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 26 June 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 9.

Sunday 16th June

More rain this morning! Will it ever end I wonder. Two things I wanted to do today, firstly get some or all of the water out from beneath the engine and secondly get the fire cleaned out and ready for the operation exchange tomorrow.  Removing the water was a really slow job, as I was using the Pela Pump to suck away the surplus, but as the engine had a mat soaking up the oil and water, the latter flowed very slowly and would have to be removed over a period of days. Cleaning up the fire was a much shorter operation and completed in 10 mins. Apart from that, I did very little else except reading and a visit to The Boathouse for a cheap pint, which is £2.50 from 4pm to 7pm. It seems that they no longer offer meals at two for the price of one, which was never a bargain because it is chain pub food anyway and I wouldn’t eat there by choice.

Monday 17th June

I was out of bed early to get in the marina by 8am and be first on the list for work to be done. I met Graham on the dockside and he wanted the boat on the wet dock close to where all the tools were. Dave came on board and started to tackle the stove, but after an hour the flue was still not free to move up through the cabin top as he had to dig out all the old Heatmate and fire rope at the bottom end and then remove the fire cement at the top end, which I had never replaced previously when I replaced the collar at the bottom of the flue some years ago. At that time I remember, I shifted the flue skywards by levering the whole fire up with a crowbar, after removing the fixings on the feet. I suggested this and it worked again, after which the stove was removed to the well deck and the new one replaced it and the flue resealed top and bottom – job done, or so I thought!

Stronghold on the left of this picture.

I went into the office to pay the bill for 3hrs labour and cost of the fire, which had been reduced by £100.00 recently at Midland Chandlers. Whilst there, Tim Coghlan gave me an article to read about events in the life of two veteran boaters and which he was willing to donate once more to The Steerer, the magazine of the Narrow Boat Trust, which I used to edit. He has always been a good source of historic material which he is willing to part with after it has been published in Towpath Telegraph. He was as good as his word and sent me text and photographs for two articles by e-mail that very afternoon.

Mooring up later outside, I had a chance to inspect the new fire place, but could not find an ash pan handle. Thinking that it might be an optional extra, I rung Graham who said it was usually supplied and said he would get one in the morning. I also queried the smoke hood, which fits just below the flue to maybe reduce the draw of a flue higher than 4.5 metres, which mine is not, so that could come out. This is the information read in the very detailed Morso set of instructions, which are so much more specific than those of the original fire when fitted 18yrs ago – much of it being about safety issues, but there are also contradictions in places. Also the ash pan door can no longer be opened fully if the top door is closed, which I presume is to prevent excessive draught through the grate.

Tuesday 18th June

Another early morning to get back into the marina arm, but as I entered through the bridge, I was warned that they were about to move the large steel Peter Nicholls cruiser that has been there for at least a year, so I had to reverse out, but at least could get into a part of the marina that was unoccupied.

Eventually I was able to moor up in the arm and Dave came to see about the missing handle, before driving to Midland to get a new one. He showed me how the baffle plate was removed, by taking out one of the firebricks first and then the smoke hood just lifted out. The baffle plate will have to be removed before sweeping the chimney at a later date, so I needed to know how that was done.

I cruised slowly through the marina to end up facing north when I moored up on the towpath. Some more stocking up is required in the village, so will go before it rains again. In the Braunston Butchers yet again and he remembered me asking about calves liver and said it would be in on Thursday, but I am unlikely to be here then. Maybe the week after when I will be, I can order some in advance. Having made this raspberry vinegar to go with it, there has been no chance of producing the recipe to even try so far. I have to admit to not buying sausages very often, having been disappointed so many times, but I took a chance on the chipolata sized Braunston Bangers and will certainly buy those again. Not only are they flavoursome, but very meaty as well. I bought some flavoured chicken kebabs, thinking that it was time I had a BBQ, that is if I get suitable weather.

Back on board and then the rain began again for several hours – hunker down time again!

Wednesday 19th June

Another overcast morning, but no rain so far. In fact it did not rain all day and that’s a first for quite a while.

I cast off with the intention of mooring along my favourite stretch of canal, between Braunston and Napton – out in the sticks. There are places along here where it is impossible to see a house, pylon or electricity cable and hear only the wind and birds – beautiful!

