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.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Coal: Come rain or shine!

On Monday I headed for the boat  and met Dusty, the coal boat, at Samuelson Bridge 168 where they were loading coal and gas. Or should I say they were drinking tea during a break in loading coal and gas. Dusty is trapped on the north section of his patch at the moment by re-building of a lift bridge between Aynho and Somerton Deep Lock. The fact that his boat was pointing south, but he usually comes from the south threw us. His timing is all wrong too. He shouldn't be here again til after Christmas.  I was told that as soon as he was loaded he would be along to my boat in five minutes.

I waited and checked out a little sealing job I need to do. But the drizzle started and silicon sealant will not stick properly in the wet. So I cut up some old slats for kindling and stacked them neatly in the wood box.

Then I played the harmonica for a bit.  I looked out if the cratch back down the canal. Trade was brisk. Dusty had been hailed by King of Clubs who wanted four bags of coal to supplement the whole willow tree that is stacked on his roof in one foot lengths. Then another boat crew returned from shopping and quickly hailed him to top up their diesel tank. It took more like 45 minutes to get to me, 200 yards down the cut!

"Nice to be serenaded" I heard Kati say as they arrived. Dusty always engages in cheery conversation and it was great to catch up. We have been away so long and the last fill we had from them was before we left our mooring on March 3rd. With no mooring to stack coal beside we can only accommodate 4 bags of coal at a time now and topping up the tanks took 153 litres.

That should keep us warm through rain or shine. Dusty comes rain shine or snow too! Here is some historical footage of the effort that these coal boats put in to getting the warmth to us.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Heatwave

Temperatures continue to soar into double figures and a quick look over the Castle Quay foot bridge on or way to General Foods Club for lunch confirmed that we have no excuse for not moving today.

Blue sky overhead, a head full of great boating conversation with the crews of nb The King of Clubs and nb Black Pig, a tummy full of good food and beer and we were off again.

Not too fat though. We spotted a gap in the line of boats just before Tramway long term moorings. We turned at Calthorpe Winding Hole (why is nobody watching when we get it perfect?) and returned to moor in the said gap. Ready for our next period of 14 days in the town.

                            1.3/4 miles,1 Lift Bridge, 1 lock,  1hr 20 mins

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Ice






 Ice to the front of her,

ice to the rear of her,


ice to the side of her: our boating was postponed this afternoon because of ice.

Although there was a change in the outside temperature which was soaring toward 10 degC the water was still at zero, the temperature of melting ice, and it was impossible to move. It may look like there is clear water around the boat but the rudder was locked in until we moved it, and not without a bit of force.

I recollect the chapter in Tom Rolt's book "Narrow Boat" where he describes ice in Banbury and the joy that the arrival of the ice breaker brought to the locked in crews. We await the ice breaker because to try to break this ourselves would damage other people's vessels at the waterline and could put fibre glass boats in jeopardy.

We spoke to a fisherman who told us the score along the canal: the only ice free spots were under the bridges and even there he got no bites.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Brrrrrr!

Temperatures plunged last night and we visited the forlorn and dejected SONFLOWER today to brighten her day. There was a slight weep from the Morco gas water heater feed indicating that there had been a slight freeze but everything else was in order.

We started the engine to get the calorifier up to temperature and check around that. It is always good to hear it running well.

So, better late than never, I drained the Morco down, isolated the calorifier, opened all the taps, turned off the pump and drained down as much as I could realistically do.

We lit a fire to keep ourselves warm and have left the fridge pilot light on. A little heat goes a long way on a frosty night.

We also have put a triangular cabinet into a corner of the back passage way to tidy up the bit that ends up with a heap of fenders, mooring pins and windlasses.

                                                   0 miles  0 locks   1 hour


Friday, 25 November 2016

A Weather Window

In Kazakstan they say that the sky is blue whatever clouds get in the way!

But on Wednesday we saw a window in the weather that followed storm Angus and we took advantage of it. The afternoon was  clear and bright and we had blue sky above us all the way from Cropredy to Banbury. The chill in the boat was taken off as we lit a fire in the stove.
Waiting for Hardwick Lock to fill

There was one other boat in the move and we caught it up as it came to the bottom of Hardwicke Lock No 28. As it left the crew told me they too had taken advantage of the weather and left Cropredy in the sunshine. We closed the gates and filled our third lock of the day as the sun descended behind the new warehouses that have been built on the old Alcan site. A chill came into the air as we cruised the familiar sites on our way to the town centre. It was cold now and we needed that fire to warm up. We waved to Malc and Dink at the cottage and at many friends in their boats on the Spice Ball Park LT moorings which we had left on 3 March.

We moored on Castle Quay as the sun set. Glad to be home.

                                            4.1/4 miles,  3 locks,   2hrs 20 min

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The weather man said.. .

The BBC Weather forecast for Tuesday at 2200h yesterday evening said that it would be overcast (light cloud) but dry all day with rain from 2200 this evening.

They were wrong but on the basis of their prediction yesterday we arranged for a friend to give us a lift to the boat from where we expected to reach this afternoon and off we went.

We left Fenny Compton at 12.15pm, enjoying the fresh air and the flocks of fieldfares and redwings that were feeding on the haws and hips on the high hedgerows alongside the canal.  Just after we arrived at Claydon Locks it started raining and it didn't stop until we were soaked through and at Broadmoor lock! Here a boat was leaving so it was not a 100% bad road.

But we did achieve the target of getting to Cropredy on a 14 day mooring so we mustn't moan.

The only other boat moving the opposite direction was blogger Herbie who turned into Cropredy marina. Cropredy lock leaks so fast that their presence didn't help us either.

Nb Sawdust was moored just by the old lift bridge narrows at Cropredy North moorings and we had a good chat to him at the lock. He had missed us!

We are very much back on home territory now and looking forward to staying between Cropredy Lock and Nell Bridge Lock for the winter.

                                                6.1/4 miles, 9 locks    3.3/4 hours

Backed Up

As it was dark when I arrived at the Wharf I moored hastily on a 48 hour mooring.

Today I backed through the bridges to a 14 day mooring.

                                                                                 200yds, O locks,   20 mins

Monday, 31 October 2016

Birdingbury Wharf Bridge No 21 to The Wharf Inn, Fenny Compton



I am back on the right side of the stoppages at Napton Locks.

This morning I set off for the Wharf in the car and then got a bus to The Boat Inn, Stockton via Southam. Getting there I had crossed the County border into Warwickshire and my Oxfordshire bus pass, valid on this bus from Banbury was not valid in Warwickshire because I was "twirley". I paid out the £2.70. The plan was to get a breakfast in Southam at the No19 Cafe where I have breakfasted between buses before. But today I was greeted by the sign that informed me "Closed on Mondays"! I was expecting to get a 1000 calories inside me to fuel a day in the boat precluding the need to stop to make a meal. So I went in the Co-op and bought some refreshments: BLT sandwich, pukka pie and scotch eggs. Handing my Co-op card I was told "you are in Warwickshire, those cards are not valid we have our own!" They took my Co-op credit card ok.

The target for the day was The Wharf at Fenny Compton. I had convinced myself that I had done this single-handed before. I am not so sure now.  All went well as I approached Calcutt Locks as there was another boat, NB Albert, just ahead and I could join them to aid me up the locks. However, there was no water in the pound between the Bottom Lock and Middle Lock. Not even enough to get over the cill. So a crew member was dispatched to let some down from the next pound. Boats do move better on water!

