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.

Friday 29 July 2016

Stronghold on Tour 26.

Sunday 24th July.

Quite an early start for me this morning and the first boat through Mountsorrel Lock on a much cooler day for a change. All was going well until I came to Barrow upon Soar, where I spotted a waterpoint and services to dump the rubbish. As I moored up another boat slowly cruised past going in the same direction, so I called out and asked if they were going through the next lock, which they were. I had no need to rush, because this was Barrow Deep Lock and a wide beam was on the way up, supervised by a CRT volunteer. The paddles were only half opened for us going down, which I queried and it appeared that there were many boats moored below the lock and there was no wish to disturb them with a large rush of water from such a deep lock.

Dutch gables in this part of the country?

We continued together through Pillings Lock and past the Pillings Marina, where there had been so much trouble over unpaid dues to CRT last year and there were threats to dam the entrance by CRT.

Strange trip boat.

In Loughborough the other crew turned off to empty cassettes and I waited below the turning and had something to eat. Cruising with them was too good an opportunity to pass by as we each made locking easier for both boats. I passed by The Boat Inn, which had fond memories when I was on a summer course at Loughborough University many years ago. It did not look so attractive now as it did then.

Normanton on Soar church.

At Bishop Meadow Lock we met five boats waiting to go up through, which was surprising on this river, but then it was Sunday and nb Frayed Knot, who I was travelling with, was only out for the weekend. We eventually parted company just below Zouch Lock, where they had their home mooring and I continued to The Otter, a very large Vintage Inns establishment on a wide bend in the river. The jetty was a rather ad hoc affair and it took some juggling to get the boat into position to be able to disembark at all.

I decided to treat myself to a meal out for a change, but was suspicious of Vintage Inns, although it had been several years since I had last eaten in one of their pubs. Although the sea bass was off the menu, I had cod and thrice cooked chips with mushy peas and samphire tartare sauce and I have to say that it was very good indeed. There was a good choice of beers on tap and I even went so far as to have a crème brulee to finish.

Monday 25th July.

I let go at 10.00 and got to Kegworth Deep Lock in short order, hoping to see the tame fox that normally resided there, but there was no sign of him. Another boat was on the way up, so no effort to fill the lock. I decided that rather than attempt the long slippery ladder, I would bow haul the boat out, The advice was to use the wire risers fitted to the lock walls as three boats had hung up on the cill in the last year, so said the notice. However, if I did that I would need to be on board to untie them – not on. All went well and after closing the gate, I was on my way to Kegworth Shallow Lock, where I caught up with another solo boater. Finally, I was out on the wide River Trent, with a chilly wind blowing across the water and making my way up to Sawley Locks, which were keeper operated. Above that lock there were hundreds of moored boats on the bank and in the marinas. I can’t remember ever seeing so many boats at one time before.

Sawley Locks.

Sawley Marina and so many boats.

The final lock was Derwent Mouth, where another boat had caught me up, so we did it together and on into Shardlow. I decided to sail through to the winding hole and water point to suss out the possible moorings and that was nearly my downfall, because I spotted The Shardlow Heritage Centre with a vacant visitor mooring and where I spent the next hour, at least. It was nearly my downfall because when I got back to the visitor moorings, there was only one place left to moor, but it was right outside The New Inn and The Malt Shovel.

The Heritage Centre was very interesting, with a fantastic collection of canal and village memorabilia collected by one lady over many years and displayed in sections and old shop display cases. To read all the paperwork alone would have taken an age and the collection of canal reference books topped my own by a long way. She was very willing to talk about anything to do with the Trent and Mersey and village life in general and she was well aware of The Narrow Boat Trust pair of boats. She introduced me to Tom Foxon’s latest book on the T&M and having just finished reading his last of the trilogy, I just had to buy it.

The Heritage Centre, Shardlow.

The Clock Wharehouse was next door so I had to pay that a visit too and although they had restored it to a modern pub, I was not impressed with the rather shabby interior or the service, which reminded me of a Harvester house – pity. There was also a pseudo barge appearing under the main archway – need I say more?

