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.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Even more frustration: The conclusion

We have a new water pump that seems to be working correctly now. It is a ShurFlo Junior with a shut off setting of 2bar. Hopefully all will be well for the full three years of the warranty.

We have received refunds for the mis-sold pressure switch assembly and the malfunctioning ShurFlo 3.0 pump.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Even better!

Glenmorangie Single Malt

A Winner

I had a terribly difficult hour on the phone to Lloyds TSB. All I wanted to do was report a lost chequebook. By the end of it I was frazzled and unrecognised by the automatic voice recognition system and the operator who asked for details of a payment into my account that morning and then could not understand that Electricité de France was EdF. Failing to provide an accurate amount of the cost of four theatre tickets purchased by debit card five days previously froze up the system for security reasons. Representation to a supervisor bore no fruit and they had the cheek to send me a request to appear before a bank employee in person with my passport in hand to prove who I was. After being a customer for 27 years!

The letter I sent them resulted in the bottle of whisky that arrived this morning. The card says "We want to say sorry".

Well, that's all right then.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Wintery Thoughts

I sent a day on the boat this week. I sat in front of a warming stove and read some of The Famished Road, Booker Prize winning fiction, (but found it hard going) as I waited for 'Dusty' our trusty coal diesel and gas boatman to arive. Having been just south of Banbury the evening before it didn't take him too long to work his way up to the moorings on the north side of town to fill my empty tank with diesel and put some coal aboard. I paid cash. 'Dusty' likes cash. (He says he takes cash or cheques and if either fail he introduces 'PayPal", a pick axe handle with the words 'Pay Pall!' inscribed on the blunt end.)

By lunch time all our business was complete and we had 'put the world to rights'. It was time for me to check the boat over and shut it up. The gas water heater is drained, the new water pump switched off and the the taps left open to reduce damage if the temperature gets to low this winter. Then empty the veg bin and the fridge and leave SONFLOWER on her own.

I left the novel on the boat.

The frost on the ground reminded me that it is indeed December and wintery now after the second warmest November in the last 100 years.

Just the winter engine service to complete and we are ready to roll for the New Year.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Even more frustration part 2

I tried to fit the new pressure switch. I carefuly followed the instructions which said "do not remove the presure switch screws" but found that the pressure switch housing on the pump masked one of the screws that I had to remove so I had to remove the pressure switch screws to remove the switch to remove the body screws. Are you following me?

The instructions also said that if I was careful I wouldn't need to disturb the internals. I was very careful and removed the top body. Then came the surprise!

The internal sealing housing containing a rubber seal was sort of triangular in the new pump and circular in the old design (seen on the right). Those crafty Mexicans had made it so that you couldn't fit a yank pressure switch to a Mexican pump!

I now have issues with two supliers. One on winter holiday who supplied the pump that doesn't work and one a 40 minute drive away who supplied the part that doesn't fit.

I have put it all back together as it was except that I had cut the power cable from the switch to the motor!

Now I am seriously considering Tony's remote pressure switch idea.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Even more frustration

The water pump saga is not over!

The pump is not shutting off again and I am losing water through the relief valve at 3 bar pressure. To make sure that I had adjusted the pressure switch to minimum I removed the adjusting screw! Two turns back should have done the trick but not in this case.

The supplier of the pump is now on a winter break until March. So I rang up Tony, the fount of all knowledge on all things technical in a narrowboat. He loves to talk about these little problems and had a solution: ditch the pump pressure switch and get an independant switch from a reputable chandler. It should cost about £20. He recommended a Square D switch.

So I went to Midland Chandlers at Braunston. It is about a 40 minute drive from home mooring. I told the man what I wanted and he said that they had these switches for about £50 and I would need a fitting kit and tee piece in addition. He could not locate one on the shelves, however, (they are enlarging and re-arranging their store) but he did have what he felt was the real solution to my problem.

He told me that Midland Chandlers have about 150 Shurflo pumps ready to be returned to the manufacturer because of defective pressure switches! Since switching manufacture to Mexico the quality of the pumps has dropped remarkably and there is a whole batch of pressure switches that just do not work. My pump supplier had said that his wholesaler was Midland Chandlers! Could it be that he had part of this batch? I was told that they could not help me with my pump and were sympathetic but legally I had to go through my supplier. On the shelf were genuine Shurflo pressure switches from the previous incarnation of pumps, made in USA, and fully compatible with the pump I had installed. Cost £28.

This seemed the logical solution to get me through the winter. I can return the pump to my supplier, still under warranty, in the Spring.

Watch out for further instalments.

Up we go!

Here is a view out of Tooley's dock as it is filling to let SONFLOWER out.

The repairs to the rear rail and gates are complete and the gates shut more easily than they have ever done before.

I backed her up to Sovereign Wharf and turned her to return to home mooring.

Now all I have to do is pay the bill.

Friday, 4 November 2011


This is a beautifully blacked and quite well preserved Springer from the early eighties judging by its registration number.

Nothing unusual about that then! Except that I am reliably informed it has been refitted with a state of the art Vetus power set up including a BOW THRUSTER!

Knowing how lightly Springers behave and how responsive they generally are to the tiller, I can only imagine that this one is going to be used in some sort of formation dance performance or something very aquabatic.

more Frustration

The pump saga is not over!

