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.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Today could be the Day



Here is the engine, looking very green in CB marine house colours. They have painted everything!

The news from the boatyard is that it could be running today. We will then need to give it a fifty hour running in cruise to shake it down, as they say, and then come back for an oil change.

It will be good to hear the heart of the boat throbbing again.

On a Mission


It is very cold! This is the icebreaker coming to Banbury. With much noise of ice cracking and slipping sheet over sheet and higher than normal engine revs, the couple on this boat made their laborious way into the centre this morning. They overcame difficulties of steerage and gave a few boats a glancing blow, hit them all below the waterline with sheets of ice and generally left mayhem in their wake. But they were making progress toward their goal.

I wondered what could be so important that they couldn't save it until a thaw but I didn't get a chance to ask.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

ePetition

Most of you wil already have heard from BW about the ePetition to No 10 Downing Street.

If not you can follow this link

I note the closing date is 10 November 2010. I suggest that a few thousand letters to number 10 might do a better job. Why not write a few line and send it second class with your Christmas Card? It is sure to arrive before the petition deadline.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Much Better!

I want the engine bay clean to accept the newly overhauled engine. This is a photo showing the swims clean and painted but the sides of the deisel tank and other parts decidedly dirty. I told the boatyard it wasn't clean enough.





So I suggested they get a cleaning firm in to do the work if it is too much of a dirty job for them. I had seen a van with the slogan "If we can't clean it it can't be cleaned!" They must be around somewhere....

They did and this is the result:




Much better.

Now the Best Mate says I have to clean the batteries before they go back or they will make the place dirty!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Banbury Canalside Consultation

I have just heard from the local IWA rep that the Cherwell District Council have issued a consultation of on their draft Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) to redevelop the canalside to the south of Banbury Lock.

Full details are on their website and comment can be made here

There is to be an exhibition somewhere in the centre of town soon. When I find it I'll tell you all about it.

The Reason Why part 2


I haven't been blogging for a while because there has been litle to say. Here is the reason why. My engine bay is looking very clean and has a newly painted engine oily bilge but no engine. The engine is away for an overhaul at CB Marine at Calcutt Marina. The heart of the boat is missing!

Obviously, the time is now to have a spring clean of the engine bay to remove the oil film that has acumulated over the years of oil seal leakage. Matt (the boss) at Tooleys collared me yesterday to talk about 'three things' (i)agree that the only thing to do with the engine bay is to treat it with a rust preventor and paint it with hammerite or similar to keep it so. (ii)agree that the leaks on the deisel tank shut off valves needed to be fixed. The universally applicable Murphy's law ensures that the leaks are tank side of the valve and require the almost full tanks to be drained! (iii) agree an alternative site for the engine air intake vent (required by the out of water survey to prevent rain ingress into the bilges) somewhere other than in the control column where I wanted it.

How is it that every visit to the boatyard ends with another thing to pay for?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Photos of the boat's travels

The young people who borrowed SONFLOWER for the cruise to Norton Junction and back have put their photos on Facebook, as young people do. I am not sure whether the photos are public but this is a link to one of the albums. This is the other. You may need to be their friend to get a look-see. I am!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Ghosts and Ghouls

The theme of The Banbury Canal Day didn't quite fit with our idea of a fun celebratory theme so we dressed the boat up in home made fiery bunting that The Best mate had lovingly stitched, attached doves and attempted to portray The Holy Ghost. Here is a picture of the Best Mate herself next to our cratch with the illuminated Dove of Peace.



The day really was a brilliant time. We were representing the BCF once more and this year we had three of our members who formed a folk trio to attact and entertain the throng that passed by. The weather was kind and people were having a good time everywhere.

To be fair, the theme worked pretty well. Of course there were a few macabre exhibits (among the boaters) and some of the boats were decorated with a lot of imagingation. The Ghostbusters were prominant and on hand complete with a first response boat (a peddalo) that went up and down all afternoon. There was also a headless ghost at the helm of a tiny clinker dinghy who won the prize for the best moving exhibit.

The best charity stall went to nb Mr Badger who came complete with his own graveyard! He worked hard on behalf Dogs for the Disabled a Banbury based charity. His pork rolls also kept us very amply filled with food!

Sadly to say I was too busy all day to get any photos. Without them it is very hard to describe the colour of a very good day.

The Best Bit, the Best Mate says, is meeting with the lovely boaters with their diverse interests from IWA to Ecover, Tom Rolt's centenary to Gardner Engines the conversation was never dull.

Just like the IWA Cavalcade earlier in the year, I felt the festival really showed boaters having fun!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Where have we been?

SONFLOWER has been to Norton Junction and back. The young people who formed the crew had a wonderful time.

Where have we been:

Stoke-on-Trent to take Tigger to College.

Cardiff to see our new grandchild and leave the Best Mate there to help with the other grandson while Nathaniel was in hospital with his Mum and let our son go back to work for a bit.

Banbury, because School has started again and Piglet needs to be there. There are things for me to do in relation to the local Primary School too.

Cardiff to visit again and collect the Best Mate.

Stoke-on-Trent to visit Tigger who has had his nineteenth birthday while away at College.

A few miles for the car and the boat.

Coutdown now to Banbury Canal Day

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Strange Crew!

We have heard reports from afar that there is a strange crew on board SONFLOWER. They have been challenged by some in case they were stealing the boat.

Fear not you gallant SONFLOWER spotters, they are harmless. SONFLOWER is in the good hands of the children of good friends and their mates. These are penniless and exhausted students from Exeter University who need a holiday before their next arduous year of study and are, hopefully, enjoying the North Oxford Canal between Banbury and Braunston.

If you spot them, give them the same cheery wave that you would give us and help them on their way.

Tell us if they are going too fast!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Anouncing Nathaniel


Well, isn't that what proud grandparents do!

As far as the boat was concerned, having a pump out and refilling with diesel paled into insignificance against the wonderfull news that Nathaniel had arrived at a weight of 4.0 kg.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Bank Holiday

We took my mother and sister on a cruise today. Just a little trip to the Red Lion in Cropredy for lunch. It is just ten minutes away in the car but it is so much better to spend a couple of hours getting there by boat.

Getting my 88 year old Mum on the boat has been a challenge. The last time we did it, the engine wouldn't start. This time all went well. The new back steps were negotiated and Mum got into the saloon and was quite happy looking out of the the front windows. Unfortunately we do not have huge picture windows like some of the hire boats around and Mum is not very tall so the view was, at times limited but I think she enjoyed the peace and calm of the South Oxford as it meandered north from the town. There was quite a lot of traffic and much of it was boats returning to Sovereign Wharf in Banbury! The world and his wife had been out for the weekend including nb William the Conqueror.

After a very nice Bank Holiday lunch (special menu for the day!) My sister drove Mum home and we turned the boat and cruised back to home mooring. The sun shone. A nice day out.

On the way home we met up with a collie dog at Bourton Lock. He had been left behind by a boat ahead of us. How do people do it? We did notice one of the crew running back up the tow-path when we neared Banbury. We told him where we had seen the dog. He had at least a three mile run back to catch up with the boat again! I felt sorry for the dog who would need to run the same distance too!

