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.

Thursday 25 July 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 13

Trip Up The Ashby.

Saturday 20th July

Falls Bridge exit of original line.

The day started well with a boat passing by with the klaxon blaring like a couple of fighting ducks. When I peered out it was David and Jane Brixey on nb Rowan from the River Wey and we were all very pleased to see each other. They managed to stop on the bank just ahead of me and we passed the time catching up on news over the past year. They are going up the Ashby in August, so I may well see them again this year. Strangely enough, we met up on the Rugby moorings about the same time last year.

nb Rowan departing from Newbold.

Most of the afternoon was spent doing the washing, writing this and reading until it was time for a shower ad change ready to be picked up by Mike and Leslie in their hire car to go to Hillmorton and the Spice Lounge, which was recommended by many aficionados of Indian food and Trip Advisor. We spent a very pleasant two and a half hours over the meal and talking non-stop, mainly about boats and boating and many other topics as well. The meal was delightful and so was the company and I can recommend this restaurant most highly.

With Mike and Leslie in the Spice Lounge.

Sunday 21st July

Although I managed to pick up a BT hotspot yesterday, I could not repeat it this morning, so a frustrating couple of hours went by with nothing achieved until I clicked on a Google bookmark and pressed Connect; then the magic happened and I got a very strong signal. I had closed all tabs on Microsoft Windows, because every time I attempted to connect on Google Chrome, it opened Windows, but not this time – a result at last!

Looking at the blog count, I was pleased to see that 18 followers have read it since yesterday. My best ever number has been 934 readers for the post “BMC Starting Problems Solved” way back in 2014; which means that there are a lot of people with BMC engines with the same difficulty.

After a promising start to the day, it got windy and clouded over, despite the forecast of temperatures in the high twenties.

I left Newbold late morning and could see at least two boats at the other end of the tunnel, I switched on my tunnel light and went through like a steam train before they even had a chance to enter. Although two boats can pass in there, they were reluctant to do so and waited for me to exit. It was a steady trip up to Suttons Stop arriving at 16.30. As expected there were no moorings to be had close to the turn, but there were a few further up the Coventry, where it was far quieter.

 Spoon Dredger moored at Stretton Stop.

I met up with my eldest and her man at The Greyhound later for a few drinks and laptop problems to be solved and we made some progress. A reservation was made for next Friday evening, but there was not much choice of time, being so close to the weekend.

Monday 22nd July
The day started off quite chilly, but by midday it was very hot, although the wind tempered the heat somewhat.

Charity Dock mannequins never fail to amuse.

As I came up to Marston Junction, I could see another boat coming out under the bridge from the Ashby, but although he couldn’t see me, he heard my horn, so he stopped and waited for me to go past. We both waited until he could see no one come past and crept out very slowly. Only then did he realise where I was going and by which time I was also too close to make a good entrance and touched the banks a few times getting in.

I realised how quiet this canal is and in two hours I only passed three boats on the move. When I got to Hinkley I pulled over below Bridge 15 on a piled mooring just short of the bridge and far enough from the A5 road, which can be very noisy. Here I could at last BBQ the lamb chops and I was only a short distance from The Lime Kilns pub, where I went last year with Pat and Sue on nb Dame du Cane from The Wey Navigations.

It was curry night in the pub and unbelievable as it was, a choice of curries was £3.00! I even queried it at the bar and that was right; no wonder the place was packed out with diners.

Back on board, I lit the BBQ which smoked like a bonfire until it was ready to cook on. The roast potatoes were done in minutes with the cover on and then I did the lamb chops, which were delicious with the leftover baked beans – a really healthy meal!

Tuesday 23rd July
The temperature was already 20ยบC at 8am and it was to get hotter as the day wore on. I pulled in at Bridge 35 to visit the farm shop there and bought some bacon and some frozen calves liver – I just hope it is as good as what I had from Braunston. It was a steady plod towards Market Bosworth to go on a trip on The Battlefield Line and I pulled in at Shenton, where there was a station and had a bite to eat, but when I Googled the railway, there were only heritage rail cars hauling the trains on weekdays. It was also 3pm and probably too late to make the most of it, so I cruised on to Market Bosworth and sure enough there was a hire boat taking up twice its own length, so I nosed the bow in and asked them if they could move back one ring. Meanwhile, I was being blown across the cut and had to deploy the shaft to get back, until a guy offered to take my stern line and pull me in.

