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 22 October 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 20

The final few days. 

Saturday 6th October

As forecast, it was a wet day and so I was going to stay put until Sunday.  This was one of the Thames Visitor Moorings, so I duly registered my mooring, which is free for the first day. I was on the end of the moorings, so decided to move further along where the bank was somewhat lower and easier to disembark. I had decided to do this whist the further mooring was still free at 11am in the pouring rain and harsh wind that was blowing – not a day for boating, although there were many others on the move. I have no problem staying in one place for a day, as there is always something to do on board, but after that the wanderlust sets in.

Mid afternoon I walked to The Catherine Wheel and what a surprise it was after the last time I visited some five or more years ago. Then it was an uninspiring place to go and I think it had just been taken over by a young couple. Now it was a busy community pub, with an excellent selection of ales and good food to be had. Certainly a pub worth visiting.

I had a walk around the few shops that were in Goring and surprisingly there is quite a selection. Back on board I planned the next day’s boating, intending to stop above Sonning Lock on EA moorings, however things changed on Sunday.

Sunday 7th October

After all the rain yesterday, it was a total change to sunshine all day, albeit through a thin veil of cloud. I was hoping to get through the locks with the same boat as yesterday, but a phone call from my mate Barry put the brakes on that as I had not left the mooring by then.
When I reached Caversham, I spotted nb Merchant coming towards me (Chris Iddon’s fuel boat), but he went to the right of Fry’s Island and was travelling at a fast pace. Needing some diesel, I turned and gave chase, but could not catch up¸ so eventually had to slow down and retrace my steps. I was pitting a 32 HP engine against a 72HP Gardner, so there was no competition.  I still had half a tank full and 40 litres in reserve, so enough to get home.

On the approach to Caversham Lock, which already had one boat in it, the lockie opened the gate to let me and another boat in. After closing the gates again, he then opened the sluices on the bottom gates; it was only then that we realised he had not closed the top sluices, which resulted in him running the length of the lock to do just that. This was a first in my experience and could never be done by a boater, because of all the interlocks in place.

Another thing that came to my attention was the existence of a Steamer Switch in a small locked box on the outside of the lock keeper’s cabin. This is to enable any of the trip boat crews to operate the lock just as the lock keeper would without the interlocks, but only they have a key.

I pulled in for water above Shiplake, where there was another boat already at the water point. I waited some 15 mins for him to fill and remove the hose and it was then that I became suspicious that he was using that as an excuse for a long mooring time and I was right when I looked to see that the tap was turned off. It was quickly removed on request, but no apology or excuse was given.

I had read on Canal World Discussion Forum about the restriction placed on mooring outside Tesco at Reading by Reading Council and some London parking firm, where they wanted £9.95 for mooring despite the length of stay and there were notices to that effect placed along the moorings. When I got there, there were no notices to be seen and I walked the length as far as Kennet Mouth. I then asked some continuous moorers what the situation was and discovered that one had actually paid the penalty fee amounting to £60, whereas another who refused to pay was eventually charged £360, but still refused to pay and was taken to court, where the case was dismissed. The interesting thing is that the some of the signs have been papered over with local community events and others have been removed. I wonder who did that? The news was that the mooring checker was not due for another week, having told the continuous moorers that. Now that the signs are no longer visible, I wonder what will happen next? Needless to say, I did not pay for the night I was there.

Plenty of boats moored at the Tesco site.

I had a walk to The Jolly Anglers on the K & A to include it in the database. Not a very inspiring pub, although the beer was good.

Monday 8th October

I left Tesco at 10am after doing some essential shopping and it was a glorious day to be boating. All was incident free and I wanted to get to Boulters Lock by the end of the day. It took until 5pm and by that time was starting to get chilly. I moored where I had done in the past, in the lock cut, close to the road, so it was rather a noisy mooring.

Tuesday 9th October

I was hoping to meet up with Barry and crew on the NBT pair at the mouth of the Wey, so really I had to get a move on if I was to get there before nightfall.

Passing through Windsor at midday was just the wrong time to meet up with my youngest daughter, so I pressed on. The weather was even better than yesterday, which is quite amazing for the time of year.

Lunch was eaten on the move and I was making good progress. The engine was continuously at 1500rpm and did not complain, for which I was grateful. Eventually I arrived at the Weybridge moorings about 6pm and once securely moored up, the breasted NBT pair could be seen emerging from the Wey and berthed in front of Stronghold. I was invited on board for a hearty meal, after which we repaired to The Old Crown to swap stories and relax over a beer or two. After two long days of cruising, it was well deserved.

Wednesday 10th October.

A beautiful day was forecast and it turned out to be really warm and sunny. My winter fuel supplies were loaded on the fore deck, but had yet to be split up into half bags, so that I could lift them. Diesel still had to be pumped into the tank, so that the containers could be refilled and there was quite a bit of work to be completed before I went home. I decided that would be on Friday, which gave me a day of grace.

I was in the process of tying up, when there was a horn blast and there was my mate Dave – well what a coincidence that he should arrive on the same day as me! Many tales to be recited between us, so we repaired to The Pelly and sat outside in tee shirts, it was that warm. Almost a perfect end to a Summer Jaunt, which didn’t take me very far this year.

