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.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Braunston Coal Run. Day 13

John and Mike Moorse joined the crew at Fenny, and their help was invaluable with the repairs. Barry and I had discussed more independent  methods of lifting the ‘elum without having to deploy a bridge ‘ole, which of necessity blocked the cut to other boaters for a period. We came up with the idea of an A frame made of scaffold poles that could sit in the well deck and support the lifting tackle. However, this morning he had a gang plank up to do the job. With multiple ropework to hold it steady, it did the trick admirably, although Barry stripped off again in the cause of traditional boating to speed up the process.

John Moorse jacks up using gangplank jib.

Passing nb Rock 'n Roll. (Photo by Carol
John Moorse steers near Fenny. (Photo by Carol)

 It was the best day so far with a load on and apart from lift bridge 141, where they had to be towed through by a tractor last year, we made very good progress into Banbury, where we found moorings on the town quays. That was a surprise at 7.30pm! We went to The Olde Rein Deer in Parsons St. to celebrate “No ‘Ellum Out Today Day” with pints of Hooky and fish and chips, served in The Globe Room (Google it), where there was peace and quiet from the rock band in the front bar.

Braunston Coal Run. Day 12

We set off with the intention of reaching Cropredy, but it was not to be. Guess what? The rudder was out yet again! We were close to a bridge ‘ole and soon had it back in place. I negotiated Cabbage Corner at Wormleighton with the butty on a short snatcher (towline) to try and steer the butty around the bends, but eventually the  top pintle broke again, this time above the previous weld right outside The Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton – how convenient! Also, there is the marina close by, so we repeated the previous day’s activities and got it welded for free this time by Mitchell Narrowboats.

The second break.
After refitting the top pintle, we stayed the night and enjoyed the Wharf’s hospitality.

Braunston Coal Run. Day 11

The day began well removing the top pintle from the butty ‘ellum with relative ease. We took it up the lane to Simon of CT Fabrications, who was happy to start work on it immediately, while we watched. He welded the break and then welded four strips of steel down the outside to reinforce it, before grinding it to a rough round section – all for £20!

Repaired and reinforced.

Bolting it all back.

 With that refitted, we went up two locks to the bridge that had a steel bracket hanging over the parapet that we had used before. This time, however, it was more difficult and Barry had to ‘take a look’, this time voluntarily, to get the bottom pintle in the cup. Finally, we got through Marston Doles lock with its awkward exit and the wind trying to blow the boats into the hedge. The next incident happened at Bridge 123, where the motor just stemmed up solid. Using the Pull-Lift once again, we inched the boat through, before towing the butty through with no problem. By now it was getting dark and we chose a place to moor, miles from anywhere and a long way from the bank. No pub tonight then!

Braunston Coal Run. Day 10

It was a late breakfast before shopping in the village. Barry had a walk through nb Merchant and was suitably impressed by the internal fit out done by Streethay Wharf, bearing in mind that this is a modern 70ft working boat selling peat and diesel http://peatanddiesel.com/  We bade goodbye to Chris and Stanley (the dog) and finished tidying the boats and part clothed the butty, before moving off at 1pm.All went well until we came to an S bend, with shallow water on the outside, which the butty headed for like a magnet, despite movement of the rudder to the contrary. With the help from another boat, she was snatched off, but not before Barry ‘took a look’, which is boaters parlance for falling in the cut. Needless to say, he was standing behind the tiller at the time, which swept him overboard as the rudder bit into the bank. This is something that Barry is always preaching to trainees about being dangerous when reversing. Fortunately, he managed to hang on to the tiller and only got wet up to the waist. The butty rudder came off again as we were passing Napton Narrowboats, but this time it was more serious, as the top pintle, on which the rudder hangs, had actually broken off and the butty was totally unsteerable. With a a jury rig fitted, we managed to struggle to Napton Bottom Lock, whereupon the lady from The Folly shop told us where there was a welder – only 200yds up the lane, but being Sunday, we would have to wait until the morning – what hardship, with The Folly just around the corner! Glynis Henville joined us at Napton and Maggie got a lift back to Braunston. Glynis cooked a meal and we then reapaired to The Folly for beer and what a night that turned out to be. The landlord Mark welcomed us, having remembered us from the previous visit and then invited us to partake of his cheese board, which was more of a cheese table really. There were about 15 different types of cheese, plus bread, pate and biscuits, which was his Sunday night treat for his guests. The beer flowed and we ate like kings, with good conversation thrown in for good measure. I met Nigel, who had bought the famous lock keepers cottage and had done such a magnificent job of restoration.
Moored below Napton Locks.

The problem 'ellum.

