Sunday, 10 March 2019

OFF THE CUT, AND DRY


Los Montesinos and view to  Salinas deTorrevieja

OK, I'm back!

The winter that was spent, by us, in Spain leaving DB to rest in Ashwood Marina while we spent mostly dry days land based in Los Montesinos, Costa Blanca, Espana por favor. Our lifestyle over there goes pretty much as follows...waking up to Blue Skies, walking Della daily along the Med and stopping to drink a cortado €1,20 (beach price) or €1 (Los Montesinos). I met up with my band of merry men (Ukeoholics) and playing our Ukuleles almost every Tuesday, fun in the sun.

Buenos dias

Time flew and we made the decision to sell our furnished currently listed with some local Inmobiliaria (Real Estate Agents), mainly because the random fireworks freak Della and it is heartbreaking to watch her shake uncontrollably taking her an age to restore to her normal chilled self. She is 12 years old and we want her to enjoy her later years and we endeavour to keep her health optimal. 


Baby-love


We humanise our feeling for her and I am not slow to say “Cupboard love is the best love”.
I never got ‘a-round-tuit’ to write Lady Lock-n-Lol while I was in mainland Europe but I thought about it and here is a snippet from dry-land...

We met a couple of Brits who were thinking of buying a villa in Spain and they were reluctant to rent a car and drive on the ‘wrong side’ of the road. It reminded me of my hesitation taking the wheel
Many years ago, meaning into the ultimate decade of last century, I stated I would never drive on the other side of the road thinking that way I was making a defying death decision (could that be written as 3D?). I remember it was my first long distance motoring trip with Cptn in his Renault 4 F4 Van, in our halcyon days together, from Portugal back to England via Spain and France. A couple of times I almost grabbed the bull by its horn to risk driving but a passing view of crushed metal put me off. It was a bleak thought driving on the wrong side of the road using a Right hand drive meaning the passenger had the clearest view ahead. I got over that driving pause within months and I proved to myself that I was fit with my hands safely holding the wheel. I still recite the words of Keith, a DJ at Algarve KISS FM radio station, in my memory bank ‘Keep tight and stay on the right, if you want to stay alive don’t drink and drive.’

1993 We were living in Portugal and our wheels were Cptn’s trusty RHD blue Renault 4! There are many stories to tell in this adventure but I’ll stick with ‘a rotunda’ (the roundabout). Portugal 1993 it was early days in the Algarve for the, now ubiquitous, rotunda. Using a rotunda was rare and Portimáo had just one that I recall and it was hard to avoid. There was no Google to search for guidance using a rotunda in Portugal, then, but word of mouth and hand gestures were used. “The car travelling on the Rotunda has to give way to traffic entering the Rotunda.” How could that work? And driving on the Right means traffic flows anticlockwise! I couldn’t make sense of it then. I can only remember it as an accident waiting to happen. Thankfully the rule changed and traffic on the roundabout has priority.

Moving on 25 years, roundabouts in Europe are a way of life. Spain has numerous roundabouts, la rotunda, and work well. My Bugbear is drivers, particularly in la Costa Blanca not signalling intentions on la rotunda. In England the car indicator is used to indicate as you are going around the roundabout and indicates when you are going to turn off the roundabout. I use the Indicator, what else is its purpose other indicate what I am doing, important road safety. Undoubtably I have car Indicator experience and I believe in the Indicator. On the Walk-Della schedule we have a few beach locations to drive to, and we “go over” (speaks our SatNav) the roundabout at least  10 times to the beach. I have gained experience of Spanglish protocol using the Rotunda, if you are from Britain you will probably indicate your intentions from entry to departure of la Rotunda, quickly you’ll adapt to only signalling when you are going to leave the Rotunda. Maybe you’ll stop using your indicator altogether. If you adhere to the spanish Rotunda rule, you will drive on the inner lane, if there is one, until your exit is close. It works when you are aware of how it works but the danger point is entering the Rotunda. Drivers are not 100% reliable in indicating they are leaving la rotunda. Picture this; you are waiting to enter la rotunda. There is a car on la rotunda and it doesn’t signal to leave la rotunda but it exits it. You could have entered la rotunda if it had indicated it was leaving before your point of entry. Another car on la Rotunda appears and is not indicating it is leaving but it probably is so you begin to make a move. “STOP”. The car signals it is leaving la rotunda at the next exit! Confused or bored with my Rotunda-broken- record, I will end by saying don’t let me put you off driving on the other side.

The rain in Spain.....

The SatNav made me laugh on our drive back to Blighty when she spoke French in a literal way, locations were announced in ‘franglais’ and to make this simple imagine how she pronounced Angers and Le Mans.

How do we get out of here?

So our winter in Spain is done and dusted and we are back on DolcieBlue. Soon we will be living on land in Kinver but we have agreed to keep DB under our ownership until we are ready to sell her. She is such a lovely home and means of travel in a small country. I cannot say goodbye to her just yet.