After an apparent success in re-fitting the Shurflo 3.0 water pump and returning a defective one (that would not work at all) to the supplier, the pump has now started to behave in the same way as ot doi when ot emptied my water tank into the canal. To remind you: it will not turn off because the 3 bar relief valve on the calorifier is lifting. I have tried re-setting the adjustable pressure switch. I am now assuming that the re-set pressure of the relief valve may be considerable less than 3 bar!

One reason why this is particularly frustrating is because getting to the pump is not exactly simple.

First one opens the under sink cupboard door fully and removes the vegetable rack:

Then move the storage box in the other cupboard to the left

Swivel it and take that out

revealing the trap door floor hatch

Which is removed to reveal the pump

and Finally

Sonflower is back in Tooley's dock.

She has been hydraulicaly straightened, ground apart and re-welded to re-align the starboard gate.

While out of the water she is having her stern gland re-packed. It has been doing more leaking than it should and taking more grease than it should this summer so it is getting a ten year service!

Hopefully she will re-float on Monday.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

In the CaRT

So that is what all the signs and paperwork will look like from next April.

Not a bad effort for a logo. Will the acronym be CaRT, CART, or C&RT?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

In and out

Many of you will have noticed SONFLOWER in the centre of Banbury. Maybe you saw her being pulled into the Tooley's dock last Wednesday. Maybe you saw her being pulled out on Monday. You would not have noticed any difference.

I am sorry to report that the welding work to straighten slight imperfections in the alignment of the rear taff rail that prevent the rear gates closing was delayed because of the sickness of the welder. (Get well soon). She will be docked again some time in the future.

Meanwhile, following on from my last post "Frustration" about a fault on the domestic water system. The calorifier relief valve was lifting discharging water into the canal, emptying the water tank and causing the water pump to run continuously. Talking about subjects like this with other boaters always seems to reveal that everyone else has had this fault and has a special way of curing the problem. Banbury Canal Day provided such a forum. Among other suggestions, a good friend, who is renowned for her DIY activity, emailed me with the details of a pressure reducing valve that was installed between pump and cauliflour to keep the pressure at the relief valve low. Looking at the specifications on the web I discovered that these valves are designed to operate at 16 bar (200psi) inlet pressure and the discharge from my pump is only supposed to be 2bar (30psi)!

A lot of dreamless nocturnal thought gave me the solution. Change the calorifier relief valve for one that works. I did it today: like for like. The pump shut off and the relief valve did not lift.

Untested by the rigours of boat life, however. For how long?

Friday, 30 September 2011


Those who read Mortimer Bones' column in Canal Boat magazine will appreciate that not all things that seem simple on a narrowboat turn out that way.

This morning I went to take the boat to the town centre, a cruise of 1/4 mile. This weekend is a boating festival: The Banbury Canal Day. The town council put a lot of effort into making the assett of the The Oxford Canal work for the town and give the loacals a grand day out into the bargain. For the last eight years we have joined in the fun come rain or shine. This year, in contrast to the last two, it looks like we are in for a shining sunny day on Sunday.

So all seemed to bode well until I appraoched the boat to find her bow higher than I can remember seeing it before. The water tank was empty. Believing the saga of the "water in the bilge" to be over, I imediately raised the over over the water pumop to see whether water was engulfing it once more. No! But the pump was running dry!

I turned it off and investigated further. The little amount of water in the bilge that had run aft was cleared quickly. The taps were all closed and tight. The shower pan was dry. Where had all the water gone and why was the pump running?

We needed water. I cast off and boated into the town. First stop the water point which means navigating the lift bridge, no mean feat single handed! Thankfully a helpful waiting pedestrian lad took the windlass and lowered the bridge as I passed through to speed his crossing and help me.

Filling our tank takes about one and a half hours! The best mate came along from her art class at The Mill. She did not expect to see the boat at the water point. I explained the lack of water and we decided that she should go and buy a sushi lunch as we had plenty of time and the resources of the town were at our feet.

Lunched and with a full tank I had time to think about our problem. Running the pump for a short while revealed that the relief valve on the calorifier was letting by and that was where the water was going. Relieved water ended up in the stern gland bilge and was pumped away by the sern bilge pump!

We continued our cruise. Through the lock, down to the turning point at the end of the Tram way Mooring site and back again, through the lock, back to home mooring, to the turning point at The Arm just north of Spice Ball Park and then back to town to moor under Tom Rolt Bridge: our weekend mooring: 2 miles, 2 locks, 2 Lift Bridges and four and a half hours to fill up with water!

But with no isolation valve on the calorifier inlet, how can I fix the relief valve without draining the tank again?

The water pump says off.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

There and Back again

I had to meet the welder at the boat so boating was in my mind. I had arranged to spend the day with a friend who had 'nothing' to do with his day off. We decided to go boating. There was little sign of any rain and the breeze blew fair as we went north. We met nb Petroc in town as we walked to the boat and discussed the possibilities of water shortages that could affect boating in a northerly direction. However, a report from the boat coming down Hardwick lock as we left was that there was no sign of low levels in the Cropredy pound. All looked good.

(The Banbury town pound, Harwick Lock to Banbury Lock, was the lowest we found with no flow coming in from the Hanwell Brook.)

As we passed (Little) Bourton Lock we noted the extent of the flood protection scheme that is being built (M40 Bridge to Little Bourton Lock). Whether it will ever be needed depends much on your view of climate change. Many feel we have had our '100 year event' flooding for this century! Approaching Cropredy the report proved true as the boats on the farm moorings were floating. They weren't the last time we passed!