Despite sadness at going home and the end of summer, I really cannot complain about my daily walk to the pub and back:- 

Typical October sunset.

Saturday 6 October 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018.19

Back on The Thames.

Wednesday 3rd October

I started the day with a shopping trip to M&S at the rail station and I was going to buy some vino, but their prices are far above anything that I am used to. I walked back and unloaded what little I had, before paying a visit to The Jericho Tavern so that could also be added to the database. Having been in The Rickety Press last year, that was also included.

All in all, it was not a very inspiring day.

Thursday 4th October

Decending Isis Lock - always a sad moment.

Although I set off just after 9am and went through Osney Lock, where I paid for a week’s licence, I did not get very far. The reason being that Sandford Lock was having repairs done to one of the top gate paddles by a couple of divers. I had been forewarned at Iffley Lock, but they reckoned it could be all over by the time I got there – no way! The lockie reckoned I would be held up for no more than 20mins, which turned into 2 hours eventually. In the meantime another narrow boat pulled in behind me and I got talking to the owner. We could see that the job was going to take longer than predicted, so Greg and I walked over to the King’s Arms for a pint, where we could see the action at the lock gates.

The diver is down there somewhere.

There he is! Just look at all those attachments.

Eventually at 13.30, we got the all clear from the lock keeper and we were in our way towards Abingdon, where Greg wanted to fill with water, before returning to Oxford. Not only did he fill his water tank, but a 40 gall drum as well, so that was another hours delay.

Abingdon lock keeper's sense of humour.

I did finally moor up the other side of Abingdon Bridge, where there were empty spaces galore – most unusual here, but it is so much later in the year than normal for me.

Friday 5th October

After a walk around Abingdon to top up a few supplies, I decided that it was time to move on, but could not decide where I was going to moor. Passing some moored boats on Culham Reach, just south of Abingdon, I heard someone shout my name and much to my surprise it was Keith Norfolk on his Dutch barge.

When I reached Culham Lock, there was another narrow boat waiting for me in the lock, so one of his crew locked us through. Eventually we got talking and he was due to meet up with friends at Goring, which was almost 17 miles further downstream, which seemed like an impossible task in daylight, as I calculated that it would take until 7 or 7.30pm, when it would be dark.

In Culham Lock there was a lock keeper on duty, as there had been at most locks so far and in times of EA cut backs, I thought this was most unusual. Anyway, I requested using the centre line only as I normally do when descending in the lock, even though there were two boats side by side. He approved of that, provided that I put it round two bollards, which gave two points of contact. Why had I not thought of this before? It makes such logical sense and was so much more controllable than using one bollard to hold the boat in to the side of the lock. After 14 years of boating on the Thames, I am still learning!

At the next lock, I made the decision to accompany the other boat as far as I thought reasonable, as they had a crew of four and I did not have to work any locks. We were doing 4mph and they were always in front to be able to get to the lock first and do the work. I got colder as the sun set, but I continued on until we did arrive at Gorham Lock when it was dark at 7pm. We finally moored up at 7.30 and as with the other boat, I turned upstream onto the mooring, which was difficult without the headlight, because the stern light did not reach the bank. With the aid of a torch I tied up, but it was not easy, despite knowing Goring moorings very well and I was pleased to get inside and light up the fire. There were again plenty of spaces at this time of year, as at Abingdon. I was too cold and hungry to venture off to the pub, so cooked a meal and had an early night.

Tuesday 2 October 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 18

Meeting Old Friends

Sunday 23rd September

After posting my blog and a walk around the Marina to get warm, I reversed into the Marina entrance, winded and headed off in the direction of Napton, stopping briefly at Midland Swindlers to get some solid fuel, but they had completely sold out. I should have had part of my order off NBT yesterday, but by the time I had thought of it, they had clothed up. I have had the occasional fire at night, so I may get by without any extra fuel.

The afternoon was pleasant, but still draughty and I did eventually moor up by Bridge 100, which seems to be a favourite spot for quite a few boaters. Very few boats passed by and there were only one or two houses visible in the distance and the sun was still shining, which was a welcome change to what we had been having the last few days.

I put up the aerial to see what strength wi-fi I could get and very surprised I was when I got a BT signal, even though it was only 2/3 bars. It was surprisingly fast too at that strength. The TV was good too for being way out in the sticks.

Monday 24TH September

I set off for Napton and arrived about 13.00, which gave me a choice of moorings. I strolled up to The Folly for a quiet afternoon pint and read the menu for the evening. I was determined to have one of their delicious meals again with those excellent home cooked chips. Actually, they were not quite as crispy as the last time and I think it might be in order to specify this when ordering the meal, but that aside, it was as good overall as the last one.

I did stroll up to read instructions for restrictions on opening and closing times of the lock flight, due to the long standing drought that we experienced throughout the long hot summer. The locks would open at 10 am the following morning and the last locking though would be at 3 pm. This long period without boats was time for the back pumps to refill the top pound. It was the same at Claydon Locks the other end of the summit pound.

