Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Blacking done; a revelation at Foxton; and a photo at last

Today was the day when the newly cleaned hull and baseplate would be covered in nice black sticky stuff (Rytex). Two coats were applied to the hull sides and one to the baseplate. I had thought that we would have had to be off the boat during the process, but we had to move only when the boat was raised for the underneath to be done. We'd been ready to go at 0900, but stayed on to supply Dean with coffee (I had one too). I put the topcoat on the front doors where I'd primed and undercoated: they look much better now.

When Dean was ready to lift the boat we hung around just long enough to take a couple of photos of him blacking the baseplate, then we cycled off down the towpath to Foxton Junction. Here we sat on a bench and ate our sandwiches in the sunshine. I sampled a half of Bridge 61 at Bridge 61 (near Bridge 61); Jan had an ice cream. Then the revelation.

I went into the shop next to the pub, and found a treasure trove of boaty bits and pieces. There was a large array of painted canalware and souvenirs, there were books, maps, guides, waterproof clothing, rope, windlasses, mooring pins, mooring rings, hammers - hang on, did I say mooring rings? Yes, there were even mooring rings of the type people attach to their end-of-garden mooring. And a selection of oil filters, shackles, screws and all sorts of more esoteric items.

Stop press: I've managed to upload a photo! Jan showed me how she has discovered how to get photos from her camera into the computer, and the "edit" function includes a resizing option. This is just what I wanted. Now there's no need to download an external resizing program. The photo is Jan took of Jubilee being lifted out yesterday.

See how green it is below the waterline! Tomorrow I should be able to get my photos into this computer, and then I'll be able to do proper blog posts.

Back to the story of today. After managing not to buy anything in the shop, we made an exploration by bike of Foxton village. There are some rather nice houses! We looked round the church and checked out the two pubs not at Foxton Junction, the Black Horse and the Shoulder of Mutton. The latter does Chinese food, with a menu as extensive as any Chinese restaurant. The Black Horse does more traditional pub food.

We had a few things to buy from a larger town, so I cycled to Market Harborough while Jan cycled back along the towpath to Debdale Wharf. Back at the boat Jan cooked another gammon joint for tea, then we went for a walk through the fields of oilseed rape to the Black Horse where we enjoyed a drink and a game of darts(!) We walked back along the towpath in the failing light to spend our last night up in the air. We should be dropped back in the water tomorrow morning.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Up in the air with a clean bottom!

We got up early so that we would be ready for moving if required. As it turned out, we could have had another hour or two - or more! - in bed. One boat was lowered back into the water, then boats were lifted out, pressure washed, put onto a trailer for moving across the yard into covered bays; other boats were brought back from the bays to be replaced in the water. Then, at last (at about 1430) it was our turn. We turned into a 7' wide trough, over two slings suspended from a cradle. The motors were energised, and the boat was lifted out and moved sideways to be rested on timber baulks on the concrete pad next to the trough. Think of the cranes used for moving containers at a port such as Felixstowe - that's the sort of thing. We were off the boat during the lift and the next stage of the operation: pressure washing. Dean used a trigger-controlled lance to direct high pressure blasts of water at the hull sides to remove the two years' worth of algae and other muck. This took about half-an-hour, including the underside of the uxter plate.

We watched and took photos, and I wondered whether I should have asked for the baseplate to be blacked as well as the hull sides. To help me decide Dean washed a small area of the baseplate. He pointed out that the large areas of bright metal were not just where the steel had lost any previous blacking, but were areas of pitting. Corrosion had been eating away at the 10 mm keeping the boat afloat. It put the cost up, but I checked with the office, and then said, yes, I'll have the baseplate done too, please.

One school of thought has it that blacking underneath is pointless as the first time you go aground, or run over a submarine obstruction, the coating will be scraped off. But, as Dean pointed out, any blacking on the pits will tend to stay put, thus protecting the important thinner parts. It looked as though the baseplate had never been blacked in its 11 year life, so doing it is probably a good thing.

While Dean was washing the bottom we cycled to Gumley, a village two miles from Debdale Wharf. As soon as we were away from the noisy pressure washing we were in peaceful countryside, cycling up and down gentle to steepish hills with sheep on one side and oilseed rape on the other. The smell of the rape was very strong, but I suppose you get used to it (not if you suffer from hayfever, I imagine). Gumley is a one-street place with a church and a pub. I went up to the church to try the door, but it was locked. We had been spotted, though, and a man came up and asked if we wanted to look round. A key was produced, and we were let in. One of the first things I saw was a lovely old chamber organ. It had been in regular use, but was difficult to keep in tune owing to damp in the building. The ceiling of the chancel was brightly painted wooden panels.

