About Me

My photo
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.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 3

To Rickmansworth

Monday 13th May

I am still having a problem with the water pressure, so having slept on it, I decided to release the pump connection to see how much water would run from the tank to the stern and there was certainly not much more than a dribble, so the pipe was partly blocked ay the tank outlet. I tried blowing through it but not enough to clear anything. If I pressurised it by reversing the pump then there was the possibility of forcing open a pipe connection, so being close to a water tap, I decided to fill the tank with the hose tucked well down the inlet pipe. There was good pressure at the tap, which made a change from the usual CRT water points. Certainly things improved somewhat after that with enough pressure to have a reasonable shower. As with electric cables on this boat, the water pipes disappear after the pump, never to be seen again and there is no obvious place to get to the water tank – more thought required.

I was immediately below Copper Mill Lock, so had to ascend the lock as soon as filling up was complete. From there I progressed to Springwell and Stokers Locks into the Rickmansworth pound and found a place to moor with rings, close to other boats waiting for the place markers to be put along the length. TV reception was non-existent, although I got a strong BT wi-fi signal with the aerial in place.

Tuesday 14th May

There was a branch of Holland and Barrett in the town, so I took a walk to stock up with Cider vinegar and honey, but it was a wasted trip, because they were out of stock, so I had a pint in Wetherspoons instead.

I returned by way of the Aquadrome, which is a series of shingle quarries used to build the original Wembley Stadium. They are now a local nature reserve used for water sports and leisure area, but on the way decided to have a browse around M&S Food Hall - big mistake, as I bought several desirable  items that were not on my future shopping list.

Back on the moorings now, I could see two boats on my allocated mooring, so had a word with Terry on nb Moranwyl Phyllis and Bob on nb Chedoona about moving in between them as per my allocated number, which I did immediately as there were complications the next day when they were not going to be here.

Wednesday 15th May

Not a lot going on today, but I did do some serious shopping in the local Tesco and later in the afternoon, another walk into the town for a pint in ‘Spoons. Otherwise it was a lazy day standing around talking boats to boaters – what else do boaters do? Curiosity got the better of me though and I had to check water pressure from the tank now that it was filled up, but virtually nothing just as before. I must ask around about this – someone may well come up with a clue. I texted Phil on Hyperion to see if he was servicing the Festival, because I needed diesel by now. I seem to see him every year around the Apsley area and stop to fill up.

Thursday 16th May

I had been invited for a curry lunch at ‘Spoons by Brian and Margaret today, which I was quite looking forward to, but first a shower after I heated the water using the gas boiler for a change from the engine, which seems very inefficient at doing the job whilst stationary.

It was very enjoyable and good to eat in the company of someone else instead of alone. Once again I looked into Holland & Barrett for the Honeygar to no avail, but there was another health shop close by and I bought a bottle there, which will see me through for a while longer. I also passed a charity shop and looked for a decent wine glass, having broken the last one this morning – no joy there, but I did buy the three series of Downton Abbey on DVD, having heard of all the awards that went with the series. Two copies were still sealed in the original cellophane.

Lots of boating banter back on the mooring and by this time Terry had all his bunting and lights in place, which looked so good that I might be inspired to do mine tomorrow.

Phil came by on nb Hyperion and I purchased 74 litres of diesel at 81p/litre with no declaration as usual. He will be coming north again after his run south, when I may need another gas bottle. The present one has lasted over a year now.

Jack Reay came by later on his trip to Tesco, so stopped for more chat and he advised me about going to see the brilliant mandolin band in the Scout hut on Saturday.

Friday 17th May

A chilly night and much the same this morning, so I took a stroll up towards Black Jacks Lock and stopped by Cumberland for a chat with Jack, who was about to go breasted up with nb Tafelberg and Paul Clevett to his proper mooring by the iron bridge, which had been occupied by a broken down boat. Jack remarked how coincidental it was that so many boats “broke down” so close to Tesco on the other bank. He introduced me to Paul, who I saw playing with his folk group “Mandolin Monday” at Cavalcade.

Both engines were running in gear and it was a tight squeeze in some parts of the cut to get through the gaps, but successfully we approached Tesco moorings where Paul wished to get off and shop, leaving me steering his boat, which was OK except the speed wheel rotated in the opposite direction to Nuneaton and the gear change was not to be seen until Jack reached under the cabin top for it. We parted after mooring up and I attacked Tesco once again.

The boats either side of me now had a full complement of bunting and lights up, so I was under pressure to do much the same. They were so much more prepared than I was and how they managed to store all that extra gear on board, I cannot imagine. I try to carry as little as possible and make do on the day, so this time I lashed the cabin shaft to the swan neck and worked from there with the bunting first down to the cabin top and then strung one lot of lights from the bow up to the aerial mast and down again to the top of the boat. Laid along the cabin top either side were the tube lights with limited fixing. Despite the minimum attempt, it still took all afternoon.

Saturday 18th May

Apparently I should have a wrist band to stop being pestered by the bucket rattlers, so on the way along the towpath I bumped into James Scowen from Hotel Boat Tranquil Rose, which over winters every year at Farncombe on The Wey. We had a good old chat before parting and I seem to see the boat every year somewhere on my trip.

Another walk into town to get some choice pieces of M&S food and a wine glass or two from a charity shop.

There was a security man on the door of Wetherspoons and not until I got inside did I realise that it was cup final day and was full of Watford fans and of course Watford were playing Man City.

The fun fair was in full swing as I returned, but could not be heard from the boat fortunately. After lunch I decided to cook up the sweet and sour chicken dish and probably had enough for about four meals, but if I alternate with other dishes it will not seem like overkill.