Tuesday 25th September

No point in rising early this morning with the late opening of the bottom lock, though I was early enough to be fourth in the queue and stopped to water up whilst waiting. The gates were unlocked at 09.45 and we started to move forward as the first boat got into the lock. Eventually it was my turn and the volunteer helped me through, but he was the only one on the flight of eight. Fortunately, I was preceded by a hire boat with a crew of three men and to speed things up two of them hung back and worked about three or four locks for me until another boat came down the flight and the lock was in my favour. Following behind was another hire boat with two ladies who kept on catching me up, so the lady with the windlass would assist me through. In all it took three hours, but bear in mind that there were several locks where there was a queue.

After Marston Doles Top Lock, I had to stop and lift the weed hatch to clear the blades, which had a collection of string, plastic and assorted rags wrapped around the propeller. I made a sandwich so that I could continue on the move quickly and headed for Fenny Compton and The Wharf Inn, seven miles away. Surprisingly, the summit pound was up to normal level, which is the result of back pumping from both ends over a long period.

Arriving at 4 pm, I was surprised that there were still three 50ft moorings available at this very busy place. After tying up I deserved that refreshing pint in what was a very busy pub.

Wednesday 26th September

I made enquiries from a residential boater about coal supplies at the nearby marina office and delighted that it was on the affirmative. Sure enough they had Pureglow which I had never used before, but I was getting desperate by this time now that the nights were drawing in and it was cold at night after very sunny days.

I was lucky not to have met another boat in Fenny Tunnel, which was a tunnel once, but had been opened out many years ago. I was in danger of getting the chimney smacked by a tree branch or even dislodged  and being stainless steel it was unlikely to be retrievable by a magnet. At the moment there are no fixings to attach it to the boat, so it was very vunerable. Shortly before getting to the first lift bridge, I stopped and removed it as well as the liner.

Claydon Locks were next and here again, I did very few solo. There were either boats behind me or coming in the opposite direction. Strangely enough, I passed by nb Slow Pace that I had previously seen moored in Braunston and the woman I had the argument at Giffard Park with walked up to the lock with her yapping dogs, but she did not offer to help me through, so I think she recognised me and not a word was spoken between us. Her husband did acknowledge me as I passed the boat.

After Claydon there were three more locks to Cropredy and although there was room to moor Stronghold partway down the visitor moorings there, another boat was selfishly sitting between two other boats with about 10 yds space fore and aft, so I had to reverse back to the far end and this was at 4 pm, so fairly early as far as getting a place.

I took a walk down to The Red Lion, but the barman was in the cellar, so service was slow and there were only another two punters in the bar, so hardly exciting. The tables were not laid for dinner, so I presumed that either they were not serving on a Wednesday or the kitchen was closed. Maybe it was time to try The Brasenose Arms next time.

Thursday 27th September

Another beautiful day with wall to wall sunshine and hardly any wind – ideal cruising weather for travelling on to Banbury. I had some help at the locks from an Australian guy from Melbourne who appeared to be returning his College Cruisers boat to Jericho.

In three hours, I pulled in to the moorings in the shopping centre of Banbury, where I was spoiled for choice. After a galley cleaning session, a shower and finishing off a book, I decided to visit The Three Pigeons Inn for a change instead of The Olde Rein Deer, which is limited to Hook Norton Ales, which I have had over the past few days.

It was a 17thC part thatched building couple of steps below street level, meaning that the road had been built up over the centuries. There were several rooms, most of them being laid up for dinner service, with the old locals inhabiting the bar area. Very other people were about and the place was rather dark for some reason, presumably because there were few lights on. I moved into the garden area, which was comfortably furnished and very pleasant. Only two real ales were on tap: Purity Gold and Doombar. The food menu was very pricy for a pub, with fillet steak at £26.95! Not a place I would frequent very often and no comparison to the atmosphere of The Olde Rein Deer in Parsons Street.

Friday 28th September

I was reading the Herbie blog and knew that Neil and Kath were now off the Thames at Oxford after cruising up to Lechlade, so I made contact and arranged to meet up at Aynho and go to The Great Western Arms, which is a very well appointed Hook Norton pub. What I did not realise on Thursday morning, was that today was actually Friday and it was only when I started writing up the blog that I realised what day it was. There was no time to waste as it was already 11.30am. I asked a passing boat if they could hold the lift bridge for me after their boat went through and the I had assistance with the lock, so that went smoothly. The lift bridge can be a real problem to solo boaters.

It was imperative that I did some food shopping at Morrison’s, which is close to The Tramway Moorings and that took another hour. I passed nb Lindy Lou and hooted, but someone was having a shower at the time and probably Vic was out walking Eric the dog, so no contact was made.

I was in front of a hire boat with a couple of Australians on board and I got some assistance through the Claydon flight by the man when they caught me up, so every little thing helped me reach Aynho at 5pm and I moored just behind Herbie. Neil invited me in for coffee and we spent an hour telling boating tales. I had to shower and change and we walked along the towpath to the pub, where we had good food and beer for the next two hours and as Neil remarked the following morning, we did not mention boat toilets or batteries at all during that time.

Saturday 29th September.

After a late morning chat with Neil, we both let go for our respective destinations: they to Banbury and me to Lower Heyford. After filling with water there, I got a mooring very close and walked up to The Bell for a pint, which closed the day after a very late start.

Sunday 30th September.

