Wednesday 24 July 2013

Paddo meet

A slightly belated post, because of being away from home.  We were staying in a hotel close to Paddington Basin.  On Monday evening, on our way back from dinner, we called in on Caxton, moored in the basin.  It was great to meet Paul and Elaine again, and Sam and Bombo, as we had a good hour sitting out on the pontoon in the breeze, drinking a beer and chatting.

While we were there, the news broke of the Royal birth, and we heard the cheer go up from outside the Lindo Wing (which sounds to me more like the name of a foreign correspondent than part of a hospital) which is just the other side of the main hospital building alongside the basin.

Sunday 21 July 2013

July weekend - Day 4

It was cloudy again first thing, and pretty chilly too; I had to resort to a fleece for the journey in the morning.  We set off at 8.30, and covered the familiar miles through Bugbrook, Gayton Junction, and Blisworth.  Yet again there was a boat just about to come out the tunnel as we wanted to go in, requiring a bit of hard reverse.  At the other end, the trip boat stuck its nose into the tunnel and reversed back out again.

We did the top two locks at Stoke Bruerne, then moored in the long pound and walked up to The Navigation for lunch.  There we were joined by Adrian's long standing friends Alex, Myles, and their children Michael, James and Peter.  They live in Northern Ireland, but are over visiting family.  They joined us down the locks, then Myles drove to Thrupp Wharf while the rest of the family stayed on board for the journey.  By now the sun was out and it was getting hot again.

The kids seemed to enjoy themselves, sitting either in the cratch or, one at a time, with me at the helm.  Michael, who's 8, liked using the Morse control to slow down for moored boats, ticking off the bridge numbers, and looking to see when they were built.  Afterwards, he said it was the best ride he'd ever had -- quite something given that they went to Legoland last week!

Back at the marina we got tied onto our jetty, and all headed home.

15 miles, 7 locks.  (40 miles, 48 locks)

Saturday 20 July 2013

July weekend - Day 3

We had a very quiet night at Becket's Park marina, a highly recommended place to stay:  very friendly staff, excellent facilities, and completely secure.  We set off at around 8.30, and headed back up the river to the canal.  The entrance to the canal looks very inconspicuous.

It was very cloudy today (particularly compared with yesterday) and at first rather chilly.  At the second lock, we avoided a huge log in the mouth of the lock, and we removed a big sheet of foam from the water.  The going on the Northampton Arm is pretty slow, as the water is pretty shallow, and there's quite a lot of weed.  However, there's masses of wildlife:  the water is clear and you can see fish; crayfish; there are several different varieties of dragonfly; and we saw water boatmen.  It's also quite pretty.  At times, the channel is very reedy and narrow.

At the Rothersthorpe flight, we started up the locks.  A couple of locks up, some walkers told me there were empty pounds up ahead.  I walked up to see what was going on and found several pounds which were short of water, three of which were completely empty.

At the second lock, a boat was coming down, so I suggested they stay where we were while we run some water down from the top.  With their help, we opened paddles all the way down to lock 7, and Adrian phone CRT to alert them to the problem.

Filling the pounds took the best part of an hour.  When we were on the move again, we spotted a Kia four wheel drive heading up the tow path.  We and the boat coming down were about to cross, so we were all standing together.  the man in the car wound his window down and immediately accused us of leaving gates and paddles open.  We explained that there had been several empty pounds, and that there was another boat heading down from the top.  It was only after several more derogatory comments from the car driver that the woman from the other boat asked who this man was:  "I'm waterways", he said.

We were rather of the opinion that if you've reported a problem, the response of staff should be "I gather there's a problem, what can I do to help?", rather than criticising boats in an arrogant and  rude way.  In no way was he a good ambassador for the Canal and River Trust.  He didn't introduce himself, he berated us, and he didn't make any attempt to find out what was going on.  He told us his shopping had been disrupted.  Clearly, he doesn't appreciate what being on call means.  One of our number asked his name, so we know who to complain about.

At the top, we continued to Gayton Junction, we turned right, and moored up for lunch.  Afterwards, we carried on for a couple on hours, then turned at High House Wharf, and moored at Nether Heyford.  Just in front of us was the boat I tested last week, so I texted the owners and later they popped round for wine and crisps.  We had a very pleasant hour or so chatting to them.

