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.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Flat Water Junkies

Sonflower's Crew are away visiting our son and daughter-in-law and grandson in Cardiff for a few days.

The weather is predictably Welsh so what do we do? We take a boat trip around the bay! At least this boat has a covered seating area.

There are lots of big expensive motor boats and sailing yachts in the two large marinas that we saw. My son says that Penarth, on the 'other side of the water' has two classes of people: the "haves" and the "have yachts".

These are pictures to prove that we were on the water!

The cormorants, coots and swans (one black one if you look closely) seemed happy enough. I wondered how the tens of thousands of waders feel who were evicted so that the city of Cardiff can have a large lake.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Twenty Questions

Granny Buttons is recording all the bloggers who are doing the "Twenty Questions Game" and listing the Twenty Answerers

I thought I would join in so here goes. . .. .

1. My favorite canal is the South Oxford. I never get bored with the rural meandering and marvel at the surveying that enabled James Brindley to build it. It is also home!

2. The least favorite canal is the Birmingham and Worcester north of Kings Norton Junction.

3. The Best Mate

4. The last book I read was "The Pheasants Revolt" by Brian Viner. Very funny stories of life in the country. The last waterway book was "Ramlin Rose" by Sheila Stewart, a heart rending composite life story of the wife of a "Number One".

5. Just after dawn. Bird song, mist and the anticipation of the sunrise.

6. People who rush to make the bridge hole when it is obvious you were closer to it! It would be better if we both stopped to give way.

7. During the Industrial Revolution when engineers seem to have respect and trust to achieve phenominal things.

8. I have never fallen in. I have got my leg wet but not yet become totally detached from the boat.

9. An aircraft engine designer.

10. If I didn't have narrowboating I'd ......be stressed out and working 12 hours a day!

11. Narrowboaters are a friendly group of people who respect their environment and community.

12. A game with the children and a bottle of wine with Best Mate.

13. The waterways need looking after as part of the national heritage.

14. Can you get a moorings policy based on boater's needs, please?

15. Windows, new double glazed ones please!

16. Pumpout.

17. Canals: rivers scare me. Having been cast adrift on the Wey, the gentlest of rivers, by exuberant youths I dread the prospect of waking up across a weir.

18. As my birthday is mid summer, I will be cruising somewhere.

19. Seven wonderful children, five of which have chosen wonderful partners.

20. 20-20 foresight. SO many people have 20-20 hindsight.

Bank Holiday Boating

What an 'orrible day!

But...... having complained in the past about BW and others overstaying on popular moorings we had to move today from the 48 hour moorings and return to our home mooring.

The wind was playing havoc with boats in the narrows of the town centre and things blew off the roof of the boat and into the canal.The moorer opposite had lost the coolie hat from the chimney and we have a chimney lid that is probably now in the cut. C'est la vie. As we talked I noticed that a footrest that I had reclaimed from the canal two years ago was again floating down the waterway, too far away to retrieve with a boat hook.

I pointed it out to the other boater. He recognised our boat name and introduced himself as our new next door neighbour. He was the other lucky winner in the recent auction of two moorings at our mooring site.

We had to move and so returned to the mooring about an hour after he arrived there.

The weather was awful. Everyone agreed but there were a lot of empty spaces. We were all out somewhere. Our other neighbour was bemoaning the fact that his plans to grind out rust on his roof had been scuppered. A chat with our new neighbour revealed that all was not rosy on his boat either as he had discovered an elusive plumbing leak by finding water in the bilges and an empty water tank (not the best way to discover it but at least he knew of it before it sank the boat!)

As we all passed the time chatting about our problems in the rain, two other boats returned from their Bank Holiday cruises. 50th birthday celebrations were spoiled by a gig that was cancelled and the rain that dampened the cruise home.

Why don't the Government instigate a variable Bank Holiday that moves to a time when the weather is good. Any party that promised that would surely get elected.

Saturday, 24 May 2008


I told you that I had bought a new dongle. Now I am sitting in my lavishly furnished saloon with my laptop atop my lap and posting.

Isn't that great.

The cruising season has started in earnest. We have our boat back from the mini refit, We are not on our home mooring. We have two lads asleep, tired out in their bunks and the Best Mate is yawning in her bed. We are boating!

