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.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Outward Bound - Car, Boat, Buses, Car

11 June 2018 We drove to Cape of Good Hope and parked in the side road there. There was now only one lonely boat on the Cape Visitor Moorings and at 1530ish we  reversed it to the water point to wash the "other" side of the boat. I was hoping that someone would ascend Cape locks and partner us up Hatton Flight. No such luck and we started the flight with hope in our hearts as the bottom lock was empty set for us. Sonflower eagerly entered and ascended. The second was full;  the third was empty and the fourth was full! How does that happen? After that the only assistance we had was crossing with an American hire crew from North Carolina with a baby in a pushchair. They wanted to leave two gates open as they were using the full width of the wide locks for their narrowboat! "Which gate do you want left open?" a crew member called across to me. "The one I'm standing beside", I said. Beside another lock an Australian grandfather was explaining to his granddaughter how the locks work. "How many turns of the windlass do you think we do on this flight?" I asked. She looked puzzled. I told her each paddle needed 21 or 22 turns to open and close it. That is over 1,800 turns on the flight. No wonder some boaters let the paddles drop on their own! Why are the last four locks of Hatton Flight so much harder than the others?

After the top lock the Best Mate was released from the tiller to get a meal prepared and I sought a mooring. We moored on pins, on the wrong sort of piling after White Bridge 61. Some hirers were enjoying a barbeque down the towpath and I tucked into a plate of Indian snacks  with Cumberland Pale Ale.    6 miles, 21 locks, 5.3/4hrs


12 June 2018 We pulled pins at 0630 after a good and peaceful night. No-one else was on the move but we saw a couple of dog walkers as we approached the Lapworth Junction.  Turning left toward Stratford was a completely new experience for us. We have passed Lapworth Junction numerous times and for various reasons refused the offer of  34 locks in 13miles. 


Now we were looking forward to it. A greyhound walker with much local knowledge told me about bottom gates that lean back and are hard to open, "like this one". I had no difficulty which left me full of confidence for the rest of the day.  With many locks close together and others not more than half a mile apart the biggest decision was whether to walk to the next one or get back on the boat. I walked most of the way and the Best Mate poodled along until we got to lock 33. Here a single handed continuously cruising journeyman was leaving the lock. He warned us that the pound after the akkiduck was very low and he with 24 inch draft was bumping along the bottom.

Sonflower stuck in the exit of the lock first and we let water down to flush her through. Then she stuck in the pound. No panic from the Best Mate. I let more water down until the pound above was about 6 inches below cill level on the bywash. I dare go no further as the akkiduck would have limited depth. We entered lock 35.

The next little problem was veg again.This time an uncleared fallen tree that blocked the towpath. Again, dog walkers to the rescue dragging it aside to allow some access to the next lock.


The real fun started at Lock 36 where there was a narrowboat stuck in the lock exit.

Here flushing through made no difference. Checking the bywash cill levels revealed plenty of water in the lower pound. The boat was a Tyler Wilson with a known 24inch draft. So what was the problem? We ummed and arhed and the following boat crew who are members of our cruising club joined in too.  Then it was decided that as the navigation was closed CRT should be informed.We were told a team was on its way and another was adjusting the levels I had reported amiss at lock 34/35! I got out the beer, glasses and waited.  Keith and two heavies arrived and they leaned knowledgeably on the gate and asked the skipper to reverse as we pulled the gate in the opposite direction. NB Escapologist immediately released. Keith then part closed the gate and went in with a large scoop on a long handle, scooping up shells and fresh water mussels. These accumulate behind the gate and prevent the bottom opening enough to let the boat through. The pinch was well below the water line and invisible to us.

The remainder of the cruise was uneventful and we arrived at a lovely mooring above Wootton Wowen Bridge to have a relaxing afternoon. I went for a short walk to the local farm shop while the Best Mate rested  her leg on the daybed and read a book.

We went to the  Navigation Inn on the recommendation of a local long term moorer. This is a really good value for money pub. Only 200 years of experience. I had a pint of Old Goat Ale, a CAMRA champion ale for 2017. It was nice and fruity. Other ales on offer were Eagle (available at my home local) and the ubiquitous Old Speckled Hen which is a bit strong for an evening meal accompaniment.

After a good nights sleep we walked to the Parish Church of St Peter and enjoyed a visit there before we boarded the bus to Stratford on Avon, then another bus to Warwick bus station where our third bus was waiting to take us to the Cape. We then drove back to Banbury well in time for our regular Wednesday lunch date with our ASD son.  7.5 miles, 17 locks, 8 hours                                          


Saturday, 9 June 2018

Outward Bound- Living Life on the Veg

4 June 2018 Cropredy to get us started. No photos and nothing much to report about this leg of our outward journey for the Summer. This was an afternoon trip. We set off at about 4pm. The sun shone most of the way and we finished with a nice meal in the Brazenose Arms before heading back to Banbury for domestic duties.       4.1 miles 3 locks, 2.25 hours.