But we had to go back to the boatyard as we'd promised to be there by 1730, when Dean was supposed to be knocking off. I had to give him our electric hook-up cable so that he could plug us in. Well, the service was offered, so it would have been silly to refuse! It was more downhill than up on the way back, especially the last half-mile which I freewheeled all the way.

One more thing I'd asked about was if they had any red paint I could do the tunnel band with. Two tins were found, of different shades; neither of which was right. Then a third tin was produced. This was exactly the right shade of red, so we sacrificed potential pub meal in Foxton for me to paint the tunnel band. This had had a few knocks, removing the red to reveal black, so it needed doing. Having painted it the original scars are still visible, but not quite so much. Perhaps I should have touched up those bits first, waited for them to dry, then gone over the whole area. Too late now. I might be able to touch them up later, but I fear it will show. I painted the dollies too.

Now we're aboard, but not on the water. It's a strange feeling being so high up and the boat not rocking! The bottom is probably only 2' 6" to 3' off the ground, but standing on the rear deck you feel a long way up! We have been provided with a set of steps with a handrail so we can access the boat.

Tomorrow Dean will apply the blacking, and we will explore Foxton village.

This post really needs photos: I can only apologise and say I'll put them up when I can.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Easter Cruise 2014: Market Harborough to Debdale Wharf Marina

This morning we found that the batteries had run down to the extent that the inverter had switched itself off. I had hoped that the solar panels would have kept the batteries charged enough, but the (mains) fridge running overnight combined with not having run the engine for a couple of days took a toll. While Jan went to the shower block (no hot water on board) I ran the engine while topping up with water. The water points at the 48 hour moorings are very handy, but are not as high pressure as others we've used.

We walked into Market Harborough for the Palm Sunday service at St. Dionysius. It was an "all age" service, so good for families with young children, but necessarily light on teaching. I had brought my bike so was able to whizz back to the boat. I was eager to move off the mooring as the 48 hours were going to be up at midday. Just as I had pushed off in order to reverse to the service point Jan appeared, having walked up the hill with some shopping. Unfortunately I had passed the point of no return, but a neighbouring boater took the centre rope and pulled me back so Jan could board. At the services I attended to the cassette, then we set off for Debdale Wharf, the destination of our Easter cruise.

Just before Foxton we stopped by a large tree which had come down and cut up some more small logs. All the good stuff had gone! All the moorings from the road swing bridge to the junction were reserved for boats attending the Historic Narrow Boat Club gathering next weekend. One boat, Enterprise, had arrived early and was tied up near the Black Horse pub. Foxton Junction was very quiet when we got there at 1700. The car park looked full - the locks must have entertained a good number of gongoozlers.

The section between Foxton Junction and Debdale Wharf Marina was deep and almost completely clear of moored boats. At 1730 I was tying up outside the marina, ready for tomorrow's excitement. Our boat is to be lifted out of the water! Will everything crash about inside? Are we allowed to light the stove? Should I have got paint to redo the tunnel bands? We'll have to remember to get our bikes off before the lift.

Jan cooked a tasty roast lamb meal while I applied undercoat to the patches of woodwork I'd primed yesterday, then I washed one side of the boat. Access to the "outside world" is easy, despite being on the offside, so we walked down the lane to have a look at the view. It looks like good cycling country ...

Saturday, 12 April 2014


A day without going anywhere. Not by boat, that is. It's been another fine, sunny day, although with a slightly chilly breeze. It was still warm enough for shorts, though.

We walked/cycled into Market Harborough (Jan walked; I cycled) for shopping/looking round. I also scraped, sanded and primed the bare patches on the wooden front doors. Topcoat tomorrow, probably. The waste from the sink in the bathroom suffers from poor flow, as the hose has a slight droop between the connection under the sink and the hole in the panelling it goes through. Stale, smelly water tends to collect here; the smell is often noticeable in the bathroom. I disconnected the hose and blew hard down it to clear the blockage. Perhaps a better solution would be to fit a bottle trap to prevent the smells coming up. Or else I might be able to elongate the hole in the panelling to run the hose in a continuous downwards direction. I also gave the Thetford loo a good clean with antibacterial foam spray and a lot of rubbing. It smells much sweeter now!

I persuaded Jan to accompany me on a short cycle ride: we went round Woodlands Road, the road with all the mansions which back onto the canal as it does its gentle hairpin approach to Union Wharf. Not one of the houses there sported a "For Sale" sign.

Speaking of houses, on our cruise in to Market Harborough we spotted one largish dwelling with canal frontage which did have a "For Sale" sign. We looked it up today, and saw that the asking price was £250,000. Then we looked more closely at the details, and discovered that it was prefabricated from asbestos! And it appears to be next door to a "park homes"/travellers' site. Perhaps someone with a lot of money will buy it, demolish the house and build a few more houses on the 3/4 acre site. It would still be next to the park homes, though.

