Monday 30 May 2011

Crick Boat Show

It's been an exhausting weekend.  On Friday afternoon, we travelled down to Weymouth and stayed with Adrian's mum.  On Saturday morning we continued on to Saltash in Cornwall, where we went to a wedding.  We were up bright and early on Sunday morning for the long drive from Cornwall to Crick, where we arrived before lunchtime.

During the afternoon, Andy the photographer and I looked at fourteen boats.  Adrian got rather bored, and disappeared off to Briar Rose to do some jobs, including fitting a kitchen bin inside one of the galley doors, and putting a new plank on the roof.  We stayed the night in Northampton, at a hotel booked long before we had our own boat!

This morning was dry in Northampton, but wet at Crick.  We arrived back at the showground at 9am, and Andy and I were able to get another three boats looked at before the gates opened.  We completed our twenty boat target before lunch.  I have masses of notes on all twenty, which is just as well as they're all beginning to merge into one.

It's been great to see lots of people we knew, including Bruce and Sheila from Sanity Again, Neil and Kath from Herbie, some of the owners of Debdale, the owners of Revilo (who moor two next door but one to us at Brinklow), and Doug and James from Chance.

We came home via Briar Rose, where we fitted some LED bulbs we bought at a special show price.  We've also brought home all the curtains for washing before our first big trip, which begins in less than a fortnight.

Friday 27 May 2011

Busy weekend ahead

Tomorrow, we're at a wedding near Plymouth.  Then on Sunday morning we'll drive to Northamptonshire for the Crick Boat Show.  There're, I'll be meeting Andy the photographer, and we'll have to look at more than twenty boats, for brief boat tests for the Crick issue of Canal Boat.

Unlike last year, when the organisers send out proper press passes, this year we've got exhibitor wristbands, and have to go to the show office to collect our press passes.

So if you're at Crick we hope to see you there.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Two more projects completed

This morning we were up fairly early because we wanted to get some more jobs done.  Adrian headed into Rugby for a few bits of shopping, while I started work on the bathroom floor, beginning with a good scrub and dry.  Here's the 'Before' picture.

We'd had some discussion about where to lay the first tile.  It's a very small room with lots of odd angles, thanks to the cupboard across the corner, and it was never going to be a straightforward job.  We decided that the middle of the door was as good a place as any.

Those three tiles are the only whole tiles in the room; all the others needed trimming, some in very odd shapes.  I used bits of card to act as templates.  The good thing with tiles is that if you make a mistake you can have another go; it's not like that with a big sheet of vinyl.

By the time I was finished, the shower room looked a lot better.  The whole job had taken just over two hours.

Meanwhile, Adrian had come back from town and had connected up the macerator loo with the new 6mm cable we ran through the boat yesterday.  We both stood well back as he flicked the switch, but nothing went bang.  At first hearing, the macerator motor didn't sound any more powerful than before, but after a couple of flushes we think it probably does work better.  We'll only really know when we use it "in anger", as it were.

We left Brinklow mid morning (by car) with plans for a canal-related lunch stop.  We arrived at Thrupp about an hour later, and had a lovely ploughman's at Annie's Tea Rooms

Afterwards, we walked along the towpath towards Shipton while eating ice creams, then went back and introduced ourselves to Bones.  In spite of sharing the pages of Canal Boat for years, this was the first time we'd actually met.  Maffi came along too, so we met him as well.  It was a lovely warm afternoon, and we could have hung around for ages.  But we needed to get back as I've got work tomorrow and I need to make a start on writing up yesterday's boat test.

Friday 20 May 2011


To Thurmaston this morning for a boat test.  The sun stayed out, so there should be plenty of good pictures.  There were quite a few boats on the move, too.  The picture is Thurmaston Lock.

On the way back to Briar Rose, we called in to Makro next to the M1 at Leicester to buy a small vacuum cleaner.  Not only was it considerably cheaper than in most shops, it also turned out to be £5 cheaper than the label on the shelf!

Back at the boat, we made a start on the rewiring of the macerator loo.  It took about an hour to run the two 6mm cables from the bathroom to the engine room, which involved unscrewing lots of panels under the gunwales.  Some were quite awkward to get at.  Adrian has worked out where things go in the electrical cupboard, so we'll connect everything up in the morning.  We had to pop into Rugby to get some crimping connectors, and while we were there we bought some vinyl tiles for the shower room floor.  That's another job for tomorrow!

