About Me

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After thirty years of hiring, I finally bought my own 50ft boat in 2005, which was built in 2001 by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf. I mostly cruise single handed and have no problem with that, although it does take a little longer than with a crew. My mooring is on the Wey Navigation, so I have a choice of routes on the Wey or the Thames.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Summer Cruise 14

Friday 26th May

I was tightening the mooring lines this morning, when Kate Saffin walked past; we spent some time talking about her show ‘The Idle Women’ and recreating the journey that the trainee boat women did when carrying during World War II. I personally have read all the diaries that these women wrote and about the hardship they had to endure on those boats – fascinating stuff.

Some shopping was due and already knowing where the local Tesco was I strolled along the towpath and up to the bridge. On the way back I had a chat with Alex Bennett, who owns nb Tench, one of two boats that she owns. Knowing something about historic boats by now, we had quite a fair bit to talk about. She bemoaning the fact that the other ladies in the group were holding her up and if it was up to her, she would have left at 6 am and had the whole of the Buckby Flight to herself. Apparently when she bought the boat, there was nothing that required attention, which is quite unusual.

Just after lunchtime, I  spotted Jaq Biggs mooring up well astern of me. We had been in touch since I met James and Doug on nb Chance. Later, she came and knocked on the boat and I invited her in for a drink and she asked for a pint – iced water that is, not beer! We had a good old chat about everything from boats and places to health and the sad loss of her husband, Les, very recently. We ended up agreeing to do the Buckby Flight together early tomorrow.

Later, I paid another visit to the Weedon Ordnance Depot and this time I took a camera and walked right to the end. Most of the buildings now appear to be occupied by various industries and there were several vehicles about. Being the hottest part of the day, I walked on to The Plume of Feathers, which is by far the best pub in Weedon Bec, but only if you like Everard’s beer!

The whole of the Ordnance Depot, with derelict canal in the centre.

The entrance gatehouse, taken form the same spot.

Again, from the same spot, which shows how powerful
 the optical zoom lens is on this camera!

Saturday 27th May

I was up early again, as Jaq wanted to leave at 06.30 to get up the Buckby Flight before the rain set in and we did have a shower or two before getting to the top. A boater friend of hers, called Arthur had agreed to meet up at the bottom lock and help us up, which was very welcome indeed and we soon got into the rhythm of opening paddles and closing gates efficiently, getting to the top at 10.00. After mooring up, Jaq invited us both for coffee and delicious homemade brownies and I got to talk to Arthur in greater detail about his boat.
There was only one boat moored there, which is unusual as it is often so full that you have to moor elsewhere – we were lucky, but then it was early and filled up to capacity later.

I was hoping to touch up the top bend scratches, but rain could be imminent, so after lunch I went to The New Inn for a pint. Sitting outside, Alex Bennett came across the bottom lock gates, so I offered to buy her a drink after she had taken her dog to the car. We sat and chatted about boats and Alice Lapworth, who was featured in Towpath Talk by Tim Coghlan of Braunston Marina. She will be at Braunston Hysterics this year and is going to do the parade for the first time on Tench of course. She reminded me of the couple she bought it from in Alvecote, who I knew vaguely, but cannot remember the name – I think it was Jason the saddler.

Back at my boat. I set about touching up the Uxbridge scratches without any catalyst, so let’s see what happens. Certainly not an easy job, because not only is it very low down, but the hull keeps moving in the wind, despite the spring lines.

I had not long got back inside, than there was a boat tooting as it went past; it was Jack Reay, one of my fellow Braunston Cat Herders, as Graham likes to call the Parade Team of marshalls. I shall be leaving early again in the morning, so may well see him on the way.

Sunday 28th May

We let go at 06.30 for Braunston and a day of events on board Stronghold. As we got towards the end of Braunston Tunnel, the engine water temp gauge was reading 100°C+, but as I was the leading boat of three, there was no chance to stop until I got out. Being well ahead of nb Valerie, I pulled in, lifted the hatches and kicked open the water cock. All was well, but the last rust bucket of a boat shot past at a rate of knots to be at the locks first – bugger!

Jaq bow hauls nb Valerie out of the lock, 
just before my cable broke.