With no food on the boat and both of us on a weight reducing diet we determined to buy some lunch at the Cropredy Bridge Store. We found that their only ready made sandwich was "All Day Breakfast". We looked at each other and agreed to go to the pub! At the Brazenose the local sausages with olive oil and mustard mash were too good to resist and we had a lovely lunch. I made the relapse complete with a pint of Hookey Bitter Ale!

The return cruise was eventful only for the fantastic view of a kingfisher flying low over the water for a hundred yards away from us and then turning to fly back toward us and wheel overhead: a truly blue streak.

Not a drop of rain, blue sky for long periods, good company and water underneath us make for a good day out.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Nothing to do with Boating

View Larger Map

We went for a drive. The sun shone and we had a wonderful day in the Cotswolds or the hinterland thereof. After coffee and a loo stop in Chipping Norton we ventured into unknown territory and discovered a land of lost inns and pubs. One was our target, The Swan Inn at Ascott-under-Wychwood. We passed many other closed and for sale or to let. It appears that the village local has died. May I say, possibly the heart of the village has died too with the advent of Hoseasons and the web booked holiday cottage. We couldn't get a pint of local beer in The Lamb Inn, Shipton-under-Wychwood: not even a pint of ale from the brewery that bears its name! The beer came from Greene King, Old Speckled Hen et al with a guest ale from East Anglia! All is lost Camra!

There is still a lot of countyside out there. But when I stopped to take a stroll in the fields I met with a sign saying "Please do not walk in our grass strips or conservation areas and woodland as it disturbs the game birds". Not half as much as a team of beaters, dogs and two dozen guns! 57.4 miles, 0 locks, 5hrs

Maybe and end to the WATER IN THE BILGE

The boat lists to port. I have been below the floorboards under the sink again today. Having taken the water pump out and taken it completely to pieces and put it back together again I found that it is still leaking into the boat bilge every time it runs.

So I went to SOVEREIGN WHARF today and bought a new SHURflo drinking water pump. It is rated at 3 gpm, an improvement on my last one of 0.6gpm. It is guaranteed for three years but Ray said that that means it will fall on its back after 3 1/2. At £85.00 that is less than £30 per year.

I also filled with diesel. This is now £0.85p per litre. A 10p rise on last year. I only filled one tank because I may need welding on the other side and the deck is the top of the tank! This accentuates the list to port but should be compensated by the empty loo tank!

We backed the boat up to Tooley's from Sovereign Wharf,(We had turned to have a pump out). We moored opposite Orion who had the most beautiful sounding original 1934 Gardner Engine. While waiting I fitted the water pump. I then found Matt needed a second opinion on my welding work. I need to talk to the welder on Friday. More on that later. We took the opportunity to talk about paintwork though. SONFLOWER is due for the dreaded blacking next April. Matt says he would like to get her in in March to repaint the roof at the same time.

Then I went forwards back to Sovereign Wharf and tried to moor on one of their finger moorings to use the electric hook up (by arrangement). The wind was wrong for making the tight turn. I had to go in bow first in order to be able to come out and face the right way to return to home mooring. I struggled. I am quite pleased with my boat handling usually but today it just didn't seem to be working. With a boat moored on the next pontoon with the owners aboard, I didn't want to touch their boat. It is about 60ft from the end of the pontoon to the opposite bank (SONFLOWER is 57 ft)but try as I may the boat did not want to get into the 8ft gap available! The occupants of the adjacent boat came out to help but I couldn't get in because of lack of water. The level in this pound is about five inches below normal and the mooring appeared to have silted up! The proprietors kindly allowed me to moor on the wharf while they were shut for lunch and I used the aquavac to suck out the remaining water in the bilge.

As lunchtime finished and no customers arrived I took the opportunity to re-fill the water tank. Thence to home mooring and some lunch at 3.00pm!

That's a day's boating!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Wonderful Idea!

I have just seen an advert in Canal Boat for BWML Marinas. They tell us that having a mooring in one of their marinas entitles the boater to visit any of their other marinas free of charge, subject to space being available and pre-booking.

Now here's the idea: how about BW giving any holder of a long term mooring license the facility to use any other long term mooring site for overnight mooring while out cruising? Subject, of course, to availability and the requirement to move on should the usual incumbent appear.

This could save a lot of congestion at those 'honey pot' sites we so often hear about as long term morings are often only just outside the visitor mooring zones.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Interesting Blog

Being very interested in food and its preparation on board I am keen to share this Canal Cook's Blog that shares recipes that are interesting. I have a veg drawer full of beetroot! Some returned with us from the boat and more came in our organic veg box from Riverford today. The Best Mate says we have more in the freezer from a previous harvest! So I did a google search for a recipe and came up with this one. Now I have found it I think I will be a regular visitor.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

In Trevor Basin to the end

We did not go into Llangollen with the boat. I was worried about the draught of SONFLOWER which is 24 inches on a good day. Against the current her stern would be pulled down a bit more and the canal is very shallow in places. Where it narrows passing would be very difficult without grounding. The recommendations are variable but some say 20 inches is the practical maximum draught.

So I walked in. Here are photos of the sort of views we missed.

And one of the pretty flowers beside the towpath. Anyone recognise them?

