13 July 11
Yesterday we completed the Kennet and Avon Canal at Reading where the Canal meets the Thames, thanks to guidance from hard copy Nicholson ‘Waterways Guide 7’ (gifted from Pops) and a little bit of help from Tony, Dave & Sandy, and Mark along the way. I feel like I have earned my Lock operation badge and am in process of biceps & quads formation, abdomen flattening, and lower spine torturing. Yes we did 94 locks since leaving Bradford on
Avon not to mention all the others we did with Tony when we left Devizes for the Caen Hill Flight. The locks were not in as good condition as the Caen Hill locks. The tourist rental companies, reportedly, give minimal instruction and do not stress the importance of using the windlass to control the speed of the ladders as they drop to shut the sluices! Many rentees drop the paddles, a loud sound is emitted which in effect damages the paddles causes the lock to need repairs blah blah blah.
We also did our fair share of swing bridges. The first one of our last day on the
was jammed as it had been overswung and a bolt was blocking its swing. A towpath user gave me a helping hand and he pushed the bridge while I jumped on and it worked! Of course the responsible person trapped inside me phoned British Waterways and reported the problem to their answer machine. Most of the recent swing bridges involved stopping traffic all by the turn of a key and the press of a button or two at the handily located control boxes. And there was the K & A Canal which resulted in traffic being stopped for approx 30 mins while 2 boats went through one way, then 3 boats went through the other way including one of the boats that had already gone through and needed to turn around. And then all of this meant we lost our place at the next lock, but it’s not a race! Aldermaston Lift Bridge
On the outskirts of Reading we came to Fobney Lock (at the waterworks) which looked perilous for post lock “me” pickup, as the strong weir stream came out at right angles to wear I would be picked up. I thought I was better to open one gate for AM to exit from and then climb down the ladder and jump on to AM’s roof before she left the lock and not bother to close the gate. Chris did his best to control AM and make sure I left the slippery ladder in safety. We left the lock and, amazingly, the gate closed behind us. How thoughtful!
The second to last lock, in
, was an interesting affair. It had 4 paddles either end for the windlass to wind, then drop. Then once AM was out of the lock, Chris waited for me at the temporary lock mooring where the local drunks pushed the traffic light button for us and we got the green light to pass through Reading CBD. What fun, lots of waves from the lunchtime crowd and then eventually to the last lock which, although self operated, gave us a taste of Reading lock operation…automatic, tell your father! Thames River
And so to the
Thames, what a beautiful river. More on that next Blog. But suffice to say there are some big cruisers and makes me wonder what the size of your boat says about your personality.
So what’s life like in one’s narrowboat home. Firstly, it is rather busy on the canals. If you are on the move then there seem to be a lot of locks, and little time between them. My job, until I get my steering competency badge from the captain, is to open and close the locks. This means timely departures off the boat at landing points so I can ready the canal.The plus is I keep fit and sleep well at night! But there are other tasks to do, I am demonstrating some of my domestic- goddess- in- the-galley abilities which I had put to bed some years ago! Many of you will know that Chris is a fab cook and has kept me well fed over the years. So now the worm has turned. The laundry is sometimes taken to the launderette for ₤7 (machine wash & dryer) but I have reinstated my
hand washing skills using the kitchen sink, wash basin, and hip bath for all laundry except towels. I am a good wringer but towels I’m not interested in. We are currently building up a used towel collection! Portugal
We fill our water tank usually every 2-3 days so we know that we won’t run out. We think the water tank holds 300 litres. It seems to take longer to fill it than it does to use it! (Filling station traps are marked by a tap icon in the Nicholson’s book). The shower is great. The hip bath is similar to a shub but not as big. The shower spray has good pressure (the water is on a pressure system) and the calorifier heats the hot water when the engine is running. I had a hot shower, this morning, from water that would have been heated yesterday. It was lovely.
Then there is the toilet, yes you know you don’t want to know but you do want to! All I will say is that we only put what needs to go in the toilet in the toilet, so we can limit our need to “pumpout” the contents, as British Waterways want ₤10 for each ‘pumpout’. I didn’t think our shit was so valuable! The old Elsan loo is free disposal but we have seen a composting loo on one of the narrowboats and thought that’s the ticket. So on that wee note, I’ll go. Laters.