Sunday, 12 August 2018

August weekend: Day 3

We consider ourselves pretty lucky today, because the forecast was rain pretty much all day, and yet we hardly got wet at all.  There was some drizzle, but never very heavy and never for long.

Before we left, we washed the side of the boat, as the rain last evening and overnight had washed off the Fertan, but only as far as the cabin side.  It was a job to get it off, and not a hundred per cent successful.  It was just after quarter to nine when we set off, wishing Catherine and co a very happy holiday as we passed Rowington.  It was pretty blustery, and there weren’t many boats about.  Having come face to face with Mountbatten yesterday at Gayton Juntion, today we met it at the blind bridge hole just along from there.  We again weaved our way past.

Blisworth Tunnel was wet inside.  There was a moment at the start where I thought our headlight wasn’t working — I couldn’t see a thing, and the nav lights weren’t helping.  Adrian diagnosed that I’d turned on the bilge pump instead of the headlight.

When we got to the locks we saw Kathryn again.  A boat had just gone down, and were also ahead at the second one but said they’d wait for us after that.  From the third lock down there were loads of boats coming up, so there were several examples of synchronised boating.

It turned out that the people we were going down live live in the village in Kent where I spent much of my childhood, and where my father still lives.  We thoroughly enjoyed sharing the journey with them.

At the bottom we had lunch on the move, and got back to the marina at around 2.30.  The people on the first boat moored on the outside of the marina appeared on their rear deck to watch me battle the breeze to turn into the marina; then as I did my spin to reverse into our berth I could see their heads peering above the hedge.  I half expected them to hold up score cards.

We quickly packed up the boat, then I dropped Adrian at Milton Keynes station for a train to London, and I continued the drive home.

14 miles, 7 locks.  (30 miles, 14 locks)

Saturday, 11 August 2018

August weekend: Day 2

We set off at just after 8am.  Conscious of the water shortages, we had been looking out for someone to share the locks with, we’d been keeping an eye out for other boats.  But all the others moored at the bottom were facing the other way, and there was no sign of anyone coming along the long straight. So we set off, only to find another boat a few locks ahead.

Even though we had to turn every lock, the flight up to Stoke Bruerne took the usual hour and a half. We saw Kathryn at the top lock, and Mike from The trip boat, Charlie.  Then it was through the tunnel.  There were two boats coming the other way, one very close, the other a long way off.  We eventually passed the second boat at the northern end of the modern middle section; at that speed, it must have taken them an hour and a half to go through.  We turned right at Gayton Juntion and carried on down to the winding hole above the top lock where we turned around.

We moored up opposite the marina.  I’d spotted Alchemy in the marina, and a little while later Mike and Christine were there, calling across the canal.  Mike came by a little later for a longer chat; it was good to meet them at last.  While we were moored, we rubbed down the other hand rail and applied Fertan to treat the rust.  But the real reason for being there was that Catherine, Nigel, Grace, and Matthew were starting their holiday on Rowington, their share boat today.  Before long they arrived and started to transfer everything from car to boat.  When they were ready to set off, we left with them behind us.

Gayton Junctiom was busy.  As I did the turn right, the disabled widebeam trip boat, Mountbatten, was coming along, and there were other boats behind.  It seemed pretty busy all the way along.  We carried on to a nice mooring we’ve never used before because it’s often full, just before Bridge 33.  I dropped Adrian off to help the others moor, while I comtinued to the winding hole at Furnace Wharf, to turn for the second time today.  With both boats moored up, we gathered on Rowington.  Nigel was in charge of the barbecue (in spite of the rain that came through), and we each provided stuff to eat.

After dinner we had several games of UNO Roboto, three of which were won by Grace.

It’s been a lovely evening.  We’ve enjoyed seeing Catherine and co on their boat, and spending time with them.  Tomorrow, they head off towards Buckby and beyond, while we head back.

