Wednesday 2nd August
Having slept on the problem of the alternator and knowing the problem was going to get worse I made the decision to return to my home mooring. It was either that or take a chance up to Lechlade and hope for the best, which would probably mean spending £200 on having a new one fitted when it finally gave up the ghost, bearing in mind that it is only three years old. I can fit a new A127 voltage regulator for about £10 to £12, as there are only three screws to remove and one electrical connection. Also in mind was the fact of having no refrigeration for a while, as this alternator runs the fridge and inverter.
The other persuading factor was that I had been as far as Newbridge previously and found the river to be featureless and boring, so I only intended to do it because it was there.
I reversed to the previous winding hole and turned in the direction of the lock, where I purchased licence for a week on the river, being accompanied through the lock by a hire boat. It was not a pleasant day with the wind getting up and rain forecast about midday. The other boat was fast, as is the habit of hire boats on the river and sometimes canal, but he had to wait at the next two locks and I went in with him.
Finally getting to Abingdon, I decided to call it a day having done 20miles, so after the lock I winded just before the bridge and moored up by Abbey Gardens, there being only one boat there at the time; however it was soon filled to capacity as were the moorings on the other side of the river. Shortly afterwards, the rain began in earnest and the wind was blowing Stronghold onto the bank. Watching boats mooring up on the opposite bank was difficult with the strong wind trying to blow them back off. Having done that many a time, I made the right choice.
I phoned the last remaining Auto Factor in Abingdon, but they only supply complete alternators, so that was another dead end.
Thursday 3rd August
I knew that it was going to be difficult getting off the bank with this wind, which was much the same as yesterday. I powered up as much as I dare between the moored boats and got off the bank in reverse. There was then enough room to execute a turn upstream before winding and heading back downstream towards Culham Lock. I was hoping to make Goring for the night, which according to my Thames Visitor Moorings web site was four hours away. In the end it turned out to be six hours travelling and no lock holdups either!
I passed nb Tyseley on the way with Micron Theatre crew on board to do another summer show somewhere. Always to be admired for what they do, I have seen them many times and thoroughly enjoyed their performances.
Onward through Clifton, Days, Benson and Cleeve Locks to Goring and there was a vacant space, much to my surprise. So I finally moored up for the day in front of nb New Auckland and the lady on the bow remembered that we went down the Wigan Flight together last year. Sure enough, it was Chris and Graham from Northwich.
There was a yellow cherry tree close by, and although Graham thought it was a quince, I Googled it and I was right. Using the cabin shaft, I shook down enough to make some jam later.
I was told that George Michael’s house was still displaying all the tributes paid to him by fans outside his house, which is just around the corner, so I went to see and have to say that it is very impressive still.
Three pictures showing the front to the house.
The back of the house overlooking the mill stream.
Friday 4th August
After fixing the small horn, I let go about 10.15 heading for Reading. nb New Auckland had already left and I presumed that I would not see them again, but I was wrong and they appeared about an hour later coming out of Goring Lock towards me. I knew they were out of water, so they had gone upstream to Cleeve to fill up and then return. On the way downsteam later I passed them going upstream again – strange? Maybe they had gone to drop someone off?
Goring Lock and weir beyond.
It was a day of sunshine and clouds, but the wind had dropped, which made it very pleasant, but it was monotonous cruising. Through Whitchurch, Mapledurham and Caversham Locks, ending up at Tesco moorings in Reading, where spaces were at a premium apart from one that was long enough for Stronghold, between two convenient trees to tie up to. Most of the boats here being live aboard, as you can imagine and probably here for months at a time.
I set to in the afternoon to make some jam from those free yellow cherries at Goring moorings and found a simple recipe on the web. The worst part was pitting the stones, but after that it was plain sailing. I had some for breakfast the next morning and it was good.
Saturday 5th August.
First on the list was shopping at Tesco, but just enough to see me through until Monday, when I would be back on my home mooring.
The alternator is still charging, so the fridge runs throughout the night with no cutting out. I have limited use of the inverter as much as possible, so the batteries are still about 12volts in the morning.
It was a long day through many locks and there was a year’s worth of weather in one day, from glorious warm sunshine to a thunderstorm, in which my trousers got soaked and I had to change them.
An unusual sight at Marlow.
I decided that I would try and reach Bourne End and The Spade Oak, having read the blog of No Problem, where they had a winter mooring here. I have tried and failed over several years to get to this pub, but never knew where to moor until I read their blog and saw the photographs. As usual on the Thames, the gin palaces were moored up 10 to 20ft apart, so I turned below and crept up to ask the furthest boat if he could move up a bit, which he couldn’t because of an obstruction below the water there. Fortunately, the boat behind was about to move off, so I was in luck and got in with some help. The Spade Oak was certainly a good pub to go to, with an excellent menu and 3 beers on tap. The trip had taken me eight hours and was the longest this year so far.
Sunday 6th August
I let go at 09.00 hoping to reach the River Wey before 6pm for the last locking through of the day. After that time Thames Lock is locked up until 9am the following morning. Nearly all the Thames locks were manned by lock keepers, but there were queues of boats at most locks and at some there was a twenty minute wait if Stronghold could not get in. I had to use the very long bow line when other boats were in locks with me, which took extra time and effort, but once again I had developed a different technique, by dropping a bowline at the end of the centre line over a bollard, with the tiller string on; this kept the boat in a straight line whilst dealing with the long bow line and stern line. That done, I could take off the centre line and cut the engine, whilst controlling the bow and stern lines. When the lock was empty, I would throw the bow line onto the lockside and retrieve it with the cabin shaft when leaving the lock – with luck it would drop onto the cabin top, if not then I would hold the line tight until I could secure it to something, sorting it out at the next lock.
On route after Windsor I came across an old Springer boat moored on the offside with the stern in the hedge. The engine deck was up and a young couple with fiddling with the engine, so I asked if they had a problem, to which they replied in the affirmative and that they had been there two days! Waiting for three other boats to pass before I could wind my boat, the couple were very surprised that I had come back. They explained that the engine only turned over one turn before dying again. I asked if the batteries were fully charged and she said that the volmeter read 12 volts, so they were, not realising that it is current that is required to start the engine. She demonstrated and sure enough the batteries were very well down. They had jump leads, which were connected to my engine battery and I revved it up to promote more charge. After three tries with a pause in between, their engine fired up amid a cloud of blue smoke to cheers from all of us. The alternator belt was not tight enough, so I advised that was tightened at the earliest opportunity, after which we shook hands and I departed.
After nine hours of constant travelling, eating and drinking on the move, I was just passing the moorings above Thames Court, when I spotted nb Milly M with Maffi on board. He came out and waved me in to moor up, so I winded and came in to the mooring and tied up. We had not seen each other for a year and had lots to talk about, which continued in the pub until about 10.30 pm and too many beers. We had ridden to the pub on Maffi’s two bikes, one of which he found in the water at Kingston. The problem was to get back to the boats on the bikes on a very dark road and with no lights, but it was achieved with no mishaps. I slept very well that night, needless to say!
We had another chat the following morning, which included Neville and Kelly on mb Erma, moored just in front. It transpired that they had bought their boat from Nigel Prior and were members of Byfleet Boat Club, so we will meet again at one of the BBC social occasions.
I left there about 11.00 and was at Thames Lock before 12.00, but it was an hour before I got through, having had a chat with Tracy and waiting for another boat to come down. Finally, I moored up on my home mooring at 2pm, having really enjoyed the whole trip.