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.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Missing Link

You may have noticed that we seem to have left out the bit from Polesworth to Hawkesbury.

We did do it!

Last Friday after The Best Mate's doctor's appointment we drove to Bedworth, near Bulkington Bridge 16. We then caught a bus to Nuneaton, changed to another to Atherstone and then once more to a third bus to Polesworth, arriving at about 2.30pm. We then boated to Atherstone Lock 9 where we moored overnight. We rose early and got under way at daybreak on Saturday to get up the flight before the volunteers had arrived at the top lock. We did not beat them and a volunteer operated the paddles on the top lock as part of his training for trip boat duty. The weather was kind but cold and the showers kept away. We took on water at the top lock. We stopped at Springwell Haven for a pump out and gas and ate on board as we moved. We arrived at Bedworth, Bulkington Bridge No 16 in the mid afternoon and went to shop for lunch as the chippy was closed. The Best Mate then got back on the boat and boated to Hawkesbury Junction. I drove there and put the car in the car park on Sutton Stop. We looked for a mooring but the only one available was opposite the Exhall Basin entrance where one is not supposed to moor. A phone call to a friend who lives locally confirmed the unlikelihood of any space in the residential basin and he offered the advice to move to the visitor moorings north of the lock.We backed the boat to the Junction, swept her around under the bridge and worked up the lock to moor just on the Visitor moorings.

We moored up and went to The Greyhound for a really lovely dinner.

On Sunday morning we were nicely placed to move the boat onto more secure piling and then drive to Jubilee Church Coventry where we met up with friends and our son who we usually have to lunch on Sundays. KFC was in order and we then took him home.

                                       18.1/2miles 12 locks  9.1/2 hours

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Hawkesbury To Newbold-on-Avon

Another "free day". After the opticians appointment that was! We drove (not easy as the A423 was closed at Marton and we had to divert via A45 and M6) up to Hawkesbury Junction. There we met our friend Stephen (who gave me a lift to leave the car at Hawkesbury on the way up to Fazeley) as he prepared to skipper nb The Hargreaves with a very valuable cargo on a charitable trip.  We  made SONFLOWER ready and set The Best Mate off at the Tiller with a scotch egg, apple and tortilla chips.

I returned to the car ate my scotch egg and drove to Ansty. We knew that the M6 was blocked as we had come past the queues on the opposite lane but Sheila the satnav wanted to take me that way. I refused and we wound our way through some estate roads of Coventry to the A46 and the Ansty interchange where we got onto the Ansty Main Road. I parked down a side turning opposite a layby that was marked "Bus Stop" which I thought would be handy for the return journey by bus. I walked down to the canal to wait.
Here is SONFLOWER arriving for our rendezvous.

I boarded her and took the tiller. I had told The Best Mate that Ansty was about half hour away from Hawkesbury. In fact it is about 1 hour and 25 minutes so she needed promptly relieving.

We then cruised to Newbold-on-Avon. Not without incident. At the second Ansty bridge a boat was coming toward me and did not give way even though we were part through the bridge hole. In fact we did not touch! I commented to him as we passed that he knew the local canal better than I did. I would never have attempted to get two boats through a bridge hole. We cruised ahead of a working boat for a long way. We were met by a hire boat as we were passing a moored boat just before the M6 bridge. Here the helmsman pulled over so far that he came to a stop on mud. The boat was still there when the working boat passed a few minutes later. He might still be there! We were fortunate to have the swing bridge at Stretton Stop opened for us. We met another working boat at a bridge on a bend and this time I hooted to say I was going through and the boat gave way amicably.

The best mate made bacon rolls for an afternoon snack and looked at Traveline on the phone while the bacon was grilling. She reported that if we get to Newbold before 5.00pm there is a bus at 5.08 that will get us back to Ansty. That would eliminate the need to rise early and get up early to get a bus at about 7.45 to get back to the car to get back to Banbury to meet our son for Wednesday lunch. The plan sounded good and time was almost on our side. Our rendezvous was at 1345 and trusty Nick said it would take 3 hour and 10 minutes to Newbold. We should arrive at the Tunnel south portal at 1650.

