About Me

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The name describes my demeanour and voice! I love narrowboating and that is why this blog is mainly about the boat and our interaction with it. I have been keeping a log for Sonflower ever since we bought her and moved onto her as our main residence. Some incidents in our boating life have been hilarious, some scary and some down right dangerous. I cannot tell what will come in the future but you can now share them! The crew are an 'ordinary' couple. The Best Mate and I.

Monday, 27 September 2021

Worcester to Tamworth and beyond

 It is a long time since I blogged. However that is not because life has not been exciting. 

Sonflower was one of many boats at the IWA Festival if Water in Worcester over the August Bank Holiday weekend. This festival was arranged on the Worcester and Birmingham canal to celebrate 75 years since Tom and Sonia Rolt met Robert and Ray Aickman at Tardebigge Locks and the IWA was born. 

The festival was  a good weekend but low in “footfall”. The Worcester festival was in full swing with a line up of 100 bands and there was a lot of other attractions in the area. There was not much of a chance for boaty stuff either: the canal is not suitable for boat handling competitions or boat trips.

After the festival we moved down toward Worcester for boaty stuff like a pump out at Worcester Marina and a mooring near to Bridge 5 for a crew change. Sue left us and Alex came on board. Our bilge pump float switch failed so I had to get a replacement to fit when we returned. I rigged up a temporary bilge pump to tide us over and ensure that we were safe on the Severn. 

Our first challenge were the two wide locks that lead from Diglis basin to the Severn. Here, a couple of local moorers made things very difficult. As we were coming out of the top lock having set the bottom lock they opened the bottom paddles to drain the lower lock with the top paddles still open, The lady who did this was deaf so could not hear Alex shouting. He managed to retrieve the situation quite quickly but not before the intermediary pound had been lowered by about 18 inches!

Their local knowledge di provide a recommendation for dinner. We moored on the Severn beside the race course. £4 a night pay and display. We went to the pub htat was recommended to find that food is only served on Thursday to Sunday. We went to the kebab house instead. We did go back fir a beer as they had their own pale ale. It was quite good.

In the morning we set off up the Severn and made good progress. I was dreading the locks as Diglis lock had been firce and I thought they would all be like that. However they were quite gentle. Highlight was an otter seen swimming across the river ahead if us. Apart from that it was a bit of a boring trip to Stourport. 

We stopped in Stourport for lunch which was the remainder if the previous evening’s kebab! 

Onward again this time taking in the fabulous achievement of the builders of the canal who hewed channels out of stone cliffs to form the meanders and follow the contours. All the locks seemed to be identical in dimensions and fall. It was very enjoyable and we managed ti make out target of Stourton in good time. I had left the car here and used public transport to return to Worcester so we moored up on 5 day moorings to return home. 

Our only problems were made by the lack of repairs to paddle gear. Quite a few locks had only on paddle on the top or bottom. On top gates this was not really a problem because these locks have gate paddles which fill locks quickly but a single bottom paddle slows the process considerably. I spoke to a couple of CRT operatives wHo were tasked with fitting a pinion spindle to a paddle. They had difficulty deciding which gear train to fit it to as both paddles were equally worn! They only had one spindle with them. Other locks had leaking gates and some beams had been bound up and boxed in to keep then together until the winter stoppage season. It had all the signs of a wait til it breaks maintenance policy. 

Another navigational problem is reeds. Why are they allowed to reduce the canal to a boat’s width? It is difficult to see oncoming boats. 

From Stourton north The Best Mate was on the boat. We enjoyed the canal and made excellent progress to The Anchor Inn at Coven. Here we had a really enjoyable meal before locking the boat  up for another week. Here there was no 14 day moorings as all the mooring between the bridges is designated 48 hours. We had no option but to overstay. There were no other boats moored when we left!. 

Suepercrew came with us on return and The Best Mate and she navigated to Penkridge while I drove to Fazeley and returned by bus. I had fitted a new bilge pump float switch and put the temporary pump away. We cruised without problem onto Trent and Mersey Canal. At Fradley bottom lock we found the broken paddle gear had been covered with a  purpose made cover. Apparently it had been ot of action for months.

We had to make a stop at The Taft for a cup of tea. Peter and Julie have sold their wooden boat but still offer hospitality to all who want it and have set up very adequate safeguarding precautions to maintain their self shielding against covid

We achieved our aim to be in Fazeley for the Boaters Christian Fellowship conference weekend.

The weekend was lovely. The first opportunity to meet together on person since Lockdown 1 in February 2020.

The Best Mate and Supercrew returned to home for a short while and now Alex and I are taking Sonflower a little further and nearer to her home mooring. 

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Blackpole to the Town Centre

 Monday 30 August 2021

We left the IWA Festival of Water at 1630 to meet our allocated spot at Bilford Top Lock at 1700. Locking down these and Gregory’s Mill locks proved no problem and we moored for the night at Lowesmoor visitor moorings. We then went for a meal at the Blackpole Inn. We only went there because our hostillary of choice, The White Hart was closed on Mondays, Bank Holiday and all. Rough and ready place but vey good rump steaks and chips. Suepercrew left us after dinner to return to Grand-parenting duties in the morning. 

