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.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Stronghold on Tour 39.

Wednesday 28th September contd.

Only one hand pump on at The Wharf; rather disappointing as there is usually a wide choice here.
Sitting in the back bar, I was nearly at the end of my pint and about to go, when a voice said, “What are you drinking then Ray?” I looked up to see Vic Wadley (Lord Victor John Wadley) standing there with a big smile on his face. I think we were both as surprised as each other. Vic used to have his boat on the same mooring as me, on The Wey Navigation and fitted out his boat from a sailaway about four years ago. We often used to drink in The Pelican at that time and got to know each other pretty well. We chatted about boating in general and where he had been in past four years.

Whilst the chat was going on, I was looking over his shoulder at a man sitting on the sofa with his wife – he looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him, until I walked over on the way to the bar and said, ”I know your face, but can’t think where from.” His wife then piped up with, “Most people know him as ‘Snowy.’” At that point I realised that he worked for Malcolm Burge at Alvecote marina and boatyard. He also lifted the engine into Nuneaton with the digger bucket, which was impossible to do without it.

Thursday 29th September.

Now travelling south in the direction of Oxford, I came to the five Claydon Locks and pulled into the layby as there were two other boats also waiting to go through the lock. After a few minutes Vic appeared with a windlass in his hand to assist me through; how thoughtful and really appreciated. He warned me of the shallows near Slat Mill Lock and pointed out several boats that had stemmed up there.

After the bottom lock, Vic left in his car, which was parked nearby. Only three locks left to do before Cropredy, where I decided to stay the night, as I was well ahead of my schedule. A continuous cruiser was behind me and helped by drawing the paddles and opening the bottom gates of each lock. At Elkington’s Lock however, he moored on a slack centre line and as he drew the top paddles the stem of his boat got far too close to my stern for comfort. At the next lock, he threw the gear into reverse and hit the bank, bounced off and ploughed into the bushes on the off side. He explained that sometimes that was the only way of stopping. I was now on the alert for him mooring astern of me, so raced ahead and got into Broadmoor Lock before he got to the layby. He complained about the propeller not having the power to stop easily, but I think he was also inexperienced.

This mooring was once connected to the cut, but maybe CRT objected,
 so the guy closed the entrance.

I pulled into a mooring at Cropedy and had a pint at The Red Lion, as I always do there, before returning for a meal and bed.

Friday 30th October.

No sign of my help today, so I had to cope solo with the four locks into Banbury. All went well, with me bow hauling the boat out each time, closing the gates before getting back on board.

Passing slowly through the outskirts of the town, I passed nb Herbie and gave them a toot on the horn; sure enough Neil poked his head out of the hatch and we made instant arrangements to pay The Olde Rein Deer and visit in Parson’s St. later that evening. I also passed Molly M, Maffi’s boat, but he was not on board, so I texted him about the pub arrangements that evening.

As usual, the mooring for the lift bridge was on the towpath side, but there was a bollard on the off side close to the bridge. I headed for that and slowed to a stop, so as to be able to throw a line over the bollard and get off. Just as I reached for the line, someone opened the top paddles of the lock below, causing a flow towards the lock and the bridge. I managed to keep the bow away from the bridge, but was now too far from the bollard. Seeing my difficulty, a young passer bye offered his help, so passing the windlass across, he was then able to open the lift bridge and I was safely through.

Mooring close to the Tramway Moorings, I did a heavy shop at Morrison’s, resulting in two separate visits to get all I needed, before moving closer to the town below the lock.

A very entertaining evening at the pub with Neil and Cath, but Maffi did not turn up until I was on the point of leaving, as he had been to a Kate Saffin show in Tooleys Dry Dock and got rather side tracked.

Saturday 1st October.

I had a walk to the town market in the rain, but there was little activity and few stalls. I bought a new switch for the shower pump, which had been faulty for a while and would switch off the main pump without warning.

The afternoon was devoted to training for all the volunteers. The bank crew were all in one boat and the steerers in the other, so we all took turns of steering the “sack of potatoes”, as I call them. They just do not handle like a longer boat and the reverse gear is abysmal, with no power to stop unless the engine is at full revs. I don’t know who made the rules, but the stern line has to be looped over the tiller pin, which is not only dangerous in the event of it dropping in the water and getting wrapped around the blades, but a cardinal sin according to all the old boaters, the IWA, CRT and the Marine Federation, according to Maffi.
Emergency evacuation in case of a fire was put into effect, but no man over board this year, as I understood happened last year. Shortly after winding the boat, Nutfield and Raymond appeared around the corner at speed, but slowed down on approaching the moored boats. Alice Lapworth was steering the butty Raymond and we had brief chat as she passed, telling me that had remembered the David Blagrove books that she previously promised me.

After a couple of beers with Maffi in The Mill, I retired for a nap, before making my way to Tooleys Dry Dock for fish and chips and entertainment at “The Boaters Bash”. I managed until 20.30, before heading back to the boat after quite a tiring day.

Sunday 2nd October.

Banbury Canal Day.

Another bright day, just like all the preceding Canal Days that I have been to in the past five years. There was no rush for me, as I was not on steering duty until 12.30. Dressed in boaters’ Sunday Best as always, I presented myself a little early and Boat No.3 was at the turn round point in the basin, with Mark Parris on board. We agreed that he should do another trip, which would take 50 mins in total, so in the meantime I went to the lift bridge and had a chat with Graham Scothern and John Boswell, who were in charge of bridge operation.

A tight squeeze with the trip boat.

Packed as always.

Return trip to the basin.

John Boswell operated the lift bridge.

