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.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Stronghold on Tour 22

Saturday 25th June.

Parade Duty.

A parade team briefing by Graham and John began the day at 09.00. I was allocated boat control at Braunston Turn with Bob. Neither of us had done it before, so it was a case of the blind leading the blind. We worked out between us a method of coping and while I went up the Oxford branch to the nearest bridge, Bob remained on the junction bridge to control the parade boats. My job was to stop any boats from the Napton direction from moving past me to the turn, until there was a break in the parade, which was rare for quite a time. The private boats where quite happy to do as asked, but a boatyard guy was towing a broken down boat and told me that he was a working boat and almost demanded to be let through. I managed to get him to slow right down and await a space, which he reluctantly complied with. Why is it that some people are so arrogant? After the last parade boat went through, we stood down until the second parade at 14.00.

Thinking that I would be doing the same in the afternoon, I walked back to the turn and did a radio check. At which point John wanted me to return to base. When I got there, he said that I was now off duty, to which I replied, “Does that mean you want me on tomorrow?” When he said yes to that, I told him that I had other commitments planned for the following day, as originally I was to be on duty all of Saturday and had Sunday free. At that point he asked me to control boat exits at Ladder Bridge with Wilf – hardly a job for two people, but that’s what I did. A number of boats came out of that marina exit and appeared  to be trying to get into the field opposite, or have to reverse several times to make the turn at all. Very few steerers managed it in one go. I was due to do this on Sunday with a butty in tow, so watch this space.

Sunday 26th June.

On Parade.

My friend Joyce arrived after breakfast. We had a good chat over coffee, before walking up to the Trust boats, ready for the Sunday parade at 11.30. Introductions all round and I was pleased to see Maffi there too. Despite him wearing a Dryzabone long waterproof coat, it did not rain during the run.

I felt quite relaxed, having done this last year and it was only at the end that I realised how much pressure I was under to perform well. We had to move across to the bank first to pick up Alice Lapworth, who was to steer the butty. Alice was born and raised on working narrow boats, so what she didn’t know was not worth knowing. I have got to know her well over the years that I have been to this show and she is such a lovely warm person, who will readily offer advice to the new boys, like me.


Waiting for the starting gun with Maggie.



After picking her up from the bank, we singled out and I picked up the cross straps from the butty bow, which went on the two stern dollies of Nuneaton. The butty is always towed like this when empty, so that the pair can make faster progress.


Andrew at the ready with long shaft.



Easy going so far, 

 All was well, with a fairly clear run up to Braunston Turn where the boats had to wind, by going up one side of the triangular island and then reverse down the other side. They were then back on the main line facing the right way ready to return to the marina. That was the bottleneck, which caused all boats behind to wait until it was their turn. Now there were boats moving in both directions, causing more chaos, as boats stopped, tend to drift across the cut. Everything was done on tickover, so all I had to do, apart from steer, was to put it in and out of gear. The gear change rod was really stiff and I even had difficulty getting into gear a few times, so I asked Andrew to give the rod some lubrication where it went through the bearers. What a difference that made.

At last it was our turn to wind the pair and I had previously passed a message to Alice to give me the thumbs up when the butty ‘ellum was past the apex of the triangular island.

Waiting for the signal from Alice to indicate that 
the butty was beyond the apex of the island.


Starting to reverse.



 At that point, I moved the motor stern across the cut to direct the butty stern down the exit side. All went well and we were off back down the straight again, with a spontaneous round of applause from the gongoozlers on both bridges. I raised my bowler hat in acknowledgement, but Alice has to be included as it was a team effort.


Job done and back on the main line.

Back down to the marina at snail’s  pace, with oncoming boats all over the cut, before turning under the bridge into the marina. Unfortunately, Michael Pinnock’s boat was in the place where I need to go to make a wide sweep into the turn. I got past him and stopped. At which point he said, “You have left it too late now.” To which I replied, “ I can’t get any closer, or I will scratch your paintwork.”  What I should have said was, “Why didn’t you hold back and leave this space clear, you selfish a*!?%$+e.” Which of course would demean the Trust; not a good idea, but would have made me feel better. Andrew was there on the bow ready to shaft the bow into a position where I could turn on the power and we were through to the next hurdle. I have to give him credit for weighing up the situation in advance and for being in the right place at the right time.


Into the marina entrance after Andrew shafted us round.


There is an awkward turn just after getting under the bridge and I managed to negotiate it by turning the throttle fully open to clear the end of a pontoon and then the bow of a moored boat, accompanied of course by clouds of black smoke from the engine. On to the next hazard, the Ladder Bridge, which is the exit from the marina, mentioned previously, where a ninety degree turn brings us back in line to where we started.

I approached slowly so as to get the line right, then at the point of no return, I wound it on hard so as to turn in the shortest possible length.


Time to turn up the wick.

 I was in doubt whether we would clear the piling, but luckily we did and Alice helped the turn by pushing the motor stern with the butty as she came cleanly through the hole under the bridge.

Into the straight.


Alice emerges clean as a whistle under Ladder Bridge.

To say I was chuffed to bits, was an understatement and we got another round of applause from those on the Ladder Bridge. Back to our mooring and the end of another Braunston Historic Boat Parade. What a wonderful experience and I have to say “Thankyou” to Colin, the captain on this event for allowing me to partake.

