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 28 May 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 7

Domestics and Birdbrained Boaters

Friday 25th May

It rained quite hard in the night and at 04.30 I could hear dripping water. On further investigation, the Houdini hatch was leaking again and quite severely this time, so a bucket was hung on the handle as nothing else could be done at the time. If it got too heavy with water it could break the handle, so it was checked a few times before I went back to sleep until 10am! Never have I slept to late – just about 12 hrs.

As it was still raining, I decided to stay until it was due to cease at about 13.00 and then go up the flight with another boat if possible.
Eventually another boat did come along at about 12.00 and the rain was down to a fine drizzle by then, so we went together. I had come up the Stoke flight with them, so I knew that they were not very experienced boaters. The lady who was doing the locks had hurt her back also, but she refused to steer the boat, which slowed things up considerably. It was when she slipped over on her bum, that things changed and they decided to moor and wait for a boat with a larger crew, which left me with a lady steerer and a young man, on another boat and he insisted on doing all the lock work. As usual on a lock landing, I tie a bowline in the end of the centre line, drop it over a suitable bollard and put the boat into gear with a tiller string on to hold the tiller in a straight line. This has never failed me and the lady on the accompanying boat was the only person who has ever asked how it was done. I showed her the two ways of tying a bowline and although she had a book of knots, she had never learned to tie any of them – how can anyone steer a boat and not know any knots?

I pulled in above Buckby Top Lock and went into the New Inn after a while. Surprisingly there was now BT wi-fi in the pub: whether it was theirs or not I don’t know, but it was a strong signal.

Colin phoned me in the evening after I had had difficulty with the NBT Pubs database and led me through the procedure step by step for transferring the existing data into my own database. I have put a great deal of effort into this and other databases that he has designed, which have been abandoned for various reasons, so I was delighted to get this one back under my control.

Saturday 26th May

There were sporadic showers this morning and it was to be a murky day until early afternoon. I set up all the necessary lights for Braunston Tunnel and made sure that all fenders were lifted. It was busy boating morning with many going the same way as me, as well as in the opposing direction. Being a Saturday, several hire boats were out with new crews.

I entered the tunnel behind another boat and there were three of us in line astern, but the boat ahead was slow and when an opposing boat met up with it, the steerer put the boat across the tunnel and blocked it, so no one could pass. Eventually they passed each other on the wrong side. When I got to Braunston Top Lock, the woman was steering, if I can call it that? She could not steer a wheelbarrow and was hitting almost everything as she passed. As I was the first in the lock, I closed the gate on my side as a precautionary measure to stop her hitting my boat. She was so slow, it was painful to watch. None of these boats mentioned were hire boats either!

After such a dreary descent of the six locks, I moored just above Butcher’s Bridge and wrote this up. Now it is time to try and seal the Houdini hatch with Captain Tolly’s Creeping Crack Cure; I saw it recently in a chandlers and the name has now been changed to something much more mundane – shame!

I walked up the three locks to The Admiral Nelson and was looking through their very large collection of recipe books with pint in hand, when I spotted an interesting Spanish dish, so copied it on the mobile camera. The lady sitting on the nearby sofa asked if I wanted to sit there, so I accepted and we got into conversation about boats, of course. Shortly after sitting down who should appear but Jack Reay. I was so surprised that I didn’t even offer to buy him a drink! I turned out that he had not been that far behind me on the GU. Anyway, I did get him a drink after all.

Sunday 27th May

When I awoke this morning, I could hear that dreaded bubbling sound, which indicated that a pump out was due. Sure enough the toilet bowl was full to within 2ins of the top – no banging the boat about today! The first thing was to get dressed and go to the marina loo, for which I have a key (don’t ask). Unfortunately, the key did not fit. I remember it being difficult last time, but however I manipulated the key, it would not turn in the lock. I remember there being another loo close to the Stop House, so asked the lady from Gongoozlers Cafe, (not Gongoozlers Rest any more), if I could borrow the key – success and all was well.

Next on the agenda was to move into the marina arm and get tokens for pump out and washing machine. Being a Bank Holiday, the office did not open until 10am and by that time Jack Reay had appeared with his laundry too, so further conversation construed over a cup of tea on my boat. When Tim Coghlan turned up to open the office (the other staff were all at Crick Boat Show), he remarked that I was now famous with all the photos of last year’s opening with Tim West. Although I had seen four pics, he said there were at least six in various publications.

After successfully pumping out, I left the long hose along the wharf and continued with the laundry, Whilst another boat plugged the fitting into his boat. Unfortunately the sight glass, which was actually made of clear plastic, finally broke away from the tap fitting at the end of the hose. The other guy was a scientist/engineer and pointed out the It had been broken for some time by looking at the break and had only been hanging on by about ½ inch of material. There was much activity finding keys to workshops and someone who could help with a repair, but by that time I had backed out of the marina and moored at Midland Swindlers for a new stainless steel chimney and some Captain Tolley’s juice. Just before I moved off the mooring, I decided I had better try the chimney to see if it did fit. Much to my surprise, it did not, so I had to return it for a refund. All these chimneys were the same size and slightly smaller than the six inch collar, which is standard, so I can’t see them selling very many, if at all.

Sealing the hatch later, I found that the sealant was running right through and onto the floor below, so it looks like I have to run some silicon round there first. Another visit to MS later it seems.

There was thunder and lightning around now, so I covered the hatch with a piece of translucent plastic to keep the rain out. It was weighted down with that short section of railway line, that I knew would come in handy one day. And did it rain; so much so that the towpath was awash within a minute of tow and there was even hailstones at one point! I did sympathise for a fellow boater passing by, because there was no warning at all.

