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.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 5

Travels With Cumberland

Saturday 25th May

Last night the beer was back on tap at The Grand Junction and just as I was leaving Hazel and James walked in and we discussed possibly going down Maffers in the morning.

I turned out that they rose late and sent me a text that they would be pulling the pins later that morning. In the intervening time, no one else passed by, so I waited for them. Fortunately there were two volunteers who helped us down the flight. nb Gabriel moored up by the reservoir and I carried on as far as Bridge 130, close to The Red Lion, where they had Harvey’s ale on tap. Harvey’s is my local brewery in Lewes and one of my favourite beers, so of course I had to have a pint mid-afternoon.

I was woken from a doze later, by a Lister plodding by and reversing and sure enough it was nb Cumberland looking for a mooring. Jack apologised for waking me and reversed back to a convenient spot, before agreeing to go for a pint or two later. After which we had a very well cooked meal over more Harvey’s “Knots of May”, which is a mild at 3%, but is a golden colour, whereas most mild ales are much darker.

Sunday 26th May

We let go at Maffers at 8am for what I expected to be a long day of boating. I is always good to travel with a companion and make the journey more interesting to see how they tackle the locks and there were a fair number across “the fields” as the ancient boaters called them, but for us they were all downhill. We took turns at setting the locks and closing the gates behind us.

 Surprisingly, we met very few boats coming south, as it was not only a bank holiday, but also half term for schools. When we eventually passed Wyvern Shipping at Leighton Buzzard, there were only six hire boats left on their moorings. I heard later that they were slowly selling their boats and there was one for sale there at the time. Although customers are enjoying  the boating and the scenery, they are having increasing difficulty mooring up, which is probably due to all the live aboard permanent moorers.

Some of the locks and paddle gear was in dire need of maintenance, as this one at Ivinghoe No.32 and an unwary boater could possibly sink the boat or take on a great deal of water.

At Grove lock, not only were the gates shut against us by one steerer, but the lock was turned against us to bring another boat up, despite all the horn blowing from Jack, who was ahead at the time.

I had passed several boats with one mooring line detached in the last few days and wondered why they had not tied up properly and I think the answer is that they don’t know how to. One cannot always blame speeding boats for the problem. It is the constant forward and backward motion on just two mooring lines, which eventually pull out the pins. All it needs is a spring line in the right place.

After topping up in Tesco at Leighton B, we found very convenient moorings outside The Globe Inn at Linslade, which had just been refurbished and was very smart indeed. The service was also of a high standard.

Monday 27th May

We let go at 8am with only four locks down to the Milton Keynes long pound.  I find this stretch very boring with very little of interest and of course no locks, which takes approximately four hours. There were a few Wyvern Shipping boats returning, presumably just out for a long weekend.

New marina in Milton Keynes, but no sign of the New MK Waterway yet.

Jack had considerable difficulty with dragging the bottom, but Cumberland is 2’6” draft, whereas Stronghold  draws only 1’9”. Occasionally I picked up weed or plastic, but threw it off easily by chucking back, until we reached Cosgrove Lock. We were helped through by descending boaters and as I came out past the waiting boat, a hire boat appeared to try and jump the queue. Agreed that a trip boat was moored behind the locking boat, but then he saw the problem and tried to reverse, but got the boat across the cut. I waited for him to sort it out and managed to squeeze through the gap, which was when I got a blade full. It took a lot of reversing to shake it off and I did not need to lift the weed hatch. Shortly after that we moored up by the horse tunnel and walked through to The Barley Mow, which was a very busy pub full of diners at that time.

Tuesday 28th May

We were away at 8am again and it was chilly, so we were well wrapped up. There were no locks until the Stoke Bruerne flight of seven, so it was easy going. My engine overheated part way, which was down to an alteration I had made to the cooling tank stop cock control. This may sound technical, but it was only that I had to shorten the piece of string that pulled the stop cock open from the deck and it jammed when the engine got hot.