6 June 2018  This was getting serious. We  got up early and drove to Cropredy where we left the car. Then slipped the mooring at 0615 and cruised in beautiful dry conditions to Fenny Compton Wharf. Getting into Cropredy lock was almost impossible in a 57 ft boat. One needs to line up and drive through a very overgrown thorn tree on entry. We went to the Wharf Inn and passed some time with the bar staff over a refillable Americano with milk. The boating had been uneventful, except for a need to give way at the "tunnel" where the veg has really taken over but we needed to make some progress and fulfill some responsibilities in Banbury. So we phone our favorite car company for a ride to get back to Cropredy. "There in 5 minutes!" the dispatcher informed us. How could this be? We are at least 20minutes form Banbury. But lo and behold the car came an disgorged two ladies who had just come form Banbury A & E> One was all plastered up having broken her wrist. We switched in Water chaplain mode, listened to the tale of woe that has shortened their holiday and prayed for complete healing. Then we got int he taxi and heard another tale of woe about the rigors of fasting during Ramadan in Summer from the driver.                                         6miles; 9 locks; 3.75hours

7 June 2018  Now we went for it. Most of you know that cars and boats do not mix bit sometimes it is necessary  to put a car ahead so that one can get somewhere else. This morning we drove to Fenny Compton and we boarded Sonflower to find that  the water pump was running and the water tank was empty. No particular problem, there is a very handy water point (or two) outside the Wharf Inn. So we mived a couple of boat lengths forward and the Best Mate stepped off the bowdeck of the boat, slipped on slimy wet towpath from the leaky tap and seriously cut and bruised her left shin.
Fenny Compton shin
I moored and examined the damage with thoughts of us making the journey to Banbury A & E. "No, I am alright" she insisted and sent me off in the car to Long Itchington. You see it was Thursday and we had discovered that there is a bus from Long Itchington to Banbury via Fenny Compton on Thursdays. It leaves the Long Itch Diner at 0910.     I duly parked the car out of the way and waited for the bus.  It was a very interesting journey. everybody seemed to know everyone else on the bis and one old chap passed toffees round to everybody including the driver.   It was a real lesson in community! Almost back to the village and the Best Mate Called. The water tank was full and there was a 70 ft boat wanting to use the water point and the winding hole. "I've only got a 20 minute walk, don't stress." I said.  When I got back the boat had decided to move on to the marina and all was calm. The Best Mate had dressed her leg and we were ready to go to Napton.  We lunched at Marston Doles and mused about the loveliness of the top level of this really rurally managed canal. The irises were out, dog roses of pink and white were a glory; the bull rushes were wearing their fluffy covers and the wild flowers were a picture when you could see them past the waist high grass, nettles, cow parsley and thistles. The off side veg is expected to be a little overgrown but the tow paths and lock- sides have had no attention at all. Maybe CRT have made a lucrative deal for the hay.

After lunch we descended the flight.There was a volunteer at  Marston Doles Lock No 16 clearing ivy from a shed wall. He  donned his life saving necklace and operated the off side bottom gate fro which I was grateful as a boat was coming up. We worked down all the other licks with them set against us, following a slow hire boat with four elderly boaters. At lock 9 we were caught in a heavy rain shower and were drenched to the skin before we knew it. When the rain stopped as quickly as it started a volunteer came and did the same for lock 8 as the one at the top lock. After all there was another boat coming in!

We pulled over onto the long term moorings as I had a small job to do for a boater we are assisting that needed a stilson. Unfortunately, my stilson was too small and my inquiries from the CRT Volunteer, who had not yet left because his keyless ignition did not recognise his non-key and the AA were making alternative arrangements in consultation with the manufacturer, informed me that there are no tools of any use about these days.

So all we could do was change our clothes and go to The Folly Inn for the best steak dinner available on the canal.   

After Dinner we toodled along the canal a bit and moored  in the beautiful evening light a little short of Napton Junction                                                                                     11miles, 9 locks , 10 hours

8 June 2018 Not such an early start today. We knew our target so no real pressure. We left our mooring at 0715and dawdled to Calcutt Locks passed the moored boats alongside the reservoir. An early starting hire crew on the "Warwick Ring in a Week" ticket had already worked the licks so we started with "a good road".

                                                         
Sonflower at Calcutt Lock 2
.
Wild Flowers Stockton Flight












 It did not last long as all the boats going our way were docking at Stockton Top Marina for change-over day.


Starting Stockton Lock Flight
We descended Stockton locks on our own until we crossed with at lock 9.
No help after that either as we were following two pairs of working boats! The wild flowers
were really nice and we met dog walkers and other local boaters enjoying the tow-paths.  But we achieved our aim.                                                                              4 miles, 13 locks, 3.3/4 hours


09 June 2018  Back to Long Itchington in the early morning. With some bricks to try to rectify a slight list to port. Today we wanted to get to Warwick to be ready to attack Hatton Flight next week. The veg situation did not improve and we were forced to enter a thicket of willow scrub to pass an oncoming boat. "Worse after the next lock" we were informed by the helmsman. Not after the next ine but a couple further in we could not actually ascertain whether any boats were wanting to come in as the sighting of the canal is totally blocked.
Canal "view" from Fosse Middle lock
I saw what he meant.

