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.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Past Marsworth Junction

 We decided to move the boat to allow the Tring Anglers to teach their novices to fish safely and considerately without disturbing the occupants of boats moored nearby and the boats using the flight. Hopefully by doing that we gave them enough room to keep clear of the lock landings.

Our first task was to refresh the water tank because the water had started to taste metallic. We did this very quietly and carefully so as not to disturb this local fisher.

This we did successfully. The skies darkened and our tummies rumbled so we moved the boat away from the water point to the opposite side of the canal and hid it behind the grass on the towpath.

We retired to the Anglers Retreat for lunch al fresco. As we finished our meal the rain started to fall in a serious style so we decided to leave SONFLOWER exactly where she was. No use getting wet again.

The hum of Contractor's strimmers was heard through the Yard Bridge so we might be able to see her again soon. Alternatively we might have hay on the gunwhales again.

                                                                          1/2 mile; 1 lock                 1 hour

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Bulbourne to Marsworth

Sounds like nowhere at all doesn't it?

We had arrived at the boat in the evening. We went to the Grand Junction Arms and found that they do not cook on Sunday evenings so supper was dry roasted peanuts, cashews and hand cooked crisps accompanied by Local Ale. We retired to bed early and decided to get up early.


In the morning it was raining! But with only the morning available to move to the next place before lunch with friends 45 miles away we had to do it. All except one of the five locks we worked were against us and one had a bottom gate left open as well.

On exiting Lock 40 we noticed a mooring space which is conveniently near the CRT Startop car park where we had left the car the night before (Pay and Display £3.00 for 24 hours). SO we pulled in and started to hammer home the mooring pins. Then I noticed the sign on the bank asking us not to moor there (between Lock 39 and Lock 40) for a Beginners Event by Tring Anglers.

Wet to the skin and running out of morning we were not going to move to the next 14 day mooring, about half a mile and two locks further on.

So there we are.

                                                                        1 mile, 5 locks, 2 very wet hours

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Cowroast to Bulbourne

What a beautiful day! As we walked from Cowroast Lock toward SONFLOWER on her mooring nb Enigma was slowly progressing toward the lock where a pair were coming down."We'll be four minutes" I called, hoping they would wait. With the Best Mate with me we set off from opposite the Esso Garage on Tring Road (I must tell Nick because he still calls it the Texaco Garage) as they were ascending and we had to wait for another pair of boats to descend before we could work up, on our own. Nb Enigma was waiting for the water point as we passed her so waiting for us would not have inconvenienced the but would have delayed the pair of boats by four minutes.

I had a nice chat with the crew of a canoe that was about to be launched into the top level too. 

We cruised the Tring top level very sedately enjoying the sunshine and warmth of the June day. The cutting is overshadowed for quite a distance but sunglasses were essential today. There was a huge number of teenagers with huge backpacks and OS maps walking the tow path in groups of six. Obviously out for their Duke of Edinburgh Award Gold expedition. It brought back memories of walking the Surrey Hills and woods around Abinger on my Boy Scout First Class two day Hike, the equivalent in 1964!

There were a few boats on the move today and plenty of anglers enjoying the warmth too. But no sight of the kingfishers who nest in the cutting, I expect the hiking activity pushed them on to the river to fish for lunch.

The canoe had got ahead and cruised quicker and was tied against a water filled CRT hopper opposite the CRT Bulbourne yard. Why towpath side? Your guess is as good as mine. We found a mooring just passed Bridge 136 that was exactly the right size for us. The bank is steep here but the rings are conveniently spaced for our length and corresponded exactly to our mooring points fore, aft and centre.

Here is Sonflower on the mooring with a view of the lovely and delightfully restored FMC working boat nb Holland in the background.

We went to the Grand Junction pub for a delightful lunch. This independent pub has its own vegetable garden to supply its kitchens and sources local produce to support its home cooked menu.  A very enjoyable meal with local Tring Brewery Ridgeway Ale.

After this all we had to do was walk back to Cowroast to retrieve the car. An uneventful but enjoyed walk with numerous cyclists and more of the back packing hikers, one of whom was heard to mutter that she would not finish the hike! On over hearing this I could not stop myself encouragingly saying "Of course you can!" "Thank you", she politely responded. I hope she did.

