About Me

My photo
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.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Last of the Year

A break in the rainy weather this morning.

We were moored in town for the Festive Season. Needing fresh water we had too much flowing past us, in the bilge and falling from the skies so SONFLOWER lay lonely beside the quay. The bilge was pumped out.

At 1000h the lift bridge was raised and I went through to the water point. Another local moorer had descended the lock to the facilities below and left the bottom lock gates open. He probably thought they were on their own in the Sunday sunshine. I couldn't be bothered to close them and fill the lock, only to have to do it all again when I returned from turning, so I backed through the lift bridge and all the way back to home mooring. I arrived at 12 noon. Regular readers will note that this is the average time for a "Water Run" whichever way you do it.

Back on the mooring I was just in time for coffee on board Willy Nilly where I savoured the bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms, beans and toast that were being prepared for the crew. I was offered some but regretfully refused so as not to spoil my appetite for the paella that I was to cook for Sunday lunch. The smell was good and the conversation flowed. The boat's dog enjoyed a sausage and eyed up the baked beans.

I had to take my leave a little under an hour later to get away to cook for my own crew but stopped to chat to the boatman on Grace who was chopping oak logs. He told me that he had not bought any logs in the seven years he had been on the water. He only burns logs too! He was extremely accurate with the axe he was wielding which he put down to the fact that he had been chopping wood since he was seven! He was thankful to be on our relatively sheltered stretch of water during the rainy spell. His home mooring is at Welford on the Warwickshire Avon. He told me his story of survival during the 2007 rise in water levels of over 16 feet overnight! He managed to secure a single rope to the overhanging branch of a tree just before the rings came off the poles to which he was moored. Less fortunate boats were swept by dragging their mooring lines!

The paella was good and used up some more of the Christmas turkey!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Don't you hate it

when you just click in the wrong place and your whole blog roll disappears!

Sorry bloggers. It may take some time for things to be put right.

Happy Christmas to all of you!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Bright Period

That was what was forecast so when I woke I looked out, saw the sun and started the engine.

I made the best of it while it lasted:
0745 Let go
0800 Through Lift Bridge 164 thence through Banbury Lock 24
0830 Turning at Bankside (Tramway) Winding Hole
0900 On the Services Point for ash/rubbish disposal, water and pump out
1030 Prep the lock and work up (encourage "crew" to shower and dress)
1045 Through the lift bridge, coaching a young woman who was waiting on her way to work, to close it for me, Thank You. Saved her and me time!
1100 Turning at Grimsbury Arm (encourage "crew" to have breakfast)
1115 Tie up at Home Mooring
1130 Rain commences, and Bright Period over!


Thursday, 13 December 2012

Colder and Bluer

A clearer sky and a colder canal. The ice broken by a passing craft yesterday is completely reformed this morning.

Forecast is -3C all day today.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

This was how cold it was this morning!

Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Highlight today was seeing 25 waxwings in a tree near here. They flew off south. Cold weather has its compensations. Beautiful, truly beautiful birds.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Saturday Morning

Just the water run to do today.

I let go (note the new, correct, boating terminology used since reading "The Amateur Boatwoman" which was kindly lent to me by Mortimer Bones) at 7.50am and was at the Lift Bridge at 8am. Piglet popped up to work the bridge on his way to the Station to catch his train to Oxford, where he rehearses with the Kent Youth Orchestra. I settled onto the water point.

Tigger's alarm sounds at 8am and I was happily surprised to find that he had silenced it AND got up. I shepherded him into the shower while we filled with water. He duly dressed and settled at the table for his breakfast as I worked down the lock. I tied up below the lock and let him off as it was time for him to leave for football training.

I let go again and winded at Tramway, passing nb Annie who was busy unloading a ton of kiln dried oak logs that had just been delivered to the parking layby near Samuelson (Tramway) Bridge.

Back to the lock I worked up and thence through the lift bridge
(A little close to the bridge here as the flow is toward the lock and hence the bridge!)to return to the mooring, tying up at 1050. nb Willy Nilly was also preparing for the cold, sawing logs as I passed.

Another water run completed.

The felled trees on the opposite
bank do look inviting!

Friday, 7 December 2012

(Stealth) Mooring Fee Increase

Those of you with a long memory will know that in September I posted to let you know that I wrote to Canal and River Trust about this issue.

Today I got a reply.

The reply was written yesterday, 59 working days after the date of my letter.

Apart from confirming the facts the reply did not address my concerns at all.

I have asked, for the second time, for the complaint to be elevated to "the second level".

How do you think I will get on?

Thursday, 6 December 2012

"Red sky in the morning: shepherds warning"?

I waited patiently for the sun to appear. I expected a large red disc to slowly ascend into the sky, yellowing as it progressed in a long lazy arc.

I anticipated a gorgeous bright but crispy cold day.

Actually the sun never shone. The clouds were already gathering on the eastern horizon and the sun has been masked from sight.

Cold it is though.

We had the first ice of the winter on the Canal this morning.

If it clears during the day I may go down to town for water. A long freeze would be a little inconvenient!

The warning this time is for a cold snap I think rather than a storm or rain. But who knows.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


These A3 size posters have been appearing all over the place attached to all sorts of street furniture, trees etc. This one was attached to the park boundary fence near to Marsh Footbridge No 163.

However, it very quickly became just another piece of litter. This time plasticized and non biodegradable! Hardly keeping the canal special!

Don't worry! I got my screwdriver and hammer out, removed the old tacks and re-affixed the poster.

Does that mean I have now become one of Canal and River Trust's team of volunteers?

Out of Touch

To be quite honest I have been too busy to blog.

The Best Mate has not been well and has had to take to her bed. That has meant that a lot of the things that would be easier with two have been handled with my two hands. Just keeping the cupboards full, the crew fed, the fire alight and making sure that the crew are in the right place at the right time takes a lot of effort.

We have done everything we have needed to do. Firstly, once navigation re-opened and water levels were sensible again,

we went down the lock and got water and pumped out the toilet tank on Tuesday. Once above the lock again I waited for Tooley's to tighten up the leaking diesel joint again and we settled for life in town for a couple of nights.

While there, on Friday morning, Dusty came

and topped up our supplies of coal. I had already made sure that I had a spare gas bottle and had been surviving on a single 20kg bag of Homefire Ovals and a bag of logs that I had bought at a farm shop. Buying coal this way is 25% more costly than off Dusty! He had the news that coal prices rise again by 25p per bag next month on top of a 25p rise this last two months.

So Saturday morning I returned to home mooring.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Needs Must

Today the crew decided to jump ship and use facilities on shore. We are almost out of water. Canal and River Trust advice is that navigation is not possible in the Banbury Town Centre. The interesting thing about this advice to me is that the section highlighted on the map is only from Sovereign Wharf to below the Banbury Lock. It does not include the cross streams and difficulties of the influx and outflow of the Hanwell Brook to the north of the town. This is the only navigational hazard noted in the canal guides but ignored by C&RT.

I do not know what my insurance company's view is of a boat owner who ignores advice.

But we are now prepared: A boat owning friend, who winters in Spain, flew in at the end of last week. We met for a drink and they have kindly lent me their pump out kit until they need it again in April. I have bought a bag of coal, a bag of logs and bottle of gas and a bag of sticks to tide us over until Dusty can move again. He is prevented in getting here by the rise in water levels at Aynho. His texts are always light hearted. Some day I might publish more of them. This one says "will you turn the tap off Dusty can not get through the locks or under the bridges with all this water....." He doesn't mention crossing rivers!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Flood update

The current situation, over 1 mile per hour past the boat, is causing some concern. I slackened the mooring lines overnight to ensure that we slept level as the rain fell and the water level rose.

The flow from the Hanwell brook which enters the canal upstream of us is causing strong streams in the area and is too much for the outflow to the main River Cherwell. That is why the flow is racing past us toward the town and lock where the paddles are open to allow the water to enter the River Cherwell a couple of weirs downstream.

