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.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. The Black Country Living Museum


The following morning, Barry and Mouse did a two car shuffle so that one car was in Coombeswood and the other at BCLM. Mouse said his goodbyes at Coombeswood and Barry and I moved on towards Birmingham, heading for the BCLM at Tipton, where we found moorings easily enough at that time of day.

I did some washing using my new Poss Stick and a bucket, which worked out very well, saving considerable work in the sink and doing it by hand. I had been thinking about the washing problem  earlier and even considered buying a small washing machine from Amazon, but the problem was where to store it on board. I remember my mother-in-law talking about using a poss stick in the copper boiler, before the invention of washing machines, so I thought it was worth a try. I had only intended it for tee shirts, sock and pants, but managed a pair of trousers too. I was thinking about getting more water out than by hand wringing and possibly a salad spinner might do the job, although only one or two items at a time. I had tried drying washing on the engine before, but when I put the socks on, my feet went right through them – not a success. With the engine temperature up to 80deg.C, I considered that a good place for a drying room and rigged up a wooden rail to do the job. The first opportunity came after washing the trousers and even though they were only wrung out by hand, they were bone dry after about 5hrs in the engine ‘ole.
Pass Stick.
 
The Drying Room.
 
Barry and I decided that a trip to The Fountain at Tipton (the home of The TiptonSlasher) might be a good idea for lunch, but we missed the turning and ended up at Mad O’Rourkes Pie Factory a little further on. They had a special Fish ‘n Grill menu on Tuesday for £5.55 – not bad for half a rack of ribs and battered chips.
The plate is about 15ins long!
 
Barry left for home later and I decided that a day’s R and R was in order to catch up with this blog and also to recover from the hectic race to get to the BCN Challenge and the Challenge itself, so there were no happenings to write about. In fact, I was so tired, I didn’t even get to The Fountain that evening for a pint.

The following morning, I thought it was time to tackle the gearbox leak yet again. I had already made a new gasket for the top plate, from which the oil appeared to be leaking, but the leak continued. On Barry’s suggestion, I covered the top plate with a paper towel and found that it was leaking at the bottom end only. On feeling round the oil cooling pipes and wrapping a tell tale towel around one of them, it appeared soaked after running the engine in gear. It was obviously one of the screwed unions, but I did not have a spanner large enough. Fortunately, I borrowed an adjustable and managed to get a good half turn on the nut, which put paid to a problem that I had lived with for the last eight years – unbelievable!
The ex-leaking union with tell-tale paper towel wrapped around it.
Top plate with ten set screws to the right, with new paper gasket visible.
 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. The BCN Challenge.


Firstly, I will try and explain the Challenge rules as briefly as possible:-

Your boat can start anywhere on the BCN at 08.00 on Saturday.

The finish is at Hawne Basin at 14.00 on Sunday.

You are allowed to cruise for 24hrs in 30hrs. I am still not sure if this is the boat, or each member of the crew. It seems open to interpretation! I do know that some boats cruised for the full 30hrs, with some of the crew sleeping for 6hrs, presumably.

You are encouraged to cruise the lesser arms of the BCN, for which you will gain bonus points.

At the end of these arms there is a treasure hunt type of question, so you have to be there to be able to answer it.

You are issued with a log, which can only be opened at 8am on Saturday. You fill in time at the start and end of each section. The questions are set on the log, so as to not be pre-empted.

Other stipulations are for working boats, number of crew, length of boat, etc. 

I had planned to start at Windmill End and had previously worked out a route to include our break at the top of Wolverhampton 21 locks, where there is a well known pub called The Great Western Arms. The scheduled time of arrival being 22.15, if we managed to make it without any holdups.




Windmill End.
 
Our route took us through Netherton again, along the Mainline to Pudding Green Jcn, up the Walsall Canal to Tame Valley Jcn. and along the Tame Valley Canal to Newton/Rushall Jcn. Then we were on the Rushall Canal; up Rushall Nine Locks (The Ganzy) as far as Catshill Jcn. and on to the Curley Wyrley, which we followed to the end at Horsley Fields Jcn., where it was a short trip to Broad Street Basin, where we moored for the night. This days cruising was 34 miles and 17 locks and it rained on and off most of the day, but we were about two hours ahead of schedule, which allowed more drinking time in The Great Western!

Wolverhampton Top Lock .

"Stroke the Damsel and quote the Stop number."
Treasure hunt type question at Wolverhampton Top Lock, but you had to find it first!
 
Although we were scheduled to start the following day at 4 am, it was 5 am when the engine was started and we set off for Bradley Workshops at the end of the Wednesbury Oak Loop, where there was another question to be answered. The arm was rarely cruised and was thick with weed, which clogged up the blades of the propeller every few yards. Most times, we managed to clear
the blades by chucking back (reversing) the propeller and we only had to lift the weed hatch twice during the weekend.