Clock Wharehouse.

After mooring up, I decided to change the engine oil and filter, which was a little overdue, but as the engine was still warm, it was the ideal time. The fuel filters need changing too and as I will be travelling down the Trent, some of it being tidal, the last thing I need is a fuel blockage, but that can wait until tomorrow

Tuesday 26th July.

It was time to bite the bullet once again and change the fuel filters – not a job that I relish with any enthusiasm. I suppose I could always get it done at a boatyard, but I hate anyone else poking about in my engine hole. First of all, they don’t know where to put their feet and often step on a fuel pipe or the gear change mechanism or some other vital piece of kit and very often I don’t find out until they have been paid and disappeared, so I prefer to do it myself and find out by my mistakes, like missing out a rubber sealing ring, as I did this morning. Anyway the job is now done and there are no diesel leaks so far. I have also found that instead of bleeding the fuel through each individual connection, I can release two injector unions and bleed the whole system by running the starter motor. OK, so it takes a while, but it gets the job done sooner and without the need to hand pump the fuel pump up and down.

I had a pint to celebrate my success in The Malt Shovel, as having already been to The New Inn, it would be rude not to visit the other one. There are four pubs in this little village; how they all survive is a bit of a mystery, although in times of plenty, when this was an inland port, there were eight pubs in all.

I set off on a short trip to Sawley, so that I had a chance to rectify any problems before tackling the Trent. Upon mooring up I saw another boat on the pump out pontoon opposite and noted that the name was Tramper No.2. My friend Colin Wilks, Chairman of the Narrow Boat Trust, Captain with Iron Cross and Bar, also owns a boat called Tramper, which I thought was unusual, so I took a pic of Tramper No.2 and sent it to him. Low and behold, it turns out that the boat is known to him, as the owners of No.2 sold him the original Tramper eight years ago. They moored on the same side as me later and we had quite a conversation. I also found out that they keep their boat in the garden during the winter months, having it transported on a lorry and craned on and off at each end. Quite likely, it is more economical to do this than pay for marina moorings throughout the year. There would be other advantages too, such as prolonged periods between hull blackings, no insurance necessary for time out of the water and the boat is always on hand for jobs to be done, so less travelling to and from home.

John and Myra on Tramper No.2

Wednesday 27th July.

The weather has certainly turned now, with lots of cloud and wind. I am in need of food supplies again and the nearest place is going to be Beeston on the outskirts of Nottingham, so that is my goal for today.

Approaching Sawley Locks, I hung around waiting for the lockie to open the gates just as they had been on my arrival from the Soar, but this time there was no one on duty, so it was DIY time. Fortunately, they were BW key operated, so no windlass required.

Coming through Beeston Lock, which was volunteer operated, I asked a local boater about shopping and found out that there was a large Sainsbury’s beside the cut in Nottingham and ended up stocking up there. The Trent is not navigable at Nottingham, so there is a canal that goes through the city, eventually ending at Meadow Lane Lock back onto the Trent. 

The cut through Nottingham.

Here I turned up into the weir stream, where there were good moorings to be found alongside the steps of County Hall.

Nottingham County Hall moorings.

Plenty of activity on the river here.

Thurday 28th July.

Rain to begin the day, which was intermittent throughout the morning. Finding several launderettes on Google Maps, I stripped the bed and made off to the nearest one and in all, this took about two and a half hours to complete, which was my total sum of achievements for the day. Well, I did pay Wetherspoon’s a visit at 6pm for a pint of porter. This is the Trent Bridge Inn, situated in the Trent Bridge cricket complex. I imagine the pub has quite a history associated with cricket. There are photos of various teams, including W.G. Grace of course as well as various cricket bats on display signed by international teams. It has a very interesting interior for a Wetherspoon’s pub, divided up into different rooms and cubicles for groups of four, instead of the usual cinema or music hall type of atmosphere.

