Saturday 30 May 2015

Post Crick: Day 5

Not long after I'd published the blog yesterday, I heard the distinctive noise of a big old engine followed by a couple of blasts on a horn.  I looked out to see what was going on, and found Tone and Julie on Muchgigglin were going past.  I stuck my head out of the cratch and said that rather than try and have a conversation as they drifted by, I'd go down to the lock for a proper chat.

At that moment we were having one of the afternoon's sunny spells, but as the boat rose in the lock another sharp shower came over.  Once the top gate was open, we all went on board to get out of the rain, and just sat in the lock while it tipped it down.  We must have been there for a while, and eventually another boat arrived wanting to come up.  So Tone moved the boat onto the water point to fill the tank.

It was two years ago when we met Tone and Julie, first going up towards Marsworth, and then as we were going to Crick, up Buckby.  So there was a lot to talk about.  Eventually we moved the boat onto the Cosgrove moorings, and continued talking (and drinking, did I mention the drinking?) and eventually they also very kindly fed me.  The time flew by, and I eventually left at some time after 11pm.  So a quick chat at the lock had turned into about six hours of nattering.  And not a single photo.

So this morning was boat test day.  It was bright and sunny, and calm, all of which were welcome.  I decided to leave Briar Rose where she was, and walked to the marina to get the car.  The drive to Heyford Fields took the usual half an hour, and the boat test went well.  I dropped the car off at the marina, then walked back to the boat.

I've spent a very pleasant afternoon writing up the boat test.  It's been sunny and reasonably warm, there have been plenty of boats past, and the side hatch has been open so I've seen numerous walkers, runners, families, and dogs.  It's been a good office to sit in.

Later I got out the Hot Spot stove polish, and tackled the Squirrel stove.  Now it looks a lot blacker than it did.  Then I had something to eat, washed up, and got ready to set off.

It was almost 7pm when I left my mooring.  I really do like it down by the aqueduct: a nice wide verge next to the towpath, plenty going on, decent views, quiet.  When I got to Cosgrove Lock, there was a horse there.

I had to turn the lock, but as I brought the boat in a passing lady shut the gate behind me, which was a help.  I got back to the marina in perfectly calm conditions, and reversed into out berth.  I've connected the shore line, filled the water tank, and brushed all the bits of tree off the roof.

One particular female mallard has been having a tough time.  A drake keeps trying to have his way with her, much to the distress of the ducklings she's already got.  Then a swan came after her family, and she had to chase it off.  She's really not enjoying her evening at all.

Tomorrow it's back to work, then back home.

2 miles, 1 lock.  (67 miles, 44 locks)

Friday 29 May 2015

Post Crick: Day 4

It's just as well we postponed today's boat test, because the weather has been awful at times.

The rain started later than originally forecast, but I looked at the Met Office radar on the website, and could see what was coming this way.  Even when the main band of rain passed, it's been a mix of sunny spells and torrential downpours.  I was so chilly this morning I gave in and lit the fire.  A few boats have been past, with plenty of wet weather gear on show.

With nothing planned to do today I was in no rush to get up.  During the morning I gave the shower cubicle a good clean, with particular attention to the grouting.  I used an old toothbrush to give it a good scrub.  This afternoon I turned my attention to the well deck.  I moved everything that's kept there out of the way, washed all the paintwork and the windows, and scrubbed the deck.  The mat had a good beating during one of the sunny spells.  During another dry interval I walked up to Cosgrove with a bag of rubbish.

The only other useful thing I've done is write the intro to tomorrow's boat test.  As it's a Crick boat I've already seen it, if only fairly briefly, but I know enough to make a start!

0 miles, 0 locks.  (65 miles, 43 locks)

Thursday 28 May 2015

Post Crick: Day 3

It was a very early alarm call this morning, and I apologise to the people of Wolverton Park if the shower pump disturbed them just before 4.30.  I walked the two minutes to Wolverton station and got the 0501 train to London and work.  It really is very convenient.