11 miles, 7 locks.  (16 miles, 7 locks)

Friday, 10 August 2018

August weekend: Day 1

I was up early this morning as I’ve been on nights and went to bed very early last night.  I loaded the car and set off for the boat, arriving just after 9am.  Having unloaded the car, I started the first stage of the repainting of the handrails — rubbing them down and applying rust treatment.  Almost as soon as I started the rubbing down, it began to rain.  I wasn’t too bothered; it was fairly light and I was using wet and dry anyway, so water was a plus.  I managed to get the whole of one handrail rubbed down before it started raining really heavily.  A bit later I made use of the rain to help wash all the red paint dust off the cabin side.

Having been driven inside by the rain I found other jobs to do, and had lunch.  I needed to go into Milton Keynes to pick up Adrian at the station (he’s been in Cardiff for a couple of days, and was arriving via Birmingham).  Shortly before I was due to set off, not only had the rain stopped but the sun had come out.  I took the opportunity to put some Fertan on the handrail to tackle the rust.  Adrian’s train was delayed, so by the time we got back to the marina the Fertan had begun to work.  It had dries to a shiny finish, and all the little rust spots were turning black.  I’d forgotten to take a before photo, so I took one of the other side instead.  The difference is clear.

We set off straight away, turning left out of the marina towards Stoke Bruerne.  The farmers have been making the most of the recent dry weather to harvest, and the fields were full of bales of straw.  There were some big black clouds around though.

After less that half an hour I could see it raining up ahead.  As the Fertan instructions say that if it dries too much it should be dampened after a couple of hours, I wasn’t too worried.  However, for a while the rain was absolutely torrential — and I could see the Fertan being washed off.  It meant that after we moored up we had to wash it off the cabin side.  The rain didn’t last long, and even during the heaviest downpour there was always blue sky visible in at least one direction; we were just a bit unlucky to be underneath it. Soon the sun was out again, and as we approached the locks there was a very bright rainbow.

We carried on to the bottom of the locks at Stoke Bruerne.  The moorings were moderately busy, but we got a space at the end, closest to the locks.  We had chilli for dinner, which I’d made yesterday and brought with me.

5 miles, 0 locks.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Armstrong on test

The September edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Armstrong, the latest from Boating Leisure Services.  For some reason, the headline calls this semi-trad boat a High Tech Trad.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Back home

I slept well — perhaps not surprising given that I’d been up well over 24 hours and had had a couple of glasses of wine.  This morning was very sunny, and the mooring had no protection at all.  As some of the festival boats had begun to leave, I moved along a bit to where there was some shade.  I wanted to get the roof washed, and that would have been difficult in full sun as it would have dried too quickly.  Even so, by the time I’d finished, the sun had moved and the back half of the roof was in the sun again.  The next job was to wash the towpath side of the boat.  I then waited a bit before starting to polish it, until the sun had moved a bit further giving that side some shade.  It was extremely hot work.

After lunch I noticed that Jules and Richard from Jules’ Fuels we’re heading my way.  It took them a while to arrive, as almost every boat stopped them for diesel.  I thought it was worth filling up, and 53 litres went in.

The observant will notice that the motor is Bletchley, rather than Towcester.  Richard was telling me that Towcester was having engine problems, and they’d been planning to borrow Bletchley while repairs were carried out.  But the boat came up for sale, so they bought it instead.  Having both will help during winter stoppages, because they can put a boat each side, and cover more of their patch.

In the late afternoon, Helen and Andy went by on Wand’ring Bark. Having spoken to the, earlier, I knew they were just going to turn round to go back to the water point below the lock. I walked along to the aqueduct, went down the path and through the horse tunnel, and waited for them to come back across.

I’d had an early dinner, then at around 6pm set off for the marina.  It was only slightly cooler, but at least the sun wasn’t quite so strong.  The mile and the one lock took the best part of an hour.  There was a bit of a wait for the lock (which at least meant another brief chat with Andy and then Helen), and there are so many moored boats it’s rare to get above tickover.  Once back in the marina, I packed up, loaded up Adrian’s car, and drove home.

1 mile, 1 lock.  (7 miles, 2 locks)

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Cosgrove Canal Festival

Yesterday, Adrian was on the boat at Cosgrove while I was still at work.  He looked round the festival and did some work, then entertained Helen and Andy from Wildside for dinner in the evening.  It seems they had a fine time sitting out on the towpath drinking partially frozen prosecco and eating Adrian’s speciality South African dish, boboti.