I walked with a couple from Thame who had left their three under five children with their grandparents to escape for a walking holiday. They were walking from Nantwich to Llangollen and then cycling back! They had been booked into B & Bs on the way.

I also took a stroll across the aqueduct and back again. Here is a view of the River Dee that runs beneath it:

The stay in the basin in Trevor was delightful. Never a dull moment with the day punctuated by craft that entered to find nowhere to go except to turn round; a boat called "Destiny" came under the bridge, made a banging sound from the engine bay and came to a driveless stop. It was then towed out by an Anglowelsh Day Boat only to return two hours later towed by two Anglowelsh day boats and then pushed onto a mooring to await replacement of a drive plate after the Bank Holiday weekend. I helped hire boaters who wanted to be helped as the winding hole is an interesting shape. One week-ending crew were all dressed up as pirates which added to the colour and fun. Their helmsman said that he would not refuse my offer of help next time! He did all right actually considering the 'help' he got from his crew who jumped on and off and pushed the boat here and there. The crew also had a go at fishing and left me the rest of their maggots for me when they left.

We also had to leave the mooring for water and, as the Bank Holiday Friday and Saturday were 'turn round' days, water was unavailable at the boat yard. We had to cross the aqueduct, turn at Froncysyllte and water there to return over the aqueduct again. We chose to do this first thing on Saturday morning so as not to lose our mooring place! Here is a picture that shows how nice it was!

A relaxing time to end the holiday and give us an opportunity to clean the brass and get our washing together to prepare for departure! We watched hawfinches eating rowan berries from the trees next to the boat and I caught an eel in the basin on the free maggots. I took it, still writhing on the hook, to the crew of NB Destiny who have four cats and six kittens on board. They were delighted to recieve it, wrapped it in newspaper and beheaded it. The kittens set about it raw! I cut off the head, line and the hook, now a slimy ball! I do not like eels! I threw the rest of the maggots into the basin in disgust.

Our friends came just before lunch so we all repaired to The Telford Inn for a meal with them while rain poured down outside before we unloaded their stuff and filled the car with ours. We drove away at 3pm leaving SONFLOWER with the usual mixed feelings but knowing she is in the hands of a capable crew to bring her safely home to Banbury.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

More Cruise 2011 Pictures

Queueing for a tunnel

In Chirk Tunnel

Moored in Chirk Pool. A good place to witness boating etiquette or not!

Moored at Chirk Marina. A great place for free water and free advice

A view of the Pontcysyllte aqueduct from Froncysyllte.

On Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

On Pontcysyllte. I usually have my right hand on the tiller! Here I am hoping the SONFLOWER will not be the first narrowboat to fall off!

Wrenbury to Trevor (Trefor)

First of all apologies to any who are trying to track our progress by this blog! On the boat, my laptop has decided that it will not work for more than about time enough to log in to 'water explorer' and record the boat position. For the last four or five days it has not even wanted to do that! In short my battery is knackered and my inverter has decided to trip whenever the power lead is connected!! I am grateful for the 240v of the Telford Inn, Trevor in return for the purchase of a pint of Telford Ale from Tetley's Brewery.

Never mind the technicalities. We have had a wonderfully slow cruise. From Wrenbury we went to Frankton Junction via Ellesmere and spent half a day deciding whether to go down the Monty or not. "Not" won and we proceeded onward to Chirk. We moored on 48 hr morings just north of the tunnel but the cutting here was so deep that we did not see the sun so backed up toward the tunnel. Here the cutting was deeper but it was less of a walk to the road to see the sun! It was better to for access to the town chopping 2000 yards form the walk. But it did have the drawback that "proper" boaters thought the bollards here were for boats waiting to use the tunnel and not for mooring on and verbally abused us for our cheek. The local signage however totally vindicated us as these were the 'town moorings'. Hire boaters just moored on pins and we re-moored two of them during our tenure!

After visiting Chirk Castle, a not to be missed experience, we moved to the country and sunshine near Chirk Marina. From here however, we needed to return to Chirk Pool so that the Best mate could visit the doctor's surgery for an unmentionable reason as she needed an antibiotic. Being in Wales, this was free at the point of use (no prescription charges) even though she doesn't have to pay even in England (for another unmentionable reason). The Welsh doctor was pleased to be able to prescribe a better class of antibiotic as an English doctor would be paying! Such is modern Britain- a united kingdom in name only!

Today we crossed the Pontcysyllte (Pont-coo-sool-tea) aqueduct. Suffering from some mild vertigo I was glad to have done this at the tiller for the whole crossing. It is indeed an experience every boater should have. I had the unreasonable fear that SONFLOWER would be the first narrowboat to fall off in over 200 years! We were only four inches from a 120 foot drop! The views and the feeling is extraordinary.

Today also we visited Llangollen. This is our eventual aim this year. You will need to wait for the next instalment to find out whether we get there by boat. Just crossing the pool at the end of the aqueduct into our present mooring on the Trevor Arm was an exciting experience. Described by one owner boater as fighting against Anglo-welsh bumper-boats! We have not tried to get through the really narrow section yet. (We were smacked while moored last night by an Alvechurch craft in the hands of a distraught wife whose husband had deserted her to go and take a picture of the aqueduct). We did however complete our holiday as tourists sampling the wonders of the steam railway to Corwen and the horse drawn narrowboat to Horseshoe Falls. The part of the 'canal' not open to navigation of the powered variety is as clear as a bell, narrow and rocky with shoals of fish clearly visible alongside the boat. A beautiful peaceful experience. The rail round trip also gave breath-taking views of the River Dee with its white water and wading fly fishermen.

