Sunday 2nd June
Wet Weather in Braunston.
It was to be another lazy day and although the sun was shining, it clouded over, rained and became quite windy in the afternoon – so quite a miserable day really.
I had been making raspberry vinegar over the last week, as it is almost impossible to buy, even in Waitrose and M&S. I used a mix of Nigel Slater’s https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/28/nigel-slater-raspberry-vinegar and an allotment garden recipe, but there are many more out there too. I had a problem straining the vinegar from the raspberries, but discovered an old electric coffee maker in a locker, which had a fine nylon filter, so that came out after several years hidden away. The vinegar was slightly cloudy, but putting it through a paper coffee filter would have taken a lot longer, so I declined. It also had to be boiled in a stainless steel pan and all mine were anodised aluminium, so some additional thought had to be given to that. Something to ponder upon overnight.
I took a walk up the locks later and found three upper lock gates left open, so one pound was about 18” lower than normal. Had these been left open all night, one or two pounds would have been dry in the morning. Needless to say, I closed them when walking back to The Folly. Lock 9 has now had the towpath wall completely rebuilt, which will please NBT when they pass through later in the year, although Nuneaton will not be on that coal run this year as she needs a new bottom plate. The coping bricks are only temporary and will be replaced at the next winter stoppage.
Monday 3rd June
Having given more thought to the problem of a stainless steel pan for boiling up the raspberry vinegar, I came up with this......
......and it worked fine, although a little on the small side for the gas ring.
I phoned Braunston Marina to see if they could accommodate Stronghold for a replacement Morso fire, as the one I have is 18 yrs old and starting to come apart at the seams. They could do it on 17th June, although there was a great deal of work in the order book. I think that being on their computer, mention of knowing Tim Coghlan, stewarding the historic boat rally and NBT may have had some sway with Graham at the time. Once again it is a case of not what you know ....... etc. I also spent considerable time writing up and publishing this blog.
Later in the afternoon I took another walk up to Lock 11, having already had a chat with the live aboards at the Bottom Lock about whether their boat would pass cleanly through the narrow locks, as they had a sliding roof to the wheelhouse on pivoted legs. Had they got damaged by the foot boards on the lock gates, then they would have been in trouble, but they went through with 4” to spare each side. On my return, a Napton Narrowboat was ascending, but I noticed they had left a top gate open and the top paddles drawn up on the lock below. I asked if they were new to boating, but no they had been previously. I reminded the ladies working the paddles that they were supposed to close all gates and paddles upon leaving a lock to save water. Their excuse was that they thought the previous boat was coming down, but one woman walked back and closed the paddles, while I shut the gate. Needless to say, I was not carrying a windlass.
Tuesday 4th June
We are in the midst of a depression, so despite the red sky last night, it was raining this morning, but not for long. I walked up to the Napton Village Stores and Post Office later in the morning, mainly because it is a delight to browse around this Aladdin’s Cave of goodies and also it got a well deserved Herbie Award in 2017 - http://nbherbie.blogspot.com/2017/12/and-best-canal-village-shop-is.html These awards are given not only to boaters, but shops, best moorings, gadgets and too many to list really, by Neil and Cath on nb Herbie. We have met up several times over the past few years, sometimes by accident and other times by design, very often in or near a pub. Herbie was also built by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf in the same year as Stronghold, although the fit out is completely different. So you see that we have a lot in common, including a love of good beer of the real ale kind. If I come across Herbie moored up with no one on board, they will almost certainly be in the best pub in town!
I started to rain again in the afternoon, so I finally decided to stay here for one more night before I depart tomorrow for Calcutt. Unfortunately there are no pubs near there unless I do the Stockton Flight to The Blue Lias and I have no intention of doing that.
My last visit to The Folly for a while and there was a roaring log fire burning in the hearth, which proved that it was cold for June. Who should be sitting in the bar, but Mark the landlord. We shook hands and passed a few polite words between us before I asked if he remembered Barry, who always tries to sell him some coal when passing through, which he did and remarked that he was the guy who was blind in one eye. I then passed on Barry’s best wishes as requested.
Wednesday 5th June
It was still breezy today, but sunny spells, which was so much more pleasant than yesterday. There was a big suction tanker by the bottom lock when I went to the tip and of course I wanted to know what was going on, so asked one of several people in orange jackets. They were in the process of sucking out the sludge in the back pump wells. There are two enormous pumps in there and imagine one is on standby. The sludge was about 2’ deep after five years when it was last done.
I let go for the short trip to Calcutt with the intention of mooring above the Top Lock, which was clear so early in the day. I had a short walk down as far as Ventnor Marina, but after that it was nothing but towpath so I ventured no further. I am getting short of food now, so have to return to Braunston to shop ASAP. I also need to do a bedding wash in the Marina launderette although I had to wash tee shirts today in the twin tub as I had not brought enough with me.