Joyce and I went off to the beer tent to celebrate, hoping to meet the crew later, but they were held up and didn’t  turn  up until after we left. Back to Stronghold for a late ad hoc BBQ lunch. It was only then that I realised how much adrenalin had been pumping round and I felt exhausted, but very well satisfied with the day.

Monday 27th June.

Joyce arrived after 10.00 and more conversation followed over coffee. She had asked previously if we could go out on a short trip, so I planned to go towards Napton and wind the boat; a distance of just over 3 miles, which should take about an hour. Very pleasant cruising in the sunshine with no wind blowing. All went well and we returned as planned, but we were not going to make it to The Nelson for a 2pm lunch. I phoned and had the booking pushed forward to 14.55, because the kitchen closed at 15.00. I put on speed between moored boats, arriving in Braunston at 14.30, but with no convenient moorings until near the waterpoint and tying up to do, we were not going to make it, so abandoned that idea. Instead we had a prosaic late lunch in the Marstons pub.

Tuesday 28th June.

I took a chance after 11.00 to see if I could get another mooring close to The Boathouse (Marstons) so that I could use their free wi-fi again. Sure enough, there was one free right outside, so I could then publish the next edition of this blog and most of the afternoon was devoted to doing just that. However, I was too close to the pub to get a TV signal – DOH! Never mind, after doing the business on the PC, I moved down to a mooring close to the Marina entrance, so that I could get a pump out and do some washing, which had mounted up during the last week.

I went into the Marina office to get the appropriate tokens and had a word with Tim Coghlan to thank him in person for his latest copy of “The Last Run” for printing in The Steerer. He showed me all the press release pics of the boats at Yarwoods Historic Boat Yard, which is where Nuneaton was built in 1936, although there is no longer any boat building there now.
Wednesday 29th June.

Wet, wet, wet from dawn until after midday. Graham and John wanted to move Joseph into the arm, so as to be able to unload all the festival paraphernalia into the car. At present there is no engine in the boat, so it has to be manhandled. After about an hour, we did it again back to the original mooring, all in the pouring rain.

Shopping was essential now, as I had completely run out of victuals. The general store and butchers were essential places to visit, as there were no other shops in the village. When I last paid a visit to the grumpy old butcher, about two weeks ago, I said to him, “That’s it then for now, I will probably see you same time next year.”

This time he was in the shop again and I reiterated the above conversation, but added, “I have been in here four times since then.” Which actually caused him to burst into laughter. Everyone in previous years has told me what a grumpy old git he is, but the best butcher for miles around. Maybe he was having a good day.


I was in two minds whether to move up to the top of the locks, as I had been here on Braunston moorings too long in total outside the free rally mooring times. I let go in pouring rain and waited for a noddy boat to pass me into the now open lock, before I followed them in very slowly as the crew could not make up their minds which side to go. Travelling together, I could see that they were not going to lock wheel until we came to a very low pound, when I suggested that they do that, rather than run aground. Although they had been hire boating for 20 years, the guy doing the locks always rode on board between the locks, however short the pound – strange. I think he should go out on the Trust boats!  We moored up at the top of the locks, so it is going to be a quiet night.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Stronghold on Tour 21.

Wednesday 22nd June.

Not a lot going on here today. All the moorings are now free awaiting arrival of the ex-working boats. I walked the length with John and chatted to a few moored boaters here and there.

I watched as a 60ft hire boat tried to wind just before Braunston Turn, without success of course as the cut is too narrow there. A lady was walking down the towpath towards me and I asked her what was going on. It appears that she was off the same boat and said that they were turning around. I replied, “Well why don’t they go under the bridge like everyone else does?” I think the penny then dropped, so she ran back to suggest the same, after which all went fine and they came back past me. I didn’t say anything, thinking that they had had enough embarrassment for one day with others watching. When things go wrong, there is always an audience of Gongoozlers. When it all goes right, there is no one watching to applaud your success.
We had a lovely tea party this afternoon with antique china cups and plates, Malt loaf and iced sponge cake, all provided by the wife of one of the volunteers.




Thursday 23rd June.

Yet another day of little activity, mostly sitting around the Harbourmaster’s area and occasionally taking a walk along the length. I asked about his unusual 24hr American clock that is screwed to his bulkhead wall, which was given to him by an American friend. He complained that the key did not fit very well, so I volunteered to fix it for him. That meant taking the clock off the wall and taking it to my boat, where I have a vise. I also needed to make some strips of metal to go with the pipe clamps that I bought in Tradline Fenders, so had to bolt the vise on the boat where the seat normally goes on the back deck. Two jobs done at once and hopefully the clamps will prevent any further movement of the outer cable clamp.


Clamps screwed in place

I have to say that the approach to this Harbourmaster job is extremely laid back at the moment, but time passes fairly quickly with different conversations.

Friday 24th June.

Now things were starting to hot up with boat shuffling from one place to another. Even with my job as tea boy and gopher, I was called upon to help shift a boat down the arm with the aid of a tug and the remainder of the day was spent talking again and directing boats to designated moorings.

The NBT team arrived early afternoon and I gave them a long distance welcome with my portable air horn. Colin came slowly alongside and I joined them for the short trip into the marina. It was good to see him again after several months. He was accompanied by Peter Lovett and Andrew Haysom.