Braunston Coal Run. Day 9

Loading continued on the butty all day, with frequent breaks. Mouse (another NBT member) came by on nb Merlot with wife and family for a birthday outing to the pub. I walked to the marina to get shower tokens before the office closed and passed by nb Chesterton, which was now up for sale as the husband had been very ill and they were moving on to the bank. I last met up with them on the Regents Canal just after buying my boat and I was photographing the painted roses on their boat, done by Norman Hough, when they invited me in for a tour of their immaculate home. I had now met six people that I knew and world was getting even smaller. When loading had finished we got the top planks up and winded the motor, ready for leaving on Sunday. Back to The Boathouse for another ‘Two For One’ offer on the
 meal, just as it had been the previous year. No wonder the place was crowded.
On our way at last. (Photo by Maggie)

Saturday 27 October 2012

Braunston Coal Run. Day 8

We arrived at Braunston after an uneventful short trip with no locks. John and Jenny Jackson (our coal merchants) were already there on a mooring just past the  junction, along with Terry Bellamy from Streethay Wharf on nb Starling  and Pete Howker on nb Bletchley. Both of these boats were carrying coal for the Jacksons, so there was going to be a lot of loading to be done over the weekend. Barry and I started to clear the hold on Nuneaton, emptying water from the barrels that had acted as ballast and pump out the rainwater from the bilges ready for loading. Mark had arrived to pick up Maggie and we said our goodbyes. Loading began and I contributed as best I could, but these guys fling 25kg bags of coal around as if they are filled with sawdust! Chris from nb Merchant turned up to help and we were both surprised to see each other, as we last met in June, when travelling together up the GU and I was crewing on nb Leo No.2. Most of the motor was loaded by the end of the afternoon. I volunteered to open up the mudbox to see if there was a blockage there, as the cooling system outlet was running intermittently. We later realised that no water was being pumped through because the inlet was out of the water, due to the list on the boat caused by loading mainly on one side. – doh!

Let's Start Loading

Mick and Suzanne Wilson, from the Byfleet Boat Club, walked past later and stopped  a chat. Their boat was moored out of sight around the bend. Also Kevin from Brighton Kite Flyers stopped by on the towpath and I discovered that he had a share in a narrow boat. What a small world it is on the canal system sometimes. As much as I would have liked to pay a visit to The Admiral/Lord Nelson (I can never remember which it is), we went to The Boathouse, which was much closer as we all had had a busy day.

Fully Loaded (Photo by Maggie)

Chris on nb Merchant

Clearing the mud box. (Photo by Maggie)

Thursday 18 October 2012

Braunston Coal Run. Day 7

We were now up on the summit level of the Oxford Canal and I was steering the motor again. There were some tricky turns coming up, the worst being Cabbage Turn at Wormleighton, but I got round it with no problem and it was not until later in the day that I realised it had passed, because I was steering without a map at the time. Maggie took over steering from me above Napton locks and all went well until the motor stuck in the exit of Lock 12. 

Are three heads better than one?

We used the Pull-Lift to get it back into the lock, before refilling the lock and pulling out to let several other boats through. Eventually we managed to get through by using full revs and flushing water through the lock at the same time with both top paddles open.

Jacking back the motor. (photo by Maggie)

Flushing out the motor. (photo by Maggie)
The butty got through with no trouble. At Lock 9, we had the same problem with both boats and the butty rudder was dislodged from both pintles and only retained by the safety chain. We managed to get the top one back in using the shaft and lock gate method, but the lower one had to wait until later. Meanwhile, Barry was tightening the chain beneath one of the motorboat beams to draw the gunwhales tighter in and make the boat slightly narrower, but broke the chain in the process. Fortunately, CRT workshops were open at the bottom lock and he managed to repair it there. It was now time to try again and with full throttle and both top paddles open, it was a success. Having got the motor through, it was easy to use it to tow the butty through. Our thanks go to Bill Gill and George Hougez, volunteer lock keepers on the flight, for all their help. Mooring was above the bottom lock and we repaired to The Folly for a meal and beer and very good it was too. There were several other boaters there, who we had met at the locks during the day.

Braunston Coal Run. Day 6

It was shopping by all of us in Banbury the following morning, after a 6am awakening from the foundry opposite our mooring. I bought two pillows for £10 in BHS to replace the dirty, third rate ones in the motor cabin and what a difference they made to a nights sleep. It was showers on and off in a grey overcast day. Maggie steered the motor from Banbury to Cropredy, accompanied by me. There was considerable traffic following us and there were queues developing, so we let them all pass by, as we were in no hurry. Arrived at Fenny Compton and had a meal, before going to the pub. It was much more convivial than when I was here last time, so obviously things cheer up in the evenings, rather than at lunch time.
Watering up at Banbury. (Photo by Maggie)

Navigating through Banbury (Photo by Maggie)

Braunston Coal Run. Day 5

Another early start, but in brighter weather for a change. We were hoping to make Banbury by the evening. Barry steered the motor for a time and said “It steers like a three humped camel,” so realised how hard it was for me. At Bridge 200, Barry spied a balustrade with metal rails, from which we could hang the Pull-Lift. There were several boats following, so we let them pass first, before beginning operations again. Whilst we were waiting I took time out to fix the horn button, which had not worked for a couple of days and I had installed it about a year ago, so knew what to look for. The rudder was reseated correctly at the third attempt and we made it to Banbury after 11 hours.

