Friday 31 March 2023

March visit: Day 4

Today is my birthday, so we started with cards and presents over breakfast.  We then headed out for a rather drizzly walk under the aqueduct, across the Ouse Valley Park, under the A5, round a loop and back. When we set off, Adrian walked up to the lock to get it ready while I brought the boat.  Above the lock, the Jules Fuels boats were selling some diesel, so we had to wait for a bit.

We got past them the next time they stopped, so there were briefly four boats next to each other across the canal.  The sun came out for the rest of the trip back to the marina — and there was no wind to speak of for the spin and reverse back into our berth, which went pretty well.  Once we were tied up and connected to shore power, the washing machine went on, as I’m now staying up here for a few more days.  Then we got in the car and headed to Daventry to visit Tesco for a few things, and then to Braunston where we had toasted sandwiches in the Community Cafe.  Their Easter table decorations included a basket of little canalware eggs.

The main reason for heading to Braunston was to pick up the impeller for the shower pump from Midland Chandlers.  It was waiting for us. So that was good, and we met Steph who’s the manager there.  On the way back, we collected Adrian’s car from the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne locks.  Back at the boat I fitted the new impeller in the pump.

Then once the back was screwed in place and it was checked to be working, I had to re-fix the pump to the wall, which was probably the most difficult bit of the process.

It has rained on and off all afternoon, so we haven’t done much else.  This evening we are going to The Navigation for dinner, where we’ll be joined by Nigel, Grace, and Matthew; unfortunately Catherine is pre-booked elsewhere.

1 mile, 1 lock.  (13 miles, 2 locks)

Thursday 30 March 2023

March visit: Day 3

Adrian was coming up today, but the length of the drive meant he wouldn’t arrive until lunchtime.  I walked up to the tunnel and back to get some steps in, and by the time I got back it was starting to rain.  Shortly after I was inside, it absolutely hammered it down.  Next I made tonight’s dinner, a moussaka, as I’d brought with me an aubergine that came in the veg box.  I also had time to read some of my book.  The weather improved dramatically, so much so that it was sunny and warm enough to have the side hatch open.

I was also pleased to see that the solar panel was topping up the batteries quite significantly.  Even the past couple of days when there’s been no real sun, it’s kept them level during the day.  Adrian arrived just before 12.30 and we had some lunch before setting off.  It was a much better day than forecast, although it was very windy in places.

It was really quite warm in the sunshine, and we passed a few boats going the other way.  At times the wind made things tricky as it tried to blow us sideways, but in the sheltered parts it was really pleasant.

We carried on past the marina — the turn in would have been very tricky with the wind — to Cosgrove lock.  One of the top gates had blown open so we were able to go straight in, although the wind also made that more work than it should have been.  The moorings between the lock and the aqueduct looked very busy, but there was actually plenty of room at the far end.  We went over the aqueduct, turned round at Galleon Wharf, and returned to a spot over the aqueduct.  Nick and Mary with the Jules Fuels boats were moored further along so we walked down to get another bag of coal, because you just never know whether you’ll need it at this time of year (occasionally we’ve even needed a fire at the Crick Show in May).  They could only take cash because the card reader had fallen in the canal yesterday; I never carry cash, and Adrian was about 50p short of the cheapest bag — but they very kindly let us have it anyway!

I need to make a béchamel sauce for the top of the moussaka, and then that can go in the oven.  Tomorrow, we’re back to the marina.

7 miles, 1 lock.  (12 miles, 1 lock)

Wednesday 29 March 2023

March visit: Day 2

I slept really well, and had a very relaxed start to the day.  I had a quick shower — emptying the tray with a bucket and sponge.  When you’ve done it like that you realise how efficient shower pumps really are!  The day had started brighter than I was expecting, but it soon came on to drizzle and then properly rain.  I spent the morning cleaning things, tackling six months of neglect, and going to a couple of work Zoom meetings.  I had a quick lunch, then set off about 1pm, when it had dried up.  I did just the couple of miles along to Stoke Bruerne, where I turned in the river arm and moored up at the start of the moorings.  There are only a couple of other boats here.  The towpath hedge has been drastically cut back — I reckon it’s been reduced by about three quarters.  It means there’s much more of a view from the boat on the towpath side, and the moorings are much brighter.