I set off to catch Mandolin Monday with Paul Clevett and Mike Askin at the Scout Hut. The band were rather depleted to just two guitarists, instead of the four who were at Cavalcade and being an outside performance was not so intense as before, but it was enjoyable all the same, apart from someone who kept talking to me throughout the music, so I could hear neither properly. They played for two hours without a break and the beer on tap was £4/pint and good as well.

Mandolin Monday.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019.2

Problems, Problems!

Monday 6th May

Another chilly and cloudy day, although somewhat warmer than yesterday. I borrowed a bicycle pump from the waterways chaplain, despite the lack of bike on board his boat. I pumped up the air reservoir, which smoothes out the water pump pulsing and increased the pressure switch on the end of the pump, which seemed to improve things somewhat. I was also aware that too much water pressure would open the hot water tank pressure release valve into the engine ‘ole, which in turn would start the automatic bilge pump. To stop that possibility I had to remember to turn off the water pump when I left the boat, just in case it happened again.

After some breakfast, I had a walk along to the Paddington Arm to see who was moored there and also to warm up. I had allowed the fire to go out this morning, thinking that it was a warmer day – perhaps not! When I returned to Stronghold, many boats had left the South towpath moorings already until there were only three of us left on the end – Helen Dobbie, Phil Bassett and me. At the same time Mark Saxon was phoning me to ask me to move off the mooring, so it was time to go. With the wind blowing from my left it was impossible to turn into it, until I could get alongside the towpath, after which it was easy to power up and turn in the direction of Delamere Terrace, where I was hoping to moor up again for the night. I spotted Miss Matty where I could breast up alongside and thinking that there was no one on board I pulled in, but both Robin and Laura were there and I requested permission while they helped moor me alongside, so safe for tonight at least.

In the meantime I mentioned to Phil Bassett that I had left it too late to book in for the Rickmansworth Festival in two weeks time. As the main man for the Ricky Fest. he said that there were still a few places available, so as soon as I had moored up, I booked a place and am keeping fingers crossed meanwhile until I get confirmation. It’s not what you know, but who you know in this game.

Tuesday 7th May

What a beautiful morning, sunny and no wind for a change. A brief chat with Robin and Laura before departing just before 09.30. Miles and miles of moored live-aboard boats of every size and description. Nb Jack Merrick is still here, previously owned by David Brixey and now joined by the cruiser Herbie, previously owned by the Pilgrim family and on the Pelican Wharf moorings. I knew she was up for sale only a few weeks ago.

As I had mentioned previously, the Paddington Arm was far cleaner this year than last and I had no problems that couldn’t be shaken off by chucking back now and then. I arrived at Bulls Bridge just after 13.30 and there was no one on the water point, so that was the first place to moor and fill the tank. After that, I could move up beyond a wide beam and go to Tesco to stock up and then write a bit more of this drivel. Rain is due tonight and could last into Wednesday morning and I have no intention of boating in that, unless I have to.

Wednesday 8th May

I awoke to the sound of rain pattering on the cabin top and sure enough it was fairly pelting down, so no moving for a while. In the meantime I prepared and cooked pork chops in cider with apple and onion according to Nigel Slater. I now have details of the Ricky Festival and payment details, but will have to wait for a better internet connection before I can pay the fee of £40.

The last and only time I went to Ricky was with the Narrow Boat Trust way back in 2011, which was my first ever trip with a pair of working boats. Very exciting times and I was soaking up everything new like a sponge.
I thought I knew all about narrow boating, until I joined NBT and then it was a case of more or less starting all over again, especially with a butty in tow. It certainly improved my personal boating skills afterwards, but no one ever knows it all, despite what they might say.

The rain ceased about midday, although the forecast showed it continued until about 20.00, but decreasing all the time, so I will collect some charcoal from Tesco, in hope for the future good weather and continue to Uxbridge.

It was not to be today however, what with squalls and heavy rain showers in the afternoon. The wind was so strong that if I released the mooring lines, Stronghold would have easily been blown across to the other bank. Resigned to spend a boring afternoon and evening waiting out a break in the weather for tomorrow.

I must say that the internet connections around here are dire. I have an expensive BT broadband account which should give me a choice of 5,000,000  BT hotspots nationally. Well here they might well be spots, but hot they are distinctly not. I must take 10mins to actually log on and when you think you are, I get lies telling me that I am, when I cannot get a connection to another site. So much for BT expensive crap.

Thursday 9th May

The weather had improved somewhat by this morning, so I let go mid-morning intending to get to Uxbridge and get some advice about the low domestic water pressure from Uxbridge Boat Centre, where I seem to have visited every year as far as I can remember on this stretch. They mentioned every item that I had previously checked and that they no longer supplied the Shurflo pumps any longer after so many returns of the 3901, which was the one I had. Recommended was the Jabsco, who have been manufacturing pumps for more years than I can remember, so I bought a replacement, although it produced only slightly more pressure than the Shurflo.

By this time I was outside the Swan and Bottle, with nb Stafford moored ahead of me (Malcolm Burge’s boat). The pub gives a 10% discount for CAMRA members, so I had a second pint at a reduced rate.

Friday 10th May

It was that time again when I had to tighten the alternator belts, as I was tired of hearing the squeeling of the belts when starting the engine every morning. Surprisingly enough it was a very quick job to do, having done it so many times before and being aware of exactly the size of spanners required.