Back on the New Mainline, (Telford’s improved route) we turned on to the Old Mainline (Brindley’s original route through Birmingham) as far as Smethwick Locks, where we turned back on to the New Mainline to Dudley Port and through Netherton Tunnel yet again and joined the queue for Gosty Hill tunnel to the finish at Hawne Basin.
Beneath the M5 at Spon Lane.
Moorings at Hawne Basin.
 
Olde Swan Entire was on tap at £2.00 a pint if you were quick enough to get to the Hawne  Basin bar and a free buffet was laid on for all the competitors. Needless to say, the second barrel was quickly consumed and bottles were available after that.

 Would I do it again? I am not sure, even though it was very enjoyable and we were able to see a lot of the BCN that is rarely cruised. I would prefer it do be done in more clement weather, as a lot of the time the steerer was on his own – no point in more than one person getting soaked at a time. I do know that both Barry and Mouse enjoyed it.

One thing that I can say for certain is that it is quite an experience and well worth doing once in your boating career.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. The BCN at last.

Eventually, the following day, I turned right at Kings Norton Junction and was on the BCN at last. I had about 8 hrs to get to Withymoor Island Moorings, where I had planned to meet my crew for the BCN challenge. There had been a hiccup though, in that Mouse Daltry phoned Withymoor Island Trust and they denied any knowledge of Stronghold coming in to moor that night, despite my earlier e-mail and phone call a month ago, when someone said, “There shouldn’t be a problem.” They also said to Mouse that there would be no one there, as the caretaker was on holiday. Unreliable, if you are ever thinking of mooring there!
 
The only crossroads on the BCN...............
and this is it. 
 
Now what to do? I suggested to Mouse that he ring John and Jenny Jackson, our NBT coal merchant, who was local to the area and could hopefully suggest something positive. They were extremely helpful and arranged for two cars to be moored parked at Coombeswood Canal Trust, in Hawne Basin, where the Challenge was due to finish on the Sunday – sorted! Thanks very much Jenny.

I was now about two hours ahead of my schedule, so had time in hand to meet Barry and Mouse at Hawne Basin, once through Netherton tunnel.
Northern end of Netherton Tunnel - nearly 1.75miles long.

 
It was about three miles from Windmill End, where we were due to start the following day and involved an interesting trip through Gosty Hill Tunnel. This starts off low, but gets even lower, before the roof then goes up to twice the height and then back down to low again. At the lowest point, there is about 18ins clearance above the cabin top. With single way working, one has to make sure there is no other boat in the tunnel at the other end. I did this tunnel four times during the weekend, so became quite familiar with its characteristics.
Gosty hill Tunnel approach.
 
About to enter the lower section.


The Cratch Snatcher of Gosty Tunnel.
 
With my crew now on board, we headed for a mooring next to Withymoor basin and headed immediately to Ma Pardoe’s for a well deserved meal and beer. This is a favourite heritage English pub and one of our goals whenever we are in the area. We ate in the upstairs restaurant for the first time and had an excellent meal, with homemade chips, for a very reasonable price – even being served by young ladies dressed in black and white. We were now on target to start the Challenge the following day.

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Lapworth Locks.




It was not long before I reached Kingswood Junction the following morning and started the ascent of the flight of the 18 single Lapworth locks. What a change this was after all the double locks of the last few days. I was speeding through them, with the help of a CRT volunteer, who had only been doing it for a couple of weeks and was not a boat owner. I suggested that he walked up and set the next lock for me, rather than wait until the present one was full, which he did, plus a few others ahead of that.
Some welcome assistance at last!
A lorra, lorra locks!
 
 
I met up with a CRT workboat moored on the lock landing at the last but one lock and was about to take a photo of their inconsiderate mooring position, when one of the guys set and opened the lock for me, as well as the last one, so I decided not to complain after all.
 
One of them told me that CRT was about to install GPS trackers on all 200 of their boats at a cost of £1,000 each, plus fitting charge, so that one man in an office could pin point the position of every boat they owned on a computer. As he said, ”What is wrong with making one phone call when they had finished with the boat at the end of day?” Surely, this amount of money spent would have paid for at least one new dredger and operator for a long time to come! This is cannot be justified when looking at the state of some of the rotten locks on the Stratford alone, as well as the bottom being too near the top in so many places.
Get too close and I will blow you up! (Just below the Slow sign!)
 
I was warned against mooring up for the night after Shirley, which I was already aware of after doing this section a few years previously. I did eventually moor opposite The Blue Bell Cider House for a very wet night on a very muddy towpath.

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Don’t Panic Mr Mainwaring!


I apologise to any regular readers out there for a severe lack of updates since my last post. I have to admit that writing a blog when travelling is a really time consuming business for me and to get all the relevant information written down as it happens, or very shortly afterwards takes time and organisation. When this get interrupted by events, like being dragged off screaming to the pub for beer by well meaning friends, my schedule goes to pot and so I have got well behind.

