Wednesday 27 April.
After such a long absence it is time to continue blogging again with something to tell. For some time I had hoped to do another long summer season on the waterways, going to places not visited before and hopefully meeting old friends and new on my trip.
I had booked to go to Canalway Cavalcade once again, this being my third visit by boat (last year it was by train). I had reserved places on the parades and boat handling competition once again, having won the boat handling competition in 2014. I also had Christmas lights this year, so the Illuminated boat procession was on the cards.
Stronghold and Zavala left Pelican Wharf accompanied by Mark Wilson on Bernadine – a Shetland fibreglass cruiser, at 0930 on Wednesday, with the intention of spending the night at Kingston. Fortunately, Bernadine was 18ft long and could fit into a double lock behind Stronghold at 50ft. There was a disadvantage though, in that I was unable to get up and help Margaret with operating the lock in case Stronghold moved back thus damaging Bernadine. We had a very pleasant cruise in the sunshine, with a brief stop at Molesey lock for a Stronghold pump out. For future reference, it is just possible to wind (turn the boat around) in the top lock cut with the stern fender raised. We arrived at Kingston about 13.00 and I went off for lunch at the Cote Brasserie – my favourite place to eat in the town.
Thursday 28th April
We let go at 06.30 the following morning to catch the 07.00 tide at Teddington for Brentford, arriving at Thames lock Brentford just before 08.00 and had to wait ten minutes for the lock keeper to appear to let us through. On through the gauging locks and into Clitheroes lock, where I decided that I could help Margaret with the gates and paddles. With my Dunton windlass in my belt, I got up on the cabin top of my boat and promptly dropped the windlass into the water between the pair of boats. I have done this so many times before, you would have thought I might have learned from it. Anyway, when the lock was full, out came the Sea Searcher magnets and we all went fishing. Fortunately for me, Margaret struck gold soon after and it does illustrate how the steel bolt in the windlass handle served its purpose.
The Hanwell flight of locks were climbed in pleasant sunshine and after Norwood Top lock it was plain sailing to Bull’s Bridge, arriving early afternoon and joining Dave and Kay on Sail o’Wey. It was my turn for the evening soiree, so I had to make some space in the saloon for five people and do some tidying up. Although it now looks a great deal better, I can’t find a damned thing! Anyhow, there was interesting boating conversation and I don’t think boat toilets were mentioned during the whole evening.
Friday 29 April
We pulled the pins at 14.00 so as not to arrive too early amongst the usual melee waiting for their moorings. The trip along the Paddington Arm was uneventful enough until I came across a boat with his bow on the offside bank, blocking the way. On enquiry, it appeared that the skipper was trying to erect his canopy before the hailstorm and in doing so managed to drop the centre line in the water, which then wrapped itself around the blades, thus being without any power to move. Once again, Ray the Tug offered to snatch his boat off the bank and pull is to the towpath side, which I did. On talking to Brian on Zavala later, the boat was again across the cut when he passed, but with the bow out this time and no one to be seen. We suffered hail storms amongst the sunny spells throughout the afternoon, arriving at Little Venice to a scene of confusion despite our late start. Eventually moorings were located and we had arrived, but too late to book in and collect the boating pack. I met up with Dave and Kay in the boaters bar for a quick drink. They were staying for the quiz after a fish and chip supper, but I forgot to book that and returned to Stronghold for a meal. Later Dave phoned me to return for the canal part of the quiz, but by that time I just had to turn in for the night.
Saturday 30 April
Sunday 1 May
All the bunting was removed early on, which I did not want obscuring my vision in the next competition.
I collected the boat handling route shortly before setting off in the competition, so only had a very short time to take it in. Firstly, I had to wind the boat in the pool and set off from the Horse Bridge in reverse to pass the bandstand, before winding the boat in the middle of the pool to go forward to Warwick Avenue Bridge to stop and greet the judge. The next step was to reverse alongside Rembrant Gardens, before proceeding forward alongside the south towpath and then winding again to exit towards Paddington Basin. This was where I made the fatal mistake of taking the exit towards the Paddington Arm and Bull’s Bridge – my goose was cooked, despite all the other manoeuvres going well. Hey-ho, I live to fight another day! My sorrows were drowned in The Warwick Castle later with Dave. Mel and Pete Cambridge eventually caught up with me on board later to listen sympathetically to my tale of woe. They are hoping to come next year, possibly with the Byfleet Boat Club.
Monday 2 May
Another day of good weather for the prize giving, where Dave and Kay won the Boaters’ Sunday Best Competition. This was the first time they had been to Cannie Cavalcade in their boat and a first time for dressing up, so congratulations to them.My daughter Sally and grandaughter Hannah appeared for lunch at Pearl Liang, one of the best Chinese restaurants in London, according to Giles Coren. My afternoon was spent relaxing on board after all the exertions, even though I still had the illuminations to take down – one thing that could wait until tomorrow.