I am assessing whether it may be possible to close the paddles for long enough to get the boat through the lock tomorrow without flooding Castle Quay for which I would not be thanked! It is essential that we work down the lock, turn at Calthorpe (Bankside or Tramway) winding hole if we are to pump out the waste tank. Then we would have to work back up.

More rain is forecast for this evening and over night which could change things considerably.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Floods again!

Pictures (above) taken this morning of the meadow area of the Spice Ball Park just behind our mooring.

And below, of the River Cherwell in the Town Centre, firstly looking toward the Mill Arts Centre

and then to the north. (Taken from the new Leisure Centre footbridge)

A look at the Environment Agency Masterplan shows that these areas of flooding are not unexpected in the 1 in 200 scenario.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Most Unusual

I cooked dinner this evening. That isn't unusual. But I lacked a couple of items that I had forgotten when shopping today. So I popped into town on foot. The lovely people at Aviva had sent me a couple of £10 Marks and Spencer coupons in lieu of the discount they promised me for renewing my insurance on line so I decided to purchase cucumber, lettuce and tomatoes with my windfall. While there however, I was diverted to buy a bread and butter pudding, an apple pie and some ready made custard. This is the most unusual bit!

Flood Alert

It is not much of a picture but the view shows Sonflower on her mooring as the flood waters rise.

I have just loosened her mooring lines to allow for more movement.

The paddles are all open on the lock and the current is now significant here. The water still appears to be rising.

The sky has cleared and the rain has stopped but the water will continue to run down from the Warwickshire Hills for a few hours yet.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to get out to the flood alleviation barrier site. The scene must be quite interesting there.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Keeping warm

With Dusty the Coal man a week away and the nights getting very frosty I have to supplement the coal with a few logs.,Br>
Having taken my younger son's keyboard and amp to his band practice (I won't let him carry them through town to school along with his school bag!) I dropped into the local farm shop to pick up some fire lighters, sticks and logs. I don't want to be one who always thinks that it was better in the "good old days" but newspaper really does not burn as well as it used to. More often than not I need a fire lighter to light the newspaper!

I didn't think that £9.00 was a bad bill.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Leaks! More leaks.

Yes, this time on the waste pipes from the galley and bathroom sinks. As I walked down the boat this morning I smelt a familiar aroma. Drains! A quick test indicated that the galley sink waste was running slowly.After emptying the cupboard the rodding eye plug was easily removed and the black slimy deposits that had accumulated cleared away. A quick flush and all seemed right as rain again here.

The Best Mate had told me earlier that there was water under the bathroom vanity basin. I investigated and found dampness on the waste. Here the arrangement is completely different. No u-bend and rodding eye. Just a 1.1/2"BSP end cap screwed very tightly onto the pipework. I failed in my attempt to remove it. The waste is flowing well enough so I resorted to self-amalgamating tape. OK for a quick job!

So, two more leaks fixed that could contribute to the "water-in-the-bilge" problem. I am sure there are many more!

Matt from Tooley's asked yesterday whether I had any leaks. I told him I didn't know! I think he wanted a check on the diesel leak they had fixed. As far as I know, that is still OK.

The roof light still leaks though. I have to work on that next. One thing at a time.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Big Day

I could not post yesterday as things do not always go to plan!

On Tuesday we did go and do the PUMP OUT. Quite excited by the prospect we slipped away from our mooring before 8am and settled on the water point above the lock. Filling did not take as long as usual but the crew managed breakfast while we were there. Thence to the winding hole to turn and return to the mooring opposite the facilities below the lock at 9.20am. From here The Best Mate accompanied our son to the Spice Ball Leisure Centre to take part in "Mixed leisure" - badminton.

It was now 10.30 so I texted Nene Pilot to tell him where I was. I got a call in return informing me that our moorings had been enclosed in blue and white tape and had become a crime scene. A person had been found floating in the canal!

I went up to the moorings and spoke to the CPO who was taking names and information. She let me go on board Nene Pilot and they allowed us to move toward town which was away from the place of discovery. As we went along two CID officers passed us on the tow path. They did not give anything away as to the circumstances. The CPOs stopped Grey Hare and pulled them over onto my mooring to prevent their progress toward the turning point. "£25 a night" I quipped. "Put it on the police bill", they replied.

We turned Nene Pilot and then returned to the facilities to get on with the business of the day. The pump that they use is a petrol powered 2" water pump that was brought from ALDI. The hoses have seen some service and there were some leaks on the suction side that needed taping up to enable the pump to be effective and lift the waste water out if the tank.

However we did Nene Pilot first and I am glad we did. We sorted a lot of teething problems out on her and I got a good idea of what was needed when it came to our turn. Once it was pumping, the pump did its job. Getting it going was a little bit of a problem and priming was essential. One lesson that needed to be learned was not to remove the priming plug when the discharge pipe is full!

We completed our task and we worked up the lock to moor outside General Foods where we managed to beat last orders on the food at 2pm! The whole process had taken 4.1/2 hours. Lunch was welcome.

Nene Pilot called with the good news that the person found in the canal was alive and in hospital.

Monday, 12 November 2012

BIG day tomorrow

This is to warn you all that we are on the move. Yes, tomorrow is the first of the Winter Pump Out Days! Since the local wharf where we usually pump out the toilet tank is on Winter Holiday How is the skiing going, Ray?) we have had to make alternative arrangements. A local moorer has come to our aid. Tomorrow is his pump out day and he has told us we can catch a tow on their coat tails and use their equipment at the local facilities. We pump out on the near side. The facilities are on the off side so we have to do "the water run" in reverse, if you know what I mean. We need to go through the lift bridge and lock, up to Calthorpe (Tramway or Bankside) Winding Hole and turn to present ourselves, near side on, at the Facilities. I hope to take pictures of the whole of the proceedings to let you all know the complications of being a CaRT towpath moorer in winter. Early start tomorrow. But the engine will warm the shower water as we go!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Age catches up

The Best Mate used her bus pass for the first time today.

The car has been troubled by an intermittent fault on the braking system and needed to return to the Main Dealer today to have the automatic electric brake system dismantled lubricated and reassembled to stop the brakes locking on.

Thst meant the chauffeur had most of the day off.

With a meeting arranged on the outskirts of town, the Best Mate was thrown onto the horns of the public transport system. Leaving 40 minutes this morning for a two minute car ride was not enough and she had to resort to a taxi to ensure getting there on time. This is because the buses run every half hour and she saw one pulling away from the bus station while she asked which bus she should catch at a different stop. The taxi driver was pleased as he had been on the rank for an hour. He could justify a trip to his spinning class at the gym after doing a job!

Getting back there was no time constraint. So she waited for the bus.

We learned a lot about the buses this morning. The B1 changes to the B2 and vice versa. at the Bus Station so that passengers who want to stay on the bus to get across town don't need to change buses or stops!The routes go within 50 yards of each other but do not quite meet. The GA01 and GA02 are the same bus but listed separately to get over Euro regs that limit the length of bus routes. Rugby to Banbury is too far, they should change the number half way but most drivers don't bother. The 499 and 500 are the Brackley Circular! The 500 goes clockwise and the 499 goes the other way! It could take you 1 hour 56 minutes to do the 3 mile trip from Cropredy to Fenny Compton as the hourly buses miss a connection and you have to wait 58 minutes for the next one!

No wonder we are glad to have the car.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Autumnal Thoughts

The alarm was set a little later than usual this morning but that didn't stop the Best mate being up at first light. I raked the fire and reset it with some paper sticks and coal and stumbled outside to start the engine to warm the water for our showers and charge the batteries. (A sink tap had been left dripping yesterday so that the water pump was stop-start all the time we were away from the boat. This is not too good for the pump or our batteries.)

The light was stunning!

As the sun started to rise behind the trees a reflection came off the flooded meadowland behind our mooring that lit up the yellow carpet of fallen leaves and the crests of the green leaved trees across the canal which reflected this golden glow.

