Thursday 22 June 2017

A catch up and an operation

We knew Helen and Andy from Wand'ring Bark and the Jam Butty were down south, so had been trying to meet up with them. It didn't quite work at the weekend, but it did today. Adrian was due at midday at a hospital in Wimbledon, for surgery on his neck; for months he's had a prolapsed disc, and the solution was to remove a bone spur from the affected vertibra. As Helen and Andy would be near Hampton Court that morning, we arranged to pay them a visit. They were moored just above Molesey Lock, and we found them without difficulty. It was great to catch up and hear about their life afloat; they needed to be off by 11, and so did we to get to Wimbledon, so we went with them the couple of hundred yards down to the lock (just to say we'd been boating today!). A boat was coming up, so we jumped off at the lock landing.

At the hospital, Adrian was soon in his room and answering the same questions multiple times. He had visits from the surgeon and the anaesthetist, and about 2pm was taken off down to the operating theatre. While he was having his surgery, I walked down the hill to Wimbledon village, where every shop has a green and purple flag outside.

I had a late (and Wimbledon-priced) sandwich in a cafe, then decided to walk back a different way, taking in the All England Club on the way.

Back at the hospital it was a while before Adrian was out of the recovery room and in the High Dependency Unit for a few hours of post op observation. By the time I left, the anaesthetist and the surgeon had been to seem him, and both were happy with how it had gone ("a bloody good job", was the surgeon's verdict on his own work), and dinner had arrived. He's now back in his own room being served tea on a tray with a doily.

Friday 16 June 2017

Two in one day

An early start this morning, heading up the M1 and across the Derbyshire Dales to the Macclesfield Canal for a boat test. Unfortunately the more pessimistic of the weather forecasts turned out to be also the more accurate, however we did the best we could with the conditions.

That one was done by lunchtime, so we headed off to Mercia Marina for the second boat test of the day. Frustratingly, the sun was shining from Macclesfied southwards. At Mercia, we headed straight outnon the boat to make the most of the sun, only for it to cloud over a bit. Of course the sun returned as soon as we got back. With that test done by about 4.30, we treated ourselves to tea and the Willow Tree Cafe, along with a piece of courgette and avocado cake -- mostly because it sounded so weird.

It was a bit like carrot cake, with neither the courgette nor the avocado coming through particularly (which may be a good thing). It was also gluten free, and surely at least one of your five a day.

It was nearly 7pm when I got back to the marina. I considered driving home this evening, but I've already done 270 miles today, so I'll get up early and head back in the morning.

Thursday 15 June 2017


Work today. This is really just to log another night on board.

Wednesday 14 June 2017


I need to be up in the midlands on Friday (assuming the AccuWeather forecast is more accurate than the BBC one), and my shift times this week meant it made more sense to come up to Briar Rose today than tomorrow. I arrived a bit before 5pm and found the boat sweltering inside, so I flung open the side doors, the windows, and the Houdini hatch. The boat next to us is still out and so is the one beyond, so a duck was making use of their jetty for a bit of a spruce up.

It'll be an early night tonight as I've been up since 4am, and need to be on a train from Wolverton just before 6 in the morning.

Thursday 8 June 2017

Blisworth Tunnel Boats on test

The July issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my biat test on a spec boat by Blisworth Tunnel Boats

Tuesday 6 June 2017

Post-Crick: Day 8

I was hoping to get a bit of exercise today, having spotted on the Waka Huia blog that Marilyn and David planned to go up Hatton Locks. I contacted them and offered to swing a windlass, as Hatton is only about an hour's drive from here. I was off in good time, but when I arrived at the car park discovered a text to say they'd decided the weather wasn't conducive to locking. It was the right decision, with heavy rain and strong winds. I drove down to the Cape of Good Hope to find them -- possibly earlier than expected -- and was plied with tea and cheese scones. M&D are travelling with Mick and Julia on Unknown No 3, whom we met last September when we shared the Buckby Locks with them; they came in too, and it was good to catch up with them.

After a good couple of hours I headed off, but couldn't resist a look at Hatton Locks. The place was deserted, which is unusual. I went for a bowl of soup at the cafe at the top of the locks, and they were having a vey quiet day too.

