Saturday 24 November 2012

Mist and murk

This morning was a triumph of timing.  I was down to less than a scuttle of coal, so thought I'd boat along to Baxter's to buy some.  The forecast suggested the rain would arrive between 11 and 12 -- but Baxter's doesn't open until 10 on a Saturday, so I knew there was no point in setting off before 9.30.  In the meantime I topped up the water tank, did the engine checks, and prepared the boat for cruising.

When I left it was misty but perfectly still.  Because of all the run-off from the fields, the canal was the colour of milky coffe, but there were some great reflections in the water.  The strong wind the other day has taken most of the remaining leaves off the trees, so everywhere looks rather bleak.

At Baxter's I bought three bags of Homefire, and arranged to pick up some pots of touch up paint next time we pass.  I turned in the marina entrance and headed back, hoping to beat the rain.  I was back in our berth shortly after 11.  The water level has dropped five or six inches since Friday, but with all the rain on the way it could well go back up again, so I tied with slightly slacker lines than I normally would.  Around ten minutes after I was back inside, the rain started and hasn't stopped since.

I started work on yesterday's boat test (when I've got an idea for an intro I find it's best to write it down before I forget).  This afternoon, I had a sleep for a couple of hours, because I start my night shifts tonight.  I need to pack up the boat, and head down to London shortly.

4 miles, 0 locks.

Friday 23 November 2012

Sunshine at Mercia

As if it wasn't noisy enough yesterday evening with the wind howling round the boat, once the rain started drumming on the roof if was difficult to hear yourself think.  But a couple of hours after the rain started, the wind dropped to nothing.

This morning dawned dry, clear, and bright.  I got in the car and headed up the M1 to Mercia Marina for a boat test.  It was beautifully sunny all day, and not that cold either.  It's a huge marina, but the boats are moored in small groups.  I waved at Sanity Again, although I knew Bruce and Sheila weren't there.

After lunch in the cafe, I headed back to Briar Rose.  I was almost 4pm when I got back to the marina, so almost dark.  The fire had stayed in all day, so the boat was nice and warm.  Tomorrow, I might even do a little boating.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Wind and water

I came up to Briar Rose this afternoon, as I have a boat test to do tomorrow, further north.  It was beautifully sunny at home, but was very much more cloudy and dark as I drove north.  It was also very blustery.

I stopped at Tesco in Buckingham on the way to get some shopping for the next few days.  As I drove towards Cosgrove, I could see that the river down in the valley (which I guess might be the Ouse, which a few miles further on is crossed by the Iron Trunk Aqueduct) was well in flood.  Then, as I drove down the hill towards the marina, I could see that the River Tove (which crosses the Grand Union at Stoke Bruerne Bottom Lock, and then flows alongside the canal) had also flooded quite a lot of the valley.

When I got to the marina, the water level was exceptionally high.  Normally, the back counter is at about the same level as the jetty; today, there's a step up onto the boat of at least six inches.  Later, an email came through saying the the locks at Stoke Bruerne and Cosgrove as closed because there's too much water.  And there are local news reports of boats being washed into fields near Stoke Bruerne -- although I'm struggling to imagine how that could possibly have happened.

Once on board, I put the Webasto on for an hour to provide some hot water (and even turned a few radiators on to take the chill off), then I lit the fire.  I put the shower mixer back on, turned the water on, as well as the gas.  I didn't even attempt to put the satellite dish up; it would only have been blown over by the exceptionally strong wind.  I was glad I didn't have to go anywhere -- these windy conditions do not make for pleasant boating.

It hasn't started raining yet, but the forecast suggests it's heading this way.  It's due to go through overnight, after which the wind should drop and the sun should come out.  If the weather does what it's supposed to, tomorrow's test should go well.

Friday 9 November 2012

Kallista on test

The December issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of the Carefree Cruising boat, Kallista.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Repaint cruise - day 5

This morning was wet.  We set off at 8.45 in the rain -- but at least it was coming down vertically rather than horizontally, and there was no sign of the hail that was mentioned in the forecast.  We passed no other moving boats before arriving at Baxter's after around 45 minutes.  We tied onto the wharf and Adrian got his car which had been parked there since we picked up Briar Rose on Wednesday.  He packed and set off to see his mum.

I set off again in increasingly heavy rain.  I saw two other boats mad enough to be out in the foul weather -- one coming through the bridge just as I set off, and a Cosgrove day boat as I neared Thrupp Wharf.  As I approached the marina, the wind picked up.  I managed the turn in OK, but actually getting onto our pontoon was a challenge.  Usually, the wind blows along the jetties, so reversing in isn't a problem; today it was at right angles, meaning that by the time I had made my turn I'd been blown way past our berth.  I had to keep turning and have another go.  On the third attempt, I got into our space, and was soon tied up.  Before taking off my waterproofs, I walked up to the harbour master's boat to get a card for the electricity metre, and also spent a few minutes clearing leaves from the roof and the gunwales.  The scale of the rain we'd had was clear: this is not the canal, it's the marina access road.

I was soaked and cold, so had a hot shower to warm up.  I packed up ready to leave, and also prepared the boat in case there's a really cold snap.  I turned off the water and drained the taps, and also removed the shower mixer bar.  Then I had an early lunch, got the car from the car park, and set off for home.

It was a very damp and dull end to a good few days.  Even just a short break with an unambitious journey is worth every moment.  We've had lots of nice comments about the paintwork and the colour scheme, which is very pleasing.  In case anyone hasn't seen enough, I've uploaded a set of photos to flickr.  We also managed to combine the trip with seeing friends and family, which is always a plus.