The tow path had been mown though!

A mid-day lunch break at The Moorings one of our favorite canal-side lunch venues was in sight.  We both enjoyed the fare and the pale ale from Wye Valley brewery was a delight. The Best Mate calmed herself with a Bombay Sapphire and Fevertree Mediterranean tonic.

That's what boating is about.

We topped off the day with a good mooring at Cape Visitor moorings and seamless bus journey back to Long Itchington and the car. The only drawback was that the Best Mate had forgotten her bus pass. A small price to pay for the wonders of a few days on the canal.       9.5 miles, 13 locks, 6.25 hours

Back in Banbury we had another G & T, put together a "what's in the fridge" curry and retired early.           




Saturday, 5 May 2018

Cropredy and Back

Not again. I know we have done it many times before but on a sunny spring morning, with only the one day open to us, a day trip was very necessary. We needed to blow the cobwebs off: quite literally.

We had a weather window of 10am to 4pm without rain. We used it all.

The cruise to Cropredy was uneventful save to say that we had a good road. At Cropredy a boat had just left the water point so we winded and pulled up to wash the boat. The boat washing rotating brush attachment blew off the hose and soaked me to the mirth of the Best Mate. We soon had it back under control and washed the roof and one side of the boat before another boat came and plead water tank desperation. We backed off the water point under the Cropredy Wharf Bridge 153 and moored to go for lunch. A nice boater had left a loop of rope for us to moor on as the rings have never fitted our length!

A short walk up to the Brazenose Arms was rewarded by Hooky Mild Ale and a spritzer followed by "Scampi Salad" and "Sausages and Mash". All scrumptious.

The back to make the return. This time the Best Mate tried out her day bed. We had a bad road and I was single handing Slat Mill Lock when a hire boat crew came up. I asked for assistance with the off side gate and leapt for the disappearing boat which was almost too far down for me to jump with my prosthetic knees. I made it!

At Boughton Lock the Best Mate appeared, having heard me call to the hire boat crew at Slat Mill and didn't want me to single hand again!

Uneventfully we returned and moored up just before 4pm. The boat is a little cleaner and a lot tidier.

But it didn't rain until 7!                                                                        7.3/4 miles, 6 locks, 4.1/2hrs

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Water!

Today was a lovely day and so I re-connected the water system and we went on our famous water run. We have done it so many times but it is never boring. This was the first time we have done it since I had my second knee replacement. There are a few things that I found different. Firstly, it was a bit more awkward than it used to be to step down into the engine bay to check the oil, water and greaser before we set off. But I managed it.

We met lots of boaters. Some we knew and jested about us actually being on the move! Others we had seen "somewhere before" but of course neither us or they could remember exactly when or where! Some were locals about local business. Even one delivering a spinning wheel to Tooley's boatyard. No idea what for!

There were non boaters too. The two lively boys with her mother beside herself and the lock. As I came into the lock one told me "You're going to disappear".
"What, miss the pier!"
"No DISAPPEAR"
"Piff! paff! pooF! I'm still here!"
As I went down with the boat I told them that it was only 6 feet down so they would still see my head above the parapet. They laughed.  Back at the mooring where we passed a nice few minutes with a father and daughter who had just moved to the area. She was "doing the canal" at school. She watched me as I lengthened a chain to make mooring easier. With two prosthetic knees now I cannot kneel to reach below the pile cap level to thread a rope through the loop on my mooring chain. I have now added another length of chain.

2miles, 2 locks, 2 lift bridges, 2 hours





Monday, 19 February 2018

Anomallies!

After two full trickle charges and drop tests, and a further full charge the batteries have been given a clean bill of health.

A connecting cable between two of the leisure batteries and the third was found to be of inadequate cross-section and replaced.

The battery selector/isolator switch was found to be incorrectly wired and not isolating anything!

All systems have been checked and SONFLOWER has been returned to her mooring for the remainder of the winter.

Thank you again John and  Tooley's Boatyard


Monday, 29 January 2018

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Dead in the Water

SONFLOWER lies on her mooring forlorn and cold. We visited her today but there isn't a glimmer of life, not a sense of purpose, no heart, no soul. She is cold in the wintry breeze, the sky blackening with oncoming rain. Her cratch cover is taught with the tension of the bungee ties. She will withstand anything that the weather sends against her.

Inside she is dry. The de-humidifier is doing its job and the catchment tray has been emptied. The bilge is ventilated and, for the first winter I can remember, is dry too. There is no gas to supply for the fridge but who needs a fridge when the temperatures are below 5 degrees?

There are no blinking lights on the PV charging panel: there is nothing to charge! That is the central reason why she is dead in the water: The batteries have been removed.

So we could not run the engine.

We could not heat any water.

We could not light the fridge.

We could get my painting bag, though, and I am going to be busy doing some artwork in the next week.

We loved seeing her. Being in her. Feeling the rock and balance. She will survive. Spring will come and the engine will roar. Batteries will charge and lights will shine.

But, for now, SONFLOWER is dead in the water.