I went inside to get the mobile phone and tried to capture the experience. By now the sun was a few degrees higher and the effect had been lost. I took a couple of snaps but I am really the world's worst photographer! Another moorer came down the tow-path as I pointed the phone at her "What on earth are you doing?", she called. "Just taking some Autumnal pictures", I said. "Oh!" she grunted, "I've got to go to work".

The frost on the grass did not last long once the sun came out and the clouds soon filled the clear blue sky. Rain has filled the gap now and warmth dispelled the shocking cold of the night. The leaves are still green on many of the trees, denying that Autumn is here. But I know differently: I saw it this morning at first light.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Water shortages

Water levels here are now is above 'normal' level. The river Cherwell is over its banks outside the towns and the River Thames is on "red boards" from St John's to Teddington Lock.

It is about time we reminded ourselves of the dry winter and rainless March, April and May this year when the absence of water in some summit pounds in the South of the country was bringing restrictions and the doom sayers were out saying the canals would be dry in the Summer.

I wrote these lyrics for the Boaters Entertainment at Little Venice IWA Canalway Cavalcade in early May.

No rhyme or reason it is the dry season and water is short around here.
It happens in most years, the sun's warm as toast, dears but there is no shortage of beer.
Water levels plummet on reaching the summit so we moor where a pub is near
They built reservoirs to keep the boats floating but that fish will be bloating is now the fear

if the water is used in the cut.

So just four hours a day is all we can cruise and the rest of the time we just have to booze
We can walk and talk or sit and knit, read a book or the paper or snooze
We stroke the cat on our lap would play cribbage or snap, any game that you choose
but from here there's no boating 'cos the boat is not floating it's sitting down there on the ooze!

No water is left in the cut.

I not sure that rain dances have increased our chances of torrents and lashings of rain
Our prayers have been answered as the floods advance: strong streams flowing again
Now April is here to allay all our fear with steady showers the rivers are flowing again
Now we look for our ark in the mid of the park but we certainly do not complain

Yes! The water is back in the cut

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Back to Routine

The leak" is fixed.

I haven't paid the bill yet but I have had a service done on the engine as well. There were a few things found on inspection:

a) The coupling bolts were loose! Nylock nuts needed replacement.

b) Gearbox oil filler cap unsecrewed! Re-tightened.

c) Air filter hanging off by the rocker box vent tube! New rubber sleeve fitted so that the air filter pan could grip the inlet manifold entry boss.

All in all worth having Tooley's man have a look. Potentially all the above could have caused serious difficulties. Its not too good if your drive fails! Nor if the gearbox oil disappears. Nor if oil continually flows from the rockerbox vent into the oily bund under the engine. It was a rocker box gasket leak that has led to another boat on our nooeings being towed to Tooley's after an engine seize. Oil is pumped up to the rocker box and is supposed to drain through the engine to the sump. A leak at this juncture causes a severe lack of oil!

So we are ready for winter. Antifresze checked, clean oil, no deisel leak, full tanks and clean filter.

"Dusty" came by this week too, so we are stocked up with coal.

Now all we need is the snow. No! Cancel that order, we can so without that!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Last time before WINTER

Yesterday (Wednesday) I rose early and set the day in motion. Up at 5.30 to get teh stove glowing and ensure the crew are warm. Then changing the water heating to gas to save the need to runt he engine. then off to get the car into the garage for a brake check. (Smelling buring brake linings after a run did not give ne confodence that al was well withthe new brake pads that were fitted last week) I needed to get the car there to ensure it was available for the workshop to start at 0830h.

Then back to the boat to back through the lift bridge to the water point. Here I was aided by a passing crew. While in the water point I met a reader of the blog; maybe THE reader of this blog! She said I don't blog enough and enjoyed reading it. Thank you for the encouragement!

Then I followed an off-duty vicar and his wife through the lift bridge to battle the wind alll teh way to Sovereign Wharf. Here the absence of nb Peggy Thompson and an off shore wind put my alignment out and I struggled with the centre rope to pull SONFLOWER back to the wharf for a Pump Out. It is here the the post heading comes from. Sovereign Narrowboats close for the wimter. Today is the last day they are open until 4th March 2013. I wished then a very pleasant winter.

With the stoppage at Slatt Mill Lock until 23rd September, we will need to get to Twyford Mill for the next Pump Out.

While at the Wharf the Director of Tooley's Boatyard came by on nb Dancing Duck. He hailed me and asked where I was going. I told him "Nowhere, I will back to the town centre when the Pump Out is complete." He said "Good, I will put John on to do your leak".

Later in the day, John came, removed the spill rail from the engine. Noted a nick on the sealing face of the first injector and changed that for one that I had in stock. He the completed an engine service and I hope that all is now well with the engine.

Hopefully: no more rainbows from the bilge pump discharge!

Thursday, 25 October 2012


Does anyone else have to insert in order to form paragraphs in their blog? Blogger seems to have forgotten how to put the code in in response to the return key.

Diesel Leak (again!)

I moored at the water point on Tuesday. There was another boat on it! I crossed over and my boat swayed as I jumped off, swilling the bilge water in engine bilge and activating the bilge pump. A stream of dirty water efused from the boat followed by a rainbow of diesel!

I backed the boat back to opposite Tooley's boatyard and asked them to take a look. It is a leak on the No 1 diesel injector to spill rail banjo joint. It has plagued me since the spill rail was changed to a solid pipe following a boat safety examination that disqualified seperate flexible connections between the injectors.They sent John to take a look and he spent a couple of hours on it finally declaring that his special sealant had done the trick.

I paid the bill and backed the boat to Sovereign Wharf where I turned, pumped out and filled the tanks with diesel. It is best to keep the tanks full in winter to cut down on condensation and the resultant water-in-the-diesel problems.

This morning the director of Tooley's asked me how the leak was. "I don't know", I said. "John said it was OK so I haven't looked since. Shall we take a look?" I am glad we did. I think he is not! The joint was leaking. The problem now is that, with full tanks, the diesel level in the tank is above the level of the spill rail. Diesel leaks now all the time, not just when the engine is running. Having spent over £1 per litre I am not too pleased it is running into my bilge!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Different Outlook

Remembering my post about Tree Worries, we now have a different outlook on the mooring. We see more sky, a stack of portable buildings but have no dangerous trees threatening to flatten us!

Thank you to whoever paid for the tree surgery.

Also for the log that floated across the canal and is now my chopping block.


It is not often that we find a boat in distress on our moorings.

This poor boat was towed from near Harwick Lock and left here to pole themselves the rest of the way into town for Tooley's Boatyard to look at their failed engine. Tooley's were too busy to come out and pull the the boat themselves. A passing boater helped them as far as he could.

Unfortunately we could not help any further even though we wanted to.

I did see them with the mechanic on board under Tom Rolt Bridge yesterday so, hopefully, they will soon be sorted.

It emphasised to me that the subscription to River Canal rescue is worthwhile insurance. I would not want myself or anyone boating in Sonflower to have to pole the boat miles to get attention.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Beautiful Morning

It was!

As the sun came up behind the Mill (Arts Centre) beside the Banbury lock. We used the water point having come throughthe lift brodge in the half light and I watched the dawn from the cratch of the boat. The sun comes up somwhat south of east at this time of year and the dawn has a wonderful yellow glow about it.

Within half an hour it was raining.

We backed back through the lift bridge and are moored back in Banbury Town Centre.

My excuse for being here was that it is handy for the Banbury Folk Festival this weekend where I helped man the information desk. It was a very busy but musical weekend.

Unfortunately the Best Mate was indisposed with a very nasty head cold that kept her in bed yesterday amd today. Very unusual for her!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

A very full Morning

This morning the sun shone and it looked as if we would have a great day.

A new neighbour with a brand new 70ft boat, "Willy Nilly", asked me to accompany her on the "water run". She picked me up off the boat at Tom Rolt Bridge No 164. The lift bridge 165 in town has challenges for the single hander but we negotiated it safely. On approach I was hailed by Kate Saffin, of Theatre in the Dock Fame, who wanted to return a book I had lent her. Pushing the boat over to Tooley's side of the canal to collect the volume put us a bit out of centre for going through the bridge narrows. But all was fine. We settled onto the water point and filled the boat, the kettle and had a cup of coffee. Taking on water is just something one has to do. And it takes as long as it takes.

