Monday 30 December 2013

Being visited and being visitors

Coming back into the marina yesterday was undoubtedly the right decision, because the weather today has been pretty foul: strong winds and heavy rain this morning, and the wind continuing even when the rain stopped.  There have been waves on the marina, and the moorhens have looked a bit perturbed at bobbing up and down so much.

This morning my second cousin Catherine and her family came to visit.  We'd offered to meet them somewhere, but Matthew (who's nearly five) wanted to come to the boat.  He and Grace (and, I suspect, mum) had made some delicious chocolate brownies to bring with them.  It was really nice to have some time to chat, because we really didn't get much chance yesterday at Stoke Bruerne.

Then this afternoon we became the visitors, going to find Jill and Graham who'd moved on to Blisworth.  It turned out that when we turned at Gayton Juction yesterday we were only about a hundred yards from them, but didn't realise.

Tomorrow I need to be up at a ridiculous time to be at work for an early shift.  Adrian is planning to pack up the boat and head home, and I'll go home after work too.  We've had only a couple of days out on the cut, but it's still felt like a nice break.

Sunday 29 December 2013

A very sociable day

We've had a thoroughly enjoyable day -- largely because of the people we've met along the way.

This morning was beautifully sunny.  Once out of the boat I realised how cold it had been, as the roof was very frosty.  I guess it shows how good our insulation is (sorry, Tom, it's not something unique to your boat!)

We boated up to Gayton Junction where we turned in the junction and headed back.  It took about half an hour to pass our mooring place.  The sun was low and bright, and in my eyes, so it was difficult to see much.  At times, there was the added complication of the reflection of the sun on the water.  In some ways, it was a relief to get into the darkness of the tunnel.  Because of the sun shining straight into the tunnel, the far portal looked much bigger and closer than normal; but it also felt as though it was taking longer to get through (it didn't -- the passage was the normal half an hour).  The sunshine made the exit from the tunnel quite spectacular.

We moored up after the tunnel and walked down to Kathryn's house and rang the doorbell.  We knew the Halfies from Jubilee were due to be there -- and we'd timed it just right as the kettle had just boiled.  We had a good hour chatting over teas and coffees in Kathryn's lovely vaulted kitchen.

Eventually we decided we'd better get Briar Rose and Jubilee down the locks.  On returning to the boat, I found I'd missed a text from my second counsin, Catherine, and her family, asking if they could come and see us.  I replied saying we were just heading down the locks.  As I walked back to the top lock, a man called hello from the other side -- and it took me a few seconds to realise that it was Catherine's husband, Nigel.  They'd come to Stoke Bruerne with the children to see if they could find us.

We headed down the locks, with John from Jubilee mostly helping a boat going down in front of us.  We had help at the top couple of locks from Grace and Matthew, who are keen on pushing and pulling lock gates.  The weather was fantastic -- not a cloud in the sky.

At the bottom of the locks we stopped for lunch, and John and Jan joined us.  We had a very pleasant time, and frankly could have stayed there all afternoon.  But we'd made the decision that because of the strong winds forecast for tomorrow, it would probably be wise to head back into the marina today.  We'd have loved to stay out another night -- and at one stage it looked as though the wind would die away after lunch.  But getting in to the marina and our berth can be tricky at the best of times, let alone when there's a strong wind blowing.  So when Jan pointed out that it was already half past two, we all thought we'd better get moving.

On the way back, it was pretty chilly.  The sheltered parts of the fields were still frosty, and the big puddles were frozen over.  We got back into the marina in fading light -- and with hardly a breath of wind -- at the end of a very enjoyable day.

10 miles, 7 locks.  (19 miles, 14 locks)

Saturday 28 December 2013

Up to Blisworth

It was sunny and dry this morning, and we set off at about 9.45am.  Making the turn north out of the marina proved to be a bit more challenging than usual, because of the wind direction.  But once we were on our way the canal looked beautiful.

