A kind of record of a narrow boat and what has to be done to keep her afloat and usable.
We might even be able to tell you where we get to as well.
Hoping you enjoy the intimate detail of boating on the UK canals.
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.
Those immortal words were penned by A A Milne and given to Christopher Robin who walked up and down under an umbrella while Winnie the Pooh hung from a blue balloon like a little cloud to raid the honey from the bees nest at the top of the tree in 100 acre wood. Now we use them every day! This is the wettest June I can remember. June means a lot to us. It contains our birthdays. It is usually hot. It isn't that cold but every day is a wet day.
On my wife's birthday, we decided to go for a cruise. The sun was shining and the rain of the morning had cleared. We decided to head north. We moor pointing south so the first task was to back the boat 200yds round the bend to the winding hole. The sun had brought a few boats off their moorings in Banbury. And it brought them all together with another coming south as we wanted to make the turn! How difficult it is to signal that you want to make a full turn. We avoided the boats that couldn't wait and thanked the one that could.
The sun shone as we slowly made our way up to Cropredy. It was good to be out on the canal and in the fresh air of the Oxfordshire countryside. Once under the motorway and into the fields above Hardwick lock the world slows down. However, the water had sped up. Every weir and sluice was running full. Below the locks the weir stream pushed the bow over to make collision with the side of the lock inevitable or, at least probable.
Boughton Lock used to have a wonderful lockside flower garden (above) that in its time had won the British Waterways competition for the best kept lock on the system. Unfortunately, now, the cottage is empty and the garden is totally untended. A sign of the times. We have had a chat with a BW employee whose background is gardens and horticulture. He is not allowed to use a strimmer because to do so he would need to attend a training course. BW will not pay for the course so they employ a contractor. Another frustrated employee who is unable to use his skills to keep up the canals that he loves. And the Contractor? Well to view the quality or lack if it in his work is a sight for sore eyes. The towpath is very roughly mown and tatty. Nettles and weeds abound as the tractor mower skirts around the potholes and protrusions of the hedges. We spoke to a couple who were attempting to cycle the path but were finding it very difficult to make headway. We have heard the phrase 'rural mangement' in the past. Neglect is a better word to describe it these days.
As we left Boughton lock, the stream dragging the boat away from the lock mooring, the sky darkened and the first drops of the afternoon heavy shower started to fall. By the time we had reached the first bridge the helmsman was soaked. "Stop if you want" said the first mate. Once wet, one can hardly get much wetter so we continued on our way.
The clouds had gone and the rain had stopped and the sun was warming us up again by the time we got to Cropredy. We slowly passed down the moorings greeting friends and acquaintances who were mopping up after their abandoned barbecues and birthday gatherings. "We're going to have a birthday meal in the pub" we told our friends. We usually go to the Red Lion when we are in Cropredy. They suggested that we try the Brazenose Arms. "It's more reliable" "You usually know that you'll get what you order" they advised. Apparently, The Red Lion has had a limited menu at times recently.
So we moored, turning before the bridge and mooring beside the church below the lock. We prepared ourselves and walked up the road to the pub. It has a nice bench outside and we sat under darkening skies for the pub to open. Being Saturday Night, the restaurant was fully booked but the landlord spared no time in making us welcome and setting a table for our family meal in the bar. We all had lovely meal, freshly cooked steaks just to our liking, nice puddings and sausage, beans and chips for our most conventional teenager. (Only available on the children's menu but super-sizing on request was not a problem)
After the super-sized meal however, and after the fresh air of the afternoon, sleep overcame him and we returned to the boat for an early night just as the heavens opened again and the rain came down once more.
On the Sunday morning, the sun shone again and we moved to the water point. At Cropredy, this is not designed for a boat longer than about 40 ft but we filled and freshened the tank and washed the side of the boat (the side on the canal side at our mooring) which desperately needed a good hose down. As we wound up the hose, the rain started again. Just a shower. But by the time we had moved forward to Mill bridge, the helmsman was once again as wet as could be.
At Slat Mill lock we moored for a spot of breakfast hoping the rain would stop. We needed to wait for a boat to come up and then beckoned past the next boat going down. As the next boat came up we jumped to the ready once more to find that there was now a queue of three boats waiting to go down. Here we were in a rain storm in the middle of nowhere, thinking no-one would be as silly as us, to find that there was a boat convention forming more like the middle of an August holiday in Braunston than a wet June weekend miles from everywhere. Of course, if one has hired a boat for a week one has to use it what ever the weather. Although one of the boats was from Calcutt Boats and was going to do Oxford and back in a week ("we do this every year"), the rest of us were owners doing what boaters do!