Saturday, 28 August 2010

To lose one propeller could be seen as unfortunate...

Update ... update ... update ...

Our current position is on the River Thames at Osney Lock in Oxford, heading for Beale Park and the IWA Festival. We're a long way behind schedule. Read on.

Er, yes. The prop fell off. We were on a stretch of the River Thames with a reasonable amount of flow. Jan was steering. I was sweeping up dust and bits on the rear deck when somehow I managed to shake the dustpan overboard along with the dust. Leave it, said Jan, but I wanted at least to try to get it back. After all, I'd managed to retrieve the lost boat hook. So I put the gearbox into astern ... CLONK! No drive! Oh, no, I thought, those bolts have sheared off. And we were without steering, passing a line of moored plastic boats. The first thing to do was to avoid crunching into them, and try to get secured. The plastic boats were moored outside a caravan park, and we began gently to drift backwards towards them. I tried to push the bow round with the longest shaft on the boat, but the water was too deep, and there was no purchase among the bushes opposite the boats. There was a small unoccupied jetty. Could we get there? Just at that moment a woman from the caravan site called out that she could take a rope. I had one chance to throw the bow rope to her; she had one chance to catch it. Yes! The throw was good, and so was her catch. Hanging on to almost the very end of the rope she managed to stop our drift downstream, and Jan fended off from the plastics. Our saviour, Hilary, tied the rope to a post. Willow was against the jetty, sticking out a bit, but not touching any other boats. That was the only unoccupied spot for some distance.

With the boat now secure, I lifted the deck board to have a look in the engine 'ole. Strange - the bolts were there, still in place. OK, it must be something in the weed hatch. A moment later I was in there, and, oops, it wasn't something in the weed hatch. It was NOTHING in the weed hatch, at least, nothing feeling like a propeller. AARGH! The prop's come off!! The loud clonk was the sound of it bashing the skeg on its way to the bottom of the river.

Why it came off I don't know, except that the securing nut must have come off first.

More later, with photos.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Limehouse to Old Windsor via Tower Bridge etc.

Sunday 22nd August 2010

Now. About the discovery in the engine hole I referred to in the last post. We were due out of Limehouse Lock at 0940. This gave plenty of time to visit the elsan emptying place in the marina, which was in an old boat. To get there with the chemical loo I had two choices: walk with it over the lock gates up to the gated entrance to the pontoons and wait for someone to let me in; or motor round. I chose the latter option, and was glad I did. On returning to our space by the wall, I thought I'd better check the weed hatch, as I'd been round a little-used, potentially rubbishy patch of water. Round the prop was a plastic bag. No great shakes. No, what hit me as I stood gazing at the engine before putting down the deck board was something rather more worrying. Lying in the bilge were two nuts (as in nuts and bolts). I hadn't seen them before. Where had they come from? The answer was soon apparent. Joining the prop shaft to the gearbox are four bolts, or, rather, should have been four bolts (in the centre of the above picture). There were actually only three, two of them minus their nuts, and the other very loose. A search of the bilge produced the missing nut and bolt. It was now 0935. Any moment now I'd be holding up the lock operation. Quick, find the right size spanners and tighten it all up! Fortunately I had the right tools, and had it all back together in time to have not delayed the locking too much.

I immediately wondered what would have happened if the remaining bolts had come away the previous day, on our cruise past the flood barrier. We would have been suddenly without drive, not too clever on a tide ebbing out to sea! But that, of course, is why the St. Pancras Cruising Club organises these cruises: to ensure that if any boat does suffer problems, there are other boats nearby able to carry out a rescue. We all have each others' mobile phone numbers, and at least one boat in each locking has VHF radio in contact with London VTS (Vessel Traffic Service), Limehouse Lock and other waterway authorities.

With that problem fixed, or so I thought, we enjoyed our cruise behind Simon on Scholar Gypsy past the sights of London. Here are just a few highlights.

Andrew Phasey of the St. Pancras Cruising Club steering Doris Katia bound for the tideway

following Scholar Gypsy under Tower Bridge

Jan and the Palace of Westminster

David and the Palace of Westminster

Scholar Gypsy turned right at Brentford to head up the Grand Union Canal, while we continued on to Teddington.