The remainder of the day was spent chilling out in front of the cooling fan and having a beer, as it was a bus ride to the pub in the town and too hot to even walk to the bus stop.

Wednesday 24th July
It was the day of the train, despite the fact that no steam engines were running. I walked across the bridge to Market Bosworth station, just in time to catch a train coming in, but I had no ticket. I was told that I could get a ticket on the train, but no one came to issue one, so I enjoyed the ride to Shenton for free, but there was no ticket office there either. Being a heritage rail car, I was able to sit behind the driver in his cab and get a driver’s eye view of the track ahead and also observe his movements on the controls. The ride probably never exceeded 30mph and was far slower than that most of the time. The two railcars had a diesel engine in each one and both were operating at the same time. After about 20mins at Shenton, the train then returned to Shackerstone via Market Bosworth, so at the end of the line I could eventually buy a ticket from the same man who was the conductor on the train and who I had also asked about where to get a ticket. To be honest, I am sure I could have travelled all day without anyone asking to see one.

At Shackerstone there was a museum of railway memorabilia and not just from that line – it was rammed with stuff and the curator just lived talking about it. I discovered later that his name is Roger Pryce and he managed about 12 pairs of working boats from the Ashby Canal to London and back in the past, so we had a topic in common from the start.

Heritage Railcar on The Battlefield Line.

Market Bosworth Station.

Museum at Shackerstone.

Returning to M Bosworth I walked back to Stronghold, had a bite to eat before heading for Duck’s Corner at Stoke Golding, where there are usually moorings on the offside and a short walk up to the village and The Druids Head, a favourite pub  of mine and several friends where they sell Church End Brewery ales.

The day had been another hot one, but with a cooling breeze once again, making the heat bearable. Passing another boat in the channel, we were both on the mud, but could keep going, which illustrates just how shallow it is in places. I passed another brand new smart boat and gave the customary wave and smile, but neither were returned. I just cannot understand why these people go boating and are so bloody miserable when they are doing it! I cannot repeat here what I called him afterwards.

Saturday 20 July 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 12


Wednesday 17th July

It was time to wind the boat at Clifton Cruisers in readiness for the slow trip to Suttons Stop (Hawkesbury Junction). I was awarded 9/10 points by two boaters out sunning themselves at the turn. The guy said I would have achieved 10, but for hitting the bank on the towpath side, which I thought was soft at the time. It was not the usual way I winded there with the bow in first, as a Noddy boat insisted on passing port to port and consequently I had to go past the arm and then reverse in. I passed Alan Fincher on nb Flamingo on the way back, who acknowledged me with a wave and comment after all these years of seeing my face at Braunston.

I was about to moor at the water point by the park in Rugby, but was beaten to it by another boat, but there was a rare mooring on the towpath side and I shot in there before anyone else grabbed it. I will water up in the morning before I let go. Mike and Jenny Morse on nb Guelrose passed by and moored up further down the line and we had a good catchup conversation later as they went off to shop.

Thursday 18th July

After the rain stopped it was time for yet another shopping expedition to get some of my favorite yoghourts, because they were sold out yesterday. When the water point became free I moved across to replenish from the tap and because the rings were too far apart, I used a new method of holding the boat in with the centre line only and in gear with the tiller strings on.

Centre line fixing.

I moved on after that to The Barley Mow at Newbold, where there were plenty of free spaces. There was no more rain, but the forecast is not good for the next few days.

Here is the serendipity part of the sub-title – I had only been moored up an hour when I heard someone shout from a boat, which drew to a halt alongside. Popping out to see what was up, I immediately saw nb Lady Baltimore – it was Mike and Leslie who I mentioned when last in The White Bear at Ricky. I had not heard from them for a while since their crossing from Bristol to Sharpness up the Severn, so had no idea where they were and now they were here. They moored up a few boats away temporarily and Mike came down for a chat about their route and so we swapped a few yarns before they had to depart to get back to Dunchurch Pools for tonight. I walked back to Lady Baltimore to greet Leslie and have a brief conversation before they let go. It was a joy to see them again and most unexpected. They intend hiring a car tomorrow and suggested that we go out for an Indian meal somewhere, which would be great – just like old times.

I went to The Barley Mow for a pint of Timothy Taylors Landlord and it came out of a new barrel and was perfect; in fact it was so good I had to have another! I took the new laptop to charge and the speed is simply amazing. It seems I don’t know what I have been missing all these years! I am still finding my way around, but I suppose I will get used to it all eventually.

