Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Painting the facilities block at Gayton Junction

8th April 2014

It was good to be able to work in some volunteering to our Easter cruise.

We were the only volunteers to arrive by boat, being able to tie up conveniently on the 24 hour mooring at Gayton Junction.

At 1000 I introduced myself and was issued with the obligatory hi-vis vest and given the task of helping with the painting.

CRT had provided a scaffolding tower: here I am painting the black woodwork.

Jan helped as well. She seems somehow to have missed out on the hi-vis.

This is what the building looked like when we packed up at 1400. The grotty-looking wall has been patched up with mortar ready for the white masonry paint.

A subsequent work task party will attend to that, as well as the iron railings round the slipway. The railings are visible behind the facilities block. They'll have to manage without us, though, as we're back home and more than a hundred miles away.

It felt good being able to contribute in a small way directly to the upkeep of the canal environment. I think I'd like to get involved with canal restoration, such as on a WRG work camp, but Jan might take a bit of persuading!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

St. George's Day, with flag, at Stoke Bruerne

23rd April 2014

Here's my photographic record of some of the events of St. George's Day at Stoke Bruerne last week.

A TV crew was filming: for The Food Programme, according to Kathryn.

After some Morris dancing and children's singing there were some speeches ...

... and then the flag was hoisted.

This was a triumph for Kathryn of Leo No. 2, whose request to BT culminated in overhead phone lines being rerouted so that the flagpole could be used.

The crowd applauded and the rain got heavier.

Some went to the pub; some went home. We returned to Jubilee.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Flagging up an achievement at Stoke Bruerne

7th April 2014

On arrival at Stoke Bruerne we found Kathryn of Leo No. 2 (and resident of SB) removing the Union flag.

In 16 days she would be hoisting the cross of St. George in a ceremony attended by the great and the good, and which would be filmed by a TV crew.

Perhaps I'd better make that the subject of my next post.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Interesting communication system in the Bridge 61 pub at Foxton

We're home again after a wonderful Easter cruise, and an equally splendid weekend away in Great Malvern for a Boaters' Christian Fellowship committee do. (Jan is on the committee; I merely accompanied her.) I walked up onto the Malvern Hills twice: when the rain cleared there were excellent views over Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire - and probably several other counties as well. I could see Wales in the distance.

And now I'm home I can use the Mac and upload photos. Here's one of a notice in the Bridge 61 pub by the Foxton Locks.

It reads: "It would be appreciated if you would not use your mobile phone inside these premises. Please use the coat hooks provided under the shelves. Thank you."

Perhaps you tap out a message in Morse code ...

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Easter Cruise 2014: Stoke Bruerne to Thrupp Wharf; and a PC gets in a fix over puncture repair

It had to happen, and today it did. Our last day of boating for a while. Today I reassembled my bike after repairing yesterday's puncture, and we went down the Stoke Bruerne locks. It seemed that everybody set off for the locks at about the same time: I pulled out just after Owl had gone past, and not far behind was Owl's companion, Hampton. Another boat was behind Hampton. When I got to the lock a boat, Madeleine, was already in, waiting for a locking companion as he was single-handed. Owl and Hampton wanted to go together, so that left us able to slot in beside Madeleine. We made a reasonable rapid descent, held up only at the last but one lock when we waited for a slow couple of boats to come up.

After the locks we followed Madeleine at a surprisingly slow pace, and kept being caught up by, and leaving behind, a policeman and a PCSO on mountain bikes on the towpath. According to them a man on a mountain bike on the towpath had been burgling churches along the route of the canal.

At Yardley Gobion we caught up with the two uniformed cyclists who were stopped with what looked like a problem with one of their bikes. "There isn't a Halfords near here, is there?" one called out. (Little did he know!) After verifying that they had a puncture, and that they lacked the means to fix it (D'oh! If you cycle along the towpath you expect to get a thorn in your tyre), I stopped and gave them a patch, some rubber solution and use of sandpaper. The coppers had tyre levers, but nothing else! Oh yes, they had a pump. Amazing. They were very grateful for my help, and we continued the last couple of miles back to Thrupp Wharf Marina. Here I tried a new technique for berthing Jubilee. As the marina entrance is angled back from the direction in which we had been travelling, I went past slightly, then reversed into the marina entrance and all the way into our slot. It worked very well, and I shall do the same the next time we approach from the north. It's a bit easier for us compared with Adam and Adrian, as Briar Rose's mooring is a few along from ours, and not in line with the entrance as our is.

Well, that took us to lunchtime. My brother David and his family were supposed to be calling in on us at the marina, but they took a detour to avoid a traffic jam and that took them in the wrong direction. Had they come I'd have taken them on a mini cruise to Cosgrove Lock and back. Their loss.

In the afternoon we went to Marsworth Junction by car to visit Tim and Tracey who are six weeks into boat ownership and living aboard. They needed to recover their car from Braunston Marina so I drove them there. Then is was back to Wolverton for some tea with Ally and Ben. Now we're back on Jubilee, mostly packed up.