I pulled in after 3hrs behind one other boat, so that I could tie up to the short length of Armco and be close enough to this end of the village to sample the delights, or otherwise of The Kings Head, 5mins walk from Bridge 110. Although I had passed this spot countless times in the years past, I had never ventured inside. Being a Hook Norton pub, they sold only Hooky beers, but the inside of this modern road house seems more devoted to eating, with nearly every table laid for service and the interior rather devoid of interest. Not my choice of watering hole, although the menu looked interesting, but rather pricey.

As an addition to the raspberry vinegar that I made a few weeks back, I had it on some stewed apples with cream this evening and it was delicious. I had read previously that it was good with ice cream, strange as it may seem, as it is sweet and sour, but it works.

Thursday 20th June

I moved up to Napton later this morning, expecting to get a choice of moorings about 11.30am and there were three available close to the winding ‘ole, where I turned and reversed back to a gap. I do wish some of these passing boaters would slow down as I am just holding Stronghold by the centre line at the time. Their boats cause shunting back and forth which I am barely able to control, with the result that the boat is bumped into those fore and aft.

Another case of waiting around for Saturday, but I have no problem filling these idle days and I really do need to clean the outside of Stronghold, despite people admiring the boat. Tomorrow is free, so the opportunity is there. Most of the afternoon was taken up with composing a long reply to Jaqueline (Jaq) Biggs in America, who sold nb Valerie last December and returned to the US. After meeting at Weedon, we got on famously for a few days before we parted company at Braunston in 2017.

Jaq Biggs.

Another American pair of boaters I met last year at Ricky were Mike and Leslie , who I had mentioned previously when at Ricky Festival this year. They have just completed the Portishead to Sharpness Crossing with a pilot and sent me some photos, so a reply to that was also due. If we are lucky and our plans coincide, we may even meet up again this year.

Mike and I at Ricky.

Friday 21st June

The Summer Solstice  and true to form, the sun shone nearly all morning and the barometer is rising at last. I had a walk up to Napton Village Stores and noticed that Napton Cidery was open this morning, despite it being Friday, when the notice board denoted opening on Saturday 10.00 to 16.00 only, so I popped in to see if they had some Apple Cider Brandy, which they did at £45.00 for 70cl. With a strength of 43% it won’t take much to give anyone brain damage, so I bought a bottle – let’s hope the quality is as good as the price!

After a light lunch I felt like some exercise, so decided to walk up to a farm campsite that I had heard about and to see what it was like. It was easy walking along the level towpath and when I got to Adkins Lock I asked a lady who was unpacking her car to spend the weekend working on her boat – that is doing her own private business on board, not doing anything to the boat. She told me that her name is Jane and her boat is moored on the main line close to the private Engine Arm just above the lock. She also told me quite a bit about the Adkins brothers who own the farm and about the campsite, so I strolled across the field to have a look. Just a normal family holiday retreat in the middle of nowhere and basic facilities.

Walking back towards The Folly, I had a chat with most boaters coming up the locks thick and fast at this time of the day, before having a thirst quenching pint of Old Hooky and walking back to board the boat. I have not walked a total of 3 miles for a very long time and I felt good at the end with no aches or pains. I must do more of this.

Holt Farm Campsite.

Intruders Beware!

Saturday 21st June

Just had enough hot water for a shower after running the engine. So time to change clothes for a visit to the Napton Cidery when my daughter arrived. The shop was being run by the owner’s mother at the time and she was not very knowledgeable about the cider pressing equipment, so although it was an open day it was really for visitors who wanted to pay £10 each for a tour and tasting. The Apple Cider Brandy I can now say is excellent and unlike any other Cognac or Armagnac that I have ever tasted. We bought some cider and walked back to the pub to hear the music from Folk on the Water, but were disappointed because the session consisted of various groups of singers of mostly 80s and 90s pop songs like Abba and Fleetwood Mac. We stuck it out with beer and conversation before going in for a good meal at 8pm. I also had a photo taken of me outside the pub to send to my boating mate Colin entitled JTPYO . This has become a joke between us, so that every time one of us visits a popular waterway pub, we send the other one a photo. The initials stand for “Just To Piss You Off”!