When we got there we noted a mooring but the towpath was very muddy. We went a little further but decided that the further we went the further we would have to walk. So I backed back to the mooring and we tied on to rings. Unfortunately the sloping sides of the canal here, lined with slabs of rock do not let the boat come right into the side so it was a small leap for man but a huge leap for the Best Mate to get off.

I remembered my walking stick was left on the back deck so took the spare from the cabin and disembarked. We walked to the bus stop, ostensibly 9 minutes away, and waited for the bus to arrive at 5.08. We were there, the bus came about 5 minutes later. We had a connection to make at somewhere we had never heard of: The Caludon Centre (Stop Wh) in Walsgrave. It turned out to be the University Hospital Bus Station. The connecting bus was thankfully late as well and we had about a five minute wait. The 74 bus took us to Ansty but did not stop at the expected bus stop but sailed past to The Rose and Castle so I had to walk (limp) back down the road to our car.

I drove home and The Best Mate said she was past it and went to bed.

I made myself a Spanish omelette.

                                                                 11.1/4 miles 0 locks 4.1/2 hours

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Fazeley Weekend

We have just had a lovely time in Fazeley at the BCF Weekend. Several boats were moored alongside Tolson's Mill and we had a great time in the St Paul's Church and church hall.  Worship, teaching, games, Barbeque, Treasure Hunt, entertainments including singing, poetry reading, dancing, folk music, whistling and humming together and much more. We joined St Paul's Church congregation for their service this morning and then went to The Fazeley Inn for a carvery lunch. All in all a busy and fruitful time together.

This afternoon we said our goodbyes and backed the boat under the Fazeley Watling Street Bridge to the Junction. Unfortunately we picked up a pair of long johns on the prop which would not spin off and  required mooring up and attention through the weed hatch. (Only the third time that I have had to get into the canal that way).

After that we had an uneventful cruise to moor on the mooring rings at Poleworth.
                                                                     5 miles, 2 locks,  3.1/2 hours

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Bedworth to Fazeley

Using public transport to get from a car parking spot to the boat can be tricky.  The first officer and I  left the car near our destination and then walked to The Square to catch a 110 bus to the station. We missed one because I was too slow and could not run so we got a 16a. That took us to the Bus Station which is nowhere near the train station and too far away for me to limp!  So we got a taxi to the station, caught up with news of friends from the taxi driver who recognized my BCF fleece and found we had just missed a train to Bedworth, The ticket man offered us a route via Birmingham but that took as long so we had a coffee/chocolate and waited for the train via Nuneaton. I noticed that he had given me return tickets rather than singles but they willingly refunded me the 20p extra that the returns had cost! I used the disabled loo. I needed it opened by the ticket office staff as I did not have my radar key, but that was no trouble, then they opened it again for me to retrieve the train tickets that I left in the loo by mistake! Getting to the platform involved two lifts and a 50m walk across a bridge. The train from Nuneaton was a single car. On arrival at Bedworth we checked bus times and decided I had time to hobble two stops: two thirds of a mile to Bulkington Bridge . I broke our journey at Bedworth Fish and Chip bar where we purchased pie and chips for our lunch at £3.60 per head. We got there ahead of the bus. The pie and chips were still hot.

We left the mooring at 12.30 in bright sunshine. The canal was quiet with only a fisherman to disturb by putting the prop in reverse to prevent a collision at a bridge hole. He was peeved that his ground bait might have been washed away. How else was I to stop the boat? Share the space! Seems to work only in one direction. I still think that canals were built for boats not fish, voles, otters or anglers who all came along to freeload on the back of boaters. As we progressed more canal users appeared on the scene. Walkers, dog walkers, joggers. But there were very few boats. Black clouds gathered overhead and it started to rain just as we arrived at Atherstone Top Lock. A boat was about to exit the lock our hearts leapt with joy. We put off filling with water to take advantage of our good fortune. To our surprise there was another crew on the lock too. A queue! All the boats were hear on the flight. We had a good road for 5 locks. Unfortunately the nine boats had not spread themselves out so we had a good road for nine locks. They had filled and come up to queue at the next lock. Why I will never know! This practice was so engrained that a crew emptied and re-filled lock 4 making us wait in the shortest pound. The helmsman was surprised to see our boat when the gates opened and signalled to me that he had nowhere to go. I could have told him that! I signaled him over to the lock landing.

