Saturday 28th May
The meal at the Indian restaurant was so good, I wrote up a review on Trip Advisor.
Saturday is one of those gongoozler days in Stoke, so I spent quite a lot of time just talking to passers by and other boaters.
One interesting event happened first thing in the morning, when an ABC hire boat came past with plenty of young women on board and an older guy steering. I thought he was one of the boatyard staff instructing them, but it was a long way from Gayton Junction where the hire base is and at the other end of the Blisworth tunnel. I walked down to the top lock to see what was going on. Sure enough he was telling them what to do, but he steered the boat into and out of the lock and was not doing things very well, as Mike Partridge remarked at the time. Mike runs the trip boat and is a very experienced full length boater in other ways too. Later the ‘instructor’ walked past two of us having a chat and could not resist telling us that the girls had asked him if he would take the boat down to Wolverton for them and that they would pay him for the job. He refused to go that far, but offered to show them the ropes, for which they insisted on paying him £50, which he accepted after refusing to take £100. Mike Partridge was open mouthed when I told him.
I decided that I had been in Stoke for my allotted time, so moved through the tunnel as far as Gayton Junction for one night, which turned into two. The usual little jobs to be done here plus some hand washing and rinsing out at the water point.
I paid a visit to The Walnut Tree for research purposes of course. This is a hotel with bar and restaurant, where a wedding had taken place earlier. A couple of girls in wedding dresses walked through the bar, so I asked the barman which one was the bride. “They both are.” he said. It took me a moment or two to realise that they had married each other – I do find that strange.
On the way back to the boat I had a phone call from Dave and Kay on Snail o’Wey, which was moored temporarily in Blisworth Marina, while they went back to work for a while. Dave wanted to make arrangements to pick me up for the lift to Crick Boat Show on Sunday, which I was looking forward to, having last been there ten years ago.
Sunday 29th May.
Crick Boat Show.
I walked to the marina, Stronghold being moored just around the corner. We joined the long queue of cars waitng to get in to the show at 10.00. Being contributors to Waterways World magazine, we could use the VIP tent so had coffee there and planned the day.
The first person I met on the IWA stand was John Fevyer, so we chewed over common ground for a while before I moved on to other areas. Whilst in the Midland Chandlers tent, I thought I recognised Andrew Denny. Although we had never met personally, we had communicated in years past when he wrote a blog called Granny Buttons. Sure enough it was him, so more conversation endued about the blog, his boat and his job as assistant editor of Waterways World. I stopped by the Axiom Propellers stand to ask some questions of Alan Watts, the designer and owner of the company, whom I had previously met when he had his workshop in the garage adjacent to his house. One thing that surprised me was that testing of any new design in the Emerson Cavitation Tunnel at Newcastle University costs £11.000 a time – WOW! I queried why the blade design had changed since the propeller that I had fitted some years ago. The new tapered blade design was originally designed for yachts with a more efficient hull design than a narrow boat. More recently, Alan had tried this yacht propeller on a narrow boat and found that it was 3% more efficient than the original design. As a propeller is only about 50% efficient anyway, this is quite a significant improvement. He offered to upgrade my propeller free of charge the next time by boat was out of the water, if I removed it and took it to his works. That is a generous offer indeed; whether I will accept it remains to be seen.
Whilst on the subject of Axiom, I communicated with several boaters before I purchased the Axiom, two of whom I had never met in person until I spotted them weaving through the crowd. It was Del and Al from nb Derwent 6, which I had passed many times in the intervening years and even left them messages on their boat. We had a brief chat before moving on.
There were only a few historic narrow boats to be seen on display, one of which attracted my interest. That was butty Angel, the history of which I am aware of in the past few years, but now she was up for sale, moored up next to Aldgate. I was aware that the owner of Aldgate did not own her, so who did? The paintwork was all new and she looked very good indeed, but with a wooden cabin to contend with, it is not a boat that would tempt me, for paint can cover a multitude of sins. Details can be found here:- http://narrowboats.apolloduck.co.uk/feature.phtml?id=474192
Almost at the end of the day, I spotted Alice Lapworth and we passed the time of day talking about which shows we would meet up next – Braunston Historic Rally being the next towards the end of June. Alice was born on a narrow boat, so what she doesn’t know about boats is not worth knowing and she has taught me a few tricks of the trade, just by watching her operate on the butty boat.
Did I buy anything at the show? Well, apart from some incense cones, I found an interesting book called ‘Historic Working Narrow Boats Today’, which has photographs of all the existing boats on the water. It is divided up into the various Operators and Canal Companies, as would be expected, with brief historical explanations of each boat. I look forward to having a good browse.
Overall, I am pleased I went, but nothing much is new to me now, as it was ten years ago when I was a wide eyed novice, so I don’t think I will be in a hurry to go again.
Monday 30th May.
I had been in touch with some other Byfleet Boat Club members, who left the Wey on 25th May to cruise the Middle Levels, via Gayton Junction. If all went well, I would return to Stoke Bruerne on the Wednesday for a social evening with them at a restaurant or pub in the village. I had time to spare anyway, as I was not due in Braunston for the rally until 21st June, where I had offered to volunteer for stewarding duties. This was one reason for hanging about in the area so there was plenty of time for catching up on jobs, reading and relaxing, which is the opposite of my normal means of travel by boat, when I need to be somewhere yesterday.
The Walnut Tree did not call me back, so I decided to move back towards Blisworth and sample the delights or otherwise of The Royal Oak in the village. Reports on the internet beer site were not encouraging, but they were very out of date. Trip Advisor was more current and encouraging, so I gave it a try. Three beers were on tap; Timothy Taylors Landlord being my choice. The landlord I found to be rather patronising and there were few customers in the bar. Food menu was pretentious for a restaurant and no one was eating. Although the pub is of historical value, it is a managed house that needs that magic touch that free houses have to revive its fortunes.
Tuesday 31st May.
Rain was forecast all day today, although it did not begin until midday. It had been windy all night and despite my secure mooring on springs with fenders out, the boat was rocked around most of the night. A passer by suggested that we were back to winter and eventually I lit up the gas boiler to get warm, despite wearing a fair amount of clothing.
I feel that the TV reception here needs some comment. I have only failed to get satisfactory reception in Rickmansworth so far. However, I cannot even get a news programme here and there are so few programmes available, that I feel a great many people paying for a TV licence are not getting value for money, whereas others in a different area are receiving all channels. It sounds like post code discrimination to my way of thinking.
If my Byfleet friends have Stoke Bruerne on the agenda tomorrow, then I will travel through the tunnel again to meet up with them. Not that I relish the very wet tunnel twice in one week, but it will be nice to meet up.