Debdale share sold

We're delighted to say that our shares in Debdale have now been sold.  One of the existing owners bought the fraction of a share, while the whole share has been bought by a couple who've been hiring for many years.

We wish them all many happy years cruising Debdale, and look forward to seeing them on the cut (although that'll probably feel rather strange!)

Thursday 19 May 2011

Any excuse

We're back up at Brinklow again.  The excuse (actully, it's virtually a real reason) is that I'm doing a boat test tomorrow near Leicester, and it was much easier to do the majority of the journey this afternoon.  And as we now have a midland base, why not use it?

I finished my night shifts this morning, had a sleep on the train, did some jobs and some shopping, and set off to pick up Adrian from work.  On the way, I called in to an electrical wholesaler, to collect some 6mm cable I'd ordered online, for re-wiring the loo.  Having had another look, I'm still baffled by the fuse panel and electrical cupboard.

We arrived about 5pm, and Adrian set about installing a car radio in the cupboard under the tv.  Parts of the saloon shelving unit had to be dismantled to hide the cables for the shelf speakers, and the wiring of the radio itself took a bit of working out, but it's now working well.

After dinner, we went for a walk round the marina.  It was a lovely still evening, so there were some great reflections in the water.

The forecast for tomorrow keeps changing, but I like the one they've settled on this evening: sunny all morning, and sunny intervals in the afternoon.  That'll do nicely.

Wednesday 18 May 2011


We're discovering that one of the joys of having your own boat (as opposed to a share), is that you can have things just how you want them.

Of course buying second hand means that there are aspects of the boat that we wouldn't necessarily have chosen.  But now we have the freedom to change them.

So a number of projects have emerged, which we hope to carry out over the next few months -- assuming that we can resist the urge to go out boating.  Some are things picked up in the survey, others are purely our own wishes.  So, in no particular order, here are some of the things we plan to do:
  • Find new fittings for the side fenders.  Briar Rose has fender eyes on the gunwales, and the fenders hang on shackles most of which are rusted solid.  We're not fans of having fenders down while under way, so we intend to get carbine hooks that can be taken on and off.
  • Re-wiring the macerator loo.  Our surveyor noticed that the macerator doesn't have much oomph, and pointed out that the wiring looked very weedy which could be causing voltage drop.  The Vetus manual on board suggests using cables of 6mm minimum -- ours are nearer 1mm.  Having done some investigations, I'm confident of being able to run through some bigger cables, although whether I'll know what to do with them once I reach the fuse panel is more questionable!
  • Change the gas pigtails.  The survey pointed out that these date from the build in 2004, and should be replaced.  This is a job for a properly registered Gas Safe engineer.
  • Fit a radio.  Remarkably, there wasn't one on board, and this is not a situation that can continue: I'm afraid I need the Today programme in the morning, and the Radio 4 1800 in the evening.  There's already an ariel on the roof and a 12v power supply in the cupboard under the TV, so we've bought a car radio to install.  We've also bought speakers to go on the shelves.
  • Change the bathroom flooring.  It just needs updating.  Research suggests that the quickest and easiet thing will be vinyl floor tiles, laid directly onto the vinyl that's already there.
  • Painting the roof and the handrails.  This is perhaps the biggest job of them all.  The roof has some areas of rust which need treating and the handrails, which are red, have faded badly.  The roof is currently blue, which doesn't really go with the green and red colour sheme, so I'm favouring a change to Raddle Red.  The handrails we'll do in bright red.  It'll be quite a lot of work, what with all the preparation and the masking needed, but it should give the whole boat a lift.  While we're at it, we'll probably also do the gunwale tops, as they're also blue and would look better in black; the cratch board could also do with a coat of green.
  • Re-lining the rear hatch.  The wood is de-laminating and mouldy, so needs replacing.  It'll be an easier job if we can get the hatch off, but that might not be easy.
  • LED lighting.  Briar Rose currently has lots of 10 watt halogen lights, which use quite a lot of power.  That's fine while attached to the mains via a shore line, but not so good out cruising.  We bought some replacement LEDs as a trial last weekend, and we'll have a good look at Crick before deciding what to do.
Now all we need is to find some time to do all these things.

Sunday 15 May 2011

May weekend - Day Three

Another lovely sunny morning, which wasn't to last very long.  We set off just after 8am, and immediately met a boat at Bridge 102.

 An hour later we were making the turn at Braunston.  Not long afterwards, we found ourselves following a Napton hire boat which was zigzagging its way along the cut.  After a while, they seemed to get the hang of things and also picked up a bit of speed.  It was trying its best to rain by this time, although it only ever made a half-hearted attempt.