Lock-n-lol

 “You know if I needed a place to stay you said you’d put me up.”
“I said I’d put up with you!”








Tuesday, 16 October 2018

PROP’ WOES


Tunnelling through the  2,726 yards Wast Hills Tunnel.
It was essential to get DB out of the Cut for assessment and action to be taken with the damaged propeller, prop’ as it is colloquially called. I am not skilled at conversations about a boat engine (I know DB’s engine is yellow and called Vetus), rudders (I know the rudder gives the directional movement) and prop’ (there would be no movement if the prop’ wasn’t propelling the water). To avoid discussion about engines I am better to twitch my nose, vanish and appear in the kitchen galley. Cup of tea?

Tardebigge Locks

So back to the Cut, it was necessary to get to the Tardebigge Flight asap as Cptn had booked us into Droitwich Marina. The Tardebigge Flight is a run of 30 narrow locks, the longest run of locks in the UK covering 2 1/4 miles inviting new meaning to the word Tardebigge. I ended up calling it the Tarde-bugger as there were a lorra Locks to negotiate and we needed muscle and time to get comfortably to Droitwich Marina.


'Lift-off'

11' below

We invited a couple of friends to join our team and ‘enjoy’, of course, the open air workout on the cut! It was no secret that this was going to be a tough 3 hours but the weather forecast was excellent and a memory would be created. It turned out to be an excellent day and apart from Scott and Jen walking the 2ish miles up the towpath to meet DB and made to start ‘locking’ immediately, we all got ‘Lock-n-Lol-ling’. 

Team at work!

A tough job was made easy, Cptn and I could share the helming and advance Lock prep while Scott and Jen , were tooled with windlasses to raise and lower the paddles to let DB down each Lock not forgetting to open/close the gates to let DB out!

Lock 30

There were a couple of C&RT volunteers helping out but they avoided us as holidaymakers were their priority, rightly so. The Tardebugger flight was not busy, it was well worth the exercise under sunny skies, the vista was gorgeous and there were damsons, plums and sloe berries ripe for the picking. I collected a bag of windfall plums, nature’s freebies are irresistible.

Fruity


I like the Worcester Birmingham Canal, it is scenic and very quiet with boat traffic. There are a few tunnels and I’m not that keen on tunnels but they are not the end of the world. 



An easy short run to Hanwell Junction where we met the Droitwich Canal and immediately went down the 3 Locks ‘manned’ by 2 happy Volunteers. We were excited with destination Droitwich Marina in view and soon we were warmly welcomed. They unexpectedly put us on an overnight berth, we plugged DB into electricity and we made use of the service facilities. A shower with continuous running warm water, sheer luxury.  And there was even a bath in one of the shower rooms. A soak in the bath was a healing tonic in the following days after the long slog of prepping and blacking the hull and painting the gunwhales.

Hold tight as DB Getting is being caressed by the trailer

After a night berthed in the marina, DB was towed onto dry land. She was snugly placed on a long trailer with hydraulic attachments that kept her level as she was pulled out of the water and towed to dry-standing where she rested high on thick wooden planks. 

We had to use a ladder to get on board and our ever-trusting Della let us carry her on/off DB. Such an adorable dog is our Della.


Black the hull with bitumen and paint the gunwhales. Looks good!



Our primary importance  getting DB out of the water was to get the prop ‘banged’ back into shape or replaced. The latter meant big money and we were so fortunate to have the services of the affable and able who had Engineer the right tools managed to bang the existing prop in situ back into shape. Great job.

Bendy prop'. 

Back in shape!



Cptn was highly motivated, working hard to get the job done and dusted. To stay calm, cool and collected he became a bath-a-day man. 

We had a week on dry-dock and we could have had longer if we needed it but that would have meant  time means more money! So we got the job done.

Nick, the owner / manager of Droitwich Marina as well as the tractor driver skilled in boat placing was so helpful and accommodating to our urgent need of getting DB out of water and letting Cptn use the jet cleaner to clean the hull and allowing us to stay on board with electricity while we blacked DB. Of course it didn’t come for free but it was affordable and we would highly recommend Droitwich Marina for its empathetic and ‘can do’ approach to boaters.

I did walk the canal walk from Droitwich Marina to Droitwich Spa. Nice 30 min walk. I walked past a few locks but there is no towpath through the M5 Bridge- tunnel. It is not possible for DB to go under the M5 Bridge-tunnel unless we removed the solar panels on her roof and probably would need to use a periscope when helming to avoid a brain injury. Picture that! Actually, forget the periscope and put in remote steering from inside DB.

It was good to be on the cruise, again, and DB felt tickety-boo with her prop’ restored to A++ condition. What lies beneath water sometimes bites, that is the mystery of tea coloured waters. Please don’t throw rubbish in the water! We were unlucky but the prop’adventure ended on a positive note.


