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.

Saturday 8 September 2012

Chaos at Isis Lock

Saturday was going to be yet another very warm day and the trip boats at Oxford Open Doors were going to be very busy - especially as they were free, but a donation appreciated. This is an event that the IWA supports with the free boat trips, but there are other canal related stalls in the Pocket Park drawing attention to the restoration of the Oxford canal basin (now a car park) etc.

We began at 9.30 with the first boat of three leaving. The trip normally took about 40 mins, but with various other boats also wanting to use Isis lock, it was impossible to predict a consistent schedule and often the trip would take and hour and stack up at the top of the lock, so that we then had to try and stagger the boats, so that we didn't all return to the landing at the same time. I took a rather longer detour up part of the Thames to do that and turned ahead of a large trip cruiser, which had stopped for no obvious reason. As I turned back into the Sheepwash Channel, I noticed the skipper giving me the evil eye as the boat went past - what was he thinking, I wonder?

In the afternoon, Oxford Cruisers hire boats were showing the new boaters how to operate a lock and of course, Isis Lock was the nearest, so that also clogged up the works. Then there were the boats that wanted to wind below the lock to return up the canal, like the Pirates on an Oxfordshire Narrowboats ship, who seemed to take forever. There was lots of banter though, on the lines of "Belay there, you skurvy sons of dogs!" and associated pirate bollox!

It was in all, a very busy and enjoyable day, without a hint of boredom. Just how I like it and I am very tired and now have to go for a lie down!

Sunday was going to be another scorcher and the first trip boat had already left without me as crewman, that is the person responsible for the safety of the passengers as well as the mooring up part of the trip and the fount of all knowledge of anything to do with canals or boats. Only ten persons are allowed on each trip, along with two crew and I would guess that about 70% of them spoke a foreign language, so the majority were tourists. Very few wanted to know much about the English canal system, but they were nearly all interested in how people lived on boats in the present day.

It was a shorthanded day for IWA members, so it was a quick dash to get some lunch and continue working with food in hand. At one point when Peter Darch was steering out into the Thames to wind the boat, another narrow boat approached the entrance to Sheepwash channel and started to turn into it, but with insufficient speed to combat the current and they were being swept downstream whilst they hesitated. Peter shouted at them to speed up, which they then did, but they struck the cabin top on the underside of the bowed footbridge, which pushed the boat lower in the water, but seemed to do little damage. When we came back to the lock they were on their way out, as it appeared that they had taken a wrong turning. Funny people!

All in all, it was another exhausting day, but enjoyable meeting and talking to other people. We collected about £340 in contributions for the IWA, which surpassed the previous year, so it was also a very satisfying weekend.

Sunday 2 September 2012

The Long Way Round

As previously mentioned, I was travelling to Oxford via the Grand Union Canal and set off down the Wey Navigation to Thames Lock. Heavy showers were forecast and I had to spend 20 minutes under a bridge, or get soaked to the skin after just leaving my mooring. On the Thames there were no bridges to shelter beneath and it rained just as heavily, so it was time to change clothes between showers. I arrived at Teddington to find that there was ample mooring space, which was strange for August. There were very few boats on the river that day and similarly on the lower end of the GU. Was it the weather, or the recession?

My daughter, Sally, arrived with my grand daughters early on Sunday morning at Teddington for locking through at 9.30, complete with a London Olympics Visitor Pass displayed on the boat. The weather was in complete contrast to the previous day as we hacked up the Hanwell Flight of locks to Uxbridge, where I moored for the night at The Swan and Bottle, where the barman called everyone Mate and is not to be recommended. Sally and girls were collected by car and I was now on my own again.

My goal for the following day was Hunton Bridge, where there is a good pub serving food and beer at Happy Hour prices. According to Herbie’s Canalometer or Herbiometer, it was 6 hours away, but that is calculated for a boat with a crew, so it was going to take a bit longer. Imagine my disappointment,  when one of the Tring beers was off and the kitchen had closed at 5pm!

