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, 30 June 2008

Where have all the BW men gone?

Apparently, according to gossip heard on the towpath today, they are all digging three holes on the off side of every narrow lock in the country to install three cast iron bollards that we haven't needed for 200 years and will not be any use in the future! Apparently the crew seen is a specialist one with a brand new workboat and an electric cement mixer.

My informant described Aynho weir lock, which is possibly one lock that (maybe) could do with bollards as it is wider than the average and a coffin shape. The bollards are on a side of the lock that is inaccessible if you have the bottom gate open, as you can't cross the top gate! So how do you untie your boat to leave!

We have been thinking about this. One wouldn't tie your boat up if it was going down because the boat will hang on the ropes. And you wouldn't tie your boat up if you were going up because the ropes would slacken off and allow the boat to move. So when would these bollards EVER get used?

What a load of BOLLARDS!

Eventful Day

Yes!! It is finished. The last two LED bulbs were installed in the navigation lights and I have LEDs throughout the boat. I had to replace the starboard nav' light first though because I knocked the last one off in the Harecastle Tunnel! Don't remind me that we don't really need them anyway.

After that the clearup! Tools from front to back and so after collecting the screwdrivers, saws, drills and bits together and then stowing them in the cupboard that has everything I could ever need to fix anything that ever gets broken and a spare of most things just in case, I managed to collect the rest into a bin for disposal.

We now have six fluorescent fittings and four 12v 'reading' lights (10w automotive bulb) surplus to requirements.

Anyway, a trip to the rubbish was planned when the Best Mate said, "How about lunch in the club?" The tiller was in my hand toute suite and we were off the mooring almost forgetting that we had another crew member with us 'cos he's not at college as he has broken up for the summer. The Best Mate called him and we were ready.

Lunch was great and we swapped great weather stories and the joys of the Euro2008 tournament with the locals before planning the afternoon. I would go to the water point and the Best Mate would buy me a new mop and broom at Woolworths and we would wash the boat, lock down, turn, deposit our rubbish, lock up and wash the other side of the boat.

The tools appeared but the Best Mate needed a rest and Pooh, Our Bear of Little Brain, wanted to play football so I was left to do the lift bridge single handed (but a boat was coming the other way so I snuck in in front of it with thanks and a cheery wave to the skipper who gave way to me) and then moored on the water point. Washing a boat is an interminable job. While I was doing the job I spoke to the skipper of "Tinkerbell" who confessed to being a reader of this blog. How encouraging to know that I have one! I lent him my hose to fill his drinking water bottle and top up his tank. I left the polishing for another day.

I filled the lock and then the crew of nb"Rye" appeared. I could have missed this boat as she was heading for the lock and I started to fill it but the crew assured me that, although she was only 25feet long (The smallest conventional narrowboat I have seen), they were out of sight when I had looked. I was assured that they had enough room for the two of them and their alsation! They offered to wait for me to turn but the arithmetic 25 +57 into a lock didn't go so they carried on. Nice thought though!

Just under Tramway Bridge I watched and stopped the boat to allow an angler to land his perch. He bemoaned the crayfish but hadn't yet caught a zander. After turning I returned to the facilities point to moor behind a Napton Boat with a most helpful crew. The lady opened the rubbish enclosure for me and then they opened the gates and assisted me through the lock saying they might need a favour some day. Aren't people kind?

Back at the water point I met Raymond of "Summer Wine" and his good lady. They were filling every container they had with them. "Where is the boat?" I asked. "In Braunston", they replied but the water there is contaminated with a parasite. Some people have already got it in their water tanks!" They were filling everything they could with our Oxfordshire Thames (Cherwell) Water as their Anglian Water was contaminated with cryptosporidium. I had heard of the crisis and, in fact, only just missed being affected as we had a lovely weekend away in Northants, but didn't realise the effect it would have on boaters. Fancy driving forty miles for fresh water!

Then a phone call from the Best Mate. I had run out of time to get Pooh to his football practice! Oops. She suggested that there would need to be a bit of bridge re-building. One cannot hurry things on the canal. I had not stopped all day. The Cabin Boy (Piglet) joined me to finish washing the other side of the boat. We stepped back to admire the view and then set off once more for our mooring. Quite an eventful day.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Anpther day, another ...

Another Day but no money at the end of it. Today was Saturday and I spent it continuing to battle against the heat and my own mistakes fitting the LED lighting. Most of today was spent on my back working at just more than arm's length away from the wiring, fittings or cable that I was trying to fix. I was attempting to fit downlighters under the top berths in the bunk room to light the Lower berths.

And by four o'clock today we had light right through the boat!

Well almost! I ran out of cable and cable clips so the wiring for the second lower berth will need to be done later.

Altogether though a good weeks work and rewarded by the Best Mate telling me that there was a beer waiting in the fridge! And how I needed that. She told me I had earned it.