5 miles, 0 locks.  (39 miles, 14 locks)

Saturday 3 November 2012

Repaint cruise - day 4

Another day when it looked promising first thing, then came on the rain.  We left our overnight mooring just before 9, carried straight on at Gayton Junction, and moored in Blisworth for a quick walk up the hill to the shop for a few supplies.

Setting off again, it was straight into Blisworth tunnel, which was warmer and drier inside than out.

About a third of the way through the tunnel we caught up with a boat in front.  Even our tickover was too fast, so I kept having to knock us out of gear to avoid getting too close.  We usually get through it just under half an hour; today it took 45 minutes.  However, going so slowly meant I was able to get a decent photo of the side shaft, so that's a minor ambition achieved!

We ended up sharing the locks with the slow boat, which turned out to be an ex-OwnerShips boat with a man and his mum on board.  At the top lock, two boat were coming up, one of them being Reckless, (The Boat that Guy Built).  Adrian asked the owner if he'd still got the steam powered shower on board; he said everyone asks that, and no he hasn't.  In fact, most the Guy installations have gone!

We made rapid progress: locks were in our favour towards the top of the flight, then we started meeting boats coming up: Taverners Boat Club, which was moorings just across the cut from Thrupp Wharf Marina, are having their annual dinner tonight at Stoke Bruerne.

At the bottom of the locks, we were surprised to find the moorings completely empty.  A couple of other boats have arrived since, but it's still very quiet here.

This afternoon, my second cousin, Catherine, along with her husband, Nigel, and her children, Grace and Matthew, came to visit as they live quite close.  We reckon we haven't seen each other for about 35 years, so it was good to at least make a start on catching up.  Grace and Matthew, who'd already had quite an exciting day learning about blacksmithing at the forge by the southern entrance to the tunnel, were very taken with Briar Rose, and we've promised them that next time we'll go for a trip.

5 miles, 7 locks.  (34 miles, 14 locks)

Friday 2 November 2012

Repaint cruise - day 3

We woke to a beautiful sunny morning, and set off at just after 8.30.  I walked the first part of our journey, to get some photos of Briar Rose in the sunshine.  The autumn colours added to the scene.

Along the towpath, we met a woman walking her little horse.  She explained that he had bad feet so can't manage a paved road.  He's also a bit overweight -- I said he looked like a Thelwell pony.

When we arrived at Buckby bottom lock, I winded in the marina entrance and we moored up opposite.  We walked up to the chandlery with a list of things we wanted, but they didn't have most of them.  We came away with a new rope for the bow, as Adrian has always disliked the really thick and rather stretchy rope that's been there.

We began retracing our steps.  It had clouded over and tried to rain a couple of times; there was also a brisk breeze, which made it quite cold.  We stopped at Rugby Boats at Stowe Hill Wharf for diesel, having tweeted them last night to check the price.  Service was friendly and efficient, and we were soon on our way again -- going about a hundred yards into a convenient space on the towpath side, where we stopped for lunch.

In the afternoon it was much sunnier, although still breezy and chilly.  The Northamptonshire countryside looked good in the sunshine,

We stopped just before 3pm, just short of Bridge 46, less than a mile from Gayton Junction.  We have the Virgin Trains close by again, but it's almost impossible to get away from them round here.

13 miles, 0 locks.  (29 miles, 7 locks)

Thursday 1 November 2012

Repaint cruise - day 2

It absolutely threw it down with rain yesterday evening and overnight, and at first today we believed the forecast which was for a relatively nice day.  We set off at 8.45 and did the final two locks of the Stoke Bruerne flight.  There was a boat coming out of each of them, which saved some work.

In the locks, we thought we'd better check that the horn and particularly the tunnel light were working, as they've been disconnected while the boat was painted.  The horn was fine, but the light wasn't.  The connection has always been a bit dodgy, so it wasn't really a surprise.  We moored temporarily while Adrian sorted it out, using a connector block to replace the fixings.  Once that was done, we set off for the tunnel.

The top pound was a very muddy colour, and full of frothy bubbles.  Once through the tunnel, it was obvious why: a feeder on the offside was putting lots of water in the canal, and churning it up in the process.

Any sign of a nice day had vanished, and it was now raining properly, and quite cold.  We stopped at Gayton Junction to fill the water tank, then carried on.  We made a lunch stop outside Heyford Fields Marina, then decided to continue a little further.  During the afternoon, the sun put in the occasional appearance, and by the time we stopped at just after 3 the skies had cleared considerable.  We're moored in the bendy section north of Weedon, just short of Bridge 23.  We've got the Virgin Trains for company, but that's true of almost everywhere along this stretch.  We've seen an extraordinary number of boats moving today, especially given that it's November, it's wet, and it's cold.  We met several at bridge holes, and some were going at an incredible speed.  In one case, we spotted the bow wave well before the boat.

Thanks to everyone who left a message about the repaint.  We've been told to be very careful with the paint for a while, as it takes time to harden fully, so we don't yet have the plank and pole stands on the roof, we're not putting cups on the rear slide, and we're not walking along the gunwales, in order to protect the cabin sides.  Also (and anonymous commenter, this is for you!) we're not getting up on the roof to clean the mushroom vents!

Some more things we like about the paint job:  the rear doors with the mouse's ears, and the registration number, which for the first time since we've owned the boat is readable.  We didn't ask Andy Russell to put a place along with the number, but we rather like Registered at Poynton!

13 miles, 2 locks.  (16 miles, 7 locks)