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 7 April 2013

Basingstoke Assault 10.

We We were the first to enter St Johns top lock and again with help of volunteers, we made a speedy descent of the five in an hour.
Ready For The Off At St Johns Top Lock.

Butty Steerer Extraordinaire. (Photo by Kathry Dodington)
There was a better class of weed down here, which did not choke up the prop, though there was still plenty of rubbish in the cut. Luckily, the blades were clear for most of the way into Brookwood three locks. Good progress too in the long pound towards the Woodham flight and it was a pleasure to be in deep water once again. Slowly past the houseboats of course and on to the last flight of the trip, where Sarah and her volunteers were waiting with the top lock open for us to sail in.
Breasting Up In A Lock. (Photo by Kathryn Dodington)
Thanks to them and all the other volunteers arranged by Kathryn Dodington and Martin Leech, without which the trip would have been so much slower and more difficult.
The turn into the Wey went very smoothly, despite the bridge 'ole immediately after, but getting into Pyrford marina was not so straight forward. David wanted the tow line very short; the same as the Woodham turn, but that took all the wash from Stronghold, thus countering the amount of power to pull Rowan round. I wanted it a little longer to avoid that. Whatever was the best option, we shall never know, as Stronghold entered cleanly through the entrance, but Rowan was unable to make it by 3ft and struck the piling hard. Who should be watching at the time? Steve Hughes, the marina manager. Why is it that when something goes wrong there is ALWAYS an audience? Whereas, if all goes well, it's like wetting yourself in a dark suit......you get a nice warm feeling, but nobody notices!
Inside the marina entrance, we breasted up to turn, but because of the difference in length between the two boats, it was not so easy and David and Jane shafted Rowan for the final few yards into her berth to await the arrival of the engineer.
They entertained me to lunch and we said final goodbyes, before I cruised back to the boat club, where I was greeted with warm cheers of welcome.....very much appreciated and thank you.
The day was rounded off with a Chinese takeaway and the usual humorous rowdy debriefing, before we gradually crept off to recover from a strenuous, but another very satisfying cruise.

Ray The Tug.

Saturday 6 April 2013

Basingstoke Assault 9.

Roger Cansdale tuned up at 8 am on the dot and took us through the lock 28 at the top of Deepcut, which was full of stringy weed and immediately wrapped itself around my propeller blades, so there was a lot of "chucking back" to try and clear it. Most of the weed collected behind the bottom gates and choked the blades again when we tried to exit the lock, so similar reverse revolutions again, but this time the towed boat was on the move threatening to ram Stronghold up the rear end. This is OK if the stem hits the stern fender, which will stop the tow, but if the steerer misses the fender, the towed boat slides down the side and puts both boats across the cut, causing havoc. There were fourteen locks in this flight and the same thing happened in all of them, so progress was slow. Extra canal society volunteers turned up to help, which was very welcome and there was no waiting for closed gates or locks to be filled. After the first few locks David, Jane and I developed a good routine of releasing the towline as the bow of Stonghold slowly entered the lock, which allowed Rowan enough speed to get in, but not so fast as to strike the lower gates. Pounds between locks were short and shallow, so the propeller was churning up the debris and often picking it up and slowing us down. Several times the weedhatch had to be lifted, until eventually I caught a wire coathanger round the blades, so lifting the rudder at every revolution. Unfortunately, the boat was now uncontrolable and both boats blocked the cut, so no one could get past until a volunteer took a centre line and pulled us towards the towpath against the wind. Evenually, we were moving again, but several boats had passed us and we had to wait for locks, necessitating trying to stop and causing more chaos. We were now the "tail end Charlies", but a mooring had been reserved for us at the front, so we could be first away in the morning down the St Johns flight of five, which were due to be unlocked at 8am. David and Jane invited me to a home cooked meal, which was delightful, before we walked to The Rowbarge for drinks. The perfect end to a difficult and tiring day.

Friday 5 April 2013

Basingstoke Assault 8.

I have had complaints from my eldest daughter that there are not enough photos of people on this blog, so here are a few just to satisfy her and any other readers who are tired of looking at pictures of engines and machinery.
Chris says "I'm so cold I think it might snow".

Terry says "I just snorted something and it got stuck".
Valerie says "What's he doing with a Tampax up there"?
It was really half a toilet roll to stop a nose bleed!

Danger, men at work!

Stronghold took up the tow at 2pm amid a fair old flurry of snow. Many cameras were in action as we headed for the closed swingbridge, which was opened just in time. Once through we picked up speed on a 20ft snatcher, with Jane steering and David on the bow of Rowan.

                                                                 Away  we go in the snow.