I hailed a live aboard boater later in the morning, hoping to go through Uxbridge and Denham Deep Lock at 11ft. without having to climb the long ladder. He was a single handed boater and I mean that literally, as he was minus his right hand! How could he possibly climb any vertical ladder I wondered? His boat was just entering the lock when the gear button on the Morse control became stuck when he tried to reverse, so he had to back out and let me in. I returned to see exactly what had happened, but the Morse control was firmly fastened to a plate holding all the gauges with no easy method of removal. He phoned a friend close by for some help and when I met him later it appeared than the cable had come loose behind the panel and was soon fixed.

There was a small plastic cruiser already in Denham and the guy waited for me to enter also, so that I was astern of his boat. It was only fastened at the bow by one line and could not be controlled easily as the lock was slowly filled. Meanwhile I remained on board Stronghold to keep clear of crushing the cruiser and held by a centre line only. The lock took ages to fill and although leaking badly through the bottom gates, one of the gate paddles was not fully closed, although he thought he had closed them. Both men were live aboards and obviously not experienced boaters, which was so obvious.

Arriving just below Copper Mill Lock, I took the first available space at the back of a line of mostly widebeams. It was opposite some smartly built houses and only a short walk to The Coy Carp, which I visited later. Another Vintage Inns establishment, but they did offer a CAMRA discount as previously mentioned. I had not been in here for several years and not much had changed in the interval.

Saturday 11th May

Today was a day of rest for me, as I was too early to get Ricky for the festival next weekend, so it was a day of some walking along the towpath and reading, as the TV reception here is non-existent.

Sunday 12th May

I still had enough hot water in the tank to do some washing, so set up the Mickey Mouse twin tub machine that I found at the Braunston tip last year. Much to my disappointment, the spinner drum would not rotate at its usual high speed and there was some washing water also in the drum. Anyway, the washer drum was OK, so I was resigned to do the washing and ring it all out by hand. Just another annoyance to be fixed if possible. The back plate was taken off and the brake Bowden cable appeared to be very rusty, so the brake did not appear to release. Duly lightly lubricated, it gradually worked loose, but still no joy on the drum speed. Eventually with the washing completed, the machine was drained and with the water out of the spinner compartment it worked at full speed. Why that slowed it down was beyond comprehension, but it saved a great deal of hand work and cheered me up no end.

It had been a day of sunny spells in between the cumulus cloud, and very warm in the sunshine, with even better days forecast for the remainder of the week. A great many people were walking the towpath and enjoying the good weather for a change.

Strangely enough, I was unable to get any decent wi-fi coverage from BT-with-Fon yesterday, but today it appeared at a strength of five bars. Maybe someone close by had it turned off yesterday.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 1.

To Little Venice and Cannie Cavalcade.

Tuesday 30th April

Back on the River Thames on a very pleasant sunny windless day as far as Kingston for the night along with Brian and Margaret on nb Zavala, as is usual this time of year on our way to Cannie Cavalcade at Little Venice.

We let go at our moorings at 10am on Tuesday, well stocked up with victuals. Just before mooring at Kingston, we passed Thames Venturer with Dave Murray on board, volunteering with others to take out various disabled people on a day cruise. An evening meal was enjoyed at Cote Bistro, as always, but the moules were rather on the small side this year. I suppose that is a chance that has to be taken with these molluscs.

Although we passed through Sunbury, which was unmanned and Molesey Locks, which was, the lockie there asked us to get a licence at Teddington. An arrival the lock was already open and waiting for us to enter, whereby we requested a licence and were told, “Forget it.” The passage to Brentford was undertaken in an hour and twenty minutes, with a very gentle ebb tide running.

Hanwell Flight of seven locks was worked also with Alan on nb Webbies, who has been to Cavalcade every  year that I have been going. Another boat to share locks with him would have been useful for the first two, after which he was meeting his daughter at The Fox and staying there for the night. All the same, he volunteered to work the next few locks for us, which was appreciated. We both had a bladeful of rags and plastic by the time we got to Norwood Lock and both weed hatches were up to delve into the murky depths and clear the detritus. Much to our surprise, there was space to moor at Bulls Bridge, outside Tesco, where a visit or two were mandatory.

Thursday morning the crew of Zavala departed for Little Venice, as they were carrying a large supply of water in bottles for sale to raise money for a visit to the World Scout  Jamboree by their granddaughter Molly. It had to be unloaded at Stone Wharf early without intrusion into Cavalcade events and set up. Meanwhile I spent another night at Bulls Bridge with the intention of leaving on Friday about midday to arrive about 16.30 where there is always a long queue. I also allowed time for a pump out at Willotree Marina. Imagine my surprise on arrival at Little Venice to find only two other boats ahead of me waiting to get into the pool. It seems that they started arranging boats on their moorings at 14.30.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Paddington Arm from Bulls Bridge was far cleaner than it was last year, when I was constantly ‘chucking back’ by stopping and going into reverse to clear the blades. This year it only happened once or twice. I passed six boats adrift on one line and can only put this down to bad mooring practice by non-boaters, or speeding boats passing by, which is very unusual.

I got a few horn blasts of welcome as I entered Browning’s Pool from James on nb Gabriel and Jack Reay on Cumberland, just to name two friends. This raised my morale considerably.  After squeezing into the gap next to Augusta, owned by Helen Dobbie, who I moored next to on my first ever mooring in the pool, I needed a pint, so went to the nearest pub, The Bridge House. At £5.20 a pint, I must have been desperate! Needless to say, I only had one.

After a home cooked meal, I wandered over to the beer tent to sample the difficulty of the renown Martin Ludgate quiz. Standing at the bar, I was accosted by James who requested my pleasure at his table for the quiz, so the decision was made for me. I did acquit myself by getting a few of the canal pictures correct, but missed out on Hawksbury Junction taken from an unusual angle and I have been there so many times – bugger!

