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.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Lovely Day

It is bright and beautiful. So I have spent a few hours in SONFLOWER's company.

There was quite a frost this morning so I thought it was time to do something to protect the vulnerable bits. So I have drained the water heater, opened all the taps, drained the shower and switched off the water pump.

When I am feeling like kneeling and reaching below decks I will put a cosy on the pump but at the moment, as she is under the waterline and water temperatures are still above 10deg C I am happy that it is safe to leave for the time being.

I have a fully charged de-humidifier on the table in the centre of the saloon to keep the condensation to a minimum.

I have checked the bilge and it is bone dry. Great after a few years of working hard to get it that way.

SO I then paid attention to the outside and have touched in the cruising scratches and bruises that the paintwork suffered during the summer. My touch up is not quite a perfect match for the Royal Green that the painter used but it will keep the rust at bay fro the winter months, I hope. It will only get knocked off again next spring!

So I am pleased with my few hours work and the time I spent with fellow moorers over a cup of tea.

That;s what boating is about!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Home Again! Hillmorton to Banbury

We didn't do it all at once!

The first leg was an over-
nighter with Sooper crew on board. First a two car shuffle to get Soo's car at Hillmorton and mine at The Folly Inn, Napton. So that was definitely our first target. And we hit it on the bull's eye. Not only did we have a great day's boating bit we had time to go and retrieve Soo's car before hitting the time for our dinner reservation at The Folly Inn.

Chilli and Spud at The Folly Inn
Now, what an amazing turn around the Folly has had. It was packed, and it appeared it was packed with locals having a meal out. The beer was good, the wine was good and the food was great. I had the best blue fillet steak I have had in my life! The Best Mate had a fabulous Blanche Bait with fresh salad; SooperCrew had the best portion of chilli with her baked spud that I have ever seen. Why did  I think this was an amazing turn around. Well the last time we came to The Folly I blogged "A Folly of a Meal" when all four of the crew got meals that did not resemble the menu descriptions. Now I am reaching for Tripadvisor to give them five stars.             14 miles 1 lock  5 hours

We did work one lock before mooring so we didn't have far to go to bed down, replete.

We rose earlyish and after breakfast did another two car shuffle, this time leaving my car at The Wharf Inn, Fenny Compton. We started the ascent of Napton flight at about 9.15 and were at lock 14 by 11.00. Sooper Crew walked back down the locks to get her car to the top and met us as we exited Lock 15! The Best Mate and SooperCrew left me at the Marston Doles water point as they had to go to a craft session in Banbury.                  2 miles, 8 locks    2.3/4  hours

"Pie of the Day" at The Wharf Inn
I boated solo toward Fenny Compton. I stopped twice. Once for lunch at Stoneton Bridge 125 and once for a natural break at Bridge 131. The wind got stronger and cutting as the day progressed. I moored on the visitor moorings just before the A423 Bridge 136A at about 4pm. When I got to the car it was boxed in by two white panel vans! I inquired in the Wharf Inn whether anyone knew the owners. The main offender, that had arrived last and parked over a foot from the kerb was owned by "Kev". The barmaid went looking for him but to no avail so I took my stick and plodded (limped) up to the long term moorings near the marina to try and find him. I failed but did find the owner of the other van, which was broken down! He kindly offered to move it and rolled it down the hill without power steering or brakes and parked it beautifully. I was free, but cold and very hungry so I had a pie and a pint int The Wharf. It would have been rude not to when the barmaid said that pie was the chef's special of the day!                                      7.1/2 miles   3hours

Sooper Crew has jumped ship and is crewing on another boat today. So it was The Best Mate and I who boated from Fenny Compton to our home mooring. My knee prevents me doing a lot of lock work so The Best Mate had the brunt of the labour today. We were helped by plenty of boats on the move after the first two Claydon locks but had to fill Boughton and Hardwick locks to end the day. We were hindered by a working pair, moored against another working boat and opposite a leisure boat moored beside a "no mooring" sign! There was 7' 6" left to get my 6ft 10" beam through. To do it I had to back up several times to ensure that I was parallel with the boat moored opposite. I did not have my camera to hand to take a picture for the "moored like a twat" facebook group! Today the sun shone on us almost all the way.  We had a lunch break in The Brasenose Inn in Cropredy. This was a very pleasant break indeed. Here too we had a great example of bad mooring.  Here a 50ft boat was moored on the centre two rings of four available beside Cropredy Bridge thus preventing another boat from enjoying this lovely mooring spot. We did find a mooring through the bridge but it bugs me as to why some boaters are that thoughtless.

