Friday 27 April 2012

Annual Report

It was on 27 April last year that large amounts of money left our bank account and we became the owners of Briar Rose.  It wasn't until a couple of days later, Royal wedding day, that Adrian went up to Brinklow to take possession of the boat and go for the first trip.  I was delayed a couple more days, because of work getting in the way.

But in the first year of ownership we have covered 878 miles and 486 locks, and done 400.2 engine hours.  We have spent 95 nights on board.

We have travelled on the following waterways:

  • Birmingham and Fazeley Canal
  • Birmingham Canal Navigations New Main Line
  • Coventry Canal
  • Grand Union Canal Mainline
  • Grand Union Canal Paddington Arm
  • Grand Union Canal Wendover Arm
  • Hertford Union Canal
  • Lee and Stort Navigation
  • North Oxford Canal
  • Regents Canal
  • River Avon
  • River Severn
  • River Thames
  • South Oxford Canal
  • Stratford Canal
  • Tame Valley Canal
  • Walsall Canal
  • Wednesbury Old Canal
  • Worcester and Birmingham Canal
Not bad for a year!

Thursday 26 April 2012

New licences

I got home at lunchtime to find that our new licences had arrived in the post.  As this is the first time we've bought a licence (the previous owner did the last renewal), we had to start from scratch with a paper application.  Bearing in mind that I posted it only last Thursday, getting the licences back in a week is pretty good going.  I've laminated them, to protect them from condensation when they're in the boat window.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Booked in

I came up to Thrupp Wharf this morning at the end of my night shifts.  The journey took a long time, thanks to heavy rain, and standing water and spray on the M1.

The purpose for the visit was to take Briar Rose a couple of miles along the canal so the local boat painter could have a better look at her (he had a quick look a couple of weeks ago, when we stopped at the wharf for diesel).  But with strong winds blowing straight across the marina, I decided that taking the boat out would be a bad idea -- not least because getting back in again could have been a real challenge.

So I went along by car, had a good meeting with the painter and booked a slot in October for BR to be repainted.  The slot only recently became free, because of cancellation.

This afternoon, I've done little apart from trying to stay awake.  I stay up after my last night shift, otherwise it takes days to get by body clock back to normal again.  The weather has been all over the place.  At one point the sun came out, but there have also been very heavy showers, and one a few moments ago included a helping of hailstones.

The only constant has been the gusty wind which had been rocking the boat on the jetty.  I'm staying on board tonight, and will go home in the morning.

Sunday 22 April 2012

The Bullion Run

I was home in time to go down to Chichester Canal Basin this afternoon, where the Chichester Canal Society were celebrating the 190th anniversary of the opening of the canal.  There was to be a re-enactment of the Bullion Run -- at one time the canal was used as part of the route for taking bullion from Portsmouth to the Bank of England in London.  In addition, I knew that Doug and James from Chance would be there.

I bumped into James on the towpath as we waited for the boats to arrive.  Neither of us was surprised that the very first boat into view was Doug and his friend Andrew.  Apparently no-one had told them it wasn't a race.

In all about thirty boats took part, mostly canoes and kayaks, but also a rowing boat carrying the man with the bullion.  There was some suggestion that he was the Mayor of Chichester, but I've looked up who the mayor is and it's not him.  Maybe he was just someone who likes dressing up.

There were also a couple of electrically powered gun boats, which fired loudly as they entered the basin.

Amazingly, these have an operator on board, who's virtually flat on his back and knows where he's going thanks to a little screen.

Once most of the bigger boats were out of the way, lots of radio controlled boats took to the water, including a galleon under full sail.

It was an enjoyable event, and it was nice to see the canal basin being well used.

Back to base

There was quite a lot of rain yesterday evening, which is the way it should be: fine days and wet nights.  This morning it's very sunny and calm, and I pulled away from my mooring at 8.30, and headed back under Cosgrove Bridge.

It's only a mile back to the marina so I was soon turning in.  I wanted to reverse onto the pontoon, but because of the way they're angled, that would mean turning around.  There's a turning point at the far end of the marina so my initial plan was to use that.  But there's actually penty of room along the whole marina length, so I decided to swing around in front of our berth.  I ended up with the bow on the far bank, and powered the stern around until I was correctly lined up, and got into the space without touching the sides.  I've no idea if such a manoeuvre is frowned upon, but no-one has come and shouted at me or told me the error of my ways, so I'm guessing it's fine.  Either way, I was all tied up by 9am.

