Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Two in one day

I met Andy the photographer at 7.30 this morning in Towcester, and we travelled first to Swanley Bridge Marina on the Llangollen.  It was raining here, clear beyond Birmingham, and then foggy.  For the boat test, we did the internal photos first, then as the mist began to lift we took the boat out for the running shots — which Andy says worked really well, with the boat in sunshine and mist in the background.

Then we set off for Garstang and a marina on the Lancaster Canal, where it was also sunny enough.  The drive back seemed like a long way; actually it was a long way.  I’m staying on the boat tonight and will head home tomorrow.

Monday, 28 September 2020

Cratch cover cleaning

I was originally going to be doing boat tests today, but the weather further north meant we changed them to tomorrow.  So with a spare day, I decided to give the cratch cover a clean, to try to get rid of the green tinge round the edges.  After shopping for the necessary agents, I took the cover off, put it over one of the picnic tables at the top of the bank behind the marina, and began scrubbing.  I was using a car soft-top cleaner, which goes on white but soon turns green as the slime comes off.

To rinse the cover, I laid it on the bank and rolled out the hosepipe.

While the cleaning needs the cover to be wet, re-proofing needs it to be dry, so I put the cover back over the picnic table and left it for a couple of hours while I had lunch, and did various other jobs such as washing all the microfibre cloths and dusters we have on board.  I also took everything off the well deck and gave that a wash.

For re-proofing I used Fabsil Gold, which is the more concentrated one.  Last time I did it I used a spray can, and felt most of the product missed it’s mark — so this time I bought the liquid one which needs to be painted on and then rubbed with a cloth.  The instructions say to paint the whole item and then do the rubbing, but I thought that was impractical so I did it panel but panel.  It also means you can really see where you’ve been.

Of course nothing looks quite as good after it’s dried, but as least I know that the whole cover has had a good coating of re-proofer and I’ll be interested to see how rain sits on it.  Putting the cover back is always a bit of a chore; you don’t realise how big it is until you have to handle it.

It’s been a nice sunny day here, and quite warm in the sunshine.  The view over the marina to the spire of Hanslope church always eases the effort involved in these jobs too.  It’ll be a fairly early start and a long day tomorrow.

Sunday, 27 September 2020


To work today using the train from Milton Keynes.  There were big delays into Euston because of signal problems.  I’m staying on the boat because of doing boat tests later in the week.

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Rediscovery Cruise: Day 24

We had a lovely evening with Catherine and Matthew last night, and for the first time on the trip lit the fire.  This morning we set off at 8 under blue skies and in calm conditions, although it was very chilly.

Within half an hour we were back in our berth in the marina.  Adrian has gone home, and starts a new job on Monday.  I’ve gone to work, and will stay on the boat a few more days because of doing some boat tests early next week.

1 mile, 0 locks (303 miles, 193 locks)

Friday, 25 September 2020

Rediscovery Cruise: Day 23

It’s been a very tiresome day’s boating today — and not just because we were going through Fenny, Milton Keynes, New Bradwell, and Wolverton.  It has been exceptionally windy, which always makes things difficult, and it’s been cold along with it; I started off with a coat on and swapped for a thicker one (but I have still be wearing shorts).  We set off at 9, with Adrian bringing the boat while I walked along to Stoke Hammond Lock.  I need not have bothered, as the lock was full and one gate had swung open.  Below the lock, in the open hold of an old boat, was a sculpture which I’d seen on my walk yesterday; it appears to be made from a huge tree root.

When we got to Fenny Stratford Lock a Wyvern hire boat was the other side of it.  They wanted water and we were now waiting on the water point, so they let us through first.  Adrian went to swing the bridge out of the way.

There seemed to be more boats moored up than ever, and many of them are widebeams.  It often makes passing boats coming the other way difficult.  We met several at bridges too, which is always the way.  We’ve seen at least a dozen Wyvern boats.  The new flats opposite the marina in Milton Keynes have progressed quite a bit since we were last down this way.

The wind only seemed to increase as the day went on.  There were waves on the wide bit of canal near the Galleon pub.

One boat on the permanent moorings by the Wolverton Aqueduct had a novel take on a beer garden.

Cosgrove Lock was the last of the whole trip, and a boat had just come down so it was in our favour.  We moored up in the village, near the horse tunnel, in a section that’s away from the trees.  Catherine and Matthew are coming to see us this evening; Grace has other commitments, and Nigel is acting as taxi driver.  Adrian has been making dinner as we’ve come along.

15 miles, 3 locks.  (302 miles, 193 locks)

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Rediscovery Cruise: Day 22

It rained on and off pretty much all last evening, and there was more heavy rain in the night.  But by the time we set off at 8.15 is was clear and sunny, but quite chilly.  Adrian walked down to set the lock while I brought the boat.  The stretch between Slapton Lock and Church Lock looked particularly good this morning.