Indigo Dream, left, and Willow, right, in Teddington Barge Lock

a colourful scene in Teddington Barge Lock

Sunday 22nd August 2010
Fulbourne and a flotilla of narrowboats on the Thames
After Teddington we made our way to a rendezvous with Ally and Ben at the Harvester pub at Old Windsor, where, after a mediocre meal, we tied up for the night.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Limehouse to Woolwich via Thames Flood Barrier and back

Saturday 21st August 2010

Limehouse Lock filling by opening the gates

We weren't due out of Limehouse Lock onto the Thames until the afternoon, so we spent a lazy morning doing not very much. We did look at some boats locking through onto the tideway, though. The water looked a little choppy! Some large boats going out needed the Narrow Street swing bridge swung.

I made wedges to block off the drain holes in the well deck, and constructed navigation lights out of plastic drinks bottles and coloured plastic film. And a couple of LED lights. These worked fine until we were asked to use them "in anger": then I found that the batteries in both lights had almost run out. Oops!

David, Penny and Fergus, with friend Mike, rejoined us just before we needed to enter the lock, so it was a bit of a rush to get everybody kitted out in lifejackets.

three boats entering the tideway

Going through the lock, at 1600, was interesting. The lock has no paddles: to empty or fill it the radial gates are opened slightly! We had to pass lines through risers in the lock side so that we could hold the boat steady. Not a problem going out as we were locking down onto an ebbing tide, only a couple of hours before low water.

In a few minutes we were in the short lock cut, sounding the horn as we entered the tideway proper. This was it! Nothing between us and the sea! There was quite a lot of rocking and rolling, or so it felt, especially when the large passenger boats went past. We had to turn the bow into the wash so as to minimise its effect. A wash hitting us broadside would have been quite scary, and things might have fallen over inside the boat! That didn't happen, though, and I suppose conditions must have been perfectly OK for us to do the trip, or the St. Pancras Cruising Club would have called it off.

heading for Canary Wharf and the O2 Dome

Our destination was the Flood Barrier, with the option of continuing to the Woolwich Ferry if time and tide were favourable. We passed several landmarks, Canary Wharf and the O2 dome being the most notable, before steering through Span E of the Thames Flood Barrier. Well, someone steered. I was inside trying to get new batteries into the navigation lights.

Fergus steering

passing through the Thames Flood Barrier

Mike, his camera, and me in the lens

After the flood barrier we went on before turning just above the Woolwich Ferry. I think the water must have been fairly slack when we got back to Limehouse Lock, as there was no problem making the turn and entering the lock. Then it was a case of passing lines behind the risers again - stout vertical steel ropes set into the walls - and holding on while the gates opened to let some of the water in the basin into the lock.

Our space against the wall in the basin was still free, so at 2015 we tied up and discussed how we were all going to get to Blackheath, where everybody else lived, for a barbecue. There were five bikes for six people. Jan and Fergus went on the DLR, leaving David, Penny, Mike and me to cycle.

Stick with me, because this didn't go according to plan. (And I haven't even mentioned what could have been a bigger disaster yet!) I was assigned Fergus's bike, whch had been bought in France a couple of weeks earlier. This is relevant. French bicycles have their front and rear brakes cabled differently from British bikes: on French bikes the front brake is operated by the left hand, and the rear by the right. I didn't know this, and, although I noticed that the brakes seemed quite fierce, I hadn't realised they were the "wrong way round". On an uneven brick-paved road I must have braked to avoid a dip ... and suddenly I found myself slamming into the ground chin first! A bit of a shock. The bike had stopped dead, and I'd gone over the handlebars. Fortunately there was no traffic around. I soon discovered that I'd grazed and bruised my left shoulder, and grazed my right leg, presumably on bits of the bike. After a minute or five to recover we cycled on, I riding mostly one-handed now.