One last thing I wanted to try while I was here was whether the hose pipe was long enough to reach from the tap, which is on the wharfside at the stern, to the tank, which is at the bow.  I remember when we had Debdale carefully winding at the end of the Ashby Canal and reversing onto the water point, only to find that the hose was shorter than the boat.  But this hose does reach, with a couple of metres to spare, so the tank is filling while I'm doing this.

There's not much packing to do, so I should be on the road home by 10, ready to get a sleep this afternoon before night shifts start tonight.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (12 miles, 0 locks)

Saturday 21 April 2012

To Cosgrove

I really struggled to keep the fire going yesterday, so I wasn't surprised that by this morning it had gone out and the boat was quite chilly.  I blamed the lack of wind -- when it's so still, it can be difficult to get a draught going -- but as the fire was out I took the opportunity to sweep the flue, just in case a build-up of soot was restricting the flow.  Then I had to try to clear all the resulting bits off the baffle plate inside the stove, which is a messy job.  The fire has been much better today, but it's been breezier too which has probably helped.

It was a beautiful sunny morning with a forecast of showers from lunchtime onwards, so I set off at 8.45 retracing my steps of yesterday.

This morning, there was lots of water cascading over the gates of the bottom lock at Stoke Bruerne.  As I went past an overspill weir near Bridge 56, water was going over, straight into the River Tove below.  Bearing in mind that water is short and restrictions are in place, I think something is amiss with the water management system if any of it ends up in a river.  All the other weirs were a bit higher, some with planks in, so no water was being lost.

Near Grafton Regis, I saw a Barn Owl flying over a field of oilseed rape.  The photo isn't great because the owl was moving, so was I, plus I was steering.

At Bridge 63 is what the Pearson's guidebook describes as "the stark ruins of Isworth Farm".  Well it's not in ruins any more.  If it's one house, it's enormous; but the number of vehicles around makes me wonder whether it's been converted into a number of homes.

After about an hour and a half I reached Thrupp Wharf, but instead of turning into the marina, I kept going.  About a mile further on is the ornate Bridge 65, which marks the entry into Cosgrove.

I carried on past the largely empty moorings to the lock, but rather than going down I winded.  It's not an official winding hole (that's below the lock), but there's plenty of room to get a boat of Briar Rose's size round.  I returned to the visitor moorings, where I chose a nice straight bit of piling opposite the long term moorings and with a view of the church.

After I'd tied up, I was just washing some marks off the cratch cover when I saw a familiar boat coming round the corner.  It was Caxton, with new owners Paul and Elaine.  We had a brief conversation as they headed towards the lock and a family gathering in Milton Keynes.  As I haven't worked any locks this trip it was too good an opportunity to miss, so I quickly grabbed a windlass, shut up the boat, and headed down to the lock to lend a hand and another few minutes of conversation.

As Caxton left the lock, two boats were arriving to go up, so I stayed and helped them, then two more boats went down, so I helped them too.  On the way back to Briar Rose, I went to find the shop at the huge caravan park alongside the canal, to get a paper.

This afternoon, I've used offcuts from the vinyl flooring to make linings for the cupboards under the galley sink and the bathroom basin.  I then took the final offcuts down to the rubbish point, and went to have a look at the horse tunnel under the canal.

The rest of the time has been spent sitting in the cratch in the sunshine reading the paper.  The predicted showers didn't show up until about half an hour ago, and they've not been very heavy.  There have been quite a few boats in both directions, including a massive cream widebeam which has been moored outside Thrupp Wharf.

6 miles, 0 locks.  (11 miles, 0 locks)

Friday 20 April 2012

Bathroom floor -- take two

Adrian is down at his mum's, so I've come up to the boat to do a couple of jobs.  I set out from home mid-morning and had a rather slow journey up.  The A34 was at its frustrating worst, with long lines of traffic stuck behind lorries trying to overtake other lorries at more or less the same speed.  As I came north there was a mix of sunshine and showers, the worst as I came around Bicester and Buckingham.  At the marina, I unpacked the car and moved it to the secure car park just as it started to rain.  So I lit the fire and had lunch before assessing whether I'd stay in the marina or head out -- by which time the sun was out again, and I decided to go for a little trip.

This is the first time I've left this marina, and I wanted to turn left towards Stoke Bruerne.  The marina entrance is angled back completely the wrong way, although alongside is the remains of a winding hole (actually, it still is a winding hole) so there's plenty of room to swing the stern around.  I was pleased to get out and round without touching anything, particularly as there were quite a few people watching from the balcony of the Navigation Inn.

