Activities during 2016

If you would like to be kept updated about Consuta activities, we can include you on our email circulation. Subscribe by contacting us via email

Consuta moved under cover for the Winter

A Working morning 19th December

A small work party moved several large items out of the old cow shed to make room for Consuta.

The photos above show Cygnet with temporary dust sheets in the Tithe Barn and a large model of the Bismark being moved. Other boats moved from the shed to the barn were a flying fifteen and a 12ft sailboat. The front tow hitch on the disco was very useful. We were then able to move Consuta into the shed out of the winter weather; it just started to rain at this point.

Consuta activities in October

Lifting Consuta from the water Wednesday 26th October

The crane had been booked about three weeks before the date so there is never any guarantee about weather conditions. Fortunately on the day it was not too cold even the sun came out by about 9:30am. Roy with the crane was there before 9:00, Consuta was already by the slipway when we finally got the trailer into the field. The craning went like clockwork, the hull was cleaned and washed down, but then there was a problem putting her onto the trailer, eventually resolved and due to one of the pads not being in the correct position.

Consuta now on the trailer, was soon back by the Cowshed at about 10:30, unfortunately we were not able to put her under cover so she has to remain out in the open.

.............He thinks I can't see where we are going ............ All sheeted up ready for leaving out in the open

It really is a great shame that such an important historical launch has to be kept outside.
We then adjoined to the Bull at Streatley, which had some new menus with special discounts for the day; everyone enjoyed a lovely luncheon after a successful mornings work.

The season has all ended well so that's it until next year; but we have some exciting plans for 2017.

Consuta's last steaming October 15th

We always blow Consuta's boiler down empty for the Winter while in steam, this allows the boiler to thoroughly dry out when it is still hot.

So why not have an outing to a riverside pub for lunch when steam has been raised for the blowdown. The weather was still quite warm and on the day it was nice and sunny. Some 10 supporters came along then we cruised the whole length of the river pound above Whitchurch lock ending up at the Pagbourne Swan Inn for lunch.

Reluctantly we returned through the cut onto the lake at Beale Park and emptied the boiler. Consuta was now riding high (700lbs of boiler water lighter), and ready for craning out.

Consuta Steams in September

Members outing to Clifton Hampden - 14th September

Unfortunately a wedding trip from Caversham to Whitchurch had to be cancelled because of the weather. Consuta was moved from Charvil to Beale Park a week later on a very sunny and hot day. Several supporters came along on enjoy a nice days cruise.

The weather forecast for Wednesday 14 September looked very good, so a special supporters outing was arranged to go up river as far as Clifton Hampden by 1pm if possible.

The weather was brilliant, we made a good start from Beale park with nine people aboard, then picked up another three at Goring. Apart from some intensive fours rowing practice just south of Wallingford the river was very quiet and there was no waiting at any locks, just before Clifton Hampden lock we set off up the weir stream, finally mooring up at the Plough Inn at Long Whittenham after a rather tricking turning exercise - the prop dug into the mud, but we finally got free by use of boat hooks - that big prop does dig in.

The trip back was more leisurely, with a stop for ice creams at Benson, finally mooring up at the park by 6:30pm. Everyone agreed that this was A Grand Day Out with some perfect steam boating.

The top two photos show raising steam and then on the way up river. The next large photo is the approach to Days lock, then two of first is the Plough Inn garden on the river, and second is the Clifton Hampden bridge. The last photo is looking over the Benson cafe tea garden down river towards the lock.

Operations during August

Members outing up the Kennet and Avon Canal - 16th August

Because there was little Consuta activity planned for August, we decided to arrange an outing from Charvil to go up the River Kennet to Burghfield. We had a full boat complement, two of our passengers had arranged to be picked up at Blakes Lock in Reading.

The weather was lovely not too hot or windy but plenty of sunshine. Passing through Sonning lock there was a notice stating Fobney Lock on the Kennet was closed?. Ah! this would upset our plans if still closed but we decided to go as far as the lock to see what was up. Apparently a boat had sunk in the lock and was proving difficult to recover.

