Friday 17 December 2021

Elektra on test

The January Canal Boat is out and includes my review of the pink boat, Elektra, but Smithwood Narrowboats. 

Friday 19 November 2021

Staging post

We came up to the boat this morning after I’d finished work; Adrian had been in London overnight for work.  We’re here because we are having a weekend seeing family and friends in Cheshire, so this is a useful stopping point.  We stopped for shopping on the way, and once at the boat got the fire lit.

This afternoon we walked down the towpath to Cosgrove and the aqueduct.  The canal is looking very autumnal, with lots of fallen leaves.

We’ll be off up to Cheshire in the morning.

Wednesday 10 November 2021

Salodin on test

The December Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Salodin by Braidbar Boats.

Saturday 6 November 2021

Glascote Locks

I went up to Briar Rose after work yesterday, and spent the night on board.  Fortunately the fire lit very easily, and was soon warming up the boat.  This morning I drove up to Glascote for a boat test. 

Due to the logistics of the owner, we started at 8.30, and were done by the time we are normally just getting going!

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Licence holders

Our licence holders were falling apart, so I ordered some new ones.  They are £1 for a pair on the CRT website, including postage.  As they cost 72p to post, I can’t imagine CRT make any money on them.  On Friday afternoon, I spent a considerable time carefully scraping the old adhesive from the windows with the blade from a Stanley knife.  Then I put the new ones in their place.

The trouble is that they have a printed section at the top, which means that when you put the licence in, the boat registration number is covered up.  This is literally the only part of the licence a checker needs to see.  At least our number is painted on the boat — but this does seem to be something of a design fault.

Sunday 17 October 2021

Smoke hood

After I swept the chimney on Friday afternoon, I cleared a load of debris off the top baffle in the stove, both by sweeping it off with a poker, and by lifting the baffle so the stuff at the back could drop into the stove.  However, when I lit the sire, I found that every time I opened the door, smoke poured out.  I had to open all the windows and doors to get rid of it.  I couldn’t really understand what was going on, because there was also smoke coming out of the chimney, and the flue was getting hot.

Eventually, I thought some more investigation was needed,  Perhaps I hadn’t cleared all the debris off the baffle properly, and the flue was a bit blocked.  So I shut the fire down and waited for it to cool down a bit.  Opening the door again meant another boat-full of smoke, and then I put the still hot coals in the ash bucket out on the towpath.  Shining a torch above the baffle, I could see that there was a cover over the bottom of the flue.  I looked in the instruction manual, which identified this as a smoke hood — and also said that if the stove was in a boat, where the flue was likely to be less that 4.5 metres tall, it should be left off.  Further research confirmed this should be the case.

To get to it, I had to take the sloping side fittings out of the stove, which allowed the top baffle to be removed.  Then the smoke hood could be twisted off.  Then I could see that it had prevented more debris from coming out of the flue — so it was partially blocked.

I left the smoke hood off, and reassembled everything in the stove.  Lighting it this time was much easier, with a decent draw quickly being established.  I’m hoping this adjustment will mean the stove lights easier in future too.  And if you have a relatively new Morso Squirrel, check to see whether you have a smoke hood fitted.

Saturday 16 October 2021


I had fun and games with the stove last night, but I’ll do a separate post about that too.  This morning I walked the mile back to the marina and drove up to Debdale Wharf for a boat test — via Towcester where I met Andy the photographer so we could travel the last bit in one car.  Our trip out on the boat took us to Forton Junction, where there were a few people about but very few boats.

Back at our marina, I walked to the boat, then boated back.  I was heading home by about 4.30.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (4 miles, 0 locks)

Friday 15 October 2021


I came up to the boat after work as I have a boat test to do tomorrow, leaving behind a rather dull and drizzly London and arriving in warm sunshine.  It was far too nice to stay in the marina, so I headed out and turned left.

The space I like through Bridge 63 was free, so I carried on to Baxter’s where I turned around, and returned to it.  I moored so I can see through the gap in the hedge from the galley and the dinette.

