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.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Summer Cruise 26

Wednesday 19th July

After watering up opposite at 7am, I crept off the moorings half an hour later. It was five hours to Braunston and was an uneventful trip, stopping briefly at Clifton Cruisers to take another photograph of the Skandia engine. I arrived at my destination just after midday, before stripping the bed and collecting launderette tokens from the marina shop. Tim returned shortly after and we had a few words over the Braunston Hysterics, giving me some Towpath Talk reprints that he had done. In the launderette were a 12 volt car fan and a semicircular table that fitted on a hinged bracket, that someone had left as collectable items, being too good to go in the bin. Sure enough, I was the guy who took possession!

Jaq Biggs arrived in the afternoon and invited me for another meal at 6 pm, for which I was very grateful, as we had such good times together previously, so after a shower I turned up with a bottle of wine and she used her new Cobb BBQ to cook shish kebabs, which were extremely good. We also tackled one or two knots that could be useful when out boating. Being steeped in knotting since I was in the scouts, it has always been natural for me to cope with any situation where a knot was required, but to Jaq it was a completely new world, but she coped really well and could do a bowline the following morning with no help from me.

Thursday 20th July

It was raining most of the morning, but I said that I would sort out Jaq’s new lines, that she had bought the day before. There were four eye splices to be done and the ends of the ropes were to be stopped with heat shrink sleeving, so that we ended up with two centre lines and a bow and stern line. It had been several years since doing an eye splice, but I got the hang of it by the fourth one. Even the worst splice looks better after rolling it on the ground beneath your boot. Whilst that was going Jaq was writing out recipes for Jaq’s Lazy Pie, which we had last night and Nevi’s Nooner Sandwich which sounded so tasty. I just Googled Nevi’s Nooner and it comes from an award winning gourmet sandwich house in Spokane, where Jaq used to work. I just got to make one!

I later took apart the rear white light to inspect the broken glass, but there was no re-gluing of this one again. Moving up to Midland Swindlers, I had a look around and amazingly found a plastic replacement, so no need to buy a complete lamp as I envisaged, but it cost £16 incl VAT for a piece of moulded plastic! They did not sell heat shrink sleeving, which I thought was a oversight on their part, as it is so useful in place of whipping on the ends of ropes. I then took in the table that I had acquired to ask advice about fitting it. Sure enough the manager had one on his boat, so explained how it worked. Having almost satisfied my use of MC, I reversed onto a free mooring close to the turn, ready for the trip to Napton tomorrow. Karen Cook (NBT crew) passed by later and stopped in for a chat, telling me how she had been hit by a hire boat in Braunston Tunnel, which was then rear ended by a following boat too close behind.

Friday 21st July.

A very windy day from first thing this morning, so cruising is not going to be very comfortable out in the sticks with no tree shelter.

I finished writing up this blog, before moving on at 10.30 am. Crossing the Puddle Banks was not comfortable with the strong wind from the south and only one incident occurred,  when I slowed down too much when passing moored boats on a left hand bend and the wind almost took me into one of them. I slowed to a halt in a gap between two boats, but had to wait then for a passing boat, at which point a guy showed his head and said something that I failed to hear, but no doubt derogatory. After the oncoming boat had passed by, he then pushed my bow off his boat and I was on my way again. A short way further on, I passed two dog walkers and the man said, “He’s a miserable old git, because the same thing happened to me!” That says it all I think.

All the visitor moorings  below the water point at Napton were full at 3.30 pm, so I went through the lock, knowing that it was possible to moor in the next pound and sure enough there were spaces. After a visit to The Folly, I cooked up a meal and was soon in bed.

Saturday 22nd July

It was a beautiful morning, so being in need of a few supplies, I walked up to the Napton Village Store and Post Office. I think I have mentioned this in a previous blog, but this shop is like Aladdin’s Cave and seems to sell everything, although the choice is limited. They have an in store bakery, cafe and coffee shop and several homemade preserves that look very tempting.

I let go at 10 am and headed up the flight of nine Napton Locks, most of which were in my favour and so got to the top in 2 hrs. Pressing on towards Fenny Compton, it started to rain on and off, until eventually it became continuous just before Fenny and appears to have set in for the rest of the day. The whole trip had taken 5.5 hrs. I got a mooring just before the two bridges, so after a bit of dodgy reversing in the shallows, I got in to it. There was no point looking any further and as I have found out previously, you have grab these while you can.. The whole pound was down about 2 to 3 inches, although I had been warned by an oncoming boater beforehand. The problem being that if I got the propeller in the mud, there was no fan hold to control the boat. Fortunately this did not happen on the long stretch, only on reversing for the mooring.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Summer Cruise 25

Friday 14th July

It was time to bite the bullet and change the fuel filters today, not a job that I enjoy obviously. The biggest problem is bleeding out the air at the end and wondering if it will fire up and that there are no leaks of diesel.  The engine was ran up first to re-charge the batteries and to make sure it would start easier after changing filters. All the necessary tools were brought out to do the job and this time (something is improved every time I do the job) I cut a plastic milk container in half to catch the diesel when the filter drops, so the container surrounds the filter. This was far easier than using rag underneath as previously and the diesel could be poured back into the tank. All went well with the two filters and all rubber washers were replaced. Bleeding the system was another matter and the reason it is difficult is that the fuel pump cannot be hand operated with the engine stopped in the standard position. It really has to be turned by hand to get the lobe of the cam off the fuel pump lever. With a diesel engine and its high compression, this is almost impossible unless your name is Tarzan (who’s he?). The long and short of it is that after a lot of bleeding by turning the engine over, it began to fire intermittently and I could see diesel being squirted out of the two injector pipes that I had loosened, so with it firing on two cylinders, I tightened them up and it ran on all four eventually – job done!