Boat No.3 reappeared at 13.10 and I stepped on board to take my first customers to Sovereign Wharf, where they disembarked for another ten people for the trip to the winding point and back to Sovereign. Another exchange of passengers for the return to the start point, where I made a hash of winding too late and almost wedged the boat across the cut, but that was the first and only time. It was a long afternoon and I did four complete trips, carrying thirty passengers on each, so a count of 120. With four boats operating, that was 480 free trips in the day.

As on previous occasions, the good weather brought the crowds in their thousands, often making it difficult to walk along the wide towpath. The theme of the day was ‘Bubbles’ and a lot of boats were decorated with white balloons. Quite a few children had bubble machines of various types as well, but it was quite a difficult theme to interpret easily.

I retired to the General Foods Social Club with John Boswell and a guy called Andy, who was also helping at the bridge, after leaving the boat in good hands to be moored and closed up after a very successful, but tiring day. A double shift is too long really and in future, I will aim for a split shift of two and a half hours, giving me a break in between.

Monday 3rd October.

I decided to move up to the town mooring mid-morning, once the majority of boats had moved on. Mooring just ahead of nb Herbie, Neil and Cath came out to help me tie up.

I found the disability shop by the car park and asked for an elbow crutch to assist my walking, but not only did they not have any, they were only sold in pairs so, I bought a walking stick instead. In the shopping mall later, I bumped into Maffi, who said that he had three elbow crutches on board and I was welcome to one or two. I accepted his offer of one and it made things even easier than the stick. Pity I had not asked before, but who is to even think that a friend might have these things?

I had arranged with Neil and Cath to pay a another visit to The Olde Rein Deer after a meal in the evening. Maffi was invited of course, but after a pint and a glass of red wine, I was feeling very uncomfortable with the aching hip and made my excuses to depart. I heard later that they had a very enjoyable time and too much to drink. Perhaps leaving early was appropriate!

Tuesday 4th October.

Fitting the new inverter now demanded some attention, so the old one was removed and some thought had to be given to how to fit the new one, because these things are never straight forward. Not starting the job until late afternoon, I was considering several ways of fitting the heavy duty battery leads, because the ones already connected were too short to reach the battery. If I could undo the cable clamps, I could then use the existing cables, but undoing the clamps was the problem without the right sized large spanner.

At six pm, I had had enough, so walked up to the social Club for a pint, but it did not open until 7pm, so that was that. I made up a Thai chicken curry, which would probably do five meals in total – far too much; however, if I froze some, I could eke it out over the week, rather than eat it every evening.

Wednesday 5th October.

Having slept on the problem, I now came up with two solutions. The first was to join the two cables together, with the joint encased in heat shrink sleeving, but that might involve some voltage drop. The second was to beg or borrow a suitable spanner. Maffi was the first port of call and he had an adjustable that I could use.

Knocking on the boat later, he said he couldn’t find it, but the basin wrench in his hand was the correct size and sure enough it pitted perfectly, so now I could connect the original cables and keep the length shorter.

Working in the confined space beneath the back steps was almost a Houdini affair, trying to avoid standing on the plastic water pipes as well as reaching all necessary parts. Eventually it was in place, with just the mains lead to connect to the special plug. However, when the time came to plug into the fixed socket on the bulkhead, the mains lead was too short. Not to be denied this final moment of success, I unscrewed the socket from the bulkhead and could now fit the plug into it – bingo! It worked fine, although there was a last minute panic when all the LEDs came on together. I think that this is an indicator, similar to a car dashboard, where everything illuminates to indicate that all is working. Just need to fit a longer lead now and all will be completed – well almost. The remote switch needs fitting below the instrument panel, which will mean cutting a larger hole in the bulkhead and without a jig saw, it could be time consuming and end up with a ragged hole.

Thursday 6th October.

Another chilly start to the day, but after a while the sun appeared and cheered things up considerably. I walked into the shopping area and patronised Poundland, which is unusual for me. Then it was off to Robert Dyas for a longer mains lead – 3m this time. The guy who served me said that he had turned off the anti-theft device at the entrance, because the coil of wire would set it off, as well as in other shops – now that was news to me.

On the way back to the mooring, I bumped into Vic again in the market place. He had come by car of course and Lindy Lou was still at Fenny, where we met in the pub.

A boater appeared on the scene the day before, asking if I was leaving tomorrow and if so, would I wait until he brought his boat up from below the lock. The reason being that his engineer would be arriving the next day and need to park his van on that side. We agreed to the arrangement and I moved up to the winding point to turn the boat and then moor up on the other side of the cut, which saved me the walk across the bridge to the shopping centre.

Later in the day, I asked Maffi if he would see me through the lift bridge and then the lock, which he was happy to do. Molly, his dog, came to of course.  

Strange tender to this boat.

I completed wiring the mains lead and fitted it and the plug to the bulkhead, so just the remote to do at a later stage.

This boat owned by an ex teacher and ex civil servant. Last seen two years ago at Rugeley.
Do you know what the initials stand for?

Friday 7th October.

It was a rude awakening this morning at 05.00, when the local Swan Foundry started up the furnace and associated fans, before continuous hammering of moulding flasks to extract the previous day’s castings. It would seem from their web site, http://www.swangroup.co.uk/news.php?s=british-airways-i360  that Swan have associations with the British Airways i360, that has just been completed in Brighton. Having moored opposite the foundry on previous occasions, the early start was as expected.

A lazy morning doing very little, watching most boats pass me at speed, rattling the boat against the bank, despite yacht fenders and tight lines. About one in ten took it gently, as it should be done. Why are people so bloody inconsiderate?

Time for another food shop at Morrison’s, just to vary my diet of Thai chicken curry over the next few days.

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