Sunday 22ND June

I had overstayed the time on this Napton mooring, so it was time to make a move with the intention to moor out in the sticks, possibly close to Bridge 100 for a night, before heading back into Braunston once again and get organised for the  Historic Boat Rally. It was a very quiet place to moor and I don’t do it very often out in the sticks, but there was room for privacy away from other boats, so I ran the generator for a few hours to get some amps into the batteries. Time spent reading and watching some TV as there are surprisingly good signals for both here.

Before departing from Napton, I put some K-Seal in the engine water system to hopefully seal up the weeping core plug and the following morning it was leak free at last. The thing about this product which appears to be different is that it is permanent, whereas most of the Bars Leaks and Rad Seal type products are only temporary.

Monday 23rd June

A strange morning with light mist and very muggy with no wind - some light showers later in the day. I let go late in the morning to make the most of the opportunity to get a mooring after someone had left Braunston, which was less than a mile away. There were several historic boats moored now waiting for the show next weekend. I filled with water at the Stop House, winded and retraced my steps to a place opposite the pub, where I knew I could get a decent TV and wi-fi signal. Why is it that the mooring rings are always in the wrong place?

On walking along the towpath I met Linda and Chris, two of the stewarding team and we caught up on a years worth of gossip. Further along nb Joseph was moored with John Boswell in charge and more banter was exchanged. Eventually I got to the butchers and ordered some calves liver for Thursday and had a pint in The Olde Plough before returning to write up this blog. Quite an uneventful day really.,

Tuesday 24th June

When I was in the village stores yesterday, I bought a bottle of rum. Later in the evening I looked for it in the boat – twice! I searched again this morning, but to no avail; by this time I thought I was going crazy, but phoned the stores anyway and sure enough, I had left it in the trolley by the front door. Fortunately, the boss had discovered it before any light fingered customers.

John, Graham and Keith Lodge were now putting up No Mooring signs, so I lent a hand finishing in the rain. I  got so wet that I had to change my trousers and boots when I got back. The rain continued in the afternoon, which I spent surfing the net before going to the Marstons pub for a pint. Surprisingly, I was charged £3.60 during the happy hour and when I complained the barmaid said the till would not let her change it. I questioned it with another barman later and he said all the ales were £2.50 at that time. At that moment the barmaid came over and made some feeble excuse and said she had refunded the difference and left it on the counter. It was found below in a pint pot – honour was satisfied.

Sunday 16 June 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 8

Sunday 9th June

Chaos at Braunston Turn and the Monsoon.

The Turn is a very busy junction and I am surprised that about 90% of boaters go round this blind bend at speed without sounding any warning. This morning there was chaos as two Noddy boats and two private boats tried to make the turn and there were boats all over the junction, because no one knew what the other boat intended to do. The knot was untangled eventually, much to my amusement.

At last some sun shining through and considerably warmer than the previous few days, when I was on the point of lighting the fire. The blog was written up finally and published with such a good wi-fi signal at hand.

Engine checks as usual and one of the core plugs is weeping. Not sure whether to return to have it fixed or try a smear of Heatmate around the edge. I will keep a check on it and make a decision later on. It seems such a small thing to go all that way back to get fixed.
I pulled the pins about 11.30 and headed up the North Oxford towards Rugby, with the intention of stopping at The Olde Royal Oak for a pint and to check it was still the same shitty Hungry Horse establishment run by Greedy King.

I got there in two hours through glorious countryside of ridge and furrow green fields filled with sheep and cattle. There is no doubt that the pub had had a makeover since last year, being renamed The Waterside for starters and no mention of Hungry Horse anywhere. There was now a new menu, waitress service at tables and a choice of Greene King beers, although the Abbott was off with no indication on the pump, but the Speckled Hen was crystal clear at last. Being Sunday lunchtime, there were queues at both the carvery for food and at the bar when I went to return my empty glass. No excuse for the bar, it just needs more staff serving there, but the carvery is just to do with the time of day on a Sunday. A menu is also available for service from the kitchen by waitresses. Trip Advisor has mixed reviews, but many more good ones for the food than in previous times, so obviously there is some improvement and not before time, although I have never eaten there.

