Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Stoke and Foxton

The fire stayed in overnight, but it was still pretty chilly this morning.  I'd slept very well, and was up early because we had an appointment for a boat test in Stoke on Trent, and the weather forecast suggested the morning would be nice and the afternoon much less so.  I was on the road at around 7.30, and arrived about 9.15.  The sky had been clear blue all the way, but the cloud was building.  Andy the photographer was already there doing the internal shots, and we set off on a short trip to get the externals done.  Fortunately there was still a bit of blue sky up ahead.

We were all done by shortly after 11am.  What I should have done was head straight back to the boat and start writing; what I actually did was give Lesley from Yarwood a call to see if she and Joe were free.  They were, so I drove cross country to Foxton and met them for lunch at the Black Horse.  On the way, I had to wait while a boat came through the swing bridge in Foxton village.  I haven't seen Lesley and Joe since March so we had quite a lot to catch up on.  After lunch we walked back to Yarwood for tea and cake.  The boat was moored in a lovely spot just outside the village, and quite a few boats went past.  It was really great to see Lesley and Joe again.

Lesley walked back with me to the car, just as a boat came through the bridge.  We got across before they started the swinging, and Lesley was able to impart some knowledge about what had to be done.

It's less than an hour back to Thrupp Wharf, and I got back just before 5, as it was getting dark.  I'd banked up the fire before I left, so the boat was warm and it didn't take much to get it going again.  I'm at work in London tomorrow morning, so I'm staying overnight here.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A long day's night

It's been a long few days.  When the clocks changed in the early hours of Sunday, I was working a night shift -- which was consequently an hour longer than usual.  At the end of the next shift, on Monday morning, there were no trains home because of the storm, so I spent the day in a hotel, trying to sleep.  This morning, at the end of my third shift, the trains were running, but barely, and it took ages to get home.

I had a discussion with Andy the photographer about tomorrow's weather forecast, and we've decided to go ahead with the planned boat test.  So early this afternoon I got in the car to head up here to the boat.  Because of the clock change, it wasn't far off dark when I got here.  The boat fest very cold, so I got the fire going and put the Eberspacher on for some hot water (and even turned a couple of radiators on).

Having been up for 24 hours, I'll be in bed very soon.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Cosgrove, a hole, and Crick

This morning was what an autumnal morning should be like: misty, a little bit chilly, but with the sun already making an appearance.  And there was no wind.  I left the mooring at Cosgrove at about 8.15, and travelled the mile back to the marina.  Some of the trees are really turning now, and the views across the valley were great in the mist.

With not a breath of breeze, I was able to reverse into our berth without touching the sides.
Very soon afterwards I was in the car and on my way to Crick Marina for a boat test.  I went up the A5, and just by the Narrowboat pub at Weedon there was a hole in the road: a manhole had somehow lost its cover.  Fortunately, I missed the hole; others who'd driven over it were strung out over the next couple of hundred yards, five or six cars with flat tyres, and I suspect, damaged wheels.  By the time I came back, there were traffic lights in place and a new manhole was being set into the road.
The weather was perfect for the boat test, with sunshine, blue skies, and a few white fluffy clouds.  Bearing in mind the weather over the past few days, and the forecast for the next few, we couldn't have hoped for better.
1 mile, 0 locks.  (2 miles, 0 locks)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Maintenance jobs

Adrian has been working in London this week, so I've been able to stay in town after my shifts.  On Monday, Doug and James from Chance came to see me at work, and seemed to enjoy having a look round.  Yesterday evening, we all met up and had dinner out together.

I came up to the boat this morning; I was due to have been doing a boat test, but it's been put off to next week (probably wisely, given how windy it was today).  There's another test in the diary for tomorrow, and the forecast looks pretty good.

So today turned into a day to do jobs.  On my way up I called into a car parts place in Milton Keynes to get some oil.  They had a 20 litre container of the right stuff for £54, which is a big saving on the price of buying it in four or five litre bottles.  It'll see us through a few oil changes, and we have plenty of space to store it under the boards of the engine room.  It is big though, and not very easy to pour from!

I've done a few oil changes now, and have learned something every time.  Getting the old oil out is easy, and this time I was prepared for the more tricky task of getting the oil filter off.  I put a container on the floor underneath to catch drips, and had another nearby to dump it into.  For the first time, I had real trouble unscrewing the filter; I had to break out the filter wrech from the toolbox to get it moving.  Once it was off, the new one went on very easily, and I then measured out the new oil.  In the middle of all this, there was a torrential downpour.  I closed the slide over, but the wind straight in the back of the boat meant I still got pretty wet.

After lunch, I took the old oil to the recycling centre at New Bradwell.  It seemed odd going by car -- I've only ever been there by boat in the past!  I took the opportunity to get rid of several empty oil containers at the same time; only fairly small ones will fit underneath the pump, so there's no point in keeping ones that are too big.

On the way back, I bought a new floor covering for the engine room.  The back of the old one was disintegrating, and putting a fine dust all over everything.  Back at the boat, I cleaned as much of this dust off the engine as I could, and also topped up the batteries.  At the same time I filled the water tank, which was a bit depleted after our weekend out earlier this month.

