Wednesday, 16 August 2017


A much better day weatherwise than forecast. I set off in the car before 7, and had a very good run up to Overwater Marina at Audlem. I'd been expecting quite a lot of cloud, but in fact there were blue patches and even sunny spells at times. It was a bit breezy though, although every marina seems breezy almost all the time. Ian was the photographer today, and as it was gone 12 by the time we had finished, we went for lunch in the cafe. There were signs saying it was under new management, so I was pleased to find they still had oatcakes on the menu, which I had with bacon and brie.

The drive back was good too, and since then I have had another go at stopping the drips from the towel rail (I fear still not completely stopped), and have checked and topped up the batteries. They were on 90 per cent when I left this morning, and with it being nice and sunny here, back up to 100 by the time I got back. It was supposed to have clouded over by now, but it hasn't.

Tomorrow I'll be up very early to be at work for 6.30, and then go home. We'll be back on board next week, ahead of setting out on our big autumn trip.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

A long gap

It's been two months since I was last at the boat. I came up today as I have a boat test to do tomorrow. When I arrived, I was pleased to find the batteries at 100 per cent; they've been kept that way entirely by the solar panel.

I got here at about 3pm as i wanted to do a couple of jobs. One was to use sealant to try to stop the leak on the heated towel rail. Early indications are that it's partly worked, but not completely.

The other was to empty the loo. As it's been quite a long time since it was used, it was the easiest empty so far. Everything was really dry and well composted. There was a bit of a fly problem with the pee bottle, but 95 per cent of them were dead.

I've also had to expel dozens of spiders, include a huge one who'd taken over most of the shower room ceiling. He went out the window, but I'm not entirely sure that he's not still on board.

A fairly early start tomorrow; unfortunately the weather doesn't look as though it'll be as good as it has been today.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Jem Boats on test

The September issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of Jem Boats' first boat.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Waterway Routes maps

Way back at the Crick show, Paul Balmer of Waterway Routes kindly presented me with a full set of his maps.

A few weeks ago, I finally found time to load them onto my computer, and my iPad. I've been looking at some of the places we'll be going on our bit trip this September, and the maps have a lot to reccommend them. For instance, I like the way they tell you how long you're allowed to stay at official visitor moorings, and that loads of unofficial mooring sites are marked too.

These maps have proved a really good planning tool. Will I use them on the back of the boat? I'm not sure -- because i don't particularly want my iPad out there, and I'm also addicted to the commentary in the Pearson's guides! But for sheer volume of information, and because they're regularly uldated, Paul's maps are a really useful addition.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Thames and Kennet Marina

A quick trip to the Thames and Kennet Marina at Reading today for a boat test. The weather was fine, and the marina ducks formed a welcoming party.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Threpence Ha'penny on test, plus 22 Crick boats.

The August edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of the winner of Favourite Boat at the Crick Show, Threpence Ha'penny.

There's also the usual Crick special, with mini reviews of 22 other boats.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

A catch up and an operation

We knew Helen and Andy from Wand'ring Bark and the Jam Butty were down south, so had been trying to meet up with them. It didn't quite work at the weekend, but it did today. Adrian was due at midday at a hospital in Wimbledon, for surgery on his neck; for months he's had a prolapsed disc, and the solution was to remove a bone spur from the affected vertibra. As Helen and Andy would be near Hampton Court that morning, we arranged to pay them a visit. They were moored just above Molesey Lock, and we found them without difficulty. It was great to catch up and hear about their life afloat; they needed to be off by 11, and so did we to get to Wimbledon, so we went with them the couple of hundred yards down to the lock (just to say we'd been boating today!). A boat was coming up, so we jumped off at the lock landing.

At the hospital, Adrian was soon in his room and answering the same questions multiple times. He had visits from the surgeon and the anaesthetist, and about 2pm was taken off down to the operating theatre. While he was having his surgery, I walked down the hill to Wimbledon village, where every shop has a green and purple flag outside.

I had a late (and Wimbledon-priced) sandwich in a cafe, then decided to walk back a different way, taking in the All England Club on the way.