This morning, once my night shift was over, I came up one the train to Wolverton where Adrian was waiting to meet me.  We took the car back to the marina, then walked along to Cosgrove.  The Canal Festiaval has quite a few trading boats along the towpath below the lock.  Naturally we stoped by the Jam Butty for more chat with Helen and Andy,

We went back to the boat for lunch, then I washed and polished the towpath side of the boat, which badly needed attention.  We set off about half past two, aiming for the station at Wolverton so Adrian could get the train back to London.  The lock was worked for us because of the Buckingham Canal Society’s lock ransom, although it did cost us a donation.

We continued to the winding hole at New Bradwell, and I dropped Adrian off in time for the train at just after 4pm.  I then carried on back to the Aqueduct and moored up, on pins, just at the end of the reserved moorings.  I then went down to Andy and Helen for conversation, wine, and (it turned out) an improvised meal consisting of th8ngs Helen had to hand, supplemented by a few things from our fridge.  It was a really great evening, even though by that time I’d been up for more than 24 hours; it reminded me of another occasion when we’d improvised a meal when we met by accident at Upton on the River Severn.

Now, sleep.

5 miles, 1 lock.  (6 miles, 1 lock)

Friday, 20 July 2018


It’s the Cosgrove Canal Festival this weekend and we’ve never been, so Adrian went up to the boat yesterday evening.  I’m working a set of night shifts.  Today, Adrian did work and also decided to move the boat out of the marina.  The moorings below Cosgrove Lock are reserved for the festival, so he wasn’t rally that confident of finding any space in the village — but there were several to choose from.  He’s also been catching up with Andy and Helen from Wildside who are trading this weekend. This evening, they were going to get together on the towpath for dinner, but it’s chucking it down.

1 miles, 0 locks.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Two in a day

I came up to the boat after work yesterday, and it was sweltering. I slept with the rear slide open as well as the Houdini.

Today I met up with Andy at Bicester, and we travelled together to Stockton for a boat test. It was sunny and much warmer than forecast. When that was done we continued to Tamworth for the second boat test of the day. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a single photo all day.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Thames Drawing no2

Adrian has a new job in London, so we’ll be spending a bit more time there.  At the weekend, we went to investigate Trinity Buoy Wharf where there’s a pier, a lightship that’s now a recording studio, and workshops made from shipping containers.  But I was particularlybtaken by this map of the Thames on the wall of one of the old warehouses.  The artist spent the summer of 2016 on the Thames, and has used the names of all the boats to mak the shape of the river.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Elizabeth Anne on test, and 21 other Crick boats

The August edition of Canal Boat is out and includes my boat test on the Crick winner, the Braidbar boat, Elizabeth Anne.

There’s also ten pages of mini reviews of other boats on show at Crick.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Crick and Cosgrove

Up to Crick Marina for a boat test today — but it wasn’t until lunchtime, so I decided to drive up this morning.  I called in at Briar Rose on the way, dropping off stuff and turning the fridge on.  As the boat test wouldn’t be done until mid to late afternoon, I planned to stay on the boat tonight.  It was indeed about 3.15 by the time the boat test was done, which wouldn’t have been the ideal time to drive home, so I went back to BR and within a few minutes was heading out of the marina.  I boated down to Cosgrove, turned above the lock and returned to pretty much the same spot we used after the show a couple of weeks ago.

The reason for coming down to Cosgrove was that the loo needed emptying, and it’s much easier to do it at an Elsan.  The waste doesn’t actually go down the Elsan, but it means you can give the bucket a good clean and rinse.  We’ve been trying a new base material in the loo, Tesco cat litter made from wooden pellets.  I’m pleased to say it’s been a great success — it was almost completely dry, and the pellets have disintegrated completely.  This is what they look like fresh out of the bag.

It’s turned into a very nice sunny evening.  The moorings, which had loads of space, have gradually filled up a bit. Tomorrow, I’ll go back home first thing, as i have a set of night shifts starting later.