There were a few indications of the high water levels just before Christmas -- when even out marina was a foot higher than normal.  Water was still going over one of the brick arched spill weirs along the pound, and it was also full of debris.

At the locks, we found a boat which used to be moored just down from us at Thrupp Wharf now has a mooring on the offside.  They said the water there (which is where the River Tove flows across the canal) was four feet higher than normal on Christmas Eve;  it had clearly been up over the lock landings.

The first couple of locks were against us, and then I spotted a boat up ahead -- they agreed to wait for us in the fourth lock.  It turned out to be another boat from Thrupp Wharf, a narrowbeam Dutch barge called Piggin Arkful, which is moving to Braunston.

At the penultimate lock, we crossed with a single hander coming down.  He told us he'd only just bought the boat, and this was his second ever lock.  We gave him some tips, but no doubt he'll be fully proficient by the time he gets to London.

At the top lock we rang Kathryn's doorbell, and she came out to say hello.  After a brief chat we pressed on through the tunnel, which not surprisingly was the wettest it's been for a while.  We moored up just before Bridge 49, on the northern end of Blisworth.

We had a late lunch of breads, cheese, biscuits, ham, and chutney, with champagne.  I said it was a bit like having Boxing Day before Christmas Day.  We're having our 'Christmas' dinner this evening: a duck is in the over roasting.

Tomorrow, we'll turn at Gayton Junction and head back down the locks.  Monday's forecast looks a bit unpleasant (in the morning at least), and I'm back at work on Tuesday.

9 miles, 7 locks.

Friday 27 December 2013

December 27

Adrian here... Adam has been working today, but is then off for the next three days.  We'll be having our Christmas dinner together tomorrow.

I drove up to the boat yesterday evening after spending a fabulous Boxing Day with my cousin and her family in Kent.  Adam had bought and decorated a small Christmas tree - a really lovely surprise!

The wind picked up again yesterday evening, and there was quite a lot of rain during the night.  The wind has been whipping along the marina today - certainly not a day to take the boat out.  We have also had some heavy rain showers this afternoon.  The weather forecast is for the winds to quieten down over night, with tomorrow and Sunday promising to be quieter days, with more wind and rain coming in on Sunday night through to Monday.  Would be nice to get out of the marina, even if it is just for a couple of days.

After a quick trip to Tesco at lunch time I've spent the rest of the day working, and cooking the gammon joint, which has smelt wonderful as it was cooking, and has come out very well (even if I say so myself).  I was planning to make a chilli for my dinner tonight, but that plan has been shelved in favour of some of the gammon instead.

Thursday 26 December 2013

Boxing Day

When I got back to the boat after work late last night, I could see that the water level had dropped; our ropes were now slack.  It was too late to adjust them, though.  I tightened them a bit this morning.

Before heading to work today I knocked up a quick batch of mince pies.  It seems we still have no pastry cutters on board, so I had to make do with a couple of different sized glasses.

This evening, Adrian has arrived at the boat -- and was delighted to find that I bought a little Christmas tree the other day.  I was going to post a photo on Monday, but decided to keep the tree as a surprise.  If I remember, I'll post one tomorrow.

Tomorrow looks like another bad day weather-wise -- but I'm at work again anyway.  But the weekend is looking fairly reasonable.  Maybe we will get out of the marina for a couple of days after all.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Christmas Eve

It was pretty difficult to sleep last night, thanks to the heavy rain and the howling wind.  Things started to get bad late in the evening, and by the early hours the noise of the wind was tremedous.  The boat was being rocked about too.  Then, I'm not sure what time it was, I woke up and it was completely silent.

This morning, the boat was on a slight tilt as the water level has risen so much.  I had to slacken off the ropes a bit.  Normally, our back counter is on a level with the jetty, or even a bit below -- so you can see how much higher than normal the level is.

The road along the marina is also under water.  I've just been speaking to the owner, Roy, who'd just been to check the drain -- and says it's flowing at full capacity, but clearly can't quite cope with all the water coming off the fields.  He's also been along checking the ropes of all the unoccupied boats.

