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, 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas


SONFLOWER is safe on her mooring and, thanks to Piglet who lengthened her mooring lines this afternoon, she is riding the rising levels in the pound.

For the second year running we are watching the sky for dark clouds rather than angels in the starry frosty night.

We hope that you all have a very safe New Year and enjoy all the waterways have to offer. Love, Peace and Joy are often more evident afloat!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Beautiful Day: There and back again

It was a beautiful day this morning. The engine just about turned ocvevr and started with all four batteries connected in series aso I took SONFLOWER down to the town water point. I got help with lowering the lift bridgeon teh way there from aboatwaman who is currently moored at Tooley's Boatyard. Thank you, it is troublesome single handed.

So on to the water point where the tank was replenished. C&RT have put a new tap on the outside of the water point but it is controlled from inside the locked enclosure. While watering nb UFO came into the basin. He too was single handed so I helped him through the lock. what else do you do when waiting for the tank to fill?

There was a lady with her three year old grandson watching the boat go down. She asked if I was going down too When I said that I was thinking about backing she looked disappointed. She had come from Socvereign Wharf because she saw me go by and told her little charge that he could watch me go through the lock. He wasn't too worried as he had seen UFO go down.She also told me that she was off nb River Moon, read this blog and we shared news about mutual aquaintences.

SONFLOWER was now almost full with water so we returned down the path together. They were very pleased to be able to help me by raising and lowering the lift bridge. I left them watching me as I carefully navigated SONFLOWER, in reverse, back to the mooring.

It was a lovely day. When I returned I met with the skipper of nb ATHCO who told me all the news of the friendly moorers.

1 mile, 0 locks, 2 Lift Bridge, 2 hours

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Winter Cometh

SONFLOWER is almost as neglected as this blog.

But we went to visit her today. I have been to see her once since Canal Day but only to discover that the frost had already got in and pushed out a "push fit" Hep2O connector near the gas water heater over the sink. I drained the water system and lagged the heater to prevent further frost damage.

Today the Best Mate wanted to check out the soft furnishings and tidy up a bit. I started the engine to give the batteries a bit of  a boost. Starting was touch and go with ALL batteries connected in circuit! I warmed her quickly by putting a bit of load on the prop.

The Best Mate decided to take down half the curtains to wash and repair them ready for next year. While she was busying and tidying I looked under the back stairs and pumped out the bilge of accumulated water. I sprayed the fungal attacked woodwork below stairs with bleachy cleaner and hope to kill it off.

We have done a bit to her but she still has the look of an unloved boat. We will be coming back miore often to make sure she gets through the winter.

Monday, 14 October 2013


In this picture the Best Mate stands at the entrance of our "pod".

This overturned clinker built Avon bark contained all we needed of a hotel room for an overnight stay in Bradord on Avon. SONFLOWER was far away.Had she been moored at Bradfrod on Avon Wharf on the K & A she would, of course, have the first choice but this is fourteen days away by canal and river.

Inside the pod is a double bed, en suite shower room and loo, kitchenette with sink, fridge, microwave and kettle and supplies to keep us happy, a DVD player with large LCD screen and LED mood lighting.

Staying here gave us ideas for storage lockers under beds, tanking the bathroom/shower and mods to the lighting arrangements. A very educational trip.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Boater's Breakfast

Being in Bradford on Avon for a wedding celebration yesterday afternooon and evening we couldn't leave the town without trying the much recommended, world renowned and "as shown on TV" boater's breakfast available all day every day (except Christmas Day) at The Lock Inn.

I admit to leaving food on my plate! Not because there was anything wrong with it buit it was just too much for one meal!

We are now wondering how we can make the fourteen day cruise to get another one!  One can probably survive that length of time.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Back again!

Yes, the sun rose and so did I.

I seized the day and backed SONFLOWER from Tom Rolt Bridge to her home mooring, 20 yards north of Marsh Footbridge No 163.

According to Nick's Canal Planner this is a distance of  515 yards. Forwards it would take 10 minutes. Backwards it took me 40 minutes. Only one boat was navigating toward me. I stopped for him to pass and he offered to let me go ahead. He hadn't realised I was going backwards!

I didn't hit another boat as far as I am aware. I was very close to one though and had to use the long shaft to push away from the bank!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Boating Today

I had a text from a friend about an abandoned narrowboat spotted under Tom Rolt Bridge today. That is of course SONFLOWER. The only way for her to get back on own mooring is if I take nb Auriga back to Cropredy and her home mooring. So that is what I did today.

I thought out the logistics:
  • take car to Cropredy
  • Get bus back from Cropredy
  • take Auriga to Cropredy
This seems simple enough but the current health of the Best Mate means that I had to meet our son for his Wednesday lunchtime at General Foods Club.

The timing was imaculate:

0945 Drive to Cropredy. A text to The Coal Wharf ascertained that there was somebody there and they would let me leave the car.
1005 Bus back to banbury
1030 to 1130, Prepare family meal for the evening: spicy lamb kebabs with nachos grande
1200  Lunch at General Foods
1300  Walk to Home mooring and cast off
1515 Arrive Cropredy Coal Wharf and moor Auriga
1600 Collect older son from drumming lesson in Cropredy and take him and his PA home.
1630 Make the salad for the family meal
1715 Collect other son from violin lesson at school
1800 Serve Dinner

Right:- I did all that.  Here is nb Auriga rising in Hardwick Lock

Here is nb Auriga leaving Slat Mill Lock:   oops I had better get on!

Lovely picture of the "mackeral Back" cloud announcing the depression coming from the northwest to bring us wind and rain

No folk club or singing tonight.   An evening to relax.