We returned to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and moved down a few more locks cruising the few miles to Worcester and left the Worcs & Birmingham Canal at the Diglis Locks to get on to the beautiful River Severn with a short 3 hour cruise to Stourport on Severn and on to the Staffs & Worcs Canal.

Worcester Cathedral



We feel like we have arrived on our home territory and were only a day away from Kinver where we will eventually be land-based in the ‘Black Country’.


  
R. Severn






Thursday, 20 September 2018

HEAVY METAL


I'm getting tired of pole dancing.


We decided almost definitely that our destination is Kinver and it made it easier to plan the voyage giving us a few weeks to get DB unpacked and ready to go to brokerage. I can write this sounding bright and cheery but I do feel sad that DB will no longer be our home. Cptn and I have had a number of life moves over our 27 years together and all our homes have been amazing whether they are little or large. We agree small spaces work and DB on water opens up the Waterways in England to us. I think one day if it is me myself buy yourself this record, I’d land a Narrowboat and live on that, I don’t need muddy waters and I’d put it into a ‘grand little design’ with a veggie garden. Dream on.....

The Oxford Canal is shared with the Grand Union from the Napton Bottom Lock. You don’t really see widebeam boats until the Canal junction, opposite Wigram Turns Marina, and the GU either goes to Birmingham or south to London. The Oxford Canal leaves the Grand Union Canal at Braunston Turn. Best to Google it! Turns or turn.....

We’re on the move. We did see a wide-beam boat once, probably 4 years ago cruising towards the  Napton Locks. I remember saying “You shouldn’t be on here, it’s a narrow canal.” They had just bought the boat and brokerage must have said you can cruise until the winding hole before the narrow Locks. So true in hindsight.

We turned to Port and onto the GU to cruise to Royal Leamington Spa, Warwick then the Hatton Flight and beyond. It all felt better than the Oxford Canal (South). There was little moving traffic and when we arrived at the Stockton flight of 10 Locks we had 2 choices. If we were feeling ‘chilled’we could wait but I wanted to keep moving, so I said I’ll work the Locks while Cptn helmed. Sometimes our backs groan with winding the paddles. The paddles, at some Locks on the Oxford Canal were nasty turners. Now on the GU the first 3 x wide Locks back by Calcutt Marina were good, back on the hydraulic paddles and working one side of the Lock means 26 rotations winding up a paddle, upper limb work out but little risk of the windlass biting back!! There’s no need to obsess with working both the paddles either side to empty or fill the Lock. Leave that for Lock sharing. We were going down so if the Lock needs filling for DB to enter winding one paddle to open the sluice is enough. Likewise the same going down the Locks. Get the picture. Same result but it’s either wait and save energy or save 60 secs and use up energy. I’m fit for purpose and have no weight / wait issue but I’m past being a spring chicken.
Anyway we started the Stockton Locks, and pedestrian traffic passed on important information “There is a boat coming up the Locks.” Great I said and ask how many Locks away is it.  I would look knowing I could see clearly 3 Locks ahead then more Locks but there was no clear definition of movement. Maybe in the distance there was someone. OK we started the move and after 2 Locks I was told there is a boat  coming down obviously a Lock share opportunity for us both. The boat we eventually teamed up with was a ‘Tupperware’. This fibreglass boat dripping with fenders was happy to share the locks with steely DB and we had 3 pairs of hands to work the Locks. I could go ahead getting the Locks ready for ‘us’ boats. There is happiness in sharing a Lock!

At the end of the Stockton Locks we passed near to Long Itchington, the village where DB began as sheets of steel at Colecraft  Engineering. We had no reason to stay here, we were on the move and rain was forecast. We found moorings later on in between some sections of Himalayan Balsam. That is near where the Begonias got beheaded!

This is the GU. The Canal Bank is too overgrown, bring on the gardeners.

Next morning DB was starting to ground, in fact the levels were dropping as soon as we moored up. Nothing we could do, cooking on a lean, that’s fun.  So the shallows remained but we floated more or less, DB was resisting being pushed out but no big problem, as long as the Bow is floating the stern can be brought out using fair means...

A light rain was falling, Cptn was helming and an hour or so later we had the mooring we hoped for outside Lidl. Perfect, my favourite location to nibble croissants for brunch!

“I remember your beautiful boat”, said a person walking into Lidl’s. We often receive heart-felt comments about DB’s colourful decoration. She brings out a comment and smile in mostly everyone.
There are only so many trips needed to Lidl and I got to Morrison’s as well. Of course a Della-walk to nearby Pets at Home is essential where she could enjoy watching reality Guinea Pig TV. She loves the little creatures, and can get up close but not personal. A visit to ‘Pets at Home’ also includes the Dog Treats aisle where she makes sure to do the housework! No stealing from the bins but there must be some out of sight treat fall-out on the floor.

