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, 22 August 2014

Re-fit begins

With my good friend John the carpenter chiseling away and sawing in the most confined spaces walls have come down and the floor has come up.

Revealed was water again. Having once had it dry we found that it is now very wet.

The back stairs were removed. The tread supports were rotting.

The bathroom wall was cut from top to bottom approximately where we thought we would reposition the bathroom door for outward opening. Then the extent of the rot in the bottom meant that the remaining stub was demolished as well.

The calorifier at the back under the vanity surface  was positioned on rotting boards so I went to our handy bathrom showroom and bought two self seal blanking ends for the engine flow and return and drained it down. Moving it out revealed that the large plug was leaking, probably blanking the hole where an imersion heater would go, - source of water number one found!

Than we pumped out some of the water from the bilge into the wash basin to discover that the drain trap discharge was leaking- source of water number 2 found!

John removed the basin and we removed the calorifier. Next we discovered that the toilet tank was positioned over a board floor that hosted plenty of fungus underneath it. So the toilet tank needs moving and the board needs removing!

By now the debris on the back deck was increasing so I went to Wickes to buy some rubble bags. I was filling one as nb Epiphany came past to turn at Grimsbury Wharf. They were saying "Goodbye" for a time and heading off. " We must be in Thrupp by Tuesday", Fiona said, "for a BSS Examination." I wish them all the best.

I went for some lunch and John cut and positioned some new marine ply boarding. He had to remove the bottom of the shower side wall. The rest came with it! Water staining was evident on the revealed side of the shower tray. Source of water number 3 found.

The boarding on the cabin to engine bay bulkhead was rotten so John removed it revealing that the door threshold was bedded on foam filler which is not waterproof. Rainwater could run under the door cill!  Source of water number 4 found!

So I pumped and mopped as much out as I could and now we have to replace the floor, cure the leaks and redo the whole of the bathroom.

Oh, we demolished a wardrobe as well so we have also started on the bunk room!


Wednesday, 6 August 2014


Well we got a bus to Fenny Compton and took the boat back to her mooring.

We did not think about Cropredy. This little sleepy Oxfordshire village is a good place to stop for lunch or evening meal at one of its two pubs or on the towpath with provisions from its wonderfully stocked Bridge Stores. If you are early enough you can indulge yourself in a breakfast at the little Cafe on the Green.

However, for the second weekend of August it is a different matter. Cropredy's Fairport Convention is held and the faithfull of the Folk/Rock world gather for the "friendly festival". Canal and River Trust get into the spirit of friendship by allowing boats to stay on the 24hr moorings from Tuesday to Tuesday. In fact you can moor anywhere and no one minds. Except boaters who anticipate a stop for lunch or an evening meal!

We were unable to moor even to eat our bacon and eggs, cooked on board. Fortunately we knew the crew of nb Epiphany who allowed us to moor alongside them "as long as you don't let the smell out". (John has recently been on a very successful diet). We kept the side hatch closed and ate as quickly and smellessly as we could.

There is a serious point here. There was literally nowhere to moor. It took us over an hour at 1000revs to pass the moored boats. On our way toward Banbury below Cropredy we met seven hire crews, on holiday heading toward Cropredy and nowhere to moor- two days before the festival starts.

The cruise was really quite uneventfull apart from going down on the cill in Crooredy Lock! We refloated easily enough once we noticed! We had a bad road to Cropredy and a good road after that. Basically most were heading to the little village and not a lot were coming out!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Spoiled my Sunday afternoon!

There we were, cruising along Top Level at a merry 1700rpm, just keeping the wash from breaking, when a horn sounded behind me. "At a convenient point, could you pull over so that I can pass" the helmsman of the boat behind shouted. I acknowledged his request, rounded the next two bends (there are many on the Oxford Canal Top Level) and on a straight, slowed down and pulled to the starboard (tow-path) side behind a moored boat.

I did this here because the off side is shallow and I did not want to be grounded as he passed.

I expected him to pass at about 2 mph as there was a moored boat ahead. He held back! Maybe this place, convenient to me, was not convenient to him! I turned back and said "Do you expect me to moor?" Eventually nb Greenham Mist did come by but at a lot more than 2mph. The wash created by the speed of this boat pulled mine out from behind the moored boat and into his! I wear hearing aids but, with the engine noise from my quarter deck, I could not hear the tirade of abuse that was now filling the peacefull Oxford Canal Warwickshire air. Any problem was ALL of his making, I didn't steer my boat toward him at all! Speed, water displacement and lack of patience did the work.

