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.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

No smoke without FIRE!

 Mayday! May Day! We should be boating of course today. We decided to head for Cropredy just for the fun of it. On arrival at the boat it was still very cold so I decided that a fire was in order. One needs a nice fire in the boat to warm oneself up in a very chill factor 10 or 11 degrees. When the sun was out it felt a bit warmer but the air temperature remained cold. So a fire was set. 

My Villager Puffin has just had a new glass fitted to the door which looks very smart with a new white rope seal around the outside. However the seal leaked and the boat soon started filling with smoke. All windows and doors were opened, the houdini and swan hatches  were opened wide but the boat filled up very quickly. The best mate evacuated and I started removeing sticks from the fire and throwing them through the swan hatch into the canal. It took about ten minutes for the fire to die down to smouldering embers and a lot longer for the smoke to clear.

We decided that a cruise was not on without a fire and turned at the winding hole to return the fire door to the boatyard. Being wonderfully accommodating they fitted a thicker seal while I waited. The door could not be re-fitted immediately as the glue needed an hour to set fully. We moved on throught he lock to Tramway. Passage through the lock was delayed becasue the boat ahead of us, which will not be named by us, had a crew member who only opened one bottom gate paddle "because it empties so fast". . .not! The Best Mate offered to wind the paddle gear up for her but her blunt refusal to use a second paddle led TBM to withdraw and wait. When we got to Tramway LT Moorings the said boat was occupying the Calthorpe winding hole. And it was occupying it for a long time. I stood to and waited for a while then decided to pull into a vacant mooring space and we had lunch. 

After lunch the fire was out and cool. We decided to inspect the flue to see whether the state of it was the reason for the smokyness of the fire. It was not that clean so I decided to pull a rag through it to remove some soot. This did not do much so The Best Mate suggested the hearth brush. The handle had a hole in it so I could attach the rope. I inserted it and promptly got it stuck, just inside the flue. The stiff brush bristle bundles were pointing rearward so I could not budge it to bring it back up. I tried hard bit was defeated. Fortunately I carry length a 1" heavy wall galvanised piping for difficult occasions. Applying this weightily behind the brush and The Best Mate pulling down on the rope moved it through OK and brought a bit of soot out with it. The Best Mate then came up with the idea of a  shower scrunchy. That was attached to the rope and worked a treat.

Our flue cleaned and the fire cleared, I re-fitted the stove door with a lit lantern torch inside the fire. We could see light through the seal! So still no working stove.

We moved on, turned without any problem and returned toward Banbury lock metting Maffi's boat a the Town Wharf (ex lift bridge) narrows. Thence to the lock. We locked through without any problem and entered the pool to find an Oxford Hire Boat and our friends on Nook and Cranny. We left the lock gates open for the  hire boat to crash into the lock, and  chatted with our friends. I lowered the lift bridge after Sonflower as Matt emerged from Tooley's, after locking up for the day. I told him about the light I could see and he told me he would order some thicker rope seal. Great service.

We returned to home mooring, surprisingly tired. We are out of practice at this boating thing                                                                                                    2 Miles, 2 Locks, 2 lift Bridges 5 hours

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Into Dock


SONFLOWER went into Tooley's Dock this afternoon. The water will be drained tomorrow morning. She will be jet washed ready for the quadrenniel survey and routine bienniel hull blacking. The survey will be undertaken on Friday and any work arising form that will be undertaken over the weekend. Strictly speaking the survey is only required by the insurance company every five years but as the blacking is every two, it is expedient to do them together.                                          1/2mile    3/4/hour

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Water IN the boat again!


When we winterised the boat we removed the new water pump and in doing so discovered that there was an inch of water in the cabin bilge. The water pump is approximately midships and there was no evidence of water at the aft end of the bilge where I have an inspection hatch. I tried using a small bilge pump to remove the water but had little success. I decided the best way was to use the aquavac. Unfortunately we only have a 750W inverter and the aquavac is rated at 1100W.

I approached the nice people at Tooley's Boatyard to see if I could avail myself of their 240v electricity and they said that would be ok. They were chocker block with boats and work queuing back down Castle Quay so they said they would contact me when there was a space. That call came on Friday and told me I could moor across the dock on Monday. "There will be someone hear to sort out the leads".  I said I would be there at about 10am.

