Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Easter Cruise 2014: Buckby Top to Nether Heyford; and assisting a blue peril

We're back on the main line of the Grand Union now. This morning we polished off the remaining six locks of the Buckby flight (we'd done one last night) and stopped at the bottom for coffee. I was just about to take my first sip when we noticed the erratic behaviour of a "Hire-a-Canal-Boat" craft in front of us. Now we were moored on the 48 hour moorings a good few boat lengths from the bottom lock, and it seemed that the Canaltime boat (it's easier to call it that) was attempting to "come in to land". Something prompted me to put my mug down, walk up to them and ask if they were mooring up or wanting to go up the lock. When Stephanie (for that was her name), who was on the bank hanging on to a rope, said that they were going up the locks but hadn't done any before, I said that I'd show them what to do.

Stephanie's face had a look of pure relief. I gulped down my coffee and walked up to the lock with her, while Stephen steered towards the lock. It transpired that they had taken the boat out of Gayton with what must have been the minimum of tuition. Over the course of six locks (I left them to tackle the top lock by themselves) I showed Stephanie how to tell the state of paddles, how to wind them up and down, when to open gates etc. I had to help with some of the bottom gates as she could not budge them by herself, being of even slimmer build than me! By Lock 8 Stephanie seemed reasonably confident, just looking to me for reassurance that she was going to do the right thing.

As you might imagine, Stephanie and Stephen (over here from Brisbane) were immensely grateful. Stephanie had prayed that God would send someone to help them with the locks - it turns out that I was the answer to her prayer! I was grateful that I'd brought my bike with me as I was then able to cycle back to the boat. I wasn't terribly grateful that the back tyre picked up a large thorn: I'll mend the puncture tomorrow!

After that excitement we had lunch and cruised to Weedon. Here we stopped for a brief visit to One Stop for some essentials (including loo rolls); then carried on to Nether Heyford. After tea we walked to the Foresters Arms pub (Adnams Explorer direct from the barrel, and the closest to a full pint I've been offered so far). We had an interesting chat with the owner, who grew up on the banks of the GU at Cosgrove and Old Stratford, with memories of working boats and early cruisers.

And now it's bed time.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter cruise 2014: Foxton Top to Buckby Top; and problems with e-mails

Got up reasonably early this morning, and walked down the locks to the shop to buy some milk. We set off along the long summit pound of the Leicester Section at 0830 and didn't stop until Crick, where I cycled to the Co-op to get more supplies. We've been leapfrogging with FMC Crane; they passed us just as I was getting back to the boat from the Co-op.

Our next stop was at Watford Locks, where we were ninth in the queue to descend. Fortunately there wasn't much coming up, and we were all allowed to go down one after the other. (There were eleven boats in the end: the two behind us were Emu with its Bolinder engine and Alder.) The boat in front was Crane. In the penultimate lock of the staircase the cill managed to lift Crane's rudder out of the skeg: they had to stop at the bottom to sort it. So we overtook again.

We turned left at Norton Junction and stopped just below Buckby Top Lock. Here Ben met us having driven from work in Milton Keynes, and we went for a meal in the New Inn.

Bock on the boat I finally had to confront the problems I've been having with Hotmail. For some reason, not instigated by me, I kept getting the following when trying to sign in to my e-mails:

Did you request a security info change?
nnnnnnn@mmmm started a process to change the password or security info for this Microsoft account. This process will be completed on 21/5/2014.
If you made this change, choose "Yes, this was me" and we'll help you get back in to your account.
If you didn't make this change, choose "No, this wasn't me" to cancel the request.

Whatever I selected I couldn't get out of the loop. Somehow Ally managed to get me into my e-mails, but I'm really worried that, when Jan signs into her e-mails, I won't be able to get back to mine.

Anyway, to get back to boating, we're now ahead of schedule. We are no more than 12 hours away from Thrupp Wharf, and we have three days in which to do it. I think tomorrow might be an easy day to make up for today's slog.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter 2014: Foxton Bottom to Foxton Top

Easter Sunday - when we celebrate Jesus's resurrection: the foundation of the Christian faith. We went to the 11.30 service at Foxton parish church, St. Andrew's, and were surprised and pleased by the presence of a choir formed of the local singing group (Foxton and Gumley Singers?). The vicar, Ian Gemmell, seems a bit of a character!