I was fairly certain that I'd get rained on at some point so I'd changed into old jeans and put waterproof trousers over the top, but it was surprisingly warm as I chugged along, and I even had to take my jacket off.  There are a couple of bridges with nice curved iron decks along here, and the countryside is full of oilseed rape.

As I continued, black clouds built up on my left and it was clearly raining underneath them, although in other directions there was still blue sky.  There was so little wind, though, that it was difficult to tell whether the rain was coming my way.

When the rain did come, it made a serious job of it.  It was torrential for a few minutes and included hailstones.  I wished I'd had some gloves within reach, because the hail was stinging my hands.  I considered stopping, but thought that by the time I'd moored up it would have stopped.  Sure enough, about fifteen mintes later the sun was out again.

When I got to the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne locks I winded in the arm.  There were only three boats on the moorings, so I had my pick of places to stop.  Once I was tied up, at around 3.30, I did the first of my planned jobs.  The weed hatch cover, which is just a piece of steel without being hinged, often rattles as we go along.  So I'd bought two metres of rubber U-section, to put on the supports.  With luck, this will stop the noise.

The other job earmarked for these couple of days was the bathroom floor.  Now I have already re-done this once -- but the vinyl tiles I used have not been a success.  Within days they started moving about and now they're nearly all beginning to lift at the edges.  I'd chosen them because I thought they'd be much easier to fit than a sheet of vinyl; and if you make a mistake in cutting a tile, you can use another one.  A sheet of vinyl doesn't give that luxury: you have to get it right first time.  But I'd bowed to the inevitable, and bought a piece of vinyl flooring.  The bathroom is about 1.15m in each direction at its widest, but the smallest width for vinyl is 2m, and I'd had to buy a 1.5 metre length.  I'd gone for a dark grey square tile effect.

But I'd had a thought while I was driving up: diamonds suit narrowboats much better than squares, so was my sheet of vinyl big enough to have the squares on the diagonal?  I'm sure there's a mathematical way of working it out but I didn't know what it was, so I thought the only way to check would be to make a template of the room, and see if it fitted.  I just needed something to make a template with, so I had a look through the galley drawers, hoping to find a roll of baking paper.  There wasn't one, so I resorted to using what there was: tin foil.  As I scrabbled about on the bathroom floor sticking lengths of tin foil together with masking tape, I kept thinking what a mad idea this was.  It's the sort of thing Neil from Herbie would come up with!  Once the template was made, I rolled the vinyl out in the only space that was big enough, the bed, and put the template on to see whether the diagonal idea would work.

It did fit, and the template meant I could make sure a diagonal line started in the corner of the room, and trim the vinyl to a manageable size.  This whole job had been pencilled in for tomorrow, when it's meant to rain quite a lot, but I knew that if I didn't see whether my idea worked, I'd keep thinking about it and wouldn't get much sleep.  And now that I'd started, I had to keep going.

I'd planned to lift the tiles but leave the old vinyl underneath as a bit of extra cushioning.  But while the tiles came up easily they left behind a terrible sticky mess.  It was clear that I wouldn't be able to work with that, so the old vinyl came up too.  A much more time consuming job was removing all the old sealant.  Every now and then I'd pull a bit and several inches of the stuff would come away, but mostly it had to be removed in annoyingly small pieces.

Laying the new vinyl was another challenge.  The problem is that you can't fit it round obstacles without making cuts, and that's a bit nerve wracking.  There were one or two cuts that I immediately regretted, particularly around the loo.  But I managed to cover the damage, and knew that new sealant would cover a multitude of sins.  Once the vinyl was cut to shape, it was a matter of sticking it down.  I'd bought proper double sided tape, and that proved to be another frustration.  Sticking it down was easy; removing the paper to reveal the other sticky side was a nightmare, particularly when you're kneeling on a hard floor and trying to work underneath the vinyl.  Eventually it was all stuck down, and I was starving (it was gone 6) so I started dinner and thought I'd tackle the next job while it cooked.  I masked all around the edge of the floor and the bottom of the walls and cupboards, and got out the translucent sealant I'd bought.  This proved to be my next problem.  It turned out to be in a cartridge that needed to go in a sealant gun -- which I don't have.  In the end, I put on a pair of rubber gloves, cut open the tube, and applied the sealant with my finger.  I knew that the masking tape would mean it would look neat enough, and sure enough when I removed the tape, it looked fine.  Overall, I'm quite pleased with the finished product.