At Cowroast Lock we were fortunate to meet up with the man from the lock cottage. No longer a lock keeper but an independent gardener who works 8 acres and still finds time for the most beautifully kept English country cottage garden. So much colour and four hives of bees, one with a newly arrived swarm of bees establishing itself. We had an interesting discussion n the causes of the decline in bees, which he put down to the increase in digital communication activity confusing the bees navigation systems. A real possibility.

           3 miles, 1 lock: 2 hours boating, 2 hours walking and 2 hours eating and chatting

Saturday, 4 June 2016

On my own

Hemel Hempstead to Cowroast

An early start today.. I pulled away from the mooring near Old Fishery Lane Bridge just before 6.30 am and I was on my own. The Best Mate has had some problems which are under investigation and slowing her down. I had no available other mate. The 14 day rule loomed and so I had to do it alone.

I decided on Berkhamsted as being the next place. It has good connection to Hemel Hempstead via the very useful 500 Aylesbury to Watford bus. This is upgraded to having 240v sockets and WiFI if needed!

So lock by lock I progressed, enjoying the peace of the canal as we passed through the green and pleasant corridor provided by Boxmoor and the valley of the River Bulbourne. Only the roar of the West Coast main line intermittently interrupted the chorus of bird song. I had no hearing aids with me today so their best notes were probably lost on me.

I was forced to stop at the aptly named Sewer Lock, opposite the Sewage Works outfall, to clear a rope and numerous plastic bags that had wrapped round the propeller. Usually prop fouling in SONFLOWER is cleared by reversing the drive and spinning it off. Not this one. I was unable to remove it with my boat hook so had to open the weed hatch (for the first time ever) to cut it free. The rope was a knotted blue loop as some people use to moor on the "wrong type of piling" that is common in the Grand Union Canal.

As I entered the lock after my half hour's labour of love down the hatch I was caught up by a member of the crew from one of two boats that were following me. She told me they were stopping for breakfast and I was hopeful that the other boat would be continuing. No such luck, they were staying together. So on I went, lock by lock, on my own.

Excitement came at Berkhamsted Top Lock 53 where a white wide beam was coming out as I waited on the lock landing to enter. I asked the crew to leave only one gate open to make it easier for me and the crew obliged. The steerer then plowed straight into Sonflower bow on and lodged the boat between the boat and the bank. I rushed back to release the centre rope from the bollard and the wide beam proceeded to push SONFLOWER back toward Hemel Hempstead with nobody aboard. The steerer told me that he couldn't ease up on power or the engine would die and he had no reverse. I held on to the centre rope and followed the boats down the canal until they parted and the wide beam managed to turn away and I got SONFLOWER back to the bank to board her and enter the lock. They continued their way to become a danger to any craft they meet. Why not maintain their craft in good working order! No damage to SONFLOWER but I ended up with a piece of ply and a chunk of fibreglass filler on my bow deck.

It must have been wide beam moving day. At Gas Works Lock No 1 (Northchurch Lock No 51) the young female crew of WB Jaylee from Milton Keynes  decided to close the gate I had opened and fill the lock as I was coming out of Gas Works Lock No 2. I was left in the middle of the 200m long pound floating with my arms crossed until the gates opened. I shouted to the crew: "Leave one gate open, please: the one I opened!" They were clueless and descended the steps on both sides to get back on board! The master of the craft was more aware and told them to go back up and close the gates after I had entered and then to walk to the next lock after the boat. (A friendly boater who was crossing the lock to his own boat opened the other gate for them as I left the last lock with one gate open). Even when I climbed the ladder, windlass in hand they could not understand the failure in ettiquette that had taken place. I thanked them for their help.

At Bushes Lock No 50 I must have been tired. I failed to tie SONFLOWER or take a rope with me when I went to open the gate as the lock looked empty. The gate would not budge so I opened the paddle and washed SONLOWER away from the lock without me aboard! I shut the paddle immediately bit she was out of reach. I ran down the towpath to a moored boat hoping to find a boat hook. I borrowed a broom from their bow deck and managed to hook a fender, pull her back to with in the bridge and get on board. A panic moment. I tied her up again, did the job properly and when she was in the lock and safe I returned the broom. As I left the lock I was pleased to meet up with friends from nb AMY EM. They were moored at Cowroast and were walking into Berkhamsted, just to show themselves that they could. They were going to get a bus back. They told me there were quite a few boats moored at Northchurch Top Lock, my target for the day.

As informed there were four boats there, two breasted up, and taking up all the rings and the right type of piling.  I continued cruising, with an exciting glimpse of a kingfisher on the way, to a mooring opposite the Tring Road Texaco Garage, just below Cowroast Lock No 46. Favourably the right type of piling and I just couldn't manage another lock on my own.