Monday 10th to Wednesday 12th June

These three days are combined, as there is so little going on of any interest, because not only is it raining almost constantly, but I have a week to kill before returning to Braunston to have the stove changed.It could not have come at a better time, because heavy rain was forecast for the next few days, and like most boaters, I do not like cruising in it any more, unless I have to. I have done enough of that with NBT in the past, to know how wet and cold one can get keeping to the schedule.

Through Hillmorton 3 locks to the waterpoint and was I filling the tank in the rain by now. On to Rugby in the wet, only to find no moorings close to the shopping stop, so onward through the bridge and wind in the short winding ‘ole and back to the last remaining mooring at the end of the line. Then it was a quick shopping trip to Tesco and hunker down on board with the fire lit - in June?

Late Tuesday afternoon another boat was just mooring ahead of me and the boater waved as I was returning from another shopping trip. I recognised the boat to be nb Cranley with Mick and Suzanne aboard, who are on my home mooring on the River Wey. They were travelling with nb Hazlenut owned by Rodney and Valerie, so we passed a while talking about their trip. They had come by way of The Thames and Southern Oxford. They departed late morning on Wednesday for destinations further north, during a short dry spell.

Cranley off further north.

I also cast off having to wind at Clifton and return to get to Newbold, (known by the old boaters as Noble). I passed by nb Auriga, a fuel boat travelling north and hoped he would stop in Rugby to refuel another boat, which he did, so my diesel tank was full once more. Onwards to Newbold where there were moorings galore to be had, but by 5pm they were all taken and as the Wednesday forecast was wet, they were still there all day.

was listening to some other boaters talking in The Barley Mow later and overheard some tips about the pubs at Hillmorton. I got talking to them after a bit and one of the guys knew Maffi and Bones from Oxford.

Earlier I had made a ragu Bolognese from memory, but when I Googled the recipe it seems I had missed out on the stick of celery. Despite that, it was delicious with some dried spaghetti. Normally when at home, I make my own spaghetti, which is so much better and more flavoursome.

Thursday 13th June

It had continued to rain in the night and was still chilly when I awoke, so donned my lined winter trousers once more, which I have continued to wear for the last couple of weeks. I spent some time catching up on this blog and checking e-mails. Wi-fi from BT is good here, as well as TV, so no shortage of entertainment, together with all the books that I have accumulated along the way.

Peter Oates passed by on Stanton in the pouring rain on his way to Braunston Rally. I did a little light shopping at the local Co-Op, just to get some exercise and paid a visit to The Barley Mow on return and finally fried the butterfly lamb chop that I got in Braunston a few days ago. So that was an exciting day!

Friday 14th June

Raining again this morning, but stopped about 11am. Nick Wolf and Maggie Young appeared in the distance on Aldgate. Maggie shouted my name from a distance and we exchanged a few words between us they passed by. I will see them at Braunston without a doubt.

I cast off about midday, as the weather looked promising and went through Newbold Tunnel with the object of winding in Lime Farm Marina entrance. All was going well and I returned through Newbold towards Rugby, but I was lulled into a sense of false security when the sun showed itself for a few minutes, because shortly after the heavens opened with a vengeance and I got soaked. By 3pm at Hillmorton, I had had enough of this ‘fair weather boating’ lark and pulled into the bank where there were rings; not in the right place of course, but they helped to save driving in mooring pins in the wet.

I had to change my wet things after that and open a beer to calm the savage breast, but it was too warm to light the fire to dry off. I wonder what tomorrow will be like?

After changing the sun came out and it appeared that no rain had fallen, apart from the puddles on the towpath, so I decided to venture out on a quest to The Jolly Abbot, but it showered on and off, so I abandoned my search when the pub was still out of site at the bottom of a hill. It was not worth the risk of another soaking in dry clothes.

Evening sun at Hillmorton Bottom Lock.

Saturday 15th June

The day began with brilliant sunshine at 8am, but by 9am, dark clouds filled the sky and it looked ominous, but surprisingly it stayed dry, so I set off from Hillmorton with a brisk southerly wind in my face to get to Bruanston early for a decent mooring.  Although I was there by 12.30pm, there were very few available spaces. As I approached Braunston, the bells of the church were being rung, which I thought was an appropriate welcome.