At Reading High Street bridge there are boater operated traffic lights at the entry of the CRT territory, these were needed before Brewery Gut was widened to avoid two boats meeting in this narrow river section. The bridge is an old masonry curved arch type and we had lowered the funnel for this previously, however I was persuaded that this was not necessary; Yes good headroom if one kept precisely to the channel middle. County Lock in the middle of Reading follows immediately after the Brewery Gut section (Oracle shopping centre), County Lock is always peaceful, even though the Reading ring road is very close by.

Sure enough Fobney Lock did have a sunken boat which had been there for about a week. We were told it was difficult to lift. Apparently as the boat was about to leave the lock, there was a load bang and it sank in 2 minutes - nobody hurt. Details were scarce, and the sinking was described as due to a mechanical failure???. Guesses; perhaps a weed hatch failing? There were crowds of people watching. On the way back down river we learnt that the boat had been removed by the middle of the afternoon

The two historic Narrow boats, Nuneaton (motor) Brighton (Butty) carrying coal had been stranded here for a week. Turning Conusta was an interesting manoeuvre watched by the gathered crowds, but was in fact straight forward enough.

After negotiating the low curved High Street bridge we turned left to go past the old Abbey ruins, there are two low bridges here which needed the funnel lowered. Finally arriving at the Bel and The Dragon Inn for a lovely luncheon.

Once back onto the wide Thames, it was plain sailing home; although we stopped at the Sonning Lock tea gardens for icecreams - the moorings here are off the weir stream .

Operations during July

Traditional Boat Festival - 15 - 17th July

This event is now a two and a half day event. The Consuta Trust had a large pitch so we decided to set up a similar display to that used at Beale Park. The Thursday was used to transport all items needed, then Consuta was moved down river on Friday morning.

Thursday was a lovely warm day, but Friday was really quite cold and with a rain shower.

However Saturday and Sunday had some lovely weather so Consuta was very popular for tripping although our mooring showed the difficulties of manoeuvring Consuta up to the right angled jetties. Well we all know about this problem which is due to the rudder being located about 6 feet astern of the propeller. Martyn Heighton of National Historic Ships scolded us for not wearing the house flag - we fitted one he provided for the occasion however the Historic ships parade was cancelled, not really sure why.

Two almost identical umpire launches Consuta steam built 1898 - Enchantress petrol built 1908

General view of the Fawley meadow site from Consuta -- USA commuter launch 'Judith R' from the 1930's

Navy submersible dept electric motor from a 1920's canoe -- Half model of Consuta's new boiler with fire

Supporters having fun, you should have come along ---- what is he driving??

WW1 torpedo boat drops torpedo off the stern - WW2 MTB launches torpedo launched over the bow.

We dutifully carried out the last function shown on the Sunday programme list (1830), but we were on our own; Consuta then set off up river to get back to Charvil. This was a delightful cruise with no delays at the locks, we arrive about 20:00 hours. Paul who drove up by car to take us back to Fawley had already said we've got time to derigg our pitch and take everything home. Well yes, quite true but only thanks to our volunteers working in the twilight.

This event is one of the great Thames events, if you didn't come along you missed out, try and make it next year. Thanks to all who helped make this event work.

There are a many more pictures of the Thames Trad Boat Festival on our facebook page click here.

Private party trips from Phyllis Court - 1st and 2nd July

Photos and event arrangements by Stephen Hone

Operations during June

Private party from Leander - 30th June

This was a special birthday outing for one of our members.

Private wedding anniversary - 26th June

One of our supporters had arranged to have a day cruise downriver to Harleyford. The weather was excellent and all had a good time.

The Reading Town Regatta on Saturday - 25th June

We were due to arrive at the Regatta course on the Dreadnought reach by about 12:00, which gave the crew a relative leisurely start for raising steam starting from 10:00. The weather forecast predicted heavy rain showers during the later part of the day.