All of the parade team were invited by Graham to The Boathouse for a meal in the evening. The place was full up, so a good job he booked several tables in a large alcove. Several people ordered starters but six were missing after half an hour and had to be chased up. My main course was eventually served at 9.15. Although the food was OK, the service left a lot to be desired, which seems to be the norm with these large brewery owned pubs. Despite this, it was a very convivial evening enjoyed by all present.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Stronghold on Tour 20.

Friday 17th June contd.

I had to have a pint in the pub, just to absolve my conscience for using their wi-fi for so long, so spent two hours on a pint and more internet. Back on board without any TV, I listened and watched a great deal of googie woogie on my phone, so in all I used about eight hours for free. My worst fears were confirmed about the Hungry Horse chain of pubs, owned by Greedy King. Although the beer was cheap, as was the food, the latter looked pretty dire and chips with everything. I had two pints of Abbot and could swear that the second one was not the same, even though it was a few hours between tasting the two. A chain of pubs to be avoided in future methinks.

Saturday 18th June.

Braunston Again.

There was considerable water disturbance this morning caused by Aldgate passing the moored boats at cruising speed. Although I was I was tied up securely with a spring line out, the boats in front and behind were severely rocked back and forth, hitting my boat from both ends. Aldgate was steered by Nick Wolf, who obviously has no consideration for other moored boaters. I reiterate my previous quote “Some souls are considerate and slow down when passing, but there are souls who do not.”

I made a move while the weather was good and was back in Braunston after a three hour trip. I watered up by the Elsan disposal and rinsed out my washing there, whilst talking to other waiting boaters. One man was hoping to empty his Elsan, but the disposal was blocked up. I tried poking it with a long stick, but no success, so I phoned CRT. The guy on the other end asked for these details:

Q Which canal are you on?
A The Grand Union

Q What is your name?
A Ray Oakhill.

Q what is the nature of the problem?
A Blocked Elsan disposal point.

Q What is the nearest bridge number?
A 91.

Q where is that?
A Braunston.

“Thanks you for reporting the problem. The area supervisor will be notified.”

30 mins later, I get a phone call from another CRT person, who says that they have despatched a person to Lock 51 at Hanwell to sort out the problem. For those who don’t know, Hanwell is just north of London! If I made this up, no one would believe me.

Whilst on the subject of CRT, I applied by phone for a 6 month licence in April 2016, that would last until the end of October 2016. When I finally get my licence plates to display, they are dated October 2017. Who are these people that CRT employ?

After winding Stronghold in the marina entrance, I pulled into a good mooring opposite the Marstons pub, where I found that I could get good free pub wi-fi and fairly good TV reception too.

I remembered that there was a Mikron theatre performance of The Canary Girls at The Nelson at 19.30, so changed and walked up there for a good evenings entertainment. The performance was on the bankside between the pub and the lock and was extremely well acted by just four actors playing several parts and also providing the musical entertainment, with each actor playing several instruments throughout the show. I had seen Mikron twice before, but with different actors and knowing this, I should have taken my own chair, but the performance was so riveting, I was in no discomfort. Nick Strivens was also there in the audience; he was in the Narrow Boat Trust for a while.

Sunday 19th June.

Fathers Day.

Having reserved a table at The Admiral Nelson to meet my daughter and partner for lunch, I changed and walked to the pub once again.

We meet up too infrequently.


We had a wonderful time and a good meal before repairing (I didn’t know it was broken!) to Stronghold for another few hours of good conversation. They left about eight pm in the rain, but they didn’t have far to walk to the car.


I had a wonderful time!

Monday 20th June.

A knock on my boat was a welcome by Graham, the Harbourmaster for the event. I had known Graham for some years through membership of NBT and previous visits to Braunston Hysterics. Being the ‘new boy’, I was introduced to Chris and Linda as ‘The Gopher’ for this event. They were in the process of nailing up “No Mooring” signs along the towpath.

I had to do some essential shopping in the village, but on the way back, Graham and John had moved Joseph, Graham’s boat to a more conveniently placed  mooring in the marina and we unloaded the contents of Graham’s car into his boat. The remainder of the day was spent doing little jobs in the area.

Whilst writing this blog up later in the day, I spotted Maggie Young (another NBT member), with her friend Debs on the balcony of The Boathouse pub across the water. She generously bought me a welcome pint and we caught up on events.

Another BBQ on board of my last lamb chop. You may wonder if using a BBQ on board sounds dangerous, but this is a Cobb BBQ, which can be picked up and moved with bare hands whilst alight, so is very stable and safe. Ideal for use on a boat, but obviously only if used outside.




Tuesday 21st June.

A late start to activities and not a lot to do at this moment, but I know that things will hot up as more boats arrive towards the end of the week. I followed Ian and Tina to the marina launderette, just to find out how things worked. Although I had been here many times, I unaware that there was a launderette here, as I had never needed one before. I discovered that Ian worked for CRT and they owned an historic boat called Holland, so we had a great deal to talk about. I walked up the cut to see it later and had a guided tour of the engine ‘ole, which housed a four cylinder Swedish made four stroke Bollinder. It had been heavily restored and looked beautiful. I was very envious, but realised that they had spent thousands of pounds on that boat.


Moored alongside was nb Owl with a Kelvin engine, owned by Jim Hutchinson, so I had a good chat with him too, So, despite there not being a great deal to do today, it was extremely enjoyable just indulging myself in historic working boats and boaters.