And, I have mobile broadband on hand to keep me company. I hope that it keeps going.

A happy summer is ahead.

Friday, 23 May 2008

It's Moved!

As I sat in the club eating my ham egg and chips today, I noticed the hopper and tug, that I pictured in my moaning post yesterday, passing the window.

I have no idea whether it was because of my post and e-mail to BW but they are gone now and another space is available in the town centre. Normality is now restored.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

What all the fuss is about

Here they are.

Aren't they good. Beautiful rear doors in iroko, hand made to fit SONFLOWER complete with new door frame. All is oiled and I just love to touch them.

There is nothing so lovely as natural wood.

Pass the teak oil somebody.

A Popular Place

Banbury is a popular place and today I had arrived back in town to have lunch with friends at GF club.

Normally, I would have stopped on my mooring and walked into town but today there was considerable congestion at Hardwick Lock that delayed us sufficiently to merit taking the boat on. We also needed those requisites of life that are provided by the local boatyard; a pump out, gas and diesel. They were shut for lunch when we arrived so we progressed under Tom Rolt bridge to discover that the town visitor moorings were full.

I did not intend to lock down and moor below the lock. We would then have to turn at Bankside and return and lock up again to return to the boatyard. We would miss our lunch date too.

The crew of Sylph saw my predicament. He said he would check with the captain but thought they were leaving in 5 minutes. I backed up, hovered and waited for them to go. They were true to their word and we moored beneath Tom Rolt bridge and went for lunch.

What really got me though was the reason the moorings were congested. You can see from the photo that British Waterways have taken no notice of what I wrote in this blog in July last year. Now however they have not just moored the workboat but a 70foot hopper as well!

I suppose they think they own the waterway. In essence we tax paying, license paying, mooring fee paying, boaters do along with the rest of the nation.

Come on BW. Moor these large floating objects where we leisure boaters do not want to moor.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Thank you Nick

I had a limited time today. I needed to move the boat between boys to school time and the time that the Best Mate could pick me up somewhere near the canal. She had an appointment today at 3.30pm so I had to be around at school out time.

That's where Nick came in. His canal planner allows you to change the speed at which you cruise. Being 'single handed' today I changed the time taken for doing the locks and then adjusted my speed until I knew I had time to get from our overnight mooring at Napton Lock 13 to The Wharf at Fenny Compton between 0930 (drop off time) and 13.30 (Pick up time). Nick's plan gave 3hrs and 57 minutes at 2.5mph.

I don't usually travel 'single handed' so this is how it went. I cast off at 9.32am and cruised to the first lock to find it full. A bad start but as I opened the top gate to leave another boat arrived and offered to close it for me. At the next lock I opened one of the two bottom gates and pushed the other one open with the bow (sorry BW). This time, as I was opening the top gate I left it to swing while I lowered the paddle. Mistake. The next lock started to be emptied and the wash of water in the pound promptly closed it again for me with a bang (Sorry BW). I had to re-open the paddle and then, knowing that another boat was on its way down I was in a quandary as to whether to close the gate or leave it open. I left it open and then, before I had left the lock lay-by had a pang of conscience and looked back. The boat behind who, had closed the gate for me at the last lock, were now in sight and the crew was disembarking. I stopped and returned to close the gate, turned and saw the bow of other boat coming round the bend past a moored boat. So I stopped closing it. By this time the crew was ready to let the water out by opening the bottom paddle. I shouted "STOP!" and opened the gate again to let the thankful descending boat enter.

It 's not easy being single handed!

As I approached the top lock I could see daylight between the gates so gingerly eased Sonflower's bow toward the bottom gates to prise them open. As I did so, I saw another boat come to the top gate. The crew member holding it on a rope moved toward the paddle to fill teh lock. I sounded the horn and hoped, as the gates started to open, that he had understood. Sonflower slipped in and I ascended the steps to take my place on the gates. "Good morning", I said, "Would you mind closing the other gate for me?" "delighted, he said, "G'day to ya". The crew of Alouisius had out in her for five weeks. "Do you know where we can get diesel?" I told him of all the marinas that now adorn the area below Napton Locks.

