Monday 26th June
Nothing to report at all today, as I spent the whole day on the internet blogging, searching for pics and videos of the event. I did get a few from friends that I could use after my pleading appeal, but there is nothing on YouTube yet. I seems that people need time to assess what they have and maybe edit the material too.
At Cat Herding HQ, I heard that I had been summoned to Tim Coghlan’s office, so after a vegetarian (?) gut busting breakfast in The Gongoozler Cafe, I walked to the marina office to see Tim. He showed me several prints of his own pics and gave me one of Tim and myself, but not smiling and he wanted to know why. I replied that it was a serious business and nothing to laugh about. As you have already seen, there was one of both of us smiling taken by Steve Morgan.
I had bad news from my wife’s cousin, whose husband has been diagnosed with bowel cancer and several lesions throughout his body. How the hell does one reply to an email like that? Having lost my wife 16 years ago, I was able to summon up the courage to reply, having thought about it all day. There is advice on the internet about things that should not be said to that person and I took careful note of it. It is far easier to put in writing than face to face, when a faux pas could easily be made and once said, it cannot be easily retracted.
Blimey, I was still there at 11.30pm!
Tuesday 27th June
Once again I was on the internet chasing up photographs to go in my blog and although I had collected four or five, some were so small that they were not really usable. Mike Askin came up with a 2mb pic to replace what he originally sent, for which I thank him. Tim Coghlan accepted Steve Morgan’s pic of the two of us smiling in exchange for the cheque presentation pic, so things were picking up and I was ready to publish, which I did about three hours later – all done at last!
Just found this link to Towpath Talk video, which appears to be raw and unedited, but still worth watching.
I moved up to Midland Swindlers to see if I could get another pump pressure switch as a standby, having already taken a pic of it on my mobi. As I pulled in to their mooring, I swung the stern end in, stepped off with the centre line, dropping the bowline over the bollard before stepping back on and using the tiller, ran parallel to the mooring and dropped the tiller string over the tiller end. The boat stayed there until I had done the fore end and stern lines. The MC lady sitting on the seat having lunch was most impressed and had never seen it done like that before, commenting that it was a very slick operation. Sure enough they had a switch, despite earlier info that you had to buy the complete pump now. I remember that a couple of years ago at Uxbridge Boat Centre they were charging about £17 for it, but MS price was £34 incl.VAT.
Moving on to the water point, which was just around the corner, there was another boat moored on it, but no hose was evident. I queried with the owner, who said that he would move up to accommodate Stronghold and we got into conversation about the usual boating topics, before I parted and headed back towards the marina to shop in the village.
About 4pm I departed for Bridge 103, where I knew that Jaq Biggs was moored up for a while. Sure enough nb Valerie was there and after a quick greeting and cup of tea on her boat, I lit the BBQ and cooked a large pork chop which was big enough for the pair of us. Jaq did an American style of potatoes and green beans and the conversation and waterway tales ensued, accompanied by red vino and loads of laughs until nearly 11 o’clock, much to my surprise that it was so late.
Wednesday 28th June
Misty rain this morning, but almost no wind. Although I am moored way out in the sticks, I can receive TV without putting the aerial up, although I did later. BT Wi-fi is also good here, so internet activity took up a lot of the morning, until Jaq came in for a drink and chat. She also watched the Braunston 2017 opening event on my laptop, which I had now bookmarked of course. Friends are now sending me pics that they had taken and after yesterday’s lack of material to illustrate my blog, it was flooding in.
Jaq has great sense of humour, well she laughs at my jokes!
Later in the day, I decided to see if I had sufficient hose and connections to alter the hot tank overflow to the outside of the boat. Didn’t I say once that I should never throw things away, because they might come in useful one day? Sure enough, I had old pump hose that I could connect directly to the hot water outlet and what with garden hose that I had brought with me, it all connected together with Jubilee clips and the job was done. No more constant emptying of the container that was originally used when I bought the boat eleven years ago.
Thursday 29th June
There was also a fair amount of water down the engine ‘ole again this morning, but not as much as before, so I sponged it out and looked for the source. Underneath the stern gland, there is a plastic box with bilge pump inside and although I had been activating the pump every so often, no water was pumped overboard. Investigating further, I discovered that the box was full and that the one way valve that I had previously put in the pipe had stuck in the closed position, so was not allowing the pump to function. After considerable fiddling and trying to take the valve apart, I abandoned the idea and left it out, to be repaired at home later. I reckon that the spring in there, closing the valve could be removed and just rely on the back pressure of water to keep it closed. Although I can blow through it, I think there is not enough pressure in the pump to open it against the spring. The more complicated things are, the more there is to go wrong.
Coffee with Jaq later for a break and more jokes and conversation, before resuming repairs. After that Ryan appeared for fuelling up for both of us. Jaq had made him a cake and I contributed some Stilton cheese puffs that I had baked that morning. Apparently there is some rivalry between him and Richard Traves, on the other pair of coal boats, as to who gets the most baked contributions. Andrew Haysom was steering the butty and Ryan said that he couldn’t be faulted, which is a feather in the cap of NBT, who trained him originally. It seems that this was his apprenticeship holiday – humping coal!
By 4 pm I decided to go to The Folly for a change and beer, but half way there, I changed my mind, as it was too far and also in the wrong direction. Returning to Bridge 102, I walked up to Flecknoe and The Olive Bush, which was half a mile at least and nearly all uphill. Puffing and panting, I went in the public bar and soon joined in the local’s banter, two of whom lived in Braunston old village. After two well deserved pints and some laughs, I set off back to the boat, only to be given a lift to the bridge by those two from Braunston in their car; that was most welcome.