Back at the hospital it was a while before Adrian was out of the recovery room and in the High Dependency Unit for a few hours of post op observation. By the time I left, the anaesthetist and the surgeon had been to seem him, and both were happy with how it had gone ("a bloody good job", was the surgeon's verdict on his own work), and dinner had arrived. He's now back in his own room being served tea on a tray with a doily.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Two in one day

An early start this morning, heading up the M1 and across the Derbyshire Dales to the Macclesfield Canal for a boat test. Unfortunately the more pessimistic of the weather forecasts turned out to be also the more accurate, however we did the best we could with the conditions.

That one was done by lunchtime, so we headed off to Mercia Marina for the second boat test of the day. Frustratingly, the sun was shining from Macclesfied southwards. At Mercia, we headed straight outnon the boat to make the most of the sun, only for it to cloud over a bit. Of course the sun returned as soon as we got back. With that test done by about 4.30, we treated ourselves to tea and the Willow Tree Cafe, along with a piece of courgette and avocado cake -- mostly because it sounded so weird.

It was a bit like carrot cake, with neither the courgette nor the avocado coming through particularly (which may be a good thing). It was also gluten free, and surely at least one of your five a day.

It was nearly 7pm when I got back to the marina. I considered driving home this evening, but I've already done 270 miles today, so I'll get up early and head back in the morning.

Thursday, 15 June 2017


Work today. This is really just to log another night on board.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017


I need to be up in the midlands on Friday (assuming the AccuWeather forecast is more accurate than the BBC one), and my shift times this week meant it made more sense to come up to Briar Rose today than tomorrow. I arrived a bit before 5pm and found the boat sweltering inside, so I flung open the side doors, the windows, and the Houdini hatch. The boat next to us is still out and so is the one beyond, so a duck was making use of their jetty for a bit of a spruce up.

It'll be an early night tonight as I've been up since 4am, and need to be on a train from Wolverton just before 6 in the morning.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Blisworth Tunnel Boats on test

The July issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my biat test on a spec boat by Blisworth Tunnel Boats

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Post-Crick: Day 8

I was hoping to get a bit of exercise today, having spotted on the Waka Huia blog that Marilyn and David planned to go up Hatton Locks. I contacted them and offered to swing a windlass, as Hatton is only about an hour's drive from here. I was off in good time, but when I arrived at the car park discovered a text to say they'd decided the weather wasn't conducive to locking. It was the right decision, with heavy rain and strong winds. I drove down to the Cape of Good Hope to find them -- possibly earlier than expected -- and was plied with tea and cheese scones. M&D are travelling with Mick and Julia on Unknown No 3, whom we met last September when we shared the Buckby Locks with them; they came in too, and it was good to catch up with them.

After a good couple of hours I headed off, but couldn't resist a look at Hatton Locks. The place was deserted, which is unusual. I went for a bowl of soup at the cafe at the top of the locks, and they were having a vey quiet day too.

Just a couple miles away is Kingswood Junction, so I drove up there and had a walk around. Here there were a couple of boats on the move in spite of the conditions, which were still pretty grim.

Having arrived via the M40 I decided to return using the M1 (to make a ring, I suppose!) and head cross country. I realised as I passed theough the outskirts of Rugby that Newbold wouldn't be far off my route, and I suspected that Bruce and Sheila on Sanity Again would probably have decided to sit out today as well. I was right, so I knocked on their roof. More tea and more enjoyable conversation.

While I was in Newbold the sun came out, and the drive back to Thrupp Wharf was very sunny indeed. As I got back to the marina there was clearly a heavy shower on the way, with the sky black one way and blue the other.

Sure enough, I'd only been in a few seconds when the most torrential rain came down, blown horizontal by the wind. A couple of minutes later the sun was out again, but if anything the wind has strengthened, making waves on the marina and buffeting the boat.

I spent some time trying to stop a drip from the heated towel rail. It's never been right since it was installed at Calcut, BLS had a go when we were in for blacking a couple of months ago, and Dave tightened up one of the joints yesterday -- but there's still a drip. I undid the joint, managed to catch almost all the liquid from the rail, and remade the joint using some PFTE tape supplied by Mick. The joint is much better -- but there's still a drip, as it's coming from above. I'm wondering if it's been from there all along. I'm not sure what to do about it, either way.