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Lots of little things

Getting back to a pile of post always leads on to a time of catching up. One item that needed attention immediately was the Boat Insurance renewal. Due the 4th September, I did it over the phone. One thing puzzled me however. There was no reference in the renewal document to the need for a survey. Having recently spent out a lot of money on a hull survey and the work to comply with the surveyors recommendations, this seemed a serious omission. I queried it with the customer advisor. She told me they now did not require a survey for vessels under 25 years old. As SONFLOWER is at least 25 years old, my puzzlement continued.

It is our responsibility to keep the insurers up to date with 'material facts'. I pointed out the fact that they had made a mistake by reading 1984 as 1989! This morning I spent writing a letter and getting together the report, invoices to show recommendations have been carried out and a copy of the Boat Safety Scheme examination certificate for good measure. One thing I do not want is to find myself uninsured because the 'material facts' are incorrect!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

...to come ...home

Back in the home territory. Returned to Braunston by bus after a family party and then moved from Braunston to Spurfoot Bridge 124 on the S Oxford. We moored for the night last night in Cropredy and then this morning completed the short cruise back to the home mooring.

But when we got there we found that a new moorer to our mooring site has put his boat on OUR mooring in spite of our beatifully engineered signage and carefully placed mooring chains.

Fortunately we were able to rope the interloper back far enough to fit back next to our beatifully engineered signage and on our mooring chains.

A wonderful cruise successfully completed.


Braunston to Spurfoot Bridge 14 miles, 9 locks; 12 miles, 9 locks yesterday; 5 miles, 3 locks this morning.

TOTAL FOR THE CRUISE: 386 miles, 6 flg and 198 locks

Thursday, 20 August 2009

...so much nicer...

It's nice to go travellin'.....

We enjoyed the Nene, Loved the lodes off the River Cam, were not too struck on the greatOuse and were bored by the Middle Level. Back on the Grand Union Canal feels so much more like home!

Today we made significant progress and completed the 15 miles of the GU to Braunston by 7.30pm. We are moored there now and will be for the weekend.

We have family stuff to attend to.

We pulled together as a crew today. On the canals we know what is required. Piglet is keen to lockwheel. Tigger closes the gates after the boat goes in and after the boat goes out and I and the Best Mate alternated today on the Tiller and as Lock Master. I took the boat through the Buckby seven and the BM took it through the Braunston six.

15 miles, 13 locks

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Jehovah Jireh

This is one of the Hebrew names of God that means "Provider". Providence is a theological subject that is often hard to understand but on days like today it is hard to ignore. Some would say that everything in life is co-incidence but on the other hand today we were very aware that everything was going to the Master Plan.

I awoke at sunrise and decided to leave our beautiful mooring having carefully calculated the probability of being left on the bank holding onto a mooring line with a narrowboat heading toward a weir. Everything was fine and we departed in the growing sunshine to enter Earls Barton Lock. The Best Mate was not feeling well so here I 'single handed' the boat through but by Cogenhoe Lock the crew was awake and Piglet and I were soon into a routine. At Billing lock it was obvious that something was wrong. There was a cruiser in the lock and a narrowboat waiting but the guillotine was moving very slowly. In fact it was Environment Agency personnel hand winding the electic mechanism as the gearbox had failed. They lowered the guillotine gate behind us and declared the lock closed until Friday for repairs!

We were now in the company of nb Billy and Co who were our locking partners for the remainder of the locks on the River Nene. We were at Morrisons in Northampton before 2pm.

We now made the decision to go for the Northampton Arm 17 locks. If it was too much we would stop at the bottom of the main flight after the first three or four locks. In fact, however, all the locks were set for us. At some points we had three locks ahead with gates open prepared to accept us. We passed a boat coming down at lock five and then ascended the remainder. I have never known a flight so prepared: where hardly any locks needed to be emptied to open the gates. We were up by 7.15 this evening. The Best Mate had recovered enough and was refreshed by the effort of the ascent and we feasted on Spaghetti Carbinara at Gayton. A long and fruitful day prepared aforehand for us.

13.8miles and 27 locks today

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Continuously Cruising

That's what it seemed like today. The River Nene is a beautiful river and a wonderful place for the nature lover. Today I have seen a very large pike with a very large fish in its mouth, thrashing to get free from the locked jaws; I have seen wheeling Red Kites, a Little Egret, kestrels, buzzard, snipe, sandpiper, herons, woodpeckers, lapwing and numerous little brown birds; we have checked out the chub under the banks and we have seen calves and foals and lambs.

But the River Nene does have a drawback for the narrowboater. It does not have a proliferation of moorings. This evening we have been looking for an overnight mooring since 4.30 pm when we got to Wellingborough. Having stopped there on the way down the river, we thought it too early to moor today. But there is precious anywhere else. We have now moored on pins about 50 metres from a weir on meadowbank. I have no real idea whether mooring is permitted here but I cannot see any notice to the contrary. The spot is quite idyllic. We are just south of Doddington Lock and its tastefully converted Mill.

Over 8 hours of cruising today: 15.5miles and 11 locks

Monday, 17 August 2009

Nice to be back

It seems ages since I blogged.

If you missed us it is mainly because I have been unable to get on the web until now. Between Peterborough and Thrapston the 3 dongle did not pick up much of a connection, if any.

Where have we been? We were here on Saturday evening watching the POSH draw 1-1 with the Owls at Peterborough United's London Road stadium. The game was quite exciting and good entertainment for a neutral like me. The Best Mate quite enjoyed it too and it was good to hear Tigger shout 'come on you reds' during a lull in the action even though there was not a red shirt on the field.

After the match we moved out into the country and an overnight mooring at Alwalton lock where a nice white cruiser skiper moved his boat back 15 foot toward the next boat to make room for us.

In the morning we shared the locking work with Karen and Sally, the crew of nb Heaven Scent. They are members of BCF as well, and we enjoyed their company to Fotheringhay where we stopped for lunch and they for the night. After an ascent of Castle Mound and a quick look at the village we cruised on to an overnight mooring at Ashton Lock.

This morning Piglet and I did a bit of shopping in the nice little town of Oundle and then it was off again to be the only boat on the 48hr mooring by the Thrapston Bridge.

On the way here we received the wonderful news that Learning and Skills Council have agreed that Tigger's place at college will be funded by them. A great weight off our mind.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Back on the Nene

I seem to hve been away from the net for so long. No network coverage at Denver Sluice, a difficult connection at March on the Middle level but now we are back with a full 5 bars in Peterborough.

The tidal passage (2 hour wait at Denver), the crossing of the Middle Level and the return to the Nene were uneventful. The most exciting thing was having to work through Marmont Priory Lock as the lock keeper was not there when we arrived at 5.20 pm. The going was slow into March but we were there in time to go to the Buffet Chinese restaurant. Eat as Much as you want for £14.00 per head. They just keep on offering to cook more food! What is surprising to us is that we were almost the only customers on a Thursday evening. Another couple did come in a little before we left.

We left March at 9 o'clock this morning. The going is slow through Outwell, Upwell and Whittlesea and moorings are rare. We lunched moored on pins to the bank just west of Whittlesea.