Another setback is the lack of internet connection out in the sticks, which is extremely frustrating after spending a great deal of time trying to upload photos, etc.

That was not all that occurred either. I took a day off at Uxbridge to tidy up after Terry left in the morning and to have a look at my domestic water pump, which was pumping nearly as much air as water into the sink. I had a word with Uxbridge Boat Centre about a new diaphragm, which surprisingly they had in stock (normally, a chandlery would only have a brand new pump). It was offered without payment, until I stripped the old pump to see if it would fit – which it did. After the second attempt at refitting the new diaphragm ( I had left out an O ring) all went well and I returned to make payment. £15 was far better than £70/80 for a new pump, but all this took up most of the day.

I cruised quietly further north and Chris Hodson joined me the following day helping out with the locks. I was still doing fairly short days and even explored the Wendover Arm one afternoon. It is still only one and a half miles long and awaiting restoration of the remainder.

It was not until I had a pint in the Anglers’ Retreat at Startops End (where did that name originate?) at the bottom of the Maffers Flight on Sunday, that I looked up the route to Withymoor Island moorings in Netherton, where I was to meet my crew for the BCN Challenge. I discovered that I had to cover 109 miles and 104 locks in the space of five days, which meant cruising for nearly 12 hours per day! This was something that I had hoped to avoid this year, knowing that it meant putting pressure on my stamina and ability to travel without making errors, or break downs of any description – hence the title of this part.

On Monday, I had to be at the New Bradwell Aqueduct, so I set off at 05.30 and cruised for a total of 15.5 hrs – the longest day I had ever done. I did actually get to the top of the Stoke Bruene flight, when Kathryn Dodington dragged Mike Partridge along to work me up the flight. It was beer in the boaters’ bar of The Boat Inn, before falling into bed later.

The following day was scheduled to get to the west end of Braunston tunnel, but I arrived at the top of Stockton Locks, being now well ahead of schedule by several hours, even though I only did 13 hrs today. It was beer and an enormous meal at The Boat Inn, before turning in and gearing myself up for the following day, down Stockton eight locks. As usual I was on my own, but only using the paddles one side of each lock, so saving myself half the work of opening and closing all four paddles. This was welcome advice given freely by Mike Partridge at Stoke Bruerne.

There was a welcome long pound between Radford bottom Lock and Cape Locks, after which I arrived at the first of the dreaded Hatton Twenty One. Although I had the company of another boat through the Cape, they abandoned me at 4pm that afternoon, so I was on my own once again to attempt the 21. The day was hot and sunny and I started slowly up Hatton in shorts and tee shirt. There was help with a couple of locks by a man whose wife and boys I offered a ride to on the boat. I heard a steam whistle at one point, which I thought might come from a steam locomotive, until I spotted two guys with the flat hats and red neckerchiefs and I then knew that President and Kildare would be around the corner. Sure enough, she approached at high speed towards my lock, breasted up of course and I had to get out of the lock fairly smartish. Now a lot of the locks would be in my favour and several single gates were left open, which was even better. As I was about to meet up with my daughter at The Hatton Arms, as it is now called, at 8.30, I had to stop three locks from the top. I don’t think I could have done them that evening anyway, as I had now totalled 40 locks in one day – the most I have ever done in a day!

I have often wondered why the Hatton and other locks built in that era were originally made with paddle gear looking like this and then altered to the chain and square holding device. Was there originally a pin to stop the windlass in the open position?


Original lock gear.
Present lock gear.

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Up The Tideway.


We locked out of Limehouse at 9.30 am on the Monday with two other boats, one of which was Guelrose captained by my NBT mate Mike Moorse and Jenny, his No.1. I was about to call London VTS to inform them of my departure, but Mr P. E. Chilvers (no Christian name!) on Kandahar, who was a mine of information this weekend even if you didn’t want to know, informed me that it was no longer necessary. I have to admit, it had been about five years since last doing this trip, which can be done to Brentford in about 3 hours. Whereas, the route through the Regents Canal and Paddington Arms takes about two days. The wind had dropped from 17mph the previous day to about 10mph, but the water was still a little choppy outside the lock. Kandahar of course, led the flotilla........who else but Rear Admiral Chilvers?

All went well through Tower Bridge and all the other 24 that we were to pass under. We were keeping a good lookout fore and aft, because these powerful tugs pulling a pair of barges can certainly catch up with a narrow boat very quickly and catch you unawares with their wash.

I have on board booklets from the Limehouse lock keeper denoting all the bridges upstream in order and downstream in order, so you can keep track of where you are. I am not sure if they still issue these at Limehouse, but they are very useful to have.

We turned into Brentford Lock once again for me within two weeks and this time the tide was not so high and we got under the High Street Bridge with ease and moored above the gauging locks. Barry then admitted that he had had some doubts about doing the tideway on a narrow boat, although he had done it previously on a ‘proper’ boat.