It was definitely time for a pint or two in the Greyhound and thinking more about it in there, I reckon the filters need not be changed for 1,000 hrs instead of 800 as recommended in the handbook. I do know that some boaters only do this once a year, regardless of time or distance travelled.

Saturday 15th July.

Washing was on the cards today as well as making some more Stilton Cheese Puffs. Washing was put in soak and the cheese puffs were made and cooked ready for lunch and to give some to my daughter, so quite a productive morning ensued. I was being collected by car to see the new blinds in their house and pay a visit to Tesco to stock up for the next few days. After returning to Stronghold, we were to have food and drink at the Rose and Castle pub in Ansty, where I passed by a couple of days ago. The reason for not going to The Greyhound being that the restaurant is booked solid and getting a table in the bar is chancy on a Saturday night. The atmosphere in the R and C was just not the same as The Greyhound by a long chalk and of course the beer choice is vastly inferior too. I had their fish pie and I have to say that I can do far better and I just have, with additions like prawns, anchovy fillets, baby spinach, fish stock, lemon juice, mustard, parsley.

Sunday 16th July

Another cloudy day – unbelievable that this is July, but then we are in England!

Washing was on the cards today, but not before I had done the cooking and that was making a fish pie, which took up most of the morning. Even then, I had only done the fish mixture, so the potato topping will have to wait until another day: I forgot to get any cheddar anyway.

Having done that, I took a walk to The Greyhound for a couple of pints of mild ale to quench my thirst. Although the mild in there is pressurised, it is not too strong and goes down very well. Anyway, it cannot be had in the south, so that was my excuse!

Washing was easily done under the nearby tap and as usual I hung some in the engine ‘ole over the rail, which would be completely dry by the end of the day tomorrow. The remainder was hung over the bath and will take longer to dry.

Monday 17th July

The first thing today was to go towards Nuneaton for a mile and wind in the Griff Colliery Arm that once was. That took an hour before I even started off from Suttons, so I finally left at 10.30 am. It was a beautiful sunny day with a slight breeze that made things more comfortable and was an uneventful trip back to Newbold, arriving at 3 pm and easily getting a mooring behind a couple on a boat from Saddleworth Moor in Yorkshire, who were going to the Cropredy Music Festival. They are going to get there 3 weeks before the event, but I did not ask if they could moor for that length of time.

A very pleasant but uneventful day.

I passed this restored Ruston Bucyrus excavator on the way out of Suttons
and wondered if it was the one restored in the TV programme Scrap Heap Challenge.

These cast iron boxes were on both sides of railway bridge 42. 
I presume that they are nesting boxes - am I right? 


Tuesday 18th July

It didn’t take long to get to Rugby at Bridge 58, where I stopped with the intention of collecting some more Tesco provisions and then moving on. However, I took the opportunity to pay a visit to The Range and the B and M stores first, where my daughter said there were many food bargains to be had. Sure enough, there were not only knock down food prices, but bargains in every other type of household goods, tools, garden furniture, household furniture and so it goes on– the list is endless. The Range was much the same and I didn’t even get to the furniture upstairs. I did want a non-stick oven tray, but had to go back to Stronghold to measure the oven first and then return. The whole business took a couple of hours, so I decided that I would stay here for the night after all – hey ho, the best laid plans etc.

It had been another hot day, but at least the wind was keeping the heat under control. The 50 watt solar panel is doing very well today in the wall to wall sunshine and keeping the fridge batteries up to 12.5 volts which is fine by me, so no need to run the engine.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Summer Cruise 24. Back On Board.

Monday 10th July.

I cannot say how happy I am to be back on Stronghold again, after a week at home, where every day had an objective to be achieved – and they were, day by day, until all were completed by midday on Sunday, so I was half a day ahead. Getting back to the boat, I found that either the inside hire boat had been hired out, or the boatyard had had just reversed her; anyway, the spring line was missing and the mooring lines were slack, consequently the old girl had been banged about by passing boats and several items inside were on the floor. I found the spring line inside one of the lockers on the hire boat, so whoever moored Stronghold up did not know how to secure a boat properly. While on the subject of mooring, have a look at ‘Moored Like a Twat’ on Faceache. I think it was originated by Maffi.

OK, rant over. I departed north towards Rugby, as I had to stock up again with food at Tesco, but there was enough to make a meal with tinned meat balls and potatoes on board for just such an occasion as this, as I can shop in the morning. I got one of the last moorings on the park side and close to the water point, so not too far to get to the main road. It is 6 pm and time for a well deserved pint in the local Harvester – oh dear!

