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.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Stronghold on Tour 14.



Saturday 28th May

The meal at the Indian restaurant was so good, I wrote up a review on Trip Advisor.

Saturday is one of those gongoozler days in Stoke, so I spent quite a lot of time just talking to passers by and other boaters.

One interesting event happened first thing in the morning, when an ABC hire boat came past with plenty of young women on board and an older guy steering. I thought he was one of the boatyard staff instructing them, but it was a long way from Gayton Junction where the hire base is and at the other end of the Blisworth tunnel. I walked down to the top lock to see what was going on. Sure enough he was telling them what to do, but he steered the boat into and out of the lock and was not doing things very well, as Mike Partridge remarked at the time. Mike runs the trip boat and is a very experienced full length boater in other ways too. Later the ‘instructor’ walked past two of us having a chat and could not resist telling us that the girls had asked him if he would take the boat down to Wolverton for them and that they would pay him for the job. He refused to go that far, but offered to show them the ropes, for which they insisted on paying him £50, which he accepted after refusing to take £100. Mike Partridge was open mouthed when I told him.

I decided that I had been in Stoke for my allotted time, so moved through the tunnel as far as Gayton Junction for one night, which turned into two. The usual little jobs to be done here plus some hand washing and rinsing out at the water point.

I paid a visit to The Walnut Tree for research purposes of course. This is a hotel with bar and restaurant, where a wedding had taken place earlier. A couple of girls in wedding dresses walked through the bar, so I asked the barman which one was the bride. “They both are.” he said. It took me a moment or two to realise that they had married each other – I do find that strange.

On the way back to the boat I had a phone call from Dave and Kay on Snail o’Wey, which was moored temporarily in Blisworth Marina, while they went back to work for a while. Dave wanted to make arrangements to pick me up for the lift to Crick Boat Show on Sunday, which I was looking forward to, having last been there ten years ago.

Sunday 29th May.

Crick Boat Show.

I walked to the marina, Stronghold being moored just around the corner. We joined the long queue of cars waitng to get in to the show at 10.00. Being contributors to Waterways World magazine, we could use the VIP tent so had coffee there and planned the day.

The first person I met on the IWA stand was John Fevyer, so we chewed over common ground for a while before I moved on to other areas. Whilst in the Midland Chandlers tent, I thought I recognised Andrew Denny. Although we had never met personally, we had communicated in years past when he wrote a blog called Granny Buttons. Sure enough it was him, so more conversation endued about the blog, his boat and his job as assistant editor of Waterways World. I stopped by the Axiom Propellers stand to ask some questions of Alan Watts, the designer and owner of the company, whom I had previously met when he had his workshop in the garage adjacent to his house. One thing that surprised me was that testing of any new design in the Emerson  Cavitation Tunnel at Newcastle University costs £11.000 a time – WOW! I queried why the blade design had changed since the propeller that I had fitted some years ago. The new tapered blade design was originally designed for yachts with a more efficient hull design than a narrow boat. More recently, Alan had tried this yacht propeller on a narrow boat and found that it was 3% more efficient than the original design. As a propeller is only about 50% efficient anyway, this is quite a significant improvement. He offered to upgrade my propeller free of charge the next time by boat was out of the water, if I removed it and took it to his works. That is a generous offer indeed; whether I will accept it remains to be seen.

Whilst on the subject of Axiom, I communicated with several boaters before I purchased the Axiom, two of whom I had never met in person until I spotted them weaving through the crowd. It was Del and Al from nb Derwent 6, which I had passed many times in the intervening years and even left them messages on their boat. We had a brief chat before moving on.

There were only a few historic narrow boats to be seen on display, one of which attracted my interest. That was butty Angel, the history of which I am aware of in the past few years, but now she was up for sale, moored up next to Aldgate. I was aware that the owner of Aldgate did not own her, so who did? The paintwork was all new and she looked very good indeed, but with a wooden cabin to contend with, it is not a boat that would tempt me, for paint can cover a multitude of sins. Details can be found here:- http://narrowboats.apolloduck.co.uk/feature.phtml?id=474192

Almost at the end of the day, I spotted Alice Lapworth and we passed the time of day talking about which shows we would meet up next – Braunston Historic Rally being the next towards the end of June. Alice was born on a narrow boat, so what she doesn’t know about boats is not worth knowing and she has taught me a few tricks of the trade, just by watching her operate on the butty boat.

Did I buy anything at the show? Well, apart from some incense cones, I found an interesting book called ‘Historic Working Narrow Boats Today’, which has photographs of all the existing boats on the water. It is divided up into the various Operators and Canal Companies, as would be expected, with brief historical explanations of each boat. I look forward to having a good browse.