Now, tomorrow, I can take SONFLOWER back to her home mooring. Just the usual 2 hour cruise to do after boccia in the morning. I might take the short cut and back her up first thing. It would only take an hour to rope haul her back. I'll see how I feel.

Fabulous Performance

Wonderful, fabulous, extraordinary, exhilirating, not to be missed performance from Kate Saffin as Ramlin Rose on the stage of Theatre in the Dock in Tooley's Boatyard, Banbury

Just one more night for you to get there.

Come to think if it, most of my readers were probably there yesterday, but any who weren't this is a good canal story that will break your heart and encourage you to keep the cut alive!

Get along if you can.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Banbury Canal Day

Here are the Cropredy Gospel Edge Singers performing their songs set at the Banbury Canal Day in front of SONFLOWER.

They did a marvelous job and were appreciated by many who stopped to listen or who passed by.

Thank you ladies.

49 out of 100

I put my last post to the Grammarly check:

Grammarly found 19 critical writing issues and generated 2 word choice corrections for your text.
Score: 49 of 100 (weak, needs revision)

The text in this document is original

Contextual Spelling Check 4 issues

Spelling (3)Commonly confused words (1)
Ignored words

Grammar 4 issues

Wordiness (2)
Passive voice use (2)
Use of articles

Punctuation 6 issues

Punctuation within a sentence (4)
Closing punctuation (1)
Capitalization (1)

Style and Word Choice 5 issues

Writing style (5)
Vocabulary use

Thank you to Miles Away for telling me about this tool which sponsors his page. I am not taking up the offer of a 7-day free trial.

I took their advice and revised the text. I know score 51 out of 100!

Saturday, 5 October 2013


Yes, tomorrow is Banbury Canal Day.

So this morning we are arresting a period of considerable neglect. No time for pics, I am sorry to write. They certainly would not be pretty, anyway.

The LOG speaks for itself.

We have not been anywhere, or doing anything on SONFLOWER so the gas bottle had run out leaving all sorts of smelly stuff in the fridge, including a leaking bottle of milk. After a gas bottle change a full refridegerator clean was required . The Best Mate set about evicting the spiders and wiping over the saloon from the pine roof lining to the floor. She also derusted the top of the stove and blacked it so it looks the business now.

I went outside, squeegy in hand, and washed the boat from stem to stern. Looking at her from across the canal she doesn't look so bad now except below the gunwhales where we need a passing canoeist to run a wet broom along her side. More spiders were evicted. I don't like doing that as they are very good at catching flies, mosquitos and midges before they get into the boat.

SONFLOWER is under Tom Rolt Bridge. When we regain our strength we will start on the decoration.

There is a "Boaters Bash" this evening. We hope to be there.

Tomorrow I might get enough time to take a picture. Who knows. Hopefully I will see some of you throughout the day. We hope to give you tea and cake.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Because We Can!

We went to Cropredy and back yesterday afternoon.

The day started really cloudy with that lank hair feeling all around. A bit if drizzly rain and misty heaviness. But we had promised a friend a trip on the boat. After our Boccia session in the morning we boarded at about 1150. the Boat was pointed toward town and there was a brief debate between the Best Mate and myself as to which way to go. Through town to Bankside winding hole and back? (2 miles, 2 locks, 2 lift bridges, about 2 hours) or to Cropredy and back which is a four to five hour cruise? The boat was pointing toward town. "You make the decision", The Best Mate said, so I backed SONFLOWER to the winding point at Grimsbury Arm, turned,looked at the sky, which had blue patches in that direction, and the sun came out!

WE HAD A LOVELY CRUISE. Warm sunshine. Temperature rising toward 20 deg C. Shedding cardigans and fleeces we had a wonderful time.

Within 2.1/2 hours we were turning at Cropredy Wharf and setting off on the return leg. The sun now lowering in the sky was straight ahead of us at times as we headed south. There was no help at the locks from craft coming in the opposite direction on the way back but we didn't have to queue anywhere. On passing under Bridge 158 I marvelled at the 200 year old structure. It had withstood the pounding of huge earth movers during the construction of the Flood Alleviation Scheme but stands unscathed and proud. A witness to so many events over the past two centuries and to the strength of the men who designed and built the canal.

So 5 hours cruising without any problem: just because we can! May it long continue. 7 miles, 6 locks, 5 hours

Monday, 2 September 2013

Collision Course

I am wondering whether SONFLOWER is seriously magnetic!

I looked up the canal this morning as I untied the mooring straps to see a Napton Boat heading toward me about 200yards away under Tom Rolt Bridge. Having pushed the bow out it was too late to stop on the mooring so I straightened the boat and stopped it. There was a 100 foot space on the other side off the canal at Castle Quay so "no problem" I thought. How wrong I was. The hire boat headed straight for the boat moored opposite. There should have been plenty of room to pass between us but once he had hit this boat the richochez took him into my bow! The crew of the boat I was now alonngside came up and I assured them I had not touched their boat. "Thank you " they said. The helmsman on the hire boat did not say a word! I was stationary so surely they had the responsibility to pass safely!

What is wrong with these people? Would they drive their Volvo down the motorway bouncing from Merc to Beamer in the same fashion? He had just hit about £60,000 worth of boat and didn't even acknowledge the fact!

The rest of the 1/2 mile journey was almost uneventful. A little nudge by nb Shadow, a fellow moorer, who arrived at Sovereign Wharf at exactly the same time as I did! £140 was the total for Gas, diesel and a water cap key. It was a good feeling to pull away with all the main essentials serviced and full. I turned at Grimsbury Arm and moored ready to do battle with the town centre again.

