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May 11, 2016

Le Port–Museé, Douarnenez, Finistère, Brittany

Writing about web page http://www.port-musee.org

Douarnenez is a small town on the coast in the bottom corner of the bay that stretches out towards the Crozon in the north and Cap Sizun and Pointe de Raz to the west. Finistère does of course mean "the end of the land" - but for many Bretons now and in the past, with their love of the sea, it really means "the start of the ocean". Douarnenez is, these days, as much about beaches, cafés and coastal wildlife as it is about real oceanic adventures. But its two ports are still busy with leisure and historic craft, as well as a few working boats. You can even buy Douarnenez sardines in Waitrose.

Sardines

But in addition the town has put some effort into maintaining its link with the sea. There is an annual tall ship festival. And you can learn to sail or kayak. But most of all there is a really wonderful museum full of maritime character and the smell of ancient salty timbers.

For the last few years Le Port-Museé has been one of my favourite places to visit with my children. It has been magical for them and for us adults too. We keep going back. And there is plenty of reason to do so. The museum fills cavernous old warehouses and a long stretch of the river (the old port Rhu). There are permanent exhibitions, with a wide selection of old boats and associated clothes and equipment, all displayed with great thought and arranged for visual and learning impact. The musuem also hosts large "temporary" exhibitions (although they do seem to stay for a couple of years). We have seen The Box (about the container shipping business) - which might sound dull, but is in fact brilliantly done with amazing exhibits including a giant lego model of a container port. We have also visited the Sinbad exhibition, about the maritime traditions of Arabia, which is still running. It is wonderful. They even sailed a dhow called Nizwa all the way from Oman - we have seen it sailing out across the bay, which is quite surprising when in close up you see just how roughly made it is.

There are many ships into which you can explore, with all decks open - lots of them on moored on the river, but also (and this is the most popular with the children) a fishing boat in the warehouse on which they can play at being at sea.

There is a lot more to the place than I have so far described. To really get across how great it is, here are some photos from our visits over two years.

Steering hard to starboard...

Port Museum

Full steam ahead for the Mighty Atom!

In the engine room

The Nizwa dhow, all the way from Oman and now sailing across the Bay of Douarnenez.

Nizwa

Ghostly sailor's clothes...

Ghostly clothes

Fishermans clothes

A life-size diorama of an old Breton port...

A Breton port scene

Fish people!

Fish people

The huge lego model of a container port...

The lego port

One of the many Arabian artefacts in the Sinbad exhibition. There is also a recreation of a Omani house, including spices, and a giant Arab astrological map.

Omani door

And there is a great restaurant next door.

Cafe next door



November 25, 2011

Where's the learning technology and philosophy articles?

For my learning technology and philosophy research, see http://www.inspireslearning.com


June 30, 2011

The natural beauties of Hungary

1,500 miles down the track going East, surrounded by cuckoos, bitterns, little bitterns, purple herons, golden orioles...an avian conspiracy against the possibility of sleep. We had ridden for two days across Europe, 8 countries on big fat BMW motorcycles, vaguely assuming that the wildlife of Romania would be our eventual target. Without anticipating Hungary.

Trapped by the astounding beauty of the big flat flood plains of the Danube, and stretching westward. First we camped at the great Lake Balaton, then on to the little known Lake Szelid, like a piece of the Okavango, a stranded and slowly salinating Danube ox-bow, with swarms of frogs and birds that I've only ever imagined I would hear or see in Africa. And then, heading towards the Romanian border and Timisoara, we stopped for lunch just a little to the west of Szeged - a small spa town called Mórahalom - the kind of place that immediately impresses with its calmness and welcome. After half an hour, Martin was seriously analysing the estate agent's wares. With the help of the English speaking young ladies at the Library and the Toursist Information centre (Hungarian ladies are beautiful, even when not riding bicycles, although it is rare to see them not riding bicycles, that seeming to be the national habit, in shorts and with very nice legs), we were directed to a small nature reserve along a sandy track (think Paris-Dakar rally). It was, I believe, called Madarász, however the Hungarian language may as well be Martian to us, and most people there seem to speak nothing else. Anyhow, it is one of the world's greatest natural experiences...whiskered terns, black terns, marsh and hen harriers, peregrines, otters, bitterns of both variety, and a raucous colony of purple herons.

Some photos fail to do justice to Hungary's wonder...

Hungary 1\

Crossing on the Lake Balaton ferry...

Balaton from the ferry

Fishermen's punts at Lake Szelid...

Fishermen

Evening on Lake Szelid...

Evening at Szelid

A single representative of the million tiny frogs that we found hopping around the foot path along Lake Szelid. Food for bitterns. A sign of a healthy eco-system.