The real Trent Bridge.

Friday 29th July.

I let go about 10.00 heading downstream at last and reached Holme Lock in an hour. As I was slowly negotiating the lock cut, I asked a moored boater where the water point was. He pointed it out and warned me of the strong stream leaving the lock cut just where the water point was situated. I could see the boat moving across towards this weir and put on a few revs to keep up steerage until I was past the danger point and the water point. No way was I taking the boat back to get water there. The lock keeper walked up to have a word about faulty top gate sluices, so it was going to be a twenty minute wait for the lock to fill. He also told me that three ladies on a plastic boat were pulled onto the weir yesterday and that there were no warning signs in place.

It seems that all the locks have riser wires to attach mooring lines to when locking through, as the locks vary in depth according to the river levels. The lockies were quite happy for me to use the centre line through the riser going down in the locks and standing on the cabin top was the easiest way to do this. I also found out that VHF channel 74 can be used to call the lock keepers; there is no mention of this in Nicholson’s Guide to the Trent until the navigation reaches Gainsborough, which seems a little late to me.

I reached  Gunthorpe Bridge and the mooring pontoon just beyond about 14.00 and decided to stop for some lunch, but on questioning another boater there about moorings in Newark, he suggested that I stop here rather than try and moor in Newark town – a wise decision. Shortly after that, two cruisers from Doncaster turned up and the moorings were full up.

One space left on Gunthorpe pontoon.

Saturday 23 July 2016

Stronghold on Tour 25.

Sunday 17th July contd.

I pulled the pins later that morning, having been on this mooring for 48hrs and set off further north, although I didn’t get very far when it was time to stop for lunch.....yes, I do that now just for a break. Looking at the map, I realised that I would not make Kilby Bridge until late, because there were twelve locks to tackle before then. Had there been another boat going the same way, I might have taken the opportunity. However, there was a convenient mooring about 300yds further back, with a gate to a footpath that led to Fleckney village and a tempting pub which, it turned out, sold Everard’s Tiger. The footpath was across a large meadow, originally ploughed in the medieval ridge a furrow method, but the presence of the footpath had levelled out the land where it crossed, which must have taken some years to do. The sun was shining and birds singing and all was right with the world and I was reminded of my childhood experiences in Wiltshire when I was evacuated during the war.

Monday 18th July.

Now it was time to tackle those locks to Kilby Bridge. Still no boat going my way and it was to be the hottest day of the year so far. I had to stop and set every one, as they all leaked out of the bottom gates. I met a few boaters going the other way and one even came up to help me through, dropping his new steel windlass in the cut as he crossed the top gates. I volunteered to fish it out with the magnet and picked it up first time, for which he was very grateful.

There were a few free moorings at Kilby Bridge and as soon as I tied up I was off for a pint at The Navigation, which was extremely welcome on such a hot day. I had a chat with a lady from a cruiser about shopping places in Leicester and the secure mooring pontoon there, which is gated from access to the general public. She also stressed not to go outside the park in the evening if moored there, because the park is locked at sundown, which caught her out. I discovered later when I did moor there, that she could have got back in to the park through just one of several gates, using a waterways key.

Tuesday 19th July.

There are another eleven locks between here and Leicester, so today is deemed a day of rest, as it is forecast to be even hotter than yesterday. Fortunately, the wind has changed and the all pervading smell of slurry spread on the nearby fields is now blowing in another direction.

 I spent the hottest part of the day touching up paintwork below the gunnel where other boats had scraped down the side, most leaving their paint behind as evidence. I also retouched the blacking on the rubbing strake, which was peeling off because it had been sprayed on top of rust. Another nail in the coffin of MSO Marine’s shoddy work. I have found that wire brushing the rusty parts and painting with Fertan cures that, before finally painting with the two part epoxy black, which adheres very well to the surface. I crossed to the services side of the cut to do the other side of the boat as well as fill up with fresh water, after which I had to quench my thirst at The Navigation.