We reached the bottom lock of the flight, just as two Noddy boats were about to leave their moorings. Even so the locks were all against us, with water pouring over the gates, because there are no by weirs here.

We moored up in the long pound two locks from the top, along with many other boats who wished to stay longer than 24 hours. There is no phone or internet signal here, although I did get good TV. I had to contact Cathryn Dodington by text asking her to reserve a table at The Spice of Bruerne before we walked up to The Boat to choose from a very extensive beer menu. We sat in the boaters bar, which revived many memories of occasions there in the past. One of which was David Blagrove’s tales of boating with Willow Wren. I frequently used to ask him for yarns to be printed in The Steerer magazine, which is the official publication of the Narrow Boat Trust when I was editor and he always obliged. A very amusing and educated man with a vivid memory that inspired seven books in his life time.

Jack had moved Cumberland into the top pound by now and I assisted with the two locks, but a Wyvern Shipping boat had moored in his chosen space with 20’ fore and aft, as usual. I walked up to the ladies in the bow and taking a leaf out of a Thames lock keepers spiel, I asked to speak to the “master of this vessel”, meaning the skipper of course. They were rather taken aback and the little girl thought this was so funny. I did explain later that I was winding them up. The outcome was that they willingly pulled up to the next ring, so that Cumberland could then moor in the adequate space.

We had an excellent meal in the Indian restaurant and the conversation as always, was about boating and boat people, which we all had in common. I bade farewell to Jack, who had been a pleasure to boat with over the past few days, because he wished to go through the Blisworth Tunnel before a 07.30 slot for a wide beam the following morning. As Cathryn is in control of this wide beam operation, she assured him that he would go first. I will see him at Braunston Hysterics at the end of June, but in the meantime he is going to Manchester and back.

In the afternoon, I had tackled the water pressure problem once more by back pumping water from a large saucepan back into the tank, which it did with ease. On replacing all the pipes and pump the water pressure improved just enough to give me a reasonable shower afterwards.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 4.

Ricky to the Summit Level.

Sunday 19th May

After a shower and breakfast, I attempted to publish my blog. Probably because my mobile had no signal, the photographs that I had on it refused to be picked up by Blogger, so had to be transferred by Bluetooth to the laptop and then uploaded from the appropriate laptop file – I found it to be extremely frustrating, but got it completed and published eventually.

 I had a stroll through the stalls and various music arenas. There were far more stalls than at Cavalcade, but of course there was far more space. All the usual tat of course and ethnic clothing plus food outlets. It was certainly crowded despite the amount of space. I spotted John Fevier inside one of the waterway stalls and we passed the time of day for a while. I had a beer before returning to the boat for a spot of lunch, after which it was time to dismantle the lights and bunting, which took all afternoon – is it really worth it?

nb Chedoona  won a bottle of prosecco for being the best decorated boat and it was well deserved. Moranwyl Phyllis wanted to move from the inside mooring to the outside for an early getaway in the morning, so a bit of disorganised boat shuffling took place, but at least Stronghold was now on the bankside and I had a spring line out to steady things when other boats passed by.

This boat was named Rose in June, but has been repainted 
and totally refitted and is on a mooring by The Pelican.

It was just too far to walk to the pub, so a quiet pint ensued on board and a period to wind down before having supper.

Monday 20th May

I should be doing an oil change today and stocking up with food for the next few days to intersperse with the sweet and sour chicken dishes. The oil change was put on the back burner and I did some M&S shopping instead and whiled away the afternoon with a book, during which time, Margaret asked me if I would like to go with a group of boaters to Wetherspoons for a meal later and of course I jumped at the chance, despite there being a total of fifteen boaters, most of whom I knew anyway.  It was a very enjoyable evening talking to different people and discussing everything from boat toilets (why does this always crop up in the conversation even during a meal), to where are you going next, where is your mooring, and your working life history amongst other topics. We finally departed the pub at 22.30 and I was flagging, it being long past my normal bedtime, but I slept extremely well for a change.