A single hander came up the lock and shut the gate behind him. No problem really as my friend wanted to do all the work she would have to do on her own. I did help him through the lift bridge.

Entering the lock from the water point is an easy sweep. The lock at Banbury is at an angle to the main run of the canal and getting it wrong can mean a scrape down the concrete side, getting the cruiser stern stuck under the raking coping and other nightmares. It is best to keep well back and smoothly enter the lock. My friend did it perfectly:
We checked with the hire boaters at the water point that they were almost ready to go up the lock and left the gates open for them. A Canal and River Trust man walked down the tow-path opposite and told us we had left the gates open. We told him that the hire boat was going up but he closed the gates muttering something about saving water! He obviously has little knowledge of the canal as the water flowing over the top gates will spill through the leaking bottom gates anyway and the pound above the lock is fed by the Hanwell Brook. This brook is the cause of flooding rather than shortages with the recent rain! Ignorance is bliss. He must think he was doing his job. All he did was annoy me and inconvenience the hirers who had to open the gates again.

Thence to Bankside Winding hole to turn. My friend did very well here. Turning a 70 footer is quite a lot more difficult than my 57 ft boat. We passed "Dusty" on the way back and pulled over to the facilities to set the lock. It was full this time, the hire boat having worked up. "Dusty" came up and we allowed him to go first. "Working boats have priority" I said. "I wish everyone would think that" he replied. Just watching "Dusty" work the lock taught us a bit about single handling. Don't get too close to the gates when the lock is emptying, you'll be sucked against the gate and could break them; slow the boat with the gates if it is going into the lock too fast; watch the speed that you let the water in so that the boat doesn't crash against the top gate. etc. etc.

Our turn came and went well. Del and Al from Derwent 6 came up behind and were there to help with gates and paddles.

So through the lift bridge we went. Having let "Dusty" go first we now came to a halt. He was delivering to the boat yard and their collection of vessels meant that the way was entirely blocked. A boat was coming the other way too!

After the way cleared we returned to the mooring. I got off at Tom Rolt Bridge No 164 and let Willy Nilly return to her mooring. I started SONFLOWER's engine and backed her to Sovereign Wharf where I started to turn. In the middle of the turn the boat started to move sideways toward the lock. To my surprise a boat "Zenith" came round the bend and headed between my bow and the bank sucking SONFLOWER toward it as she approached. "Wait up a minute" the helmsman shouted. "Who is turning?" I replied, "Shouldn't you be waiting a minute?!"

Thence to the whaarf for a PUMP OUT. By all accounts they had had a very good Canal Day and the Punch and Judy had been very good. The lack of Punch whacking Judy round the head and the absence of the baby being thrown to the crowd during the performance was noted as a sign of the times.

Then back to home mooring to wait for Dusty and the coal delivery. Good things come to those who wait. 5 bags of Pureheat at £11.00 a 25kg bag. Half what the garages and garden centres would charge.

A busy and very full morning.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Thorns are to be expected

I have just received this email.

I refer you to my post from a while ago of A Thorny Problem

Advice from Canal and River Trust:

Oxford Canal, Hedge cutting South East Waterway

Monday 8 October 2012 - Friday 1 March 2013 We have commenced the annual hedge cutting round, starting on the 1st October running until 1st March. Please be aware this work will result in thorns on towpaths. The specification includes the clearing of cut thorns from the tow path following a cut of the previous year’s growth, our contractors will blow/sweep/rake/clear the thorns off the path, however there will be areas where some thorns remain on the towpath or blow from the hedge onto the towpath following windy conditions. If you are planning a cycling trip please follow link http://www.waterscape.com/things-to-do/cycling/hints-and-tips for helpful tips. If you have a pet be mindful of tender paws picking up thorns on the path and under the hedgerows following this work.

Enquiries: 03030404040

You can find all stoppages at the url below: http://www.waterscape.com/things-to-do/boating/stoppages

Please do not reply to the email. It has been automatically generated.

SO that's the whole of winter then!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Prep for Canal Day

The town centre moorings have been a little cluttered recently by boats awaiting attention at Tooley's Boatyard. With the Banbury Canal Day fast approaching the moorings were all required for the boats booked in.

The notice from the Harbourmaster indicated that all moorings should be clear by 10am. No alternative then but to haul the boats out of town.

All Tooley's hands were on deck as this group of three unpowered boats were towed away by NB Oxford 1, a tug that was clearly up to the job.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

A Log for the log

The water run is not usually very eventful.

This week we started quite early, as soon as the engine was started in fact. At about 0700 we (I) start the engine to heat water for our morning showers. I moved from our overnight mooring in town to the lift bridge with the crew asleep. The Best Mate popped up to steer SONFLOWER through just after I had raised the bridge and re-joined her so could not get back off. Still she showed willing. We then settled on the water point and started our fill.

This takes about 45 minutes so there was ample time to fill the lock. We were obviously the first craft of the day and there was a huge amount of debris above the lock gates including a four by two varnished plywood panel which would have prevented any gate opening. I cleared this and a few hook loads of reeds to make sure the gates would not be impeded.

Having finished watering, we entered the lock and emptied it. Unfortunately The Best Mate could not open the bottom gate. "Something must be behind it!", she called. I moved the boat as close to it as I could and, armed with the boat hook, went fishing. What I found was a submerged log. It was far too heavy to lift out so I manoevered it free from behind the gate and through the gate opening. But my work was not finished yet. This log would have jammed us in the lock entry if it had been allowed to get between the bow rake and the canalside.
We moved forward very slowly and I prodded it onward ahead of the boat until the canal began to widen out and we were safely away.

"Do you have to do this often? asked a gongoozler from the footbrodge overhead. "No we aren't often troubled by debris" the Best Mate replied. "No, I mean do you have to use the lock much?" he said. "Oh, yes ALL the time".

The rest of the run was uneventful. I was single handed back through the lock and lift brdge as The Best Mate was meeting a friend for coffee but I did not need to worry. By now the lock pool was full with boats coming down and I didn't need to get off to close the lock gate or raise and lower the bridge.

On then to Sovereign Wharf for the PUMP OUT and chat. Is Dusty really giving up the coal boat this month? Then back to home mooring without incident, noting that Canal and River Trust had trimmed the willows opposite our mooring. They haven't touched the dead trees though. Apparently they are not a danger to navigation.

2 locks, 2 lift bridge, 2 miles, 3.1/2 hours

Friday, 21 September 2012

Pumped up!

I thought I would get the bike out to pop into town and give myself a little nmore exercise. Unfortunately the rear tyre definitely would not support my bulk so I got out the footpump to put a bit of air into the tyre. I bought a new footpump from Aldi.
I bought it on one of our routine grocery shopping trips and it has been in its box now for about six months, unused. I attached the dual pumpo head to the shroeder valve on the tyre and trod on the footplate. A large hissing sound greeted me but the tyre, instead of inflating, went flat as a pancake! The special dual head on the pump, designed to service small "dunlop" type bike valves and larger "shroeder" car tyoe valves, was letting air out of the one not in use and not letting any air go down the one in use! Vorsprung dur technik as they say in Germany but no use to me! Of course I had no receipt. The grocery shopping receipts had long gone in the shredder.