After lunch I did a few jobs, firstly sweeping the stove chimney, then blacking the stove itself.  Both of them are rather messy jobs.

I needed to get some steps under my belt, so headed through the gap in the hedge and across the field, which has been harvested and ploughed.

Across the next field is a bridge over the River Tove, meaning I was into Buckinghamshire.

The path goes through woods, then a field of sheep.

I turned through a farm yard and across another field of sheep, up to Castlethorpe.  The railway goes through the village in a cutting.  It used to have a station, but it closed in 1964; you can still see the platforms, although the central one is very overgrown with trees.

The village has a nice sign, and there’s a little shop.  I retraced my steps back to the boat, covering almost 5km.

I spend the next little while carefully scraping old adhesive from our licence holders from the windows, before sticking new ones up.  I’ll do another post in a couple of days about how ridiculous they are.  I lit the fire, because I know from experience that the blacking makes fumes if you haven’t polished off every last trace — so I wanted to get it going while it was still warm enough to have windows and doors open.

3 miles, 0 locks.

Saturday 9 October 2021

Kenmillone on test, plus Crick show boats

The November Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Kenmillone by Pendle Narrowboats.

There’s also a review of the narrowboats which were on show at the Crick Boat Show back in August.

Saturday 25 September 2021

North Kilworth

Up to North Kilworth today for a boat test.  The weather was kind, and the ducks were tame.

Monday 20 September 2021

Calopteryx on test

The October Canal Boat came out while we were away, and includes my boat test on Calopteryx by Forton Boat Fitters.

Sunday 19 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 24

We were a bit later setting off this morning, probably due to a General Reluctance to end our trip.  It was 8.45 when we left our mooring and headed for the lock.

A single hander was going down ahead, so he waited for us at the third lock.  At the next one, the pound was so full of water there was no chance of getting the top gates open, so we had to run some water off to lower the whole pound.  A CRT man turned up and did the same at the bottom lock.  Once we were down we made a brief stop at the services to use the Elsan and top up the water tank — it’s easier to do it here than at the marina.  It had begun to rain at the bottom of the flight, so I put my waterproof trousers on, at which point it promptly stopped.  It stayed pretty much dry for the whole journey back to the marina.  We were tied up on our pontoon by 11.45.  Adrian had been packing as we came along, so after some lunch we’ll be loading up the car and heading home.

5 miles, 5 locks.  (283 miles, 270 locks)

Saturday 18 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 23

We had a nice evening with the Provincetown boys, including a look at their boat, which is beautiful.  It was very misty this morning when we set off at around 8.  None of the other boats pointing our way showed any signs of life, so we set off down the locks on our own.

As usual on this flight, some locks were full and others empty.  We completed the flight by 9.30.

At the bottom, there was a lovely boat moored up.

We hadn’t seen any boats at all on the flight, but then they came thick and fast.  Similarly, the sun had also burnt off the mist and it had turned into a lovely day.  At Weedon a site on the offside is being cleared — not sure what will be going in here.

We made a diesel stop at Rugby Boats, where the price has gone up to 84.9p per litre basic.  Just after Heyford Fields Marina, a hire boat coming the other way had got stuck on a rock, and we waited while a boat behind them helped pull them off.  Towards Gayton Junction I spotted a heron which had just caught a fish.

At Blisworth, the widebeam trip boat from The marina was moored right in front of the bridge so you couldn’t see anything.  The boat in front of us had had to take avoiding action when a boat came through the other way and ended up aground close to the mill building.  It all took a while to sort out. How the trip boat thinks this is a suitable mooring, I have no idea.

We passed one boat in Blisworth Tunnel, then did the two locks down to the long pound where we moored.  We walked back to the village and called in to see Kathryn, then on to see Jenny and Pete on Momentous, which was moored above the locks.  Back at the boat, we washed and polished the other side which was no on the towpath, and then Jenny and Pete joined us for a drink.  We all ended up going to The Navigation for dinner together — one of those great evenings that’s all the better for being unplanned.  On the way back to the long pound, the moon looked great above the lock, and a boat was coming down in the dark, it’s headlight lighting up the gate. 