When I was talking to Mick in Rugby Wharf, he told me about Brindley’s route past the front of the original two pubs here; The Barley Mow and The Boat, before it went under the churchyard. Apparently, the northern portal of the original tunnel is still visible – maybe I will have a look tomorrow.

Friday 19th July

I took a walk this afternoon during a break in the rain to the church and after walking through the graveyard, I came to a gate in the boundary wall that went down towards a ditch, Sure enough, I had got the right spot as I turned right in the ditch which was the bed of the original canal, because there in front of me was the bricked up portal of the original tunnel, which was built in 1777, but superseded when the new tunnel opened in 1834, so shortening the route by 11 miles.

Northern Portal. The holes are there for bats.

Overgrown bed of the cut.

After taking a couple of shots, I could follow the route along the edge of a field and behind a hedge to a bridge, which was now bricked up also and tarmacked over. After that the canal more or less disappeared in fields of green pasture as it made its way towards Falls Bridge to join up with the present cut.

Part of the original bridge still visible.

Possible route through the hedge 
where it dips, to Falls Bridge.

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019. 11

Summer Break and New PC.

Monday 15th July

A few things have happened since I last blogged, one of which was quite expensive.

Firstly, I went home for a week to do the things one takes for granted, like opening two months of mail, most of which was trash. Settling the appropriate bills to be paid, like car tax which I missed last year and only paid it at the last minute, before the DVLC were going to take action.  Cutting the knee high grass and weeding the back garden. Catching up with friends at my local and drinking expensive beer like they have 'daan saaf'. Entertaining friends out to eat for favours done while I am away having fun

And the expensive thing? That was researching and buying a new laptop. I had been thinking of doing it for some time, but when I plugged the power lead into the old model and then fired up the inverter on board, the decision was made for me, because I reckon a voltage spike burnt out the charging circuit. Oh well, it had served me well and was 10/12yrs old, choked with stuff and flaky towards the end.
And so it was that my brother-in-law and I spent long hours searching the internet to find a suitable model to replace the old one. Finally I settled on the one that suited the bill and then had to go about finding out who could supply at fairly short notice. Eventually Argos looked like a suitable choice and they could arrange it to be picked up at the venue of my choice, which in this instance was Rugby where Stronghold was moored.

When I got to Rugby Wharf all was well and the mooring was even cheaper than last year! How about that then? In 2018 I was quoted £50 for a week and this time when I went to settle up, I was told it was £5/night, so the total being £35. I had previously asked Mick on nb Ragamuffin if he could play taxi driver to take me to Argos to collect this PC the following day, which is the other side of town, so I paid for another night.

Thursday 4 July 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 10

Braunston Historic Boat Rally – aka Braunston Hysterics.

Wednesday 25th June

Yet another chilly and overcast morning greeted me; I hope it cheers up by the weekend. Some sunshine is forecast for tomorrow, which will be welcomed.

The engine is still leak free and there is more water in the header tank than has been for some time, so this K-Seal is looking like a good investment.

I walked down to HQ at 10am to see what needed to be done – just the odd job here and there. Certain notices have to be placed in position at the right time, otherwise there is a chance they will be vandalised or abused, so a lot of time was spent just gassing about boating amongst the group.

When I returned in the afternoon, Jack was there on Cumberland, but had to go and see Roger Farringdon about getting his boat hauled up the slipway to remove his propeller as it had hit something in Manchester and was now bent. A hazardous place for boats is that, as I discovered a couple of years ago. Apparently it was not a good trip for him and no doubt I will hear about it later.

Thursday 26th June

Most of today was spent in mission control, mainly talking about boating and other things in general. One or two boats were repositioned as new ones arrived. The Narrow Boat Trust have not arrived yet and will need to be here by Friday, so the moorings are now getting scarce and a lot of spaces need closing up to get all the boats in.

At last I got some calves liver from the butcher. I know it is scarce, but he was treating the whole business like a secret society and knew what I wanted as soon as I entered the shop. I hope it is as good as the last time I had it. I was also known in the general store after leaving the rum behind. Soon I will be recognised as a ‘local’.

After our duties, Jack and I went for a pint in the pub and I met up again with Kevin and Ingrid, whose boat was moored almost opposite. We had a brief chat before Jack invited me to join up with Harry and Jono, who he introduced as Jonathan of course. I had know of Jono for years, as he had done restoration work and rebuilding of other boaters engines, one of which was the NBT Lister. It was an interesting conversation over a pint.