It had turned into a very sunny weekend, and by mid-afternoon the wind had dropped to merely a very stiff breeze.  I decided I'd get out of the marina, which is always my preferred option.  We have a winter moorer in the next berth, and they like their radio on so lound I coould hear it inside Briar Rose.  They've also got a little pennant on the boat, which was flapping in the wind and hitting the satellite dish.  The tapping was driving me mad!

The direction of the wind meant I thought it would be a real struggle to turn left out of the marina, so I went right and have come down to Cosgrove.  I was a bit worried about whether turning round above the lock would also be tricky, but the wind ended up helping.  The turn took a while to get going, but once I'd reached a certain point, the wind took over and did the work.

Once I'd moored up, I did another job I'd been planning to do for a while: sort out the rear fenders, which have become a bit droopy.  I took the button and tipcat off (being really careful to keep a firm hold of all the shackles and fittings), then turned them round and put them back on.  I also shortened the chain on the button by one link.  Here's a before and after.

As the sun has gone down, the wind has died away.  It's due to be calm tomorrow too, so we should be ok for the boat test.

1 mile, 0 locks.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Birthday Weekend - Day 3

It was raining last night when we walked up the road to the Walnut Tree Inn, but it takes only about five minutes to get there from the moorings by Bridge 49.  We ate in the restaurant part, and the food was excellent.  We had a baked camembert to share as a starter, then Adrian had a ribeye steak from a local Northamptonshire farm, while I had liver which could possibly have come from the same animal.  Even with a bottle of wine, the bill was quite reasonable.

It was raining harder when we walked back to the boat, and it continued on and off all night.  It was raining when we set off at around 8.30 this morning.  By comparison, Blisworth Tunnel seemed quite warm and dry.  We passed one boat in the tunnel, which did the sensible thing and kept going; neither of us touched the wall or each other.

At Stoke Bruerne we went down two locks to the long pound and moored up, before walking back up to Kathryn's house -- one of the cottages by the museum.  We looked like a pair of drowned rats, and then piled our wet coats etc on her living room floor (she insisted that the tiles with under floor heating would be able to cope!).  She's done a remarkable job in rennovating the cottage, which is four floors with just one room on each floor.  We were also treated to tea and scones, and were joined by Mike who runs the trip boat, Charlie.

Setting off again after a very enjoyable hour or so in Kathryn's company, we had to turn the first lock as a boat had just gone down, but they waited for us and we flew down the final four locks.  It was pretty wet and miserable all the way.

We had a cup of soup to warm us up after the locks, then moored up again just before Bridge 57 for our second social event of the day:  a couple of hours with Kath and Neil on Herbie.  I think the Crick Show was the last time we saw them, so there was a bit of catching up to do.  While we were there, the rain cleared and the sun came out, so that when we set off again it looked like a completely different day.

But there was still rain about.  A very bright rainbow crossed the sky, and at times you could see the whole arc.

Neil and Kath had also considered making the most of the clear weather to move down to Cosgrove, so when we were moored up in the marina, it was no surprise to see them boating past.

We decided that we'd probably have a better journey home if we went a bit later, so we'll have an early dinner on board and then head off.  It's been a really good weekend:  yesterday was a very enjoyable day's boating and last night's meal was excellent; and we've caught up with old and new friends along the way.  What's more, even just a couple of days on board feels like a decent break.

8.5 miles, 7 locks.  (27 miles, 16 locks)

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Birthday Weekend - Day 2

The people we shared Cosgrove Lock with this morning said they'd hardly slept last night because of the wind and rain.  We heard nothing.  Mind you, I was in bed and asleep before half past eight, thanks to post-night-shift exhaustion.  It could also be that we were sheltered by the blocks of flats at Wolverton.

Today is Adrian's birthday (he thanks everyone for the messages on yesterday's blog), so we started with cards and presents.  Adrian then made a quick visit to Tesco, and we set off at aboout 9.15am.  There had been a little bit of drizzle, but nothing like the heavy rain forecast, and it wasn't even that cold.  We said a quick hello to Halfie as we passed Jubilee a little way out of Wolverton, then shared Cosgrove Lock with Trinity, who used to moor in our marina but have moved up to Yelvertoft.

We made a stop at Baxter's to get a pump out -- but it became clear that the pump wasn't working, so we had to abandon the attempt.  We did buy a couple of bags of coal.  By the time we left, the sun was threatening to come out -- and has made appearances on and off during the day.

It's just as well we weren't planning to stop on the moorings at the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne flight, because they were entirely taken up by anglers.

There were also anglers in every pound up the flight, including on the lock landings, and all along the moorings in the long pound too.

Half way up the flight, we met Herbie coming down.  Neil and Kath had been planning to do just the top two locks, but couldn't moor because of the fishing match.  We'd been planning to stop and have a catch up, but we're now hoping to do that tomorrow.  It was great to see them, even for just a brief time.

