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, 26 November 2012

Needs Must

Today the crew decided to jump ship and use facilities on shore. We are almost out of water. Canal and River Trust advice is that navigation is not possible in the Banbury Town Centre. The interesting thing about this advice to me is that the section highlighted on the map is only from Sovereign Wharf to below the Banbury Lock. It does not include the cross streams and difficulties of the influx and outflow of the Hanwell Brook to the north of the town. This is the only navigational hazard noted in the canal guides but ignored by C&RT.

I do not know what my insurance company's view is of a boat owner who ignores advice.

But we are now prepared: A boat owning friend, who winters in Spain, flew in at the end of last week. We met for a drink and they have kindly lent me their pump out kit until they need it again in April. I have bought a bag of coal, a bag of logs and bottle of gas and a bag of sticks to tide us over until Dusty can move again. He is prevented in getting here by the rise in water levels at Aynho. His texts are always light hearted. Some day I might publish more of them. This one says "will you turn the tap off Dusty can not get through the locks or under the bridges with all this water....." He doesn't mention crossing rivers!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Flood update

The current situation, over 1 mile per hour past the boat, is causing some concern. I slackened the mooring lines overnight to ensure that we slept level as the rain fell and the water level rose.

The flow from the Hanwell brook which enters the canal upstream of us is causing strong streams in the area and is too much for the outflow to the main River Cherwell. That is why the flow is racing past us toward the town and lock where the paddles are open to allow the water to enter the River Cherwell a couple of weirs downstream.

I am assessing whether it may be possible to close the paddles for long enough to get the boat through the lock tomorrow without flooding Castle Quay for which I would not be thanked! It is essential that we work down the lock, turn at Calthorpe (Bankside or Tramway) winding hole if we are to pump out the waste tank. Then we would have to work back up.

More rain is forecast for this evening and over night which could change things considerably.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Floods again!

Pictures (above) taken this morning of the meadow area of the Spice Ball Park just behind our mooring.

And below, of the River Cherwell in the Town Centre, firstly looking toward the Mill Arts Centre

and then to the north. (Taken from the new Leisure Centre footbridge)

A look at the Environment Agency Masterplan shows that these areas of flooding are not unexpected in the 1 in 200 scenario.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Most Unusual

I cooked dinner this evening. That isn't unusual. But I lacked a couple of items that I had forgotten when shopping today. So I popped into town on foot. The lovely people at Aviva had sent me a couple of £10 Marks and Spencer coupons in lieu of the discount they promised me for renewing my insurance on line so I decided to purchase cucumber, lettuce and tomatoes with my windfall. While there however, I was diverted to buy a bread and butter pudding, an apple pie and some ready made custard. This is the most unusual bit!

Flood Alert

It is not much of a picture but the view shows Sonflower on her mooring as the flood waters rise.

I have just loosened her mooring lines to allow for more movement.

The paddles are all open on the lock and the current is now significant here. The water still appears to be rising.

The sky has cleared and the rain has stopped but the water will continue to run down from the Warwickshire Hills for a few hours yet.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to get out to the flood alleviation barrier site. The scene must be quite interesting there.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Keeping warm

With Dusty the Coal man a week away and the nights getting very frosty I have to supplement the coal with a few logs.,Br>
Having taken my younger son's keyboard and amp to his band practice (I won't let him carry them through town to school along with his school bag!) I dropped into the local farm shop to pick up some fire lighters, sticks and logs. I don't want to be one who always thinks that it was better in the "good old days" but newspaper really does not burn as well as it used to. More often than not I need a fire lighter to light the newspaper!

I didn't think that £9.00 was a bad bill.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Leaks! More leaks.

Yes, this time on the waste pipes from the galley and bathroom sinks. As I walked down the boat this morning I smelt a familiar aroma. Drains! A quick test indicated that the galley sink waste was running slowly.After emptying the cupboard the rodding eye plug was easily removed and the black slimy deposits that had accumulated cleared away. A quick flush and all seemed right as rain again here.

The Best Mate had told me earlier that there was water under the bathroom vanity basin. I investigated and found dampness on the waste. Here the arrangement is completely different. No u-bend and rodding eye. Just a 1.1/2"BSP end cap screwed very tightly onto the pipework. I failed in my attempt to remove it. The waste is flowing well enough so I resorted to self-amalgamating tape. OK for a quick job!

So, two more leaks fixed that could contribute to the "water-in-the-bilge" problem. I am sure there are many more!

Matt from Tooley's asked yesterday whether I had any leaks. I told him I didn't know! I think he wanted a check on the diesel leak they had fixed. As far as I know, that is still OK.

The roof light still leaks though. I have to work on that next. One thing at a time.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Big Day

I could not post yesterday as things do not always go to plan!

