Thursday 31 August 2023

Wending to Wales: Pause Day 3

It was me walking to the station this morning to get a train to work.  Adrian had spent the night in a hotel in Reading, and returned to the boat this afternoon.  That's now work out of the way, and tomorrow we'll be setting off properly.

Wednesday 30 August 2023

Wending to Wales: Pause Day 2

Today was the opposite to yesterday — Adrian went off to the station to catch trains to Reading for meetings, while I was on the boat as I had the day off.  I worked on the boat test I’ve been writing and then zoomed in to a work staff meeting.  In late morning I thought I’d walk in to Rugby to see what it was like.  It’s about half an hour’s walk, mostly uphill.  I went to the Art Gallery and Museum, where there’s currently an exhibition of comics and animation, including a whole wall of comic front covers, and an Aardman section.

From there I walked down one of the main streets to Caldecott Park.  All around town there are big Rugby balls with different designs, I think to mark the 200th anniversary this year of rugby football being invented.

I had a sandwich in a nice little cafe in the park, Hatty Bakewell’s, then walked down over a huge bridge over the railway line and past the retail park where Homebase is, and up past Tesco.  I popped in for a few bits forgotten the other day, then walked up to the canal and along the towpath back to the boat.

This afternoon has been spent mostly sat in the well deck of Derwent6, chatting to Del and Al about all manner of things.  They’re always good fun, and today was no exception.

Tuesday 29 August 2023

Wending to Wales: Pause Day 1

A work day for both of us today -- Adrian working at the dinette on the boat, while I walked the 20 minutes to Rugby Station for a train into London.

Monday 28 August 2023

Wending to Wales: Day 4

As it was a bank holiday, we had a cooked breakfast including very nice bacon and black pudding from the Braunston butcher.  We started a wash load, then set off when the wash part of the cycle was done, having said our goodbyes to the Momentous crew.  It’s a very familiar stretch of water for us from when we were based at Brinklow, but the countryside is still lovely to look at.  At one point we passed a boat going the other way whose skipper knew my name! He said he’d seen us on the Thames ten years ago — so I’m wondering if it was Mike, who formed a convoy with us when we did the tidal section from Limehouse to Teddington in 2014.  The boat looked different, but of course it could have been repainted, or even be a different boat.  If you’re reading this, let me know!

Big things are happening at Blue Haven Marine.  The old building has been replaced by a very tall new one, which seems to have a dock inside with a substantial lift.  There’s also a massive crane, but the boat on the bank to the left of it was on a rather alarming angle — it looked as though one shove would have it sliding back into the water.

We soon got to Hillmorton Locks, scene of many a queue and general hold up.  But today a boat had just left the left hand lock meaning we could go straight in.  One was coming up the paired lock, so we had a one-up-one-down situation.

At the middle pair, the left hand one just needed an inch or two of water to top it up before we could go in.  These are the ones with the poetry on the balance beams.

On the bridge before the bottom lock, Adrian found a radio aerial hanging from a groove in the bridge, having apparently been ripped off a boat, so he removed it!  The right hand bottom lock again needed just a little topping up.  All in all, we had flown down the three locks, all of them in our favour, and without another boat in sight.  And there weren’t any volunteer lock keepers to get in the way either!

We stopped at the water point below the locks to replace the water the washing machine had used.  While that happened, I walked back with a bag of rubbish and chatted to a man walking his ferret.  I also evicted many spiders from the well deck, encouraging them to take up land-based activities in Warwickshire.  We set off again aiming for a mooring by the golf course.  There were lots of boats here, including Derwent6, but we slotted into the one available spot.

This afternoon, Adrian has been working, to minimise the hours he needs to do later in the week, and I have been writing a boat test.  Many boats have gone by, including lots of hire boats that have recently set off.  Some have been too fast, and a few have been encouraged to go slower by boaters nearby.  There will now be a short pause in proceedings, as we both have to work for a few days.

7 miles, 3 locks.  (35 miles, 23 locks)

Sunday 27 August 2023

Wending to Wales: Day 3

We had a lovely evening last night with the Norton branch of the family.  They arrived at around 7pm with fish and chips and we had plenty to catch up on.