The snow got heavier and was quite unpleasant as it was in our faces. We arrived at Deepcut Top Lock in an hour and only had one black sack around the blades, which was smartly removed by chucking back in reverse, at the same time keeping an eye on the towline so that it didn't catch in the blades. Close to the lock, I slowed down and then cast off Rowan to come in to the mooring. It was a little faster than intended. This is always a tricky maneouvre to begin with, towing a strange boat, but with experience, I will be able to judge it better in future. I placed Stronghold in a position to wedge Rowan between my boat and the bank if need be to bring her to a halt, but David already had the centre line off and slowed her to a stop. That then, was the easy bit. Tomorrow we begin the 17 lock descent, but with Basingstoke Canal Society members lockwheeling for us, so hopefully we can sail into the open locks without having to stop and moor up.

At 7pm Roger Cansdale arrived at the lock in his car to return us to Potters for a celebration of the whole trip, with all the staff of Basingstoke Canal and volunteers who had helped us through so far. Speeches were made thanking all concerned with the succesful vogage and a splendid evening was had by all there.
Speeches Were Made...........

.........And The Band Played.

Thursday 4 April 2013

Basingstoke Assault 7.

I was so exhausted last night after sawing up a load of wood, that I fell asleep after a meal and missed the BBQ and bonfire. Oh well, I had nothing to BBQ anyway.
There was an extremely bitter north east wind blowing, so I had go below several times on the journey back just to get warmed up. The ghoul hanging from the high bridge had now gone, so I can only assume that someone had climbed out on the concrete girders to retrieve it. It was far too high to poke out with a stick. I caught up with nb Watoo Watoo to go through Ash lock together and not long after that, I had a bladefull of plastic sack that put the boat totally out of control. I was at the mercy of the wind and ended up at the bottom of someone's garden (I did consider dressing as a fairy), before I managed to remove the sack.
Passing Through Mytchett Lake.
Otherwise the trip was uneventful and I arrived at Mytchett in good time to moor alongside nb Nancy Bell, which had been there for the last three days with a broken engine water pump. Fortunately, Dick had an electric waterpump, which he hopes will enable him to do the return journey back to the Wey. I moored next to nb Rowan, with the broken crankshaft, which I will be towing back to Pyrford over the next three days. I am hoping that my Narrow Boat Trust experience of towing and locking a pair of boats will pay off, but towing an unknown boat will be a challenge for the first mile or two and lock I expect.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Basingstoke Assault 6.

Three boats left the Fox & Hounds at 10am to move through thin ice to the swing bridge. Leo No.2 and Orions Way were already there when I arrived, but Brian and Kathryn were having difficulty opening it. Leo was moved back and I nudged it open with the bow fender, as my bow was much higher out of the water than the other two boats.
The landscape had now changed from the birch and pine on sandy soil at Deepcut to oak, ash and beech on more open farmland.
Deep  Clear Water With Wartime Tank Traps Everywhere.

The water was very clean and wide, with well kept banks and mostly deep at the edges. Of course, this long pound was used by hire boats from Galleon Marine as well as private ones in the summer, unlike the pounds below Deepcut.
In a short time we came to Blacksmiths Bridge and had to wind the boats before mooring just below the bridge.
                                                  Moorings At Blacksmiths Bridge.

More use of the chainsaw on the bank, as too much timber on the cabin top was making it difficult to get through the bridges.
Some of us walked down to the landslip, but the towpath was blocked off for safety reasons, so it was not wise to proceed further. The towpath had been pushed in it's entirety several feet into the canal and 3" wide cracks were visible in the path. Several thousand pounds are going to have to be spent correcting this and I cannot see it being completed before the end of the summer. Just getting plant to the site is going to be a logistical nightmare, as the towpath is so narrow. Yet another piece of bad luck for this canal and it was all going so well.
With The Towpath Closed, Could It Be Any More Peaceful?

Basingstoke Assault 5

Most of the remaining boats left Potter's Pool this morning, still going in the direction of Odiham, although we had heard earlier about the landslip the other side of Blacksmiths Bridge, which had since slid further into the cut with large oak trees at a precarious angle. The unanimous decision was not to try and pass this obstruction, in case it eventually blocked the cut and there would be no way back.

Cruising the long summit pound was a pleasant experience in mostly deep water, although the wind was icy, especially when we passed the many flashes (wide areas of water) along this stretch.

The Morse control with bungee firmly it place, was now back to normal and no longer slipped back towards neutral gear, so I was pleased with the result. My mother was always telling me to carry a spare piece of elastic.....or was it my sister she told?

This section is notorious for it's very low bridges, so everything possible was removed from the cabin top and I had to rearrange the wood to fit underneath the first one, Farnborough Road Bridge. Even the short tube to support the TV aerial had to be taken down and that is only 8" high!

                                                  Headroom - What Headroom?

There was only one lock at Ash, where I met the new canal manager, Phil Allan, who assisted Stronghold and Penkenna through.

