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.

Monday, 30 August 2010

On a ring

We have left SONFLOWER in the good hands of Stuart and Marg who told us that they would be taking her round the Leicester Ring.

They have updated us on her position by text:

Thursday 26th August: Rain stopped at 3.30 so we motored on - done 11 locks today and moored up by Drayton just as the rain returned. V pleasant afternoon Thank you.

Saturday 28th August: Haqd two gr8 days on S'F- really good weather. O/N yest bout mile short of Fradley; 2nite at Willington. Boat behavin well. Canal today busy.

Monday 30th August Report in for today from just outsiode Loughborough. Nother fine and easy cruising day wiv sunshine all the way. Trent and Soar both v peaceful! No hiccups at all from the good ship SONFLOWER.

It appears that they are having a very good cruise. As usual, if any one ses them give them a cheery wave!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

End of the Summer Cruise

Yes, today we ended the Summer cruise in grey wet August skies. The rain, so light that it hung in the air, persisted all morning but we managed our little saunter from the overnight mooring at Minworth Top Lock to a rendezvous at The Kingsley. Once a Beefeater Tavern and latterly styled Kingley Canalside, this pub appears to be no more. There certainly was no life there today at 12noon! There is a notice on the window about an application to the licensing authority to extend opening hours to 0800am to 0300am. Any opening hours would have been welcome on a cold wet August Thursday! Our lunch with friends here was cancelled and we loaded our things into their car, bid them bon voyage and drove away to find some dinner elsewhere. The Toby Carvery in Knowle was en route as we followed the way we had come: Lapworth, Hatton, Warwick/Leamington, and thence to Banbury.

We could have covered in 45 minutes what ot had taken us over a fortnight. But on the way back I did not see a kingfisher, its irredescent blue back glowing in the morning sunlight, alighting on a swaying branch and them swooping low, almost touching the water, as it considered discretion a better option and flew to the safety of an oak tree across a waving hay meadow. No, the Stratford Canal provided something special to remember.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The heart of the country

We had to stop at the Wedge's Bakery shop close to Bridge 20. It just drew us toward it for the elements of a delicious lunch. A cottage loaf, a pork pie and some cakes that didn't last until lunchtime.

After that a disappointment that Simon Goldsborough was not open for business at Warings Green Wharf it was great to Lyons Boatyard at Bridge 3, just before the Brand wood Tunnel. They had everything we needed, Diesel, Gas and a pump out. All efficiently served with a smile and a bit of banter. They gave the impression that they were boating people who really wanted to give a service to boaters. Freat customer service two days running!

We have arrived in the great city of Birmingham. One thing about having an ASD son is that you get to do a lot of the same things. Today we went to Pizza express. Each time we come we go there to watch the man make the pizza bases. I have no idea how he does it. A bit if swish swashing between his hands followed by some knuckle fisting and turning and then a bit of pressing into the edges of the plate and voila! a perfect pizza base that comes out of the oven as cripy on the edges and as soft as you like it in the middle. And not only that. He does it time and time again exactly the same way and with exactly the same result.

We love this excursion to Pizza Express. Two hours of entertainment and good food finished off with Italian Ice Cream or Tiramasu.

We had a wonderful evening and, no doubt, we will do it again next time we come to Brum.

It's Raining, it's. . .

Yesterday we made good process from our overnight mooring at Hatton Top Lock, patting ourselves ont eh back for our previous eveining's work. It was a nice morning and we soon got to Tom o' the Hill moorings water point. Here the condition of the side of our boat was noted. The flanks were caked with mud splattered up to mid window level by the heavy rain during the night impacting on the already muddy towpath. Nothing that a good hose down would not cure, however, and The Best Mate shut all the windows and handed me the nozzle for the hose.

After our ablutions we progressed to Kingswood Junction where we stopped for bacon butties before the ascent of Lapworth flight. The start was good although we were following a Canalclub (ressurrected Canaltime) boat that was slightly impeded by inexperience and low water. The helmsman insisted on leaving his lock before the previous one had let water into the pound above and had difficulty keeping afloat!