Enough shopping distraction, there was the mega flight of Hatton Locks waiting for us and we definitely wanted to share the Locks. It was Bank Holiday Monday so there must be boats on the move.  We made our way to moorings near the Bottom Lock and it was all quiet on the Hatton front. We could be there for the rest of the day. There was a lot of foot traffic and I was tempted to invite a couple of people to share the Locks, but I kept my mouth shut. Thankfully a holiday boat arrived and we were happy to team up with them. There was a young guy called Billy on the boat who turned out to be a Lock Superstar. He had left his windlass at the previous Lock, at the Cape of Good Hope, only ½ mile away, so I loaned him one of our ‘found’ windlasses and he got to work. His mother disappeared she walked back to try and find the windlass!

The Hatton Locks and there's more.

I helmed up a few Locks being alert to the previous time we had taken DB up the Hatton Locks and DB’s cruiser stern rail had been grabbed by the protruding Lock gate arm which appeared to over-open and not stay flush with the Lock wall. I say ‘then’ because the gates must have been repaired, thank goodness, and DB was not attacked!!

Billy’s Mum returned clutching the forgotten windlass. I was surprised she found it, great. Her mother who was on board the rental boat had been in tears worrying about her daughter’s safety and concerned her ‘middle-aged’ daughter would go missing. They live in London, what does that say about London?

Here come the boats

I got on with Locking. Again 3 people with windlasses make a big job less heavy. We had interest from some gongoozlers (GGs) and I asked them if they’d like to go up a Lock with Cptn on DB. Next thing 2 GG’s were on board with Cptn but their wives chose to remain on land. Happy chappies and I left them to get on with it. Hopefully one of them didn’t lose a hearing aid!  At the Top Lock a random GG approached with a found ‘fallen’ hearing aid at a nearby Lock enquiring if it belonged to us. He ended up taking it to the nearby Café.

OK the Hatton done and we cruised to our favourite mooring on the Rowington Ridge. That is a happy place for us and worth a 2 night stop. Nearby I found Damson plums and greengages, I can’t refuse nature’s freebies. Damson jam is yum, I’ve heard damson gin is good but the jam takes the biscuit this time.
Jam beginning

We cruised along to Kingswood Junction to move to the Stratford Upon Avon Canal and began another series of Locks. Back in the Narrow Locks and we were ahead of a ‘share’ boat, they were at a water point and I worked the Lock getting DB started going up a Lock giving me time to power walk to the shop to get sugar, how can you make jam without sugar?  On my quick return DB was moving into the Lock ahead, helpful boaters (Australian that once was a Kiwi) so all good. 

After the next Lock, I had time to be ferried in DB to Lock 14 and the upcoming flight of  Locks. I was thinking sweet jam as Cptn was moving DB closer to the Towpath so I could jump to land! Suddenly the prop’ made a sickening-clanging-loud-squeal as a hidden obstacle carried out its attack. The facial expressions from GG’s seated near the towpath, mirrored our feeling for DB and her injured prop’. She could move but she didn’t sound happy. Best to move up the Locks and find a place to moor and Cptn could assess the damage. Cptn has a lot of tools on DB but the one he needed was not in the collection.
Long term moorings on the Stratford upon Avon Canal

A fat hand holding a clamp (I made that vision up) is not powerful enough to bend steel in the confines of a weed hatch and DB was going to have to limp along. Cptn phoned around to find a dry dock and the possibility of repairing or replacing the prop. We both agreed that DB out of water would be an ideal time to black her hull.
Cosy fit on the guillotine-gated stop-lock at Kings Norton  

Droitwich Marina was selected, they sounded extremely accommodating with short notice and we were booked in meaning we had 4 days to get there.


Go Left DB...The Worcester Birmingham Canal ahead.


Saturday, 15 September 2018

BEHEADING BEGONIAS

Cruising on to Duke's Cut

Two weeks cruising up the Thames and back down a wee way was ample sufficiency and we moved from moorings near Godstow Bridge early in the morning before the rise of the King’s Lock Lockie so we could disappear unnoticed, operate the manual river Lock and move at Tic onto the Duke’s Cut, a narrow passage with a stop Lock, which meets the Oxford Canal. We were excited to be back on a Canal knowing we were heading northwards. I think it is better to avoid the moored boats and lift bridges that we would have met on the Oxford Canal if we had used the Sheepwash Channel that is close to Osney Lock. It was good to be on the move and we were quickly in Thrupp where we stopped for a boat cooked breakfast. It was far too early in the day to consider mooring DB up overnight. Holiday boaters heading in the opposite direction to us passed comment “The canal is so overgrown.” I didn’t believe their words then, I thought they were exaggerating. I was concerned that the water level might be too low but C&RT had not reported any concerns when Cptn had contacted them recently.
Nature's garden

We cruised on and it wasn’t long before we passed heavily overgrown banks hiding the towpath running beside the Canal. I remembered a walker, on the bank of the Thames at Abingdon saying “I find the Oxford Canal boring, there is no interesting scenery and you can’t see much.” Now I could see his point of view, at least on DB I was about a couple of feet above the ground when I was standing on a footstool. 