Wow! A lot of words. And I haven't started on the discovery I made in the engine hole the next day. That will have to wait for another post.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Dobb's Weir to Limehouse Basin, with a look at the Olympic Park

Friday 20th August 2010

See how behind I am with these cruising updates! We're actually tied up at Folly Bridge in Oxford, as per the schedule, but I haven't had a chance before now to do any blogging, owing to having to make navigation lights on Saturday, and the long cruising days we've been doing since then.

But back to last Friday. I got up at 7.00 and walked to Dobb's Weir Lock to set it, before bringing Willow in.

Further down the Lee, south of the junction with Duckett's Cut, we stopped to have a closer look at the site of the 2012 London Olympics. It's a construction site on a huge scale.

Concrete is made on the spot, with supplies of the raw ingredients coming by lorry and train. Reportedly by boat too, via the Bow Back Rivers, but I didn't see that for myself.

I was anxious to get on to Limehouse Basin, so that we wouldn't miss the safety briefing given by the St. Pancras Cruising Club for those crews going out onto the tideway at the weekend. We turned off the Lee onto the Limehouse Cut, another waterway I can tick off. At the junction are Bow Locks, and a sighting of the buildings of Canary Wharf.

And then we were very quickly at Limehouse Basin, which looked completely different from a boater's perspective. We were directed to a 40 feet gap between boats, so we were able to tie up against the wall. Handy. Willow is the green boat to the left of Solace.

David took Fergus home on the DLR, returning on his own by bike later to join us at the safety talk.

More about that, and about our adventures on the tidal Thames, and how we nearly came a cropper, at another time. For me, now, it's time for bed. Another early start tomorrow!

Top Thirty, 2010 Week 34

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 1010 on Tuesday 24th August 2010. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 - Forums (+1)

3 Pennine Waterways (-1)

4 CanalPlanAC (=)

5 Granny Buttons (+1)

6 (-1)

7 boatshare (=)

8 ExOwnerships (=)

9 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

10 Retirement with No Problem (=)

11 Towpath Treks (=)

12 Water Explorer (+5)

13 Jannock Website (-1)

14 Canal Shop Company (-1)

15 Waterway Routes (=)

16 (-2)

17 WB Takey Tezey (+6)

18 Trafalgar Marine Services (-2)

19 UKCanals Network (+1)

20 nb Lucky Duck (+4)

21 nb Epiphany (=)

22 Canal Photos (-4)

23 NBNorthernPride (-4)

24 Google Earth Canal Maps (-2)

25 Narrowboat Bones (=)

26 Baddie the Pirate (+2)

27 Chertsey (-1)

28 Derwent6 (-1)

29 Working Boat Hadar (-)

30 CutConnect - keeping boaters in touch (-1)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the top thirty; (=) denotes no change.

There are 120 entries altogether; Halfie is at number 49.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Bishop's Stortford to Dobb's Weir

Back on schedule again, with boating if not blogging. I'm still a day behind. We left Bishop's Stortford at 0915 after I'd been to get a paper, some salad, cash, a disposable barbecue and some spare fuses. Spare fuses? Yes, the previous night I noticed that the inverter had died. I quickly established that that was because it was not getting its proper 12V. An inline fuse had blown. The reason for that wasn't too hard to find: a bodged joint in the supply line had been 'insulated' with insulation tape which had fallen off. The connection had shorted to earth. (Not my bodgery - not my boat!) I taped up the joint much more securely and replaced the fuse, and all is fine again.

Back to the cruising. We met David, Penny and Fergus at Sawbridgeworth, where we had an excellent fryup at the Riverside Cafe. David then had to do a certain amount of car shuffling so that Penny could return home to London later in the afternoon. Unfortunately the paths were not clearly defined, and when David found the navigation after parking the car he headed off in the wrong direction. We eventually met up at Roydon, where we enjoyed ice creams from the enterprising lock cottage.

