Monday, 1 September 2014

Positioning trip: Day 1

Considering that I didn't get a great deal of sleep yesterday, last night's shift went surprisingly well.  I got away from work at around 7.30 this morning, and got the tube and then train to Langley.  Back at High Line I prepared the boat for the off, and then went to return the dongle which opens the gates, and retrieve our deposit.  High Line is officially shut on Mondays, but I'd seen John yesterday, who said he'd be in the office this morning.  We'd recommend High Line; the moorings are online, but the Slough Arm isn't exactly busy, it's very secure and there are plenty of people about as so many boats are residential, and everyone was friendly.  What's more, it's very reasonably priced.

I got under way at around 9.15, in a heavy drizzle.  The boat was facing towards Slough, so naturally I was going to complete the Arm.  The first thing I noticed was the rather nice triangular mile posts, with the distance to the basin on one side, and the junction on the other.

The arm passes areas of housing, some of it brand new, and areas of light industry.  The basin itself is nothing to write home about.  I remember hearing years ago (and I can't remember who said it, or where I heard it) that the problem with the end of the Slough Arm is that when you get there, there's no there there.  The Pearson Guide is also correct when it says the canal just peters out.  The basin isn't even much of a basin.  There's just a builder's merchant, and a winding hole.

I turned around and began heading back the way I'd come.  At times the drizzle turned to heavy rain, but at least it was relatively warm rain.  When I got to High Line, I counted the moored boats -- or at least I counted how many boat lengths of moorings they have.  Actual boat numbers are more tricky, because quite a lot are breasted up, and there are also quite a lot of wide beams.  Anyway, there are fifty boat lengths of moorings, and we had been at number thirty away from the office (and therefore twenty away from the gate leading to the railway station).

As I passed all the moored boats a cormorant was fishing in the canal.  It followed me along, occasionally bobbing up beside the boat before diving under the water again.

The length from High Line to the basin has recently been dredged; the more heavily used bit from High Line to the junction hasn't, and I could immediately tell that the going was more difficult.  Even so, I was soon passing under the M25.  Then there are three aqueducts in quick succession, over Colne Brook, the River Colne, and Fray's River.  They're all similar with this area's typical bridge design; this is the one over Colne Brook.

By Bridge 1 there's an obelisk.  I can't read what it says on it, but Pearson suggests it's somethimg to do with coal tax.  I'll have to ask Neil from Herbie, because I'm sure he'll know.

As the arm is so straight you can see a long way, and when I was still some distance from the junction I saw a boat go past, heading south.  A moment later, the boat went past again, in reverse, before turning into the Arm.  I guess they'd just overshot and had to have another go.  When the boat passed me, I saw it was Paws 4 Thought, one of the Top Notch boats that was shown at Crick, and the one we put in the 20 boats feature.  Most of the saloon was given over over to a large, two storey guinea pig cage, so it rather sticks in the memory.

Having already been under Bridge 1, I was wondering what the final bridge would be called.  Naturally, it's Bridge 0.

Cowley Peachey Junction is a little unusual in my experience, in that the junction bridge goes over the main line rather than the arm (this might even have been why P4T missed the turn).  I'm struggling to think of another junction where this is the case.  There's also another of the mile posts, indicating that you're 0 miles from the junction.

I made the turn south, then continued just a couple of hundred yards and moored outside the Yiewsley Tesco.  It's a rather odd building.  There's a car park on the ground level, while facing the canal are smart looking flats.  But the back of the building is a huge Tesco.  The entrance to the car park is literally ten steps from the stern.  There are also newish flats on the other side of the canal.

It was only around 12 noon, but I was feeling very tired, and I'd got very wet, so having had to go to all the effort of banging pins in to moor, I decided I'd be staying put.  I've made a couple of visits to Tesco, I've checked and topped up the batteries, and I've made arrangements to get some diesel from a fuel boat in the morning.  I think it'll be an early night tonight, because I'm really beginning to flag!

6 miles, 0 locks.

Sunday, 31 August 2014


A day which turned out slightly differently from the way planned.  I finished my night shifts this morning, and drove up to our marina.  Adrian arrived a few minutes later from home.  Then we went back down the M1 to High Line Yachting, where Briar Rose has been staying for a few weeks.

We unloaded the car and made the long trek along the towpath, with all the clothes we'll need for our next cruise.  We changed the bed and put the washing machine on, filled the water tank to the brim, and did something we'd been meaning to do for a while: fit a SmartGauge battery monitor.  I cut the hole to take the display, and Adrian wired it up.  We got it mail order from Canal Shop Online at Hillmorton Wharf, who delivered it to us very promptly.

We'd intended to go up to the end of the Slough Arm to turn the boat around, but there had been a bit of a staffing crisis at work, and I'd been on stand-by to do an extra night shift tonight.  Just before lunchtime, it was confirmed that I would have to work.  While Adrian was fitting the SmartGauge, I drove to the nearby Co-op to get us some lunch, and once we'd eaten, Adrian headed home while I went to sleep for a few hours.

One of the good things about High Line is the proximity of Langley Station, with trains taking a little over half an hour into Paddington.  I meant I didn't have to head to work until gone 8.30 this evening.  Moving the boat will have to wait until the morning.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Mercia marina

A quick dash up to Mercia Marina today for a boat test.  The marina's new development, the Boardwalk, which I don't think was even started when I last visited, is nearing completion.  Signs said there's to be a Grand Opening on the weekend of 11 and 12 October.

