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.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Summer Cruise 22. The Braunston Bash.

Wednesday 21st June, Summer Solstice.

Up early to a warm start to the day, but not too hot for making pastry Cheese Puffs, so I will bear that in mind for the next baking session. Instead, I washed down the top and one side of the boat and completed the washing, which I placed on the top of the boat with weights just in case it started to blow.

Chris and Linda knocked to let me know that they were going to the Cat Herding HQ, so after tidying up I followed with knapsack for shopping later. Not a lot going on at HQ, but tea and delicious homemade lemon drizzle cake and Victoria cream sponge were served up later that afternoon by Jan, which was just the same as last year with tea poured  into Victorian china tea cups too.

Climbing the hill to the village, it occurred to me that some of the land around here is very hilly and looks as if it had been quarried in times gone by – I must make some inquiries about that. Passing the hairdressers where I had a haircut last year, I popped my head around the door and asked if they could do me now, so I had another trim by the owner for £6. The charcoal, for which I originally went shopping, was enormous, but I managed to squeeze the bag into my rucksack, before getting some BBQ meat from the Village Butcher.

I was sitting outside Cat Herding HQ later in the afternoon, when Mike and Gill came past on nb Sundowner, so I gave them a wave as they asked where they could moor. I said that I would go with them to find a place, either up on the Puddle Banks towards Napton, or on the 14day moorings towards Rugby. Suggesting that someone goes by foot first to find a place, Gill got out her fold up bike and rode past the turn to get the last place on the 14 day moorings, which was very close to Bridge 90 and just squeezed in to the information post. Even so, I can well imagine anyone towing a butty through that blind bridge ‘ole cursing those moorings so close to the blind bend – NBT for one!

Although I had met Gill and Mike over a week ago as we came up Braunston Locks together and I knew where they came from in Sussex, it transpired that as I was talking about the Trust boats, Mike asked me if I knew someone associated with the Trust called Oakhill, to which I put my hand up. It was at that moment that it all became clear that they had information about me and the Trust from my sister who lives in Brighton and that they did pre-natal care with my sister there about 30 yrs ago – serendipity! We arranged to go for a drink later at The Boat House and certainly had plenty to talk about. We also arranged a dinner date at The Admiral Nelson for the next day. I have to comment on the myth that is spread about Braunston and that is that eventually every boat on the system will pass through there. That myth is coming true as I have met so many people that I have known in the past and know now in Braunston through the years that I have been moored up here. Just this morning, a boat called Travellers Joy passed by, which I believe is from the Wey Navigation and moors close by. It turned out later that it was not the same boat, when I talked to them on their way back through Braunston.

Thursday 22nd June

OMG! I haven’t written anything since today and it is now the following Monday as I have been too busy with the Braunston Hysterics; so busy in fact that one day I only had time for a banana for lunch, such was the rush trying to fit everything in. Let’s hope I can remember it all.

Wow! What a sudden change in the weather, from scorching heat yesterday, to overcast and much cooler this morning with an early welcome thunderstorm.

Boats were starting to appear at the site and were looking for moorings. As the final positions were not yet allocated, they moored up more or less where there was space. Chris and Linda Martin on nb Mars assisted me with spraying 75 ft markers along the Butchers Bridge area as far as the Ladder Bridge and I recollect that that was our only contribution for the day. Having done that, I can’t see anyone making use of them anyway, but it gives us an idea of how many boats we can fit in.

I returned to Stronghold for a meal, but the inside of the boat was so hot, I was not really hungry at all, so I ended up having cold, but well flavoured, tinned tomatoes on ciabatta type toast, which was quite adequate. I was so hot that I felt really uncomfortable and ended up having a cold shower before going out to meet up with my new friends later for good conversation at The Nelson, where the food was exceptionally good, as well as being lubricated by well selected beer.

