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 16 September 2013

Four Days to Oxford.

For one weekend each year, Oxford City opens all of it's public buildings and colleges to the public for free. One of the very popular features of this Open Doors weekend is free short waterway cruises on the Oxford canal and part of the Thames on three "day boats" and crewed by Inland Waterway Association members. Being a member and also having an Inland Waterways Helmsman's certificate enables me to skipper one of these boats and I make the pilgrimage each year to partake. This year I decided to take Stronghold,  not only to Oxford, but also to Banbury, where I take the same role for Banbury Canal Day in October.

I left my mooring with a friend on board, who was hitching a ride to Staines to do another part of her Thames path walk, which she hopes to complete this year. She did in fact go as far as Bell Weir Lock, almost at Runnymede, and walked back through Staines, having to get to Shepperton ferry before 6pm, when it stopped for the night.
My mate, Chris Iddon now moored on the Thames at Tims Yard.

I arrived in good time at Windsor and cruised inside Bath Island looking for a mooring, but I was very surprised to find the channel almost empty and moorings galore. At the height of the season it is packed out with moored boats.
I had read recently of a very good pub in the town, called The Two Brewers in Park Street and I was determined to pay this one a visit. It was a Saturday night and the place was rammed to the doors. I bought a pint of Doombar and was charged the extortionate price of £3.90! Normally it would be about £3.50. There must have been a lot of very rich people in that pub. After one pint I went to the local Wetherspoons for a pint of the same at £2.90, minus 50p with a CAMRA token! On the way back to the boat, I had a very good meal in The Thai Square.

The following morning my daughter Sally and her two girls arrived for a day on the river and we were away by 10am in the rain, which just got worse as the day progressed, so they spent a lot of time below decks, whilst I did the steering. It looks as if the summer days of 30 deg are now over.
We arrived at Henley, where Mark could easily pick them up and I paid £9.00 for a ticket to moor overnight. No longer can you pull the pins at 6am the next morning to escape paying.

With a days cruising on my own ahead, I rigged two very long bow lines, which would enable me to hold the boat steady as it rose in the lock. Normally I would only have one line, but on this trip I had plants on the cabin top and it would be impossible to flip the line from one side to the other. One problem is trying to get the lock keepers to wrap a complete turn around the forward bollard, which gives me more friction and therefore more control of the bow, especially in locks with side sluices, where the incoming water tends to push the bow away from the wall. A good example was at Sandford lock, where the lock keeper said that was not necessary as the lock filled from the bottom. Needless to say, I could not hold the bow in to the wall and he had to come and take the line and wrap it around the bollard to hold the boat in.

It was another wet day as I left Henley and this time I wore my Dryzabone Australian waterproof coat, which is calf length and far better than an anorak at keeping trousers dry. I was aiming for Goring, where there are good 24hr free moorings, but so was everyone else it seems. From the approaching angle there didn't appear to be a mooring available, but as I got closer and cruised slowly up the line of boats, there was just one that I could fit into. Once again, there were large gaps between moored boats, mostly plastic cruisers, which is so selfish and annoying. Had they all closed up, there would have been room for two 50ft boats to get in. If they want privacy, then they should have stayed at home, says my friend Maffi.
I walked up to The John Barleycorn, where I remembered having a good home cooked meal on a previous occasion. Again, I was not disappointed.

My friend Chris turned up with Margaret the following day. They were almost an hour later than we had agreed, so no change there then. A cold wind was blowing, so Margaret spent a fair amount of time below, whilst Chris steered the reaches between locks and letting me navigate into the locks, which can be tricky on the Thames, especially if there are plastic cruisers ahead. Chris was obviously enjoying himself, so decided to stay on until we reached Abingdon, where I intended to stop for the night, even though it meant a bus ride to Radley rail station. It all worked out very well with bus and train connections for the trip back to Goring. Meanwhile, I was anxious to try out The Nags Head, which had been closed for a few years and recently refurbished by a new company. It did rather have the air of a Harvester house inside and was very large with seating areas on several levels, which made it more interesting. There was a garden area and two levels of terracing outside, with plenty of seating. There was a good selection of real ales and again I opted for Doombar. Much to my surprise, when I went for a second pint, the barman asked if I had  CAMRA card and when I produced it, the price was reduced by 30p - result! This I must remember in the future, especially if I visit again.

Peter Darch phoned me the next morning to ask where I was and when I would be in Oxford. I reckoned on 3hrs, but he thought I would be later. However, I made it to the Osney moorings by 1.30 and he came for a chat shortly afterwards. I had met Peter three years ago on my first trip to Banbury Canal Day and we seemed to click straight away and been good friends ever since. Peter is also the harbour master for both events and a useful person to know because of that.

I eventually went through the Sheepwash Channel and Isis lock to moor in Jericho, after which I walked up to see Mary and Ron Heritage, who organise the boating part of the event.

Peter asked if I would help him take his boat to Oxford from Kidlington, so I got a bus to his house and he took me to his mooring, which is at the bottom of a friend's garden. It was an uneventful trip to Jericho, before we went back to his house, where Anne had cooked a meal. After that we drove to The Rock of Gibraltar, which had recently changed hands, which can only be better than when it was owned by Stamatis, the Greek. According to one of the locals, it took 7 hours to clean all the beer pipes through with cleaning fluid. What have we been drinking in the past? There was only one beer on tap and the kitchen was closed, but the new people had only been there a week. Eventually a group of musicians struck up and music was very enjoyable.

Friday was a free day, but I had several jobs to do on the boat, before takng a walk down to Bossoms Boatyard to see where I was to moor. It is about a  mile away and the towpath is not very friendly towards a rollalong bag, but needs must, as this was the only mooring available, which is close to the rail station. On the way back I checked train times to Wolverhamton at the station. The evening was spent in The Olde Bookbinders in Jericho, where they were still doing a French menu, but no moules frite, unfortunately.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

One Man Training Day

My friend Terry has just joined the Narrow Boat Trust, but has no experience of boating, so I invited him to join me for a day on the Wey Navigation to get some experience on my boat.
We left the moorings at 10.30 and I took Stronghold up to Coxes lock, which was set in our favour. I explained the way a pound lock works as it filled up and then Terry took over the helm up to New Haw lock. He got the hang of steering almost straight away, after I explained that he was steering the back of the boat. Once through New Haw and he took over steering again as far as Pyrford lock. After Walsham Gates, we were on the river and he winded the boat in Hoe Stream, stern first so that the current helped us turn. Going downstream now, Terry took the boat very gently into each lock and took the centre line off to secure us whilst descending. In the meantime, we had stopped at The Anchor for some lunch and well deserved beers. We finally got back to the mooring and I winded Stronghold in front of The Pelican gongoozlers after a tiring, but successful training day.
Terry gets the hang of steering.