Overall, I am pleased I went, but nothing much is new to me now, as it was ten years ago when I was a wide eyed novice, so I don’t think I will be in a hurry to go again.

Monday 30th May.

I had been in touch with some other Byfleet  Boat Club members, who left the Wey on 25th May to cruise the Middle Levels, via Gayton Junction. If all went well, I would return to Stoke Bruerne on the Wednesday for a social evening with them at a restaurant or pub in the village. I had time to spare anyway, as I was not due in Braunston for the rally until 21st June, where I had offered to volunteer for stewarding duties. This was one reason for hanging about in the area so there was plenty of time for catching up on jobs, reading and relaxing, which is the opposite of my normal means of travel by boat, when I need to be somewhere yesterday.

The Walnut Tree did not call me back, so I decided to move back towards Blisworth and sample the delights or otherwise of The Royal Oak in the village. Reports on the internet beer site were not encouraging, but they were very out of date. Trip Advisor was more current and encouraging, so I gave it a try. Three beers were on tap; Timothy Taylors Landlord being my choice. The landlord I found to be rather patronising and there were few customers in the bar. Food menu was pretentious for a restaurant and no one was eating. Although the pub is of historical value, it is a managed house that needs that magic touch that free houses have to revive its fortunes.

Tuesday  31st May.

Rain was forecast  all day today, although it did not begin until midday. It had been windy all night and despite my secure mooring on springs with fenders out, the boat was rocked around most of the night. A passer by suggested that we were back to winter and eventually I lit up the gas boiler to get warm, despite wearing a fair amount of clothing.

I feel that the TV reception here needs some comment. I have only failed to get satisfactory reception in Rickmansworth so far. However, I cannot even get a news programme here and there are so few programmes available, that I feel a great many people paying for a TV licence are not getting value for money, whereas others in a different area are receiving all channels. It sounds like post code discrimination to my way of thinking.

If my Byfleet friends have Stoke Bruerne on the agenda tomorrow, then I will travel through the tunnel again to meet up with them. Not that I relish the very wet tunnel twice in one week, but it will be nice to meet up.


Friday, 27 May 2016

Stronghold on Tour 13.

Tuesday 24th May

I had an excellent crab salad in the Anglers, which in a way, I expected as their food has always been consistently good.
I let go at 10.00 to go down across “The Fields”, as it was know by the old boaters. Eleven locks to Leighton Buzzard and I had forgotten how tricky they can be at first.
Imagine the lock is set full and one gate open to go in.
Take the boat in and the water pressure opens the other gate.
Close the gate behind the boat and cross to close the offending gate.
Meanwhile the gate behind the boat has now opened?’#^&%%$@# etc.
The trick is to close one top gate, walk down to the bottom gate and draw half a paddle, which will cause hydraulic pressure to keep the top gates closed – quad erat demonstrandum!

I met a Wyvern Shipping hire boat on a bend and could see that he was going to keep left and did not know the rules of the road. I remonstrated by waving him across, but I still ended up too close to the hedge with the TV aerial in the water. Fortunately there was no scratched paintwork.

I was considering how to tackle the Pitstone Swing Bridge, although there was a bollard on the offside that I could use, when another boat appeared as if by magic. I spoke to the guy about doing it for me, but he said that his wife could not ‘drive’ the boat and neither of them had ever done a swing bridge before. However, she a came to work it with a little advice from me and so both boats got through one after the other.

Talking of hire boats, I passed by Slapton Wharf, where we hired our first ever wooden narrow boat, Silver Galleon,  in 1979 from a company called Autrant Waterway Services, who had their base entirely on the water at that point. The assembled hirers stood around on the lawn in front of the house to be addressed by a man in a navy cap about the technique of going through a lock which held 60,000 gallons of water. Each boat was accompanied by an expert as we all zig zagged down the cut to the next bridge, where the experts alighted and left us to it. Stoke Hammond Three
(Soulbury Three Locks) was to come and being a Bank Holiday Saturday, the lock beams were covered with adults and children. My wife was about to jump off with windlass in hand, saying “What do I do Ray?” when some guy grabs the windlass from her and says “I’ll do this missus.”
As far as I can remember, we didn’t have to do a thing in any of the locks, but it was a baptism of fire with all those gongoozlers watching. So that was when we got hooked on boating. The pub there was pretty dire in those days and for a few years afterwards, but it has been considerably improved and expanded since then.


Slapton Lock and Wharf.

