Friday, 22 May 2015

Pre Crick: Day 3

We slept well in spite of the motorway and the mainline, but we're up early and ready to go by about 7.30.  But once again the engine wouldn't start.  However, now we knew the cause, we could use the domestic batteries to get it going, so we set off up the locks at around 8.  Some of the locks leak empty while others fill up over night, so we could never predict how we'd find the next lock.  But we made good progress.

At the top lock, a couple of boats appeared to be approaching the lock as we were ready to leave.  And indeed one came onto the lock landing.  The other started reversing; we weren't at all sure what they were up to.  It turned out they'd missed the turning to the Leicester Line, and were going back.  We followed them round at the junction, and we're soon at Watford Locks.  I checked us in with the lock keeper.  There were already three boats on their way up, but nothing to come down, so we could start the locks straight away.

We completed the locks in an hour or so, and set off towards Crick.  As usual, the tunnel was very wet just at the northern end.  Then comes the moorings for the show; the temporary bridge over the canal is much more substantial this year.

After finding our mooring, and having lunch, we went over to the show site and I was able to get a precise of a few boats.  Then we went for tea and cake with Kath and Neil from Herbie, sitting in the warm sunshine overlooking the canal.  In the evening, we joined the rest of the Braidbar Boats group for a meal at The Moorings.

7 miles, 14 locks.  (27 miles, 21 locks)

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Pre Crick: Day 2

We were told to expect the RCR engineer between 9.30 and 10, and he arrived at 9.30.  Having listened to the engine trying to start he diagnosed an underpowered starter battery.  He'd brought with him a machine for jump starting the engine, and when it had run for a few minutes, our battery had enough juice to start the engine again.  We've had a long run today, so it should be ok in the morning.  The engineer said they normally last three or four years; this one was in the boat when we bought it four years ago, and it has a 2007 date printed on the side, so it really doesn't owe us anything.  We'll probably buy a new one at the show.

All this meant it was 10am before we left the marina.  It was sunny, but with a brisk and cool breeze.  The usual hour and a half later we were at the bottom of Stoke Bruerne locks.  A previous boat test boat, Willow Two, was on the water point.  Two boats were going up the bottom lock, so we had to turn it.  By the time we were up, another two boats had arrived at the bottom, so we carried on alone.  The boats in front were rather slow, and while we were waiting for the third lock, another single boat arrived at the bottom.  So one of the pair behind came with us, while the other waited for the single boat.

Our locking partners were an experienced boat share couple out of Gayton, and with boats heading down the locks, we made decent progress.  Some of the pounds look rather full when there are two uphill and two downhill boats swapping locks.

At the penultimate lock, our lock companions were joined by their daughter and three year old grandson.  He's got three years experience of boating, and like pushing lock gates!

It was 1pm by the time we got to the top, and we pressed on through the tunnel.  Adrian made lunch, but I waited until we were through the tunnel before eating mine -- not just because of the dark, but because of the danger of it being dripped on!

At Blisworth, another boat test boat was moored: the eyecatching widebeam, Valhalla.  The long lock free pound stretched ahead.  I steered while Adrian did some work.  Past Stowe Hill, a cow was using a bit of old machinery to scratch its head.

The stretch through Stowe Hill and Weedon seems to take ages, thanks to all the moored boats.  Time was getting on, so we decided we'd probably stop at the bottom of Buckby locks.  A couple of miles before we got there, I liked the look of a tree in a field of oilseed rape.  It's not quite as rural as it looks, though.  With a closer look you can see the M1 just the other side of the field.

It was almost 6pm when we moored in a sunny spot below the locks.  A hire boat in front appeared to be heading up them, but we decided to stop for the night.  To be honest, it's not the most peaceful of spots.  The M1 is on one side (although roadworks are keeping people's speed down), while on the other side is the West Coast Mainline, with Vigin trains speeding past every few minutes.

Tomorrow, we'll aim to get going fairly promptly to get up the locks in good time.

20 miles, 7 locks.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Pre Crick: Day 1

We came up to the boat after work, Adrian a bit ahead of me so he did some shopping on the way.  I arrived about 6.15, so we thought we'd get an hour of boating in.

However, when we came to start the engine, we had a problem.  It sounded like the same one we had in March, when we called out RCR, and the engineer just jabbed the stop button a couple of times, said the solenoid had got stuck, and everything was fine.  We phoned James on Chance to see if he had any ideas of things to try -- and in true James style he even had his own engine boards up to talk us though various things.  There seemed to be no easy answer, though, so we've rung RCR again, and an engineer will come out in the morning.  We've asked if he can come first thing, as we really need to get a move on to get to Crick!

So we're I'm the marina tonight.  After dinner, Adrian spotted a tiny puppy being walked on the bank behind the boats, so we went out to say hello.  It was a little cockerpoo, eight weeks old, which our neighbours a few boats down had picked up just an hour before.  Her tail was going non stop, and she came and had a cuddle with each of us, until she had to go back home as it was getting chilly and she was shivering!

0 miles, 0 locks.

Monday, 18 May 2015

All set for Crick

We have our wristbands and our mooring pass for the Crick Boat Show.  The main part of our journey to the show will be on Thursday -- the day the weather is supposed to improve.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

La Tortuga on test

The June issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on the Fernwood boat, La Tortuga.  I know Andy the photographer will be delighted that a picture featuring the owners' dog, Wilbur, has been chosen for the front cover!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Annual Report

It's the end of our fourth year of owning Briar Rose.  This year we've covered 588 miles and passed through 402 locks.  We've spent 76 nights on board.  All of these are a little lower than the previous year, probably because our big September trip was three weeks rather than four, and also because we now don't seem to go so far each day.

Waterways travelled on were:
  • Grand Union mainline
  • Grand Union Aylesbury Arm
  • Grand Union Leicester Arm
  • Grand Union Paddington Arm
  • Grand Union Slough Arm
  • Hertford Union Canal
  • Limehouse Cut
  • Regent's Canal
  • River Lee
  • River Stort
  • River Thames
  • River Wey
Changes to the boat include the fitting of a Smart Gauge battery monitor, which we now wouldn't be without, and replacing the pump out loo with a composting one.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Weed hatch repair

One of the things we had done while Briar Rose was at Heyford Fields being blacked was a repair to the weed hatch.  I really like the Tyler Wilson design of weed hatch, which is completely separate from the engine hole, so you can't sink your boat by forgetting to tighten it properly.  Rather than a lid clamped on, there's a plate which sits over the prop, held in place by a bar and screw mechanism.

The problem was that over the years, the hole in the box section on top of the plate had worn larger and larger -- to such an extent that the screw could fit through it.  This meant the plate would usually fall off when I tried to lift the mechanism, and I was terrified of it hitting the prop, or of losing it through the hatch.  Putting it back on was also tricky.

So Heyford Fields have welded on a couple of semi-circles of metal to restore the hole to its original size.  They've also gone to the trouble of painting the whole thing.

We've been pretty impressed with Boating Leisure Services at Heyford Fields.  They did everything we asked them to do, and nothing was too much trouble.  It's not surprising they always seem to be busy.