Tomorrow, work then home.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Post-Crick: Day 7

I was in several minds about what to do today. I pretty much finished writing the boat test last night while watching the Manchester concert, so I wouldn't need to spend today writing like I'd expected. Also the forecast for today and tomorrow wasn't great, to say the least. I decided that I'd find out what the situation was with our broken Eberspacher boiler, and that would determine what I'd do: if it was ready to go back in, then I'd stay up here; if it wasn't going to be ready today or tomorrow, I'd head home.

I spoke to Gary at Boating Leisure Services, and the Eber was indeed fixed. It had had a number of things wrong with it, and each part would have been expensive to replace with new, so they've raided their extensive collection of bits and pieces and replaced all the parts with second hand ones. He said it might run for another ten years -- or it might not!

I said I'd return to the marina, as it would be much easier for Dave from BLS to visit. So I walked up and set Cosgrove lock, then set off from my mooring. I could see another boat coming along the straight section from the aqueduct, so once Briar Rose was settled in the lock I closed that gate and opened the other one. I recognised the bow as a Wyvern hire boat; it took ages to arrive, then a crew member jumped off with a rope before the lock and tried to wrap it round a bollard, even though the helmsman was trying to get in the lock. There were two Australian couples on board, who rather gave the impression that the couple of days they must have taken to travel from Leighton Buzzard had tested their friendships! Still they took the locking very seriously, and were keen to pick up tips. They stopped at the services in search of a rubbish bin, and I carried on to the marina. There was a stiff breeze blowing but it wasn't in an unhelpful direction, so I was soon in our berth and secure. Fortunately, two boats on the outside of us are out, improving the view no end.

I made some check calls on the boat test, and also managed to set ul a couple more for later in the month (weather permitting). After lunch, Dave turned up with the Eber, and installed it back into its little cubby hole at the stern.

Dave is one of only about eight regional Eberspacher gurus around the country, so he really knows what he's doing. He was telling me that the idea is that engineers who are having problems with Ebers come to him for advice; if he's having problems fiximg something, he can go straight to the mother ship. He was also telling me about someone who took his Eber to an engineer who wasn't really sure what was wrong it, and who kept replacing perfectly good parts -- running up a four figure bill -- and still not fixing it. this chimes with something I heard a little while ago (it might have been at the Crick show) that Eberspacher are increasingly annoyed about unqualified people working on them, because their mistakes give them a bad name. So the lesson is, make sure whoever works on your Eberspacher knows what they're doing.

It was about 3pm by the time Dave left. Andy the photographer had sent me a link to the ohotos from yesterday, and I really wanted to download them -- but not on our mobile connection. So I drove to Tesco where there's a BT hotspot. I planned to have a tea at Costa there, but discovered I'd left my wallet on the boat, so I sat outside on a bench -- for 15 minutes! -- while the photos downloaded.

In spite of the forecast, it's hardly rained at all today. It has been very breezy, though. I have arranged a bit of exercise for tomorrow, but more of that then.

1 mile, 1 lock. (86 miles, 44 locks)

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Post-Crick: Day 6 - Hopwas

A 6.30 alarm this morning, which felt very early even though I went to bed before 9 last night. I'd gone and got the car from the marina yesterday afternoon, so it was only a few minutes walk to where it was parked, then a very easy drive in early Sunday traffic up to Hopwas on the Coventry Canal for a boat test. It's just as well we'd decided to start early because it was beautiful first thing, but clouded over much earlier than forecast. The sun was out for the photos, so that was the main thing. As we walked back alomg the towpath to our cars, a family of ducklings crossed in front of us. I'm not sure where they'd been, but mother duck was keen to get them back to the water.

