About Me

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

Monday, 30 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.

New Year Cruising

What a winter. it may be too early to say so but the weather has been perfect for short cruises this year and we have managed to fit one in! Many people wonder what the attraction of going somewhere and back again is. To get out in the fresh air and sunshine is allways good. With a breeze in the air to stir the birds into flight and keep the clouds moving to ensure ever hanging skies is a delight. Water bubbling and gurgling around the rudder and prop to the steady throb of the deisel engine is music to my ears.
To make it very special is the first glass of beer of the New Year. Yes, honestly!

Here the crew are dutifully walking toward Grant's lock while SONFLOWER waits. In fact some nice boaters had left the lock to fill after their exit, which made things easier. Aren't boaters nice? We only went as far as the new winding hole near Twyford Mill where we turned. This is marked as only for 60ft boats only. Our 57ft is well within the limit but the proximity of a moored boat made the turn very tight.

The smell of potatoes baking in the oven wafting up from the cabin made the return very pleasant but we did need the fire alight to warm the crew after working the locks. Here we are returning to Grants lock.alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5697044247719542050" />

The lock had been filled while we turned by the crew of an inflatable dinghy out for an afternoon jolly who had worked up the lock. We never caught them up!

Here we leave Grant's lock behind.

The smell of pork roasting joined in with the potatoes as we went under the M40 motorway making my tummy rumble as juggernauts rumbled overhead.

We headed back toward town under blue skies. The familiar lift bridges are always welcome and comforting on the familiar approach to Banbury.

Just there and back again: 6 miles, 4 locks and 2 Lift Bridges in 4 hours.

The pork, potatoes and gravy did taste good!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Happy New Year

Ok, so it's late! I am sorry for that but it is sincere.

I haven't posted for a long while. The boat has not moved and nothing much has been happening. But we have been boating. Well two of SONFLOWER's crew have. We finished off the last year with a little exercise on the wide locks from Bascote Staircase to Fosse Locks. With the walk there and the walk back about a 5.5mile walk to move some of the blubber that one of the crew has built up over the Christmas period and to blow away the cobwebs and stiffness from sitting at a computer for the other. It all helped friends who need to move on. Sadly we are not available for Hatton http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifFlight on Bank Holiday Monday. Here they are cruising into the distance away from Fosse Bottom Lock.
More of our "lockwheeling" exploits here.

We set ourselves a challenge to count how many different species of bird we could see during the day without really trying.

Here they are: dunnock, robin, blue tit, coal tit, great tit, blackbird, mistle thrush, house sparrow, mallard, coot, moorhen, kestrel, buzzard, common gull, black headed gull, lesser black backed gull, fieldfare, redwing, wren, rook, crow, jay. We live in the midst of the wonderful diversity of a wonderful creation.