Barry left us then to tackle the Hanwell flight on our own the following day, but even that was easier with Terry lock wheeling than me trying to do it solo.

Terry and I went off to O’Brians pub for beer and a meal, which is always good for a hearty feast. We managed to get to The Brewery Tap as well, where there is normally home grown music most nights and very much a locals pub.

We tackled Hanwell the following day without incident and moored for the night just through Cowley Lock on the right. It appeared later that we were on a lockable mooring as the towpath was on the other side. Anyway, no one complained  so off we went to The Malt Shovel for food and well deserved beer. I have been past this pub so many times and have never been inside, which is strange, as it is right on the lock side. It is far larger than expected and is a Vintage Inn, so looks much older than it really is. Although there were two beer pumps off, Doombar was on! The meal was very acceptable and it looked like things have improved over the years in Vintage Inns. At one time, I refused to eat in one..

Terry was due to leave next day and we were only a mile or so to where he could catch a bus to Victoria, so we cruised to a mooring opposite Uxbridge Boat Centre, where I wanted to fuel up. Just for a change we had wall to wall sunshine and things were looking up on the forecast.
No pics taken by me on the Thames, having done it all before. However there are some on No Problems blog here:- http://noproblem.org.uk/blog/river-thames-limehouse-to-teddington/. I am sure sue and Vic will not mind me doing that. Better ask first though!

 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Bow Creek.

It was time for the Bow Creek cruise the next day, as the Thames and Isle of Dogs cruise had to be aborted because the wind was too strong at 17mph, a useful thing to know for future cruising. We attempted to assemble the boats in the right order above Bow Locks, which only had one bottom paddle operational - not a good advert for CRT! I moved up to moor when the waiting boats moved off the mooring, but was caught by the wind, so did a 360deg turn and got back in the right direction, only to be waived in by Barry, who cleared it with the lock keeper.
It was wide and deep out there, with a strong wind blowing. There were industrial buildings on both sides and no housing whatsoever. In one area there was a container type crane for concrete tunnel segments, which we surmised were for the nearby crossrail project. The creek was very windy and windy, as in draughty and curly wurly, so we were changing direction most of the time.
My intrepid crew.
Cross Rail deliveries?
 
 
That is south of the river.
Time to turn around.

Eventually, we could see the O2 Arena and the Lloyds lightship moored up and knew it was time to turn around and head back to Bow Locks. It was a pity we could not do the Thames route, but the weather was promising for a trip up to Brentford the following day. After Bow Locks, we turned down Limehouse cut and moored up in the marina. We now had an afternoon to fill an Barry suggested the Docklands Museum, which was well worth a visit. Back at the boat we decided to eat out, but where? Eventually, we decided that we had passed a Wetherspoons on the way to the museum, but it was further than any of us imagined, almost at the museum, in fact. On the way back to the marina, a visit to The Grapes was not to be missed. A very satisfying end to  an interesting day.
 

 

 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park




We were due to set off at 9am and assemble in numbered order, according to Andrew’s schedule, on the way up the Limehouse Cut. It appeared to work out OK, with some boats overtaking and others hanging back. After that it was just a case of follow my leader, except that I mistakenly went into Old Ford Lock, instead of turning right after losing sight of the boat in front of me, who had already turned the corner before I got there. There were CRT guys in a dinghy there, supposedly to direct us, but they seemed happy enough to just watch our antics. Eventually, we set off in the right direction, with the giant stadium to the right and with views of the ArcelorMittal Orbit with its viewing tower. The water was exceptionally clean and the banks were pristine concrete, but as Barry remarked, “It’s very sterile.” 
Chaos at the start!

 
What is this, I wonder?
 
 
Mirror Bridge.
 
 ArcelorMittal Orbit. The tallest sculpture in the UK.
 
The Aquatics Centre.
The best saved till last! (photo by Roger Squires)
 


We continued past Carpenters Road Lock and turned south until we came to the Crossrail temporary blockage to navigation, were all the boats winded and returned to the boom across Bow Back River. It was here that we turned north again, but now on the Bow Back River and then on Waterworks River  until we winded at the end and returned to the moorings above Bow Locks, where we all stayed for the night. Although there were BBQ facilities laid on by SPCC, which we visited briefly, it was too far away to carry all the food etc., so we barbequed on my Cobb BBQ, which was safely located on the aft deck.

Barry then suggested that we paid a visit to The Widow’s Son, aka The Bun House in Bow http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=793

Barry used to enjoy this pub when he was working in the area, some years ago and knew the landlord, as they used to work together, so he was rather hoping to meet up again after all the years apart. When we walked in, all our faces dropped a mile. It was one of the worst pubs any of us had ever been in and Barry was obviously very disappointed. There was no real ale on tap, so we had Euro-fizz and Barry drank bottled cider. The din from the so called music was dreadful and the place was filled with yobbos and tarts, mostly on drugs, by the way they behaved. Barry lapsed into a state of extreme despondency and was speechless for at least half an hour - most unusual! In that time, Terry and I voiced our opinions of the place. Barry will never be allowed to forget this! Unfortunately, there was nowhere else to go in Bow, so after one drink we all left. I recently read a review of the pub, which said, “I will never set foot in this place again!” I think we all said hallelujah to that!