I've filled the water tank and emptied the ash bucket this morning, and before long I'll be off to work.  I'm hoping that if I bank the fire up enough, it'll still be in when I get back late tonight.

Monday 23 December 2013

Stormy weather

I came up to the boat this morning -- leaving home a bit earlier than planned in order to try to miss the worst of the weather.  It seemed to get less stormy as I travelled north, although it deteriorated during the afternoon.

I'm here because I'm working for the next four days, and the marina is closer to work than home is.  Adrian is visiting family over the next few days, and is due here on Friday.  Next weekend, we're hoping we might get a couple of days out of the marina.

I got here late morning, got the fire going, and unpacked.  Once the fire was established I went into Milton Keynes to do some shopping.  Back at the boat, I put our Christmas cards out on the shelves, and got the christmas lights out of storage.

At times, the rain was so hard on the roof I could hardly hear myself think.  The water level also seems pretty high.  I'm hoping it'll be a bit calmer tomorrow morning so I can top up the water tank before I head to work.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

A day in Cheshire

As I left the marina in the dark at 7.15 this morning, there was an incredibly big, bright moon -- and the reflection off the water was pretty special.

The drive up to Cheshire was lovely and sunny, and the satnav took me a way I wasn't expecting up through the Derbyshire Dales.  The boat test was carried out in nice winter sunshine and with hardly a breath of wind.  The photos should be good, as the Macclesfield Canal looked very pretty.

I'd expected to have to dash home to go to an event tonight, but I had an email to say it had been postponed.  So I rang my sister to see if the family was at home.  They were just about to go and watch Rachel in her nativity play (she was playing a sheep, hence the black nose), so I met them at their home after that.  We took the dogs for a walk in the fading light, and I had a good couple of hours playing with the girls and reading stories.

It's been a very enjoyable day -- and not at all what was planned.  A four hour drive and I'm now back home.

Monday 16 December 2013

Out to lunch

The stormy weather continued well into the night, and it was still pretty windy this morning.  First thing, I drove into Milton Keynes and bought a universal battery charger.  This needs the battery to be out of the camera, so I'll try to get an additional battery as a spare.

My lunch date was with Jill and Graham from Matilda Rose. I was able to help Graham with a car shuffle en route, and we then went to the boat at Weedon.

We had an excellent couple of hours talking about their plans, which are now well advanced, for taking the boat to France early next year.  Looking at the map, I was surprised at how extensive the canal and river network is in France, and how many other countries you can get to.  It was really great to see Jill and Graham and Daisy, Baxter, and Mutley -- over a lovely relaxed lunch on board.

The position of the boat also allowed me to have a look at the aqueduct at Weedon, which we must have been over numerous times, but which I've never seen from below.  The embankment here is really quite high.

On the way back I stopped at Baxter's and stocked up on a few bags of coal to see us through the Christmas period.  Tomorrow, a fairly early start is required to head north for the boat test.  The forecast is still for a nice sunny day.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Breezy evening

I came up to Thrupp Wharf after working an early shift.  It was dark by the time I arrived, and it's also pretty breezy.  In fact at the moment, it sounds as though it's blowing a hooly out there.  The temperature was 12 Celsius when I got here, but the boat was pretty chilly.  I've lit the fire and had the Eberspacher going to take the chill off.  The first thing I noticed was that the smoke detector was beeping.  It means the battery is going - and it's not replaceable, so we'll need to get a whole new unit.  I had to look up the instructions t find out how to stop it emitting a loud beep every 40 seconds.

I'm here because we were due to be doing a boat test tomorrow.  That's now been moved to Tuesday, which should be a better day.