After three locks oit atarted to rain lightly. Thinking that the weather man's prediction, conveyed to us by a teacher in the boat behind, of "light Showers" was true we were unperterbed. However, the sky darkened and the rain became a deluge and The Best Mate wished that she had taken up the offer of a coat rather than 'enjoying the cooling sfffect'.

Lapworth flight is not the place to be when a rain storm comes on you. There is absolutely nowhere to hide and nowhere to moor to escape the wetting. After ten locks Tigger decided that inside the boat was the only place to be and reduced our crew by a gate opener/closer. I did not blame him as he could not understand that he could not get any wetter!

By the time we got to the second to last lock (No 3)we were glad to find the rain stopping and to find a very knowledgeable and customer orientated BW lengthsman who was adjusting the water levels in the flight. He had responded to the call of a previous boat and was working to help the boaters in spite of the terrible conditions. Well done Mr lengthsman. He also directed us to the nearest hostelry, The Wharf at Hockley Heath, where we moored to dry out, do a bit of shopping at the nearby One Stop and wait for service for dinner to commence.

We were patting ourselves on the back because of our second successful day having navigated 19 locks when nb Firefly joined us on the mooring. They had just completed 12 miles and 40 locks! They deserved their G & T!

We had a meal at The Wharf and were very pleased with what we received. We declined the offer of a carvery meal and selected meals from the Specials board or the main menu. Prices were good value and we also ordered puddings. Here is the Best Mate's Sundae to give some idea of the generosity of the portions!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Fantastic Crew!

We arrived back at Satisford Arm thanks to our hosts for lunch today. Scrummy full roast chicken dinner with bread sauce and yorkshire puddings and fruits of the forsest marrangue for afters. Wow, thanks Andy, Becky and family.

We decided that the evening was too nice to miss so we paid our dues and slipped the mooring at 5.30 pm with the Hatton Flight before us. At sunset, 2016h, we had conquered it. 21 locks in 2.3/4 hours. Many were set for us but the last four had to be emptied and we met one boat on the way!

Well done crew!

We moored above lock 46 next to two adventure boats full of sea scouts who were coating foil with candle carbon to set track detectors for the night.

The Best Mate set about creating a past and two sauce (tomato and cheese) dinner wich was consumed with gusto and washed down with a Vin Fine de Langedoc.

End of a beautiful day. Only a game of UNO to go.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Onward and Upward

At least the last two locks that we have worked were up! We are progressing steadily toward the hefty incline of the Hatton Flight. The way from Braunston to here was relatively easy as we had a full crew and a guest 12 year old lad from Germany. He was so keen to impress that he would not allow us to wind the paddles on the large Grand Union (Warwick and Birmingham) canal. We also had the delightful company of Karen, single handed, on nb Aitch. One small hitch was going on the cill while waiting (in the lock) for some hirers who had prepared three locks ahead on the Stockton flight. Filling the last lock lowered the level of the pound and lock just enough to nip SONFLOWER on the submerged second step of the cill. I didn't know there was one! Frantic waving and a bit of refilling soon did the trick and the boat was, fortunately, never in jeopardy.

We followed our new found rule of mooring up whenever a dark cloud or other evidence of precipitation was within sight so the way was slower than many would have expected but very enjoyable. We met nice people at Bridge 100 which is now bedecked with posts and chains to stop the wary falling off the edge where the dilapidated parapet has now been removed.

The ritual end of day game of UNO was enlivened by the introduction of many German 'house rules' that found new uses for many of the UNO cards but these were so confusing that our Britannic minds soon reverted to the standard game.

We also had a couple of very interesting sessions of angling. At one mooring, fairly near the River Leam we were shown a place where brown trout have been known to favour. However the bank was so steep that I took quite a prat fall on the recently moistened path. I didn't go there again and am not too sure that I could find it now either. The same informant told us that there were tench in this stretch of the GU and we proved this by allowing two of them to relieve us of some of our light tackle! We did manage to catch the Saltisford carp. Having waited a lifetime for him I am convinced he was the only one in the Arm. This really is a delightful spot to stop and show our guest Historick Warwick, even if the Doll and Toy Museum has closed. The Museum, in the old market building, was very good with excellent displays of wildlife and paleantology. It is also a nice place to wait for some blue sky before venturing up the flight.