Tuesday 11th July

It would appear that the summer has been and gone, because it was rain this morning and rain all afternoon, so not very conducive to going out, but there was a great deal of shopping to be done and nothing in the larder except tins of stuff. A lot of time was spent surfing the net, making a retail therapy list and reading. At about 5pm and bored stiff, I ventured out towards Tesco in the rain, although it wasn’t quite so bad then. I tried a new route through the housing estate, which seemed shorter, but probably wasn’t, although it did avoid a steep hill back up to the canal.

Another trip to the Harvester pub, which still had the Doombar clips on all three pumps handles, but what a surprise was to come....... it was off! This just goes to show how badly this pub was organised. A piss up in a brewery comes to mind! Being there, I was committed to having a pint, so it was San Miguel, but at the same price as Doombar. I have a good mind to complain to Mitchells and Butlers who own Harvesters – in fact I did:- 
“This was my fourth visit to The Bell and Barge and on every occasion there were two choices of real ale on tap, which was take it or leave it, because there were Doombar pump clips on all three beer pump handles. On 11th July the beer was not on tap at all and pulled up cloudy, so I had no option but to drink San Miguel. For such a large establishment, this is not what I expect when I go out for the evening and if smaller pubs can deliver a choice, then so can you. For this reason I have no intention of visiting The Bell and Barge again, nor any other Harvester house in the future.”

I did get a reply, but it was the standard type of email that they would send out to anyone who complains. No offers of any sort were forthcoming, not that I would accept them anyway.

Wednesday 12th July

It was all change with the weather again this morning with the sun shining through the clouds. How different from yesterday.

I phoned The Greyhound at Suttons Stop, but Saturday night was full in the restaurant, so it has to be an early ‘grab a table’ time in the bar on Saturday evening, or even eating outside if the weather is OK.

The moorings here are filling up fast and as they are OK for 14 days there are many boats here for that time, while opposite, the moorings are for 24 hrs only. A lady opposite asked if I was moving on today, as her husband had a hospital appointment the following day and needed longer than 24 hrs mooring.

Everyone seems to be on the move here at Rugby. It must be because of the clement weather after yesterday’s constant rain. At 12.30, boats were passing me in queues ether way and there was even a queue for the water point opposite. It is always amusing to see hire boats getting the stern in first, or reversing with the bow way out in the middle of the cut and no way of getting back onto the mooring. This really is a spectator sport and they often don’t appreciate unsolicited advice.

After a period of tidying up and a bite to eat I let go for Newbold and the other boat moved across immediately. It was only a half hour trip, but long enough to warm up the engine for an oil change. I have got this down to 20 mins now, although it takes a bit longer to tidy up. Getting rid of the old oil is a problem on the waterways, but it will keep until I get back to Braunston, where there is an oil disposal tank in the marina.

Thursday 13th July

A cool start to the day with no wind, which is always appreciated when cruising. This is such a quiet spot for mooring, although there are houses just below the towpath, but their roofs are level with the canal, so you don’t hear much noise. There is NO TV signal here, despite turning the aerial this was and that. I wondered if the water had got into it after all the rain.

There is an unvisited pub at Ansty, called the Rose and Castle, which would be good to have on the pub database, although I shall be going past this morning, which is too early for pubbing - maybe on the way back. Having just looked this pub up, I see that it is more of a restaurant than pub, with table service.......mmmm?

When I got to Rose Narrowboats. I decided to take a walk up the arm to take some pics of repairs done to the NBT pair. Rose Narrowboats were OK for me to moor up for a while on their refuelling mooring, while I went for a walk along the towpath. Sure enough Nuneaton was close to the yard and overplating was obvious with new blacking applied in the appropriate places. Brighton was moored up in the winding hole with a new gas vent cut and some work done to the stern. I had a chat with Steve Priest, wondering if a boat I had spotted was for sale for a friend of mine, but the answer was no.

Motor Boat Nuneaton at Brinklow.

Butty Brighton in the winding hole.

Several familiar boats are moored up here.
 White Heather was moored up at Pelican Wharf a few years ago.

Cruising on, I passed by the Rose and Castle pub gardens, but the pub itself was not visible and I did remember where it was, having passed by before. Mooring is on the towpath, which is on the opposite side to the pub, but there is a bridge close by.

I arrived at Suttons at 4.30 pm and there were no moorings available on the Oxford canal, but around the corner on the Coventry I spotted a place for two boats and immediately made headway for it, knowing that if I stopped for water, it would be taken by another boat, as happened to another boat watering up. At 6 pm boats were still arriving and looking for moorings.

Trying out the TV aerial here, I found that there was nothing wrong at all and I got a perfect signal. Wi-Fi is excellent too, with a five bar signal.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Summer Cruise 23

Monday 26th June

Nothing to report at all today, as I spent the whole day on the internet blogging, searching for pics and videos of the event. I did get a few from friends that I could use after my pleading appeal, but there is nothing on YouTube yet. I seems that people need time to assess what they have and maybe edit the material too.

