Tuesday 31 May 2016

Aldgate and Angel

While we were having breakfast it became apparent that we weren't really in the best place. Boats had started to be moved out of the ABNB basin back into the main Crick Marina; last night we had taken a spot recently vacated by a boat on a reserved mooring for the boat show. This was immediately opposite the ABNB basin. We very quickly moved - to a space just big enough a bit further on. While we were considering leaving Crick to return to Braunston we noticed a couple walking along the towpath and pausing outside our boat. We got talking to them and invited them to have a look round the boat. Over coffee we learnt that Margaret and Bob were caravanners who had come to a nearby site for a "retired caravanners" rally. (I think that's for retired people who caravan, rather than people who have retired from caravanning.) They had known about the boat show but had been put off by the admission charge, not realising that there was much more than just boaty stuff. They hadn't been on a narrowboat before so were pleased to have the opportunity we gave them. When they had gone we walked to the Co-op and bought a few more provisions.

The sound of an older engine heralded the arrival of Nick Wolfe on Aldgate towing Angel.

I took these rather dark photos in the gloom of the tunnel cutting.

This shows the cross straps used to connect motor and butty ...

... and here's another view.

As the butty entered Crick Tunnel the steerer was having difficulty keeping it in line with the motor; there was a bit of scraping along the left side. Oops!

We remembered we hadn't filled in the Crick Marina competition entry form, so we thought of a slogan, wrote it down; and then I walked to the office and posted it through their letterbox. Then it was time to leave Crick, five days after arriving, and so we set off through the tunnel. We tied up at the first piling we came to, in the company of a handful of other boats, and lit the fire. The weather had turned cold and windy; it rained later in the evening.

Now an earlier bedtime is called for - earlier than the past few nights, that is.

Monday 30 May 2016

Lots of money spent at Crick

The last day of the 2016 Crick Boat Show. It's been very good in terms of the number of people met for the first time and others met up with again. The BCF/Waterways Chaplains stand (we shared the space) was busy throughout. Jan and I weren't on the stand all the time; other Boaters' Christian Fellowship members took their turn. Wandering round the site (again) I saw "James Brindley" still talking about his part in the revolutionary transport system to carry goods by boat on inland waterways.

In the Waterways World "VIP" marquee/vintage tea room two sisters going under the name of "My Favourite Things" started to perform while we had coffee/hot chocolate (to try to warm up). They sang old songs to a backing track with synchronised movements.

They were rather good.

Here is the BCF stand in action - that's Jan partially hidden by someone finding out about us.

I don't know if this is what other people do, but I find I think of something I need at Crick, then don't actually buy it until the very last minute. We had been about to buy a 12V fridge with an ice box, but decided this morning that we would go for a larder fridge instead. Our present mains fridge is that type, i.e. without a freezer compartment.

We plumped for the Shoreline RL5010W, which claims to use an average of 0.8Ah per hour, i.e. 0.8A. That's if you never open the door! I committed to the purchase at 1600, just one hour before the show closed. After asking Crick Marina if we could pick the fridge up from the wharfside the Shoreline man wheeled the fridge to the service point, then I went to get the boat and pick it up. I managed to get it onto the well deck on my own, then I moved the boat to a more convenient mooring. I was itching to connect it up and see how it performed, so I emptied the contents of the old fridge into cool bag/other bags and with Jan's help got it relatively out of the way. Manoeuvering the new fridge into the galley went without too much difficulty, then all I had to do was switch it on.

Well, no, actually. I discovered that, although nice fat cables had been left for a 12V fridge, they weren't long enough. I didn't have anything of the right size, so I paralleled up a few pieces of mains cable and used "chocolate blocks" to join it all up. The extra bit added in is only a couple of feet so it won't introduce any significant voltage drop. And it works! The compressor is nice and quiet, the food is all in, and the inverter doesn't have to be on - hooray!

Much of the wiring up was done while entertaining Mark Andy and Vicky from Selwyn who popped in for a post prandial drink and chat after their meal in The Moorings.

The inverter is actually on at the moment to keep the phone charged so I can write this. The fridge cabling was previously being used to feed a small 200W inverter which will charge phones etc; now I will have to connect it somewhere else.

