Saturday, 30 July 2016

Writing and sleeping

It was a nice bright morning first thing, but soon clouded over a bit. But I was still impressed by the amount of charge the solar panel put into the batteries through the morning.

At 9am I had a call with the owner of yesterday's boat, and then spent the rest of the morning writing up the article. The first draft is pretty much done. At 12 noon I set off to turn the boat around, which was accomplished at the entrance to Kingfisher marina. One of the fields en route was being harvested, and there were a couple of raptors of some description flying overhead, presumably hoping to catch small mammals escaping the combine harvester.

I moored up again in exactly the same place I'd held half an hour previously. I had lunch, then went to try to get some sleep before nigh shifts start tonight. The cloud had disappeared, the sun had come out, and it had warmed up considerably, so I left the side doors and stern doors open to try to get some air through. I managed to get a few hours sleep in spite of the number of boats passing, some of which slowed down, but many of which didn't.

I had dinner, then at just before 7pm set off for the marina. I had to wait before making my turn in because a boat had just come through the bridge; then as I approached our berth I noticed a mother duck with a little duckling was in there -- and I blame them for leaving the turn much too late, and ending up a bit further up the marina than I'd hoped! I waited for the breeze to blow the boat in thr right direction, and slotted back in without any difficulty. I have a little bit of packing up to do, and then I'll shortly be getting in the car and heading to London for work.

2.5 miles, 0 locks. (6 miles, 0 locks)


Friday, 29 July 2016

Sheffield, and a couple of miles

The alarm went off at 6.30 this morning, and an hour later I was walking through the horse tunnel under the canal at Cosgrove to my car, which was parked in the village. I drove to Towcester, where I met up with Andy the photographer; we went up to Sheffield for a boat test. The weather was, shall we say, less than ideal. However, in one of the drier moments we managed to get some external photos done; near the start I heard Andy say to the guys in the yard, 'Could I borrow that forklift?' I could hardly bear to watch what he had in mind -- so let's just say that he was pleased with the angles he achieved. There's always lots to see at the yard in Sheffield.

Driving back south, the weather got better and better. I parked at the marina and walked along to Cosgrove. On the way, I passed a young duck family, which must be the second brood of the year.

Back at the boat, I was pleased that between 7.30 and 4.30, the solar panel had added 16 per cent age points to the battery state of charge. The Cosgrove moorings are 48 hours, and I'd had every one of them, so decided to move (partly also to give myself some hot water, and a bit more battery charging). I passed the marina and moored just beyond Bridge 62, in a place I've stopped several times before.

2.5 miles, 0 locks. (3.5 miles, 0 locks)


Thursday, 28 July 2016

Lending a hand

This morning started quite bright and sunny. I walked back to the marina where the car was parked, and drove down to Pitstone Wharf, where there's a little car park right by the canal. From there I walked down to the bottom of the three Seabrook Locks, where I was meeting Les and Jaq on board Valerie, to help them up a few locks. Les isn't well, and much to his frustration can't do all the things he used to be able to. A couple of boats were coming down the first lock; at the second we had to wait while the local CRT chap ran some water down into the very low pound. Above the locks I swung the bridge. The lower of the first two Marsworth locks was empty, with a pair of boats coming down the one above.

We carried on past Marsworth Junction. I haven't been here since the new houses were finished. I actually quite like them; they're upside down, with bedrooms on the ground floor and a big open plan space upstairs with a cathedral ceiling. However, whether they suit Marsworth Junction is another question!

We went up one more lock, and moored by the reservoir. It had taken around two and a half hours, which wasn't bad considering the wait at the second lock. We sat out on the towpath to have lunch -- and at one point there was a brief shower of rain, even though the sky was mostly blue and the sun was still shining.

I said goodbye to Les and Jaq, glad to have been able to help in a small way. I'd got most of the way back to the car when the rain started in earnest, and I was a bit wet by the time I arrived at the car park. The whole stretch is about two and a half miles, and I'd walked it all in both directions so I've had good exercise today. The rain as I drove back to Cosgrove was quite heavy.

Back at Briar Rose, the solar panel had charged the batteries a bit during the morning, but not really enough. I also thought that if I ran the engine for a while it would give me some hot water, so I decided to go and turn around. I went down to the lock, turned just above, and then returned to the village. I moored before where I'd been last night, as it's a bit more open, and should be better if there's any more sunshine.

After I'd moored up, I was chatted to the people on a boat behind, Flora Dora, which I recognised from some of the St Pancras tidal Thames cruises we've done with Sue and Richard on Indigo Dream; it also turned out we'd probably met them at the Angel Canal Festival in London a couple of years ago. While I was talking to them, Linda and Richard (and Muffin) came past on Mary H, so they pulled in and we had a fifteen minute catch up; coincidentally, the other time we'd met them was when they came to see us at the Angel Festival!

A couple of hundred yards, 0 locks. (1 miles, 0 locks)


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Surprise meeting

I'd intended to come up to the boat tomorrow as I have a boat test on Friday -- but now I have an appointment up here tomorrow, so came up today instead. I arrived at the marina at about quarter to four, in much better weather than I was expecting (although I gather it was rather grim earlier on). Having unloaded and parked the car, I decided to head straight out. There was chaos just outside the marina entrance: tow Wyvern hire boats had stopped on the piling opposite and then noticed the no mooring signs because of the entrance and winding hole; another Wyvern boat was right behind them; and a boat was coming the other way. For the first time ever, I had to wait in the marina entrance while they sorted themselves out.

I boated along to Cosgrove, where there were plenty of moorings available. I stopped on the first stretch (although it turned out I would have been fine to go round the corner, as there was space there too). A little while later I could hear a vintage engine approaching, and then the massive bows of Chertsey appeared. I looked out the side hatch to say hello to Sarah and Jim.

I walked down the towpath, thinking I'd help Sarah and Jim down the lock, but in fact they were mooring up. We ended up sitting out on the towpath with a beer, and I also had a look at the latest improvements to Chersey's living accommodation under the cloths. The boat has a really nice feel, with vintage furniture and homely touches. It was a great hour or so, all the better for being a surprise meeting.

1 mile, 0 locks.


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.