55.5 miles and 6 locks since last post

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Hiding Away


We have been in a lovely littl' backwater of the system this past day. Last night we locked into Reach Lode off the River Cam and moored on the 48 hour EA moorings. We wer3e alone alongside the permit holders. We had met nb SUNFLOWER's crew earlier on the day who told us that we would be able to navigate Wicken Lode and turn at the end but it is very narrow and shallow and I didn't want to chance it. We walked down it this morning and found EA dredging the turning point. The Lode did look very shallow. Weed Cutters from the River Cam Conservators were hard at work on Reach Lode this morning but they told us they were not allowed to enter Wicken Lode, which is owned by the National Trust.

Piglet and I went to have a quiet walk around Wicken Fen this morning hoping to catch sight of a few rare birds. We did spend time in the hides and enjoyed the quiet there noting tree creeper and Little Egret and many warblers. We are not expert enough to tell which if these little brown jobs they were but probably a mix of reed warbler, willow warbler and chiffchaff though none were singing so would not give their identity away. The quiet was broken at one point by a woman with her small son on the board walk. She shouted into her mobile phone "I'm at Wicken Fen, It's been on the telly: that Bill Oddie was 'ere!" The secret's out then.

National Trust opened the cafe on a Tuesday, contrary to information in their handbook, but the prices are not any less. £1.70 for a bottle of coke!

We returned to a salad lunch and the news that Tigger had thrown a sicky and the Best Mate had filled in the whole morning by doing the laundry. It was all dry!

This mooring is delightful and filled up through the day. We were buzzed by a swarm of bees earlier but they went on without staying. Another wonderful sight was of a Bristol Bulldog fighter Biplane making very slow progress across the sky. I wouldn't think it was doing much more than 70mph.

Cambridge to Reach Lode: 7 miles and 2 locks yesterday

Monday, 10 August 2009

We become tourists



My cousin came from Sawley to meet us at the boat and take us into town to walk around the sights. It was good to see her and her husband, and their two children.

So we became foot soldiers in the tourist army this afternoon. It was hot and the streets were quite full of every nationality imaginable. The students go home and a new wave of visitors come in. We resisted a ride on a punt (about £12 an hour) but spoke to a punter. He convinced Piglet that his future career will be running a punt with a tale of taking a thousand pounds in the last three days. Set up costs of about £8000 didn't seem too bad for that sort of return. The punter didn't see that sort of money though. He was grateful to be working in the fresh air rather than in a pub for the summer. Cambridge University is celebrating its 800th anniversary.

We didn't go into any of the colleges. Their visitor charges of between £1 and £3 depending how much of the college was open to view don't seem too bad. But witha party of eight a couple of colleges would have set us back £25. We spent a tenner on ice creams instead. I peeped in to see a manicured lawn or two. Once you have seen one quad you've seen them all. The architecture is not as impressive as Oxford and the main colleges all seem to be very pressed in on one another. I much prefer Oxford. But then I'm an Oxford man really!

We returned to the boat exhausted and put the kettle on. We are planning to do boaty things today.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Big Town with City status

At School I was taught that a City was 'a square mile around a cathederal". Apparently the definition has changed because Cambridge is now a city sans cathederal. It's local Cathederal, the seat of the Bishop is in ELY.

But this morning we went to The City Church who were very welcoming and invited us to join them at a picnic lunch in the play area right next to our boat! We packed up a few things and were almost the first there. Here is a picture of the church in Cambridge as I like to see it. A family together at Sunday lunch!

Yesterday was a long day. We awoke and checked water levels. The stream had increased slightly and I decided to go to St Ives lock to see whether we would fit under the guillotine gate. There was 2.2m clearance so we took the opportunity and cruised through flood meadows
to Brownshill Staunch. Here the water was flowing over both gates. I rang the lock keeper at Hermitage lock to say where we were, that we would be having breakfast and then coming to his lock. He said "Forget breakfast and come now!" I took his advice and by the time I got to Hermitage lock there was very little clearance between us and the road bridge over it. "They have just opened sluices" he said, "You are better off the river now".

So we cruised on until we stopped for lunch at teh EA mooring at Stretham near to the pumping station. After a break, we made the decision to go up the Cam to Cambridge a town we have never visited. We arrived at Sunset and moored near the water point of Stourbridge Common, just 10 minutes walk from the meeting place of The City Church.

31 miles, 5 locks (10hr) yesterday.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Company at the Mooring

We stayed on the Town Quay in St Ives today, deciding not to attempt to navigate to Huntingdon on rising river levels after last nights 2.5 inches of rain. We had a visit fom two gentlemen who were fitting new mooring bollards to the quay. These are the type with a half moon steel hoop that one can pout your ropes right through and secure them back to the boat. These additions to a 200 year old quay to supercede the w=victorian bollrds needed planning consent and took three authorities to manage the project:EA,St Ives Town Council and GOBA sharing the costs. All in the name if Health and Safety and to prevent the local people untieing a few ropes after a bevvy of beers on a weekend!

We feel healthier and safer now. The gents doing the drilling and fixing were river men. and they tolfd us that the river was set to rise a good bit yet, particularly below St Ives Lock where the headroom was now below 2 metres. As we scraped a bridge on the Nene at 1.9 metres headroom, I didn't want to chance being stuck under a lock guillotine gate. We stayed here and I am watching the flood level indicators on the quay and the bridge.

Piglet rejoined the crew at lunchtime today after his holiday in Norwich.

One thing that amused us today was the company on the mooring. A lnely man talked for ages about boats and boating and council tax. Some others joined in and we talked about engines and batteries. People were very interested in the narrowboat that was going nowhere today, asking everything from how old she was to the costs and value.

While in conversation I noticed that I was being buzzed by a very fast bird. I looked and saw that it was a sand martin and it had a nest in a drain in the wall tright next to the boat. The parents were obviously feeding young and were in and out all day. As itwas next to a window I took this picture of one of the birds emerging. I tried to get one in full flight but did not realise just how fast they were and how slow a digital camera is to respond to a press in the shutter button.

Wild life photographer of the year? I don't think so.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

When I was going to St Ives....

....I met a man with seven wives!

Well not really, but as I cast off this morning I met Julie's husband (with nb Queen Adelaide) looking over SONFLOWER and voicing his wish that he had bought a boat longer than 40 ft. How important those decisions are when you begin to think about boating.

We then started off and stopped only for a rain break. During this we ate breakfast and then I finished tiling the new floor at the back of the boat. As I cast off after the rain stopped and the job was finished, a large plastic cruiser passed us. I was looking forward to idly following them toward St Ives down the West River. However, they went round the next bend and were not seen again as I set my speed to the limit of 4 miles per hour. This speed limit has a good reason, being implemented to stop bank errosion. Why don't the people who use this river most (The Big White Cruiser Brigade) see sense and comply?

I had been warned that This Fleet of boats accumulate in battle squadrons in town centres where they sit on their sundeck sipping a glass from an expensive bottle of wine. As we approached St Ives this was just the case. Two Cruisers were moored on the Quay about 45 feet apart. I went under the bridge just as the bow rope was loosed from one of them. I did a sweeping turn, allowed them to come through the bridge before retracing my course and making another sweeping tunr to moor on the quay behind the other cruiser. This boater was of a different sort. He was using his boat for a holiday with this family and told tales of attempting to cross The Wash to the River Wytham. Unfortunately his first attempt was aborted half way because the family were suffering with sea sickness but he has vowed to try again. He also tried to move to give us more space but draught at the quay steps was really a problem.