After some minor engineering maintenance, we set off upriver in some lovely weather, arriving just before midday. We were soon asked to carry the umpire for a race, no problem except the turning at the start is quite a challenge for the helmsman on Consuta. By the time we set off to go for our second race, the clouds were beginning to look very black - I put on my waterproof, someone said Oh! are we going to get wet, I said not a problem we have plenty of umbrellas on board.
Well after we turned to get to the race start pontoon the rain came down in stair-rods, so bad that it apparently caused a collision between eights just after they had started.

Below six photos from the event. The first on left shows arrival at the start; then on the right some minor valve gland adjustment, The next two show starting off from the umpire launch pontoon at the finish line, and all the launches moored up here during the lunch break.

The bottom two photos were taken in the rain - note crew all look happy, can't imagine why? We felt quite sorry for the race crews who had no weather protection at all and just had to wait until it eased.

Following a good night's sleep to recover, on reflection it was a great event for Consuta; obviously didn't blot our copybook because we've already been invited back for next year - so any volunteers to help in 2017?.

The Henley Women's Regatta on Saturday - 18th June

The first task was to moved Consuta downriver to our Charvil mooring following the Beale Park Boat Show. Now these trips are always popular with supporters and we try to pick a day which has the prospect of nice weather, however the forecast for the preceding week predicted rain showers on all days except the Friday.

As Friday approached the dry forecast became less certain, and setting off with eight people on board it started to rain lightly soon after Mapledurham Lock, fortunately by the time we reached the outskirts of Caversham the rain had stopped.

After a lunch stop at our favorite mooring by Caversham bridge, the sun soon came out, making a very pleasant afternoon trip.

On the Saturday - David and crew moved Consuta down to Henley by 10:00am and Consuta join the other umpire launches following a race about every half hour. We found the coal was rather dusty which resulted in a little bit of unburnt dust being thrown up and landing on the back cockpit during hard accelerations; need to grade the coal next time.

A few standby crew came over by 2:30 o'clock; racing finished just before 6:00pm. On the return trip to Charvil the sun finally came out making our upriver return most pleasant. The two pictures above show a classic Consuta start when following a race, and the other was taken passing a dragon boat in the Dreadnought Reach on the Friday.

Many thanks to all our crew helpers, more pictures of these two days on our facebook page click here.

The Beale Park Boat Show 3rd to 5th June

The shore part of the display took the whole of the setting up day (Thursday) to get ready, we also checked that all the refitted pipework in Consuta was OK which included an operational steam test"

No problems at all. The weather on Thursday was decidedly chilly with a north wind but show visitors were keen to have a trip. By Saturday the Sun came out very late in the day and Sunday was just perfect

We were hard put to carry everyone who wanted a trip, fortunately we had a great crew who work hard, during the three day event burning about 14 bags of coal, Gerry estimated that we made about 45 trips so carrying some 450 passengers. The trips were free but we asked passengers to consider donations to help keep Consuta operational and they did not disappoint.

There are many picture of the show on our facebook page click here.

Work during May

Consuta re-launching day 24th May

Wonderful weather on the day. The launch and re-installing of the boiler were completed shortly after 10:15am, I wondered is this a record."

We had about 16 people turn up on the day so the serious work of re fitting all the pipes flange pipe couplings and a variety of valves was completed by mid afternoon. There is always the slight concern have any bits gone missing since lats autumn

The Consuta pontoon was aligned ready for the show and Ray made an excellent job of clearing the jetty of growing weeds.

Eight of us went for a pub lunch the others decided to have a picnic by the lake while continuing with the various jobs.

Boiler inspection 17th May

Boiler inspections can be a bit traumatic and this one was special as it required a hydraulic test as well. A small team moved the boiler out, raised the funnel ready for the inspector by 10:30am Fortunately the weather prediction was no rain.

The first part of the examination is a thorough check of a variety of key boiler parts - "are all the stays ok", "do the mud doors fit properly", etc. etc.

David T our inspector said all OK please prepare the boiler for the hydraulic test - this means fit new gaskets on all the doors, fit bung stoppers in place of the safety valves, and fill the boiler with water. David said he wanted the hydraulic test to 320 psi, however I'd only brought along a gauge to 300 psi. No problem the inspectors test pump had its own gauge.

