Sunday, 30 October 2011

October weekend - Day 3

We had a great evening on board Chance last night, with plenty of good food and wine.  An added bonus was that the walk home was all of about ten feet.

This morning we were awake quite early; the clocks had changed, but our body-clocks take a bit longer to adjust.  After breakfast, James turned up in his overalls, to show us how to change the oil in the gear box.  He gave us lots of tips as he completed the job in typically meticulous fashion.

Once that job was complete, we had coffee on board Briar Rose, along with a lovely cake make by Doug.  Then we set off at around 10.30; Chance was in the lead this time.

At Hillmorton Locks there was more downhill traffic than uphill, so we had to turn the locks.  Where there's relatively little traffic, as there is at the moment, I'm not sure that having one of each pair of locks closed saves much water: with two open, there's more chance of finding one that's already in your favour.  At the bottom lock, Tickety Boo, was just arriving.  This is a narrow beam Dutch barge, which I did a review of in 2009.

We stopped for a quick lunch below the locks, on a new piece of piling before Bridge 68.  At Clifton Cruisers, we saw another boat I've reviewed, Moor and Peace.  During the afternoon, the weather improved considerably: a dull cloudy day turned into a nice sunny afternoon, which showed off the autumn colours of the trees.

We got back onto our pontoon at around 3.30.  We'll have dinner then head home.  We're also giving Doug a lift back.

11 miles, 3 locks.  (22 miles, 6 locks)

Saturday, 29 October 2011

October weekend - Day 2

Adrian's train from London was about 20 minutes late last night.  He got a taxi from the station, and I walked along the tow path to meet him at the bridge with a torch.

This morning, we got underway before 9am, with Chance close behind.  As we arrived at Hillmorton Locks, Free Spirit, was just leaving the bottom lock, so we had a brief bloggers chat.  It meant the bottom lock was ready for us, and there was also a boat coming down behind.  The next two locks were ready for us, but we had to turn them for Chance.

It was a lovely sunny morning, although rather windy and chilly at times.  After a while, Adrian got off at a bridge hole and jumped on board Chance, to make up for the chatting he missed yesterday.

At Braunston, we'd planned to turn in the marina entrance and moor, but spaces were scarce.  It was also rather busy with moving traffic.  Doug and James ended up mooring near the Stop House, while I turned and moored alongside them.  We then started on a Braunston pub crawl: we walked up to the Admiral Nelson by the third lock, but their lunch menu had only big meals on it, no snacks.  So after a drink, we walked into the village and had sausage baguettes at the Old Plough.  On the way back, we ordered our Christmas turkey from the Braunston butcher, then called in to the chandlers at Wharf House, and the shop at the bottom lock (where I bought a plaque for the Regents Canal, to add to the collection at the stern).  Then we went to Tradline Fenders, to talk about new bow and stern fenders.  We ended up reversing back to the marina entrance and going in, so the Tradline guy could have a look and advise what we need.  We've ordered some for collection next spring.  While we were there, Chance winded and headed off to Bridge 88, and we went through the marina to the exit and followed them.

We've passed lots of other bloggers today, including Piston Broke, Skyy, and Maffi on Milly M.

This evening, we're off to Chance for dinner.

7.5 miles, 3 locks.  (11 miles, 3 locks)

Friday, 28 October 2011

October weekend - Day 1

I finished my night shifts this morning, and drove up the M1 to Brinklow Marina, with a brief stop at Tesco on the way.  There was patchy fog on the motorway, and the marina was also shrouded in mist, although the sun was trying its hardest to get through.  Adrian's on a course in London, and will be coming up later.

It was 10am when I arrived, and Briar Rose felt very cold so I immediately lit the fire.  I unloaded the car, unpacked, and got the boat ready for cruising.  By 11am, I was reversing off the pontoon and turning onto the North Oxford Canal towards Rugby.  It was a really lovely morning, sunny but with a nip in the air.  The leaves are turning yellow and red, and it was so still that there were great reflections.

We've travelled this stretch so often that there no longer seems much point in taking photos.  However, the canal was looking lovely today, and there was a view right through Newbold tunnel.

I met my first boat of the day at Newbold, then three in quick succession at Rugby, just where the aqueducts form a couple of narrows.  Just before mid-day, I reached the golf course and moored up on the piling, leaving enough space behind for one more boat.  I had a quick shower and a sandwich, and then heard a boat coming in to moor: it was Doug and James on Chance, arriving for a pre-arranged rendevous.  They came on board for tea and home made ginger biscuits, and a good natter.

Adrian will be getting a train up to Rugby this evening, and will come to Bridge 66 and walk along the tow path.

3.5 miles, 0 locks.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Map art

Sometimes it takes a while for a plan to come to fruition.

When we bought Briar Rose, we knew we needed to get a picture of some sort to put up behind the dinette.  The previous owner had taken away a framed piece of needlework which was very precious to him, leaving an outline on the bulkhead.

When we were in Tewkesbury in June we bought an old waterways map for £1 at a second hand bookshop, and this weekend we got round to buying a frame for it.  We've had to fold it to make it fit, but the whole connected system is still on show.