During the evening I had a phone call from Chris, who had said previously that he would come out and crew for me on Tuesday. Despite me hanging around Ricky all day Monday, he was now possibly going to turn up on Thursday.

Tuesday 21st May

I was out of bed and ready to move at 8am. I was now moored next to Zavala closer to the town lock and although Margaret was out walking the dog, I had to wake Brian by starting the engine to cross over the cut to Tesco. Unfortunately, Miss Matty passed by while I was there, so no chance of accompanying them through the locks. I had to stop for water below the lock anyway and I was in a queue, so it was a long time before I eventually went through the lock with another boat until they stopped for water at Cassio Bridge. I continued was  caught up by nb Gerald with Barry and Jenny, who was also at ‘Spoons pub last night, so we did several more locks together until they stopped just above Hunton Bridge top lock.

By this time (14.00) I also had done enough for the day and pulled in on a favourite sunny mooring just north of the bridge for some lunch and a stop for the day.  Now that the engine was hot it was time to do that oil change. The weather had been incredibly sunny and warm in the morning, but a breeze sprung up in the afternoon and the off bank wind made mooring difficult, so I had to be very quick getting pins in and tying up without getting blown across the other side of the cut.

Surprisingly there are only two other boats moored within sight, whereas there have been masses of live aboard boaters moored up along the banks, which of course necessitates moving at just above tickover speed and makes progress so much more tedious. Some years ago there was a call for more offline moorings in purpose built marinas, which would hopefully reduce the number of online moorings, but the opposite has happened because although they probably did move to marinas, there are now so many people living on boats and taking up cheaper online mooring spaces that it is worse than ever before in my fourteen years of owning a boat. London is the prime example and it is almost impossible to visit the city any longer on a boat, unless you have a designated or reserved mooring space.

Wednesday 22nd May

Just after 08.30 nb Enigma came past who had been moored behind me overnight. I asked if it was OK to accompany him up the locks, which it was. We got chatting a the first lock and Les enquired about The Pelican pub in Addlestone, which was one of the Watney’s pubs that he used to deliver to way back when he worked for Watneys.  He was also a single handed boater as was evident when he approached that lock. Not only was his sense of humour similar to mine, but he also knew what he was doing at locks and not only did we get on well, we gelled into a team with no words spoken. In all we did twelve locks as far as The Three Horseshoes at Winkwell and went in for a couple of well deserved pints and more chat. His family are going to Whipsnade at the weekend, so he is stopping here for a while to meet with them.

In the meantime Chris phoned to find out where I was and agreed to come for a pint too later in the evening, before meeting up closer to Berko to crew for me tomorrow. Nb Gabriel with James and Hazel also arrived and moored up and we agreed to leave about nine-ish in the morning to travel together, so it looks like we will be mob handed for locking tomorrow. It’s not often I get the chance of a locking crew, so I look forward to that.

Thursday 23rd May

Another sunny day is promised and I was up early to be ready to let go with nb Gabriel. We let go around 9am and did a few locks, before Chris came down the towpath to crew for the day, so with James and Chris working the locks we fairly flew up them as far as Berko, where we moored briefly to visit Waitrose. 

Gabriel stopped there for the night, but we continued as far as the summit level to moor at Bulbourne, where there was plenty of space.

About 2ft lower than normal between Dudswell Two Locks.

It was a short walk to The Grand Junction, but to our surprise the real ales were off and there was no gas for the pressurized stuff either – a pub with no beer is not good news. Chris decided to fetch his car from Berko, by catching the train from Tring and then returning to collect me and go to The Red Lion at Marsworth, where they still had Harvey’s Best Bitter on tap as last year, which is a regular ale according to the landlord. I pointed out that Harvey’s only deliver within a 50 mile radius of Lewes, so how did he manage to get a supply. The reply was that it was delivered by a local beer wholesaler, which is what I thought might have happened.

It had been a six hour day of travelling and although the locks were done for me, I certainly had had enough by that time, so another early night ensued.