I emailed the manufacturer in Germany. Initially I receved a kurt reply saying NO RECEIPT - NO WARRANTY! I then asked Customer Services politely whether I could purchase a new pump head. This time I got the pleasant reply that a new pumphead andphoto instructions would be sent to me. They came today. Here they are:
In German.
Thanks Google translate.
They say: STEP 1 Remove the black plastic cover at the end of the hose
STEP 2 Solve using pliers and loosen the little metal piece the pump head from the hose
STEP 3 Now set the new sheet metal piece on the end of the hose cal and the new head on it
STEP 4 Than last press the sheet metal piece with pliers together, so that the pump head is hard.
However, how one removes a pressure crimped securing ring (the "little metal piece") I do not know so at Step 2 I cut the old pump head off with a sharp kitchen knife.
The new one is fitted and works perfectly.
RESULT! The footnote says "Nun steht der Nutzung nichts mehr im Wege :)"
"Now the use of nothing more stands in the way :)"

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Tree Worries

During our "water run" on Friday (See "Boring Routine" post below) we had to do a bit of manoevering around the remains of a willow bough that Canal & River Trust personnel were removing from the canal near our local turning point. The bough had dropped from a seemingly healthy willow in Spice Ball Park.

It made me think about these trees.

These are directly opposite our mooring. I spoke to the CaRT man with the chainsaw who advised me that they can do nothing about these until they fall because they are on private land. He thought the land might be owned by Hanson Trust. "Not just three men in an office somewhere", he said, "they will have agents working for agents."

Little hope of telling them my worries then!

2 locks, 2 lift bridge, 2 miles, 3.1/2 hours

Friday, 14 September 2012

Mooring stealth fee increases

We have a new moorer on our site. Temporarily their brand new craft is moored on a short term one month permit while they take part in the latest mooring berth auction. CaRT know that they need a local mooring and have all their details.

The latest Vacancy issued, Vacancy 4229, is as large as they come on the South Oxford and has a Reserve to match of £1607. This works out at £73.05 per metre. The level of this surprised me so I have done a little research.

When I bid for my mooring in August 2010 the Reserve was £59.61 per metre. Hence there has been an increase in what the site says "The Reserve Price reflects British Waterways' cost of providing the vacancy. It is the price below which it would not be economic for us to let the vacancy" of 22.5%. Inflation over the same period was 5.2% per year according to the Bank of England so the reserve has increased by double the rate of inflation.

I have written to CaRT to ask them to examine the basis of the Reserve. I think it is to maximise revenue as they know that there is a demand for the mooring at this time. Historically there hasn't been. A third of the Vacancies auctioned on this site since Jan 2010 have resulted in no-one bidding for them.

We will see how we get on.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Quick off the Mark

This is the first boat that I have noticed with the new Canal and River Trust logo painted onto the boat. Looks very smart. Interestingly it also sports a CaRT logo on its license which runs to 10/12 . Assuming the license was for the conventional year would this mean that the logo was being used prior to vesting?
POST POST NOTE: The boat is less than two weeks old, registered for BW waters and has been issued with a one month license. It will be based on the River Thames (EA controlled waters)
Opposite is a brand new boat that has no number or license, although the owner has applied for one. It is held in abeyance until a home mooring is found. (I did not think that a home mooring was a requirement for a boat registration.)


The sweetshop is not unusual. Traders of this commodity often stop in Banbury to sell their wares. This one though is interesting. The zebra acetate graphics add an interesting touch but the most unusual thing is the roof.

It is covered with 'turf'. Why turf? To feed the zebra!

Of course it is not real turf. But it is, in itself, a bit special because it is genuinely part of the Olympic Hill from the opening ceremony of London 2012! One of the perks of being there and helping out as a volunteer, I understand.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Boring Routine!

With a title like that I expect most of my readers have gone to the next blog!

For those of you who read everything, we have just executed the "water run" again, exactly ten days after the last. The only difference was that it took longer this time. I departed home mooring at 0730 turned at Bankside (Tramway) winding hole to mor and take on water at 0830 but this time we could not have breakfast while filling. We had NO BACON!

With water tank replenished we moved north to Samuelson Bridge and moored so that I could get bacon at nearby Morrisons. Rindless Wiltshire Cured Smoked Back was on offer at two packets for £4 so that fitted the bill. I do miss the crispy rind having no rind does mean that the bacon stays flatter under the grill.

After the true English breakfast we went back to do battle with the rush hour in Banbury Town centre. As we approached the lock which was set in our favour the Best Mate abandoned ship to go to the gym. Through the lock and without incident to the Lift Bridge. Us going north and three boats coming south, just as Tooley's staff manoevered a boat out of their dock, made the trip through the museum bridge very interesting. NB (Napton Boat)Louise discovered that narrowboats do not steer in reverse and vered toward the boat in the dock. A crew member jumped to Castle Quay with a rope to retrain it. We waited alomgside double moored boats outside Tooleys forthem to sort themselves out. We then weaved our way through the melee. The crew of a moored boat said they enjoyed watching the fun. "No boats were harmed during the performance", I commented, "thanks to the RYA boat handling training available at Tooley's boat yard!".

Thence to Sovereign Wharf for the pump out. The management was on the phone when we arrived. The chat here today was about the monopoly position of Calor in the Boating and Leisure Gas supply business. Good for share holders but not good for us according to the oracle. Centralisation means delivery to Banbury comes from Hinkley and delivery times vary from three to five days. In order to ensure supply to the customer this means small orders frequently made and hours on the telephone. Not like the old days when the local depot was Oxford! High Prices and poor service!

Then back to home mooring: turning and mooring pointing south ready for the next boring "water run" in ten days time. We moored at 1145h. 2 miles, 2 Locks, 2 Lift Bridges in 4.1/4 hours.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

New Refrigerator

Here it is. After a considerable wait we have installed a new refigerator. I know the web site said this was not suitable for narrowboats but it looks ok to me and fits exactly where the old one stood. Dimensions are identical but this one has 10 litres more capacity because it isn't designed to fit over a wheel arch!

It makes ice too!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Oxford Canal Beauty

We found this beautiful large moth in our bedroom this morning.

It is about two inches wingspan and the red underwing, which gives it its name, is only visible when it flies.

According to the ukmoths website that I consulted to identify it, it is very common in southern England and its caterpillars feed on alder and willow. It makes me wonder why this was a first for me!

We moor under willows and alders in southern England.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Signage Found

This sign was found floating past our home mooring.

It is now propped up against the "Please slow down" sign just north of Marsh Foot Bridge 163 on the South Oxford Canal if the owner wants to retrieve it.

"The Pratty Flower"

That is the name of a boat! A white rose adorns it's side so I assume that the crew are from Yorkshire.

We left the mooring this morning at 0700h for the first time in twelve days. We needed to do what boaters do again! Off to the turning point at Tramway and mooring on the mooring of nb Prancing Pony (who is away in Lower Heyford) we filled with water, had a shower and then breakfast. Replenishing our fresh water tank after twelve days takes quite a time! Then back to town and on to Sovereign Narrowboats for Pumpout, blue, and diesel before returning to the mooring.                            2 Locks, 2 LB, 2 Miles 3.5 hours

I had to return on foot to drop something off at a friend's place near the station and passed the lock/services on the way back. Here was nb It's Enough taking on water and waiting for the lock. I commented to a boater washing his boat that there seemed more boats here today than there were at Little Venice and the queue built up.  The skipper of nb It's Enough cruises alone. The boat name is his philosophy.He has lost his voice box to cancer. He talks through a mike held to his throat but is unable to make himself heard across the canal. I went over to speak to the skipper of the first boat in the queue, a very nice shiny boat, to establish nb It's Enough's place in the queue explaining his predicament with his voice and that he had finished watering up and was waiting for the lock. The skipper was ok about this but not his crew when I told her I was helping him up! "We will be here all day!" was her response and she went back to confer with her skipper.

The next boat to come down the lock came almost up to the gate on the wrong side of the canal. I pointed out that the boat in the lock would not be able to get out with the boat in the way and they backed up, putting their paintwork in jeopardy on the high conrete banking above the lock. How unobservant some can be! I worked the lift bridge and handed back the windlass receiving profuse thanks for my help.
NB It's Enough minding his own business
I then walked over the footbridge and along beside the car park toward Tom Rolt Bridge. Here I could not believe my eyes. Here came nb The Pratty Flower with its crew remonstrating from the front well deck that there was a boat ahead, maintaining centre channel directly at nb It's Enough! No quarter was given. I imagine that the helmsman had detected that the unfortunate skipper of nb It's Enough was from Liverpool,  Lancashire and the war of the roses was still running.  It struck on the port bow and ricocheted into a moored boat. No attempt to slow down or avoid collision was made!  I wished that I had failed in my negotiations at the lock. The very posh boat behind would have been the target!