Wednesday 20th July

It was time to pull the pins and move on, despite the heat. There appeared to be several boats about to depart that morning and one of them caught up with me shortly at the first lock. They wanted to go through with an accompanying boat, but I persuaded them to go turn and turn about, so that I always had another boat for company. That worked for a while until another boat joined in, there now being four boats, so we continued as I originally planned all the way to Leicester through eleven locks, which in most cases were in very poor order, often with only one paddle available to fill the lock.

From this stream on the outskirts of Leicester to.......

.............this wide river.

Industrial Landscape.

Deeper into the city.......

.........to the secure pontoon moorings at Castle Park.

We both moored up near Tesco to stock up, as I was totally out of food. I then moved further on to investigate the secure mooring pontoon adjacent to Castle Gardens. Fortunately, there was one mooring space available – my lucky day.

Thursday 21st July

I awoke to find that Stronghold was the only boat left on the pontoon, but by 11.00 it was filled up again and later in the afternoon another boat was breasted up to Stronghold. I decided that the chance to visit the cathedral was too good to miss, beginning with a long coffee break at Wetherspoons. £1.00 for a good mug of coffee and as many refills as you can drink – it is no wonder that this chain is so successful, with cheap food and ale, the pubs are always full to capacity every lunchtime and evening. How other pubs manage to keep going with their high priced beers is beyond understanding.

I had a good look around the market, where there was a lot of bargain fruit and vegetables on offer close to lunchtime. There are several very old houses in this area and a free grammar school for boys founded in 1877. I can’t remember seeing so many restaurants and take-aways in such a small area. I reckon you could eat in a different establishment every day of the year in Leicester.

The cathedral was small and perfectly formed in comparison to other cathedrals and of course the main attraction being the tomb of Richard III, having been recently re-interred in 2015.

A very interesting and compact city to visit and I am pleased that I did, despite the heat of the day.

Friday 22nd July.

I had spotted a Spar store on the other side of the river in one of my old copies of “The First Mate’s Guide”. These booklets were very useful in the past, but are no longer published, because the authors took their boat to France. They were written by Carole Sampson and her husband when cruising on mv Sulaskar, a narrow beam Dutch barge. I met them once in Limehouse Basin and still have a ball point pen that they gave me. The booklets gave all sorts of useful information about shops, doctor’s surgeries, dentists, post offices, etc at various stops on a particular waterway - I digress.

Anyway, I took a stroll in that direction and came across an enormous Tesco store hidden away behind The Black Horse pub – I wish I had known about both yesterday, instead of wandering aimlessly around the restaurant district. As expected, this Tesco was full of Asian and Polish foodstuffs and would have served my purpose admirably in the search for some curry flavoured sauces.

On getting back to Stronghold my young live-aboard neighbours did not appear to be out of bed at 10.30. I did and engine check and started it up, which caused a flicker of curtains and eventually they made an appearance to move their boat and allow me to move out.

One thing that I nearly forgot to mention at this point is the colour of the water beneath the boat, which is pitch black. According to Nicholson’s guide it is due to the deposits from the dye works that have been in existence in Leicester since the year dot, so it is not the water that is black, but the bottom of the River Soar and it extends for several miles downstream, whereas half a mile upstream from where I am moored, the water is clear to the river bed.

It was not so hot today, so was a little more refreshing cruising in a mild breeze. The locks are well spaced out, so not too strenuous and I was surprised to meet a volunteer lockie at Birstall Lock, where I stopped for a pint at The White Horse; a very well appointed pub.

At last I was on a long straight stretch of river after a few miles of twists and turns and found moorings close to Hope and Anchor Bridge. Just like other rivers in the UK, there are designated mooring places only, as the river banks are mostly overgrown with vegetation.

I walked up to The Hope and Anchor, only to be disappointed to find that it was a Hungry Horse establishment, complete with a queue for the bar, just like the last one. One pint was enough for me here.