We are enjoying it all!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Nantwich to Wrenbury

Weleft our mooring on Nantwich Aqueduct Embankment just after our friends on nb Elisha passed. They told us they were heading out of town and would let us know where they were mooring overnight so that we could join them.

We had things to do. We had already been into town for supplies and had a fish and chp lunch. But we needed water and a pump-out as we were about 90% full. Water was no problem once the hire boat had left teh mooring and the boat opposite that seemed to be waiting confirmed that it was waiting for the launderette not the water point. From her we went under the brodge tomake the 300degre turn into Nantwich Basin. I had done this turn in Sonflower in 2005 so knew it was possible. But I did not put the breeze into the computation and we very gently drifted sideways under its influence to completely bridge the canal!

What an embarrassment but no pictures were taken!

With a crew member on each end and the assistance of a couple of passers by on the towpath we managed to push Sonflower back the way she had come and complete the turn into the boatyard. Another 180 dergree turn was required at the other end of the basin to moor with the pump out in the right position for the necessary health and safety requirements to be satisfied.

We then received a call to tell us that Elisha was at Hurleston Turn over Bridge ready to enter the Llangollen Canal in the morning. We followed them out of Nantwich and moored there.

On the morning the crew were not fast emerging from their bunks. At about 1100h we entered the first of the Hurlestone flight of locks to proceed up the Llangollen Canal, fenders raised according to instructions. We had no problems and stopped for brunch after the four locks. Then on to Bridge 6 where we stopped to visit the very good Burland general store. This is operated by a boater. Their pies looked delicious and proved so as I bought four for lunch. One chicken and Mushroom, 2 steak and mushroom and one meat and potato. The verdict was thumbs up all round.

Then slowly on to Wrenbury Mill. Here we had a choice of hostelry for evening meal. I chose the Dusty Miller gastro pub. Not possibly the best choice and I do not think I will be returning. They do have free WiFi (on which I am posting now) but I think I could have cooked myself a better dinner. They also do not know that their Coke gasses do not hold a pint, for which we were charged! I demonstrated this with a pint beer glass full of water which overflowed my son's coke glass as the barman did not seem to understand when I challenged the bill! Their canned music met withthe approval of our teenagers but lacked a track by Coldplay.

The only other thing to report are bleeping sounds from the invertor. I think I may have a loose 12v earth connection!

Cruise Photos

An interesting double bridge with telegraph post in the middle. Long since unused.

Sonflower at her overnight mooring in Gnosall

Going up, on the Shroppie

Lovely and straight. Such a contrast to the Brindley contour canals that we are most used to.

Monday, 15 August 2011

A restful day

I am worried. We have to be in Llangollen in 13 days. Canal Planner says we could get there in 6. So what do we do with all those extra days?

We were woken at 6am by the trob throb throb of an old engine in a new boat! Hadar, our near neighbours in Banbury had come off their mooring here in idyllic countryside and sunshine to go who knows where? Now, I do not object to early morning cruising but today we also had the wakening beeps of the invertor telling us it had been left on all night. Our crew slept on but the Best Mate realised that as the engine needed running to charge the battery and the sun is shining and the wind is breezy it is a wonderful opportunity to do the washing.

So we put up the rotary dryer on the back deck. That means that we cannot use the tiller. We are going nowhere until the washing is dry!

I have played the guitar, Piglet has played the keyboard, Tigger has hit the skins and teh brass has been cleaned. The steelwork is too hiot to paint, thank goodness.

A restful day

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Of Sheep and lamb

AS far away as Tyrely locks we heard of the fame of the Farm Shop at the top of Adderley Locks. There was a notice on the lock sign of the Top Lock. It advertised home made pies and produce. I decided to buy some lamb for dinner and could almost smell it gently marinating in spice and oil before being roasted in the oven and filing the boat with morrocan aromas.

But Adderley locks are a long way from Tyrely and by the time we got near we had an overnight stop in Market Drayton! Friends in Market Drayton also confirmed the quality of the produce and asked us to return a plate that had supported a cake they had brought from there.

When we got there the next morning we found that they had no lamb! Lamb has such a demand that they sell out almost as soon as the meat hits the shop! We bought some pork steak, sausages (which we saw being made by hand, bacon(dry cured), free range eggs and fresh baked bread.

We moored nearby to visit the shop and PO in Adderley. A short walk over the Hawksmoor bridge brought us to a cross road just past the home of the Hawksmoor herd of Holstein cows. A little farther and I asked a resident for directions to the store. It closed two years ago!

On the way back we met the lamb on its way to market! 54 sheep came down the lane toward us screeching to an abrupt halt when they saw us. They must have known what we wanted for dinner. The shepherd egged them on to pass us and we continued on our seperate ways. The road showed the signs of their nervousness!

Breakfast tasted great!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Penkridge to Market Drayton

The character of the cruise has changed from the meandering of the Trent and Mersey and the Staffordshire and Worcester canals to the Straight and Narrow of the Birmingham and Liverpool (Shropshire Union) Main Line. The character is so contrasting. The cuttings give directness and speed and the embankments may give a better view over the surrounding countryside but we are not in a hurry this time!