Now all the locks would be against us, but worse was yet to come. After doing a couple of locks, my throttle cable broke and I was without any power – good job it was now and not in the tunnel! Fortunately, Jaq was to come to my rescue and we breasted up in the lock, even though nb Valerie was 7ft longer than Stronghold. She was very apprehensive, never having breasted up boats before and continued to Butcher’s Bridge to find a mooring, halfway through Braunston. Steering through the long line of moored and moving boats was one of her greatest fears with a single boat, but she coped fine with two boats abreast at tickover speed. I set to immediately to replace the cable, having had a spare on board for four years. It took me and hour and a half, but had to adjust the tickover stop several times, before I got it right.

Having success at last, we both walked back to The Admiral Nelson for lunch and I was pleased to recognise the landlord, so it had not changed hands after being put up for sale. Although we were the only two in the restaurant for quite a while, the food was limited in choice, but excellent as usual and the pub filled up as the afternoon wore on. Although it was a Sunday, there was no Sunday roast on the menu, which I find most unusual for a pub; not that I wanted one anyway.

Back on board, I cleaned up the tools and other detritus that had accumulated after the event. Just as I was repairing the extension lead to the tunnel light, Mick Wilson phoned for a chat and to see where I was. Having left Little Venice the same time as me, he was on the Rochdale now at Upper Mill, Saddleworth and only a day away from Standedge Tunnel (the longest, highest and deepest on the system at 3.25 miles long) and thinking of going as far as Ripon in Yorkshire.  
The Rochdale is one canal that I would liked to have done last year, but it was closed at the time, because of flood damage.

After a hard day of fixing things, I was in bed early for the early arrival in the morning of the fuel boat Southern Star run by Ryan Dimmock as part of the Jules Fuels group of boats. This had been arranged by Jaq, whose boat also needed topping up.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Summer Cruise 13

Wednesday 24th May.

I woke up to a brilliant day in Stoke, with the sun shining and warm already at 07.30. After chatting with various people on the tow path, I managed to find time to have breakfast, put some washing in soak and write this up after two days, before lunch.

Sealing up the solar vent and Houdini hatch was next on the list, now that the weather was dry. As usual, Capt. Tolly’s Creaping Crack Cure was on hand to do the job and a couple of applications should make both waterproof once again. I laid the wet wrung out washing on the hot cabin top to dry, with mooring chains to keep them in place. The cabin top was too hot to touch, so the washing was dry in an hour or so.

I also washed off the top bend, which had received severe scraping at Uxbridge when the wind was blowing me onto the off side high sides. I intend touching up the paint later, even though I am now without the paint catalyst; I think it will go off in the hot weather without it – we shall see.

Later Kathryn invited me for a meal at The Navvy, which was two steaks and a bottle of Hardy’s Shiraz for £20, which was very good, but too many chips for me, as usual.

Thursday 25th May

I watered up before leaving Stoke and moved off about 09.30, having said cheerio to Kathryn and thanked her for the meal last night. I was thinking of mooring at Gayton Junction, but there were no moorings available, a lot of them moored up were continuous moorers, moving from one 14 day mooring to the next and then back again. Once again, it was one of the hottest days of the year so far. It must be time to break out the shorts and sandals!
More fine adjustments to the skin tank cooling on the way, which involved stopping on a straight section and lifting the boards above the engine and lightly tapping the tap with the windlass; it has to be about right now!

I found a mooring close to Bridge 24 at Weedon and was trying to think of what was there. I found myself talking to a local, who had a mooring, but no boat yet. When he described the shops and pubs, it all came back to me from last year, when I stopped here for one night http://nbstronghold.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/.

I later had a walk to The Malters Arms, which was rather noisy. I also updated the NBT Pubs database, with the addresses of The Malsters and The Plume of Feathers. Looking in on the Weedon Ordnance Depot, I realised that I could now walk in freely, as there were retail businesses in some of the buildings. Further investigation to the end of the estate is now possible, so I may well do that later.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Summer Cruise 12

Monday 22nd May

I was due to change the oil and filter today and was up early, but by the time I had a light breakfast, written various email in reply to friends and read up on associated blogs that I read mostly daily, it was 11 am. What did I say about this being a time waster? Probably better to get going early and do this later, rather than in the morning.