Friday 30th June
Awake early, I rinsed out the soaking washing and hung some in the engine ‘ole to dry as I went along. Again there was some water down there, but I think it was due to rain in the night, as the box underneath was not full.
I let go at 09.00 and had a steady trip back to Braunston. I spotted a poppy in flower just before the turn and stopped to photograph it, as there were no other boats in sight. Just as I did so, a man on the bank asked if I really did come from Pelican Wharf. He wanted to know because he used to live there and still drinks in The Pelly, even though he lives in Chertsey. At that point another boat came around the turn and I reversed out of the way, because a boat was moored opposite me.
I moored for lunch by Butcher’s Bridge and also had a brief shopping trip to the village. When I returned, a lady on nb Bristol Cream passed by and said that she read my blog regularly, which pleased me no end, as she is the first person to ever tell me that. Thank you Zena and Chris (who I didn't talk to).
Thinking about fixing up the LED strip over the sink, I phoned Braunston Chandlery to see if they stocked a voltage regulator/stabilizer. They had two in stock, but when I got there, they could not find them, so that was a wasted trip. I then motored up to Midland Swindlers and again it was not something they stocked. However, the manager was most helpful and found several versions on E-Bay for me.
Moving on, I made a decision to stop at Bridge 85 and pay a long awaited visit to The Rose Inn at Willoughby and I am pleased that I did. I intended to do this last year, but the walk with a dodgy hip was just too far. I suppose the walk was about half a mile, but it was briefly along a fast and busy road from the bridge and then across a hidden and little used stile in the hedge. There was no delineated footpath across fields of curious sheep, so I used satnav and eyes to find the next stile, eventually coming to the village and pub beside a children’s playground.
This is a very well kept pub that not only did good beer, but served excellent food into the bargain. Several tables were already set with cutlery, a lit candle and flowers. They obviously took pride in the decor, food and beer. I had a chat with the landlord behind the bar and another customer, who turned out to be an airline pilot with Monarch Airways. He was also very interested in beer brewing and knew quite a bit about it, as I did, having brewed my own beer from raw ingredients for several years. He also restored old motorcycles, which is something I missed out on as a teenager, when someone offered me one, but my parents refused to let me bring it home. After a couple of pints, I shook hands with him and the landlord, telling the latter what an excellent free house it was and how pleased I was to finally pay them a visit.
Saturday 1st July
Most of the morning was spent on the internet replying to friends, writing this up, phoning to change appointments and ordering goods for next week, when I shall be at home. I was up at 06.00, so where do six hours go?
I pulled the pins and left in a convoy of boats, until one winded at the end of Barby Straight and the other stopped at the pub. Miko was back on her mooring at Willow Ridge Marina as I passed and looking good.
Close to the top lock of Hillmorton there were moorings with spaces, so I pulled in knowing that the bottom moorings would be full at this time of day. Back on the internet, with a reasonable connection to write up even more and text family and friends, as well as leaving messages with Clifton Cruisers, where I am trying to get a mooring for next week. They finally phoned back and agreed to that, so I hope it is not too far to walk to the rail station.
Sunday 2nd July
A very promising start to the day with wall to wall sunshine at 6am, so I had a walk down to the locks and chatted to a few boaters and helped some through locks. A guy on a boat in the lock (he was steering) was shouting at his wife, who could not wind the paddle up because she had hurt her back the day before, so why was he not doing it? Idle bastard! I picked up a couple of books from the collection set aside for charity and walked back up to the boat and had breakfast, by which time the clouds had appeared and obscured the sun – typically English weather.
The pump switch stayed on while the engine was running, but no water was coming out of the newly installed pipe – I fear the worst. Sure enough the engine ‘ole was full of hot water again, but I tilted the automatic float switch and pumped a lot of it out with that, before using the Pela Pump, which is a godsend on occasions like this. It was obvious that the pump could not cope with the extra pressure put upon it by the extra length of pipe, so it reverted to the container for a while. The pressure relief valve is on top of the hot water tank, so it needs re-plumbing so that the water can run downhill to the outlet, which shouldn’t be too difficult.
I like this situation: a boat comes speeding past and I shout out,
“Are you in a hurry then?”
To which he replies, “No, why?”
“Because you are going too fast,” I reply.
“No I ain’t,” he says, as he carries on.
A short time later, I hear the engine slow down. I think that says it all.
Having just cleared up the mess, another boat toots me and it is Helen, but she is looking for a mooring further on, where she can park her car, most probably near to The Old Oak. I found out later that she had gone as far as Bridge 77, which is on the Barby Straight and about 2 miles away. Anyway, she had to walk back to collect her car, so offered to do the locks for me, which is always welcome.
In the meantime, I decided to change the pump pressure switch, which turned out to be more than I expected, as the connecting wires went deep into the pump motor and had to be cut and joined to the new switch. Anyway, it was complete and tools away before Helen turned up.
We did the locks in short order again and Helen left me to collect her car. I managed to get a good macro photo of the wild orchids growing on the centre island of the Bottom Lock, but only after studying the camera instructions to get the right setting.
I stayed on the mooring just below the locks for a while, tidying away what was outside, as I am leaving the boat for a week to go home, just to open all the post, read the meters, collect medication and have as good a time as I can whilst there, so it’s goodbye for a while and I will be back in just over a week.