We were all done in good time, and the drive back was good too, although it turned out some very heavy showers were just a few miles away. I put the car back in the marina and walked the mile and a half or so back to the boat. After some lunch, I decided I'd move the boat a bit closer to Cosgrove lock, as there was plenty of room up ahead. It was only a few hundred yards, but I've now got the lock in sight through the bow doors, so there's been plenty of activity during the afternoon. I've also been cracking on with writing the boat test, and it's currently about half done. Tomorrow, I need to find out if there's a chance we'll get the Eberspacher back in the next couple of days.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Post-Crick: Day 5

I arrived back from my third and final night shift of this set, and prepared to move off from Wolverton. First I made a quick dash to Tesco for a few more provisions. I set off at 9.45, in lovely sunshine. My initial plan was to turn atbthe New Bradwell winding hole, but as I had plenty of time today I formulated another plan. When I was putting away the new oil and air filters bought at Crick, I found that some of the supposedly empty plastic bottles, kept for oil changes, actually had old oil in them. So I carried on to the winding hole at Great Linford. Bridge 75 at Stantonbury always looks attractive, and today was no exception.

Of course what always happens during a turn at Great Linford is that a boat comes through the bridge. Today it was Gary on the fuel boat, Ascot, with butty, Beverley. Fortunately I was most of the way round so didn't hold him up too much.

I moored up at Bridge 74, where there are now helpful rings in the towpath. Here I had the second of two dog's mess incidents. The first had happened earlier, when I asked a towpath dog walker if she was going to clear up after her dog. 'I thought he did it in the water,' was her reply. Well, no, perhaps not surprisingly, the dog hadn't done its business with it's bottom off the edge of the towpath. The second incident was discovering the annoying way that the path where I was mooring was similarly afflicted.

I walked the short distance to the tip with the old oil. It's not far, but the site clearly isn't set up for people arriving on foot. Back at the boat, as I now had hot water, I had a shower, then an early lunch -- actually not that early considering breakfast was toast at 4am.

At about 1pm I set off again. I tried a panorama shot as I crossed the Grafton Street Aqueduct.

I moored up beyond the Wolverton Aqueduct. I need to be within striking distance of the car, but I prefer it here to up in Cosgrove.

This afternoon I was outside when I saw the familiar bow of Flamingo coming across the aqueduct, with Alan at the helm. We had a brief chat as he passed.

Flamingo was going up the lock, so I walked down to lend Alan and Cath a hand as I haven't worked a lock since Wednesday. There were a couple of boats goimg up, then a couple to come down, including one of the smallest boats I've ever seen. It really contrasted with the 70ft of Flamingo.

I'll be in bed early tonight as I've been up since yesterday evening, and I need to be up early tomorrow morning.

8 miles, 0 locks. (85 miles, 43 locks)

Post-Crick: Day 4

Much easier to sleep today as it's been much cooler. Still the only boat here this evening, although I suspect a few have stopped during the day for shopping.

Post-Crick: Day 3

It was pretty difficult to sleep today between night shifts, because it was so warm. I even got up at one point and opened the side hatch, which is on the water side. By the time I got up properly, the other three boats moored here last night had gone, leaving me all alone. I do like the old engine sheds opposite.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Post-Crick: Day 2

This morning it was Adrian who was awake early, so once again we set off at 7.15. The level in the pound had dropped a bit overnight, and the first lock needed topping up. After that, the next three locks were all full with their top gates open.

There was loads of water between the last two locks, and i had to run some away to allow the lock to make a level. Even so, we did the five locks in 50 minutes. The run back to the marina took the usual hour and a half. We pulled up outside the marina, as Adrian had to go home to work.

I carried on first to Cosgrove where the water point was free. I started a wash load, filled the tank, and got rid of rubbish. The tap was so slow i even had time to get the bucket out and wash and dry that side of the boat.

At Cosgrove lock another boat came along so that was easier. The lady refused to go to the other side of the lock because of the swans and geese, so we just used one gate to go in, and I moved over to the other side. We used just one gate to exit too. While we were going down, a Wyvern hire boat arrived above the lock, but didn't come to the lock landing. Instead it was in the trees, then at right angles to the lock, then out in the middle again. I assume they got to land eventually.

I continued to Wolverton, and tied up in the first available space. I've been to Tesco, and also polished the towpath side of the boat, so now we're pretty respectable both sides. When the boat behind left, I pulled back so I'm on the end of the rings. I had a sleep this afternoon, even though it was very hot, as I have to go to work tonight.