On the way back from church we met James and Amy on their way back from a fruitless visit to Jubilee, so we turned them round, took them to the boat and supplied them with coffee and biscuits.

Ally and Ben arrived; James and Amy left; we had a salad lunch. Then Ally got down to essay writing, assisted by Jan, and Ben accompanied me to the "tat auction" in the village hall. I bid for nothing. On the way back I booked in with the lockie for our ascent of the locks. By the time I'd reversed to the junction we had to wait only a few minutes before we were beckoned in to the bottom lock. Ben did the paddles and gates while I steered - a rare event for me! We tied up at the top, convenient for Ben to return to his car (Ally is staying on board until Crick or beyond, tomorrow.)

It was soon teatime, for which we had our main meal of roast lamb.

And then it was time for the HNBC Quiz back in the village hall. I found myself teaming up with the Herbies, the Moomins and Chertsey Sarah (Jim preferring bar operation to quizzes). I'd like to think that I contributed something towards our eventual success in not coming last.

I cycled back to the boat by road, and now I am writing this. I've just pressed a button by mistake, and the text size has gone really small - oh dear!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Easter Cruise 2014: Foxton (hardly moved, but I joined a club and surprised Jan)

Let's get the "hardly moved" bit out of the way first: this morning I reversed the boat a good three or four boat lengths to be as near as possible to Foxton Junction. This would make it easier to reverse to the junction itself tomorrow when we need to go up the locks; and it would bring us nearer to the historic boats moored along the Market Harborough arm.

Having enquired at the shop about newspapers, and having been told that the only ones they had had been pre-ordered (or is that "ordered"?), I cycled to the Jet garage on the B4046 just down the road from the Pears factory and bought a Times for us and a Guardian for Jim on Chertsey.

We were pleased to be able to entertain the Herbies, Neil and Kath, with Grace, on Jubilee this morning, supplying them with coffee, hot chocolate and hot cross buns.

After lunch I cycled to Market Harborough for some provisions, as well as chain lubrication for the bike. On a visit (yet another visit) to the historic boats I let myself be persuaded by Chertsey Sarah to join the Historic Narrow Boat Club. This would mean that we would be able to join in the fun at the village hall, where an evening of entertainment was promised. But how would I tell Jan that we I had joined? (Jan was worried that the quarterly newsletter would add to the growing pile of canal publications at home.) I had somehow convinced Jan that we would be admitted to the HNBC gathering in the village hall, no questions asked.

During the evening various people performed songs or performed monologues.

This was my chance.

To Jan's great surprise I suddenly appeared in front of the throng and announced that I was the HNBC's newest member (unless anyone had joined more recently than three hours before). I then played the Skye Boat Song on my recorder. Not a patch on the Herbies' music making earlier, on dulcimer (Kath) and guitar/vocals (Neil), but it received respectful applause all the same.

Tomorrow Ben and Ally will join us for the ascent of Foxton Locks as we prepare to return southward.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Easter Cruise 2014: Market Harborough to Foxton (again)

Today is Good Friday, when we remember Jesus's death on the cross. We walked down the hill to Market Harborough town centre and looked round the Easter Experience exhibition in the Baptist church. Key moments from the immediate lead-up to the crucifixion and its aftermath were recreated in a series of tableaux. It was thought-provoking, to say the least. I nipped back to the boat for a coffee while Jan mooched round the shops; then we went to the reflective service in the parish church, St. Dionysius. After lunch on board we emptied the loo cassettes at the services and headed back to Foxton.

On the way we caught up with a Hire-a-Canal-Boat boat (Why can't they still be Canaltime? It would be much easier) which was zig-zagging very slowly in front. Fortunately they pulled in to let an oncoming boat past, and invited us to overtake. Phew!