The trees are beginning to change colour, and there were some nice autumn colours as we progressed up the flight.

At the top lock, we met Kathryn from Leo No2.  We'd been planning to knock on her door, but she was already out by the lock.  It was another case of never having met someone before, but feeling you knew them because of the blog.  We'll see her again tomorrow too.

We made rapid progress through the tunnel, which wasn't too wet inside, and then carried on to Gayton Junction.  We turned right at the junction down the Northampton Arm, and stopped at Gayton Marina for a pump out.  It was a very thorough job, with plenty of rinsing through.  Afterwards we carried on to the winding hole above the top lock, where we turned and began retracing our steps.

We turned back towards Blisworth at the junction, and have moored near Bridge 49.  It's just a short walk from here to The Walnut Tree, where we've got a table booked for Adrian's birthday dinner.

14 miles, 8 locks. (18.5 miles, 9 locks)

Friday, 11 October 2013

Birthday Weekend - Day 1

It's Adrian's birthday this weekend, so we're spending it on the boat.  I drove up from London at the end of a night shift this morning.  I arrived at the marina in bright sunshine, but I knew the forecast was for rain this afternoon, so I wanted to set off as soon as possible.  First I lit the fire as the boat felt pretty chilly, and unpacked.  I set off at around 9.45, and turned right out of the marina.  The sun reflecting off the water made seeing anything up ahead a bit tricky.

I had to fill Cosgrove lock before going down.  While I was preparing the lock, I spoke to the owner of 4Evermoore, which used to be owned by Kev and Ann.  As I was leaving the lock, I could see a boat approaching, and when he was close enough I signaled to ask if he was going up;  he was, so I could leave the gate open.  Before long I was crossing Wolverton Aqueduct, over the Great Ouse.

I went through Wolverton and crossed the second aqueduct of the day, over Grafton Street.  This one is bigger in every regard, but not as impressive!

Just the other side of the aqueduct is the New Bradwell winding hole, where I turned around and started re-tracing my steps.  I returned to Wolverton, where I moored up, just before it started to rain.  I made a trip to Tesco; the return walk was a bit wet, but the rain this afternoon hasn't been anything like as bad as forecast.  Let's hope tomorrow follows the same pattern.

This afternoon I've finished writing a boat test, and will soon start making dinner.  The fire is going well; I brought with me some logs from a tree we had to cut down in our garden early in the year.  It was a false accacia, so I had no idea how it would burn.  The logs have been drying in the garage for months, and they're burning well (and smell quite nice too).

Adrian has been in London, so it travelling up to Wolverton station, which is just a couple of hundred metres away.  It won't be a late night, as I'll soon have been up for 24 hours.

4.5 miles, 1 lock.

Monday, 7 October 2013


First job of the morning was to check down the weed hatch; yesterday the tiller had been shaking far too much.  It turned out there were too bits of rope round the prop shaft - looking suspiciously like the sort that people use for their dangly side fenders.

The short trip back to the marina was uneventful, and I managed a smooth spin into our berth.

The boat test was in Braunston, a drive of about 40 minutes mostly up the A5.  For a change, we decided to use the locks as the backdrop for the photos.

The boat being tested was short enough that we could go up two locks, turn, and come back down again.  What had started as a misty morning turned into a sunny day just in time.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (2 miles, 0 locks)

Sunday, 6 October 2013

A mile

The alarm went off at 4.30 (even though I'd been laying awake waiting for it) and shortly afterwards the marina was echoing to the sound of our shower pump.  It's rather noisy at the best of times, but I feel particularly guilty when it's used at that time of the morning.  There's no boat on the other side of our pontoon at the moment (it's gone off to ABNB to be sold), so when the time came to walk to the car, I made sure I stayed very close to Briar Rose!  The journey was fine, and I was at work on time at 6.30.

I got away just after 3pm, and drove back up to the marina.  It was a lovely sunny afternoon and a warm 20 Celsius, so I decided a short cruise was in order -- not too far as I have a boat test tomorrow morning, so I'll need to be back in time to drive there.  I turned right out of the marina (noting that Jubilee wasn't in her berth), and headed for Cosgrove, where the moorings turned out to be verging on empty.  I went down to the lock and did an efficient turn just above it -- just as well as there was a boat coming up who were just about ready to open the gate as I arrived, and I didn't want to hold em up.  I retraced my steps as far as a mooring opposite the permanent moorers.  Once tied up, I did checked all the batteries, and topped up as necessary.

1 mile, 0 locks.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Tight spaces

Adrian is visiting family this week, so I've come up to the boat to do some jobs.  Getting access to things in a narrowboat can sometimes be tricky, so during the afternoon I could be found in the bed base, crouched in one of the dinette seats, and laying on the floor with my head in various cupboards. It was a nice afternoon, with some decent sunshine at times, and I'd much rather have been boating.  But I needed to stay in the marina because I've got to go to work in the morning -- the alarm will be going off at 4.30.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Willow Too on test

The November issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my test of the Beacon boat, Willow Too.