About Me

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After thirty years of hiring, I finally bought my own 50ft boat in 2005, which was built in 2001 by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf. I mostly cruise single handed and have no problem with that, although it does take a little longer than with a crew. My mooring is on the Wey Navigation, so I have a choice of routes on the Wey or the Thames.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Summer Cruise 29. Back on the Thames.

Wednesday 2nd August

Having slept on the problem of the alternator and knowing the problem was going to get worse I made the decision to return to my home mooring. It was either that or take a chance up to Lechlade and hope for the best, which would probably mean spending £200 on having a new one fitted when it finally gave up the ghost, bearing in mind that it is only three years old. I can fit a new A127 voltage regulator for about £10 to £12, as there are only three screws to remove and one electrical connection. Also in mind was the fact of having no refrigeration for a while, as this alternator runs the fridge and inverter.

The other persuading factor was that I had been as far as Newbridge previously and found the river to be featureless and boring, so I only intended to do it because it was there.

I reversed to the previous winding hole and turned in the direction of the lock, where I purchased licence for a week on the river, being accompanied through the lock by a hire boat. It was not a pleasant day with the wind getting up and rain forecast about midday. The other boat was fast, as is the habit of hire boats on the river and sometimes canal, but he had to wait at the next two locks and I went in with him.

Finally getting to Abingdon, I decided to call it a day having done 20miles, so after the lock I winded just before the bridge and moored up by Abbey Gardens, there being only one boat there at the time; however it was soon filled to capacity as were the moorings on the other side of the river. Shortly afterwards, the rain began in earnest and the wind was blowing Stronghold onto the bank. Watching boats mooring up on the opposite bank was difficult with the strong wind trying to blow them back off. Having done that many a time, I made the right choice.

I phoned the last remaining Auto Factor in Abingdon, but they only supply complete alternators, so that was another dead end.

Thursday  3rd August

I knew that it was going to be difficult getting off the bank with this wind, which was much the same as yesterday. I powered up as much as I dare between the moored boats and got off the bank in reverse. There was then enough room to execute a turn upstream before winding and heading back downstream towards Culham Lock. I was hoping to make Goring for the night, which according to my Thames Visitor Moorings web site was four hours away. In the end it turned out to be six hours travelling and no lock holdups either!

Wargrave Regatta.

I passed nb Tyseley on the way with Micron Theatre crew on board to do another summer show somewhere. Always to be admired for what they do, I have seen them many times and thoroughly enjoyed their performances.

Onward through Clifton, Days, Benson and Cleeve Locks to Goring and there was a vacant space, much to my surprise. So I finally moored up for the day in front of nb New Auckland and the lady on the bow remembered that we went down the Wigan Flight together last year. Sure enough, it was Chris and Graham from Northwich.

There was a yellow cherry tree close by, and although Graham thought it was a quince, I Googled it and I was right. Using the cabin shaft, I shook down enough to make some jam later.

I was told that George Michael’s house was still displaying all the tributes paid to him by fans outside his house, which is just around the corner, so I went to see and have to say that it is very impressive still.

Three pictures showing the front to the house.

The back of the house overlooking the mill stream.

Friday 4th August

After fixing the small horn, I let go about 10.15 heading for Reading. nb New Auckland had already left  and I presumed that I would not see them again, but I was wrong and they appeared about an hour later coming out of Goring Lock towards me. I knew they were out of water, so they had gone upstream to Cleeve to fill up and then return. On the way downsteam later I passed them going upstream again – strange? Maybe they had gone to drop someone off?

Goring Lock and weir beyond.

It was a day of sunshine and clouds, but the wind had dropped, which made it very pleasant, but it was monotonous cruising.  Through Whitchurch, Mapledurham and Caversham Locks, ending up at Tesco moorings in Reading, where spaces were at a premium apart from one that was long enough for Stronghold, between two convenient trees to tie up to. Most of the boats here being live aboard, as you can imagine and probably here for months at a time.
I set to in the afternoon to make some jam from those free yellow cherries at Goring moorings and found a simple recipe on the web. The worst part was pitting the stones, but after that it was plain sailing. I had some for breakfast the next morning and it was good.

Saturday 5th August.

First on the list was shopping at Tesco, but just enough to see me through until Monday, when I would be back on my home mooring.

The alternator is still charging, so the fridge runs throughout the night with no cutting out. I have limited use of the inverter as much as possible, so the batteries are still about 12volts in the morning.

It was a long day through many locks and there was a year’s worth of weather in one day, from glorious warm sunshine to a thunderstorm, in which my trousers got soaked and I had to change them.

An unusual sight at Marlow.

I decided that I would try and reach Bourne End and The Spade Oak, having read the blog of No Problem, where they had a winter mooring here. I have tried and failed over several years to get to this pub, but never knew where to moor until I read their blog and saw the photographs. As usual on the Thames, the gin palaces were moored up 10 to 20ft apart, so I turned below and crept up to ask the furthest boat if he could move up a bit, which he couldn’t because of an obstruction below the water there. Fortunately, the boat behind was about to move off, so I was in luck and got in with some help. The Spade Oak was certainly a good pub to go to, with an excellent menu and 3 beers on tap. The trip had taken me eight hours and was the longest this year so far.

Sunday 6th August

I let go at 09.00 hoping to reach the River Wey before 6pm for the last locking through of the day. After that time Thames Lock is locked up until 9am the following morning. Nearly all the Thames locks were manned by lock keepers, but there were queues of boats at most locks and at some there was a twenty minute wait if Stronghold could not get in. I had to use the very long bow line when other boats were in locks with me, which took extra time and effort, but once again I had developed a different technique, by dropping a bowline at the end of the centre line over a bollard, with the tiller string on; this kept the boat in a straight line whilst dealing with the long bow line and stern line. That done, I could take off the centre line and cut the engine, whilst controlling the bow and stern lines. When the lock was empty, I would throw the bow line onto the lockside and retrieve it with the cabin shaft when leaving the lock – with luck it would drop onto the cabin top, if not then I would hold the line tight until I could secure it to something, sorting it out at the next lock.