The next port of call was to be Thrupp which was somewhat earlier that the previous day and there are two pubs here. When I got to the lift bridge, I pulled in on the opposite side to the water point and although there are two pedestals to operate the bridge, I had chosen the wrong side, because once through the bridge, I thought I could not operate from the towpath side, so asked a waiting motorist to close it for me, so speeding things up. This worked well and I walked back over the bridge to retrieve the key. I found out the following day that it can be operated from either side, once the key is in. All the same, it was still quicker for the waiting traffic to get through when done by someone waiting to cross.

I found a convenient mooring alongside the cottages and tied up before venturing to The Boat, which turned out to be a pub with no beer! I went further along the towpath towards The Jolly Boatman, but never got there, as I was waylaid by a frantic knocking on the window of a boat that I was passing. Well I never - it was Maffi! I had heard from Kath and Neil that he was on his way up to Banbury. At the same time, I bumped into Kevin and Ingrid on their way back from the pub, so it all happened at once. Maffi asked if I could cope with wine instead of beer and I willingly succumbed to his invitation. Also I was introduced to Susan, his new girlfriend and delightful she was too and very chatty. Dave Parry also joined us and good boating conversation was enjoyed by all – even Susan. In two hours it was dark and although Maffi offered me a torch to get back, there were pedestal lights along the towpath and I got back safely.

Monday 1st October

I decided to stay on the moorings until Tuesday, as I wanted to meet up with Anne and Peter Darch. He had not responded to my previous text and e-mail, so I phoned their landline and spoke to Anne, who was most surprised to hear from me and we arranged to meet for lunch at The Jolly Boatman. As Peter had gone off up the towpath to find me, I had an in depth conversation with Anne about Peter’s inability to get a grip on things and his failing memory over the last year, since we met up then. He eventually returned and we had a good lunch and conversation, to which Peter never really contributed..

The immaculate moorings at Thrupp.

A yarn bombed Thrupp wheel barrow.

Later in the afternoon, I walked up to the services to have a look at the books available for exchange and charity. Ken Haynes had just returned from the Parkhead Festival in Brum and we had a brief chat: arranging to have a drink later. When I got back to The Jolly Boatman again, there was Ken, Kevin and Mike, my earlier source of information in The Rock of Gibraltar about Kevin and Ingrid’s whereabouts. The towpath telegraph works wonders, but too many mates in Thrupp is bad for my liver!

Tuesday 2nd October

Time to move on again and I said my goodbyes to Maffi, who is returning to the Thames after visiting Banbury. It was steady progress, although there was a queue of three boats at Rowndham  Lock, which delayed things a bit. There was another delay at Kidlington Green Lock, because a CRT work boat was in the lock, whilst the crew cleared out debris from behind the bottom gate. Two other locks previously also had the same problem, so there must have been complaints.

Just beyond the lock at Wolvercote, I stopped above Bridge 236 and moored up to pay a visit to The Plough, which completed 100 pubs on the Memento Database, started by Colin Wilks a couple of years ago for NBT use, but abandoned more recently and take over by yours truly. I do remember visiting the pub some many years ago and it is still owned by the same miserable landlord. I think you would need a mooring spike to crack a smile form him.

Close to Oxford now, I picked up a blade full and however many times I chucked back, I could not shake it off, so eventually I had to moor up and drag it all off through the weed hatch.

With the blades that much cleaner I progress to Jericho Moorings at 4pm and surprise, there were only two other boats there, so acres of space. Time to write up this blog, because it was well in arrears. Then, a visit to The Bookies, aka The Old Bookbinders, one of my all time favourites. Although a Greeedy King house, there is always a guest beer on offer and the food is French, cooked by the landlord and his son.

Sunday 23 September 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 17

Heading Home.

Saturday 15th September

Very little done today except watch several episodes of Getty on BBC iPlayer, which was strongly recommended by my daughter. I have to say that it is very addictive and interestingly, it take place when JPG lived at Sutton Place alongside the River Wey near Guildford, although the set is somewhere else.

A visit to the Co-Op was also in order, but you already know what I think of that place. The Barley Mow was on the list on the way back, with their good selection of real ales.

Sunday 16th September

It was a case of ‘Getty With Breakfast’ this morning and I had to make the most of it, as I had a free wi-fi connection from the houses just behind the moorings.

I took a walk along the towpath and through the village later in the afternoon, but nothing too strenuous, calling in again at the pub for a pint. A very lazy day!

Monday 17th September

Time to make a move on to Rugby and being around midday there were copious moorings, so with a prodigious shopping list I walked down to Tesco and stocked up for the trip to Braunston. Otherwise, another idle day not doing much.

Between here and Braunston, the pubs are dire chain outfits where no one cares about the food, beer or customers, so it was a time for restraint.

Tuesday 18th September

I am still making the most of the free wi-fi connection here and finished Episode 10 of Getty – fascinating stuff.The afternoon was spent doing a load of washing.

At 15.15 the NBT pair of boats past me with a crew of three by the looks of it – the only one I knew being Howard Williams. I am meeting up with the loading crew on Friday, which will entail some dirty work on Saturday, but no lifting will be involved on my part.

Wednesday 19th September

As soon as another boat pulled off the water point, I untied and drifted across in the wind to water up and empty the portable loo. With that all done, I set off with breakfast on the hoof, wanting to make Braunston today, because the forecast for tomorrow was constant rain.

