0.7

This version contains the basic functionality for viewing Open Canal Map UK on your iOS device.

The Map tab of the app loads the map from the mapping provider, Mapbox.

The first time you click the location button on the top right, you’ll be prompted to allow the app access your location – this isn’t needed for the map to load, but is needed if you want your current location shown on the map, or the map to follow you as you move.
You can use this button to enable or disable showing your current location, and having the map follow you as you move.

The info and advanced tabs show information about the project and about the app, and allow you to click through and add information to the map via the Open Canal Map UK site; in a future release this functionality will be handled inside the app and won’t require using the form on the website.

Options which affect the app’s behaviour can be found in the Settings app on your phone, under OpenCanalMap.

In this release the only option available is to change where the map opens when the app first starts up. You can choose between Braunston (chosen arbitrarily as this is the location where the app was first tested), your current location (if available), and the last location you viewed (if available).

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iPhone App for OpenCanalMap UK in progress

Anyone I’ve talked to in person about boat things has probably heard my praise of Tom Sapey’s Open Canal Map project, which collects useful points of interest on the UK canals, including locks, bridges, water points, etc., for display in Google Maps or his standalone Android App.

I contacted Tom about his app and to see what his plans were for further expansion, and I’m delighted to announce I’m working with Tom on an iPhone version of the same app and hope to launch it to the App Store in the next few weeks.

I’ll add a section to this site with further info once it’s in the store, but the current build is stable and functional, just awaiting some polishes and to reach feature parity with the Android version.

 

It’s a tarp! Or: Weedhatch 101

One of the first questions people have when I tell them about the boat (and particularly, about its size) is some variation on “How easy is it to ‘drive'”?

To this I always say it’s easy enough to get the hang of the basics, and the chance of collisions is usually quite low due to the slow speed because there’s plenty of time to deal with any problems that arise.

As it turns out, I was overly optimistic on this point, because it relies on the engine running as expected, without the propellor being jammed on some debris from the canal, which is exactly what happened.

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Boats Boats Boats – Park Royal to Little Venice on the Grand Union Canal

What better to do on a windy, rainy day than a 4 mile solo cruise through one of the busiest parts of the canal network?

The weather was not at all pleasant, with waves on the usually flat water, and at least one kayak drifting by that had come loose from wherever it was tied up.

Kayak drifting on the canal
Lost kayak 20180124

I could probably have picked plenty of more pleasant things to do, but I’d booked a very good central London mooring spot at Rembrandt Gardens, and it would go to waste if I stayed out West.

I figured the bad weather would keep everyone else indoors, and was more or less correct, but they were right to stay there, by the end my fingers were barely moving and I sorely needed another cup of tea!

This was my first trip into London, and a major change from the journeys I’d taken so far, in that the canal is mostly in built-up areas, there’s more boats moored on both sites, and unfortunately there’s much more garbage and debris in the water, which makes for some difficult cruising at times, lest something get stuck on the propellor. (so far, I’ve luckily avoided that problem)

This section is also notable because the density of boats moored rises as you approach to London, and combined with the weather there were one or two boats that weren’t quite where they were supposed to be. Luckily, nothing happens quickly on the canal, and there’s usually plenty of time to go around obstacles.

Cruiser swinging into canal

It also means there’s not many places to moor – if not for the pre-booked mooring spot, it would have been difficult to find somewhere to tie up for the night – as you can see in the video, there’s long sections with no mooring spot large enough for this boat (and in some cases, for any boats)

Makes for a short journey for some sightseeing though, so there’s that 🙂

Where to next? 🤔

Harefield to Uxbridge – New year, New cruise

Denham Deep lock - bottom gate when lock almost empty

Over Christmas, the boat was left snug in a marina while we visited family abroad.

We came back just before New Years Eve, stocked up with beer and food and settled in for a few days aboard. We’d almost run out of coal until Mary and Phil came by on Hyperion and Hades with much needed supplies, and we have a nice hot fire and full bellies to welcome 2018.

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Hastily assembled Christmas decorations

Christmas lights from the towpath

As most of our Christmas decorations are still in storage, and not on the boat, we had to come up with a quick solution to get some external decorations in place.

For the windows, we put up some small battery operated 20 LED light sets from Poundland. We also wanted to put lights along the outside of the hull, but didn’t have any outdoor lights available.

I checked the LED lights on Amazon’s ‘warehouse deals’ section, where they sell open-pack and refurbished items, and found a set of 200 LEDs with a small solar charger for £8. These are the type you often see in gardens, with a little solar panel which automatically powers the lights on at sunset, and charges them in daylight. The battery doesn’t last long this time of year, but for a few hours after sunset it looks good, even from a distance.

We attached them to the hull with a small set of magnetic hooks, along one side of the hull, and across the bow.

Widebeam canal boat with Christmas lights visible on the hull
Christmas lights from the towpath

Next year I’ll think about putting up a set of 1000 LEDs I had in my previous home, but I need to check the power requirements; maybe the solar set will remain (or be used all year as ‘garden’ lighting?)

Cruising: Rickmansworth to Harefield

This was a beautiful winter’s day, and there were few other boats moving, so it made for a very pleasant day on the water.

That said, this was only a few days after the snow and practically the first thing that happened after I started prepping the boat to move was that I slipped on some ice.

I’d climbed up onto the roof to remove the chimney (necessary before cruising if there’s any bridges en-route), and after I took my first step, my feet fell out from under me, and I landed flat on my back.

Thankfully I remained on the roof, and didn’t fall into the water, or onto the towpath, but this was a reminder to be careful.

For this cruise I tried to create a time-lapse video by taking a photo every 10 seconds from the bow, which hopefully you can see below.

There were only a few locks on the route, and as you can see on the video, one of them was very shallow, only about 7 feet / 2 metres, but it still takes almost as long as a deeper lock to set, operate and close afterwards.

Due to the ice and the relatively short journey, I set a very slow pace, helped some other boaters at locks, stopped to fill my water tank, and generally had a quiet sunny day (I later found out I’d sunburned my face, in the middle of December!).

The highlight of this part of the journey for me was the lakes on either side of the canal on this stretch of this, and the plentiful bird life (saw some kingfishers but wasn’t able to get a photo).

This stretch has one of the occasional odd landmarks you see along the canals, which is a giant monkey hanging from the old Harefield Limeworks building.

If it can be this nice in winter, summer’s going to be lovely!

First day cruising: Kings Langley to Croxley

So, on Friday I bought a boat.

I’ll add some details in another post about why, how, and where, but this post is about my first full day cruising, the things that went right and wrong, and lessons learned along the way.

I’d been moored in Kings Langley, at Lock 69, and I’d decided to move to the next major town south, which was Watford, about 5 miles to the south. This was expected to take about 3.5 hours, according to Canalplan.

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