Thursday, 27 April 2017

Annual Report

Here are the figures for this year.  546 miles in the year isn't too bad; the number of locks, at 257 is surprisingly low.  I put this down to the fact that we spent quite a bit of our big trip in September on the Trent, where there are miles and miles between locks; some years we've done more locks than that in our big trip on its own.  74 nights on board is pretty good.

On to the waterways travelled this year:

  • Ashby Canal
  • Birmingham and Fazeley Canal (detatched portion)
  • Coventry Canal
  • Cranfleet Cut
  • Erewash Canal
  • Fosdyke Navigation
  • Grand Union Canal Leicester Section
  • Grand Union Canal Mainline
  • North Oxford Canal
  • Nottingham-Beeston Canal
  • River Soar
  • River Trent
  • Trent and Mersey Canal

Monday, 24 April 2017


A quick trip to Blisworth today for a boat test -- in, frankly, less than idwal weather. The forecast had been fine until yesterday when things changed a bit. As we tried tomposition the boat in front of the mill for photos, I could see a boat heading towards us through the bridge. When it was a fair way off, I recognised it as Waiouru; just time for a quick hello to Tom and Jan as they passed. After that it was a run up to the junction and back.

Once the boat test was over I drove down to our marina to check that Briar Rose was ok. My route too me over Blisworth tunnel with its telltale vent chimneys.

Briar Rose was fine. I was delighted to discover that the batteries were on 100 per cent. Last time we left the boat, I left the shoreline off, so we've been relying on the solar panel.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Hartland on test

The May edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of the Brayzel boat, Hartland.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Reedley Marina

Another fairly early start, as today's boat test was the furthest north we've been for one. I drove to Towcester and parked the car, and Andy the photographer picked me up at 7am. The weather most of the way was fairly murky, but once we were into Lancashire we could see the edge of the cloud out to the west. We got to Reedley Marina at around 10.30 and as the weather was still very cloudy and dark we did all the internal shots and note-taking. The winding hole was 45 minutes away, so at about 12.30 we decided to set out, in the hopes that by the time we turned we sky would have cleared a bit. This strategy worked pretty well, as conditions improved the whole way, and by the time we were back at the marina it was turning into a nice afternoon. We reckon the photos will also be sunny enough.
The Leeds and Liverpool canal is completely new to me, and the small stretch we did today has a lot going for it. There are views of the hills, old mills, and mile posts telling you how far you are from both Leeds and Liverpool.
It was around 3pm by the time we left, and past 6pm by the time I was back at the boat -- so a pretty long day.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Monday work

An even earlier start this morning, as I needed to catch the 0500 train from Wolverton to London. There was a frost, and I had to scrape the car windscreen. I was back at the boat by half-four this afternoon, and it had clearly been sunny because the batteries were up to a hundred per cent thanks to the solar panel. Not quite such an early start tomorrow, but it will be a day with a long journey in it.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Sunday work

An early drive to work this morning -- and a bit later Adrian headed home.  I've come back to the boat, as I have a boat test later in the week, so this is really just here to log a night on board.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Birthday Weekend: Day 2

We had a very nice evening last night. Somewhat to our surprise, Nigel turned up; Matthew was feeling so ill that only his mum would do, so Catherine stayed at home. The three of us chatted about boats, trains, garden birds, and a whole load of other things. The food at the Walnut Tree was, as usual, excellent.

This morning was blustery and chilly again. We set off at about 8.30, travelled slowly down to the tunnel, and went through without seeing another boat. At Stoke Bruerne we spotted Waiouru moored up, and Tom looked out for a brief chat. A boat had just come up the top lock and one was going down, so we joined him. It was a single hander. Once the boats had started descending, I went and knocked on Kathryn's door. She emerged with a couple of her famous cheese scones, still warm from the oven. We had only the briefest of chats today, but we both enjoyed a scone as we went down the flight. By now, Tom had arrived armed with a windlass, and kindly helped us all the way down. It meant the single hander was able to stay on his boat, which he was very grateful for. Here's Tom, working.

Progress seemed a bit slow, as we had a boat going down in front of us, and two hire boats in front of them. These were mob handed, yet very inefficient -- lots of running about, but very little gate or paddle action at times. We also started meeting boats coming up, which included a lock of three small boats. With us, the boat in front, and the three, one pound ended up with six boats in it.