Friday 24th May

Another day of sunshine was promised, but it clouded up later, though still warm. I had a late morning breakfast and decided that I had enough hot water to do some washing. By now I had got the hang of using this Mickey Mouse twin tub washing machine that I found last year. Despite this, it still took me two hours of continual supervision over a hot tub.

I debated later whether to walk down Maffers flight for a pint at The Anglers Rest, but decided against it hoping that there was beer on in the local pub by now.

I could see that the Bulbourne workshops were now empty and fenced off, with many small trees cut down, so some sort of action was forthcoming. Several of the buildings are Grade II listed, so there is limited room for redevelopment.  https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/media/library/2676.pdf

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 3

To Rickmansworth

Monday 13th May

I am still having a problem with the water pressure, so having slept on it, I decided to release the pump connection to see how much water would run from the tank to the stern and there was certainly not much more than a dribble, so the pipe was partly blocked ay the tank outlet. I tried blowing through it but not enough to clear anything. If I pressurised it by reversing the pump then there was the possibility of forcing open a pipe connection, so being close to a water tap, I decided to fill the tank with the hose tucked well down the inlet pipe. There was good pressure at the tap, which made a change from the usual CRT water points. Certainly things improved somewhat after that with enough pressure to have a reasonable shower. As with electric cables on this boat, the water pipes disappear after the pump, never to be seen again and there is no obvious place to get to the water tank – more thought required.

I was immediately below Copper Mill Lock, so had to ascend the lock as soon as filling up was complete. From there I progressed to Springwell and Stokers Locks into the Rickmansworth pound and found a place to moor with rings, close to other boats waiting for the place markers to be put along the length. TV reception was non-existent, although I got a strong BT wi-fi signal with the aerial in place.

Tuesday 14th May

There was a branch of Holland and Barrett in the town, so I took a walk to stock up with Cider vinegar and honey, but it was a wasted trip, because they were out of stock, so I had a pint in Wetherspoons instead.

I returned by way of the Aquadrome, which is a series of shingle quarries used to build the original Wembley Stadium. They are now a local nature reserve used for water sports and leisure area, but on the way decided to have a browse around M&S Food Hall - big mistake, as I bought several desirable  items that were not on my future shopping list.

Back on the moorings now, I could see two boats on my allocated mooring, so had a word with Terry on nb Moranwyl Phyllis and Bob on nb Chedoona about moving in between them as per my allocated number, which I did immediately as there were complications the next day when they were not going to be here.

Wednesday 15th May

Not a lot going on today, but I did do some serious shopping in the local Tesco and later in the afternoon, another walk into the town for a pint in ‘Spoons. Otherwise it was a lazy day standing around talking boats to boaters – what else do boaters do? Curiosity got the better of me though and I had to check water pressure from the tank now that it was filled up, but virtually nothing just as before. I must ask around about this – someone may well come up with a clue. I texted Phil on Hyperion to see if he was servicing the Festival, because I needed diesel by now. I seem to see him every year around the Apsley area and stop to fill up.

Thursday 16th May

I had been invited for a curry lunch at ‘Spoons by Brian and Margaret today, which I was quite looking forward to, but first a shower after I heated the water using the gas boiler for a change from the engine, which seems very inefficient at doing the job whilst stationary.

It was very enjoyable and good to eat in the company of someone else instead of alone. Once again I looked into Holland & Barrett for the Honeygar to no avail, but there was another health shop close by and I bought a bottle there, which will see me through for a while longer. I also passed a charity shop and looked for a decent wine glass, having broken the last one this morning – no joy there, but I did buy the three series of Downton Abbey on DVD, having heard of all the awards that went with the series. Two copies were still sealed in the original cellophane.

Lots of boating banter back on the mooring and by this time Terry had all his bunting and lights in place, which looked so good that I might be inspired to do mine tomorrow.

Phil came by on nb Hyperion and I purchased 74 litres of diesel at 81p/litre with no declaration as usual. He will be coming north again after his run south, when I may need another gas bottle. The present one has lasted over a year now.

Jack Reay came by later on his trip to Tesco, so stopped for more chat and he advised me about going to see the brilliant mandolin band in the Scout hut on Saturday.