On Tuesday we did go and do the PUMP OUT. Quite excited by the prospect we slipped away from our mooring before 8am and settled on the water point above the lock. Filling did not take as long as usual but the crew managed breakfast while we were there. Thence to the winding hole to turn and return to the mooring opposite the facilities below the lock at 9.20am. From here The Best Mate accompanied our son to the Spice Ball Leisure Centre to take part in "Mixed leisure" - badminton.

It was now 10.30 so I texted Nene Pilot to tell him where I was. I got a call in return informing me that our moorings had been enclosed in blue and white tape and had become a crime scene. A person had been found floating in the canal!

I went up to the moorings and spoke to the CPO who was taking names and information. She let me go on board Nene Pilot and they allowed us to move toward town which was away from the place of discovery. As we went along two CID officers passed us on the tow path. They did not give anything away as to the circumstances. The CPOs stopped Grey Hare and pulled them over onto my mooring to prevent their progress toward the turning point. "£25 a night" I quipped. "Put it on the police bill", they replied.

We turned Nene Pilot and then returned to the facilities to get on with the business of the day. The pump that they use is a petrol powered 2" water pump that was brought from ALDI. The hoses have seen some service and there were some leaks on the suction side that needed taping up to enable the pump to be effective and lift the waste water out if the tank.

However we did Nene Pilot first and I am glad we did. We sorted a lot of teething problems out on her and I got a good idea of what was needed when it came to our turn. Once it was pumping, the pump did its job. Getting it going was a little bit of a problem and priming was essential. One lesson that needed to be learned was not to remove the priming plug when the discharge pipe is full!

We completed our task and we worked up the lock to moor outside General Foods where we managed to beat last orders on the food at 2pm! The whole process had taken 4.1/2 hours. Lunch was welcome.

Nene Pilot called with the good news that the person found in the canal was alive and in hospital.

Monday, 12 November 2012

BIG day tomorrow

This is to warn you all that we are on the move. Yes, tomorrow is the first of the Winter Pump Out Days! Since the local wharf where we usually pump out the toilet tank is on Winter Holiday How is the skiing going, Ray?) we have had to make alternative arrangements. A local moorer has come to our aid. Tomorrow is his pump out day and he has told us we can catch a tow on their coat tails and use their equipment at the local facilities. We pump out on the near side. The facilities are on the off side so we have to do "the water run" in reverse, if you know what I mean. We need to go through the lift bridge and lock, up to Calthorpe (Tramway or Bankside) Winding Hole and turn to present ourselves, near side on, at the Facilities. I hope to take pictures of the whole of the proceedings to let you all know the complications of being a CaRT towpath moorer in winter. Early start tomorrow. But the engine will warm the shower water as we go!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Age catches up

The Best Mate used her bus pass for the first time today.

The car has been troubled by an intermittent fault on the braking system and needed to return to the Main Dealer today to have the automatic electric brake system dismantled lubricated and reassembled to stop the brakes locking on.

Thst meant the chauffeur had most of the day off.

With a meeting arranged on the outskirts of town, the Best Mate was thrown onto the horns of the public transport system. Leaving 40 minutes this morning for a two minute car ride was not enough and she had to resort to a taxi to ensure getting there on time. This is because the buses run every half hour and she saw one pulling away from the bus station while she asked which bus she should catch at a different stop. The taxi driver was pleased as he had been on the rank for an hour. He could justify a trip to his spinning class at the gym after doing a job!

Getting back there was no time constraint. So she waited for the bus.

We learned a lot about the buses this morning. The B1 changes to the B2 and vice versa. at the Bus Station so that passengers who want to stay on the bus to get across town don't need to change buses or stops!The routes go within 50 yards of each other but do not quite meet. The GA01 and GA02 are the same bus but listed separately to get over Euro regs that limit the length of bus routes. Rugby to Banbury is too far, they should change the number half way but most drivers don't bother. The 499 and 500 are the Brackley Circular! The 500 goes clockwise and the 499 goes the other way! It could take you 1 hour 56 minutes to do the 3 mile trip from Cropredy to Fenny Compton as the hourly buses miss a connection and you have to wait 58 minutes for the next one!

No wonder we are glad to have the car.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Autumnal Thoughts

The alarm was set a little later than usual this morning but that didn't stop the Best mate being up at first light. I raked the fire and reset it with some paper sticks and coal and stumbled outside to start the engine to warm the water for our showers and charge the batteries. (A sink tap had been left dripping yesterday so that the water pump was stop-start all the time we were away from the boat. This is not too good for the pump or our batteries.)

The light was stunning!

As the sun started to rise behind the trees a reflection came off the flooded meadowland behind our mooring that lit up the yellow carpet of fallen leaves and the crests of the green leaved trees across the canal which reflected this golden glow.