It has been a great two and a half weeks, with mostly excellent weather. No new waterways were explored, but we enjoyed the experience of blacking at Debdale Wharf; we liked Market Harborough (again); and we revelled in the historic boats at Foxton (well, I did, anyway, to the extent that I joined the HNBC.) I took lots of photos which will keep me going in blog posts for a while yet, I expect.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Easter cruise 2014: Nether Heyford to Stoke Bruerne; and raising the flag for St. George

We left Nether Heyford in bright but windy conditions, and made good progress to Gayton Junction. Here we emptied and filled what needed emptying and filling; then we mooched down to Blisworth where we stopped for coffee and a look round the church.

I bought a good value ice cream from the post office stores; we looked round the cemetery and returned to the boat as it was beginning to spit with rain. We'd hung some washing out and didn't want to impede its drying. After lunch we carried on through Blisworth Tunnel to tie up in Stoke Bruerne.

Ally joined us after we'd had tea on board. Fortunately at the time she arrived she witnessed a large gathering of people at the top lock. I say "fortunately" because until Ally asked why they were there I had forgotten that it was St. George's Day, and there was to be a special flagpole ceremony - all thanks to Kathryn of Leo No. 2.

We immediately went to see what was going on, and found a TV crew about to start filming the proceedings. I don't think we had missed anything. A Morris band did their stuff; a children's choir sang; a speech was given; and the St. George's Cross was raised to applause from the 50 or so damp spectators. It had been drizzling lightly throughout; the heavier rain held off until it was over, thankfully. I had been nipping about getting photos from what I hoped were interesting vantage points - we'll see how they came out in later blog posts.

Well, this is the first wettish day since our painting session at Gayton Junction nearly three weeks ago - oh yes, we had a shower last Sunday evening. But we've enjoyed excellent weather overall.

Tomorrow Jubilee will be snug on its mooring at Thrupp Wharf; and we have a bit of car shuffling to do to help out some friends, involving Marsworth and Braunston.

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.

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.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Easter 2014 cruise: Thrupp Wharf to Stoke Bruerne

It's great to be back on board! Ally joined us in the morning, and we set off at 1030. We enjoyed seeing the lambs with their mothers in the fields. One lamb was so excited at seeing us that he managed to get through the electric fence onto the narrow strip of grass right by the water's edge. Fortunately mum called, and he returned to recommence suckling.

At Stoke Bruerne bottom lock we took on water, then I moved over to the fuel boat (J&E Cook) for 30 litres of diesel. After paying I reversed back to the 24 hour mooring (or is it 48?) where we had lunch. Jan had been cooking a gammon joint, filling the boat with lovely smells - we had slices of that with salad.

After lunch I cycled back down the A508, with its thundering HGVs, to the marina to get Ally's car. With the bike in the boot I drove to Stoke Bruerne, parked in the Navigation car park (I checked it was all right to do so), and cycled down the locks to the boat. The round trip had taken an hour.

Just as I was putting the bike on board I realised that a boat was just about to go up the bottom lock. I ran to the lock and asked if we could share. He must have been pleased as he was single-handing and I was doing all the lock wheeling. A Welshman on Cwch y Dewin (Magician's (or Wizard's) Boat). He had three Jack Russells charging about the place; one more under the pram hood; and a litter of six puppies inside, he told me!

Well, we whizzed up the flight (Cwch y Dewin stopped on the Long Pound), and saw Kathryn of Leo No. 2 heading to lower the Union Flag from the flag pole she'd been instrumental in restoring. We invited her to join us for a cup of tea on board: she came at 5 pm and we had a good chat.

Ally and Kathryn went at the same time; we listened to a bit of Radio 4; then we went to the Navigation for a meal. We had the 2 meals for £10 deal, and it was excellent. I had steak and ale pie with very good vegetables and new potatoes; Jan had plaice and chips. Next to our table were two women finishing their meal whom we got talking to - about boating, of course!

Kathryn told us that a widebeam was going through the tunnel at 8.00 in the morning, about the time we need to be on the move. It shouldn't affect us, though, as we're going the same way. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

All set for the off in the morning

I'm just sneaking in a bit of computer time on Ben's laptop in Wolverton. We've already been to the boat to load up: we're getting more of our stuff on which will remain there when we return home. No time to sort it out, though, as we were invited to tea at Ally and Ben's house - thanks, A+B.

So, tomorrow, it's all systems go as we set off for our appointment with Debdale Wharf Marina for blacking. It will be the first time I'll have seen Jubilee out of the water.

Sue of No Problem has suggested a photo resizing program which I will investigate; meanwhile there will be no photos...