A million frogs

A statue in the lovely little park in the spa town of Moralohom, Hungary. Notice the nice lady wrapped in a towel. It attracts visitors from all over the world to its waters, and possibly also its population of nice ladies on bicycles.

Moralohom

At the nature reserve, strange sheep with spiral horns, pigs with curly afro style coats...

Farm

Hungarian pony...

Hungarian pony

The reserve contains a series of long artificial lakes, full of life for nature lovers and fishermen...

Lakes

And flowers...

Hungary 2

Hungary 3

Hungary 4

Hungary 5

Hungary 6

Hungary 7

Hungary 8


April 25, 2011

BMW R100GS Paris–Dakar refurbishment and redesign – latest progress

Some recent updates by top expert Andrew Sexton. Including:

  • Oil sump extension;
  • New oil cooler;
  • Oil cooler relocation;
  • Oil cooler thermostat.

The parts were bought from http://www.boxxerparts.de

Andrew has also professionally rewired the electrics, making a neat job out of the Acewell speedo and a replacement rear led light. It all now seems to work perfectly. Finally, he found that it had been suffering from low oil pressure, due to a missing o-ring in the oil filter assembly (a common mistake made by a non-specialist technician). The big-end bearings had signs of damage, so were replaced. Andrew also re-seated the exhaust valves. Less smoke and more MPG have resulted.

I've added an MRA Vario screen from Motorworks, adjustable to give perfectly non-turbulent air flow. There's also a Garmin Zumo sat nav to go with the Midland BT 02 bluetooth intercom.

I've ditched the metal panniers (Ted Simon's advice). They've been replaced by a pair of Ortlieb waterproof panniers (a single pannier can carry all of my camping gear), a Hein Gericke tail bad, and a small cool bag.

Some photos:

Bike 1

Bike 2

Bike 3


April 12, 2011

Alexander playing cosmic basketball

Lawrence thought it would be amusing, so he made this image....

Basketball


March 27, 2011

Alexander Prospero O'Toole

Alexander

Magical baby.


October 12, 2010

For articles about learning, research and technology…

Please see my research blog Inspires Learning.


July 11, 2010

Road testing my rebuilt R100GS PD

Follow-up to BMW R100GS definitely almost finished soon soon from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

On Friday evening, I got my GS Paris-Dakar back from Nu-Age Kenilworth Motorcycles (thanks to Nick, Bill and all their helpers for lots of hard work). The police-specification electrics are all working well. Only two glitches: the speedo connection from the gearbox to the Acewell digital speedo has stopped working; on my first run, after half-an-hour, the clutch started to scream - I took it back, and Bill adjusted the setting. It's now fine. No, in fact, it's absolutely magnificent - just as an Airhead Gëlande Strasse should be. A bit quicker and more responsive to the throttle than before the rebuild. And without the fairing and screen, it's much smoother, with less air turbulence. And much more fun. Naked bikes feel faster, and more "involved". I did an hour's worth of riding today, getting it up to 70mph on the A46, and testing it out thoroughly on the b-roads. I'll try to use it every day this week, and at some point take onto a green lane to see if being 20KG lighter improves it's handling on dirt.

The rebuild is complete. For a while. I'll have another look at the electrics, to tidy them up and get the speedo working. And then perhaps a bigger front disk will be the next development.

Here's a full tally of the work that i've had done:

Frame, sub-frame and various components powder coated;
Nuts and bolts replaced with a stainless kit;
Downpipes and silencer replaced with a Keihan stainless set;
Fork seals replaced;
Push-rod seals replaced, and stainless steel tubes added;
Tank, mudguards and side panels repainted (fairing removed);
Headlight replaced with twin lights;
Instruments replaced with an Acewell digital system;
Timing chain replaced;
Carbs refurbished;
Pistons and heads de-coked;
1 exhaust valve replaced;
Alternator, diode board, regulator, hall sensor all replaced with improved versions;
Serviced;
Cleaned and polished.

The starter motor was replaced recently with one of the "improved" Valeo starters.

So now, I hope, it will do another 85,000 miles until the next major rebuild.

Complete


July 08, 2010

BMW R100GS definitely almost finished soon soon

Follow-up to BMW R100GS refurbishment almost finished from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

It has an MOT, and some nice new Acerbis handguards (don't pay rip-off Touratech prices for them, go to an off-road shop and they are 1/3 the price). Nu-Age Kenilworth Motorcycles couldn't get the timing exactly right, so I guessed that the mechanical retard/advance mechanism in the bean can is jammed, a common fault. They have ordered a fully electronic replacement from Motorworks. The alternator is looking worn and not charging properly, so i'll be getting a new 450w police-spec generator as well, along with a police-spec regulator to match. It will be ready soon soon. Unless I decide that I might as well replace the remaining original parts too. Anyone know where I can get a new set of forks? Ohlins, WP, Marzochi USD? Even the Marzochi insert kit would be an improvement. No one seems to sell them anymore.