So that was one big chunk of money; the other major expense was a new set of batteries. I am so convinced that the old set - only 13 months old - is on its last legs that I have ordered four more sealed lead acid batteries from Midland Chandlers at the show price of £70 each. Before installing them I have to do something permanent about regulating the alternator. Although it now works, and charges up the batteries, it allows the voltage to rise to 14.7V which is not good for sealed lead acids. They prefer no more than 14.4V so as to avoid gassing. I believe the existing batteries have suffered because they were never getting fully charged, owing to the previous alternator dying and the dubious way the Sterling ABC was installed, but I don't want the new batteries to suffer from overcharging. A grabbed conversation with Mark Langley, Waterways World's technical editor, pointed me towards an Adverc external regulator, so I shall have to look into that.

For now, though, it's time to recharge my own batteries and get some sleep.

edited to correct a name and remove typos

Sunday 29 May 2016

Jan broadcasts to Northamptonshire, church in the beer tent and looking at a 12V fridge

This morning started early for us as we wanted to listen to BBC Radio Northampton to hear the item on the Boaters' Christian Fellowship at the Crick Boat Show. It was to be in their Sunday programme some time between 0600 and 0900. We switched on at 0615 and heard the item at about 0710. Jan had been interviewed yesterday, along with Mark Chester, the lead Waterways Chaplain. The package included clips from Mark and Jan explaining what their respective organisations do. After the item was broadcast the programme plugged the BCF service in the beer tent which was happening at about 1010. Martin Heath, the presenter, asked listeners to contact the programme with suggestions for hymns or worship songs suited to a church service in a beer tent at a boat show. One idea was "'Ail to the Lord's annointed", which worked well on the radio.

Mark Chester spoke at the service.

I managed to remember to take one or two photos at the show today. The weather was a lot cooler than yesterday; I kept my fleece on all day and didn't wear my sunglasses until late afternoon.

We had another good meal at the Wheatsheaf, then Jan went to the boat and I returned to the beer tent, this time for a Tom Robinson gig.

I enjoyed this much more than last night's Blondied. The sound overall was better and not as deafening.

Afterwards I talked to Del and Al of Derwent6 and Sian of Mochyn Du.

Last day of the show tomorrow. We might buy a 12V fridge to replace the 230V one. It still works fine, but it means having the inverter on the whole time; the combination being quite a drain on the poor old batteries. We looked at a Lec Inlander in Midland Chandlers on what seems a good deal. Anyone want a perfectly good mains fridge (no icebox)?

Saturday 28 May 2016

Sun shines on the Crick Boat Show

Day one of the Crick Show. The Boaters' Christian Fellowship stand is in the usual marquee but in a slightly different place. It's a corner position and we think it's an even better spot than last year.

Here Gwyneth is adding the finishing touches.

The sun brought out the crowds; we talked to lots of people and gained three new members. The BCF is sharing its stand with the Waterways Chaplains; a closely allied group. I omitted to take any photos of the stand "in action"; I'll try to make amends tomorrow.

Walking round the site I bumped into several people I knew. This happens with increasing frequency at every event we go to. All I bought was some oil. There seems to be less in the way of "practical" chandlery this year, but plenty of the pricey gadgets and knick-knacks.

In the afternoon Jan and I took tea in the vintage-style tea room in the Waterways World VIP marquee, after which I sat in on the last half of a seminar on boat maintenance. This turned out to be exactly the same as one I went to last year.

The musicians among us had a run-through on Derek and Judy's boat Firoza of the songs we'll be playing in the service tomorrow morning. This will be in the beer tent as usual (but I don't think the bar will be open!)

The beer tent was the venue for tonight's evening entertainment, Blondie tribute band "Blondied".

They were good but extremely loud. (Or am I getting old?) The drummer especially was giving it his all.

Friday 27 May 2016

Visitors galore

Our first visitors were Ally and Josiah who joined us as we helped to set up the Boaters' Christian Fellowship stand at Crick. We got the stand done by lunchtime; while Jan started cooking the sausages and bacon I cycled to the Co-op for more provisions. Back at the boat we had a good fry-up - we were ready for that!

Another visitor was this little bug. I take my inspiration from Irene!

In the afternoon we entertained Josiah while Ally tried to get some sleep. They went home as we went with Stephen and Gwyneth (Chyandour) in their car to Braunston church. Four new Waterways Chaplains were being commissioned in a special service there.

The two on the left in the above photo are our friends Adrian and Chris (Essence). Mark Chester, in the centre, is the head of the Waterways Chaplains; it was he who did the commissioning and handed the four their WC gilets. (Oh - an unfortunate abbreviation!) Adrian and Chris were among others who turned up at Jubilee later in the evening, so we invited them all on board for drinks.