Just after the flight I was hailed by a BCF member who had an AWCC Burgee for me. He had been asked to take it to Banbury but never got there so in seeing SONFLOWER in his windows shouted out. Just in time as they are moving to Wales next Saturday!

So to Napton Junction and a sharp turn onto home waters: the South Oxford Canal. At Napton a CRT employee was adjusting water levels at the bottom lock. He stopped what he was doing and emptied it to let me through and then told me that there were boats coming down who had been trapped behind a butty that they had just released from the notoriously narrow Lock 9. It had been stuck since 3.30pm on Sunday. Progress was slowed some more by a LNBP boat nb Lancelot which was moored in a very short pound with a central bridge between the third and fourth Lock. The crew had to abandon shop as they could not progress to the Braunston Base with the butty stuck in the lock. It was not a very good place to moor as two boats are unable to pass with ease with the bridge narrows and a boat on the lock landing. We managed, just.

The rest of the flight was slow and steady though I was pleased to have two of the locks set for me by oncoming boats and pleased not to have to shut the top lock top gate as a boat was coming in. I was not so pleased to stub a toe on the roof gangplank rack while getting to the ladder of Lock 15.

I cleared Top Lock at Marston Doles at 1520h. With the loss of the hour on Sunday, I would not have enough daylight to get to Fenny Compton but I pressed on. I did consider a mooring at Brige 131, close to the main A423, but there was no suitable piling here so I pressed on, the last two miles in darkness. The sunset was spectacularly beautiful but I would have valued it to be an hour later today!

I arrived at 1810 and moored by torch light outside The Wharf Inn. I am still "Sober for October"! I limped to the car which I was very glad to get into.

                                         14 miles, 12 locks,  7h 40minutes

Friday, 28 October 2016

Long Itchington to Birdingbury Wharf

Not far today: Grabbed a half day to boat up Stockton Locks.

The bottom lock was set for us but the next was not. How does that happen? The next four were slightly against us in that leakage had filled them a little bit. Then we met a pair of hire boats and swapped locks with them. It took ages to convince one of the crew that we only needed one gate left open. There were boats in the next lock too and also in top lock so we had quite an easy time of it.

We stopped for a bottle of gas at Kate Boats and then moored just past Birdingbury Bridge.

CRT have prepared Winter Moorings here. I wondered why. There are 400 yards of empty moorings on Stockton Long Term Mooring site!

The Best Mate enjoyed the tiller work, even though she hates driving a car, and I enjoyed the footwork and paddle work. It is really good to be boating.
                                        
                                            1.1/2miles, 10 locks, 3 hours

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Moorings at Myton to Long Ichington


We needed to move off the pub moorings. Well you can't stay for ever and as I am "sober for October" there was no point in staying any longer so we thought we would move to a suitable 14 day mooring nearby.

While preparing the boat to leave my sister (on nonagenarian mother care duties) called to say Mum was wobbly so she would stay a little longer and get her to the doctor this evening. My decision maker was alert to the possibility that we could now go a bit further and make some progress toward the goal of getting south of Napton locks before the winter stoppages.

The Best Mate agreed with this cunning plan and willingly took the tiller while I returned once more to the car and drove it to Radford Bottom Lock via a Sainsbury's local for a couple of baguettes for lunch.

All went very well with my sister updating me on plans and with great assistance from two retired RAF/civil airline pilots (Concorde and Airbus) who lock wheeled and shared locks from Wood lock to Bascote top Staircase Lock. We had good fun with them but the continual walking and winding, pushing and pulling does take a toll and the Best Mate was almost rigidly fixed to the tiller for four hours.

We also met new BCF members who were working in the opposite direction after the Staircase.
The last leg:200 yards from the mooring spot
So the boat is now near the Two Boats pub. And we are home and hoping that tests tomorrow show Mum is not too bad.

Another thing we had forgotten in assessing whether we could go further today was that I was supposed to be at a management company leaseholders' meeting at lunchtime (I am Company Secretary): oops! Apologies were given by phone but I needed to do it in person on return!

What a busy life we lead! And tomorrow we say "goodbye" to Jo, a very good friend who was taken to heaven far too early for us.

                                                                              7.1miles, 10 locks   5 hours

Monday, 24 October 2016

Budbrooke Junction to The Moorings at Myton

I took my son and family to the boat today. We had a plan. Just a short cruise, a long lunch and some geocaching. But it depended on me getting the car to the lunch pub, "Pub of the Year" winner The Moorings at Myton.   Not an early start but soon were down through Cape Locks. The two grandsons were not able to turn the paddle gear but were well able to open and close the gates. The females of the party stayed on the boat. As the boat full of crew glided away for the bottom lock I started to go back to move the car. I felt in my pocket: NO KEYS! So hollering and shouting I ran after the boat. Fortunately, the Best Mate had gone beliw to light the gas and found the gas was out and empty so they hove to to change the gas bottle. Otherwise, I would have been running for miles. There were no moored boats to slow them down.

Well with gas  bottle changed and keys in picket we parted again in opposite directions.

Parked at the pub, I dawdled down the tow-path toward Sonflower and she was dawdling toward me. I had a nice chat with a chao admiring an old Victorian building which he said was due to come down. He thought it should be preserved. I told him to make an offer! One never knows what scheme or purpose it might be suited for: no good just dreaming and wondering. I once knew a man who said he would buy a castle to turn it into a conference centre after some Cistercian monks had left it. Where there's a scheme there's a schemer! And he was going to do it all on borrowed money.

Sonflower arrived at teh spot where we were admiring the view but my son was not with it. He was buried under a hedge near Leamington Aqueduct trying to find a geocache in the roots of a tree. We hovered in a bridge narrows for him to arrive: "Sorry to be so long: wrong tree!" he said.

A little way further on another geocache was sought under Bridge 44 and then we moored outside "The Moorings" and took up our table for six for a very pleasant lunch. The Ubu Golden Ale looked lovely but it is still October so I'm sober! The Kent Air Ambulance is benefiting.

                                                                                  2 lock, 2.75miles, 2 hours

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Hatton Flight


Today, with Alex as crew, and with the BEST MATE On nonagenarian mother-in-law duties we returned to the Top Lock LT moorings and took SONFLOWER down.


Getting there meant a car journey and a two mile walk up the locks from the layby. On the walk up we saw a CRT volunteer lock keeper and pointed out to him that the pound between locks 29 and 30 was about two feet lower than usual. He was not at that time letting water down but assisting a boat going up. He said he would have a look.

 We set off and filled and emptied two locks before the volunteer popped his head over a gate beam and told me that he had let some water down and we would be fine now. He was on his own today. There were two other volunteers in the "Welcome Centre" but I could not see anyone for them to welcome at this point of the day.

At the start of the steep flight where the locks are close together and dead in line I noticed that the tower of the Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick is straight ahead.  You have to zoom in quite a bit to see it so I have done it for you:

I wondered whether the engineer had deliberately made it a focal point. The church has been there since 1128. We had done about 10 locks with Alex on the bank and me on the tiller when we came across nb Lilly May who was moored in a very short pound between Lock 37 and 36. The crew said that they were having a half time cuppa. They declined to join us in lock 36. Alex and I changed roles. We waited at the next lock for them. There was a boat coming up the next lock so we had nowhere to go anyway. By now they had taken on board more crew including two tiny children, one toddling and one babe in arms. I looked the other way when the toddler was toddling along the top beams of the gates and helping with paddle gear and gate opening! Alex was boating at age 3.1/2 but never without a life jacket.