So I got to the boat and reversed SONFLOWER down to Tooley's Yard. I reversed because I wanted the port side to be against the dock so that I could heel SONFLOWER over a bit and get the  bilge water to flow to where I could access the bilge with the vacuum tube. It was a beautiful but cold morning. Because of lockdown there had been no boat movements and the canal was placid and calm. Ideal conditions to reverse a narrowboat passed 40 moored narrowboats on a narrow canal! Fortunately 15 of them are on the finger moorings of Sovereign wharf. I could still feel the "what on earth is he doing" stares of some off the moorers on my 70 ft passage past them.  When I arrived and moored up I found the gate locked up. A ring of the bell eventually stirred James the blacksmith to come to the gate. He was on his own, in the middle of something and did not know I was coming even thought it was his wife who had called me on Friday telling me John would be there. John had been called out on a breakdown. Plans were not looking good. James informed me all the extension leads were being used in the dock. Could I leave him for an hour and he would look for the special adapter that he knew existed that would convert the blue Commando CEE form plug system to the square pin 13A plug system that is used by the aquavac. I agreed

At this point I discovered that I had left the solid vacuum tubes for the vac in my car, back at the mooring. I used the hour to walk back home to divert Alex, who said he might help, and thence to the Canada Close car Park where I retrieved the tubes and walked back down the two path to return to Tooley's yard. Access to the part of Castle Quay at the back of Tooley's is restricted by the Castle Quay construction work so I had to swing myself out over the canal past the construction fence that is blocking the access at the access under Tom Rolt Bridge. 

On return, the adapter had been found and an extension had been provided to the back deck of SONFLOWER, I was in business. I pulled the mooring ropes tight and doubled one up, inserting a mooring pin between the two leads and twisted the ropes together as a turnbuckle to heel Sonflower over to the port side. I soon had removed two bucketfuls of water from the bilge but noticed that as soon as the slight depression on the rusty bottom plate was emptied that it refilled from both fore and aft directions. I went aft to investigate. There is another entry to the bilge beneath the port bunk, just forward of a disused poo tank. I removed the bedding and mattress and lifted the bed frame to get access. I then got to work on this deeper accumulation of water! 

By this time it was lunchtime. I gained access once more from James to the boatyard and asked for permission to go through to Castle Quay in search of some takeaway food. Not as easy to find on a Monday during lockdown as it initially seemed as the bakery and wholefood shop in Lock 29 were closed. I settle on a Philadelphia kebab from Mr Saulvivki's stall. I then walked back to Tooley's to find that the padlock on the gate had been snapped shut. No bell at this end! So I walked back through Castle Quay, round the multi story car park across the road to the Compton Road Car Park and back under Tom Rolt Bridge, swinging out over the canal round the fence once more and down the towpath to the back of Tooley's. As I passed another customer, liveaboards who are having an engine change, he asked why I was coming from that direction. I said the padlocks had been latched. Sorry he said, that was him when they returned form shopping. Do I want a cup of tea? Yes please I said and spent a nice time with him over a cuppa!

John returned from the breakdown, a serious engine failure nearby.  He enquired how thigs wer with the boat. I told him there was water everywhere including to much coming throughthe stern tube gland! I said that the gland was installed 90 degrees out so I could not reach the bottom gland nut! He told me he had done that because the gland housing thread to the stern tube would not tighten enoughto stop eakage when the stern gear was changed! He told me he would adjust it while I was here. Another job out out of the way. In chatting too he asked why I was running the engine while moored. I told him the solar panel was not keepoing up withthe charge required. He said he would incestigate the drain on the batteries as they wer nearly new and he had checked them in the Summer. Another job for Spring time.

Then back to the water which had drained down and re-filled the rusty depression in the baseplate. I removed as much as I could, about half a bucket more and called it a day. Leaving the hatches open and the bunk in disarray for another day I took the extension leads and adapter back to James, telling him that I would need to return another day.

So, I let go and returned to hime mooring. As I was positioning the boat to moor up, I was engaged in conversation by the owner of nb Black Velvet who had seen me reverse past in the morning and noticed that the boat was still pointing the same way. He was very complimentary about boatmanship and told me he would never be that brave! I told him that I had a particular reason, conditions in the norning were particularly kind and that I would not try it in a wind. It was good to get to know him as he was a new continuous cruiser who had stopped where it was most convenient for the month of lockdown2.

Of course that was not the end of my boating day. Because I am now getting old and my memory is not too good I had to return later in the evening to close and lock the swan hatch and look for my mobile phone!

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Silencers and stuff

 A boat needs to be kept in good condition. This goes without saying but there are soe things that we do not examine often enough. The engine exhaust just goes out the back and disappears into the ether. Until the pipework of indeterminate age, but over 17 years, breaks and the exhaust goes into the engine bay and blackens everything in carbon!