So we moored up at home mooring about 6pm very tired but home. We were welcomed by nb Sawdust at Hardwick Lock and cheery waves from Malc and Dink at the Cottage and the other moorers at our moorings. It is great to go boating but it is good to be home!
                                        12 miles, 12 locks, 8.1/2  hours

Monday, 2 October 2017

Another FUN day's boating

Yes, boating is fun. A little and often is quite acceptable. We squeezed in a day's boating today between our weekend: Church, Banbury Canal Day, a trip to Kent fr a grandchild's baptism etc. and tomorrow: exercise class, hosting  a "Christians Together " lunch and a trip to Cardiff to take our son's bike, speaker cabinet and a few odds and ends required at Uni.

SO relaxing on the boat was a great thing to do. We took Sue the Crew with us and bussed form Hillmorton to Newbold-on-Avon to join the boat. We set off just before 12.00noon and cruised fro about an hour before our first incident of the day at Bridge 69. There was a boat moored towpath side on the other side of the bridge and another boat was coming toward us. This moved over to the starboard to give way to us bit as we passed through the bridge hole the bow veered over toward the moored boat. No time for a horn signal just full stern and bang! There was no way of avoiding the collision. We ricocheted into the moored boat. The helmsman on nb Dipper, the moving boat, was shaken up and apologetic but he had been caught by his hood in the tree that was on the off-side. He was lucky not to be dangling over the drink! He showed us that his hat was floating in the water under the tree. We backed up,got the fishing net off the roof, retrieved the hat and re-united it with its owner.

We stopped for lunch just short of the locks and it started to rain just as we were ready to go on. We donned wet weather gear and decided to boat on.

At Hillmorton Lock No 3 we were met by a nice voluntary chap. He emptied down and opened the bottom gate for us with the bad news that only one side of the paired locks were operable and the good news that no boats had gone up since the last he'd helped through so all should be set for us. Our crew stepped forward and walked ahead to open up the next lock. However, as we nosed out of lock 3, the crew of nb 19th Hole scampered about to release their mooring lines from the lock landing bollards where they had been lunching and set off, very slowly, through the bridge hole of Bridge 71 ahead of us! Not even a "thank you" to our crew as they entered Lock 5. I had plenty of time to send my appraisal of the situation to "Narrowboat Moaners and Ranters" group on Facebook! By the time I was waiting for Lock 7, which they seemed to be doing very slowly with a bottom paddle left open, I had three comments agreeing with my view that this was very bad manners.

Still by now it had stopped raining!

We moored on the Visitor mooring above the lock.
                                                                                                     4 miles, 3 locks, 3 hours

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Missing Link

You may have noticed that we seem to have left out the bit from Polesworth to Hawkesbury.

We did do it!

Last Friday after The Best Mate's doctor's appointment we drove to Bedworth, near Bulkington Bridge 16. We then caught a bus to Nuneaton, changed to another to Atherstone and then once more to a third bus to Polesworth, arriving at about 2.30pm. We then boated to Atherstone Lock 9 where we moored overnight. We rose early and got under way at daybreak on Saturday to get up the flight before the volunteers had arrived at the top lock. We did not beat them and a volunteer operated the paddles on the top lock as part of his training for trip boat duty. The weather was kind but cold and the showers kept away. We took on water at the top lock. We stopped at Springwell Haven for a pump out and gas and ate on board as we moved. We arrived at Bedworth, Bulkington Bridge No 16 in the mid afternoon and went to shop for lunch as the chippy was closed. The Best Mate then got back on the boat and boated to Hawkesbury Junction. I drove there and put the car in the car park on Sutton Stop. We looked for a mooring but the only one available was opposite the Exhall Basin entrance where one is not supposed to moor. A phone call to a friend who lives locally confirmed the unlikelihood of any space in the residential basin and he offered the advice to move to the visitor moorings north of the lock.We backed the boat to the Junction, swept her around under the bridge and worked up the lock to moor just on the Visitor moorings.