On route after Windsor I came across an old Springer boat moored on the offside with the stern in the hedge. The engine deck was up and a young couple with fiddling with the engine, so I asked if they had a problem, to which they replied in the affirmative and that they had been there two days! Waiting for three other boats to pass before I could wind my boat, the couple were very surprised that I had come back. They explained that the engine only turned over one turn before dying again. I asked if the batteries were fully charged and she said that the volmeter read 12 volts, so they were, not realising that it is current that is required to start the engine. She demonstrated and sure enough the batteries were very well down. They had jump leads, which were connected to my engine battery and I revved it up to promote more charge. After three tries with a pause in between, their engine fired up amid a cloud of blue smoke to cheers from all of us. The alternator belt was not tight enough, so I advised that was tightened at the earliest opportunity, after which we shook hands and I departed.

After nine hours of constant travelling, eating and drinking on the move, I was just passing the moorings above Thames Court, when I spotted nb Milly M with Maffi on board. He came out and waved me in to moor up, so I winded and came in to the mooring and tied up. We had not seen each other for a year and had lots to talk about, which continued in the pub until about 10.30 pm and too many beers. We had ridden to the pub on Maffi’s two bikes, one of which he found in the water at Kingston. The problem was to get back to the boats on the bikes on a very dark road and with no lights, but it was achieved with no mishaps. I slept very well that night, needless to say!

We had another chat the following morning, which included Neville and Kelly on mb Erma, moored just in front. It transpired that they had bought their boat from Nigel Prior and were members of Byfleet Boat Club, so we will meet again at one of the BBC social occasions.

I left there about 11.00 and was at Thames Lock before 12.00, but it was an hour before I got through, having had a chat with Tracy and waiting for another boat to come down. Finally, I moored up on my home mooring at 2pm, having really enjoyed the whole trip.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Summer Cruise 28

Saturday 29th July

Setting off from Lower Heywood, I had a brief chat with John Harris, whose boat “Kings Vanquish” is moored at the bottom of his garden. He is a Morgan Car Club member and is friend of Peter Darch. I phoned Peter after he failed to reply to my email two days ago, and he agreed to meet up for a meal later that day in Yarnton, where he and Anne ate every Saturday evening at The Turnpike.

These black swans must be are quite rare.

I had stopped at The Rock of Gibraltar for lunch on board and then went into the pub for a pint, only to meet up with Kevin and Ingrid at the bar. Strangely, we met there about the same time last year. Their boat Columbia (1909) now had a home mooring at Gunpowder Wharf at Thrupp.

Upon getting to Thrupp, I passed by nb Bones with herself sitting on the bow. She offered to open the lift bridge, for which I was grateful as it saved me precious moments getting to a vacant mooring.

All went well and I reached Thrupp in good time to moor outside The Jolly Boatman, where Peter said moorings were always available. They picked me up later than expected and had a great meal and conversation in the pub.

Sunday 30th July

Several small upkeep jobs were on the list for today. The air horn needed attention once again and sure enough the supply voltage dropped to zero when it was operated, so a voltage drop caused by under gauge wiring was almost certainly the problem, as it worked fine when closer to the battery at the stern. Whatever it was, I replaced it with an electrical trumpet horn, although not so powerful, it did the job.

Secondly, although the alternator was showing a charge to the batteries, the rev counter was intermittent and took a long time to operate after starting the engine. I suspected the voltage regulator and brush assembly, having previously researched the problem on Canal World Discussion Forum. It was easy to remove from the rear of the alternator by three screws and sure enough one brush was only half the length of the other one. Now knowing what the problem was, I spent a long time scouring the internet and only found one match, but it would need to be ordered on the internet and with no address to send it to, it was impossible. Amazon showed one, but a replacement in their store was on an unknown time scale. Researching even further, I discovered that a Lucas A127 voltage regulator appeared to be exactly the same and these were far easier to find on E-Bay – progress?

I did some more washing this afternoon and got that out of the way once more, before visiting The Jolly Boatman for a pint. I have certainly had enough of fault finding for today!

Monday 31st July

It was a beautiful morning with no wind when I let go, although it got windier  by mid afternoon and the clouds appeared, but the rain kept off. It was quite an uneventful trip towards Oxford and the locks were easy, despite them all being against me. At one lock I picked up £15 that I had previously walked past – free drinks for a few nights!

The alternator was behaving better today after tightening the belt, so there was less squeeling, but I will still phone around the limited number of auto factors when in Oxford, although there is only one that I can walk to near Osney.

I stopped for lunch whilst watering up at a very slow tap just above Dukes Cut. After that I had forgotten how many lift bridges there are on the approaching length into Oxford, which slowed me up considerably, even though they all opened with a key from the towpath side.

I was on the lookout for a less common type of blackberry that was fruiting right now, with very large and lush berries that were so ripe, many fell off when moving the bush. When I did spot them on the offside, either it was too shallow, or there was another boat coming. I did find a handful eventually when I took the rubbish across a lift bridge to a service point. When I moored up in Oxford opposite College Cruisers, imagine my surprise at seeing one of the bushes only feet away, where I picked two bowls full. I set to peeling the Bramley apples, bought in readiness and cooked them up immediately.

The strip of land between the cut and Castle Mill Stream. 
Do people actually live here?

I was disappointed to find The Bookies closed on Mondays, as I have been there so many times before, so I had a look in the Harcourt Arms, but there were few people in there at the time. Having already walked past
The Rickety Press earlier, it had sounded as though it might be interesting so I walked back to it. , www.thericketypress.co.uk Sure enough, it was busy with students and the beer pumps were up and down like yo-yos. Food was served in the form of burgers and pizza, the latter cooked in a wood fired oven.and made from their own dough, so an enterprising pub run by the Dodo Pub Company. Looking at their web site later, I wondered how they are making progress with three new pubs and others are going under at a phenomenal rate.