 I rounded the bend for Church Lock and lo and behold both gates were open for me to sail in with two people on each side of the lock. They just happened to be walking past when another boat was going up and stayed on to help when I arrived – how convenient!

There were no available moorings above Grove Lock, so I went through and moored up for the night with space to spare. Six hours cruising - my longest day so far; I think I might be getting some stamina back at last.

My friends John and Hazel on North Star are still marooned below Buckby Locks, where the whole flight has been closed due to a damaged gate. They have been stuck there since Saturday and today is Tuesday. Work is to begin tomorrow and not expected to open until Thursday at the earliest. Reckon I might just catch them up, but I dread to think of the log jam that will be there to greet me.

I went for a pint in The Grove Lock and decided to have a meal there, which was a good choice. I ordered marinated lamb rump, with potatoes and honey glazed carrots. The meat was cooked pink and to perfection and I ate everything, which is unusual for me. I also succumbed to the sweet temptation and enjoyed Fuller’s ice cream and caramel cheesecake, which was presented with panache and was delicious.

Wednesday 25th May.

I cruised up to Leighton moorings and shopped at Tesco and Aldi, before finding the launderette, which was very well serviced by three ladies and very busy. Chris phoned before I had finished there and had parked at Three Locks to walk back to meet me. We met at Linslade Lock and cruised up through the Jackdaw Pound as far as the moorings at the top of the three locks. We were now in Noddy boat country and passed several on the way; they seemed to know the rules of the road at least; not like the last hire boater on the wrong side. Not much achieved today, except the laundry, but I was so tired that I went to bed at 9pm – how does that work?

Thursday 26th May.

I waited at the top of the locks for another boat, but then, just like buses, two came at once, so no use to me, but shortly after a hire boat appeared with a crew of three guys - just right, so we went through in short order. Well not quite, as they had to close the bottom gates of one lock before setting the next one, but who was I to complain, it was all being done for me! After Stoke Hammond Lock, I went out first, but let them pass so that I could make some coffee. I caught up at Fenny Stratford, with the swing bridge over the shallow lock. Again I went out first, hoping to make Cosgrove by the end of the day, which I did after seven hours. The working day is getting still longer. It was a beautiful sunny day with no wind and made cruising this lock free stretch a real pleasure. Normally, I find the long Milton Keynes pound to be boring, but not today. I moored up near the horse tunnel, which goes beneath the canal at this point. Strangely enough, I remembered this tunnel from many years ago, when on a hire boat and always thought it was on the Oxford Canal. This tunnel leads of course to The Barley Mow!

Ominous looking Horse Tunnel.

 Friday 27th May.

Not far to Stoke Bruerne, but seven locks to climb before I get there. Another gorgeous day in prospect with hazy sun and little wind.  I passed a few boats, but no one was going the same way as me, so the thought of the locks was rather daunting. Fortunately, I only did the first one and then two volunteers came down after having accompanied a pair of boats on their way to River Lee and then the  Woking Festival in August on the Basingstoke Canal. I felt really mollycoddled through these locks, but it makes a pleasant change after sweating up those sixteen from Aylesbury. I passed the revamped Navigation Inn at Thrupp Wharf and would have liked to sample it in its new guise, but time was pressing, so I passed by.


Navigation Inn with smart new verandah.

Kathryn Dodington spotted me on the water point outside The Boat Inn and came over for a chat. I also went into her house for a cup of tea and to catch up on old times. We are hoping to book a table at The Spice of Bruerne for a meal later, as all the boys go to the Mosque in Luton on Fridays until about then.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Stronghold on Tour 12.

Saturday 21st May.

Back to Marsworth Junction.

I suspected the alternator of playing up again and on inspection I was right. That same bolt had sheared off once again, so another one was put in and the belt tension adjusted. I think a visit to Calcutt Marine is on the agenda when I get closer. They specialise in BMC engines and must have a better solution to the miserable bodged up bracket that is on there now. What a laugh if they said it was their design in the first place.

Another observation on Aylesbury Basin that is rather peculiar; although I said these were secure moorings with a gate, the said gate has a lock which does not accept the usual CRT watermate key, so what use is that to boaters?

I left the basin mid-morning after using the water point to rinse out some washing and hang it on a pre-prepared rail in the engine ‘ole. This acts like a drying room, though limited for space.

I was anxious to try out my Birmingham single locking technique on the way back up from Aylesbury, which works as follows:-

1.   Moor up and prepare the lock.
2.   Steer the boat slowly into the lock.
3.   Take it out of gear and step off, with windlass, at the lock tail.
4.   As the boat approaches the top gate, open half a ground paddle to stop the boat.
5.   Close both bottom gates.
6.   Fill the lock as normal.