Friday 17th May

A chilly night and much the same this morning, so I took a stroll up towards Black Jacks Lock and stopped by Cumberland for a chat with Jack, who was about to go breasted up with nb Tafelberg and Paul Clevett to his proper mooring by the iron bridge, which had been occupied by a broken down boat. Jack remarked how coincidental it was that so many boats “broke down” so close to Tesco on the other bank. He introduced me to Paul, who I saw playing with his folk group “Mandolin Monday” at Cavalcade.

Both engines were running in gear and it was a tight squeeze in some parts of the cut to get through the gaps, but successfully we approached Tesco moorings where Paul wished to get off and shop, leaving me steering his boat, which was OK except the speed wheel rotated in the opposite direction to Nuneaton and the gear change was not to be seen until Jack reached under the cabin top for it. We parted after mooring up and I attacked Tesco once again.

The boats either side of me now had a full complement of bunting and lights up, so I was under pressure to do much the same. They were so much more prepared than I was and how they managed to store all that extra gear on board, I cannot imagine. I try to carry as little as possible and make do on the day, so this time I lashed the cabin shaft to the swan neck and worked from there with the bunting first down to the cabin top and then strung one lot of lights from the bow up to the aerial mast and down again to the top of the boat. Laid along the cabin top either side were the tube lights with limited fixing. Despite the minimum attempt, it still took all afternoon.

Saturday 18th May

Apparently I should have a wrist band to stop being pestered by the bucket rattlers, so on the way along the towpath I bumped into James Scowen from Hotel Boat Tranquil Rose, which over winters every year at Farncombe on The Wey. We had a good old chat before parting and I seem to see the boat every year somewhere on my trip.

Another walk into town to get some choice pieces of M&S food and a wine glass or two from a charity shop.

There was a security man on the door of Wetherspoons and not until I got inside did I realise that it was cup final day and was full of Watford fans and of course Watford were playing Man City.

The fun fair was in full swing as I returned, but could not be heard from the boat fortunately. After lunch I decided to cook up the sweet and sour chicken dish and probably had enough for about four meals, but if I alternate with other dishes it will not seem like overkill.

I set off to catch Mandolin Monday with Paul Clevett and Mike Askin at the Scout Hut. The band were rather depleted to just two guitarists, instead of the four who were at Cavalcade and being an outside performance was not so intense as before, but it was enjoyable all the same, apart from someone who kept talking to me throughout the music, so I could hear neither properly. They played for two hours without a break and the beer on tap was £4/pint and good as well.

Mandolin Monday.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019.2

Problems, Problems!

Monday 6th May

Another chilly and cloudy day, although somewhat warmer than yesterday. I borrowed a bicycle pump from the waterways chaplain, despite the lack of bike on board his boat. I pumped up the air reservoir, which smoothes out the water pump pulsing and increased the pressure switch on the end of the pump, which seemed to improve things somewhat. I was also aware that too much water pressure would open the hot water tank pressure release valve into the engine ‘ole, which in turn would start the automatic bilge pump. To stop that possibility I had to remember to turn off the water pump when I left the boat, just in case it happened again.

After some breakfast, I had a walk along to the Paddington Arm to see who was moored there and also to warm up. I had allowed the fire to go out this morning, thinking that it was a warmer day – perhaps not! When I returned to Stronghold, many boats had left the South towpath moorings already until there were only three of us left on the end – Helen Dobbie, Phil Bassett and me. At the same time Mark Saxon was phoning me to ask me to move off the mooring, so it was time to go. With the wind blowing from my left it was impossible to turn into it, until I could get alongside the towpath, after which it was easy to power up and turn in the direction of Delamere Terrace, where I was hoping to moor up again for the night. I spotted Miss Matty where I could breast up alongside and thinking that there was no one on board I pulled in, but both Robin and Laura were there and I requested permission while they helped moor me alongside, so safe for tonight at least.