16 miles, 8 locks.  (278 miles, 265 locks)

Friday 17 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 22

Some days everything seems to take a long time, and some days things seem to happen quicker than usual.  Today was one of the latter sort.  We started with a plan, having heard how busy Hillmorton Locks can be, especially since the hours were limited: they open at 8, so we’d aim to be there about then.  So we set off at 7.45, and arrived at the bottom of the locks at about the same time.  One boat we passed was just about to set off, and another was already going into one of the bottom pair of locks.  The other was empty and we could go straight in.

As we rose in the middle locks, boats were coming down, so the top locks were also ready — by when a volunteer lock keeper had arrived.

The other boat, an ex-Viking Afloat, stopped at the top for breakfast while we carried on towards Braunston.  It had been quite chilly, but the sun came out and the temperature went up, and before long the spire of Braunston church came into view.

We made two brief stops in Braunston, the first at Midland Chandlers for boat was and polish.  We stopped on their mooring right opposite the junction.

Then we pulled in outside the marina for a quick trip into the village.  We had an early lunch before setting off again.  A boat expecting visitors had tucked in behind us, right by the marina entrance, but was quite a long way out from the edge, so we’re pleased that they could move forward into our space.  Earlier on, I’d sent a message to Mark from the hotel boat, Ellis, as we’d noticed he was in Braunston Marina with alternator problems.  As I walked up to the lock he replied, so came along to say hello.

We were joined up the locks by a nice couple on a boat which they moor at Norton Junction, and who have been boating since the 1980s.  We met no-one coming through Braunston Tunnel, and when we got to the junction there were no boat movements either.  A boat had just gone down the lock but the volunteer lock keepers helped set it for us.  This evening, we are going to the New Inn with Peter and Stu from Provincetown, and I was surprised to find Stu already having a pint outside the pub, many hours too early!  We moored immediately below the lock, and washed and polished the towpath side of the boat, something we have neglected to do the whole trip.  I even polished the tiller arm and pin.

13 miles, 10 locks.  (262 miles, 257 locks)

Thursday 16 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 21

Last night, I had a great evening at a Radio 2 presenters’ event in London, and didn’t get back to the boat until well after midnight.  Adrian went out for a meal at an Indian restaurant.  Also last night he discovered that the fridge had been off for a while, and things in the freezer had defrosted and needed to be replaced.  This morning, after an early trip to the little Tesco just down from the basin, we set off at 8am.  Going this way, you get a much better view of the Cash’s Hundreds, the houses which used to have weaving looms on the top floor.

At one blind bridge we came face to face with a hire boat, prompting lots of reverse from both of us.  We ended up with something round the prop, which turned out to be the fabric from an umbrella.  At Longford, volunteers were out in force litter picking and tidying up, including removing a huge amount of bushes from in front of a wall.

We got to Hawkesbury Junction after a couple of hours and stopped on the water point before the turn.  We filled the tank, got rid of rubbish, and started some washing.  Numerous boats from the opposite direction arrived and made the turn, making the pool beyond the junction bridge rather busy.

It was soon our turn to go under the bridge, and then through the stop lock onto the North Oxford Canal.

The next section is not that interesting.  We managed to get past a couple of slow boats, and just pushed on in the sunshine.  When we got to Brinklow Marina, where we used to moor when we first had the boat, we turned in — in order to catch up with Mark who’s now the harbour master there, and Del and Al from Derwent6.  We spend a good hour swapping news from the last couple of years, which seem to have been quite eventful.  It was really great to see them.

The locks at Hillmorton currently close early, with the last entry at 4.30.  We knew we wouldn’t get there in time, so went through Newbold and Rugby and moored at the golf course.

20 miles, 1 lock. (249 miles, 247 locks)

Wednesday 15 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 20

It was dry and a bit brighter this morning, but quite chilly when the cloud was at its thickest.  We set off at 8, and made our way past the allotments and back gardens of Nuneaton.  We past a fuel boat going the other way.