On way up Kings Langley Lock the following morning, I caught up with another single handed boater, who was on his way to Brandon, way out in the sticks. He was happy to do long days and crack on, similar to me. We became more friendly as time passed and we ended up in the pub at the end of the day, ofter for too long! We stayed together for four days in all and ended up exchanging phone numbers. Nigel parted company with me at Gayton, on his way down the Northampton Seventeen.

Captains All.
Just before Buckby Top Lock, there is a small gift shop with hand painted canal ware. I was eager to visit once again to buy smaller Buckby can than the prevous one, to make up a pair. This time, I bought a brass bound can, with brass handles, just to be a little different, also there would be less surface to paint.
Getting to the top of the Buckby flight, I was dismayed to find that The New Inn was CLOSED! What a disaster. I was not only thirsting for  beer, but I expected to be able to write up my Blog using Wi Fi in the pub, adding a fair number of photographs. Alas, it was not to be. Using mobile internet was usually no go with photographs and I had been on the go for four heavy days with little time for posting a blog, as well as being knackered at the end of the day and being dragged off for beer.
I moored up at Buckby wharf for the night, with the intention of reaching Braunston the next day.

Which I did, and in good time to get a mooring as close to The Lord Nelson as possible. My eldest daughter was there on time......well, almost......... so we had a very long lunch outside and discussed the ways of the world for about four hours.

I was still there on Sunday morning (the mooring, not the pub!) and I set off in the sun for the very pleasant cruise in the sun across the Puddle Banks towards Napton. To my mind, this is probably my favourite stretch of open countryside on the canal, with the rolling hills, meadows and sheep. I managed to find time to pop on to The Folly to see how the pub looked after being taken over and I have to report that it is looking very healthy and it is a free house as well! It makes a change to see that in this era of plastic pubs springing up all around.

I came up to Marston Doles lock and could see a boat coming down in the lock, so I duly waited about 50yds below, whilst the man’s wife was working the gates and paddles. After she had run round the lock to open both gates, she walked down the tow path, looking to be in a bit of a sweat and not good tempered, so I got a scowl. However, the man steering, shouted to me “Why didn’t you help my wife?” in what sounded like a German accent. I am about twice their age and travelling on my own. Do I need to be commanded by a Gestapo Officer to help, when the U-boat is halfway down in the lock? I think with hindsight I should have blown it out of the water with my 4” gun, and then saluted in the style of Hitler. Just a minute, where’s that black leather jacket of mine?

Things calmed down after about an hour, well that’s how long it took me. I found it so surprising that anyone should have the need to say that to a total stranger. Well, as they say oop north there’s “nowt as strange as folk?”

I continued on the summit level and around the long turning which is Cabbage Corner to Fenny Compton and the Wharf Inn. The last time I saw this place was about two years ago and the pub was looking promising. Sadly, it has all slid downhill again and appears unkempt and sadly neglected .........Oh dear!

The following morning, I was up early and hoping to get to Banbury and have my diesel polished, but it was not to be, yet again! I think I will abandon Tooleys and get it done somewhere else. Every time I call in, it is at the wrong time.
I did manage to pop into The Red Lion at Cropedy for a quick one for old times sake – I’ve had some good times there.

Walking through the town square, I almost bumped into Sue and Vic of nb No Problem. They were going out for a very expensive meal later and would I like to come along too. It didn’t take long to make up my mind and we were soon off to find the restaurant called Quisine, with the chef being from the QE 2 at some time in the past. Although there were only three of us, we made our own atmosphere and the chef made the meal, which beyond doubt, was one of the finest meals I have ever eaten outside of France. The attention to detail was minute and the flavours were unsurpassable. There was no menu – it was all described verbally at the start and the saliva glands were in full spate by the time he had finished. The wine list was limited to a choice of two reds and two whites. At the end, Sue offered a bank card for payment, which could not be accepted, as he had not been there long enough, so instead of frogmarching her to the bank machine, she was allowed to pay the following day! Unbelievable!!

The next day I was up and off at 8am, hoping to meet up with Peter Darch at his mooring just above Kidlington Green lock, at the bottom of a friend’s garden. What an idyllic mooring! We cruised together through Duke’s Cut onto the Thames and then through Sheepwash Channel at the bottom of the Oxford Canal – so much more pleasant then the tail end of the cut and all those moored boats.