After a pretty full on boating day yesterday, today we took things much easier.  We set off at 8.30 heading for the tunnel.  It was fairly breezy and chilly, but such was the warmth and humidity in the tunnel that as we went in my glasses steamed up.

We passed two boats in the tunnel, and then I could see another in front going our way.  It was a boat which had passed us quite a while before we set off, and when we got to the top lock they waited for us, so we had a locking partner to down with.  Matthew had been keen to come and do the locks with us this morning, so he and Nigel arrived just after we’d come down the top lock and were waiting for someone to come up the one below.  In fact we met boats at every lock.  Matthew took over the steering, and while I stayed on board just in case, there was really no need; Matthew is more than capable and I was surplus to requirements.  Some of the transitions were pretty tricky too, with boats coming the other way with not much room.

Apart from anything else, it was nice for me to have a proper chat with Matthew about the new school he’s  starting next month, and the holiday they’ve just had on the Llangollen.

We got to the bottom I’m an hour, and as there was space outside the marina we moored up for tea and more chat.  Once Nigel and Matthew had headed off home, we walked up to the village where the butcher is open on a Sunday morning, to get some things I’d forgotten to get for a cooked breakfast tomorrow.  Then we wandered down to the marina for a mooch around, and ordered toasted sandwiches for lunch from the Gonzoozler’s Rest.  These took ages to come, and the whole time the sky was darkening.  Eventually a few drops of rain fell, so when our food was ready we took it (plates and all) back to the boat so we could sit inside.  In fact, the rain came to nothing.  After lunch, we moved down to the water point at the Stop House, which turns out to be a very slow tap, and we returned our plates to the Gongoozler’s (Adrian had even washed them up!). After quite a lengthy wait for the tank to fill we headed out of town, past the junction bridges onto the North Oxford.

We were aiming for Bridge 87.  There were a few boats there, but there was still space for us, and we spotted a familiar boat a bit further along.  Once we were secure, we walked along and spent a very pleasant hour on Momentous catching up with Jenny and Pete, and their dogs who seemed really pleased to see us, for some reason!  Late this afternoon the sun has come out again, and I’ve just put a chicken in the oven to roast.

6 miles, 6 locks.  (28 miles, 20 locks)

Saturday 26 August 2023

Wending to Wales: Day 2

To say the weather today was changeable is an understatement.  It was quite misty when we got up, and we set off at 8am.  As we got to the bottom of the locks half an hour later, we saw a boat behind us, so we had locking partners all the way up.  Anne and John on Endeavour were experienced boaters, and Adrian and John on the helms had a shared interest in aviation to talk about.

We got to the top in the usual hour and a half, and set off through the tunnel.  We passed two boats inside, no two more just about to enter as we got to the other end.  At the Blisworth end it was raining, and a while later it chucked it down for a few minutes.  It was one of those coat-on-coat-off days, because when it wasn’t raining the sun was out.  We stopped for diesel at Rugby Boats, where the price has gone back up to £1.20.  It had another go at raining just before Buckby Locks, but by the time we got there is was sunny again.  Some boats were just coming out the bottom lock, so we headed up, and we met more downhill boats at the next three locks.

We discussed whether we should stop in the long pound, but decided we’d try our luck round the junction.  At the top lock, two boats were about to come down, so while they did that I walked a loop round to the junction, over the bridges, and back the other side, to check whether there were any spaces (there were).  It was then our turn to come up the lock, watched by drinkers at the New Inn.

We went round the corner to the space near the far end of the piling.  At about the same time, we had messages from the Norton Gang (ie my second cousin Catherine and family) asking where we were and suggesting they bring fish/battered sausages and chips.  They’re just back from a couple of weeks on Rowington and have been to Llangollen so we’ll be keen to hear about that.

19 miles, 14 locks.  (22 miles, 14 locks)

Friday 25 August 2023

Wending to Wales: Day 1

Adrian came up to the marina from home this afternoon, and I came up from London after an early shift.  We arrived within a few minutes of each other.  I’d also been to get fresh food from Tesco in Wolverton on the way.  We unpacked the cars, got the boat ready, and set off a bit before 5pm.  The turn north out of the marina was a bit tricky because of the stiff breeze.  We plodded along, passing only one moving boat.  There were some quite dramatic cloud formations.