Friday 25 May 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 6

A Very Infrequent Altercation and a Chance Meeting.

Tuesday 22nd May

Quite a late start this morning and there was quite a wind blowing all the May blossom down towards me from the top of the boat. Now I know why that mooring space was empty, because it was under the hedge.

I always look out for the sign that tells me that the MK to Bedford Waterway will be built here and what a surprise to find that action has been taken at last with all the earth moving equipment doing the job on both sides of the cut.

MK to Bedford - off side.

MK to Bedford - towpath side.

All was going well and I decided to moor up outside The Giffard Park for a pint. It was also a CRT services stop for water, rubbish and Elsan disposal, so there were bollards where I tied up. Naughty I know, but I was only going to be there for 30 mins. After a pint I went back to the boat and there was another one in front of me, but also not taking on water. The boat was moored by the stern and centre lines only and was drifting out from the centre line, so I knocked on the boat and told the woman who appeared that her boat was drifting out. She didn’t thank me for telling her, but just set about pulling the boat in to the bank. At that moment another boat appeared to water up and tried to put the stern between the two boats. I took his line and pulled him in, at the same time telling him I was leaving. As I was passing the drifting boat, the woman said that I might have told her I was leaving and I asked, “Why?”  “So that I didn’t have to move a 60 ft boat.” she said. But the boat had to be moved anyway, because it had drifted out. It turned out that there was a man on board, who did not appear at the time. I think she flung a fair bit of foul language my way, but by that time I was out of earshot. I don’t suppose she had ever heard of springing the boat using the engine.

Shortly afterwards I spotted a convenient mooring to have a bite to eat on the park with The Nags Head within sight. I will have to go there next time. Later nb Slow Pace came past and I asked the woman if she wanted to continue the argument, to which she replied with more foul invective. Well Mrs, if you are reading this, it cuts no ice with me and you can continue to be as foul mouthed as you like on the cut, but believe me, word will soon get around about you and you will be castigated like no other by boaters, who in my opinion are a great community and we all get on very well together. So just disappear up your own fundament with you nice shiny boat called Slow Pace! You are not forgotten!

After quite a long afternoon, I came to Cosgrove and some hire boaters set the lock for me, for which I was grateful. I watered up at the services and sprayed the worst of the blossom off the top. Shortly after I moored up close to the horse tunnel, which goes beneath the canal to the other side. I then set about making a marinade for the chicken stir fry tomorrow. I repaired to The Barley Mow for a pint and some food, which was almost too much to cope with, but it was well cooked and enjoyable. Nb Corona moored up behind me, having been to the Ricky Festival. The boat was totally unchanged since Trevor Maggs died last year and I think the new owner is going to keep it that way as a tribute to Trevor, who will be sorely missed by all the old boaters.

Wednesday 23rd May

Woken at 06.30 by Corona departing the mooring, so it was an early start for me. I actually left at 3 hours later. The sky was overcast and there was a cold wind, so I was dressed for the part. As I went past another moored boat, the crew commented that they were from Byfleet, although the boat was moored in Denham Marina.

Another boat was waiting to accompany me up the seven Stoke Bruerne Locks, which was fortunate and although I was complaining of my back problem, I still had to climb the ladder to help the lady close one of the gates. A CRT volunteer appeared at the third lock down and drew one paddle of the lock above us and I thought he was going to stay and open the gates, but no! Instead he made the excuse of walking down to check water levels. On the four top locks, that is all he did – about as much use as a chocolate teapot!

Kathryn appeared at the top lock and was walking very well. She was off for her daily walk and we had arranged to meet up for an evening meal at the Indian Restaurant there. By this time the weather was back to normal with the sun beating down once again.

Kathryn and I had a drink in The Boat and caught up with a few things a little later before departing again with a promise to meet up at 19.00 for an Indian meal. About 18.00 Nuneaton and Brighton were just mooring up, so I strolled up for a chat with Captain Kirk aka Kirk Martin, Nick Scarcliff, Ian Johnson and Helen MacGregor. When I mentioned about going to The Pride of Bruerne with Kathryn, the crew decided to come too, apart from Nick who had to get home. We had the usual splendid meal with stories of the trip and other varying experiences that we had encountered when boating. It was another serendipitous occasion that just came together on the spur of the moment.

NBT pair in Stoke Bruerne.

The Motley Crew in The Pride of Bruerne.

Thursday 24th May

Helen had already asked me if I could give her a lift this morning, saving her a bike ride over the tunnel. Eventually I asked where she was ending up and it was at Rugby Boats, where her car had been parked for the last three weeks. Normally I would not boat in the rain, having got soaked so many times when I didn’t need to get wet, but I agreed to go that far as it had stopped raining by then. After she brought her bike up, which was stowed in the cabin, she had another three trips back to nb Nuneaton for the remainder of her baggage, so she was carrying a great deal. Had I know it was going to be this much, I would have reversed Stronghold back to the pair of boats. We had arranged to leave at 09.00, but I had a faulty connection on the tunnel lamp wiring, which needed to be fixed first. Helen had accompanied Kirk and the wheel barrow to the Elsan point to empty the ‘bucket and chuckit’, which was at the bottom of the seven locks, so that was a mile there and back. Needless to say we finally started through Blisworth Tunnel at 10.30, fortunately we did not pass any other boats coming the other way. As soon as we entered the tunnel, I realised that the fore end light was not on, so Helen went forward and as she opened the front doors, the light came on – strange, as there were no obvious bad connections after later checking. I already had a stern floodlight on anyway, which I find very helpful in keeping the right distance from the tunnel wall.