Here is a picture of SONFLOWER at St Ives lock.

The Imray guide notes a lot of differing wildlife on the stretch we have just navigated including seals. We didn't spot them but we did see kingfisheres, numerous herons, terns, a large crab (in Hermitage lock)lapwing and the piece de resistance, Little Egret (not noted by the guide) in two locations. They are lovely but shy and flew away as the boat approached.

19.1/2 miles, and 3 locks today

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

On the Great Ouse

Since I last blogged we have had quite a trip. We had "no network Coverage" at Salters Lode where we moored last night. We needed to be there to make passage to Denver Sluice at 0830 this morning. We waited in March until lunchtime when my cousin joined us with a parcel of pump spares. The suppliers promise of 'first class post' turned out to be a standard interlink delivery! The parts were duly fitted this afternoon and normal service is restored in the bathroom where the shower can again be pumped out rather than baled.

After taking on water at Denver Lock, during which we were hailed and greeted by Sue of nb No Problem, we moored on 'their mooring' to have a bacon and egg breakfast. I was hoping that they would return before we needed to leave so that we could have a proper meeting but maybe we will meet up on the way back. Their neighbour on a cruiser Bunbury apologised for not being able to helop us moor but looked really rickety with his walking stick. He was enjoying the waterway for the first time for a goodly period because of infirmity.

We stopped in Ely for Deisel and Gas but there was precious little room on any of the town centre moorings so we motored on to stop for the night at Little Thetford 48 hour mooring. Here we got chatting to Julie who owns nb Queen Adelaide which we passed on its mooring on the Queen Adelaide straight. The Great Ouse is one of the most boring waterways I have been on. At least, this part is just hours of reeds and sky. It is worse that watching televised golf.

The locals think that a cow on the bank is excitement.
Here are all of the cattle we saw.


Excited?




Our 6 hour cruise today almost put me to sleep after the excitement of the tidal passage first thing this morning.


We did have a nice view of this delightful sailing boat.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Shocked at Tragic News

Just before we left Peterborough this morning we heard of the tragic accident that resulted in the death of a mother on a hire boat holiday. We pray for them and offer our sincere condolences. It happened just four miles from our home mooring.

What also shocked us was that the boat concerned was "Harry". We hired her for three wonderful holidays in 2000, 2001 and 2003 and were on her when we heard about the boat we now own. In fact, we enquired whether Kate Boats were open to offers for her WE LIKED HER SO MUCH!

There will no doubt be calls and recriniminations about the training given to hirers. Our experience is that Kate Boats were meticulous in their on board breifing at handover and ensured that we were able to handle the boat safely and with regard to others. In the end, it has to be understood that accidents can happen very quickly and can result in tragedy as in this case.

This accident is so close to home in many many ways and must remind us all of the necessity to be even more careful than we are.

Today we entered the Middle Level Navigation and are moored at March under the chimes of a loud clock. It reminds us of Cropredy where the church bell tolls out the hours and the curfew bell is rung on Thursdays. Time waits for no man.

16 miles and 2 locks today.

At Last


We have met up with Granny Buttons at last. Andrew Denny tapped on our boat this evening and invited us in for a chat and to meet Granny.

After Tigger had gone to bed and was snoring soundly, we crept aboard. The boat was delightful and the company over a glass or two of red wine and malt whisky was excellent.

The hackeneyed Humphrey Bogarde quote comes to mind: "this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship". Thank you Andrew for your hospitality, good humour and welcome.

Tomorrow we must part. We have a booking through Stanground Sluice at 12.30pm and need to be on our way. Granny has other pressing matters to attend to. No doubt, however, our oaths will cross once more.

The only movement today was to the pump out point and back. We are really glad we came back.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Should I water the herbs?

We are heading toward Peterborough. Two little problems today. Firstly, "no network copverage" plagued us for much pf the way. We want to lock through Stanground Sluice on Monday and need to book. The guide says 48 hours in advance but without any network coverage we couldn't do that. We got the network back just after we went under the A1(M). Funny how motorways have more priority for the networks that rivers and canals isn't it? Still no harm done, we are booked for Monday at 12.30pm.

Secondly, the weather. We left at about 9 am this morning and have been dodging showers all day. We got some tiles laid on the new back floor when it rained just after breakfast at Fotheringhay. What a lovely mooring this is. With a beautiful view of the church a cooked breakfast tasted great but was interupted by the landlord asking for their £1.50 mooring fee.



Lunch was taken in the rain at Wilgar Bridge on an impromptu mooring beside two beautiful horses in a mown hay meadow. Shortly after setting off again we were caught up by a thunder storm. I saw a flash of lightning and decided enough is enough, this time mooring on 'unofficial moorings ' just short of Wansford railway bridge. Thomas the Tank Engine is in steam today. We have heard him and glimpsed the coaches but haven't seen him.

I have decided not to water the herbs.

13.1/4 miles and 7 locks

Yesterday's Post: The Jewel of the Nene

This is the first evening of this cruise that I have had no signal. I cannot update my position on waterexplorer and I cannot tell you about the Jewel of the Nene- The Wales Expedition. We had the privilege of sharing locks with these two intrepid explorers who are paddling from Welshpool to Peterborough on a rubber dinghy. They are raising funds for the Marie Curie foundation. This charity is very dear to my heart, having had experience of the good work that their nurses do for those in the last stages of cancer.

We shared the Barnwell locks with them before winding them through Ashton Lock (a hand winder). I thought they deserved the rest!

Today we reduced the crew to three (effectively two because Tigger does not wind and the re are no bottom gates to push open). Piglet has been whisked away for this week in Norwich under canvas at the Norfolk County Showground. I am sure he will enjoy the experience of being with about three thousand other youngsters having a ball. He enjoyed last year's Newday event at Uttoxeter so this should be 'more of the same' but at a different location. We should be re-united in Huntingdon Next week.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

A day in Thrapston

No movement today. We wait here for our friends who are picking Piglet up tomorrow lunchtime to take him to Norwich for a week with his youth group. So this morning, in bright sunlight I touched up some of the paintwork that has been damaged on our travels. It is surprising how much punishment the gunwhales take. I also painted the pole which needed doing. The EA kindly provide hoops on their mooring 'bollards' which are ideal for supprting a bargepole while painting it!

We went to Thrapston Co-op for supplies. Once more I am amazed at the inability of this seudo national chain to get their act together. I am a member of The Co-operative Group and Midcounties Co-op bur this is not enough to qualify me for a dividend at the Midlands Co-op who run this part of Northamptonshire. I have to join another one, providing two forms of identification. I haven't any utility bills with me so I fall at the second hurdle. I cannot 'prove' my address, even though it is on my driver's license. Is the Boat Licensing charge a utility bill?

Lunch aboard today in the now regular lunchtime thunderstorm. Today we had hail too for a little variation.

This afternoon I discovered that the trout pelllets in the bottom of my fishing box had beciome a breeding ground for small moths. I dumped them all in the river and watched as shoals of bleak dashed about trying to feed themselves sick.