It's been a beautiful afternoon.  I've had the side hatch open most of the time, and there was a lovely sunset.

After dinner I loaded the old floor and the debris from the new one into a plastic sack, and took it along to the rubbish point by the bottom lock.  Of course now that I've completed tomorrow's job today, I'm wondering what to do tomorrow.  The forecast is OK for the morning, but heavy showers in the afternoon.

5 miles, 0 locks.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Fenders ordered

It was my first night on board at our new moorings, and it proved to be exceptionally quiet.  There's a busy A-road not far from the marina, but the boats are protected by a bank and I didn't hear a thing.  The trains run some distance away on the other side of the canal, and I didn't hear them either.

This morning was a lovely sunny day, although with a cold breeze.  As I was there, I'd arranged to meet a man to talk about fenders.  Back in October we ordered new fenders from Tradline in Braunston, expecting them to be ready before we moved marina.  But, because of a series of unfortunate circumstances, they're way behind with the orders and gave us the option of cancelling.  Then someone on the Canal World Forum recommended Mick Betts, who lives on a boat at Cosgrove, just a couple of miles from our new location.  So he came and measured up and we should have a new set of fenders early next month.  I've ordered a button for the bow, and a tipcat and button for the stern -- which I think looks better, particularly on a traditional boat like Briar Rose.  The next challenge will be to get the old ones off: all the shackles are rusted solid.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Family Day

Sometimes you find that things you need at home are on the boat.  This week I started the process of relicensing Briar Rose (the current licence was bought by the previous owner, so this is the first time we've licensed which means we have to start from scratch with a full application form) only to find that some of the paperwork I needed was on the boat.

As it happens, I was due at my parents today because my sister and her family are visiting, so I had a very enjoyable day with my two neices, Rachel and Emily.  They had belated Christmas and birthday presents to open, and Emily quite liked sitting in a cardboard box.

We went for a walk in the woods, and Rachel enjoyed climbing a tree.  Both girls are now owners of Tilley Hats, much to the delight of their father (although the child versions are rather more colourful than the adult ones).

I left there at 6.30pm, heading for Briar Rose.  The journey should have been about an hour and a half, but one of the Dartford Tunnels was closed, causing a long delay.  Then there are 50mph sections on the M25 and the M1, so it was almost dark by the time I got here.  It's clearly been raining a lot here because there are large puddles, so with luck the reservoirs serving this part of the Grand Union are gradually filling up.  It promises to be quite a cold night, so I lit the fire as soon as I arrived, and it's going well.

Monday 2 April 2012

Yarwood on test

The May edition of Canal Boat is out, and contains my test of the Barnowl tug, Yarwood.

Sunday 1 April 2012

Moving weekend - Day 4

Last night we walked up to The Boat where we all had a very good dinner.  It was a great way to end our few days travelling with Chance.

This moring there was a light frost on the grass, so it had been cold overnight.  Some way through our showers, we realised we were very low on water, and soon afterwards the taps ran dry.  So, while I cooked a Sunday morning fry-up, Adrian reversed us past a couple of boats onto the water point and we filled the tank while we ate.  It's a very fast tap, so it was only about 35 minutes before we were full again.

It was a beautiful morning as we set off, with bright sunshine and blue skies.  The first landmark is Grafton Regis chuch, up on the hill above the canal.  After that, the landscape flattens somewhat, giving lovely huge skies.

As we approached Kingfisher Marina, we spotted Caxton (soon to be renamed The Manly Ferry by the new owners).

We stopped at Yardley Wharf for diesel.  It wasn't quite 10am, so we waited until they were open, and liked the closed sign.

All along this stretch, the spire of Hanslope church can be seen on the horizon.

Before long, we were at our new home of Thrupp Wharf Marina.  I reversed in, and backed onto our pontoon.  The owner and the resident harbour master were there to greet us, as it's quite a busy weekend of comings and goings.  Once we were settled, I got the car out of the car park and drove Brian and Mike back to their car at Brinklow so that they could head home.  I noticed that our neighbour there has already moved across onto the pontoon we vacated!

Back at Thrupp Wharf, we had lunch on the well deck (we can see boats going past on the canal, which was impossible at Brinklow), and then had a walk round the marina.  It's a lot smaller and is very quiet.

We're spending the afternoon pottering about.  We'll have dinner on board, then head home at a time designed to miss the traffic.  It's been a very enjoyable little trip, with all kinds of temperatures, but mostly some very good company.

5 miles, 0 locks.  (40 miles, 23 locks)