The view was good, from a height, but the thick growth of a type of bamboo but not bamboo(?), encroached the Cut minimising the available navigation and mooring possibilities. I think it is the Himalayan Balsam that is rampantly out of control. There is also the Giant Hogweed. I didn’t see any of our ‘gardeners’ at work on this Canal. Is this the bio-sustainable look that C&RT are baiting DEFRA with? I don’t know but I think it is important to encourage people on boats to navigate the Cut. There were few Anglers and Cyclists and very few Narrowboats on the move and we hardly saw the overstaying signs of Continuous cruisers

The Oxford was not the picturesque navigation we remembered from previous times. There were not many boats on the move on a summer’s journey and we focussed on getting to the Napton flight of Locks. Always good to have a destination in mind but the plan did change. We booked DB into dry dock, at least a year ago at Bulbourne Dry Dock (top of the Marsworth flight of Locks on The GU Canal). With that plan in mind we were going to get to Braunston and pick up our car so we could empty DB of some of our personal stuff and take it to our recently purchased cottage in Kinver! Then we would cruise down the GU, like we had done a few months ago, so we could get to the dry dock and get the bitumen onto DB’s hull. I ‘guesstimated’ that we could cruise to Kinver, on the Staffs & Worcs Canal, and empty DB there then do a longer cruise back to the Marsworth Flight. It was a thought probably ‘pie-in-the-sky’ and there it stayed. The solution, we agreed on, was to forgo the dry dock booking (matey wouldn’t refund the deposit) and cruise to Kinver.

Add caption

Meanwhile back to the Oxford Canal where the waters were shallow but we didn’t ‘ground’ DB on the mud. A couple of locks were a tight squeeze through the bottom gate. I got her into one of these Locks with throttle power and Cptn using a wooden pole to squeeze a further couple of millimetres so DB just got through but the other Lock was impassable. There was something lodged behind the open gate and lock wall. Other Narrowboats joined the queue and we gave way to normal Narrowboats whose hull slopes slightly, inwards, and they managed to get into the Lock. We were left to wait, in hope that C&RT would turn up to free us. 

Two ‘working’ boats arrived, owned by keen non working people who love the distinctive sound a working boat has, and they shared the same lock dilemma as we did. The Cptn of one boat had a long handled rake, just the tool for him to reach into the murky shallows of the empty lock from the bow of a Narrowboat, coming down the Lock that kindly gave consent to be helpful with our plight. It took time but it paid off and the obstacle was moved away. What was the obstacle, maybe it was matted twigs or a sunken island? All I know is we all got through and there was no sign of C&RT. I have to write that a couple of years ago, we got lodged between the lock wall and gate as we were halfway into a Lock on the Oxford Canal. I phoned C&RT and help arrived within 30 minutes. I hear now, on the grapevine, that C&RT have reorganised themselves and the South Oxford Canal and the Kennet & Avon Canal are now being run by London. Why???

Happily we arrived at Aynho where there were plenty of visitor mooring spots available.  A family, on a rental boat, moored opposite us at the water point. We had cruised past them, earlier, while they were feeding the ducks white bread. Ducks love white bread and kids love feeding ducks white bread, the human Duck Brigade say white bread is bad for ducks and I think white bread is probably not the best food for humans. I don’t know anyone who talks with the Ducks. The kids on the boat thought it would be fun to throw bread onto DB. A couple of hours later they were still at the water point and another boat arrived to fill up.

“Where’s your Dad.” I asked one of the duck feeders.
“In the pub” was the reply.
“Go and tell him to move the boat.” I said.
“I don’t know how to get to the pub,” Kid said “Can I move the boat?”
“Do you drive a car on the road?” I said. Case in point, I thought.

It had been a lovely late summers day and we had a friend over for lunch, we don’t entertain often on DB but so nice to be outdoors on the stern enjoying everything nice. Aynho is a pleasant place to stay overnight.

We were ideally located to top up the water tank and put a healthy dose of red diesel into the fuel tank. Last time we topped up with fuel was in late May, remember that we need fuel to travel but most of the fuel is for domestic use...hot water, and charging the batteries, the life charge for DB.

We were about to venture to the other side as a holiday boat approached and we retied our ropes and let them take the water point. One hour later they left. How big is their water tank or how slow does the water flow?  The water flows slowly at this water point but even slower when everybody on board takes their shower while filling the boat tank. Water is a precious commodity that is taken for granted by land lubbers until you share a water tank that doesn’t replenish automatically.
“How often do you refill the water tank?” I politely yelled out across the Cut to them?
“Every two days.” One replied.

I thought we are lucky, mostly always filling the water tank cos we can. Topping up is better than running out but we know we have 3 weeks supply for 2 people. Run the tap with purpose the old adage of ‘waste not want not’.