On return to the boat I discovered the starboard navigation light was hanging loose. Investigation showed that there had been a short circuit where the cables went through boat cabin plating and heat had melted the plastic to release the fixings. I opened out the hole, fitted new tails with crimped connectors, selected washer to allow the existing screws to be reused but failing light prevented me finishing the job.

1 mile 4 locks 1 hour

Tuesday 31 August 2021 crew Eeyore and the Best Mate

We had things to do and people to see. First we let go to move on to Lowesmoor Basin (Worcester Marina) for a very necessary PUMP OUT. We backed in and moored close enough for their very long pump pipe to reach the fitment at the rear port side of Sonflower. We took on water while the very friendly operator did the business. Nb Morning Mist was taking on diesel and I watched her attempt the starboard turn out of the basin. It was unsucessful and Kate Saffin, a very experienced boat woman, had to retreat and use the winding hole opposite to effect the turn. I learned from her mistake! We paid up and left, empty at the stern and full at the front. We attempted to moor on bollards just past George Street Bridge No5 but it was too shallow. I really think moorings should be deep enough to moor at! We moved on a little further to moor again this time on two rings and a pin. Leaving Sonflower again to get back to the car at Lowesmoor visitor moorings for return to home for the Best Mate’s hospital appointment.

1 mile 2locks  2 hours

Wednesday 1 September 2021 crew Eeyore and Piglet

We returned to take Sonflower ontothe Severn. the forst thing was rhe discovery that a suspected dodgy float switch for the bilge pump was in fact a failed float switch. The bilge pump had been failed in the on position and switch controlled form the distribution board but now it was to tally non operational. I rigged up another small pump that I keep for emergencies with a longer discharge hose and leant on tothe engine bay to position it. My brand new Samsung S21 phone slid out of my pocket into the bilge! Responding to my cries Piglet bravely got down in his best jeans and retrieved it. After wiping it off it still worked! But it has a notification that moisture was detected in the usb port and charging was to be discouraged. The phone spent the night in a bowl of rice and it is now ok! Samsung claim that it can be immersed for 30 minutes. I have only tested it to about 3 and did not intend to test it at all. 

We then proceeded to Diglis locks 2 ans 1. Between them nb Get Knotted opened the bottom paddles while We had the top ones opened to fill the lock in our favour thus almost emptying the inter connecting pound. All was retirived quickly and w locked onto teh Severn with a Star Cruises hire boat that had very boisterous children. I advised the crew to put life preservers on them. “Yes we have got some on board”  one of teh maternal crew members said. They took no action to actually get the children to wear them!

So onto the Severn and an overnight mooring on the Ci ty Council moorings at the Racecourse, Sabrina Bridge. £4.00 Pay and Display. We went to  PaulPry pub which was recommended by Get Knotted. The kitchen was closed. We went to Turkey, The Best Kebab house and were very satisfied coming home with a box of surplus doner meat!

1 mile, 4 locks 2 hours

Friday, 27 August 2021

Alvechurch to Blackpole, Worcester

 Monday 23rd August 2021. With Alex as crew we returned to the boat, readied and left to navigate Tardebigge and Stoke locks, aiming for the pub in Stoke Works. Alex took the tiller after Tardibigge tunnel and I took the bank duties. With a mix of locks set for us and assistance from three oncoming biats we were soon to in full swing and the temperature and sunshine. We changed over at Lock 40 when I was flagging and stopped for lunch at lock 44. 

We finished the day with an awfull meal at The Boat and Railway. Sour beer and overcooked mussels!

  8 miles, 36 locks, 7.5 hours.

Tuesday 24th August 2021,

I let go at 6.15ish and watered at Stoke Water point. Then I proceeded to Astwood Locks and single handed the first three with assistance from the CRT lengthsman while Alex slept on. Alex apoeared to navigate out of lock 3. The lengthsman had advice when the top gate did not close easily. “ Open the bottom paddle and let it slam, you won't close it otherwise without hurting your back!” He commented on the bad condition of the balance beams with some boxed and one wrapped in gaffer tape. They are-due for replacement next winter. 

The stretch to Dunhamsted was very reedy. At times the canal is single width and visibility is awful..

Late breakfast sufficed for lunch until we finished boating at Bridge 18 and were on our way back to Alvechurch by bus and train. This journey was long and difficult. We stopped for fish and chips and a chicken burger at Reddich bus station. Google did not do us well with the connectins and we could have got a train an hour earlier than she directed. 

9 miles 14 locks, 7.1/2 hours

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

To Alvechurch and almost calamity.

On Monday, 16th August 2021, SONFLOWER had her overdue Boat Safety Scheme examination. I was prepared. I had installed a new CO alarm and written the date of installation on the back; fixed down the batteries so they could not move in any direction; replaced the battery covers; checked that the stops were screwed into the window reveal so that the kitchen window could not close the last inch; refitted and cleared out the vent holes from the fridge exhaust; sealed up the bilge pump electical connectors with self amalgamating tape (effectively IP57) as they might get dislodged into the sump. She was ready.