I have just discovered that I can download photos from my phone directly to this blog. how does that work? Previously I had transferred them to my PC using Bluetooth, which was very long winded. Wish I had know this before.

Stronghold on Tour 20.

Friday 17th June contd.

I had to have a pint in the pub, just to absolve my conscience for using their wi-fi for so long, so spent two hours on a pint and more internet. Back on board without any TV, I listened and watched a great deal of googie woogie on my phone, so in all I used about eight hours for free. My worst fears were confirmed about the Hungry Horse chain of pubs, owned by Greedy King. Although the beer was cheap, as was the food, the latter looked pretty dire and chips with everything. I had two pints of Abbot and could swear that the second one was not the same, even though it was a few hours between tasting the two. A chain of pubs to be avoided in future methinks.

Saturday 18th June.

Braunston Again.

There was considerable water disturbance this morning caused by Aldgate passing the moored boats at cruising speed. Although I was I was tied up securely with a spring line out, the boats in front and behind were severely rocked back and forth, hitting my boat from both ends. Aldgate was steered by Nick Wolf, who obviously has no consideration for other moored boaters. I reiterate my previous quote “Some souls are considerate and slow down when passing, but there are souls who do not.”

I made a move while the weather was good and was back in Braunston after a three hour trip. I watered up by the Elsan disposal and rinsed out my washing there, whilst talking to other waiting boaters. One man was hoping to empty his Elsan, but the disposal was blocked up. I tried poking it with a long stick, but no success, so I phoned CRT. The guy on the other end asked for these details:

Q Which canal are you on?
A The Grand Union

Q What is your name?
A Ray Oakhill.

Q what is the nature of the problem?
A Blocked Elsan disposal point.

Q What is the nearest bridge number?
A 91.

Q where is that?
A Braunston.

“Thanks you for reporting the problem. The area supervisor will be notified.”

30 mins later, I get a phone call from another CRT person, who says that they have despatched a person to Lock 51 at Hanwell to sort out the problem. For those who don’t know, Hanwell is just north of London! If I made this up, no one would believe me.

Whilst on the subject of CRT, I applied by phone for a 6 month licence in April 2016, that would last until the end of October 2016. When I finally get my licence plates to display, they are dated October 2017. Who are these people that CRT employ?

After winding Stronghold in the marina entrance, I pulled into a good mooring opposite the Marstons pub, where I found that I could get good free pub wi-fi and fairly good TV reception too.

I remembered that there was a Mikron theatre performance of The Canary Girls at The Nelson at 19.30, so changed and walked up there for a good evenings entertainment. The performance was on the bankside between the pub and the lock and was extremely well acted by just four actors playing several parts and also providing the musical entertainment, with each actor playing several instruments throughout the show. I had seen Mikron twice before, but with different actors and knowing this, I should have taken my own chair, but the performance was so riveting, I was in no discomfort. Nick Strivens was also there in the audience; he was in the Narrow Boat Trust for a while.

Sunday 19th June.

Fathers Day.

Having reserved a table at The Admiral Nelson to meet my daughter and partner for lunch, I changed and walked to the pub once again.

We meet up too infrequently.


We had a wonderful time and a good meal before repairing (I didn’t know it was broken!) to Stronghold for another few hours of good conversation. They left about eight pm in the rain, but they didn’t have far to walk to the car.


I had a wonderful time!

Monday 20th June.

A knock on my boat was a welcome by Graham, the Harbourmaster for the event. I had known Graham for some years through membership of NBT and previous visits to Braunston Hysterics. Being the ‘new boy’, I was introduced to Chris and Linda as ‘The Gopher’ for this event. They were in the process of nailing up “No Mooring” signs along the towpath.

I had to do some essential shopping in the village, but on the way back, Graham and John had moved Joseph, Graham’s boat to a more conveniently placed  mooring in the marina and we unloaded the contents of Graham’s car into his boat. The remainder of the day was spent doing little jobs in the area.

Whilst writing this blog up later in the day, I spotted Maggie Young (another NBT member), with her friend Debs on the balcony of The Boathouse pub across the water. She generously bought me a welcome pint and we caught up on events.

Another BBQ on board of my last lamb chop. You may wonder if using a BBQ on board sounds dangerous, but this is a Cobb BBQ, which can be picked up and moved with bare hands whilst alight, so is very stable and safe. Ideal for use on a boat, but obviously only if used outside.




Tuesday 21st June.

A late start to activities and not a lot to do at this moment, but I know that things will hot up as more boats arrive towards the end of the week. I followed Ian and Tina to the marina launderette, just to find out how things worked. Although I had been here many times, I unaware that there was a launderette here, as I had never needed one before. I discovered that Ian worked for CRT and they owned an historic boat called Holland, so we had a great deal to talk about. I walked up the cut to see it later and had a guided tour of the engine ‘ole, which housed a four cylinder Swedish made four stroke Bollinder. It had been heavily restored and looked beautiful. I was very envious, but realised that they had spent thousands of pounds on that boat.


Moored alongside was nb Owl with a Kelvin engine, owned by Jim Hutchinson, so I had a good chat with him too, So, despite there not being a great deal to do today, it was extremely enjoyable just indulging myself in historic working boats and boaters.

I have just discovered that I can download photos from my phone directly to this blog. how does that work? Previously I had transferred them to my PC using Bluetooth, which was very long winded. Wish I had know this before.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Stronghold on Tour 19.