At Cat Herding HQ, I heard that I had been summoned to Tim Coghlan’s office, so after a vegetarian (?) gut busting breakfast in The Gongoozler Cafe, I walked to the marina office to see Tim. He showed me several prints of his own pics and gave me one of Tim and myself, but not smiling and he wanted to know why. I replied that it was a serious business and nothing to laugh about. As you have already seen, there was one of both of us smiling taken by Steve Morgan.


Jerry leaving the Braunston mooring

I had bad news from my wife’s cousin, whose husband has been diagnosed with bowel cancer and several lesions throughout his body. How the hell does one reply to an email like that? Having lost my wife 16 years ago, I was able to summon up the courage to reply, having thought about it all day. There is advice on the internet about things that should not be said to that person and I took careful note of it. It is far easier to put in writing than face to face, when a faux pas could easily be made and once said, it cannot be easily retracted.
Blimey, I was still there at 11.30pm!

Tuesday 27th June

Once again I was on the internet chasing up photographs to go in my blog and although I had collected four or five, some were so small that they were not really usable. Mike Askin came up with a 2mb pic to replace what he originally sent, for which I thank him. Tim Coghlan accepted Steve Morgan’s pic of the two of us smiling in exchange for the cheque presentation pic, so things were picking up and I was ready to publish, which I did about three hours later – all done at last!

Just found this link to Towpath Talk video, which appears to be raw and unedited, but still worth watching.

I moved up to Midland Swindlers to see if I could get another pump pressure switch as a standby, having already taken a pic of it on my mobi. As I pulled in to their mooring, I swung the stern end in, stepped off with the centre line, dropping the bowline over the bollard before stepping back on and using the tiller, ran parallel to the mooring and dropped the tiller string over the tiller end. The boat stayed there until I had done the fore end and stern lines. The MC lady sitting on the seat having lunch was most impressed and had never seen it done like that before, commenting that it was a very slick operation. Sure enough they had a switch, despite earlier info that you had to buy the complete pump now. I remember that a couple of years ago at Uxbridge Boat Centre they were charging about £17 for it, but MS price was £34 incl.VAT.

Moving on to the water point, which was just around the corner, there was another boat moored on it, but no hose was evident. I queried with the owner, who said that he would move up to accommodate Stronghold and we got into conversation  about the usual boating topics, before I parted and headed back towards the marina to shop in the village.

About 4pm I departed for Bridge 103, where I knew that Jaq Biggs was moored up for a while. Sure enough nb Valerie was there and after a quick  greeting and cup of tea on her boat, I lit the BBQ and cooked a large pork chop which was big enough for the pair of us. Jaq did an American style of potatoes and green beans and the conversation and waterway tales ensued, accompanied by red vino and loads of laughs until nearly 11 o’clock, much to my surprise that it was so late.

Wednesday 28th June

Misty rain this morning, but almost no wind. Although I am moored way out in the sticks, I can receive TV without putting the aerial up, although I did later. BT Wi-fi is also good here, so internet activity took up a lot of the morning, until Jaq came in for a drink and chat. She also watched the Braunston 2017 opening event on my laptop, which I had now bookmarked of course. Friends are now sending me pics that they had taken and after yesterday’s lack of material to illustrate my blog, it was flooding in.

Jaq has great sense of humour, well she laughs at my jokes!

Later in the day, I decided to see if I had sufficient hose and connections to alter the hot tank overflow to the outside of the boat. Didn’t I say once that I should never throw things away, because they might come in useful one day? Sure enough, I had old pump hose that I could connect directly to the hot water outlet and what with garden hose that I had brought with me, it all connected together with Jubilee clips and the job was done. No more constant emptying of the container that was originally used when I bought the boat eleven years ago.

Thursday 29th June

There was also a fair amount of water down the engine ‘ole again this morning, but not as much as before, so I sponged it out and looked for the source. Underneath the stern gland, there is a plastic box with bilge pump inside and although I had been activating the pump every so often, no water was pumped overboard. Investigating further, I discovered that the box was full and that the one way valve that I had previously put in the pipe had stuck in the closed position, so was not allowing the pump to function. After considerable fiddling and trying to take the valve apart, I abandoned the idea and left it out, to be repaired at home later. I reckon that the spring in there, closing the valve could be removed and just rely on the back pressure of water to keep it closed. Although I can blow through it, I think there is not enough pressure in the pump to open it against the spring. The more complicated things are, the more there is to go wrong.

Coffee with Jaq later for a break and more jokes and conversation, before resuming repairs. After that Ryan appeared for fuelling up for both of us. Jaq had made him a cake and I contributed some Stilton cheese puffs that I had baked that morning. Apparently there is some rivalry between him and Richard Traves, on the other pair of coal boats, as to who gets the most baked contributions. Andrew Haysom was steering the butty and Ryan said that he couldn’t be faulted, which is a feather in the cap of NBT, who trained him originally. It seems that this was his apprenticeship holiday – humping coal!