This evening we dined with cousins who came over from Peterborough. I have arranged to have the spares for the shower pump sent to their house for us to pick up as we pass toward the Middle Level on Monday. We had a good meal together at the Woolpack Inn, Islip. Here is a photo of the slow cooked roast pork that I was presented with. It was delicious and quite unmanageble alone. I needed help to finish it off. Our company left at a little after ten and we are now ready to retire.

No movement today.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

First Stage Completion


Having been disturbed at Woodford lock by a narrowboat entering the lock we stirred ourselves to make the most of a sunny interval and set off once more. I had almost finished a sketch of the view under the railway bridge from the lock mooring so packed away and set off. We arrived at Thrapston Bridge at 6.30pm in pouring rain. We went through the arch of the bridge to note that there are no moorings downstream and therefore we backed through the arch, noting the sign on the downstream face informing us that the visitor moorings were tucked in behind the bridge. We backed in and just fitted in front of a smaller narrowboat. We sat out the main force of the rainy period and them I went to Ben's Chippy (recommended by the friendly EA man) for our dinner.

Fish and Chips is one of the best comfort foods on a wet summer evening.

8 miles and 5 locks

Excellent Customer Service

We have been boating on the River Nene for a few days now and hope to meet friends in Thraston on Friday. I have been looking for a mooring close by so that I do not overstay the 48 hour moorings there.

Our cruising guide said there were moorings at Woodford but when we got there we found that this is not the case. What may once have been a public landing stage is now in disrepair and certainly not suitable for our 57 ft narrowboat. We, therefore, continued down river to Woodford lock where your Phil Gilder of the EA was busy with his colleagues and a problem with their weedcutter. They were across the lock entrance but quickly moved and Phil helped me fill the lock, opened the gate for us and generally assisted. He listened as I told him of our plans but could not suggest another local mooring.

We stopped on the lower lock landing for lunch and after this, Phil tapped on a window to tell us that he had talked to the local River Inspector who had agreed to us staying in Thrapston until Saturday. We may not indeed need to stay that long and would be within the 48 hour limit is we leave on Friday evening. However, another mooring further down stream may not be within reach.

I heve sent an email to commend Mr Golding for his excellent Customer Service. He has shown a real interest in our enjoyment of this lovely river and that we make the best of our holiday.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Almost a disaster



The photo shows a nasty split in the diaphragm of the shower pump.

The shower is below the water line and needs to be pumped out after use. To pump it out with this will fill the bilges with soapy water. As the surveyor told me to remove the bilge pump from the cabin area bilge and not get any water into it in the first place, this could be a disaster.

But there is a temporary remedy.

Here is the shower pump with its plaster!

I don't know who the gaffer was who invented this handy stuff but I am glad to have a roll of it on board!

To Moor or Not to Moor

Today has been one of the most relaxed so far.

First we set off early to get through Lower Wellingborough Lock before the apocryphal fun seeking youngsters had got up.

Then we cruised a bit, impeding a boatload of student types by mooring on the lock landing at Higham Lock. Well not on it, more half on and half off it as the last thing I wanted to do was impede anybody. The problem is that there is realy nowhere else to moor. The banks are all steep and reedy and the river bends and twists in millenial loops as it makes its way northeastward. The sign at the lock moorings says "NO OVERNIGHT MOORING" so we figured it was OK to moor for a little while to take some exercise around the beautiful ex-gravel workings. Obviously, in such circumstances or any other come to that, we would not mind someone mooring alongside to drop off crew or even tie up securely. I imagine that most river users would expect to. Some of the landings are so short that two boats working tthe locks together would have to do so.

The student types then impeded themselves by dropping a windlass in the lock with the consequential magnet fishing procedure. Why does the windlass always seem to fall under the boat making it necessary to move the boat out of the way forst? Murphy's Law of Boating No - ?

We were then in the way of the two boats from March that were moored in Wellingborough yesterday. We met them later at Rushden and Diamonds facilities and they said that they had actually just made a pigs ear of landing to collect crew. There really was enough room. They agreed they could have come alongside but 'didn't like to ask'. We were glad to find that water and pump out are still available even though the signage has been altered by the application of blue stick tape over the syblols. As warned by nb No Problem, other facilities on Nene park are very much closed and signs have been posted to indicate that it is private property. Our Nene cruising guide says that arrangements have been made for bopaters to use the sports hall facilities. It didn't appear that this arrangement is any longer in force.

We haven't far to go now so we moved a little down the 48 hour mooring and settled in. There are more lakes to explore and the scenery needs to be sketched and painted. Such is a holiday! Here is a viwew form the boat, looking away from the R & D football complex.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Wellingborough



"Hi! How's the cruise going?" we are asked. This is a River Nene lock from the inside. It's great.

Everybody we have met so far has told us not to moor in Wellingborough.

Here we are, on the park and moored with two boats from March (Middle level) and Ebony which, I beieve, is from the S Oxford like us. Ebony is all locked up but I have spoken to the boaters from March who have moored here on many occasions without trouble. There are few moorings out in the country so I have decided to stay here and leave early in the morning.

We had a good day today. After the intitial rain this morning during which we went to Northampton to purchase a tripod for Piglets's telescope. Eeyore of course is free on the bus. However, this morning it took Piglet longer than it should to get ready and we missed the only bus from Cogenhoe this morning! Fortunately we had asked a gent where the bus stop was and he returned to find us still standing at it. He gave us a lift right to within 100 yards of the shop we wanted in his jag. Awesome arrangement! On return (by bus) we noticed that a boat was going through the lock. We told them to leave the gates open and we set off down river. We had an uneventful cruise. We only met two boats. One was Lee, our friendly Boat Safety Examiner and the other reset for us the lock from which they had just departed. What a fantastic arranger we have!

We stopped for lunch just as the thunderstorm hit
and later moored up to let another dark cloud pass. The rest of the day was blue sky and bright sunshine.

So on to Wellingborough. We planned to go through the lock and into the country because of the doom and gloom that we have heard about. However, I think it is rather like what we hear about our home town of Banbury. Apparently one shouldn't moor there either. But with CCTV surveillance, lighting, good facilities and care (just make sure the mooring lines cannot be quickly removed from the bollard: a 'fun' prank) it is as safe as anywhere.

6miles 7 locks today

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Big Church Experience

This morning the sky was greyish blue and I was up early hoping to glimpse, once more, the kingfisher who had been seen eating a fish on our mooring yesterday evening.

I don't usually mix churchy stuff into the boaty blog but I am making an exception today. I checked out local churches in Northampton and homed in on Kingdom Life Church whose website says they are a community of 250 or so. For 'happy clappy' churches that is a good size. Not the largest, that is probably 'Hillsong' London who fill the Dominion Theatre several times on a Sunday, but quite for a market town quite a reasonable size. We come from a small congregation where chat before and after the service is as important as the bit is the middle and I was pleased to find this to be the case at Kingdom Life Church who open a cafe before and after the service. We were welcomed warmly and felt quite at home!