I pulled in at The Stop House to fill the drinking water container and as I did so I was observed by a few people at the Gongoozler’s Rest floating cafe. A lady with a 3 to 4 year old little girl came up for a chat about life on a narrow boat. When the little girl Violet chimed into the conversation and asked if she could come on board, I said, “Why not?” So she went to fetch her father too. We cruised through the marina and Violet was so excited to see the water moving past and all the other boats. We came out through Ladder Bridge and moored up just south of Butcher’s Bridge No.1. Photographs were taken of Violet and myself before they departed up the towpath. It is always pleasing to introduce someone else to the delights of boating and hope that it rubs off enough to spark further interest.

I had to walk up to the village for some bread and a pint in The Plough, but it rained again as I walked back down Nibbet’s Lane to the canal. Some boaters that I met this morning were walking past in the direction of the Admiral Nelson and I asked them if they were visiting the pub, but they did not even know it existed. The older man had asked me previously how I managed single handed, so I gave him another tip about mooring up using a tiller string and centre line alone to hold the boat on the bank. It appeared that he was not the only one to learn this tip, as the other two with him did not know either and they owned the boat. It was the one thing I learned when doing the helmsman’s course which has stuck in my mind and it is so useful.

The day finished in brilliant sunshine at last, although it did not last long. A sunny start and end to the day.

Sunday 9 June 2019

Freedom of the Cut.2019 - 7.

Sunday 2nd June

Wet Weather in Braunston.

It was to be another lazy day and although the sun was shining, it clouded over, rained and became quite windy in the afternoon – so quite a miserable day really.

I had been making raspberry vinegar over the last week, as it is almost impossible to buy, even in Waitrose and M&S. I used a mix of Nigel Slater’s https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/28/nigel-slater-raspberry-vinegar and an allotment garden recipe, but there are many more out there too. I had a problem straining the vinegar from the raspberries, but discovered an old electric coffee maker in a locker, which had a fine nylon filter, so that came out after several years hidden away. The vinegar was slightly cloudy, but putting it through a paper coffee filter would have taken a lot longer, so I declined. It also had to be boiled in a stainless steel pan and all mine were anodised aluminium, so some additional thought had to be given to that. Something to ponder upon overnight.

I took a walk up the locks later and found three upper lock gates left open, so one pound was about 18” lower than normal. Had these been left open all night, one or two pounds would have been dry in the morning. Needless to say, I closed them when walking back to The Folly. Lock 9 has now had the towpath wall completely rebuilt, which will please NBT when they pass through later in the year, although Nuneaton will not be on that coal run this year as she needs a new bottom plate. The coping bricks are only temporary and will be replaced at the next winter stoppage.

Monday 3rd June

Having given more thought to the problem of a stainless steel pan for boiling up the raspberry vinegar, I came up with this......

......and it worked fine, although a little on the small side for the gas ring.

I phoned Braunston Marina to see if they could accommodate Stronghold for a replacement Morso fire, as the one I have is 18 yrs old and starting to come apart at the seams. They could do it on 17th June, although there was a great deal of work in the order book. I think that being on their computer, mention of knowing Tim Coghlan, stewarding the historic boat rally and NBT may have had some sway with Graham at the time. Once again it is a case of not what you know ....... etc. I also spent considerable time writing up and publishing this blog.

Later in the afternoon I took another walk up to Lock 11, having already had a chat with the live aboards at the Bottom Lock about whether their boat would pass cleanly through the narrow locks, as they had a sliding roof to the wheelhouse on pivoted legs. Had they got damaged by the foot boards on the lock gates, then they would have been in trouble, but they went through with 4” to spare each side. On my return, a Napton Narrowboat was ascending, but I noticed they had left a top gate open and the top paddles drawn up on the lock below. I asked if they were new to boating, but no they had been previously. I reminded the ladies working the paddles that they were supposed to close all gates and paddles upon leaving a lock to save water. Their excuse was that they thought the previous boat was coming down, but one woman walked back and closed the paddles, while I shut the gate. Needless to say, I was not carrying a windlass.