NB Pratty Flower heading away after impact

You had better watch out for NB The Pratty Flower!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

A day out in the country

Yesterday we took German Friends on a little boat trip. A photo album they posted on Facebook recorded a visit to Stratford-on-Avon with references to their liking for narrowboats so we offered them a ride.

The showery weather curtailed our fun a little but we managed to get to the new winding hole at Twyford Mill. They say that boats of up to  60ft only can turn here. They mean it. Our 57ft turning was tighter than I like. I don't like hitting the bank at both ends!

Our freinds enjoyed the day, They were taking a lot of photos on an iphone so I expect to have a couple to post in good time. None ready now though.

By the way, the fridge is NOT working. We freeze 2 pints of milk and then let it defrost to keep the rest of the produce cool in what has now become a large cool box!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Claggy Milk

Yes, claggy milk and luke warm orange juice this morning so I opted for toast and marmalade and set about turning the fridge upside down!

A lot of gurgling and tummy rumbling noises came from the machine and we turned it back on. Now the proving time. Cleaned out, fired up and closed we await to see whether the recovery that was partial from our shake around a week ago can become a more permanent solution.

We really do not want to go down the electric fridge route. It would probably mean solar panels or a wind turbine to keep the batteries topped up. I do not fancy running the engine while moored for more than the half hour a day we do at present.

More to come. . . .

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Back in Routine

Late rising today but it matters little. We had the routine "water run" to complete. The gas bottle ran out on Sunday and we need to get another spare, the level is creeping up in the toilet tank and we are depleting the water tank. So we have to do what boaters do!

That means taking the boat into town, throuh the loft bridge to the water point. We then stop to fill with water before working down the lock. Today we stopped below the lock for breakfast. Then we proceded another 3/4 mile to turn at Bankside winding hole. Here the rain started so we stopped for a few minutes to get the waterproofs on.

Then back to the lock, pausing as a crew member bumped their head on the hatch which had been closed for the rain, then through thte lift bridge to Sovereign Wharf. We had to wait a few minutes for a boat that had lost a crew member in the town shopping to move off the wharf. Gas bottle exchange, pump out and chat completed we returned to home mooring.    2lock, 2 Lift Bridges, 2 miles, 2 Hours cruising.

Nice to be back in the old routine.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Canalside Songs of Praise

Thank you to Holy Cross Church Shipton-on-Cherwell, Thrupp Canal Cruising Club, local BCF members and the Oxford Christian Music Choir for putting on the Canalside Songs of Praise event at Thrupp Wide yesterday. We had a lovely time. We do not get a lot of invitations to sing and speak and it was a privilege to be part of this event.

A special 'thankyou' to Rev Brian who courageously read the clouds and took advantage of a blue sky opportunity that was just long enough to complete the whole planned programme before we took shelter from a heavy downpour under the canvas provided by Annie's Tea rooms.

Thank you also to Ken of NB Carpe Deum which provided the stage from its tug deck.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Coupling Day

This year has obviously been a crazy one for damsel flies. Getting together is nigh in impossible in the rain so it apears that two months of the mating season has been lost to the weather. But today was very obviously perfect weather. Coupled damsel flies were everywhere.

I asked the Best Mate which damsel fly has to fly backwards when they mate on the wing. Right on cue a mating couple flew past us and settled on the boat. They both fly forwards. The male (the pretty iridescent blue one) is definitely on top and the female (the drab plain brown coloured one) is underneath.

I have heard that bees have swarmimg days when the queen selects the fittest drone, ants have flying days when the males leave the nest but I did not know that damsel flies have coupling days. By todays viewing apparently they do. And today was it!

Summer has started!

Wow it's hot! And yesterday and today we have been boating. On familiar waters maybe but very pleasurable.

Having Piglet away this week on a Citizenship Bonding Week at an outward bound type adventure centre we just leisurely meandered up to Cropredy. We had a wonderful evening in the evening warmth with our friends on the Cropredy Old Coal Wharf. A bottle of red wine and some John Smith's bitter and a fantastic home made (by our friends) rhubarb fool were consumed to wonderful conversation to the sound of church bells.

This morning we woke to bedlam. The water point at Cropredy becomes a honeypot at 9.00am and boats were queueing, jumping the queue and generally getting in each other's way as canoeists jostled to get out of their club compound and away from the converging steel. We abandoned the plan to moor on the water point and wash the boat and pulled away to breakfast outside of the village. Breakfast was over by noon and, seeking shade, we then dawdled back to our mooring.

As we approached I noticed a boat pulled over into our mooring space.  I assumed it was to let us by. Another boat was just entering the narrows of the Marsh Foot bridge. There is plenty of water here for three abreast and so I hollered "That's my mooring!" to let the boater know that we were not going to be able to moor with his boat on the mooring. It would soon get very congested! Both crew members got off the boat so hollered again "That's where we moor!" and waved him on.  I think that I may have upset them because they were not too pleased that I mentioned that they should have known our boat as they have been around quite a bit!  I didn't mean to be rude or anything but I really thought that they had just given way without any real need to. Why they got off the boat was a mystery. The boat was Wren's Nest! Nice to meet you Chris. Next time we might just moor alongside and open a bottle!

We spent the rest of the day in the shade of the trees by the mooring as the temperature soared toward 30 degrees!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Cranky Old Fridge

We have a Dometic Electrolux RM4270 Gas/12v/240v fridge. We run it on gas and only use the 12v to light it.

It did not get cold. Our milk went off, our apple juice went off, our orange juice went fizzy and our bitter went rancid. We used freezer packs and kept it as a cool box for a week but this was a pain and the milk went off etc.

I enquired at a local domestic appliance repair specialist (in Bridge Street, Banbury) about repair or servicing. They supplied us the fridge in 2004 but now they do not touch them. They said I would have to get a "gas safe" man to look at it.

I popped into Tooleys' Boatyard and asked their man whether they would repair a fridge. The helpful advice I received was to clean out all the cobwebs and grot from around the flame and see if that helped. I got the fridge out of its housing cleaned out the flame chamber but found the exhaust chimney flexible connection had perished/disintegrated. Tooleys did not stock them, the repair man in Bridge street did not stock them, Sovereign Narrowboats this time came up with the helpful advice to go to a motor factor for flexible exhaust hose (available in two metre lengths). I needed eight inches at the outside. In the end I settled for corrugated aluminium tubing as used for air inlets. At only £2.99 for a metre this was a snip and I have enough to do the job another three or four times.

The fridge still didn't work. So I rang Tooley's again and talked to Matt. He told me that a gas man was coming to the yard today to do a boiler service and he would speak to him. I brought the boat down to town and waited for the gas man to arrive. When he did come (in due canal time) he asked whether the flame was alight. On received a positive reply he then said that in that case he could not help. I needed a refrigeration gas man. It had to be something to do with the fridge gas circuit. However he did say that giving the fridge a good shake or turning it upside down might do the trick!

So we tilted it all the way over one way and shook it about. Then we tilted it the other way and shook it about again. Then I put it back in its housing.

We took the boat through the lift bridge and  lock, turned at Tramway, filled up with water and returned the boat to the home mooring. As I shut up the boat I felt into the fridge. It was cold! Thank you to the gas man for his advice. A good shaking may have done the trick.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Wet locking

Last Thursday I had a phone call from a single handing friend who was in Braunston. I had offered to help him through a flight. He was calling in my offer. But this week I was not available Sunday, Monday or Tuesday until a rearrangement enabled me to offer him today. I had not looked at the weather forcast. On rising this morning to a skyful of rain I called him expecting him to call it off. I hadn't reckoned on the fact that his boat is fitted with a canopy and he could stay dry all along the top level from Marston Doles to Claydon Top Lock.