The return train was on time and I arrived back a little after 5.30 this evening.  I know some people don't like the Wolverton moorings (and most people stop only for a brief Tesco visit), but that was the eighth time we've spent the night there, and they've all been fine.  Less than fifteen minutes after arriving at the boat, I was heading off.

Decent though the mooring are, I needed to run the engine for a bit of battery charging and hot water production, so thought I might as well combine it with some movement.  The decision was even easier as it was such a lovely evening.  Pretty much the whole journey was on tickover because of moored boats, but that didn't matter either.  My target was the long straight just after the iron trunk aqueduct.  There were plenty of spaces to choose from, it's sunny, and there's a bit of wind protection from the trees.  This is the view from the bow.

Tomorrow was supposed to be a boat test day, but the forecast is pretty dire -- heavy rain all morning, then heavy showers in the afternoon, all combined with strong winds.  Saturday looks like a much better prospect, so we've postponed until then.

1 miles, 0 locks.  (65 miles, 43 locks)

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Post Crick: Day 2

This morning I did some work collating all the Crick boat reviews and sorting them into categories.  It was a bright sunny morning, and I got the boat ready and set off at around 9.45.  A group was just taking out one of the Cosgrove day boats, so the man from the operators asked if they could come down with me.  I didn't mind at all -- they had plenty of crew to work the lock.  A boat was coming up, then we went down.

I had originally intended to turn at the winding hole at New Bradwell, but I had plenty of time and it was a nice day, so I decided I could also do the job of taking the old starter battery to the tip by Bridge 74.  This means going on to the winding hole at Great Linford.  During the journey, I came round a corner and saw Jaq and Les's boat, Valerie, moored up.  I said I'd be back once I'd turned.  It was probably the best part of an hour later when I moored in front of Valerie.  Les had gone on the bus to Milton Keynes to collect visiting family, but Jaq was there.  She came and had a look at Briar Rose, and then we had tea and a chat on board Valerie.

It was great to catch up with Jaq, as she and Les have had it pretty tough recently.  She's fantastic -- and I noticed one particular skill that's very useful on a boat: being able to put just the right amount of water in the kettle!

I left Jaq to finish preparing for her guests' arrival, and went back to Briar Rose for some lunch.  Les returned with the family, and we nada a quick chat through the side hatch.  A little while later I moved on to Bridge 74, and with some difficulty lugged the old battery down to the recycling centre.  It's not far, but that battery was heavy.  Back at the boat I did some cleaning, during which time a day boat out of Milton Keynes came by.  They must have missed the bit about slowing down.  And the bit about not all being on one side.

The next short hop was to Wolverton.  The sky had clouded over and the wind had picked up, and I had some difficulty getting into the side, thanks to the wind tunnel effect of the flats.  But I slotted myself into a gap between boats, and was soon moored.  I visited the handy Tesco for the things on the shopping list, and then took a look at the park shown on the map of the development.  It's just the other side of the canalside block, and is the site of the Victorian recreation ground and velodrome.  One side is bordered by the shed where the Royal train was built and stored.  It's been converted into town houses.

I have seen literally dozens of Wyvern hire boats today, with it being half term.  Almost all have families on board, which is good, and many have three generations.  Invariably, it's dad at the helm, sometimes with a child assisting.  I don't know if the whole Wyvern fleet is out this week, but I'm sure it must be much easier than usual getting past their base at Leighton Buzzard!

8 miles, 1 lock.  (64 miles, 43 locks)

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Post Crick: Day 1

We were up fairly early this morning and ready to leave by about 7.30.  We were soon at Norton Junction and turning left towards Buckby Locks.  We'd planned to stop for water at the top unless a boat came along that we could share the locks with -- and as a boat had come out behind us at the junction and was going our way, we started straight down.

The couple on the boat had sold it, and were taking it to its new owner at Milton Keynes.  They'd put it up for sale on eBay, and the buyer had paid more than they'd expected to get -- in spite of not even having seen it!

We made good progress down, although some of the locks needed filling, and some also had the bottom gates open.  We waited ages at the penultimate lock for two boats to come up the bottom one.  They said they'd forgotten to open all the paddles.  

