Sunday, 24 July 2016

July Works: Day 5

I'm sure everyone is dying for a solar panel update from last night, so here it is: the batteries stayed on 100 per cent until 7.30 -- so we were pretty pleased with that. Admittedly, we hadn't had much stuff turned on, just the loo fan and the fridge -- but that was working pretty hard in the heat. Once it had cooled down a bit, we spent most of the evening sitting outside in the shade; we also met and chatted to the (relatively) new owners of the Big Woolwich boat, Barnet, who borrowed a tape measure from us.

This morning was warm but not quite so sunny. We set off at around 8.15, heading across the Wolverton Aqueduct to turn around.

I turned in the wide bit just before The Galleon, and retraced our steps; it was about half an hour later when we passed our overnight mooring again. At Cosgrove lock, there was a boat using the winding hole, one on the water point, and two coming down. It seems 9 o'clock on a Sunday morning is peak time. We eventually got into the lock. There was another boat above waiting to come down, and then another arrived, slightly leaving me wondering how I was going to get out.

We were soon back in the marina and reversing into our berth. Once we were secure, we drove up to Heyford Fields to collect my car. Later, I drove to Milton Keynes to get the train to London for a late shift, and Adrian also left to go to London via a different route, ready for work in the morning. I'm spending tonight on board, before heading down to my father's in the morning, for another family funeral.

2 miles, 1 lock. (16 miles, 9 locks)


Saturday, 23 July 2016

July Works: Day 4

We had a nice evening with Kathryn, sitting in the garden of The Navigation. As we walked back to Briar Rose, we bumped into Phil, the owner of Betty, which came second at the Crick Boat Show. The towpath along by the boat was quite busy until quite late; it seemed as though people who'd been at one of the village pubs had a final walk before heading home.

This morning was very sunny and warm. When I opened the side doors, I spotted a squirrel in the trees opposite, eating.

We had a fairly leisurely start, then when I looked out the stern doors at just before 9, the boat behind, Rallentando, was just getting ready to leave. I asked if they were going down the locks and if they were on their own, which they were, so I said we'd join them. They proved to be very good locking partners; there was a boat a couple of locks ahead of us, so we had to turn all except one, when there was a boat coming up. The weather was fantastic.

We got to the bottom in a hour and 20 minutes, and then continued along very familiar waters. There were lots of boats heading the other way. We went past our marina and down Cosgrove lock, which we also shared with Rallentando, who'd filled up at the water point. Just below the lock we moored up on the section towards Wolverton Aqueduct. It was only 12.30, but we need to be back in the marina fairly early tomorrow for work reasons.

The towpath side of the boat could do with a wash, but it's too hot. I did refill the stern tube greaser, though; and we went for a walk along the Buckingham Arm. The first bit is moorings, and the restoration group has been testing the next section to see whether it holds water. It doesn't have any water in it at the moment, though. On the way back, we diverted to the little shop at the caravan park for an ice cream.

The solar panel has been doing its work. The batteries were at 100 per cent when we got here, and they're still at 100 per cent now, four hours later. It will be interesting to see when they start falling.

7 miles, 8 locks. (14 miles, 8 locks)


Friday, 22 July 2016

July Works: Day 3

Having left the boat at Heyford Fields on Monday, we returned today for the journey back. The drive up seemed quite slow this morning, and we had to do the first stage of a car shuffle too. All the work had been done well -- and the view of our roof has changed a bit, with the addition of a solar panel.

As we were leaving the mooring on the outside of the marina (which involved reversing back to the marina entrance and swinging round), the Hudson boat the Boating Leisure Services have just finished was being taken to its mooring; it went in the water this week.

From Bugbrook onwards, we were behind the disabled trip boat from Gayton. It meant it was quite a slow journey as they necessarily took every bridge quite carefully. At Gayton Junction they swung round onto the service mooring, which is presumably where the passengers get on and off.

The last couple of times we've come through Blisworth I've resisted taking a photo of the mill, but this time I gave in.

We had an uneventful trip through the tunnel, and found the moorings at Stoke Bruerne pretty empty. We stopped before the bend in a nice open spot; Kathryn happened to be walking by, so she came on board for a cup of tea, and we're all going to eat at The Navigation this evening.

The other job we had done this week was a new flue on the stove. The old one has rusted through; it wasn't really fitted very well, going straight from the stove to the ceiling collar. That meant that neither end was in straight, and there was water coming in every time it rained. The replacement is cranked, so it meets the stove and the collar square.

7 miles, 0 locks.


Sunday, 17 July 2016

July Works: Day 2

We woke to a beautiful sunny day. With only about three hours of boating to do and all day to do it in, we had a pretty leisurely start and left our mooring at around 9.30, just after a couple of boats had come down the lock. That meant it was set for us.