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. To Limehouse.


I set off on my own through the pool and though the tunnels in much better weather, though very windy. If it carries on like this, I can’t see us doing the Thames cruise on Sunday. I met up with Helen and Gerry on nb Josephine and we did several locks together. She rather disapproved of me leaving my boat in gear at the lock lay-by, with only the centre line tied to the bollard, saying that it was dangerous if anyone fell in and that the old boaters never did that, because they had no centre line. To which I replied that it was often done by the old guys using the back end beam line and that I had been taught how to do it when on my RYA Helmsman’s Course. She did not make any further comments after that!

I due to meet up with Terry Woodley in Limehouse about midday, but it took longer than I expected, so he had already been waiting about two hours, when I arrived. We were rafted eight deep out from the wall, with forty boats ready to go in the morning on the Olympic Park Cruise. Barry arrived on a boat, which rather surprised me, as he came by train and only met up with this boater after walking down to the cut from the DLR. Sleeping arrangements were organised before we all went off to the Cruising Association building for a safety and itinerary briefing from Andrew Phasey on the two cruises. We were amply supplied with maps and lists of boats, complete with mobile phone numbers and e-mail addresses along with the order of boats on the route. After that, we had the meal, which had already been ordered. A visit to Limehouse is never complete without a visit to The Grapes, http://www.thegrapes.co.uk/ which backs on to the Thames. Being Friday, the place was rammed, though we did find a space on the minute balcony overlooking the river.
 
 
 
The following day, we were walking past The Grapes and Terry said,
 ” I wonder how old that place is?”
 “About 1583.” I replied.
 “How do you know that?” he said.
 “It’s written on that blue plaque on the wall, Terryl!”
 
"Doh!"
 
 

Friday, 9 May 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Wet and Chilly.


Wet and Chilly.
 
Just for a change, I thought I would try The Prince Alfred http://www.theprincealfred.com/  last night.  This late Victorian pub (1863) is a temple of adulation to the demon drink and is well worth a visit, but could hardly be treated as a local by us mortals, but then we don’t own the huge mansions and Bentleys that surround it. As Time Out described it,”............. the wow factor for first-time visitors is pretty much guaranteed, and there’ll be more exclamation when the price of a pint becomes apparent: your Peroni will cost upwards of four quid.”.
Too right! My pint of Youngs Bombardier was £4.09! So in for a penny......the second pint was Youngs Double Chocolate Stout at £4.74!!! Ouch. I even had a meal there, which was good, but not exceptional. Probably, two pints of Chocolate Stout would have constituted a meal in itself!
The main bar of this place is big, with a high stucco ceiling and amazing tall etched windows. Although the bar is big, it is divided into about four snugs, each separated by a wooden screen with frosted glass at the top and a very low door to get from one area to the next, so you have to duck down to get through. The top of each screen is decorated with a spindle turned frieze and a heavy broken pediment in the centre, all carved in mahogany. All these snugs surround an island bar, so there is service at each of them. The restaurant reminded me of a tram shed, with steel trusses across the ceiling and an enormous ‘dog box’ big, with high decorative plaster seiling...the second pint of Youngs Double Chocolate Stout was £ of a skylight above. The walls are decorated with enormous black and white photographs of the boats on the canal and appear to have been taken in the 70’s as they are all cabin cruiser narrow boats. How much better it would have been to show historic working boats instead.
 
It was an interesting and enjoyable experience, even though my wallet complained, but I will not return. A final nightcap of Doombar was had at The Warwick Castle on the way back.
 It has been raining on and off since this morning and I was hoping to complete the side doors. It may improve later, but in the meantime there is plenty to read about on the web about the forthcoming BCN Challenge and to continue with this blog.
 The Huawei Mobile WiFi E5332 is working really well and I don’t know why I didn’t get one sooner. The one problem is that the TS-9 aerial plug does not hold in place, like it did on the Huawei E 160 HSPDA USB Stick, which has a round hole to support the aerial plug on the outside. A retrograde step in design, I think.

Eventually, the rain did stop and I had a walk back to The Prince Alfred to take some pics of the outside, but I was tempted inside to take some more, so I just had to buy another pint of Double Chocolate Stout. I think that was worth it, as the interior is so impressive. A stroll back to The Warwick Castle for a last pint of Doombar was in order, before heading back to Stronghold and a meal. I am looking forward to tomorrow and the trip down the locks to Limehouse to meet up with Barry and Terry, my crew for the weekend.
The Warwick Castle.

 
The Prince Alfred

 

One of the smaller snugs.
 
Restaurant.
 
The island bar.
 