We moored up and went to The Greyhound for a really lovely dinner.

On Sunday morning we were nicely placed to move the boat onto more secure piling and then drive to Jubilee Church Coventry where we met up with friends and our son who we usually have to lunch on Sundays. KFC was in order and we then took him home.

                                       18.1/2miles 12 locks  9.1/2 hours

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Hawkesbury To Newbold-on-Avon

Another "free day". After the opticians appointment that was! We drove (not easy as the A423 was closed at Marton and we had to divert via A45 and M6) up to Hawkesbury Junction. There we met our friend Stephen (who gave me a lift to leave the car at Hawkesbury on the way up to Fazeley) as he prepared to skipper nb The Hargreaves with a very valuable cargo on a charitable trip.  We  made SONFLOWER ready and set The Best Mate off at the Tiller with a scotch egg, apple and tortilla chips.

I returned to the car ate my scotch egg and drove to Ansty. We knew that the M6 was blocked as we had come past the queues on the opposite lane but Sheila the satnav wanted to take me that way. I refused and we wound our way through some estate roads of Coventry to the A46 and the Ansty interchange where we got onto the Ansty Main Road. I parked down a side turning opposite a layby that was marked "Bus Stop" which I thought would be handy for the return journey by bus. I walked down to the canal to wait.
Here is SONFLOWER arriving for our rendezvous.

I boarded her and took the tiller. I had told The Best Mate that Ansty was about half hour away from Hawkesbury. In fact it is about 1 hour and 25 minutes so she needed promptly relieving.

We then cruised to Newbold-on-Avon. Not without incident. At the second Ansty bridge a boat was coming toward me and did not give way even though we were part through the bridge hole. In fact we did not touch! I commented to him as we passed that he knew the local canal better than I did. I would never have attempted to get two boats through a bridge hole. We cruised ahead of a working boat for a long way. We were met by a hire boat as we were passing a moored boat just before the M6 bridge. Here the helmsman pulled over so far that he came to a stop on mud. The boat was still there when the working boat passed a few minutes later. He might still be there! We were fortunate to have the swing bridge at Stretton Stop opened for us. We met another working boat at a bridge on a bend and this time I hooted to say I was going through and the boat gave way amicably.

The best mate made bacon rolls for an afternoon snack and looked at Traveline on the phone while the bacon was grilling. She reported that if we get to Newbold before 5.00pm there is a bus at 5.08 that will get us back to Ansty. That would eliminate the need to rise early and get up early to get a bus at about 7.45 to get back to the car to get back to Banbury to meet our son for Wednesday lunch. The plan sounded good and time was almost on our side. Our rendezvous was at 1345 and trusty Nick said it would take 3 hour and 10 minutes to Newbold. We should arrive at the Tunnel south portal at 1650.

When we got there we noted a mooring but the towpath was very muddy. We went a little further but decided that the further we went the further we would have to walk. So I backed back to the mooring and we tied on to rings. Unfortunately the sloping sides of the canal here, lined with slabs of rock do not let the boat come right into the side so it was a small leap for man but a huge leap for the Best Mate to get off.

I remembered my walking stick was left on the back deck so took the spare from the cabin and disembarked. We walked to the bus stop, ostensibly 9 minutes away, and waited for the bus to arrive at 5.08. We were there, the bus came about 5 minutes later. We had a connection to make at somewhere we had never heard of: The Caludon Centre (Stop Wh) in Walsgrave. It turned out to be the University Hospital Bus Station. The connecting bus was thankfully late as well and we had about a five minute wait. The 74 bus took us to Ansty but did not stop at the expected bus stop but sailed past to The Rose and Castle so I had to walk (limp) back down the road to our car.

I drove home and The Best Mate said she was past it and went to bed.

I made myself a Spanish omelette.

                                                                 11.1/4 miles 0 locks 4.1/2 hours

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Fazeley Weekend

We have just had a lovely time in Fazeley at the BCF Weekend. Several boats were moored alongside Tolson's Mill and we had a great time in the St Paul's Church and church hall.  Worship, teaching, games, Barbeque, Treasure Hunt, entertainments including singing, poetry reading, dancing, folk music, whistling and humming together and much more. We joined St Paul's Church congregation for their service this morning and then went to The Fazeley Inn for a carvery lunch. All in all a busy and fruitful time together.