Well, steps 1 to 4 worked fine, but drawing the half paddle did not hold the boat up to the gate and it started to move back. Not what I had in mind as done so many times before.
At the next lock I left the boat on tick over and in gear. She stopped OK, but moved back, despite being in gear.
Next lock:- the same as before, but on stopping the boat at the top gate, I then dropped the paddle before closing the bottom gates and all was well. This continued successfully for the final ten locks, which goes to show that locks on different waterways are usually unique to that particular stretch.

I moored for the night at Wilstone again, but made the mistake of mooring beneath trees where the birds roost for the night. Guess what? The cabin top was covered in bird shit the following morning.

Sunday 22nd May

Now that my locking technique was perfected, I made good progress to the top at Marsworth, whereupon I arrived at the staircase pair of locks, where three CRT men were working on the single paddle gear, but as it was still in one piece I was allowed to take my boat through. Unfortunately for the following boat, they were told to wait twenty minutes, which turned into an hour and twenty, before it was fixed. The problem was with the new development of houses on site and two of them were getting their gardens flooded by an air vent in the sluice which ran through their back gardens. The problem had previously been tackled by bolting down the vent covers, but this still allowed water out. The latest solution was to limit the amount the paddle rack was allowed to travel with a bar screwed onto the rack. There is only one paddle for the lower lock anyway, which is slow enough, so how long it will take to fill the lock in future is anybody’s guess. It is still not a guaranteed method of solving the problem, which was caused originally by making the sluice between the two locks too small when the houses were built.


Men at Work.


Only one screw to hold the stop bar on the rack?


 I watered up at the junction and then moved across to a quiet mooring opposite the houses, but not under trees this time. After four hours on the move with incessant locks to deal with, I had had enough for the day and there was also The Anglers Retreat attraction. It was sunny and very warm for a change, so time to call a halt to boating for a while.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Stronghold on Tour 11.

Saturday 21st May.

I finally let go at 10.30 with another eight locks left to do. I met very few other boats coming the other way, but did hear that there were loads of mooring spaces in Aylesbury Basin. Most of the single locks were in my favour, although a few had to be left empty to avoid flooding nearby properties through the lock walls. Of all 16 locks, only two had the balance beam on the towpath side – I bet this cut was popular with the old single handed working boaters. There was a considerable amount of water flowing over the tops of all the gates and some top gates were reluctant to open. 
I stopped below Puttenham Bottom Lock to make some coffee and let another boat pass, as they were working faster with a crew of three. It was also a chance for a good look at Jem Bates' Boatyard, where he restores old wooden boats; obviously at great expense. I say that because I read an account of the restoration of nb Roger, moored at Ricky and the amount of money required to restore her was quite phenomenal. This was where the hull of nb Dover was restored for the TV series a few years back.


Bates Boatyard.


The water was free of any debris and no graffiti was visible until I got to Broughton on the outskirts of the town, but I picked up a blade full after the last lock.

The main moorings on finger jetties were not visible as I approached cut end, because the waterway turns a right angle, but indeed there they were in all their pristine newness, which is good to see that the town is encouraging boaters to come and enjoy it and spend some money.
There are moorings on the jetties for nine boats in all, with two taps and two electric hook up points, which have meters and keypads, but no instructions on how to use them. Neither are there any notices limiting duration of time allowed to stay, which is strange. Maybe it is so new that no one has got around to it yet. There are other on line moorings on the way in, but delineated as Service Moorings, but as there are no services, that’s another enigma.


Finger Moorings with Alesbury Waterside Theatre in the background.


Mooring spaces along the main line.


 I disovered strong free Wi-fi in the form of O2, which I discovered later was sponsored by the nearby Waitrose, which I will visit tomorrow just to show my appreciation of their generosity.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Stronghold on Tour 10.

Thursday 19th May.

A reasonably early start to get off the mooring and reverse down 200yds to the water point. I must say that I am improving the reversing procedure, which is difficult on most narrow boats.
Corona passed by with Trevor Maggs on the tiller and was breasted up with Raymond, presumably on their way to the Ricky Festival at the weekend. I asked Trevor if he was getting the standard rate per ton for towing Raymond, which was the last wooden butty built in the UK by Nurser’s yard at Braunston in 1958.