We allowed friend to take the boat out for a few days. Of course we had an obligatory "water cruise" before the main event to familiarise the skipper to be with Sonflower and her foibles. One thing that puzzled me before that cruise was why the water tank was completely empty and the leisure battery was almost completely empty too. We decided to fill the tank, run the engine for a few hours and charge up the battery. Our friend, who has crewed for us before, could skipper the whole way. So, through the lift bridge and mooring at the water point. Taking on water, navigating down the lock, through narrows, round a bend under a bridge, winding the boat, navigating up through the lock and lift bridge to moor back on home mooring.  A succesfull four hour cruise and all seemed ok.   They went to Cropredy without incident. But on the return trip, three locks from home we received a phone call to say that the engine tone had changed and there was smoke coming form the engine bay. All indications were normal but the water level in the Cropredy pund was very low. I thought the boat may be labouring in the shallow water so I told her to slowly cruise back to home mooring where I met her and discovered the broken exhaust.

Last Friday I took Sonflower down to Tooley's Botyard where John could work on her and fit a new exhaust system. Unfortunately her engine bay is too cramped to upgrade to a hospital silencer so we have a new system of conventional variety.

This Friday we took her away from Tooley's and on a little trip down to Nell Bridge and back. When we got on her and turned on the battery isolator switch the water pump started running. There were no taps open so I had visions of a bilge full of water. However the bilge was dry as a bone. The engine bay bilge pup started and doischarged clean water into the canal. I opened the engine bay to check the stern gland and the greaser and found that there was no undue leakage formt eh sdern gland but there was a discharge from the clorifier releif valve which discharges into the engine bay bilge. We had found the reason for the empty water tank anmd the low batteries! Unfortunately exercising the relief valve to clear grot from the seat did not reseat it so we turned the water pump off except when we needed to fill a bowl or the kettle and filled eight litres of empty coke bottles with water for our drinking needs.

Nell Bridge and back went fine and brought the battery voltage back to 12v. Our only "problem" was very heavy showers that soaked us to the skin on the way back at Kings Sutton lock where there was a queue of three boats. It rained. We left Sonflower in town under Tom Rolt Bridge because it was tipping it down and took her back to home mooring 36 hours later to wait for more attention to the calorifier relief valve. 

                              Since last blog post:

 Water Run    2 LB, 2 Locks, 2 miles; 

 Cropredy and back  9m, 6 locks,   

 Nell Bridge and back  10m,  6 locks 2 LB                                                          12 hours total

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Because we have to

Monday 13th July 2020 We must get away. Lockdown is taking a toll on land so we slipped off the home mooring at 2 this afternoon and headed south to Samuelson Bridge and the supermarket. The essentials were bought and loaded: eggs, bacon, ham, cheese and yoghourt. We had already checked the ballast on the boat so knew we had wine, beer and whisky.
Then to Tramway to wind and return. There was a queue at the lock. It had already been reported that there were hire boats everywhere today. After our wait we moored outside GF to wait for The Best Mate. Dinner of bigos  and homemade bread was served and we opened a bottle of Fleurie.
We the headed out of town to discover a nap tonight hireboat was on our mooring. They denied knowledge of the long term permit holders only sign, said they had only stopped to go to a pharmacy and were moving on anyway. What? At 6.45 pm? I gave them permission to moor overnight, but not CRT’s, and told them we were getting out of town.

A short hold up occurred just past the Hennef Way bridge as Titanic II was trying to turn where there is no winding hole (actually Shakespear Boat, Titania II). I directed the skipper throughthe bris=dge to where the turning place actually is before they were too firmly wedged in the silt.

I relaxed on the way past the plot for sale by Malcolm and Dink’s cottage. But the £120k price tag and no building consent is an immediate off putter.

So through rain, Hardwick and Boughton Locks to an overnight mooring below Slat Mill Lock. UNO and Yahtzee accompanied by single malt completed an interesting trip.
                                                      4 locks, 2 lift bridges, 4 miles, 4 hours on the move.

Tuesday 14th July 2020.

After a lay in this morning we let go our overnight mooring at 0900 and advanced at Slat Mill lock.

We actually had the help of a boat coming down and then continued in cloudy but warm conditions to pootle along to the winding hole at Cropredy Wharf. A neat turn and we reversed through the bridge to moor adjacent to Bridge Stores. We shopped for bread and coffee, the two necessities, and then breakfasted on bacon eggs and mushrooms.

We entertained two close friends on board at social distance for coffee and chatter. It was great to see them for the first time in lockdown apart from a difficult attempt to connect by "Zoom". It is difficult for villagers with limited signal and computer skills to get connected.

I did a bit of sketching at Cropredy lock. It was very busy

After a lunch on board we set off back to Banbury, making the home mooring at 1545. I was concerned by every Napton Boat that came toward me inm case we came face to face with the errant moorer of yesterday. There were many hirers out but that boat was not to be seen.