They shared locks with us for five locks and then moored on a longer pound between Lock 31 and Lock 30 that has a length of armco in the centre. We continued down alone but had the assistance of two boats that came up.

We moored just short of Budbrooke Junction.

                                                         2. 1/4 miles, 21 locks, 4 hours

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Shrewley to Hatton

As we were at a meeting in Hatton Yard CRT offices this afternoon we asked another member of the meeting to drop us at Shrewley Post Office so that we could move SONFLOWER nearer Hatton Top Lock. We are very grateful for the lift.

We were on 48 hour moorings and had come to the end of our concessionary 7 day overstay period.

The plan was to move to 14 day moorings.

But in nearing Hatton top lock we found that there are no 14day moorings between St John's Bridge 55 and the waterpoint at the top lock. What to do?

It was now after half past four and a minimum of four hours can be anticipated for the passage through the 21 lock flight. Not an option!

There was a gap of 12 ring spaces (approx 10m apart) on the tow-path designated "Long Term Moorings, permit holders only", then two small boats and a gap of 3 rings, approximately 90ft, then a single boat before the water point.

We put SONFLOWER in the 90ft gap.

At Hatton Top Long Term Moorings
So another email to CRT Enforcement has been sent. I hope that they agree that I had no choice.

I have arranged crew for Saturday Morning to make passage down the flight. The Best Mate has volunteered to take on the nonagenarian care duties.

Shrewley Tunnel SW Portal 48 hour mooring to Hatton Top L T Mooring, 1.5miles, 0.5 hour

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Out of Birmingham

 This is the view from Cambrian Wharf at the top of Farmers Bridge Flight yesterday morning just before sunrise. We were up early because we had 11.1/2 to 12 hours boating ahead of us and only 11.1/2 hours of daylight to do it in.  We knew that around the corner was a barrier with blue flashing lights and this sign!
No-one was there when we arrived a fraction past 7AM. There are no rings so The Best Mate held the boat on the centre rope while I looked for the police. So although not technically "out of hours" (10PM to 7AM) I called the number. The police respondent said "I'll be with you in 10-15 minutes". He did arrive at the path beside The Malt Shovel to tell us that he could not find the "water team": they had not arrived yet. We had a visit from a lovely little spaniel search dog at about 8.30 and, with two policemen and the dog aboard as escorts we were cleared to make passage to Worcester Bar at 0837h.

It was one of those wonderfully crisp and sunny mornings as we headed south past the University hall and campus where I was an undergrad so many years ago. Over a new aqueduct over a new dual carriageway road past Selly Oak and Bourneville, once a proud centre for chocolate manufacture, now a theme park. Gliding easily across an ebony marble surface. Why the water here has a blackened glassy look to it I do not really know. We used to call it a "smelly ditch" but now, with a re-furbished cycleway on the towpath it is a delightful cruising waterway.

So to the tightest of turns under the King's Norton junction footbridge to join the Stratford canal with its guillotine gated stop lock that would no longer stop anything judging by the gaps between the planks of the guillotines. After Brandwood Tunnel we had a brief stop to pump out, fill with diesel and buy a pair of cornettos. After Lyons Boatyard the canal is a winding delight. Often wooded on both sides and overhead the sunlight splashes through the leafy arch to dapple the mirror surface of the canal and the path beside it. An occasional leaf fell to make wavy circles in the way ahead. Three herons and two kingfishers were seen here too. There are many new waterside developments to accommodate an expanding population on the leafy edge of the Birmingham Solihull conurbation. One has a stairway waterfall which stops just short of the canalside on a mock wharfe. No boats would be allowed to moor there.

We continued apace with no time to stop at Wedge's Bakery and only a following timeshare nb Steelaway for company. They were not in quite sight when we had to close the Shirley Swing bridge to let the traffic flow again but we held the next lift bridge open for them. The Best Mate dawdled on to make sure they could not pass while I lowered it again as we did not want to lose any benefit of any locks that were set for us!  We needn't have worried as they winded before the second and last lift bridge before the locks.

And anyway locks 2 and 3 were set against us so had to be filled. However, locks 4 and 5 were full and from then on we were on a good road. How that happened we were not sure but next to the Lapworth cricket field we saw three CRT blue shirts get into their lorry and scoot away. maybe they had been playing with the levels:we will never know.
Shadows lengthen as sun sinks
A couple of boats came up the other way to interrupt our lonely routine and we had the company of a few walkers and dog walkers in the sunshine.

We left the 20 locks behind as the sun dipped below the hedgerows and we headed out into the Birmingham and Warwick canal, turning south toward Warwick. It got darker and darker until we entered Shrewley Tunnel. When I left it the light didn't get much brighter so I pulled over and we moored on the rings. We were short of our target and a long way short of Warwick Parkway station. We had moored here before and we knew the way up over the tunnel to Shrewley Common where there is a Post Office. I did not notice the 48hour restriction until I lit up the post with my torch. Oops! Near the PO, a kind gentleman suggested that we walk to the Durham Ox to ask after a taxi. This we did and were soon provided with the taxi company's number and a cab was in its way.

The driver suggested that he could take us home for not much more than the train fare so we accepted his offer and were home, exhausted but glad to get home before the train would have left Warwick Parkway.

Now all we need to do is find a time to move the boat the remaining distance to the top of Hatton locks.

Cambrian Wharf to Shrewley Tunnel SE portal:
                                            22.5 miles, 20 locks. 3 moveable bridges, 3 tunnels 12.1/2 hours

Monday, 3 October 2016

Banbury Canal Day

This was the first year since 2004 that SONFLOWER has not been moored where the blue boat with the gold roof in the picture or tucked under Tom Rolt Bridge, from which this picture was taken.

This is the stand of BCF, one of two Christian groups that had stands amongst over a 100 of charities, interest groups and organisations that come to enjoy the first Sunday in October together with about 10,000 folk. We spoke to day trippers from the Isle of Wight, Lincoln and Chester. Such is the renown of the day.

Amongst the craft moored for this event were  nb Livien G, supporting an orphanage in Tanzania; nb Norfolk Belle,selling eco-fiendly products; nb Shammah wrapped up in bubble wrap and with a crew of bubbles; nb Scyeffe with a musical saw artiste; nb Trimstone assisting with safe boarding of trip boats. All very different but with the common purpose of being at the heart of the festival.

WIth our Waterways Chaplaincy gillets on we also walked the towpath and talked with CRT staff and volunteers, boaters and traders.

We are grateful to our friends from Jubilee Church and other fellowships who supported us throughout the day and at our service in the afternoon.

nb Sonflower was missed and some asked where she was and whether we will be back for next year. I am sure that we will be.



Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Birmingham in the Rain

Thanks to the Best Mate who was undertook nonagenarian caring duties Alex and I went to take the boat to Birmingham City Centre.

This was how we found her tied up. Obviously we had been untied at the stern and someone had retied her with both my stern lines and as many knots as they could tie around the bollard and the swan neck as well as the tee posts! Thank you to the kind hearted soul who pulled her in.

