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.