One job for tomorrow will be to try to find a charging cable for the camera.  I couldn't find it at home so assumed I must have accidentally leftbit on board; but it's not here either.  Annoyingly, the TZ40 has a battery which is a very slightly different shape from the previous camera; it also has to be charged while it's still in the camera, which makes no sense to me, and the jack is not the same as most phone chargers.  So I guess a quick trip to Milton Keynes is on the cards for tomorrow to see if I can find the right cable somewhere.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Dubbel Dutch on test, and the Blisworth Tunnel ghost

The January issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of the Fernwood boat, Dubbel Dutch. There's also a piece about the ghostly stories about Blisworth Tunnel, and the side shaft that I've become rather fascinated by.

Sunday 24 November 2013

November weekend - Day 3

We slept pretty well.  Adrian got up well before me this morning, and sat by the fire reading.  As we had breakfast, we could hear quite a lot of noise coming from the park.  When we set off at about 9.45, we could see that a Movember Run was getting ready for the off.  Most of the runners had moustaches, and quite a few of the children did, too.

We made pretty rapid progress until Giffard Park, when the number of moored boats from there right through to the Proud Perch moorings means tickover only for a couple of miles.

When we got to the moorings past the Iron Trunk Aqueduct, we stopped for lunch of leftover chili on toast.  More than anything, the pause was to avoid getting back to the marina too early.  We set off again at about 2pm, and I walked up to Cosgrove Lock.  A boat was just coming out, which was welcome news.  After we'd gone in the open gate, I spotted a woman walking up the towpath with a windlass, and then a little boat following on behind.  It turned out to be a short Sea Otter, which the owners were taking to Crick to go onto brokerage -- and at the same time they'd be picking up their new (to them) boat, a much bigger proposition at 62ft.

We got back to the marina under very dark skies, and with a bit of drizzle falling.  Adrian reversed into our berth (he thinks it's actually the first time he's done it!) and we got the boat secured.

We've been increasingly frustrated with the poor mobile internet signal here at the marina, so decided to drive into Milton Keynes to get the latest MiFi -- having been told about it by Lesley and Joe on Yarwood when I visited a couple of weeks ago.  It's all set up, and seems to pick up a 3G signal when the old one wouldn't.  There's also a socket for an external ariel, should we need it.

We are staying the night on board and going our seperate ways to work in the morning.  We'll be getting up early, so apologies in advance to the neighbours for the sound of our shower pump!

8.5 miles, 1 locks.  (17 miles, 2 locks)

Saturday 23 November 2013

November weekend - Day 2

Adrian arrived about 7.15 last night.  I was alerted to his arrival by the noise of a suitcase being wheeled down the pontoon.

This morning, there was an unforecast shower just before we got up - which was a surprise because the sky looked completely clear.  We had porridge for breakfast, then got ready to set off.  We left the marina at about 9.15, and we're soon through Cosgrove lock.  It was chilly, but reasonably bright.

We passed three boats coming the other way: one was right near a moored boat, another by the Lionhearts Cruising Club, and the final one at Bridge 81.  There must be something about this bridge.  It's on a blind bend, and we seem to meet a boat there every time.  In this case, I'd slowed right down and was right on the bridge when I saw the bow of the other boat.  They did a lot of reversing and I steered round them.  The helmsman apologised because he was looking off to the side!

We went through Campbell Park and turned at the winding hole just beyond bridge 82, then came back through the bridge and moored up.

We had a £5 voucher for Vintage Inns, so made e short walk to The Barge, where we hada a very nice lunch.

This afternoon, we've stoked up the fire and watched a DVD of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  Dinner is in the oven, and I've also made a rhubarb crumble.

8.5 miles, 1 lock.

Friday 22 November 2013

November weekend - Day 1

I came up to the boat this morning, stopping at Buckingham on the way to get shopping.  I arrived at about 2pm, unloaded the car, and then had the usual dilemma about what to do first.  I rally wanted lunch, but also knew I needed to get the fire going.  But I also wanted to take the opportunity of giving the chimney a bit of a sweep.  So I did that first.