Amusing or just encouraging alcoholism?

Tuesday 1st August

I should really be off the CRT waterways today, but decided to stay on a bit longer to shop for a few basics in Jericho. I phoned the only auto factors within walking distance and as expected, they would have to order the part, so I hope it keeps going until I return home.  On the way back from shopping, I popped onto The Bookies for a well deserved pint and whilst perusing their menu, made a snap decision to have Moules Farcies and another pint of Landlord. The stuffed mussels were swimming in garlic butter and breadcrumbs and served with sliced French bread and I have to report that it was all delicious. Why is it that the French are so good at these things?

Back on board, I decided that I would move on to the Osney moorings, if there was space there. In fact there was plenty of room for at least six boats, so I was in luck. I winded below and close to the lock and entrance to Osney Mill Marina, where there was more room and pulled into one of my favourite moorings for the night.

Another close shave with a private boat trying to moor up in front of me, so I offered to take a line whilst the steerer sorted his boat out. Only this morning another boat came in to moor in front of me and clouted the button on my bow. I had an apology from his wife, but why is it that these so called experienced boaters do not seem to have the knowledge to handle their boats? Hire boat steerers I can understand making mistakes, but then they are often more careful and often slower in manoeuvring than private boats. Maybe the latter suffer from over confidence.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Summer Cruise 27

Sunday 23rd July

I set off at the same time as nb Jasmin in front of me, but she stopped to water up by the pub close by. Reaching Claydon Top Lock I had had deep water in front of me at last through most of the pounds. The lady on the other boat caught up with me and helped by closing the bottom gates, which speeded both of us up. Once again I had forgotten about closing single lock bottom gates by using the cabin shaft and hooking the end of the boat hook under the corner of the beams.

Most of the locks were already full or there was another boat coming the opposite way, so I had a good road through Claydon five locks and for the remaining four to Cropredy.

There were two boats coming out of one lock and one of them was Anne on the Sea Otter “Double U”. I recognised the boat and reminded her that we last met up in Market Harborough Basin last year, when I was moored behind her boat.

The Cropredy Music Festival was due to be held on 10th  to 12th August, so I knew that moorings in Cropredy would be scarce. I was not hopeful of finding any and quite prepared to go on to Banbury. However, just below the lock were two 48hr moorings and they were vacant – success! I got moored up and so did the other lady on nb Jasmin, so I had the opportunity to thank her for help through the locks.

I had further ideas on fixing that half round table and found suitable timber and bolts to do the job, but only got part way, as the rain began. In The Red Lion, I met up with another couple of boaters who were here for the festival and sat with them for a chat. They live on their boat in the summer and have a house in The Canaries, which they go to in the winter – sounds like a great idea.

I lit the Cobb BBQ on the bow and cooked some water buffalo sausages, which were very enjoyable. Just in case you are thinking that it is dangerous to BBQ on a boat, the Cobb is so designed that it can be picked up with bare hands when hot. https://www.cobb-bbq.co.uk/

Monday 24th July

Guess what? It was raining again this morning after rain during the night. I had sealed up the lifting latch for the rear deck with tape previously to see if that stopped the rain from getting into the engine ‘ole and on lifting it with a screwdriver, it was still dry – another problem solved. The lady on Jasmin moved off this morning at 11 am and I am wondering how long before another boat moors up behind me, as spaces are at a premium here now. I heard that further down the moorings, the traders are jostling for bankside space, as being breasted up is of no use for trading.

Nb Herbie came past later and Neil stopped for a brief chat. Before another boat came along and he had to move on. Herbie was built by Andicraft, who also built Stronghold, so we had that in common.

I had decided to make some more Stilton Cheese Puffs  but discovered that there was no parmesan on board, nor in the local village store, so that idea was abandoned and I started more work on the bow well table fixing. All went well and the table is fixed, but with more work to be done to make it look better.

Barry turned up about 6.30 pm and we drove to The Brasenose Arms for a meal and a couple of pints, though Barry was driving and only had a shandy. It was good to see him again and we get on so well. The Brasenose is much better organised than The Red Lion and the food was good. There was also a better selection of ales on tap.

Tuesday 25th July

I let go about 10 am heading for Banbury, which was only 4.5 miles and 3 locks, but it took about 4 hours. The lift bridge in Banbury was awkward for me, because I could only moor the bow on the RH side to work the bridge, for another boat was moored on that side. The aft end was tied off on the other side, so the boat was secure. I put my hand on the cabin top and was stung on the little finger by a wasp I presume, because I didn’t see it. Half my right hand then swelled up, but it subsided after an hour or two. I watered up, before going through the lock to moor on the 2 day moorings. It is still quite a walk to Morrison’s, so I will move up there to the Tramway moorings tomorrow. Moorings in the shopping centre were all vacant on the LH side, although the other side was full up. Do they know something that I don’t?

It was a hot afternoon, so I connected up the car fan that I purloined in Braunston Marina launderette and it is ideal for this weather.

Wednesday 26th July

It was raining again this morning and seemed to have settled in for the day, although the forecast said it would be all over by 2pm. About midday, the rain ceased, so I looked up B&Q and it was on an industrial estate back over the little footbridge, so I set off for a gas refill for the little blowtorch. This can be so useful, not only for soldering, but for lighting the BBQ and the Morso stove in winter.

I walked back a different route from the towpath and stopped off at The Olde Rein Deer for a couple of pints of Hook Norton mild ale, which I sampled yesterday. Not only is it delicious, but it is only 2.8% ABV and ideal for a lunchtime drink.

I let go about 4pm to moved up to the Tramway moorings, which was very close to Morrison’s and just as I did so the rain began again, but it was a short shower and was soon replaced by sunshine. I trundled the wheelie bag over the bridge and filled it up with much needed supplies, as the last place I shopped was Rugby.