Thursday 6th June
I was up early and drew one paddle on the lock first before I set off. These are the first of the candlestick paddles worked on a nut and screw mechanism, which extend to the top of Hatton 21 Locks and the actual paddles and sluices are enormous, so opening only one saves half the effort and the locks take almost the same time to fill and empty.
I had to reverse into Calcutt Boats hire jetty, although it turned out that it would have been more convenient in the workshop, which was another two locks further down. Martin, the engineer turned up at 9am and replaced four out of five core plugs without the need to remove any injector pipes, using a special tool and hammer to get them in. The ones that he removed were paper thin and had lasted 18yrs, but one appeared to be still sound after all that time. He finished the job in 45mins, which would have taken me all morning I suspect.
Back up the lock now, which was worked for me by other boaters, to head for Braunston. I passed nb Slowly on a permanent mooring close to Napton Junction, where two people were cleaning it. Taking a chance on being correct, I shouted across to them asking if they were the people I met in The Horder Centre
a couple of years ago, to which the answer was, “Yes, but you have a good memory.” I should explain that I met the man in the cafe there, when he spotted me reading a copy of Waterways World and asked if I owned a narrowboat., after which we struck up a conversation. Although I don’t remember the name of the boat, I remember where he moored it. By now the wall to wall blue sky had clouded over and a strong cross wind was blowing. How quickly the weather is to change in this country. I passed nb Arundel between Bridges 101 and 100, which is standing in for nb Nuneaton for the coal run later in the year.
There was a surprise waiting for me in Braunston - all the moorings were occupied from the Turn to the locks, which is most unusual on a weekday. Apparently, the locks are closed for repair to leaky gates and I did not get any notification of this by e-mail, which I had been on the lookout for since I had been warned at Cannie Cavalcade more than a month ago by one of the organisers. It seems that no other boaters got notified either and neither was it on the general closure list for the GU by CRT. How my informant happened to know so early was a mystery.
We all get regular e-mails from CRT and as there was nothing listed, I assumed that it was not happening.
Winding the boat in the exit to the Marina, I cruised very slowly back towards The Turn hoping another boat had left or that I had missed a mooring, but the only one available was just before The Turn and I moored behind nb Sirius, with my bow well short of The Turn. I had an interesting chat later with the owner of Sirus, all about boating of course, but we didn’t mention boat toilets, which was unusual!
Stronghold at Braunston Turn.
The approach from Napton.
Friday 7th June
Today the rain was pouring down, so not much I could do and there were very few boats on the move, except a few hire boats. It continued until late afternoon, but despite that I had to get some shopping in the village, so off I went in the wet to the village butcher first, where I asked for some calves liver, which was difficult to get and only was available on Tuesdays and Thursday, if at all. So a change of plan for a Stilton pork pie and a butterfly pork chop. Passing the hairdressers, I requested a trim, but the diary was full for the day so I got an appointment for Saturday at midday. I called in to The Old Plough for a pint and back to the boat by way of the Marina office to get some launderette and pump out tokens for tomorrow, by which time I was soaked. The afternoon was mostly spent reading.
Saturday 8th June
It had rained all night and continued through most of the afternoon, but I had now to go for a haircut and had to get wet once again. When returning along the towpath I could see that Stronghold was now reversed on the mooring and two men were on the back with one on the stern deck, which was Rob from Sirius. It turned out that the stern mooring line had come adrift and the boat was blown across the cut, These guys had retrieved her and I was most grateful. I know I could not get the mooring pin in very deep at the time, but I also had a spring line out and luckily neither pins went overboard. Nothing had moved in two days and then this happened – they blamed a passing hire boat and some of them certainly speed into The Turn without any warning on this blind bend.
After some lunch, when the rain had stopped, I motored down to the marina to pump out and do a pile of washing. The pump out and refuelling jetty is alongside the launderette and I was hoping I could stay there while the washing was being taken care of. Fortunately all was well and no other boats wanted either diesel or a pump out, which meant I did not have to carry my load any distance. There are new machines for washing and drying now and they are more efficient than the old ones. Cost was £5 for a wash and £6 for one hour in the dryer. The pump out was still only £15, whereas most other yards charge £20.
With all that done I set off back towards The Turn, but thought I would have a change of scenery and moor up the North Oxford, but there were no suitable places and I winded in a very wide section and returned to the previous mooring, where the wi-fi and TV were guaranteed. I am immediately above the post that states 48 hours maximum, so no restrictions here. By now the sky had cleared and the sun actually shone for a while.
Some sun at last!