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, 27 June 2017

Summer Cruise 22. The Braunston Bash.

Wednesday 21st June, Summer Solstice.

Up early to a warm start to the day, but not too hot for making pastry Cheese Puffs, so I will bear that in mind for the next baking session. Instead, I washed down the top and one side of the boat and completed the washing, which I placed on the top of the boat with weights just in case it started to blow.

Chris and Linda knocked to let me know that they were going to the Cat Herding HQ, so after tidying up I followed with knapsack for shopping later. Not a lot going on at HQ, but tea and delicious homemade lemon drizzle cake and Victoria cream sponge were served up later that afternoon by Jan, which was just the same as last year with tea poured  into Victorian china tea cups too.

Climbing the hill to the village, it occurred to me that some of the land around here is very hilly and looks as if it had been quarried in times gone by – I must make some inquiries about that. Passing the hairdressers where I had a haircut last year, I popped my head around the door and asked if they could do me now, so I had another trim by the owner for £6. The charcoal, for which I originally went shopping, was enormous, but I managed to squeeze the bag into my rucksack, before getting some BBQ meat from the Village Butcher.

I was sitting outside Cat Herding HQ later in the afternoon, when Mike and Gill came past on nb Sundowner, so I gave them a wave as they asked where they could moor. I said that I would go with them to find a place, either up on the Puddle Banks towards Napton, or on the 14day moorings towards Rugby. Suggesting that someone goes by foot first to find a place, Gill got out her fold up bike and rode past the turn to get the last place on the 14 day moorings, which was very close to Bridge 90 and just squeezed in to the information post. Even so, I can well imagine anyone towing a butty through that blind bridge ‘ole cursing those moorings so close to the blind bend – NBT for one!

Although I had met Gill and Mike over a week ago as we came up Braunston Locks together and I knew where they came from in Sussex, it transpired that as I was talking about the Trust boats, Mike asked me if I knew someone associated with the Trust called Oakhill, to which I put my hand up. It was at that moment that it all became clear that they had information about me and the Trust from my sister who lives in Brighton and that they did pre-natal care with my sister there about 30 yrs ago – serendipity! We arranged to go for a drink later at The Boat House and certainly had plenty to talk about. We also arranged a dinner date at The Admiral Nelson for the next day. I have to comment on the myth that is spread about Braunston and that is that eventually every boat on the system will pass through there. That myth is coming true as I have met so many people that I have known in the past and know now in Braunston through the years that I have been moored up here. Just this morning, a boat called Travellers Joy passed by, which I believe is from the Wey Navigation and moors close by. It turned out later that it was not the same boat, when I talked to them on their way back through Braunston.

Thursday 22nd June

OMG! I haven’t written anything since today and it is now the following Monday as I have been too busy with the Braunston Hysterics; so busy in fact that one day I only had time for a banana for lunch, such was the rush trying to fit everthing in. Let’s hope I can remember it all.

Wow! What a sudden change in the weather, from scorching heat yesterday, to overcast and much cooler this morning with an early welcome thunderstorm.

Boats were starting to appear at the site and were looking for moorings. As the final positions were not yet allocated, they moored up more or less where there was space. Chris and Linda Martin on nb Mars assisted me with spraying 75 ft markers along the Butchers Bridge area as far as the Ladder Bridge and I recollect that that was our only contribution for the day. Having done that, I can’t see anyone making use of them anyway, but it gives us an idea of how many boats we can fit in.

I returned to Stronghold for a meal, but the inside of the boat was so hot, I was not really hungry at all, so I ended up having cold, but well flavoured, tinned tomatoes on ciabatta type toast, which was quite adequate. I was so hot that I felt really uncomfortable and ended up having a cold shower before going out to meet up with my new friends later for good conversation at The Nelson, where the food was exceptionally good, as well as being lubricated by well selected beer.