I wanted to get an hour or so under our belts, partly just to provide some hot water.  We carried on to the other side of Bridge 57 at Grafton Regis, opposite the sheep field, mooring up at just after 6pm.

3 miles, 0 locks.

Wednesday 16 August 2023

Back home

A lovely sunny morning.  I did another walk along to the aqueduct and back, to get some steps in.  I also stuck all the wooden corners into the windows.  Ten at about 8.45 I set off back to the marina.

As I passed Taverners boat club, a lady said what a nice day it was — and that they were going home!  I sympathised, he said I was too.  There was no wind down the marina, which actually makes it more difficult to get into the berth; I like a bit of a breeze to blow the bow round.  I tied up, packed, up, and got home for lunchtime.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (6 miles, 0 locks)

Tuesday 15 August 2023

Two boat tests

I was up fairly early this morning, and put a third coat of Danish oil on the window cills and corner pieces.  Then I took a walk along to the aqueduct and back.  It was a lovely sunny morning.  I’d moved the car to the village yesterday, and a 8.30 I set off to meet Andy the photographer at Bicester.  Using one car, we made for our first appointment at Hawne Basin, somewhere I’ve been to by boat, but never by car.

The weather was sunny enough and pretty warm, and we were done by lunchtime.  Then it was back on the motorway heading further north to Aston Marina.

We got back to Bicester at about 6.30, and I went to get some fish and chips from the nearby chippy, then drove back to the marina and walked along the towpath to the boat.

Monday 14 August 2023


It rained quite heavily early this morning, and having had three days of getting up at 4am I quite enjoyed staying in bed listening to it.  It rained again through breakfast time.  But it was dry after that and I decided to set off around 10am.  I wanted to turn at Kingfisher Marina, and as I approached the preceding bridge a boat pulled out and looked as it if was also turning, so I held back.

In fact it was going into the dry dock, so I went ahead and turned.  There was a boat moored on the no mooring bit opposite the marina entrance which didn’t help; it turned out it was also going into the dock.  I retraced my steps, carried on past my mooring, then past our marina, and on to Cosgrove.  I wanted to turn again above the lock, and it was quite busy there.  The trip boat was there as usual, but it had one of the day boats behind it, and a boar was on the lock landing.  The Buckingham Canal work boat was moored on the other side too, which limited my choice of places to stick the bow.  I got round ok though, and completed the turn before a boat coming up the lock had got to the top.

I moored up in a nice open spot in the village, by the house next to the horse tunnel.  This afternoon I have done various jobs.  The hole in the engine room wall that suffered water damage needed filling, and I’ve also tackled the window cills.  The windows all had wooded corner trims, most of which have come unstuck and dropped off over the years.  Some of them were water damaged too.  I finally got round to sanding them all down, and have applied a coat of Danish oil.

I’ve also sanded all the window cills themselves, removing all the old flaking varnish.  There’s not much you can do bout the discolouration caused by water, but they all looked better just sanded back.  They’ve all also had a coat of Danish oil.  They all need three coats, 6 hours apart — so another will go on this evening, and hopefully I’ll have time to do another tomorrow.  Then all the missing corners can be stuck back on.  No individual job takes very long, but there are quite a few of them, and there’s quite a bit of waiting time in between.

I have also set up a second boat test for tomorrow, so it’ll be a busy day.

4 miles, 0 locks.  (5 miles, 0 locks)

Sunday 13 August 2023

A mile

I came up to the boat after an early shift, as I have a boat test on Tuesday.  I stopped before the M1 for food shopping on the way, and arrived at about 4pm. Within half an hour I was heading out of the marina; the turn north was against a fresh wind, but it must have gone ok because a group of towpath walkers stopped to watch and then gave me a round of applause!

It was warm but increasingly cloudy, and I thought it was going to rain.  My favourite spot by the footpath through the hedge was occupied by a breasted up pair of boats which have also taken over the towpath, so I carried on through the next bridge to another place I’ve used before.  It hasn’t rained, and in fact the sun has made an appearance.

1 mile, 0 locks.