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.

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.

Friday, 30 August 2019


Tuesday 27th August 2019 1600h
We have finally moved off the mooring and headed north toward the wonders of the BCN.

The first stop on any cruise up the South Oxford from Banbury has to be at Cropredy and this time was no exception. We made good headway and met quite a few boats on the way. We were followed by an Oxford hire crew who were enjoying the wonderful sunshine and showers and then came up behind NB The Lucky Duck with a very novice crew who were having difficulty with handling the craft on tickover! They rattled into Boughton Lock ahead of us and we advised them how to avoid being thrown forward inthe lock by the incoming water from the ground paddles. It always amazes me how little people tell their crews when they lend them their boat! This crew really were learning on the job the hard way. They let us pass just after the lock bridge and before Slat Mill. We moored on the 14 day moorings behind NB So Long that had single handed up from Banbury and we had helped through Slat Mill lock. We moored at 1830 and prepared to have dinner at the Brazenose Arms.
                                                                                        3 locks, 4 miles, 2.1/2hrs

Wednesday 28th August 2019

We had a meeting this morning so moved forward toward the Winding hole. We entertained a friend to a late breakfast between 1130 and 1230 and then started on our way again. There were quite a few boats on the move: The Lucky Duck, the Oxfordshire Hire boat and NB So Long had all passed us and we had to queue at Cropredy behind Napton boats. Here we discovered the holes in the bank behind the piling by almost falling into them. I reported them as dangerous. At Broadmoor lock a heavy shower interrupted our cruise and we sheltered for about half an hour or more before going on. We joined queues again at Claydon Middle lock and eventually cleared the locks at about 1630. Not the quickest of journeys. Our youngest crew member decided to walk to The Wharf and took photos of the holes that abound between Claydon Locks and Fenny Compton. Other indications that the canal is not as well mantained as it used to be were the crumbling bank stonework and the broken cill protection beams at two of the locks.

The lock beams at Claydon Locks all bear a blue sign detailing the water saving code and ask that we report all leaks. Well CRT all the lock gates are leaking. The local CRT manager is Mr Lee King so we can expect little else! Much of the paddle gear is also stiff to operate and needs more grease. Off side veg could do with a really good cutting back this coming winter or visibility problems will abound next year. There are quite a few intrusive hawthorns and willows on the off side and trees self seeding on the near side.

We moored tightly on visitor moorings (///reactions.tribes.needed ) and went to The Wharf for a lovely dinner. Chilli, steak and ale pie and a full rack of ribs satisfied our need.

We had pre-prepared for this by leaving the car at The Pub so we went back to the flat.

The first leg to the BCN completed:                                  9 locks, 9 miles, 4.1/2 hours

Friday 30 August 2019

Had to move off 48 hour moorings so progressed forward to the Water Point outside the Wharf  Inn and filled the tank up.
Then through the bridges  to moor on the first ring of the 14 day moorings. ///polka.performs.tangling
                                                                                        1/2 mile      1/2hr
Here she will stay until we navigate the top level to Marston Doles next week and thence down Napton Flight.We have to arrive in Napton on the Hill, somewhere near the marina to get to The KIng's Head to catch the 9.22 am bus back to Fenny Compton. It only runs on Thursdays.

Monday, 6 May 2019

2019 is here!

It is now May! 2019 has already been eventfukl for SONFLOWER.

She has been blacked! That wewas at the end of March. Of course we went into Tooley's Boatyard dry dock and let them do all the dirty work.  They gave her hull a briliant wash down and removed some wild life: fresh water sponges who were hitching a ride. 4 days later she came out looking good and protected with another pair of anodes to replace worn out ones.

She has also had a new starter battery. They never seem to last as ling as I expect and this winter it has been hard to keep it fully charged. Our boat mechanic thinks that there is a drain on the batterey system that is beating the solar panel in the winter time.

We have done a couple of day trips since returning form our big cruise on the Rhine/Rhine Danube Canal and Danube in April.

Cropredy and back on Easter Bank Holiday when the sun shone and we enjoyed the fresh air.
                                                                                                                  7.5 miles, 6 locks, 6 hours

And today we went to The Pig Place at Nell Bridge. We bought some pork for dinner on Thirsday and had a wild boar hotdog with inions in a soft bap and a drink at their open air bar and cafe. They are serving local beers and cider now.  We waved to nb Barocha as they passed on their way to Emslow. Back on board we meandered back and stopped for a cupper at Grants lock. Here we were hit by a craft exiting the lock at speed having left it with gate and both top paddles open. The Best Mate says he did say "sorry". We passed the speeding craft moored by Bodicote footbridge later in the day. Ony abot a mile further on! Why the hurry?

We moored between Foxe's and Haynes lift bridges for dinner: a tapas type delight with the Best Mate's foccacia garlicked up a bit with chorizo and mushrooms on top.And on top of mine I had a huevo rojo. (fresh free range new laid from the Pig Place).

Then back to home mooring before sunset.                       11.75 miles, 6 locks,  2LB, 10 hours

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Winter is a coming!

The second weekend in October brought cold winds and rain. SONFLOWER sheltered under Tom Rolt Bridge for Banbury Canal Day which was a washout. Not quite such a washout was the concurrent Banbury Folk Festival which took cover in General Foods club and provided lively folk performances with the advantages of dry surroundings and good beer.

Upstairs Fairport Convention was the star Act on Saturday night and they were very ably supported on Friday by Tradaarr and on Sunday by The Gerry Colvin band. There was also better beer with Hook Norton Brewery's "Old Hooky" on offer.

After removing the banner and bunting on Sunday evening the wind settled down a bit and the rain abated to a drizzle. So two hours of Monday morning were spent returning Sonflower to her home mooring via Calthorpe Winding Hole. I hope no-one was looking because I really fouled up the turn and stemmed SONFLOWER on the far side of the Winding hole. No damage done I returned to home mooring without incident.

Most of the boats from Canal Day were on the move including a volunteer crew on the CRT workboat that had dragged the town centre length of the canal and exhibited the bikes and trolleys pulled out this year. I did not have to operate the lift bridge in either direction and had help at the lock both ways too.

Now it is time for an engine service, Autumn touch up and winterisation.
                                                                                                 2miles, 2 locks, 2LB, 2 hours