Now for the winter. Summer is officially over after Labor Day according to Google!
3/4 mile, 2hours

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Just Turning Round

We had to turn the boat round yesterday.

Tooley's had finished the work except for giving us a bill and returning my key, so we took our daughter and grandaughter for a little ride. Down the lock, turning at Bankside winding hole and back. As always, a life jacket was provided for the precious cargo!

The trip was not uneventful! On the return, having passed through the lift bridge, I heaved to as a boat approached where the canal narrows. Stood stationary on the far right of the canal, I could only watch as the boat came quickly toward me on collision course with Tooley's trip boat nb Dancing Duck, hit the same, bounced from it onto my bow and wedged itself between her and SONFLOWER! I had to apply full revs in reverse to disengage us. Having unlocked, the boat then backed off a couple of boat lengths. The helmsman told The Best Mate, who was ashore having operated the lift bridge, that I could come through first! I went forard slowly and passed the boat, expecting some form of appology. The helmsman just stared forward so I said, "I hope that my boat is not damaged!" He replied, "I hope mine is ok too". No apology then! The owner obviously doesn't care what or who he hits.

We moored up thankful to be afloat.

Saturday, 31 August 2013


SONFLOWER has visited Tooley's Boatyard. After a long wait, the replacement engine foot arrived from Culcutt Marine, by post, on Wednesday.

 John worked on the boat on Thursday and Friday to replace the engine foot (including a difficult withdrawal of the broken stud),

  to sleeve the main cable loom where it passes through the bulkhead from engine bay to cabin,

  and to clip insecure gas piping with a clip within 6 inches of every joint.

All that completed, we took our granddaughter for a ride this afternoon to turn the boat round ready for return to hime mooring via Sovereign Wharf on Monday.

                                                                                                        1.1/2 Miles; 2Locks, 2 LB, 2 hrs

Thursday, 8 August 2013


The Boat Safety Scheme Examination yesterday resulted in a failure!

1. ENGINE : the front RH mounting foot is cracked, a stud has sheared and the mounting collapsed.

2. GAS SYSTEM: a few clips are missing

3. ELECTRICAL WIRING A wiring loom has no protection (grommet) where it passes through the bulkhead

The expected call to Tooley's Boatyard has been made and cruising is suspended for the near future.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


Tomorrow is the Boat Safety Ezamination Day.

I am resigned to it.

He arrives at 10.00am.

He writes out a list.

I take the boat to Tooley's and they fix it

He comes back and says it is ok

I hand over loads of money!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Throw Away Society

Here is all the fire equipment from the boat all lined up ready for taking to the specialist testers who checked them out the last time I had a Boat Safety Certificate Examination.This is to satisfy Section 17 of the examination that requires the Fire Equipment to be maintained in good condition and kept accessible. I like to check they work as well.

You can see that they are all labelled with the name and address of the testers. So I took them round there to find that the place is now one of the many many beauty parlours that are sprouting up all over Banbury. I rang their number and spoke to Kate. She explained that the company had now moved to Buckingham but there were engineers in the area who would inspect the appliances. She then asked "what the date was in the bottom right hand corner of the label?" "2009" I replied. "Oh", she said! "That means they all need emptying and refilling. That will be £13.50 for the small ones and £18.50 for the larger one." To do all of them and a £3.50 inspection charge for the Fire Blanket would have cost £62.50

I went to Screwfix and bought brand new Dry Powder extinguishers, the only ones I really need, for £55.97

Here is the set of Fire Equipment now on the boat.

Anyone want 2x 1Kg and 1x 2Kg Dry powder Fire Extinguishers, unused, but over twelve years old?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Home on Water

We passed this lovely little boat on the way through from Fenny Compton yesterday.

I couldn't resist taking a photo. Some people may describe it as a floating garden shed. I think the owner has made the best he can of the hull that he had. The clapperboard construction gives character to the superstructure. Don't you love the leaded lights to the windows?

And after all is said, it is home to somebody.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Fenny Compton to Home Mooring

We (Eeyore and son Piglet) caught the 0858 bus to Fenny Compton, adj The Wharf Inn, and were under way by 0930. First stop was the water point for the days's refreshment although, as a treat for myself, I did stow away two bottles of Brakspears Bitter.

Then with Piglet at the tiller we cruised uneventfully through the "tunnel" to Claydon Top moorings. Here we stopped for breakfast. Bacon and Eggs is compulsory on these occasions.

While moored to eat we were passed by two boats so we were filling locks for the rest of the day, apart from one lock where a craft rose before us and we passed in the pound.

Cropredy Marina is now being filled. They are filling it slowly and there is a pipe well inside the marina flowing gently. It looks like a diverted stream is being used rather than dropping the dam boards and filling form the canal.

We stopped for lunch in Cropredy at The Old Coal Wharf, the mooring of nb Auriga. We discovered that we could not breast up to them with the CaRT craft moored opposite! We were thankful to John who allowed us to breast alongside his moored boat. With thanks to our hosts, and the beer drunk, we went on again uneventfully to our home mooring. At Hardwick Lock I became a CaRT volunteer and cleared the bywash of all sorts of vegetable matter with the help of another boater who was moored below the lock near the White Cottage.

Near there we passed a 40 ft craft that had been ahead of us at Little Bourton Lock. They were looking for a 14 day mooring to leave the boat and asked of the location they were trying was safe. I suggested they put it on the permanent mooring site and inform CaRT at Milton Keynes of their need. They have a nanogenarian parent who needs them over the next two weeks. There is space and they are in possession of a CaRT mooring permit. In some ways they have already paid for the mooring! There is a 45 ft space between nb Shadows and nb Bump and Grind on our mooring site so there should not be a problem.