Anyway, because I had an oil spill over the engine, the job took two hours, which is about an hour longer than usual. I let go after a snack lunch and got to Black Horse Bridge, but still in Milton Keynes. I realised how much I hate this pound, without any locks or other features. On the way I thought I would write up some notes on The Plough at Simpson, but after mooring up and walking down to the pub, it was closed!  Maybe it stays closed on Mondays. No wonder there were so few boats moored up outside. I just Googled it and it states
"Closed on Monday."

Herons in trees is quite a rare sight.

This must have been one of the hottest days of the year so far. I was down to T shirt and black jeans and they were too hot – no complaints though.

Moving on, I eventually moored up outside a pub close to Black Horse Bridge that I had never been to before. There were very convenient bollards outside, inviting custom. Although the Nicholson Guide quoted that this was The Proud Perch, it has reverted to The Black Horse; it remains to be seen what it is like.

While I was moored up, two guys were shafting a small cabin cruiser through the nearby bridge and pulled in in front of me. It turned out that they had just bought the boat, but had run out of petrol, so one of them told me. Someone was bringing fuel for them by car, but in the meantime they still tried to start the outboard, which did start and then immediately died. Start it did eventually and kept running whilst the petrol messenger walked alongside to catch them up.

Two other guys were fishing with magnets later under the bridge and I later asked the older of the two if they found anything interesting. Apparently they found a 9mm Beretta, which was handed in and later found about 30 meat cleaving tools in one place. They were also handed in, but why were they thrown in the canal in the first place?

I went into The Black Horse about 6pm for a pint and was very surprised at the layout of the bars. There were several and on different levels, because the pub was built on a bank at the side of the canal. Most of the tables were set for meals with flowers and cutlery, so more restaurant than pub, but they had three real ales on tap. Rather than go into detail of the pub, there is a very good description and photographs here:- http://www.beerintheevening.com/pubs/s/29/29363/Black_Horse/Great_Linford

I looked at the menu, as I always do and it was very attractive, so I ordered the crispy sticky duck on a bed of grated carrot and mooli with sweet chilli sauce and hoisin, after which I had delicious homemade profiteroles, very attractively served it all was too. The beer was £4.05 a pint, which was dear enough, but not £6.15 as mentioned in the #BITE review.

Tuesday 23rd May

I moved on towards Stoke Bruerne, again with the skin tank tap almost closed. The temperature rose to the normal 75°C when the engine thermostat opens, climbing further to 80°C, where it seemed to stay for a further hour or more. As I increased the speed, so it climbed further to 90° and then 100°. As I approached the Stoke Locks and went up with another boat, the temp dropped to 80°C, as it was on tickover for most of that time. It looks as though minimal throughput to the skin tank is the answer, but getting that setting just right can only be done by long term trial and error.

The boat going up the Stoke Locks with me was nb Morgan. The husband had only bought the boat in December and had been in China for 3 months, where he married a Chinese girl. She was left in charge of the boat through the locks and obviously had not done it before. He was instructing her every move in the locks from the lockside and it was up to me to decide which side of the lock to enter, depending on which side the stern had  settled, usually with the rest of the boat diagonally across the lock. We managed very well with him doing the gates and paddles and then walking up to set the next one, while I stopped and closed up after us.

Reaching the top pound, Mike Partridge spotted me and suggested that I moor in front of nb Sculptor, which is part of the museum moorings and authorised by Kathryn Dodington, who has taken over David Blagrove’s role in this respect, so I was privileged to be in pole position and could stay for two days at least.

A privileged mooring.

Kathryn came on board for a chat and we both went to the Indian restaurant for a very good meal later, as always.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Summer Cruise 11

Sunday 21st May.

Although I was up early, I didn’t leave until 10.40, having fiddled around on the internet for far too long – this thing can be such a time waster! Anyway, having decided to walk, it took me about 45 mins to get to Bletchley Park. I later discovered that there were no trains running to there on Sunday anyway.

