About Me

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The name describes my demeanour and voice! I love narrowboating and that is why this blog is mainly about the boat and our interaction with it. I have been keeping a log for Sonflower ever since we bought her and moved onto her as our main residence. Some incidents in our boating life have been hilarious, some scary and some down right dangerous. I cannot tell what will come in the future but you can now share them! The crew are an 'ordinary' couple. The Best Mate and I.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Been away.

This week SONFLOWER has been to Thrupp and back. Some of you boat watchers have wondered why the Best Mate has turned blonde and I have lost my beard. Its because it was not us enjoying the mixed weather of this English Summer! SONFLOWER was in the charge of friends and fellow BCF members and Waterways Chaplains.

They are waiting for their own boat (about 12 weeks late now) but needed to take their daughter boating while she was on a brief holiday in the UK from her work in Afghanistan. We were pleased to be able to help. They had a great time enjoying the primitive facilities that SONFLOWER provides as compared to a brand new Elton Moss fit out. No electric shower pump, macerating toilet, central heating, microwave, electric fridge, bags of storage and a wardrobe etc etc.

Still she had windows, upholstery and new paint!

SONFLOWER behaved impeccably as I knew she would.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Freshening up

We took our granddaughter to see another boat, smaller than ours, and asked "What has our boat got that this one hasn't?" thinking that she would immediately spot that the smaller boat did not have a dinette and table in the lounge. "Dust" she replied.

So, before we lend our boat to friends we thought we had better do a spring clean and freshen it up!

One of the pictures in our Sunflower gallery had seriously faded. It was an inkjet print of a copy of Van Gogh's "Sunflowers in vase" that I did in acrylic quite a few years ago. So I have "freshened it up" by repainting it in oils. Here is the result:

It is drying on the easel and just about ready to remount.

I am glad it is out of copyright!

Monday, 24 July 2017

New hand on the tiller

School's over for the summer and we had two of our grandchildren for the day while their mother is working in Warwick.

After the Sunday chicken dinner we headed for Sonflower's mooring and set off on the mini cruise we call "The Water Run".

To the Grimsbury Arm to turn, back down the length of the moorings to the town centre where we had to suffer the jibes of blogger nb Herbie "Have you come far?". (Being local too, they know this is the first time we have been off the mooring this year except to visit the Boatyard!). On the way our eleven year old took the tiller for the first time. He did very well!

Thence through the lock. My granddaughter asked "Why are we going down?" in the lock. Out came the very useful leaflet produced by Boaters Christian Fellowship How locks work. So onward to Bankside Winding Hole and then up through the lock again. This time we stopped at the water point and the first signs of boredom started to appear as we waited and waited for the tank to fill.  Our youngest son, Piglet washed down the roof which has got particularly dirty with the attentions of the local heron adorning the side.

Refilled we checked out the weather. Ominous dark clouds hovered overhead but nothing came of them. No thunder storm today as promised by the weather forecasters.

So we returned to the mooring and let the grandchildren loose to play on the equipment in Spiceball Park. Our grandson picked up a stick and beat nettles and brambles on the way past. That is a tradition that will never die.

As we walked back we had a nice chat with the crew of  nb Dutch Courage who are our colleagues in Waterways Chaplaincy and part of BCF. They are "Roving Chaplains" so had no fixed plans except to get north of Braunston.

We headed back to meet our daughter and a beautifully eggy tea.

                                                         2 miles, 2 LB, 2 locks, 3.1/2hrs

Thursday, 20 July 2017

FInished and ready

Here is a proud GasSafe engineer who has just completed the installation of our replacement Morso water Heater.

I can recommend him. He is more than competent, diligent, caring, and persevering. He will not give up on the smallest suspicion of a leak. He has returned to refit pipework and olives that he has been doubtful about. On a boat that is 35 years old there are bound to be bits that are past their use by date. He has made sure that our gas system meets all the relevant standards and has issued us with a certificate to that effect.

Thank you!

If anyone needs a GasSafe engineer who knows boats and the Boat Safety Scheme regulations etc. I will willingly pass on his details. His van displays the slogan  "Advice is always free"

Friday, 14 July 2017

Broken and Postponed. . . now almost finished

Yes, the Morso was not fitted on Wednesday.