Thursday 27th July

It was a blustery start to the day and continued making cruising uncomfortable. Passing moored boats could be a problem in this wind, because if I go too slowly the wind can push Stronghold on to them and if I go fast enough for that not to happen, then I get complaints about my speed – a no win combination!

There was usually one boat in front of me at the locks and sometimes two if the first boat was slow operating the paddles, which is totally unnecessary when descending a lock. Try explaining that to them and nothing changes at the next lock.

I got talking to a guy on the hire boat ahead of me whilst waiting and he was from Haywards Heath and a train driver who works Thameslink out of Brighton. Not only does he know Paul Heery, the ex-landlord of The Black Horse turned train driver, but also Chris Frederick, ex-revenue staff, who lives just around the corner from me. It is quite amazing how many people on boats live or work in my home area. Back at home, Roger, who owns the local hardware store, has a boat in Cropredy Marina.

Whenever I got to a lock with the crew on the hire boat, they always assisted my exit, which not only made the operation easier me, but speeded up my exit and for which I was very grateful.

I arrived in good time for a mooring at Aynho, just beyond the bridge and had a pint in The Great Western Arms, as always.

The air horn is not working well and probably needs a squirt of WD40 in the compressor to loosen it up a bit. I suspect that the wiring from front to back of the boat for that is causing a voltage drop anyway.

Friday 28th July

CRT have just renewed my licence for another 3 months automatically, despite my filling in their form designating ‘no automatic renewal’. It could be that I was in a weak signal area and they didn’t get it. However, I phoned them to complain and it was cancelled later after a call from them to say so.

I was about to set off this morning, when the man moored up behind asked if I heard the commotion earler, because the mowing gang had mowed along the towpath and a stone had smashed one of his hopper windows. That is the problem when the towpath is made up of stones rather than tarmac.

Once again I had help at locks by the hire boat crew, even though I was prepared with a long line to tow Stronghold out of Somerton Deep Lock.

Somerton Deep Lock 12ft.
The long centre line on the slide was to pull to boat out.

At Upper Heyford and Allens Lock, I moored up to pay a visit to The Barley Mow and write it up for the database. It was quite a long walk up the hill and I took the wrong road, but it wasn’t far from the top. Not really worth a visit, although the home cooked food menu was good. Fullers ales of course, being a Fullers pub.

Returning to the lock after a pint, I was just in time to catch nb Dusty, with Kati and Jock on board, so we had a conversation, mostly about pubs on route and I asked for a diesel fill up when they got through the lock. It appeared that they are taking their other boat nb Confederate onto the Wey Navigations later in August for a holiday, so I showed them a Wey windlass on request and gave them a National Trust map of the river. I will be back on the Wey mid-August, so may well see them again. A very pleasant couple who were very easy to talk to.

The day terminated at Lower Heyford, which was interesting because it was one of Oxfordshire Narrowboats turn around days and three crews of single sex groups were getting instruction. The boys on two boats were all wearing sailors’ hats and looked ridiculous. I remember way back many years when single sex groups were not allowed to hire boats – how things have changed!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Summer Cruise 26

Wednesday 19th July

After watering up opposite at 7am, I crept off the moorings half an hour later. It was five hours to Braunston and was an uneventful trip, stopping briefly at Clifton Cruisers to take another photograph of the Skandia engine. I arrived at my destination just after midday, before stripping the bed and collecting launderette tokens from the marina shop. Tim returned shortly after and we had a few words over the Braunston Hysterics, giving me some Towpath Talk reprints that he had done. In the launderette were a 12 volt car fan and a semicircular table that fitted on a hinged bracket, that someone had left as collectable items, being too good to go in the bin. Sure enough, I was the guy who took possession!

Jaq Biggs arrived in the afternoon and invited me for another meal at 6 pm, for which I was very grateful, as we had such good times together previously, so after a shower I turned up with a bottle of wine and she used her new Cobb BBQ to cook shish kebabs, which were extremely good. We also tackled one or two knots that could be useful when out boating. Being steeped in knotting since I was in the scouts, it has always been natural for me to cope with any situation where a knot was required, but to Jaq it was a completely new world, but she coped really well and could do a bowline the following morning with no help from me.

Thursday 20th July

It was raining most of the morning, but I said that I would sort out Jaq’s new lines, that she had bought the day before. There were four eye splices to be done and the ends of the ropes were to be stopped with heat shrink sleeving, so that we ended up with two centre lines and a bow and stern line. It had been several years since doing an eye splice, but I got the hang of it by the fourth one. Even the worst splice looks better after rolling it on the ground beneath your boot. Whilst that was going Jaq was writing out recipes for Jaq’s Lazy Pie, which we had last night and Nevi’s Nooner Sandwich which sounded so tasty. I just Googled Nevi’s Nooner and it comes from an award winning gourmet sandwich house in Spokane, where Jaq used to work. I just got to make one!

I later took apart the rear white light to inspect the broken glass, but there was no re-gluing of this one again. Moving up to Midland Swindlers, I had a look around and amazingly found a plastic replacement, so no need to buy a complete lamp as I envisaged, but it cost £16 incl VAT for a piece of moulded plastic! They did not sell heat shrink sleeving, which I thought was a oversight on their part, as it is so useful in place of whipping on the ends of ropes. I then took in the table that I had acquired to ask advice about fitting it. Sure enough the manager had one on his boat, so explained how it worked. Having almost satisfied my use of MC, I reversed onto a free mooring close to the turn, ready for the trip to Napton tomorrow. Karen Cook (NBT crew) passed by later and stopped in for a chat, telling me how she had been hit by a hire boat in Braunston Tunnel, which was then rear ended by a following boat too close behind.

Friday 21st July.

A very windy day from first thing this morning, so cruising is not going to be very comfortable out in the sticks with no tree shelter.

