Sunday 28 April 2013

April weekend - Day 3

Our mooring at Nether Heyford was very quiet and peaceful, and we slept well.  First thing this morning, the sun was shining; by the time we set off at 8.30 the cloud had moved in and it was pretty overcast.

After Furnace Lane Wharf we passed Morgana Le Fey moored up, then at Bugbrooke we passed Lois Jane and I was able to have a quick chat with Debbie as we drifted by.  Next we passed Baleine, and Toby and Susan came out to say hello and goodbye.

Along this stretch there are a variety of bridges, some of which are impossible to see through.  The worst (perhaps not surprisingly) is Skew Bridge.  It's not too bad from the other direction, but heading south there's no visibility at all.

We saw our first ducklings yesterday, and there were more today.  One clutch were being particularly closely marshalled by mother.

After a couple of hours we were at Blisworth Tunnel.  Just as we turned in, we could see a light reflecting on the wall, and sure enough there was a boat about forty yards or so from the portal.

We didn't pass another boat until right at the other end.  En route, we got very wet thanks to all the water pouring from the roof, and we managed to spot the side shaft (but not get a photo of it, this time).

We went down the first two locks, and moored for lunch in the long pound, which was virtually deserted.  At the second lock, a boat arrived to come up.  The crew came up to the lock, and I left them to it as Adrian brought Briar Rose out.  Next thing, the crew shut the gate on their own boat, and started filling the lock!  The steerer wasn't impressed.

We'd just finished washing up after lunch when a boat passed heading for the next lock down, so we got organised and joined them.  In fact, we'd probably have made quicker progress on our own.  At the penultimate lock, Adrian spotted a familiar figure parking a car.  It was Richard from Indigo Dream doing a car shuffle.  He chatted to us as we dropped down the last lock, then went off on his bike to meet Sue and the boat, heading our way.

We moored up on the first bit of piling we saw after Bridge 56, and waited for Indigo Dream's arrival, which happened within a few minutes.  Sue and Richard tied up behind us, and we had a brief towpath chat, and a show around Briar Rose; they haven't seen her since we've owned her.

Sue and Richard had an appointment to keep in Stoke Bruerne, so headed off after fifteen or twenty minutes.  It's amazing how much catching up you can do in such a short time, and it was great to see them.

By now the wind was really strong, and at times during the rest of the journey, the direction of steering and direction of travel had little in common.  We crabbed along the canal, battling the wind.  The turn into the marina was very tricky, and I had no choice but to plant the nose and turn that way.  But the wind was straight down the pontoons, so I took the decision to spin the boat and reverse into our berth as normal, and it all went surprisingly well.

Adrian had been packing up as we came along, so we were soon ready to leave.  We set off in the car at 4pm, and got home a couple of hours later.

15 miles, 7 locks.  (31 miles, 14 locks)

Saturday 27 April 2013

April weekend - Day 2

We were up in good time this morning, and set off from the marina at 8.30.  Fortunately, it wasn't too windy, as that can make the turn towards Stoke Bruerne a bit tricky.  It was overcast and chilly, though.  Adrian stayed inside, making some oat biscuits.

There were lots of fields of lambs, including a couple for whom the field wasn't enough:  they were through the fence and right next to the canal.

We got to the bottom of the locks at 10am, exactly on schedule, and we could see our visitors walking down the path.  My second cousin, Catherine, her husband, Nigel, and their children Grace and Matthew, had come to give us a hand.  Matthew, who's 4, was particularly keen to help.

There were quite a few boats coming down, so all the locks were in our favour;  at several we could swap with the other boats.  At one, we passed the steam boat, Hasty, who blew their whistle for us.

Near the top of the locks, just a few moments after the sun tried to come out, the hail stones started.  Then there was a shower of sleety rain.  In the long pound, we heard then saw a cat up a tree.  A woman was coming down the towpath with a boat pole, saying she was going to try to rescue the cat, which was hers, and stuck.  She was successful, apparently having given the cat a bit of a poke with the pole.  The woman, her dog, the cat, and the pole, all crossed the lock gates while we were coming up.

At the top of the locks, we moored for teas and coffees before going through the tunnel.  The tunnel itself was the source of great excitement.  Grace and Matthew sat on stools in the cratch, and had a torch so they could look at the walls.  Before entering, we had to wait for the trip boat to reverse out, and we also passed two boats inside.  From the helm, I could hear lots of excited child noises echoing along.

At the Blisworth end of the tunnel it was sunny.

We moored and dropped off our visitors, who'd left a car in the village.

We had lunch, then continued northwards.  Just before Bugbrooke, I spotted Baleine coming towards us.  We both did an emergency stop so we could have a quick chat.  We continued to High House Wharf, where Stanton sticks well out into the canal -- and is apparently a lot less loaded than normal.

We turned at the winding hole and returned half a mile or so to moor overlooking Nether Heyford.  We washed one side of the boat, then had a cup of tea with a couple of the fantasic chocolate cakes that Catherine had brought us. Adrian started a chili which has been cooking all afternoon, so we'll have that tonight.