                                                        6miles, 16 locks, 1 swing bridge; 9 hrs and 30 mins

Nick says that this cruise should have taken 6 1/2 hrs so I am quite a slow coach on my own

Sunday, 22 May 2016

(NO) New Technology

Uxbridge to Hemel Hemsted

We have just had two very pleasant days of boating from Mill Road Bridge No 187 (aka Gas Works Bridge 187 and Cowley Mill Road Bridge 187) to Old Fishery Lane Bridge no 148

Regular readers know that I was frustrated with the 3 dongle to connect with the internet.   I have invested in a 4G mobile wireless router from Maplin. I read the instructions fully and tried it out in the lounge at home. It works a treat with my little tablet, Sony Experia and Samsung phones. The instructions said to charge for at least four hours so I put it on charge overnight.

I left it on charge when we left to go to the boat in the morning so have had two days of internet free cruising!

                                                                                    18miles, 27 locks, 14 hours

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

New technology

I have just received an email from The Best Mate. It was headed "i Hate Technology" without any further comment in the message.

I understand how she feels. A server that was used for processing our mail was on a Blocking List and bounce messages were coming in thick and fast.

I must admit that at times I too have the same feeling. Today I have been trying to set up a new mobile wifi for use on the boat in conjunction with a tablet. I have attempted to have a live run so that it all goes smoothly in the boat. But all has not gone smoothly. I have three gmail accounts. I tried to get one of them added to the email client on the tablet but I have had messages telling me that the password was out of date and that someone tried to log on to my gmail account from an app that was insecure. They want me to use google apps. The tablet came with its mail client installed as firmware. I have no idea what it is but it worked with a virgin.net account. Why not with gmail! I haven't tried the other two gmail accounts yet!

So getting email on the boat will still be hard and difficult I may have to resort to tactics like using webmail which I hate.

I am looking forward to getting back in the boat in Friday morning. It may be a couple of days away form it all again, including eMail and Facebook!

We will be boating through the civilised areas of Uxbridge, Rickmansworth, Watford and Hemel Hempstead so hope fully mobile signal will not be a problem too!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

HIgh Time at High Line

Friday 6 May 2016

You may have seen from my recent facebook status that that we were booked in for an engine service at Highline Yachting's Cowley Peachey base. I took the photo while we were waiting. It was such a lovely morning. We left our overnight mooring in West Drayton and cruised the short distance to moor and wait in glorious sunshine for the place to open. 9 o'clock came and our engineer for the service popped up from his boat and got started. It was Bob,who used to work at Tooley's yard in Banbury but has now moved to the metropolis to earn some real dosh. He said he never gets a break he is so busy. After re-acquainting ourselves he settled down to the essence of his business.

Our engine has been described as "the best little BMC 1500 I have seen, mate!" by a RCR mechanic who fixed the engine stop cable so I didn't expect any problems. But Bob found a couple.

One was that the top sealing plate was missing from the fuel filter. Without it the fuel short circuits the filter and can flow straight from the inlet to the outlet. Why have a filter? Bob searched the oily engine bilge for any sign that it may have fallen off and not been noticed when the filter was last changed. No joy, so he went away to look for a replacement or to make a new one, as getting the correct spare would mean we would not finish today!

The other was a diesel leak on spill rail return to the diesel tank. No problem remaking the screwed joint but a little problem making an adequate support to stop it rattling loose again. No problem to Bob. The spilled diesel was aquavac-ed from the bilge, new absorbent mats fitted and the job was done. Just two hours or so longer than expected.

While all this was happening in the engine bay I was using the lovely dry day to remove the sealant from the windows, add Jenolite rust treatment, apply a coat of hammerite and re-seal with mastic sealant. This all went to plan except that I have not had a chance to see whether there are any leaks. It all looked very good! While in the mood I painted the handrail too.

When Bob had finished his stuff I had the tanks replenished with diesel and we were on our way, thanking him for a good service. Maybe he will return to the Oxford some time. He said he missed it.

So we cruised to Cowley lock where we stopped outside The Malt Shovel in the sunshine and had an ale and a cider with some locals before progressing onward to moor before Mill Road Bridge No 187 for the night before return to Banbury in the morning

Friday: 2miles, 1 lock and 1 pub                   Total So Far this year: 145 miles, 112 locks