                                                                 4 miles, four locks 4 hours.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Beautiful days of Boating

Friday 13 September 2019: Crew: Captain Eeyore, Best Mate and Soopercrew

We are free and we set off with two cars. One left at Hawkesbury Junction, our target, and then one back to Braunston. The crew boarded and we let go imediately. The Best Mate busied herself restocking and rearranging and Soopercrew took the tiller to navigate north to Hillmorton Locks. These are manned by enthusiastic volunteers but no sign of them at the top lock. It was set for us and we had a good passage to the bottom. The locks need a lot of tlc and red and white tape abounds effectively turning the double locks into a single flight.

We were on a mission to try and make contact with a boater here. Enquiries at the Café revealed that the boat had already moved south. We let colleagues in Braunston know.

After the locks there was nothing to do except continue to cruise along the straightened N Oxford toward sunset. It was a lovely afternoon and we moored just after sunset at All Oaks Corner. Here we enjoyed a meal aboard and  a traditional game of UNO.

Saturday 14th September 2019
We let go at dawn. A lovely one too. Another wonderful September day. Our target was soon met and the smoke alarm indicated that breakfast was cooked as The best mate navigated through Sutton Stop and handed to the Skipper  for the turn. We moored on the Coventry Canal water point,   replenished and ate a hearty breakfast.

Here we hatched a plan. The girls would navigate to Atherstone Top lock while I drove to Atherstone and whiled away some time sketching.

In the event I left my wallet on the boat, could not buy a refill  of ink and spent the time as a waterways chaplain helping an injured boater up and a single hander down then helping a few hirers, chatting to passing boaters and CRT volunteers.

Time passed quickly and Sonflower caught me up. We went strait down the first five to s mooring just passed the A5 Bridge. Sadly it was signed 48 hours.

We concluded a wonderful couple of days boating with a beautiful bean balti, prepared by the Best Mate.

Sunday 15th Seotemebr 2019   Crew: Captain Eeyore and Youngest Son

The 48 hour was a problem. We have a very busy week. So we drove back to Atherstone this afternoon and navigated the six locks to complete the flight. A dove took a lift some of the way!
Here he is at Lock 9. 

We moored at Bradley Green Bridge 48 opposite the services. Pumping out is the next thing to look forward to!
36 miles, and 15 locks     17.1/2 hours over three days    ///shudders.linked.year

We walked back to Atherestone town centre in glorious evening sunshine. We talked for a time to the skipper og narrowboat Sir T Fiable, who I had helped down the locks the day before. He is struggling to keep his drive shaft coupling tight and we discussed various possible bodges to get him through to the Spring when he is booked in for blacking. He said taking the boat out of teh water just to replace the prop shaft was far too expensive and he would do the two at teh same time. The probable solution is shimming under the coupling clamp with a split piece of rotary drier stand. Needs must!

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Sunshine and showers

3-4 September 2019 Crew: Captain and Best Mate, Sooper Crew and  youngest son

Ideal boating weather.

On top level of the Oxford there was a breeze. When the canal runs north west it is behind us when the canal runs north east it is across us and when we are turning from one to the other it is anywhere it likes. And the top level of the Oxford Canal is a serpentine waterway with many twists and turns to confuse the navigational mind. It can make staying in the middle a bit tricky and approaching bridges on bends interesting when others are coming toward you. For most of the way the towpath is backed by a very high hedge. Possibly over 12 feet in places and this shields the canal form teh wind wuite effectively where it is windward.

As we ar effectively heading north the sun does not affect vision this way but it certainly effects the vision of those coming toward us!

We enjoyed the boating. First a couple of hours in the evening to moor at Stoneton Farm. No cows in the byre at this juncture and it looks like thay have ceased using sillage pits in favour of plastic bales so the smell of sillage is not there either making this stop more pleasant than usual.

The second day we started at sunrise and had a very gentle and pleasnt criuse to Marston Doles where the water was hot and replenishment available after our showers. We took breakfast here. CRT had adjusted water levels and were walking back down the flight as we started off. We had the aid of a few boats coming up and made good progress to the bottom without undue effort or any delay or mishap. The crew of a  tug, on hire from a Rugby company, were concerned by the level in one pound but CRT were on hand to let some water down to give tham more confidence. A volunteer told us this was his last week of the season. See you next year!

We deposited refuse and then continued to a lunch spot at Shuckborough,  Jacksons Bridge 104. Here we hoped to view the church which is nearby but it was locked. Such a shame. We re-boarded and boated on to moor on 14 day moorings just around Brauston Turn. ///chats.spillage.fell

                                                                                   16miles   9 locks 7hours

Dinner was taken at The Boat House, a Marstons House.