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.