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.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Heading South with problems.

I returned to Stronghold after six days and found her to be covered in willow leaves from the tree above her mooring; so that’s why no one else moors there! I decided to leave ASAP after cleaning off the detritus and because the motorway was too noisy to stay any longer. Having returned the key and hoping that they will tear up my £50 cheque, I headed further into the basin to wind, which is where Coventry Canal Society have their moorings.

I made for Sutton’s Stop, where I had arranged to meet my daughter the following day, and moored just beyond the pump house, where it was peaceful. Sunday came and we all had a good old fashioned Sunday lunch in one of my favourite waterway pubs. What is always amusing here is that people sit outside watching the boats come around the 180 degree turn, which is virtually a blind corner, so there is always the chance of chaos; even more so when a full length boat tries to make it. If all goes well, then the steerer gets a round of applause, but if there is a mishap there is a great deal of laughter and tut tutting. The last time I came around the turn, I was towing the butty on cross straps and we got round in one; unfortunately, when it all goes well, there is no one to see it!
Just to prove that it can be done............

................and the pub is closed!
I winded the boat the next morning and headed off down the northern Oxford canal, after changing the washers on the leaking banjo fuel connection. I stopped at Newbold for the night and checked the fuel line for any more leaks, which appeared OK, but much to my dismay, there was a lot of diesel in the bilge now and it appeared to come from the rubber leak off pipe going back to one of the filters. It was then that I realised that I had forgotten to turn on the fuel return pipe tap to the tank, which had pressurised the whole of the fuel return system. To me, it was fairly obvious where the leak was, as one of the engine bearers was very wet. I used the Pele pump to remove 5 litres of diesel, which I then filtered through coffee filter papers twice, before returning it to the tank. With tap now turned on, the leak was minimal, but the rubber pipe needed to be replaced.

I moored at Braunston the next evening and phoned Calcutt Boats, who are BMC engine dealers; sure they could fit me in the following day, so it was another day spent hanging around before I could get on their wharf. I spent the time picking blackberries and sloes to make some sloe gin later.  
Sunset over Napton reservoirs.
The engineer found several small leaks in the fuel system and replaced the spill rail and another pipe into the injector pump, but did not think the rubber pipe would have burst, so that was not replaced; I should have insisted, as it continued to leak slightly after leaving. By then I was already up on the summit above the Napton nine locks and it was too late to return to Calcutt.
The infamous bridge 141 where the Trust boats
have ground to a halt over the years. Not this year though!

I moored at Fenny Compton for the night and walked into the marina the next morning to find Mitchell Narrowboats, where the Trust boats had had some work done last year. Bob Mitchell came out to have a look and said that he could fix it later, when he was able to get a new pipe. In the meantime, he suggested that I carry on cruising to Banbury and he would then come to me, which he did and finally resolved the problem, for a minimal fee of £18 for the pipe and only £10 for his time; needless to say I parted with a bit more than that.

So there was a hole in the pipe after all!

The remainder of the day in Banbury was spent shopping and at the launderette. I do enjoy this town, with moorings right in the heart of the action, although having to carry everything from Morrison’s is a bit painful.

It was time to move on, as my CRT licence runs out on Tuesday and I don’t think I can be off their waters in Oxford by then. My boating friend Peter aims to be at Lower Heyford on Monday evening, so I hope to be there for a few beers.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. My Lucky Day

I left Alvecote shortly after the Trust boats, with the intention of cruising a little way to charge the batteries and then returning to The Barlow. However, the winding hole was a fair way down and what with picking blackberries on the way, I decided that I may as well stay on the towpath to moor.

Picking blackberries on the off side to the towpath is a dodgy business, as not only is it shallow, but the boat continues to move slightly as is not easy to stop in just the right place. The answer is to cut ripe bunches off with secateurs and strip the berries off later. Another batch of blackberry and apple was then cooked up and the apples were the ones off the tree on the Middlewich Arm, which I picked about a month ago!