While I was toiling inside this afternoon, the Cabin Boy and Best Mate were cutting their way through the jungle that is beside our mooring and revealing that there is grass under the nettles and cow parsley. Four hours hard work later and we could see one of the signs that demarcate the mooring: 65 feet the other way though the sign is still in the undergrowth.

BW are supposed to maintain the mooring. That is the only thing they should be doing for us for the £1300 a year fee. Not this year! No sign of any grass cutting gangs at all.

We went for fish and chips after all the hard graft and spent this evening lolled in front of a dvd.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Life in a sweatbox!

It is sunny out there. Unfortunatly I am not seeing much of it at the moment. I am working inside the boat, up near the ceiling fitting LED lighting. Having made the decision to use LEDs as a measure to reduce the need to recharge the batteries and to allow more lights to be used at the same time, I now have to fit them!

Richard, from Bedazzled, explained to me why we need to fit a suppressor and thermal fuse to the supply circuit of the downlighters we have already installed rather than just replace the bulb with an LED assembly. The problem is where to fit it and, of course, the supply wiring is behind wood panelling up in the roof. So I am getting hot and sweaty.

I have made excellent progress today. I probably have another day's work ahead of me but I think it will be worth it. I am replacing all the fluorescent fittings with double cabinet lights and so far it looks good. The bunk reading lights with 12v tungsten bulbs are all going to be replaced with downlighters as well.

Then we will be ready to cruise and expect to light the boat like Blackpool illuminations on the amps of one 15W fluorescent.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Away from it all

Believe it or not I'm watching tele.

Not bad for someone who doesn't have tele on the boat or anywhere else for that matter. But this weekend is Birthday Weekend and myself and the First(Best) Mate are away from it all on a weekend away.

Having carefully selected a 4-star county hotel that the internet told me has fishing lakes, I arrived to the word from the receptionist "We have lakes but definitely NO fishing". Three golf courses but no-one can hold a rod and line near the water! I discussed this with the leisure manager this morning. The general opinion is that it is something to do with "health and safety". An angler is apparently a sitting target for golfers who have lost their sense of direction or have little or no basic club swinging competence.

So I went to the canal and fished there! At 4am this morning there were no boats moving. There again there were no golfers moving on the golf course either. But I was healthy and safe.

Success? One largish roach- a lively fish. One small zander (10-12") which wriggled off the hook as it came out of the water before I could kill it! The Lure Angling Society reports over 900 of these were electrofished in 2007 with weights up to 10lb. It is not too good news that these voracious predators have survived.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

The Best is Cheap enough

I am just resting after a wonderful lunch.

Devilled herring roes on toast with fennel and parmesan salad.

Don't we eat well!

What is amazing though is that this meal for two cost under two pounds! The herring roes (milts) were £1.19, half a fennel bulb costs about 50p and the toast was two crusts of a stale white loaf that were going to be used as fish bait! Add in the few flakes of parmesan and two mushrooms for the salad, the butter to cook it in, a tablespoon of flour and a teaspoon of paprika/chilli powder and we just about top the two pound mark.

It made me think though about all the people who fill their shopping carts in Tesco with stuff that they haven't prepared, filled with ingredients that they haven't chosen and other stuff they haven't a clue about and spend twice to three times what we do on it.

No wonder people can't make ends meet and are suffering from ill health and obesity.

But we eat well enough! Thistles are even cheaper! You don't see many of them though because they are swamped by the 5ft high nettles and six foot high cow parsley!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Walk it off!

"The canals are generally seen as a relaxing place to be, and a week’s boating holiday an ideal opportunity to chill out and leave the cares of the world behind you. However, what few people realise is that boating can boost your fitness levels, develop your arm muscles (lockwinding) and tone your legs (walking to the next lock)." Waterscape.com

However, how do you get that exercise when the towpath looks like this?

I have heard that BW have a policy to "rurally manage" some stretches of the towpath but this in is in Banbury Mooring Zone. It is also on the waymarked Banbury Fringe Circular Walk. Believe it or not there is a canal next to this path- it is on the left.

I wanted to go for a walk to exercise my replacement knee but at this point the towpath was impassable to me. The nettles are about 5 feet high and the cow parsley reaches up a good two feet taller.

"Rurally managed". Rarely managed I would say.

I spoke to the local BW patroling officer the other day. He was fed up with getting soaked by the excessive vegetation and he's paid for walking the towpaths.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Keeping afloat

I promised you all the details of what it takes to keep the boat afloat.

This morning I determined to fix a navigation light that I had knocked off in a tunnel. As I am determined to refit the lighting on SONFLOWER with LED lamps to save precious amps I thought I would look at tying them in to the tunnel light circuit as I never use the nav lamps without it.

A quick look at the wiring loom and I discovered a loose (actually disconnected) wire. The tunnel light circuit was in need of repair. A few moments later I was about to start on the navigation lights when I thought about locating the spare. I could not find it in my cupboard where I keep everything! I thought it was at the back of the boat before we had the back of the boat refitted so I wondered where we had put it while we had the back refitted and then thought it might be under the back steps so I felt under there and........water. Cold, wet, water.