As we rose in the lock, we could see someone was working the top lock; when the two boats were down they left a gate open for us. By the time we'd gone up the top lock, a little cruiser and a narrowboat were ready to come down.

As we entered Blisworth Tunnel, I couldn't see the far end. I knew there was a boat in front, but that wasn't the only reason; the middle section was very murky, with a mix of mist and engine fumes -- which probably came from the 1931 boat, William, which is now a camping boat, and had left from the long pound before us. At the far end of the tunnel, the boats which had come through had brought the fumes with them, and they were hanging in the air of the cutting for the next fifty metres or so.

At the far side of Blisworth, a boat test boat, Posh Fox, was moored up, and I said hello to the owners who were sitting in the well deck. Gayton Junction was slightly chaotic. As we passed Blisworth Marina, a boat moored on the towpath side decided to set off when we were just a few feet behind him. He waved us past, but still kept the boat in gear. At the same time, a boat was coming through the junction bridge and then wanted to turn into the marina. He was bow thrusting furiously to help him get round in the limited space -- but the wrong way. The boat now just behind us told him he was pressing the wrong button. Through the bridge, there was one boat on the services, and two more waiting. Then the boat behind wanted to use the junction to turn around; I was glad we were going straight on. Maffi was moored just along from the junction. Near Bugbrook was a boat with the most remarkable artwork on all sides.

We carried on in really lovely sunshine, although it was at times very breezy. It was so nice, we went past our destination for a bit, and moored up for lunch in a nice spot. At around 2.30, we set off again and used the winding hole just through the next bridge at Furnace Wharf to turn around. The sunshine was great, the sky was blue, and the clouds were white and fluffy.

We arrived at Heyford Fields Marina, home of Boating Leisure Services, ready for the work they're going to be starting tomorrow. We then drove back to our Marina, where Adrian's car was. We'll be back later in the week for the return journey.

9 miles, 2 locks. (14 miles, 7 locks)


Saturday, 16 July 2016

July Works: Day 1

Adrian came up to the boat last night, and with it being Friday the journey took longer than usual. I worked a night shift, and came up this morning. The first thing we did was a car shuffle, so there's a car at our end point tomorrow.

It was fairly cloudy when we left the marina at around 10am, and there was a brisk breeze which made the turn towards Stoke Bruerne harder than usual. We hadn't been going long when the clouds cleared, the sun came out, and the temperature went up. We started meeting boats almost immediately, and had one behind us too. The scene outside Kingfisher Marina was pretty busy.

After the usual hour and a half, we arrived at Stoke Locks, and moored up at the bottom on completely empty visitor moorings. The main reason for stopping was to empty the loo; when that was done we had lunch. We could easily have stayed there, but decided to go up five of the locks. As we set off, a Wyvern hire boat was just arriving so we shared with them. At the third lock up we had to wait for a boat to come down, but otherwise we did well. The hire boat had enough crew that Adrian could go ahead and set the next lock, and we could go straight in.

The long pound was busier than we've seen it for a long while, but we found a spot to moor for the night. We had showers, then walked up to the village, knocked on Kathryn's door, and all went across to The Boat for ice creams. It was really good to see that her new hip is doing well -- and so much better than the previous repair. As we sat outside Kathryn's house, blog and Canal Boat reader Mark came by, having already been to the Cosgrove Canal Festival today.

We walked along to the tunnel mouth, talking to some of Kathryn's Byfleet Boat Club friends on the way, and Mike from the trip boat, Charlie. Adrian made a chili earlier, so we'll be having that this evening, and as I've now been up for 24 hours, I'm expecting to sleep well tonight.

5 miles, 5 locks.


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Silver Melody on test, and 20 other Crick boats

The August edition of Canal Boat is out, and has my boat test of the Crick Show winner, Silver Melody by Boating Leisure Services.

There's also nine pages of mini boat tests, covering twenty other boats from Crick.


Tuesday, 21 June 2016


I drove up to Briar Rose after work last night. I thought leaving at 6pm might mean a slow and tortuous journey, but in fact there was very little traffic and no delays. The same could not be said for the M1 southbound, where there were two accidents and long queues.

When I got to the boat I found the inverter/charger control flashing, and the batteries pretty much empty. I'm not sure what had gone wrong, but I turned it off and on again, which seemed to do the trick. It took a while to get the batteries up to a reasonable level, though, and it remains to be seen if they've suffered because of it.

As I was closing up the back of the boat at about 10pm, I took some photos of the Strawberry Moon, which this year coincided with the summer solstice, for the first time since 1967.

This morning was lovely and sunny, and I drove up to Weedon for a boat test. We used the winding hole by Weedon Wharf.

Just as I'd completed the turn, a boat came through the bridge so I waved it past; then two more came through, plus one going the other way. It didn't particularly matter, because by then the clouds had built a bit, and we were waiting for the sun to come out from behind a cloud.

By lunchtime, I was on the road heading home.