11 miles, 17 locks.  (25 miles, 41 locks)

Friday 19 July 2013

July weekend - Day 2

It's been a fantastic day of boating.  We woke to another sunny day, and set off at 8am.  Half an hour later we started up the locks at Stoke Bruerne, meeting boats at the second lock and the top (including another Braidbar, Load of Hay).

Approaching the tunnel, the moorings were the emptiest I've ever seen.  We waited for Cyprus to wind, although once he was well in the winding hole he called us past.  It was nice and cool in the tunnel.

At Gayton Junction, we turned right onto the Northampton Arm.  It's new water for us (except that I've done a couple of boat tests from Blisworth Marina, when we've gone along to the top lock and back).  At Gayton Marina they were lifting a boat out of the water, so we had to hold back slightly.

At the locks, the first couple were in our favour, and with crew, we were able to set ahead.  Adrian worked the first few locks, then took over the steering.  The Rothersthorpe flight is really very pretty, and with all the locks set we made incredibly quick progress.  When the boat wasn't going forward it was going down -- it was never stationary!  We did the first 12 locks in 55 minutes.

Then it's under the M1.

Just above the next lock is a rare stretch of piling, so as it was 12.30 we stopped for lunch for an hour or so.

The next stretch is also quite pretty.  We saw a family of swans, and the water was so clear we also saw fish and crayfish.  The Express Lifts Tower dominates the skyline.

As we approached Northampton, the scenery deteriorated a little, and we saw a few drunks and kids.  But we were soon at the lock onto the River Nene, with the Carsberg brewery in the background.

On the river, we made the short trip through a couple of bridges to the new marina at Becket's Park.  We moored on the visitor moorings, then went to the office to pay our fee and get a one day river licence.  It's a very nice marina, and we have water and electricity.

We made a quick trip to Morrison's, which is just a few minutes walk away, to top up on salad stuff mostly, but otherwise we've been enjoying the sunshine and (even more) the breeze.

11 miles, 24 locks.  (14 miles, 24 locks)

Thursday 18 July 2013

July weekend - Day 1

We're spending the weekend on Briar Rose with our friends Brian and Mike.  I picked up Adrian from work, and we arrived at the marina at around 6pm.  Brian And Mike arrived about 45 mins later, and once they were on board we set off straight away.  It was a fantastic sunny evening.

We did about an hour, and moored at Grafton Regis.

3 miles, 0 locks.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Thames Convoy

We've had a great day today.  I finished a night shift this morning, and found somewhere to have a couple of hours sleep, then a shower.  Adrian came up to London on the train.

We had a long-arranged lunch appointment with friends, and they'd booked the Swan, at the Globe Theatre.  We had a table by the open windows, over looking the Thames.

We knew a St Pancras Cruising Club convoy was due during the afternoon, but the boats started coming a bit sooner than we'd expected.  We'd barely finished dessert when I spotted Doris Katya, the boat of the Commodore, leading the way.  In the group of four boats was ChanceWe phoned Doug and James to let them know we could see them, but I'm not sure they spotted us.  I was taking photos out the window.

About 15 minutes later, the next lock-full of boats arrived, with Indigo Dream leading the way.  We phoned Sue and Richard to let them know we could see them, and I don't think they saw us either.

After lunch we walked down the south bank, and saw two more groups of boats.  We were missing one, though.  Then, as we walked across Hungerford Bridge, we spotted the final group of boats in the distance, heading our way, with Caxton among them.

When they were virtually underneath us, we yelled at Paul and Elaine so they'd give us a wave!

A great way to spend an afternoon.

Monday 8 July 2013

Back to base

I was amazed yesterday how few boats were on the moorings near Wolverton Aqueduct.  Just one boat arrived after me (which I passed this morning), which appears to have royal connections.

I saw Del just before I set off.  He'd walked up to the lock and said there was a boat on the water point who looked as though they might be going up.  However, as I approached the lock, they were winding below it, so I ended up doing the lock on my own.  Cosgrove was pretty empty too; I wonder where all the boats are.

It's very misty and murky this morning, and quite fresh with a breeze.  I hope the sun burns it off, because I've got a boat test to do this morning.

Back at the marina, I'm topping up the water tank.  Can't remember when it was last filled, and it sounds rather empty.  We're back in less than two week's time, for a weekend with friends, so I wanted to make sure it was full and ready to go.