Saturday 4th May

Not a lot going on today, so I did a tour of the stalls as usual, but nothing new of interest there. I also took the opportunity to visit the first aid tent and get my elbow redressed after five days of the previous dressing by Margaret after tripping over an uneven paving slab outside Brighton Station on the way here. A late lunch of Thai red curry was welcomed at one of the stalls and I ate in the company of James and Hazel with a pint of bitter to wash it down. At the time a band was playing in the beer tent, with Mike Askin on melodeon, so I squeezed in and got a seat for the remainder of the session. Great music and an impromptu lady dancer giving a great performance. Jack invited me to a group party on the towpath later, but it had turned very cold by then, so I presumed it was on board. Not wishing to intrude, I paid a visit to the Warwick Castle for a pint instead. The fire was kept alight all night with a forecast of 4°C, although it was definitely warmer by morning than normal.

Paddington Arm at Sunset.

Sunday 5th May

Once again I had entered the boat handling competition, which started today. I had every intention of missing it out this year, having won the cup twice, but on registration in the Waterspace tent, I had my arm twisted to enter yet again. I opted for the first chance on Saturday morning, knowing that the wind is often less then than the rest of the day. Before I could even start, the bunting on the cabin top had to be removed entirely, as it can become a nuisance if it comes adrift during the competition. Once down, it would stay down for the remainder of the weekend.

The Boat Handling Route.

The course was one of the most difficult that I have ever done, with one 360° and two 180° turns and a great deal of reversing. There was also a buoy to pick up by the steerer, which mysteriously disappeared part way through Sunday, so to compensate it was discounted altogether for previous competitors. At the finish in the narrows beneath The Horse Bridge the boat picked up a blade-full of rubbish and despite trying to shake it off, I eventually had to stop in the narrows and lift the weed hatch, much to the amusement of two CRT guys from the adjacent office. Now with a clean propeller I took off down the Regents Canal through London Zoo to Cumberland Basin, where I could wind the boat in the turn and return to my mooring, which had closed up by now to 12 inches wide. I was widened with some help from adjacent moorers and I was back in and secured. Now with plenty of hot water, I had a shower, which was rather disappointing as it was down to little more than a dribble – something to investigate tomorrow.

After a light lunch, I was off to the beer tent and passed Brian and Margaret on Stone Wharf with Molly and stopped for a chat, before Brian accompanied me for a pint. He invited me to watch the snooker final on his boat later, which I did being plied with large measures of Scotch. Needless to say, I slept very well.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 20

The final few days. 

Saturday 6th October

As forecast, it was a wet day and so I was going to stay put until Sunday.  This was one of the Thames Visitor Moorings, so I duly registered my mooring, which is free for the first day. I was on the end of the moorings, so decided to move further along where the bank was somewhat lower and easier to disembark. I had decided to do this whist the further mooring was still free at 11am in the pouring rain and harsh wind that was blowing – not a day for boating, although there were many others on the move. I have no problem staying in one place for a day, as there is always something to do on board, but after that the wanderlust sets in.

Mid afternoon I walked to The Catherine Wheel and what a surprise it was after the last time I visited some five or more years ago. Then it was an uninspiring place to go and I think it had just been taken over by a young couple. Now it was a busy community pub, with an excellent selection of ales and good food to be had. Certainly a pub worth visiting.

I had a walk around the few shops that were in Goring and surprisingly there is quite a selection. Back on board I planned the next day’s boating, intending to stop above Sonning Lock on EA moorings, however things changed on Sunday.

Sunday 7th October

After all the rain yesterday, it was a total change to sunshine all day, albeit through a thin veil of cloud. I was hoping to get through the locks with the same boat as yesterday, but a phone call from my mate Barry put the brakes on that as I had not left the mooring by then.
When I reached Caversham, I spotted nb Merchant coming towards me (Chris Iddon’s fuel boat), but he went to the right of Fry’s Island and was travelling at a fast pace. Needing some diesel, I turned and gave chase, but could not catch up¸ so eventually had to slow down and retrace my steps. I was pitting a 32 HP engine against a 72HP Gardner, so there was no competition.  I still had half a tank full and 40 litres in reserve, so enough to get home.

On the approach to Caversham Lock, which already had one boat in it, the lockie opened the gate to let me and another boat in. After closing the gates again, he then opened the sluices on the bottom gates; it was only then that we realised he had not closed the top sluices, which resulted in him running the length of the lock to do just that. This was a first in my experience and could never be done by a boater, because of all the interlocks in place.

Another thing that came to my attention was the existence of a Steamer Switch in a small locked box on the outside of the lock keeper’s cabin. This is to enable any of the trip boat crews to operate the lock just as the lock keeper would without the interlocks, but only they have a key.

I pulled in for water above Shiplake, where there was another boat already at the water point. I waited some 15 mins for him to fill and remove the hose and it was then that I became suspicious that he was using that as an excuse for a long mooring time and I was right when I looked to see that the tap was turned off. It was quickly removed on request, but no apology or excuse was given.

I had read on Canal World Discussion Forum about the restriction placed on mooring outside Tesco at Reading by Reading Council and some London parking firm, where they wanted £9.95 for mooring despite the length of stay and there were notices to that effect placed along the moorings. When I got there, there were no notices to be seen and I walked the length as far as Kennet Mouth. I then asked some continuous moorers what the situation was and discovered that one had actually paid the penalty fee amounting to £60, whereas another who refused to pay was eventually charged £360, but still refused to pay and was taken to court, where the case was dismissed. The interesting thing is that the some of the signs have been papered over with local community events and others have been removed. I wonder who did that? The news was that the mooring checker was not due for another week, having told the continuous moorers that. Now that the signs are no longer visible, I wonder what will happen next? Needless to say, I did not pay for the night I was there.