From there on it is all on the summit level. The passage was uneventful until I came up behind three gents on Union Canal Carriers' Wenlock, They seemed to me to be dawdling so after a little while they invited me to pass. I don't do that very often and I am not sure whether I want to do it again. As I passed the boats seemed to get locked together, I had to navigate round a bend across their bows and they didn't give way so hit me broadside! no damage done but quite scary.

The next boat I came up behind was Florence Edith from Kate Boats. This time I didn't ask to pass. They didn't wave me on, but I thanked them for giving way when they next went aground. The young man in the front well deck resignedly elevated himself from his seat and reached for the pole giving credence to the hypothesis that this was not the first time that it had happened.

Then I received a text from the Best Mate. Time was no longer of the essence. She was bringing my mother for a trip out and lunch at The Wharf.

I arrived at The Wharf at 1302, well ahead of Nick Atty's prediction. As I moored the Florence Edith arrived and scaped down my side as they headed for a mooring space ahead of me about half a mile long. "Take care of Cheryl and Nick's boat", I said "They are nice people" as he hit the piled bank at 30 degrees. "I was trying to miss you" he said.

The three men in a boat arrived about 15 minutes later and we were all in the pub together by 1330.

I needn't have bothered to rush!

Anyway, thank you Nick for your wonderful site.

Monday, 19 May 2008

On the move again

Here, with a delighted grin, is the Cabin Boy who is really glad to be winding paddles and opening gates as we make our way up the Napton flight on our way to our home mooring.

I picked him up from school this afternoon with the news that the planned haircut was cancelled and we were going to retrieve SONFLOWER from the boatyard. As we arrived at the marina the last few screws were being tightened and the work was complete. What a difference a few changes make. The rear doors, in their teak oiled irinoco nudity, look stunning. The rear entrance doesn't look like we are passing through a boarded up mine and the front saloon is now neatly fitted with a beautiful dinnette/sofa/berth.

A new bookcase will tidy away our cruising guides and the TV cabinet for the TV we do not have or want will look great with a few candles or flowers adorning it.

But best of all. We were on the boat again and moving! Just me and the cabin boy, as football practice was the order of the day for the older lad, but we loved it. As did the boaters coming the other way who chuckled at the puppet show through the swan hatch. That's what he does best.- make us smile.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

We get the CALL.

Yes! We had a telephone call on Friday from the boatyard. "SONFLOWER's minor refit is sorted and the invoice is ready." They will e-mail it to us. Some minor problems were noted during the engine service but the Mechanic will call later to talk about them. Nothing serious though.

"Great!" I said, "I really am missing the boat, I'll pick her up in the morning and let you have a cheque".

"Oh, no.... there are still a few things to finish off"

"Oh, not tomorrow then? How about Monday?"

"No, the carpenter wants to finish on Monday"

"Tuesday then"

"That will be fine," the boatyard confirmed, "the mechanic will call you later to have a chat about what he's found."

"See you Tuesday then, bye."

The two days work, identified ten days ago is now almost complete! Only another day to go.

The invoice only details two days work though, so I can't complain.

The Mechanic did call later: the morse controller is held together with wire. "Did I know? The unit is the best type ever made but isn't available any more." If I want it fixed it will mean total replacement. "How long has it been like that?" Could have been years.

No I don't want it fixed! If the wire breaks I will get a stronger bit of wire. It could last more years.

And, the bilge pump isn't working from the switch on the control pillar. I know that, because the switch on the control pillar is for the navigation lights. And they are not working. I know that! "We can tell you who can do re-wiring....." I know that too!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Three Mobile Broadband

No not an advert. I don't know whether it is any good yet but I have subscribed to 3 mobile broadband.Hopefully it will help keep up to date with the blogging.

I have checked their network map and find that the coverage has improved no end since my last sortie into the north Midlands and the Shropshire Union. No 3G coverage in Froghall yet though! The main problem could be getting a signal inside the steel tube that is a narrowboat. The modem states quite clearly that it is not waterproof so dangling it outside a window on the end of a USB cable doesn't seem an option.

I'll giveit a go and see whether I can keep a reasonable log of travels etc through the summer. That is when we get the boat out of the boatyard!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

All in good time

It was April 13th when we left SONFLOWER in the boatyard for "10 days work". Obviously, that was a canal 10 days.

