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.

Sunday 20 October 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 25

Meeting Old and New Friends in Mixed Weather.

Sunday 6th October

It was a day in the office sorting out my blog and trying to rescue pics from my phone and Bluetooth them into some sort of photo file on this laptop. Why the hell I have to jump through so many hoops to do it beats me, but I achieved my goal eventually with strict perseverance and much patience.

There are still several small jobs to be done, but at the moment they are on the back burner. The day finished with a pint in The Folly and some more photos of the interior.

Monday 7th October

A wet start to the day did not encourage boating, although it did dry up later, but still with grey skies. There are far less boats passing each day now, which is somewhat of a relief. I do need to get some exercise and could do with a walk either up to the village or up the flight of locks, but first there is a great deal of blog to be organised and then published and it took several hours to finalise.

I  did manage to get out for some exercise up the flight of locks and as Mike Askin once said to me, “Never approach a lock without a windlass,” so I took one with me, although I only used it once when I returned to the bottom lock to help a crew through. The lady who was locking could not lower the ground paddle and when I said, “Have you taken the catch off?” she did not understand what I meant, as they had come from Stockton, where they are all candlestick paddles and had not worked the rack and pinion paddle gear before. Sure enough, the catch or pawl was still in place.

I repaired to The Folly for the last time this year and got chatting to a couple of regulars whom I had seen there before. Dale was particularly jovial and was a continuous cruiser on nb Kingfisher and we seemed to hit it off straight away. Frenchy was the nickname of the other guy, who was much more reticent. They appeared to cruise together between Napton and Atherstone. I quizzed Dale about the watering hole they used in Atherstone, which was of course, The Angel Alehouse.

Tuesday 8th October

It was time to move on again today, but first there was a bag of rubbish to go in the tip and there were larger than usual blackberries to be picked before I parted, so it was rather late when I left.

The weather was sunny, but very windy and after a while I could see that rain was approaching, so donned the Driza-Bone just in time as it rained and blew really hard. After that the sun appeared again and was quite warm. I got into Braunston in two and a quarter hours non-stop along my favourite stretch of canal. I say that, because in some places you cannot see a house, pylons or cars, only sheep and I think this is why so many boaters moor up here in the sticks just for the peace and quiet.

Much to my surprise, there were very few moorings to be had in Braunston and I cruised through as far as Ladder Bridge, where I winded the boat and returned to the marina main entrance, but here there is a ledge which holds the boat out about 3ft from the bank, which I previously knew about. At that moment the heavens opened and there I was on the bank without any waterproofs on getting soaked. Having tied off, I ducked inside to change my clothes, but I could not remain here, so continued up the cut and found a spot in front of The Cheese Boat at the end of the permit holders moorings and that was it for the day.

Wednesday 9th October

A pleasant sunny morning greeted me, but there is no internet connection here, so I intend to move up opposite The Boathouse, where I know I can connect to BT and the pub opposite – spoilt for choice there! Chris and Linda on nb Mars passed by the moorings and had been out for a month cruising, but there was only time for a few words as they passed by. They were returning to their home mooring at the boatyard by the Bottom Lock.

I moved off the mooring up towards The Boathouse and there was a space opposite, although beneath a tree where roosting birds can decorate the cabin top overnight along with falling leaves. Firstly, I had to get some water and went to the services just beyond The Turn, where there was another boat, who admitted to awaiting an engineer to fix a broken wire on their gas boiler! Being a shared boat there was no way the two women were going to even try and fix it, so why did they have to wait on the water point? It was necessary to use my long hose, although they did move along the mooring a little to accommodate Stronghold. The water pressure was quite forceful and compared very well in relation to many others I had used, so the tank was quickly filled.

I reversed into The Turn and winded to take up the one vacant space, although there was now a spot outside the pub, but TV reception was poor, or even non-existent over there.

Thursday 10th October

The morning was showery on and off, but I had to move further up the North Oxford Canal towards Rugby and headed for The Olde Royal Oak, just south of Hillmorton. The trip was uneventful, apart from a connection dropping off the alternator, so I had to stop and fix that, before making some coffee and moving on.