In the meantime I mentioned to Phil Bassett that I had left it too late to book in for the Rickmansworth Festival in two weeks time. As the main man for the Ricky Fest. he said that there were still a few places available, so as soon as I had moored up, I booked a place and am keeping fingers crossed meanwhile until I get confirmation. It’s not what you know, but who you know in this game.

Tuesday 7th May

What a beautiful morning, sunny and no wind for a change. A brief chat with Robin and Laura before departing just before 09.30. Miles and miles of moored live-aboard boats of every size and description. Nb Jack Merrick is still here, previously owned by David Brixey and now joined by the cruiser Herbie, previously owned by the Pilgrim family and on the Pelican Wharf moorings. I knew she was up for sale only a few weeks ago.

As I had mentioned previously, the Paddington Arm was far cleaner this year than last and I had no problems that couldn’t be shaken off by chucking back now and then. I arrived at Bulls Bridge just after 13.30 and there was no one on the water point, so that was the first place to moor and fill the tank. After that, I could move up beyond a wide beam and go to Tesco to stock up and then write a bit more of this drivel. Rain is due tonight and could last into Wednesday morning and I have no intention of boating in that, unless I have to.

Wednesday 8th May

I awoke to the sound of rain pattering on the cabin top and sure enough it was fairly pelting down, so no moving for a while. In the meantime I prepared and cooked pork chops in cider with apple and onion according to Nigel Slater. I now have details of the Ricky Festival and payment details, but will have to wait for a better internet connection before I can pay the fee of £40.

The last and only time I went to Ricky was with the Narrow Boat Trust way back in 2011, which was my first ever trip with a pair of working boats. Very exciting times and I was soaking up everything new like a sponge.
I thought I knew all about narrow boating, until I joined NBT and then it was a case of more or less starting all over again, especially with a butty in tow. It certainly improved my personal boating skills afterwards, but no one ever knows it all, despite what they might say.

The rain ceased about midday, although the forecast showed it continued until about 20.00, but decreasing all the time, so I will collect some charcoal from Tesco, in hope for the future good weather and continue to Uxbridge.

It was not to be today however, what with squalls and heavy rain showers in the afternoon. The wind was so strong that if I released the mooring lines, Stronghold would have easily been blown across to the other bank. Resigned to spend a boring afternoon and evening waiting out a break in the weather for tomorrow.

I must say that the internet connections around here are dire. I have an expensive BT broadband account which should give me a choice of 5,000,000  BT hotspots nationally. Well here they might well be spots, but hot they are distinctly not. I must take 10mins to actually log on and when you think you are, I get lies telling me that I am, when I cannot get a connection to another site. So much for BT expensive crap.

Thursday 9th May

The weather had improved somewhat by this morning, so I let go mid-morning intending to get to Uxbridge and get some advice about the low domestic water pressure from Uxbridge Boat Centre, where I seem to have visited every year as far as I can remember on this stretch. They mentioned every item that I had previously checked and that they no longer supplied the Shurflo pumps any longer after so many returns of the 3901, which was the one I had. Recommended was the Jabsco, who have been manufacturing pumps for more years than I can remember, so I bought a replacement, although it produced only slightly more pressure than the Shurflo.

By this time I was outside the Swan and Bottle, with nb Stafford moored ahead of me (Malcolm Burge’s boat). The pub gives a 10% discount for CAMRA members, so I had a second pint at a reduced rate.

Friday 10th May

It was that time again when I had to tighten the alternator belts, as I was tired of hearing the squeeling of the belts when starting the engine every morning. Surprisingly enough it was a very quick job to do, having done it so many times before and being aware of exactly the size of spanners required.

I hailed a live aboard boater later in the morning, hoping to go through Uxbridge and Denham Deep Lock at 11ft. without having to climb the long ladder. He was a single handed boater and I mean that literally, as he was minus his right hand! How could he possibly climb any vertical ladder I wondered? His boat was just entering the lock when the gear button on the Morse control became stuck when he tried to reverse, so he had to back out and let me in. I returned to see exactly what had happened, but the Morse control was firmly fastened to a plate holding all the gauges with no easy method of removal. He phoned a friend close by for some help and when I met him later it appeared than the cable had come loose behind the panel and was soon fixed.