 

 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Time To Relax and the Most Amazing Coincidence.


All the boats had moved out of the pool by the time I walked up about 10am. I said my goodbyes to Fabian and John before returning to catch up on this blog. I also had to try and get still pics off the video that someone else had taken on my camera of the prizegiving, instead of still pics that I asked for. He had obviously pressed the wrong button at the time. I got there in the end and managed to get the blog up to date some hours later. Perseverance pays off in the end!

 I took the side doors off to put another coat of paint over the cured rust and was making a new handle for the kettle; the previous one being thermo-plastic that  had melted after leaving the kettle on the stove until it boiled dry. I found an old broom handle in the rubbish tip and already had some stainless steel strips in my ditty box – knowing that they would come in handy at some point. Thanks Jim!

 While I was working at the aft end, a couple passed by and we started talking about narrow boats, as they were going to hire a boat from Worcester for a week. They had arrived from Canada that morning and lived in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, where I had been many years ago, so we had a common connection.

I answered the usual questions like “Do you live on your boat?” and “Where is your mooring?” etc., until they then said,

 “We are going to Burgess Hill tomorrow.”

To which I replied “That’s funny, I used to live there and teach at the secondary school.”

The next question was “Do you know the Burtenshaws?”

“Yes.” I replied.

Then the bombshell – “Well, Gordon Burtenshaw is my cousin!”

Now I taught Gordon and he also trained as a teacher, after which he took over my job, when I left that school.

Coincidences like that are so rare as to be almost unbelievable, and they very nearly walked past my boat and only turned back at the last minute. We exchanged e-mail addresses, so I hope to catch up on their boating holiday soon. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Prize Giving.


I was watching BBC news in the morning and there was Carol Kirkwood presenting the weather forecast from Canalway Cavalcade, so I had to take a look. I took some pics from the road above and when she had finished filming, I walked along the quayside to take some more pictures. She was chatting to Mark Saxon, the water space manager and then there were a few photo opportunities for onlookers. When she had two CRT guys standing either side, I said, “I know these two guys, but who are you?” Which raised a laugh from Carol, even though I still had my trousers on!
"I know those guys, but who are you  the middle?"
The boat handling competition was still in progress and I watched their performances. Fulbourne being 72ft long had great difficulty turning 360 deg in the pool and so did the other boats; one even turning the wrong way round. They also had problems reversing to the judge at Warwick Avenue, so I knew by that time that I had done better. I was standing close to the judge by the bridge and when he opened his pad to score the last boat, I managed to look over his shoulder and see that I had scored 8/10 for his section, whereas the others had scored only scored 6’s and 7’s.


More chats with boaters and getting some advice from Paul Garner about protecting boat paintwork from the constant ravages of mooring lines. Then it was back to Stronghold for some lunch, before the prize giving at 1pm. I was right in the middle of cooking an omelette, when I had a phone call from Mark Saxon, asking me to be on the Horse Bridge in 20mins, saying that it would be well worth going, so I knew then that I was up for a prize of some sort. In fact it was the Westminster Trophy for The Best Handled Boat at Canalway Cavalcade, along with a bottle of Prosecco and a shield to keep. My dream had been realised at the second attempt and I was chuffed to bits.
 

The evening was spent celebrating my win in the Warwick Castle in the company of Mike and Jenny Moorse, who were also NBT members and whom I met two years ago on the Oxford. Their boat is Guelrose, which I took note of previously, but there never seemed to be anyone on board at the time. Another perfect ending to a perfect day for me.

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Day of the Boat Handling.


After a late start for a change. Dave and Kay Murray (they have the boat next to me on my home mooring) turned up for coffee and a chat about boating (what else do boaters talk about), before leaving for a look around the stalls.

I had a stroll around the stalls as well later and eventually got to nb Roger http://www.rwt.org.uk/historic-working-boat/the-roger/      where I met up with Fabian Hiscock, who is very much involved with the boat, as well as being a fellow member of the Narrow Boat Trust http://www.narrowboattrust.org.uk/  There is a very interesting video on the RWT page of the restoration of the Roger, which I found a little difficult to locate. It is on the RWT home page where the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust logo is, fairly well down the page, rather than an underlined link. Fabian gave me a tour through the hold to view the formidable task of replacing rotten timbers. I was also impressed with the portable dual burner diesel hob on the boat, which was designed for them by Kabola, I believe.

Brian and Margaret turned up for a chat in their boaters Sunday best – traditional boaters costume for high days and important events. Margaret looked particularly splendid in her new outfit made by Suzanne Wilson of the Byfleet Boat Club. I had forgotten about Sunday best, so I quickly changed before leaving the mooring to join the start of the Boat Handling Competition.
Margaret and Brian in their Sunday Best.
 