16 miles, 7 locks.

Annual report

Our second year of owning Briar Rose is now complete -- and circumstances meant that we used the boat a lot less than during the first year.  Adrian spent most of his spare time with his mum as she was ill, and we didn't get our usual long break in the autumn.

As a result, during year two we covered only 310 miles, passed through only 100 locks, and clocked up just 183.4 engine hours.  We (actually, mostly just I!) spend 61 nights on board.  The furthest north we went was Crick and the furthest south was Grove Lock.

However, we're planning a much more ambitious programme of travels this year, including four weeks in September.

Friday 26 April 2013

April weekend - Day 1

 We came up to the boat this afternoon, arriving about 6.30 this evening.  We were soon unpacked, had everything turned on, and lit the fire.  We then walked round to The Navigation right next door to the marina, for dinner.  The food was really quite good.

On the way back, we popped into the farm over the road, which advertises eggs for sale.  There's a little shed with a whole range of eggs on offer -- from bantums, chickens, and ducks -- with an honesty box.

At the boat, we topped up the water tank, and Adrian dashed off to Wolverton in the car to buy a few things we needed.

Tomorrow, we head up to Stoke Bruerne, where we're expecting some guests.

Thursday 25 April 2013


It's that time of year again.  I've laminated the licences before they go in the window.  And this year, they match the boat!

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Can painting 3

As today was wall to wall sunshine rather than the dull cloud forecast, I decided to tackle the coach lines.

I spent ages masking up -- the fact that the can's sides slope inwards makes things difficult -- and trying to ensure that the tape was stuck down properly.  As soon as I started painting, though, I could see that some paint was getting behind the masking tape.  This signwriting paint dries very quickly though, so I peeled off the tape and spent a lot of time cleaning up the edges with a rag and some white spirit.  They're not as neat as I'd have liked, but not too bad -- better than I could have done freehand, anyway.  Trying something like this certainly promotes admiration for those who paint things professionally.  You really can see the difference!

Now all I need to do is take the can to the boat, and see how it looks.

Monday 22 April 2013

Can painting 2

Over the weekend, all the red areas have had three coats of paint.  The red didn't seem to cover the primer as well as the greens.  We decided that one small band of pale green wasn't enough, so the handle is now pale greem.

Today, I'll do a second coat of dark green, and sort out a few drips and spills.  Then later in the week, I'll be able to do the coach lines.

Friday 19 April 2013


I had a bit of spare time this lunchtime, so I paid a visit to Paddington Basin.  By chance, just as I walked along the water's edge, they were doing the weekly test of the roll-up bridge.  I didn't have my camera with me, so these are just phone photos.

There were quite a few people around watching -- including a couple I recognised: Les and Jaq from Valerie.  Having introduced myself, I was invited back to the boat for a cup of tea.  We spent a very enjoyable hour chatting before I had to head back to work.  It was a pleasure to meet Les and Jaq, and I hope we'll bump into them again some time.

Heron Map photos

Heron Maps have puplished the latest in their Waterways Series, and it includes two of my photos.  The map is of the Avon Ring and the Droitwich Ring.
The first photo is of Briar Rose coming up the Tardebigge Flight in June 2011.  Lesley and Joe from Yarwood were helping us that day, and can be seen working hard.
The second photo is from when I joined Doug and James on Chance last September.  It shows Chance rising in the staircase locks on the Droitwich.  The original photos are below.


Wednesday 17 April 2013

Can painting 1

Enough talking, time for action.  As yesterday afternoon was surprisingly sunny and pleasant, I decided it was time to start actually working on the water can.

I'd bought a can of U-Pol Etch Primer off the internet (needed because otherwise paint just falls off galvanised steel) but it had no instructions or advice, other than dire warnings about how dangerous it is, and how it should only be used by professionals.  An internet search turned up the company's instruction sheet, and it was good news:  two coats needed, just 5 minutes between coats, and ready for a top coat in 20 to 30 minutes.

I set to work in the garden, and before long the shiny galvanised can had completely changed complexion.

A second coat covered all the slightly thin areas of paint from the first go, and it really does dry exceptionally quickly.

After waiting half an hour or so, I decided to get the first bit of colour on.  I chose the dark green, Middle Coach Green, because Jon the painter had told me when I collected them, that this colour was already thinned.  I thought it would be good to get an idea of the right consistency, for when I do the other colours.

When I started, a few things quickly became apparent:

1.  It's lovely, lovely paint.  Beautifully glossy, and nice to work with.
2.  You don't need much of it.
3.  The plastic pot I'd poured the paint into to work from had a hole in it, because paint was dripping out the bottom.
4.  You have to work fast because it dries quite quickly, and you have to keep going back to stop it running.

Anyway, before long, the first coat of dark green was on.


Later, I added the band of Dovedale Green, and you can really start to see the effect.