I stopped off at Clifton Cruisers for a pumpout, wanting to get rid of the Elsan Blue the guy had chucked in last time, so that I could revert to a biological method of cleaning the tank with SilkyRX. The. re was a warning that it would not work if in contact with formaldehyde. Maybe I should wait until after another pumpout before adding it; in which case it is going to be a long drawn out businsess.

As the morning progressed, the wind became stronger until it was gusting to gale force, which made boating very uncomfortable indeed and there were very few sheltered spots, even behind hedges. I did find one however around 12.30, when I was desperate for something to eat and drink. Fortunately there was some piling to clip the centre line to and I could hold the boat on that while I made a drink and a sandwich, so I was only there for 10 mins.

By this time, I was not far from Braunston and I thought that being in a hollow, it would be more sheltered. How wrong I was. Most of the moorings from the turn to the Boathouse were full and again the boats were 10 to 15ft apart, being either ignorant or selfish boaters. Eventually, I spotted Nuneaton and Brighton breasted up and there was a space ahead of them, but getting moored up was not easy. Firstly there was only one ring near enough to use and secondly despite the hedge, the wind was blowing Stronghold off the bank. Lastly, passing boaters would not slow down for someone trying to tie up. Eventually I got a stern line on the only ring, before pulling in on the centre line for the umpteenth time, sufficiently to drive a mooring pin in a previously used hole and affixing the bow line to it. Not only did I add a spring line to a short length of chain pinned to the towpath, but I added a centre line spring as belt and braces against the wind. I rarely do this, but the mooring pin was loose in the hole, although driven completely in to its full length behind the coping stone. I will remove the centre line if the wind drops later.

I was just taking stock, when I was approached by John Japp of NBT. We had a brief chat and he had been asked by Howard to make a few adjustments to the boats as he collected his gear. I gave him a hand to speed things up a bit so that he could get away home to Patcham nr. Brighton as soon as possible.

Thursday 20th September

Well, the forecast was right and it started raining in the night and continued until about midday, after which the wind began again in earnest, so it was once again BBC iPlayer to keep me amused most of the morning. Eventually i had had enough and decided to take a walk up into the village and down Dark Lane to visit The Admiral Nelson. With very comfortable furniture and so many cookery books on display for customer’s delectation, along with an excellent choice of ales, how can they lose?

Back on board, it was time to sort out a meal. The lamb chops in the fridge were beginning to smell off, so they went in the bin. They were originally bought to BBQ and I did two some time ago. These I was going to roast with roast potatoes, so that was scrapped in favour of the last of a chicken sweet and sour with rice and garlic flavoured fried cashew nuts on top, which was certainly different. I shall have to stock up on food tomorrow morning in the village.

Friday 21st September

A good shopping session, especially at the Braunston Butchers where they had calves liver again in stock, which I eagerly look forward to. The remainder of the afternoon was spent reading and sorting out the mess inside the boat.

The NBT crew arrived and we had a good catchup session before they moved the pair into the arm for loading the following morning. The butty was bow hauled in first and tie up to the wharf, followed by the motor on the outside.

Barry had made me a stainless steel chimney which fitted perfectly and I now have to decide whether to fit the old brass handle and fittings and polish them, or make new stainless ones. The brass fittings take such a battering from the heat and weather, they really need cleaning every day.

The new stainless steel chimney.

Saturday 22nd September

Loading day was here and most people were there when I arrived on the wharf. There were 17 tons of mixed fuels to be loaded onto both boats and once it had started loading continued in record time of less than five minutes per ton. I has to be recognised that there were usually two persons lifting off the stacks and another two people stacking inside the hull, which is why it was so quick. When the butty was about level, the boats were swapped over and loading the motor was loaded to completion. I have to say that the loaders worked tirelessly, never pausing for breath and I wished that I was young and fit enough to do the same, but I did help with some of the clothing up afterwards, so did not feel entirely useless.

Loading the butty.

Off down the Oxford canal.

The pair left the arm at 13.30 in good time to get to The Folly at Napton for a meal with two new recruits on board for a short trip up to The Turn. I bade my goodbyes to the last of the loading crew and returned to Stronghold via The Nelson for a well deserved pint with Barry. Although I had done little this morning, I was knackered and had an hours snooze back on board.

It was time to meet up with my daughter again in The Nelson for a beer or two, although I was not in a drinking mood and consumed very little, but it was an excellent evening, despite being so crowded.

Friday 14 September 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 16

Back Yet Again.

Monday 10th September

Here I am back on board after an angioplasty, which involved inserting two stents into the right cardiac artery, so that should put paid to the angina for some while. After a seamless journey involving four trains, which fortunately all linked up, I started up the towpath and within five minutes, three people greeted me with a wave or hello. It is quite incredible really that this camaraderie exists on the cut and nowhere else and so many boaters remark upon it frequently.

Stronghold was exactly as I left her, all safe and sound and I soon had the gas and power back on, but had to pay a visit to the Co-Op to get something to cook later, via The Old Swan, which is a 16th  century coaching inn; well what a let down: the beer was limited to Banks’s bitter and mild; there was only one small main bar and two other rooms; no food and basic seating, with about six customers.