GS with acerbis hand guards

GS from the front



May 18, 2010

Blossoming

Garden right

Garden right 2

Garden centre

Garden left


May 16, 2010

Nuthatch

Nuthatches are regular visitors to our garden. They have become unusually tame.

Nuthatch 1

Nuthatch 2


BMW R100GS refurbishment almost finished

Follow-up to BMW R100GS pistons and heads cleaned from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

My bike came back from Nu-Age racing in superb condition. I've started to add the final parts. The mudguards have been painted blue (Glossy Car Coats of Kenilworth) and the tank has been painted in BMW arctic white. I'm going to leave the side panels off. All bolts are now stainless steel. I've also fitted stainless down pipes and a silencer. It's in better condition that it was when I bought it nine years ago. I think it's the bike that BMW should have built.

R100GS from the side

I've removed the headlight fairing, replaced with just a simple and lightweight twin headlight set and an Acewell digital speedo bolted to the handlebars.

R100GS from the front

The last job is to fit the electrics. Getting the loom and a new set of coils in place was easy. However, the front section of the loom is far too long without the fairing, and so I must wrap it back on itself. It's now almost complete.



April 30, 2010

BMW R100GS pistons and heads cleaned

Follow-up to BMW R100GS frame and engine refurb from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

The guys at Nu-Age Racing have now carefully removed the carbon deposits from the engine. It's looking really good. Hopefully, it will all be back together by the weekend and I can start to reassemble the electrics.

Before

After
Before After


Clean

Shiny happy engine.


April 23, 2010

BMW R100GS frame and engine refurb

My R100GS Paris Dakar is currently at the very good (and friendly) Nu-Age Racing in Kenilworth having some major refurbishment work done.

The frame has been blasted and powder coated. The result is excellent, like it has just rolled off the production line:

Powder coated GS frame

After 85,000 miles, a new timing chain has been fitted as a precautionary measure:

GS crankase

As with most old airheads, the pushrod seals are leaking. They are being replaced, and stainless steel pushrod tubes added:

Heads and barrels

Taking the engine apart has revealed quite a lot of carbon deposits on the pistons and around the valves, one of which will be replaced (an exhaust valve went a few years ago):

GS piston

The gearbox and drive shaft seem fine:

GS gearbox

I'm also having the carbs refurbished.

When that is all complete, i'll be fitting the wiring loom (re-bound) and adding new twin headlights and a small digital speedo (with the old plastic fairing removed).




December 21, 2009

Repainted R100GS Paris Dakar fuel tank

Follow-up to R100GS Paris Dakar refurbishment after 85,000 miles from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Excellent work by Glossy Car Coats of Kenilworth. The fuel tank looks like new. The mudguards and side panels were painted in blue.

Tank


R100GS Paris Dakar refurbishment after 85,000 miles

I'm currently working on a more serious refurbishment of my BMW R100GS Paris Dakar. I started to get minor electrical faults in the headlights and instruments. On the PD they the front end is wrapped in an un-necessarily big and complicated plastic fairing. It even has large metal crash bars wrapped around it. I've never liked the fairing, and when I realised that it is quite a barrier to doing repairs on the electrics, I decided to remove it. It took much effort to remove! I bought the bike because it is supposed to be easy to work on, simple and reliable. Now that the fairing is gone, it's closer to that ideal. Once it was off, I put the whole assemblage on the scales (including instruments and crash bar). It weighs 10 kilos! A substantial weight for an off road bike.

The instruments will be replaced by an all-in-one Acewell digital system. They are available, along with a speedo cable for BMW, from Boxxerparts in Germany. The headlight will be replaced with a pair of small round "streetfighter" style headlights mounted to the fork stanchions with mini-indicators.

With the fairing, fuel tank, seats and side panels off, I could see just how bad the rest of the bike is. It's covered in 85,000 miles of road grime. My earlier attempts at anti-rust-coating and painting the frame are now being surpassed by rusting. The worst aspect is the wiring harness. The fabric cover is soaked with oil, wearing through and unwrapping:

Wiring harness and rust

The only real solution is to strip the whole bike down, clean it thoroughly, restore the wiring harness, and get the frame bead-blasted and powder coated. I'm half way through that. The next step is to remove the forks, engine and transmission. I'll need some help with the engine, and will probably struggle to get the steering bearings out of the stem.