At Marston Junction, a boat seemed to have just come off the Ashby Canal, but was over at the far side of the winding hole, so we slipped past.  Charity Dock seemed to have more boats, now double moored most of the way along, and more comedy, with a load of new characters in the gardens.

We planned to stop for water at Hawkesbury Junction, but two of the taps we could have used were in use, and another was broken.  The two boats ahead of us turned under the bridge onto the Oxford Canal.

We carried on straight towards Coventry Basin, where we haven’t been since 2015.  Then I commented on new housing, and now there is even more.  Some, down by the basin, has Coventry Canal Company on it, and I wonder what the actual company would have made of it.

The bridge into the basin always looks impossibly small.

At the moment you have to book a mooring in the basin, because of Coventry being UK City of Culture.We booked online at the end of last week, and the only space available was on C mooring.  I had no idea which one that was, but by fluke we seem to have pretty much the best mooring in the whole place.  There is a floating library/reading room behind us.

We went for lunch at the cafe in the basin — passable toasted sandwiches, but nothing special — and then went for a walk into the city centre, which seems much improved since the last time we were here.  We visited the old and new Cathedrals, where the tapestry and stained glass always impress.

This evening, I am making use of being reasonably close to a station by getting a train into London for a work event.

13 miles, 0 locks.  (229 miles, 246 locks)

Tuesday 14 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 19

The rain was little more than drizzle when we set off this morning a little before 8am.  It took around an hour to get to the bottom of the Atherstone Locks.  I’d been gradually catching up to a boat ahead, so I was pleased when they pulled onto the water point before the locks!  The first couple of locks were empty, which was good, but they takes ages to fill.  A boat then arrived behind us, so as we left the second lock I lifted a paddle to empty it for them.  At Lock 9, a CRT man was prodding about on the cill with a spade with a hugely long handle.  There was still plenty of water coming round the gate, though, which he took photos of.  The pound above was well down, so he ran some water through Lock 8 as we came up in 9; it was still very shallow though.

As we rose in Lock 7, I could see than someone was coming down the lock ahead, number 6.  It turned out to be an old working boat going to the Brownhills Festival.  As he came out of the lock I waved so he knew to leave the gates open for us, so we could just swap locks.

There was another historic boat above the lock waiting to come down, also going to Brownhills, but basically just pleased to be going anywhere.  The locks in the top part of the flight continued to be in our favour, right up to Lock 2 which needed emptying.  By now it was properly raining, and we were getting pretty wet.  I’d put my waterproof trousers on at the start of the day, in the hopes that would ward off the rain — but it hadn’t worked.  As we rose in Lock 2 I walked up to Lock 1 which was also full.  It turned out there were five volunteer lock keepers there, huddled in their hut out of the rain, who hadn’t even noticed us coming.  By the time we were coming into the lock, there was a lockie on each bottom gate and one on each top paddle!

The flight had taken around two hours, which is not bad going.  We carried on, with the rain pretty steady. At least there was no wind though, because vertical rain is much more manageable than the horizontal variety.  Mancetta Marina, which is fairly new, now looks to be full of boats, and has a very impressive canal frontage, with rock gardens and the planted-up front half of an old boat.

I was surprised by where moored boats had congregated.  We’ve often stopped near Hartshill, one bridge back from the yard, and sometimes struggled to get in there.  Today, there was no-one moored at all, either on the official moorings or the piling before them.  Instead, everyone was a couple of bridges back towards Atherstone.  I was aiming for the bridge just beyond Springwood Haven Marine, which it turns out is now owned by ABC leisure (like Fazeley Mill Marina which we passed yesterday).  We moored up about 12.30; it was a soup-for-lunch type of day.  This afternoon I have written up a boat test I did a few weeks ago, and which I’ve been meaning to start the whole trip.  At least it’s now mostly done.

9 miles, 11 locks.  (216 miles, 246 locks)