It'll be a few days before I have time to do any more, when I'll start on the red.  Then all the colours will need at least one more coat.  It's going to take a while.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

A not yet final decision

Having taken on board all the comments left on the last water can post and on facebook, I'm now tending towards the design above.

A few people, including Pip, Jim, and my cousin Esther, thought the spout should be the same colour as the top part, and I think I agree.  I think there has to be some red, so the bottom band is a definite; the handle and the lid are other possibilities.  And I like the idea of the cream coach lines between the bands.

What I'm sure about is that only these four colours will be used; they're the colours from the boat, and the whole point is that they'll match.

Good decisions?

Monday 15 April 2013

Braunston and beyond

To Braunston today for a boat test.  It was sunny (on and off), pretty warm, and not too windy.  And the daffodils were out.

After the boat test was done, I called in on Lesley and Joe on Yarwood, who were moored just along from the Stop House, and we went for lunch.  We walked up to the Admiral Nelson, which has been refurbished and re-opened.  Except that it appears they don't open on a Monday lunchtime, so we eneded up at The Plough in the village.  The ciabattas were good, and we enjoyed catching up.

After lunch, I headed for Baxter's at Kingfisher marina, where Briar Rose was repainted last year, to pick up some touch up paint -- which will also be used to paint my water can.  Thanks to everyone who's expressed an opinion; there were so many new suggestions that I'm going to produce some more prototype colour schemes incorporating some of the ideas.

Next stop was Thrupp Wharf to deliver a few things to Briar Rose, and do a quick check that everything was OK.  Then it was back in the car and home.  All in all, quite a busy day, but an enjoyable one.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Opinions please

Having had a plain water can for my birthday, I need to set about painting it.  I won't be doing lots of traditional roses.  In my mind, it's in simple stripes to match the colour scheme of the boat, like these ones on Hadar and Chertsey.  But even that leaves quite a few options open, so I spent some night shift down time with the photo and an electronic paint brush, to try to give myself some idea what the finished article might look like (although with a bit of luck, it won't look this messy!).

My first idea was to combine the two greens with the Mercedes Red from the handrail, with the cream from the coachline as a divider.

Then I wondered if the red was a bit much, and just the greens and cream might look better, and simpler.

Then I had the idea of changing the cream lines to red.

It was this final design which got 100 per cent of the votes at work last night.  But I'm still not sure.  I'm minded to go for the middle one, with the two greens and cream.  But I'm open to persuasion.  What do you think?

Friday 12 April 2013

Briar Rose in Walsall

A few months ago, I was approached by a company asking if one of their clients could use one of my photos, that they'd seen on flickr.  We agreed a fee and I sent them the photo -- a shot of Briar Rose coming down Ryder's Green Locks in June 2011.

They told me the photo was for the reception of a new Premier Inn in Walsall town centre.  I imagined it in a frame, along with a few other shots.  But looking at the hotel website, it appears that my photo is floor to ceiling on one wall.

It's tricky to be sure from this shot, but it looks as though the warehouses might have been photo-shopped out, and I think Adrian might have been removed from the helm.  I might have to go to Walsall to check...

Thursday 4 April 2013

Tilda on test

The May edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my test of the Sandhills boat, Tilda.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Easter Cruise - Day 7

When I got back from work last night I parked in Cosgrove and walked along the tow path to Briar Rose.

This morning, without the need to get up for work, and probably still feeling the effects of the clock change, we had a rather relaxed start to the day.  After breakfast, we walked along to the caravan park shop for some rolls for lunch, then got the boat ready to set off.  We headed for Cosgrove Lock, winded above it, and headed back to Thrupp Wharf.  It was lovely and sunny, but there was a brisk and chilly wind.

At the marina, the wind was in the wrong direction to make it easy to get into our berth.  We made it at the third attempt.  After tea and cake (made by Adrian yesterday), I walked back along the tow path to Cosgrove to get the car.  My route took me through the horse tunnel under the canal.

We packed up the boat, had lunch, loaded the car, and set off.  On our drive home, we passed a Wilderness trail boat on the M40, and a new widebeam on the back of a lorry on the A34, and what looked like a very expensive yacht wrapped in plastic on a lorry on the M27.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (38 miles, 4 locks)

Monday 1 April 2013

Easter Cruise - Day 6

Adam was working again today, and had to head off just before 10am.

When getting the boat ready to cruise I managed to drop the boats padlock into the cut. Thankfully Adam was able to get a replacement - the benefits of having his car close to the boat.

The weather has been overcast and dreary for most of the day, and absolutely freezing cold. The journey down to Cosgrove felt as though it would never end. I was very pleased to get inside by the fire after mooring up opposite the permanent moorings in Cosgrove. The weather has improved during the later part of the afternoon, and its now lovely and sunny.

I wandered down to the store at the caravan park to get a few supplies, and have spent the afternoon pottering on board.

Briar Rose in the afternoon sunshine

View from Cosgrove Lock

6 miles, 0 locks (37 miles, 4 locks)