We carried on at the bottom of the locks towards Blisworth.  At Weedon an Ashby hire boat was approaching the bridge as I came through.  Rather than just slowing and passing each other, the steerer put the boat hard astern, and disap
Eared backwards into the bushes.  That meant his bow swung round, and there was a small coming together of bows.

We'd planned to stop at Weedon for water, but one point already had a boat on it (which once we were past we could see was having a boat wash) and a Wyvern boat was approaching the other tap -- so we postponed again.  We did stop at Rugby Boats for diesel, though, at 66.9ppl basic, which is a lot cheaper than the last time we filled up at the end of September.

At Gayton Junction the water post was free, so I turned and did a bit of a spin so we were facing out of the arm.  We started a wash load and filled the tank.  While that was happening a boat which had come up the Northampton Arm arrived also wanting water, so Adrian said they could moor alongside us and use the other tap.  They'd done the 17 locks up from the Nene having done them down only yesterday.

The boat set off just before us, and we followed it through Blisworth and the tunnel.  The first third of the tunnel was done on tickover, which made it more difficult to steer, so I was surprised that the passage took only about five minutes longer than usual.  We passed two boat's inside, and then Mike's trip boat, Charlie, at the very end.

At the locks, we were alone going down.  Adrian worked this flight, and while he was setting the top lock I rang Kathryn's doorbell and she came out for a chat.  In stark contrast to Watford Locks yesterday, where there are never any gongoozlers, Stoke Bruerne top lock was surrounded by them.

The bridge after the top lock has been hit by a vehicle, and repairs are being carried out.  Scaffolding was being put up, and the tow path that side was closed.

At some point fairly early in the day, Adrian had decided he needed to be at work tomorrow, so we'd been discussing how that was going to work.  It was still a reasonable time when we got to the bottom of the locks, so we decided to carry on to our marina.

After the final lock, the lady from one of the moored boats, Passing Through, showed us her new puppy.  It's a sister of the cockerpoo we met last week at our marina, except that one was amber coloured, and this one is black.  On the water point was Maple, Braidbar no 74, and the owners asked us how Braidbar had done at the show.

When we got to the marina we pulled up outside and Adrian jumped off in the car park.  The pub next door is gradually taking shape, but I can't see that the new extension is going to be finished by the planned opening of early June.

Rather than go into the marina, I carried on to Cosgrove.  The first space beyond the bridge was free so I pulled in.  It's one of the few straight bits of mooring here, but I was disappointed to find that the BT Wifi hotspot no longer seems to be here.

It was around 6.30 by the time I was moored, a day of eleven hours.  Anyone would think we were on a hire boat!

24 miles, 14 locks.  (56 miles, 42 locks)

Monday 25 May 2015

Crick Show: Day 3

With no particular reason to get up early, we got up late.  At about 10am, we set off north to turn the boat around at the Crack's Hill winding hole.  It's tickover all the way there because of the show mornings, and tickover all the way back again.  We tied back in our spot, just facing the other way, about forty minutes later.  Then we walked into Crick village to do a bit of shopping for the return journey.

We spent the next hour or so on the boat, doing some work.  At lunchtime we went over to the show site and had a Brie and bacon panini.  A little while later we met my relatives Catherine and Nigel, and their kids, Grace and Matthew.  Adrian and I somehow found ourselves of the dodgems with the kids, who then went on the big slide.

At 3pm, the winner of the favourite boat vote was announced. The winner was Boating Leisure Services at Heyford Fields, Braidbar were second, and Wharf House were third.

Shortly afterwards we set off.  Nigel drove to Watford Locks, while Catherine and the children came on the boat.  They particularly like tunnels; Grace was on the well deck, and Matthew came on the stern with me.  We passed one boat during our passage.

At the locks, two boats including Areandare were going down and there was no queue, so we could set off straight away.  This was in great contrast to last year when we were seventh in the queue.  Consequently we made rapid progress.  It was the same lock keeper as we had on the way up.