Friday 23rd June

Such bad news – there was a boat fire on board a Sea Otter aluminium boat late last night, just above
Bridge 90. The story goes like this:– Two lads arrived at 11.30pm, moored up and left the boat. At 01.45, the horn was blasting intermittently and so was the headlight flashing and then the fire broke out. Gill, who was moored some distance in front, phoned the fire brigade, who doused what remained from the bridge, but the boat was gutted. The fire got up to 650°C because it just melted the aluminium cabin. The boat is still there now, so not sure who is responsible for moving it. I heard later that the crew were at the show.

Even more boats arriving today and now is the time to do a bit of ‘Cat Herding’ so that they can all fit it in without any gaps.

Getting back to Stronghold for lunch, I was running the engine and talking to Gill and Mike about various boaty things, when all of a sudden the automatic bilge pump activated and squirted water half way across the cut, which I had never seen before. Peering under the deck boards, I could see about 3 to 4 ins of water beneath the engine, but could not understand where it came from. Looking even further, I could see the water being pumped into a full gallon container that collects from the hot water tank via the pressure release valve. I then switched off the isolator switch to stop the domestic water pump from working and put my brain cell in gear to understand what was happening. At that moment I had a call from Richard Heaseman, who was at Calcutt Marina, asking if there was any mooring at Braunston – he later came over and breasted up to Stronghold for one night. He advised me that the pressure switch on the end of the pump had remained closed and that he had a spare pump that I could borrow, which he would bring over to me by car. By the time he got here, I had stripped out the pressure switch, tested it and put it back as it was now working and all I had to do then was to pump out and sponge below the engine. The moral of this experience is to switch off your water pump when you leave the boat for a short period – every time! That Shureflo pump was bought at Banbury two years ago, so it is not very old. I believe the pressure switches can be obtained from Uxbridge Boat Services, so it would be advisable to carry a spare.

I had previously apologised to Graham for my absence on account of fixing the problem, but later we all met up in The Boat House for a meal and drinks on him for our efforts over the weekend. Once again it was a very sociable occasion  and I sat on a table with Ken Haynes, Wilf and Annabel.

Saturday 24th June

Well for me, today was the day, when I would be steering Nuneaton and Brighton to open the show with Timothy West and Prunella on the butty. I dressed up in my Boater’s Sunday Best, complete with bowler hat and boarded Nuneaton ready for the trip. Picking up Brighton on cross straps, as she was empty, we headed the short distance to the Stop House, where we were collecting the dignitaries. Once on board and settled, we were off to open the show, with Tim standing on the gunnel to start with. 

Passengers on board and ready to go. 
This pic by Steve Morgan is the only one where we are both smiling!

Once around the turn into the marina, I passed the tiller to him and he announced the show open.

The turn into the marina and about to hand over steering to Tim. 
Pic by Mike Askin.

I then took over to steer between the boats to start with in there and once past that point, I let him steer through to Ladder Bridge.

Pru and Colin on Brighton.

About to make the turn under Ladder Bridge.
My water can is getting good publicity in these pics.

Again I took over to go under the bridge and turn a right angle back onto the main line, but with the wind blowing the bow in the wrong direction, I was forced to let Nick Scarcliffe shaft the front end round. Once we were facing the right direction, Tim took over the tiller again up to the Stop House, where all disembarked, photos were taken and the Trust was presented with a £1,000 check from the marina towards the present repairs.

A very welcome gift to help with repairs. 
Photo by Tim Coghlan.

After all the pomp and pics, we took on other NBT members and headed for Braunston Turn, where we had to wind the pair through the triangular island. Having seen Tom Lapworth do it a few years ago, I knew how to work the pair of boats to turn them back in the direction of the marina. By now, the cut was full of boats that had been following me and I had to steer through them, mostly on tickover and just thrusting the gear rod in gear and out every so often. It was so slow, like watching paint dry, as we had to wait for boats to wind at either end. Back at our moorings, we all relaxed and I complained about the gear box being badly adjusted and suggested an improvement, which Barry and Colin effected on the spot, while I went off to man the turn beneath Bridge 91in place of Jack, who moved down to the Stop House.