Filling with water took an age, however without air in the boiler this test is a very safe test and it only took a few minutes to get to 320psi which then had to be held for 30 minutes.

I volunteered to take Paul and get fish and chips for all from Pangbourne. When we came back the test had been successful (well I knew it would), and the boiler water had been drained to half gauge level ready for the steam test; by the way the fish and chips were lovely. So all that was needed now was to refit the safety valves, put on the inspector's accurate pressure gauge, then raise steam.

Full steam pressure was reached in about one and half hours, then with blower opened wide we let the safeties roar, what a noise! Pressure on the gauge stayed at 180 psi.

David said that's fine you can shut it down now, I just need some additional paperwork about the work on the tubes then you can have a pass certificate.

Our present cast iron firebars are a bit rough with many cracks and distortion, so we have ordered 7 new ones (£80 each). The design is not a normal style and I wondered if there is a flaw in this original design concept. Just for a trial I made up three test bars in stainless steel, to see if this might be a better material. The photos below show CI bars, another shows distortion, and three trial stainless bars.

What do you think?

Work during April

Note that there were two other workparty days in April but these have not been recorded here"

Work party 13th April

Another lovely day for working on Consuta. It's sometime difficult to provide everyone with some work without getting in the way of others; I heard someone say my tea seems to have rusty bits in it. Because the weather was good some work was taken outside in the sunshine.

Photo on the left shows Brenda polishing boiler gauge protectors, and Paul replastering the steam pipes
Photo on the right:- Clive cutting out a gasket for the main stop valve. This stop valve has three gaskets plus a stuffing box for the valve spindle and every year there always seems to be some leakage, which is not only annoying, but it dribbles and causes a rusty patch on the boiler barrel.

Paul wonders if the original prop had been a larger diameter say 34" instead of the present "30; there is room. It might also have been two bladed, a feature seen on some of DesVignes and Saunders launches. The blade area of our prop we know is too great - so let's see if we can find another prop to try out.
Note photo of the useful work bench plus vice brought along by Clive; Lyn tried to take possession for tea making.

The boiler has some different painted areas. We used Fertan to kill the last remaining bits of rust on the back head, Red Oxide on the wrapper and barrel then a high Temp paint on the smokebox. Final paint coats will now be applied at our next workparty.

See photo on the right. Just before going off to the Bull for lunch we had a look at Cygnet in the Tithe Barn. Unfortunately this museum has now closed, Cygnet needs a bit of cleaning as it now had a light coating of dust which presumably had accumulated following the museum closure last year.

Work during March

Work party 30th March

At last we had a reasonably warm sunny day, also with a good turn out of workers.

Work continued on clearing off the rust on the boiler, using a needle gun, this work is essential to provide a good base for the new heat resistant paint. Gerry volunteered to put in some extra days outside the normal work party sessions which would be welcome because the needle gun does make a lot of noise. There were other suggestions that we really needed to sand blast the surface, I had seen a youtube video of a lazer surface cleaner - looked good but was it real? see this on Consuta's facebook scroll down a bit to find.

David and Paul spent time working out the best way to modify the boiler casing for fitting the new boiler when completed, it was even suggested that this work could be carried out at Beale Park!

Positioning trailer under the beam ready to lift the boiler - Cleaning spilt oily dirt from bottom of the ashpan

Acroprop is used to provide extra support for the beam then lifting the boiler to slide the ashpan into position

Refreshments throughout the morning provided by Lyn who was rewarded with a lovely lunch at the Streatley Bull. This inn provides very good fare these days, and very much appreciated by our workforce. Many thanks to all our volunteer workers.

Work party 16th March

A major effort to clean out the bilges was started on Friday 11th, this work has now been more or less completed. The day was dry but rather cold.

With clean bilges we then had an opportunity to see how the proposed new boiler would fit using the half model made by David. Looks great, and will be a few inches lower that present boiler thus will allow a more faithful reconstruction of the original boiler casing - the present casing is too high.