I met him there in teeming rain. He took a little longer to get from Fenny Compton marina than I expected and I had the pleasure of helping  nb Sarah Louise down. These were first time boaters, on a borrowed boat and this was the first lock they had gone down. They had got themselves stuck, with fenders down, in the second Napton Lock (No 9) known to be the narrowest lock on the system. Their boat's owners had told them to use the fenders in the locks! Oops. They had to be washed out shortly after being stuck half in! After they left I helped nb Pepper up the top lock and waited with the gate was open and lock full.

We went down without problem and then found the second lock with bottom gates open and paddles up! Maybe my tuition was not good enough! At lock three (Middle Lock) we encountered a Viking invasion. Coming toward us. Heading for the gates was the first of six Willow Wren hire craft with Danish crews. The boat went across the canal as they reversed thrust realising there was a boat in the lock after they had passed the lock landing!  (I had met them in Banbury this morning when I was turning Sonflower to return her to the mooring.The Danish crew had to wait!) They had to wait longer here as the canopy would not fit under the bridge at teh foot of teh lock and had to be furled back.  It didn't seem that they were used to this.  I spoke to a couple of the adults as I did not know the Danish for 'dangerous' 'stop running' and 'keep off the gunwhale in the rain while throwing the centre rope".

Many of the crew were quite young, slight and inexperienced.They emptied the bottom lock as we approached in spite of my hollaring and waving. No harm done and in this torrential downpour no-one would be thinking of saving water!  I waved my friend goodbye at the Bottom Lock and went back to the middle lock where two little Danish lasses were trying their hardest to open the gate paddles to drain the lock. (They were just too small and slight to make any impact.) They made up for this in enthusiasm and the teeming rain did not stop them or dampen their joy at being able to open the gates by themselves. They ran off to try the same with the top gate! I returned to my car: very wet and tired.

The joys of boating.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Jubilee Washout

You all know it's been raining.

We have the boat close to where some friends are camping for the Jubilee weekend. We went to a BBQ yesterday and then decided to go and watch England play football against the Belgians.

Last night was so wet that they have decamped to a large country house on the other side of town. The boat is no longer near our friends!

We had lunch with My Mother today. And we watched the pageant of 1000 boats on the tele this afternoon.  The narrowboats didn't really centre on the proceedings. The BBC seemed surprised that 'people even live on them'! We spotted a couple of narrrowboats we know. Steaming "President" was always going to be a camera magnet and we noticed Quercus and Fulborne (I think) but I didn't recognise any others. I did think that I saw a friend at the tiller but if it was him he was not on a boat I recognised!

All in all it was good to see Her Majesty enjoying herself with the boating fraternity.

A great pity the British Weather didn't match the occasion.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Boating today

But first stop the water point. The tank is full but we haven't been off the home mooring since 7 April. The boat is filthy and needed a good wash. Whatever the news on the "wettest drought in history", water shortages and hose pipe nabs, I have it on good authority, i.e I heard it on the towpath, that boat cleaning by hose pipe is exempt from any hose pipe ban because of the danger of spreading invasive species if boats are not washed regularly!

By lunchtime SONFLOWER was presentable and the crew set off down Banbury lock and on to Nell Bridge where they winded and moored four hours later.

An enjoyable afternoon. We are moored behind Moor2life and I met Ann and her rescue Parson Jack Russel (original long legged variety).

So once again we are boaters and not just boat owners!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Little Venice 2012

This shouldn't really be in the blog. But they are my rules so I can break them.

We did not take SONFLOWER to the IWA Canalway Cavacade at Little Venice this year. But we did go for the weekend and were given great hospitality on freinds' narrowboat in the 'pool'.

Coming back home has made me think what are festivals about.

This one makes bit if money for the Inland Waterways Association which is not a bad thing in itself and it provides a platform for showcasing all the good things about boating. I provides a place for canal groups, museums, businesses and societies to tell the public what they are about. For us too it allows us to show case our Cruising Club, The Boaters Christian Fellowship and tell people about its aims and objectives.

Many boaters give festivals a wide berth. They object to the extra traffic and perhaps queues at locks formed by boats trying to get there. This is understandable but from a participant's point of view festivals are more than a commercial or charity event. I thoroughly enjoyed the banter, good natured competition, chatter and friendship of the boaters who came together with one real aim: to have fun.

We all have fun on the waterways in different ways. For some there is also the serious business of making a living and of living aboard come rain or shine. But whatever the slant on boating a festival has something for you. The winner of the best boat in the pageant was a 15 foot dinghy with an outboard, the best boat in show was a traditional style narrowboat, the working boats showed off their boat handling skills and did what they do (served boats with coal, gas and pump outs). All in a charming way that represented 200years of history.

I enjoy the festivity of the festival!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Dragon Slayers Food

The grandchildren returned from their visit to Warwick Castle having made the 596 steps up to the ramparts and the Princess Tower and faced the fires of the Dragons and the Spells of the Witches of Warwick.

All in all they, and their parents, were tired out.

What better food than Granddad's "What's in the fridge Paella"

OK! I cheated by getting the mussels pre-cooked from Morrissons this morning.

I had thought that I had blogged about this in the past. However, I cannot find any record of it. If you want the recipe get in touch.


We went for a very short cruise yesterday just to give two of our grandchildren a ride.

On entering to work up the lock my five year old grandson shouted from the bow of the boat "Stop the boat Grandad, there is a big wall in the way".

It was not a wall but the lock gate!

Today they are visiting Warwick Castle.

The boat will remain on home mooring as it is grey and rainy. Not exactly great boating weather for the Bank Holiday weekend. I have sympathy with boaters like our neighbours on the mooring who only have weekends like this. He told me this morning that his next oportunity will be May holiday weekend. Work makes ordinary weekends impossible. What a pity.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Shake Down completed

We have been to Nell Bridge winding Hole and back through Banbury to Cropredy Winding Hole and back to Tooley's Boatyard to complete the "shake down cruise".

The boat behaved beautifully as did the crew. A full crew for a change! For the cruise to Nell Bridge we were joined by a friend. At Nell Bridge is "The Pig Place". Here we purchased half a dozen huge free range eggs and a piece of their Gloster Old Spot pork. The last piece we had was excellent ao we look forward to a great dinner in the near future. Back to overnight in Banbury and thence northward.

The weather changed dramatically. As the sky darkened the rain started and it poured. We stopped for a time just above Slat Mill Lock. We had heard from the occupants of nb Pondlife that Bones was in Cropredy so I texted her to ask about moorings. We were pleased to meet up and fill a gap behind her on the moorings below the lock that was just a bit too small for a 57 foot boat. We moored there anyway with the aft a little too far away from the mooring ring so we had to improvise a little with the centre rope. Rather snug nestled up against nb Bones!

Getting to the mooring was eventfull. The winding hole/services at Cropredy was full with a moored hire boat. It was raining so the crew had taken shelter on the water point! Opposite them was nb Emma of Nelson Portsmouth who were proving that the navy can moor a boat anywhere. After the hire boat crew woke up and moved away we shunted fore and aft a few times and then winded, squeezing past Emma to get onto the water point. The skipper from the navy lark crew then popped up and said he would water after us. He hadn't noticed it was a water point and his canal guide had not marked it! I did not suggest that he opened his eyes and threw away the guide.

I ignored Bones' jibes that narrowboats are not supposed to go backwards and reversed through the bridge, past her boat to moor behind.

This morning we set off at 8am. We left Bones behind waiting for her crew and headed to Banbury. On the way we remoored nb Ragtime whose bow had come adrift allowing her to swing across the canal. No-one was home at the cottage.

Then to TOOLEY'S to have the sterngear checked. Matt found that the new bearing to stern gear joint was leaking so called John to tighten it up. It meant just another quarter turn for the gland assembly. Out came the 24 inch stilsons and a scaffold pole. "Are you squeemish?" John asked. We had also shaken the swan neck bearing securing crews loose and the air filter off the engine.

The boat trim was noticably better than it has been for two years.