So, what's "stonking", I hear you ask?

Our meal this evening, that's what. Last night's Wetherspoon's was good, but tonight we went to "Indian Zest" in St. Mary's Road, an Indian/Nepalese restaurant. Jan's Modu Murg was very tasty, made with parsnip crisps (not exclusively). I had Ghurkali Lamb Curry, a Nepalese dish with exactly the right amount of heat, and a heavenly taste. We shall eat there again, I'm sure.

Before writing this tonight we discovered that we'd run out of data on our mobile broadband. This is something we'd not managed to do before, always running out of days before running out of data. Perhaps we do a lot more browsing than we did in the past. Still, I don't know how we managed to use a gigabyte of data in six days, especially as we are careful not to look at moving pictures. I topped up with another ten quid -let's hope this can last the rest of our cruise. (I wonder if it's automatic updates on the computer? The "3" website mentioned something about turning these off. I'll investigate ...)

Friday, 11 April 2014

Easter 2014 cruise: Foxton Top to Market Harborough

We were the first boat down Foxton Locks at 0800 on the dot. There was a lot of water to let down, so it took 55 minutes, a bit slower than normal. At the bottom we stopped just after the swingbridge on the Market Harborough arm so I could go and have a proper look at the inclined plane and take some more photos. Then it was a fairly incident-free cruise to Union Basin (Jan had to take avoiding action at one inconvenient sticking-out branch, and I stopped to garner some free wood from a huge fallen tree).

At the basin we had to wait for a couple of minutes while a Hire-a-Canal-Boat boat was being hosed down at the services, then we swung round and tied up to the service point and emptied the Elsan. This essential task completed we tied up to the first available 48 hour mooring just outside the basin. The moorings here are excellent: there's a water point within reach wherever you are.

After lunch we walked down the hill to the town centre and bought some provisions. I had taken my bike with me so I cycled back to the boat to unload before meeting up with Jan again in town. We did a bit more walking around, then we separated so I could go in search of wood primer for the front doors and one or two other things.

It's been a lovely sunny day, and I have been in shorts and T-shirt. I found some primer in Wilko, but it was in rather a large tin, so I looked elsewhere. Market Harborough is very well supplied with supermarkets: competing for your custom are Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Aldi and Lidl. Back at the boat we had a cup of tea (and choc chip cookies I'd bought in Lidl) and then I washed the top of the boat. Aren't microfibre cloths wonderful things? After sponging with a Carnauba wash/wax solution the microfiber microfibre cloth dries the surface brilliantly.

Then it was time for tea, so we returned to the town centre and had a good meal in the Wetherspoons. I surprised myself: I had the fish and chips - and it was very good. The ales were good too.

We had invited the couple on the neighbouring boat over for drinks, but they had a family member visiting, so they insisted that we join them on their boat. This we did, and had a very enjoyable time drinking wine and talking to Nigel, Elizabeth and Mandy on (Braidbar boats) Kala (70' with a two-cylinder Gardner).

Having checked with Debdale Wharf Marina that it would be all right to get there on Sunday, we'll stay here in Market Harborough for the full 48 hour allowance. Tomorrow will be a day of boat jobs, such as attending to rust spots and patches of bare wood, as well as relaxation.

updated to correct American spelling - I don't know how that got there.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Easter 2014 cruise: Crick to Foxton Top

In order to ensure getting away before the slow boat we were behind yesterday, we set off at about 0845 from Crick. I was pleased to see the boat in question still tied up as we passed. We made good progress in glorious sunshine to Welford Junction, where we tied up for a spot of lunch.

North of Welford Junction we encountered a fair amount of reeds and other vegetable matter floating on the water, and had to stop and reverse twice to clear it from the bow where it had been collecting. Jan had discovered from Facebook that James and Amy were moving a boat to Cambridge for a friend, and that we'd meet them on the way to Foxton Locks. This we did, encountering them tied up having yet another go at sealing the weedhatch. We swapped brief guided tours of our respective boats before setting off again, James and Amy heading south, and we heading north. It was possible that we'd make it to the locks before the flight closed at 1615.

We got there at exactly 1615 ... and the lockie was just padlocking the top lock. Oh well, it didn't matter as we hadn't planned on going down today anyway. While Jan cooked tea I talked to the person looking after the museum who was bringing in the A-boards from near the locks. He let me wander round the museum as we were going there later that evening for the IWA Leicester Branch talk.