Eventually the clean holiday makers cruised off and we pushed DB over for a water top up and a big but not total diesel refill. In 15 minutes we were off and not far beyond is one of those diamond shaped locks and it had a boat using it. Cptn was having breakfast so I decided it was good practice for me to tie up DB and get the Lock ready. I even had time to move her into the Lock leaving Cptn to close the gate and fill the Lock. These diamond shaped locks have a special name and they are an easy fill. Off we go tailing the previous boat. The last Lock before Banbury and I was waiting at the Lock mooring. My only clue to a Lock being ready is the water calms outside the Lock gate, and within seconds the gate should be opening. This one had calm water but wasn’t opening so I gave it a minute or two before I walked up to the Lock. Cptn was talking to a C&RT person who said there was a problem at this Lock.

“Is that why you haven’t opened the Lock gate?” I groaned.
“Oh is the Lock empty? Sorry.” He said and proceeded to open the gate.

Once DB was nestled in the Lock and on the rise, Cptn asked for the boat pole. He was after a loose stick that was preventing the top gate from completely shutting effectively wasting water. The stick was moved right out of the way onto dry land when the top gate was opened. This Lock took quite a while to get through but it was the last rural Lock before Banbury. The Canal water level was low and some boats on long term moorings were grounded. A sign on one of the boats indicated the water level had been extremely low for weeks and they were unable to float. We were centre-Cut and there was just enough water for us to get through. Trickier when there was an oncoming boat and it was easier to stop and let that boat take priority. There were very few boats on the move. We passed a massive building site, houses under construction and we had heard on the Canal grapevine that this site had pumped water from the Canal...they had been found out and stopped their obvious illegal behaviour but were still feeding water to a site on land. Low behaviour demonstrated by the building developers.

We hoped to get a mooring close to town; we were one Lock and a Lift bridge away. The boat that we had seen ahead, that morning, was tied up at the sanitary station filling up with water and using the Elsan disposal service. Cptn went to the Lock to get it ready for DB. A boat left the Lock and I started to push DB out as did matey on the other side. Nasty words flowed between us and normally I would give way but I decided to hold my waters and bow thrusted DB into position to enter the Lock. It was a time to use selective hearing and I had matey and 3 x C&RT cleaners verbally abuse me as I helmed DB. I was pleased when the Lock gates closed.

The next level was busy 3 boats in the pound, tra-la-la-la-la, and I knew it would take skill to avoid steel kisses but I think I did. There was the Lift Bridge with 2 boats waiting to come through and it was impossible for DB to get past them as the Boat Wharf had 2 boats breasted up! DB became the steel filling in the steel sandwich. It was a long steel kiss but no injury sustained.

Cptn noticed mooring potential where a combination of two spaces would fit DB but the holiday rental in the middle needed to move into one of the spaces. Youth were on board and Cptn politely suggested they move the boat thank you. They said there were boats there before but they had gone. Our thinking is in order to make room for other boats, it is not the end of the world to pull your boat along. Obviously there is the occasional ‘yoghurt pot’ on Narrow Canals but the Canal is mainly used by Narrowboats, nearly 3x the size of a ‘yoghurt pot’! Holiday Makers are not likely to be aware of boat traffic but like everything in life it is a learning curve. Result, a space was made to fit DB.
We both thanked and praised the youth. A few minutes later a male voice boomed into Cptns face
“Why are you abusing my boys? You made them move the boat!!!”

We were gobsmacked. We realised that you can ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross but we didn’t have to stay here. The moment was lost and we untied our ropes and cruised towards Cropredy. I needed to get to a Post Office to post some important mail and no need to traipse the streets of Banbury.

The Canal usually has some lovely mooring spots, lovely because it can feel rural but these spots are few and far between places on the Oxford Canal South. The Canal is becoming overgrown and there is little pedestrian traffic on the Tow path. We did meet a man packing up his tent above our first Lock, in the morning. Of course we asked him where he was going. He started in Napton, I think and was walking the length of the Canal to Oxford. Good luck and enjoy we said to him.


We intended to get to Napton but I needed the Post Office in Cropredy so concentrated and completed the application form I had to post. The form should be straight forward but I found some of it pedantic but perhaps I was making a meal out of it. I was registering to return to practice as an Occupational Therapist and I had to make sure that I followed all the detail so the application was completed properly the first time. I marched to the Post Office in Cropredy only to find that the Post Office was no longer a Post Office. Squeal bah humbug!! I need to get reflective about these happenings.... It’s not the end of my world but I want a Post Office!  Is it mindfulness, internal, or mindlessness, infernal (informal), that controls or rules the roost?

Hi Ho and off we go. There was no stopping our goal to get off this Canal. Mid afternoon and we go through the Fenny Compton Tunnel that isn’t a tunnel just long and narrow and overgrown. We followed one boat in the hope we wouldn’t meet an oncoming boat. I lost direction control briefly but enough to have a branch rub DB’s wheelhouse and we had a delivery of blackberries. Breathe and into Fenny Compton full of moored boats and a couple were on the move towards the tunnel, you’re welcome. We knew we’d get close to the Napton flight of Locks that we could do next morning and I could get to the Post Office after that.