Eventually I had the fire alight, the Eberspacher on for some hot water, everything packed away, and lunch.  I also topped up the water tank, and re-secured all the fixings on the tv ariel pole.  It was a lovely sunny afternoon, if a little chilly, and the view across the marina from the bow was pretty good.

I've started a chili for dinner, and it's now sitting on the top of the stove.  Adrian has been at a course near Berkhamsted, and will be here a bit later.  Tomorrow, we'll head down to Milton Keynes.

Thursday 7 November 2013

Alyssa Rose on test

The December issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of Alyssa Rose by Standard Narrowboats.

Incidentally, CB is now available in many Tesco stores.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Stoke and Foxton

The fire stayed in overnight, but it was still pretty chilly this morning.  I'd slept very well, and was up early because we had an appointment for a boat test in Stoke on Trent, and the weather forecast suggested the morning would be nice and the afternoon much less so.  I was on the road at around 7.30, and arrived about 9.15.  The sky had been clear blue all the way, but the cloud was building.  Andy the photographer was already there doing the internal shots, and we set off on a short trip to get the externals done.  Fortunately there was still a bit of blue sky up ahead.

We were all done by shortly after 11am.  What I should have done was head straight back to the boat and start writing; what I actually did was give Lesley from Yarwood a call to see if she and Joe were free.  They were, so I drove cross country to Foxton and met them for lunch at the Black Horse.  On the way, I had to wait while a boat came through the swing bridge in Foxton village.  I haven't seen Lesley and Joe since March so we had quite a lot to catch up on.  After lunch we walked back to Yarwood for tea and cake.  The boat was moored in a lovely spot just outside the village, and quite a few boats went past.  It was really great to see Lesley and Joe again.

Lesley walked back with me to the car, just as a boat came through the bridge.  We got across before they started the swinging, and Lesley was able to impart some knowledge about what had to be done.

It's less than an hour back to Thrupp Wharf, and I got back just before 5, as it was getting dark.  I'd banked up the fire before I left, so the boat was warm and it didn't take much to get it going again.  I'm at work in London tomorrow morning, so I'm staying overnight here.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

A long day's night

It's been a long few days.  When the clocks changed in the early hours of Sunday, I was working a night shift -- which was consequently an hour longer than usual.  At the end of the next shift, on Monday morning, there were no trains home because of the storm, so I spent the day in a hotel, trying to sleep.  This morning, at the end of my third shift, the trains were running, but barely, and it took ages to get home.

I had a discussion with Andy the photographer about tomorrow's weather forecast, and we've decided to go ahead with the planned boat test.  So early this afternoon I got in the car to head up here to the boat.  Because of the clock change, it wasn't far off dark when I got here.  The boat fest very cold, so I got the fire going and put the Eberspacher on for some hot water (and even turned a couple of radiators on).

Having been up for 24 hours, I'll be in bed very soon.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Cosgrove, a hole, and Crick

This morning was what an autumnal morning should be like: misty, a little bit chilly, but with the sun already making an appearance.  And there was no wind.  I left the mooring at Cosgrove at about 8.15, and travelled the mile back to the marina.  Some of the trees are really turning now, and the views across the valley were great in the mist.

With not a breath of breeze, I was able to reverse into our berth without touching the sides.
Very soon afterwards I was in the car and on my way to Crick Marina for a boat test.  I went up the A5, and just by the Narrowboat pub at Weedon there was a hole in the road: a manhole had somehow lost its cover.  Fortunately, I missed the hole; others who'd driven over it were strung out over the next couple of hundred yards, five or six cars with flat tyres, and I suspect, damaged wheels.  By the time I came back, there were traffic lights in place and a new manhole was being set into the road.
The weather was perfect for the boat test, with sunshine, blue skies, and a few white fluffy clouds.  Bearing in mind the weather over the past few days, and the forecast for the next few, we couldn't have hoped for better.
1 mile, 0 locks.  (2 miles, 0 locks)

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Maintenance jobs

Adrian has been working in London this week, so I've been able to stay in town after my shifts.  On Monday, Doug and James from Chance came to see me at work, and seemed to enjoy having a look round.  Yesterday evening, we all met up and had dinner out together.