Once moored, I needed to go for a walk to get my steps for the day, so walked up the locks and through the village to the tunnel.  I could hear a boat coming, which turned out to be a Braunston hire boat.

On the way back I knocked on Kathryn’s door and had a quick chat.  I managed to get back to the boat before it started raining again.  This afternoon I have been arranging the boat’s BSS exam.  The past couple of times it’s been done while in for blacking, but the pandemic has meant things are now out of sync.  Also, the examiner who’s done it in the past is now not travelling, you have to go to him, so I’ve booked someone else to come out next month.

Adrian isn’t coming up today, but might tomorrow.

2 miles, 0 locks.  (5 miles, 0 locks)

Tuesday 28 March 2023

March visit: Day 1

Amazingly, this is the first visit to the boat since early October, when we finished our autumn cruise.  It must be one of the longest times (outside lockdown) that we haven’t been on board.  I came up this morning at the end of a set of night shifts; in the original plan, Adrian would already have been on board, but he’s attending to some family matters in Dorset at the moment.  I was supposed to be doing a boat test, but that was rained off.

As there were some very cold snaps during the winter, I was a bit nervous about whether there might be some damage to the boat, but all seemed well.  I reassembled the shower and turned the water on, and hoped the water pump would soon stop, once the pipes were refilled.  It did — so there was no repeat of a few years ago when I had to replace the galley taps, which was a relief.  I also got the fire going as it was pretty cold on board, and attended to the loo.  I also filled the water tank, which needed quite a bit.  It was still only about 9.30 when I headed off to Tesco in Wolverton to get food for the next few days.

The rain up to this point had been pretty light, but back at the boat it came on quite heavily, so once the shopping was away I decided to do a few other jobs.  It was when I was cleaning the shower that I found the pump wasn’t working.  I Googled the pump type (a Jabsco Water Puppy) and found how to get the back off.  Unfortunately, to get to it I had to take the whole thing off the wall of the airing cupboard.  Once the back was off, I could see the problem: the impeller was going round fine, but it was completely missing two prongs (or whatever they’re called), and another was half off.

It explained why the pump appeared to be trying, but just didn’t have enough oomph.  Googling some more showed that impellers are sold as spares, so I wondered who might have one.  I phoned Steve Furniss at Weedon, just in case he used the same sort of pump.  He doesn’t, but his wife is the manager of Midland Chandler’s at Braunston so I gave her a ring.  She didn’t have one in stock, but can get one — on Friday.  I’d been wondering whether I would stay up or go home in the event that Adrian couldn’t come up at all, so this made my decision for me: I’d be staying up until Friday.

The rain had stopped, so I decided I’d head out of the marina.  I put my waterproof over-trousers on, in the belief that if I was prepared for rain it probably wouldn’t happen.  In the event, there was a squally shower as I set off which was rather unpleasant.  But I did a great turn out of the marina towards Stoke Bruerne, and then saw a green woodpecker on the towpath, which made it all worthwhile.  The rain soon stopped, and while the conditions weren’t the best, they weren’t unpleasant either.

There are plenty of places to stop along this stretch, but I wanted to give the boat a decent run, not least to generate some hot water (although a shower might be difficult without a pump).  So I continued to Grafton Regis, where there was a decent spot that I’ve used before, just before the main moorings, with views both sides.  There’s a field of sheep with lambs on the towpath side, and a view of the Manor House on the offside.

It won’t be a late night, as I haven’t had any sleep since yesterday.  Tomorrow I will potter along to Stoke Bruerne.

3 miles, 0 locks.

Friday 10 March 2023

Lale on test

The April Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Lale, an electric drive narrowboat by Tristar Boats