Today: 1 mile, 0 locks.  Tomorrow: 1 mile, 0 locks.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Silent Waters on test

The July edition of Canal Boat was out at the start of the Crick Boat Show, and includes my boat test of Silent Waters by Bourne Boats.  The front cover is one of Andy the photographer’s drone shots.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 14

Having had the pick of spaces in Cosgrove when we arrived yesterday, by the evening the moorings in the village were full.  We set off this morning at 7.40 and the mile back to the marina took 20 minutes.  We got moored in our berth, and then I set off in the car to meet up with Andy the photographer for a boat test.  It was at Hillmorton, and for the external shots we went down the locks.

I was back at our boat by 1pm, and we picked the car and set off for home.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (103 miles, 62 locks)

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 13

There was a lot of rain overnight, but we woke this morning with the boat on a slight tilt as the water level in the pound had dropped a bit.  We set off at about 9, in much less rainy weather than forecast.  We we got the short distance to the lock, I could see that the pound below was severely short of water.

As the long pound was already a bit low, I walked up and started running water down through the top two locks.  As I was at the top lock I alerted Kathryn as to what was going on.  She said she’d been bringing Sculptor back from the Crick Show yesterday, and they’d waited more than four hours at Watford Locks.  Anyway, I ran water down for maybe 20 minutes, by which time there was enough in the empty pound.  Another boat had joined us, so we continued down together.  I later discovered that the lock below the empty pound had a paddle up just a couple of clicks, which was enough to empty it overnight.

Further down the flight, the pounds were full to overflowing.  We had to let some water out the bottom pound, because the lock would never have made a level otherwise.  However, we enjoyed our journey down the locks with two ladies who are classical pianists, and who have bought a mooring at Battlebridge Basin in London.  There was plenty of synchronised boating between the locks, which was a new concept to them as they’ve had the boat only a week.

We moored below the locks a bit after 10.30 as we were expecting visitors.  My sister and family were calling in on their way home to Cheshire from a half term visit to our father’s, in Kent.  We piled them with tea and cake, and we walked up to the bottom lock when some boats arrived to go up.  It turned out to be a busy time, as two also came down, and three more arrived to go up.  Before they left, Rachel insisted on demonstrating her trumpet playing on the lockside.  The trumpet, my sister explained, was a ‘gift’ from school for half term!  A lady on one of the boats described the performance as a ‘work in progress’.

Once the family had gone we had a quick lunch, then set off again.  I have a boat test to do tomorrow but it’s relatively close, so we decided to have another night out of the marina.  We carried on past, turned about Cosgrove Lock, and moored in the village.

7 miles, 5 locks.  (102 miles, 62 locks)

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 12

We set off just after 8 this morning, Adrian bringing the boat while I walked to the first lock.

As usual at Buckby, there was no rhyme or reason as to why we’d find locks either full or empty.  We had both, and then met a boat coming up at the bottom lock.  We started the long lockless pound towards Stoke Bruerne, and met numerous boats going the other way — several of them at awkward places such as narrows. We stopped for water at Stowe Hill, and started the washing machine.  The little house a bit further on, which I think could be a classic 1970s design and Adrian thinks is just awful, has been gutted.  It’ll be interesting to see what they do to it.

We had lunch on the move, and Adrian made a lemon drizzle cake as we have visitors tomorrow.  The season has moved on since we were last here only a little over a week ago.  The hawthorn blossom is mostly gone but the flag irises have come out.  There was plenty of other wildlife.

Blisworth Tunnel was very wet.  We passed two boats inside and caught up with a boat in front just before the end.  We came down the first two locks at Stoke Bruerne with them, and we both moored in the long pound.  A little while later, the rain started.

16 miles, 8 locks.  (95 miles, 57 locks)

Monday, 28 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 11 (Day 3 of the Crick Show)

A murky start to the day but the sun came out late.  We had another walk round the show in the morning, went to look at a brand new Braidbar which was moored a few behind us on the towpath, and walked to the Co-op for some top up supplies.  After lunch on board we turned the boat around in the marina entrance, ready for the off.  At 3pm the winner of the Favourite Boat vote was announced. Boating Leisure Services were third, Smithwood were second, and Braidbar came top.