Today we had to say good by to the "Admiral Bismark", as he became afectionately titled, as we took him to catch a flight back home to Germany and big rivers. We hope that he enjoyed a short trip in a pretty little boat on a quaint little English waterway.

Another notable event on the way was a meeting with Granny Buttons in Leamington. We last met on the River Nene in Peterborough last summer. Unfortunately, he didn't have much time for gassing as he needed to get on with "real paying work" not blogging. It was nice to see him on his way to the IWA National, although he did say that he may have to do the last few miles by train as he does not want to venture out on the Thames.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Nowhere to go

Sorry that I haven't blogged for some time. I have battery problems on the laptop! My 12v power supply does not seem to provide enough power to run it and when the battery "fully charged" it only lasts about ten minutes!

I am now on the generator, out in the country, and hoping that my mains power supply does not cook!

We left Coventry on Thursday with nowhere to go! Here we are leaving the basin behind us. We usually have somewhere in mind when we cruise but this holiday we have nowhere to go. We have to be in a place to have Piglet delivered back to the boat but this could be anywhere. We do not have enough time to go to the end of the Ashby and back so we have been eight miles up and eight miles back.

Here is Marsworth junction, the start of the Ashby canal.

To be honest we miss the locks. It is delightful countryside and a peaceful waterway but we like the diversion and action of working a few locks each day. We have seen a water vole and the bird life is wonderful. Finches, gold, green and chaff, seem to abound and there is always twittering in the hedgerows and fields.

The weather has been awful. We have been totally unable to avoid the heavy showers and have been soaked a couple of times. We have tried to moor up to avoid the rain as we have nowhere to go but just could not find a mooring in time for some of the deluges that have opened up in us.

Today is better. We have seen the sun this morning and are hopeful that we can do a bit of cruising in the dry.

Monday, 9 August 2010


Sorry about the speling in the last few posts. My Best MAte has corrected me quite a lot. I will try to do beter in futuer

It isnlt the speling that is a problem it is my fingers that are too fick for the keys

Here is nb SONFLOWER at her current mooring. This is a real haven and a great place to be. Unfortunately the adjacent pub has been burnt out and we are surrounded by boarded up shop premises and signs of a place very much in decline rather than regeneration. We looked for the City Council information and moorings office this morning. Unfortunately even that has suffered closure.

Saturday, 7 August 2010


There is an entry in our log that says, "Saw pirates, rescued damsels in distress and wrestled giant dragonflies".

Today we were pursued by Pirates aboard Willow Wren day boat Little Grebe! We managed to repel them as they tried to pass in a cutting marked "Unstable Cutting, Falling Trees" as I felt they would end up aground on land-slipped banks or, even worse, send us aground. After this thwarted attack they came past seething threats and "ahar me 'earties!". It was good to see a group of youngsters all set to light heartedly enjoy the water for a day!

They moored just short of Stretton Bridge. Watching their antics mooring was an entertainment in itself but what was happening just through the bridge was another type of entertainment. It turned into a boat handling competition. With hire boats moored three abreast the canal was reduced to single file. One boat had just come through the swing-bridge narrows and gave way for us to pass the moored boats but the two boats behind it did not read the situation and I had to wave the boat behind us back to alleviate serious congestion. We all managed to manoeuvre through but the need to give way gave nb Anita Gail the opportunity to leave the water point on the north side of the narrows between us and the boat behind. No real problem one might think.

However, when passing moored boats I slow down to 1000rpm on my BMC 1500 operating through a 2:1 Hurth gearbox with a 16" propeller. That means about 1.5mph. This was too slow for nb Anita Gail whose skipper shouted at me that he had to keep going into reverse to keep from hitting me! (I recalled Rosamund the Fair who used to keep control of the craft at 1mph with 40 diners aboard by intermittently but regularly using the engine in forward only. If they can do it anyone who has a bit of nous could do it. Going slowly is something every boater should be able to do!) When a space allowed I slowed even more and let him pass seething rage! How could it be MY fault that he couldn't go any slower? There is a boat on the moorings in Cropredy that has a sign in the window: "Keeping full control of a narrowboat at 1 knot is a skill much admired by moored boaters".