Tuesday  4th June

We are in the midst of a depression, so despite the red sky last night, it was raining this morning, but not for long. I walked up to the Napton Village Stores and Post Office later in the  morning, mainly because it is a delight to browse around this Aladdin’s Cave of goodies and also it got a well deserved Herbie Award in 2017 - http://nbherbie.blogspot.com/2017/12/and-best-canal-village-shop-is.html          These awards are given not only to  boaters, but shops, best moorings, gadgets and too many to list really, by Neil and Cath on nb Herbie. We have met up several times over the past few years, sometimes by accident and other times by design, very often in or near a pub. Herbie was also built by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf in the same year as Stronghold, although the fit out is completely different. So you see that we have a lot in common, including a love of good beer of the real ale kind. If I come across Herbie moored up with no one on board, they will almost certainly be in the best pub in town!

Napton Village Stores. 

I started to rain again in the afternoon, so I finally decided to stay here for one more night before I depart tomorrow for Calcutt. Unfortunately there are no pubs near there unless I do the Stockton Flight to The Blue Lias and I have no intention of doing that. 

My last visit to The Folly for a while and there was a roaring log fire burning in the hearth, which proved that it was cold for June. Who should be sitting in the bar, but Mark the landlord. We shook hands and passed a few polite words between us before I asked if he remembered Barry, who always tries to sell him some coal when passing through, which he did and remarked that he was the guy who was blind in one eye. I then passed on Barry’s best wishes as requested.

Wednesday 5th June

It was still breezy today, but sunny spells, which was so much more pleasant than yesterday. There was a big suction tanker by the bottom lock when I went to the tip and of course I wanted to know what was going on, so asked one of several people in orange jackets. They were in the process of sucking out the sludge in the back pump wells. There are two enormous pumps in there and imagine one is on standby. The sludge was about 2’ deep after five years when it was last done.

I let go for the short trip to Calcutt with the intention of mooring above the Top Lock, which was clear so early in the day. I had a short walk down as far as Ventnor Marina, but after that it was nothing but towpath so I ventured no further. I am getting short of food now, so have to return to Braunston to shop ASAP. I also need to do a bedding wash in the Marina launderette although I had to wash tee shirts today in the twin tub as I had not brought enough with me.

Thursday 6th June

I was up early and drew one paddle on the lock first before I set off. These are the first of the candlestick paddles worked on a nut and screw mechanism, which extend to the top of Hatton 21 Locks and the actual paddles and sluices are enormous, so opening only one saves half the effort and the locks take almost the same time to fill and empty.

I had to reverse into Calcutt Boats hire jetty, although it turned out that it would have been more convenient in the workshop, which was another two locks further down. Martin, the engineer turned up at 9am and replaced four out of five core plugs without the need to remove any injector pipes, using a special tool and hammer to get them in. The ones that he removed were paper thin and had lasted 18yrs, but one appeared to be still sound after all that time. He finished the job in 45mins, which would have taken me all morning I suspect.

Back up the lock now, which was worked for me by other boaters, to head for Braunston. I passed nb Slowly on a permanent mooring close to Napton Junction, where two people were cleaning it. Taking a chance on being correct, I shouted across to them asking if they were the people I met in The Horder Centre

a couple of years ago, to which the answer was, “Yes, but you have a good memory.” I should explain that I met the man in the cafe there, when he spotted me reading a copy of Waterways World and asked if I owned a narrowboat., after which we struck up a conversation. Although I don’t remember the name of the boat, I remember where he moored it. By now the wall to wall blue sky had clouded over and a strong cross wind was blowing. How quickly the weather is to change in this country. I passed  nb Arundel between Bridges 101 and 100, which is standing in for nb Nuneaton for the coal run later in the year.

There was a surprise waiting for me in Braunston - all the moorings were occupied from the Turn to the locks, which is most unusual on a weekday. Apparently, the locks are closed for repair to leaky gates and I did not get any notification of this by e-mail, which I had been on the lookout for since I had been warned at Cannie Cavalcade more than a month ago by one of the organisers. It seems that no other boaters got notified either and neither was it on the general closure list for the GU by CRT. How my informant happened to know so early was a mystery.