Tuesday 11th September

A more consistent shopping expedition was now in order to keep me going until I reached Rugby. Unfortunately it was raining fairly heavily and continued until about midday, so I was unable to make an early start unless I got soaked, which I was not prepared to do. There are two outlets of the Co-Op in Atherstone, so I went to the nearest and the smaller of the two, which was of course very limited, but the larger one is not much better. Despite the logo advertising “Good With Food”, it is just not true and I would have fared better in Aldi.

After lunch I did let go, heading for The Anchor again in Hartshill. Surprisingly there were a fair number of boats moored up there, but there always seems to be spaces. I had forgot about Tarmac’s yard opposite, which starts up at 07.00 with a fork lift or similar clanging about and probably loading trucks for delivery.

Wednesday 12th September

I let go for Sutton Stop this morning and arrived in good time to bag a decent mooring just above the water point on the Coventry canal. After a good hot shower, I went to The Greyhound to meet up with Terry and Chris Rigden for a meal in the restaurant. I had previously bought a painting by Chris of Nuneaton and Brighton cruising past their property in Bedworth at the Braunston Show earlier this year and said that I would be passing through at the time. We had a very pleasant meal as always at The Greyhound and I learned more about their boating activities. They also invited me to stop off for a meal when I was  passing next, which I thought was most generous, but it will almost certainly be next year now.

Thursday 13th September

Mostly a day relaxing on board, though I did go foraging for blackberries later. The best of which were to be found along the towpath of the North Oxford. I did eventually pick a pound and a half. I also bumped into John and Myra on Tramper II, who I met initially at Sawley some two years ago. It was they who sold Tramper, their first boat to my mate Colin, thus the initial reason for asking about the name and meeting them.

In the evening I met up with my eldest daughter and fiancé in The Greyhound for the last time this year, but this time it was for drinks only. Another great evening in one of my favourite waterway pubs.

Friday 14th September

Heading off this morning for Newbold moorings, I encountered another boater holding in Papillon and his wife hanging on to her boat. It transpired that Papillon had come adrift at the stern end, so I stopped to lend a hand, which meant driving mooring pins in, because there were no rings. Papillon had been there about six weeks to my knowledge and already had two CRT tickets attached for overstaying the time limit. The stern mooring pin turned out to be a thin tubular steel broom handle, which someone else must have used in emergency, because the steel mooring pin was hanging on the end of the line at the back of the boat and had obviously not been seen. I drove it in tight to the steel piling, hoping that it would not pull out, because the ground was extremely soft at that point and quite unsuitable for mooring there. Whoever moored up originally, quite obviously either did not care or were just ignorant – maybe both. The front door had also been broken into, so it may even have been stolen.

Arriving at Newbold  after about five hours cruising, I moored up and was congratulated by the lady on the hire boat in front about the slick method that I use. There are plenty of rings available here, which does make it easy and I clip on the centre line to a ring, before attaching a tiller string to keep the boat straight which then springs her into the piling. With the boat held in position on tickover and in gear, I can now attach the bow and stern lines and suitable fenders and another spring line from the bow to stop any lengthways movement when other boats pass by.

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 15

Just Hanging About.

Wednesday 22nd August

It was time to move again, as I had been at Atherstone since Sunday and as I needed to go home again next week, I wanted quite a long time in the town when I was away and I could only moor here for 14 days in total.

I motored up to the top lock where I could wind the boat and water up, which took a considerable time, so I was obviously very low on water. I cruised back south towards Hartshill and The Anchor, which I passed by on the way up, finding plenty of space close to the pub. This place has memories, as it was here some years ago, when I was crewing Nuneaton and Brighton, that I was looking for a leak below the engine header tank. I found it close to the drain plug, so I found a spanner and thought I would tighten it up, only to find that the aluminium tank was corroded around the plug which came away in my hand. We had a meal, then removed the tank, sealed around the hole and covered it almost completely with a baked bean tin, which had been opened up with scissors, wrapped around and tightened with copper wire. We then went to the pub to celebrate a successful repair, which lasted for a few more trips on the pair of boats.

I went in the pub for a pint of Everard’s Tiger and not much had changed, except that the food on the menu is more tempting than I remember.

Thursday 23rd August

This is noisy mooring, because directly opposite is a builders yard, with a lot of trucks in and out and loading or unloading in between, so I think I will move later. There are no other boats moored here either, which is rather strange for a pub mooring in August. Perhaps that is an indication of the popularity of the pub, where there were few customers last night.

Another load of washing was done this afternoon, which took that long, but with the engine running, the batteries are topped up along with the hot water.

Tony Redshaw’s boat came past this morning, with the overpowered 4 cylinder Gardner engine driving the boat fast and he cut the power when he reached my stern, so I was rocked around no end, despite having the lines tight and a spring line out. No bloody consideration for moored boats – selfish bastard! Much later Monarch also came past and there was Sam Noone, who now calls herself Sam Monarch holding little Archie on the gunwale and he is not so little now. They were in their way to Alvecote Historic Boat Gathering, where I would have been had I not had to go home.

Friday 24th August

 A very changeable day for weather with many showers and bright spells. I took a chance between showers and had a walk down to the winding hole, not only to see how far it was, but also on the lookout for Nuneaton and Brighton on their way to Alvecote Historic Boat Rally, which I attended last year on the pair of boats. Shortly after getting back to Stronghold, I spotted them moving at a good pace towards me and got some photos. Howard Williams was steering the motor and Peter Lovatt was on the butty; both greeted me as they passed. The pics went on the Faceache Members Group straight away.