We'll be going up to the boat this weekend, so we'll be able to put it in place.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Tidal Thames photos

I've just received some photos taken by one of my colleagues, Peter, who came down to Limehouse on the day we went out on the Tidal Thames.

Here we are heading into Limehouse Lock, lifejackets on, and a little nervous.

The water is let out by opening the gates slightly.

Once we're at a level with the river, we're free to go -- and already looking rather small in the lock.

When we're out of the lock cut, we make the right turn towards central London.  This required virtually no steering - the tide took us round.

Once we were on the river, Peter jumped on his bike and raced us to Tower Bridge.  As he got there, he could already see us approaching, and went over to the south side by City Hall to take some fantastic photos of us coming through the bridge.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Honesty on test

The November edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my test of the Aqua Narrowboats boat, Honesty, built on a Norton Canes shell.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Autumn Cruise - Day 23

The late summer continued, but our three week trip was coming to an end.  There was a lovely sunrise this morning, and we were up and about fairly early, setting off just before 8am.  We hadn't gone very far when the helmsman on a boat called Barbara Ann called across that he reads the blog.

When we got to the top of Hillmorton Locks, there was a boat going down, another waiting, and boats coming up too.  There was a lock keeper on duty, who said we'd be ok to carry on down, as we'd meet a boat at each lock.  Sure enough, we did.  Hillmorton is famous for its radio masts - there are dozens of them.  But they could soon be a thing of the past, as there's a planning application for a new town on the site of up to 6,200 houses.

At the bottom of the locks, we waved at Lynn and Paul from Piston Broke as we went past, then shortly afterwards passed Victoria and Phil from Clifton Wharf, who slightly confused me by not being on their own boat!

We had to stop just before Rugby to go down the weedhatch, and removed a bit of rope from the prop.  Then we caught up with a couple of boats going very slowly.  The leading boat pulled over at Newbold to let the two boats pass, but it turned out that the boat in front of us was equally slow.  He also didn't realise that boats can pass in the Newbold Tunnel.  On the other side of the tunnel, something similar seemed to be happening, only worse: there was a Rose Narrowboats day boat with five boats following.  It looked like rush hour on the M25.

The final mile to Brinklow Marina took a good half hour, but soon we were making the turn under the bridge and discovering that even on a calm day it's windy in the marina.  Adrian made a well executed approach to our pontoon, and we were soon tied up without any dramas.  The original plan had been to move to Barby Moorings at the end of this trip; but the marina there is so far behind schedule (there are still no pontoons, for example, and electricity is available only 12 hours a day), that we've decided to stay at Brinklow.

11 miles, 3 locks.  (365 miles, 208 locks)

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Autumn Cruise - Day 22

Apparently it's now October, but it was a summer's day from the off this morning, with no autumnal mist or dew; instead it was warm and sunny first thing.  There was no rush, as the lock flight down to Napton currently opens only at 10am, so we had bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast.  We then started a wash load.  At about 9am there was some activity at the locks, with a BW staff member running some water down to fill a pound which had got a bit low overnight.  Soon the boat at the front of the queue was on its way, and we, at number 4, entered the top lock at 10am.

The last time we did the Napton Flight was on Boxing Day 2008 on Debdale.  Today was much warmer and busier.  We met a few boats coming up, but there wasn't the same efficient one up one down rhythm that was achieved yesterday at Claydon.  It's a very pretty flight no matter the time of year, and the Napton windmill on the top of the hill makes for a nice view.

We got to the bottom of the 9 locks in two hours, and stopped on the water point to top up the tank -- we've done lots of washing over the past few days, as it was good drying weather.  In fact, we'll be taking home very little dirty washing.  There are two water points at Napton, and we remembered that one is fast and one is very slow, but couldn't recall which was which.  They were both free so I tested them and found that the one furthest from the locks was at least three times as powerful as the other one.  We had lunch while the tank filled, and as the first load of washing was already dry, started another one.

After the quiet of the summit pound, we went round the corner from the water point to find a rather chaotic scene.  There was a boat aground on the offside, and a procession of boats coming the other way, one of which decided to turn in the winding hole, rather to the dismay of the guy who was aground.

The length from the locks to Napton Junction always seems to last longer than I expect.

For the rest of the afternoon, the canal was incredibly busy.  We think we've seen more moving boats this afternoon than any other complete day of the whole trip.  But some of the usually busy mooring places, such as either side of Bridge 102, were almost empty.  The other change since we came this way in June is that all the offside trees and bushes between Bridge 102 and 101 have been cut down, making the canal much wider.  Soon we were approaching Braunston, with its distinctive church spire and the sail-less windmill.

We turned left at the junction, and in doing so completed the Thames Ring: Braunston to London via the Grand Union, and back via the Thames and the Oxford.

It seemed to have been quite a long afternoon, so we decided to stop at a favourite mooring just past Bridge 88.  There were only two other boats here.  It's quiet and peaceful, and we've been sat on the well deck with a glass of wine watching the world go by.

10 miles, 9 locks.  (354 miles, 205 locks)