In just over two hours, I reached the pub and there was only one boat there, so space for me. After some lunch, I tackled  wiring up the new inverter with lower resistant wire, as the previous cable was causing a considerable voltage drop and causing the inverter to complain with an intermittent  buzzer indicating low voltage. I had problems getting the bared wire ends into the three pin plug and whilst doing so, the boat was hitting the concrete bank, which I thought was a bit strange as there were balloon fenders down. Imagine my surprise when I looked out of the window and saw water between the boat and the offside bank. In other words, I was adrift at the stern and was close to the towpath. I rushed out to correct the problem and then much to my surprise saw Andy Clarke walking towards me up the towpath. I see him most years at Canalway Cavalcade and now here he was, with his wife controlling their boat a little further along. He gave me a push off and I then threw the stern line to another guy outside the pub, who pulled me in. I had also talked to him outside the pub on a previous occasion last year apparently. This time I tied up far more securely.

Friday 11th October

With an eye on the weather forecast, it was a case of shall I, shan’t I move up to Rugby? The sky was overcast and it had rained in the night and as it was not raining at the moment, I decided to go for it. All went well after tightening the loose connection on the alternator and it remained in place for the trip. The winds were very strong, but the nature of the canals is very often hedges line the towpath side, which breaks the wind considerably.

I pulled into Clifton Cruisers for a pump out and despite the outlet being on the offside and Stronghold being breasted against another boat, the guy was quite happy to perform the operation on the outside. The waste tank had lasted 57 days and was not obviously full, but I know from experience that they do a good job here for £15.

Onward towards the visitor moorings and it was strange not to stop here, as I could use the car to visit Tesco later from the home mooring. I made the tight turn into the wharf in one go, winded at the end and moored up with two lines, but a few minutes later Deb came along and asked me to move closer to Ragamuffin, so as to be able to fit a hire boat in the space behind me, which although a pain to move, made available a couple of convenient mooring pins.

I could now drive to Tesco and do a bit of necessary shopping as well as get some more blade fuses at Halfords.

Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th October

The weekend was spent at my daughter’s house in Coventry.
One interesting thing about the weekend was that at last I managed to pay a visit to The Rugby Tap after a suggestion by my daughter. I also discovered that it was accessible by No. 4 bus from the wharf with a short walk from the centre of town.

Having only been to one micro-pub before in Skipton, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I was looking forward to this one. The number of ales on the stillage were 12 in total, but only 5 were on tap. The price and ABV were chalked on each barrel. The beer was drawn straight from the barrel so no gas or sparkler, as in most of the other pubs – just as I like it. There were also 6 ciders or perrys on tap from box containers as well as the usual alcoholic beverages of wine and spirits. The biggest surprise of all was that there was no bar! The landlord was sitting out there with the punters, although keeping himself to himself. There was no musak, fruit machines or other trappings of the modern pub, except for wi-fi. Conversation was king here. Food was limited to sausage rolls, batches (filled soft bread roll) and crisps. There was one universal toilet, that was also for the disabled. A quiet and friendly atmosphere prevailed, which made it easy to converse at normal level, instead of having to shout above the level of ambient noise in busy pubs – what a find this is and I am determined to go again.

No shortage of ales here......

.....or ciders!

The landlord, but no bar.

Monday 14th October

A wet start to the day, which continued intermittently all day. The fire had kept in all night, so the boat was still warm in the morning. Two hire boats went out and I wish them luck in this weather, as it is forecast to be changeable all week, although it eases up towards next weekend.

On further investigation into the blown fuses on the new wiring, I looked up the current consumed by the new inverter, which was 15 amps, so a 10 amp fuse in the fuse board was inadequate. With the smaller diam wiring casing a voltage drop to the inverter, it could not consume this amount of current, so the 10 amp fuse was OK. Now that I had increased the cable to 6mm, it could consume more current and therefore it would blow a 10 amp fuse  and a 15 amp was required – QED! But in fact that was not so, much to my surprise, because the 15 amp blew as well.