I came up to the boat this morning; I was due to have been doing a boat test, but it's been put off to next week (probably wisely, given how windy it was today).  There's another test in the diary for tomorrow, and the forecast looks pretty good.

So today turned into a day to do jobs.  On my way up I called into a car parts place in Milton Keynes to get some oil.  They had a 20 litre container of the right stuff for £54, which is a big saving on the price of buying it in four or five litre bottles.  It'll see us through a few oil changes, and we have plenty of space to store it under the boards of the engine room.  It is big though, and not very easy to pour from!

I've done a few oil changes now, and have learned something every time.  Getting the old oil out is easy, and this time I was prepared for the more tricky task of getting the oil filter off.  I put a container on the floor underneath to catch drips, and had another nearby to dump it into.  For the first time, I had real trouble unscrewing the filter; I had to break out the filter wrech from the toolbox to get it moving.  Once it was off, the new one went on very easily, and I then measured out the new oil.  In the middle of all this, there was a torrential downpour.  I closed the slide over, but the wind straight in the back of the boat meant I still got pretty wet.

After lunch, I took the old oil to the recycling centre at New Bradwell.  It seemed odd going by car -- I've only ever been there by boat in the past!  I took the opportunity to get rid of several empty oil containers at the same time; only fairly small ones will fit underneath the pump, so there's no point in keeping ones that are too big.

On the way back, I bought a new floor covering for the engine room.  The back of the old one was disintegrating, and putting a fine dust all over everything.  Back at the boat, I cleaned as much of this dust off the engine as I could, and also topped up the batteries.  At the same time I filled the water tank, which was a bit depleted after our weekend out earlier this month.

It had turned into a very sunny weekend, and by mid-afternoon the wind had dropped to merely a very stiff breeze.  I decided I'd get out of the marina, which is always my preferred option.  We have a winter moorer in the next berth, and they like their radio on so lound I coould hear it inside Briar Rose.  They've also got a little pennant on the boat, which was flapping in the wind and hitting the satellite dish.  The tapping was driving me mad!

The direction of the wind meant I thought it would be a real struggle to turn left out of the marina, so I went right and have come down to Cosgrove.  I was a bit worried about whether turning round above the lock would also be tricky, but the wind ended up helping.  The turn took a while to get going, but once I'd reached a certain point, the wind took over and did the work.

Once I'd moored up, I did another job I'd been planning to do for a while: sort out the rear fenders, which have become a bit droopy.  I took the button and tipcat off (being really careful to keep a firm hold of all the shackles and fittings), then turned them round and put them back on.  I also shortened the chain on the button by one link.  Here's a before and after.

As the sun has gone down, the wind has died away.  It's due to be calm tomorrow too, so we should be ok for the boat test.

1 mile, 0 locks.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Birthday Weekend - Day 3

It was raining last night when we walked up the road to the Walnut Tree Inn, but it takes only about five minutes to get there from the moorings by Bridge 49.  We ate in the restaurant part, and the food was excellent.  We had a baked camembert to share as a starter, then Adrian had a ribeye steak from a local Northamptonshire farm, while I had liver which could possibly have come from the same animal.  Even with a bottle of wine, the bill was quite reasonable.

It was raining harder when we walked back to the boat, and it continued on and off all night.  It was raining when we set off at around 8.30 this morning.  By comparison, Blisworth Tunnel seemed quite warm and dry.  We passed one boat in the tunnel, which did the sensible thing and kept going; neither of us touched the wall or each other.

At Stoke Bruerne we went down two locks to the long pound and moored up, before walking back up to Kathryn's house -- one of the cottages by the museum.  We looked like a pair of drowned rats, and then piled our wet coats etc on her living room floor (she insisted that the tiles with under floor heating would be able to cope!).  She's done a remarkable job in rennovating the cottage, which is four floors with just one room on each floor.  We were also treated to tea and scones, and were joined by Mike who runs the trip boat, Charlie.