I must say that the weather was good and I had a most interesting day. I had previously read fiction and non-fiction about the place and was intrigued to find out more in reality: it fulfilled my dreams in every aspect. Most of the exhibitions were static and historic, but I had lived my childhood throughout that era and memories flooded back of my time during World War II. Although I say static, a good number of displays were interactive, very well done and encouraged participants to engage with them. You could certainly learn a lot by doing so.

My first view of the mansion across the lake.

The classic view.

The greater part of the exhibition was in huts that had been restored and part of the display was in the mansion house. The park surrounding it was exceptionally well landscaped as near to the original as possible. Every attempt was made to explain the code breaking process and if it was read in sequence, all became clear.

More austere buildings in the grounds.

I very nearly missed out the Museum in Block B, which housed several Enigma machines and the reconstructed Turing/Welchman Bombe, which was demonstrated while I was there. Fascinating stuff.

Front and back views of the Bombe.

German Enigma machine.

Although I had plenty of time, five hours had gone before I knew it.  I decided to take the train back to Fenny, but on asking at the station, no trains were in service to Fenny on Sundays. The alternative was to get a bus, but that was a further walk, so I got a cab back to the Red Lion, where I enjoyed two pint of the dark stuff. Perfect end to a brilliant day and the sun was still shining!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Summer Cruise 10

Tuesday 16th May

As mentioned earlier. I was up at 6am and moved off along the summit level an hour later. Arriving at Bulbourne, there was only one mooring available above the flight of locks, so I pulled in there to have breakfast, shower and write up this blog. There are now far more people living on boats than just a year ago, and they tend to moor on 14 day moorings, before moving off to the next one, so there are far less spaces for visitors. According to Doug, a great many of the boats are unlicensed too.

I cleaned all the brasses on the tiller and chimney, which took up about an hour – I do need to do the chimney more often, as once left for a few days, more especially with the fire alight, it gets extremely corroded. After a shower, I put some washing in to soak; finding that takes a lot of the dirt out, before actually washing.

About 6 pm I paid a visit to The Grand Junction Arms, which is much better than it used to be, but I would not rate it as a pub with any character and although it is in the CAMRA Guide, the beers were very limited in choice.

I had a positive reply to a meeting in The Grove Lock pub for a meal on Friday, with cousins of my late wife. It is some years since we last met up there, so it is long overdue. It means that I have got to move on tomorrow, but then I am getting bored here.

Wednesday 17th May

Rain is forecast all day today and although it wasn’t raining when I left the mooring, it started shortly afterwards as drizzle and gradually increased as I went down the Marsworth flight of seven locks. The first one leaked incredibly out of the bottom gates, so took ages to fill. I passed one boat coming up and then at the fourth lock a crew appeared with windlasses. They were from a Wyvern Shipping hire boat and there were a lot of them, so I hardly had anything to do from there on. I would have continued with them, but they were going down the Aylesbury Arm, which I did last year. So I wished them good luck with 16 single locks ahead of them in nearly 7 miles.

By now I was pretty wet, so decided to call it a day and moored up in front of wooden nb Towy just below the bridge. It continued to rain and seems set in for the day. Shortly after mooring I had a text from Margaret on nb Zavala to say that they had just moored up at Bulbourne, probably on the spot that I had recently left. Maybe they will do the next section to Grove Lock with me.

It would be rude not to visit The Angler’s Rest whilst I was here; again I wrote up another review in the NBT database, which I hope is being read by more members now.

The Anglers Rest is larger than it looks.

Thursday 18th May

All of a sudden nb Zavala appeared as I was about to cook breakfast. They had woken very early and decided to catch me up without telling me about it; the reason being that they let go at 6 am and thought that was too early to wake me – how considerate. The pulled alongside and we all had breakfast before moving on about 09.00 down more locks and across “the fields”. Brian was complaining about the state of the locks and wondering if the CRT will ever recover from all the work that needs to be done. I have to say that several need gates renewing and leakage is very bad on some of them. Maffers top lock is the worst, as the bottom gates leak like a drain and it takes ages to fill. We did ten locks in all and Margaret deserves a medal for all the work she put in winding paddles and opening gates.

A view across "the fields."