A retired vicar conversed with us for a few minutes, prompted by the WWC  labels in the windows. He told us there was a lot of traffic coming out if Birmingham.  "Good, I replied, that will help us"

We left in rain. I had Alex on board as crew and enjoyed his company. About a half hour into the cruise we came across steaming narrowboat tug Laplander. Murphy's Law applies and she was under the factory over the canal when we passed so I could not get a pretty picture
 Thence to Salford Junction, the spaghetti junction of the waterways. I always have to ask myself which way we need to turn.
The real "spaghetti junction" (A38(M) and M6 intersection) is about half a mile further on but that is the M6 above us. Passing Cookoo Wharf we said "hello" to the crew of nb Norfolk Belle who we expect to see at Banbury Canal Day next weekend. Aston locks were all set for us and we met a couple of boats coming out of Birmingham. The rain persisted.

We met nb Kew at the foot of Farmers Bridge locks and took our lunch on board. They were returning from Parkhead Festival and had a milk bottle of bitter real ale on board, bought at discount from the closing bar. It refreshed me. The WWC for central Birmingham was their lock wheeling crew down Farmers Bridge flight and we took him with us to re-tread his steps as he needed to get to an appointment elsewhere later in the day. After the first of the FB locks I felt guilty having so many hands and sent Alex back to nb Kew to replace him. The rain stopped once we were under the shelter of the buildings that cover the secretive flight of 13 locks that form the staircase to the highly developed central Birmingham exhibition quarter.

This is the iconic view to remember Farmers Bridge by with the  Telecoms tower in the background.
My crew had to leave me to do the last three locks on my own but as they were set ready by Kew's descent he opened the bottom gates of the last two for me as he passed. I arrived at the top and backed into a mooring in Cambrian Wharf at about 5pm.
This is the first time I have had every lock on Aston and Farmers Bridge Flights (24 locks) in our favour. Indeed a good road today.

Now I had to consult Traveline and check out buses. I followed their map and route to Bus Stop CS1 on Corporation Street and got a 63 bus to Erdington where the car was parked. Under and hour later I was ready to rendezvous again with nb Kew and Alex.
Here Kew positions herself across the canal to moor near the Tyburn pub where we enjoyed a dinner together with her crew before we left to return to Banbury.

                                                                          5.1/4miles, 24 locks   6 hours

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Fazeley to Erdington

We have to admit it. 21 minus 4 equals 17 so we have been, prima facie, overstaying!  My sister did not arrive until Saturday and with other commitments, including a son's birthday and another's time to return to uni, we had no earlier window to make this move. I consider this reasonable under the terms of  SXVII 3 c (iii) of British Waterways Act 1995.

We said fare well to our friends' garden mooring early this morning (Sorry to disturb you!) and plied our way past the maturing Kingsbury Water Park with their varied habitats for various species of bird and mammal. We could see goose pond and swan lake. We heard the raucous alarm calling of coots on their preferred patch of water and saw the little isles that terns colonize in the spring and early summer. The Summer visitors that probably inhabited the reed and brush have gone now, leaving the willow and hawthorn to perhaps a wintering shrike or hawfinches. The sand has been taken and one conveyor bridge has gone too. I could not see any remaining sand cliff to attract sand martins but who knows what is out there. Most pits are water filled now.

After the sands of the Thame valley we come to the rise out of it up Curdworth Locks, 11 in all. We didn't have to empty any of them! The first boat to meet us was nb Mad Hatter, who are members of our fellowship. They are doing the Warwick ring to finish off their summer cruising, as you do.

We have been this way before: in the opposite direction on our very first waterways holiday in 1999 and several other times too. I love the peace on the water and in the fields when only a couple of hundred yards from the morning madness of the M42.
Peace and calm, Curdworth Locks

There will be more noisy interruptions to the peace of the waterway when HS2 roars over lock 8!
zoom in to see the sign "HS2 bridge starts here"
We had a slight delay at one lock where CRT had a work team sprucing it up a bit.

They soon gave way to us and moved on to the next lock. Waiting for them to clear the way gave an ideal time for a bacon roll and a cup of coffee. We followed the work boat through Curdworth Tunnel and they pulled over to let us pass.

Minworth locks are protected by antivandal devices which sent us scurrying into the boat for a "handcuff key". I am not sure that these are effective but certainly inconvenienced us! The top lock at Minworth also had workmen in attendance. This time a contractor sealing behind the brickwork to stop sidewall leakage. After the bottom lock we looked for a mooring. The towpath refurb has provided lovely concrete coping stones and all weather surface but it is not suitable for driving a mooring pin into . Not boat friendly as they say! So we had to continue to the black and white bollards just south of Butler's Bridge (A38 Kingsbury Road).

From there a long walk to the 110 bus for the ride back to Fazeley and the car! Home to a take away tandoori!

                                                               9 miles, 14 locks, 6 hours

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Short Moves

If you have been checking up on the location of SONFOWER on Water Explorer you will have noticed that on Friday afternoon she moved from the 7-day Fazeley Visitor Moorings on the Coventry Canal to the 7-day Fazeley Visitor Moorings on the BCN Birmingham to Fazeley Canal. A distance of about 1/4 mile.

This was to be closer to Tolson's Footbridge which gives access to St Paul's Church, Fazeley where the Boaters Christian Fellowship were holding a short weekend gathering. It included a session to examine one of the Fellowship's main aims: fellowship!  One would have thought we would have had that one sorted out but we gained a lot of insight into what different members might want in the way of meeting together and enjoying all that we have in common. Our weekend included sharing food together in various ways: a great way to experience fellowship. We had a picnic lunch, a barbeque supper, a communion service and Sunday Roast lunch in the Three Tuns. With a do-it-yourself entertainment in the evening when The Best Mate sang to my guitar accompaniment, it was a good weekend.

And this afternoon we crossed to the canal to moor on a garden mooring. Approximately 50 yards!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Polesworth to Fazeley

We bused into Polesworth from Fazeley. It is a bank holiday so I thought it would be difficult. In fact it was a breeze: 110 from Fazeley to Tamworth and then 48 from Tamworth to Polesworth, stopping right outside The Bull Inn. And the timetable was such as to leave a nice space between buses for a loo stop except that Tamworth have closed their Public Conveniences. We noticed that the Stagecoach bus driver (Bus 48) had taken a break and he told us that he had used the conveniences in the Arriva garage. He was sure they would let us use them too. So we asked at the garage and a lovely young man, who was brought up on a boat, allowed us to use their facilities. The 48 bus is certainly one to remember as it goes from Coventry to Leicester via Hinkley, Atherstone, Tamworth, Nuneaton and Bedworth: a sort of Coventry Canal Special.

So we departed Polesworth at 11.00. Cruising was easy to Alvecote Basin where a gathering of historic boats was being held.

Approaching the Boat Gathering at Alvecote
There were loads of them.
Backing out of Alvecote Marina: nowhere to go

One tried backing out of the marina as I approached the entrance but then went back in to let me by.

 Here we saw BCF member nb Persephone with no-one aboard.

We continued to cruise and saw nb Ichthus going the other way. At Glascote locks we joined a queue. The second boat out of top lock going past us was nb Charis another BCF boat. Moored just above the locks is a boat with quotations from Ecclesiates inscribed on the side. "It's better to have one handful of tranquility than to have two handfuls of trouble and to chase after the wind." There was another one too but I can't remember it.   Good stuff to think on while one waits. We were seventh in line! 90 minutes later we were through and cruising to Fazeley. They are probably the slowest locks in the country. We were glad that we had eaten as we cruised today.