We all get regular e-mails from CRT and as there was nothing listed, I assumed that it was not happening.
Winding the boat in the exit to the Marina, I cruised very slowly back towards The Turn hoping another boat had left or that I had missed a mooring, but the only one available was just before The Turn and I moored behind nb Sirius, with my bow well short of The Turn. I had an interesting chat later with the owner of Sirus, all about boating of course, but we didn’t mention boat toilets, which was unusual!

Stronghold at Braunston Turn.

The approach from Napton.

Friday 7th June

Today the rain was pouring down, so not much I could do and there were very few boats on the move, except a few hire boats. It continued until late afternoon, but despite that I had to get some shopping in the village, so off I went in the wet to the village butcher first, where I asked for some calves liver, which was difficult to get and only was available on Tuesdays and Thursday, if at all. So a change of plan for a Stilton pork pie and a butterfly pork chop. Passing the hairdressers, I requested a trim, but the diary was full for the day so I got an appointment for Saturday at midday. I called in to The Old Plough for a pint and back to the boat by way of the Marina office to get some launderette and pump out tokens for tomorrow, by which time I was soaked. The afternoon was mostly spent reading.

Saturday 8th June

It had rained all night and continued through most of the afternoon, but I had now to go for a haircut and had to get wet once again. When returning along the towpath I could see that Stronghold was now reversed on the mooring and two men were on the back with one on the stern deck, which was Rob from Sirius. It turned out that the stern mooring line had come adrift and the boat was blown across the cut, These guys had retrieved her and I was most grateful. I know I could not get the mooring pin in very deep at the time, but I also had a spring line out and luckily neither pins went overboard. Nothing had moved in two days and then this happened – they blamed a passing hire boat and some of them certainly speed into The Turn without any warning on this blind bend.

After some lunch, when the rain had stopped, I motored down to the marina to pump out and do a pile of washing. The pump out and refuelling jetty is alongside the launderette and I was hoping I could stay there while the washing was being taken care of. Fortunately all was well and no other boats wanted either diesel or a pump out, which meant I did not have to carry my load any distance. There are new machines for washing and drying now and they are more efficient than the old ones. Cost was £5 for a wash and £6 for one hour in the dryer. The pump out was still only £15, whereas most other yards charge £20.

With all that done I set off back towards The Turn, but thought I would have a change of scenery and moor up the North Oxford, but there were no suitable places and I winded in a very wide section and returned to the previous mooring, where the wi-fi and TV were guaranteed.  I am immediately above the post that states 48 hours maximum, so no restrictions here. By now the sky had cleared and the sun actually shone for a while.

Some sun at last!

Monday 3 June 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 6.

Hanging About.

Wednesday 29th May

It was to be a day of rest for me, or so I thought. I moved off the mooring late in the morning to go into the top pound. Another boater offered to do the gates and I offered my windlass. A volunteer was at the top lock and assisted me through, after which I made for the water point outside The Boat. As I put it into reverse the throttle cable broke, but by that time I was at the bank side and could stop the boat with a centre line. I watered up and then pulled further along, although technically I was still on the water point, but I had no alternative. Luckily I had another cable, but it was going to be a two hour job to change it and just to add to my trials, it began to rain! It had been exactly one year since it broke before, but I was lucky that it happened before going into Blisworth Tunnel.

Braunston Locks with no by-wash, so surplus water pours over the gates.

 Approaching Stoke Top Lock. So much for clear sight lines!
After mooring up, I walked to The Boat Inn and some of the same guys were there at the same time as last night, but also a man who passed the time of day as I was fixing the cable. Most of them were boaters, some recent and some from previous working boats. A few names cropped up in the conversation that I knew, or knew of. The one I had previously met was Trevor Morley and I asked him if Jean Blagrove was still living in the house, but she was now in care and he had bought the house. The craic was good, so I had another pint until everyone left.

Thursday 30th May                                                                                                                                                                        
A late start today and no rush to get away. The internet connection is non-existent here and I did consider moving the boat back towards the village after the moorings were clear, but decided to move on instead of probably wasting my time.

Headlight and side lamp were now set up for Blisworth Tunnel and in I went. Fortunately I did not meet another boat in the one and three quarter mile length, so made good time. Through Blisworth and Gayton where many more boats were moored online than in previous years. I reckon the London rash is spreading far further than ever before. Reaching Weedon, there were no moorings to be had between the boatyard and Bridge 25, but there were spaces north of the bridge, albeit on a bend. Surprise - there were mooring rings hidden in the grass!