The pub at Grove Lock, The Grove, always looks attractive with it’s hanging baskets with narrowboat brackets.

We stopped on the water point at Leighton Buzzard to fill the tank and start some washing, and Adrian popped to Tesco.  None of that took long and we were soon on our way, passing Wyvern Shipping — looking more empty than we’ve ever seen it before.  Sometimes it can be a job to get past with hire boats triple breasted.  Today there was just one boat in, and it had only just arrived back.  The reports of hire fleets being booked solid appear to be true.

We’ve only seen two Wyvern boats further south, so we expected to see plenty passing us today — and we have done.  A boat was just coming out of Leighton Lock meaning we could go straight in.  At the Three Locks at Soulbury a boat was just coming up the top lock, and a volunteer lock keeper went to re-open the middle one for us.  We were joined by another boat going down, and with a boat also coming up the bottom lock we were down in no time.

We moored at lunchtime at a favourite spot at Stoke Hammond.  We were glad to get inside, because the wind had got up and it had a real chill to it.  This afternoon I have sorted a problem which manifested itself on Day 1 of the trip.  I noticed in Blisworth Tunnel that our red nav light wasn’t working; it turned out that the back plate had split and the whole thing was hanging off.  Somewhere down the Thames (Shepperton, I think) I took it off completely and we’ve just had a couple of wires sticking out.  I phoned Willowbridge to see if they had any in stock, and when they did I walked down there to be them.  They are exactly the same size and shape and the screw holes are in the same place, which made things a lot easier. After a bit of a faff getting the short wires connected, we now have LED nav lights.

We have put the chimney on, just in case we decide to light the fire later.  Summer really has come to an abrupt end.

9 miles, 7 locks.  (287 miles, 190 locks)

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Rediscovery Cruise: Day 21

There was rain in the night (and I believe that’s a first for this trip), but it was dry by this morning.  The end of the Wendover Arm is a very quiet place to moor.  Yesterday evening, I took a walk to have a look at the next section of the canal, which is not yet in water.  Before setting off I had another look down the weed hatch, and removed a load of fishing line from the prop shaft, which would explain why yesterday’s journey along the arm was so juddery.  We set off at 8.30 and it it took about 40 minutes to get back to Bulbourne Junction.

The Tring Summit is the highest we’ve reached on this trip — it’s higher than the Braunston Summit and the Oxford Summit.  We had a short wait before we could start heading downhill again, as CRT were running water down the Marsworth Flight and had locked the top lock.  It was about 9.30 when the water shortages had been sorted and we could begin our decent.  It felt good to be doing a flight of locks, rather than having one every half a mile as we’ve had over the past few days.  The canal twists and turns, but is very pretty.

Half way down, a very good volunteer lock keeper joined us.  At each lock, he’d raise a bottom paddle then walk on to get the next lock ready.  He used to work for CRT, and really speeded our progress — with all seven locks taking just over an hour.  Towards the bottom of the flight is a nice mooring pound, next to the reservoirs; it always reminds me of Jaq and Les, because when Les was ill I spent a morning helping them move their boat, and that’s where Les wanted to moor, as it was one of his favourites.  Next we passed Marsworth Junction, where the newish houses look attractive.

At the next pair of locks two boats were coming up the top one, so I walked down and opened the lower one ready for us.  There’s a nice cottage with a canal outbuilding there.

At the boat club round the corner, someone is trying a novel way of selling their boat, by offering £5 tickets.  The way boat prices are at the moment, I’m sure they’d be better off doing it the conventional way.

Adrian got off to swing the bridge past Pitstone Wharf, but a woman walking a couple of dogs said she’d do it.  It turned out she wasn’t just a kind hearted dog walker, but was with a pair of boats coming up the next lock.  The middle Seabrook lock has one of the old pump engine buildings, which Adrian always thinks would make a nice house.  It would be difficult, as there appears to be no road access.

When we got to the Ivinghoe Locks, a single handed chap was just leaving the top lock.  He said he’d wait for us at the next one, although as it happened he’d also waited for a boat coming up.  We also shared the final lock of the day, Horton Lock.

It was lunchtime when we moored above Slapton Lock, and we got secure just as a shower started.  We reckoned we’d done well to get our planned day’s boating done in the dry.  No sooner had we tied up than the Jules Fuels boats came round the corner, so we flagged them down and took on 45 litres of diesel (at 70p, which is 20p less than on the Thames).

We had lunch and have spent the afternoon not doing much.  I keep meaning to pop out and look for some blackberries, as there were plenty as I was walking between locks earlier — but it keeps raining.  At times, it has hammered it down.

6 miles, 15 locks.  (278 miles, 183 locks)