Loading in Braunston and return to Napton.
Thursday 26th September
Yesterday I drove here from home down south, which is 150mls distant and it took four hours with two stops. It is a considerable time since I drove that far and in a strange way I quite enjoyed the journey, although there were only two brief holdup s on the motorway. Once I got towards the centre of Rugby, the GPS appeared to lose contact with the satellites, but fortunately I recognised where I was and could continue to my new home mooring, where everything was as I had left it, although the cabin top was now covered in leaves.
I had several bags of solid fuel and firewood in the car, which was too heavy to carry far, so the boat was reversed and moored on the wharf side, where I could transfer it all into the boat very easily. The mooring allocated to me was taken up by another boat this time, so I breasted up against nb Jigsaw temporarily, because I intended going out in a couple of days.
Mick Jones was now back from his Shroppie (Shropshire Union) cruise and I went for a chat and asked about further fuel supplies. Apparently, the fuel boat Callisto calls in about once a month. Thinking further ahead, I am hoping to go through Braunston shortly to assist with loading for the autumn coal run, so could almost certainly get a few bags then. Not that I intend attempting to lift any 25k bags, but could be of assistance with moving moored the boats out of the arm whilst loading takes place, before returning them after loading. I would be good to see some more of the NBT crew again and no doubt there will be some relaxing chat in the pub afterwards.
Workshops and paint shed at the end of Rugby Wharf.
The winding 'ole from the wharfside.
A hire boat on the wharf.
Reception on the right.
More permanent moores on the right.
The original towpath is on the left
Looking towards the junction with the North Oxford.
I had to stock up the fridge and store cupboards for the next trip to Napton via Braunston and for the first time I could use the car to get to Tesco. I felt quite strange, having walked there so many times from the Rugby visitor moorings over the last few years.
After unloading and packing away the stores, I attacked the blackberries in the adjacent hedgerow, with the intention of making some jam this time, having already purchased some jam sugar with added pectin. Anyway, there were not enough blackberries to make a sizable amount of jam and I intend trying the main towpath tomorrow.
Friday 27th September
Heavy rain showers this morning and overnight, so no excursion for more fruit until things have settled somewhat. During a brief period of sunshine I tightened one of the alternator belts, which had been screeching on starting the engine like the release of high pressure steam whenever any revs were applied. That cured it, but it had been only a short time ago that I had previously tightened both of them. Bear in mind that this is the additional alternator that is attached to the LH side of the engine with a bolt on bracket, christened a ‘Dog’s Breakfast’ by the guys at Calcutt Marine and it really does need to be realigned so that the belt runs at right angles to it.
During a brief break in the rain, I set off down the towpath to find some blackberries and had a word with Mick in passing nb Ragamuffin. I had been invited in for coffee yesterday, but took a rain check and asked if it was OK later, which it was. Most of the cut near the entrance to the wharf was in a cutting and so very shaded and although there were few blackberries to be had, they were all on the small side.
I called in on Mick when I returned and stayed chatting for almost two hours about boats, techniques and mutual people we knew. Although he is a carpenter and joiner by trade, he was also a lock keeper on the Foxton Flight of locks for some time, so he was very familiar with the ways of boating. I quizzed him on several aspects of boating in this area and areas of Rugby.
Saturday 28th September
A considerable amount of time this morning was spent in making the jam. The berries had been layered overnight with the jam sugar, so as to start dissolving the sugar. It was tipped into a large saucepan and slowly brought up to the boil. The lemon juice was added along with the pips to increase the pectin and after several attempts with a chilled plate and additional boiling, it appeared to have set. I tasted it, only to find that it was very pithy and I think the berries may have been overcooked, so I strained it through a wire sieve, before bottling it in sterilised jars. When they had cooled, there was a good set to the jelly, but a far smaller amount than I had expected with the fruit. I have used small blackberries cooked up with Bramley apples, which were fine, but they had not been cooked for very long.
Moored up as I am at the moment, I have not been able to connect to any free wi-fi, despite one router which is marked as open. This morning however, I could connect to it for some strange reason – I wonder why?
Some more shopping was necessary again in Tesco, bearing in mind that I am about to cruise into the desert with only small corner shops available. After that, I had a car trip to Newbold and the Barley Mow for a pint of Landlord.
Sunday 29th September
I was time to set off again after doing a few necessary jobs, but rain was forecast and this time the met office was true to its word, because it rained on and off for the whole three and half hours of the trip south. I stopped to replenish the water tank at the Tesco moorings and left for Hillmorton after that. This time I was prepared for wet weather, donning the Driza-Bone Australian water proof and my reproofed leather hat.