As usual we had a social pub lunch, however this time at the Streatley Swan because the Bull Inn was closed for refurbishment. The photo on the right shows the fine view from inside - a bit too cold to sit outside.

While cleaning up the firebars, which we knew were a bit distorted, it was discovered that quite a few are also cracked; so it will be prudent to replace these.

We have suitable moulding patterns for this (the two red ones on the wall); so only need a friendly casting company.

Consuta work party 2nd March

The first Consuta work party of 2016 on Wednesday 2nd March. Thank goodness Consuta was under cover because the weather was wet and cold. Nevertheless a good turnout of volunteers.

        Tony cleans the smokebox end of the boiler              Gerry starts the de-rusting work on the backhead.

Photo on the left taken through the boiler casing funnel hole - Nigel vacuuming the boiler bilges. Top right Steve cleaning out river mud from the boiler wash out, someone asked why more mud from this side than the other; probably because most engineers use the large injector which puts water into the boiler on this side; well if you can offer a better answer do let us know.     The lower photo was taken during tea break time - and look, it's not even raining.

Our pub lunch at the end of our work was great - the Streatley Bull offer good value and fare these days.

Activity during February

There hadn't been any work parties since the late autumn crane out because Consuta had to be kept outside on the trailer. At last she has been moved under cover into the cowshed. Then of course we've just had our annual Social Luncheon

Consuta old 1950's petrol engine

Pat Newton asked us if we could collect Consuta's old Gray Marine petrol engine from Bretby, so we did this during on a sunny February day.

This engine was used until 1971 when Consuta was removed from the water.

The engine probably weights in at about a third of a ton, so we needed an engine hoist to lift it into the trailer.

Not sure about the engine capacity, but it is a six cylinder side valve engine only intended for low revs, perhaps rated at 100HP? The plate on the manifold states that the engine is governed to 2,200 rpm with a warning that it must not exceed 2,500 rpm.

No we aren't going to refit this into Consuta, but it will make a fine museum exhibit when tidied up and displayed with Consuta's old engine casing

Consuta Social at Shillingford Bridge Hotel - 20th February

Our lunch get together was held at the Shillingford Bridge Hotel, this is by the Thames and just a short distance upriver from Benson Lock. Attendance was very good with 48 people booked and a room with a lovely outlook overlooking the river by the river bridge. Consuta has cruised here on several occasions and the photo below was taken from Consuta's bow in 2013 looking downstream.

Great to meet up in such a lovely place. The decor in the hotel is dated but nevertheless had a rather comforting old worldly charm. The food was delicious although I've never had a rhubarb crumble served up in a tumbler glass before.

The gathering were given the news that the lottery board of Trustees have decided not to offer support to our museum project, apparently only one in eight funding applications are successful. This however was considered good news by some, especially as the cost of the museum project could easily be halved, so we remain very positive about the prospect of this worthwhile project. Our target date for raising funding has been set to two years; feed back following the social was very positive.

We finally left for home by 4:00pm - my goodness that was late.

Some assessment on the Consuta pontoons

As many will know our pontoons tend to flood when loaded with several people. Has this been getting worse? We decided to check the floating arrangements to see if they can be improved.


As you can see the 12ft by 6ft pontoons have eight polyfoam blocks which are fitted underneath. These blocks fall out if the pontoon is lifted. So do we need a complete set of new blocks?

Possibly not. One of the pontoon top planks was lifted. So it would seem possible to add some extra depth foam on the top.

More on this later.

Boiler is returned after remedial work

The photo on the left shows boiler and Consuta now safe in the cowshed, the one on the right shows the firebox tubeplate after some work. So we are now ready for some serious work party effort to prepare Consuta for the summer.

Moving Consuta under cover

We were finally able to move Consuta into the cowshed on a fine day during the first part of February, but didn't really need any extra help for this work. One trailer tyre had to be re-flated a little but the move was very simple even though the door opening width is tight

Plenty of space left for the boiler in front of Consuta

Moving the boiler for some servicing

The boiler which had been kept outside at Beale Park during the winter was taken over to Thatcham for some remedial work, to stop leaking tubes.