It has been fitted today.

On Wednesday, while waiting for the GasSafe man, I managed to break two drills and shear off a self tapping screw while attempting to drill the bow deck and fix two fairleads. Finishing that job was postponed too! Today I only broke one screw while waiting for the GasSafe man. Now I have replaced the brassy screws with steel ones and all seems adequately secure.

B & Q must do a fair trade in 3mm drills. They do out of me anyway!

He arrived approximately 1.5 hours later than planned, but The Best Mate also filled that time with an Aldi big shop: my only duty was to get her there and back in between drilling and screwing the fairleads.

Now, after 4.1/2 continuous labour the Morso is fitted, commissioned and almost complete. He only needs to return on Monday to leak check as gas fittings can "ease"!

Oh! and we will need to pass over some money!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Sonflower BSC

Yes, she passed! The Examiner was very pleased with Sonflower.

Just two small pieces of advice:
  •  to change a hose on the diesel tank vent. The hose is old but serviceable but does not display the current BS number.
  • changing the glass in the stove door because it is cracked.
Just before the Examiner arrived I fitted up a flag pole at the back of the boat for the AWCC and BCF Burgees. Unfortunately, before I could fix it with a bungee, a boat came by and rocked our boat dislodging the unsecured pole which fell into the canal. It took me quite a time with the sea searcher to locate and  retrieve the pole!

All fun by water!

Examination Day

Today we will be examined.

There is an old Morso water heater on the boat waiting to be taken to a scrap bin. The gas pipework connection to the place where the new one should be is blanked off as are the water inlet and outlet pipes. The rules are such that if a piece of gas equipment is on the boat it should be in good working order and gas sealed. This certainly isn't! My Gas Safe engineer, Steve, has been in touch with the Examiner telling him the sorry tale of the defective unit that was supplied by the largest and mist popular Chandlers in the Midlands. Steve will supply full documentation and certification when the installation is completed with a new unit that is water tight, as the one we unwrapped last week wasn't. The water inlet connection had not been soldered to the unit and therefore washed our ceiling when the water pump was turned on! The leak was spectacular! There is no doubt this boiler had never been factory tested. So much for Quality Assurance!

Zero hour is 1300hrs. But it may vary a little becasue it is a bit dependant on the punctual birth of a grandchild to the Boat Safety Examiner. That is a scheduled event because a Caesarian Section has been called for in Milton Keynes. Our Examiner is coming straight from the hospital, I understand. What can go wrong? Nothing, I pray.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Preparing for Boat Safety Certificate Examination

There is always so much to do.

The Morso water heater has been burning with a yellow flame. So I got a GasSafe man to have a look at it. "Good News or bad news?" "Good news is it needs a full service: bad new is that will cost more than a new heater!" Good news is he will come back and fit the new one in Wednesday. Today.

A clip will also be needed in the gas feed to the heater where it passes through the bulkhead. It is supported by the bulkhead but this does not count. The local heating suppliers do not stock saddle clips smaller that 15mm dia. What do I do?  They suggested cable clips of which I do have a few.

Then there are the batteries: just 3 inches clearance to the top of the engine bay bit enough if a gap to be able to lodge a spanner onto the terminals. So I have cut plywood covers. And there are jump leads in the gas locker that must not be there when the Examiner comes. Apparently only gas bottles should be in the gas locker!

And the glass in the stove door is cracked and WD40 will not shift the bolts.But a crack is not a 2mm gap so I should be able to talk my way round that one!

The examiner comes next Monday.

I hope that he is not reading this.

Since the first draft this afternoon I have been working onthe boat to clip cables, secure gas pipes and support the very excellent GasSafe Engineer,,Mr Steve Williams. Unfortunately he highlighted a gas leak on the existing installation caused by the use of wrong materials (a brass olive instead of a copper one). It has not been resolved and needs more attention tomorrow. So at 8.45 pm we left the the gas isolated, the cooker removed and there are tools all over the boat awaiting more action!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Back at Tooley's

I had a novice friend as crew for the trip from the mooring to Tooley's Boatyard. Nothing serious this time but we return for a small joinery modification. Refitting the central door between galley and bunkroom prevented our new under bunk drawer from opening. The only solution is a new door.