As I was leaving the Rugby visitor moorings, I passed a couple walking along the towpath who said that they used to be on the Wey Navigations, but were now in Calcutt Marina. Their boat was ‘Winging It’, which I remember well and the names were Mike and Lorraine Skeet, who were also members of the Byfleet Boat Club. I told them that Richard Heaseman on ‘Lady Grace’ was also in Calcutt Marina and had been there for a few years now. When I told them one reason why I had left the Wey, Mike said the NT were too anal, which puts it in a nutshell.
Last year at this time Houlton Bridge was just having the piles driven in.
It leads to Houlton New Town on the outskirts of Rugby.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a volunteer lock keeper at Hillmorton locks, who followed me up the flight of three and assisted with all of them in the continuing rain. I was also followed by an army of teenage girls on a charitable trust boat, who also assisted, so I barely touched a windlass.
I arrived at The Olde Royal Oak (now The Waterside) and went in for a well deserved pint, only to find that there were only two people serving behind the bar and the queue for drinks was about eight deep. To add insult to injury, there was only one real ale on tap – I walked out in disgust and am determined to write to the brewers Greedy King with a strong letter of complaint. Although this pub had improved immeasurably the last time I was here a few months ago, after retracting from the Hungry Horse brand, it seems to have deteriorated back to the old standards of Hungry Horse where no one cares any more.
Monday 30th September
The day started well with warm sunshine, but an hour after letting go, it clouded over and I could feel the chill setting in, as rain was forecast for the afternoon.
I am intrigued to know the history of this terrace of
buildings by the winding 'ole south of Hillmorton.
They seem to have the appearance of past stables.
I stopped to make coffee and a sandwich before Braunston and then carried on to Midland Swindlers, where I bought three LED strip lights to replace the current guzzling fluorescents above the sink and cooker. These are the touch dimming ones that I saw demonstrated in the Willington branch some time ago. Also on the list was a150 watt quasi sine wave inverter to charge the new laptop, in place of the 1600 watt main unit that I had been using up to now and finally 5 litres of antifreeze, as I had lost so much over the summer.
To my surprise, the moorings opposite the Boat House pub were all taken up, but there was a couple of empty ones right outside the pub on the offside, so I pulled in there for the night and will move across tomorrow if a space becomes free.
Tuesday 1st October
In previous years at about this time, I would be in Oxford or on the River Thames heading back to the Wey Navigations. As much as I liked Banbury and Oxford for mooring spots, I disliked the tedious travelling on the Thames for about three days continuously, with so few places to moor and the exorbitant fees charged by the greedy, rich riparians who owned the banks. Thankfully, I am now finished with that part of travelling home.
I began fitting the LED strip lights in place of the fluorescents beneath the galley cupboards; not an easy job as everything has to be done upside down and the bases of the cupboards were extremely hard plywood. Now I understand why screws with Pozidrive heads are so much better for a job like this, as they can be balanced on the end of the screwdriver when working upside down. I got so far and then decided to call it a day and went off to the pub, as my patience was running a bit short.
I have seen this boat around the system several times.
nb Alice is up for sale.......
.......along with Alice 2, which is the bow extension.
Wednesday 2nd October
It was a very pleasant day, as forecast with a fair amount of sunshine. I did intend walking through the village to The Lord Nelson, but got bogged down with internet, blogging and replies to e-mails, which is so time consuming.
I did at last complete fitting the LED strip lights, but had nothing with which to clip the cables to the underside of the cupboards, so had to hold them in place temporarily with sticky tape. I was very pleased with them and it was good to have some light above the hob, which I hope will not be affected too much by the heat and steam. They are easily removable from the two stainless steel sprig clips that hold them in place. Details can be seen here:- https://www.midlandchandlers.co.uk/products/duo-270-switched-led-light-grey-surface-mount-vl-629
A good, even light above the working surfaces.
Excuse the dirty dishes in the sink!
Thursday 3rd October
I decided to move closer to the marina this morning and passed Ryan on nb Southern Cross at the water point. I should have stopped and got some diesel from him at this point, but we were too busy passing information across. However, in the marina I got rid of some rubbish, including waste oil, for which they had a special tank. A quick look around the launderette for any surplus books, videos or other stuff which might be useful and I was off to chase Southern Cross up the cut to fill up with diesel, but I did not have to go far, as Ryan was stopping at almost every other boat moored there. There were various comments from other boaters, such as, “Is he going to run out of diesel/gas/coal before he gets here?”
I winded in The Turn and returned to moor outside the marina ready for the NBT loading party on Friday.