Just a couple miles away is Kingswood Junction, so I drove up there and had a walk around. Here there were a couple of boats on the move in spite of the conditions, which were still pretty grim.

Having arrived via the M40 I decided to return using the M1 (to make a ring, I suppose!) and head cross country. I realised as I passed theough the outskirts of Rugby that Newbold wouldn't be far off my route, and I suspected that Bruce and Sheila on Sanity Again would probably have decided to sit out today as well. I was right, so I knocked on their roof. More tea and more enjoyable conversation.

While I was in Newbold the sun came out, and the drive back to Thrupp Wharf was very sunny indeed. As I got back to the marina there was clearly a heavy shower on the way, with the sky black one way and blue the other.

Sure enough, I'd only been in a few seconds when the most torrential rain came down, blown horizontal by the wind. A couple of minutes later the sun was out again, but if anything the wind has strengthened, making waves on the marina and buffeting the boat.

I spent some time trying to stop a drip from the heated towel rail. It's never been right since it was installed at Calcut, BLS had a go when we were in for blacking a couple of months ago, and Dave tightened up one of the joints yesterday -- but there's still a drip. I undid the joint, managed to catch almost all the liquid from the rail, and remade the joint using some PFTE tape supplied by Mick. The joint is much better -- but there's still a drip, as it's coming from above. I'm wondering if it's been from there all along. I'm not sure what to do about it, either way.

Tomorrow, work then home.

Monday 5 June 2017

Post-Crick: Day 7

I was in several minds about what to do today. I pretty much finished writing the boat test last night while watching the Manchester concert, so I wouldn't need to spend today writing like I'd expected. Also the forecast for today and tomorrow wasn't great, to say the least. I decided that I'd find out what the situation was with our broken Eberspacher boiler, and that would determine what I'd do: if it was ready to go back in, then I'd stay up here; if it wasn't going to be ready today or tomorrow, I'd head home.

I spoke to Gary at Boating Leisure Services, and the Eber was indeed fixed. It had had a number of things wrong with it, and each part would have been expensive to replace with new, so they've raided their extensive collection of bits and pieces and replaced all the parts with second hand ones. He said it might run for another ten years -- or it might not!

I said I'd return to the marina, as it would be much easier for Dave from BLS to visit. So I walked up and set Cosgrove lock, then set off from my mooring. I could see another boat coming along the straight section from the aqueduct, so once Briar Rose was settled in the lock I closed that gate and opened the other one. I recognised the bow as a Wyvern hire boat; it took ages to arrive, then a crew member jumped off with a rope before the lock and tried to wrap it round a bollard, even though the helmsman was trying to get in the lock. There were two Australian couples on board, who rather gave the impression that the couple of days they must have taken to travel from Leighton Buzzard had tested their friendships! Still they took the locking very seriously, and were keen to pick up tips. They stopped at the services in search of a rubbish bin, and I carried on to the marina. There was a stiff breeze blowing but it wasn't in an unhelpful direction, so I was soon in our berth and secure. Fortunately, two boats on the outside of us are out, improving the view no end.

I made some check calls on the boat test, and also managed to set ul a couple more for later in the month (weather permitting). After lunch, Dave turned up with the Eber, and installed it back into its little cubby hole at the stern.

Dave is one of only about eight regional Eberspacher gurus around the country, so he really knows what he's doing. He was telling me that the idea is that engineers who are having problems with Ebers come to him for advice; if he's having problems fiximg something, he can go straight to the mother ship. He was also telling me about someone who took his Eber to an engineer who wasn't really sure what was wrong it, and who kept replacing perfectly good parts -- running up a four figure bill -- and still not fixing it. this chimes with something I heard a little while ago (it might have been at the Crick show) that Eberspacher are increasingly annoyed about unqualified people working on them, because their mistakes give them a bad name. So the lesson is, make sure whoever works on your Eberspacher knows what they're doing.

It was about 3pm by the time Dave left. Andy the photographer had sent me a link to the ohotos from yesterday, and I really wanted to download them -- but not on our mobile connection. So I drove to Tesco where there's a BT hotspot. I planned to have a tea at Costa there, but discovered I'd left my wallet on the boat, so I sat outside on a bench -- for 15 minutes! -- while the photos downloaded.