We arrived at Fenny Compton Wharf Bridge 136A exactly 2.1/2 hours after we had left Marston Doles lock No 16, an average speed of 3 mph over 7.1/2 miles. On the shallow Oxford Canal that is not really dawdling is it?

When we moored, 2 boat lengths past the nb Greenham Mist, he was sitting on the tow-path reading a paperback. He was still there an hour later, when we returned from dinner at The Wharf, and at 4.00 pm when we left to catch a lift home.

So what was the hurry? Why spoil MY afternoon.

Canal Junction has advice for canal holidays. The "Rules" for overtaking are:

              Overtake Only If You Are Waved On By A Slower Boat.

There isn't always much space for overtaking, but if you do want to pass another boat, make sure you let the skipper of that boat know your intention well in advance so that he can slow down and wait until he or she is ready. You usually overtake on the left, but agree this with the other skipper beforehand. And remember - its your responsibility to steer clear of the other boat. If you both end up on the mud there isn't much point! 


Saturday, 26 July 2014

Out and about for a few days

For family reasons our cruising has been less than we would have hoped.

However we have just returned from four lovely days cruising to take Sonflower to meet up with friends at Warwick. Our friends have borrowed her before and this year are cruising with other family members who have hired nb Rebbeca from Kate Boats.

We had originally intended to be in the area at this time but circumstances changed so it was necessary to make a Special Cruise out of the delivery.

We were a crew of three, the Best Mate being up for the journey and Alex joining in to provide youthful enegy, muscle, and as it turned out music to keep our spirits up. The iPad was linked by blutooth to an outside speaker to keep the steerer entertained. HiTech on Sonflower, what is this!!

So the cruise went like this:

Wednesday: Home Mooring to Fenny Compton Wharf
Thursday:  Fenny Compton Wharf to Long Itchington
Friday: Long Itchington to Kate Boats Base
Saturday Morning: to and from Cape Bottom Lock water point - to wash the boat.

A Full English Breakfast was cooked by the Skipper each mornng: at Marston Doles (Thursday), Fosse locks (Friday) and Nelson Wharf, Warwick (Saturday) Other  Meals were  taken at The Wharf Inn Fenny Compton : (Wednesday evening), a sharing fish platter and Nachos Grande with an extra of potato wedges. Fed the three of us very comfortably.   The Boat Inn, Stockton (Thursday late lunch): Steak sandwiches followed by Ice cream. Very generous portions and tasty. On Board (Friday) Best Mate made meat balls in tomato sauce with pasta. All meals were washed down with approriate beverages as the weather was steaming hot!  We took late evening drinks in the Two Boats, Long Itchington on Thursday evening.

No silly boaters were on the water. In fact, after the Cropredy to Fenny Compton part, very few baoters were out. We had good company with plastic boat Maggie and her Aussie skipper who was waltzing Matilda between Bascote Bottom lock and Warwick. We had company of nb Rachel for a few locks but her (female) crew, who was shod in dancing shoes, flagged before lunch on Friday.

                                                                                         36 miles, 44 locks 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Doesn't she look smart?

Our tatty worn out black cratch cover has been replaced!

And I must say I am very pleased with the result. There are slight differences: it is green; more fasteners to stop it flapping in a wind; an angle on the tie backs to keep it taught, better detailing at the gunwhale so the water does not lay but runs straight off.

And all done with no fuss and a smile from Karl and Chrissie at K.C. Covers.

They promised to do it by the end of the month so are early! A first for a canal business in my experience!

It comes with a year's guarantee as well.

The price was very good too!

All round a pleasing experience.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

First of Many in 2014

We didn't go far but we had a very enjoyable cruise to Nell Bridge and back.  The way there was against the setting afternoon sun and the "shades" were very necessary. It was so definitely SPRING. Chiff chaffs sang inthe tops of the trees. Blue tits darted inteh hawthiorn. The blackthorn was blossoming and leaf was sprouting everywhere.

