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, 18 June 2012

An Interesting Weekend

I had volunteered to take the Narrow Boat Trust pair to the Reading Water Festival with Barry Adams, who has been one of my mentors when working these historic boats. http://www.narrowboattrust.org.uk/index.html
Unfortunately, the River Kennet was in flood and the festival was cancelled at the last minute, due to the high water levels. However, Barry and I decided to go to the boats moored at Burghfield to do a few jobs on board; Barry having acquired a temperature gauge, which he wanted to fit to the engine. This we did on the Thursday, using only the basic tools on board, which meant reaming out a round hole with a square file and no vise to hand. By the time this job was finished, it was too late to shop and cook, so we repaired to the pub for a meal and beer.
The following day, Barry was anxious to try out the gauge to see if it did the job and to assess the temperature of the engine coolant, having cleaned out the water system previously to try and cure the overheating problem The water level had dropped overnight by about two inches. I reversed the boat into the stream and we made slow headway through the next bridge ‘ole against the current. Several other boats had also travelled upstream before us and did not appear to have any problems, except for slow progress. All went well apart from me having difficulty getting round some of the sharp bends in one go. We reached Tyle Mill and I winded the boat bow first into the weir stream, which turned it very quickly and then reversed up to a mooring, where we stopped for a light lunch.
The return journey went well and was much faster than when coming up, apart from two of the locks, which slowed us down due to them being the same length as the boat, when below cill level.

Barry Tightens the Top Strings

We had had no problem coming up stream, because the stem was lifted over the top cill, but the boat barely fitted between the top cill and the bottom gates when the lock was empty and going downhill. If the boat was fitted diagonally, it was impossible to get out with the bow tucked in behind the closed gate. The only way was for Barry to take the bow line and position the stem between the mitre of the two gates. At this point, the rudder was at right angles to the cill and hard against it, but Barry was then able to open a gate to get the boat out. It became obvious that these locks were not built to take boats of 71ft in length, and a breasted pair would have to single out. On the other hand, some locks were much longer than the boat and would easily take two boats.

A Tight Fit!
The entrance to the weir stream where we were moored was at an acute angle to the way we were travelling, which entailed carrying on until a winding hole could be found to turn the boat round. Although there were several marked in the Nicholson’s Guide, they were into fast flowing weir streams and impossible to navigate.

"Where is that winding 'ole?"

 Eventually, after a couple of miles there was one marked above Fobney Lock, which was also into a weir stream, but the width reduced the flow of water considerably. Even though it was wide, the stern was into a tree. Barry boarded the boat after walking for a fair distance from the last lock and we returned to the Burghfield mooring for a pub meal and welcome drinks with Keith, the present NBT chairman.
Finally, the temperature gauge was pronounced a success, but indicated that the engine was now running at 50 to 60 degrees instead of 70 to 80, which would be expected, so there is still more work to be done.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Back on the Bassie

Here I am again on the Basingstoke Canal, moored up at Brookwood Country Park. Again, just like at Easter, it was not an easy journey from the Wey Navigations. Fortunately, I managed to contact Phil Hardyman, who lives in a house on the bank, with his boat nb Winter Lily moored at the bottom of the garden. I had met Phil on the Easter trip, but had not taken his phone number or e-mail address, so tried various methods of contacting him, all to no avail until I Googled his name. Surprisingly, his name appeared linked to nb No Problem's blog in 2010. I e-mailed Sue, who passed my e-mail on to him. From then on he was up for lock wheeling in his bike from 9am on Friday morning. The locks had to be unlocked by the two Canal Rangers and after passing through, then caulk the top gates with sawdust, soil and anything they could rake up from the canal bed after emptying the lock. What does all this cost? £130 each for their days work plus the cost of the van, fuel, administration, etc. They reckon it will cost about £500 to get me there and of course, the same to get back - quite ridiculous! The sooner 'open access' is declared, the better for their purse and the boaters, but that will not be possible until the Deepcut Flight is restored and opened, hopefully next year. I was surprised to find that I was the only boat booked to go from the Wey, after the publicity at the IWA National Rally. From the Odiham end, which is entirely navigable, there were three beautiful steam launches, all home built by their owners and a self build narrowboat, as well a few smaller boats. Not a great turnout really. I understand that the 'John Pinkerton' trip boat will be there today.

We made slow progress up the Woodham flight, mainly due to shallow water, weed and leaves. The Axiom propeller does pick up anything and almost everything, so the weed hatch was up three times before I got to clearer water. Quite a collection!
The Rangers were following us the flight in their van and caulking up as we cleared each lock and we didn't see them again until we reached St. John's Flight, where the same procedure took place. Phil was now steering the long pound through Woking and considerately slowed down when passing moored boats, especially his own!