Zavala   stopped for the night below Grove Lock, whilst I went on to Leighton Buzzard to shop, but intended to return on Friday. I was due to meet up for a meal with cousins of my late wife, whom I had not seen for quite a while, it turned out that when I looked it up, we last met in 2010!

Friday 19th May

After another wet night, I returned to Grove and winded the boat just before the lock, which saved having to go through the lock, winding and then come back in the rain. It was a good mooring, except I had not tied up quite tight enough and the boat got rocked by every other boat that passed. Correcting this, I then set about cooking Spaghetti Bolognese and doing some washing as I had plenty of time to spare. I had a word with Brian and Margaret, before they left for LB about midday and will catch up with them tomorrow.

The Grove Lock and pub.

Unfortunately, one of the people I was due to meet contacted me and was having health problems, had been to the doctor and was in pain; he was also on antibiotics, so no drinking for seven days and the meeting had to be cancelled. I went to the pub anyway and the Bolognese came in handy after all.

Saturday 20th May

Although I got up early this morning, it was so cold that I had to light the fire. The day was looking good, but I knew that rain would be back this afternoon.  I let go about 08.30 heading for LB once again, having warmed up considerably. Brian accosted me just as I moored up and was ready to go. I needed to do a very small shop in Aldi, after which I was ready also. Through Leighton Lock, which was against us and took a long time to fill, then on to Stoke Hammond Three, where we conveniently changed places with a pair of boats at each lock. These locks were in very good condition and barely leaked at all. Stoke Hammond Lock was much the same

I was expecting rain at any minute now, as the sky had darkened considerably and sure enough the heavens opened and I got soaked in seconds, but had to carry on, although Zavala was out of sight by then. He had stopped for diesel at Willowbridge Marina.

As I approached Fenny Stratford Lock, with the swingbridge across the lock centre, a man was opening the bridge and I wondered why, because no boat was in sight. It transpired that the boat was still on the mooring and wasn’t ready yet. One bottom gate was closed and he walked around the lock to close the other one; at that point the boat came off the mooring so he walked back and opened the other gate again – why two gates for one narrow boat? With the boat in the centre of the lock, the steerer was barking orders to the girl in the centre of the boat to get off and work the lock. As she walked past me the man on the gates told her to take no notice of the steerer. She was a total novice and I think he was much the same. I said to the gate man “Sounds like he is having a bad day mate”, to which he agreed and mumbled some indiscernible reply. I asked how long it would take me to walk to Bletchley Park and he was very helpful with directions, replying “It will take about 30 mins.”

I found a very convenient 14 day mooring just below the lock, on the tail end of the boats there. Zavala carried on to moor further on, but I shall probably meet them again soon.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Summer Cruise 9

Sunday 14th May

There was a heavy shower in the early morning, but shortly after that it cleared and the sun appeared to give another very bright and warm day.

The water was not hot enough for a shower this morning, so I cleared out the locker above the hot water tank to have a look at the immersion heater, wondering if I dare try and heat the water with it and the inverter with the engine running. Sure enough it was only 1kw, so should not trip anything if I turned off the fridge at the same time, which also ran off the same pair of batteries. All went well, but with the volt meter on the batteries, I watched as the voltage went down to 11 volts, so only left it on for 15 minutes. The fridge had been running all night, so the voltage was probably well down by that time. Sure enough, in that time the warm water was now almost too hot to touch – problem improved, but not solved.

After a shower and washing up, I noticed that there was a list on the boat. Looking at the water level outside, it had dropped by about 4 ins. A little further up the towpath was a notice for boaters telling them that there was a ledge beneath the water; I thought this was to deter boats from mooring there, but maybe it was true. Anyway I moved hastily before I was really stuck on the bank.

At that point another boat was approaching with a large crew, so I decided to go up a few locks into deeper water. I did the lock and opened one gate and went in. As I was pulling over to the other side of the lock, I saw that they were hesitating; I waved them in, but they were aground just outside the lock. They did eventually get off and joined me. We did two locks together before they picked up more relations and moved on. In the meantime I had moored up as well, having decided to stay here until Monday.

The house opposite - love it or hate it.

Who painted this I wonder?

In greater detail for my collection.