Nuneaton and Brighton passing The Anchor on the way to Alvecote Festival.

I ran the engine to get hot water and charge the batteries for about an hour, before changing the oil and filter. I am so used to doing it now, it is all over in about 30 mins and a job well done, as it is not a thing I relish.

I now had enough hot water for a shower, before I paid another visit to The Anchor, where I got chatting to another group of boaters, sitting close by.

Saturday 25th August

Continued showers in the morning, but I managed to dodge them again and I went down and turned at the winding hole and motored up to just above Bridge 32, where there were a few other boats moored up.

After a light lunch, I took quite a steep walk up the hill into Hartshill via a busy and fast road with no footpath for a while, to sample one of the two pubs. The first was the Stag and Pheasant, where they had Doombar or Doombar on two handpumps, so it was take it or leave it, the former being the best option. On first impression it was a local drinkers pub only, but on further investigation the other bar was an Indian Resturant called Tiffins. There were about six English dishes also on the menu. The main bar was not very inviting, but the Trip Advisor reviews on the food were spectacular.

Thinking about adding another two pubs to my database, I forged on to The Malt House not far away and what a surprise was in store; the place was humming with people eating in the bar and in the restaurant. It seems that I followed two other guys from the previous pub, who greeted me at the bar and told me that the pub had caught fire last year and had only been re-opened for six weeks, which explained the good order of decoration. There were four familiar ales on tap here and obviously good food to be had.

I walked back to the cut along Apple Pie Lane to Bridge 31, which was a far safer route, despite having no footpath, as there was no traffic at all, either way.

Sunday 26th August

The forecasters were spot on with the weather today – rain all day accompanied by a cold wind, so not a day for comfortable boating, nor a day for a ½ mile walk to the pub. Perhaps I should have stayed at The Anchor? It was also nearly cold enough to light the fire, except that meant digging out the chimney and liner from the fore end in the rain.

I was just making some soup, when I felt a sudden jar to the bow end and another boat had tried to pull in too fast and was being held by the centre line alone to try and stop. Not a wise thing to do where other boats are moored close together and there was no apology forthcoming either. It was fortunate that I was not pouring boiling water from the kettle at the time.

The weather is improving tomorrow, which is good, as I have to move back to Atherstone to get the train on Tuesday.

Monday 27th August

Although it was drizzling at 09.00, it had cleared by 10.00, so it was time to make a move and in an hour I was back on the town moorings, but at the bottom end this time. Not only was there good TV reception, but I had a five bar BT wi-fi signal as well, so a good place to stop. I walked up to the locks to dump the trash and refresh the drinking water, before having a shower and I was thinking of strolling up to a pub.

At that point I had a text from Maggie, who was coming up the locks with Mark. Although I took a windlass with me, I was too late as they were just coming in to the bank. We had a good catch up on Alvecote Festival, before Mark was to drive his car back home. We walked down as far as the station  before Maggie and I went in The Kings Head opposite and had more conversation to catch up on. We then went back to our boats for a meal and bed.

This is the last entry for a while until I return.

Thursday 23 August 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 14

Greyhound Party and not a lot else.

Thursday 16th August

Well, well, would you believe that I have now been back on board for six days and no blog written up. I have to say that they have been pretty uneventful days, so not a lot to write about.

At Rugby Wharf I settled up my mooring fee, which was only £5.00 per night – the cheapest that I have come across so far. Obviously there were very few boats passing in and out of the short arm and they were mostly hire boats, as this is the base for Willow Wren. I motored back to Rugby to shop and paid two heavy trips to Tesco to stock up, before heading north again towards Sutton Stop.

Just short of Ansty, there were moorings on a bend with rings, between Bridges 14 and 15; not the best place to moor on a bend, but there was little choice. The intention was to pay a visit to The Ansty village club, which was well advertised along the towpath, so it had to be open to the public. The main problem here has always been the lack of moorings closer to this place, where there are positively NO MOORING signs all along the embankment where the houses are, so the village discourages visitor mooring and the club is asking for custom – a dichotomy indeed!

It seems that I haven’t missed much in the past, as the club is fairly sterile with few customers in the bar. Food is served at pub prices and there is a varied menu, but nothing out of the ordinary. Two beers were on tap at slightly more than local pub prices, with a third pump being off. Wi-wi was available, along with Sky sports and a full sized snooker table. There were a few smiles at the bar when I asked for the sparkler to be taken off, so they were aware of where I came from. So in retrospect, I will happily pass it by next time.

Being only just past midday, there were ample moorings to be had a Sutton Stop and I settled just before the stop lock on Armco for a few days. Of course the places filled up as the afternoon wore on, until they were all full.

The next day, I was taking a walk up to The Greyhound for a late lunchtime pint, when I spotted nb Curraghmore coming through the lock. Sue and Mike were very surprised to see me, although I had heard that Mouse had made contact a few days before on the Trent and Mersey, when he spotted their home mooring as being on The Wey. It seems that the ‘Towpath Telegraph’ is as active as ever, but now even faster by mobile phone. After they were moored, Sue and Mike appeared in the pub and we had a good catch-up session of news.