Later, I had to buy a 12 volt plug to fit the car cigarette lighter socket, because the old one had failed. I found a short one (they all seem to be short nowadays) in Tesco.. When I got back to the boat, it was plugged in and did nothing, so I tried all the remaining sockets on board and it still did nothing - how strange. By now  I had had enough of this pantomime, so went to bed still perplexed.

Tuesday 15th October

Having tried the 12 v plug in the car socket to no avail, it was time to get a refund, which was not a problem in Tesco. Now the search was on for a rather longer one and it is amazing how rare these things are, but I eventually succeeded in Halfords. I tried it out immediately in the car socket and sure enough it worked - hurrah! The mobile battery was down to 13% and it was virtually useless during that time, which made me realise how much I missed it. Back on board, I could now completely charge the phone and I then took a chance of blowing another fuse and plugged in the inverter, which remained on – surprise! Now why is that? There was still a big voltage drop in the 6mm cable, but it was working with the generator running. Voltage when off was 13.85, but dropped to 13 when under load. The inverter will only be used at night, when I can’t run the engine or generator. Hopefully, the problem is solved, but I keep fingers crossed.

For the first time in days, there was no rain and there were short bursts of sunshine indeed. The towpath here is extremely soggy and I can imagine how bad it will get in the winter.

Not having a ‘free’ internet connection was also winding me up and I fiddled about with settings on this laptop, until I wondered if I had buggered it up altogether, so I went into the office and asked Jan if I could try her wi-fi out and it all appeared to be OK. I was also hoping to pick up that connection on my aerial back on board, but no such luck, unless I can get a mooring closer to the office. I am sure I got a free connection a few days ago, but it does not even appear on the list any more. I may try the aerial at the stern, as sometimes only short distance can make a difference.

Wednesday 16th October

It was a bit of a late start, but then nothing really important to get out of bed for.
I checked over the engine this morning before starting up, but had to mop out a lot of rain water from the bilge first. I am still none the wiser as to how it gets in there, although there is a possibility that I have not investigated yet.

Having decided what I was going to eat this evening, I had to take a trip to Tesco once again for ingredients. Upon return, it was time to cook a dish that I often made at home – scalloped potatoes, but this time I had some changes in mind.

After preliminary cooking in the micro-wave, I tidied up and tried the wi-fi aerial up a mast at the stern end of the boat and although it was higher than before, there was little difference in the number of signals that I received, so that was a waste of time and rather disappointing. It looks like I am going to have to use my personal wi-fi router whilst on this mooring. However, I will still be able to pick up BT wi-fi when out cruising. Alternatively, I could cruise along to Newbold, about half a mile away, where I am guaranteed a BT signal, as well as a nearby pub.

Thursday 17th October

It was very cold this morning – below 10ºC inside the boat, although the fire had kept in overnight. These are the times that I could do with an automatic heating system.

I had been having a slight problem with one of the new LED strip lights and I was rather ambivalent about returning it, because although it worked, it sometimes dimmed without touching it. The outcome was to remove it and return to Midland Swindlers for an exchange, before having to rewire it all again. There was no reason that they would not exchange it, so that alone was a one hour return journey through the centre of Rugby and then another hour for the unwiring and rewiring. However, the new one appears to be behaving as it should.

For the first time ever, whilst at the chandlers, I bought a bag of logs, as the supply I had bought from home was now all burned and I found that a log on the fire was the best way to keep it ticking over during the day, when I needed only the minimum of heat. I read recently that the only secure means of keeping a wood burning fire in overnight in Canada, where it can drop to -25ºC, was to set the alarm clock every four hours to wake up and restock the fire with more wood. I would not be happy having to do that!

The next thing on the agenda was to drain the cooling water from the engine and refill with anti-freeze added – yet more water in the bilge to be removed. It was speedily done and the level will need final checking tomorrow.