We loved the little town of Penkridge with its marvelous Co-op supermatket and its charity shop. Unfortunately that was closed but it did support Katherine House, our local hospice in Banbury. I heard, however that the rioting on nearby Wolverhampton so upset the locals here that they closed the garage and supermarket early in case there was a repeat in sleepy little Penkridge.

The change came at Autherley Junction. Still a 'narrow canal' but this was built for speed. One of the straights on today's criuise was over a mile long and I didn't share it with any other craft, coming or going! A wonderful example of where to find peace in today's world: at the tiller of a narrowboat at 3 mph.

We are travelling slowly which gives time to observe the herons smd kingfishers along the way. A bit of additional birding was thwarted however because the Belvine Reservoir ios managed locally and limited to members and permot holders only. Permits have to be applied for in advance amd cannot be done over the internet. Pre-arrangements like this are difficult when on a boating holiday! My request fro permission by text was refused. Hopefully we will get another chance later in the cruise.

The final leg from Gnosall to Market Drayton takes us through hewn rock cuttings 25 feet deep and across embankments about 40 feet high. The passing is difficukt in the cutting when the oncoming boat slows to almost a stop for no apparent reason and the views are breathtaking from the embankment.

The last flight of locks down into Market Drayton (Tyley Locks) proved interesting only as a ahead amgaged to get itself onto the weir at the entrance to the first lock. The prop stopped as it was drawn in. We helped them rope back onto the lock mooring to inspect the damage through the weed hatch. Fortunately there was no damage and we had the lock set for us!

Into Market Drayton we encountered the 'leave a ring between boats' phenomenon. However as we progressed further on we found a beautiful almost empty mooring on the other side of town. We are no further from the centre but much more pleasantly siuated! We may stay here for the full 48 hoirs. We have time.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Taft to Penkridge

We left teh safe haven of the Taft in Staffordshire and made our way to Colwen Lock where we were to discharge our precious cargo of Juie and two of her grandchildren.Eeyore doscovered that his moble phone was stil in the car so our Friend Peter took the children home and then returned to Great Haywood lock witthe phone. What a star! We worked up the lock and stopped for lunch on the mooringw by the Junction. After lunch we went to Great Haywood marina for a necessary pump out of the toilet tank and then returned to the water point to fill up. Fully emptied at one end and replenished atteh other we then turnied onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal and found an overnight mooring.

The next morning we were up bright as buttins and left at 0600 to cruise in sunshine against a blackening sky which highlighted a wonderful rainbow. The mixed weather continued til breakfast time when we stopped. Bacon and eggs are the only choice after an earlyish start and we enjoyed them. Then we made our way on ward until we came to Penkridge.

Here we shopped at the Co-op and decided to stop for the night.

No a meal of Tandoori chicken, lamb burgers, salads and coleslaw with fresh bakery bloomer awaits us.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Who goes there?

Out this afternoon for a gentle 3 hour cruise from Cropredy to the foot of Claydon locks and back with a small group of young people on a friends narrowboat I came across this familiar looking vessel.

My grandchildren love the Muddy Waters books but I didn't know that I would come across the real thing so close by.

A quick look at the website reveals all. They are Oxfordshire Narrowboats in disguise.

I will not decry a good thing. If it gets children interested in boating it will be great. However, we may be at the start of Muddy Waters popping up all over the system like Thomas the Tank engine does at every small steam railway in the country on any Bank Holiday. I hope not.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Cruise Photos

Queuing for a lock! An almost unheard of event considering our usual cruising times. But this cruise we rose late and finished early!

Frances passing Frances

Exiting Weston lock under Bridge 79

A break from a break

Here is a picture of SONFLOWER at their present mooring. We have taken a break from our break. The sun is shining and we have returned to home base for a week or so. The Best Mate has already hung out a load of washing and the plants on the patio have been watered. My mother's hanging basket has also had the treatment and things are tickety boo.

After a wonderful week of sunshine and very slow cruising around Staffordshire, you may wnder why we have taken a break. There are things that need to be done: Mum needs to get to a summer barbecue party tomorrow afternoon, Piglet needs to get to Norwich on Monday, Mum needs to get to the Dentist on Tuesday, Tigger needs to get to a hospital appointment in Oxford on Thursday. Hence the need for a break!

The real problem is that cruising and cars do not mix. Public transport is patchy and takes hours to get anywhere and these things are best done from the home base.

So SONFLOWER is enjoying her end of garden mooring and we are very grateful to our friends for providing it. We will be back soon!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Nice Day in Stone

We don't often just hang around and take in a twon. One town is much like the rest since glocbalisation. But Stone has no GAP or Next or anything looking like it. We had a nozey upthe High Street and found a harware shop that sells everything and several nice looking cafe's. Bakers ships that sell fresh bread and a very extensive Co-0p. We also found an Outdoor Pursuits supplier that sells guitar strings and popped our noses intothe local luthier to see teh wonderful range of violins cellos and basses available in this small market town.