Despite it seeming slow going, we actually made very good time down the locks. And as we were helping our single hander, and the boat in front, we all felt we'd done good deeds en route. It was about eleven o'clock by the time we reached the bottom, so we moored up and put the kettle on. Tom joined us for tea as a reward for his hard word (unless it's his Jan reading this, in which case he was working hard the whole time!)

Once Tom had headed back up the flight it was almost lunchtime, so we decided to stay put and have lunch. We set off again just before 1pm, in sunshine but more strong winds. There were lots of boats on the move, many of them from the Lionhearts moorings in Milton Keynes. The turn into the marine was difficult because of the strength of the wind, but at least it was blowing straight down the pontoons. That makes it a lot easier to spin round and reverse into our berth. Adrian said it was one of the best entries he'd seen.

Once the boat was secure we drove up to Heyford Fields to collect the other car. Since then we've washed the pontoon side of the boat (it was filthy from the hull having been pressure washed -- I gave the other side a quick wash down yesterday), we've filled the water tank, and we've taken everything off the well deck and given that a good clean too. In spite of a forecast for heavy thunder showers, we've had only about five rain drops. Tomorrow, I'm got an early shift at work, while Adrian will go home.

8 miles, 7 locks. (13 miles, 7 locks)

Friday, 31 March 2017

Birthday Weekend: Day 1

It's my birthday today, and we were due to pick up the boat from being blacked. We had a slow drive up, as for the first part of the journey we went cross country due to an accident a severe delays on the M27. We dropped off one car at our marina, having a quick chat to Hallie as we left, who was also doing a car shuffle. When we got to Heyford Fields, Briar Rose was still in the shed, as they were waiting for the farmer to come with the tractor to put the boat back in the water. It meant we got to see the process, involving a big hydraulic cradle, which lifts the boat in a very gentle way.

It was very windy, so getting out of the marina was a real challenge. It also made it hard work just keeping in a straight line in places. We've come along to Blisworth and moored up just by Bridge 49. We have a table booked at the Walnut Tree this evening; we're being joined by my second cousin, Catherine -- her husband Nigel was also due to be coming but their Matthew isn't well so he's staying to look after him.

5 miles, 0 locks.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Blacking Weekend: Day 3

The clocks changed to summer time during the night -- but some of us were so tired we put our watches forward at about 9pm, to justify going to bed right away! During the evening, there had been a robin singing his heart out in the hedgerow right next to the side hatch.

This morning we were up and ready in good time, and set off just before 8.30. It was another fine day with a chilly wind. Brian and Mike got off at a bridge to walk for a bit.

Adrian was packing up as we went along, so by the time we had turned into Heyford Fields Marina and moored at the bottom of the slipway, we were pretty much ready to go. It was just a matter of transferring stuff into the car, and heading off back to our marina to pick up Brian's car. They headed off, and as it was still really early in the day, we called in at Stowe Landscape Garden in Buckingham on the way home. There are 250 acres to walk round, with more follies than you can shake a stick at.

We had an early lunch and then headed home on very quiet sunny Sunday lunchtime roads.

2 miles, 0 locks. (16 miles, 9 locks)

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Blacking Weekend: Day 2

We woke to sunshine but a chilly wind. Having had breakfast, we set off at 9am towards Cosgrove Lock. This is Mike's photo -- in which the sky looks amazing.

Brian and Mike walked all the way from there to Stoke Bruerne locks, which is a good few miles. Along the way we saw Fields of tiny lambs.

We gave our guests a necessary coffee at the bottom of the locks, and then set off. It soon became clear that we were following a boat up, which turned out to be a widebeam. It also became clear that they were having trouble with low pounds up ahead. The problem seems to have been that the lock by the A508 bridge has new bottom gates, with new paddle gear -- which is very stiff. That means it's easy to not fully wind down the paddles, meaning the pound above is drained. So with up waiting in that lock, and the widebeam in the one above, I ran some water down through the lock from the long pound.

The long pound was also getting quite low, so I phoned Kathryn and asked her if she could run some water down from the Stowe Hill pound. After a bit of a pause, we were on the move again, and we met up with Kathryn below the second lock. Stoke Bruerne was busy in the lovely spring weather.

We moored up just beyond Sculptor for lunch, and Kathryn joined us -- so we had a very merry hour or so. We set off again at around 2.30 for the tunnel, which was very cold and wet. We came through Gayton Junction and continued to a spot we haven't moored at before, just short of the new Banbury Lane Bridge. Here the trains aren't quite as noisy. This evening we have a roast going in the oven.