I progressed slowly up the Berko locks, telling the landlord of The Riser that I was attempting to escape from his pub. In the meantime Chris Hodson an old friend, told me that he was just leaving home by train to join me in the Cassiopark area, where I had been several days before. He did ask only a short while ago where I was and I said I was moored just below The Riser, but would meet him at Berko Waitrose later that day. He took a train to Watford before he got my message and had to return to Berkhamsted, so we eventually caught up in Waitrose. Confusion all round!
We travelled from there up to the summit at Cowroast, before he had to leave for home. I continued as far as Bulbourne workshops and found a good mooring there with rings every few yards and the Junction Inn close by, but too tired after a previous bad night to pay it any attention. How sad is that!

Friday 20th May.

I was hanging about at Bulbourne for another boat to accompany me down the flight of six locks and had to wait until midday for one to come shooting past, so it was a quick pulling out of mooring pins and away. They moored up by the reservoir, but another boat was waiting at the bottom lock. They had been down the Aylesbury Arm some years ago, but the lady described the way into town for the shops, whilst the man described the best pub to stop at on the way down at Wilstone, The Half Moon.
I stopped off for water and services at the bottom of Maffers (Marsworth) and eventually found them at the far end of the new houses – all very smart (the services), but only three mooring rings and only one in the right place of course. The new development was quite tastefully designed I thought, after all the controversy that raged about it a few years ago. Maybe that was just about potential loss of the services.


New development at Aylesbury Arm Junction.



Aylesbury Arm starts with a single two lock staircase and fortunately for me there was another boat waiting to come up from the bottom lock, so the lady crew member gave me some assistance through those two.


Bottom lock of the staircase.


It doesn't get much more attractive than this.


I had passed by this arm several times in the last few years and now I realised what I had been missing. It really is beautiful as it passes through fields of wheat and other crops. The locks are easy to work and I could close the well balanced bottom pair of gates with a cabin shaft from the boat. One awkward part of the design is that the top gate balance beams are on the offside, which means walking around the lock after opening that gate.


This overflow could sink the boat if it moved back!


I was on the lookout for the nearest mooring to The Half Moon and eventually pulled in by a footbridge below lock 8, where there is a footpath through the recreation ground to the village. Being a Friday night, the pub was full, but as it was the only pub for miles that was not a surprise. Pleasant enough, but the menu looked nothing special, so I had a pint and returned to the boat. Quiet mooring but the catkins and willow pollen was all over the cabin top in the morning, despite trying to avoid mooring beneath the trees.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Stronghold on Tour 9.

Wednesday 18th May

Still sitting it out at Berko in the rain this morning and not a lot happening. I had a chat with the boat checker earlier and it appears that this is a 14 day mooring spot, so no problem staying here. In fact. it would be a good place to leave the boat awhile, as there is a train station close by.  nb Flamingo went past this morning and prompted me to have a read of their blog :- http://sickleandflamingo.blogspot.co.uk/ which I found very interesting. They are on their way to the Ricky Festival with a few problems on earlier pounds with the "bottom being too near the top", but then they have a deep drafted boat, which makes it even more difficult.

I make no apology for posting more pics of Stronghold on here that were taken by Aimee Roweth of http://www.twitter.com/thameswatch from the bank, by the appearance of the photos. Very impressive indeed.





The most impressive left to last. How small is Stronghold against that?

Later in the afternoon, Sue appeared with her dogs Meg and Penny just as I was having a bite to eat. We agreed to meet in a pub of my choice, which could only be The Riser yet again, even though I was aiming for an alcoholic free day and had vowed never to visit that pub again ...... well, for the rest of the week at least! Good conversation mostly about the new build wide beam being built by Collingwood Boat Builders in Liverpool and the problems that arose from changing over boats. We walked back up to their mooring for a quick chat with Vic and to meet Geoff and Mags on board Seyella, who were looking after the dogs the following day, when Vic and Sue were off to Liverpool again – probably for the last time before the launch in two weeks.

I had cooked up a beef and lamb casserole some days ago and made three cottage pies and still had some left that I intend spicing up to have with rice, but I could not face another meal of the same, so searched out a Thai restaurant in the town and had a sumptuous meal with tempura king prawns for starters, that were the best I had ever tasted. Phad Thai was a bit short on prawns and the tempura ice cream left something to be desired. Anyway, it was a change from meat casserole.




Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Stronghold on Tour 8.

Monday 16th May

John and I mutually agreed to slip the mooring at 09.30 and we proceeded up the Hemel Hempstead locks, stopping for water and Sainsbury’s. I was invited into North Star for coffee and croissants, which was John and Hazel’s breakfast and my lunch, although we did stop for lunch again further on. Hazel opened Winkwell Swing Bridge and I offered to buy the drinks at The Three Horseshoes. We made no errors going through the bridge and mooring up, which was a good thing as there were gongoozlers galore outside the pub. I had a brief word with Richard on the fuel boat Towcester about young Andrew Haysom, one of the NBT crew, who had cruised with them earlier. Richard had nothing but praise for his young crewman and admired his enthusiasm.