We also reconoitred the eateries. The last time we were here there was a Turkish that we tried out but this has now become a mediterranean restaurant which means it serves spaghetti bolognaise like your mother makes. Quite unlike the Italian rstaurant that we visited on the High Street. Here we had Italian food that could not be reproduced at home! The Best Mate's rissotto al Mare was 'the best I have tasted'. The Carbonara was creamier that anything we have ever made. The Meatballs in Tomato and Basil sauce slipped down Tigger's throat almost without a chew and the grilled Swordfish steak was beutiful. A little too dry for Piglet's taste but perfect for mine. The sweets were good too. Gellatti in an Italian restaurant is always a safe bet and the Tiramasalu was a real pick me up. No room for coffee.

Washed down with a caraffe of House Red this was a great meal. The first meal out of our holiday and one to remember.

Thank You Pizza di Piaza La favorita. I am just popping over to put a decent review on

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Getting our Act Together

I have only been out boating for two days bit we have accumulated a large assortment of things for recycling. Coming to Stone I thought that we would be able to discharge our cargo. But no. We have not yet found the approprite place for domestic refuse. Of course I could put it in the bins by the tennis courts but they are already full of other boaters rubbish!

We found the recycling centre behind the Sports Hall. But there they only take paper not cardboard and cans not the full range of gear apart from bottles and glass in their appropriate colours. So we still have our domestic rubbish and plastic recyling.

Why can't the local authority and BW get their act together so that we can dispose of it all responsibly in one place?

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Theatre in the Dock

We visited Theatre in the Dock yesterday evening and had a really good evening listening and joining in the choruses to Where the Working Boats Went http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifn evening of song. This was presented by Life and Times, a male duo who presented mostly self penned songs about the canal history from The Duke of Bridgewater to post war nationalisation and transformation into a leisure network. The songs were accompanied by the two musicians on accordion, melodion, squeeze box, mandolin and guitar.

We really enjoyed joining in the choruses.

Such a pity that this acoustically fantastic theatre in Tooleys Dry Dock was only half full (of people, not water silly!)

Well done to producer Kate Saffin

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Countdown to the off part 2

Now is the start of the real countdown to the Summer Cruise.

The long awaited holiday boating experience starts on a few days time. First though a few little details.

To start with the boat is 100 miles away! We usually get provisions (dry goods and staples) sorted out and stowed in their appropriate cupbpards before we leave. This gives us all the necessary ingredients to produce our family's culinary requirements if we don't get near to a supermarket for a week or two. All we need is the fresh basics to be added and a meal can be provided from the cupboard. But this time we are having to use a lot of guess work.

We are basic Aldi shoppers these days and we do know that Aldi have opened a new store in Stone and the store in Stoke-on-Trent is in Trentham, a stone's throw from the T & M Hemheath Bridge 106 so we know that we can stock up within a day or two.

We also know that the boat has been cruising for about 14 days so we will need diesel in about a week. The best place to get deisel though is on the Shroppie. I am not sure of prices on the T & M.

Other little problems are getting a car to where we can leave it for a little while. We need to return to home mooring (by car) for the first week in August so we will be meandering around the Rugely area for a week just because we need to be able to return tothe car. Cars and boats really do not mix! We either have to park near a station and moor near one to return to the car or we park near a canal and return to the car by boat. Either way is not easy. We do not like returning by the same way and finding a mini ring is difficult. The former is the most desiraboe. However, trains do not go the same way as canals any more! Planning is made more difficult by the difficulty in finding buses in rural areas too.

So tomorrow I am driving to Rugely and returning by train to see how good the routes are. We will decide which course of action later!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

RCR Service: three times over

River Canal rescue came this morning to get SONFLOWER moving again.

The first time, in spite of having a very good description of the problem over the phone, they came to look. Two "young guys" our skipper described them as. They went away to get a new morse controller as the obsolete 25 year old Marine Master was broken as described!

They returned well over an hour later with some tools in a plastic box but had to borrow the right size of screw driver to dismantle the old drive. Offering up the new one showed that a screw hole did not line up. They did not have a drill to make a new one! So off they went off to get one. Another hour or so passed and then the new controller was fitted. But not without dropping a couple of screws (for which they had spares), losing a nut (for which they didn't so fitted a larger size)and losing a grommet that they probably didn't know they had knocked off as they left the hole empty.

However, the new RCR parts insurance scheme is beginning to pay off as all that was charged was the £50.00 excess. Here it is looking the business:

I had assured my relief crew that they would be under way in no time. In fact they didn't get away until well into the afternoon. I caught up with them at Claydon locks and they were them settling into the cruise and were very pleased to be making headway. Here they wave good bye at Claydon Top Lock

Saturday, 9 July 2011


The last three things to do today I did not get done!

The crew left banbury on the Summer Cruise at about 4.30pm today but we did not get to do the greaser or the briefing.

So I decided to go to Cropredy to meet the boat after I had been to the matinee of Piglet's school perfomance where he played violin in the orchestra.

I got to Cropredy Wharf at about 5.30 NSD passed a little time on our friend's boat, playing his takemene guitar and sipping his malt whisky while I waited for Sonflower to come and they got ready to go to a barn dance. Sonflower did not arrive before 6pm so I phoned to find that the engine lost power at Bridge 157! Just before Slat Mill Lock. I got in the car and went as close as I could (Slatt Mill Farm) and accessed the canal at Bridge 156 and walked down the towpath past the lock to Bridge 157. There I found that the skipper of the crew had diagnosed the problem as metal fatigue on the Marine Master morse controller. A cable tie was put in place to jury rig the controller enough to get the boat through the lock and I left the crew to navigate to Cropredy Wharf where we called River Canal Rescue.