I met up with Mouse and Karen, his wife later and was driven to The Nelson, this time for a booked meal and further beer of course. The pub was full to overflowing as the evening progressed and after the meal, which turned out to be a treat for me by Mouse, we repaired to The Boat House to meet up with the NBT crew for more beer and conversation, which rounded off an extremely fulfilling day.  I should explain also that I took no photos during that day, or on Sunday, being far to involved with other things, but I am hoping that others will send some to me to illustrate this blog. Karen is very well know by the NBT crews for her fruit cake and she had baked a whole one especially one for me, for which I am very grateful.

Sunday 25th June

The first priority this morning was to get the engine in Nuneaton started, as the battery was flat. I appeared later that the alternator was not charging it. My spare battery was tried first, but not enough juice in that, so Barry tried the hand start, which had problems connecting. The last ditch attempt was to bring Stronghold alongside and jump start from there, Fortunately, that worked and they were in business. Colin then took Stronghold through the marina to wind and came back to my original mooring opposite the Marstons pub. What I forgot was that I had not opened the water cock to the skin tank, but it survived.

The morning briefing was at 10.30 this morning, as there was to be only one parade of boats at 11.30. I collected the PMR for making contact with other Cat Herders on the route, which made sense of what was going on elsewhere and where the holdups were during the parade. Once again I was at Bridge 91, being a wide bridge ‘ole where two boats could pass each other with care, although many steerers refused to believe that and tried to hold back in reverse at the last minute causing the bow of the boat to wander across the canal, much to my annoyance and also to those approaching, who also had to reverse until the offending boat had gained control. The technique is to either stop with a centre line on the bank, or to keep going very slowly forward to keep steerage under control. Bear in mind that these steerers were all experienced people with historic boats and I was astounded at what some of them did. One boat actually refused to follow my request and ploughed on past two waiting boats straight into a pair coming through in the opposite direction. Needless to say, confusion reigned and he had egg on his face. Another boat would not put anyone on the bank and tried to hold position without a centre line off. Again that boat reversed three times and each time put the fore end across the cut, so causing chaos. When I told them what to do, I was asked how long I had been boating, so in the rare chance that they are reading this, the answer is 38 years! On the bright side, John Fevyer put in an appearance as well as Tom Lapworth on the towpath. I have to say that it was a relief when the last boat went through that bridge ‘ole and I returned to my boat to chill out with a dry Martini with ice.

Later we all returned to the Cat Herders HQ for Pasta and Pimms dispensed by Graham and Linda, which was appreciated by all concerned, especially by some of the guys who had got free beer in the tent as the supplies ran out.

The Cat Herders HQ at Pasta and Pimms final bash.

Chief Cat Herder Graham.
Deputy Cat Herder, John Henry.





The Chef Linda.

It had been a very busy day again, but that is the way I like it to be as I dragged my tired body along the towpath back to Stronghold.

Alex is a very happy bunny after a visit to the beer tent.

Once again, I will explain that I am relying on others to post photos by e-mail to me and that they may well appear later in this blog.


Tramper said...

Another entertaining blog Ray! It was great to meet up with you again and you seem to be getting younger and younger as the years go by. Same time next year hopefully!
Best wishes,
Colin Wilks

Oakie said...

Many thanks Colin. I have to say that I loved every minute, apart from the flooding of my engine 'ole by a recalcitrant pressure switch. The moral being, always switch off the domestic pump when you leave the boat for a short length of time.

Oakie said...

You can now see the video:-

Editor said...

Thanks for your blog, very entertaining. next time you're in Braunston you should say hello to the Charity LNBP at Braunston (London Narrow Boat Project) http://www.lnbp.co.uk/ who organise canal boat holidays and expereinces for schools and community groups.