Plenty of boats moored at the Tesco site.

I had a walk to The Jolly Anglers on the K & A to include it in the database. Not a very inspiring pub, although the beer was good.

Monday 8th October

I left Tesco at 10am after doing some essential shopping and it was a glorious day to be boating. All was incident free and I wanted to get to Boulters Lock by the end of the day. It took until 5pm and by that time was starting to get chilly. I moored where I had done in the past, in the lock cut, close to the road, so it was rather a noisy mooring.

Tuesday 9th October

I was hoping to meet up with Barry and crew on the NBT pair at the mouth of the Wey, so really I had to get a move on if I was to get there before nightfall.

Passing through Windsor at midday was just the wrong time to meet up with my youngest daughter, so I pressed on. The weather was even better than yesterday, which is quite amazing for the time of year.

Lunch was eaten on the move and I was making good progress. The engine was continuously at 1500rpm and did not complain, for which I was grateful. Eventually I arrived at the Weybridge moorings about 6pm and once securely moored up, the breasted NBT pair could be seen emerging from the Wey and berthed in front of Stronghold. I was invited on board for a hearty meal, after which we repaired to The Old Crown to swap stories and relax over a beer or two. After two long days of cruising, it was well deserved.

Wednesday 10th October.

A beautiful day was forecast and it turned out to be really warm and sunny. My winter fuel supplies were loaded on the fore deck, but had yet to be split up into half bags, so that I could lift them. Diesel still had to be pumped into the tank, so that the containers could be refilled and there was quite a bit of work to be completed before I went home. I decided that would be on Friday, which gave me a day of grace.

I was in the process of tying up, when there was a horn blast and there was my mate Dave – well what a coincidence that he should arrive on the same day as me! Many tales to be recited between us, so we repaired to The Pelly and sat outside in tee shirts, it was that warm. Almost a perfect end to a Summer Jaunt, which didn’t take me very far this year.

Despite sadness at going home and the end of summer, I really cannot complain about my daily walk to the pub and back:- 

Typical October sunset.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018.19

Back on The Thames.

Wednesday 3rd October

I started the day with a shopping trip to M&S at the rail station and I was going to buy some vino, but their prices are far above anything that I am used to. I walked back and unloaded what little I had, before paying a visit to The Jericho Tavern so that could also be added to the database. Having been in The Rickety Press last year, that was also included.

All in all, it was not a very inspiring day.

Thursday 4th October

Decending Isis Lock - always a sad moment.

Although I set off just after 9am and went through Osney Lock, where I paid for a week’s licence, I did not get very far. The reason being that Sandford Lock was having repairs done to one of the top gate paddles by a couple of divers. I had been forewarned at Iffley Lock, but they reckoned it could be all over by the time I got there – no way! The lockie reckoned I would be held up for no more than 20mins, which turned into 2 hours eventually. In the meantime another narrow boat pulled in behind me and I got talking to the owner. We could see that the job was going to take longer than predicted, so Greg and I walked over to the King’s Arms for a pint, where we could see the action at the lock gates.

The diver is down there somewhere.

There he is! Just look at all those attachments.

Eventually at 13.30, we got the all clear from the lock keeper and we were in our way towards Abingdon, where Greg wanted to fill with water, before returning to Oxford. Not only did he fill his water tank, but a 40 gall drum as well, so that was another hours delay.

Abingdon lock keeper's sense of humour.

I did finally moor up the other side of Abingdon Bridge, where there were empty spaces galore – most unusual here, but it is so much later in the year than normal for me.

Friday 5th October

After a walk around Abingdon to top up a few supplies, I decided that it was time to move on, but could not decide where I was going to moor. Passing some moored boats on Culham Reach, just south of Abingdon, I heard someone shout my name and much to my surprise it was Keith Norfolk on his Dutch barge.

When I reached Culham Lock, there was another narrow boat waiting for me in the lock, so one of his crew locked us through. Eventually we got talking and he was due to meet up with friends at Goring, which was almost 17 miles further downstream, which seemed like an impossible task in daylight, as I calculated that it would take until 7 or 7.30pm, when it would be dark.

In Culham Lock there was a lock keeper on duty, as there had been at most locks so far and in times of EA cut backs, I thought this was most unusual. Anyway, I requested using the centre line only as I normally do when descending in the lock, even though there were two boats side by side. He approved of that, provided that I put it round two bollards, which gave two points of contact. Why had I not thought of this before? It makes such logical sense and was so much more controllable than using one bollard to hold the boat in to the side of the lock. After 14 years of boating on the Thames, I am still learning!

At the next lock, I made the decision to accompany the other boat as far as I thought reasonable, as they had a crew of four and I did not have to work any locks. We were doing 4mph and they were always in front to be able to get to the lock first and do the work. I got colder as the sun set, but I continued on until we did arrive at Gorham Lock when it was dark at 7pm. We finally moored up at 7.30 and as with the other boat, I turned upstream onto the mooring, which was difficult without the headlight, because the stern light did not reach the bank. With the aid of a torch I tied up, but it was not easy, despite knowing Goring moorings very well and I was pleased to get inside and light up the fire. There were again plenty of spaces at this time of year, as at Abingdon. I was too cold and hungry to venture off to the pub, so cooked a meal and had an early night.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 18

Meeting Old Friends

Sunday 23rd September

After posting my blog and a walk around the Marina to get warm, I reversed into the Marina entrance, winded and headed off in the direction of Napton, stopping briefly at Midland Swindlers to get some solid fuel, but they had completely sold out. I should have had part of my order off NBT yesterday, but by the time I had thought of it, they had clothed up. I have had the occasional fire at night, so I may get by without any extra fuel.