Stern Tunnel Light.

On arrival at Rugby Boats, we moored on their services point to unload Helen’s gear into her car, as well as fixing the relatively new bike rack to the back. After that was done, we had say goodbyes quite quickly, as another boat was wanting to get diesel. I was hoping to get to the top of the Buckby flight of seven locks, but realised that I was too tired to cope with them today, so moored up just below the bottom lock and had a stroll over the lock to Whilton Marina Chandlery, with a view to looking at stainless steel chimneys, but there was nothing suitable and I came away with the June edition of Towpath Talk, hoping the results of Cannie Cavalcade would be in there, which they were. I now have April, May and June copies of TT and haven’t read any of them yet!

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 5

A Most Interesting Coincidence

Thursday 17th May

Being such a quiet and pleasant mooring, I decided that today would be another ‘Day of Rest’. I am certainly in no hurry to get anywhere and I had a lot of e-mails, texts and blogging to catch up on, which altogether took me through until 3pm. If this technology had been available in the days of cargo carrying, I can’t see that much carrying would have been done. The main part of networking in those days was by towpath telegraph and stopping for the night with a pub close by.

By the time it had got to 6pm, I decided that a walk to The Cowroast Inn was appropriate. Before I had even crossed the busy main road, I could see that the place had been boarded up, which is hardly surprising, because every time I had been in there in the past, there were hardly any customers. So another pub bites the dust. I also noted that Cowroast Marina chandlery was now closed for good.

Friday 18th May

It was a chilly night and although I had not lit the fire before going to bed, the temperature dropped to 10C by the morning. I had more photos from Leslie than I expected this morning, so updated the blog where they appear. I seemed to amuse Mike no end in the pub.

A bit more blog written and e-mails to be answered, so it was 11am before I contemplated moving on to Bulbourne for another light day of not doing much. It is only about 2 mls away and no locks to strain my aching back.

A visit to The Grand Junction was a must as soon as I got to Bulbourne, as it was another scorching day. The garden had certainly been improved since I last stopped here and the interior was well organised with 3 ales on tap. Food menu looked interesting and reasonably priced too.

The Grand Junction Inn.

I was quite surprised that there seem to be plenty of mooring spaces and although there were rings on the bank, they were difficult to find in the long grass. The bank here is quite steep and it is difficult to keep your footing, especially in the wet.

Find the mooring rings!

This was being ridden 1,000 miles for charity.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent answering e-mails and writing up the blog – nothing strenuous!

Saturday 19th May

The day of the royal wedding. My youngest daughter was on TV at some unearthly hour this morning, with children from her school in Windsor. Got to keep it in the family after I had been on TV accepting the Boat Handling Trophy.

I was fortunate to have a volunteer to see me down the Maffers flight of locks, who was also familiar with Tracy and her dad Chas on The Wey. What a relief to be waited upon for a change. I think that if I waited for another boat to be travelling in the same direction as me, I could be there all day as there are so few boats out on the waterways.

After Maffers Bottom Lock I stopped at the services to dispose of rubbish and passed a boat with the TV on the stern of their boat and the crew sitting in the shade of the hedgerow to watch the wedding. Shortly after I came to Bridge 130, where there was a sign on the bridge for The Red Lion and having been only once with Chris many years ago in the dark, it was almost like a new pub to me. What a splendid pub that needs visiting more often. There were 6 ales on tap and one of those was Harvey’s Best Bitter, my local Lewes beer from Sussex and it was cheaper than any pub I knew in and around Brighton at £3.90 a pint! There was also an interesting menu, which appeared to be mostly home cooked.

The Red Lion.

Onward in the heat of the day across ‘the fields’ as the old boaters called it; between The Chilterns and Leighton Buzzard, but plenty of locks on the way – in total to The Grove Inn there were 18 locks in eight miles. Which took me eight and a half hours – too long!

Having now run out of food for a meal, I decided to eat in the pub, having eaten in there two years ago. I chose moules frites from the menu, although at £15 a dish, it was certainly not cheap. The previous moules frites in Cote Brasserie, Kingston was only £12. The mussels were tiny and hardly any meat in them, as well as about 25% being closed, which meant they were dead before being cooked. The chips were thin cut as expected and the sauce was fine too. I complained to the manageress and she said they were normally very good, but I was reimbursed the cost of the meal – so much for eating out at a Fuller’s pub.

I had a phone call from Barry after the meal to tell me that Ian Palmer’s wife Jane had died of cancer that morning, which was unforeseen by me, although I knew she had been in hospital recently and thought things were in the mend. Very sad news indeed and I must get him a bereavement card. I doubt if he will want to talk over the phone.

Sunday 20th May

Time to stock up on supplies, so off the Tesco and/or Aldi in Leighton. I did both supermarkets and got ingredients for a Gui Paht Meht Mamuang Himapahn, which in plain English means Stir Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts. I popped back to post the bereavement card to Ian and went into the store to try and find a box to hold my growing collection of herbs, which I did not find. Anyway, I found a K’Archer window vac with £20 off the standard price; I had been toying with the idea after borrowing a neighbours. Time to clean the windows of this boat.

I pulled in at The Globe Inn, Lechlade to moor up for the night. Plenty of gongoozlers outside taking in every step of my mooring procedure. I first came here in 1979 on Silver Galleon, our first ever hire boat.  After a pint of Abbot and trying to connect to their wi-fi, I gave up. There was no TV signal here either, however many times I tried.

Monday 21st May

Moving on with wall to wall blue skies yet again. How much longer are we to enjoy this ideal summer weather?