Judy, Derek, Jan, Sandra, Elaine, Chris, Adrian
After they left I walked over to the beer tent to see what the entertainment was like. It was two blokes - keyboard and guitar - who sang and played along to karaoke versions of old songs. Not really my cup of tea so, after a pleasant enough half of mild, I walked back to the boat. It's got quite chilly out there!

Tomorrow the show site opens to the public so we'll be manning the BCF stand and talking to lots of people, no doubt.

Thursday 26 May 2016

What's the loudest thing in a tunnel?

The first job this morning was to visit the shop and get milk for breakfast and some Savlon for my cracked fingers. While there I crossed the road to the butcher's for a few sausages. Back at the boat I moved us over to the water point to fill up while we had our porridge. At Braunston Bottom Lock a team of CRT greasers was at work scraping off the old, hardened grease from the paddle gear and slapping on some fresh stuff.

At the top lock a team of volunteers was busy preparing the wood- and ironwork for painting.

It's a pity their banner puts canals and rivers in the plural. There's no excuse, really, as the CRT logo, with "Canal and River Trust" written out in full, is on the same banner. (Andrew Bomford's report on Radio 4 a couple of weeks ago made the same mistake.)

Braunston Tunnel was busy. I haven't passed so many boats in one tunnel for a long time - I think there were five. Two of them were Dane towing Clara. Bolinders in a tunnel are so LOUD! It was fine passing them; the trickier ones were the two who came to almost a complete halt.

Turning left onto the Leicester Line we encountered Thomas coming out and wanting to turn right. The man on the tug deck was giving orders to the woman steering; neither really acknowledged us. Perhaps they thought we just shouldn't have been there, getting in their way!

Recent posts have mentioned bloggers' boats; here's one which, these days, is a bit of a blast from the past.

I expect Andrew Denny will be at Crick with his Waterways World hat on (does he wear any other?).

Passage up the Watford Locks was reasonably swift, we were third in a queue at the bottom, but we didn't have to wait for anyone coming down. It was good to meet Graham on Alnwick.

And so we arrived at Crick at about 1500. We tried to get in to the side just beyond Bridge 14, in front of Derwent6, but it was too shallow even for us. Just the other side of the winding hole was where we ended up, with the back end on the last of the piling and the front in reeds. Oh, and the boat immediately behind us? Happy Daze. Nice to see Linsey and Paul again. And Del and Al on Derwent6, of course. And Derek and Judy on Firoza. And Stephen and Gwyneth of Chyandour.

As we came past all the moorings I saw the tiniest moor chick ever. It must have only just hatched - a fuzzy ball of black fluff being encouraged to swim by mummy moorhen. Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of that, but I was more successful with a line of two families of geese.

This evening we treated ourselves to a meal at the Wheatsheaf, the first time we've been there. My slow roast crispy belly of pork was good, as was Jan's chicken forestiere.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

One new balance beam for the Napton flight

We did a lot of boating today, getting from Cropredy to Braunston. Having decided to go to Crick for the boat show we thought we'd get there a day early. The outward journey from Braunston to Oxford took 17 days (including three days at home); the return journey has taken just three days!

Not long after setting off this morning I spotted another familiar blogger's boat.

If you don't recognise it, and to save you having to click on the photo, I can tell you that it's Herbie.

In Fenny Tunnel I pulled over and waited while what looked like a chopped-down former working boat came past.

My photos don't show the length of the boat - or lack of it. I asked the name of the boat; I heard "Penny", but I might have misheard. Update: I did mishear. Jan saw the name on the licence - it is "Fenny". I was close!

We stopped at Fenny Compton Wharf to look at the "Two for £10" menu and ended up eating an early lunch. We were under way again before 1300. At the end of the long, wiggly summit level we came to Marston Doles and the start of the Napton locks. Lock 13, part-way down the flight, is the subject of a CRT "notice alert" for tomorrow. The top gate balance beam is due to be replaced. The new oak beam is ready and waiting behind the rotten beam in the photo below.

CRT says there won't be a stoppage as such; while the old beam is off the gate can be opened and shut using a rope.

As we continued down the flight it was evident that Lock 13 isn't the only place where the woodwork has rotted. Some other balance beams seemed to be in as much a precarious state as the one being replaced. There was a friendly CRT chap whom we asked about this; he said they could only do one at a time. He set locks for us all the way to the bottom.