Atherstone locks were next on the agenda the following morning and surprisingly everyone was in my favour; the reason being that all the boats going north were returning from the Shackestone Family Festival – I did not have to refill one lock on the way, so made it to the top in 2 hours.

At one lock, I moored up and went up to the lock to see the oncoming boat through; it was Sue Cawson on Theo. She never looked at me whilst going down and left without a word. As I passed her in my boat I said    “A thank you would be nice.” She apologised profusely and said she was concentrating on the route. After which, she came and helped me though the lock and was most chatty.
Not many of these left on the cut,
or anywhere else.

I knew that Maggie Young had been to the festival and contacted her to see if we could meet up somewhere.

After some various alternative arrangements, we met up in Atherstone and I accompanied her down the first five locks to The Kings Head, where she was going to buy me lunch. When we moored up at the pub, it was closed for refurbishment – oh dear! So we left her boat there and walked into town to find The Larder.

Now this really was something else! The inside of the cafe was like a small museum to the 1940’s, with memorabilia of the war, uniforms, insignia, Spong mincers, photographs and so many other things of interest. The photos on the internet link are worth a look, but they don’t really do justice to the place. I had a minced lamb pie and Maggie had Spam fritters, with beans on toast; both served on white enamelled plates. I can just remember eating Spam fritters as a child in the war, but I didn’t want to experience them again. We had a pint after that in the pub and then went our own separate ways. It was a very enjoyable experience to have someone to talk to and brightened up the day considerably. Cruised on to The Anchor, which I remember was the Everard’s pub we ended up in after the header tank blew a hole on Nuneaton last year. My pint of Tiger  was still as good as it was then.

I cruised on towards Marston Junction and was thinking about having a pump out, as the last one was before reaching Birmingham in May. I pulled in to Springwood Haven and asked how much was a pump out. £18 was the reply. “£18 says I! Well, I’m not that desperate!” “Well, we have to charge that much, because we have to have it taken away,” she replied. Star Cruisers in Nuneaton were further along and their price was £16, even if I did it myself, so I accepted that, but I had to pull alongside another boat with a shaft coupling problem, which also need a pump out. The proprietor then said that if we fight amongst ourselves, he would do both boats for £16 – a bargain! Of course the cheapest pump out on the system, as far as I know, is at Molesley Lock at Hampton Court on the Thames, which is £8.

At Marston Junction I turned onto the Ashby Canal, which has been on my ‘to do list’ for quite a while, as all the reports I have read say how lovely it is. For the first time in about 30 years, I saw two water voles swimming across the cut. They used to be seen frequently on the Grand Union Canal in days past, but sadly not evident now.
A horse that thinks it's a zebra?

I reached Stoke Golding, with the intention of paying another visit to the George and Dragon, where I had been before, but by car, for a tasting of the Church End Brewery beers. I was not disappointed. My mate Colin recommended an Indian restaurant at the back of one of the pubs in the village, which turned out to be The Three Horseshoes. Not much of a pub with only one beer pump on, but the restaurant was excellent and also very busy on a Wednesday night, which says a lot for any eating establishment.
A quiet day out.

Now that I had a reservation booked at the Coventry Cruising Club for the weekend, I had to book a rail ticket to get home and renew my prescription and everything else that has to be done in a few days. The internet connection was exasperatingly slow, so I did not get away from the mooring until midday.

I have to say that everything I have heard about the Ashby is true. There no locks on the 22 miles and it is so rural that I rarely saw people and never a village, except in the distance. Even Hinckley was hidden behind trees.

I cruised up to the terminus just above Snarestone the next day and the sun was out all day – it was superb. I passed Whitby and expected to see Blossom on Darley following behind; I was not disappointed. They seem to go everywhere together. I winded the boat at the end and returned a couple of miles to Shackestone, where the festival had been the weekend before. There were some festival boats still remaining on moorings here.  Had a pint in The Rising Sun, cooked a meal and retired to bed.
Cut end.