Friday 18th October

Much warmer inside the boat this morning and the fire was still ticking over. I ran the engine for a while, but forgot to check on the water level first. It was very bright with the sun shining, but still chilly. Apart from packing up the stuff to take home, I had a window lock to fix and also wanted to pick some sloes from a well laden tree that I found a few days ago.

900 grams of sloes for sloe gin or vodka.

Just on the process of writing up this blog, when a hire boat arrived and hit my bow quite hard at an angle. Going outside I found one of the boatyard workers trying to steer astern but the boat was not responding very well at all. I told him that maybe he gives himself a few boat handling lessons, because he is one of the guys who gives tuition to first time hire boaters, but no apology was forthcoming. Because I was hoping to go up to the wharf later to unload the heavy gear into the car, he phoned Deb in the office and moored opposite, where I suggested. If this is the way they treat customer’s boats, then perhaps it would be wiser to only stay here for a year. I intend putting out fenders on the outside just in case of future mishaps. As someone else remarked these guys in the yard are not boaters, despite showing newbies how to handle their first boat.

I did manage to get Stronghold up to the wharf, by winding outside the arm and moving forward back up the arm, winding again at the end and getting the stern close in to the concrete with the bow well out at an angle. All the other moored hire boats were doubled up and there was only a short gap into which I could tie up. All the heavy stuff was loaded into the car, by which time it was getting dark. I returned without a headlight on and carefully tied up on my allocated mooring with the aid of a torch, before having something to eat. My daughter picked me up in the car later and I was whisked off to The Tap once more for a couple of well earned pints, as this was to be my final night for a few weeks and tomorrow I drive home.

I think of all the summer cruises, this has been the most enjoyable one with no pressure to get anywhere in particular and mostly just “simply messing around in boats” as Ratty once said. I had explored the Trent and Mersey down to Shardlow, which I had missed out on previous trips, so had now completed the Leicester Ring in stages. Stronghold mostly behaved herself and I had established a new home mooring, all of which was very satisfying. So I look forward to pastures new next year and will research previously unexplored canals in the meantime whilst in hibernation mode.

Monday 7 October 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 24

Loading in Braunston and return to Napton.

Thursday 26th September

Yesterday I drove here from home down south, which is 150mls distant and it took four hours with two stops. It is a considerable time since I drove that far and in a strange way I quite enjoyed the journey, although there were only two brief holdup s on the motorway. Once I got towards the centre  of Rugby, the GPS appeared to lose contact with the satellites, but fortunately I recognised where I was and could continue to my new home mooring, where everything was as I had left it, although the cabin top was now covered in leaves.

I had several bags of solid fuel and firewood in the car, which was too heavy to carry far, so the boat was reversed and moored on the wharf side, where I could transfer it all into the boat very easily. The mooring allocated to me was taken up by another boat this time, so I breasted up against nb Jigsaw temporarily, because I intended going out in a couple of days.

Mick Jones was now back from his Shroppie (Shropshire Union) cruise and I went for a chat and asked about further fuel supplies. Apparently, the fuel boat Callisto calls in about once a month. Thinking further ahead, I am hoping to go through Braunston shortly to assist with loading for the autumn coal run, so could almost certainly get a few bags then. Not that I intend attempting to lift any 25k bags, but could be of assistance with moving moored the boats out of the arm whilst loading takes place, before returning them after loading. I would be good to see some more of the NBT crew again and no doubt there will be some relaxing chat in the pub afterwards.

Workshops and paint shed at the end of Rugby Wharf.

The winding 'ole from the wharfside.

A hire boat on the wharf.

Reception on the right.

More permanent moores on the right. 
The original towpath is on the left

Looking towards the junction with the North Oxford.

I had to stock up the fridge and store cupboards for the next trip to Napton via Braunston and for the first time I could use the car to get to Tesco. I felt quite strange, having walked there so many times from the Rugby visitor moorings over the last few years.

After unloading and packing away the stores, I attacked the blackberries in the adjacent hedgerow, with the intention of making some jam this time, having already purchased some jam sugar with added pectin. Anyway, there were not enough blackberries to make a sizable amount of jam and I intend trying the main towpath tomorrow.

