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.

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

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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.