We boat arrived at the bottom lock, so we passed them in the first pound.

The family left to walk back to their car when we got to the bottom of the locks at about 5pm, and we set off to find a mooring.  Adrian started dinner by putting a chicken in the oven, and we stopped a little while later just through Bridge 3.

5 miles, 7 locks. (32 miles, 28 locks)

Sunday 24 May 2015

Crick Show: Day 2

The day started dull and drizzly.  I met Andy at 8.30, and we looked at five widebeam boats, making 23 boats in all.  We were all done by mid morning, so We went back to Briar Rose while it rained for a short while.

Adrian and I went across to the show site to get some lunch, then had a wander round the show.  I went to collect a couple of Heron Maps, as their new Shropshire Union one has one of my photos in it.  Later in the afternoon, I went to the floating business seminar to see Andy and Helen, and Sandra and Barry.  It was very well attended, with lots of interesting questions from the audience.  Afterwards, Kath and Neil came back to the boat to have a look at our composting loo in situ, to judge how much room it takes up.

We headed back over to the show site at about 5pm, and Adrian looked at a few boats.  Later, there was the exhibitors' kayak race, where people like Jonathan Wilson and his son Lewis, Peter Mason from Braidbar, and Andy Munro from Fernwood all ended up in the water.

In the evening, we went to the beer tent to see Hazel O'Connor, who was excellent.

Saturday 23 May 2015

Crick Show: Day 1

Just a quick update, partly because the Internet signal is so bad here, and partly because I haven't taken any photos today.

I went across to the show site and met Andy the photographer at 8.30, and we made a start on looking at boats for the twenty reviews. Adrian followed a bit later and collected a new starter battery from Wharf House chandlery, then took it back to the boat and fitted it.  By the end of the day, we'd looked at 18 narrowboats by 16 different builders.

We've met and chatted with a whole host of people during the day, including Helen and Andy from Wand'rin Bark and Wildside Preserves, and Sandra and Barry from Areandare, the Homebrew Boat; the owners of various boat test boats; a chap called Mark who corresponds with me regularly on twitter; and bloggers including the Halfies.  In fact, we met so many people making our way back towards the end of the show that it took the best part of an hour and a half to get from one side of the marina to another.

This evening, we decided to have dinner on board, then went back over to the show site to see what was going on at the beer tent.  We happened to spot Al and Del from Derwent6, who were visiting with their friends, and spent a good time catching up with them, and watching the band Murphy's Marbles.

All in all, it's been a pretty good day.

Friday 22 May 2015

Pre Crick: Day 3

We slept well in spite of the motorway and the mainline, but we're up early and ready to go by about 7.30.  But once again the engine wouldn't start.  However, now we knew the cause, we could use the domestic batteries to get it going, so we set off up the locks at around 8.  Some of the locks leak empty while others fill up over night, so we could never predict how we'd find the next lock.  But we made good progress.

At the top lock, a couple of boats appeared to be approaching the lock as we were ready to leave.  And indeed one came onto the lock landing.  The other started reversing; we weren't at all sure what they were up to.  It turned out they'd missed the turning to the Leicester Line, and were going back.  We followed them round at the junction, and we're soon at Watford Locks.  I checked us in with the lock keeper.  There were already three boats on their way up, but nothing to come down, so we could start the locks straight away.

We completed the locks in an hour or so, and set off towards Crick.  As usual, the tunnel was very wet just at the northern end.  Then comes the moorings for the show; the temporary bridge over the canal is much more substantial this year.

After finding our mooring, and having lunch, we went over to the show site and I was able to get a preview of a few boats.  Then we went for tea and cake with Kath and Neil from Herbie, sitting in the warm sunshine overlooking the canal.  In the evening, we joined the rest of the Braidbar Boats group for a meal at The Moorings.