So off the mooring again and back to town.We passed the time of day with several hirers who were traversing the lock. A Norwegian couple used the lock ahead of us on the return form Calthorpe Winding hole and left the top gate and paddles open. This gave us an opportunity to chat to them and welcome them to Banbury, recommending two pubs as possible evening meal options.

2.5 miles, 2 LB, 2  locks, 2.5 hours

Friday, 26 May 2017

PRM or Hurth that is the question.

The gearbox has failed. Or rather half if it has: the reverse half.

The gearbox fails to engage reverse gear properly making stopping a dicey process. It is a Hurth. To recondition it cost the same as a new PRM.

So SONFLOWER is getting a new gearbox.

Calcutt Marine are supplying the box for Tooley's Boatyard to fit.

SONFLOWER is now an exhibit at Tooley's Museum of canal life, she has been there so long! She will be available to view on Castle Quay for the foreseeable future.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Sonflower being floated in Tooley's Boatyard this morning. She was then reversed out and moored on Castle Quay for leak testing (in the rain). When the sun shines I will take some better photographs but she really does look nice. We are very pleased.

I would recommend Jez Steadman * at Tooley's Boatyard to paint any boat. He is a genuine craftsman.

There is still a lot to do. Inside now needs our attention. We have taken one bunk out to make the bunk room airier and provide drawer storage underneath. The galley will be the next big adventure.

Sonflower is just under 57ft long but every bit of her seems to need our constant attention. There is always another job to do.

The next hurdle is a Boat Safety Scheme examination later in the year. But hopefully that will be done when she is afloat.

Coach Painting & Specialised Paint & Varnish Finishes
(Enquiries to Tooley's Boatyard)

Monday, 24 April 2017

Update on Painting

The painting of SONFLOWER is going really well. The painter is now putting on the sixth coat, the first of the top coats.

The boat was taken back to bare metal and rust treated. A couple of perforations were found in the steel which were repaired by the skilled craftsmen at Tooley's who seem to be able to tackle any boat building tasks: well they have built boats in the past!  Here is a little bit of welding done to repair a perforation at the foot of the gunwhale near the gas locker.
Plate repair at gunwhale end

This had been letting water into the engine bay.

Bare metal

More bare metal

Shiny bow

The full paint treatment is:
Above the rubbing strake:
  • rust treatment
  • primer
  • undercoat 1
  • undercoat 2
  • top coat 1
  • top coat 2
  • finishing coat
  • lining
  • sign writing/graphics
And, of course the hull beneath the top rubbing strake will be blacked with bitumastic paint.

I did discuss sand blasting and epoxy coating. But Tooley's do not offer this at present. That the epoxy might also need bitumastic protection was also suggested. So epoxy to stop pitting of the steel and bitumastic to stop the epoxy being rubbed off or coming away in sheets.  I will continue with the age old treatment. Bitumastic to stop pitting.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Ready and Waiting

I had a weather window this morning form 1030 to 1200. This morning's rain was on its way to Northampton and the next shower was not due to arrive form Stratford-on-Avon until afternoon.

I went and collected the SONFLOWER from her mooring near Samuelson Bridge and took her up to the Grimsbury Arm turning point and back to Tooley's boatyard. I had a great assist at lick and lift bridge form the crew of a hire boat that had gone the other way to Bankside turning point. After lunch in General Foods Club, as it is Wednesday, I met John and Matt to discuss the details and handed over the keys.

So she is in dock for survey, blacking and painting and will be there until early May. Herbie wants pictures.

I will see what I can do.
                                                                                         1.1/2 miles, 1 lock, 1 lift bridge, 1hr

Friday, 24 March 2017


We have sent a little time on the boat preparing for her to go into Tooley's for a makeover. All the windows will be coming out so we have taken all the curtains for washing and  cleared a lot of the bric a brac away.