We passed them later today moored at Hawkesbury junction. I wonder what they do with the few minutes they saved.

"Some entertain Angels unawares. . ."

Yesterday evening we moored on the Long term Mooring at Newbold. Tut tut, do I hear you say. (Visitor moorings are very rare here on Friday evenings). After we moored a Rose Narrowboat aimed for the bank in the gap between us and the next boat along and the helmsman asked in a west US accent "Will we fit?". I affirmed this fact and helped them moor. Obviously new to the waterways and oblivious to the BW totem poles they found the first vacant spot near to the hostelries of Newbold. Who can blame them?

After they had had a meal in one of the pubs, I asked them aboard for a drink and found that these adventurous senior citizens of California were a "Pastor to Seniors" and his wife. We spent a wonderful evening in their company and felt very privieledged to be able to give them a little hospitality and enjoy their conversation and put the world to rights from a view from both sdes of the Atlantic.

They were having a weekend "Canal Adventure" going somewhere from whence they shall return. We wish them a very blessed time.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Toward Coventry

From Bridge 79, our overnight mooring on the North Oxford Canal. we set off in reasonable sunshine to stop at Bridge 73. This allowed time for the engine to heat the water in the calorifier so that we could all have a shower and also an opportubity to cook a breakfast. Reasearch on the internet (what did we do without it?)indicated that this was the nearest point on the canal top an Aldi which was neatly connected by the Stagecoach bus 96, an hourly service between Rugby and Northampton.

So it was also a good place to stop for shopping.

After his breakfast bacon sandwich and bowl of chocopops, Pooh Bear decided that he didn't feel too well and put himself back to bed. The family shopping trip was now reduced to a solo forray by yours truly. Equipped with rumble truck and tesco big bags I set off. Infact, I waked there and back helped by a short cut through a park that was pointed out by a local young Mum who was pushing her sleeping baby and dragging her other youngster that way.

After a successful trip, I returned to helo a hire boat who was pulled off his pins next to our boat by a passing boater. I demonstratee the art of mooring on 'the wrong sort of piling' using rope loops that had been left by a previous moorer. This is much more secure than a mooring stake, however deep it is hallered. The baots just don't seem to go as slow as they should.

Hilmorton locks were worked down in the pleasant company of Robert Anne Spog Dog and Ko who were behind us for quite a while. They were keeping a close eye on the clouds because they don't do boating in the rain.

A bit more cruising was unsertaken befoer a lunch break opposite Clifton Wharf where passing boats entertained us with their antics just before the bridge. Antics actually became a collision just before we left and I was thankful to have already slipped the moorings to be able to reverse as fast as I could to avoid us being the next target.

We continued to Newbold where we have moored at the end of the long term mooring as the remainder of the visitor moorings are full. There are three hire companies in this locality and I think all of them turn round on Saturday. It must be like this every Friday evening. It has started to rain so I don't see why we should go any further to find an alternative. I do pay for a mooring after all! These moorings, like those on which I moor in Banbury, have had space on them all the time I have been in this area. We passed this way in Summer 2003 on a hire boat and I spoke to a long term moorer then while waiting for friends to lunch at the pub. He said he had never known them full. I wonder whether BW really know the length they have to offer! There have been auctions recently and sold two mooring cheaply at the strt of this year. The last auction didn't get a bid for a 10m mooring but I don't think that they have ever advertised the whole vacant length.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Things that need doing

After a few days with two of the grandchildren in Kent we have returned to Oxfordshire to rendezvous with another who has been staying in our flat for a few days. It has been good to catch up and to do the things that we must do: like visit our doctor and pick up prescriptions etc. Unfortunately we are at the age when free prescriptions become a necessity!

Hopefully we are back on the boat in the morning!