This afternoon we said our goodbyes and backed the boat under the Fazeley Watling Street Bridge to the Junction. Unfortunately we picked up a pair of long johns on the prop which would not spin off and  required mooring up and attention through the weed hatch. (Only the third time that I have had to get into the canal that way).

After that we had an uneventful cruise to moor on the mooring rings at Poleworth.
                                                                     5 miles, 2 locks,  3.1/2 hours

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Bedworth to Fazeley

Using public transport to get from a car parking spot to the boat can be tricky.  The first officer and I  left the car near our destination and then walked to The Square to catch a 110 bus to the station. We missed one because I was too slow and could not run so we got a 16a. That took us to the Bus Station which is nowhere near the train station and too far away for me to limp!  So we got a taxi to the station, caught up with news of friends from the taxi driver who recognized my BCF fleece and found we had just missed a train to Bedworth, The ticket man offered us a route via Birmingham but that took as long so we had a coffee/chocolate and waited for the train via Nuneaton. I noticed that he had given me return tickets rather than singles but they willingly refunded me the 20p extra that the returns had cost! I used the disabled loo. I needed it opened by the ticket office staff as I did not have my radar key, but that was no trouble, then they opened it again for me to retrieve the train tickets that I left in the loo by mistake! Getting to the platform involved two lifts and a 50m walk across a bridge. The train from Nuneaton was a single car. On arrival at Bedworth we checked bus times and decided I had time to hobble two stops: two thirds of a mile to Bulkington Bridge . I broke our journey at Bedworth Fish and Chip bar where we purchased pie and chips for our lunch at £3.60 per head. We got there ahead of the bus. The pie and chips were still hot.

We left the mooring at 12.30 in bright sunshine. The canal was quiet with only a fisherman to disturb by putting the prop in reverse to prevent a collision at a bridge hole. He was peeved that his ground bait might have been washed away. How else was I to stop the boat? Share the space! Seems to work only in one direction. I still think that canals were built for boats not fish, voles, otters or anglers who all came along to freeload on the back of boaters. As we progressed more canal users appeared on the scene. Walkers, dog walkers, joggers. But there were very few boats. Black clouds gathered overhead and it started to rain just as we arrived at Atherstone Top Lock. A boat was about to exit the lock our hearts leapt with joy. We put off filling with water to take advantage of our good fortune. To our surprise there was another crew on the lock too. A queue! All the boats were hear on the flight. We had a good road for 5 locks. Unfortunately the nine boats had not spread themselves out so we had a good road for nine locks. They had filled and come up to queue at the next lock. Why I will never know! This practice was so engrained that a crew emptied and re-filled lock 4 making us wait in the shortest pound. The helmsman was surprised to see our boat when the gates opened and signalled to me that he had nowhere to go. I could have told him that! I signaled him over to the lock landing.

We were hailed by the crew of nb Grampus from Banbury in darkness under under Bridge 43 and by Chris and Jenny the crew of nb Wren's Nest on their mooring below the Bottom Lock.

We worked the last six locks alone, pausing only to shelter from a deluge at lock 10.

At Bradley Green Bridge there was a sign under the arch advertising the Samuel Barlow pub and its facilities including meals all day. The sign had a large white arrow pointing the way we were heading. With hope of a hot dinner we cruised on in the rain. We made that our target. We didn't pass the Samuel Barlow before coming to Poleworth Moorings soaked by the  rain in semi-darkness and opposite The Bull pub. We moored on the piling by the bridge as all the rings were in use. We lit a fire, changed out of our wet gear, hung it up to dry and headed for the pub.

As we got off the boat a boater commented on the fact that we had lit a fire in September! "It's not for us", I said, "it's to dry our clothes, we are off to the pub" "That's all right then " he said. "the wife does not allow such softy behaviour." "I can hear you!" She chipped in. The Bull has an Indian restaurant upstairs and is a traditional local downstairs. On entering I asked the landlord if he was serving food. Not in the bar, he said, only upstairs. He poured a pint, from a choice of four real ales, and then showed us the way. Hence we mixed our pleasures and had real ale from the pub with curry upstairs, or should I say upsteps as the stepped pathway has every size and shape of step: high, low, long, short, sloping, flat, ridged and smooth and winding. Just right for a man with a dodgy knee!