Friday 23rd June

Such bad news – there was a boat fire on board a Sea Otter aluminium boat late last night, just above Bridge 90. The story goes like this:– Two lads arrived at 11.30pm, moored up and left the boat. At 01.45, the horn was blasting intermittently and so was the headlight flashing and then the fire broke out. Gill, who was moored some distance in front, phoned the fire brigade, who doused what remained from the bridge, but the boat was gutted. The fire got up to 650°C because it just melted the aluminium cabin. The boat is still there now, so not sure who is responsible for moving it. I heard later that the crew were at the show.

Even more boats arriving today and now is the time to do a bit of ‘Cat Herding’ so that they can all fit it in without any gaps.

Getting back to Stronghold for lunch, I was running the engine and talking to Gill and Mike about various boaty things, when all of a sudden the automatic bilge pump activated and squirted water half way across the cut, which I had never seen before. Peering under the deck boards, I could see about 3 to 4 ins of water beneath the engine, but could not understand where it came from. Looking even further, I could see the water being pumped into a full gallon container that collects from the hot water tank via the pressure release valve. I then switched off the isolator switch to stop the domestic water pump from working and put my brain cell in gear to understand what was happening. At that moment I had a call from Richard Heaseman, who was at Calcutt Marina, asking if there was any mooring at Braunston – he later came over and breasted up to Stronghold for one night. He advised me that the pressure switch on the end of the pump had remained closed and that he had a spare pump that I could borrow, which he would bring over to me by car. By the time he got here, I had stripped out the pressure switch, tested it and put it back as it was now working and all I had to do then was to pump out and sponge below the engine. The moral of this experience is to switch off your water pump when you leave the boat for a short period – every time! That Shureflo pump was bought at Banbury two years ago, so it is not very old. I believe the pressure switches can be obtained from Uxbridge Boat Services, so it would be advisable to carry a spare.

I had previously apologised to Graham for my absence on account of fixing the problem, but later we all met up in The Boat House for a meal and drinks on him for our efforts over the weekend. Once again it was a very sociable occasion  and I sat on a table with Ken Haynes, Wilf and Annabel.

Saturday 24th June

Well for me, today was the day, when I would be steering Nuneaton and Brighton to open the show with Timothy West and Prunella on the butty. I dressed up in my Boater’s Sunday Best, complete with bowler hat and boarded Nuneaton ready for the trip. Picking up Brighton on cross straps, as she was empty, we headed the short distance to the Stop House, where we were collecting the dignitaries. Once on board and settled, we were off to open the show, with Tim standing on the gunnel to start with. 

Passengers on board and ready to go. 
This pic by Steve Morgan is the only one where we are both smiling!

Once around the turn into the marina, I passed the tiller to him and he announced the show open.

The turn into the marina and about to hand over steering to Tim. 
Pic by Mike Askin.

I then took over to steer between the boats to start with in there and once past that point, I let him steer through to Ladder Bridge.

Pru and Colin on Brighton.

About to make the turn under Ladder Bridge.
My water can is getting good publicity in these pics.

Again I took over to go under the bridge and turn a right angle back onto the main line, but with the wind blowing the bow in the wrong direction, I was forced to let Nick Scarcliffe shaft the front end round. Once we were facing the right direction, Tim took over the tiller again up to the Stop House, where all disembarked, photos were taken and the Trust was presented with a £1,000 check from the marina towards the present repairs.

A very welcome gift to help with repairs. 
Photo by Tim Coghlan.

After all the pomp and pics, we took on other NBT members and headed for Braunston Turn, where we had to wind the pair through the triangular island. Having seen Tom Lapworth do it a few years ago, I knew how to work the pair of boats to turn them back in the direction of the marina. By now, the cut was full of boats that had been following me and I had to steer through them, mostly on tickover and just thrusting the gear rod in gear and out every so often. It was so slow, like watching paint dry, as we had to wait for boats to wind at either end. Back at our moorings, we all relaxed and I complained about the gear box being badly adjusted and suggested an improvement, which Barry and Colin effected on the spot, while I went off to man the turn beneath Bridge 91in place of Jack, who moved down to the Stop House.