The afternoon was pleasant, but still draughty and I did eventually moor up by Bridge 100, which seems to be a favourite spot for quite a few boaters. Very few boats passed by and there were only one or two houses visible in the distance and the sun was still shining, which was a welcome change to what we had been having the last few days.

I put up the aerial to see what strength wi-fi I could get and very surprised I was when I got a BT signal, even though it was only 2/3 bars. It was surprisingly fast too at that strength. The TV was good too for being way out in the sticks.

Monday 24TH September

I set off for Napton and arrived about 13.00, which gave me a choice of moorings. I strolled up to The Folly for a quiet afternoon pint and read the menu for the evening. I was determined to have one of their delicious meals again with those excellent home cooked chips. Actually, they were not quite as crispy as the last time and I think it might be in order to specify this when ordering the meal, but that aside, it was as good overall as the last one.

I did stroll up to read instructions for restrictions on opening and closing times of the lock flight, due to the long standing drought that we experienced throughout the long hot summer. The locks would open at 10 am the following morning and the last locking though would be at 3 pm. This long period without boats was time for the back pumps to refill the top pound. It was the same at Claydon Locks the other end of the summit pound.

Tuesday 25th September

No point in rising early this morning with the late opening of the bottom lock, though I was early enough to be fourth in the queue and stopped to water up whilst waiting. The gates were unlocked at 09.45 and we started to move forward as the first boat got into the lock. Eventually it was my turn and the volunteer helped me through, but he was the only one on the flight of eight. Fortunately, I was preceded by a hire boat with a crew of three men and to speed things up two of them hung back and worked about three or four locks for me until another boat came down the flight and the lock was in my favour. Following behind was another hire boat with two ladies who kept on catching me up, so the lady with the windlass would assist me through. In all it took three hours, but bear in mind that there were several locks where there was a queue.

After Marston Doles Top Lock, I had to stop and lift the weed hatch to clear the blades, which had a collection of string, plastic and assorted rags wrapped around the propeller. I made a sandwich so that I could continue on the move quickly and headed for Fenny Compton and The Wharf Inn, seven miles away. Surprisingly, the summit pound was up to normal level, which is the result of back pumping from both ends over a long period.

Arriving at 4 pm, I was surprised that there were still three 50ft moorings available at this very busy place. After tying up I deserved that refreshing pint in what was a very busy pub.

Wednesday 26th September

I made enquiries from a residential boater about coal supplies at the nearby marina office and delighted that it was on the affirmative. Sure enough they had Pureglow which I had never used before, but I was getting desperate by this time now that the nights were drawing in and it was cold at night after very sunny days.

I was lucky not to have met another boat in Fenny Tunnel, which was a tunnel once, but had been opened out many years ago. I was in danger of getting the chimney smacked by a tree branch or even dislodged  and being stainless steel it was unlikely to be retrievable by a magnet. At the moment there are no fixings to attach it to the boat, so it was very vunerable. Shortly before getting to the first lift bridge, I stopped and removed it as well as the liner.

Claydon Locks were next and here again, I did very few solo. There were either boats behind me or coming in the opposite direction. Strangely enough, I passed by nb Slow Pace that I had previously seen moored in Braunston and the woman I had the argument at Giffard Park with walked up to the lock with her yapping dogs, but she did not offer to help me through, so I think she recognised me and not a word was spoken between us. Her husband did acknowledge me as I passed the boat.

After Claydon there were three more locks to Cropredy and although there was room to moor Stronghold partway down the visitor moorings there, another boat was selfishly sitting between two other boats with about 10 yds space fore and aft, so I had to reverse back to the far end and this was at 4 pm, so fairly early as far as getting a place.

I took a walk down to The Red Lion, but the barman was in the cellar, so service was slow and there were only another two punters in the bar, so hardly exciting. The tables were not laid for dinner, so I presumed that either they were not serving on a Wednesday or the kitchen was closed. Maybe it was time to try The Brasenose Arms next time.

Thursday 27th September

Another beautiful day with wall to wall sunshine and hardly any wind – ideal cruising weather for travelling on to Banbury. I had some help at the locks from an Australian guy from Melbourne who appeared to be returning his College Cruisers boat to Jericho.

In three hours, I pulled in to the moorings in the shopping centre of Banbury, where I was spoiled for choice. After a galley cleaning session, a shower and finishing off a book, I decided to visit The Three Pigeons Inn for a change instead of The Olde Rein Deer, which is limited to Hook Norton Ales, which I have had over the past few days.

It was a 17thC part thatched building couple of steps below street level, meaning that the road had been built up over the centuries. There were several rooms, most of them being laid up for dinner service, with the old locals inhabiting the bar area. Very other people were about and the place was rather dark for some reason, presumably because there were few lights on. I moved into the garden area, which was comfortably furnished and very pleasant. Only two real ales were on tap: Purity Gold and Doombar. The food menu was very pricy for a pub, with fillet steak at £26.95! Not a place I would frequent very often and no comparison to the atmosphere of The Olde Rein Deer in Parsons Street.