We are NOT complaining. We want the work to be done well and as we want it. That takes time. We don't expect to be charged while the varnish is drying or the doors are cramped and the glue is setting. So we expect the work to take considerably longer than "10 days".

It all got me to thinking, however, about our modern lifestyle off the canals. We get upset when our telephone calls are not answered immediately; we expect the Tesco checkout girls to be faster than the ones in Aldi; we expect what we ordered on the internet today to be delivered tomorrow. But life shouldn't really be like that.

"What is this life if full of care, we don't have time to stand and stare?" W H Davies wrote. It's not wasting time; we must make waiting time.

What life on the canals does is slow all of life down to an acceptable pace. Having to walk to the shops gives one a chance to appreciate the place we walk through. Stopping at locks gives a chance to pass the time of day with like minded strangers going the other way. Walking a towpath and listening to the birds or watching a carp laze under a bank or a vole scurry up it all bring an excitement that is missed by the rush of the other world away from it.

I do wish the work were finished. But we can wait........all in good time.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Aint Arf 'Ot Ma

It is May! We have got so used to the cold and damp, the cool and misty, and the warm and windy this year that we have forgotten that May is the month when we "cast a clout"! The weather has been wonderfully hot and dry for teh last few days; in the UK anyway.

On Thursday I went for a bit of a walk. When on the move, we are always looking for short circular walks so that we can exercise the children without tiring ourselves out. A walk to a pub is often not quite far enough to give us the exercise needed but this little walk nearby can be just that is you wanted.

On the South Oxford Canal between Slat Mill Lock No 20 and Little Boughton Lock No 21 are two bridges in the 'middle of nowhere'. Bridge No 157 and Bridge 158. If one moors somewhere between them then a short circular walk is possible along farm tracks, across the railway by unmanned, uncontrolled crossings (PLEASE STOP LOOK AND LISTEN!) up into Little Boughton. Up Chapel Lane will take you to the Plough Inn. After suitable refreshment return down the lane to the bottom and cross by Bridge 158 to return to the boat.

View Larger Map

A distance of about 2 miles. I enjoyed it immensely. At this time of year the rape is high and in bloom and the butterflies are everywhere. There are carpets of buttercups and vetches in flower and the odd orchid amongst the grass in the shade of the hedgerows. Apart from this the songbirds provide a constant musical accompaniment.

On my walk I met one couple walking the tow-path and chatted to the crew of a Napton Hire Boat who were basking in the scorching sun. "It usually rains when we book a boat" he said. "This has been a really nice week"

My replaced half knee survived without any complaint too!

Monday, 5 May 2008

Celebration Ale

Having said that you may be fed up with Hook Norton Ales I have just poured myself one. Thus is a bit special being The Banbury 400 ale. I introduced it to friends from the BCF recently in the course of a little talk bout Banbury's history. Banbarians find many things to celebrate and this year is the 400th anniversary of a Charter by King James in 1608 that gave Banbury the priviledge of punishing drunkards. So what better to celebrate it with than an Ale! But only one or two please, landlord.

This celebration Ale is available from the cask in the Reindeer Inn, Parsons Street or in bottles from Simply Drinks, in High Street near the Banbury Cross.

Off the road

We had a very nice lunch in The Plough Inn, Little Boughton the other day. Real Ale, reasonable prices and comfortable village pub surroundings including landlady who was willing to chat and a log fire when the weather is cool.

The landlord is the chef and his immaculate kitchen can be admired throughthe open door from behind the bar.

One can pay by Credit Card but there is none of this new fangled radio wireless nonesense here; you have to go to the bar where they will stretch the wire as far as they can to get you to enter the PIN number. Cash appears to be acceptable though to complete the old fashioned feel.

I noticed a board outside indicating that it was accessible from Boughton Bridge No 158 (South Oxford Canal). It may be worth a visit if you are fed up with Hook Norton Hooky Bitter and the prices at the Red Lion and Brazenoze in Cropredy but it will be a bit of a walk. From the bridge follow the path toward the railway. Cross this and walk through field and the farmyard and onto Chapel Lane up to the pub which is on the main Southam road. It is a country half mile.