By 4 pm I decided to go to The Folly for a change and beer, but half way there, I changed my mind, as it was too far and also in the wrong direction. Returning to Bridge 102, I walked up to Flecknoe and The Olive Bush, which was half a mile at least and nearly all uphill. Puffing and panting, I went in the public bar and soon joined in the local’s banter, two of whom lived in Braunston old village. After two well deserved pints and some laughs, I set off back to the boat, only to be given a lift to the bridge by those two from Braunston in their car; that was most welcome.

Friday 30th June

Awake early, I rinsed out the soaking washing and hung some in the engine ‘ole to dry as I went along.  Again there was some water down there, but I think it was due to rain in the night, as the box underneath was not full.

I let go at 09.00 and had a steady trip back to Braunston. I spotted a poppy in flower just before the turn and stopped to photograph it, as there were no other boats in sight. Just as I did so, a man on the bank asked if I really did come from Pelican Wharf. He wanted to know because he used to live there and still drinks in The Pelly, even though he lives in Chertsey. At that point another boat came around the turn and I reversed out of the way, because a boat was moored opposite me.
Strange looking boat.
I moored for lunch by Butcher’s Bridge and also had a brief shopping trip to the village. When I returned, a lady on nb Bristol Cream passed by and said that she read my blog regularly, which pleased me no end, as she is the first person to ever tell me that. Thank you Zena and Chris (who I didn't talk to).

Thinking about fixing up the LED strip over the sink, I phoned Braunston Chandlery to see if they stocked a voltage regulator/stabilizer. They had two in stock, but when I got there, they could not find them, so that was a wasted trip. I then motored up to Midland Swindlers and again it was not something they stocked. However, the manager was most helpful and found several versions on E-Bay for me.

Moving on, I made a decision to stop at Bridge 85 and pay a long awaited visit to The Rose Inn at Willoughby and I am pleased that I did. I intended to do this last year, but the walk with a dodgy hip was just too far. I suppose the walk was about half a mile, but it was briefly along a fast and busy road from the bridge and then across a hidden and little used stile in the hedge. There was no delineated footpath across fields of curious sheep, so I used satnav and eyes to find the next stile, eventually coming to the village and pub beside a children’s playground.

This is a very well kept pub that not only did good beer, but served excellent food into the bargain. Several tables were already set with cutlery, a lit candle and flowers. They obviously took pride in the decor, food and beer. I had a chat with the landlord behind the bar and another customer, who turned out to be an airline pilot with Monarch Airways. He was also very interested in beer brewing and knew quite a bit about it, as I did, having brewed my own beer from raw ingredients for several years. He also restored old motorcycles, which is something I missed out on as a teenager, when someone offered me one, but my parents refused to let me bring it home. After a couple of pints, I shook hands with him and the landlord, telling the latter what an excellent free house it was and how pleased I was to finally pay them a visit.

Returning to Stronghold, I was caught in a heavy shower at the last minute, so the intended BBQ was off and I was forced to use a frying pan to heat up a butcher's already barbequed lamb chop. It had been a day of messing about in my boat, as opposed to what Ratty said to Mole in Wind in the Willows, which was:-  “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Ratty and Mole out boating from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, illustration by E.H. Shepard

Saturday 1st July

Most of the morning was spent on the internet replying to friends, writing this up, phoning to change appointments and ordering goods for next week, when I shall be at home. I was up at 06.00, so where do six hours go?

I pulled the pins and left in a convoy of boats, until one winded at the end of Barby Straight and the other stopped at the pub. Miko was back on her mooring at Willow Ridge Marina as I passed and looking good.

Close to the top lock of Hillmorton there were moorings with spaces, so I pulled in knowing that the bottom moorings would be full at this time of day. Back on the internet, with a reasonable connection to write up even more and text family and friends, as well as leaving messages with Clifton Cruisers, where I am trying to get a mooring for next week. They finally phoned back and agreed to that, so I hope it is not too far to walk to the rail station.

Sunday 2nd July

A very promising start to the day with wall to wall sunshine at 6am, so I had a walk down to the locks and chatted to a few boaters and helped some through locks. A guy on a boat in the lock (he was steering) was shouting at his wife, who could not wind the paddle up because she had hurt her back the day before, so why was he not doing it? Idle bastard! I picked up a couple of books from the collection set aside for charity and walked back up to the boat and had breakfast, by which time the clouds had appeared and obscured the sun – typically English weather.

The pump switch stayed on while the engine was running, but no water was coming out of the newly installed pipe – I fear the worst. Sure enough the engine ‘ole was full of hot water again, but I tilted the automatic float switch and pumped a lot of it out with that, before using the Pela Pump, which is a godsend on occasions like this. It was obvious that the pump could not cope with the extra pressure put upon it by the extra length of pipe, so it reverted to the container for a while. The pressure relief valve is on top of the hot water tank, so it needs re-plumbing so that the water can run downhill to the outlet, which shouldn’t be too difficult.

I like this situation: a boat comes speeding past and I shout out,
“Are you in a hurry then?”
To which he replies, “No, why?”
“Because you are going too fast,” I reply.
“No I ain’t,” he says, as he carries on.
A short time later, I hear the engine slow down. I think that says it all.