I walked up to The Hope and Anchor, only to be disappointed to find that it was a Hungry Horse establishment complete with a queue for the bar, just like the last one. One pint was enough for me here.

Saturday 23rd July

Another red hot day in store and another attempt was made to post my blog on personal wi-fi, but gave up in despair – will try the next pub I come to.

A light breeze kept things cool on the river and I had forgotten how lovely the Soar can be – wide and deep, but still black in the depths.

Getting low on diesel now – well less than half a tank, but there are several boatyards along the river. I eventually came to one at Sileby Mill and filled up there at 68p/litre and no declaration, probably because it was from a moored boat. I wonder if this tax declaration will be phased out now that we are no longer in the EU. Nothing ever seems to be done about it anyway, so it has been a total red tape farce by the European Parliament and as usual in the UK we all do as we are told.

Another mile further on, I came to Mountsorrel and pub moorings. There was one free right at the back end, so I reversed hard, just avoiding a wide beam boat moored in front, when a day boat came around the corner saying that the mooring was theirs. “I don’t think so,” says I and shot in towards the bank, so they had to moor on the lock landing instead.

Moorings at The Waterside Inn.

Gotta make sure the boat don't break free - 
obviously new boaters with a new wide beam!

Sunday 17 July 2016

Stronghold on Tour 24.

Monday 11th July.

Here I am back on board Stronghold after a week at home mowing grass, spraying roses, spraying weeds and generally catching up with people. I must say that I am very pleased to be back with the old girl after such a boring journey on those ancient East Midland Trains, with their diesel electric locos and dreadful suspension.

Stronghold was looking good in the sun, but I noticed that Dave had retied the stern line to a ring, instead of leaving it on my mooring pin, which was much closer to the stern end and allowed the shorter line to go back on board and be tied securely. The consequence was that the stern end was now drifting around in the wind and hitting the bank – not satisfactory for a good night’s sleep, so it was retied as originally done. I never got round to asking him the reason why.

With the cupboard bare, the only alternative was to eat at The Wharf once again, which was up to their usual standard, before an early night. Previously, when I was outside searching for a phone signal, the waitress told me to stand over the drain cover in the car park and sure enough, there was a full strength signal – how does that work?

Tuesday 12th July.

After getting in some essential supplies, I let go and headed for the main line and Foxton Locks. It was a quiet trip with a heavy shower thrown in just as I stopped for lunch – most convenient.

The edge of the World, approaching Foxton Locks.

Arriving at the top of the locks, I had a word with the volunteer lockie, who told me that there was one boat on the way up and asked how many crew I had on board. “You are looking at him,” I said, so he shrugged and accepted that he and his mate would see me down. It was achieved in 33mins, which was one minute outside the record – a pretty good team, but all I did was to close the bottom gate, which makes a very pleasant change.

A long way down.

Lock gate of the staircase.

Although there were moorings outside  the Foxton Locks Inn, I reversed up the Leicester section and found a quiet mooring there, away from the pub lawn. It began raining hard and I waited a while for it to ease before heading for Bridge 61, which if you don’t know, is a pub at the bottom of the locks. There are two pubs in Foxton, one being The Foxton Locks Inn, very much a large tourist pub. The other being Bridge 61, which is very much a local and boaters’ pub, which was confirmed by the clientele in the bar. As I still had no food on board, I was hoping to eat here and I was not disappointed. Although the menu was limited, the food was home cooked and very cheap @ £5.00 for a chicken balti. Although its size would not satisfy an NBT crew, it was just right for me and along with good conversation, the evening was complete.

Wednesday 13th July

I let go in bright sunlight for a change, although that soon disappeared behind cloud as I approached the swing footbridge across the Market Harborough Arm. I unlocked it on the off side and attempted to swing it hard enough from the towpath go make a wide enough passage through. As I pulled away from the mooring, a guy came down the bank and swung it wide open before closing it after I went through.