GS stripped down from front

I think i'll get the engine and forks removed by a professional, considering this article on removing steering races and bearings.


September 21, 2009

Trail riding in Wiltshire and Northamptonshire – R100GS and R1100GS

BMW R100GS PD at Barbury Castle, south of Swindon. A long section of the Ridgeway byway, legally accessible by motorcycles in the summer, starts here.

At the start of the Ridgeway

In Wiltshire the Ridgeway mostly consists of well drained gravel tracks.

Ridgeway

The Ridgeway has some of the best wide open views to be found on an English byway. However, in some areas, deep tractor ruts require more concentrated riding.

Ridgeway views

Once that we had reached the end of the southernmost ridable section of the Ridgeway at Overton Hill, we took another byway to connect with a second stretch of Ridgeway further north. Wiltshire has many excellent byways open to bikes. This great track leads through a beech forest, with gentle hills and glades.

Forest ride

In Northamptonshire, the Banbury Track and Oxford Track are a little more challenging. This stretch, open only to motorcycles, is overgrown and rutted. On a grassier stretch, we both fell off at the same time, struggling through the thick vegetation.

Banbury track

Some of the tracks are barely used. Martin found much less grip on the grass with his Avon Distanzia dual-purpose tyres. My Continental TKC80 off-road tyres were better. We met the farmer (on a quad with his dog). He was friendly and chatted about bikes and the local routes.

Field



August 16, 2009

Walking with Attenboroughs

Yesterday: Walking with Dinosaurs on stage at the NIA, in the front row, face to face with the deadliest predator of all time.

Today: Lawrence's birthday at Brandon Marsh, pond dipping with lots of friends, and wallking in the footsteps of David Attenborough....

Footsteps


August 11, 2009

Child sentenced to Robben Island style hard labour

Follow-up to Robert gets his head smashed in Dorset from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

For his part in the brutal murder of Robert the Crab, Lawrence O'Toole (almost 4) was sentenced to a life of hard labour smashing rocks in the West Dorset ammonite mines. Lawrence was heard to comment: "this is well cool, just like Nelson Mandela, crime really rocks".

Rock

The campus police man was not amused at having to fruitlessly patrol an entirely harmless gathering of motorcylists in the Warwickshire countryside, while such outlaws roamed the land, perpetrating acts of unspeakable cruelty on defenceless crustacea.

Police


August 10, 2009

Robert gets his head smashed in Dorset

Children can be just so cruel. Especially Lawrence. Early on Friday morning we set off to Samway's, the West Bay fish monger, just around the corner from our apartment on the cliff top at Burton Bradstock, Dorset. The boy refused lobster, aiming his hammer at the most substantial target on offer: a 12 inch wide crab, complete with fearsome pincers. We returned home, I struggling under the weight of several kilos of sea food: the giant crab, a large skate, a smaller haddock, and a bag full of samphire.

Back in the kitchen, Lawrence was keen to get the crab out of its bag and start to pursue innocent squeeling ladies with its snapping pincers and pungent aroma. Emma was unimpressed. Eventually we deposited the crab in the fridge, by which time it was no longer merely "the crab", Lawrence having chosen a name for his deceased crustacea. For some inexplicable reason, the crab was called "Robert". Thanks Lawrence.

Robert

And so when finally the ominous mallet of supper-time hovered meanacingly over the prettily orange speckled carapace of fate, many jokes had been tossed into the boulabaise of family banter.

SMASH.

A crushing blow landed square in the center of Robert's head.

He crumpled beneath its shattering force, light splurges of gungy brown meat leaking out on the rebound.

Smash

Health and safety tip: always wear protective goggles when smashing a crab.

Teasing away a splintered fragment of shell, the intrepid culinary adventurers revealed the false dawn that is the body of the crab. Insubstantial but tasty. The carapace contains only brown sludge. Delicious brown sludge. I led Lawrence to believe it to be the crab's brain. Not sure if that is true or false, but it's a good story.

A mopping-up operation then commenced, us armed with chunks of good white bread sourced from Bridport's marvellous Washingpool Farm Shop.

And then onto the hard-core crab eating: chunky white leg meat, the extraction of which required heavier artillery - Lawrence's geology hammer delivered just the necessary impacts (with the crab now placed on the ground for maximum ballistic intent).

Eventually, it lay before us thoroughly exhausted and extinct. Only a single claw remained intact, providing hours of cheap entertainment for everyone, especially Lawrence.

Dead

Apparently, the skate (roasted), haddock (fried), and samphire (boiled) were also of excellent standing.

Well done to Samway's and to Washingpool.

Sorry Robert the crab.