Having just cleared up the mess, another boat toots me and it is Helen, but she is looking for a mooring further on, where she can park her car, most probably near to The Old Oak. I found out later that she had gone as far as Bridge 77, which is on the Barby Straight and about 2 miles away. Anyway, she had to walk back to collect her car, so offered to do the locks for me, which is always welcome.

In the meantime, I decided to change the pump pressure switch, which turned out to be more than I expected, as the connecting wires went deep into the pump motor and had to be cut and joined to the new switch. Anyway, it was complete and tools away before Helen turned up.

We did the locks in short order again and Helen left me to collect her car. I managed to get a good macro photo of the wild orchids growing on the centre island of the Bottom Lock, but only after studying the camera instructions to get the right setting.

I stayed on the mooring just below the locks for a while, tidying away what was outside, as I am leaving the boat for a week to go home, just to open all the post, read the meters, collect medication and have as good a time as I can whilst there, so it’s goodbye for a while and I will be back in just over a week.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Summer Cruise 22. The Braunston Bash.

Wednesday 21st June, Summer Solstice.

Up early to a warm start to the day, but not too hot for making pastry Cheese Puffs, so I will bear that in mind for the next baking session. Instead, I washed down the top and one side of the boat and completed the washing, which I placed on the top of the boat with weights just in case it started to blow.

Chris and Linda knocked to let me know that they were going to the Cat Herding HQ, so after tidying up I followed with knapsack for shopping later. Not a lot going on at HQ, but tea and delicious homemade lemon drizzle cake and Victoria cream sponge were served up later that afternoon by Jan, which was just the same as last year with tea poured  into Victorian china tea cups too.

Climbing the hill to the village, it occurred to me that some of the land around here is very hilly and looks as if it had been quarried in times gone by – I must make some inquiries about that. Passing the hairdressers where I had a haircut last year, I popped my head around the door and asked if they could do me now, so I had another trim by the owner for £6. The charcoal, for which I originally went shopping, was enormous, but I managed to squeeze the bag into my rucksack, before getting some BBQ meat from the Village Butcher.

I was sitting outside Cat Herding HQ later in the afternoon, when Mike and Gill came past on nb Sundowner, so I gave them a wave as they asked where they could moor. I said that I would go with them to find a place, either up on the Puddle Banks towards Napton, or on the 14day moorings towards Rugby. Suggesting that someone goes by foot first to find a place, Gill got out her fold up bike and rode past the turn to get the last place on the 14 day moorings, which was very close to Bridge 90 and just squeezed in to the information post. Even so, I can well imagine anyone towing a butty through that blind bridge ‘ole cursing those moorings so close to the blind bend – NBT for one!

Although I had met Gill and Mike over a week ago as we came up Braunston Locks together and I knew where they came from in Sussex, it transpired that as I was talking about the Trust boats, Mike asked me if I knew someone associated with the Trust called Oakhill, to which I put my hand up. It was at that moment that it all became clear that they had information about me and the Trust from my sister who lives in Brighton and that they did pre-natal care with my sister there about 30 yrs ago – serendipity! We arranged to go for a drink later at The Boat House and certainly had plenty to talk about. We also arranged a dinner date at The Admiral Nelson for the next day. I have to comment on the myth that is spread about Braunston and that is that eventually every boat on the system will pass through there. That myth is coming true as I have met so many people that I have known in the past and know now in Braunston through the years that I have been moored up here. Just this morning, a boat called Travellers Joy passed by, which I believe is from the Wey Navigation and moors close by. It turned out later that it was not the same boat, when I talked to them on their way back through Braunston.

Thursday 22nd June

OMG! I haven’t written anything since today and it is now the following Monday as I have been too busy with the Braunston Hysterics; so busy in fact that one day I only had time for a banana for lunch, such was the rush trying to fit everthing in. Let’s hope I can remember it all.

Wow! What a sudden change in the weather, from scorching heat yesterday, to overcast and much cooler this morning with an early welcome thunderstorm.

Boats were starting to appear at the site and were looking for moorings. As the final positions were not yet allocated, they moored up more or less where there was space. Chris and Linda Martin on nb Mars assisted me with spraying 75 ft markers along the Butchers Bridge area as far as the Ladder Bridge and I recollect that that was our only contribution for the day. Having done that, I can’t see anyone making use of them anyway, but it gives us an idea of how many boats we can fit in.

I returned to Stronghold for a meal, but the inside of the boat was so hot, I was not really hungry at all, so I ended up having cold, but well flavoured, tinned tomatoes on ciabatta type toast, which was quite adequate. I was so hot that I felt really uncomfortable and ended up having a cold shower before going out to meet up with my new friends later for good conversation at The Nelson, where the food was exceptionally good, as well as being lubricated by well selected beer.