Not far down the Arm, I came across the manually operated road swing bridge and after waiting to see if my luck was in, I decided that it was up to me to do the business. There was a bollard on the offside, so I put the bow on that side, stepped off and worked the bridge. After taking the boat through, I reversed to the bollard on the far side and closed the bridge – quite easy really.

The approach to Harborough Basin was very attractive, with long gardens of expensive modern houses on the offside and a well kept towpath on the inside. Finally into the Basin itself, where I had not been for many years and never on Stronghold. We hired several Anglo Welsh boats from this venue in years past and there was strong sense of nostalgia present. After watering up, I moved onto one of the pontoons with the intention of mooring for the night, but after seeing that it would cost me £10, I decided to moor just outside for nowt. Shopping in the town was a mile away, but I had a lot of victuals to buy and it was all uphill back to the Basin, so I got a cab, which eased the pain in my back and hip considerably.

Harborough Basin...........

......where much has changed..........

........since I was last here.

Thursday 14th July.

It was going to be one of those days, when I did just a little bit of this and that and when I got to the end of the day, I think “Did I achieve anything at all?” I heard a passerby say to the lady on the next boat, “Just how do you manage on your own then?” To which she replied, as I do, “Well, you just do it!”
We compared notes after the other person had gone and got into quite a long conversation about single handed boating. Later on in the day, I wondered if she fancied a pre-dinner drink at the waterfront bar, so I asked her and she seemed enthusiastic enough to accept. I think she felt as I did and just wanted company and conversation. It was a very pleasant evening, sitting outside and watching the sun go down. Conversation was easy and became even easier after the second drink. By the time we had had two drinks each, Anne felt a little unsteady and I offered my arm on the way back to her boat, where I made sure she was safely on board before fastening the dodger by the step. She said that she was delighted that I had asked her to go out and I felt the same too. I also remarked that I found it much easier to ask a lady out now than I would have maybe twenty years ago.

Friday 15th July.

I had now been here 48hrs and it was time to make a move back to Foxton, but not before I completed my hand washing under the tap. Anne was a member of the Ripon Motor Boat Club and said that it was a good place to moor for a while when I was passing through. If I remember correctly, there is a railway station there and might be good for a break to go home at the end of August. All the waterway boat clubs are members of an Association (AWCC), which means that individual members can arrange to leave their boats on a free mooring, usually for up to seven days for free.

When Anne returned from shopping in the town, I invited her for coffee and a bit more conversation and she had a chance to have a look at the shambolic interior of Stronghold, which I have to admit has not been cleaned for ages. In return I had my first peek into a Sea Otter, which was in immaculate order. I was impressed by the home made secondary glazing that a friend had made and which fitted over the protruding hopper window retaining brackets. This is a modification that I had previously tried to deal with, but as often happens with a design, I was not thinking outside the box. Here was the solution – easy really! I foresee a winter project ahead.

We said our goodbyes, hoping to meet again at Ripon later in the year and I let go for the two hour trip to Foxton in a chilly wind, for a cold front was approaching from the west. I coped easily with the swing road bridge and then the footbridge, which was opened for me once again. Moored up in the direction of Leicester, I paid a visit to the Foxton Locks Inn, staffed by children (well, not far off) as expected and a typical tourist pub, after which I walked across to Bridge 61, sat outside and had some good craic with the locals – what a difference.

Foxton Locks Inn in the background and Bridge 61 to the right.

Saturday 16th July.

It was another diddling around day, mostly catching up with emails, paying the odd bill and NBT magazine business, even though I am not editing the next edition. It was a windy day, but now much warmer than yesterday and even though the sun shone, I was in the cabin sweating over a hot computer. I attempted to download some large format photographs, only to discover later that most of them had errors and were useless, so it’s off to the pub again to use their wi-fi. I would imagine that a mooring outside the big pub would get me connected to their wi-fi, but then there is too much invasion of privacy being next to the pub lawn.