Shortly afterwards, a hire boat tried to negotiate the bend too slowly and ran alongside the boat behind me, which with the strong  blowing was easily done. In fact as I stopped here, I needed no lines out initially, because the wind was blowing me onto the bank. The Noddy boat crew did not know how to get off again, so the other guy on another boat and I assisted with muscle and advice until they finally made a break for it. It is one of the most difficult manoeuvres, being on the outside of a curve, with the wind blowing you back on.

Most excellent BT internet connection here and a good TV signal.

Friday 31st May

The wind had calmed down by the morning, but I still had a problem getting off the mooring cleanly without getting too close to another moored boat – embarrassing to say the least. If it happens to me when moored up, I will go out and assist without complaining, instead of the raising of blood pressure as some owners do from inside their boats. Let’s face it, everyone makes mistakes at some point, it is the surest way to learn.

I previously asked a hire boat if they were going up Buckby Locks with their mob handed crew, so although I untied as quickly as possible, another boat came in between us, so I assumed that I would either be on my own, or have to wait for someone else. That was not the case however, because the second boat owner offered to let me go with the big crew as I was solo, which I appreciated very much. We did the flight in record time, with several boats coming down and setting the locks for us, as well as having four people opening paddles and gates.

Just north of Weedon I spotted a crane in an empty field with a frame and boat slings attached, which was unusual and it appeared that a boat had been lifted out there. Boats are normally craned into the water at marinas into deeper water and this place was on the offside, so would have been shallow. Further on there were several traditional boats moored up and boats high on the bank being worked on. I suspected nb Tadworth was there and this was confirmed by a guy on the bank, who also said that Andrew was coming at the weekend to work on it, but I had a schedule to keep and was not coming back down Buckby just to see the boat.

Mysterious crane with boat sling.

For the first time in many years, I passed the New Inn at Top Lock without going in, wishing to keep up with the Noddy boat through Braunston Tunnel and down the locks. I continued and eventually moored up just north of Butcher’s Bridge, which seems to be my usual spot.

I walked up to The Admiral Nelson later to find out for myself what it was like after being taken over by Everard’s Brewery. I can’t say I was impressed with the menu, which was the usual pub fare and nothing like the interesting dishes that were on offer a year ago. To confirm this there were only two groups eating there on a Friday evening. Under the previous owner it would have been full! There was nothing wrong with the beer, but then I do like Everard’s. All the cookery books were missing also, which was something I enjoyed browsing through.

Saturday 1st June

 A warm and sunny day is forecast, which turned out to be cloudy, but very warm. I let go at 09.35 and stopped at Midland Swindlers to get another control cable, but the lady there offered me a 10’ stop cable with one bare end and no fittings, which was not what I wanted so decided it must be bought elsewhere. However the manager appeared and said that it was not a control cable, but a stop cable and found the appropriate one for me, so all was well.

Having dumped my rubbish at the service point (no spare washing machines this time), an hour had gone by, so it was now 10.35 and I wondered how long it would take to get to Napton. In fact it was just less than three hours, with no stops on the way. I was hot and hungry when I arrived, so had a well deserved pint in The Folly. Stronghold had been winded and reversed onto a mooring and there was loads of space at that time of the day. There is a strong BT wi-fi connection here and limited TV too.

As usual it was a splendid repast in The Folly with my daughter and fiancé and the chips were triple cooked as before. I think we all chose the same meals from the menu as last year. We had a bit of a fright before the meal, when we were told that the fuse for the kitchen had blown and had to be closed, because the landlord was out and the fusebox was in the flat upstairs. Shortly after that, someone found an extension lead, so all was well and we got our food.

The Folly at Napton, once a farmhouse
and previously opened by the farmer as a pub.

So far I have not explained the sub-title of this post ‘Hanging About’. The reason is that I have an appointment on Thursday at Calcutt Boats to have four core plugs replaced on the engine. One was leaking slightly when I bought Stronghold, but the others are very rusty and not the sort of thing that I want to fail at a crucial moment, especially on a river. Calcutt are BMC engine specialists.