As we pulled up the mooring lines on our home mooring Bones and Kate, nb Morning Mist approached to welcome us back! Nice to be home.

10.1/4 miles, 12 locks, 8 hours

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Spoiled my Day!

On Tuesday I had a good day's boating and got the boat from the Top of Stockton Locks to Fenny Compton Wharf.

The sun shone, a working boat came by to share at the wide Grand Union locks and the locks were not too bad but there were two incidents that spoiled the day.

The first was when I was sharing the Calcutt locks with a town-class working boat in very good condition and looking original. When I came up the steps of the first lock with the centre rope in my hand I was welcomed by the boatman on lockside welcomed me as he saw that this single hander was not going to take his help for granted and free load on the boat! I commented that I thought he was single handing too. He told me "I'm not allowed out alone." We worked single gates for the first two locks, with the boatwaman taking the towny in first. The third lock was set for us by another crew who held the gates open. I came alongside the off side stern of the towny to go in beside it. "What do you think you are doing!" The boatwoman shouted (almost screamed). "Get back!" and with that she steered the boat further toward the middle of the lock. I retreated. Coming in beside her when the towny has settled at the nearside I said,"I thought that I was coming into the lock beside you to allow the water to slow us both evenly." I went up on lock side to open the paddle. The boatman said "She's a fiery one. You see why I am not allowed alone".

I have thought about it a lot. This woman needs to review the days of the boat and butty when they approached the lock with he butty on a single short strap. The boatman ascended the steps with the cotton line in his hand, slowed the moty boat with a turn on the the bollard at the entrance and then closed the gate behind it. He then hopped onto the boat cabin roof as the butty slipped the short strap and came in alongside, stepped on the butty roof and jumped up to close the gate behind the butty as his partner opened the top paddle. Smooth as silk and efficient operation.

The second incident came in the late afternoon. After working up the nine narrow locks of the Napton Flight on the South Oxford Canal comes the delightful interlude of a peaceful three to four hours of cruising on the meandering top level across the Warwickshire plain. Sharing the view with lapwings, resting on their summer meanderings and emitting their shrill "pee-wit" call in the fields of sheep; or with buzzards wheeling overhead, flapping to find a thermal and them soaring upward, flap some more, soar even higher until only a small speck in the sky crying to keep in touch with a mate or chick. Such is the peace, soon to be shattered by HS2, but, for the moment something to savour. There are some delightful moorings and some boaters had taken the opportunity to moor under the shade of the hedge and marginal trees to enjoy the warmth without the heat of direct sun. I always slow down for these moored boats. So it came as a surprise when I heard a shout from within one, followed by a holler from the bank where a woman roused from her reading to shout "Why did you speed up when you came to our mooring?" I looked at my tacho. 1050rpm. Equivalent to about 1mph on this canal. However, Granny Buttons noted in a tweet that "It is not all about speed, it is more complicated than that". I have thought about this a lot too.

I was passing several boats. My throttle naturally declines as the friction brake is shot! I had slowed and as I passed the third boat the throttle was down such that I was losing steerage. As I passed the engine room of this shiny boat I glanced in at the thumping engine that glinted with chrome and brass. I blipped the throttle up a bit to recover steerage and steer away from the immaculate paintwork and false rivet heads on the side of the boat. It was this action that the boatman heard over the thump of the engine that he was oiling or caressing. He shouted what was probably, after thoughtful consideration, "slow down not speed up when passing moored boats". Of course from within his engine room he had no actual knowledge of what speed I was doing. The woman in her deck chair on the bank was probably fine tuned to the call of her husband and responded with the shout that ruined my peaceful cruise. If they don't want boats passing them they should stay in the marina where they will not be disturbed by boaters who actually boat.

Monday, 15 July 2013

A little mistake...!

START: 0900. Off to The Boat Inn (Under renovation) to walk down Stockton Flight to Long Itchington where SONFLOWER awaited us. No problem here. We met a Canal and River Trust volunteer lock-keeper who was happily received by a boater in the locks. "Great to see you", she said to him. I assumed he was the helpful sort who would be helping people through the flight. We arrived at the boat and had a very nice conversation with the owner of historic boat nb Mercury, built by Harland and Wolfe in 1935 with a National Engine. She was walking her dog. As we arrived at the boat two dog walkers allowed their dog to poop on the tow-path next to our boat. "Pick that up, please!, I asked. "Haven't got a bag" came the reply. "I have!", I said, diving into the cratch and getting a bunch of dog poo bags. "Have some for later", The Best Mate said as she passed him the bags "we haven't got a dog." To give them their due, they did wait for the bag and not give us some mouthful of abuse. But why do people walk their dogs without taking a bag with them?

Off to the locks. Here SONFLOWER rises in Long Itchington (bottom) Lock:

So the start of the flight. All was well as we filled the first two. We then crossed with a young couple and had a good road for a couple more. We met three men carrying windlasses down the flight. One suggested that we waited for a boat coming up but he was looking at the boat that had just passed going down! Easy mistake. A lock further on we spotted a boat coming down. It was our friends Gail and Andrew Spolton who were returning nb Emmaus to the Shroppie. Not a lot of time to chat in the pound between locks is there?

We then had a good road for the next two locks. Only two to go I said to the Best Mate. Three she corrected. "Oh, I said." I looked up and the next lock was spilling water from its bottom gate. "I'll have to empty that one" I said and walked ahead as the lock SONFLOWER was in was filling. I whisked the paddle open and set off beck down the flight. There was a crash as I turned and I looked at the gates. Nothing seemed amiss. So I walked on down. Sonflower came up and we went on. As I opened the lock above I noticed a boat was leaving the top lock. "Oh, I didn't see you" I said. "That was set for us!" The shore crew said. "The gate was open on our favour, that was our lock! You stole it!". "I am sorry", I said. "I don't think I have done that before". I cannot remember opening a lock with the top gate open. The crash that I heard was the top gate closing when the bottom paddle was opened!. Oops:a big mistake. After some more apologies I think I was forgiven. It is hard to believe that I could not have seen the open gate!