Knowing that there was a BT hotspot at the bottom of the locks, I went to Bridge 61 and plugged in the laptop, only to discover that I could not connect, because it was too far away. The only alternative was to go to the Foxton Locks Inn, which I was reluctant to do, as it was packed out on this hot afternoon. I walked back to the boat and had a read before trying the plastic pub when it was a little quieter.

Sunday 17th July.

Back in the Foxton Locks Inn with a cup of coffee to be able to use their wi-fi.............fat chance! Not only is there pub wi-fi, but also two BT Hotspots and I can get no internet connection with any of them – it’s driving me up the wall and that is expressing my feelings mildly. It would appear that I need to sit on top of the router to connect. Eventually, I moved to the other bar, where the router obviously was, but still could not connect, however I managed to got on to a BT Hotspot and after a long wait it all clicked into place........AT LAST!!

Sunday 3 July 2016

Stronghold on Tour 23.

Wednesday 29th June.

A fairly early start into Braunston Tunnel. All went well for a while, before a boat came towards me for a long time with the light shining straight in my eyes. As I passed I told him that, to which he replied, “What are you going to do about it then?”  I told him it was up to him to do something about it, which led to a string of invective, most of which I did not hear. People like this are either ignorant of the etiquette, or just plain selfish. For those who don’t know, the headlight should be pointing up to the roof of the tunnel, or down on the water. I suppose even to the nearside wall would be OK too.

I took the turn at Norton Junction on to the Leicester Arm of the GU, through very pleasant countryside inhabited mostly by sheep. After a couple of miles Watford Locks came into view. I only had to walk up one length to book in with the lockie, who told me to go through two locks and wait in the pound for another boat to exit. After that, the lockie saw me through the next lock and then the staircase three, before I coped with the final one. A very smooth operation, as there was no queue at the bottom, so no waiting.

Cruising on, I found some piling to moor up to for a coffee break. For a short stop like this, I use a piling hook with the centre line tied to it with a bowline, which I find to be very secure. Just for an experiment, I thought it would be worth trying a rond anchor in place of the piling hook.

A rond anchor.

The sequence goes like this:-
1.    Tie the rond anchor to the end of the centre line with a bowline through the eye.
2.    Come in slowly to the bank and stop the boat.
3.    Drop the rond anchor into a gap in the piling.
4.    Step back on board.
5.    Put a tiller string/s on to keep the tiller straight ahead.
6.    Put the engine into gear just above tickover speed.

Several advantages are gained using this method:-
a)    There is no fiddling about trying to get the curved piling hook in.
b)    Because the rond anchor is at the end of the centre line, it is close to the steering position.
c)    A bowline is not only secure and quick to tie, it is also very quick and easy to undo.
           An important point: do not try and stop the boat like this.

The rond anchor in the piling.

I also found this method beneficial when mooring up. Do the same as detailed above, before walking forward along the bank  to moor the bow end up with a mooring and spring line, before attending to the stern end. All in all, this is going to make mooring to piling so much faster and easier, because the other end of the boat is not drifting off the bank and little effort is required.

Someone gave me these two rond anchors a few years ago and up till now, I have not found a use for them. I wonder why I have never thought of this before - it is so simple.

I watched another boat pass as I was drinking coffee and was amazed at the stupidity of some steerers, who sit on a high chair on a trad stern, with the tiller under her arm. She only had to reverse for an instant and if the rudder caught on an obstruction, she would have been in the cut with chair and sucked into the rotating food processor with dire results. I wish now that I took a photograph. No idea of what a dangerous situation she was in.

I moored up almost opposite Crick Wharf, but found out later that there is a BT Hotspot on the wharf, so should have moved closer to get a signal.

Thursday 30th June.

I had a mild stomach upset this morning from the Spanish chicken that had been in the fridge too long and had not been brought to the boil before eating, so was feeling a little under the weather and decided to have a lazy day for a change. I moved the boat a little closer to Crick Marina to get out from under the trees and while I was there Debs came walking along the towpath. She is friend of Maggie’s and we met at The Boathouse in Braunston recently. She came in for coffee and a chat and shared some olives and flavoursome cheese just bought from the deli at Yelvertoft.

