About Me

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

Monday, 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

Holes

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


Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Fazeley to Home Mooring

It is only 5 days cruising to get from Fazeley Junction on the Coventry Canal to Marsh Footbridge 163 on the South Oxford Canal. But for us this season it took us 16 days!


Fazeley To Bedworth,


We left immediately after the Boaters Christian Fellowship Weekend at St Paul's Fazeley making a short detour to the Fazeley Mill Marina for a necessary pump out. We turned at the Junction. By emerging from the Watling Street bridge we totally confused a hire crew who were hoping to pull into the already occupied water point opposite the junction. I made the turn and they stemmed their boat under the  Junction Bridge 77. We managed to get behind them and disappear back into Watling Street bridge. Pump out was easy. The lady of the Marina helping with a token for the machine and with operating the equipment.


So off to Watling Street Bridge again and a simple turn at the junction and uneventful cruise to Polesworth where we got the last space on the visitor moorings. The Best Mate and SueperCrew knocked up a meal. We were still full from Sunday Carvery dinner at the Fazeley Inn so a small meal was in order.


The next day we started early and headed for Atherstone Locks. Here we met our BCF colleague Who volunteers there. He advised us to get in touch with another memebr who has a moring near Bulkington Lane Bridge 14 in Bedworth. We di call but he was away. I left the boat in the hands of the Best Mate at Nuneaton and got a buses back to Fazeley where we had left SueperCrew's car. I drove it to Bulkington Lane and met them just after they had moored up in a lovely spot, a quarter of a mile from the bridge.


                                          20 miles 13 locks 11.5 hours




(Over the previous weekend I had heard from my sister that my aunt was seriously ill in Liverpool. I made a trip up there on Tuesday so our cruise was interrupted.)


Bedworth to Newbold-on Avon (single handed as The Best Mate is not well)






We  had friends staying with us for a week. We have known them since 1980 so we can ask a favour every now and then. They were going up to Leicester for the day so as Bedworth and Newbold are "on the way". I schemed that this little cruise could be done while they were visiting! They dropped me in Bedworth at about 10.15. A short walk to the boat and then prepared her to go.


I had a lttle problem engaging forward drive so checked the ATF level in the gearbox and put a bit more in just in case. I dribbled sme doen into the engine bay so had to mop it up with a rag held in a litter picker. The litter picker broke and the rag dropped into the bilge. A repair of the litter picker was effected and I used iot to retrieve the rag, mop up the spill and try the drive again. A little more success and we were on our way!


The remainder of the cruise was uneventful. I had the help of a volunteer at Sutton Stop lock and just drove on from there.


I even had time for a pint of Purity Pale Ale in the Barley Mow before my friends arrived to take nme home


14 miles, 1 lock, 5 hours


Newbold-on Avon to Hillmorton Top Lock Visitor Mooring


Two friends came with me to Hillmorton in the car and then by Bus to Newbold. We bought fish and chips at Fishsmiths on the High Street. It was excellent. Mini fish and chips was plenty for us. Then we cruised for a little over three hours. One of my crew had never been on my boat when moving so that was a first and the other had never driven into a lock so I gave him his debut too!  There were two CRT volunteers at Hillmorton Locks so we had help here too.


                                                     4 miles, 3 locks, 3.5 hours


Hillmorton to Spice Ball Park Moorings, S Oxford Canal 

Our friends left on Sunday after lunch. The Best Mate was still feeling unwell and we needed teh boat back to Banbury for Canal Day next weekend!


I took the difficult decision to go and do it alone. I drove to Hillmorton and stocked up with steak pie and beer at the Co-op. Single handing can be difficult for eating and sustenance that is easily consumed at the tiller is essential.


I cruised until dark on Sunday evening almist getting to Bridge 80 on the North Oxford. The next morning (Monday) I left at 0600 as first light showed in order to get to Napton when the licks opened. I thought that was 0900h. Wrong! 10.00am and there was a boat already ahead of me when I got to the Sanitary station. I cut some kindling while I waited.   The later start up Napton locks meant that achieving Claydon locks the same day was impossible as they closed at 3pm. Another delay occurred when my centre rope flipped a windlass into the cut just before lock 10. 20 minutes of magnet fishing later I had lost my place to another boat. There was no hurry so I stopped at the top lock moorings and had lunch and re-filled the stern gland greaser.


I achieved Fenny Compton Wharf moorings to find a shiny 50 foot boat in the middle of a 120ft mooring. They were just starting to eat dinner so I told them not to bother moving and backed through Bridges 137 and 137A to a mooring a couple of boats back on the 14 days. Steak and Ale pie and Otter Pale Ale called from the Wharf Inn. 

There was also some good conversation with the crew of Corinthian  heading for Cropredy Marina. They were interested in where I moored "on-line" as this was a cheaper option that they had not considered.