Having done 'big church' reminded me of a friend who crewed fro me recently and attends the aforesaid Hillsong London. After the morning service he always joins others from the church in a sharing experience at Nandos. He ws surprised thatI had never heard of them. Today, walking to and from the church centre we passed very close to Northampton's Nandos. So we gave it a try. It is fun. maybe not everybody's choice but we enjoyed the family experience and shared a 'sharing starter' and 'sharing platter' and benefitted from their 'bottomless' drinks and frozen yoghourt!


After lunch we looked around the shops to be disappointed. Piglet needs a tripod for his telescope. Unfortunately there are no photographic or opticle equipment shops in Northampton centre. We were also amazed by the large number of empy shops to let and the half empty market square where only half of the space has stalls. (recession over? I don't think so!)

We got back to the boat at 3pm and set off to go to Billling or Cogenhoe for the night. Under blackening skies we experienced our first lock with guillotine bottom gate, missed the entrance to Billing Aquadrome (as predicted by nb No Problem) and moored on the meadow bank at Cogenhoe lock as the rain started.

Unfortunately while we were off the boat, Granny Buttons visited. I am sorry to have missed him.

4.1/2 miles, 5 locks today.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Pleasant Saturday



We rose early and set off down the 17 locks to Northampton. We were in no hurry but enjoyed the fact that the locks were set in our favour until the fifth. The pound between lock 4 and 5 was also extremely low. Where does the water go? We crossed with nb Cygnet in the ound between lock 9 and 10. This is a 27 ft craft which is 'just perfect for a man and a dog!' In site its small length he still didn't fit into the lock sideways although he seemed intent on trying!. We stopped at lock eleven for breakfast and nb Marsh Harrier caught us up.

At lock 12 we encountered two obstacles. There was a 45ft multicouloured (with no name or visible license) narrowboat in the lock exit and an angler on the lock mooring. Looking at the characters on the narrowboat, their two alsations and another dog, I thought it easier to move the angler on the lock mooring. The boaters had stopped to chop some wood and for one of them to pop to the shop! When he returned they got on the boat and threw the three dogs on to the towpath. The last to be thrown was a lovely dauberman but by now the boat was more than a dogs throw from the towpath and the poor animal landed with two paws on the lock wall and the rest of his body slammed against it, he struggled on to the path. "Just letting them run, are you?" I asked. I cannot repeat the reply. These three men on a boat didn't deserve the dogs they had. They left a machete and some wood they had been chopping on the lockside.

The remainder of the cruise was weedy but the clear water gave excellent views of the many fishes. We reached the River Nene at about 11 am. We moored with Marsh Harrier at Morrison's, went shopping and had lunch then moved forward to use the excellent facilities at Beckett's Park. Pumped put and refreshed with water we moored on the new moorings at Midsummer Meadow with BCF members on Hotel Boats nb Oak and nb Ash, who awaited guests.

I went for a long walk around the Battlefield of the Battle of Northampton (1460) which is now a nature reserve, with Piglet, a telescope and binoculars. Tigger played football in the park and the Best Mate crocheted in a deck chair.

A nice relaxing day with more than our fair share of sunshine!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Ready, steady

We have arrived at Gayton. Our advisors have suggested that we do all the Northampton Arm and Flight in one go, get onto the River Nene and then moor up tommorrow at Billing Aquadrome. So that's the plan.

We have now moored for the night at the mouth of the Gayton Marina. Apart from the annoying beep beep beep. . . of the Marina entrance swing bridge it is quite nice here. We are in distinguished company. (For security reasons I am unable to disclose ther identity. More another time.). . . It was Granny Buttons

Thundery Lunch

We stopped in Bugbrooke, GU Bridge 36 to get supplies at the village store. A darkening sky was evident in the west and I reached for an umbrella. "Umbrella?" I asked. The Best mate declined with a look of disdain.

We went down the towpath and turned toward the village as the first drops of rain fell. After that a deluge and we ended up under my one umbrella up against a wall . . . whaoooh! I have just been rocked off my stool by a galloping yoghourt pot and a narrowboat trrying to keep up with him. . . . under a tree sheltering from the heaviiest thundery shower we have experienced for some time with the Best Mate regretting her obstinacy!

Provisions bought we returned and then decided to go to The Wharf for lunch, carrying three unbrellas. It was expensive but beautifully served. We might indeed stop again on the way back. So, blown out, we returned once more to the boat as the heavens opened again. In spite of our overhead protection, unlocking the boat one handed while carrying an umbrella was too much and we all got soaked again.

The sun is out now. We will need to proceed toward Gayton Junction in anticipation of Locking Saturday when we plan to descend to the River Nene.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The Reason Why?

The cable broke and we didn't get to eat at the Gongoozler's Rest.
But if we had this sign would have greeted us:



So 'all things work together for good!'

We had a locking partner from Brauston's second lock. They went out of the top lock first as they wanted to be ahead of us in Braunston Tunnel. They didn't want to be behind our smokey 45 year old BMC 1500 that has seen better days. At the entrance to the tunnel they waved us past because their Russel Newberry had died!

We went further than Nick's Canal Planner's suggested mooring between Buckby locks 8 and 9 because the pound was about 15 inches below its usual level. We moored opposite Wilton Marina on 48 hrs. 7.1/2 miles, 13 locks today.

No brecky again!

We didn;t make it to The Gongoozler's Rest again!

We always seem to be impeded in our attempt to get breakfast there. We have enjoyed it once but more often than that we have failed. They ran out of food, we were there oin the wrong day, we were in Braunston at the wrong time of day etc etc. Today, we broke the throttle cable and had to get Peter, the nice RCR marine engineer, out to fit a new one.

Briodge 100 is probably about as inaccessible as you can get on this part of the canal system and he had to borrow his daughter's bike to ease his journey from brisge 97 where he parked.

Call out was at 7.45 this morning. He arrived at 10.30 and has just gone, less than an hour later.

We ahve an hour to Braunston, so....too late for breakfast again!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Gravitational Pull

We are at Bridge 100 again. We have been here before. The bridge is still looking in a sorry state but the view is nice out of the window over the Northamptonshire countryside toward Rugby: with the cement works in the distance.

We ahve stopped here because we are close to Braunston but at the wrong end of the day. We need to be there in the morning to get a breakfast at the Gongoozler's rest.

Piglet emerged from his day bed today to state that he feels much better. He would enjoy a breakfast at the said floating cafe. He must be feeling quite OK because he needs his full appetite to be back! I do not fancy mooring in the middle of the Gonggoozlers in Braunston so have stopped short out in the country.

Here is a picture of Sonflower emerging from bridge 117 in the Napton Flight.

And another entering lock 10, Napton Flight

14.1/2 miles, 9 locks today

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Summer's Here


YES! WE ARE ON OUR WAY. Today we start our Summer cruise. But it has already had its problems.

Firstly, Piglet did not wake at his usual 6am this morning. This is so unusual that we were quite concerned. He did have a long day at Alton Towers yesterday and queued for over 3 hours for one ride but this did not explain everything. He ate half his breakfast, again unusual, and then really didn't want to get going. Suddenly, our most enthusiastic lock labourer was not enthusiastic about anything!

Secondly,it rained. This morning, in fact, it poured. Those last minute jobs were now easily achieved because there was no way we were going anywhere in the proverbial torrential.