Top Thirty, 2014 week 14

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty-six places) as it stood at 0920 on Sunday 6th April 2014. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

Tony has a poll running inviting you to vote on some aspects of the ranking system: click here for details.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 CanalPlanAC (=)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Living on a Narrowboat (=)

5 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

6 UKCanals Network (=)

7 Retirement with No Problem (=)

8 Water Explorer (=)

9 Waterway Routes (=)

10 boatrent (+2)

11 Towpath Treks (=)

12 boatshare (-2)

13 nb Epiphany (=)

14 Canal Shop Company (+2)

15 BCBM Ltd (=)

16 NB The Manly Ferry (+1)

17 nb Waiouru (+11)

18 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (=)

19 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+2)

20 Halfie (+4)

21 boats and cruising (-2)

22 Narrowboat Dreaming .... Parisien Star (-2)

23 freespirit (+2)

24 The Association of Continuous Cruisers (+6)

25 Contented Souls (-11)

26 Narrowboat Chance (-4)

27 Seyella's Journey (-4)

28 Boats and Canals Forum (+8)

29 Milburn Boats Ltd (+5)

30 Skippy's Random Ramblings (+1)

31 NABO (-)

32 NB Northern Pride (-)

33 Badger Sandwiches (-)

34 The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife (+1)

35 Google Earth Canal Maps (-9)

36 Still Rockin' (-4)

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

There are 110 entries, down from 111 last week.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Boats or bungalows?

A recent walking group walk I went on started from Wayford Bridge, about five miles north of Wroxham in Norfolk. As well as being a pub, Wayford Bridge is a bridge over the River Ant, part of the Norfolk Broads. Moored on the Ant there are these curious houseboats.

Lived in all year round or just for holidays? I don't know. They look like large garden sheds - or bird hides - just plonked on the water.

Speaking of birds, did you spot the family of ducks (geese?) on the near bank?

I'll post some more pictures of the walk later. Meanwhile ... it's not long before we go boating again: hooray!

If I can find a program to resize photos on Jan's laptop PC I'll be able to do blog posts with pics but, if I can't, the photos will have to wait for me to get back to this computer. Before going to the boat though, we'll be calling on Jan's parents in Writtle and enjoying a pub lunch with them.

Friday, 4 April 2014

An assembly of editors

A few days ago I met up with some former colleagues, all of whom are editors (as in film/video).

From left: me, Terry, Wernie, Andy, Polly, Chris.

I took this self-timed photo without flash, but the colours didn't come out too well. I've had to tweak the exposure as it was originally much too dark.

For the next attempt I used flash, but the composition isn't as good.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Route planning to take in painting at Gayton Junction

I have now planned our schedule for the outward "half" of our Easter cruise. "Half" in inverted commas as the outward part is shorter (in time, at least) than the return part.

The trip takes in a four hour stop at Gayton Junction to assist with a work party painting the service block and associated railings etc. I saw the briefest of items in Canal Boat's "diary" section and had an encouraging response from an e-mail I sent.

The above photo shows the former BW yard, now occupied by the Grand Junction Boat Co. Were the areas separated by brick walls originally coal bunkers?

Here is the route plan:

Mon 7th April: Thrupp Wharf Marina to Stoke Bruerne or Blisworth
Tue 8th April am: Stoke Bruerne/Blisworth to Gayton Junction
Tue 8th April pm: Gayton Junction to Weedon
Wed 9th April: Weedon to Crick
Thu 10th April: Crick to Foxton Top Lock
Fri 11th April: Foxton Top Lock to Market Harborough
Sat 12th April: Market Harborough to Debdale Wharf Marina

The stop at Foxton coincides neatly with a talk entitled "Foxton Locks 1814 - 2014" which starts at 1830 in the "Canal Museum" and ends via a treasure hunt at the Bridge 61 pub (can't wait!) (Another diary entry in Canal Boat magazine).

The planning stops at Debdale Wharf Marina as that is where Jubilee's bottom will be spanked blacked. The boat will be removed from the water - or the water from the boat - on the following Monday, but we need to be there early. We are told that the boat should be back in the water on the Wednesday; I shall plan the return trip accordingly.

If any blog reader would like to make themselves known to us en route we should be very happy to see them. There is plenty of tea and coffee on board!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

King's Cross

The last time I was on Jubilee I returned home via King's Cross Station. The roof over the concourse is spectacular.

The train to Cambridge often leaves from Platform 8; the tracks dive under the Regents Canal shortly after leaving the station.

On this occasion the train left from Platform 1, which is not, as it happens, the platform with the lowest number.

At King's Cross there is a Platform 0. Are there any other stations with a Platform 0 - or even negative numbers?

I'll take a photo of it next time.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Boating weather?

According to my trusty, dusty, Maplin indoor/outdoor thermometer, which I believe to be reasonably accurate, the temperature here in Norwich reached almost 20˚C this afternoon.

It might have actually got there, but if it did I didn't see it.

I have another in/out thermometer on Jubilee, with a useful max/min function, but its two sensors don't agree with each other. Putting the "remote" sensor in the same place as the main unit the two temperature readings differ by 2.0˚C.

Boating weather? Definitely. But so also is 0.1˚, rain, sleet, snow ... A year ago it was freezing, with snow lying in shady spots. This was 6th April 2013 on the Trent.

I'm currently planning our Easter cruise: I'll post details here soon.