Thursday 16th June contd.

I was expecting rain and it didn’t take long to start, so here I am steering in the rain, one thing that I promised myself that I did not need to do on this trip. I thought of going as far as the village of Willoughby, where there is an old thatched pub, called The Rose Inn. Having just looked up the menu on the net, it looks like I missed out on a treat. http://www.therosecountrypub.co.uk/  f course it was still raining when I got to bridge 87 and there was a half mile walk across the fields to get there, so I gave it a miss.

Continuing to the next winding hole after the Barby Straight and the new Barby Marina, I decided to carry on to The Old Royal Oak, which I discovered is one of the Hungry Horse chain, so not really my thing. Imagine my surprise to find Mouse Daltry’s newly painted boat Mika moored at the boatyard adjacent to the pub, so I texted him for an opinion on the pub and he confirmed my worst fears.


'Mouse' now owns this boat outright. It was a shared boat initially.

So, onward then as far as Hillmorton Locks, where I intended winding and retuning to a mooring somewhere along that stretch. Just before I got there, I saw a moored boat with the bow in the middle of the cut. On slowing down, I discovered that the boat was not reversing as normal, although the blades were revolving. Going forward was not a problem, so an investigation was imminent. The first thing, after mooring up, was to check the propeller down the weed hatch. All was well and the large domed nut was still holding the prop tightly on the shaft. I then had a look at the gear change lever on the gearbox and realised that the clamp holding the outside of the cable had slipped along it’s fixing bar. With a little adjustment I got it right at the second attempt and all was well. What it needs is a couple of cable clamps either side to the fixing clamp on the round bar that is visible in the photo. Midland Swindlers here I come.


The clamp at the end of the cable coming in from
 the left had slid along the bar below it.

Lunacy prevailed and I continued to Clifton upon Dunsmore, where there was a winding hole and where I finally turned around and headed back to Hillmorton for the night. Not good moorings here though, because the bank has sloping stone slabs at the waterline and every time a boat passes, however slowly, Stronghold bounces off these rocks, despite big fenders and spring lines.

Friday 17th June.

Another overcast and windy day, so not very promising cruising weather. I set off up the last two pairs of locks and discovered by chance another string to my single locking technique. Stepping off the boat at the bottom steps as previously described, I drew a ground paddle to stop the boat before hitting the top gate cill. This time, to my surprise, the water now flowing into the lock caused both bottom gates to close, thus saving me the walk down there to close them – result.


Hillmorton double locks.



'Town Class' Harland and Wolff butty Angel moored here and up for sale at £33,000. 
You don't even get an engine for that price!



I carried on to The Old Royal Oak and moored up on the pub moorings, hoping that I could connect to their wi-fi, which I did eventually after finding out The Cloud will only allow two devices to be connected to their system – that took a while to discover!

I have spent three hours writing this and posting it on the net. Is it worth all that time I wonder?

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Stronghold on Tour 18.

To Napton.

Monday 13th June.

Well, that turned out to be quite a night in The Folly. As I went in, the table was being set by the guy who bought the cheese. I bought a pint of Old Hooky and sat alone at a table, making use of the wi-fi. A man was collecting chairs to go around the cheese table and was about to take the one on which I had my coat. It was then that he invited me to join them, which of course I accepted. Just as last time I did this, the table had many types of cheese, along with pate, chutneys and pickles and several varieties of bread and biscuits. The difference was that this was more formal, with places set with plates, serviettes, and knives. Conversation was difficult to start with, but gradually warmed up as the alcohol took effect. Around the table were a boater, a farmer, the local postmaster and the brother of the farmer who restored the pub in 1986, after it had been closed since 1946. This is the farmer who I spoke to in the pub at that time, just after it had re-opened, when I was cruising through on a hire boat. I mentioned this to his brother and he recounted the history of the restoration. There were no ladies invited. Soon after we began eating, a bottle of port was shared amongst the invited guests and the conversation loosened up even more. Other locals were invited to the table as they appeared through the front door. After a while the plates were cleared and the party broke up, but I moved to another table to join some boaters for more conversation. Upon mentioning the Narrow Boat Trust, one woman said how she did not like that group of boaters. Upon asking why that was, she went on to explain that they always wanted to turn the lock around to bring the butty through, without asking anyone else waiting. In fact it was worse than that, the captain told the waiting boaters that that was what he was going to do! When questioned further, she did say that it was a few years ago that she experienced that belligerent behaviour. Any members reading this will come to the same conclusion that I have, knowing who that person was.  I am pleased to say that we always ask permission before turning the lock nowadays and rarely does anyone object.

It was another cloudy, but windless day and I decided to walk up to the post office/general store before it rained to get some money. I had asked the postmaster previously if that was possible, to which he told me to get there before 10 a.m. as the BT engineer was due then to repair a fault. It was half a mile uphill and turned out to be a shop with a very comprehensive stock of most things, even down to baking their own bread and having a coffee shop on the premises. It was also busy, being the only shop for miles around. I think that everyone I passed on the way there and back bade me “Good morning”, which made the walk all that more pleasant.