There was a small plastic cruiser already in Denham and the guy waited for me to enter also, so that I was astern of his boat. It was only fastened at the bow by one line and could not be controlled easily as the lock was slowly filled. Meanwhile I remained on board Stronghold to keep clear of crushing the cruiser and held by a centre line only. The lock took ages to fill and although leaking badly through the bottom gates, one of the gate paddles was not fully closed, although he thought he had closed them. Both men were live aboards and obviously not experienced boaters, which was so obvious.

Arriving just below Copper Mill Lock, I took the first available space at the back of a line of mostly widebeams. It was opposite some smartly built houses and only a short walk to The Coy Carp, which I visited later. Another Vintage Inns establishment, but they did offer a CAMRA discount as previously mentioned. I had not been in here for several years and not much had changed in the interval.

Saturday 11th May

Today was a day of rest for me, as I was too early to get Ricky for the festival next weekend, so it was a day of some walking along the towpath and reading, as the TV reception here is non-existent.

Sunday 12th May

I still had enough hot water in the tank to do some washing, so set up the Mickey Mouse twin tub machine that I found at the Braunston tip last year. Much to my disappointment, the spinner drum would not rotate at its usual high speed and there was some washing water also in the drum. Anyway, the washer drum was OK, so I was resigned to do the washing and ring it all out by hand. Just another annoyance to be fixed if possible. The back plate was taken off and the brake Bowden cable appeared to be very rusty, so the brake did not appear to release. Duly lightly lubricated, it gradually worked loose, but still no joy on the drum speed. Eventually with the washing completed, the machine was drained and with the water out of the spinner compartment it worked at full speed. Why that slowed it down was beyond comprehension, but it saved a great deal of hand work and cheered me up no end.

It had been a day of sunny spells in between the cumulus cloud, and very warm in the sunshine, with even better days forecast for the remainder of the week. A great many people were walking the towpath and enjoying the good weather for a change.

Strangely enough, I was unable to get any decent wi-fi coverage from BT-with-Fon yesterday, but today it appeared at a strength of five bars. Maybe someone close by had it turned off yesterday.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 1.

To Little Venice and Cannie Cavalcade.

Tuesday 30th April

Back on the River Thames on a very pleasant sunny windless day as far as Kingston for the night along with Brian and Margaret on nb Zavala, as is usual this time of year on our way to Cannie Cavalcade at Little Venice.

We let go at our moorings at 10am on Tuesday, well stocked up with victuals. Just before mooring at Kingston, we passed Thames Venturer with Dave Murray on board, volunteering with others to take out various disabled people on a day cruise. An evening meal was enjoyed at Cote Bistro, as always, but the moules were rather on the small side this year. I suppose that is a chance that has to be taken with these molluscs.

Although we passed through Sunbury, which was unmanned and Molesey Locks, which was, the lockie there asked us to get a licence at Teddington. An arrival the lock was already open and waiting for us to enter, whereby we requested a licence and were told, “Forget it.” The passage to Brentford was undertaken in an hour and twenty minutes, with a very gentle ebb tide running.

Hanwell Flight of seven locks was worked also with Alan on nb Webbies, who has been to Cavalcade every  year that I have been going. Another boat to share locks with him would have been useful for the first two, after which he was meeting his daughter at The Fox and staying there for the night. All the same, he volunteered to work the next few locks for us, which was appreciated. We both had a bladeful of rags and plastic by the time we got to Norwood Lock and both weed hatches were up to delve into the murky depths and clear the detritus. Much to our surprise, there was space to moor at Bulls Bridge, outside Tesco, where a visit or two were mandatory.