Here SONFLOWER rises in Stockton Top Lock. Another flight successfully navigated. No further sign of the volunteer helpful lock keeper. What the three men were going to do with their windlasses was not revealed either. And I have learned to look at both ends of the lock!

With Boat Inn, Stockton closed, we had lunch at The Wharf Inn, Fenny Compton.

FINISH 1145am. 1 mile, 2½ furlongs and 10 locks 2.1/2 hours

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Hatton to Long Itchington

Here we are leaving Hatton Flight behind us. It is Wednesday Morning. We went to Kate Boats in Warwick and enquired what moorings were like around there. We parked the car in a cul de sac opposite and walked to Bridge 51 where SONFLOWER was waiting for us. We then went back throughtthe two Cape Locks and stopped for water at the water point above the locks.

It seemed to take ages to fill but gave us the opportunity to talk to the boaters n=moored mearby. They were from Long Itchington but had broken theior coupling. They s=asked us of we could take a couple of bags of rubbish with us as they had no way of getting it to a refuse station. They were waiting for srares I think. They looked as thoughtthey had been waiting a long time.

When full we left the locks and our next stop was Kate Boats for a pump out.

There are no moorings nearby and Fran took the tiller and navigated the boat toward Tesco at Bridge 46. I drove the car round and waited for her to arrive. We moored on rings at Emscote Bridge No 46 at 1215. Got in the car, with two banners to dispatch to BCF members for the IWA National Festival stand, and got in the car.

2miles, 2 locks 2 hours


1130, stopped playing Boccia and washed the cups up after a meet of the Oasis Boccia Club.

1159 arrived at The Cuttle Inn, parked and entered the bar. Ordered drinks
1210 Ordered two Prawn Baguettes: plenty of time until the bus to Warwick leaves at 1250. Scheduled arrival at Tesco will be 1332 (according to traveline)

1235 Ordered the baguettes "to go".
1245 left the pub with baguettes foil wrapped and chips in plastic takeway containers.
1250 stood at bus stop and ate chips.
1259 Bus arrives, chips consumed.
1315 Bus arrives in Leamington where we change and wait for a X17 to Warwick.
1347 Bus arrives (approx 35 minutes late), They should run every 15 minutes
1359 Arrive Emscott Bridge No 46.
1405 We slip the mooring. The Best Mate serves the Baguettes, No complaints there. They were lovely. Nick's planner estimates the cruise to be 6 hours. ETA 8pm! This is the starting time of a meeting I have arranged in Banbury! I check the wash: not breaking. I increase the engine revs a little more.
1509 we arrive at Radford Bottom Lock to see a boat closing the top gate and leaving. We hope he waits at the next lock. He does! And we are then in the company of a little Sea Otter named Waterloo Sunrise he can't be Waterloo sunset, although the first line "Thank you for the days," is in musical notation on the side too, because there was already a Waterloo Sunset in the Sea Otter Club.
1815 We are moored at Cuttle Bridge No 25.

In plenty of time to get back to Banbury to continue our busy lives.

It was a lovely time on the boat.

8 miles, 10locks 4 hours

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Birmingham to Hatton

I took a friend (Owl) who hasn't been boating before to Birmingham by train. A quick stop in the city centre to collect bacon, eggs, bread, milk and mushrooms and we arrived at Cambrian Wharf. We turned the boat and headed out of the Venice of the North.

I gave Owl the tiller as we left Gas street Basin and he gradually learned the lefty and righty bit about how a boat turns. It is all "flat" to the top of Lapworth Flight on the selected route home so we had a good chance that he would get the hang of it before he had to use it in real boaty situations like passing in a very small pound while turning to enter a lock on a bend. "Left a bit now back to the middle and a little bit further right to stop the turn and then back to the middle etc etc" we weaved all the way to King's Norton Junction.

Emerging from Brandwood Tunnel.

Traffic was light and we made good progress with "breakfast" on the Stratford Canal past Yardley and thence on to Wedges Bakery at Bridge 20.A must stop place. Back on the boat we had scotch eggs and cake (a custard slice for me and bread and butter pudding for Owl)

We stopped at The wharf Inn next. We enjoyed the Slaters Ale but the fish and chips left us disappointed. We noticed a chippy three or four doors further up the road and thought we would have been better off going there.

We stopped overnight above the Lapworth Top Lock. as the sun set.

Today started at 0130. "Can you hear that noise?" Owl said. I can't hear a thing after taking my hearing aids out for the night. "The toilet is oveflowing onto the bathroom floor" Owl continued. The flush had been left on and indeed the tank was full. I pumped out a bit of water but then we went back to bed, using facilities available on the towpath. I didn't get back to sleep quickly with canal maps and pump out facilities between Lapworth and Banbury going around my head. I heard birds sing (loudly) before I got to sleep again. The alarm woke me at 7am. I got the reserve portapotti out of the top box and pumped out the oveflowed water from the bilge. Then we started on the locks.

Half way down the flight we met a man bow hauling his boat through the locks. He was on his way to Staffordshire without an engine. I mentioned that the last long distance engineless voyager I had encountered was a woman who was pole-ing her shell to Staffordshire. "When?" he asked. " about 5 years ago", I said. He confirmed this to be his wife!