Friday 23rd June

Such bad news – there was a boat fire on board a Sea Otter aluminium boat late last night, just above
Bridge 90. The story goes like this:– Two lads arrived at 11.30pm, moored up and left the boat. At 01.45, the horn was blasting intermittently and so was the headlight flashing and then the fire broke out. Gill, who was moored some distance in front, phoned the fire brigade, who doused what remained from the bridge, but the boat was gutted. The fire got up to 650°C because it just melted the aluminium cabin. The boat is still there now, so not sure who is responsible for moving it. I heard later that the crew were at the show.

Even more boats arriving today and now is the time to do a bit of ‘Cat Herding’ so that they can all fit it in without any gaps.

Getting back to Stronghold for lunch, I was running the engine and talking to Gill and Mike about various boaty things, when all of a sudden the automatic bilge pump activated and squirted water half way across the cut, which I had never seen before. Peering under the deck boards, I could see about 3 to 4 ins of water beneath the engine, but could not understand where it came from. Looking even further, I could see the water being pumped into a full gallon container that collects from the hot water tank via the pressure release valve. I then switched off the isolator switch to stop the domestic water pump from working and put my brain cell in gear to understand what was happening. At that moment I had a call from Richard Heaseman, who was at Calcutt Marina, asking if there was any mooring at Braunston – he later came over and breasted up to Stronghold for one night. He advised me that the pressure switch on the end of the pump had remained closed and that he had a spare pump that I could borrow, which he would bring over to me by car. By the time he got here, I had stripped out the pressure switch, tested it and put it back as it was now working and all I had to do then was to pump out and sponge below the engine. The moral of this experience is to switch off your water pump when you leave the boat for a short period – every time! That Shureflo pump was bought at Banbury two years ago, so it is not very old. I believe the pressure switches can be obtained from Uxbridge Boat Services, so it would be advisable to carry a spare.

I had previously apologised to Graham for my absence on account of fixing the problem, but later we all met up in The Boat House for a meal and drinks on him for our efforts over the weekend. Once again it was a very sociable occasion  and I sat on a table with Ken Haynes, Wilf and Annabel.

Saturday 24th June

Well for me, today was the day, when I would be steering Nuneaton and Brighton to open the show with Timothy West and Prunella on the butty. I dressed up in my Boater’s Sunday Best, complete with bowler hat and boarded Nuneaton ready for the trip. Picking up Brighton on cross straps, as she was empty, we headed the short distance to the Stop House, where we were collecting the dignitaries. Once on board and settled, we were off to open the show, with Tim standing on the gunnel to start with. 

Passengers on board and ready to go. 
This pic by Steve Morgan is the only one where we are both smiling!

Once around the turn into the marina, I passed the tiller to him and he announced the show open.

The turn into the marina and about to hand over steering to Tim. 
Pic by Mike Askin.

I then took over to steer between the boats to start with in there and once past that point, I let him steer through to Ladder Bridge.

Pru and Colin on Brighton.

About to make the turn under Ladder Bridge.
My water can is getting good publicity in these pics.

Again I took over to go under the bridge and turn a right angle back onto the main line, but with the wind blowing the bow in the wrong direction, I was forced to let Nick Scarcliffe shaft the front end round. Once we were facing the right direction, Tim took over the tiller again up to the Stop House, where all disembarked, photos were taken and the Trust was presented with a £1,000 check from the marina towards the present repairs.

A very welcome gift to help with repairs. 
Photo by Tim Coghlan.

After all the pomp and pics, we took on other NBT members and headed for Braunston Turn, where we had to wind the pair through the triangular island. Having seen Tom Lapworth do it a few years ago, I knew how to work the pair of boats to turn them back in the direction of the marina. By now, the cut was full of boats that had been following me and I had to steer through them, mostly on tickover and just thrusting the gear rod in gear and out every so often. It was so slow, like watching paint dry, as we had to wait for boats to wind at either end. Back at our moorings, we all relaxed and I complained about the gear box being badly adjusted and suggested an improvement, which Barry and Colin effected on the spot, while I went off to man the turn beneath Bridge 91in place of Jack, who moved down to the Stop House.

I met up with Mouse and Karen, his wife later and was driven to The Nelson, this time for a booked meal and further beer of course. The pub was full to overflowing as the evening progressed and after the meal, which turned out to be a treat for me by Mouse, we repaired to The Boat House to meet up with the NBT crew for more beer and conversation, which rounded off an extremely fulfilling day.  I should explain also that I took no photos during that day, or on Sunday, being far to involved with other things, but I am hoping that others will send some to me to illustrate this blog. Karen is very well know by the NBT crews for her fruit cake and she had baked a whole one especially one for me, for which I am very grateful.

Sunday 25th June

The first priority this morning was to get the engine in Nuneaton started, as the battery was flat. I appeared later that the alternator was not charging it. My spare battery was tried first, but not enough juice in that, so Barry tried the hand start, which had problems connecting. The last ditch attempt was to bring Stronghold alongside and jump start from there, Fortunately, that worked and they were in business. Colin then took Stronghold through the marina to wind and came back to my original mooring opposite the Marstons pub. What I forgot was that I had not opened the water cock to the skin tank, but it survived.