At the top of the Hillmorton Locks, I got off at the previous bridge hole, to walk ahead and set the lock.  The Napton boat was at the top, with both crew clinging onto a rope, and the boat, apparently in reverse, going backwards.  While they sorted themselves out, I started work on the locks.  Both were empty, with the right hand one also having the bottom gates open.  There was nothing coming up, so I began to fill one lock, and closed the gates on the other and began to fill that one too.  The Napton boat took the first lock, while we had the right hand one.  We were second in but first out, because the Napton boat opened only one paddle.

At the middle locks, both were again empty, and the right hand one again had the bottom gates open.  This time, however, a Rose hire boat was just coming round the corner.  There was a German couple on board, and she made a great leap off the front of the boat as it approached the lock.  I helped them up, and also filled the other lock for the Napton boat.

At the bottom pair, a boat was going down in the left lock while the right hand one was empty with the bottom gates open.  I wonder if the offending boat is going to leave gates open for their entire trip?  I filled the lock, and then also turned the other one for the Napton boat.  We were all but leaving the lock by the time they arrived.

We moored for lunch by the golf course out the outskirts of Rugby, having the remainder of the chili left over from last night.  We set off again and did the last remaining few miles back to Brinklow.  Back at the marina, we filled with water and generally tidied up.  We plan to eat on board, before heading for home.

12 miles, 3 locks

Saturday 14 May 2011

May weekend - Day Two

The Bridge 88 moorings are very quiet and very dark, so we slept well.  We awoke to a very sunny morning, without a cloud in the sky.  We set off at 8.15.  I got off at Bridge 89 to walk to the junction for some photos, and was surprised to see Chertsey moored up.  I gave Sarah a shout, and we had a quick chat.  She and Jim are at Braunston to have new gunwales put on.

Briar Rose and Chertsey together

At the junction, we turned right onto the shared Grand Union/Oxford Canal.  My favourite piece of canal trivia concerns this section: boats going from Braunston to Napton could be going south on the Oxford, but if they're using the Grand Union, they're going north.

By the winding hole near Bridge 98 is the sad sight of a sunken boat.  It's got a big blue barrel on the roof as a marker.  We continused to Napton Junction where we turned right onto the Grand Union proper.  We moored above the locks, and went to Calcutt Boats to look at the chandlery.  We bought a bag of coal in case tonight is chilly, some stern grease, and two different sorts of LED lights, to see if they fit our light fittings, and whether we like the resulting light.  Briar Rose has spent most of the past few years on shore power, so electricity usage didn't really matter.  But as we'll be using the boat out and about, I'd like to try to reduce the draw of the lights.

It was still before 12 noon, so we winded above Calcutt Top Lock and retraced our steps back to the junction.  As we had plenty of time, we turned right onto the Oxford.  We had two boats in front of us and another behind, who came to within a few feet, then asked to pass.  We explained that it wouldn't do him much good because of the boats in front, but at the next strait-ish section we let him pass -- we planned to moor for lunch near the Bridge Inn anyway.  It turned out that the front boat was winding by the pub, and I suspect we took the space they'd been hoping to return to.  The pushy boater didn't like having to wait, and was button to button with the one in front.

We had beans on toast, as we were quite cold.  Then we went down to the winding hole, turned and headed back past Napton Junction.  We moored just before Bridge 102, in what has turned out to be a very popular spot.  It was still early, so we've done odd jobs, including sweeping the chimney.  The sun has gone in and out all afternoon, but it's been warm enough to have the side hatch open.

An incredible number of boats have been past.  It's not like this in November!

11 miles, 0 locks.

Friday 13 May 2011

May weekend - Day One

Yesterday was a long day.  I was up at 4.15am, and got Adrian up to drive me to the station to catch the 5.16 train to work.  He then drove to near Heathrow for a day of meetings.  After work, Adrian drove to Shepherd's Bush to pick me up, but the traffic was so horrendous he didn't arrive until almost 7.30pm.  We then headed for Brinklow, stopping at services on the M1 for a bite to eat.  It was almost 10pm by the time we got to Briar Rose, much much later than we'd originally anticipated, so we had a cup of tea and went to bed.

This morning, there was a very sunny start to the day.  After breakfast, we set about changing the roller blinds in the shower room, galley, and over the front doors.  The brackets holding up the old blinds were metal, so we re-used them, rather than the plastic ones which came with the new blinds.