I went inside to get the mobile phone and tried to capture the experience. By now the sun was a few degrees higher and the effect had been lost. I took a couple of snaps but I am really the world's worst photographer! Another moorer came down the tow-path as I pointed the phone at her "What on earth are you doing?", she called. "Just taking some Autumnal pictures", I said. "Oh!" she grunted, "I've got to go to work".

The frost on the grass did not last long once the sun came out and the clouds soon filled the clear blue sky. Rain has filled the gap now and warmth dispelled the shocking cold of the night. The leaves are still green on many of the trees, denying that Autumn is here. But I know differently: I saw it this morning at first light.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Water shortages

Water levels here are now is above 'normal' level. The river Cherwell is over its banks outside the towns and the River Thames is on "red boards" from St John's to Teddington Lock.

It is about time we reminded ourselves of the dry winter and rainless March, April and May this year when the absence of water in some summit pounds in the South of the country was bringing restrictions and the doom sayers were out saying the canals would be dry in the Summer.

I wrote these lyrics for the Boaters Entertainment at Little Venice IWA Canalway Cavalcade in early May.

No rhyme or reason it is the dry season and water is short around here.
It happens in most years, the sun's warm as toast, dears but there is no shortage of beer.
Water levels plummet on reaching the summit so we moor where a pub is near
They built reservoirs to keep the boats floating but that fish will be bloating is now the fear

if the water is used in the cut.

So just four hours a day is all we can cruise and the rest of the time we just have to booze
We can walk and talk or sit and knit, read a book or the paper or snooze
We stroke the cat on our lap would play cribbage or snap, any game that you choose
but from here there's no boating 'cos the boat is not floating it's sitting down there on the ooze!

No water is left in the cut.

I not sure that rain dances have increased our chances of torrents and lashings of rain
Our prayers have been answered as the floods advance: strong streams flowing again
Now April is here to allay all our fear with steady showers the rivers are flowing again
Now we look for our ark in the mid of the park but we certainly do not complain

Yes! The water is back in the cut

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Back to Routine

The leak" is fixed.

I haven't paid the bill yet but I have had a service done on the engine as well. There were a few things found on inspection:

a) The coupling bolts were loose! Nylock nuts needed replacement.

b) Gearbox oil filler cap unsecrewed! Re-tightened.

c) Air filter hanging off by the rocker box vent tube! New rubber sleeve fitted so that the air filter pan could grip the inlet manifold entry boss.

All in all worth having Tooley's man have a look. Potentially all the above could have caused serious difficulties. Its not too good if your drive fails! Nor if the gearbox oil disappears. Nor if oil continually flows from the rockerbox vent into the oily bund under the engine. It was a rocker box gasket leak that has led to another boat on our nooeings being towed to Tooley's after an engine seize. Oil is pumped up to the rocker box and is supposed to drain through the engine to the sump. A leak at this juncture causes a severe lack of oil!

So we are ready for winter. Antifresze checked, clean oil, no deisel leak, full tanks and clean filter.

"Dusty" came by this week too, so we are stocked up with coal.

Now all we need is the snow. No! Cancel that order, we can so without that!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Last time before WINTER

Yesterday (Wednesday) I rose early and set the day in motion. Up at 5.30 to get teh stove glowing and ensure the crew are warm. Then changing the water heating to gas to save the need to runt he engine. then off to get the car into the garage for a brake check. (Smelling buring brake linings after a run did not give ne confodence that al was well withthe new brake pads that were fitted last week) I needed to get the car there to ensure it was available for the workshop to start at 0830h.

Then back to the boat to back through the lift bridge to the water point. Here I was aided by a passing crew. While in the water point I met a reader of the blog; maybe THE reader of this blog! She said I don't blog enough and enjoyed reading it. Thank you for the encouragement!

Then I followed an off-duty vicar and his wife through the lift bridge to battle the wind alll teh way to Sovereign Wharf. Here the absence of nb Peggy Thompson and an off shore wind put my alignment out and I struggled with the centre rope to pull SONFLOWER back to the wharf for a Pump Out. It is here the the post heading comes from. Sovereign Narrowboats close for the wimter. Today is the last day they are open until 4th March 2013. I wished then a very pleasant winter.

With the stoppage at Slatt Mill Lock until 23rd September, we will need to get to Twyford Mill for the next Pump Out.

While at the Wharf the Director of Tooley's Boatyard came by on nb Dancing Duck. He hailed me and asked where I was going. I told him "Nowhere, I will back to the town centre when the Pump Out is complete." He said "Good, I will put John on to do your leak".

Later in the day, John came, removed the spill rail from the engine. Noted a nick on the sealing face of the first injector and changed that for one that I had in stock. He the completed an engine service and I hope that all is now well with the engine.

Hopefully: no more rainbows from the bilge pump discharge!