Monday, 25 August 2014

2015 calendar

The other day I received three copies of the IWA 2015 calendar, which features my photo of Briar Rose on the Northampton Arm as the picture for August.  What's quite nice is that each photo can be detached and used as a post card.

The calendars are available from the IWA online shop.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Just The One on test

The September issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes by boat test on Just The One by JD Narrowboats.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

London-bound: Day 10

After the pleasures of yesterday -- the excitement of a journey into Central London, the sunshine, getting a good mooring, and seeing family -- today was always going to be a bit of a let down.  The last day of this part of the trip, combined with the difficulties of getting everything back where it needed to be.  Plus the weather forecast, of the remnants of Hurricane Bertha bringing heavy rain and strong winds.

Things didn't look too bad when we got up, but by the time we were ready to set off just before 8, the rain had started.  We were going in different directions:  I was taking the boat back along the Paddington Arm, while Adrian was going to get the car from our marina.  The exit from our mooring was text book, but it was early so there was no-one to see it!  As Adrian headed off to the underground to Victoria and the coach station, he took a photo of me leaving the basin.

At first the rain wasn't too bad, and there are always things to see, like this cormorant drying its wings, just along from Little Venice.

Further on there were torrential downpours, plus thunder and lightening.  Combined with the less than picturesque scenery along parts of the Arm, it all looked rather depressing.

Adrian was also having a frustrating time, as the coach to Milton Keynes (there were no trains because of engineering work, and the replacement bus only started from the end of the Jubilee Line) was stuck in traffic because of flooding on the North Circular.

As I passed through Alperton, I had a very welcome text from Kath from Herbie, offering the assiatance of her and Neil along the Slough Arm, where I was headed.  They know it well, having moored along the arm, and are familiar with coping with the legendary weed, which can clog props and bring boats to a halt.  It made me wonder quite how bad the weed would be, but gratefully accepted -- pointing out that they must be mad wanting to come boating in such foul weather.

I reached Bull's Bridge Junction on schedule at 12 noon, and turned right.  It was another 40 minutes or so before I reached the bridge where Kath and Neil were waiting.  By now the sun was out, although it was still pretty breezy.  It's quite a tight turn into the Slough Arm, immediately after a bridge, and I was a bit too busy turning to take a photo.  But although there's quite a lot of floating pennywort, the blanket weed which has blighted the Arm in the past didn't seem to be there at all.

The Slough Arm is pleasantly rural, has aqueducts over a couple of rivers, and then passes under the M25

We were soon at High Line Yachting, where we came alongside a boat outside the office and I went in to pay our fees and find out where we'd be staying.  The linear moorings stretch a long way, and we had to go half way along.  As we did so, we could see a torrential downpour heading our way.  It looked as though the canal up ahead was boiling, and we could see the storm coming for us.  it was in this torrent that we found our spot, and moored on the outside of a residential boat.  I was really grateful to have Neil and Kath with me, as it was very helpful to have an extra pair of hands at this stage.

Once moored up, we had a late lunch.  Adrian arrived in the car to take things home, and Kath and Neil headed off too.  I had a sleep, as I'm starting night shifts tonight.

19 miles, 0 locks.  (106 miles, 102 locks)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

London-bound: Day 9

Last night we thought we'd eat out at the Toll House Bistro, which was plastered in signs saying it was now open on Friday and Saturday evenings.  It wasn't.  We went next door to the Malt Shovel, which was OK but nothing special, and not as good as other Vintage Inns we've been to.

This morning we wanted to make a prompt start, so we were up and setting off by 7.10.  It was half an hour before I could go faster than tickover, because of all the moored boats.  At 8.30 we turned onto the Paddington Arm at Bulls Bridge Junction.

The first part of the arm isn't that interesting, although I noted lots more moored boats than when we were here three years ago, and lots of new apartments being build around Alperton.  After about two hours we crossed the North Circular on the aqueduct, and saw there was a traffic jam below.

Last time we did this journey, it took five hours from Cowley Lock to Paddington; this time it was more like six, because of all the moored boats -- there were boats in places which have previously been deserted.  Still, the trip soon gets interesting, with plenty to see.

The entry to Little Venice is through a narrow, and we had our photo taken plenty of times.  Just beyond, there was a huge queue for the Jason's trip boat.

We followed a very slow widebeam into the basin, with a feeling of trepidation as to whether we'd be able to find a mooring.  In fact there were several spaces, including the same one we used three years ago, next to the bank, outside the M&S HQ.  We went down to the end of the basin to turn;  it was pretty breezy, so we needed to use a bit of power to get round.  What was nice, though, was that they'd opened the new fan bridge to herald our arrival!

Adrian had spent most of the journey inside making a cake and a lasagne for later, as we had some of his family to visit this afternoon.  So we've had a great afternoon with an extra four adults and two children on board, and we've been to explore the new landscaping down the far end of the basin, which is really coming on.  They're currently installing a new fountain next to the fan bridge.

Quite a few boats have arrived this afternoon and this evening, so the basin is now pretty full.  The wind has been making it tricky to manoeuvre, but it's also clear that one or two of the steerers don't have much idea what they're doing.

17 miles, 0 locks.  (87 miles, 102 locks)