At a later lock I thought I'd be helpful by fishing out some willow branches with the boat hook. I threw the pole over to Fergus on the other side of the lock so that he could help. It wasn't until we'd been going for at least half an hour that I remembered we'd left it behind. Immediately I pulled in to the bank, got my bike off, and cycled back upstream. If David had had navigation problems mine were just as bad, as what I thought was the towpath suddenly diverted off into the countryside. I pedalled for ages, past posh houses and through a park, taking a detour past the backs of gardens, before regaining the waterway. Now, of course, I didn't know if I'd missed the lock we'd left the boat hook at. So I cycled downstream again ... and fairly quickly came to the lock in question. No boat hook to be seen. The lock was full, though, so I guessed that the last boat through was heading upstream, and had probably 'rescued' the boat hook. It was unmissable, as Fergus had left it stuck upright in the ground. You have no idea how fast a narrowboat moves when you're chasing it on a bicycle! I'd gone a long way past Sawbridgeworth again - almost to Bishop's Stortford - when, at last, having decided that if I didn't come across it before the next lock I'd give up, I spotted a boat ahead, Popham Rose, travelling upstream. As I approached I saw on the cabin top our boat hook! I hailed the steerer, saying that we'd left our boat hook at a lock. He paused for an awkward moment, then reached forward and asked "Did it look like this?" He pulled closer to the bank and threw it over. I then started my second narrowboat chase of the day, trying to catch up Willow. This took MUCH longer than the original chase, because 1, I was more tired; 2, the wind was against me; and 3, I had further to go anyway.

Eventually boat, boat hook and I were reunited. And Jan made me a very welcome cup of tea, and David had gone off on HIS bike again to bring to car to Penny.

After this we had an uneventful cruise to Dobb's Weir, where we ate at the Fish and Eels pub. We had planned to stay there overnight, but the pub's fan was loud, and there was a sand and gravel works opposite still working at 8.30 pm, so we moved a couple of hundred yards further on and tied up for the night.

flypast in our honour(!) at Brick Lock on the Stort - what planes are these?

Note: Some of the pickup/set down places might be in slightly the wrong order. I wasn't very diligent with my log keeping. Sorry.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Hertford to Bishop's Stortford

There's much I have to leave out of these posts: crayfishing at Hertford (not us) will have to wait. We left Hertford at 0750, arriving at Rye House Junction at 1040. Then we turned up the Stort. Trains and mills and planes seems to be the theme of this twisty waterway.

The Stansted Express must run every ten minutes or so, this one passing inches overhead on one of the many low bridges on this waterway.

Many of the mills are clapboarded (I think that's the right term for the white painted wooden boarding).

The planes had taken off from, or were about to land at, Stansted Airport.

Arriving at Bishop's Stortford we knew we could probably go no further when we came to this sign. I gently eased forward, and ground to a halt on the mud. This is where I took the photos from.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Waltham Abbey to Hertford

I'm still a day out with this. Too much cruising!! Yesterday (it seems much longer ago than that) my brother and fellow Shadow owner David, with Penny and Fergus, joined us for the last part of our cruise into Hertford. But before we set off in the morning, we had a look round Waltham Abbey. The pedestrianised high street is notable for its lack of chain shops. Outside the Abbey itself is King Harold's 'tomb', the inverted commas because his exact place of burial, unlike the date of his death, is unknown.

The 'tomb' in question is marked by a modest, eroded lump of stone. That's it, between the trees.

David and co. joined us between Aqueduct Lock and Carthagena Lock. They'd driven to a car park by the navigation expecting to have to walk back to meet us, but as they drove up they spotted my hat sailing past. Here he is, getting straight down to it.

Nicholson's told us to expect unusual riverside buildings at Ware, and here they are.

We cruised until we could go no further, our way blocked by a waterfall. We'd arrived at the head of navigation in Hertford.

Our mooring for the night was perhaps strictly not the recommended one, but we could see no 'no mooring' signs. It was in a lovely spot.

Got to go - I think the inverter's died.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Islington to Waltham Abbey

On Monday morning we made a reasonably early start from Islington and made our way down the remaining four locks to the junction with the Hertford Union Canal, or Duckett's Cut. If you weren't expecting the junction to be very soon after Old Ford Lock it would be easy to miss it, as it looks narrow, and like the entrance to an old wharf.

We continued our descent alongside Victoria Park, until we reached the Lee Navigation. Here we turned left, to start our climb to Hertford.

Immediately you're next to the building site which is the 2012 Olympic venue.