Progress was slow through the pool, as the London Waterbus Co. boats where very busy winding and coming and going. I got off to a poor start by shunting into the stern of a tug that I was following. I had not realised that it had stopped and the wheelhouse was well ahead of the stern, which protruded some way behind. The hull was so low that it was out of my view – well, that’s my excuse! Good job I was not yet in the competition.
Under starter's orders behind Fulbourne.

It was a different route to last year, when I also took part. This time, boats came out of the Paddington Basin and moved alongside Rembrandt Gardens, before reversing onto the Browning’s Island pontoon and shaking hands with the judge; not forgetting to take a line off the boat at the same time. Then we had to reverse around the island and up to Warwick Avenue Bridge and shake hands with the next judge, before moving forward and rotating through 360 deg in the pool and head out under the Horse Bridge. Reversing Stronghold, or any other boat, is not an easy manoeuvre, though better in deep water as it was here. I was reasonably pleased with my performance overall; the best part being the 360 deg rotation in the pool. Stronghold turns on a sixpence in deep water, aided I think, by the Axiom propeller. http://www.axiompropellers.com/

It was time for a well earned beer, so off I went with own mug in hand to the beer tent, which was CLOSED at 5pm, even to me with my wrist band on view. So that is that!!! I will never patronise them again this weekend. My next port of call was The Bridge House, where I had never been before and will never go again! The place was not only short staffed and obviously could not cope, but all the tables in the bar were covered in empty glasses and plates. I waited 10mins to be served, which I wasn’t, so decided to call it a day there and went to The Warwick Castle instead, which was also straining at the seams, but well staffed, so I was served within a minute or two.

At last, a good ending to the day.  

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. An Early Start.

It is very rare for me to be awake at 04.30 and even to get out of bed, but the sun was shining and I wanted to take some early morning photos with no one about. So I walked down Paddington Basin and met a security guard doing his rounds there, plus a few early morning travellers going into the station.
An 05.30 view from the Horse Bridge.
 
All ready for the fray.
 
I wonder if all those air bubbles are there to keep the flotsam back? Hope that is cleared up later!

I hope they get this fixed shortly too!
 
 
After a late breakfast, Jo and Phil arrived just in time for the decorated boaters’ pageant, one of two competitions that I had entered in the Cavalcade; the other being the boat handling competition. Stronghold was only decorated with bunting, as I am not interested in winning this one, but it was a chance to charge the batteries and heat up the hot water. Some of the boats go for this event in a big way and are very successful. One boat even had a Nelsons Column erected, with a figure of Nelson on top and another had the Queen on the bow; then there was Boris on a bike on a third boat. We cruised through the Maida Hill Tunnel with no problem and then through the London Zoo and under ‘Blow Up Bridge’, where a gunpowder barge exploded some years ago and finally winded in Cumberland Basin. The return through the tunnel was not without incident, as I still had the bunting up. The sun was in my eyes as I entered the tunnel and it takes some time to get used to the darkness, consequently I got too close to the wall twice and had to stop and fend off to get back in the channel. I dropped my visitors off at the Horse Bridge, as I had to travel quite a distance to wind the boat and get back on the mooring. That was confusing, as I failed to recognise my mooring, because another passing boat had stolen my place. I contacted the Water Space manager, who arrived almost immediately and we moved the offending boat further down the line and affixed a ticket asking them to move, which they did later.

I had a walk up to the boaters' bar for a pint and met John Fevyer there briefly and offered to buy him a pint, but he was busy being in charge of Area 1 and actually refused a beer. It was not long before Adrian and Hillary turned up after their trip to Twickenham to meet up with some old friends and watch the Army v Navy rugby match. We had a few laughs and that was about the end of the day for me, having been up so early.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. A Day With No Locks


A Day With No Locks

An leisurely start to the day, as we were in no hurry to get to Little Venice. If you arrive early, it appears that boats spend most of the day being shunted around and just hanging about. All the moorings were allocated this year, which is a great improvement on last years fiasco, when boats of differing lengths were moored next to each other in the order of arrival, which is quite a waste of mooring space.

It is just over 13 miles from Bull’s Bridge to Little Venice and there are no locks to break up the day, so although the going is easy, I tend to find it boring. Zavala set off about 11am and I followed about 15mins later, so they were out of my site on the trip, but in radio contact. I made a couple of stops on the journey to collect some kindling and then to chain saw up logs that I had collected previously and were cluttering up the cabin top. I don’t think they would have enhanced the appearance of Stronghold in the decorated boat parade! I had met Paul Garner on Destiny2 briefly, who Brian already knew and Paul invited me to a dim sum lunch at his favourite Chinese restaurant, called East Pan Asian, in Alperton. It was an excellent meal and wiled away a very pleasant couple of hours. The restaurant is above Loon Fung Chinese supermarket (a worthy rival to Wing Yip at Croydon) at the rear of Sainsburys.
Following Tarn to the mooring...............
 
..............................closely followed by Zavala and Destiny .