Once that was done it was gone 10am, so we reversed over to the service wharf for diesel.  We filled up -- 160 litres!  Brinklow will only do a 60/40 split, but the blended price is actually quite good, and with the boat being on shore power most of the time, a 60/40 split doesn't seem unreasonable.

All this meant it was almost 11am by the time we pulled out of the marina.  We were surprised to pass several boats going in the opposite direction, given that the North Oxford is closed at Ansty while a weak bridge is taken down.  We were talking to a boater at the diesel point who'd managed to get through yesterday, in between the old bridge being taken down, and a replacement being put in place.  Along this stretch, we saw our first cygnets of the season.

At Rugby, we stopped to go to Tesco.  We moored on the park side of the canal, in front of Brian Jarrett on Kyle (which has had a smart new paint job).  We had lunch before setting off again.  At Hillmorton Locks, we were following a boat up, but the paired locks meant we still didn't have to turn a lock.  There were also several boats coming down, mostly Viking Adrifts (as we call them!)

Just after 3pm, it made a half-hearted attempt to rain, but it didn't amout to much.  Shortly afterwards, a sudden gust of wind took my hat.  Adrian went back with the boat pole to fish it out of the water, while I managed to slew the boat diagonally across the cut.  Fortunately, there was no-one around to see the display!  As we passed the Barby Moorings, there was real work going on.  Just recently, everything seemed to have come to a halt, but progress is visible again.

We moored up for the evening just before Bridge 88, short of Braunston.  After many attempts, we managed to get the satellite dish lined up.  It doesn't help that no compass works properly near the boat, so it's tricky to work out which direction to point the dish in.  Eventually, we found a website where you can put in your location, and it'll tell you where the satellite it.

There was another shower of rain at about 7pm, but the rest of the evening has been quite nice.  Tomorrow's forecast has improved no end, so me might get another day without getting wet.

10 miles, 3 locks.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Sea Otter on test, and the rest

The June edition of Canal Boat is out, and contains three (three!) of my pieces.  First, there's a boat test of a little Sea Otter.

Next, somewhat ironically, is an article about shared ownership.  This was originally written months ago to go alongside the boat test on the BCBM boat, but was held back for some reason that I've now forgotten.

Finally, there's a piece about having a boat survey, based on our experience with Briar Rose.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Inside Briar Rose

Elly and Mick posted a comment on the blog the other day, suggesting some photos of the inside of Briar Rose, now we've started to move our things on board.  So here goes with the saloon.

There's still plenty of empty shelving at the moment, but we were pleased with the stripey armchairs, bought from Tesco Direct and delivered straight to the marina.

And here's the galley, looking towards the dinette beyond.

Tuesday 3 May 2011


Another beautiful but windy day in Warwickshire.  I had a relaxed start to the day, then packed up the few things that needed to come home with me and drove the few minutes to the Clifton area of Rugby, where I was doing a boat test.  En route, I crossed the canal multiple times.  The North Oxford was really looking at its best today, with blossom, blue skies, and fields of oil seed rape.  Andy the photographer said he took far too many pictures!  Even the wharf, with its pebbles and life rings could have passed for a beach.

Monday 2 May 2011

Maiden voyage proper - Day Two

We've had another gloriously sunny day, but again with fierce winds.  It took a lot of power to get away from the side first thing, we spent long periods crabbing down the canal, and we both feel very weather beaten (although in a good way!)

We had scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast, then set off just before 9, head back to Brinklow.  Although the wind make things difficult, you couldn't help but enjoy the scenery.

Near Bridge 74 is a former wharf and stables.  When we used to come this way on hire boats and when Debdale was moored at Stockton Top, I'm sure the stables were pretty much derelict.  Now they seem to have been converted into flats (holiday lets, maybe?), and look lovely, complete with old fashioned signs and adverts, and a vintage lorry.

We were in luck at Hillmorton Locks, as boats were leaving the top and middle locks as we arrived, so we could go straight in.  We had a couple of minutes wait at the bottom lock, but nothing serious.  The Hillmorton Locks are paired, and at the bottom lock we had my favourite combination: a boat going up in one lock, and a boat going down in its neighbour.

There wasn't nearly as much traffic on the cut today (yesterday, we must have coincided with the waves of hire boats heading out or back), but of course you always meet boats in the most awkward places.  The prime example today was at Bridge 58, by the Tesco moorings at Rugby.  Moored boats one side, bushes the other, a bridge, a blind bend, and a boat coming the other way.