Back at the boat we went straight to our bunks.                                   14 miles 11 locks 7 hours

We left the overnight mooring at 7am under a blue sky. The cruise to Fazeley was uneventful. The Samuel Barlow was not open for breakfast. The highlight was the discovery of the Bard of Glascote's work enshrined in brass beside Lock 13.
We watered at Fazeley and moored on piling just short of Tolson's Footbridge on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. We were back at the car and home in Banbury by lunchtime.

                                                                                                         6 miles 2 locks  3.1/2 hours

Monday, 4 September 2017

Rugby to Bedworth

Another window opened up at the weekend.

Contemplating the journey from where we are to where we wanted to be with all the other things that need our attention showed us that we could not do it without help.

I asked a friend who lives near Hawkesbury Junction whether he could get me from there back to my car in Rugby on Monday, sometime. No, that was not on as he had engagements on Monday but he was free Sunday afternoon to run me back if I left the car at Hawkesbury. A deal was struck and the operation began.

Sunday: Put chicken in the oven and par-boil the potatoes, load car with guitar, keyboard and bible; have a great time at church, playing for worship and doing the talky bit, drinking coffee and chatting to  a visitor who came for the first time having decided that God was interested in his life; go home and finish off a Sunday roast dinner with the best gravy the world has ever tasted; put stock on, take off and refrigerate; and deliver son back to his flat and drive to the Old Royal Oak, Hilmorton dropping The Best Mate and other son (first officer) to boat through the locks; drive to The Greyhound and park the car; rendezvous with friend who drops me at Bridge 66 opposite Clifton cruisers and leaves me talking to the Christian bookshop owners from Rugby under the bridge (lovely people); then back on board to boat to All Oak Corner to moor for the night as the sun sets!

Monday: pulled pins at 6.00am Boat to Hawkesbury Junction; I got in the car and drove to Bulkington Bridge 16 on the Coventry Canal while the crew boated there, having turned at Hawkesbury Junction watching a beautiful FMC Working boat make the turn the other way after letting SONFLOWER through the narrows by the engine house; 

moor at Bulkington Bridge on the Coventry cook and eat breakfast. Drive back to Banbury to find the gas ring (for the stock) left on; collect son from his work place and deliver home; think about next steps. 

We have done a few other jobs and cancelled our exercise session tomorrow morning to free us up a bot. Having considered the next steps the first officer and I will move the boat to Fazely tomorrow and Wednesday. Either we leave the car at Bedworth station and boat to Tamworth to return by train or we do it the other way round.   

Crazy isn't it?               18.5miles, 4 locks  8.5hours

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Quiet Days Away and Pubby Problems

We needed to get away from it all.

Organising a funeral is an exhausting business.

So to start our Bank Holiday Weekend Cruise I dropped my phone into the canal as I was casting off.
After half an hour of fishing with magnet and net, sieving mud we gave up and headed for Cropredy.
Apart from stopping to go to church in Coventry on Sunday and eating in The Brasenose Arms Cropredy and  The Wharfe Inn, Fenny Compton we pottered along and enjoyed every minute of it.

Monday was HOT! The Best Mate melted in her day bed and the Crew burned on the quarter deck. We had to cruise because we needed to meet a lift at The Old Royal Oak Hilmorton. Our chauffeuse was on the towpath to greet us as we arrived, very proud of having turned the right way down the path to meet us. (A landlubbers sense of direction and lost without a Garmin! Went the wrong way down the canal at the Wharfe the day before when meeting us for dinner.)

The Old Royal Oak lost our custom by telling us we would be waiting an hour before we got our food. The Cuttle Inn lost our Custom by telling us they wanted cash only. The Boat Inn almost lost our custom by serving only a hog roast or burgers at their Bank Holiday Cider Festival. But there again one has to eat!

I discovered that my contract had run out so I have a new phone "free". The Techie told me my magnet fishing was in vain because they are aluminum and if the magnet got near it it scrambles the insides anyway!

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