Alex worked the locks, I piloted the boat and the Best Mate set about spring cleaning the cabin. Alex enjoyed walking the towpath for a time and I saw a pair of kingfishers on the bank just under the M40 obviously oblivious to the noise of the traffic above but startled by our presence as we approached.

As they cleared Grants lock and we prepared to enter we were snapped by Our Serendipity who are blogging every boat they pass! They had come off the Tjames and I have read a bit in a blog about Ric & Eileen who moor at Boulters lock. If this is them the only N/BOurserendipity blog that I have googled is a little sparse of photis at the moment. I hope they find time to post them all!

The winter off sid epruning offensive had made a great difference to the canal aspects and the pollarding of some of the willows was very pretty. There are many piles of cut wood seasoning for future fires on the off side banks.

The lovely thing is that Bones and another Alex were moored at Nell Bridge and we had a lovely evening chatting with them over tortilla chips,salsa, rioja and crianza.

We  had to leave this morning at 7am because we need to be back for noon and lunch at General Foods Club. This is a very regular appointent with our son who was not a member of the crew this time out.

This morning's cruise was excellent. Absolutely perfect weather and beautiful spring activity form the birds along the way. There were herons fishing, crows nest building and escorting a buzzard so closely that it could not venture near the tree that supported their nest. Ther were reed buntongs playing liss chase and chaffinches puffing up their new spring pink chests. The yellow headed yellow hammers were brightly visible aming the budding willows.

So there it was. A brief first outing for the boat and my sunglasses.

Our return was quick and uneventful. We had time when we arrived in Banbury to give SONFLOWER a well needed wash.  With all the Best Mate's hard work inside the cabin she is looking and smelling much healthier now!

Moving foreward toward General Foods Club we came up behind the Braidbar Boat "Fetina Lente". The crew were about to disembark and looked at us unapprovingly. There was not room for us to moor behind them as they had left 120 feet between them and the boat ahead of them. Why dont people share bollards? So we moved further on and were greeted by Maffi.

After lunch SONFLOWER was duly returned to her home mooring.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Finished for now

The survey report arrived in the post this morning. Careful reading indicates that there are no problems with SONFLOWER that would make her uninsurable!  All the recommendations are advisory. All are intended to prolong the life of the boat.

hardly worn anode (magnesium)
Newly coated rudder

The report also indicates that, from the index number, the boat was biult in 1982. I think we knew tyhat but a previous survey had said 1984. Hence this was a 32-year inspection!

The main probem is the damp bilge. We must find a way of keeping it dry and ventilating it. The surveyor suggests removing the fixed steps and fitting removable ones that could be remived to provide access to a 400mm square  hatch in the floor.

Removing the rot from the back of the boat and replacing the floor fills me with dread but will provide the opportunity for a much needed re-fit of the aft end of the boat, sorting out the outdated shower oom. A lot of thought needs to be put into this.

One interesting recommendation is to have the hull shot blasted and coated with an epoxy resin coating at the next "out of the water" opportunity. Sounds expensive.

The "cosmetic" welding to the port bow rubbing strake/eybrow was completed by Tooley's this morning so I  went down, collected my Invoice and keys and took the boat cback to the mooring. The 1/4mile cruise didnt even get the engine to oprarting temperature so I left her idling for a while to charge the batteries whike I chatted to three crews of other boats inteh mmoring. The sun has brough all out. The chatter put another hour on the hours run metre!

Now all I have to do is pay the bill.

Friday, 7 March 2014

SURVEY - PROBLEM 1, 2, 3, 4 . .

Here is SONFLOWER in the dry dock. She has been water washed and is waiting for inspection.

PROBLEM ONE: The boarding plank was rotten. Alternative means of access was imediately saught!

PROBLEM TWO. It is not difficult to spot that an anode has been comletely ripped off the stern starboard side of the boat.

A new one is to be fitted a little further forward where there is a little more "rake" on the side of the boat.

 Here is the inspector at his work tapping the plates to see if he can dislodge rust to reveal pitting from galvanic action. There was a little but nothng serious.

PROBLEM THREE  The fungus  had done its worst at the stern end of the cabin of the boat. My inability to keep the bilge dry and the lack of a drying stove during the winter months has meant that there is rot in the woodwork that needs to be dealt with. Maybe it is time to think about the refit on the bathroom and bunk room that is well overdue! No photo: it is too distressing.