We entered the last lock at about 1130 and and were on our way on the level again. We moored at Hatton Top Lock at 2 pm.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

and there's more.

I am sorry there isn't a photo.

You see we were too busy to take one.

A friend told us her daughter's class were taking a walk by the canal and would like to see the lock work. Our boat is away but at the appointed hour there were plenty of boats about and Napton Boats, nb Serenade came by at just the right to time to be a visual aid.

The Best Mate and I were too busy to take a photo because our friend didn't tell us that the nursery class at the school would be tagging along as well. We had 60 children lined up along the lock area wall of Banbury Lock No 29! They followed the boat along through the lift bridge and were models of interest and good behaviour. Well done to Dashwood Schoool and its committment to outside education. The children will have learned more about water today than inside a stuffy classroom.

A Head Teacher once said to me (the chair of Governors at the time) "There is nothing that can be taught better inside than outside the classroom"

I agree.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Stoke Prior Locks to Birmingham

26th June 2013 SONFLOWER was moored at Bridge 41 on The Worcester and Birmingham Canal and our friends handed her back to us spick and span and reported that she had behaved well for their holiday cruise to the Droitwich Ring and a bit more.

27th June 2013
After a hospital appointment in Oxford we drove to Bridge 41 in brilliant sunshine and got on board SONFLOWER at about 3pm. It immediately started to rain. We waited for the shower to pass. It eased off at about 5.30pm and the Best Mate decided to cook a dinner from the provisions in the cupboard. Fresh baked ciabatta under an anchovy, bacon, and tomato topping hit the spot with Vina Decana to wash it down. After dinner, with three hours of daylight remaining, we decided to work the 6 Stoke Prior Locks and moored at the foot of Tardebigge Flight at about 9.00pm. I then got on my folding bicycle and cycled back to the car. I put it in the back and drove to the top of Tardebigge Flight. By now it was gloomy, drizzly and mist in the narrow lanes. Long grasses brushed the sides of the car. I prayed that I would not meet another vehicle and have to reverse to a passing place. I found the church and its large car park but could see no way of getting to the canal with the bike so I drove back out and down the lane a piece until I came to London Lane. I had seen the other end of this from the other side of the canal so guessed that it had a bridge! I drove down it making one wrong turn into a country house drive. I turned round and drove out promptly when the security lights came on. I found the bridge and parked the car under a hawthorn tree at a field entrance. It did not look like it would be in the way. I got on the bike and started off down the flight past lock No 57 without any lights in the deepening darkness. I soon found that the gears would not change from the lowest gear and I was glad to be riding down the flight and free-wheeling most of the way.

I got back to the boat at about 1015pm, showered and got ready for bed. I slept like a log. 2 miles, 6 locks

28th June 2013 I woke at 0430 and found it was light and clear. I got up and dressed and started the engine at 0500. I had seen that the flight was empty in our favour the night before and knew there to be an Alvechurch Hire craft moored ahead of us. I was not going to risk losing the favour of "a good road". We entered the Tardebigge Bottom Lock No 28 at 5.15am and our ascent commenced.

We met the lock keeper at about 7.30, ten locks up and enquired where we might be able to break for breakfast. "At the top" he said, "Just keep going". We did. We met a Canal Club boat about two thirds of the way up and passed uneventfully.
By the time we got to lock No 50 the Alvechurch boat was gaining on us. With crew, they were quicker than we were so my decision to go early (and earlier than their early start) proved a good one. They were one lock behind when we got to Lock No 57. This took longer than usual as the CanalClub crew had left a bottom paddle open! (This is the only lock with hydraulic paddle motors and the indicators are not very evident). I sighted Bridge 55 where I had left the car. On the bridge were men in Hi-viz jackets. They looked very official and I thought immediately that the police were looking for the owner of the car that had been abandoned under the hawthorn bush late the previous evening. We moored just past the bridge and I went up to see what the fuss was. It was the water board looking for a water meter! Returning to the boat, the Alvechurch crew passed us and we decided to cook breakfast.

We now pored over the maps to see what our next move could be. After the Top Lock there were two tunnels. There were no tow-paths through the tunnels. We decided to drive ahead to see where the boat and car might meet up again. We went to the AngloWelsh base at Bridge 56 and looked. The lanes were narrow and busy and there was no where suitable to park. There was no real path back from there either as the "path' demanded a dash across the dual carriageway and climbing over the central barrier to boot. Not really possible carrying a bike. No path over the Shortwood Tunnel either suitable for a bike with only bottom gear. Gradually the truth dawned. The Best Mate would have to navigate the tunnels single handed while I drove the car ahead. We returned to the Tardebigge CaRT yard and the lock keeper was very nice. He told us we could leave the car or the boat as long as we liked. We parked the car and returned to complete the flight working through at about 11.00am. With the Best Mate at the tiller, I returned to the car. I met her at the Anglo Welsh yard to congratulate her on her first tunnel navigation and again at Bridge 59 after her second through the Shortwood Tunnel. She then went on to Alvechurch. I parked the car on the road near the station and met her at the 48hour moorings opposite ABC. Here we perused the maps again. We remembered that when we took our very first boating holiday it was from Alvechurch Marina and we cruised right into Birmingham on the first afternoon.

It was now about 3pm. We thought we could be in Brum at 7pm and decided we would treat ourselves to a curry on Broad Street when we got there. The car was parked outside houses and not on yellow lines so we left it there and off we went. It started to rain almost immediately and the rain got heavier as we progressed. We followed an Alvechurch Hire Crew through the long Wast Hill Tunnel. I think that they had been told to keep to the right and slow down if they saw a light coming toward them. We could see the light of a boat almost as soon as we entered the tunnel so this is what they did. After we had passed at the middle of the tunnel they increased their speed and the second half of the tunnel was pretty good going.