It was a quick meal before going to the beer tent for a performance by the Alarum Theatre of “Acts of Abandon” by Heather Wastie and Kate Saffin individually. I enjoyed it as one woman theatre, despite there being two of them.

Friday 27th June

I was at mission control just after 9am and mentioned to Kevin on Columbia that he could move into the marina arm from now on, only to discover later from Graham that they were not due to move FMC boats until 10.30, but they moved anyway and got their usual spot at the head of the arm. I walked down to Ladder Bridge to warn other Joshers that the time was imminent and eventually they were all in there.

Shortly after the Narrow Boat Trust pair came through the marina and I met the captain, Howard Williams at Butcher’s Bridge to explain what was going on regarding the mooring position. They were now breasted and waiting for other boats to be moved out of the way, which eventually they were and Nuneaton and Brighton were shafted next to the bank and tied up in a very tight space behind Raymond, which did not have the rudder in a very safe position, i.e. it was straight out behind the boat. I met Alister Bates for the first time, who is quite experienced and younger that most of us. I also had a chat with Paul Woloschuk, who I had met last year.

The parade team were invited to the traders tent this evening for a social get together with a meal provided by the Gongoozlers Rest catering boat, which is moored permanently outside the marina, who we congratulated later on the quality of the food. Tim and Pru were there, along with Ivor Caplin, who is due to open the show tomorrow.

Saturday 28th June

There was a briefing at 9am for the stewards on safety, use of PMR radios, and courtesy towards boaters and the public, after which we left for our respective duties. I was on The Turn along with Keith Lodge, who was a new steward this year. The parade was to open the show at 11am, but most boats had to come up to The Turn to wind first, which is no problem. But the return to the marina is fraught  with holdups as they now face oncoming traffic, so everyone has to slow down. Winding at The Turn is another bottle neck, especially with pairs of boats, i.e. motor and butty. All was going well with trying to get private boats through ASAP, without interrupting the parade flow too much, and all the private boaters were cheery and relaxed, often driving in mooring pins to sit and wait for the end of the parade. The weather was extremely hot and there was little shade to be had, so a bottle of water was necessary. We finished just after 1pm and went for a very well deserved pint in the beer tent, where Mandolin Monday was playing yet again; this being the third time I had seen them this year. They are also performing tomorrow, which I hope to go to as well.

Mandolin Mondays

Jack and Jaqui had invited me for a meal at The Admiral Nelson later and I was interested to find out how good the food was, now it was in the hands of a new landlord and brewery. Previous food there over the last three years had been very good and the restaurant was filled up most nights of the week, but things were now different, although it was full this evening. In retrospect it was just pub food, so was relatively cheaper than before, although I had prior warning about all this and the service from friends who visited some months ago.

Moored up tugs seven abreast

Only six now.

Mostly FMC boats in the arm.

Sunday 29th June

It was not so warm this morning, which was welcome after the heat yesterday. Keith and I were allocated to do Bridge 91 for a change, which can be another bottleneck despite the fact that two boats can pass beneath the bridge. The lst time I did this spot, I was on my own and it involved considerable movement on my part from one side to the other to control boats, but with two people there was far less running back and forth. The parade was much more spread out then yesterday, so far less holdups were involved. There were also fewer boats taking part, so all in all it was a far more pleasant experience. I was pleased to see John Fevyer again for a chat about NBT and other things. He was one of the founder members of NBT some many years ago. Boats paraded smoothly under the bridge until 1.15pm and that was it for this year.

Nuneaton and Brighton.

The Finchers with Cath on the melodeon.

Mike the Boiler Man on Reginald.

I strolled back to mission HQ and managed to get a bite to eat, courtesy of Graham and Linda before going back for another session by Mandolin Mondays with Jack and Jaqui – we lasted until the end before it was a walk back for a mini snooze before Pimm’s and Pasta back at HQ for the parade team to close the day. Too much beer was consumed again, but one has to rehydrate on occasions like this!

My final comment on the weekend is that it was far more enjoyable than previous years. I put this down to knowing more people on the team, familiarity with the stewarding process and being far less stressful due to there being more co-operative boaters. Added to that, I did not have the responsibility of taking Nuneaton and Brighton out on the parade as last year.

Goodbye to Jack......