Setting off again after a very enjoyable hour or so in Kathryn's company, we had to turn the first lock as a boat had just gone down, but they waited for us and we flew down the final four locks.  It was pretty wet and miserable all the way.

We had a cup of soup to warm us up after the locks, then moored up again just before Bridge 57 for our second social event of the day:  a couple of hours with Kath and Neil on Herbie.  I think the Crick Show was the last time we saw them, so there was a bit of catching up to do.  While we were there, the rain cleared and the sun came out, so that when we set off again it looked like a completely different day.

But there was still rain about.  A very bright rainbow crossed the sky, and at times you could see the whole arc.

Neil and Kath had also considered making the most of the clear weather to move down to Cosgrove, so when we were moored up in the marina, it was no surprise to see them boating past.

We decided that we'd probably have a better journey home if we went a bit later, so we'll have an early dinner on board and then head off.  It's been a really good weekend:  yesterday was a very enjoyable day's boating and last night's meal was excellent; and we've caught up with old and new friends along the way.  What's more, even just a couple of days on board feels like a decent break.

8.5 miles, 7 locks.  (27 miles, 16 locks)

Saturday 12 October 2013

Birthday Weekend - Day 2

The people we shared Cosgrove Lock with this morning said they'd hardly slept last night because of the wind and rain.  We heard nothing.  Mind you, I was in bed and asleep before half past eight, thanks to post-night-shift exhaustion.  It could also be that we were sheltered by the blocks of flats at Wolverton.

Today is Adrian's birthday (he thanks everyone for the messages on yesterday's blog), so we started with cards and presents.  Adrian then made a quick visit to Tesco, and we set off at aboout 9.15am.  There had been a little bit of drizzle, but nothing like the heavy rain forecast, and it wasn't even that cold.  We said a quick hello to Halfie as we passed Jubilee a little way out of Wolverton, then shared Cosgrove Lock with Trinity, who used to moor in our marina but have moved up to Yelvertoft.

We made a stop at Baxter's to get a pump out -- but it became clear that the pump wasn't working, so we had to abandon the attempt.  We did buy a couple of bags of coal.  By the time we left, the sun was threatening to come out -- and has made appearances on and off during the day.

It's just as well we weren't planning to stop on the moorings at the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne flight, because they were entirely taken up by anglers.

There were also anglers in every pound up the flight, including on the lock landings, and all along the moorings in the long pound too.

Half way up the flight, we met Herbie coming down.  Neil and Kath had been planning to do just the top two locks, but couldn't moor because of the fishing match.  We'd been planning to stop and have a catch up, but we're now hoping to do that tomorrow.  It was great to see them, even for just a brief time.

The trees are beginning to change colour, and there were some nice autumn colours as we progressed up the flight.

At the top lock, we met Kathryn from Leo No2.  We'd been planning to knock on her door, but she was already out by the lock.  It was another case of never having met someone before, but feeling you knew them because of the blog.  We'll see her again tomorrow too.

We made rapid progress through the tunnel, which wasn't too wet inside, and then carried on to Gayton Junction.  We turned right at the junction down the Northampton Arm, and stopped at Gayton Marina for a pump out.  It was a very thorough job, with plenty of rinsing through.  Afterwards we carried on to the winding hole above the top lock, where we turned and began retracing our steps.

We turned back towards Blisworth at the junction, and have moored near Bridge 49.  It's just a short walk from here to The Walnut Tree, where we've got a table booked for Adrian's birthday dinner.

14 miles, 8 locks. (18.5 miles, 9 locks)

Friday 11 October 2013

Birthday Weekend - Day 1

It's Adrian's birthday this weekend, so we're spending it on the boat.  I drove up from London at the end of a night shift this morning.  I arrived at the marina in bright sunshine, but I knew the forecast was for rain this afternoon, so I wanted to set off as soon as possible.  First I lit the fire as the boat felt pretty chilly, and unpacked.  I set off at around 9.45, and turned right out of the marina.  The sun reflecting off the water made seeing anything up ahead a bit tricky.