Friday 4th October
I walked up the cut a little way this morning and could see Nutfield towing Brighton as they passed the visitor moorings. Walking back towards the Marina, there were two guys in flat hats waiting on the corner of the entrance and I asked if they were Friends of Raymond; of course they were and were also waiting to help load the pair. The boats reversed into the marina arm and then singled out, leaving the butty on the fuelling point for a short while. The motor was then moored up and the butty bow hauled into position alongside, whilst the motor was loaded. I felt guilty at not being able to help out, but with back problems, it was not worth taking a chance – by now, I could not lift a 25kg bag anyway. Later I was relegated to tea boy, which I have to say, seemed to be appreciated by the hard working loaders.
Loading at Braunston.
Both photos by Ian Norris.
From the arrival of the fuel at 10am it was all loaded by hand by 12.30 with the help of Friends of Raymond (not me, but the last wooden narrow boat to be launched at Braunston in 1958 from Nurser’s Yard). http://friendsofraymond.org.uk/the-friends-of-raymond
Stronghold was brought into the arm as the pair were being clothed up and Howard kindly humped my six fuel bags to my bow, where they were stacked in the well deck. I was told that Stronghold was now in the way of marina business by Graham the foreman, so moved back onto my previous mooring just outside, which was fortunately still free and had some lunch. Meanwhile, the pair were now clothed up and had moved out and moored just above the water point/stop house.
Now loaded and exiting the Marina.
Howard Williams is steering the motor.
If you look closely, you will see that the inside
towing strap has been removed whilst this operation is in progress.
Heading for the Stop House with
Peter Lovatt steering the butty.
I was too tired to go to the pub with Howard and he felt exactly the same, so we called it a day. Bear in mind that I had only made tea plus a little bit of messing about on the boats – anno domini I suppose, whereas Howard had been humping bags of fuel all day, I so was entitled to feel knackered.
Saturday 5th October
It was that time again to let go for Napton and I wanted to be there before Nuneaton and Brighton ascended the Napton flight of nine locks, so as to be able to do some lock wheeling and help them up the flight.
However, the best laid plans often go astray and it was my turn, or rather Stronghold’s. The port side alternator belt was squeeling again as soon as I left the mooring, even at 1,000rpm, which it had not done before. Eventually I decided that there was no alternative than to pull in and tie up before investigating further. Imagine my dismay when I squeezed the belt together and the alternator almost fell off. It appeared that a bolt or bolt head had sheared off where the alternator bracket is bolted to the engine, so I just removed the belt and left it free. The engine was so hot and the bracket impossible to access by hanging over the engine to the port side. This alternator powers the fridge and inverter pair of batteries, so I could run without it for a while until it was fixed. Being en route for Napton, I would pass Napton Junction soon and Calcutt Boats was about ¾ mile up that turn towards Stockton, so that was my decision to let someone else cope with it.
I have mentioned this lash up of a ‘dog’s breakfast’ a few time in the past and attempted to tighten it all up; bolts have sheared several times too and replaced with high tensile ones, but it will never be right unless the whole contraption is redesigned.
I phoned Calcutt and they said that their fitter may be able to do something today, for which I was thankful. I arrived at 12.30 and Ian the fitter came out straight away to have a look. He removed the alternator completely from the bracket and managed to bolt the bracket back on, explaining that is was only a temporary affair and really needed to be genuinely sorted out, but the new belt was now very tight indeed. I paid for an hours work and moved across to the lock waiting area before checking with the digital voltmeter, only to find that it was not charging at all. I had to reverse across and moor up again whilst Ian sussed out that a wire was not attached and that was the end of it until the next time.
I got to Napton and had to wind before reversing onto an empty mooring, of which there were plenty at 3pm. I wanted to buy another bottle of Apple Cider Brandy from the Napton Cidery, but it was due to close at 4pm and I had to hurry up the lane post haste, but made it with 10mins to spare. Imagine my surprise when the lady told me it was all sold out, even in The Napton Village Stores!
A little later as I was about to get in the shower there was a knock on the boat and someone called my name. I quickly donned a dressing gown and went outside to see Julia from The Locker Company on the Wey - what a surprise. It appears that Stuart and she had bought another boat to hire out from a marina on the T & M and were in the process of bringing it back to their base.
My eldest daughter and fiancé arrived in good time and found me along the dark towpath. After some help removing an old battery that I had been using for ballast, we repaired to The Folly for a meal, having booked some days ago and a good job I had, as it was heaving without even a vacant seat. The table was eventually vacated and it was ours for the rest of the evening. The meal was delicious and the requested extra crispy homemade double cooked chips even more so. I had to congratulate Mark and Caroline on it before we parted company.
Having a good time in The Folly.
What a good idea, to store your junk on the ceiling......
.....and even more. Landlord Mark with waistcoat, is holding
court at the far end, keeping his regulars amused.