8 miles, 6 locks. (77 miles, 43 locks)

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Post-Crick: Day 1

We were awake early this morning -- at least I was, which meant Adrian was too, eventually -- and we set off at around 7.15.

The first lock was in our favour, but the pound below was more than a foot down, because the next lock leaks. This is the lock they had a stoppage for, just before Crick, to try to prevent water loss. Whatever they did hasn't worked. The next few locks showed no rhyme or reason as to whether they'd be empty or full. At the penultimate lock, we found all the water missing from above. The lock was full with water pouring over the bottom gates, yet the pound was even fuller, meaning the gates wouldn't open because it was impossible to make a level. Counterintuitively, I had to raise a paddle atbthe other end and let some water flow through the lock, until the level in the pound above had dropped enough.

We completed all six locks in about an hour and a half. Unusually, all the 48 hour moorings just below the bottom lock were empty. A bit further along we passed a swan family, with all the cygnets wanting to hitch a ride. There wasn't room for all of them.

Weedon was really busy with boats, both moored and moving. At 11 we got to Heyford Fields Marina, and moored up on the outside, alongside another boat, so the BLS guys could have a look at our Eberspacher boiler. They took it out and diagnosed something that was worse than we'd hoped -- so they're keepimg it for a few days to get a part. We were there for about an hour, during which time lots of boats passed, and almost none slowed down.

Setting off again we made good progress. There was the odd shower, but sunshine in between. Between Blisworth and the tunnel there is a tree down from the offside. Someone, presumably a boater, has made just enough room to get past, but it's pretty tricky going south.

Before the tunnel a boat crew told us it was very wet in there, but actually I thought it was a lot drier than normal. We passed two boats, including the restaurant boat with a party in full swing, then another right at the far end. A boat was just about to come out the top lock when we got there, so they left the gate open for us. Another boat was coming up the second lock, so we left a gate for them. It turned out to be Julie and Tone on Muchgigglin, returning from their annual trip to London for Cavalcade and the Ivor Novello awards. We usually see them about this time.

We stopped after the second lock, in the long pound, at about 3pm. I washed and dried the towpath side of the boat, then got to work with the Craftmaster Carnuba polish we bought at Crick; the difference is amazing. Adrian ended up coming out to help with the polishing, but it's such nice polish it wouldn't take that long to do a whole boat side on your own. I ended up doing the stern doors and the forward bulkhead too, and sweeping the roof. It's turned into a nice afternoon, with the sun and blue sky appearing.

16 miles, 8 locks. (69 miles, 37 locks)

Monday, 29 May 2017

Crick Show: Day 3

There was heavy rain in the night, and it has rained on and off all day. We set off for the winding hole at about 8.15, and then retraced our steps to Crick. We stopped briefly on the way at Yelvertoft for a top up of water and to get rid of rubbish. Although it was damp, the canal was still rather pretty.

Back at Crick we slotted back into our space and then went to buy all the things we couldn't get yesterday because the sellers didn't take cards. Among the people I talked to was a couple I recognised from the What A Lark blog -- the 'boat-sharers', Amanda and David. It was good to meet them.

This afternoon I was waiting for the announcement of the winners of the favourite boat. This year there was a winner and runner up for narrowboat and widebeam. Bourne Boats came top in the narrowboat category with Threpence Ha'penny, with Braidbar second. Elton Moss built the winning widebeam, and the 9ft wide Pioneer was runner up.

My second cousin, Catherine, and family (including her dad) were at the show, and joined us for the trip back down Watford Locks. As we left it rained hard, so Crick tunnel was drier inside than out. At Watford Locks there was a long and confusing queue. Some boats were going down, then five were to come up, then we were third in another batch to go down. In all, it meant a wait of about two and a half hours. Nigel and I spent quite a lot of time at resetting the top lock to help other boats, and in between we were on our boat moored under the M1 eating a fantastic cake made by Catherine.

Once we were finally going down the locks, they didn't take long at all.