I finished writing up this blog, before moving on at 10.30 am. Crossing the Puddle Banks was not comfortable with the strong wind from the south and only one incident occurred,  when I slowed down too much when passing moored boats on a left hand bend and the wind almost took me into one of them. I slowed to a halt in a gap between two boats, but had to wait then for a passing boat, at which point a guy showed his head and said something that I failed to hear, but no doubt derogatory. After the oncoming boat had passed by, he then pushed my bow off his boat and I was on my way again. A short way further on, I passed two dog walkers and the man said, “He’s a miserable old git, because the same thing happened to me!” That says it all I think.

All the visitor moorings  below the water point at Napton were full at 3.30 pm, so I went through the lock, knowing that it was possible to moor in the next pound and sure enough there were spaces. After a visit to The Folly, I cooked up a meal and was soon in bed.

Saturday 22nd July

It was a beautiful morning, so being in need of a few supplies, I walked up to the Napton Village Store and Post Office. I think I have mentioned this in a previous blog, but this shop is like Aladdin’s Cave and seems to sell everything, although the choice is limited. They have an in store bakery, cafe and coffee shop and several homemade preserves that look very tempting.

I let go at 10 am and headed up the flight of nine Napton Locks, most of which were in my favour and so got to the top in 2 hrs. Pressing on towards Fenny Compton, it started to rain on and off, until eventually it became continuous just before Fenny and appears to have set in for the rest of the day. The whole trip had taken 5.5 hrs. I got a mooring just before the two bridges, so after a bit of dodgy reversing in the shallows, I got in to it. There was no point looking any further and as I have found out previously, you have grab these while you can.. The whole pound was down about 2 to 3 inches, although I had been warned by an oncoming boater beforehand. The problem being that if I got the propeller in the mud, there was no fan hold to control the boat. Fortunately this did not happen on the long stretch, only on reversing for the mooring.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Summer Cruise 25

Friday 14th July

It was time to bite the bullet and change the fuel filters today, not a job that I enjoy obviously. The biggest problem is bleeding out the air at the end and wondering if it will fire up and that there are no leaks of diesel.  The engine was ran up first to re-charge the batteries and to make sure it would start easier after changing filters. All the necessary tools were brought out to do the job and this time (something is improved every time I do the job) I cut a plastic milk container in half to catch the diesel when the filter drops, so the container surrounds the filter. This was far easier than using rag underneath as previously and the diesel could be poured back into the tank. All went well with the two filters and all rubber washers were replaced. Bleeding the system was another matter and the reason it is difficult is that the fuel pump cannot be hand operated with the engine stopped in the standard position. It really has to be turned by hand to get the lobe of the cam off the fuel pump lever. With a diesel engine and its high compression, this is almost impossible unless your name is Tarzan (who’s he?). The long and short of it is that after a lot of bleeding by turning the engine over, it began to fire intermittently and I could see diesel being squirted out of the two injector pipes that I had loosened, so with it firing on two cylinders, I tightened them up and it ran on all four eventually – job done!

It was definitely time for a pint or two in the Greyhound and thinking more about it in there, I reckon the filters need not be changed for 1,000 hrs instead of 800 as recommended in the handbook. I do know that some boaters only do this once a year, regardless of time or distance travelled.

Saturday 15th July.

Washing was on the cards today as well as making some more Stilton Cheese Puffs. Washing was put in soak and the cheese puffs were made and cooked ready for lunch and to give some to my daughter, so quite a productive morning ensued. I was being collected by car to see the new blinds in their house and pay a visit to Tesco to stock up for the next few days. After returning to Stronghold, we were to have food and drink at the Rose and Castle pub in Ansty, where I passed by a couple of days ago. The reason for not going to The Greyhound being that the restaurant is booked solid and getting a table in the bar is chancy on a Saturday night. The atmosphere in the R and C was just not the same as The Greyhound by a long chalk and of course the beer choice is vastly inferior too. I had their fish pie and I have to say that I can do far better and I just have, with additions like prawns, anchovy fillets, baby spinach, fish stock, lemon juice, mustard, parsley.

Sunday 16th July

Another cloudy day – unbelievable that this is July, but then we are in England!

Washing was on the cards today, but not before I had done the cooking and that was making a fish pie, which took up most of the morning. Even then, I had only done the fish mixture, so the potato topping will have to wait until another day: I forgot to get any cheddar anyway.

Having done that, I took a walk to The Greyhound for a couple of pints of mild ale to quench my thirst. Although the mild in there is pressurised, it is not too strong and goes down very well. Anyway, it cannot be had in the south, so that was my excuse!

Washing was easily done under the nearby tap and as usual I hung some in the engine ‘ole over the rail, which would be completely dry by the end of the day tomorrow. The remainder was hung over the bath and will take longer to dry.

Monday 17th July

The first thing today was to go towards Nuneaton for a mile and wind in the Griff Colliery Arm that once was. That took an hour before I even started off from Suttons, so I finally left at 10.30 am. It was a beautiful sunny day with a slight breeze that made things more comfortable and was an uneventful trip back to Newbold, arriving at 3 pm and easily getting a mooring behind a couple on a boat from Saddleworth Moor in Yorkshire, who were going to the Cropredy Music Festival. They are going to get there 3 weeks before the event, but I did not ask if they could moor for that length of time.

A very pleasant but uneventful day.

I passed this restored Ruston Bucyrus excavator on the way out of Suttons
and wondered if it was the one restored in the TV programme Scrap Heap Challenge.

These cast iron boxes were on both sides of railway bridge 42. 
I presume that they are nesting boxes - am I right? 


Tuesday 18th July

It didn’t take long to get to Rugby at Bridge 58, where I stopped with the intention of collecting some more Tesco provisions and then moving on. However, I took the opportunity to pay a visit to The Range and the B and M stores first, where my daughter said there were many food bargains to be had. Sure enough, there were not only knock down food prices, but bargains in every other type of household goods, tools, garden furniture, household furniture and so it goes on– the list is endless. The Range was much the same and I didn’t even get to the furniture upstairs. I did want a non-stick oven tray, but had to go back to Stronghold to measure the oven first and then return. The whole business took a couple of hours, so I decided that I would stay here for the night after all – hey ho, the best laid plans etc.