We moored just before 2.30pm: wine o'clock

                                              

               5.1/4 miles, 2 locks  3.1/2 hours

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Hillmorton to Polesworth

Skeleton crew leaving me!
A lovely couple of days boating. We arrived at Hillmorton at about 8.30 on Friday morning. We found the fridge off as the gas had run out. I changed the bottle but the second one had the plastic stopper already removed and did not go hiss when the valve was opened. Not a good sign. Gas was needed soon. 

The skeleton crew of Alex and the Best Mate made good progress north to Stretton Stop and I took the car to Atherstone returning to the boat by public transport. Getting to Rose Narrowboats first I inquired about gas. They had two bottles in stock. I ten walked down the towpath, the peaceful silence only punctuated by the contact calls of a family of buzzards. Sonflower came along when I got to the disused Brinklow arm junction.

So on to Stretton Stop where we moored on the water point (with all the Rose narrowboats around there really was nowhere else), took on water and gas.

Thence northward, watching the wheeling buzzards for quite a few minutes, toward Sutton Stop. About two miles short of this we were caught up by MV Nuneaton towing her butty nb Brighton which were on their way to a boat gathering at Alvecote. One of their crew hailed us to tell us that their crew at Sutton Stop had set the lock. We worked down and Alex made the run on good style: his first time on the tiller for this U-turn under the junction bridge and onto the Coventry Canal.

All was fine until we got to Marston Junction where nb Annie, a Black Prince Hire boat, came at us from the off side as we went under the bridge before the junction. Prompt avoiding action by both craft averted a collision but scared the wits out if the crew of Annie who were sitting in the bow well deck.

The motty boat and butty caught us up again at Springwell Haven and we pulled to the side to let them pass.

Nuneaton and Brighton
From then we stayed at cruising speed until we reached an overnight mooring just before Anchor Bridge: the Anchor Inn beckoned. We were moored behind a veteran fibre glass canal cruiser with cabins fore and aft and a central wheel house. They had two grandchildren aboard and a large dog and kindly gave us a poo bag to clean up the mess that was just where we needed to tie! We sat at the table next to them in the restaurant at the Inn as well and learned how they had often helped friends move the boat, fell in love with it and bought it as soon as the opportunity came when their friends bought a steel narrowboat.


This morning they were well ahead of us when we set off at 7.30am. We stopped for breakfast before the Atherstone flight. We worked down the first three locks with the "assistance" of the three volunteers who were on duty today. Although nice to see them they are not really much help to us for only three locks out of eleven! I wondered whether they were always at the first three locks. If so, single-handers who really do need help who are coming up would have no help through eight locks before seeing them! It was quite busy today and we only had to fill one lock all the way.
descending Atherstone lock 6

I left the boat at lock 9 to return to the car to get it to Polesworth. I parked next to the Bull Inn. Unfortunately this hostelry does not do lunches on Saturday, the restaurant (Indian cuisine) opens at 5.30pm. I met the boat at Bridge 51
Sonflower approaches Bridge 51
 We moored on the rings just through bridge 54. Lunch was now a necessity.

While we were eating our lunch, al fresco at The Anchor Inn under their fabulous gazebo, the heavens opened and a thunderstorm of great proportion started. We were glad that we were not boating this afternoon and felt sympathy for any holidaying hirers who "had to" carry on anyway! We remember those times.

Hillmorton to Polesworth 31.1/2 miles, and 12 locks,             15 hours




Editor's Note:  On 28th July 2008 we were here before: that time the blog says "a thundery shower stopped the expetition to the pub". Today we were already there!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Navigation Bridge No 85 to Hillmorton Bottom Lock 14 day mooring

A lovely drive in the sunshine started today's boat move. Driving, top down, is a pleasure in a BMW Z3 at any time and on the warmest day of the year it was beautiful.

At the boat, I left Alex in command and he set off northward with a litre of orange juice, a packet of tortilla chips and a doughnut. What more is needed? Oh, yes, a bottle of sunscreen and a bottle of aftersun lotion as well!

I got back in the Z3 and drove north too. I stopped at Bridge 72 (Moors Lane) and chatted to a lovely retired GPO engineer who was heading south. As SONFLOWER was not in sight I phined Alex and found he was still about an hour away. I went to park in St John the Baptist Church car park. This is a favourite parking spot for dog walkers and walkers. There is an overnight parking prohibition which is unfortunate. I looked round the lovely church before  I headed off along the towpath, up the locks, assisting boaters as I went. At the middle locks I stopped to sketch the top locks.

 I haven't sketched for a while so it was a little daunting but did not turn out too bad. Unfortunately I had to go straight in with ink as I could not find my pencil box. (Addition of a little coloured pencil 'in the studio')

As I arrived at the top lock so did SONFLOWER. So one out and one in and it was the same all the way down. A good road as they say.


 We moored on the 14 day mooring. Not quite hard to the bank because the sides are shallow and, of course, the rings do not suit our length so we have one mooring pin.

There are a lot of boats on the move at the moment. Some moving faster than others. Alex, was intimidated by a bat right on his tail on the Barby Straight when he was travalling at 1800rpm, equivalent to about 3mph. He pulled over and let him past. But why do we have to do this? Ten years ago 3mph was considered a reasonable cruising speed. On the Oxford we make wash at anything faster! As did this boat as it sped away into the distance!

Navigation Bridge No 85 to Hillmorton Bottom Lock 14 day moorings: 5.1/2 miles, 3 locks  3hours



Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Blisworth Tunnel to North Oxford Bridge 85



Sonflower heads away from the mooring at Blisworth Tunnel North Portal later than we had wanted and I headed back to the car to move it to the BW car park at Gayton. Here the car park was nearly full and I was glad to have a tree saw in the back of the car. Well you do don't you? After pruning a low hanging oak branch I had a space. I went down to the canal and boarded the boat as she passed.

We boated well into dusk after a beautiful sunset.

The next morning we discovered that we were short of some medication that The Best Mate needed. There was a reserve in the car.  I cycled back to the car park, finished pruning the tree and then rendezvoused with Sonflower at Skew Bridge. I arrived at the tow path just as the bow entered the bridge hole: perfect timing.

Sonflower turns away form Skew Bridge
Alex and The Best Mate continued while I moved the car to a layby on the A5 just near the New Inn at Buckby.  Cars are considerably faster than narrowboats so I filled in the time to lunch time with a bit if Waterways Chaplaincy. My colleagues who usually walk the Buckby Flight are on the South Oxford Canal so here was an opportunity for them to cover our patch while I covered theirs!

After lunch at the bottom we ascended the Buckby Flight without company. At the top we looked for a mooring and found none. There were none at the start of the Leicester Arm so another decision was needed. We decided to progress toward the Braunston tunnel but here the tow path was cordoned off with red plastic fencing or we could not get near  to the bank because of shallows. I disembarked just before the tunnel and cycled back to the car leaving Alex to steer the boat through the tunnel. I agreed to meet the boat again at the Top lock.

In fact they were at the second lock when I caught up with them. I had looked at the moorings in Braunston and found that the only way to moor before the jucnction would be by asking a boat to move. nb Dreamcatcher were amenable. I then cycled to meet Sonflower and we worked down the locks and moved past the marina, Gongoozlers Cafe, Stop House and under Bridge 91 to where nb Dreamcatcher moved along and we moored fo the night.

