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 CafĂ©.

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.

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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.



Thursday, 30 August 2018

GRAMATIC CRUISING



Paddy's Basin

They stare, You steer, I store... or is that 'eye sore'! Intense wordplay to get where I am today.

'Rap' on the Roof

Oh well, we’ve been there, done things and seen stuff.  Always looking back it seems like a long time but with life's momentum cruising DB time has flown and I can make it literally go faster.


We played the London Game mooring in Merchant Square Paddington Basin. Well honestly we had a valid reason to overstay and C&RT never responded to Captain’s email about his major health issue. If he had given birth he would have been given 6 weeks paternity grace to settle the sprog into life as a continuous cruiser.

A swirl of Duckweed.

There was a major incident one night, I was asleep and heard nothing when a feline miaow risked one of its 9 lives with an uninvited visit on DB entering through the open side hatch. It was a summer’s night and there was no point us baking in a hot tin can! The report was “Cat aboard, Dog immediately on alert to the intruder, Cat took flight up the curtain knocking over my beautiful paua encrusted globe.” No injuries but an irreparable loved damaged good. Next day the cat owner said her cat doesn’t like dogs and we should have our side hatches closed or have shutters to go over our side hatches.... Cptn’s response was “Cat shouldn’t be locked out of its boat and should be kept on board its boat.”

Beautiful paua ball shattered by 'cat-nip'.

A couple of days later a big wind blew and we got rattled. Cptn got up in the morning, like most people do, and went outdoors into the Wheelhouse and looked up to notice with a clear vision that the miraculous polycarbonate plastic roof had disappeared! Oops had it floated away? No, we had clipped it onto the stern canopy and the roof had flipped over and rested, still attached, on top of the stern canopy. ‘There’s a hole in my roof...’ Cptn Fixit got on with the job, see later Blog for new roof.

Nature's incident gave unwanted ventilation.

Anyway, to sever a long story we served our London time dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s with a satisfactory ending and cruising off into the watery sunset.
Thelma and Della. 

Well, I totally lost the cruise elation after Regents Park. 

It has been 4 years since we had been on these waters and they were grim.

Camden Lock

I didn’t recognise Camden Locks. There were the Locks but no volunteers to help lend a helping hand, just a single-handed boater who shared the Lock. Actually, he was very considerate and worked his windlass at the Lock rather than stay on his boat. There is a lot of construction underway at the large building site beside the Canal and it wasn’t pretty. I suppose it is the story of life, ‘Nothing stays the same’.

Camden Lock

Outside at the pub, locked metal gates keep the gongoozlers out, I mean at a safe distance. But there was a ‘random’ inside the gates by the Lock asking for a key so she could be let out. We did consider letting her spend her holidays there!

Soon we were through the 3 Locks and glimpsed Battlebridge Basin, where I had tried but failed to get a summer mooring. I remember being so disappointed that the almost promised pricey mooring didn’t turn out, and now passing BB I was so thankful that we hadn’t spent a penny on our summer mooring.
Interesting Gasholder. Regeneration, create rather than destroy. Home sweet home?

Granary Square came into view and it was a different picture to 4 years prior. Many boats moored around there.  Does it get better? I don’t think so. Once through the Islington Tunnel we passed lines of boats double-breasting. Get me gone; this is not the canal life for me.

Hmmm no thanks.

It’s London Canal life where boats are an affordable option to live in the centre of this highly populated city. The canal boats became less to nonexistent once we passed the Hertford Navigation that leads to the R. Lee.

Canary Wharf

In the distance I see Canary Wharf, it looks stunted now, after its unique stand in the 90’s. Docklands still holds a bit of excitement in my distant memory. I remember good times in the East End, Royal London Borough of Tower Hamlets. We got to the Lock gates to Canary Wharf I couldn’t get them to open. Gongoozler help needed! Thanks to the veiled lady for her kind support. Yay, last Lock before the Thames Lock.

And so endeth the Regents Canal and begins the excitement to get on the Tidal Thames. 

I’d booked to leave, late afternoon, the next day with friends that is a Sunday. Nearly all aboard and the Lockie had switched on the green light for us to enter the Lock. Cptn was meeting a late arrival friend at the DLR station and I started to panic. Lockie gave us a long 2 minutes and all were aboard, the wind was blowing and my excitement was lost. Hindsight, could be the replacement word for ‘If only’.

Nb DolcieBlue waits. Can you see her?



Tuesday, 19 June 2018

THE 3x R’S REVISED



Grrr... Last century we were raised with the believed benefits of learning ‘Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic’. 2 out of 3 weren’t bad for me and I could manage mental arithmetic but then mathematics became the buzzword and I was left behind with most of that! I think I have mild maths dyslexia and I fail to count how it has held me back.

Now I have been pondering over what I envisage to be the 3x R’s of the 21stCentury. I am writing examples using my lifestyle as a Narrowboater, in mind. Here goes remembering there can always be two ways (positive and negative) to look at things unless you are opinion struck-out ‘on the fence’
Wide-Beam country looms