Friday 28th September

I was reading the Herbie blog and knew that Neil and Kath were now off the Thames at Oxford after cruising up to Lechlade, so I made contact and arranged to meet up at Aynho and go to The Great Western Arms, which is a very well appointed Hook Norton pub. What I did not realise on Thursday morning, was that today was actually Friday and it was only when I started writing up the blog that I realised what day it was. There was no time to waste as it was already 11.30am. I asked a passing boat if they could hold the lift bridge for me after their boat went through and the I had assistance with the lock, so that went smoothly. The lift bridge can be a real problem to solo boaters.

It was imperative that I did some food shopping at Morrison’s, which is close to The Tramway Moorings and that took another hour. I passed nb Lindy Lou and hooted, but someone was having a shower at the time and probably Vic was out walking Eric the dog, so no contact was made.

I was in front of a hire boat with a couple of Australians on board and I got some assistance through the Claydon flight by the man when they caught me up, so every little thing helped me reach Aynho at 5pm and I moored just behind Herbie. Neil invited me in for coffee and we spent an hour telling boating tales. I had to shower and change and we walked along the towpath to the pub, where we had good food and beer for the next two hours and as Neil remarked the following morning, we did not mention boat toilets or batteries at all during that time.

Saturday 29th September.

After a late morning chat with Neil, we both let go for our respective destinations: they to Banbury and me to Lower Heyford. After filling with water there, I got a mooring very close and walked up to The Bell for a pint, which closed the day after a very late start.

Sunday 30th September.

The next port of call was to be Thrupp which was somewhat earlier that the previous day and there are two pubs here. When I got to the lift bridge, I pulled in on the opposite side to the water point and although there are two pedestals to operate the bridge, I had chosen the wrong side, because once through the bridge, I thought I could not operate from the towpath side, so asked a waiting motorist to close it for me, so speeding things up. This worked well and I walked back over the bridge to retrieve the key. I found out the following day that it can be operated from either side, once the key is in. All the same, it was still quicker for the waiting traffic to get through when done by someone waiting to cross.

I found a convenient mooring alongside the cottages and tied up before venturing to The Boat, which turned out to be a pub with no beer! I went further along the towpath towards The Jolly Boatman, but never got there, as I was waylaid by a frantic knocking on the window of a boat that I was passing. Well I never - it was Maffi! I had heard from Kath and Neil that he was on his way up to Banbury. At the same time, I bumped into Kevin and Ingrid on their way back from the pub, so it all happened at once. Maffi asked if I could cope with wine instead of beer and I willingly succumbed to his invitation. Also I was introduced to Susan, his new girlfriend and delightful she was too and very chatty. Dave Parry also joined us and good boating conversation was enjoyed by all – even Susan. In two hours it was dark and although Maffi offered me a torch to get back, there were pedestal lights along the towpath and I got back safely.

Monday 1st October

I decided to stay on the moorings until Tuesday, as I wanted to meet up with Anne and Peter Darch. He had not responded to my previous text and e-mail, so I phoned their landline and spoke to Anne, who was most surprised to hear from me and we arranged to meet for lunch at The Jolly Boatman. As Peter had gone off up the towpath to find me, I had an in depth conversation with Anne about Peter’s inability to get a grip on things and his failing memory over the last year, since we met up then. He eventually returned and we had a good lunch and conversation, to which Peter never really contributed..

The immaculate moorings at Thrupp.

A yarn bombed Thrupp wheel barrow.

Later in the afternoon, I walked up to the services to have a look at the books available for exchange and charity. Ken Haynes had just returned from the Parkhead Festival in Brum and we had a brief chat: arranging to have a drink later. When I got back to The Jolly Boatman again, there was Ken, Kevin and Mike, my earlier source of information in The Rock of Gibraltar about Kevin and Ingrid’s whereabouts. The towpath telegraph works wonders, but too many mates in Thrupp is bad for my liver!

Tuesday 2nd October

Time to move on again and I said my goodbyes to Maffi, who is returning to the Thames after visiting Banbury. It was steady progress, although there was a queue of three boats at Rowndham  Lock, which delayed things a bit. There was another delay at Kidlington Green Lock, because a CRT work boat was in the lock, whilst the crew cleared out debris from behind the bottom gate. Two other locks previously also had the same problem, so there must have been complaints.

Just beyond the lock at Wolvercote, I stopped above Bridge 236 and moored up to pay a visit to The Plough, which completed 100 pubs on the Memento Database, started by Colin Wilks a couple of years ago for NBT use, but abandoned more recently and take over by yours truly. I do remember visiting the pub some many years ago and it is still owned by the same miserable landlord. I think you would need a mooring spike to crack a smile form him.

Close to Oxford now, I picked up a blade full and however many times I chucked back, I could not shake it off, so eventually I had to moor up and drag it all off through the weed hatch.

With the blades that much cleaner I progress to Jericho Moorings at 4pm and surprise, there were only two other boats there, so acres of space. Time to write up this blog, because it was well in arrears. Then, a visit to The Bookies, aka The Old Bookbinders, one of my all time favourites. Although a Greeedy King house, there is always a guest beer on offer and the food is French, cooked by the landlord and his son.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 17

Heading Home.

Saturday 15th September

Very little done today except watch several episodes of Getty on BBC iPlayer, which was strongly recommended by my daughter. I have to say that it is very addictive and interestingly, it take place when JPG lived at Sutton Place alongside the River Wey near Guildford, although the set is somewhere else.

A visit to the Co-Op was also in order, but you already know what I think of that place. The Barley Mow was on the list on the way back, with their good selection of real ales.