The Greyhound is always busy, inside and out.

Friday 17th August

Getting short of supplies again, so I walked up to the corner shop across the cut in the housing estate to see what they had for a meal. Well, it is a good job that I picked up some salad ingredients earlier in Tesco, because all this place had to offer in the way of food was either frozen or in tins and the choice was abysmal. I bought some tinned tuna to supplement the other fish that I had in a salad.

I had a message from Mouse this morning to tell me that he was on his way back from The Caldon and would be in Sutton Stop by Saturday, so I begged the waitress in The Greyhound to increase the table count to five for the evening meal, which she managed to do with a bit of table juggling. I look forward to it.

I caught up with some basic bits that needed to be done, such as running some of Captain Tolleys Creeping Crack Cure around the Houdini hatch, now that it was dry. Strange how the original Silicone sealant fixed the leak from the end of June and now it has started leaking again. Most likely it is to do with expansion and contraction of the glass, considering the long heat wave that we had.

I also did some refuelling from the 40 litre reserve that I bought at Braunston Hysterics. That will improve my cruising time for another 40 hours. I have to say that the inline pump speeds things up considerably compared with siphoning the diesel into the tank.

A pair of working boats passed by this afternoon and I walked up to the stop lock to see how they did the turn. They were motor Harrier and butty Lyra. Harrier being built in 1999 by Gary Gorton, with a 1946 Kelvin J2 engine. However, Lyra was built in 1935 by Yarwoods. https://www.reveriecanaltradingco.co.uk/
I had a brief chat with the crew of three as they went through the lock and learned that my guess about the Kelvin was correct, although I had only seen a few K2’s before. One of the crew commented on Nuneaton and Brighton’s perfect turn at Sutton Stop a week or so before. They also did it perfectly and got a round of applause from the Greyhound gongoozlers. Both cross straps were in place on the turn and the butty steerer was rowing the tiller like crazy.

Saturday 18th August

A lot of the morning was taken up with internet stuff and fortunately I get a good wi-fi signal here from BT broadband in the houses nearby, but for more secure connections, I use a personal wi-fi router.

I went to the pub for one pint of mild and had a text from Mouse to say that they had arrived and were below the water point. I saw him walk over the bridge to the bins and gave him a shout, so next minute he had a pint in his hands too. He had secretly been invited to eat with my daughter later, which was to be a surprise and it certainly was. What a great evening we all had and Toody had even brought a birthday cake for Jim, which was brought to the table at the end of the evening by the waitress.

A great evening in The Greyhound.

Sunday 19th August

Mouse and Karen left rather later than was announced last night, but I was up and waved them goodbye, before it was my turn to leave, with the intention of heading up to Atherstone for the night to do some food shopping, as I was now right out of anything to eat for a meal.

An uneventful trip and passing through Nuneaton was not the best of cruising. I spotted Terry and Chris’s boat Grace, which was obviously moored outside their bungalow, before passing Charity Dock, which is always good for a laugh and a few photos of the mannequins dressed in various ridiculous outfits.

Charity Dock, Bedworth.

No problem finding a mooring at Atherstone in the early afternoon, so I paid a visit to The Angel Alehouse in Church Street, which is North Warwickshire Pub of the Year once again after several years in succession. What an amazing selection of real ales and ciders on handpumps. Being a CAMRA member, there was also a 20p discount off a pint. Recorded music was being played on vinyl on a turntable obviously, which is a most unusual sight nowadays, especially in a pub!

Monday 20th August

A heavy shopping session was in order for today and the only two places to do it were The Co-Operative and Aldi. Although the Co-Op was supposedly a supermarket, it was so disorganised and almost impossible to find some items at all and if you did the choice was abysmal. Had I gone to Aldi, as I found out later, it would have been a far more rewarding experience.

The pub of choice this evening was The New Swan, also in Church Street and although it is a Pubmaster house, all three ales were from Church End Brewery, a favourite in my family. Apparently the pub had recently been refurbished and a family were there to run it.

Tuesday 21st August

Imagine my surprise when I checked the batteries this morning, to see Karen Cook (NBT) moored behind me. Her son James was with her and we had a conversation before they went into town. Then at lunchtime, Andy Belton (NBT) moored in front of me with wife Leslie, so another brief catch up was in order. Andy was previously moored at The Pelican not far from Stronghold, but recently moved house, job and mooring to Nottingham. Also moored close by was a Wey Navigation boat, that I had previously seen at Triggs Lock on The Wey. In all, what a small world it had suddenly become.

A few items were still needed in the store cupboard, or should I say locker? So it was off to Aldi this time, but not before a well needed haircut at Scissor Sisters, a male/female hairdressers in Long Street. As I was now further up the cut, I decided to investigate the train station and a way back along the towpath, which would be a shorter walk than through the town. Being close to The Kings Head, it was an opportunity to see what that was like after many years of closure. It was now refurbished and pleasant inside and out, with a garden and canal side mooring for one boat. Three ales were on and there was a varied menu of food available. The staff were very accommodating, offering to pull another pint before I even asked.

The steerer on this floating allotment cannot see astern and 
has to peer alongside to navigate forwards. Quite a hazardous procedure, surely?