Here is Sonflower limping toward the wharf with hardly enough reverse drive to stop safely.

This picture shows the cable tie on the controller mechanism.

RCR said they have a queue of breakdowns so we moored the boat opposite the winding hole by Bridge 157 and await their call tomorrow morning.

I left the crew at 9.30pm preparing dinner.

Not a good start to the cruise.

Getting Ready Diary

Yes! It is time for SONFLOWER to start her Summer Cruise. The last day has seen more rain than we have had collectively since March and the sky is full of Cumulo Nimbus clouds ready to pour more delight and pleasure on the helmsman.

We have spent the last week getting her ready. Not that there was much to do but there is always something. I have put some paint on the rusty patches of the roof. In true Bonesy DIY style I rubbed it all down and primed patches of it only to find that I didn;t have any top coat to apply! Tooleys had no Craftmaster Raddle in light grey in stock so I have been waiting two weeks.

MONDAY: While taking a group if children from the local primary school for a short boat trip through town on Monday Tooley's Matt chased me down the towpath woth a pot of paint in his hand as he knew we wanted to be ready to go this weekend! Bless him. A real plus for good local customer service. Visited Sovereign Wharf to fill up with Diesel and change a gas bottle. Also bought a new chimney to replace one that has suffered from impact with Nell Bridge and Aynho Bridge on more than one occasion.

TUESDAY: Weather Rain and Wind Twiddles thumbs waiting for a dry spell!
WEDNESDAY: Sunny Intervals. Dashed down and got on with the painting in a very warm sunny interval. The paint was almost dry before the brush/roller left the surface. So many boats coming by commented that I would makeit rain. It did rain but after the paint was touch dry so I am hoping it will be OK.
FRIDAY: Clearing and cleaning. Removing as much of the clutter that a family leaves on a boat just in case. Lost the vacuum cleaner to find that the last people who borrowed the boat had stowed it in the tinder box! (the from step). Checked engine hole and noticed that the greaser needs filling bit no time to do it today. Very wet rain.
TODAY: Do the greaser, check the bilge. Brief the crew

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Spot the Difference

Well done Tesco!

How to increase the price by stealth.

A price increase of 11.1% (if you buy in pairs)at the 'offer' price of 2 for £2 by reducing the weight from 1000ml to 900ml. Interestingly the new 900ml pack is dimensionally bigger!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Blustery Day(s)

We would have liked to be boating on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. It is Summer after all. But. . .

The wind has been quite strong and the only place to go for an afternoon cruise is Cropredy. The wind whips across the fields and hits the boat sideways just above Little Boughton lock. A friend of mine found this out as we approached the lock from the north. I got off at Little Boughton Bridge 158 to walk to the lock to set it. After filling the lock and opening the gate I looked back and SONFLOWER was nowhere to be seen! She was pinned against the bank on the outside of the bend by the wind- just out of sight from the lock!

So we watched the clouds scudding across the sky, dreamt of a cruise another day and went for a coffee on our friends' boat as they were moored in town on their way to the Kennet And Avon from Market Harborough. It was a very pleasant visit. We had not been on their (new) boat before and, as with all bespoke boats, it was full of good ideas. The cassette emptying through the back of a hinged bookshelf was particularly impressive. It may re-appear in our bathroom re-design!

We did visit the boat to replenish bedding and check on a few things. The water tank was still full and the bilge empty which is always a good sign. The fridge inventory was checked and the next provisioning list started.

Maybe we will cruise in the sunny near future. After all June starts on Wednesday!

On Thursday we have a planned trip with some youngsters so hopefully the weather will improve.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

A going concern

I told you that I would keep you up to date with All the boaty news. SONFLOWER is now on Sovereign Wharf who have kindly allowed me to moor there to use the electric hook up to run a big vacuum cleaner/aquavac. One small inconvenience of having one's generator stolen is that my inverter is not man enough for really tough tasks.

I could not moor on the Wharf until after closing time(4pm)so while I was waiting I tackled one of the jobs I have been putting off. There was a weep spotted from the seal between the toilet and the holding tank. The fixing bolts were wobbly and closer inspection revealed that the toilet was actually only attached to the tank by one of the four!

So I went to Lee Sanitation yesterday and handed over £30 of my hard gained wonger in return for a genuine Sealand Traveler Seal kit which, thankfully included the bolts nuts and washers.

I had pumped out this morning and Ray at the Wharf had allowed me double the normal allownace of blue so the smell was sufferable as I removed the toilet, cleaned up the flange and refitted the loo with a new seal.

We are fully serviceable again!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Not fast but speedy

SONFLOWER has returned to home mooring.

The crew that brought her home from Rickmansworth left there at 10.30am on Tuesday and were in Banbury yesterday lunchtime. (Sunday) They were at Cropredy overnight on Saturday. They therefore covered 102 miles and 103 locks in five days which means travelling for at least 11 hours a day! and probably in reality nearly dawn to dusk! The crew of three consisted of a rooky helmsman and a young man who had only been on a boat for a couple of days with his school some years back. The 'admiral' absconded for a day as well. I left them at Marsworth Junction on Wednesday evening. I was tired after just two
days at their pace.

Didn't they do well!

They enjoyed every minute! To be out in sunshine and passing through the greenery of Middlesex, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire with peaceful waters beneath the boat was quite a change from London