Shake down cruise completed.

Where shall we go next? Maybe our home mooring!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

And out again

SONFLOWER was reversed out of the dock this morning.

While floating we took the opportuntity of reclaiming some ballast that was removed a couple of years ago to correct the list to port that is evident at the moment.

I stowed some steel plate below the kitchen store cupboard floor, and railway rail sections behind the fridge and in one of the lockers to see whether this will do the job.

The lemonade bottle on the table seems to have a level surface now and bottles have stopped rolling down the table.

All on an even keel again.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

In Dock

Yes, it is that time again.

SONFLOWER entered Tooley's dock on Saturday for biennial hull blacking and a roof repaint.

BUT: Tooley's have a "ten point inspection" plan. It ensures that a boat does not leave the dock with a potential reason for iminent return! This plan has brought up three things:

1. The propeller is flapping about as though it is in the wind. The stern gear bearing is worn (and probably the shaft) to the extent that there is about ten times as much clearance as there should be.

2. The rudder shaft is banging around like a loose spoon in a jamjar. The tiller bearing is knackered.

3. Two anodes on the swim have done their job (good news) but need relacing (additional work)

Basically, it is another proof of the acronym BOAT : Bung Over Another Thousand

Monday, 12 March 2012

What a waste!

We have a 70mm diameter waste in the sink. It has an integral overflow. The plastic screw that holds it all together was suffering from terminal fatigue and failed. This made the stuff in the undersink cupboard wet.

In order to replace the broken component viz a plastic screw which is no longer available (hopefuly because the designers of the things found that they degrade and embrittle in the arduous conditions of a sink waste) I had to buy two waste kits. One was a 70 mm waste and the other one an 80mm waste with overflow entry.

So does anybody want an 80mm waste kit without an overflow?

Friday, 9 March 2012

Watch out there's a Thief about!

Yes, another theft from SONFLOWER while on her mooring!

This time four 25kg bags of Purheat coal. Value to me: heat while cruising.

Value to anyone else: £40.00. It seems hardly worth the trouble of taking them off the roof, putting them on a barrow and transporting them away, unseen, to a place unknown. Perhaps they need to warm themselves up after a cold night's thieving.

I wouldn't deny anybody the warmth if they really needed it. But it is hardly ever the destitute who would take without asking. The poor usually have higher standards and wouldn't stoop so low.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Lock wheeling

This weekend nb VERITY visited Banbury with our friends aboard. Unfortunately, the skipper was suffering from a twisted back. These things slow one down at best but can make some things almost impossible. Pushing lock gates and winding paddle gear while controlling a very energetic young labrador are some of them. So I volunteered for a bit of lock wheeling.

I bussed to Cropredy on Saturday afternoon and accompanied them through the four locks to the town centre. Then, this morning I helped with working the lift bridge and lock combo up and down (Verity winded in between at Tramway) and then met them this afternoon to lockwheel the Claydon Flight. What a beautiful day for boating. Crisp and cool but sunny and almost windless.

Here they are on their way on the top level toward Napton and the North Oxford under perfect blue sky.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Oooh Expecting Company

The ice has gone. For how long we have no real idea but it means that boats are on the move again. (Not that it stopped a solo boater in a tiny fibre glass cruiser from nipping up and down without a care for his gel coat. He seemed to like to be boating at midnight as well! Or a local moorer crashing his way through the ice making a tremendous noise and crashing ice into all the moored boats as he passed them. For third of a mile they had to travel I dont think it was worth the effort and diesel.)

And we have just heard that friends will be making their way down from the Rugby to Banbury soon.

How exciting. We don't get too many visitors in the winter.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Cropredy Marinas Approved

Cherwell District Council has approved two marina schemes for the little picturesque village of Cropredy. This has been reported as having no harmful impact on the village. With no shops on site getting the supplies to the boats for their cruises could bring in 300 visiting Ocado refridgerated vans!

And what about the impact on the canal!

The marinas, one with 49 berths and one with 249 berths, bring 300 additional boats to the South Oxford Canal. Last summer saw water restrictions on the top level with locks at Claydon Flight and Marston Doles only open for 4 hours per day. Just filling these marinas will take the usable reserve of Clattercote reservoir! That's about 75 million litres which will drop the level in the reservoir by approximatey a metre. Surely CaRT will not want to allow too much water out at once to preserve the specimen fish in the prime angling water. Clattercote reservoir contains approximately 175 million litres at an average depth off 2.5m.

300 boats, each out once a month on a little cruise there and back, would deplete the canal by approximately 57,000,000 litres of water per month. Just do the maths. 1 lock full is 19000 litres at 2metre drop. There and back would take 2 lock fulls per boat (600).

Marina folk are not known for waiting for another boat to come the other way so as to share the water at a lock. Once out of the marina they are going somewhere and back again, usually on a schedule. From Cropredy, my guess would be Oxford and back in a week. (3 days there, a day in Oxford, 3 days back) And they won't want to be held up by slowing down for the poor folk who have linear towpath moorings. The pressure will be on for CaRT to remove these obstructions and force the likes of me into the marinas for twice the cost to pay for facilities we do not want to use.

Impact on the village may not be a consideration. Has anybody thought about the impact on the canal?

Where are the Craftsmen now?

Piglet's violin case needed sewing so I got out the sailmaker's needle and some fishing nylon and set about it. What I didn't have was a sailmaker's 'palmy'. This is a leather pad that sits in the palm to stop the needle pricking the palm when pushed through the canvas cloth. I improvised one with gaffer tape and a two pence piece. Unfortunately this was not quite good enough and after stabbing myself for the second time the 2p was replaced by a jam pot lid. It got the job done!

But it set me thinking. While sewing one has to do some thinking and my thoughts went back to Battersea Power Station in the sixties. I trained there. There was very little that we could not make on site. And the men were craftsmen of every different type. We even had a sail maker among the workforce. He was also a rigger and most of the time he would be re-roping cranes or lifting heavy weights with slings and shackles, pulleys and hoists. But when we needed a new canvas chute on the ash plant or a new flexible connection on a fan, Harry the Claw could be called on to do the business. Out would come his needles and palmy and he would sit on a stool in the corner of the workshop and sew as happy as the proverbial piggy wigggy. In this modern throw away society I wonder where men like Harry are today. DO we have anyone who can turn their hand to just about everything. He has been born into boats on the Thames barges and grew into the trade of his family. He was a waterman who had reluctantly come ashore as the barge trade declined. He brought the skills and the attitude of the water with him. If it could be done on a boat it could be done in the workshop of a power station. In fact there was very little that could not be done. Our welders were also blacksmiths and platers, Our fitters were turners and millers. Our machinist could help out with the carpentry and the carpenter would plaster and paint as well. Battersea was often criticised for 'restrictive' practices but when I was there, if the need was there and the plant demanded it a reasonable request was always met with enthusiasm. Men like Harry were proud of the skills they possessed and were pleased to show them off.

Can we make anything here nowadays?

Friday, 13 January 2012

Who left it up?

I went for a walk to Cropredy this afternoon. It was such a beautiful afternoon. The towpath on the S Oxford is not in very good condition with quite muddy bits and walking boots would appear essential as there are numerous holes and depressions to turn one's ankle.

At Slat Mill Lock I found a top paddle open. The bottom gate leaks and the Cropredy pound was already 6 ins lower than the spillway cill.
I closed it.
I met two pairs of walkers who were coming the other way from Cropredy toward Banbury. They had been on the good bit but the first couple asked of there were a better way back. I directed them over Bridge 156 to Slatt Mill Farm and told them to follow the farm lane to the road. The second couple asked about the time it would take to Banbury. About 1.5 hrs was what it had taken me to get there so I conveyed this information to them. I forgot to tell them there are no buses back again.

Here is a picture of Bridge 156 in glorious sunlight. Not bad for January.

I had also forgotten that there are no buses from Cropredy after 2pm. Fortunately I have friends there who gave me a cuppa and a lift back. Thank you, you know who you are.