Willow looking small in Tottenham Lock

The first few locks on the Lee are paired, and some are electrically operated. These lower locks have hydraulic gear both for paddles and gates, the manual pumps being marked P and G accordingly.

We arrived at Waltham Abbey in time, and in the right sort of weather, to have a barbecue, so we did, on a towpath busy with walkers and cyclists.

Surely this would be a nice, quiet place to tie up, we thought, but after dark a boat which had been moored near us set off for a night-time cruise. (You can just see it in the barbecue picture.) No lights. Revellers with drink on board. Outsized parasol at the stern. After a couple of hours it returned. That night we were awoken by rowdies knocking on the boat and calling out and giggling. Were they from that boat? We ignored them and went back to sleep.

Yes, I'm a day out with these posts - I'll try to catch up when I have time! We're actually tied up in the middle of Hertford now (slightly behind schedule), listening to the rain. And we're under a willow tree - I hope it's not the infamous crack willow.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Willowtree to HLY to Islington

At last, our three week cruise could begin. We spent the previous night at my parents' in Shenfield, then drove to Willowtree Marina, arriving, as predicted, before 1030. No sign of Alan, whose boat Willow we were borrowing. So we went to Tesco, five minutes' walk away, and bought bread, wine and trainers. Back to the marina. Still no sign of Alan. So I sent him a text message, to which he responded by phoning me to tell me I was in the wrong place. Oops! I should have gone to High Line Yachting, a little further along the Paddington Branch. A few minutes later and we met up at last. We loaded up, Alan walked to the tube station, and we set off at 1245. We had done the Paddington Branch before, but more than 25 years ago, so I couldn't remember anything.

One highlight of the first day was crossing the A406 North Circular Road on an aqueduct. We'd driven under it earlier that morning, but without realising.

On the approach to Little Venice we were looking out for No Direction, whose crew Ray and Jayne had told us they'd be there. And they were, so we stopped for a welcome cup of tea and a chat. We'll be seeing them again on Friday at the St. Pancras Cruising Club preliminaries before the Thames jaunts. I didn't think to take a photo until we'd set off again.

No Direction is the green boat on the left

We carried on to the end of the Paddington Branch, well, as far as we could, and then returned to Little Venice and turned onto the Regents Canal. One thing I did remember from a quarter of a century ago was going through London Zoo, and past the aviary in particular.

After the gongoozlers' paradise which is Camden Locks (another post, another time) we entered Islington Tunnel.

Just the other side we tied up alongside Little Elf, whose Sophie and Will made us very welcome. After eating on board we walked to the Indian Queen pub in Noel Road, where Simon of Tortoise joined us for a drink. I have to confess we seemed to talk mainly about work - he is employed by the same company as me.

And then back to the boat and bed.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Top Thirty, 2010 Week 33

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 2355 on Sunday 15th August 2010. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 CanalPlanAC (=)

5 (+1)

6 Granny Buttons (-1)

7 boatshare (+2)

8 ExOwnerships (-1)

9 Canal World Discussion Forums (-1)

10 Retirement with No Problem (=)

11 Towpath Treks (=)

12 Jannock Website (+1)

13 Canal Shop Company (-1)

14 (+2)

15 Waterway Routes (+4)

16 Trafalgar Marine Services (+2)

17 Water Explorer (-3)

18 Canal Photos (-1)

19 NBNorthernPride (+7)

20 UKCanals Network (-5)

21 nb Epiphany (=)

22 Google Earth Canal Maps (+1)

23 WB Takey Tezey (-3)

24 nb Lucky Duck (+1)

25 Narrowboat Bones (-3)

26 Chertsey (+1)

27 Derwent6 (+3)

28 Baddie the Pirate (-)

29 CutConnect - keeping boaters in touch (-5)

30 CanalBoatingHolidays (-2)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the top thirty; (=) denotes no change.

There are 120 entries altogether; Halfie is at number 52.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Stop plank housings

I featured an empty stop plank housing a few days ago. Here's a selection of different ways of storing stop planks on the Shropshire Union and Llangollen Canals.

This last housing is rather clever, don't you think? A special invisible cover to keep off the rain. Cheap, too.