At 1820 we walked across to the museum where we each paid our £2 and were given a clip board with a quiz on. The questions all related to Foxton Locks (with one or two about the inclined plane). We had a few minutes to try to find the answers, and then Mary Matts from Foxton Boat Services gave an excellent talk on Foxton Locks and the history of the Leicester Section of the Grand Union Canal (as it is now called). We then had some more time to find answers to the quiz, both from within the canal museum and around the lock flight, before assembling in the Bridge 61 pub for sandwiches, quiz answers and a raffle draw. Oh, and some beer.

We didn't win the quiz, but Jan held the first number drawn from the raffle, winning a bottle of wine. (She actually had two more tickets drawn, but declined to claim more prizes. Perhaps we bought too many tickets!) We then chatted to our new-found friends, before climbing up the flight and returning to the boat for the night.

We'll be the first boat down the locks tomorrow, at 0800, and then we'll turn right to Market Harborough.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Easter Cruise 2014: Weedon to Crick

Despite the proximity of the West Coast Main Line to our mooring last night, we both slept well. I think it was partly due to our having spent three and a half hours in the wind and sun scraping and painting at Gayton Junction. (Jan told me off for not mentioning that she, too, joined the work party and did her bit.)

We set off from Weedon at about 0945, and caught up with a boat just as we approached Buckby Locks. This was excellent, as Moonshadow II made good locking partners. Jan was talking to the woman steerer while I operated the locks with her husband. We talked as well, but probably not as much! Jan told me afterwards that they wanted to cruise the Thames tideway, so she gave them a card with my blog details on with instructions to look up Indigo Dream's blog - Richard and Sue, you might get contacted in the next few days...

At Buckby Top Lock we took on water while having lunch, then turned right onto the Leicester Section. Here we soon caught up with a very slow boat - fortunately it wasn't much before Watford Locks. We were up the locks in short order, not having to wait for anyone coming down. We caught up with the slow boat in Crick Tunnel; again, I was pleased that we were mooring up just the other side.

After a cup of tea we wandered over towards Crick Marina with the intention of enquiring about mooring there, but the sign indicated that they had closed fifteen minutes earlier. So we walked in to the village of Crick, used the cash machine, and bought supplies from the Co-op. After dumping these back at the boat we returned to the village, specifically The Red Lion, and had a very good meal there. I had pork hock - loads of tasty meat (very similar to last night's shoulder of lamb. In fact, I'm not entirely convinced it was pork and not lamb!) - and Jan had apricot chicken, also good I'm told. The veg was a bit overcooked, but very tasty. Chips were much better than the "new potatoes" which looked and tasted as though they had just come out of a tin.

Here we are, then, back on board Jubilee, ready for an early night (I'm determined to get away before Mr Slow tomorrow!)

Apologies again for the lack of photos...

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Easter cruise 2014: Stoke Bruerne to Weedon

We were up and away at 0800 and entered Blisworth Tunnel a few minutes later. After a while it became clear that we were following the widebeam which we knew was booked through at 0800. I was catching up, so I slowed down to follow at a respectful distance. Our stove was putting our a fair amount of smoke: some of the time it was being blown in front of us, and sometimes it was swept back. Either way we managed to fill the tunnel with smoke - oops! I don't suppose the boat following us was too pleased, even though he was a long way behind. The tunnel entrance we'd left had turned yellow.

At Gayton Junction we battled the cross wind and pulled in to the 24 hour mooring opposite the Northampton Arm with plenty of time before the work party I'd offered my help to was scheduled to begin. I found Geoff from the Northampton Branch of the IWA in the CRT yard dishing out the obligatory hi-vis jackets. After introductions I was offered the opportunity to work on a scaffold tower. I would be scraping and painting the end gables of the loo block: masonry paint on the white and black gloss on the wooden bit. My painting partner on the platform was someone I called Roger until, near the end of the four hours, I heard others calling him Robert. Oops (again)! There were about eight volunteers and a couple of CRT people looking after us. Other jobs were filling crumbled-away brickwork with mortar, weed clearance by hand (no weedkiller allowed in case it gets into the water), preparing rails and bollards for repainting. We ran out of time to finish everything, but there are more work parties - or task parties as they seem to be called - booked throughout the year. It's a shame we didn't concentrate on the wall facing the GU main line: the upper section looks splendid (my bit!) but the lower part is peppered with unpainted mortar repairs.

At 1445 we set off for Weedon. Jan got off and walked from Bridge 33, about 2.5 miles. I tied up on the embankment by the church and put the fat fenders down (go-kart tyres labelled "bonglers" by Sarah of Chertsey). Even these might not be enough to keep us from banging the shelf below water level, not that I'll notice tonight as I'm pretty tired.

For food this evening we ended up at the Heart of England. Ally and Ben drove up to join us, and we enjoyed their "two meals for one" offer. My shoulder of lamb was very good, with loads of meat. Oh, and the Black Wych porter was good, too.

Back to the boat, write this, and bed. Tomorrow it's Destination Crick.