Quite tired we went to The Admiral Nelson for a well earned meal. AS we left wenoticed the mooring is only 48hrs April to September. Blah humbug!

Today I moved Sonflower onto the North Section of the Oxford Canal and, because all 14 day moorings in Braunston were full moored up at Navigation Bridge 85, the first bridge with road access after the A45. After fixing the swan hatch lining with "no more nails" (remember ti falling off a few weeks ago) the boat was secure to leave again and I cycled back to Braunston to return to Banbury.

My mother needs my attention tomorrow.
                                                                   20.1/2 miles, 1 tunnel and 13 locks:   12hours



Monday, 1 August 2016

Car Park to Car park: Galleon Bridge to Blisworth Tunnel North Portal

Having returned to Banbury for our WWC Commissioning at Cropredy yesterday we returned to the boat on the quasi 48hr mooring at Galleon Bridge in case it was not a 14 day one!

First a conversation with Tom, a angler who would have liked to be boating to Birmingham to get near a sister who he was in contact with after 40 years but his gearbox had broken down. He just needed to tell his story!

Then we joined nb Dire Straits in Cosgrove lock. In their honour Alex played "Money for Nothing!" and other tracks from Brothers in Arms while in the lock. Here we unloaded the folding bike and I peddled back the way we had come to get the car from the Ouse Valley Country Park car park and drive to Blisworth. The Best Mate and Alex cruised the lock free pound while I drove, aided by the satnav "Sheila", toward the Tunnel Hill Riding Stables. Just past here I found a small but neatly hidden car park and a path down to the North Portal of the Blisworth tunnel. I walked down and checked out the spot and was pleased to find rings and a piled landing stage with no signed mooring restriction. An orange ball bounced past me into the canal and a lady with a beagle followed close behind. As she fished for the ball she dropped her extending dog lead in the canal. "No problem" I said and returned to the car for a magnet to fish for the lead and a pole to help retrieve the ball. Unfortunately no amount of magnetic fishing could latch onto the steel clip which was the only bit of steel on the lead and reel. I returned up to the car to give her a piece of rope that I keep in the car for coralling loose horses and she used that as a lead to get her beagle and ball back to the car. I felt such a failure!

I then rode over the Tunnel Hill and down into Stoke Bruerne to meet SONFLOWER and crew at the services below the locks. We worked up the locks just ahead of FMC Motty Boat "Owl" (1928), with a 1951 Kelvin Engine, and her Butty boat "Hampton"(1912). Their advance party of a female crew member with two life jacketed dogs helped us through and reset the lock in their favour. We stopped for lunch in the long pound between Locks 15 and 14 and they passed, chugfully.

After the last two locks the flight we continued to enter the wet and dark  Blisworth Tunnel and came out to our mooring. I tried to find the lead with the sea searcher: no luck again. Here Alex celebrates as the Best Mate sizes up the climb to the car park. As we left, it started to rain.


Galleon Bridge No 68 to North Portal Blisworth tunnel:
9 miles, 5 furlongs and 8 locks, 1 tunnel              7 hours

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Thrilling Day




At a canalside service in sleepy Cropredy we were commissioned as Waterways Chaplains for the Oxford Canal (South) today. We have been working as probationary Chaplains for over a year now so this day is long overdue.

We hope that we can use our official windlasses to help boaters through locks and the other ups and downs of life with humour, compassion, empathy and love. Boating is great fun and we meet many many people who for many many reasons are finding it hard at the moment. All we want to do is help them on their journey.

Thank you to our Senior Chaplain, Mark  and his colleague and wife, Zilla, who made these exceedingly wonderful celebratory cakes!

Thanks too to the Vicar, Minister and members of the Cropredy churches for enabling us to use their service as a backdrop for this occasion.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Dog in a lock! and other excitement: Ivinghoe to Old Wolverton

We set off in time to get a bite of lunch at The Grove Lock. I am not sure whether the pub is known for its dog friendliness but a dog owner was on his way there with his dog extending lead while we were descending the lock. Suddenly behind us was a whippet on a string on the cill, water cascading through the leaking closed gate and perturbing him somewhat. Gently backing the boats toward him spooked him more and he jumped into the water: the most dangerous thing for him to do with two narrowboats backing and props sucking in water to the swim. We feathered the props and gradually drifted in, getting him back on the cill. A crew member of the Wyvern hire boat bravely whisked him up and handed him back to a very pleased owner. They were seen in the garden together enjoying the sunshine and a beer.

I have never shared a lock with a dog before and don't really want to again.

The afternoon was slightly uneventful after that and we enjoyed the fun at Soulbury Three Locks amongst six Wyvern boats going down and two coming up. It was just the place to observe that the seriously good training of the crews that we witnessed earlier in the day at Leighton lock really did not permeate to every member of the crew. We advised and helped as necessary but did not want to be too intrusive in the proceedings. Suggesting that the crew member opened the paddle to let the water out rather than just standing there looking pretty is hard to do tactfully though! Two of eh helmsmen just did not seem to be interested in the lock operation at all, staring into space instead of paying attention to the water and positioning of their craft.

Dinner was taken outside the Three Locks Pub and we stayed on for their Friday evening offering of Beatles, Hollies and Stones covers (live music). Our musician called it "guitar karaoke" as the two guitarists, one tele, one strat, played and sang along to drums and bass from a box!

We set off in the morning at a gentile time of 8am. At Stoke Hammond lock a hire crew were moored on the lock mooring but were not, at this time, ready to descend. A lady crew member said that she would like to watch us do the lock as we "looked professional". Her children were buzzing around the whole time too. We told her we all have started in hire boats and made a load of mistakes! But this time it went as it should and we parted wishing them a lovely holiday and assuring them that Milton Keynes was not such a bad place from the canal side! We  stopped for breakfast just before Fenny Stratford and then worked through the lock with the one foot fall and silly swing bridge in the middle. Here I disembarked the bicycle and left the tiller in my son's hands to steer her around Milton Keynes while I went to Bletchley Station and took a train to Cheddington to cycle back to where our car was parked. I then drove to The Galleon at Old Wolverton and waited for the boat to arrive with a beer and nachos.

We rendezvoused as planned and finished the boating day with a meal in The (All New) Galleon Inn.

Ivinghoe Bridge 123 to Galleon Bridge No 68   23.3/4 miles, 12 locks 1 Swingbridge  


Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Phewww!

Hottest Day of the year and I set us a target of 6 miles and 9 locks.

We started in the shade of the bar at The Old Swan on Cheddington, a 15th century inn that has been brought into the 21st Century and serves local real ale.  I looked for a Tring Ale but had to satisfy myself with Vale Brewery Brill Gold It was gorgeous! The posh fish finger sandwich was a bit of a let down. But this is not a pub revue it is a boating blog.

We walked to the boat beside Cheddington Bridge 126. On the way I discovered that I had not got my keys with me! The front doors are padlocked! They latch easily without a key but are not so easy to open. Our 6 footer said that was no problem as he would jump down into the houdini hatch!  In fact he didn't need to. When we got to the boat I lifted the swan hatch lid and the "no more nails" (well past its useful life) gave way and the lining ply to which the bolts are screwed fell off and we were in!

So we set off! It was sweltering and all the locks were set against us. After the 3 Seabrook locks we were gasping for water and called it a day!

I am now sipping cooled Brecon Brewery (bottled) Target IPA in the evening sun while the best mate has a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc.