I met up with Mouse and Karen, his wife later and was driven to The Nelson, this time for a booked meal and further beer of course. The pub was full to overflowing as the evening progressed and after the meal, which turned out to be a treat for me by Mouse, we repaired to The Boat House to meet up with the NBT crew for more beer and conversation, which rounded off an extremely fulfilling day.  I should explain also that I took no photos during that day, or on Sunday, being far to involved with other things, but I am hoping that others will send some to me to illustrate this blog. Karen is very well know by the NBT crews for her fruit cake and she had baked a whole one especially one for me, for which I am very grateful.

Sunday 25th June

The first priority this morning was to get the engine in Nuneaton started, as the battery was flat. I appeared later that the alternator was not charging it. My spare battery was tried first, but not enough juice in that, so Barry tried the hand start, which had problems connecting. The last ditch attempt was to bring Stronghold alongside and jump start from there, Fortunately, that worked and they were in business. Colin then took Stronghold through the marina to wind and came back to my original mooring opposite the Marstons pub. What I forgot was that I had not opened the water cock to the skin tank, but it survived.

The morning briefing was at 10.30 this morning, as there was to be only one parade of boats at 11.30. I collected the PMR for making contact with other Cat Herders on the route, which made sense of what was going on elsewhere and where the holdups were during the parade. Once again I was at Bridge 91, being a wide bridge ‘ole where two boats could pass each other with care, although many steerers refused to believe that and tried to hold back in reverse at the last minute causing the bow of the boat to wander across the canal, much to my annoyance and also to those approaching, who also had to reverse until the offending boat had gained control. The technique is to either stop with a centre line on the bank, or to keep going very slowly forward to keep steerage under control. Bear in mind that these steerers were all experienced people with historic boats and I was astounded at what some of them did. One boat actually refused to follow my request and ploughed on past two waiting boats straight into a pair coming through in the opposite direction. Needless to say, confusion reigned and he had egg on his face. Another boat would not put anyone on the bank and tried to hold position without a centre line off. Again that boat reversed three times and each time put the fore end across the cut, so causing chaos. When I told them what to do, I was asked how long I had been boating, so in the rare chance that they are reading this, the answer is 38 years! On the bright side, John Fevyer put in an appearance as well as Tom Lapworth on the towpath. I have to say that it was a relief when the last boat went through that bridge ‘ole and I returned to my boat to chill out with a dry Martini with ice.

Later we all returned to the Cat Herders HQ for Pasta and Pimms dispensed by Graham and Linda, which was appreciated by all concerned, especially by some of the guys who had got free beer in the tent as the supplies ran out.

The Cat Herders HQ at Pasta and Pimms final bash.

Chief Cat Herder Graham.
Deputy Cat Herder, John Henry.





The Chef Linda.

It had been a very busy day again, but that is the way I like it to be as I dragged my tired body along the towpath back to Stronghold.

Alex is a very happy bunny after a visit to the beer tent.

Once again, I will explain that I am relying on others to post photos by e-mail to me and that they may well appear later in this blog.

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Summer Cruise 21

Monday 19th June
I let go at 07.45 and getting well away from the boat behind me before starting the engine. I intended to get to Crick after about 5 hours, but it took six and a half. The day was red hot, with temperatures inside the boat above 30°C. I was stripped down to a pair of shorts and sandals and would really have liked to jump into the water.
At the approach to Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, I could see the white light from another boat inside, but could not tell which way it was heading, so I waited a while, but as it never seemed to move I headed in to the tunnel. When I got there they were moving so slowly towards me, I asked if they were OK – they were, but my auxiliary light crunched against the wall and then went out, so I thought it was smashed. Steering in the tunnel with just a headlight is not my bag as I like to be able to see the wall, which gives me more perspective and better orientation. However, on exiting the tunnel I checked the light and all was OK. It had gone out because the switch hit something and switched itself off. Nevertheless something was loose inside, so it had the full strip strip down later.
I moored up at Crick after six and a half hours from Foxton, which was a bit longer than I thought. This time I was in the shade, nearer to the tunnel. Shopping was on the list in the village, but rehydration was necessary beforehand in The Wheatsheaf – shopping in the Co-Op before more rehydration in the same pub.
Tuesday 20th June
At 07.30 I reversed onto the water point and filled the fresh water container and emptied the rubbish, before heading into Crick Tunnel. The condensed mist inside was like steering through fog and there was no point of reference except for the wall, so I zig-zagged through, overcorrecting the steering every so often. Not until 200yds from the south portal could I see the exit, which was weird and I expected to see Kit Crewbucket, the ghost of Crick Tunnel any minute.
Forty five minutes later I arrived at Watford Top Lock, but there were three boats on their way up, so I had about 45 mins to wait, which turned into an hour. Making the most of my time, I got onto the water point and filled the tank, made coffee, wrote up some of this and assisted two boats through the top lock and had a chat with the lockies. I was let through after the Cheese Boat, while there were now more than seven boats waiting at the top and three at the bottom – busy, busy!
Turning towards Braunston at Norton Junction, there were no boats moving, so no collisions. Through Braunston Tunnel at a good speed with no oncoming boats. This time I clamped the auxiliary light to the cabin top, which was inside the profile of the boat, so could suffer no damage and left one hand free. I wonder why I never did this before.