 
I arrived at the Delamere Terrace mooring about 6pm and found that I was to be moored next to  the tug Tarn, instead of Muttley. It seems that they changed places so that Dorothy and her sister on Tarn, could walk their three dogs more easily than being stern first in the pool, accompanied by the milling crowds that would be on the towpath over the weekend.

 
I was busy clearing the plastic bags off the propeller later, when Adrian on Serendipity introduced himself and said he was off for a pint at the WarwickCastle. I said I would see him there shortly, as it is the Victorian pub that I frequented when I was here last year and serves Doombar, one of my favourite beers. Adrian was with a crowd of boaters that had moorings on the Slough Arm and had wanted to get to Cavalcade last year, but were thwarted by a collapsed bridge on the arm. As he commented “It has taken us a whole year to get here!”

I believe they were going on somewhere else after the pub, so I said my goodbyes and turned in without having anything to eat, having had enough food at lunchtime to last the rest of the day.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. A Few False Starts.

 

I have been planning an extended cruise since last year, which included Canalway Cavalcade at Little Venice to start with at the beginning of May and then the BCN Challenge at the end of May.
All the entrants for the Cavalcade were invited by Andrew Phasey of St. Pancras Cruising Club to take part in two cruises the following weekend through the Olympic Park and then Bow Locks to Bow Creek, around the Isle of Dogs, Deptford Creek and back into Limehouse the following day.
This was a chance not to be missed and my application form went off first class the next day.

After the BCN Challenge, I had yet not decided where I was going, except in a northerly direction. However, I had a good two weeks to get to Windmill End on the BCN for the start of the challenge and am hoping to get down the Aylesbury Arm and maybe the Wendover Arm as well, on the way to Brum. The Ashby Canal is also on the agenda, but probably after Birmingham. I have passed by all these minor waterways in previous years, when time has been of the essence, so now is the time to give them some attention.

 The Grand Tour began on Wednesday 30th April with a false start immediately. The favourite place to wind the boat after leaving the mooring is outside The Pelican pub, where it is wide and deep enough close to The Pelican piling, but at one end there is an unknown obstruction which stopped the engine dead. A weed hatch exploration was begun and whatever is was down there was not easily moved, so Dave Murray, my crew for the day, pulled the boat further down the mooring, which cleared space for the propeller to rotate. Now we were properly on our way, so we thought, but Zavala, who were our boating buddies for the trip, were waiting in Town lock with little sign of activity. There was a red board posted there and the top gate was chained up. The River Wey, below the lock seemed calm enough, so phone calls were made to the National Trust and Thames Lock and Tracy the lock keeper appeared shortly with the appropriate key to release us onto the river. On arrival at Thames Lock, the dreaded red board was again in evidence for the Thames between Shepperton Lock and Sunbury Lock, after which there were only yellow boards, “Stream Decreasing”. We decided to go, knowing that once beyond the Shepperton weir, the going would be much easier. Brian and Margaret on Zavala went first and I knew that if we lost radio contact, something had happened. All went well though, with full throttle applied through the weir stream and then more slowly into the Desborough Cut. Speed was fast in the current and through Walton and we were soon into Sunbury Lock and paying for the £10 transit licence to Teddington. It was then midday and we had until midday the following day to complete the trip, if we so wished.
Zavala at speed on the Thames.
 
Plenty of white water over the weirs!

 
The next incident occurred at Kingston, when I pushed the throttle control too hard and pulled the outer cable out of its fixing in the engine compartment. On investigation, I thought a tension spring had broken as well and some time was spent looking for this mythical object, but on reconnecting the cable in the appropriate position, all was well and we were soon on our way again to Teddington, where we locked through about an hour before high water on one of the highest tides of the year, 7.1 metres.
The crewman keeps a sharp lookout.
 
After an hour, we were at Thames Lock at the beginning of The Grand Union Canal, where the water was level on both sides of the lock, necessitating a short wait to be able to get under Brentford Bridge and then through the gauging locks to a mooring. My crew man Dave, insisted on buying me a beer, before he made his way home. Being an offer I could not refuse, we repaired to O’Brians, where a welcome pint or two were consumed with a meal before he departed on the bus for Kingston. I made my way to The Brewery Tap, where there is normally home grown music on offer, but it was a quiet night and I became absorbed with a Daily Mail article on the gaffes made by the Green Party’s farcical shenanigans trying to govern Brighton and Hove, which is very close to where I live.

 The following day, we planned to leave Brentford about 10am to tackle the Hanwell flight of locks to Bull’s Bridge. It had rained hard in the night, which might well have affected a later trip on the Thames, so we had made it in good time. There were two Black Prince hire boats moored there and as there was some movement on board at 9.30, we decided to move earlier and make the most of our advantage, otherwise all the locks would be set against us and would make for slow going. Progress was good in the intermittent rain, with Margaret valiantly preparing the lock ahead and Brian or myself closing the top gates of the lock below. We made it to Bull’s Bridge in 3 1/2 hours and had plenty of time to dry out and take it easy.