We carried on to Norton Junction, where Catherine and Nigel had left a car. There was no space at the junction, either before or after the turn, so while Nigel went to get fish and chips, we went down the top Buckby lock to the long pound and moored up.

We had a very pleasant rest of the evening with good fish and chips, and because of the long delay at Watford is was around 9.30 when the family left.

11 miles, 8 locks. (53 miles, 29 locks)

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Crick Show: Day 2

Last night and this morning we've been having trouble with the Eberspacher, the hot water boiler. It was producing clouds of white smoke from the exhaust, and refusing the run for very long. This morning I went up to the Boating Leisure Services stand to see Dave who knows about these things, and he reckons it needs a service. We'll call in to BLS on the way back home.

Progress on writing a couple of hundred words on each of 20+ boats has been good, so mid morning we went over to the show with a shopping list. We managed to get about half the things we wanted, but some had to wait as the stalls only took cash. We then walked up to the village for provisions and money from the cash machine. The one at the show charges.

Back at the boat there was more writing followed by lunch. Then we decided that with nothing particularly to keep us at the show site, we'd head out to the countryside for the night. The musical offering at the show is nothing special, and we needed to run the engine for hot water anyhow, so we concluded we might as well move while doing so. In addition it was a lovely day -- much better than forecast.

We set off around the corner, and immediately found two of the trip boats coming the other way, followed by the boat giving handling taster courses, followed by the third trip boat. At the winding hole, a Black Prince boat was trying to turn around, but had put its stern into the hole rather than its bow, which made things very difficult. We were there quite a while while they got themselves round and unstuck.

We continued in increasingly hot sunshine along the summit pound. It really is very pretty.

We were aiming for the place we stopped on Thursday night. Someone was in the actual spot, so we had to come a little further along. It's still nice and quiet and with a view. Since then, Adrian has been making a chili for later, and we've both been working.

5 miles, 0 locks. (42 miles, 21 locks)

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Crick Show: Day 1

We had a good evening at The Moorings last night, although the menu seemed a bit more limited than in the past. It didn't really matter though, because the company was excellent.

This morning, Andy the photographer arrived early, and we were on site at around 8am, which gave him time to get a bacon butty for breakfast. We started looking at boats before 9, to get a good head start before the gates opened. By the end of the day we'd looked at 23 boats. Now I have to see whether I can read my notes, and whether they make any sense!

This is the view from the temporary bridge over the canal, from the towpath to the show site. Briar Rose is moored in the distance, the penultimate boat on the outside.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Pre-Crick: Journey Day 3

The moorings at Bridge 27 were lovely; after dusk, we watched bats swooping about over the water catching insects. This morning was if anything even more sunny than yesterday. With very little distance to travel, we started a wash load before setting off, confident it would dry quickly during the day. On leaving our mooring, it was about half a mile or so to the winding hole just beyond the next bridge; having turned around, we retraced our steps back towards Crick. The countryside is pretty without beimg remarkable, and is dotted with wind turbines, which to my eyes, have a certain beauty.

When we got to Yelvertoft, We stopped to top up the water tank. We had to wait for another boat to finish, then just as we started two more boats arrived. There are two taps on the same post, though. There are also bins just along the path, so we could get rid of rubbish.

From there it was just another half hour to Crick. We'd spotted our mooring yesterday, and knew we'd be on the outside of Farne. We really wanted to be facing north, so the side hatch was on the water side, rather than up against the other boat, unable to be opened. So I did a quick turn into the marina entrance and reversed down the couple of boat lengths to our mooring. The whole manoeuvre couldn't have gone better, and we were soon tied up to the boats around us.

I went for a wander round the show site, speaking to lots of people, and after lunch we walked into Crick to get a few things from the Co-op. Sculptor, the boat from the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum has just arrived and made the turn into the marina.

This evening we're going to The Moorings restaurant with the Braidbar bunch; it's the traditional start to Crick weekend.

6 miles, 0 locks. (37 miles, 21 locks)

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Pre-Crick: Journey Day 2

Another lovely sunny morning, and we were again ready to go by 7.30. At Buckby Top Lock a couple of boats were just coming down; above, Ryan on the fuel boat, Southern Cross, was getting a delivery.