The simple solution!
On arrival at Braunston Top Lock, I waited for the boat following me through the tunnel. When it failed to appear after ten mins, I let myself through, only to see it approaching a few minutes later, but waited in the next lock for them. The wife was steering, but only because she had hurt her neck and could not do the locks. This is a common mistake in partnerships, because if the husband has an accident, the wife is too timid to take over steering of the boat. They need to take equal turns in doing locks and steering, so that each understands the others part. Very often the husband dominates the wife and refuses to let her steer because she makes a hash of it, but then she refuses to steer because the husband criticises her steering, so there is fault on both parts. Anyway, we got through all the locks in one piece, despite his shouting at her.

Pulling up alongside nb Egypt, I was greeted by John Boswell and the rest of the Cat Herders under the awning alongside nb Joseph, which has a new engine at last. We had a good old chat and eventually Graham Scothern turned up and I was greeted like a long lost friend. After an hour, I moved up opposite the Marston’s pub and got a good mooring there, as moorings are suspended from tomorrow until well after the event.

Monday 19 June 2017

Summer Cruise 20

Friday 16th June.

Whilst waiting for the Foxton Festival to open tomorrow, I had time on my hands, so I decided to make an amendment to the water cock. Keeping it closed during engine warm up is the usual practice, but when the temp gets over 90°C, I have to lift up the deck the deck and knock the lever to open it further. Obviously this is not an efficient way of doing things when on the move, so I attached a length of string to the lever and brought it up above the deck and attached a large washer to pull on. This made opening the water cock so much easier and I could do it by degrees. A pencilled scale on the deck would make it measurable between fully closed and fully open. All I need to do now is to try it out on the move. As had been said many times, simple ideas are very often the best.

The boat moored in front of me had their family arrive and this is the morning after.
One of them even slept on the floor!

Walking down towards the locks with the laptop, I could hear melodeon music and sure enough Cath Fincher was playing on the towpath, while Alan was changing the engine oil. I stopped and had a very interesting chat as I quizzed her about her melodeon and how she learned to play. I also told her and Alan about reading up on his calorifier problem on CWDF and how it had given me ideas about solving my problem.

I went into Bridge 61 and tried to get on the internet, but no joy there. I then went into the Foxton Locks Inn, but still could not connect, although there were two BT hotspots as well as the pub’s own wi-fi. There is a problem with this PC making connections without the wi-fi aerial, which is strange, even though I rarely use it without now. Finally I had to resort to posting over my personal wi-fi on board, which is akin to watching paint dry here in this wilderness.

Saturday 17th June

I was awake really early, the sun was up and the sky was wall to wall blue, so it was forecast to be a hot day, but there is hotter to come in the next couple of days. I ran the engine about nine o’clock and the water temp was easily controlled with the string. I did research in line water thermostats, but at £88 each for an experiment that may not work, I will not bother.