1.5 miles, 1 lock.  (12 miles, 2 locks)

Sunday 7 July 2013

Maintenance Cruise

I slept pretty well (perhaps not surprising given that the past three days I've had to get up at 4.15am), and set off at 9am.  A boat was coming out of Cosgrove Lock, so I went straight in.  Then a day boat from the yard here joined me.

It was pleasantly warm without being too hot during the morning.  There were lots of boats on the move, many of them hire boats, and most of those Alvechurch boats from Gayton.  I carried on to the winding hole at Great Linford, where I turned around and started heading for my intended mooring.  I liked this boat's approach to keeping the sun off.

I moored up just before Bridge 74.  The reason was that an oil change was on the cards, and the recycling centre is just a short walk from this bridge.  I needed the engine to cool down a bit, so while I waited I checked and topped up the batteries, then had lunch.

The the work began.  We've done a few oil changes now, so it's fairly straightforward.  I pumped the oil out of the engine, then got the oil filter off.  This is always tricky.  It's not easy to get at in our engine hole, and there's no way of putting anything underneath to catch the oil.  I put a plastic bag round it, which caught most of the oil, and then put the whole lot in a waiting ice cream tub.  I made sure I'd got the rubber seal off too, then put the new oil filter on and measure out the oil into the engine.

With that done, I turned my attention to e gear box.  This is surprisingly easy to get at, and I located the drain plug without too much difficulty.  There's not much room to get things underneath, though, so I put down a small ice cream tub, and also had a plastic milk bottle with a hole cut in the side to catch the oil.  When the milk bottle was full, the rest drained into the tub, and both were lifted out without any spillage.

Next job was the air filter, which we have never changed.  There's not enough room to just take the lid off, so I loosened the whole thing, lifted it off, then took the lid off.  Guess which is the old filter and which is the new one.

By the time all this was done, the Wimbledon final had started, so I listened to the first set on the radio, then at the start of the second set I took my old oil and a bag of oily rags, the old filter, etc to the recycling centre, which is about 100m down the hill from the bridge.

Back at the boat, I listened to the rest of Murray's match, glad I didn't have to move in the heat.  The temperature had really risen, although there was also a bit of a breeze.  Lots of boats went by, including some old working boats heading away from last weekend's Braunston rally.  These included Alan on Sickle.  Once Murray had won, I set off towards home.  Even though it was almost 6pm, it was still very warm, and the sun reflecting off the water gave me a bit of a headache.

I moored up past Wolverton Aqueduct, just a couple of boats past Del and Al on Derwent6.  This evening I went to visit them, and we sat in the cratch talking about all sorts of things.  I was flabbergasted to find that suddenly it was almost 10.30 -- it had been such a nice evening the time had flown by.

9.5 miles, 0 locks.  (10.5 miles, 1 lock)

Saturday 6 July 2013

Victoria Park and Cosgrove

I was on an early shift today, finishing around 3.30.  When I left work, I got the tube out to Bethnal Green, and walked the ten minutes or so to Victoria Park.  I'd arranged to go and see Jayne and Stephen on Dolce Far Niente, who were moored on the Regent's Canal by the park.

We had a very enjoyable couple of hours, going for an ice cream in the park and walking round the boating lake, where every rowing boat was rowed by someone who didn't know what they were doing.  We then returned to Dolce for nibbles before I headed back into central London.

I then drove up to Thrupp Wharf, arriving about 8.15.  I unpacked the car quickly, and as it was such a lovely evening decided to head out of the marina.  My justification was that by far the best way to get some air through the boat would be to open the front doors and set off!  So at 8.30 I headed for Cosgrove in fantastic evening sunshine, hoping there would be a space to moor in.  

There was, just before the bend (in fact, it's a much straighter edge here than I'd thought).  The bow is right above the horse tunnel.  You can just see the bow.

1 mile, 0 locks.

Friday 5 July 2013

Emily on test, and Crick show boats

The August edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of the Crick winner, Emily.  There's also the mini-reviews of twenty other Crick boats.

Monday 1 July 2013


After work last night I drove up to Briar Rose, arriving about midnight.  It's a long time since the boat hasn't felt cold on a late night arrival.

This morning, I drove up to Tamworth for a boat test.  It wasn't as sunny as we'd hoped (in fact, it wasn't really sunny at all), but there are some nice bridges along this stretch to give the photos a bit of added interest.