Hyperion moored at Apsley.

Eventually, we reached Berkhamsted (Berko in the old boaters parlance) after coping with two recalcitrant top lock gates on the last two locks that refused to stay closed. By this time I had had enough and went off to The Rising Sun (The Riser) for a pint, but as I was offered a 50p discount after showing my CAMRA card, I had yet another one. It had been quite a long day.


Hazel.


John


Building workers suspended.


Tuesday 17th May.

Another very chilly night but it warmed up later in the day, so I decided to touch up my paintwork where it had been grazed by locks and my careless locking. It was also the opportunity to make a good repair to the alternator connection with a proper terminal. John was eager to have more cheap beer after midday, so we paid The Riser another visit and had good conversation with the landlord about different alcoholic drinks that he could offer, some being unbelievable in price. There was an extremely wide choice in spirits available. 

Shortly afterwards John and Hazel pulled the pins and cruised on further north. I hope to meet up with them again, not only to work the locks, but they were so friendly and easy to talk to.
I am now waiting here for Sue and Vic on nb No Problem, http://noproblem.org.uk/blog/  who are expected tomorrow. I have not seen them for at least two years and probably longer, so it will be good to catch up and hear more exciting news about their new wide beam boat being built at this moment.


Monday, 16 May 2016

Stronghold on Tour 7.



Saturday 14th May

I spent the morning catching up with this blog and other domestic chores. Although I was moored a fair distance form Tesco, I found that I could log on to their wi-fi – very useful indeed. Pity I could not get a TV signal too.
Around midday, I was ready to move and caught up North Star just below the lock, we soon established a routine through the locks and made good progress as far as the Grove Bridge, where they stopped to moor. I continued on to Hunton Bridge so as to investigate The Kings Head pub, which had been closed on previous visits here. Nothing to rave about, although a good choice of beers and plenty of history in this 17th Century inn.

Sunday 15th May

Galley economy day, with a Spring clean all around the kitchen area and washing to cope with too. I was paid a visit by the Fire Brigade late morning. They had previously dropped a note on the boat requesting the testing of my fire and carbon dioxide alarms, so I was aware that they might pay me a visit. If I did not have either, then free ones were on offer. 
So many more wide beam boats around on this canal now. The continuous cruisers moored below me had two boats set adrift as wide beams went past. Of course they complained like mad, but they had no spring lines out as I did and my boat did not budge as they passed by.   John and Hazel on North Star passed by after a satisfying lunch with family, but did not go very far, so we hitched up late afternoon and got as far as Red Lion Lock on the outskirts of Hemel. The fuel boat Hyperion passed me earlier in the day and I asked the price of diesel and how I could pay. After mooring up, he came by again and I requested a fill up. When Phil (the steerer) saw that I was from Pelican Wharf, he remarked that it was at Addlestone and had lived in that area in his younger days. I asked about how he got into his present business and had the full story whilst he was fuelling up. He wanted to be paid by cash or bank transfer, which I had not come across before on a fuel boat. Most of them will take cash, cheque or card, but as he pointed out, bank transfer is the cheapest method for him. At 61p/litre and no declaration, this is almost as cheap as when I began boating when it was 50p.
How's this for a fender?

Another strange one.
p.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Stronghold on Tour 6.

Thursday 12th May

Once again I only travelled a few miles to Harefield and pulled in close to other moored boats. I was directed to moor further ahead than planned, because it was too shallow. I paid a visit to The Bear OnThe Barge pub, being the nearest and wish I hadn’t. I was really sussing it out for a meal later, but not only did it have a pretentious menu, it was also overpriced. Reviews on Google and Trip Advisor were very uninspiring about the food and service. I had always passed this pub by on previous trips up the GU and now I know why. The boat moored behind me looks like a floating version of Charity Dock on the Coventry Canal.



Friday 13th May

Time to mop out the water in the gas locker, so out came two heavy gas cylinders, etc and mopping out began. It was sunny, so I left it open with the engine running (the exhaust silencer is right below), to dry out, whilst writing up this blog. Nb Fulbourne just passed by, on the way back from Little Venice with Elaine steering. I am just waiting now for another boat to be going through the lock, so that I can join it.