There were more chiefs than Indians at Stoke Hammond Three Locks, with three volunteers, which was very welcome indeed. As I have said in previous blogs, these 3 locks were the first flight that we ever did as a family on an Easter Sunday, when the lock beams were covered in customers of the adjacent pub, which was a rather run down affair in those days.

Getting to Fenny Stratford Lock with the swing bridge across it, I was lucky enough to catch it as two boats were coming through. Mooring a little further down, I moored up and took a short stroll to The Red Lion for a pint. I passed a guy on the towpath who had seen me mooring, who said, “I bet I know where you’re going.” A little later I was having something to eat on the stern and we started a conversation across the cut, because he was on a residential mooring. We then continued on his boat, as he had invited me to see his Boatman’s Cabin. The boat was called WOL II which was also his nickname. The interior of WOL II was immaculate, with not a thing out of place and the Boatman’s  Cabin was perfect for a modern boat. All this really put the interior of Stronghold to shame, with clutter everywhere, but then I had so little storage.  Further conversation ensued and Wol happened to mention pulling a guy out of the water after he had fallen in the tail of the lock some year or two back. It then transpired that the guy in the water was Barry Adams, a very good friend of mine, who had described in detail what had happened at the time and both stories coincided exactly. How coincidental is that?

After spending too much time on WOL II, I progressed as far as The Plough at Simpson and had some help mooring from the wide beam owner behind me. Unfortunately, The Plough closed yesterday for a six week refurbishment!

Thursday 17 May 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 4

Losing My Boat?

Saturday 12th May.

Having moored beneath a tree at Uxbridge, the cabin top was covered in bird shit from birds roosting in the tree. It had rained in the night, so the top was wet and an ideal opportunity to clean it off. Would you believe that it took an hour at least – this stuff is so persistent to removal, I reckon if it was bottled it would rival Gorilla Glue.

I said my goodbyes to Mike and Leslie and photographs were taken. I also gave him the VHF channel list and my PLA yearbook, because he intends getting a VHF handheld when he cruises the tideway later. We will keep in touch.

Blog published and there were some very complimentary comments from friends about my last post. I am just waiting for Chris to arrive by train, so will move up towards the bridge, which is nearer to the train station, but unknowingly I was wasting my time, because I texted him at 09.45, but without reply. I moved on through Batchworth Lock and phoned him at 10.20, only to discover that he was still at home. He eventually turned up on the towpath near Common Moor Lock at 12.00! Whenever I arrange to meet up with Chris, he is hours late – always. He redeemed himself by working thirteen locks for me. Not long after he arrived it started to rain and rain continuously until we got to Apsley, when it finally eased off. Although Chris had seen the weather forecast, he did not bring any waterproofs, so I lent him my Craghoppers waterproof, which ended up soaked, but kept him dry. In the meantime, I had my reliable Driza-Bone Ozzie waterproof, in which I looked like Ned Kelly, but without the horse.

After Chris had left to get the train, I lit the fire and had a good dry out and warm up. I was so tired that I could not eat any meal, despite there being a Rogan Josh in the fridge and the remains of a sea food salad.

Sunday 13th May

For me it was a day of rest and time for a long overdue oil change. I was on a 24hr mooring outside Sainsbury’s, so was obliged to move across to the towpath when a space appeared. It would also be a good idea to find a launderette, as the smalls were mounting up by this time and I did not relish the thought of hand washing that lot. The washing is not the problem, it is the wringing out that has to be done after the wash and two rinses.

After writing up the blog, I decided to pay a visit to the modern Fuller’s pub, called The Paper Mill. I bought a pint and was reading the newspaper, when I spotted Arthur at the bar. We had previously worked a few locks together and I thought he might like a chat, as he was waiting for a Sunday roast. I explained where I was moored and so we agreed to accompany each other up the locks the following day. Needless to say that I never got the oil change done after being in the pub for so long.

Monday 14th May

Arthur waited for me at Apsley Top Lock and we soon got into a routine of working the locks together, but it was a really hot day and when I suggested a pint in The Three Horsehoes at Winkwell, he said, “I was thinking about that myself.” We continued through another six locks, when I suggested mooring at Berko by the footbridge and sure enough there was room for two boats. Shortly after organising the fenders and lines the fuel boat Hyperion appeared and I hailed him down to fill my diesel tank and I had a brief chat with Phil, who I fuelled up from last year. He asked me how I enjoyed Cannie Cavalcade, as I still had the name in the window, so of course I had to show off the Westminster Cup.

Not only do I have to change the oil now, but the alternator is squeaking more and more, and the rev counter does not work whilst it is sqeeling. Although I changed the regulator last year, it did not make any difference, so this time I will change the drive belt and see what happens.

Arthur and Tina.

I later walked back to ask Arthur if he fancied a pint at The Riser aka The Rising Sun. He was talking to a woman on a cruiser moored astern of him as she was painting, so out of common courtesy I asked her if she fancied a visit to the pub with us. This turned out to be my big mistake. First of all she asked how much half a pint of beer was, as although I found out later that she was working in Watford, she professed to have little money. Then she talked incessantly all the way to The Riser and through two hours inside the pub and all the way back to the boats. Despite her having a degree in IT, she did not realise that wi-fi was available in a lot of pubs for the price of a drink, which I thought to be very strange. She said that she was on a mobile contract and got a set amount of data in the price, as most people are. But money can still be saved if you download data over free wi-fi. I was very doubtful about the degree after that. I had a chance to apologise to Arthur in the pub, when she took a toilet break. Needless to say both Arthur and myself paid for the drinks and she bought nothing. Whatever she was on (and I don’t mean the drink), I vowed to avoid it at all costs.