PROBLEM FOUR Minor cosmetic welding work required to the rubbing strake on the port bow. The hollow section has rotted from the inside out.

RESULT: Nothing that prevents the boat floating and she is likely to keep afloat for the next five years.

So on with the blacking.

Then the engine service.....

. . .  . then getting the bilge dry   

............then the re-fit?                    

Tuesday, 4 March 2014


I am getting anxious!

One never knows what a survey will throw up. Five years ago SONFLOWER floated into the dry dock and recieved a report that indicated that it would not float out again! The problem was the weed hatch. There was NO ULLAGE (air space). Although the weedhatch was bolted down and sealed the water under the bolted cover was below the water line! If the cover had been taken off the boat would have sunk! A new weed hatch was fabricated and fitted to give 6 inches of ullage  below the hatch to the waterline. This could well have been the problem that caused CRT's Problem here . We also removed a considerable amount of ballast to ensure that the swim was, correctly, only just submerged. It looks like the tug was too deep inthe water too!

I wonder what the surveyor will find this time!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Getting Ready

I visited the boat today.

I have a visit to Tooley's Dry Dock booked for 6th to 9th March.

SONFLOWER is thirty years old so has to have an "out of the water" hull survey every five years for the Insurance Company. She will also be blacked.

As she has lain idle for so long I wanted to make sure she will start! Batteries are at 12.4v. A little low but acceptable.

The cruising season will so soon be upon us and it was so good to be along the towpath chatting to boaters who are already on the move. Some said they have not stopped this winter because ot has been so warm. Another confessed that he had had four weeks in Greece! He had overstayed on teh 14 day moorings! Good luck to him.

Monday, 3 February 2014

CO monitor, batteries and breeching?

I went ot SONFLOWER on her mooring today. I was greeted with a beep beep sound. The CO detector had flat batteries. the first job of the day was change them. That way they would not get so flat while we were off the boat that teh beep beep beep stopped and we would be in danger of not knwowing especially withthe state of my meory at the moment.

I started the engine and charged the batteries. The engine was a little reluctant and I might invest in a can of "easistart" for when the weather is really cold.

I chatted to a couple of other moorers: there is little news except that it is reproted that below Banbury lock the three mile pound has little water in it! Considering the amount of water that was flowing through the lock paddles over the weekend this is very surprising. We are wondering whether there has been a breech or culvert collapse.

I also spoke to Sue, nb "No Problem",  who is waiting for work at Tooley's Boatyard before heading for Gloucester or some other beauty spot. She was disturbed by the news above as she certainly needs to turn round to head north. She is therefore toying with backing to Tooleys. We know that is very possible.

Smoke Detector; A thank you

The smoke detector operated on Saturday lunch time and I reported to my guests "it is real!" I  had turned the chicken and meat sauces up high instead of turning it down!

The place is filled with smoke again today! French bread toast for croutons in the squash and sweetcorn soup were a little "over cooked"!

The reason for all this is because the BEST MATE is not very well and so the cooking is all down to me. I think that I am a little distracted at times and not quite concentrating on the task in hand. It is at these times that I realise how much I depend on her. When one of us is not functioning properly it is very evident in the results.

Thank goodness I have a smoke detector to tell me when things are cooked.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Bye Bye Spike: RIP

What can one say about a funeral? It represents the last farewell of family and friends. And the funeral today of Ian "Spike" Mason, late of nb Samara, was as respectful to a respectful man as it could be. With well chosen words from the civil facilitator, Spike's brother Shaun, a friend and with the reading of the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling. It was a good time to reflect on the man that we had known for only a short time. He was referred to as a "rapscallion" and "likeable rogue". He may not always have followed the rules but he did no harm to us and always had time to chat.  His staffie, Millie, was loved by all.

He will be missed by the boating community who turned out in good numbers from far and near to remember him. We also learned  more of his artistic side and were able to view his cartoons at the wake in the Castle House after the service at the Crematorium. Respect.

It is really sad that the cause of their death was probably carbon dioxide poisoning, a truly preventable event with good maintenance, correct ventilation and a carbon monoxide alarm.

Test it or fit one TODAY!  And clear the vents too.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year

As the rain continues to fall, I wish you all a happy New Year.

Our new year cruise is now officially cancelled.