Later in the morning I had a walk around the festival site. There were the usual bric-a-brack stalls, CRT volunteers, lots of dog and cat stalls selling animal treats, clothing stalls, mostly for women and a waistcoat stall selling the obvious hand made waistcoats in all sorts of differing materials – now this was something that I needed as my own came from a long gone friend and was probably as old as me, so the silk lining was in shreds and it was really too small. Choosing from a selection in my size, I chose a velveteen maroon material and bought it there and then. There was a food court and beer tent with only three different real ales on offer. As it is considerably nearer than the pubs, I shall go there later.

I drove one of these Fergusons when I was about 14 yrs old on a farm.

Apart from the boiler, the guy built the rest in 4 yrs.

I walked to the beer tent later, expecting to meet up with Danny and Janice and after a while, when they didn’t appear, I took a walk down the locks to Bridge 61, but they were not there either, although Cath and Alan Fincher were, so I joined up with them and we were later joined by the Glass Barge peeps and those from The Art Boat, so good boating conversation took place until I left at 10.30.

Even by that time I had not eaten anything after an upset stomach, which could be caused by cloudy beer in The Foxton Locks Inn the previous evening. Normally I would ask for a replacement, but there was such a long queue for the bar that I didn’t bother – big mistake!

Jim and Sheila on the Coffee Boat. 
I took them some Stilton Cheese Puffs later.

The Coffee Boat.

Other Boating traders.

Lots of gongoozlers down the locks.

Nutfield and Raymond were there too.

Sunday 18th June

It is going to be yet another hot one today and although the boat is shaded up to midday, it is hit by the sun all afternoon, so gets very hot indeed. I strolled down to see Danny and Janice on nb Mozark this morning and got his e-mail address, as Janice had expressed an interest in painting roses and castles and as I had written extensively about the subject, I offered to send her as much info as possible.
This afternoon decided to make the Stilton cheese puffs a la Nigel Slater, that my daughter made a while ago, but having the oven on in this heat was akin to suicide. Never mind, it was now or much later in the week when I got to Braunston, as there would be little time on the way there. Having never worked with puff pastry before was a bit of a nightmare, because of the heat (27°C inside), so I am thinking of hiring an igloo for the next batch. Although they were a bit of a mess, they certainly tasted very good. Next thing is to put the washing in soak, but don’t know when that is going to be washed, rinsed and dried.

Stilton Cheese Puffs cooked it the heat, but they tasted excellent!
Most crews here are sitting out on the towpath in the shade of the tall bushes, but there is very little wind to cool them down. The boat is cool if the draught blows through, but then all the flies come in to annoy me, so it’s got to be a compromise.

Friday 16 June 2017

Summer Cruise 19

Thursday 8th June

Not raining at 07.00 but it does not look promising outside. Thinking I might survive the chilly morning, I put off lighting the fire until about 08.30 and eventually succumbed.

Thinking about going to the bottle bank and paying a visit to Helen later, she turned up about 12.00 for a cup of tea, a chat, and maybe a warm up by the fire; company is always enjoyable. We exchanged phone numbers, just in case of wanting to get in touch later. I should have done that yesterday, as she asked me to look out for her boat, which I did at 4pm while she had a hospital visit.

Once again we had a splendid meal at The Greyhound. Not only was the bar full to capacity, but the restaurant was too. Staff there are attentive without being overly so and the restaurant and bar staff seem to be here, there and everywhere, so the service is second to none. We thought that the chef had changed since we had been here last, because the menu was far more imaginative than before and if you go to a restaurant, you usually want to eat something you would not cook at home.

Back in The Greyhound at 6pm for a pint and Helen joined me shortly afterwards and bought me another one. She explained the problems that she had had with the rudder on her boat ever since it was replaced last year. I promised to look it up on CWDF and also look out the photos of my boat in dry dock.

Friday 9th June

The sun was shining again early this morning, but unfortunately it clouded over later. Chances are that the weather will improve from here on and the forecasters promise sunshine and hot weather.

I found the pics of my rudder and sure enough the proportions taken from the photograph were 1 part ahead of the rudder stock and 4 parts behind it. Researching on Canal World Discussion Forum, the verdict was about the same, so it sounds as if she has been sold a pup. Some bastard taking advantage of women boaters again! I messaged Helen the news and she later phoned to thank me. Apparently she likes to go to Braunston Hysterics and so we might meet up again there.