1. RESPECT 


Lock          - check the canal for oncoming boats. It’s a fine balance if the Lock is half full or half empty. If it’s you, carrying the windlass -on -foot, who got there first it’s yours. If the other party meet you at the Lock then talk about it at the Lock. It happened to me at one of the Locks near Stoke Bruerne. We were coming down the Lock ahead and a holiday boater moved out of the Lock below and I tried to signal and yell we were going to be at that Lock so LEAVE THE GATE OPEN. They still were not aware of us so I marched down, quickly, to reopen the gate and race back to DB to get her out of the other Lock. In those few moments, another boater shut the gate I had reopened and was winding the paddles to empty the Lock. I yelled out, I cannot write the words I was thinking and I felt no helpful kindness towards him. He got his boat into that Lock and I turned my back totally ignoring him. He was acting strangely pacing the perimeter above the Lock wall while it was filling with his boat in it.
Cptn was Locking, the other day, and he started to fill 'our' Lock after a Nb had left it. He had checked all was clear and assumed the boat moored, below, at the Lock had no active person on board as no intent had been shown they were taking the Lock. Suddenly a person with a windlass appeared and negotiated with Cptn that they were coming up the Lock. OK fair enough it was in their favour. So, paddles down our end and Cptn left them to get on with it. Best way to keep chilled. As the boat was rising in the Lock, I went and found out a bit about them. A team of actors having lunch and cruising to their next location. 


Mooring   - Be considerate when mooring in popular locations particularly where there are rings. We love being able to have solid ground rings in situ to tie DB onto if we are staying for a day or two, and there is usually a sign-posted restricted time limit. We do notice it appears to be popular to leave a gap between boats rather than moor up close and share a ring. Hey, we are 68ft and we can fit if you think to fill the gap rather than mind the gap. Respect!

Tic             - Imagine walking pace. In London, walking pace is a running walk. Those London Narrowboaters sure move faster than Narrowboats doing ‘tic’ out of London. I think it describes the big city speed of life? Whatever, here's a rope hint... triangulate the stern end ropes. Anyway moving at tic passing moored boats on the canal, outside Londonium, is respect.

2.   RESPONSIBILITY


Shut the gates- unless you are on the River Wey. Some Lock Gates on the Canal take superhuman strength to close them and I verge on being irresponsible if I can’t shut them. I could make it easier if I did a ‘paddle technique’ to get the water to help pull the gate in. Some gates shut easily but will swing open again. Again water can help and you need to take out levelling the water. I put it down to not worth the exercise to do this. As far as the canal code goes I could be seen as irresponsible but I have thought about it. I am not lazy! 
  
Wind the paddles down, i.e close the sluice - Read the signs on the gate where it will tell you to leave the gate paddles raised when you leave the Lock.

Tie ropes securely – Within 2 days of cruising down the Grand Union we passed 2 non secured boats, they were attached to their moorings with one rope meaning both were ‘swinging-out’. The first was a Nb in Berkhamstead and I blasted my horn in case the ‘Insiders’ were still asleep. I think they had probably gone to work. But to assume makes an ass out of you and me, n’est-ce pas? The second boat was a ‘Broad-beam’, a little way on from Denham Deep Lock and I was pissed off to see this grey monster lurching into the cut. Again, I blasted DB’s ‘car’ horn but as I cruised past it, at London tic speed,  I could see there was no life on board and the boat was in the early stages of being fitted out. How do people get away with this behaviour? Grrr. Chill Sarah chill.

Winding Holes- With all the mooring spaces on the Cut there is no need to moor on a winding hole. The winding holes are clearly sign-posted and little or large do not need to eat into the space. Some boats are longer than others and all need space to turn. Do not tempt an out of control steel kiss! Steel won’t hurt steel but your paint job might get marked. If you are ‘plastic’ .... I saw a fat Wide-beam in a fitting out stage abandoned moored on a winding hole. The nice C&RT license checker person was cycling past and said a letter had been left on that boat. I don’t know what power the letter has but I guess C&RT will have logged that boat on record. C&RT seem like nice people but have little power in managing responsible ownership. Chill Sarah chill.

Canal town


3.       RECYCLING
'Treasure from the Canal?'

I am proud to be a tidy Kiwi. TV always said we were tidy Kiwis! I am happy to endeavour (nothing to do with Cptn Cook) to be tidy with my rubbish. There is always a heap of poubelle, basura, lixo  yes just unwanted rubbish packaging that fills all our lives now. We all have to deal with it. On the Cut the C&RT provide Biffa Bins at sign-posted areas which are marked on Canal maps or if they have been relocated it is marked along the way. You can be 98% confident of Biffa Bins at Sanitary Stations. The bins are usually 3-fold i.e Glass; Recycling (Plastic, Cardboard/Paper, and Metal); General waste. It’s easy but that doesn’t stop laziness or lack of care. I know I am not perfect, no-one is but we on DB do try to sort out our rubbish ready for disposal to be dropped off as we pass our Canal rubbish stations. Thank you C&RT for making these stations available for us.



 
Oh so just dump the rubbish?

    
Well I've had my last ramble being in the F-age. Tomorrow I meet the S- age. I see it as a wise beginning.

Of course life is about being under constant change. Nothing stays the same forever and as much as I am more of a stick in the mud, I need to open my eyes and be happy that future is always on the cards and others, still a ‘sparkle’ destined to be, will live into it and beyond!

Here's a funny incident that happened to me in Berkhamstead. I was calling out Hello to a Fisherman on the other side of the Cut. We got talking and he stopped concentrating on his line. Next thing his fishing rod flew out of his hands into the Canal and seemed to be floating towards my side and DB. Yikes, I got the extendable boat pole but it didn't reach the rod. Rod moves along the length of DB and eventually I managed to 'hook' it with a long bendy plastic tube. I grabbed the rod with my hands and pulled it out of the water. Only to find I had 'caught' a fish. Well there was a fish at the end of the line. Mr Angler was happy he had got his rod back and I was happy to see the fish released after it must have had the swim of its life taking the rod for a swim.

DB was this side and the Angler was on the opposite side.





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.