There was a small gas leak from the test point on the Morco water heater. There was no fibre washer fitted to the screw during manufacture. The test point has never been used by us. With no spare washer readily available, PTFE tape (the yellow coded gas safe variety) was used to make a replacement and all was well. A PASS. Well done SONFLOWER. 

Our "overstay" period completed, I decided to leave Cambrian Wharf for  Alvechurch to complete another link in the journey to Worcester. We need to be there on Friday 27th August or the day before ready for the IWA Festival of Water. I set off at about 11.00 and had fair weather apart from a few spots of rain. I decided to stop in Selly Oak, on the moorings just south of Sainsbury's Supermarket, so that I could purchase a sandwich for lunch on the tiller. The moorings were empty so no-one to meet. In fact it was all a bit deserted. 

After setting off again it was a very nice cruise until I approached Wast Hill Tunnel. This was not a problem either. I followed another narrowboat that was about half way through when I entered and there was no oncoming traffic to contend with. I made good progress and found the tunnel reasonably dry.

After the tunnel I started to meet oncoming traffic and in particular hire boaters setting out from the large hire base at Alvechurch Boat Centre. The first was cutting a bend to his port side. There was no way I  could pass to his port side and by putting the engine into reverse he made it impossible to get out of my way and the bow swung across my course. I went into full reverse and stopped short of a collision. I advised the steerer never to cut bends. He will be aground next! The next incident was at a bridge hole on a bend. As I approached a hire boat emerged. I reversed and retreated to allow him to pass but he reversed his engine as well, losing steerage and ending up stemmed to the bank on the outside of the bend. The next was a weaving hire boat. I assumed that the steerer had just taken over and was not used to steering the "opposite way" but a moored onlooker assured me they had been similarly weaving the day before! Next I came across a day boat on which it appeared the crew were being instructed in the art of using a winding hole to turn. It was a short boat but they managed to stem it up on the far bank rather than introduce the boat into the hole itself. I crept through behind them with a gentle toot and left them to it. The next was at another bridge hole on a bend, this time the steerer was accompanied by boatyard staff, hooted his horn to let me know he was coming and we passed without incident. I thanked them for letting me know they were there!

I was by then almost in Alvechurch and started to look for a mooring. However, when I enquired of the staff on the boatyard wharf where a 14 day mooring might be they scratched their heads and replied that ALL the moorings in Alvechurch were  48 hours. Needing to leave Sonflower for longer than that, I slowed to a dawdle as I passed the marina and I was glad to have done so. The bilge pump started to discharge and I noticed that there was a little oil in the water. Where did that come from? I thought. The pump carried on at full bore and I was now very concerned. Either I had split a coolant line and swamped the engine bilge or water was coming from elsewhere. I stopped the engine and lifted the engine bay cover to find water half way up the Gearbox and the weed hatch two thirds off. The strongback was on the deck. There was water everywhere.  John of Alvechurch Boat Centres saw my plight. He told me to get the boat over to the wharfe if I could. I poled it some of the way and then checked the level had been reduced well enough by the bilge pump, replaced the weed hatch cover and tried the engine. Thankfully she started. I am so glad I waterproofed the bilge pump power supply!

John was joined by Ian and they pulled the boat round to a pump out point that could take oily waste where they dealt with the water and a small surface film of engine oil in the engine oily bund. The boat floated up into its usual trim. I made arrangeents for a short term berth, started her up and moored her. She will rest be there for about a week.

 My Facebook post of yesterday reads:
"Here is Sonflower floating in Alvechurch Marina. An hour ago she was sinking with the weed hatch open. I thank God, the bilge pump, experience and John and Ian of Alvechurch marina for their assstance in keeping her afloat and pumping out the engine bay."
I thank my many Facebook friends for their comments and good wishes.


Sunday, 25 July 2021

"Overstaying" again!

 Sonflower lies in Cambrian Wharf. 

Cambrian Wharf looks like a long term mooring. There are ten berths on finger moorings, surrounded by a fence that has a gate on which dangles a padlock, "operated" by a BW key. Except it isn't. The lock is rusted in the locked closed position and the mooring site apparently is a visitor mooring with four residential moorings. So the vacant finger mooring that we moored on thinking we had permission to use under condition 4.10 of the Revised Standard Mooring Agreement Terms and Conditions- April 2021 which states  "4.10 When cruising away from the Mooring Site you may temporarily use any vacant mooring spaces available at any other mooring site managed by us with our prior written consent. You must remove your Boat from any such temporary mooring it occupies when we ask you to do so." is not a vacant mooring.

I had written to CRT local customer support officer giving my understanding of the situation but received a "keep moving" email: a gentle reminder that the boat had been in one area for more than 14 days. I had a very nice conversation with Customer Support  giving my understanding and explaining that I had personal problems at home that required me to curtail our cruise and leave the boat for a period of time. I was very pleased to get confirmation that an "overstay" would be approved.

                                                                         Going nowhere: 0 miles   0 locks  0 hours