In the widebeam category, Burscough Boats were the winners, with Aqualine second and Elton Moss third.  We set off at 3.15 accompanies by Catherine, Nigel, Grace and Matthew, and reached the top of Watford Locks at just after 4.  We’d passed several boats going the other way, which suggested there had recently been an uphill convoy; we were sixth in the queue to go down, but the first one was on its way, so it was less than an hour before we could set off.

At the bottom of the locks we carried on to Norton Junction.  There was no space for us, so Nigel got off to go to the fish and chip shop while the rest of us worked down the top Buckby lock.  It turned out both local chip shops were shut, so we switched cuisine to Chinese.  Matthew steered us out of the lock and along to a mooring in the long pound.

5 miles, 8 locks. (79 miles, 49 locks)

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 10 (Day 2 of the Crick Show)

There was an enormous thunder storm during the night, although Adrian slept through it.  I was up early, and started to write my mini boat reviews.  I’d done quite a few by the time the show opened, when we went over to have a look round and spend some money, most notably on some Craftmaster paint for the handrails.  In spite of the forecast being thunder storms all day, it was actually sunny and warm.

We went back to the boat and had lunch on board, and I wrote some more while Adrian had an afternoon nap.  By about 3pm I had pretty much done all I could, so we decided to go back over to the show for an ice cream.  Later in the afternoon it appeared there was weather on the way, and the site seemed to clear of people.  We had a chat with Tim Tyler, and then bumped into Amanda and David, the boat sharers of What a Lark.  After talking for a bit they came back to Briar Rose and we ended up demolishing a couple of bottles of wine (just bitter lemon for Amanda) over the next couple of hours as we chatted and experienced torrential downpours, thunder and lightening.  When the weather appeared to be clearing up, we headed back over to the show site as Amanda and David were going back to their car, while we had something to eat and watched the ABBA tribute band, ABBA Revival, who were excellent.  They started with Waterloo and ended with Dancing Queen, and of course we knew every song in between.

The marquee was a sea of mud, with the afternoon’s downpours having caused havoc on the site.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 9 (Day 1 of the Crick Show)

We had a very nice evening at The Moorings last night, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.  This morning I was over at the show site early, and Andy the photographer and I started looking at boats well before the gates opened.  Getting a head start really helps.  In all during the day we looked at 19 boats, and we took Andy’s drone along the tow path to get some shots of the whole site.  The day had started very murky, but when the cloud broke at lunchtime it really broke, leaving us with a very warm sunny afternoon.

I also saw a good number of people, including Sue from No Problem XL looking exceptionally well, who was there with regular blog commenter, KevinTOO, whom we last saw at Mercia a couple of years ago.  This evening my cousin Catherine along with Nigel, Grace and Matthew came for dinner cooked by Adrian and another very pleasant evening was had.  Twice during the evening one of the local ducks flew up and sat on the gunwale, looking in the side hatch.  He didn’t stay there long enough to have his photo taken, though.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 8

It rained a lot during the night, and was still raining this morning.  With only a few miles to do to get to the Crick Boat Show, we had a very relaxed start.  After breakfast we got the washing machine going (even though it’s hardly drying weather), and set off once the wash part of the cycle was complete.

It took around an hour to get to Yelvertoft, where we stopped on the water point to top up the tank.   Being at the show until Monday means we won’t have another opportunity to fill up for a while.  Setting off again, we completed the journey to Crick.  We knew where our mooring was, so I turned in the marina entrance so we were facing the same way as our neighbouring boat.  Once we were moored up, we wandered over to the show ground and saw a few people we knew.  In the afternoon, I went back and helped Pete set up some of the Canal Boat stand.  As I walked back, Sculptor, the historic boat from the Museum at Stoke Bruerne was just arriving.

Tonight we’re going to The Moorings restaurant for the traditional pre-show meal with the Braidbar bunch.

5 miles, 0 locks.  (74 miles, 41 locks)

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 7

This morning was overcast and decidedly chilly.  A coat was needed when we set off at a few minutes past 8 o’clock.  Just on the edge of Harborough is a big site that’s been cleared for building.  There will be lots of houses, and a small marina.