This could only mean one thing. I went under the bathroom sink and took out all the shelves and cabinet that are in front of the bilge pump to discover that the bilge pump area was reasonably dry. Lifting the float switch turned the pump on. My intitial fears of pump failure were unfounded.

Nevertheless we had water in the bilge on the starboard side and the list on the boat meant that the bilge pump on the port side in the bathroom wouldn't help me.

The next hour was spent bailing out the bilge with a dust pan which I emptied into a waste bin which I emptied over the side.

We have had a loose connection on the sink waste in the galley so I imagine that this was the source of the water. Time will tell.

We are still afloat.

Doesn't it look nice?

I thought I would let you see the third new Generator that now adorns the rear deck of SONFLOWER.

It is petrol driven so I can't locate it inside the boat. There isn't any room in the engine hole so it has to stand proudly as "deck equipment".

Is there a better way to secure it or is this adequate?

Any suggestions?

Monday, 9 June 2008

Bad Manners

I don't like to moan. No really.

But sometimes one gets that "Victor Meldrew Moment"

We had a wonderful cruise yesterday. We took additional crew with us a little way up the canal and they had a lovely time. ("The best Sunday afternoon ever") It wasn't spoiled by coming bow to bow with a Napton boat whose forward lookout was playing the ukelele rather than looking out. We all started as hirers and there was no physical contact. It's all in the boating experience. I just sang about the captain who played as his boat sank!

When we got to Cropredy there was a hold up. One of the local long term moorers could not get his boat out of the winding hole because a Calcutt Boat was moored opposite it! They had 'popped to the shop'. We couldn't turn because the winding hole was choked. Impass. Eventually the hirers who remained with the boat were persuaded to rope the boat back toward the bridge to allow normal proceedings to resume.

We met the crew of this boat again on the way back to Banbury after our meal. We met them as we came out of Little Boughton Lock because they were moored on the lock mooring! There are three bollards at this lock but with two of them occupied and the towpaths overgrown to a height of seven feet with nettles and cow parsley there was little option bit to try to pull up behind them to get my crew back on board. I didn't mean to but I nudged them a bit as I pulled away again.

I met them again this morning. I was assisting Jack on Iron Maiden who was single handing through lift bridge and lock. He was waiting for the boat blow the lock to enter and work up. This boat however, was waiting to get on the facilities mooring below the lock to empty the cassette toilet, dispose of rubbish and take on water. Who was on the mooring? You've guessed it, the Calcutt crew most of whom had just "nipped off for a bit of shopping". After I approached the
man left with the boat who was on the phone to the rest of the crew, he agreed to move over to the other side of the canal thus reliving the blockage from the lock entrance, and a taxi arrived at the Mill car park with the rest of the crew.

Surely it is not too much to ask people to have a little respect for etiq1uette on the canal?

How can one have such bad manners?

"I don't believe it!"

Friday, 6 June 2008

Almost there

The upholsterer delivered the seat cushions for our new seating/occasional berth this evening. These had been delayed because they were working overtime to complete a boat that was to be exhibited at Crick Show.

They told us a sorry tale of woe about the show that was a literal wash out because of the weather. The work to complete on time was wasted by two terrible days after a promising start on the Saturday when large crowds were turning up.

(Tomorrow we will be sitting on the cushions and I hope that we can add a photo to this post.)

As promised: pictures of the newly furnished saloon with table and bookcase.

No image of the "tv" cabinet for the tv we do not have is available yet.

You have already seen the doors.

Do you want to know who did the work for us? Follow the link. . . . . here

Upholstery is by Dragonfly of Stockton Top Marina.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Just because we can

Yesterday the full crew went to Cropredy and back.  6 miles, 6 locks in 4 hours.

Just because we could.

The weather was overcast but it didn't spoil the excitement of boating on the meandering South Oxford with its remote locks and rape filled fields. The meadows were plush with buttercups and clover. I have never seen clover so high in flower as this year. 

The towpaths are brim full of cow parsley and flowering nettles. The canal banks are also showing a lovely display of Water irises and reed mace.

On our way we spotted larks and  kestrels hovering in their differing ways, one distracting from the nest and the other quartering for voles or mice. Cattle ambled across the fields, their only aim being to find a suitable place to sit and chew the cud. We met a friend walking the towpath who asked whether we had seen a pair of cormorant. We had seen herons and geese and a family of swans with nine cygnets, the occasional mallard and moor-hen but no cormorants. He assured us they were nearby. The fish were jumping and he told a tale of "the worlds biggest carp" that had jumped in front of him. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration?

There was so little traffic on the canal for a Saturday afternoon. We didn't meet another boat on the way there if a canoeist can be disregarded as a boat. We only met one at Little Boughton lock on the way back but were followed by another with a norwegian crew.