Very rural.

Charming stone bridges for some of the way.
A blast from the past at Hinckley.
When I arrived at Market Bosworth, I decided to have a look at the village centre and do a bit of shopping. It was ¾  of a mile and all uphill, so I had to have a pint in The Red Lion, but at £3.95 for a pint of Jennings Cock-a-Hoop was higher than Brighton prices! I did find a decent butcher though, so that made it worth my while. Another two hours and I was back in Stoke Golding but on different moorings this time on the offside of the cut, where there is a footpath to the village centre; even shorter than the previous walk up the hill to The George and Dragon.

It was now time to move down to Sutton’s Stop for an overnight mooring before going into Coventry Cruising Club for a few days, whilst I went home. It was an uneventful trip, although the turn at cut end into the Trent and Mersey was a total cock-up. For some unknown reason, the boat responded very poorly to the tiller, which is most unusual. Maybe there was weed around the blades, but she was very light at the stern end, because fuel was low and there were four bags of coal and 60 litres of fuel stored in the bow locker. I frequently thought there was weed around the blades on the Ashby and kept chucking back, but on checking the weed hatch, there was nothing to see.

I was early on the moorings at Sutton’s and an oil change and fuel filter change were overdue. As before, I try to take short cuts when bleeding the air out of the fuel system and it just doesn’t work, so it took longer than I expected. However, on re-reading the handbook, it is best done with the throttle wide open and two injector unions loosened, rather than one. This time the engine fired up on two cylinders, until I tightened up the other two. All was well once more. I intend opening up the first filter in the line to see how much muck is actually inside.

As usual on Saturday night, the Greyhound was rammed and I had a brief conversation with a couple of Asians at the bar. I was tempted to ask them if they had a business in the Foleshill Road, which is where all the Asian shops are in Coventry.
I cruised around the turn at Sutton’s and the stop lock had been left open for me, but the top paddle would not work, because the rack did not engage with the pinion. There was a convenient stick lying beside the paddle gear and I managed to wedge that behind the rack to engage it and managed to lift it to the top.
Just a short distance to go now until I came to the bridge over the arm, where the entrance needed a hairpin turn to get in. It would have been OK from the other direction though. I nosed the bow against the brick wall and swung the stern round until it was parallel with the arm and slowly motored in to be met by my contact Chris Deeming, who wanted to see my insurance certificate and charged me a £50 deposit for the gate key to get out in the morning. They are all so different, these boat clubs.
I think these Dickies boots are about 3yrs old,
 but have only been worn when boating,
so have had about 8 months wear.
I would have expected more.

Monday, 8 September 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Even More Visitors.

It was not long after Barry and Sandra left that there was a knock on the door and someone shouted my name; it was James from nb Gabriel, who I had last seen on the Staffs and Worcester. We had a quick chat and decided to meet up for a meal in The Star later.

I pulled the pins at midday and set off for Great Haywood, passing the Indigo Dreamers on nb Indigo Dream, fellow bloggers, who I met after the BCN Challenge. Maybe we will meet up one day for a pub session.  I also came across someone working a lock, whom I recognised, but could not place. His wife remembered though, that I had moored beside them for a short while at Stafford Boat Club.

I stopped to dump some rubbish at Gt. Haywood and found this on top of one of the bins.
Even the whistle works!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, so why do people throw things like this away? It will make a good replacement for the aluminium one that has a melted handle, that I left on the gas to boil dry. It is not the first item of value that I have seen in marina bins, although on the other occasions, tempted as I was, I had left the stuff in there.

In a while, I went through the two locks to Fradley Juction and turned right there to find a convenient mooring just a little way up, which is not too far from The Swan, aka The Mucky Duck. I took a chance passing the moorings above Shade House lock, as they were all taken and a long walk from the pub.

