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.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Summer Cruise 29. Back on the Thames.

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!

Wargrave Regatta.

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.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Summer Cruise 28

Saturday 29th July

Setting off from Lower Heywood, I had a brief chat with John Harris, whose boat “Kings Vanquish” is moored at the bottom of his garden. He is a Morgan Car Club member and is friend of Peter Darch. I phoned Peter after he failed to reply to my email two days ago, and he agreed to meet up for a meal later that day in Yarnton, where he and Anne ate every Saturday evening at The Turnpike.

These black swans must be are quite rare.

I had stopped at The Rock of Gibraltar for lunch on board and then went into the pub for a pint, only to meet up with Kevin and Ingrid at the bar. Strangely, we met there about the same time last year. Their boat Columbia (1909) now had a home mooring at Gunpowder Wharf at Thrupp.

Upon getting to Thrupp, I passed by nb Bones with herself sitting on the bow. She offered to open the lift bridge, for which I was grateful as it saved me precious moments getting to a vacant mooring.

All went well and I reached Thrupp in good time to moor outside The Jolly Boatman, where Peter said moorings were always available. They picked me up later than expected and had a great meal and conversation in the pub.

Sunday 30th July

Several small upkeep jobs were on the list for today. The air horn needed attention once again and sure enough the supply voltage dropped to zero when it was operated, so a voltage drop caused by under gauge wiring was almost certainly the problem, as it worked fine when closer to the battery at the stern. Whatever it was, I replaced it with an electrical trumpet horn, although not so powerful, it did the job.

Secondly, although the alternator was showing a charge to the batteries, the rev counter was intermittent and took a long time to operate after starting the engine. I suspected the voltage regulator and brush assembly, having previously researched the problem on Canal World Discussion Forum. It was easy to remove from the rear of the alternator by three screws and sure enough one brush was only half the length of the other one. Now knowing what the problem was, I spent a long time scouring the internet and only found one match, but it would need to be ordered on the internet and with no address to send it to, it was impossible. Amazon showed one, but a replacement in their store was on an unknown time scale. Researching even further, I discovered that a Lucas A127 voltage regulator appeared to be exactly the same and these were far easier to find on E-Bay – progress?

I did some more washing this afternoon and got that out of the way once more, before visiting The Jolly Boatman for a pint. I have certainly had enough of fault finding for today!

Monday 31st July

It was a beautiful morning with no wind when I let go, although it got windier  by mid afternoon and the clouds appeared, but the rain kept off. It was quite an uneventful trip towards Oxford and the locks were easy, despite them all being against me. At one lock I picked up £15 that I had previously walked past – free drinks for a few nights!

The alternator was behaving better today after tightening the belt, so there was less squeeling, but I will still phone around the limited number of auto factors when in Oxford, although there is only one that I can walk to near Osney.

I stopped for lunch whilst watering up at a very slow tap just above Dukes Cut. After that I had forgotten how many lift bridges there are on the approaching length into Oxford, which slowed me up considerably, even though they all opened with a key from the towpath side.

I was on the lookout for a less common type of blackberry that was fruiting right now, with very large and lush berries that were so ripe, many fell off when moving the bush. When I did spot them on the offside, either it was too shallow, or there was another boat coming. I did find a handful eventually when I took the rubbish across a lift bridge to a service point. When I moored up in Oxford opposite College Cruisers, imagine my surprise at seeing one of the bushes only feet away, where I picked two bowls full. I set to peeling the Bramley apples, bought in readiness and cooked them up immediately.

The strip of land between the cut and Castle Mill Stream. 
Do people actually live here?

I was disappointed to find The Bookies closed on Mondays, as I have been there so many times before, so I had a look in the Harcourt Arms, but there were few people in there at the time. Having already walked past
The Rickety Press earlier, it had sounded as though it might be interesting so I walked back to it. , www.thericketypress.co.uk Sure enough, it was busy with students and the beer pumps were up and down like yo-yos. Food was served in the form of burgers and pizza, the latter cooked in a wood fired oven.and made from their own dough, so an enterprising pub run by the Dodo Pub Company. Looking at their web site later, I wondered how they are making progress with three new pubs and others are going under at a phenomenal rate.

Amusing or just encouraging alcoholism?

Tuesday 1st August

I should really be off the CRT waterways today, but decided to stay on a bit longer to shop for a few basics in Jericho. I phoned the only auto factors within walking distance and as expected, they would have to order the part, so I hope it keeps going until I return home.  On the way back from shopping, I popped onto The Bookies for a well deserved pint and whilst perusing their menu, made a snap decision to have Moules Farcies and another pint of Landlord. The stuffed mussels were swimming in garlic butter and breadcrumbs and served with sliced French bread and I have to report that it was all delicious. Why is it that the French are so good at these things?

Back on board, I decided that I would move on to the Osney moorings, if there was space there. In fact there was plenty of room for at least six boats, so I was in luck. I winded below and close to the lock and entrance to Osney Mill Marina, where there was more room and pulled into one of my favourite moorings for the night.

Another close shave with a private boat trying to moor up in front of me, so I offered to take a line whilst the steerer sorted his boat out. Only this morning another boat came in to moor in front of me and clouted the button on my bow. I had an apology from his wife, but why is it that these so called experienced boaters do not seem to have the knowledge to handle their boats? Hire boat steerers I can understand making mistakes, but then they are often more careful and often slower in manoeuvring than private boats. Maybe the latter suffer from over confidence.