I let go at 11.10 heading back towards Braunston,  following a hire boat through the lock, but soon caught them up. Instead of passing, I stopped to make coffee and then caught them up again; this time they let me pass – always frustrating when a boat is going really slowly. Not a lot to relate on the trip, except that I passed nb Lindy Lou, with Vic and Linda aboard, heading for Northwich – not much chance to say anything, but then Vic is a man of few words anyway. Vic helped me through locks on the Oxford last year, when my hip was giving me hell and he used to drink in The Pelican on the Wey Navigation.

I had washed my all wool Guernsey overnight, so rinsed it out this morning, but do little more than gently squeeze out the water. I put it on the slide with a towel beneath and imagine my surprise when the sun dried it by the end of the trip – that is faster than at home.

After five hours, I arrived at Newbold and found a tight place on the 14 day moorings. No consideration though from a hire boat as I was trying to moor up, so the bow of Stronghold was pulled out by the speeding boat, so both collided. Just another mark to be touched up along with the many others.

Saturday 10th June

I let go about midday and made Rugby moorings an hour or so later. As I passed beneath the main road bridge, Ryan Dimmock and another boater working for Jules fuels on nb Bletchley, met me at the path end having shopped at Tesco. I asked for gas and although Ryan did not have any, the other guy did. I followed them along the towpath to their boats, which were moored up a long way from the bridge. Having settled the bill, I then had to look out for a winding hole to go back to the bridge to get to Tesco and shop. The winding hole was at Clifton Cruisers, so that took a while, but it saved a long walk back to get to Tesco.

Having shopped for a lot of food, I was too tired to start cooking and went to the local Harvester pub for a beer and a meal – OMG I went to eat at a Harvester!! Actually, it was not too bad, despite the hand pumps having Doombar, Doombar and Doombar on the three of them. I settled on three starters together, so at least I had my choice of food and not a compromise.

Reading my e-mails there, I realised that the Foxton Festival is next weekend, so I had better not hang about any longer. Looking at Canal Plan, I can do it in just over 3 days at 5 hours each day, which sounds reasonable and might even give me a chance to go up the Welford Arm on the way.

Sunday 11th June
I untied just after 07.00, winded in an abandoned arm by the pub and headed for Clifton Cruisers, because I needed a pumpout desperately. Having lifted the toilet lid this morning, it was obvious what was needed. I got there just after 08.00 and although there was a note on the office door to say that the man was somewhere in the yard, he wasn’t. The office door was open and I called out, only to be startled by a barking dog on the loose in there. Fortunately he was not aggressive and came to me and licked my hand. Eventually a van drew in and I asked for a pumpout, but had to wait until 9 am, because he did not have the keys, so I made breakfast instead.

I moved on from Clifton to Hillmorton Locks and tied up below to pay another visit to the Canal Chef cafe, this time with camera in hand. 

Hillmorton Bottom Lock.

Canal Chef with Badsey and Angel outside.

The shortened version of Nuneaton!

Back cabin seems true to form.

What a fascinating collection.

There were still some peeps sitting at the window table, blocking my view of Nuneaton, so I had a coffee and waited until they had gone. The lady owner was reading a copy of one of the books by Iris Bryce, who used to cruise on nb Bix many years ago and whom we met up with on our first ever boating holiday in 1979.  I have all of her books at home and must read them again. I should point out that Bix was moored up just behind me, but the owner was not on board. I could take photos at will with the owner’s permission and the table in the bay window now clear. There are several models of narrow boats displayed, one of which is Nuneaton. I remember this being seen by an NBT member a couple of years ago and now it has been bought by the cafe owners. Something about it was not quite right, but could not put my finger on it until the cafe owner pointed out that it was not full length and one of the “rooms” had been left out, also the forehatch is not true to life. I was assured that the model is remotely controlled when in the water.