At about 1.00pm the rain eased and them stopped. We were now fed up with watching boats making a real hash of passing us on our home mooring so we headed off. When I say headed off, this in fact was aft first as we needed to back to the winding hole about 200 yards up the mooring(past ten boats). This procedure would have been excellently carried out, if I may say so myself, had two boats coming toward Banbury not got in the way. We achieved the turn and headed north.

Lunch was a sandwich on the move and we made up a lot of lost time. There were few boats on the move and until we came to Claydon Flight, where there was a queue to come down, there were few locks set in our favour. Not a lot of people to chat to today. We made top level at about 6 pm and proceeded on toward Fenny Compton. Here the heavens opened and the umbrella was put into full use. The moorings were full so we went past and moored just beyond bridge 134.

Dinner was served, Piglet cheered up and we witnessed a beautiful sunny sunset.

The picture shows the Best Mate relaxing for the first time in ages.

11 miles and 11 locks today.

Friday, 17 July 2009

A weekend Break

We would normally be off by now.

School is out. The holidays have started but we are not moving gently northward between familiar banks on our summer holiday cruise.

My nephew and his fiancee have chosen this weekend to get married. This is a great time of celebration and the clan is gathering in Cardiff to witness the event. He says that it is the first wedding in his family for two generations (don't ask!) and everybody is over the moon about it. We love weddings. I have been involved in five as father of the bride or groom and to be on the sidelines for this one will be quite a change. I may even take a few photos without being one of the prime suspects.

It will be fun and we will rush back to the boat on Monday. From then the serious cruising will commence.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Cropredy and Back

It may seem strange to some people but our little cruise to Cropredy and the return this morning was one of the most relaxing outings I have had this year.

It isn't distance that makes boating enjoyable: Cropredy is only 4 (and a bit) miles by canal.

It isn't the weather: We had heavy showers yesterday and light drizzle this morning.

BUt it is the wonder of being on water, with family and friends. We had a very enjoyable evening with Aurega's crew on their mooring. We moored very close to them and our original intention was to return late yesterday evening. But with heavy thundery showers persisting an early start this morning was by far prefereable.

The return to home mooring was without incident in peaceful solitude: not a moving boat on the way and a sleeping crew!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

All done for another Four years

YES! The Boat Safety Certificate has been issued and SONFLOWER is now licensable for another four years.

Lee, the examiner was very thorough and diligent about checking the gas system and the security of the batteries and even re-checked the test point screw that he had removed to do the test. All is leak free and safe.

I posted the copy to British Waterways for their records and all is done now for another four years.

One little problem with the system is that there are some safety matters that do not quite tie together. Fire Extinguishers are recommended for testing every FIVE years so they are not yet due. They were tested at the same time as the BSS exam last time and I must make a very prominent note to get them done without the prompt of the compulsory test.

Day of Reckoning

Today I have the re-examination by the Boat Safety Examiner!

Everything has been done, I am assured so later today I should be in possession of a BSC for the next four years.

Oh, I must remember my cheque book, there is always something else to pay. This time it is the Examiner's fee!

Actually, the examination does bring to light real safety issues. In my case a few small gas leaks. BUT these could build up in an unventilated bilge to a large explosion!

Monday, 29 June 2009

More Publicity

I have just had a call from Tooley's Boatyard.

They want to put the signwriting from SONFLOWER in their publicity!

No objections from me. It looks great.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Celebrations continue

When I invited friends and neighbours round for a drink I put "No fuss, no presents" on the invitation. Most of them ignored this and bought me a bottle of wine to help me celebrate. The result is that the celebrations will continue for quite some time. You can see this by looking at the collection of wines that are in the photograph. And this does not include those that have been consumed so far!



THANK YOU EVERYBODY

Sunday, 21 June 2009

A weekend of Celebration


Wow! It all started with a few of the neighbours and friends in for a drink on Friday evening. I must say it was a balmy evening and we had a very enjoyable time overlooking the canal and sipping margharitas, sangria, wines a many and a few beers accompanied by tapas/antipasta of various oiley olivy varieties.

Then on Saturday we moved down to Portsmouth to celebrate the Best Mate's cousin's 60th birthday at a Tapas Bar/Spanish restaurant. The same heady mix without the margharitas and with professionally prepared Sanish delicacies. This time the company was mainly family with a few friends from childhood around as well! Talk about catch up time!

Back to Banbury today missing the Grand Prix crowds at Silverstone. Tired but still celebrating.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The Result

For those of you that are waiting with bated breath......it failed!

Two reasons: 1) A gas leak 2) One battery tray (wooden) was not fixed down so the batteries could move.

Not to worry. These are pretty easily fixed. Matt at Tooley's will do the fixing and all will be well.

Strangely, we don't smell gas except just before a bottle runs out. I think the fridge pilot gets jittery and combustion is incomplete. But there is apparently a pretty reasonably sized leak. Good thing it has been found. The main problem with gas leakson a boat is that, because LPG is heavier than air, the gas builds up in the bilges and then a naked light sets the whole lot off BOOM! Far better to get it fixed.

Thank you Lee

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Examination

It is hapening at this very moment.

I met with Lee, a Boat Safety Examiner, on my boat this morning. I couldn't stay long but I wanted to see him to point out a couple of things.

> The diesel leak! The BSS says that "All permanently installed fuel systems and fixed engines must be designed, installed and maintained in a way that minimises the
risks of explosion, or of fire starting or spreading.". I wanted to point out that mine was maintained to be leak free by wrapping self amalgamating tape round the known leaks.

> The gas locker floor: "Within the required LPG-tight area, the bottom, sides, and seams ofevery cylinder locker must be free of holes, cracks, damaged welds,
significant corrosion, or other damage." This is one of the reasons the boat is at Tooley's. The repair is sufficient to prevent gas getting into the engine bay and the rest of the floor will be replaced this week.

> Battery covers: They are there! One has just temporarily slipped down the back of the battery bank.

> Ventilation: The cooker fan does not work but the ventilator around it still acts as a ventilator.

I showed him all this and then left him to inspect the boat, making decisions on safety from, hopefully a practical engineering view point rather than a dogmatic following of the rules.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

More decisions

The sword of damecles, the Boat Safety Scheme examination hangs over our head. The engine repair, which would eliminate the oil and diesel leaks and belt chewing that has been the plague of our cruising life for the last three/four years, will take three weeks plus removal and refitting time. We don't quite have it before we head off for our Summer Cruise this year. Matt the mechanic is off for his hols for two weeks in July and will not be back to complete the job before we need the boat again on the 10th.

However, our BSS certificate expires on the 24th July. We need to fix the diesel leaks. I have examined the BSS documentation and it is emphatic that the fuel system should be maintained such as to remove all sources of fire or prolonging fire. Having deisel leaking out toward or in the vicinity of hot engines seems to me to be BSS unacceptable.

Alternatives must be sought.

The boat is booked in to the boatyard for next Tuesday. The engine work is not to be done then but postponed until later in the year so we need a miracle cure on the fuel spill lines. Almost every marine engineer from Thrupp to Braunston has had a go at this leak and a man in a van from RCR looked at it last week on the Thames. Someone must be able to stem the flow!