Try again at Bridge 200
Entering Somerton Deep Lock

Somerton lock cottage, bought for £350,000 (Photo by Maggie)

Braunston Coal Run. Day 4

It rained all night and was still wet this morning as we arrived at Godstow Lock. For the first time the Transit Ticket was asked for by the lock keeper, but all was in order, although he did ask why it had taken so long to travel from Teddington. We explained that the boats had been moored on the K&A for some weeks during that period. Barry was steering the breasted pair and shot past the turning into Dukes Cut, so had to wind just above and backtrack a little way. Singled out on cross straps through Thames Lock and began the slow progress up the Oxford Canal, passing many residential moored boats. We had to do each lock twice, of course, because the butty had to be bow hauled through as well. An obstruction near Kidlington Green Lock dislodged the motor rudder, which made steering difficult when trying to turn to the left. I did manage to get round Thrupp turn, but only because the butty was pushing the stern round and I was complimented by Bones. Then it all went to pieces as the wind caught the boats after we cast off the cross straps. Maffi poked his head out to see the fun and eventually we got the butty on the water point with the help of a long line, but the motor was blown across the Wide to the other side. We should have discussed the situation before coming through the lift bridge and planned accordingly. Maffi then invited us all in for tea, which was much appreciated. With services completed, we set off for Shipton Weir Lock, where there is a a footbridge suited to hanging the lifting tackle to reseat the motor rudder. I was pleased to see Peter Darch appear on his bike along the towpath and he was able to offer valuable assistance with the operation, which appeared to go very well. All was not well however, as the rudder pintle was only sitting on the skeg and dropped off sideways shortly afterwards. I thought at the time that we had hit another object on the bottom, so it was another day of difficult steering. We finally moored at Kidlington opposite the cream tea place with wind chimes ringing all night.
Passing a very wet Port Meadow. (Photo by Maggie)
Reseating the motor rudder (Photo by Maggie)

Braunston Coal Run. Day 3

Another chilly start to the day at 8am, with rain forecast. It started at 11am and continued most of the day. It was a miserable experience at the tiller and we shared it out so as to warm up a bit, though we were all soaked to the skin with wet feet, despite waterproof clothing. A short stop at Abingdon to see if any shops were open to get a few things, but it was very quiet on a wet Sunday. We sold a few bags of coal on spec to lockies and boaters and gained a £150 order from a householder at the end of the day in Osney, to be dropped on the return trip. Barry cooked a very welcome spag bol and we had both ranges lit to warm us up and dry clothes. Not one of our best days boating!

A very wet Sunday.
The obvious (Photo by Maggie)

Braunston Coal Run. Day 2

I awoke to a bright and sunny day, but chilly, as it often is on the Thames. We shopped for three days food and Maggie Young turned up shortly afterwards. It was a much more relaxing trip up the Thames, breasted up with myself steering for most of the way, as Maggie was not feeling very well. The highlight of my day was being complimented by the Goring Lock Keeper on our professional way of entering the lock and mooring, especially as I was steering at the time. I passed Rodney and Valerie Wardlaw on nb Hazlenut, members of the Byfleet Boat Club, just above Goring, as they were about to moor there. It began to get cold at 6pm and we decided to moor just above Benson Lock layby, in deep water, which is a good place to remember for the future.

The Captain on the lookout for pirates.

Pirates or Stowaways?

Waiting at Goring Lock (Photo by Maggie)
Approaching Oxford

Braunston Coal Run. Day 1

This was to be my third excursion with the Narrow Boat Trust this year and the most arduous of them all. The object was to travel empty from Bughfield  on the K&A to Braunston and load with 40 tonnes of solid fuel of various types, with which to fulfil orders back on the K&A, Thames, Wey Navigations and Slough Arm.

I arrived just after midday at Burghfield to find Barry, the captain for this trip, already there and busy sorting out various items on board. The boats were moored bow to bow, with the motor pointing the right way, so we decided to breast up that way and wind the butty two locks down on the way to Reading. All went well and then we had to single out at one point, towing the butty on cross straps as it was empty. Just before County Lock, we had to breast up again, so as to keep the butty under control above the weir and enter the lock. This was attempted on the fly, but the butty drifted in towards the bank on the curve and the butty ‘ellum was dislodged from the short skeg at the bottom, which made steering impossible, but as we were now breasted it was not a problem. The usual method of reseating the ‘ellum is to put the long shaft through the tiller socket and use the lock gate as a fulcrum point and lever the ‘ellum upwards, but the gate beam was too high and another method had to be sought. Fortunately, Barry had brought along a Yale Pull-Lift, which he had bought some time ago at a boot fair. This piece of kit was to become invaluable, as we later found out. In the meantime, we flung a rope over the branch of a nearby tree and used the Pull-Lift to raise the ‘ellum and reseat it in a very short time. We were both ecstatic, as this operation done on a lock gate can take a very long time indeed. We were breasted  up again as we entered the Thames and found a reasonably deep mooring on the end of the line outside Tesco.
Barry served up a fine repast before we repaired to The Jolly Angler for well deserved beer.