I am now moored here on my own and it is drizzling once more. I have a choice of things to do. In the rain, I may as well try fitting the LED strip beneath the galley lockers. If dry, then walk up the Napton flight to try and fish out the Dunton windlass that I dropped in two years ago. As it had now stopped raining, the option was obvious and I knew that if I didn’t try now that I was so close, I would regret it. I set off up the flight armed with Sea Searcher magnet and length of line. I was very sure of the spot, even though there was new piling where I had dropped it. I allowed myself two hours to dredge about 50 yds. Time went fairly quickly as people stopped to ask what I was searching for – how to meet people and make conversation in an afternoon. Although I did drag up a galvanised steel windlass with rotating handle, mine was elusive and probably buried in the mud by now, or it had been found by the piling crew.

A quick visit to The Folly to use their internet and it was back on board for a meal. I have to make a move tomorrow and plan to moor on my favourite stretch of canal, miles from anywhere for a change.

Incessant!


Tuesday 14th June

Not much to relate about today, except that I stuck to my plan and did moor up out in the sticks along with a few other boaters who had the same idea. The weather was kind to me whilst on the move, but about 14.00 the rain began and was incessant until early evening. At that point I decided to BBQ my last butterfly lamb chop with new potatoes and sweet corn, with BBQ banana, runny honey and cream – divine!

I was now down to the last of my food supplies, so it has to be the Braunston butchers again tomorrow to stock up. When I was there last, I said I would see him again next year – looks like I will have to eat my words.

Napton Marina - scene of a broadside attack on their hire boats 
by an out of control loaded butty a few years ago.


Wednesday 15th June

Back to Braunston.

It only took just over an hour to get back to Braunston. It rained most of the afternoon, so I holed up and tried to get a TV signal – totally useless again. I had run out of food and was not going to get soaked walking up the lane to the village, so when the rain cleared I walked up to The Nelson and had a meal there, as well as booking a table for Sunday lunch, when my eldest daughter was due to visit.


Some interesting art work.




Thursday 16th June.

Still Faffing Around.

I promised that I would go and pay Tim Coghlan a visit to thank him personally for sending me an article for The Steerer magazine, whilst on his honeymoon! I also pointed out his faux pas in one of his previous articles that said the Narrow Boat Trust pair Nuneaton and Brighton were both built at Yarwoods in Northwich, whereas Brighton is a Large Woolwich built by Harland and Wolff Ltd in Woolwich.

I had overstayed my allotted time on this mooring, so had to make a move. On coming to The Boathouse, a Marstons pub, I remembered that there was free wi-fi there and also a convenient mooring opposite. I pulled in just to see if it would work from that distance and sure enough, it did, so I finished off typing and posted it on the internet. I was wondering why the pics were taking a long time to insert, but then found they were still 2Mb in size. Normally I reduce them to less than 200kb - slipped up somewhere.

I found this on an IWA bulletin yesterday:-
“Tom Henshaw
We also regret to announce the death of a  Midland’s campaigner Tom Henshaw on 7th June.  He was a member of the old Midlands Branch committee and editor of Navigation but well-known for the founding of the Ashby Canal Association and Ashby Canal Transport to keep narrowboat traffic going by establishing al coal carrying operation and running camping boats.  Latterly he was president of the Ashby Canal Association.”


Although I never met Tom, he was the president of the Narrow Boat Trust and was somewhat of a legend in the fifties, when commercial boating was in a serious decline. I emailed David Blagrove, who was also engaged in the coal carrying business at that time to ask if he would write a tribute to Tom. David has made several valuable contributions to The Steerer in the past and is a wealth of knowledge about the waterways and it’s history.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Stronghold on Tour 17.

Wednesday 8th June.

Braunston.

I met up again with Maffi and we both went for a meal at The Admiral Nelson and a few beers. We didn’t stop talking and laughing for three hours and had a very enjoyable time. In the meantime, the heavens had opened as forecast, but the rain was not as torrential as elsewhere. I passed a hairdressers on the way and on the spur of the moment went in to see if I could get a trim up. Sure enough, she could do it there and then, which was a bonus and would save returning later. It was another hot and oppressive day with no wind to cool things down, but also a good day for touching up the paint damage and a visit to the chandlery.

On the way to The Nelson later, I bumped into Graham Scothern, ex Chair of NBT and Harbourmaster for the Braunston Hysterics, as it is generally know around here. He welcomed me to his team and explained a few things that I was unaware of, as well as comparing notes on NBT matters generally.

Thursday 9th June.

A chilly start to the day, but the forecast is better for later on. I did get to the Braunston Chandlery this morning, but managed to buy nothing at all. I set off later and cruised my favourite part of the waterways, between Bruanston Turn and Napton Junction. Not only is it typical of Brindley’s winding contour canal, but it is so rural, with hardly a house or electricity pylon to be seen for many a mile. For a large part, it is slightly above the countryside to the north, which commands lovely views.




Two photos of my favourite canal section.


I turned north at Napton Junction and reached Calcutt Boats after passing through one lock. I managed to moor up stern first onto the wharf and the engineer came across to suss out the problem with the auxiliary alternator bracket. He explained that it had always been difficult to fit another alternator to the BMC 1.5 engine, because it was not originally designed for two alternators and the only really successful method was to have the engine out and weld an addition part to the front flange. Obviously this was above and beyond the lengths that I was prepared to go, so it is something I will have to live with. I fuelled up whilst there and had to make a declaration in the office when I went to pay. I had not done this for ages, as I very rarely buy diesel in a marina, so it was a bit of a surprise.