The first lock was operated by a lone volunteer, but the next two were left up to me. In both cases I did my usual trick of stepping off the stern as the boat went slowly into the lock, waiting for it to get about 10ft from the top gate before drawing half – in this case a whole paddle. Although the boat stopped exactly at the top gate, both bottom gates were so well balanced that they closed of their own accord – easy. I had spotted Rodney walking down the towpath and we exchanged insults as is usual between us. Valerie was steering nb Hazel Nut and Chris and Terry were in the other lock on nb Barleytwist, so there was little chance of conversation as we passed by. I should explain that they are members of the Byfleet Boat Club, of which I am also a member.

I reached Braunston after five hours cruising and as I went past Midland Swindlers, someone shouted out my name. It took a few seconds to recognise Karen Cook on nb Stella on the 14 day moorings. I did eventually get her phone number off Barry, so left her a message that I was going to The Nelson at 6pm, but there was no reply. She told me later that there was no signal where she was.

I did another load of washing in the marina launderette and eventually got to the pub at 6.30, but no sign of Karen. She and James (her son) eventually appeared  and we had another drink and a good old chat. She is waiting for the new marina to open at Dunchurch Pools, where she has a new berth. www.dunchurchpoolsmarina.co.uk

Monday 12th June

Although I was up early in the sunshine, it soon gave way to cloud and made for chilly boating weather. I went up to see the Braunston Butcher after talking to a CRT volunteer lady called Lynn Doyle on the towpath, who asked if I really came from the Wey. It transpired that she spent her childhood there around the New Haw area and knew of a man called Richard on a boat with Grace in the name, which was of course Richard Heaseman on nb Lady Grace. It seemed that he recognised one of her locomotive paintings when he went into the Stop House at Braunston. I should explain that Lady Grace used to moor at Pelican Wharf.

I did actually manage to leave the moorings at 10.15 and got to a queue of boats at the bottom lock. Two pairs went up and I hung about waiting for another boat, but after a while decided to go. As soon as I was at the next lock, another boat was coming up behind me, so I waited in the lock for it. Again it happens to be a small world, because the boaters on board were from Rodmell, which is very near to me at home. Their boat was called Sundowner and they passed me later at Foxton, heading north.

Arriving at Norton Junction I waved them goodbye and turned off towards Leicester, mooring close by for a bite to eat and write this blog.

Pressing on towards Watford Staircase, I passed another boat and the steerer told me that there was little traffic on the flight and sure enough, there were no boats waiting when I got there. I walked up the flight, as requested and had a word with the lockie, who said I could go up the first two locks and wait in the second pound to pass a boat coming down the flight. These locks were not part of the staircase, so that was no problem. The trick of stepping off the boat and letting it go in on its own did not work here. The boat slowed to standstill in the centre of the lock and I had to go down the ladder and walk it further in. We passed by OK with good comments from the two lockies and the flight went like clockwork, as I stayed on board and the lockies did the work, so all done in record time.

Blind bend moorers - they wouldn't do this in a car.

No other boats were coming through Crick Tunnel, so that was easy and I reached Crick soon afterwards to moor up. With hindsight, I should have moored close to the tunnel mouth, but took a chance to go further onto the moorings with less trees. This did not pay off and I ended up well past the three marina entrances.

I had a walk into Crick to try The Red Lion, for the database of course! After a pint in there, I walked across the road to The Wheatsheaf and who should be sitting outside but the peeps moored behind me, who were also on their way to Foxton. I bought a pint and went outside to join them for a good old natter about boats – what else?

Tuesday 13th June

The day dawned bright and sunny, but as a lady told me once “It is like all men, all promise and no delivery!” Not that I would agree of course. It did cloud over later and was cloudy all day, but warm, so it was a pleasant four hour cruise along the summit to the Welford Arm junction, passing very few boats on the way. The last lap to Welford took an hour, so I arrived at 02.30.

I winded the boat and moored up alongside The Coffee Boat,    FB @ FlavoursafloatCoffeeEmporium   and as soon as I was alongside I said “ Here I am moored up very close to my two most favourite beverages – beer and coffee!” so that broke the ice immediately and we had a good chat about the types of coffee that they sell. Jim and Sheila are also going to Foxton and further chat ensued in the pub later.