Friday 27th September

Heavy rain showers this morning and overnight, so no excursion for more fruit until things have settled somewhat. During a brief period of sunshine I tightened one of the alternator belts, which had been screeching on starting the engine like the release of high pressure steam whenever any revs were applied. That cured it, but it had been only a short time ago that I had previously tightened both of them. Bear in mind that this is the additional alternator that is attached to the LH side of the engine with a bolt on bracket, christened a ‘Dog’s Breakfast’ by the guys at Calcutt Marine and it really does need to be realigned so that the belt runs at right angles to it.

During a brief break in the rain, I set off down the towpath to find some blackberries and had a word with Mick in passing nb Ragamuffin. I had been invited in for coffee yesterday, but took a rain check and asked if it was OK later, which it was. Most of the cut near the entrance to the wharf was in a cutting and so very shaded and although there were few blackberries to be had, they were all on the small side.

I called in on Mick when I returned and stayed chatting for almost two hours about boats, techniques and mutual people we knew. Although he is a carpenter and joiner by trade, he was also a lock keeper on the Foxton Flight of locks for some time, so he was very familiar with the ways of boating. I quizzed him on several aspects of boating in this area and areas of Rugby.

Saturday 28th September

A considerable amount of time this morning was spent in making the jam. The berries had been layered overnight with the jam sugar, so as to start dissolving the sugar. It was tipped into a large saucepan and slowly brought up to the boil. The lemon juice was added along with the pips to increase the pectin and after several attempts with a chilled plate and additional boiling, it appeared to have set. I tasted it, only to find that it was very pithy and I think the berries may have been overcooked, so I strained it through a wire sieve, before bottling it in sterilised jars. When they had cooled, there was a good set to the jelly, but a far smaller amount than I had expected with the fruit. I have used small blackberries cooked up with Bramley apples, which were fine, but they had not been cooked for very long.

Moored up as I am at the moment, I have not been able to connect to any free wi-fi, despite one router which is marked as open. This morning however, I could connect to it for some strange reason – I wonder why?

Some more shopping was necessary again in Tesco, bearing in mind that I am about to cruise into the desert with only small corner shops available. After that, I had a car trip to Newbold and the Barley Mow for a pint of Landlord.

Sunday 29th September

I was time to set off again after doing a few necessary jobs, but rain was forecast and this time the met office was true to its word, because it rained on and off for the whole three and half hours of the trip south. I stopped to replenish the water tank at the Tesco moorings and left for Hillmorton after that. This time I was prepared for wet weather, donning the Driza-Bone Australian water proof and my reproofed leather hat.

As I was leaving the Rugby visitor moorings, I passed a couple walking along the towpath who said that they used to be on the Wey Navigations, but were now in Calcutt Marina. Their boat was ‘Winging It’, which I remember well and the names were Mike and Lorraine Skeet, who were also members of the Byfleet Boat Club. I told them that Richard Heaseman on ‘Lady Grace’ was also in Calcutt Marina and had been there for a few years now. When I told them one reason why I had left the Wey, Mike said the NT were too anal, which puts it in a nutshell.

Last year at this time Houlton Bridge was just having the piles driven in.
It leads to Houlton New Town on the outskirts of Rugby.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a volunteer lock keeper at Hillmorton locks, who followed me up the flight of three and assisted with all of them in the continuing rain. I was also followed by an army of teenage girls on a charitable trust boat, who also assisted, so I barely touched a windlass.

I arrived at The Olde Royal Oak (now The Waterside) and went in for a well deserved pint, only to find that there were only two people serving behind the bar and the queue for drinks was about eight deep. To add insult to injury, there was only one real ale on tap – I walked out in disgust and am determined to write to the brewers Greedy King with a strong letter of complaint. Although this pub had improved immeasurably the last time I was here a few months ago, after retracting from the Hungry Horse brand, it seems to have deteriorated back to the old standards of Hungry Horse where no one cares any more.

Monday 30th September

The day started well with warm sunshine, but an hour after letting go, it clouded over and I could feel the chill setting in, as rain was forecast for the afternoon.

