A kind of record of a narrow boat and what has to be done to keep her afloat and usable.
We might even be able to tell you where we get to as well.
Hoping you enjoy the intimate detail of boating on the UK canals.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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"