It was now very hot and humid and when I returned to my boat, I spotted another boat about to go down the flight. I hailed them and they waited in the lock for me. It was a Canaltime timeshare boat, with skipper Bob, his wife Wendy and daughter Anya. I decided to stay with them as far as Two Boats pub, again letting them enter the lock first, so as not damage my paintwork. Bob was a far more competent steerer than those on the last hire boat, so my paintwork was not in any danger. The girls worked really hard on the candlestick lock gear and we went down in record time, although time and energy could have been saved by using only one gate and one paddle at each lock. I insisted on buying the girls a drink for their effort at the pub, but churlish not to get Bob one as well and we sat outside talking about boats of course.

Friday 10th June.

A cloudy start to the day and some light rain in the morning. I made the mooring more secure in the light of disturbance by speeding private boats – what is it with those guys? I’ll bet they all moor in marinas, so are not aware of on line moorers, but then they must moor up on the main line when out cruising. The best notice I have seen for them reads “Some souls are considerate and slow down when passing, but there are souls who do not.” - a subtle play on words.


A CRT push tug stuck in the mud - he got off eventually.


I spent a great deal of time trying to email some material for The Steerer magazine using the BT Hotspot system, as I have BT broadband at home so why not use it. It is so unreliable, despite there being several Hotspots in the vicinity and I tried them all. In frustration, I resorted to my own mobile wi-fi, which probably used up all my months allowance in one go, considering how long it took to upload a few photographs and text.

Feeling cabin fever approaching, I decided to walk to the village via a footpath across the fields and very pleasant it was too, being well away from the busy road. There are four pubs there and I settled for the Buck and Bell close to the village green. Only one other customer in there and he recommended the beer, which was very welcome on another humid day. I returned via the main road – big mistake, it being noisy and very busy.

Saturday 11th June.

I found a little shop close to the pub on the housing estate, but the choice of goods was extremely limited. I managed to wind the boat in front of the pub before any customers appeared and I then moved up two locks to The Blue Lias, mooring outside with a view to using their w-fi. The water point was opposite, so I filled up there first.
Yet another pub without their own wi-fi, but I was hoping the BT Hotspot would connect. I was to be disappointed. My phone connects OK, but then that is more up to date at less than a year old. The PC just would not connect to the BT Hotspot and my personal wi-fi could not get a phone signal, so out in the desert yet again. I have to say the same about shops too; very few and far between, so it was a good job I stocked up at the butchers in Braunston a few days ago. I will have to repeat that experience when I return, as I think his dry cured smoked bacon is the best I have tasted and no water comes out of it when fried.
There is a wedding reception going on here and after the formal group photograph, several guests wanted their pictures taken against the side of my boat – could have earned some beer money there! The disco started at 20.30 and finished at midnight – not too obtrusive really.

Sunday 12th June.

I moved across to the water point to rinse out my washing before moving up to the lock landing. Just as I opened the gate, a boat came through the bridge ‘ole. When we were both in the lock, who should appear on the side of the lock, but Bob, my locking friend from a few days ago. He accused me of pinching his place in the lock, as his boat was behind, which I did not realise at the time. We ascended Stockton Locks in short order and parted at the top, as I paid another visit to Calcutt Boats for a couple of Thackery Washers, which they could not supply, but suggested Allen screws, which are even stronger than high tensile bolts. They didn’t have those either.

It had been drizzling all morning and the rest of the day was showery. I turned right at Napton Junction, heading for Napton. A pleasant little trip with no locks. Passing Napton Bridge Inn brought back memories of long ago. Sadly, it looks closed again.


At Napton, I winded the boat and reversed on to a mooring, with a little difficulty, as other boats were coming both ways. I ran onto the mud and let them pass, before trying again with better success. After emptying my rubbish, I had a very nice pint of Shagweaver in The Folly. They also had good wi-fi, so it’s back again in a minute to post my blog at last. Oh yes Barry the statue of Venus is still there!

Blog now posted after four days in the wilderness. I also mentioned the Sunday cheese feast to the barmaid and she said it is on tonight - say no more! As long as I can keep awake, that is.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Stronghold on Tour 16.

Saturday 4th June.

Weedon.

Rather a lot of material in this post, for the simple reason that I appear to be in the desert with no Wi-fi available anywhere

It was time to move on again as far as Weedon. I had run out of food, apart from an emergency supply of tinned meatballs, vegetables and pasta spirals, which would do for two meals. A very pleasant few hours cruising in warm weather and no wind for a change after the last week.

Good moorings to be had just below Bridge 24, with easy access to town shops and pubs, although the Tesco Express was limited for choice. Walking down the High Street, I suddenly realised that I had been here before, but in a car passing through. But no, I remembered Concoform Marine boats from way back when they had a hire fleet at Weedon in the ‘70’s and walking down to the canal to see the yard where they were built. Another thing comes to mind and that was a large notice the yard had erected at the time, which was addressed to anyone thinking of buying one of the new apartments opposite. It said, “This is a working boatyard and we make a lot of noise when working. If you are not going to like that, then think seriously about  buying an apartment opposite.” Obviously they had had complaints about the noise from residents.
There is still a working boatyard here, but I don’t think they build boats any more.  The only commercial sign on display is Bosuns Locker Self Storage, but when I Googled that it came up with Concoform Marine, so the company is still in existence.