Sunday 16th September

It was a case of ‘Getty With Breakfast’ this morning and I had to make the most of it, as I had a free wi-fi connection from the houses just behind the moorings.

I took a walk along the towpath and through the village later in the afternoon, but nothing too strenuous, calling in again at the pub for a pint. A very lazy day!

Monday 17th September

Time to make a move on to Rugby and being around midday there were copious moorings, so with a prodigious shopping list I walked down to Tesco and stocked up for the trip to Braunston. Otherwise, another idle day not doing much.

Between here and Braunston, the pubs are dire chain outfits where no one cares about the food, beer or customers, so it was a time for restraint.

Tuesday 18th September

I am still making the most of the free wi-fi connection here and finished Episode 10 of Getty – fascinating stuff.The afternoon was spent doing a load of washing.

At 15.15 the NBT pair of boats past me with a crew of three by the looks of it – the only one I knew being Howard Williams. I am meeting up with the loading crew on Friday, which will entail some dirty work on Saturday, but no lifting will be involved on my part.

Wednesday 19th September

As soon as another boat pulled off the water point, I untied and drifted across in the wind to water up and empty the portable loo. With that all done, I set off with breakfast on the hoof, wanting to make Braunston today, because the forecast for tomorrow was constant rain.

I stopped off at Clifton Cruisers for a pumpout, wanting to get rid of the Elsan Blue the guy had chucked in last time, so that I could revert to a biological method of cleaning the tank with SilkyRX. The. re was a warning that it would not work if in contact with formaldehyde. Maybe I should wait until after another pumpout before adding it; in which case it is going to be a long drawn out businsess.

As the morning progressed, the wind became stronger until it was gusting to gale force, which made boating very uncomfortable indeed and there were very few sheltered spots, even behind hedges. I did find one however around 12.30, when I was desperate for something to eat and drink. Fortunately there was some piling to clip the centre line to and I could hold the boat on that while I made a drink and a sandwich, so I was only there for 10 mins.

By this time, I was not far from Braunston and I thought that being in a hollow, it would be more sheltered. How wrong I was. Most of the moorings from the turn to the Boathouse were full and again the boats were 10 to 15ft apart, being either ignorant or selfish boaters. Eventually, I spotted Nuneaton and Brighton breasted up and there was a space ahead of them, but getting moored up was not easy. Firstly there was only one ring near enough to use and secondly despite the hedge, the wind was blowing Stronghold off the bank. Lastly, passing boaters would not slow down for someone trying to tie up. Eventually I got a stern line on the only ring, before pulling in on the centre line for the umpteenth time, sufficiently to drive a mooring pin in a previously used hole and affixing the bow line to it. Not only did I add a spring line to a short length of chain pinned to the towpath, but I added a centre line spring as belt and braces against the wind. I rarely do this, but the mooring pin was loose in the hole, although driven completely in to its full length behind the coping stone. I will remove the centre line if the wind drops later.

I was just taking stock, when I was approached by John Japp of NBT. We had a brief chat and he had been asked by Howard to make a few adjustments to the boats as he collected his gear. I gave him a hand to speed things up a bit so that he could get away home to Patcham nr. Brighton as soon as possible.

Thursday 20th September

Well, the forecast was right and it started raining in the night and continued until about midday, after which the wind began again in earnest, so it was once again BBC iPlayer to keep me amused most of the morning. Eventually i had had enough and decided to take a walk up into the village and down Dark Lane to visit The Admiral Nelson. With very comfortable furniture and so many cookery books on display for customer’s delectation, along with an excellent choice of ales, how can they lose?

Back on board, it was time to sort out a meal. The lamb chops in the fridge were beginning to smell off, so they went in the bin. They were originally bought to BBQ and I did two some time ago. These I was going to roast with roast potatoes, so that was scrapped in favour of the last of a chicken sweet and sour with rice and garlic flavoured fried cashew nuts on top, which was certainly different. I shall have to stock up on food tomorrow morning in the village.

Friday 21st September

A good shopping session, especially at the Braunston Butchers where they had calves liver again in stock, which I eagerly look forward to. The remainder of the afternoon was spent reading and sorting out the mess inside the boat.

The NBT crew arrived and we had a good catchup session before they moved the pair into the arm for loading the following morning. The butty was bow hauled in first and tie up to the wharf, followed by the motor on the outside.

Barry had made me a stainless steel chimney which fitted perfectly and I now have to decide whether to fit the old brass handle and fittings and polish them, or make new stainless ones. The brass fittings take such a battering from the heat and weather, they really need cleaning every day.

The new stainless steel chimney.

Saturday 22nd September

Loading day was here and most people were there when I arrived on the wharf. There were 17 tons of mixed fuels to be loaded onto both boats and once it had started loading continued in record time of less than five minutes per ton. I has to be recognised that there were usually two persons lifting off the stacks and another two people stacking inside the hull, which is why it was so quick. When the butty was about level, the boats were swapped over and loading the motor was loaded to completion. I have to say that the loaders worked tirelessly, never pausing for breath and I wished that I was young and fit enough to do the same, but I did help with some of the clothing up afterwards, so did not feel entirely useless.

Loading the butty.

Off down the Oxford canal.

The pair left the arm at 13.30 in good time to get to The Folly at Napton for a meal with two new recruits on board for a short trip up to The Turn. I bade my goodbyes to the last of the loading crew and returned to Stronghold via The Nelson for a well deserved pint with Barry. Although I had done little this morning, I was knackered and had an hours snooze back on board.

It was time to meet up with my daughter again in The Nelson for a beer or two, although I was not in a drinking mood and consumed very little, but it was an excellent evening, despite being so crowded.