We moored up for lunch at Newbold, then took a walk down to the Co-op, principally for cough mixture.  My cold, which yesterday consisted of a sore throat and lots of sneezing, had today morphed into a cough.  The bottle carries todays most helpful instruction:  Dosage - Adults, 5-10ml (one to two 5mm spoonfuls).

It was just a short run from Newbold back to Brinklow.  Once back at the marina, we headed for the service wharf for a pump out.  The wind made life extremely difficult, as it was in exactly the wrong direction, and we ended up diagonally across the space, with the stern on the wharf and the bow on a pontoon.  One of the other moorers came ans helped us pull the boat round - he said he was pleased to see what had happened to us, as he'd been in the same pickle a hour or two earlier.  We have no bow thrusters on BR, but he told us that his bow thrusters weren't any match for the wind anyway.

BR's previous owner, John, who's one of the harbour masters here, came and showed us how to use the pump out machine.  It seems very efficient, and while I'm sure it's no-one's favourite job, a DIY pumpout seems no problem at all.  We bought a token for next time.

We were a bit worried about getting onto our pontoon, as the wind was likely to blow us away from it rather than towards it.  But Adrian did a great job of lining us up correctly, and we were tied up in no time.  We put the satellite dish back on the roof, and got a signal (which is one step better than last night).  Then we had an early dinner, as Adrian had to head for home, and work tomorrow.  I'm staying an extra night, as I have a boat test to do tomorrow just a few miles away in Rugby.  What with having done night shifts, battled the strong winds, and having a cold, I won't be late to bed.  In fact, I may not last much beyond Julia Bradbury's Canal Walks on BBC4 later.

10 miles, 3 locks.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Maiden voyage proper - Day One

Today we have battled the wind, and seen an incredible number of boats.  We're much more used to boating in the winter and the autumn than a bank holiday weekend, so it's come as a bit of a shock.

But back to the start of the day.  I was finishing my night shifts this morning, and managed to get away from work much earlier than expected, at 6.15.  I drove up the M1 from London to Rugby.  The huge long stretch of roadworks at the southern end of the motorway has been finished -- and replaced by miles and miles more, all with 50mph average speed cameras.

Still, I arrived at Brinklow at 8am, and Adrian came and let me in the gate.  Briar Rose already has something of our stamp on her, as we've got lots of our own things on board.  I had a quick shower, and we set off just after 9 in brilliant sunshine but a fiendish wind.  We turned right out of the marina towards Hillmorton and Braunston.  Naturally, the first boat we met was at a blind bridgehole; at the next bridge we had to wait for a convoy of three.  It didn't really matter though, as we were just enjoying being out on our own boat.

Several things quickly became obvious: We were constantly surprised when we saw our reflection in the windows of moored boats (green not blue; Briar Rose not Debdale):  BR is much more manoeuverable than Debdale - she's very responsive, and spins very easily; but the rudder is very heavy (it should self centre, but doesn't) - we suspect this is what the surveyor was talking about when he said it was badly balanced, and should have a few centimetres taken off the forward edge.  When we have the boat blacked, we'll try to get this done at the same time.

At Hillmorton Locks, we were lucky to go past half a dozen moored boats which were just about to set off.  There were about 15 people milling around the bottom pair of locks, from various boats.  We had to wait, for one of the locks to be free, and Adrian had problems getting away from the side: the wind was pinning him to the bank.  The flight was so busy that we didn't have to set any of the locks, and we were impressed as the way BR could turn sharply in the tight pounds.

We started having lunch on the move, but then moored up for half an hour or so near Barby.  We set off again heading for Braunston.  Again we met boats at bridges, but fortunately it was almost always our bridgehole -- just as well, because the wind made hovering impossible.  Many boats ended up stuck to the side.

The light indicating that our loo tank was full had just come on, and not really knowing how full that really meant, we thought we might as well get a pump out at Braunston Marina.  I did a great turn into the marina and came gently alongside the boat already on the service wharf.  But it turned out that the pump out machine was broken -- it was in bits on the ground, while the plastic lid of a milk bottle was removed from the mechanism.  So I reversed out, and spun round to moor just beyond the marina entrance.

We walked into the village to get a few supplies, but then decided to move back out into the country for the night.  We crept back out of Braunston, with boats going in all directions at the junction, and moored about half an hour later just past Bridge 88.  We're currently enjoying Prosecco and nibbles, while a chicken and potatoes roast in the oven.

11 miles, 3 locks.