The damp has got in and there is evidence of some more fungal rot. The window frames have been leaking again so some repairs will be necessary to the woodwork inside the boat as well as the external treatment.

As we moved her we chatted with Matt from the yard. She is booked in from Monday 3rd April and not Thursday 30th March so we are unlikely to be cruising this year until mid May.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Flat and Rescued

I went to the boat yesterday.

CRT have not given me permission to stay on the mooring for March. I have won the auction for the mooring but the contract does not start until April 1st.  So I went to move to another mooring for 14 days to then move to another mooring for 14 days and then into Tooley's dock for the whole of April!

But the gremlins had got under my engine covers and flatted the batteries. My small pv array did not keep up with the cold!

So I called RCR out this morning (that's what I pay them for) and Paul from Pershore jump started the engine and advised me to ditch it because spares are getting impossible to get and a new Kibota 44hp would only cost me £3500. I like my BMC 1500! He said the batteries were charging ok when he left.

Anyway, I boated into town and left the boat with Tooley's to test all the batteries and give me some good advice.

                                                                                          1/2 mile, 18 hours

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Back on our mooring

I backed SONFLOWER up from opposite Sovereign Wharf, through the Marsh Footbridge 163 and onto her mooring this afternoon. (The link show a picture of her on it)

We have permission from Canal and River Trust to put her on the mooring for the month of February.

We are away until the 24th in Devon and cannot comply with the 14 day rule so are very glad of CRTs help. The mooring is empty and will be let through the usual process. We have expressed interest.

We will need to wait for a week or two to see whether we can successfully secure it for the foreseeable. If we do, our "continuous cruising" will be suspended for a year or so.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017


A two hour leisurely cruise back toward Banbury today. Little traffic: Just nb Clara heading north after a short sojourn in Banbury. I was pleased to see her coming out of Bourton Lock but not so happy to see that the strong stream of the bywash trapped her against the weir edge. She had to reverse back party into the lock to free herself. There is a lot of water about today and excess is swirling down the bywashes.

By the new flood meadows there were loads of birds in the air. I saw a bird of prey that could have been a falcon and a pair of Jays. I haven't seen many of them around here so this was very pleasing. At Hardwicke Lock I met a man with a stick who was public spiritedly playing with floating sticks and relieving the build up at the bywash culvert  entrance. After filling the lock, he closed the top gate behind Sonflower and walked off north on his way.

After the lock I met a paddle boarder. She was the first I have encountered on the canals. CRT are encouraging them I understand. I had seen her going the other way this morning nearer to Banbury so I asked whether she had been shopping. There was nowhere to stow shopping on the board however.

I moored just short of the bend opposite the blue cottage, behind nb Freestyler. As I moored the paddle boarder came past again going the other way.

                                                                                          3miles, 3 locks, 2 hours

As I

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Crisp January Cruise

A Sunny Period
We have to get out of town and today was one of those lovely afternoons with a forecast of sunny periods. The canal was clear and the birds were out in force. Kestrel, heron, cormorant, gulls of all sorts and the hedgerow birds like tits and robins were all around.

There were boaters about too. I came up behind nb Mirrlees who were ascending Hardwick Lock. They had followed another boat into the lock, possibly a Kate hire boat that we saw passing earlier or nb Hermione who when was moored behind Sonflower but not when we left. "three in a row and a bonus mark", I quipped. Nb Mirlees was flying the white ensign and I asked the helmsman about it. He had served in the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines so was entitled to wear it, he said. I closed the top gate for them as they left and as I approached the next two locks I was very pleased to see that they had raised a bottom paddle to speed my way. Thank you very much, nb Mirrlees.
At Little Bourton Lock 27 I noticed that there are unwanted vandals in the lovely lock garden.

This garden used to win awards when lock cottages were the homes of lock keepers and their wives.

I was glad to see space on the 14 day moorings at Cropredy and noted nb Hermione moored up there. I waved as I passed and turned at the Cropredy Coal Wharf and returned to moor just north of him. 

A very pleasant afternoon cruise. 

                                    3.9 miles, 3 locks   2.1/2hours