We were hailed by the crew of nb Grampus from Banbury in darkness under under Bridge 43 and by Chris and Jenny the crew of nb Wren's Nest on their mooring below the Bottom Lock.

We worked the last six locks alone, pausing only to shelter from a deluge at lock 10.

At Bradley Green Bridge there was a sign under the arch advertising the Samuel Barlow pub and its facilities including meals all day. The sign had a large white arrow pointing the way we were heading. With hope of a hot dinner we cruised on in the rain. We made that our target. We didn't pass the Samuel Barlow before coming to Poleworth Moorings soaked by the  rain in semi-darkness and opposite The Bull pub. We moored on the piling by the bridge as all the rings were in use. We lit a fire, changed out of our wet gear, hung it up to dry and headed for the pub.

As we got off the boat a boater commented on the fact that we had lit a fire in September! "It's not for us", I said, "it's to dry our clothes, we are off to the pub" "That's all right then " he said. "the wife does not allow such softy behaviour." "I can hear you!" She chipped in. The Bull has an Indian restaurant upstairs and is a traditional local downstairs. On entering I asked the landlord if he was serving food. Not in the bar, he said, only upstairs. He poured a pint, from a choice of four real ales, and then showed us the way. Hence we mixed our pleasures and had real ale from the pub with curry upstairs, or should I say upsteps as the stepped pathway has every size and shape of step: high, low, long, short, sloping, flat, ridged and smooth and winding. Just right for a man with a dodgy knee!

Back at the boat we went straight to our bunks.                                   14 miles 11 locks 7 hours

We left the overnight mooring at 7am under a blue sky. The cruise to Fazeley was uneventful. The Samuel Barlow was not open for breakfast. The highlight was the discovery of the Bard of Glascote's work enshrined in brass beside Lock 13.
We watered at Fazeley and moored on piling just short of Tolson's Footbridge on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. We were back at the car and home in Banbury by lunchtime.

                                                                                                         6 miles 2 locks  3.1/2 hours

Monday, 4 September 2017

Rugby to Bedworth

Another window opened up at the weekend.

Contemplating the journey from where we are to where we wanted to be with all the other things that need our attention showed us that we could not do it without help.

I asked a friend who lives near Hawkesbury Junction whether he could get me from there back to my car in Rugby on Monday, sometime. No, that was not on as he had engagements on Monday but he was free Sunday afternoon to run me back if I left the car at Hawkesbury. A deal was struck and the operation began.

Sunday: Put chicken in the oven and par-boil the potatoes, load car with guitar, keyboard and bible; have a great time at church, playing for worship and doing the talky bit, drinking coffee and chatting to  a visitor who came for the first time having decided that God was interested in his life; go home and finish off a Sunday roast dinner with the best gravy the world has ever tasted; put stock on, take off and refrigerate; and deliver son back to his flat and drive to the Old Royal Oak, Hilmorton dropping The Best Mate and other son (first officer) to boat through the locks; drive to The Greyhound and park the car; rendezvous with friend who drops me at Bridge 66 opposite Clifton cruisers and leaves me talking to the Christian bookshop owners from Rugby under the bridge (lovely people); then back on board to boat to All Oak Corner to moor for the night as the sun sets!

Monday: pulled pins at 6.00am Boat to Hawkesbury Junction; I got in the car and drove to Bulkington Bridge 16 on the Coventry Canal while the crew boated there, having turned at Hawkesbury Junction watching a beautiful FMC Working boat make the turn the other way after letting SONFLOWER through the narrows by the engine house; 

moor at Bulkington Bridge on the Coventry cook and eat breakfast. Drive back to Banbury to find the gas ring (for the stock) left on; collect son from his work place and deliver home; think about next steps. 

We have done a few other jobs and cancelled our exercise session tomorrow morning to free us up a bot. Having considered the next steps the first officer and I will move the boat to Fazely tomorrow and Wednesday. Either we leave the car at Bedworth station and boat to Tamworth to return by train or we do it the other way round.   

Crazy isn't it?               18.5miles, 4 locks  8.5hours