.........and Jacqui.

Monday 1st July

At 9am I walked along the towpath to HQ with wire cutters ready to remove No Mooring notices, which was a pointless exercise as they had all been removed by now. We took some of them back to the marina workshop and I got some washing and drying tokens, for the simple reason that I now had nothing clean to wear and I could get it all dry in one afternoon. Dodona moved off the mooring to return home and this is probably the last time I will see Ped, who has his boat up for sale at £35.000.

What with writing up the blog, moving to another mooring and a dozen other trivial bits and pieces, I did not get the washing in until about 3pm. As it takes an hour to wash and another hour to dry plus remaking the bed, I was going to be later than I had promised to be at the pub to meet with Kevin and Ingrid. Fortunately they were still there out on the balcony and we had a good conversation about many things, including the fact that several traders and members of the public had complained about the doubling of the car parking fee, which is now £20 and the rise in traders stall fees. On both mornings I had noticed far more visitors than usual walking along the towpath, meaning that their cars were parked elsewhere in the village. I can foresee letters in the canal press about this in the weeks ahead.

I booked a train home on Trainline and phoned Rugby Boats to find out if there was an available mooring for a week; there was, so I am all set up for the next few days.

Tuesday 2nd July

A lovely sunny day dawned for a change and I think it is set fair for a few more. I let go quite late with not much to do except cruising for the next few days. Unfortunately, the sky clouded over and a chilly north wind set in a little later. I said goodbye to John and Graham and winded to head up towards Rugby, with the intention of stopping at The Old Royal Oak, now called The Waterside. It was a good run and I got there in 2 hours with no holdups and there was only one boat on the moorings outside the pub.

After a pint and some lunch, I met the other guy Phil, who was now on his 11th boat and did the run from Great Hayward on the Trent and Mersey to here in 27hrs continuous. Not only was he knackered, but his knees had swollen incredibly with all that time on his feet. His boat had an integral weed hatch which was leaking, although the boat was in no harm of sinking, but he wanted to reseal it and the only way was to lighten the stern end or lift the stern out of the water, which he could do in Willow Ridge the following day.

The afternoon was whiled away with reading as there was no TV signal here, probably because there were three bridges in the direction of Sutton Coldfield. It was Braunston Bangers again tonight after another trip to the pub and an early night.

Wednesday 3rd July

A leisurely departure this morning in what promised to be a salubrious day, with sunshine. The wild orchids are in bloom again at Hillmorton Bottom Lock after three disastrous years – two of drought and one when the mowing gang chopped through the lot, despite there being a sign up. These are the busiest locks in the country with 6,821 boats through in 2017.

Taken in the same spot in 2017.

The infrastructure development of Houlton still goes on, where they are about to build 6.200 houses, with schools, health centre, community facilities and plenty of open spaces on what appears to have been the huge radio transmission site to the east of Hillmorton. Of course all the aerials were demolished a few years ago. The Houlton Bridge, which spans the canal just south of Clifton-upon-Dunsmore is still incomplete a year after I watched some of the piles being driven.

Approaching the moorings at Rugby there were a couple well away from the park, so I continued to move on and search until I found the last one before Bridge 56 free. It was too close to the bridge for my liking and quite dark as well as noisy from the busy road. Having taken about 30mins to try and drive pins in and finally get secure, because there were no rings, a mooring became vacant two boats back in a far lighter situation. Throwing caution to the wind, I released all the lines and bundled them aboard and reversed as fast as was safe before another boat got in there. I was not even tied up when another boat passed by, I was that close to missing it. Having got a good mooring, I decided to do Tesco in the morning. The Bell and Barge Harvester house was across a very busy dual carriageway leading in and out of Rugby. As I would usually visit in rush hour, today was a time to give it a miss as it too dangerous to cross that road at that time. There would only be Doombar on tap anyway, just as there has been for the past three years at least.

After what I said about going to Tesco, I later realised that I had no vegetables to go with the last slice of calves liver, so a shopping trip was essential. It is also important to take some money to pay for it, as I realised when I got there, so there was no alternative but to retrace my steps and get some - doh! Anyway it was the only exercise I got today, which was some compensation. Once again the liver was done in the usual way with homemade raspberry vinegar and cream and although the liver was more than ½” thick, every part was edible and delicious. Sweet for a treat was the gooseberries and Hagen Das ice cream. Oh yes, I live like a king, only there is no queen to share it.