In spite of the forecast, it's hardly rained at all today. It has been very breezy, though. I have arranged a bit of exercise for tomorrow, but more of that then.

1 mile, 1 lock. (86 miles, 44 locks)

Sunday 4 June 2017

Post-Crick: Day 6 - Hopwas

A 6.30 alarm this morning, which felt very early even though I went to bed before 9 last night. I'd gone and got the car from the marina yesterday afternoon, so it was only a few minutes walk to where it was parked, then a very easy drive in early Sunday traffic up to Hopwas on the Coventry Canal for a boat test. It's just as well we'd decided to start early because it was beautiful first thing, but clouded over much earlier than forecast. The sun was out for the photos, so that was the main thing. As we walked back alomg the towpath to our cars, a family of ducklings crossed in front of us. I'm not sure where they'd been, but mother duck was keen to get them back to the water.

We were all done in good time, and the drive back was good too, although it turned out some very heavy showers were just a few miles away. I put the car back in the marina and walked the mile and a half or so back to the boat. After some lunch, I decided I'd move the boat a bit closer to Cosgrove lock, as there was plenty of room up ahead. It was only a few hundred yards, but I've now got the lock in sight through the bow doors, so there's been plenty of activity during the afternoon. I've also been cracking on with writing the boat test, and it's currently about half done. Tomorrow, I need to find out if there's a chance we'll get the Eberspacher back in the next couple of days.

Saturday 3 June 2017

Post-Crick: Day 5

I arrived back from my third and final night shift of this set, and prepared to move off from Wolverton. First I made a quick dash to Tesco for a few more provisions. I set off at 9.45, in lovely sunshine. My initial plan was to turn atbthe New Bradwell winding hole, but as I had plenty of time today I formulated another plan. When I was putting away the new oil and air filters bought at Crick, I found that some of the supposedly empty plastic bottles, kept for oil changes, actually had old oil in them. So I carried on to the winding hole at Great Linford. Bridge 75 at Stantonbury always looks attractive, and today was no exception.

Of course what always happens during a turn at Great Linford is that a boat comes through the bridge. Today it was Gary on the fuel boat, Ascot, with butty, Beverley. Fortunately I was most of the way round so didn't hold him up too much.

I moored up at Bridge 74, where there are now helpful rings in the towpath. Here I had the second of two dog's mess incidents. The first had happened earlier, when I asked a towpath dog walker if she was going to clear up after her dog. 'I thought he did it in the water,' was her reply. Well, no, perhaps not surprisingly, the dog hadn't done its business with it's bottom off the edge of the towpath. The second incident was discovering the annoying way that the path where I was mooring was similarly afflicted.

I walked the short distance to the tip with the old oil. It's not far, but the site clearly isn't set up for people arriving on foot. Back at the boat, as I now had hot water, I had a shower, then an early lunch -- actually not that early considering breakfast was toast at 4am.

At about 1pm I set off again. I tried a panorama shot as I crossed the Grafton Street Aqueduct.

I moored up beyond the Wolverton Aqueduct. I need to be within striking distance of the car, but I prefer it here to up in Cosgrove.

This afternoon I was outside when I saw the familiar bow of Flamingo coming across the aqueduct, with Alan at the helm. We had a brief chat as he passed.

Flamingo was going up the lock, so I walked down to lend Alan and Cath a hand as I haven't worked a lock since Wednesday. There were a couple of boats goimg up, then a couple to come down, including one of the smallest boats I've ever seen. It really contrasted with the 70ft of Flamingo.

I'll be in bed early tonight as I've been up since yesterday evening, and I need to be up early tomorrow morning.

8 miles, 0 locks. (85 miles, 43 locks)

Post-Crick: Day 4

Much easier to sleep today as it's been much cooler. Still the only boat here this evening, although I suspect a few have stopped during the day for shopping.

Post-Crick: Day 3

It was pretty difficult to sleep today between night shifts, because it was so warm. I even got up at one point and opened the side hatch, which is on the water side. By the time I got up properly, the other three boats moored here last night had gone, leaving me all alone. I do like the old engine sheds opposite.