Thursday morning the crew of Zavala departed for Little Venice, as they were carrying a large supply of water in bottles for sale to raise money for a visit to the World Scout  Jamboree by their granddaughter Molly. It had to be unloaded at Stone Wharf early without intrusion into Cavalcade events and set up. Meanwhile I spent another night at Bulls Bridge with the intention of leaving on Friday about midday to arrive about 16.30 where there is always a long queue. I also allowed time for a pump out at Willotree Marina. Imagine my surprise on arrival at Little Venice to find only two other boats ahead of me waiting to get into the pool. It seems that they started arranging boats on their moorings at 14.30.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Paddington Arm from Bulls Bridge was far cleaner than it was last year, when I was constantly ‘chucking back’ by stopping and going into reverse to clear the blades. This year it only happened once or twice. I passed six boats adrift on one line and can only put this down to bad mooring practice by non-boaters, or speeding boats passing by, which is very unusual.

I got a few horn blasts of welcome as I entered Browning’s Pool from James on nb Gabriel and Jack Reay on Cumberland, just to name two friends. This raised my morale considerably.  After squeezing into the gap next to Augusta, owned by Helen Dobbie, who I moored next to on my first ever mooring in the pool, I needed a pint, so went to the nearest pub, The Bridge House. At £5.20 a pint, I must have been desperate! Needless to say, I only had one.

After a home cooked meal, I wandered over to the beer tent to sample the difficulty of the renown Martin Ludgate quiz. Standing at the bar, I was accosted by James who requested my pleasure at his table for the quiz, so the decision was made for me. I did acquit myself by getting a few of the canal pictures correct, but missed out on Hawksbury Junction taken from an unusual angle and I have been there so many times – bugger!

Saturday 4th May

Not a lot going on today, so I did a tour of the stalls as usual, but nothing new of interest there. I also took the opportunity to visit the first aid tent and get my elbow redressed after five days of the previous dressing by Margaret after tripping over an uneven paving slab outside Brighton Station on the way here. A late lunch of Thai red curry was welcomed at one of the stalls and I ate in the company of James and Hazel with a pint of bitter to wash it down. At the time a band was playing in the beer tent, with Mike Askin on melodeon, so I squeezed in and got a seat for the remainder of the session. Great music and an impromptu lady dancer giving a great performance. Jack invited me to a group party on the towpath later, but it had turned very cold by then, so I presumed it was on board. Not wishing to intrude, I paid a visit to the Warwick Castle for a pint instead. The fire was kept alight all night with a forecast of 4°C, although it was definitely warmer by morning than normal.

Paddington Arm at Sunset.

Sunday 5th May

Once again I had entered the boat handling competition, which started today. I had every intention of missing it out this year, having won the cup twice, but on registration in the Waterspace tent, I had my arm twisted to enter yet again. I opted for the first chance on Saturday morning, knowing that the wind is often less then than the rest of the day. Before I could even start, the bunting on the cabin top had to be removed entirely, as it can become a nuisance if it comes adrift during the competition. Once down, it would stay down for the remainder of the weekend.

The Boat Handling Route.

The course was one of the most difficult that I have ever done, with one 360° and two 180° turns and a great deal of reversing. There was also a buoy to pick up by the steerer, which mysteriously disappeared part way through Sunday, so to compensate it was discounted altogether for previous competitors. At the finish in the narrows beneath The Horse Bridge the boat picked up a blade-full of rubbish and despite trying to shake it off, I eventually had to stop in the narrows and lift the weed hatch, much to the amusement of two CRT guys from the adjacent office. Now with a clean propeller I took off down the Regents Canal through London Zoo to Cumberland Basin, where I could wind the boat in the turn and return to my mooring, which had closed up by now to 12 inches wide. I was widened with some help from adjacent moorers and I was back in and secured. Now with plenty of hot water, I had a shower, which was rather disappointing as it was down to little more than a dribble – something to investigate tomorrow.

After a light lunch, I was off to the beer tent and passed Brian and Margaret on Stone Wharf with Molly and stopped for a chat, before Brian accompanied me for a pint. He invited me to watch the snooker final on his boat later, which I did being plied with large measures of Scotch. Needless to say, I slept very well.