Sunday, 26 June 2016

Past Marsworth Junction

 We decided to move the boat to allow the Tring Anglers to teach their novices to fish safely and considerately without disturbing the occupants of boats moored nearby and the boats using the flight. Hopefully by doing that we gave them enough room to keep clear of the lock landings.


Our first task was to refresh the water tank because the water had started to taste metallic. We did this very quietly and carefully so as not to disturb this local fisher.


This we did successfully. The skies darkened and our tummies rumbled so we moved the boat away from the water point to the opposite side of the canal and hid it behind the grass on the towpath.


We retired to the Anglers Retreat for lunch al fresco. As we finished our meal the rain started to fall in a serious style so we decided to leave SONFLOWER exactly where she was. No use getting wet again.

The hum of Contractor's strimmers was heard through the Yard Bridge so we might be able to see her again soon. Alternatively we might have hay on the gunwhales again.

                                                                          1/2 mile; 1 lock                 1 hour

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Bulbourne to Marsworth

Sounds like nowhere at all doesn't it?

We had arrived at the boat in the evening. We went to the Grand Junction Arms and found that they do not cook on Sunday evenings so supper was dry roasted peanuts, cashews and hand cooked crisps accompanied by Local Ale. We retired to bed early and decided to get up early.

HIPPY PAPY BTHUTH BTHUTH BTHUTHDY

In the morning it was raining! But with only the morning available to move to the next place before lunch with friends 45 miles away we had to do it. All except one of the five locks we worked were against us and one had a bottom gate left open as well.

On exiting Lock 40 we noticed a mooring space which is conveniently near the CRT Startop car park where we had left the car the night before (Pay and Display £3.00 for 24 hours). SO we pulled in and started to hammer home the mooring pins. Then I noticed the sign on the bank asking us not to moor there (between Lock 39 and Lock 40) for a Beginners Event by Tring Anglers.

Wet to the skin and running out of morning we were not going to move to the next 14 day mooring, about half a mile and two locks further on.

So there we are.

                                                                        1 mile, 5 locks, 2 very wet hours

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Cowroast to Bulbourne

What a beautiful day! As we walked from Cowroast Lock toward SONFLOWER on her mooring nb Enigma was slowly progressing toward the lock where a pair were coming down."We'll be four minutes" I called, hoping they would wait. With the Best Mate with me we set off from opposite the Esso Garage on Tring Road (I must tell Nick because he still calls it the Texaco Garage) as they were ascending and we had to wait for another pair of boats to descend before we could work up, on our own. Nb Enigma was waiting for the water point as we passed her so waiting for us would not have inconvenienced the but would have delayed the pair of boats by four minutes.

I had a nice chat with the crew of a canoe that was about to be launched into the top level too. 

We cruised the Tring top level very sedately enjoying the sunshine and warmth of the June day. The cutting is overshadowed for quite a distance but sunglasses were essential today. There was a huge number of teenagers with huge backpacks and OS maps walking the tow path in groups of six. Obviously out for their Duke of Edinburgh Award Gold expedition. It brought back memories of walking the Surrey Hills and woods around Abinger on my Boy Scout First Class two day Hike, the equivalent in 1964!

There were a few boats on the move today and plenty of anglers enjoying the warmth too. But no sight of the kingfishers who nest in the cutting, I expect the hiking activity pushed them on to the river to fish for lunch.

The canoe had got ahead and cruised quicker and was tied against a water filled CRT hopper opposite the CRT Bulbourne yard. Why towpath side? Your guess is as good as mine. We found a mooring just passed Bridge 136 that was exactly the right size for us. The bank is steep here but the rings are conveniently spaced for our length and corresponded exactly to our mooring points fore, aft and centre.

Here is Sonflower on the mooring with a view of the lovely and delightfully restored FMC working boat nb Holland in the background.

We went to the Grand Junction pub for a delightful lunch. This independent pub has its own vegetable garden to supply its kitchens and sources local produce to support its home cooked menu.  A very enjoyable meal with local Tring Brewery Ridgeway Ale.

After this all we had to do was walk back to Cowroast to retrieve the car. An uneventful but enjoyed walk with numerous cyclists and more of the back packing hikers, one of whom was heard to mutter that she would not finish the hike! On over hearing this I could not stop myself encouragingly saying "Of course you can!" "Thank you", she politely responded. I hope she did.

At Cowroast Lock we were fortunate to meet up with the man from the lock cottage. No longer a lock keeper but an independent gardener who works 8 acres and still finds time for the most beautifully kept English country cottage garden. So much colour and four hives of bees, one with a newly arrived swarm of bees establishing itself. We had an interesting discussion n the causes of the decline in bees, which he put down to the increase in digital communication activity confusing the bees navigation systems. A real possibility.

           3 miles, 1 lock: 2 hours boating, 2 hours walking and 2 hours eating and chatting

Saturday, 4 June 2016

On my own

Hemel Hempstead to Cowroast

An early start today.. I pulled away from the mooring near Old Fishery Lane Bridge just before 6.30 am and I was on my own. The Best Mate has had some problems which are under investigation and slowing her down. I had no available other mate. The 14 day rule loomed and so I had to do it alone.

I decided on Berkhamsted as being the next place. It has good connection to Hemel Hempstead via the very useful 500 Aylesbury to Watford bus. This is upgraded to having 240v sockets and WiFI if needed!

So lock by lock I progressed, enjoying the peace of the canal as we passed through the green and pleasant corridor provided by Boxmoor and the valley of the River Bulbourne. Only the roar of the West Coast main line intermittently interrupted the chorus of bird song. I had no hearing aids with me today so their best notes were probably lost on me.

I was forced to stop at the aptly named Sewer Lock, opposite the Sewage Works outfall, to clear a rope and numerous plastic bags that had wrapped round the propeller. Usually prop fouling in SONFLOWER is cleared by reversing the drive and spinning it off. Not this one. I was unable to remove it with my boat hook so had to open the weed hatch (for the first time ever) to cut it free. The rope was a knotted blue loop as some people use to moor on the "wrong type of piling" that is common in the Grand Union Canal.

As I entered the lock after my half hour's labour of love down the hatch I was caught up by a member of the crew from one of two boats that were following me. She told me they were stopping for breakfast and I was hopeful that the other boat would be continuing. No such luck, they were staying together. So on I went, lock by lock, on my own.

Excitement came at Berkhamsted Top Lock 53 where a white wide beam was coming out as I waited on the lock landing to enter. I asked the crew to leave only one gate open to make it easier for me and the crew obliged. The steerer then plowed straight into Sonflower bow on and lodged the boat between the boat and the bank. I rushed back to release the centre rope from the bollard and the wide beam proceeded to push SONFLOWER back toward Hemel Hempstead with nobody aboard. The steerer told me that he couldn't ease up on power or the engine would die and he had no reverse. I held on to the centre rope and followed the boats down the canal until they parted and the wide beam managed to turn away and I got SONFLOWER back to the bank to board her and enter the lock. They continued their way to become a danger to any craft they meet. Why not maintain their craft in good working order! No damage to SONFLOWER but I ended up with a piece of ply and a chunk of fibreglass filler on my bow deck.