Apart from being soaking wet, the trip was uneventful after that and we moored outside Bobby Brown's Bar at 7pm. I showered and we had a Banquet for two in Barajee overlooking the Brindly Place Basin. They packed up what we could not eat and we took it back to the boat. 17.1/4 miles, 30 locks, 4 tunnels (Tardebigge Tunnel (580 yards long), Shortwood Tunnel (614 yards long), Wast Hill Tunnel (2726 yards long) and Edgbaston Tunnel (105 yards long)). 14 hours.

29th June 2013 We moved the boat to Farmer's Bridge Junction and filled with water. Then I discovered that the Basin at Cambrian Wharf is all 14 day moorings. We moored on a finger mooring and locked up to walk to New Street Station and catch a train back to Alvechurch where we collected the car. I discovered that I had left the drivers window open! We drove home.

To be continued! Without the car!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Droitwich or bust

SONFLOWER has got to Droitwich.

I knew it would be tight under the M5 crossing tunnel but I didn't think it would be this tight.

Well done to the crew for shifting the coal and taking the top off!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

OFF Again

Here is a picture of the Best Mate making sure that Sonflower does not drift away from the water point as we prepare to give her a bit of a spruce up. There were a lot of boats about yesterday and we only managed to wash the starboard side again. We did top the water tank up so she is in trim for her cruise.

Our friends are taking her to the Droitwich ring and we will be meeting her on the Birmingham and Worcester Canal in a little under two weeks time. However, the first part of the cruise did not go as planned:

Here we see SONFLOWER moored at Bridge 161 and our friend is returning to the boat after walking back along the canal and checking the mooring, the car park and finally his car for that essential of the 21st century boater- his mobile phone. Fortunately it was not lost or overboard but it had been stowed int eh glove compartment of the car instead of his sat-nav.

Now fully equipped with electrickery he can sleep easy and enjoy the rest of the cruise! Hopefully they still have time to make Cropredy tonight.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Back in the swing of it.

Yes I reversed the three hundred and twenty yards to Sovereign Wharf.

There I took on 101 litres of Diesel @85p plus tax and 13kg of Calor Propane. Thus, including a donation of over £20 to the HMRC (which is about as much as Vodaphone have today if the press is to be believed)I passed £127.37 over the counter.

The chat was long and good. We put the world to rights before the skipper of NB Genie came in to rub a new lamp and get 5 litres of BLOO!

On the way back I stopped to chat to NB No Problem face to face rather than through a blog or twitter! They were worried because there had been talk of diesel bug from Sovereign Diesel. I went back and asked Ray straight out. He confirmed that they have NEVER had diesel bug because of his high turnover and new plastic tank. He did say that the jury is out in the effect of the 7% biofuel that has been added to the diesel this year on the orders if the EC.

Then back to the mooring. 1/3 mile and 0 locks in 1.5hours

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Wasted Effort

I made the journey.

Just a short Cruise to Sovereign Narrowboats as mentioned in the last post. Past NB No Problem (No-one aboard)

As SONFLOWER approached at a snail's pace, the sign "CLOSED" came into view. I checked the time: 1430. Perhaps the lunch "hour" had been extended? The owner's Jaguuaaar was parked in the car park so I thought there may still be someone around. NB William the Conqueror was not open so they were not aboard.

I started to position myself for a slow turn. (This is NOT really a turning spot but I have turned here many times before). The boatwoman on NB Blue Horizon came to the well deck to see what was going on. She confirmed that "he locked up and has left". Oops, I am now turning for nothing! "We are an aluminium boat you know", she said. "I will take care and put the bow against the opposite bank and pull her round with the bow line", I said. So that is what I did.

I stopped on the wharf. Then I noticed a notice: "SORRY CLOSED WEDNESDAY PM".

I left and returned to home mooring.

I will be back down tomorrow afternoon. In reverse!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


SONFLOWER is back on her home mooring having been to Crick and back via the Welford Arm.

She is looking very nice inside as our friends have given her a real good going over!

She behaved well on the trip apart from losing out to a hire boat in Braunston Tunnel that resulted in the loss of the starboard navigation light against the tunnel wall. Small beer! C'est la vie sur l'eau!

I went to empty the fridge today and found that the gas had run out with impeccable timing. A bottle change completed we now need to cruise to Sovereign Wharf for a re-charge and diesel. I will enjoy that.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Foam from the Bilge

Any idea what this foamy substance is?

It collapses to next to nothing as soon as it is touched.

Photos from Napton Yesterday


I went boating today but only got onto the boat for a cup of coffee.

SONFLOWER is in the hands of Tim. Tracey and Oakley. I met them at Marston Doles Lock No 16 to 'lock wheel' down the Napton flight.

Before I did, I spent some time in the company of Bill, a Canal and River Trust volunteer lock-keeper. He was adjusting levels by running water down through Lock 16. Apparently there are problems down the flight because the top gate of lock 16 has been renewed and doesn't leak. All the others do and the levels in the pound below get rather too low! The back pumping scheme continues to work automatically to make things worse. As it takes three hours for the water to get to the bottom of the flight (Bill's estimate) it needs a bit of work to let water go down between the boats that were queuing to use the lock this dull Monday morning in May!

It was fun to chat to the variety of people who were using the flight. A real mixture of owners and hirers. A couple of working boats. A Royal Navy submarine officer and his family were on The Andrew. I was also of service to two boaters. One was wearing British Airways overalls. I commented that I expected he'd rather be flying. However he said his flying days were long past. However, a couple of boats behind I got chatting to a chap who had a rather nice Lister two cylinder engine, recovered from a RN destroyer auxiliary generator with only 80 hours on it. He mentioned that he had flown with BA. I told him about the first man. Later in the day I met him again. They had met up and found that fifteen years ago they had flown together!