At last, we came to the penultimate lock of St. John's and the short pound between that and the last lock, to be confronted with low water yet again, so no movement possible without running water through the sluices to be able to float in. I offered to take Phil for lunch at the local pub, but unfortunately the kitchen closed at 2.30 and it was now 3pm. Beers were very welcome and Phil returned home on his faithful steed. I continued for another mile or so to a winding hole in Brookwood Country Park and moored against the staging at the water point. No worries there, as there are no other boats to stop for water in this pound and none expected. My BW key does not fit the padlock to the WP anyway - do I need a Basingstoke key for this then?

Saturday morning, after a quiet night, I decided to bike up to Frimley to have a look at the 21st Anniversary celebrations of the re-opening of the canal, which I estimated to be about 5 miles away. On the way however, I thought it might be an idea to visit the Brookwood Cemetery. I only went to the Military Cemetery, which was very large indeed and very poignant when reading how old some of those servicemen were, when they died. Officers were buried alongside other ranks, so no distinction there. The other part of the cemetary is even larger and will have to wait for another time. http://www.brookwoodcemetery.com/about_the_cemetery.htm

I got to Frimley eventually after a hard slog up the towpath, which turned out to be a 14 mile round trip by the end of the day. I met up with Verna Smith and Jan Byrne briefly, just to establish my presence at the event. There was no beer tent as had been advertised, so after a walk around I repaired to the local Harvester house for a well deserved pint, only to find that it only served 'Eurofizz'; no real ale, so I opted for a pint of Guinness, which tasted bad. Even though it was changed for another pint, that also tasted of pipe cleanser. Their excuse was that the glass was tainted, so no more visits to that pub chain. Back at the boat, I was dismayed to see it on the other side of the cut. The mooring lines had been wrapped around the short bollards and then tied on the boat, so they had been slipped off the bollards and the boat probably pushed out. I had a half mile to ride to the nearest bridge, but luckily a canoe was approaching with a man and his son, who I hailed and so they managed to tie the stern and centre lines together so that I could tow the boat back. The lines were then securely wrapped around the supporting piles and tied back on board, which means they would have to board the boat to do the same and I don't think they would have time to risk that. When I leave the boat again, it will be chained to the piles anyway. As the canoe returned, I heard the man ask two young boys on the bank if they had set the boat adrift, to which they replied "We didn't touch the boat." I then got off the boat and they scooted off at a rate of knots, with backward glances as if they wanted to see if I was in pursuit, so it was obvious to me who was responsible. Their idea of fun I suppose.

Sunday was a day for watching the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant to see if I could spot nb Leo No.2 and nb Hazell Nut with Kathryn and Rodney respectively, from the Byfleet Boat Club. I have to say that the Queen's party hogged most of the limelight, though Leo was spotted briefly twice and possibly Hazel Nut once. No kids about here today as the rain has been torrential at times.

Monday was a no rain day - well, almost! I had been running the engine about twice a day for an hour to recharge the batteries and the alternator had been rather noisy on occasions, but this time I became unbearable, so it was time to investigate. The drive belt was very slack and the alternator very wobbly and it became evident that one of the bolts holding the bracket to the engine had sheared off. This had happened once before and I had added some lengths of screwed studding, nuts and washers to my armoury. With the repair complete I made a note to buy some high tensile bolts to fix this rather jury rig in future.

During my time in the 'engine 'ole', Phil had phoned to offer me a lift to the Byfleet Boat Club BBQ. I had intended a walk to The Anchor in Knaphill, which scored highly on the 'Beer In The Evening' web site of pubs, but a lift to the BBQ sounded far more attractive than drinking on my own in a strange pub! There were several members there when we arrived and the BBQ was soon lit up for all to BBQ their own food. Carol and Phil had brought enough suitable food to include me in the feast, becasue I was unprepared for this as I intended taking them out for a meal later in the day. We all sat down to tables with wine and beer included, before partaking in a hilarious game of skittles to end the evening. A very enjoyable sociable event, but I still owe you Phil for all that effort getting me up and down all those locks.

Tuesday was forecast rain in the afternoon and I was at St. John's top lock waiting for the Rangers at the appointed time. The pound below was still a struggle to get through, even though it appeared to be full of water, but after that, we made good progress through the remainder in four hours to the Wey, with the Rangers caulking the top gates of each lock behind the departing boat. As you can see below, it made an enormous difference to the amount of water leaking through the gate cills. It was also a rather precarious operation, walking across the gate beams.

Caulking - the tools

The material

The Problem.


The Operation.

The Result!