At Foxton I hopped off to open the road swingbridge: Jan took Jubilee through, then I rejoined as we passed all the historic boats which had gathered for the HNBC weekend. Breasted up to Chertsey was Herbie: we exchanged greetings with Neil and Kath as we glided past. At the junction I turned right and tied up on the 48 hour moorings where we were a few days ago. Tomorrow I expect I'll reverse back to the junction, wind, and then reverse back to a slightly nearer mooring. Then we'll be facing the right way for ascending the locks on Sunday afternoon.

While Jan was cooking up a delicious chicken meal I cycled back to the Herbies where I spent a few minutes chatting to them on their boat.

After tea we walked along the old boats to the Black Horse, and then walked back again to have a beer in Bridge 61 ("Inclined Plane" - very good). That is, I had a beer, Jan didn't.

Tomorrow is a day of soaking up the atmosphere of old narrow boats - and we'll hope to catch a bit of the Herbies' music making.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Easter cruise 2014: Foxton to Market Harborough (again); and killing the fire

This morning we walked up the locks and returned alongside the arm leading to the upper level of the inclined plane. At the top of the locks were a few more interesting boats, including Emu with its Bolinder engine running and shaking the boat with every irregular explosion. Also there was Alder with which we shared locks on the way to Cassiobury Park last summer.

As we were not going to be able to stay on the 48 hour mooring until the weekend we moved to Market Harborough, where we'll stay for a day or two.

It was good to meet up with Simon (Moominpapa) and Ann on Melaleuca, moored directly in front of us at MH. Simon doesn't write a blog, but is active on the Canal World Discussion Forum. I rarely visit CWDF - I think I'm afraid I'll get sucked in and spend too much time there!

We ate again at Indian Zest in the town, then walked back up the hill and flopped in a nice warm boat. I think I've just killed the fire, though, by smothering the live coals with fresh ones. Oops.

Tomorrow is Good Friday; we shall probably go to the service at the parish church, and check out the Easter Experience in the Baptist church.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Easter cruise 2014: Debdale Wharf to Foxton

The boat was dropped (under control!) into the water this morning, and we were free once more. Jan had cycled ahead to meet Ally who was on her way to Foxton by car, leaving me to cruise gently there.

As part of the blacking process the weedhatch and its cover were given the same treatment, so the cover had to be put back before starting up. The fenders had been removed too, so they went back as well.

We had a look round the marina before we left, always considering the options for our next mooring: the boats are packed in, moored end-to-end along long jetties, the jetties spaced to enable boats to squeeze past others into their slot. Electricity is available to every boat, but it looks as though water points are only along the path connecting the ends of the jetties. If you're moored at the far end I imagine you'd need a very long hose. Of course, I might have got this wrong ...

The marina is enclosed by tall trees, which should help to minimise unhelpful cross winds while mooring. One big advantage of a mooring there would be the availability on-site of all workshop facilities and covered DIY bays. Against might be the need to negotiate either the Soar and a bit of the Trent to get onto the north-western canals, or Foxton and Watford locks to get to the midlands and the south: not in itself a reason for not mooring there.

[As I write this, Ally is just about to return to her car with bag loads of heavy books/computer.]

Where was I? Oh yes, on the way to Foxton. I had decided to tie up on the 48 hour moorings just before the junction, but was persuaded to carry on to the Market Harborough arm to make it easier for Ally with all her books to come aboard. It wasn't. Oh well, we needed to use the washing machine, so we cruised on to the first winding hole, winded, and returned to Foxton. On the way I saw a snake swimming across the canal and into the reeds. It had a yellow chevron on the back of its neck: perhaps a reader can identify it for me.

At the junction we winded and reversed along the Leicester Section under Rainbow Bridge to the water point, later moving back a little further to a 48 hour mooring.

While Jan was helping Ally with her essay I cycled back towards Black Horse Bridge to see which boats had arrived. I was pleased to see Chertsey there, and Sarah and Jim on board. They had been to Market Harborough, winded in the basin, and returned. They must have passed Jubilee while we were still up in the air this morning.

It's been another superb sunny day, and the three of us bought an ice cream and walked to the top of the locks and back.

We ate in the Black Horse: perfectly satisfactory.

Tomorrow we might return to Market Harborough for a while, or else we'll stay here another day and go the next day.

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.