We made the turn onto the Leicester Section, and then comes the stretch to Watford Locks, which always seems further than I expect. At one point I saw a squirrel jump from a tree one side of the canal to a tree the other. The distance wasn't far, but the receiving branch was pretty flimsy.

At Watford Locks, a boat had arrived just before us and was starting up. I went and found the lock keeper who said we could follow them. Adrian did the very tight turn from the seond lock into the staircase with great aplomb.

We were at the top of the locks by 9.30, and set off along the summit pound. The scenery is very typically English along here.

Crick Tunnel was, as usual, dry at the southern end and fairly drippy at the northern end. The Crick Show harbour masters were outnin force, but thanks to a message from Bruce thenother day we already had a good idea where our mooring was. What's more, we planned to go on further and have a night in the sticks, so we had to tell a few people that we'd be back tomorrow.

The canal is full of twists, turns, and blind bridges, and there were quite a few boats going the other way including some we recognise from previous Cricks. Some seemed determined not to give upmthe centre of the canal, or thought moored boats had to be passed with six feet of space, so a couple of times we were in the offside shallows and heeling over a bit. Before long we caught up with a rather slow Canal Boat Club boat, which seemed to go into tickover for every bridge hole. So when it was lunchtime and a nice bit of piling came into view just through Bridge 27, I pulled over and we tied up. There's a nice view here, the solar panel is in sunshine, and it's very quiet, so we decided we'd stay put. There's a winding hole after the next bridge we can use in the morning. Adrian is working anyway, so it makes very little difference where we are. We've seen more boats go by heading for Crick, including MGM's show boat, with Mark and Rachel at the helm.

10 miles, 8 locks. (31 miles, 21 locks)

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Pre-Crick: Journey Day 1

Adrian arrived at a little before 10 last night. This morning we were awake early, and uo, showered and breakfasted in time to set off just before 7.30. It was a glorious morning.

We didn't see another moving boat until we were half way up Stoke Bruerne Locks. In fact, the first boat we saw was being carried. It was a pedalo, with two guys going from Birmingham to Brentford for charity. They were on the path on the offside, and Adrian pointed out that the path under the A508 is narrow and low. They decided the proper towpath was better, so put the boat in the water above the lock and pushed themselves across.

At the penultimate lock we met a confused volunteer lock keeper. A boat was coming down and the lock needed a little topping up, so he quite sensibly lifted a couple of top paddles. Then when I arrived he dropped them again. I asked why, and he said there was a boat coming up (us); I pointed out that the lock only needed a little bit of water to enable the downhill boat to use it first, at which point he shrugged and said he didn't know what to do it that situation. I opened the top paddles again and the boat went down. We did the whole flight in an hour and a half.

Blisworth Tunnel wasn't cold but it was wet, and I wished I'd put my coat on. We passed two boats. The railway bridge north of Blisworth has some lovely blue griders underneath. We've been under this bridge loads of times, but I only noticed them when I did a boat test up here a few weeks ago; actually I didn't even notice them then, it was when Andy's photos arrived. They may be making another appearance soon!

At some point after Gayton we passed Jaq moored up, and said a quick hello. We had lunch on the move, then stopped for diesel at Rugby Boats, where we met the new owner, James. Chance was moored in the little marina. At what used to be one of our favourite moorings, before Dodford Bridge, the works for the new road and bridge are in full swing. Tonnes of hardcore are being delivered and compressed

As the M1 came into view, we noticed that the traffic was down to a crawl. We were moving faster than they were. We were making good time, so decided to press on up Buckby Locks. A boat was just coming down the first lock so that was in our favour, but then we were following a rather slow pair of boats, one a single hander, and the other a couple in which the Chinese lady didn't really seem to have fully mastered steering.

We decided to stop in the long pound. We haven't stayed here for a while because the level used to drop alarmingly over night. But work has been done on the lock, and the bottom gates now look pretty water tight. The M1 is still audible, but not as bad as at the bottom. Tomorrow, assuming we don't have a huge delay at Watford, we'll overshoot Crick and spent the night somewhere out alomg the summit pound.

21 miles, 13 locks.