It had been another hot day, but at least the wind was keeping the heat under control. The 50 watt solar panel is doing very well today in the wall to wall sunshine and keeping the fridge batteries up to 12.5 volts which is fine by me, so no need to run the engine.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Summer Cruise 24. Back On Board.

Monday 10th July.

I cannot say how happy I am to be back on Stronghold again, after a week at home, where every day had an objective to be achieved – and they were, day by day, until all were completed by midday on Sunday, so I was half a day ahead. Getting back to the boat, I found that either the inside hire boat had been hired out, or the boatyard had had just reversed her; anyway, the spring line was missing and the mooring lines were slack, consequently the old girl had been banged about by passing boats and several items inside were on the floor. I found the spring line inside one of the lockers on the hire boat, so whoever moored Stronghold up did not know how to secure a boat properly. While on the subject of mooring, have a look at ‘Moored Like a Twat’ on Faceache. I think it was originated by Maffi.

OK, rant over. I departed north towards Rugby, as I had to stock up again with food at Tesco, but there was enough to make a meal with tinned meat balls and potatoes on board for just such an occasion as this, as I can shop in the morning. I got one of the last moorings on the park side and close to the water point, so not too far to get to the main road. It is 6 pm and time for a well deserved pint in the local Harvester – oh dear!

Tuesday 11th July

It would appear that the summer has been and gone, because it was rain this morning and rain all afternoon, so not very conducive to going out, but there was a great deal of shopping to be done and nothing in the larder except tins of stuff. A lot of time was spent surfing the net, making a retail therapy list and reading. At about 5pm and bored stiff, I ventured out towards Tesco in the rain, although it wasn’t quite so bad then. I tried a new route through the housing estate, which seemed shorter, but probably wasn’t, although it did avoid a steep hill back up to the canal.

Another trip to the Harvester pub, which still had the Doombar clips on all three pumps handles, but what a surprise was to come....... it was off! This just goes to show how badly this pub was organised. A piss up in a brewery comes to mind! Being there, I was committed to having a pint, so it was San Miguel, but at the same price as Doombar. I have a good mind to complain to Mitchells and Butlers who own Harvesters – in fact I did:- 
“This was my fourth visit to The Bell and Barge and on every occasion there were two choices of real ale on tap, which was take it or leave it, because there were Doombar pump clips on all three beer pump handles. On 11th July the beer was not on tap at all and pulled up cloudy, so I had no option but to drink San Miguel. For such a large establishment, this is not what I expect when I go out for the evening and if smaller pubs can deliver a choice, then so can you. For this reason I have no intention of visiting The Bell and Barge again, nor any other Harvester house in the future.”

I did get a reply, but it was the standard type of email that they would send out to anyone who complains. No offers of any sort were forthcoming, not that I would accept them anyway.

Wednesday 12th July

It was all change with the weather again this morning with the sun shining through the clouds. How different from yesterday.

I phoned The Greyhound at Suttons Stop, but Saturday night was full in the restaurant, so it has to be an early ‘grab a table’ time in the bar on Saturday evening, or even eating outside if the weather is OK.

The moorings here are filling up fast and as they are OK for 14 days there are many boats here for that time, while opposite, the moorings are for 24 hrs only. A lady opposite asked if I was moving on today, as her husband had a hospital appointment the following day and needed longer than 24 hrs mooring.

Everyone seems to be on the move here at Rugby. It must be because of the clement weather after yesterday’s constant rain. At 12.30, boats were passing me in queues ether way and there was even a queue for the water point opposite. It is always amusing to see hire boats getting the stern in first, or reversing with the bow way out in the middle of the cut and no way of getting back onto the mooring. This really is a spectator sport and they often don’t appreciate unsolicited advice.

After a period of tidying up and a bite to eat I let go for Newbold and the other boat moved across immediately. It was only a half hour trip, but long enough to warm up the engine for an oil change. I have got this down to 20 mins now, although it takes a bit longer to tidy up. Getting rid of the old oil is a problem on the waterways, but it will keep until I get back to Braunston, where there is an oil disposal tank in the marina.

Thursday 13th July

A cool start to the day with no wind, which is always appreciated when cruising. This is such a quiet spot for mooring, although there are houses just below the towpath, but their roofs are level with the canal, so you don’t hear much noise. There is NO TV signal here, despite turning the aerial this was and that. I wondered if the water had got into it after all the rain.

There is an unvisited pub at Ansty, called the Rose and Castle, which would be good to have on the pub database, although I shall be going past this morning, which is too early for pubbing - maybe on the way back. Having just looked this pub up, I see that it is more of a restaurant than pub, with table service.......mmmm?

When I got to Rose Narrowboats. I decided to take a walk up the arm to take some pics of repairs done to the NBT pair. Rose Narrowboats were OK for me to moor up for a while on their refuelling mooring, while I went for a walk along the towpath. Sure enough Nuneaton was close to the yard and overplating was obvious with new blacking applied in the appropriate places. Brighton was moored up in the winding hole with a new gas vent cut and some work done to the stern. I had a chat with Steve Priest, wondering if a boat I had spotted was for sale for a friend of mine, but the answer was no.

Motor Boat Nuneaton at Brinklow.

Butty Brighton in the winding hole.

Several familiar boats are moored up here.
 White Heather was moored up at Pelican Wharf a few years ago.

Cruising on, I passed by the Rose and Castle pub gardens, but the pub itself was not visible and I did remember where it was, having passed by before. Mooring is on the towpath, which is on the opposite side to the pub, but there is a bridge close by.