I also met, and helped, single handers: nb UFO who wintered in Banbury last year and nb Salad Days who was meeting a friend in Banbury for a return cruise to Crick.

Another boat I helped along was nb Lapaz. We met him again at the water point at the foot of the locks. The master of this 'posh boat' was not at all complementary about Tim's helmsmanship on the long summit pound, suggesting that he was dawdling and meandering "all over the place". Tim had the engine on 1600RPM which equates to about 3mph on the S Oxford Canal. Quite a reasonable speed for leisure boating I would have thought. However, not fast enough for this clown. He hadn't had the sense or manners to ask to pass, however, and just mouthed off to Tracey, not knowing she was Tim's First Mate! Very Rude. I expect they are back home on The Ashby by now at the rate he left Napton! I wished them "God speed", which is slow on this canal! "Good riddance!"

I left Tim and Tracey with an Australian family on Kate Boat's nb Thomas David. They were having a different type of holiday having cruised through the Suez Canal and then from Rome around the Mediterranean Sea, they were now having a five day cruise on the English Canals before four days in London to complete their six week holiday. Quite an educational trip for their twelve year old daughter who didn't seem too keen on the prospect of the next nine locks! "We don't have canals in Australia", Mum commented. They decided to moor and have a meal at the Folly Inn as they had no food on board and were a mile away from the nearest shop! The Folly "canal shop" was not open although the signs were out. I think it was when I told them the next pub was 7 hours away that they made the decision!

The sun even shone in the afternoon. Bill, The volunteer lock keeper, was at the bottom of the flight by now, assisting and encouraging boaters who were starting the flight. "Join us, you'd enjoy it" he called. I told him that if I volunteered to work on the cut it would be another type of calling!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Backwards to go forwards

SONFLOWER navigated about 3/8 of a mile today. From the mooring at Marsh Footbridge No 163 to the mooring at Marsh Footbridge No 163 via the winding point at Grimsbury Arm.

The purpose of this unusual journey?

SONFLOWER is going to the Crick Boat Show and that means going North. She needed to point in the opposite direction to how she is normally moored. A little over a quarter of a mile backwards saves two miles, two lift bridge operations and two locks! That's about two hours cruising forwards!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Visitor Mooring Consultation Report

Canal and River Trust have published their Report on Visitor Mooring changes in the SE Region.

Have a good look and you will see that they listened to the responses and have changed the proposals in many areas.

Now we have the pilot year with changes in eight key sites to look forward to.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Beautiful Malvern Hills

We are away for the weekend in a lovely Conference Centre nestled just below the summit ridge of the Malvern Hills.

I would love to show you the view from our bedroom window which takes in the whole vista over the Wye Valley and the Severn Plain all the way to the Brecon Beacons and the mountains of Wales. I can't because I have left behind the USB lead that connects my Nokia phone to the laptop!

We are here with the other Trustees and Committee members of The Boaters Christian Fellowship to worship and fellowship together and plan the future witness of the Charity. We expect a good and relaxed weekend together. We also have 34 acres of private landscape and garden to explore and relax in.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Marlow Lock and a day out.

Today we were in Marlow and here is a photo of the town from Marlow Lock.

But today we were not here for boating reasons. There was no boating. As you can see in the picture the yellow boards are out with "Caution Stream Increasing" being displayed on the lock gate.

We had lunch with friends. My friend Gerry I met on my first day of school in April 1954. We chose to meet at The Hand And Flowers. All it is reputed to be. Great food, good wine, interesting ales (served with pudding), great company and good ambiance. We were first in and last out for the first lunch sitting (12.15 to 2.15 but we didn't leave until after 2.30!) We then went for a walk by the river.

The sun shone this afternoon and we had a really good day.

We chose the Hand and Flowers at Marlow not only for its great reputation but also because it is reasonably close to our friends home and I thought that, had we been on the BCF Easter cruise to Windsor, SONFLOWER would have been very close by. In the event, the cruise was cancelled long ago for the reason noted in the second paragraph! We went by car.

Monday, 8 April 2013


STEP 1: Take a photo of the wiring so that you can put it right if you lose your way!

STEP 2 Make sure that the new switch is the same as the old one!

STEP 3 Put all the wires back in the same place as they came from.

STEP 4 Try it out and ensure that the indications expected are shown on the panel!

In fact 100% improvement as the voltmeter, that is covered because one couldn't believe it, is also working at the moment!

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Always something to fix!

The fire is fixed and we blacked it and lit it to warm things up. Nice to see smoke rising from the chimney again.
Then I went to look at the engine.
The new spill rail is sparkling in the sunlight. I instructed Tooley's to change this in order to eliminate the diesel leak that has plagued us season after season.

I the switched on to find that there were no indicator lights or indications showing!

One more click of the switch and lights showed and then the starter turned. All seemed well for a couple of minutes and then there was a change of note from the engine and the generator failure light came on. I switched off immediately and checked the generator drive belts. All seemed fine so I tried again. The engine ran but the lights and indications did not respond.

Waggling the key a little bit made things work while the key was held almost in the right place! It appears that the ignition key switch has failed.

How far should I go?

Saturday, 30 March 2013

No Excuse

I went to the boatyard this morning and collected the repaired door for the fire.

The photo shows the new glass fitted and

the new bolt to replace the one they had to drill out.

So now we have no excuse: We need to re-fit it, light it up, warm ourselves up and go boating!

There is still ice on the canal! Brrrrrrr