The canal was shallow when we moored for the night so I measured the water level with the boat pole, mid centre canal 42” (‘The Meaning of Life’ according to Monty Python Douglas Adams 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'.."The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42." ). I was up at sparrowfart, that is the early morning hours, and we arrived to be the second boat waiting at the Napton Top Lock which C&RT opened @8.30 am for us that day.

Napton Top Lock, the first Lock I ever got the prop stuck on the sill, some years ago.

There were a few Holiday boats ascending, under C&RT volunteer tuition. The C&RT lock volunteers are trained for the Locks by the RYA (Royal Yacht Assn). I am puzzled at how a keeled boat uses the Inland waterways, I have seen yachts on the R. Severn. I do not understand why they encourage Narrowboats to rest the Bow on the sill edge as the Lock is being filled. Nudge nudge wink wink.....

Yes I got to the Post Office......


Thank you to everyone who has made comments on my Blog posts. It really makes me happy that you are enjoying my words to share our adventure. Thank you Thank you Thank you.


 
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Tuesday, 4 September 2018

STEEL CLAPPERS



OK so you’ve heard of ‘Tyre Kickers’ when selling a car. People look and dream about if they could become the owners, make the appropriate comments but mute money talk.


It is not a secret that we are putting our beautiful hunk of steel aka our home NB DOLCIEBLUE up for sale. Hence the name Steel Clappers, it could be Steel Cappers but no one wants to toe cap DB, they clap when they come aboard. It has been 7 years since we returned to England and began our dream life as water gypsies. Only it is not a dream, we took the first step and woke up to cruising the waterways.  Je ne regret rien.
Our life, together, has always been impulsive and we noticed we were drawn to the West Midlands and the village of Kinver on the Staffs&Worcs Canal has become a favourite place to moor. On a walk, in Kinver, earlier this year we saw a cottage for sale recognised it would suit us and meet our needs in our days of age and bought it. And so will begin another dream.  
DB, beautiful DB, is waiting to become a living dream for somebody else. Check Apollo Duck https://narrowboats.apolloduck.co.uk/boat/colecraft-68-cruiser-stern/571259 
We will put her into brokerage at a Marina soon.


We have been cruising up the Thames. My last blog had us leaving Limehouse Thames Lock late afternoon on a sunny summer Sunday. Four years ago we did this cruise and left in the early morning, a sunny day and the water was just waking up. It was still a mill pond at that time. This time it was choppy and windy. 

Della and I were indoors with both of us wearing our lifejackets. Cptn was at the helm in total control of DB and our friends, on board, appeared to be enjoying the ride and taking in the great waterside scenery that DB was passing.





My confidence returned  as we approached The London Eye and I removed my lifejacket and started helming. DB rides the water well and Cptn was the right person for the job to get us underway. Everyone had a turn at helming under Cptn’s watchful eye.

It took 3 hours to get to Teddington Lock and once we were through the Lock we moored up for the night. We had queried the need to book a mooring a few weeks back and were told there is never any problem getting a paid mooring there. So at the Lock I paid for a 2 week EA River license and a mooring for that night. The moorings were packed with ‘Gin Palaces’ and no room for us. Cptn phoned the Lockie who said reverse back and tie up near the Lock. The assigned mooring had a ‘Tupperware’ moored on it and we gave them their orders to untie their ropes and be gone.

The R. Thames is always a great cruise and, I hear, a blast up a River in a steel boat is good for the engine. We didn’t hang about. Teddington to Runnymede, where we tried to smash up the polycarbonate plastic but it wouldn’t snap even with the weight of 2 jumping on its curly bend. We were about to get the hand saw involved when a man of the land approached and asked if he could buy the plastic. He had a use for it so we were happy for him to take it away no charge. He came back with some home grown tomatoes and a few cans of beer. Nice but not necessary.
Windsor, feeding the Canadian Geese!
 Good pickings underwater in this River.

Wargrave Mooring

Clever in Sonning

St Andrews Church, Sonning

Smoke on the Water. Beale Park

Runnymede to Windsor, that was a short trip but we paid the mooring and stayed the night. The trip goes on....Wargrave Marsh, Sonning, Beale Park, Abingdon, then through Oxford past Port Meadow (Anglers to ‘port’ and they were not happy with DB’s position on the river, she was too close to them) and onwards to moor a river mile above King’s Lock.