At some point before I reached the pub, I had to saw up some of the wood I had collected along the way. Kathryn had told me about a mooring stage near to Farnborough Airfield that would be far away from civilisation, but when I got there, Penkenna was already moored up for the night. However, there was room to moor the stern end and I was able to saw up a sackful of logs. At that point it was possible to view the length of the airfield runway and see the occasional private jet taking off and landing.
Bollards At Moorings Close To Farnborough Airfield.
Further down the cut, a ghoul was hanging from the underside of a high road bridge. Someone's idea of a joke probably, but it would appear scary at dusk. Whoever put it there would have had to straddle the concrete beams at one side and then walk out over the water to put it in place - not an easy thing to attempt by the look of it, but you have to give credit for ingenuity.
I Bet This Would Scare You At Dusk!
Soon I got to The Fox and Hounds where some of the other boats were moored up. I had to upload some photos to this blog, so hopefully there was wi-fi in the pub. My lucky day, with a pint to go with it. Kathryn, Brian and I repaired there later for more beer and conversation.

Monday 1 April 2013

Basingstoke Assault 4.

We awoke to a beautiful sunny morning with thin ice on the water.
Moorings In Potter's Pool.
 I surfed the net for info on Morse controls and eventually found someone with the same problem on Canal World Discussion Forums. As usual, there were several possible solutions. One involved hanging a sou'wester on the lever and putting a bottle of beer in it. If the speed was too fast, drink some beer until the speed was right. Continue drinking the beer if tickover was required, then get another bottle from the fridge to continue cruising. A better suggestion was to fix a tension spring in place on the injector pump lever to counter the strong pull of the spring inside, which returned the lever to tickover speed. As I did not have any springs on board, a bungee cord had to do the job. Hopefully it will work when I go cruising tomorrow.
Blue Bungee Cord In Position.
Several boats left this morning and all the crews agreed to be back at Potter's for a final shindig on Thursday evening. Kathryn and I had a walk to see David and Jane Brixey on nb Rowan, who had an engine problem the day before and had to be towed the final leg of the journey. The four year old Russell Newbury engine had begun knocking and David wisely shut it down. The engineer was in attendance and thought it may well be a loose flywheel, but later discovered that the crankshaft had fractured and could be seen after a side cover was removed on the crankcase. No more motoring on this trip for them!
I discovered by chance, that there was a local beer festival on at Mytchett, so armed with my CAMRA card, I had to investigate. There were 30 ales on tap, but a man can only drink so much and I think I did my best. A little rest was now in order, as I had lost an hours sleep when the clocks were put forward overnight. The Friday start boats arrived and we repaired to the pub to put the world to rights and compare notes on the trip, so I had the chance to meet people whose boats I knew, but not their crews. One, Peter had been a member of the Narrow Boat Trust in the early days, when coal was shovelled out of the boats by hand. Yet again, it was another enjoyable evening, but in different company.

Basingstoke Assault 3.

Today was to be the testing time for the canal and see if all the locks of Brookwood and Deepcut would do what was expected of them. In total there were 17 locks to negotiate. Although I pulled the pins at 9am, there was still a long queue at Brookwood bottom lock, even though the earlier boats were away about 8am. It was a two hour wait before I entered the lock with the tug Finch.
Plenty Of Rubbish And Weed At Brookwood Bottom  Lock.
It seems that the delay was because nb Nexus had picked up a log that jammed between the skeg and propeller, so she had to be shafted out before the blockage could be cleared. A lot of the gates would not open fully, so whoever was first in, had to reverse behind the partly closed gate to allow the other boat in. However, Finch ran onto an obstruction in the second lock and the gates could only be closed with all his stern fenders lifted up. Onwards to Deepcut flight, where once again we had volunteers to man the locks and I must say that they were very much appreciated. Yet again, I was having to "chuck back" in reverse frequently to clear the blades, until eventually the engine stalled with a serious bladefull.
Not What You Would Want Around The Propeller Blades
On investigation, there was a fisherman's shelter wrapped around the propeller. My new propeller cleaner made short work of that and I caught up with Jeff on Finch soon after. I was collecting dead wood for the fire as I went and Erin, Jeff's 10 year old grand daughter, was invaluable in picking up the pieces that I missed.

Captain Jeff and First Mate, Erin.
We got to the top lock about 4pm and from there it was plain sailing in deep water with an unobstructed propeller - how lovely that was.
I was still having a minor problem with the Morse control and had to hold the lever in position to maintain the requisite speed, which meant that I was suffering a cold hand, as well as being inconvenient. Eventually I came to Potter's Pool and Potters Pub, named after Bob Potter, the local entrepreneur, who also owns the Lakeside Country Club, of World Darts fame. A celebratory meal was enjoyed by all that evening to rejoice in the conquering of Deepcut after so many years of neglect.