It must have been wide beam moving day. At Gas Works Lock No 1 (Northchurch Lock No 51) the young female crew of WB Jaylee from Milton Keynes  decided to close the gate I had opened and fill the lock as I was coming out of Gas Works Lock No 2. I was left in the middle of the 200m long pound floating with my arms crossed until the gates opened. I shouted to the crew: "Leave one gate open, please: the one I opened!" They were clueless and descended the steps on both sides to get back on board! The master of the craft was more aware and told them to go back up and close the gates after I had entered and then to walk to the next lock after the boat. (A friendly boater who was crossing the lock to his own boat opened the other gate for them as I left the last lock with one gate open). Even when I climbed the ladder, windlass in hand they could not understand the failure in ettiquette that had taken place. I thanked them for their help.

At Bushes Lock No 50 I must have been tired. I failed to tie SONFLOWER or take a rope with me when I went to open the gate as the lock looked empty. The gate would not budge so I opened the paddle and washed SONLOWER away from the lock without me aboard! I shut the paddle immediately bit she was out of reach. I ran down the towpath to a moored boat hoping to find a boat hook. I borrowed a broom from their bow deck and managed to hook a fender, pull her back to with in the bridge and get on board. A panic moment. I tied her up again, did the job properly and when she was in the lock and safe I returned the broom. As I left the lock I was pleased to meet up with friends from nb AMY EM. They were moored at Cowroast and were walking into Berkhamsted, just to show themselves that they could. They were going to get a bus back. They told me there were quite a few boats moored at Northchurch Top Lock, my target for the day.

As informed there were four boats there, two breasted up, and taking up all the rings and the right type of piling.  I continued cruising, with an exciting glimpse of a kingfisher on the way, to a mooring opposite the Tring Road Texaco Garage, just below Cowroast Lock No 46. Favourably the right type of piling and I just couldn't manage another lock on my own.

                                                        6miles, 16 locks, 1 swing bridge; 9 hrs and 30 mins

Nick says that this cruise should have taken 6 1/2 hrs so I am quite a slow coach on my own


Sunday, 22 May 2016

(NO) New Technology

Uxbridge to Hemel Hemsted

We have just had two very pleasant days of boating from Mill Road Bridge No 187 (aka Gas Works Bridge 187 and Cowley Mill Road Bridge 187) to Old Fishery Lane Bridge no 148

Regular readers know that I was frustrated with the 3 dongle to connect with the internet.   I have invested in a 4G mobile wireless router from Maplin. I read the instructions fully and tried it out in the lounge at home. It works a treat with my little tablet, Sony Experia and Samsung phones. The instructions said to charge for at least four hours so I put it on charge overnight.

I left it on charge when we left to go to the boat in the morning so have had two days of internet free cruising!

                                                                                    18miles, 27 locks, 14 hours

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

New technology

I have just received an email from The Best Mate. It was headed "i Hate Technology" without any further comment in the message.

I understand how she feels. A server that was used for processing our mail was on a Blocking List and bounce messages were coming in thick and fast.

I must admit that at times I too have the same feeling. Today I have been trying to set up a new mobile wifi for use on the boat in conjunction with a tablet. I have attempted to have a live run so that it all goes smoothly in the boat. But all has not gone smoothly. I have three gmail accounts. I tried to get one of them added to the email client on the tablet but I have had messages telling me that the password was out of date and that someone tried to log on to my gmail account from an app that was insecure. They want me to use google apps. The tablet came with its mail client installed as firmware. I have no idea what it is but it worked with a virgin.net account. Why not with gmail! I haven't tried the other two gmail accounts yet!

So getting email on the boat will still be hard and difficult I may have to resort to tactics like using webmail which I hate.

I am looking forward to getting back in the boat in Friday morning. It may be a couple of days away form it all again, including eMail and Facebook!

We will be boating through the civilised areas of Uxbridge, Rickmansworth, Watford and Hemel Hempstead so hope fully mobile signal will not be a problem too!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

HIgh Time at High Line

Friday 6 May 2016

You may have seen from my recent facebook status that that we were booked in for an engine service at Highline Yachting's Cowley Peachey base. I took the photo while we were waiting. It was such a lovely morning. We left our overnight mooring in West Drayton and cruised the short distance to moor and wait in glorious sunshine for the place to open. 9 o'clock came and our engineer for the service popped up from his boat and got started. It was Bob,who used to work at Tooley's yard in Banbury but has now moved to the metropolis to earn some real dosh. He said he never gets a break he is so busy. After re-acquainting ourselves he settled down to the essence of his business.

Our engine has been described as "the best little BMC 1500 I have seen, mate!" by a RCR mechanic who fixed the engine stop cable so I didn't expect any problems. But Bob found a couple.

One was that the top sealing plate was missing from the fuel filter. Without it the fuel short circuits the filter and can flow straight from the inlet to the outlet. Why have a filter? Bob searched the oily engine bilge for any sign that it may have fallen off and not been noticed when the filter was last changed. No joy, so he went away to look for a replacement or to make a new one, as getting the correct spare would mean we would not finish today!

The other was a diesel leak on spill rail return to the diesel tank. No problem remaking the screwed joint but a little problem making an adequate support to stop it rattling loose again. No problem to Bob. The spilled diesel was aquavac-ed from the bilge, new absorbent mats fitted and the job was done. Just two hours or so longer than expected.

While all this was happening in the engine bay I was using the lovely dry day to remove the sealant from the windows, add Jenolite rust treatment, apply a coat of hammerite and re-seal with mastic sealant. This all went to plan except that I have not had a chance to see whether there are any leaks. It all looked very good! While in the mood I painted the handrail too.

When Bob had finished his stuff I had the tanks replenished with diesel and we were on our way, thanking him for a good service. Maybe he will return to the Oxford some time. He said he missed it.

So we cruised to Cowley lock where we stopped outside The Malt Shovel in the sunshine and had an ale and a cider with some locals before progressing onward to moor before Mill Road Bridge No 187 for the night before return to Banbury in the morning

Friday: 2miles, 1 lock and 1 pub                   Total So Far this year: 145 miles, 112 locks

Monday, 9 May 2016

Now, where are we?

I have been back in Banbury for a couple if days. I feel that we have not really touched down yet!

We arrived here on Saturday and I write this in Monday evening. On Saturday I was welcomed by a pile of mail and 154 emails in my inbox.I was working all day trying to clear them and deal with the pile of paperwork, real and virtual. The Best Mate set about loads of washing. Exhausting to the extent that we had to go out to eat as we had no energy to cook for ourselves. We went to a favourite country pub, The George and Dragon at Shutford: never disappointing.

Yesterday was a good day. Church was great: real worship and praise; specific and directed prayer; a sermon/teaching on the apostle Paul's view of church and our desire to bring about the reality of a New Testament church in the 21st century; sharing bread and wine together and chocolate cookies and coffee after. And all with people who are joined neatly and carefully together by Christ the Cornerstone!  Then we had a roast lamb dinner with my mother and sister. In the afternoon we prepared the same for our son who returned from his football tournament in good spirits having won three of his four games and scored a goal to boot! Yes a very good day.

Today we went to Kings Langley to a Waterways Chaplaincy meeting and then to a funeral in Putney this afternoon to honour the life of a friend from the Boaters Christian Fellowship. Can a funeral be good? Yes when one knows that the friend was at peace with God and ready to be with His Lord for ever.  HIs life was one of a faithful servant, described as a plodder and the Lord needs them in his church!

But it all leaves me drained and wondering where we left the boat. Oh yes, we have got it to Uxbridge. But I have already told you that, haven't I?