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, 12 October 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Thumb Twiddling in Banbury

Oh joy! How lovely to have a proper shower once again, without the chance of it running cold or the possibility of scalding the crown jewels! The accumulator needs to be pressurised, but as I don’t have a tyre pressure gauge, that will have to wait and it is quite acceptable at the moment.

I had to stock up on food and other essentials at Morrison’s and cook up a few meals, so I could happily fill a few hours. When I am at home, I normally cook up a meal for about eight people, then divide it up and freeze several portions. On the boat without a freezer, I was going to have to eat spaghetti Bolognese up to eight times in succession, unless I managed to eat out occasionally. Fortunately, I did have a few pub and restaurant meals to break the monotony.

I took Stronghold up to Sovereign Wharf to fill up the tank and containers with diesel in the meantime. Little did I know that the diesel would be only 70p/litre for the two days after Canal Day, as he made a reduction for boaters at the event. I will take note of that if I bring my boat next year.

Peter returned a couple of days later and we moved his boat up to the lift bridge, where he had a reserved mooring for the Canal Day, as Escape was the official IWA boat, from which all the organisation was based. His wife Anne, had cooked up several meals, which I was invited to partake of, which made a welcome change from Bolognese! We had a mini pub crawl one evening and then repaired to his boat for large night caps. He told me the following morning that he had had more to drink that night than he would normally consume in a month! Am I leading him astray?

Canal Day dawned bright and sunny, although there was a chilly wind. The previous day, it rained most of the day and the day after the event it did the same, so we had a very welcome window in the weather. This is the fourth time I have done Banbury Canal Day in October and during every one the weather has been glorious for the time of year. I was not on duty steering a day boat until 12.30, so had a chance to talk to a few boaters, but mainly Neil and Cath on Herbie. I had not seen them for a couple of years at least, but I always read his blog, which is often about technical matters, like mine.

I took over Cherwell Explorer at the appointed time and the return trip from the basin to Sovereign Wharf and then the winding hole back to Sovereign and back to the basin took an hour, dropping and collecting ten passengers at each place. As before, I had a crew member on the bow to talk to the visitors and to ensure their safety during each trip. Several times I looked along the boat and there were children craning their necks over the sides as we approached bridge ‘oles and I had to shout at them to keep within the profile of the boat. Trying to do that and accurately steer this Mickey Mouse of a boat, was not easy.

When I returned to the basin for the last time, there were still a few people waiting to get on, so I did half a trip to Sovereign and winded in the small marina basin, with the owner’s permission. Well, it was his idea! My lady crew person took the long shaft off the top ready to push the bow round, but it was not necessary.

 “Oh ye of little faith”, I said.

By that time I certainly had had enough, but it had been a very successful, safe and satisfying day. After a short respite, Peter and I went off to The Olde Rein Deer Inn for some relaxing refreshment and then into the Siam House next door for a Thai meal. He had the same menu as I did, which was WeepingTtiger; slices of sirloin beef with a spicy dressing. It was not as good as the same dish served up at the Thai restaurant on The Pond pub in Brighton, where it is cut into thick slices and comes out of the kitchen sizzling hot on a wooden platter. That is the standard by which I judge others. Their Pad Thai is also the best I have ever tasted, and I have had a few of those over the years.

It was time now to head south again once the rain had eased off, but there was more trouble ahead! I had run the engine for a few hours each day to keep the batteries charged and to provide hot water, but for several days, I had noticed that I was not getting enough power from the 12 volt system to charge up the laptop. Little did I know that one alternator was not providing the requisite 14 volts. My next stop was to be at Aynho, so I called in there and requested expert advice. They would have an engineer on duty the next day to have a look at it.

I had more boating conversations with Neil, after he helped me moor up in the cross wind and I was invited to join them at The Great Western Arms for a meal later along with Maffi from Thrupp. We had an oversized table for three of us, but we were also joined by Kiwi Ray (who lived not far from Barry in New Zealand) on Dragonfly and Tony and Chris from Arun, so there was plenty of conversation amongst the jolly boaters and a good time was had by all. Another sound night’s sleep ensued on Stronghold.
Very tasty tiger prawns........and all mine!

 I reversed up to Walker Boat Services by the winding hole and the engineer, known locally as ‘Magic Matt’ took out the old alternator and took it away for testing at Prolek Auto Services in Banbury aka Chris Cooling. After what seemed a very long time, he returned with a new one and fitted it, but the red warning light was still on and the rev counter was not working. Swapping the exciter wire over to the other terminal did the trick as the old alternator had no markings, so it was difficult to know what was what. The bill came to £207 with the alternator being £106.80 and the rest was labour at £39/hr.

I checked up on the alternator later and discovered that Matt had put one of his big boots on the new diesel pipe and bent it causing a slight leak. That is the reason I don’t like other people working on my boat. I had enough of that when I took my boat to that big boatyard in Brentford, when Stronghold was left in shit order after the work was completed. I did manage to get some compensation after about six months though, but I would never take my boat there again!

I left Aynho at 3 pm after waiting for a heavy shower to pass. It took me 3 hours to get to Lower Heyford, where I finally found a mooring at the far end of the line of boats and too far from the pub!

Horror of horrors the next morning, when the other alternator red light was on after start up! What to do now?

I had a visual inspection and found the earth wire had come off, so pushed it back on, but the light was still on. The spade terminal was a bit loose, so I crimped it with pliers and fortunately that did the trick and all was well again.
A sight for sore eyes - all showing 14 volts.

I was  caught up by a small Oxford Cruisers hire boat at a lock and we assisted each other through the lift bridges on route to Oxford, arriving there at 6pm; a total of eight hours from Aynho, with only a brief stop for water at Thrupp.

I phoned Peter and Anne and we met up later in the Old Bookbinders Arms for a very quick drink, as their car was illegally parked. Knowing that the pub was run by French people, I opted for moules farcie and frites, which was delicious and swimming in garlic.
A trial period for a new electric waterbus service in Oxford.

Here I am in Oxford and I cannot publish this because there is no signal.............UNBELIEVABLE!!!

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