After turning onto the GU we saw no spaces in the length opposite the Boathouse pub, but there was a space right outside the pub itself, which we took. While deliberating over what to eat in the pub they switched off the carvery lights and informed me that the carvery was "finished". I could have had something else, of course, but we decided to return to the boat for a salad. Well, two cooked pub meals in one day would have been a little excessive!

Tomorrow, after a quick nip up to the shop for milk, we shall doubtless meet plenty of boats newly released from the hold-up at Buckby. That won't be a problem going up the Braunston locks, but there might be a queue at Watford. We shall see.

edited to add update above

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Snow scene? And curious metal lockside studs

As we were walking by Somerton Deep Lock yesterday evening Jan remarked how the abundance of white blossom made it look like a snow scene. I didn't have my camera with me at the time, so I walked back this morning to take a couple of pics.

First the view over the Cherwell valley ...

... and then a wintry-looking canal scene.

Except that the amount of greenery gives the game away.

We got to Banbury at lunch time and waited ages to use the water point, having to hang on to the centre line as there was nowhere to secure the boat. Once watered up and through the lock we tied up on a visitor mooring and returned to the vicinity of the services to investigate Naomi's Café. From the back (canalside) it doesn't look very enticing ...

... but it's a different matter inside. Naomi's Café is run as a "community", not-for-profit, eatery. It seems to have a close connection with the arts scene in Banbury; as part of Banbury Art Weeks there was a painting which anybody could add to. I regret to say that we chickened out! The fry-up I had was excellent; I had to put a "donation" in the jar according to what I felt it was worth.

At one of the locks before Banbury I noticed small - about one inch diameter - brass(?) studs set in the ground in the balance beam pushing zone at both ends of the lock.

The lettering is "EABM" which I guess is "Environment Agency Bench Mark" but I might be completely wrong. It's CRT property, not EA's, and it doesn't look like an arrow-type Ordnance Datum bench mark. Does anyone know? It looks like my guess was right. The studs are referred to in this post on a "Trigpointing" forum.

edited to add last two sentences

Monday 23 May 2016

Blogger's former boat spotted

We set off from Thrupp at 1000 and quickly came to Shipton Weir Lock, where I persuaded the crew of a hire boat to let us share the lock. This proceeded without a hitch; we were soon released onto the river section where the canal takes the course of the Cherwell. I like this bit - the depth means that one is able to let rip. At one point it looked busy as a boat came by.

I think it was at Gibraltar where we went past a boat very familiar to one blog reader.

Nev of Percy fame used to own Waterlily.

The snowy white blossom of blackthorn (?) continues to add interest to the journey.

Who can resist taking this photo at Somerton Deep Lock? (I didn't get any photos on the way down as it was raining.)

We tied up in the middle of nowhere just before Chisnell Lift Bridge just round the corner from Somerton Deep Lock. After a brief shower of rain - where did that come from? - we had a cloudless sunset. Here's a shot of cow parsley silhouetted against the orange sky.

We're on schedule for getting to Crick on Friday, but we'll have to keep putting the hours in.

Sunday 22 May 2016

Caught in the act: man throws garden waste into canal

We went to St. Aldate's Church in Oxford this morning. The congregation was huge - perhaps three hundred - and young, with many students. The sermon was very good, on 2 Corinthians 11, where Paul talks about how he suffered for the Gospel.

After this we took up Brian's suggestion and went to the Bankok House restaurant in Hythe Bridge Street, very near the canal. The food was good, but I didn't like the way the bill came with a 10% service charge added. There had been nothing to indicate that that would happen.

Our time in Oxford was up. We have enjoyed our two days here, but now came the reverse along the moored boats to Isis Lock. I did have a go at winding in the winding hole, but the 52' limit as marked seems to be accurate. Our extra three feet would not fit. So we descended through Isis Lock onto the Thames backwater where I spun the boat round and came up the lock again, this time facing the right direction. Jan took a photo.

At Kidlington I saw a man empty out his lawnmower grass box into the canal ahead of me. Here is the pile of grass cuttings on the water ...

... and here is the man mowing his lawn. The grass cuttings are still visible on the water on the right.

I suppose he didn't want to clutter his precious garden with a compost bin. Does he chuck all his garden waste in the canal? I didn't feel like a confrontation so I carried on past. Should I have said anything? Or is it no worse than CRT contractors mowing the towpath and allowing or even blowing the cuttings into the canal? And what about the tons of leaves which fall in and rot down? I expect the grass cuttings will do the same, in time.