The morning briefing was at 10.30 this morning, as there was to be only one parade of boats at 11.30. I collected the PMR for making contact with other Cat Herders on the route, which made sense of what was going on elsewhere and where the holdups were during the parade. Once again I was at Bridge 91, being a wide bridge ‘ole where two boats could pass each other with care, although many steerers refused to believe that and tried to hold back in reverse at the last minute causing the bow of the boat to wander across the canal, much to my annoyance and also to those approaching, who also had to reverse until the offending boat had gained control. The technique is to either stop with a centre line on the bank, or to keep going very slowly forward to keep steerage under control. Bear in mind that these steerers were all experienced people with historic boats and I was astounded at what some of them did. One boat actually refused to follow my request and ploughed on past two waiting boats straight into a pair coming through in the opposite direction. Needless to say, confusion reigned and he had egg on his face. Another boat would not put anyone on the bank and tried to hold position without a centre line off. Again that boat reversed three times and each time put the fore end across the cut, so causing chaos. When I told them what to do, I was asked how long I had been boating, so in the rare chance that they are reading this, the answer is 38 years! On the bright side, John Fevyer put in an appearance as well as Tom Lapworth on the towpath. I have to say that it was a relief when the last boat went through that bridge ‘ole and I returned to my boat to chill out with a dry Martini with ice.

Later we all returned to the Cat Herders HQ for Pasta and Pimms dispensed by Graham and Linda, which was appreciated by all concerned, especially by some of the guys who had got free beer in the tent as the supplies ran out.

The Cat Herders HQ at Pasta and Pimms final bash.

Chief Cat Herder Graham.
Deputy Cat Herder, John Henry.





The Chef Linda.

It had been a very busy day again, but that is the way I like it to be as I dragged my tired body along the towpath back to Stronghold.

Alex is a very happy bunny after a visit to the beer tent.

Once again, I will explain that I am relying on others to post photos by e-mail to me and that they may well appear later in this blog.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Summer Cruise 21

Monday 19th June
I let go at 07.45 and getting well away from the boat behind me before starting the engine. I intended to get to Crick after about 5 hours, but it took six and a half. The day was red hot, with temperatures inside the boat above 30°C. I was stripped down to a pair of shorts and sandals and would really have liked to jump into the water.
At the approach to Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, I could see the white light from another boat inside, but could not tell which way it was heading, so I waited a while, but as it never seemed to move I headed in to the tunnel. When I got there they were moving so slowly towards me, I asked if they were OK – they were, but my auxiliary light crunched against the wall and then went out, so I thought it was smashed. Steering in the tunnel with just a headlight is not my bag as I like to be able to see the wall, which gives me more perspective and better orientation. However, on exiting the tunnel I checked the light and all was OK. It had gone out because the switch hit something and switched itself off. Nevertheless something was loose inside, so it had the full strip strip down later.
I moored up at Crick after six and a half hours from Foxton, which was a bit longer than I thought. This time I was in the shade, nearer to the tunnel. Shopping was on the list in the village, but rehydration was necessary beforehand in The Wheatsheaf – shopping in the Co-Op before more rehydration in the same pub.
Tuesday 20th June
At 07.30 I reversed onto the water point and filled the fresh water container and emptied the rubbish, before heading into Crick Tunnel. The condensed mist inside was like steering through fog and there was no point of reference except for the wall, so I zig-zagged through, overcorrecting the steering every so often. Not until 200yds from the south portal could I see the exit, which was weird and I expected to see Kit Crewbucket, the ghost of Crick Tunnel any minute.
Forty five minutes later I arrived at Watford Top Lock, but there were three boats on their way up, so I had about 45 mins to wait, which turned into an hour. Making the most of my time, I got onto the water point and filled the tank, made coffee, wrote up some of this and assisted two boats through the top lock and had a chat with the lockies. I was let through after the Cheese Boat, while there were now more than seven boats waiting at the top and three at the bottom – busy, busy!
Turning towards Braunston at Norton Junction, there were no boats moving, so no collisions. Through Braunston Tunnel at a good speed with no oncoming boats. This time I clamped the auxiliary light to the cabin top, which was inside the profile of the boat, so could suffer no damage and left one hand free. I wonder why I never did this before.

The simple solution!
On arrival at Braunston Top Lock, I waited for the boat following me through the tunnel. When it failed to appear after ten mins, I let myself through, only to see it approaching a few minutes later, but waited in the next lock for them. The wife was steering, but only because she had hurt her neck and could not do the locks. This is a common mistake in partnerships, because if the husband has an accident, the wife is too timid to take over steering of the boat. They need to take equal turns in doing locks and steering, so that each understands the others part. Very often the husband dominates the wife and refuses to let her steer because she makes a hash of it, but then she refuses to steer because the husband criticises her steering, so there is fault on both parts. Anyway, we got through all the locks in one piece, despite his shouting at her.

Pulling up alongside nb Egypt, I was greeted by John Boswell and the rest of the Cat Herders under the awning alongside nb Joseph, which has a new engine at last. We had a good old chat and eventually Graham Scothern turned up and I was greeted like a long lost friend. After an hour, I moved up opposite the Marston’s pub and got a good mooring there, as moorings are suspended from tomorrow until well after the event.