We are now in new territory on the R. Thames or Isis as it is known. Our intention is to go to Lechlade. The River was running ok in the dry summer but it is narrow and the banks are overgrown. Its level was low and at times we lost steerage which was a problem on the winding bits. Fortunately there was not much traffic. On one of the bends before Radcot Lock we lost steerage and while coping with this, a ‘Broadscruiser’ coming downstream appeared, at speed, as it came round the bend. There was no way we could give way to downstream traffic as they had come into our stream that we were trying to get out of. Kissing boats. We needed to move out of the way and they were stuck between DB and the riverbank not to mention the overhanging dead tree. DB slid out of the way nudging their rubber-strip. The woman-at-helm was very unhappy that we had made contact with their boat. “What are you doing?” she said “We’re fibreglass you’re steel!” Her words were wrapped with more of the colour of the moment. When I got to the Lock, I discussed the incident with the Lockie. He said he was impartial as he had not seen the incident. While I was at the Lock he had a phonecall from the ‘Broadscruiser’ and all he could do was give them our boat name and state he was impartial.
You can leave your hat on. Radcot

This incident put us off going to Lechlade, yes DB is a long boat on a winding river. I helmed most of the return to Godstow Lock. I made sure every blind bend we tooted at. 1 blast for starboard turn and 2 blasts for port turn. I got stuck with the green and red markers, I couldn’t remember which side to pass them on. I knew to keep the red marker on my right but I wasn’t expecting to see a green marker where there hadn’t been one the day before! I had to make a snap decision and I kept it to my Right. Wrong wrong wrong. There were 2 boats moored ahead and I had to make a sharp turn to port to avoid sticking DB’s bow into steel. She turned OK but there was not enough time or space to swing the stern out of the way so I did a long rub along 2 steel boats. So is the problem of trying to avoid contact, to throttle back means any steering is lost, bow thrusters can help but a slow boat still feels like it is going fast. Time for a break, have a Kit Kat. In old days I would have a cigarette and breathe in the smoke. For some reason nicotine and tobacco was a panacea to the experience. I’m going to remain an ex smoker.

Nb WAL

So that was close to the 2 weeks on the Thames. There was time to get back to Abingdon and Nb WAL cruised in! Then there was the rowing event when we left Iffley Lock. I suppose Oxford means rowing. They are a bit of a minefield on a Narrowboat........

Back to the Canals.



A brief history

This is a blog set up by Chris and Sarah so family and friends can catch up with their travels on the British waterways in the summer of 2011. In 2010, I went to England with the idea of getting a narrow boat built. I had specific requirements so I thought that a new build may be the way to go. I e mailed to numerous boat builders, a great percentage of whom ignored me. The problem of having a family name of Laycock is that hotmail and a few others think that I am a porn star. At an early age you learn not to put C Laycock on your school books. But I guess that my nephew Paul did worse. Anyway I spent a very pleasant few weeks driving around the beautiful English countryside visiting boatyards, marinas, boat builders and just a few pubs. I had narrowed it down to two builders and in the last week I was in Devizes Wiltshire when I came across "Avalon Mist" 54 feet of throbbing neglected narrow boat. The past owner had lost interest, hadn’t maintained her and to add insult to injury had been made redundant. After a very short negotiation I was able to buy her for a pretty fair price. On the day the sale took place I had to beg her to take her trainers and a few rather suspect items of clothing, in other words she left everything. Lock stock and barrel.

Soon after the purchase I flew to California to meet Sarah and have a short holiday. Once back in NZ I started to try and organize works. The first thing that I learnt was that the marina does not allow any contractor on site, only their chosen ones, the excuse given is a concern about insurance, the suspicion is, graft, pay back, baksheesh, call it what you like. It is possible to take the boat off the marina to have the work done, but not really practical.

The first job to be tackled was to “winterize” the boat, i.e. drain off all the water, check the anti freeze in the engine and central heating and fit an automatic bilge pump.

No real problem there except communication, the mechanic just didn’t answer e mails. Difficult to do business like that.

The nice marina lady had a quiet word with him, and things did improve, thanks Debs you have been a star through out . He later confided in me the reason for this was that he was dyslexic, apparently a malady [he] claims affects a lot of mechanics.[It turns out that he is a great mechanic and a nice guy to boot].

That goes pretty high on my list of lame excuses, the top one being a really nice Irish guy Pat, who I had employed as a carpenter years ago when I lived in London. He was always a bit late for work, when I finally collared him about it; he said he could never decide what to wear to work.

Nice one Pat.

I digress, the boat was winterized, which was just as well as it was a cold one and the whole marina froze over.

Next job was to have her taken out of the water, have the hull stripped back to bare metal and have a bit of over plating done. There were a couple of areas where there was pitting, and I though if she’s out of the water, may as well do the job right, so a small amount of over plating and then the hull was blacked, and the engine bay partially de-rusted and then back in the water.

Seems like a good job was done, I had the marine surveyor who had done the original survey, check out all the major works and give me written reports and photos, so all good except once again communications.

I then came across a great guy, the partner of the woman who runs the marina and a carpenter/narrow boat fitter outer .He replaced the stern deck and did a great job, also did a great job on de-greasing, de-rusting and painting the engine compartment. A job I should have done myself, but I just didn’t fancy it, not only that be was great with communications and chasing other people up

So that takes us up to present.

There needs to be a bit of electrical work, not much. The outside is badly in need of paint, Sarah and I can do that and a bit of a tidy up inside, and then she will be a really nice boat.