Tuesday 15th May

I walked up the locks before breakfast and saw that Hyperion was moving off, so got back to Arthur and suggested that we move up and onto that mooring. Although he was willing to go through the locks with me, he wanted to get to Cowroast water point to wash off his cabin top and get an undercoat on. At the moment it was going to be too hot for painting. So we parted company for a while, but if all goes well we will meet up again tomorrow,

Despite this being a so called ‘day of rest’, I tackled the oil and filter change in the afternoon, as well as changing the belt on the squeeling alternator. Having tightened the belts several times in the past, I knew exactly what spanners I needed without dragging the whole collection back to the stern. Even then, I had to remove the port alternator belt to enable the starboard one to be removed and replaced. After sweating down the engine ’ole for about two hours, I started her up and the squeeling had completely disappeared and the rev counter worked again after a short delay. Whilst down there, I removed the voltage regulator to inspect the brushes, but they were hardly worn as was to be expected, as the regulator had been replaced last year to try and resolve the exact same problem.

It was beer o’clock shortly after all this activity, so I paid a well deserved visit to The Crystal Palace, having only been there once in my boating history. Not nearly so popular as The Riser, there were just a few customers and I think some of them were commuters from the nearby rail station. Only two beers on tap, whereas The Riser had six. Food was normally served, but there were no menus, only a few meals scribbled on a blackboard. Not really a very impressive pub.

Wednesay 16th May

It was time to move on again, so headed for Cowroast to catch up with Arthur. Shopping was done in the very convenient Waitrose just above the Lock 53 and I then moved on to a mooring close by and below Gas Lock 2 to find the launderette. This was also very conveniently close to the cut, with Pizza Express across the road for coffee.

Now with the inside of the boat littered with drying clothes, I set off through the two Gas Two Locks, Bushes, Northchurch, Dudswell and finally Cowroast, but no sign of Arthur, so he must have moved on. I filled the water tank and moored up by the last boat on the visitor moorings.

I committed a cardinal sin at Northchurch Lock by losing the boat. What happened was this; I could see that the lock was empty through the gap in the lower gates, so stopped the boat just short of the bottom gates. Because there are no rings or bollards at that point, I left the centre line straight out and up the incline to the lock. The lock was not quite empty, so I had to draw a gate paddle, which let out a very small amount of water, but that was enough to move Stronghold to the other side of the cut beneath the bridge. By the time I spotted my mistake the gate was open and the centre line was in the water, so out of contact with me. By the time I thought about the situation, the boat was also drifting back, but if I could close the gate and get to the other side of the lock, I might just be able to reach onto the bow and catch the bow line – I got there just in time, but as I crossed back over the gates with the bow line, it came adrift from the tee stud. I then had to lower the line with both hands holding the ends over the tee stud and continue pulling the boat to the nearside – and all is well that ends well, but it was a close call

I could see for about half a mile ahead from these moorings and a little later spotted a working pair approaching, but not until they got close did I identify Nuneaton with Brighton in tow. Kirk was walking the towpath and I gave him the last remaining water can that I had decorated over two winters, to replace the damaged one that had been squashed between a tree and the boat chimney on the River Weaver.

Kirk took a couple of photographs before walking on towards the lock at 19.30. His intention was to get the pair to Berko that night, which I thought was a bit over ambitious and meant boating in the dark with no navigation lights. I heard that they eventually stopped at Northchurch.

Howard on Nuneaton  towing Brighton with Helen steering at Cowroast.

Known as ‘wide beam alley’, the Grand Union has many of them moored up, but very few on the move. One thing that contributes to that is that at least two locks had restrictions placed on them by out of order gates on locks, which meant that wide beams could not pass. If you come across a wide beam going in the direction, you are very rarely able to pass by, unless the steerer waves you on.

p.s. If you are wondering why it has been so long since the last blog was published, it is because Blogger would not let me publish or even save my work, so it is a good job I wrote all the text in MS Word beforehand and saved it there as normal. The final analysis is that I rebooted the PC, which then did the trick.

Summer Jaunt 2018. 3

Ricky and Serendipity

Wednesday 9th May

I spent most of the morning writing up my blog and adding the pics. The batteries appeared to be far happier in their present position and were holding up well, but my back was aching as a consequence of all that lifting. I went into to Tesco to get a few things and make a complaint, which ended up with me being on the end of their phone to an Indian guy who seemed to know more than the lady at customer services. I finally transpired that large items could not be stored in lockers at the chosen store, so had to be shipped to a home address. Therefore the previous information from the store was totally incorrect, but nowhere on the website was that info available. I was quite disillusioned with Tesco service and if I can get it in Argos, then I will in future.

I decided to stay on the moorings for another night and move off in the morning as there was plenty of room there.

Thursday 10th May

After breakfast, I set off towards Uxbridge with the intention of stopping at Uxbridge Boat Services to get a stainless steel chimney, if they had one, and some new sealing rubber for the weed hatch. I also bought another air horn (wherever did the last one go?) No stainless chimneys in stock, but I did get the last two items. However, the weed hatch seal appeared to be holding up OK, now that I had the lid on in the right position.

I was very close now to bridge 186, where there is The Dolphin pub beside the cut. I found a mooring very close to the bridge and walked over the bridge to the pub, having never been there before. Although there was quite an extensive menu of pub grub, there was only Doombar on tap, which was quite disappointing. There is more choice at The General Elliot and The Swan and Bottle, both a short distance away.

Back at the mooring I noticed a white sack on the far side of the towpath and peered inside, expecting to find a load of rubbish, but not so, It was full of logs cut to about 6” in length that someone had deemed surplus to requirements now that the hot wea-ther was upon us. Needless to say it went quickly into my boat.