At Thrupp we stopped at the services for a slow water point. All the visitor moorings were full - we eventually tied up outside Shipton-on-Cherwell Church.

BCF member and Thrupp resident Anne came over for a chat; it was good to see her. Immediately before she arrived I had a minor disaster involving a glass of milk. I managed to tip it all over me and the bench seat cushion. My fleece and shorts are in the shower tray; the cushion cover is soaking in a bowl of water. We'll have to attend to the foam cushion in the morning.

Saturday 21 May 2016

The trouble with a city centre concert venue

Last night was quieter than I thought it might have been, with only some shouting nearby at 0300. Here is another view of our Oxford mooring, with the "Canals 200" memorial/bench seat thingy in the foreground.

Ally brought Josiah to visit today. After a walk around the city we had coffee/hot chocolate at the Vaults and Garden café, then Ally's sister-in-law Hannah came. We all had lunch on the boat, then Ally and Hannah went shopping while Jan and I did some more exploring on foot.

I spotted a small plaque on a house ...

commemorating Edmund Halley (after whom Halley's Comet is named).

Ally said we had to go to a certain ice cream parlour, so we met up at George and Danver in St. Aldate's. I was still feeling full from lunch, so I settled for a cup of tea (and a small amount of Jan's ice cream).

At 1815, with Ally, Josiah and Hannah having departed, Jan and I went to what we thought was going to be a service of Choral Evensong at New College chapel. It turned out to be a confirmation service, but it was very good with an excellent choir.

After this we had just 20 minutes to get to the Sheldonian Theatre, not far away, for a concert by the Oxford University Orchestra. No time for tea! We heard Debussy's La Mer and Bruckner's seventh symphony. The orchestra was huge; we had good seats very near the front. It was quite deafening at times! During one quiet bit in the Bruckner there was some rowdy shouting going on outside. This came through clearly as at the back of the auditorium there is only one set of wooden doors, which is not enough for good sound insulation, especially given its city centre location. Apart from that the venue was superb. The conductor held the orchestra together well, despite its size, and injected huge amounts of energy into the performance. We enjoyed it.

Friday 20 May 2016

The last mooring in Oxford

We were under way by 0930 this morning, waving goodbye to Bones as she walked Boots and chatted to Dusty Miller.

A few minutes before we untied, an Anglo Welsh hire boat had come slowly. We caught up with them at every lock, not as they were leaving but as they were going in. When we caught up with them at Shipton Weir Lock we joined them in the lock.

They went out first, but at the lift bridge just round the corner they waved us through. Hooray! We had almost finished at the Elsan point in Thrupp when they came past again, but they had said they were stopping for lunch. We passed them as they were tying up outside the Boat Inn. Phew!

Our entry into Oxford was green and leafy.

We continued to the very end of the navigation and tied up at the last and only space on the 48 hour moorings, just a few feet back from here.

The city centre was busy with people, mostly a lot younger than us! We had average fish and chips at a Greene King pub, visited Tesco and the Co-op and returned to the boat. Here we had some of the profiteroles we bought in the Co-op, probably the best packet profiteroles I have had. I first discovered them in the Co-op in Fenny Compton. If you like profiteroles these are definitely the ones to go for!

We appear to have swapped last nights trains thundering by the other side of the hedge for emergency sirens.

Thursday 19 May 2016

Lolly stick saves greasy fingers; fridge fettling

We moored at Lower Heyford and found there was no phone signal and hence no internet. I am therefore backdating this post.

On the way some of the locks had been supplied with lolly sticks with which to operate the pawl.

The stick reads "Keep fingers clean".

We walked round Lower Heyford - church locked - and treated ourselves to a cream tea at Kizzie's at the boatyard. I tried to take some photos which were more than mere snaps. Can you see what this is?

In the evening we had been invited for drinks and nibbles with Bones; we had an excellent time talking with her and Andrew the potter. I took a bottle of wine which had an amusing error on the label.

Perhaps we should have poured it over a wooden crate.

Earlier in the day I attached a temperature sensor to the fridge's radiator and connected it to a module which now switches on a small fan when the fridge comes on. The idea is to make the fridge more efficient by blowing away the heat, but the fan I installed is far too small. It did fit nicely in the hole I made in the floor, though. I shall have to experiment with a larger fan, but there is very little space behind the fridge. Which is part of the problem, of course.