Nb Gerald No.13 came along and I joined them for Widewater Lock and others as far as Coppermill Lock, where they stopped off for water. Gerald was an ex BCN Joey boat, built in 1898 and converted in 1965 to a cabined boat with a two cylinder Lister engine. I was quite happy to wait for them, but another boat came along with a pair of young liveaboards, so I tagged on to them. They happened to work in London and were doing the right thing of moving a good distance, rather than continuously mooring, but at a cost of £300 a month/ person travelling to and from work. We parted company at Rickmansworth Tesco, where I was in need of supplies and they continued to find a mooring. I very nearly passed by a space just big enough by the River Colne bridge, but reversed and had an excellent mooring for the night, but without a TV signal. A quick visit to The White Bear for the sake of nostalgia was necessary.

Stronghold on Tour 5.

Sunday 8th May.

A Day of Rest.

We moored just below Hanwell Bottom Lock and if you know this area, it is also just below the outlet of the River Brent into the Grand Union. It would appear that there is considerable rotting foliage carried down by the Brent and when it gets into the cut, it stops right there to ferment under water. The result is a bad smell of methane gas, which bubbles away around and beneath your boat, where it collects and only escapes when the boat is moved slightly. This is akin to the boat farting when I get out of bed and tilt is very slightly – not a pleasant experience, but it is the only place to moor close to the pub. Andrew asked what time I wanted to let go in the morning. I suggested about 09.00, to which he replied, “How about a compromise?” I then amended it to 08.30 and he replied “How about 8 am Ray?” So that was it – we departed at 08.00.

In exactly two hours we navigated Hanwell six and Norwood Top Lock, with only one hour to go to Bull’s Bridge, where I intended to stay for 24 hrs. I was forced to pull in and release a mound of plastic from the blades just after Norwood, as the engine was smoking badly every time I opened the throttle. What a difference it make to have a clean propeller.

As soon as I moored up on empty moorings, I sat down and fell asleep, such was the strain after a very long day, with a party at the end and little sleep for the past two nights. When I felt recovered, I found time to tackle this blog and just take it easy after a little excursion to the mighty Tesco close by. It was to be an early night for me.

Carol and George on Still Rockin’ commented on my blog and I made arrangements to wait for them at Bull’s Bridge on Monday. I had to get their mobile number first via Sue and Vic on nb No Problem, so that it the way the modern towpath telegraph works now. I first contacted them about an Axiom propeller many years ago, but we have never met up for any length of time to talk. Usually we pass each other travelling in the opposite direction, so I am looking forward to that.

Monday 9th May

An Extended Day at Bull’s Bridge.

My first task of the day was to sort out one of the alternators. I noticed previously that it was no longer charging, because the main connection to the batteries was broken off, caused by excessive vibration. Sure enough the drive belt was very slack. That was the point where I discovered that a bolt had sheared off, which held the alternator bracket to the engine. This high tensile bolt has been a weak point for years and replaced many times. The whole bracket really needs to be redesigned. I also needed a new crimping terminal on the main wire, which I hope to get at Uxbridge Boats later. How some of these boats manage to cruise without a set of tools I cannot imagine – they must spend a fortune on having a boatyard do it all.

Job done and working well after an hour or so. At least the engine was cold this morning, making the task much more comfortable than when it is hot.

Still Rockin’ moored up at 14.00, just as predicted and I was invited aboard for coffee. Although I had seen the interior of a wide beam boat before, this was like Buckingham Palace inside and out, with so much room and storage. I reckon I could continue living on one of these along with all the clutter that is in my house, along with the ¾ ton lathe in the garage. I can understand that people without a house would much prefer one of these than a narrow boat. We had lots of conversation about living on board and the advantages of the Schilling rudder for improving the handling. I did some research on this and discovered that someone constructed and fitted one to a narrow boat in 2007, but I was not convinced that it made very much improvement to the manoeuvrability.

George and Carol invited me for dinner that evening, so more boating conversation flowed, yet we didn’t mention toilets (a favourite boaters’ conversation) once.




Tuesday 10th May

Rain and more rain all day. Despite the 24hr mooring restriction, I decided that I would remain here until things brightened up somewhat. I have to admit that it was a very lazy day, but also a chance to recover from the last few days of early mornings and long days of boating. I invited George and Carol on board for coffee and Molly, their Patterdale terrier, enjoyed exploring new territory.

Molly appeared to be camera shy.
.
An interesting boat was buzzing about on the water, so we had to investigate. Not exactly a dredger, but it was scooping up debris from the bottom of the cut and dumping it in the hopper on board. It was shared between the GU and River Lea area every few months, which is where I had previously seen it, although not in action then.



Wednesday 11th May.