All cut to size too.

Friday 11th May

I set off just after 10.00 in cloudy conditions and a fairly strong southerly wind, which luckily was behind me.

A boat came out of the boatyard ahead of me just before Uxbridge Lock, which was nicely timed. Unfortunately, they decided to stop for a walk after Denham Deep. As I was rising in Widewater Lock, I spotted a boat behind me and let him know that I would wait for him at the next one. And so it was that we did the remainder up to Ricky together. We got chatting as is usual and it turns out that he was an indentured blacksmith, who changed careers later into plumbing and heating, which In turn allowed him to retire aged fifty. I think that says something for that particular trade if you are in your own business.

I moored up outside Tesco to get a bit of shopping and then moved across the cut to visitor mooring for the night, but another boat was just mooring in the space. I shouted across and asked if he could move along about six feet and he was quite happy to do that. Then I realised that I had previously spoken to the guy at the Tesco mooring earlier. A little later when I was adjusting mooring lines, the couple were on the towpath and asked if I would like to join them in The White Bear. How could I refuse a request like that? We were talking all the way there and all through a very good Indian meal. When the bill came I suggested that I share the cost, but Mike insisted that it the meal was on him and was good value for money for all the information he had extracted from me during the last couple of hours. Back at the boats, I insisted that they come aboard for a nightcap, despite the cabin being in its usual mess. What was more important, was the continuing conversation. Such is serendipity.
Nothing like a good laugh to brighten the day.

Mike and Leslie on nb Lady Baltimore

And we are still laughing

Thursday 10 May 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 2

To Cannie Cavalcade and Return.

Saturday 5th May.

Another very hot and sunny day was forecast. I walked up to the IWA info tent to collect my brass plaque and sign in. I also picked up the route for the Boat Handling Challenge, which appeared to be quite demanding as most of it was to be done in reverse. If you are not aware, very few boats can reverse in a straight line without correction in forward gear. Joshers appear to be the exception, as they have a very long swim so I have been told. Joshers were built by Yarwoods on the River Weaver for the carrying company Fellows, Morton and Clayton and named after Joshua Fellows. A Josher is also known as the “Sports Model” of the old working narrow boats.

I wandered around the stalls to see what I needed to buy that I didn’t really need, but it was only the beer tent that got my custom later. Watched the English Flamenco dancers doing their stuff in the Sheldon Square Amphitheatre, with Brian and Margaret, but having seen the real thing in Spain, I was not very impressed. The Flamenco music was recorded and genuine, but real musicians would have been far more authentic. It was extremely hot, so I walked further to see if Fabian Hiscock (NBT crew) was on board nb Roger (the last wooden working boat to have been restored to original condition). After inquiries were made, he would be there on Sunday.

I had a pint of Wandle beer in The Union bar, which was very pleasant indeed. I told the barmaid that in my youth I often passed over the River Wandle in Colliers Wood and it was always foaming with pollution from the board mills there. She probably thought my name was Methusela!

Back on board for most of the afternoon to escape from the heat, but also to watch the snooker semi-final, which was the longest I had known as the best of 35 frames.

The parade of the themed boats was also taking place at 14.30, so I had to keep popping up to see what they looked like; the theme being this year, the Canal Builders. One of the most unusual and original was the narrowboat with a group of navvies crewing and then on the top of the boat was Pontcycyllte Aqueduct, Braunston Tunnel and the Falkirk Wheel. This boat later won the cup for best dressed boat.

I was a little concerned that instructions for the boat handling asked the competitor to spring your stern after stepping off and shaking hands with the judge beneath  Harrow Road Bridge. Now I don’t remember any rings or bollards in that area, because as I understood ‘springing off’ in general, it is done with a stern line attached to a fixed point and reverse gear to swing the bow out from the mooring. Further investigaton was needed.

Sunday 6th May

After a night of thinking about the upcoming problem, I walked up to Harrow Road Bridge to survey the situation and sure enough there were no rings or bollards in the immediate area where the judge normally stood. Walking back along Delamere Terrace I was passing Pat Barton’s boat which advertised narrowboat training and decided to ask Terry Barton what he understood by the term. His reply was that it just meant getting the stern into deeper water and he was one of the team who set the route. I did understand exactly what he meant, but did not necessarily agree with him. I asked a few other boaters during the day, who I knew to be experienced and they all described the term as I understood it. However, it does illustrate that not all terms in boating are interpreted exactly the same by all boaters.

Eventually 11am was reached and I had to wind Stronghold in the Pool first, so as to be stern first out of the starting gate. Bear in mind that this is not a race, so maybe ‘starting gate’ is not the right term. At 11am the gun went off, which in reality was the starting judge just saying “Go.”

With a slight crosswind, I knew that I had to keep my speed up so as to stop any sideways drift. After about four corrections in forward gear I was about to step off under Harrow Road Bridge and shake hands with the judge, who it turned out was a lady that I knew from the Braunston Hysterics team. I reversed into deep water and took off forward now around the south of Browning’s Island, where I had to stop by the chequered flag for 10 seconds. Well I could not see a black and white chequered flag, so asked one of the moorers where it was. It turned out that the flag was flying about 3metres above a boat and I expected it at water level; it was also yellow and black.

The 360 turn was next, in a clockwise direction, which went well, as Stronghold almost turns on a sixpence given enough power. Stopping again in front of the same judge, I now had to reverse into Paddington Arm, which was a tight squeeze between moored boats, so a bit more correction in forward gear to get beneath the road bridge and I was done. It was only at that moment that I realised how tense I had been, even after having competed in four previous years.