7 miles, 14 locks.  (27 miles, 21 locks)

Thursday 21 May 2015

Pre Crick: Day 2

We were told to expect the RCR engineer between 9.30 and 10, and he arrived at 9.30.  Having listened to the engine trying to start he diagnosed an underpowered starter battery.  He'd brought with him a machine for jump starting the engine, and when it had run for a few minutes, our battery had enough juice to start the engine again.  We've had a long run today, so it should be ok in the morning.  The engineer said they normally last three or four years; this one was in the boat when we bought it four years ago, and it has a 2007 date printed on the side, so it really doesn't owe us anything.  We'll probably buy a new one at the show.

All this meant it was 10am before we left the marina.  It was sunny, but with a brisk and cool breeze.  The usual hour and a half later we were at the bottom of Stoke Bruerne locks.  A previous boat test boat, Willow Two, was on the water point.  Two boats were going up the bottom lock, so we had to turn it.  By the time we were up, another two boats had arrived at the bottom, so we carried on alone.  The boats in front were rather slow, and while we were waiting for the third lock, another single boat arrived at the bottom.  So one of the pair behind came with us, while the other waited for the single boat.

Our locking partners were an experienced boat share couple out of Gayton, and with boats heading down the locks, we made decent progress.  Some of the pounds look rather full when there are two uphill and two downhill boats swapping locks.

At the penultimate lock, our lock companions were joined by their daughter and three year old grandson.  He's got three years experience of boating, and like pushing lock gates!

It was 1pm by the time we got to the top, and we pressed on through the tunnel.  Adrian made lunch, but I waited until we were through the tunnel before eating mine -- not just because of the dark, but because of the danger of it being dripped on!

At Blisworth, another boat test boat was moored: the eyecatching widebeam, Valhalla.  The long lock free pound stretched ahead.  I steered while Adrian did some work.  Past Stowe Hill, a cow was using a bit of old machinery to scratch its head.

The stretch through Stowe Hill and Weedon seems to take ages, thanks to all the moored boats.  Time was getting on, so we decided we'd probably stop at the bottom of Buckby locks.  A couple of miles before we got there, I liked the look of a tree in a field of oilseed rape.  It's not quite as rural as it looks, though.  With a closer look you can see the M1 just the other side of the field.

It was almost 6pm when we moored in a sunny spot below the locks.  A hire boat in front appeared to be heading up them, but we decided to stop for the night.  To be honest, it's not the most peaceful of spots.  The M1 is on one side (although roadworks are keeping people's speed down), while on the other side is the West Coast Mainline, with Vigin trains speeding past every few minutes.

Tomorrow, we'll aim to get going fairly promptly to get up the locks in good time.

20 miles, 7 locks.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Pre Crick: Day 1

We came up to the boat after work, Adrian a bit ahead of me so he did some shopping on the way.  I arrived about 6.15, so we thought we'd get an hour of boating in.

However, when we came to start the engine, we had a problem.  It sounded like the same one we had in March, when we called out RCR, and the engineer just jabbed the stop button a couple of times, said the solenoid had got stuck, and everything was fine.  We phoned James on Chance to see if he had any ideas of things to try -- and in true James style he even had his own engine boards up to talk us though various things.  There seemed to be no easy answer, though, so we've rung RCR again, and an engineer will come out in the morning.  We've asked if he can come first thing, as we really need to get a move on to get to Crick!

So we're I'm the marina tonight.  After dinner, Adrian spotted a tiny puppy being walked on the bank behind the boats, so we went out to say hello.  It was a little cockerpoo, eight weeks old, which our neighbours a few boats down had picked up just an hour before.  Her tail was going non stop, and she came and had a cuddle with each of us, until she had to go back home as it was getting chilly and she was shivering!

0 miles, 0 locks.

Monday 18 May 2015

All set for Crick

We have our wristbands and our mooring pass for the Crick Boat Show.  The main part of our journey to the show will be on Thursday -- the day the weather is supposed to improve.

Tuesday 5 May 2015

La Tortuga on test

The June issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on the Fernwood boat, La Tortuga.  I know Andy the photographer will be delighted that a picture featuring the owners' dog, Wilbur, has been chosen for the front cover!