 I spent the remaining time reading Towpath Talk and gongoozling outside The Riser in the sunshine, before returning to the boat.

Monday 15th May

Unfortunately it is raining again after the promising weather yesterday. If it eases off later, then I will move off. It is also chilly enough to light light the fire after several days without.

I heard the rattle of paddles later, which indicated that another boat was coming up the locks. Hoping to accompany them further, I hastily took down the aerial and had the mooring lines cast off forward, when the guy on the other boat appeared and asked if I was leaving – so I vacated my mooring in vain; however, I did carry on as the rain had stopped by now.

I was on my sixth lock at Dudswell, when I heard my name called out, much to my surprise. No one knew me around here, so who could it possibly be? Looking around I saw Doug Williams from nb Chance with a windlass in his hand. He explained that they had been reading my blog and were hoping to catch me up. I waited at the next lock for James to bring the boat in alongside and it turned out that they were taking her up to ABNB at Crick to sell her, which I had read about a while back. At £85,000 I thought that was expensive, but then they paid £120,000 for her new and had only had her for six years and looking as good as new.

James and Doug on nb Chance.

Goodbye Chance.

I moored up at Cowroast between two other boats left here while the owners go home I presume. Only after mooring up did I realise that I was on a winding hole, as I was reminded by Alan Fincher on his way past. Being really tired, I decided to stay there and move off early the next morning.

Paying a visit to The Cowroast Inn, I noticed that it was under new management by the notices outside. It was just as dark as it had been on my last visit here; there were only two other customers in the bar; no more Thai food was on offer; the big open fire had been lit and was comforting. So apart from the food nothing else had changed and I am wondering if this is going to be a successful takeover – it doesn’t look like it, but having just looked it up on Trip Advisor, a lot of the recent food reviews are very good.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Summer Cruise 8

Friday 12th May

I texted Zavala to see where they were this morning and they are not far behind me at North Grove Lock, so I decided to wait for them. I reckoned it would be two hours before they arrived and they were only ten minutes later than that. We had a good chat before going for lunch at Sainsburys, which was very well priced and good for the money.

Moving on, we did a few locks together before they moored up at a place where they could walk their dog. They also were meeting friends at Winkwell on Sunday and did not want to be there too early, because of a limited mooring time of 24 hours.

I did several more locks solo before getting to the Winkwell electric swing bridge. So as to get through without holding up the traffic, I asked a man on a bike to operate the bridge for me, which he agreed to do as long as I showed him how to do it – success once again. I think most people are quite chuffed to be asked and actually enjoy the process. As usual on a sunny evening there were plenty of gongoozlers on the pub terrace waiting for a mistake to be made.

I tied up and had a pint of Courage Directors, which is rarely available nowadays; it was so good I even had another one. I also completed a write up for NBT Pubs database, which I can also use in The Steerer magazine later.

The Three Horseshoes and swing bridge.

It was now time to eat that delicious chicken and prawn curry that I had made earlier.

Saturday 13th May

I was fiddling around again with the hot water system and had read recently on Canal World Discussion Forum that another boater had also fitted a tap between the engine and skin tank to improve his water heating, so I am not alone in doing that, but getting the setting just right is difficult.

Shortly afterwards a lone live aboard boater came through the swing bridge and I requested his company up the next few locks. As always, I offered to close up the top gates on leaving the lock, expecting to do just one gate; on two locks the opposite gate opened of its own accord, much my annoyance; I just left the second lock  with both gates open, as the other guy did not hang about.

On arrival below The Rising Sun Lock at Berko I moored up, having told the other boater where I was going to stop. He was just setting the lock above where his boat was, so I assisted with the next two locks and said cheerio to him. A very nice guy who had bought a boat to live on after he and his wife split up, so he had nowhere else to live. On the cruiser stern of his boat was a 650cc motor bike and he told me that he had his own business landscape gardening and odd jobs and was almost overloaded with work; he also had two vans, so another partner was working with him.

The Riser was packed out at 6 o’clock, with punters spread over the grass by the lock, enjoying themselves; this must be the most popular pub in Berko when the sun is shining; I had a pint and returned to the boat.

The Riser at Berko.