I am intrigued to know the history of this terrace of 
buildings by the winding 'ole south of Hillmorton.

They seem to have the appearance of past stables.

I stopped to make coffee and a sandwich before Braunston and then carried on to Midland Swindlers, where I bought three LED strip lights to replace the current guzzling fluorescents above the sink and cooker. These are the touch dimming ones that I saw demonstrated in the Willington branch some time ago. Also on the list was a150 watt quasi sine wave inverter to charge the new laptop, in place of the 1600 watt main unit that I had been using up to now and finally 5 litres of antifreeze, as I had lost so much over the summer.

To my surprise, the moorings opposite the Boat House pub were all taken up, but there was a couple of empty ones right outside the pub on the offside, so I pulled in there for the night and will move across tomorrow if a space becomes free.

Tuesday 1st October

In previous years at about this time, I would be in Oxford or on the River Thames heading back to the Wey Navigations. As much as I liked Banbury and Oxford for mooring spots, I disliked the tedious travelling on the Thames for about three days continuously, with so few places to moor and the exorbitant fees charged by the greedy, rich riparians who owned the banks. Thankfully, I am now finished with that part of travelling home.

I began fitting the LED strip lights in place of the fluorescents beneath the galley cupboards; not an easy job as everything has to be done upside down and the bases of the cupboards were extremely hard plywood. Now I understand why screws with Pozidrive heads are so much better for a job like this, as they can be balanced on the end of the screwdriver when working upside down. I got so far and then decided to call it a day and went off to the pub, as my patience was running a bit short.

I have seen this boat around the system several times.

nb Alice is up for sale.......

.......along with Alice 2, which is the bow extension.

Wednesday  2nd October 

It was a very pleasant day, as forecast with a fair amount of sunshine. I did intend walking through the village to The Lord Nelson, but got bogged down with internet, blogging and replies to e-mails, which is so time consuming.  

I did at last complete fitting the LED strip lights, but had nothing with which to clip the cables to the underside of the cupboards, so had to hold them in place temporarily with sticky tape. I was very pleased with them and it was good to have some light above the hob, which I hope will not be affected too much by the heat and steam. They are easily removable from the two stainless steel sprig clips that hold them in place. Details can be seen here:-   https://www.midlandchandlers.co.uk/products/duo-270-switched-led-light-grey-surface-mount-vl-629 

 A good, even light above the working surfaces.

Excuse the dirty dishes in the sink!

Thursday 3rd October

I decided to move closer to the marina this morning and passed Ryan on nb Southern Cross at the water point. I should have stopped and got some diesel from him at this point, but we were too busy passing information across. However, in the marina I got rid of some rubbish, including waste oil, for which they had a special tank. A quick look around the launderette  for any surplus books, videos or other stuff which might be useful  and I was off to chase Southern Cross up the cut to fill up with diesel, but I did not have to go far, as Ryan was stopping at almost every other boat moored there. There were various comments from other boaters, such as, “Is he going to run out of diesel/gas/coal before he gets here?”

I winded in The Turn and returned to moor outside the marina ready for the NBT loading party on Friday.

Friday 4th October

I walked up the cut a little way this morning and could see Nutfield towing Brighton as they passed the visitor moorings. Walking back towards the Marina, there were two guys in flat hats waiting on the corner of the entrance and I asked if they were Friends of Raymond; of course they were and were also waiting to help load the pair. The boats reversed into the marina arm and then singled out, leaving the butty on the fuelling point for a short while. The motor was then moored up and the butty bow hauled into position alongside, whilst the motor was loaded. I felt guilty at not being able to help out, but with back problems, it was not worth taking a chance – by now, I could not lift a 25kg bag anyway. Later I was relegated to tea boy, which I have to say, seemed to be appreciated by the hard working loaders.

Loading at Braunston.

Both photos by Ian Norris.