To relieve the tension, I took off around the island and through Maida Hill Tunnel to go through London Zoo as far as Cumberland Basin, where I knew I could wind the boat to return. There were scores of people walking the towpath and enjoying the most amazing weather for a Bank Holiday. I wish I had a pound for every photo that was taken of the boat. One elderly gent (same as me) was dressed impeccably in a light grey suit, but with shorts, white knee socks, black shoes, white shirt and pale pink tie. I congratulated him on his sartorial elegance as I passed by. Incidentally, back on my mooring later, a dark skinned man appeared on the towpath dressed in brown knee length riding boots, tight white riding breeches and short white jacket, and over the top was a black flowing cape. To add to the outfit his long greying hair was adorned with pale blue hair extensions. I commented again on his elegant sense of dress. What I do regret is that I did not take any pictures – I am sure they both would have agreed.

The crowds are out in force.
After all that effort it was time to pay The Warwick Castle a visit and to my surprise there were seats to be had at that time of day. The illuminated boat procession was at 21.00, but I was too tired to walk that far again and managed to stay awake to see most of the Snooker World Championship.

Monday 7th May

Reckoned to be the hottest May Day Bank Holiday Monday since records began. After some breakfast, I set off to photograph and support Karen Cook (NBT crew), as she had decided at the last minute to enter the boat handling competition. She was also very nervous and shaky at the start line and plied me with questions about route and technique. At 10.30 she was set loose on the course, which she achieved slowly and with care and faultlessly as far as I could see. Nb Stella also winded on sixpence too, although it was performed quite slowly. At last she backed into Paddington Arm and the relief was obvious by the photograph.

nb Stella about to reverse after the 360 deg winding.

Karen reverses in the Boat Handling Challenge.

A sense of relief and a smile at the end.

I strolled back along the south towpath chatting to various friends on the stern moored boats. At about 12.45, someone asked if I had had a phone call yet; the answer being in the negative, but I checked my phone just in case I had missed one. I said that it was too late for notifications of prize winners by now anyway. Two minutes after that I had a call from Mike Moore the Waterspace Manager, who informed me that I should be at the Horse Bridge in ten minutes, so I was up for something, but it could be runner-up. Karen was there too for a prize. Imagine my surprise when my name was called to receive the Westminster Cup once again and a  bottle of Prosecco. Karen was awarded  The Novice Boater Cup for being 1st time boater in the event and Runner Up prize in the Idle Women’s shield for boat handling, so she was well pleased with those two trophies.

The Westminster Cup is back in my possession again.

Karen with son James after the presentation.

Back on the mooring I had a spot of lunch and celebrated by removing all five batteries, and they are really heavy, so as to replace the 2016 pair of fridge and inverter batteries with newer ones bought this year. I should explain here that my batteries are in a side locker at deck level, but because the top of the locker is formed of angle iron and tapered, the batteries have to be removed in a set order one at a time. I took an hour and a quarter and my back is still aching the day after. I suspect that I was responsible for damaging the batteries by overloading them when using the inverter to run other devices that imposed heavy loads, despite running the engine at the same time, so reducing the time the pair would hold a charge. The inverter was no problem at 1600 watts, but requires more batteries to support it. However, they will suffice to run the domestic lighting and TV and a lesson learned through the wallet.

Later I moved Stronghold into the pool with the intention of winding for the return trip tomorrow. As there were now no mooring spaces on the Delamere Terrace left  (someone had already jumped into my space) I asked if it was OK to moor in the Pool breasted up to the last boat in the line. All was well now for the last night. The beer tent was now closed, so I was abruptly informed by an officious lady sitting on a chair doing nothing, whilst everyone else was beavering away clearing up, so I took off to The Union Bar for a well deserved pint.

Tuesday 8th May

I was up early to greet yet another sunny day and several boats were about to move after 08.30, so I joined them after a bite to eat. I cruised slowly back along the Paddington Arm looking for nb Zavala, breasted up temporarily to another boat and said my farewells to Brian and Margaret, who were leaving their boat there for a week whilst they went home.

I was not looking forward to the boring trip back to Bull’s Bridge, but it was worse than I suspected with so much plastic on and just below the water surface. I stopped off at the Ladbroke Grove Sainsburys to collect a new Dyson handheld vacuum cleaner from the Argos stand there. I only ordered it at 09.00 Sunday morning and it was ready for collection at 16.00 the same day, which I think is incredible quick service. I previously tried to order the same item from Tesco and collect from the Bull’s Bridge store, but they were having none of that and insisted that it be delivered to my home address. There was no way I could change that online, so they lost the order in favour of Argos.

Wall to wall plastic and other detritus.

Looks like a terrapin - never seen one of these before.
It was a slow voyage back, with constant chucking back to clear the blades until finally I had to lift the weed hatch and clear it manually. This happened three times and I was thoroughly sick of it. So much for banning plastic carrier bags. Finally, after 7 hours to do 13 miles, I arrived at Bull’s Bridge and there were plenty of moorings close to Tesco, which improved my day somewhat.

Saturday 5 May 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018

Summer Jaunt 2018. 1

Beginning The Journey.

Tuesday 1st May.

Here we go again on another summer cruise towards the Midland waterways , with no plan in mind except to visit Canalway Cavalcade on the way north once again and then Braunston Historic Boat Rally to do some marshalling of the daily parades during the weekend of June 24th/25th and meet up again with old friends. I will also meet up with my eldest daughter at Sutton Stop for a meal and a few beers in The Greyhound. Hopefully I will make some new friends and meet established friends on the cut somewhere/somewhen on the way.