A leisurely afternoon before paying a visit to The Wheatsheaf, where I made good use of their wi-fi and a new brew on called Black Pig, which was similar to a porter. I also got talking to a boating guy at the bar, who knew where The Pelican pub was at Addlestone – small world really.

Saturday  2nd July.

Oops! I seem to have lost a day somewhere. I wonder what happened to that? That is what happens when out on the cut – you lose track of time and because I am writing this in arrears, one day blends in with the next.
Oh well, I shall carry on!

Time to move on again, hoping to get to Welford at the end of the arm. I had been here once before on a hire boat, but so long ago that I can’t remember much about it, except to say that it was raining at the time.

The summit pound between Watford and Foxton is over 20 miles long, so no locks to break the journey. With the gentle throb of the engine and little to do except steer, I felt myself nodding off, so had to stop for a coffee break. The weather was not up to standard for this time of year and there was a cold north east wind blowing, so I was dressed in several layers, including a scarf.

I discovered that I now had a phone signal and phoned Union Wharf at Market Harborough to see if they had a mooring for a week. Yes they had, but I had to be out of there on Thursday. I declined the offer as it was too much of a rush and needed to have a rethink.
The Welford Arm was next and very quiet, with no other boats passing. Only one lock to do at 3’6”, where a queue suddenly formed of three boats, Stronghold being the second one, which secured me the last place in the basin.

I enquired of boaters in the small marina here as to who to contact for a weeks mooring here and was given a phone number, but the manager was at a steam fair for the week end, so decided to wait until Monday to ask.

Another excellent and enterprising pub at Welford – The Wharf Inn. Being Friday evening, the bar was well populated with punters. A good choice of local beers plus Pedigree on offer. I tried one that was recommended by two guys at the bar, which was very hoppy and citrusy, then went on to another one that was previously Ruddles County, but had been revived by Ruddles brewer after the company folded. Food menu looked interesting, but I have too much on board to eat before I depart for home.

Only one headlight. Is that legal? Drum and rod brakes, just like my first car.

Real bucket seats!

Seen in the car park of The Wharf Inn. An American side valve Ford with a Winfield head. Did the new head come from Woolworths then? Modern Brasso tin, but he is not having mine with a metal cap!

Sunday 3rd July.

Clear blue sky this morning and no wind for a change. The weather man forecast the beginning of summer and about time too.

There was now a vacant mooring in the small basin right at the end of the arm, so I winded outside the dry dock and very gently reversed in beside another boat. Not only closer to the pub, but almost in range of a BT Hotspot, located at the front of the pub on a BT pole.

I find it interesting watching boats wind in that basin, because space is very limited. As often with noddy boats, it’s full ahead/stern or stop – only two speeds and just as I did many years ago. This time I got the boat at right angles to the bank before stepping off the stern with a line and pulling her round. No noise and soon done.

The Wharf, where they unloaded chalk and loaded limestone 
from the nearby lime kilns. The Wharf Inn is in the background.

Monday 4th July.

I walked around the to the marina office to try and book a weeks mooring, but no one there again. However, there was someone working in the nearby dry dock, so I knocked on the locked door and a guy appeared from within. We went round to the office and after a phone call to his boss, I got a bankside mooring for £30 - not bad, considering a marina mooring several years ago was £80. I moved the boat up there shortly afterwards and found that I had a TV signal to boot, so an added bonus.

Much of the afternoon was spent tidying up and clearing the decks of all removable items. I had a steak and kidney pie left in the fridge from the Braunston butcher, which was now six 
days old, so I decided not to risk it and eat in the pub, which was a good choice. Plenty of options on the menu and the beef and stilton pie hit the spot, with carrots that actually tasted of carrots.

I have ordered a taxi to take me to the station tommorrow morning; all done by email. My next entry on here will be in a weeks time - see you all then, lovely readers.