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.

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


"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!