Having just returned from The Swan, I have to say that I am not impressed at all; the barman was more interested in clearing glasses than serving me and the fact that their kitchens were closed down last year by the Health Authority just adds to the lackadaisical attitude in there. Unless this pub changes hands, I don’t think I will bother when I pass it again.
I took rubbish to the bins before I left and on top of one bin was this portable electric drill, which actually worked and an old iron, which was covered in dust – both of which I took away with me. There was also a 100W solar panel, which appeared to have a diode missing at the back, but it was too big for my boat anyway. I find it amazing that people just dump these things which still work!
I knew from the NBT schedule that Barry would be at Alvecote the following Saturday, so I planned to be there to see him and catch up on the news of the Trust, as well as having a few beers in The Samuel Barlow.

I arrived late on Friday and Barry turned up the next day, so there was much talk of NBT business and a few jobs to be done on the boats, which had to be moved out of the marina, where they had been since the Alvecote Historic Boat Gathering. The pair were breasted up and Barry did a very good job of extracting them from a difficult and tight mooring. David Thompson arrived later to collect the range, which is going to be repaired. Graham Roberts and Bob Geeson were the crew for the trip to Awbridge and they arrived on Sunday. Once they were unpacked, Barry expertly demonstrated springing the pair off the berth to head off up to Fradley Junction for their first stop.
Barry springs the pair off the mooring and Graham
prepares to cast off the bow line.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. A Rendezvous at Last.

I left that mooring early next morning, as it was reserved for services by the boat yard. Now all the locks were downhill, but they were deep, so I bow hauled the boat out of them, to save climbing down the dirty ladder. I did try flushing out of one lock, but as soon as I closed the top paddle, the boat came to a stop and it was a slower process.

I was reading the blog of Barry and Sandra of nb Areandare, whom I had been in touch with by e-mail for several years when they were touring the canals on nb Nothern Pride. I realised from the blog that they had just passed through the Harecastle tunnel two days before, so I texted them and found they were still in Stone and would be there for two days. Although I had met Barry previously in Brighton I had never met Sandra, who also has a daughter living in Brighton, well Hove actually!
I was invited aboard AreandAre for a home cooked curry later and some of Barry’s homemade red wine– what a treat! We then adjourned to The Star of course, which was right on their doorstep, so to speak and a good night was had by all over a few pints. I had moored just below the top lock, having been told that moorings were non-existent further down, so I had quite a way to zig-zag back to Stronghold.
With Barry and Sandra in The Star.

Barry came past with rubbish to dump the following morning and said that there was now a vacancy behind his boat, so I made a move through the two locks to moor up close to Star Lock. He wants more storage space for his home brew kits and equipment in AreandAre, as they are trading as The Home Brew Boat, so he mentioned that the Epping range had to go. I know that Narrow Boat Trust motor boat Nuneaton needs one, so I took photos and dimensions just in case we could use it.

They departed their mooring about 13.00 and I have to say that I enjoyed their company immensely and hope to see them again soon.

CRT have just replaced fencing around a by-weir here and one of the guys asked if we wanted any of the waste timber, which was full of nails. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, I accepted and we put a load on the cabin top to be sorted and sawn up later. Fortunately, I brought the chain saw with me, but I can’t saw it up here in the middle of Stone.

I walked into the chandlery late yesterday to enquire about a new TV aerial and sure enough they had just what I was looking for; a Moonraker digital aerial, similar to the one that has failed. It was only a couple of pounds more expensive than Maplins and it would save me a lot of searching elsewhere, so I bought it on the spot. This is the one recommended to me by Steve on nb Israel Robertson a few weeks ago. Sure enough it produced an excellent picture as soon as it was tuned in. I then opened up the old one to find that the circuit inside had corroded due to the ingress of water over time. I had left it out on the cabin top now for some weeks, but assumed that it was waterproof, which it was not. I will not be leaving the new one out in the rain, even though it claims to be waterproof.
So this is what's inside! Note the corrosion of the printed circuit.