Butty Balham and motor Edgware moored near High House Wharf.
This pair have been deteriorating here for the past ten years, to my knowledge.
How sad is that?


On the way back from Tesco, I had a chat with two boat owners and was deploring the lack of decent pubs close by. They described two decent pubs in Weedon Bec, which is just a little further back, so I paid a visit to The Malsters Arms, which is a free house and friendly local, but no food. I was advised to try the Plume of Feathers close by, where they did genuine home cooked food. I had a word with the chef about Jerk Beef Stew, which was on the menu, but unfortunately sold out. She found the recipe in the internet and it is one that I must try back home. Not on board, because there are too many spices involved, most of which I have at home already.

Walking back, I passed by the old Royal Ordnance Factory, so stopped to take a look. This was really interesting to me, so I took a couple of pics. Built in 1805 and used for storage of gunpowder in the Napoleonic War and later, it is now being converted into several commercial properties. Of particular interest is that it was originally connected to the Grand Union Canal by an arm that went through a portcullis gate right into the factory. The unfortunate part is this has now been cut off by the West Coast Main Line and the remainder filled in with a housing estate built on top. The entrance to the arm from the main line is now a small marina and part of the Concoform boatyard.
More detail and pictures here:-  http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/w/weedon/index.shtml


The wooden portcullis in the gatehouse.


The canal through the centre of the magazines.


Sunday 5th June.

I have a free BT Hotspot connection here, so am making the most of it. Hot and sunny weather is forecast for today, but we didn’t see any sun until after midday. Most of the morning has been spent researching and typing this account up. I still need more shopping and I have some serious scratches on the hull to touch up while the weather is good. The canal is really busy here now that more noddy boats are being hired out from nearby bases and surprisingly, they are the ones that pass by more slowly than privately owned boats.

Topped up at Tesco again and had a cheap pint at The Heart of England, a Marstons house. Nothing wrong with the beer and wi-fi, but the food looked dire and smell of burnt food from the kitchen was enough to put me off eating there.
I had another look at the scratched paintwork trying to remember where it had occurred, until I realised that it was marked with the blacking from another boat, so not my fault at all. I tried removing it with a Garryflex fine abrasive rubber, but that removed the gloss from the paint all the same, so it still had to be touched up.

Monday 6th June

Another hot day in prospect. I chatted with a lady from the hire boat moored behind me and discovered that they were going to the  Watford Locks. They had not done any locks since leaving Gayton Marina and were rather unsure, so when I said I wanted company up the Whilton flight, they were only too happy to accompany me. There were volunteer lock keepers there anyway, so I did very little except to offer advice and I didn’t raise a paddle until the top lock. Despite not breaking into a sweat, I needed a pint at The New Inn and was just about to order, when Paul offered to buy me a pint for my trouble – thank you Paul, but I don’t think I earned it.

I met the people who owned this boat in 1979 and still have a cookbook published by Iris Bryce, which we bought from her on that trip. Now moored just north of Weedon.


I like the moorings at Long Buckby (if one is available), having moored here so many times in the past; the only drawback is that cars driving too fast along the adjacent dirt road raise a lot of dust – not the place for a BBQ, or touching up the paintwork, so that can wait another day. One thing that was overdue, was an oil and filter change, so I put that in hand instead.

Time to post my blog, so walked to The New Inn with my laptop and bought a pint before asking for the wi-fi code............... THEY DON’T HAVE WI-FI!!!   I know they used to, because I remember watching one episode of a BBC series here. I think this must be the first pub on this trip without wi-fi – useless! Even more than useless is the service on a hot day, with only one woman serving behind the bar and people waiting for ten minutes to be served.  Not even a BT Hotspot within the locality – I must be in the desert.

Tuesday 7th June

As usual, I left late for Braunston after checking the engine oil level and topping up. Strangely, the oil level has not dropped below the full level on the dipstick this trip, which makes me suspicious about diesel leaking into the sump again through the injection pump seal. A close eye is being kept on it.

Through Braunston Tunnel in 25 mins and far less wet than Blisworth, as is usual. There was a queue above the Top Lock and I eventually went through with a noddy boat, crewed by three men and two women, the latter doing nothing except stop at the locks and talk to people. One lady actually had a windlass, but I never saw her use it, so we had to wait for the guys to close the gates after we were out and then walk down to set the next lock. It took them ages to get the boat squared up in the lock and to one side, so I didn’t dare make a move until then. I did suggest that they stop the boat on the centre line round a bollard, but they were not open to advice and carried on making a dog’s breakfast of the business.

I found a convenient mooring on what I suspect is normally a Union Canal Carriers mooring, but there were no notices, so I tied up securely for the night. Looking around for a Wi-fi connection, I was delighted to discover Braunston Marina open connection, until I found out later that it had to be paid for. It was either that or hump my laptop to The Nelson and use theirs, so I opted for the easy option and paid £3 for 24hrs/500Gb..I have to say that is is not very satisfactory and keeps dropping out, so I'm pleased that I didn't opt for more time.

Having done this and about to publish this blog, who should walk past but Maffi, with Bone’s dog Boots and Molly of course. We spent time gassing and joking, both being pleased to see each other after so long – probably two years. I asked him to give me a knock if he was going to The Nelson later.


Another hot, windless and oppressive day, with heavy showers forecast, but nothing yet at 5pm.