Early in the morning I filled with water beside the Inn and then cruised very slowly to Claydon Locks. Here I was second in the queue again. The first boat up Napton the previous day had missed the closure by 15 minutes. To do that he must have been motoring! Nick says it should take 6.5 hours so they made up an hour on that time! The boat name was Sloe Roaming! Nothing Slow there. He had a reason for his haste. His crew was a teacher due in class in Basingstoke the next morning. They needed to get her to a station. Banbury was the target. I edged past the boat and nestled against the lock entry to repair my button chain. A shackle had sheared apart. I then returned to my olkace in the queue. There was a boat moored on the lock landing. No evidence of life apart from empty wine and spirit bottles. I guess he was "sleeping it off."


So onward and downward filling the first two locks but having a boat come up the third. The fourth Claydon lock was set against me with the bottim gates left open for an approaching craft. However, the craft was not approaching! It was Dusty the coal boat who was filling a boat with diesel between locks. I phoned them to ask if they would be long. "That depends on whether he has an hole in his tank" came the reply. I closed the gates, filled the lock, worked down and was in time to moor behind the now replenished craft for my turn to be filled! 136 litres of diesel and two bags of coal later I was on my way again.


Just after Broadmoor lock I was waved down by a good friend who came aboard to help me through Criopredy lock. She was heading for Banbury Library to do some research and had asked if she could use a parking space at our place. No problem as I was out boating. So she came to give me a helping hand.


I passed Sloe Roaming again on Cropredy 14 day moorings. They stopped for lunch! Such luxury.  They caught me up at Bourton Lock and then came past me as I moored up at Home Mooring.


All that I needed to do was get two buses (or as it turned out a bus and a taxi) back to Hillmorton to collect my car.


33.5 miles,  21 locks 17 hours

Monday, 10 September 2018

Birmingham to Fazeley

We actually traveled the length of the Birmingham and Fazeley canal over two days last week. We went up to Fazeley by car and into Birmingham by bus on Thursday evening. Getting off in Broad Street at dinner time meant an almost obligatory visit to Barajee, our favorite Brum curry house. We finished the meal this time!  We then had an evening chat with our next door neighbours on NB Sola Gratia.

On Thursday morning we set off early, well before 10 o'clock! The Farmers Bridge Locks were the first flight we ever navigated back in 1999 and we have a special attraction to them. At lock 4 we were joined by a CRT Volunteer. He was helpful and gave me the opportunity of going ahead to open the next lock top gate. A CRT tug and hopper came up lock 6 and from then on all was set fair.

Aston locks were not such a smooth operation. At the first lock two CRT men were helping another boat up. It was in lock 2 so we had a bit of a wait. They were real black country folk. One had been an "Oss Boatman" and the other I describe as a black country comic. He had great wit. He quipped that we should have a fair flight until lock 9. Levels were a bit low there. Low!?! Sonflower bottomed in the lock. I refilled and floated her up again and rang CRT. The pound was long and water too low for navigation. I was not going to take responsibility for emptying the pound above to fill the pound below. The team who had been at lock 1 came down quite quickly and one went back up the flight to open paddles and one monitored what was happening below as they fed water through. It took about 90 minutes before he was satisfied that we had enough to get to lock 10. We had a great time with his black country conversation.

At lock 10 we found the problem! The top gate would not shut and the lock would not empty. I tried fishing with a boat hook but to no avail. I phoned CRT again and our comical friend appeared again, this time armed with a long rake. A lot of raking found the problem: a car silencer jammed against the seal. With this removed, normal operation was restored.

We had lost over two hours of boating. It was a nice day and we made good progress to the start of Minworth Locks. After this the canal cleans up a bit and we started to look for somewhere to moor for the night and to have dinner. We passed a few pubs on the waterside that looked as if they had seen better days. Traditional Inn means that no money has been spent on it for quite a few years in this part of the country.

On approaching the Cuttle Bridge (Wiggins Hill Bridge) we noticed that the Old Kingsley pub had been totally re-vamped and was now the Cuttle Inn and Hotel, with a nice looking outdoor seating and dining area. Why were there no other moorers here at 6pm on a Friday? I can't tell you. We had a very nice meal and good wine too. We also noted that they serve a buffet breakfast for £6.50 so we returned in the morning for that. The only downside is that the moorings are floodlit all night. Good for security and for reducing load on the leisure batteries. But next time I might move away for a bit of darkness.

So on Saturday morning we gently completed our passage of Curdworth locks. A sign here tells boaters that there is no longer rubbish disposal at the locks but at Bodymoor Heath. A sign at Bodymoor Heath yard says there is no longer rubbish disposal there but at Fazeley Junction.  At Fazeley Mill Marina we stopped for water and here there was a sign telling us that there was no longer rubbish disposal at the Peel's Wharf but it was in the marina (on behalf of CRT). We disposed of our rubbish. We would have been miffed of we had gone on to the junction and found no rubbish disposal there either. No wonder the inhabitants of Birmingham use the canal rather than a bin.

So to Tolson's footbridge where we moored on piling clips.

                                                                      15miles 38 locks   14hours