At the swing bridge which was broken the other day, Adrian got off to (he thought) press the buttons. It turned out the only electrified bit was releasing the barriers which pull out across the road; the bridge itself still needs to be pushed.  We held up a van as we went through.

When we got to the bottom of the locks, Adrian jumped off with a bag a rubbish to put in the bin, and went to see the lock keeper while I got the boat on the lock mooring.  There were a couple of boats going up, and then the lockie wanted to bring down a boat which had been waiting in the centre pound for quite a long time.  It meant we waited about an hour, in which time we put the kettle on, bought some postcards and stamps from the little shop we were moored next to, wrote them, and posted them in the post box by the pub.  I also went to the car park to see the new sign with the new CRT logo.  The logo itself I think is just OK, but the whole design with the two different blues is rather smart.

Once we set off up the locks, it took us only 45 minutes to get to the top.  We were the only boat moving, so we had the lock keeper to help.

By the time we reached the top of the locks the sun had come out and the temperature had risen.  We had lunch on the move, and went through Husbands Bosworth Tunnel.  There’s lots of lovely countryside around, with some far reaching views, lots of rolling hills, and some fields of barley shimmering in the breeze.

We moored up at 4pm at the same spot we used on Sunday night, just before Bridge 27.  This time, though, we were completely on our own.

19 miles, 10 locks.  (69 miles, 41 locks)

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 6

I’d managed to swap off my shifts on Monday and yesterday, but not today — so there was an early alarm and a walk down to Market Harborough station for the 0544 train to London.  When I bought the tickets several weeks ago, First Class was the cheapest on the way down, and that includes breakfast.

Adrian has spent the day restocking from the new Co-op just a little way down the hill towards town. It’s much more convenient that the other supermarkets.

Union Wharf at Market Harborough is really very attractive.  This was taken yesterday.

0 miles, 0 locks.  (50 miles, 31 locks)

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Spring Cruise: Day 5

We knew the locks opened at 8, and we were pretty much ready to set off by that time.  We thought we’d probably be second in line to go down as a boat had arrived last night after the locks closed.  But as we moved round the corner, it was actually moored on one of the water points and didn’t appear ready to move.  We waited on the lock landing and the lock keeper came to see us, to say that at present he was the only volunteer to have turned up and he couldn’t open the locks until at least one more arrived.  More lockies soon turned up and we were on our way at about 8.25.

As we went down the top staircase a boat who’d spent the night at the bottom was also coming up the bottom one, and the idea was that we’d pass in the pound in the middle.  In the event, more that one boat was ready to come up, so we moored in the centre pound while three boats came past.

I used the pause to take rubbish to the bins, and the yellow water bottle to the Elsan for a good rinse out.  Soon enough we were on our way down the bottom staircase.  Yesterday afternoon there had been very little water in the flight, but this morning there was masses, and the lock keeper kept having to run some off.  With a clear run you can do all then locks in 45 minutes; today it took just over an hour and twenty minutes.  At the bottom, Adrian turned onto the water point so we could get the washing machine going while filling up with water.

When the tank was full we headed down the Market Harborough Arm.  We haven’t been down here since our Debdale days (I’ve just looked it up — it was March 2008; we also came on a hire boat, which must have been in 2006) and we really didn’t remember much.  The swing road bridge was being fixed by a CRT man, who swung it manually for us; the bone works next to the canal smells terrible; the mile posts are nice and simple; and the whole thing is pretty rural and attractive.

We did remember the back gardens on the final approach to Market Harborough. We’d passed a few boats going the other way, so we’re pretty sure we’d be able to find a mooring.  When we got to the basin we turned around and moored just outside, tucking into the very first space so the solar panel was in the sun.  It was lunchtime and we had nothing on board, so walked down the hill into town where we had a cheap lunch at Wetherspoons — where I ordered using the app for the first time, so you don’t have to queue at the bar.  We remembered the square with the old grammar school and the church.

We located the railway station for tomorrow, and went to pick up a parcel Adrian had ordered.  When we got back to Union Wharf the boat in front of us had gone, so we pulled forward a little bit so we’re no longer across a bend.

6 miles, 10 locks.  (50 miles, 31 locks)