Meanwhile, I was cooking a fish pie by instalments. Yesterday I cooked the mashed potato; this morning, I cooked the fish in milk in the oven; this afternoon, I made the white sauce and assembled the whole dish; in the evening, I put it in the oven. I had previously done this dish at home from a Delia cookbook, but did not have the recipe with me, so I looked it up online and found a Jamie Oliver version. While I was in The Admiral Nelson, I photographed on my mobile the Delia version from her cookbook in there, so now I had two versions. I should explain that The Nelson has a myriad of cook books on view in the bar for anyone to read. I shall have to put both versions together, as the dish turned out to be amazing and I would like to cook it again.

The other two are in the fridge.

Wednesday 14th June

I had cleaned up the mud marks from the mooring at Suttons from the port side, so now that the Coffee Boat has left, I can move across to the right hand side and use the spare tap to clean the other side and the cabin top. The day was very warm and sunny and the cleaning took me all of three hours, but then the top had not been done for well over a year.

Fuel boat Callisto appeared during the afternoon and winded in front of me, so I asked for diesel and he came alongside to fill my tank. He would only take cash and bank transfer for people that he knew, so it had to be cash, which cleaned me out, so a trip to the Post Office was due shortly. By four thirty, I knew I had to go there and then, knowing that Post Offices have very strict hours of 9 to 5. When I walked in, someone else was drawing cash, so I asked what time she closed and she replied, “Right now!” so I had just made it in time. I asked what time they opened and was told 04.30 in the morning! That of course is the shop, but the  the Post Office, opened at  09.00 of course. After the rush to get there, it was time for a relaxing pint in the pub and by this time I felt that I deserved at least one, or maybe two pints.

Perfect mooring with all facilities close to hand.

A gauging weight used to weigh down the boats 
and record the dry side for load carrying purposes when first built.

Thursday 15th June

It was time to move on towards Foxton and I let go at 08.30 if only to get ahead of a hire boat watering up.
The day was sunny and starting to get warm by then, but it was to be short lived as the wind came up and the clouds formed just after reaching the junction. I passed by Nutfield and Raymond moored up at North Kilworth, where they had some school children on board in high viz jackets. Yet another marina is being constructed there, which is owned by the same guy that owns Debdale.

Sister marina to Debdale at North Kilworth.

I had arranged to arrive at Foxton Festival on Friday, so had to find a convenient mooring today and write this up. I hate mooring beneath trees, not only is it dark, but the roosting birds shit all over the cabin top, and having just cleaned it, I had to be out in the open, so here I am just north of Bridge 50. Being out in the sticks is all very quiet and peaceful, but there is no internet connection by mobile or hotspot, so posting this will have to wait until tomorrow. There is no TV signal either here, so It’s reading or reading – good job I have a good book. Oh yes, there is no pub either!

My friend Barry has just phoned to let me know that I will be steering the motor in the opening parade of the Braunston Historic Boat Rally, which has really made my day. I did steer last year in one of the parades, which was very successful, so I know what is involved. I was also on board when Tom Lapworth did it and all eyes were on him to pick up tips. On board to open the show will be Timothy West on Nuneaton and Prunella Scales steering the butty, along with Richard Parry, CEO of CRT, Tim Coghlan, boss of Braunston Marina and several members of CRT apparently. The good thing about opening the show is that Nuneaton will have a clear run up to the turn – not so good will be the return trip if others are following, but then they might not be for the opening ceremony.

Later I phoned the harbourmaster Andy at Foxton, who said that there was plenty of space to moor and that I was welcome to join them. I passed all the boats moored up there already and winded above the locks, ready for the return trip. Andy Ruck was on hand to guide me to a suitable mooring, which was not too far from the festival field. Again there is no wi-fi, except for my mobile, which has a better signal now than this afternoon, but still not strong enough for posting this. The only other alternative is to take the laptop to the pub to connect. for some inexplicable reason, this did not work either.

I hope you readers out there appreciate this, because I have loaded it on to a phone connection and it is like watching paint dry, but ..........never again!!