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

Friday, 24 March 2017

Blacking Weekend: Day 1

After a slightly complicated process involving meeting up, a course, shopping, and a car shuffle, four of us (we have our friends Brian and Mike with us) were at Briar Rose at about 3.30, and ready to set off. We're heading up to Heyford Fields for blacking -- but actually set off in the wrong direction, towards Cosgrove. It's just that we have plenty of time overall, but not much this afternoon. We went down Cosgrove Lock, went along towards the Galleon where we turned around, and came back to moor just past the aqueduct. Brian and Mike had got off at the lock to have a walk, and Adrian joined them for the last bit and went down below the aqueduct to take a photo of Briar Rose going over.

It's been lovely and sunny this afternoon, but with a chilly wind. Tomorrow is also forecast to be nice.

2 miles, 1 lock.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Wine Not Whine on test

The boat test in the April edition of Canal Boat is Wine Not Whine, built by Smithwood Narrowboats. It was at the Crick Show last year unfinished, but has now been completed for the people who bought it.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Mercia again

I went up to Briar Rose yesterday afternoon, as I had a boat test planned today. I knew there was very little solid fuel on board so I bought a very expensive bag of logs at a garage on the A34 on the way. The boat was fine if a little chilly, but I soon got it warmed up.

This morning was nice and sunny, and I drove up to Mercia Marina for the boat test. It was reasonably sunny there too, although by the time we'd finished in the boat it had clouded over and there was some rain.

I could see that friends Jayne and Stephen were aboard their boat in the marina, so I sent them a text and they joined Andy and me for lunch, and also brought their son, SJ, whom I'd heard about but not met before. Our usual lunch spot, the Willow Tree, was heaving so we went to The Boardwalk instead. The food there was excellent, and it was nice to catch up with Jayne and Stephen.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Ortomarine on test

The March edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of the first private boat built by Ortomarine, who are based near Droitwich.

Saturday, 21 January 2017


Frosty, frozen, and foggy this morning at the marina. I did the little bit of winterising that we normally do, then got in the car and drove up to Ventnor Marina for a boat test. It was foggy there too, and not quite as frozen; then about 11 the sun broke through, and we quickly went and got some running shots of the boat. The drive home was trouble-free.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Staying warm

An early alarm this morning, then out the door at just after 5.30 to get the train from Wolverton to work. It was very frosty. The big question of the day was whether the fire would still be in by the time I got back, some fourteen hours later. I'd piled plenty of coal in the stove before I left, and almost closed the lower vent -- and it worked, as it was still going. I didn't feel too bad about putting the Eberspacher on for an hour, as the neighbouring boat was running its engine. Tomorrow's forecast has improved considerably -- unless that also means the canal is frozen, which would be a problem.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Warming up

I came up to the boat this afternoon for logistical reasons: I have to be in the midlands on Saturday for a boat test, and shift times meant it was easier to come up after work today than tomorrow.

When I got here, the boat was pretty chilly. I got the Eberspacher going, lit the fire, and also ran the engine for a bit to help heat up some water. It was about an hour before I felt I could take my coat off, but it's now more than warm enough.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Eleshanne on test

The February edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of Eleshanne by Knights Narrowboats.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

End of year cruise: Day 3

Miraculously, we both managed to stay awake until midnight. There were a few fireworks around, but otherwise it was quiet. This morning just as we were finishing breakfast, there was a tiny little wren rootling around at the bottom of the towpath fence.

There had been some rain already, but the forecast heavy rain hadn't yet arrived, so we decided to head off while the going was good. We got away a little after 9.30. Not only was it dry, it was dead calm too. Ahead of us the sky had a bit of brightness in it.

Behind us, though, the sky was very threatening, and it appeared the wet weather was chasing us. We'd almost got back to the marina when the rain started, but the wind was still negligible so making the turn in and getting into our berth we're both straightforward. Tying up was done in the rain, however.

Since then we've been lurking inside, listening to the rain on the roof, remarking on the increasing breeze, and watching The Lady In The Van off the iPlayer. Tomorrow it will be a very early alarm call, as I'm on an early shift; Adrian will also head home early.

4 miles, 0 locks. (10 miles, 0 locks)