From the arrival of the fuel at 10am it was all loaded by hand by 12.30 with the help of Friends of Raymond (not me, but the last wooden narrow boat to be launched at Braunston in 1958 from Nurser’s Yard). http://friendsofraymond.org.uk/the-friends-of-raymond

Stronghold was brought into the arm as the pair were being clothed up and Howard kindly humped my six fuel bags to my bow, where they were stacked in the well deck. I was told that Stronghold was now in the way of marina business by Graham the foreman, so moved back onto my previous mooring just outside, which was fortunately still free and had some lunch. Meanwhile, the pair were now clothed up and had moved out and moored just above the water point/stop house.

Now loaded and exiting the Marina. 
Howard Williams is steering the motor.

If you look closely, you will see that the inside 
towing strap has been removed whilst this operation is in progress.

Heading for the Stop House with 
Peter Lovatt steering the butty.

I was too tired to go to the pub with Howard and he felt exactly the same, so we called it a day. Bear in mind that I had only made tea plus a little bit of messing about on the boats – anno domini I suppose, whereas Howard had been humping bags of fuel all day, I so was entitled to feel knackered.

Saturday 5th October

It was that time again to let go for Napton and I wanted to be there before Nuneaton and Brighton ascended the Napton flight of nine locks, so as to be able to do some lock wheeling and help them up the flight.

However, the best laid plans often go astray and it was my turn, or rather Stronghold’s. The port side alternator belt was squeeling again as soon as I left the mooring, even at 1,000rpm, which it had not done before. Eventually I decided that there was no alternative than to pull in and tie up before investigating further. Imagine my dismay when I squeezed the belt together and the alternator almost fell off. It appeared that a bolt or bolt head had sheared off where the alternator bracket is bolted to the engine, so I just removed the belt and left it free. The engine was so hot and the bracket impossible to access by hanging over the engine to the port side. This alternator powers the fridge and inverter pair of batteries, so I could run without it for a while until it was fixed. Being  en route for Napton, I would pass Napton Junction soon and Calcutt Boats was about ¾ mile up that turn towards Stockton, so that was my decision to let someone else cope with it.

I have mentioned this lash up of a ‘dog’s breakfast’ a few time in the past and attempted to tighten it all up; bolts have sheared several times too and replaced with high tensile ones, but it will never be right unless the whole contraption is redesigned.

I phoned Calcutt and they said that their fitter may be able to do something today, for which I was thankful. I arrived at 12.30 and Ian the fitter came out straight away to have a look. He removed the alternator completely from the bracket and managed to bolt the bracket back on, explaining that is was only a temporary affair and really needed to be genuinely sorted out, but the new belt was now very tight indeed. I paid for an hours work and moved across to the lock waiting area before checking with the digital voltmeter, only to find that it was not charging at all. I had to reverse across and moor up again whilst Ian sussed out that a wire was not attached and that was the end of it until the next time.

I got to Napton and had to wind before reversing onto an empty mooring, of which there were plenty at 3pm. I wanted to buy another bottle of Apple Cider Brandy from the Napton Cidery, but it was due to close at 4pm and I had to hurry up the lane post haste, but made it with 10mins to spare. Imagine my surprise when the lady told me it was all sold out, even in The Napton Village Stores!

A little later as I was about to get in the shower there was a knock on the boat and someone called my name. I quickly donned a dressing gown and went outside to see Julia from The Locker Company on the Wey - what a surprise. It appears that Stuart and she had bought another boat to hire out from a marina on the T & M and were in the process of bringing it back to their base.

My eldest daughter and fiancé arrived in good time and found me along the dark towpath. After some help removing an old battery that I had been using for ballast, we repaired to The Folly for a meal, having booked some days ago and a good job I had, as it was heaving without even a vacant seat. The table was eventually vacated and it was ours for the rest of the evening. The meal was delicious and the requested extra crispy homemade double cooked chips even more so. I had to congratulate Mark and Caroline on it before we parted company.

Having a good time in The Folly.

What a good idea, to store your junk on the ceiling......

.....and even more. Landlord Mark with waistcoat, is holding 
court at the far end, keeping his regulars amused.