I arrived at Suttons at 4.30 pm and there were no moorings available on the Oxford canal, but around the corner on the Coventry I spotted a place for two boats and immediately made headway for it, knowing that if I stopped for water, it would be taken by another boat, as happened to another boat watering up. At 6 pm boats were still arriving and looking for moorings.

Trying out the TV aerial here, I found that there was nothing wrong at all and I got a perfect signal. Wi-Fi is excellent too, with a five bar signal.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Summer Cruise 23

Monday 26th June

Nothing to report at all today, as I spent the whole day on the internet blogging, searching for pics and videos of the event. I did get a few from friends that I could use after my pleading appeal, but there is nothing on YouTube yet. I seems that people need time to assess what they have and maybe edit the material too.

At Cat Herding HQ, I heard that I had been summoned to Tim Coghlan’s office, so after a vegetarian (?) gut busting breakfast in The Gongoozler Cafe, I walked to the marina office to see Tim. He showed me several prints of his own pics and gave me one of Tim and myself, but not smiling and he wanted to know why. I replied that it was a serious business and nothing to laugh about. As you have already seen, there was one of both of us smiling taken by Steve Morgan.


Jerry leaving the Braunston mooring

I had bad news from my wife’s cousin, whose husband has been diagnosed with bowel cancer and several lesions throughout his body. How the hell does one reply to an email like that? Having lost my wife 16 years ago, I was able to summon up the courage to reply, having thought about it all day. There is advice on the internet about things that should not be said to that person and I took careful note of it. It is far easier to put in writing than face to face, when a faux pas could easily be made and once said, it cannot be easily retracted.
Blimey, I was still there at 11.30pm!

Tuesday 27th June

Once again I was on the internet chasing up photographs to go in my blog and although I had collected four or five, some were so small that they were not really usable. Mike Askin came up with a 2mb pic to replace what he originally sent, for which I thank him. Tim Coghlan accepted Steve Morgan’s pic of the two of us smiling in exchange for the cheque presentation pic, so things were picking up and I was ready to publish, which I did about three hours later – all done at last!

Just found this link to Towpath Talk video, which appears to be raw and unedited, but still worth watching.

I moved up to Midland Swindlers to see if I could get another pump pressure switch as a standby, having already taken a pic of it on my mobi. As I pulled in to their mooring, I swung the stern end in, stepped off with the centre line, dropping the bowline over the bollard before stepping back on and using the tiller, ran parallel to the mooring and dropped the tiller string over the tiller end. The boat stayed there until I had done the fore end and stern lines. The MC lady sitting on the seat having lunch was most impressed and had never seen it done like that before, commenting that it was a very slick operation. Sure enough they had a switch, despite earlier info that you had to buy the complete pump now. I remember that a couple of years ago at Uxbridge Boat Centre they were charging about £17 for it, but MS price was £34 incl.VAT.

Moving on to the water point, which was just around the corner, there was another boat moored on it, but no hose was evident. I queried with the owner, who said that he would move up to accommodate Stronghold and we got into conversation  about the usual boating topics, before I parted and headed back towards the marina to shop in the village.

About 4pm I departed for Bridge 103, where I knew that Jaq Biggs was moored up for a while. Sure enough nb Valerie was there and after a quick  greeting and cup of tea on her boat, I lit the BBQ and cooked a large pork chop which was big enough for the pair of us. Jaq did an American style of potatoes and green beans and the conversation and waterway tales ensued, accompanied by red vino and loads of laughs until nearly 11 o’clock, much to my surprise that it was so late.

Wednesday 28th June

Misty rain this morning, but almost no wind. Although I am moored way out in the sticks, I can receive TV without putting the aerial up, although I did later. BT Wi-fi is also good here, so internet activity took up a lot of the morning, until Jaq came in for a drink and chat. She also watched the Braunston 2017 opening event on my laptop, which I had now bookmarked of course. Friends are now sending me pics that they had taken and after yesterday’s lack of material to illustrate my blog, it was flooding in.

Jaq has great sense of humour, well she laughs at my jokes!

Later in the day, I decided to see if I had sufficient hose and connections to alter the hot tank overflow to the outside of the boat. Didn’t I say once that I should never throw things away, because they might come in useful one day? Sure enough, I had old pump hose that I could connect directly to the hot water outlet and what with garden hose that I had brought with me, it all connected together with Jubilee clips and the job was done. No more constant emptying of the container that was originally used when I bought the boat eleven years ago.

Thursday 29th June

There was also a fair amount of water down the engine ‘ole again this morning, but not as much as before, so I sponged it out and looked for the source. Underneath the stern gland, there is a plastic box with bilge pump inside and although I had been activating the pump every so often, no water was pumped overboard. Investigating further, I discovered that the box was full and that the one way valve that I had previously put in the pipe had stuck in the closed position, so was not allowing the pump to function. After considerable fiddling and trying to take the valve apart, I abandoned the idea and left it out, to be repaired at home later. I reckon that the spring in there, closing the valve could be removed and just rely on the back pressure of water to keep it closed. Although I can blow through it, I think there is not enough pressure in the pump to open it against the spring. The more complicated things are, the more there is to go wrong.

Coffee with Jaq later for a break and more jokes and conversation, before resuming repairs. After that Ryan appeared for fuelling up for both of us. Jaq had made him a cake and I contributed some Stilton cheese puffs that I had baked that morning. Apparently there is some rivalry between him and Richard Traves, on the other pair of coal boats, as to who gets the most baked contributions. Andrew Haysom was steering the butty and Ryan said that he couldn’t be faulted, which is a feather in the cap of NBT, who trained him originally. It seems that this was his apprenticeship holiday – humping coal!

By 4 pm I decided to go to The Folly for a change and beer, but half way there, I changed my mind, as it was too far and also in the wrong direction. Returning to Bridge 102, I walked up to Flecknoe and The Olive Bush, which was half a mile at least and nearly all uphill. Puffing and panting, I went in the public bar and soon joined in the local’s banter, two of whom lived in Braunston old village. After two well deserved pints and some laughs, I set off back to the boat, only to be given a lift to the bridge by those two from Braunston in their car; that was most welcome.