A window in the weather was forecast, so it was time to move on, but not very far. Carol and George had moored up by Packet Boat Marina and recommended a pub, so that was my mission for the day. A nice quiet mooring with services opposite. Rain again that night and it was filling up my gas locker, because there was no protection to the edges of the locker lid. All is well with the canvas cover over the cockpit, but I cannot cruise with that on. Must think of an alternative way – maybe slope the locker lid slightly?

Nb Victoria passed by my mooring in the afternoon at a speed sufficient to pull my mooring pins loose. That Mike Askin travels too fast past moored boats. If I tackled him about it he would say “You are not moored up properly.” Which was certainly the case, as I had no spring line out at the time.

Stronghold on Tour 4.

I make no apology for including the following photographs of Stronghold kindly taken by Robert Wilby, who emailed them to me

















Sunday, 8 May 2016

Stronghold on Tour 3

Thames Barrier Cruise.

Saturday 7th May

Out of bed at 05.00 and setting up the VHF aerial at the last minute. Andrew was there doing the same, but no words were spoken for fear of waking anyone who required another ten minutes in bed.
06.30 Awaiting Action Stations in Limehouse basin.
Kenny appeared at 06.30 and came aboard. His presence would enable me to go below to make coffee etc. during the trip and would be welcome during a long day. Extra crew also made mooring and locking easier, to which I had given little thought.
At 06.30 engines were started and shuffling boats around enabled us to get in the correct order for locking out, with three boats in the lock together. Limehouse Lock has no paddles or sluices, so to empty it, the radial gates are cracked open very slightly, which appears to be standard procedure with modern sea locks. Loud and long horn blasts announced our intention of entering the Thames. Three other boats were to lock out directly after us and the vanguard would take it slowly for them to catch up at the bottom of the tide at Barking Creek.
The morning was chilly and slightly misty, but there was no wind, which was a precursor to a hot day ahead. This dead flat calm would suit us perfectly. We had to be aware of the mud flats on a bend, because once aground on a falling tide would be a tricky situation to be caught in. Andrew had previously warned of the large ‘magnetic’ mooring buoys and sure enough nb Second Time Around left it too late and caught it a glancing blow in the fast running tide. They are not really ‘magnetic’ of course, but boats seem to be mysteriously drawn towards them.
Although I had seen The Barrier many years ago from the land, there is nothing more impressive than to see it from a boat and realise the ingenuity of the engineering. Andrew was constantly in touch with London VTS (Vessel Traffic Service), advising them where we were and which zone we were about to enter or leave.
The twin towers of Barking Creek Tidal Barrier eventually came into view. This was built between 1979 and 1983, which is about the same time that the main Tidal Barrier was built, but it is always closed prior to the Main Barrier.
Awaiting the turning of the tide.
.We turned here to stem the still outgoing tide, which had reduced speed by now and awaited the other three boats. Once Andrew judged there to be slack water, we began our return journey, again at a leisurely pace, because we were due to be at Limehouse at 11.45 for the locking out of three more boats to join us up to Brentford or Teddington. After Tower Bridge the water became distinctly lumpy with so many other boats about and Clippers travelling at about 30 knots. I just had to make sure that I hit the wash about 45 degrees, so that Stronghold pitched rather than roll side to side. Sure enough, the remaining boats duly appeared behind the convoy from Limehouse and we steered through Tower Bridge and the awesome sights of London from the water. Andrew had booked passage through Thames Lock at Brentford for 14.15 and we arrived there promptly at the appointed time.

Back through the Barrier.

Just to prove that I had been there!


Now it was about to get lumpy.


It seemed strange to me to see all this familiar territory once again after only a week ago. The plan was to moor up at Hanwell Bottom Lock and go to The Fox for well earned drinks and food. What I had not appreciated was that it was Andrew’s wife Francis’s birthday and Andrew generously paid for drinks and food for the whole party. That was a very busy pub, but a table had been reserved for fourteen people, orders were taken and we all had a splendid and enjoyable time.

I was pleased to see Doug Williams and James Bowsher there.They are world travellers from nb Chance. We had met briefly at the 2014 Olympic Park Cruise, whilst waiting for Bow Locks to open and from then on I have read their blog. My mate Terry often comments on their whereabouts, because I tell him where they are in the world. It frequently goes like this:-
Terry: “Hi Ray. Where are James and Doug now then?”
Ray: “ Oh, they are in Hawaii right now.”

A week or so later:
Terry: “Hi Ray. What are Doug and James up to in Hawaii now?”
Ray: “Oh no Terry, James and Doug are now in New York.”

And so it goes on, always a change of venue in the world, which is a cause of great hilarity between the two of us and to Doug and James after I related this tale to them.



With Doug and James at The Fox Inn.