Monday, 8 June 2009

When all is said and done

SONFLOWER is back on her home mooring. All the post cruise duties have been completed and she is ready to go back to the boatyard on Tuesday next week for a little more attention. Today I have: pumped out the loo (at Sovereign Wharf), filled the stern tube greaser, emptied the drip tray under the diesel leak, pumped out the bilge, checked the water, checked the boat for laundry etc. What I haven't done is touched up the scratches on the gunwhales sustained during the cruise and fixed the shelving in the bow locker so that I can put the painting things away.

But I did have a long chat to Matt at Tooley's about the work to be done next week. There is a skylight to remove and refit so that the shape of the skylight and the shape of the frame match. The rear gates need a bit of attention having been attacked by Godstow lock landing and there is the collapsing floor in the bathroom which needs shoring up or replacement before putting the new calorifier on it. The engine thermostat needs fixing before the calorifier will work and an oil seal needs doing as well. Both of these need the engine to be slid back or a large hole to be cut in the bathroom. The former is preferable! While slid back, why not replace it? That gets rid of the diesel leak and the mal-aligned belt pulleys as well!

Ching, ching..... what's that noise?

There is much more to be done another time: electrical fuse panel needs renewal and the wiring needs tidying up and the Boat Safety Scheme Examination is due.....there are bound to be more that needs doing......the list must be endless.......

Friday, 5 June 2009

The wanderer returns

Dave and Sue have returned SONFLOWER to her accustomed berth on Castle Quay to disembark their goods and chattles after what they described as a fantastic time on the Thames.

We had dinner with them this evening and enjoyed some of their tales. Another 117 miles and 56 locks under the keel for the boat log.

No serious problems on the way either. A loose alternator belt and a loose decking board on a lock landing causing most consternation. The belt was handled satisfactorily by Canal Rover Rescue and the decking board resulted in David getting wet to his thighs.

Well done Sonflower. More happy boaters.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

WHY do they do it?

I have had someone scratch the new paintwork on SONFLOWER using a sharp implement to cut 2cm long lines through the paint like a bar code.

Having sanded them down and primed the damage, 'they' did it again in four more places. Because they could?

I have just heard from our friends that they have had the fire extinguisher stolen from the cruiser deck of the boat. It was probably discharged to cool some overheated young person in the recently barmy nights. There was no sign of it in the adjacent park in Caversham the next morning. Why? It is no real loss to me. I found the extinguisher floating in the canal and had it refilled and checked when I had my other fire appliances checked. I paid as a job lot so I think it cost me about 50p extra! I kept it for the purpose of extiguishing towpath fires that one comes across occasionally. Usually started by ....I don't know why?

Vandalism has been with us for years and many of us have got used to it. Has anyone ever really investigated the reason it is so prevalent? I just cannot understand it.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

There she goes


SONFLOWER cruises away from us under the lift bridge at Thrupp in the capable hands of our friends, David and Sue. They are heading for the Thames so SONFLOWER will again enjoy the pampering of lock keepers and gin palace masters as she cruises down to Reading. David and Sue are in no particular hurry so I hope that they enjoy it as much as I did recently.

We enjoyed the leisurely cruise down to Thrupp for the rendezvous. I was amazed to find this a centre of activity for the BCF with nb Florella, nb Bruin, nb Dragon Lady and nb Hannah all along the moorings together.

Now back to the domestic life, piano and drum lessons for the boys and back to school/college routine from Monday!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Spot the Difference

I popped into my local boatyard for some of the essentials: pump out, gas, engine oil.




I looked around the chandlery and said,"No Morris SAE 30, then?" Ray indicated, in his inimitable style, that I must be blind. "It's over there!". I looked, and looked again and then noticed the modern plastic packaging. "You need to modernise", he said, "don't you like the new style?"

To be honest, I am a Luddite. I don't see the necessity. I like the metal oil can. You can re-use it as a petrol can. It cannot be a money saving exercise because the price has gone up from £16.00 to £17.50 for 5 litres.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Black Screen of Death?



This is my laptop.

You may notice the black screen

After about five minutes of whirring it tells me it cannot find its operating system!

This was posted from the Best Mate's mac.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Is this necessary?



The notice has been up about a week and all local moorers have received a letter telling us about the Canal Experience Days this week end.


This photo of the Banbury towpath moorings was taken at 2.30 today (15th May). Was is really necessary to empty the moorings and stop boaters enjoying Banbury last night? The absence of boats would indicate a negative answer. Is it necessary to sterilise 300 feet of mooring for two hire boats and a day boat? I wouldn't have thought so.

Come on British Waterways. Put boaters FIRST.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Bridge Hopping

SONFLOWER is moored on Castle Quay, Banbury near a sign that says "no return within 28 days" and thinking how stupid it is. In the last 20 days I have just navigated a distance of over 275 miles, through 176 locks and Braunston and Blisworth Tunnels. There were at least 23 moveable bridges of which 16 were left open.

I am moored in the same place within the 28 day period! Oh dear! I am not exactly bridge hopping am I? Castle Quay, to me, indicates a place to load and discharge cargo. That's what I am doing.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

A long and worthwhile day

We are back on the Oxford Canal.

We went one lock too far, met the lock keeper at Iffley lock and he reccomended a cruise past Port Meadow in the late evening light to finish the day off. So we did. We worked up Osney Lock and then saw the delights of the meadow in a beautiful light. He was right. It was as good an English landscape as I have ever seen with the life of horses, geese and ccws grazing gently. It reminded me of a Cooper watercolour.


So to Kings lock, a swing eastward to Dukes Cut Lock and the Oxford Canal. We moored after sunset and feasted on Kedgeree and bean salad. Hungry but tired and happy.

33 miles and 12 locks today.

Spelling etc.

The Best Mate tells me that my spelling is atrocious. I don't think so. The spelling on the blog can be bad because my typing is atrocious!

I hope that you can understand the sense even if the spelling offends your eyes and mind. I will try my hardest to do better in the future.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Birding Part two

What wlse is there to do on the Thames. Apart from keeping ones eyes peeled for the rowers, there are only the birds to observe and endless green trees, meadows and very expensive houses.

As I prefer nature to architecture I look at the birds.

We have left parakeet country behind and very briefly entered Kite country around Marlow. Ther were five or six in the air at once, wheeling and sparring. At one point two of them mimicked the display variety we see in the local park and did a formation flying display turning together in a marvelously co-ordinated flight. A bit further on I noticed a group of falcons. Whether they were Merlin, peregrine (too small) or some other, (hobby?) I am not sure but there were five or six together wheeling around and swooping low over the water.

Terns were the next feeders to be seen almost touching low over the waves and then we spotted a lone swift. They really do make it summer. However the weather belied that. We had a rain storm for two hours this morning. When we reached Temple lock it was as though we had crossed the line drawn by the weather forecaster and we entered a zone of blue sky. The wind did not let up though. We battled it right to our overnight mooring.

Also spotted along the way was this immigrant family. I am not colour prejudiced but I wonder how long it will be before the balck swans outnumber the white ones! The Canada Geese we saw on the way today certainly outnumber the grey varieties by a factor of ten at least.

As we finished our fish and chip dinner, we saw a barn owl quartering the field where we are moored.

A long and tiring day. 27.1/2 miles, 8 locks.