Friday 30th June

Awake early, I rinsed out the soaking washing and hung some in the engine ‘ole to dry as I went along.  Again there was some water down there, but I think it was due to rain in the night, as the box underneath was not full.

I let go at 09.00 and had a steady trip back to Braunston. I spotted a poppy in flower just before the turn and stopped to photograph it, as there were no other boats in sight. Just as I did so, a man on the bank asked if I really did come from Pelican Wharf. He wanted to know because he used to live there and still drinks in The Pelly, even though he lives in Chertsey. At that point another boat came around the turn and I reversed out of the way, because a boat was moored opposite me.
Strange looking boat.
I moored for lunch by Butcher’s Bridge and also had a brief shopping trip to the village. When I returned, a lady on nb Bristol Cream passed by and said that she read my blog regularly, which pleased me no end, as she is the first person to ever tell me that. Thank you Zena and Chris (who I didn't talk to).

Thinking about fixing up the LED strip over the sink, I phoned Braunston Chandlery to see if they stocked a voltage regulator/stabilizer. They had two in stock, but when I got there, they could not find them, so that was a wasted trip. I then motored up to Midland Swindlers and again it was not something they stocked. However, the manager was most helpful and found several versions on E-Bay for me.

Moving on, I made a decision to stop at Bridge 85 and pay a long awaited visit to The Rose Inn at Willoughby and I am pleased that I did. I intended to do this last year, but the walk with a dodgy hip was just too far. I suppose the walk was about half a mile, but it was briefly along a fast and busy road from the bridge and then across a hidden and little used stile in the hedge. There was no delineated footpath across fields of curious sheep, so I used satnav and eyes to find the next stile, eventually coming to the village and pub beside a children’s playground.

This is a very well kept pub that not only did good beer, but served excellent food into the bargain. Several tables were already set with cutlery, a lit candle and flowers. They obviously took pride in the decor, food and beer. I had a chat with the landlord behind the bar and another customer, who turned out to be an airline pilot with Monarch Airways. He was also very interested in beer brewing and knew quite a bit about it, as I did, having brewed my own beer from raw ingredients for several years. He also restored old motorcycles, which is something I missed out on as a teenager, when someone offered me one, but my parents refused to let me bring it home. After a couple of pints, I shook hands with him and the landlord, telling the latter what an excellent free house it was and how pleased I was to finally pay them a visit.

Returning to Stronghold, I was caught in a heavy shower at the last minute, so the intended BBQ was off and I was forced to use a frying pan to heat up a butcher's already barbequed lamb chop. It had been a day of messing about in my boat, as opposed to what Ratty said to Mole in Wind in the Willows, which was:-  “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Ratty and Mole out boating from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, illustration by E.H. Shepard

Saturday 1st July

Most of the morning was spent on the internet replying to friends, writing this up, phoning to change appointments and ordering goods for next week, when I shall be at home. I was up at 06.00, so where do six hours go?

I pulled the pins and left in a convoy of boats, until one winded at the end of Barby Straight and the other stopped at the pub. Miko was back on her mooring at Willow Ridge Marina as I passed and looking good.

Close to the top lock of Hillmorton there were moorings with spaces, so I pulled in knowing that the bottom moorings would be full at this time of day. Back on the internet, with a reasonable connection to write up even more and text family and friends, as well as leaving messages with Clifton Cruisers, where I am trying to get a mooring for next week. They finally phoned back and agreed to that, so I hope it is not too far to walk to the rail station.

Sunday 2nd July

A very promising start to the day with wall to wall sunshine at 6am, so I had a walk down to the locks and chatted to a few boaters and helped some through locks. A guy on a boat in the lock (he was steering) was shouting at his wife, who could not wind the paddle up because she had hurt her back the day before, so why was he not doing it? Idle bastard! I picked up a couple of books from the collection set aside for charity and walked back up to the boat and had breakfast, by which time the clouds had appeared and obscured the sun – typically English weather.

The pump switch stayed on while the engine was running, but no water was coming out of the newly installed pipe – I fear the worst. Sure enough the engine ‘ole was full of hot water again, but I tilted the automatic float switch and pumped a lot of it out with that, before using the Pela Pump, which is a godsend on occasions like this. It was obvious that the pump could not cope with the extra pressure put upon it by the extra length of pipe, so it reverted to the container for a while. The pressure relief valve is on top of the hot water tank, so it needs re-plumbing so that the water can run downhill to the outlet, which shouldn’t be too difficult.

I like this situation: a boat comes speeding past and I shout out,
“Are you in a hurry then?”
To which he replies, “No, why?”
“Because you are going too fast,” I reply.
“No I ain’t,” he says, as he carries on.
A short time later, I hear the engine slow down. I think that says it all.

Having just cleared up the mess, another boat toots me and it is Helen, but she is looking for a mooring further on, where she can park her car, most probably near to The Old Oak. I found out later that she had gone as far as Bridge 77, which is on the Barby Straight and about 2 miles away. Anyway, she had to walk back to collect her car, so offered to do the locks for me, which is always welcome.

In the meantime, I decided to change the pump pressure switch, which turned out to be more than I expected, as the connecting wires went deep into the pump motor and had to be cut and joined to the new switch. Anyway, it was complete and tools away before Helen turned up.

We did the locks in short order again and Helen left me to collect her car. I managed to get a good macro photo of the wild orchids growing on the centre island of the Bottom Lock, but only after studying the camera instructions to get the right setting.

I stayed on the mooring just below the locks for a while, tidying away what was outside, as I am leaving the boat for a week to go home, just to open all the post, read the meters, collect medication and have as good a time as I can whilst there, so it’s goodbye for a while and I will be back in just over a week.