I am travelling with nb Zavala, crewed by Margaret and Brian as far as Cannie Cavalcade at least, but after that they may be cruising the Bow Back Rivers with the Byfleet Boat Club. Having already done that some years ago with St. Pancras Cruising Club after the Olympic Games, I have no wish to repeat it, much as I enjoyed it at the time.

We departed The Pelican moorings on The Wey and were soon on the River Thames, with intention of stopping the night at Kingston, where we all ate at Cote Brasserie overlooking the river. I have to say that I cannot fault any Cote restaurants and I have eaten at several over the years.

Wednesday 2nd May

We intended to stay at Kingston most of the day and lock through Teddington onto the tidal section half an hour before high water, which was at 17.20, assuming that Thames Lock in Brentford would be manned as usual before and after high water. The Teddington lock keeper was also of that opinion, so I phoned Brentford and spoke to the duty lockie the day before, who told me that the lock was not manned after 6pm, but assured me that the duty lockie the following day would wait a few minutes after 6pm to let us through. I did phone about 4pm on the day, but the lockie at the time was adamant that he was going home at 6pm precisely. Brian and I considered it and thought of hoping to make it in time, but the thoughts of spending the night on the mud outside the lock were not very condusive to a good night’s sleep. So it was decided to lock through in the morning at 5am along with Tristan III and MyLady, who fortunately had already booked a passage. I say that because Thames Lock in not normally manned at that time in the morning, despite being told the opposite by the Teddington lock keeper. The moral here is “Do not believe anyone, until you have confirmation from the horse’s mouth.”

Thursday 3rd May

Rising at 4am after a poor night’s sleep is most unpleasant. It was still dark, but at least it was not windy or raining. Heading for the normal lock that I have always been through before, I was redirected towards the barge lock, which is far larger, but is divided in two by an additional pair of gates. The drop at that time was only about 6inches, so we were quickly through and no lines were needed. We were virtually on slack water with a heavy mist that could be seen lying just above the surface. With a constant progress without speeding we reached the GU turning at Brentford in 1hr and 5 mins, which was good going according to other times recorded. As we were waiting for the lock to open, the CRT van crossed the bridge with the duty lock keeper on board and he assured me that the lock was only manned because one of the other boats had previously booked it, which was very lucky for us. Any booking now has to be made with CRT head office 48hrs in advance, not 24hrs as previously. Once again the goalposts have been moved!

The Gauging Locks were soon dealt with by Margaret and we were well on our way towards Hanwell flight of seven locks. All went well and we soon got into a routine, with Margaret emptying and setting the full locks and seeing Brian and myself in before drawing the top paddles and then walking up to set the next one. Brian then opened the gate on his side to exit while I lowered the paddles on my side, before exiting through the open gate. I then stopped just beyond the gate and closed up, before moving up to the next lock, where I had to remove an orange length of ripstop nylon from the blades down the weed hatch. Whether this was a sari or not was debateable, but it certainly impeded progress for a while.

Norbury Top Lock was the last one and then it was Bull’s Bridge Depot that it once was when full of working boats. It was just gone 11am, so we were in good time for some rest and relaxation on almost empty moorings outside Tesco. Brian and I had a beer each before having some lunch and crashing out for a bit.

Friday 4th May

I awoke feeling well refreshed to sunshine and the day became warmer by the minute, with hardly any need for a fire on board. Last night I cooked some Waitrose calf’s liver with a cider vinegar and cream sauce and tiny new Jersey Royals and sweet corn – delicious, but then I only cook it about twice a year as a treat. The sauce was a little on the sweet side, but I did not have any raspberry vinegar, which is normally what I would deglaze the pan with.

My note in Nicholson’s told me that it is 13 miles to Little Venice and takes 4.5 hours, so there was no urgency to leave this morning. Plenty of time to water up and do some chores, like watching the snooker!

At Bulls Bridge.

We departed Bulls Bridge about midday and joined the long queue of boats cruising into London. I stopped briefly to ask James on Tristan III if he had a mooring plan and although Tina did, it was for their boat alone. I lent James a Stillson wrench to release his very tight water inlet, which had seized up over winter. Further along Claire on M’Lady had a plan which she kindly sent to me, but because I was a late applicant, Stronghold was not on there, so I was still non the wiser.

Steady progress was made over four and a half hours, passing about four miles of live aboard boats breasted up as we got closer to Paddington. Of course the pollution with bottles and plastic bags increased too and several times I had to “chuck back” (quick rev in reverse and pause) to clear the blades, before making further progress.

Just after 16.30 there were signs of boats slowing down and queueing for entry into the pool to moor up. I was invited to breast up next to a 67ft Dutch barge called PAX and began conversation with the owner, Nathan Johnson. The barge was built in 1905 and he had refitted the interior himself with the aid of his wife/partner. For three years he was in Rotterdam and moored next to Valery Poore, who has written several books about her boating experiences in Holland and Belguim, which I have read and we have also communicated by e-mail mainly about her writing.

A little later one of the waterspace guys came along and suggested I moor behind PAX on the bank, because nb Manatee had not turned up and she was supposed to be in the inside against the bank.

I strolled up to the bar later and met John Fevyer on the way. Karen Cook was on the stern of her boat, so another catch up chat took place about her journey from Dunchurch Pools Marina. Jack Reay was on board decorating his boat. In the bar I met up with Graham and Linda Scothern  and John Boswell for a pint. Also in the bar was Mike and Jenny Moorse, whose boat was in dock having a new Barrus Shire engine fitted, so they were sleeping on board Pat Barton’s boat. All in all it was quite a sociable evening.