I had to fill Cosgrove lock before going down.  While I was preparing the lock, I spoke to the owner of 4Evermoore, which used to be owned by Kev and Ann.  As I was leaving the lock, I could see a boat approaching, and when he was close enough I signaled to ask if he was going up;  he was, so I could leave the gate open.  Before long I was crossing Wolverton Aqueduct, over the Great Ouse.

I went through Wolverton and crossed the second aqueduct of the day, over Grafton Street.  This one is bigger in every regard, but not as impressive!

Just the other side of the aqueduct is the New Bradwell winding hole, where I turned around and started re-tracing my steps.  I returned to Wolverton, where I moored up, just before it started to rain.  I made a trip to Tesco; the return walk was a bit wet, but the rain this afternoon hasn't been anything like as bad as forecast.  Let's hope tomorrow follows the same pattern.

This afternoon I've finished writing a boat test, and will soon start making dinner.  The fire is going well; I brought with me some logs from a tree we had to cut down in our garden early in the year.  It was a false accacia, so I had no idea how it would burn.  The logs have been drying in the garage for months, and they're burning well (and smell quite nice too).

Adrian has been in London, so it travelling up to Wolverton station, which is just a couple of hundred metres away.  It won't be a late night, as I'll soon have been up for 24 hours.

4.5 miles, 1 lock.

Monday 7 October 2013


First job of the morning was to check down the weed hatch; yesterday the tiller had been shaking far too much.  It turned out there were too bits of rope round the prop shaft - looking suspiciously like the sort that people use for their dangly side fenders.

The short trip back to the marina was uneventful, and I managed a smooth spin into our berth.

The boat test was in Braunston, a drive of about 40 minutes mostly up the A5.  For a change, we decided to use the locks as the backdrop for the photos.

The boat being tested was short enough that we could go up two locks, turn, and come back down again.  What had started as a misty morning turned into a sunny day just in time.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (2 miles, 0 locks)

Sunday 6 October 2013

A mile

The alarm went off at 4.30 (even though I'd been laying awake waiting for it) and shortly afterwards the marina was echoing to the sound of our shower pump.  It's rather noisy at the best of times, but I feel particularly guilty when it's used at that time of the morning.  There's no boat on the other side of our pontoon at the moment (it's gone off to ABNB to be sold), so when the time came to walk to the car, I made sure I stayed very close to Briar Rose!  The journey was fine, and I was at work on time at 6.30.

I got away just after 3pm, and drove back up to the marina.  It was a lovely sunny afternoon and a warm 20 Celsius, so I decided a short cruise was in order -- not too far as I have a boat test tomorrow morning, so I'll need to be back in time to drive there.  I turned right out of the marina (noting that Jubilee wasn't in her berth), and headed for Cosgrove, where the moorings turned out to be verging on empty.  I went down to the lock and did an efficient turn just above it -- just as well as there was a boat coming up who were just about ready to open the gate as I arrived, and I didn't want to hold em up.  I retraced my steps as far as a mooring opposite the permanent moorers.  Once tied up, I did checked all the batteries, and topped up as necessary.

1 mile, 0 locks.

Saturday 5 October 2013

Tight spaces

Adrian is visiting family this week, so I've come up to the boat to do some jobs.  Getting access to things in a narrowboat can sometimes be tricky, so during the afternoon I could be found in the bed base, crouched in one of the dinette seats, and laying on the floor with my head in various cupboards. It was a nice afternoon, with some decent sunshine at times, and I'd much rather have been boating.  But I needed to stay in the marina because I've got to go to work in the morning -- the alarm will be going off at 4.30.

Friday 4 October 2013

Willow Too on test

The November issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my test of the Beacon boat, Willow Too.