Sunday, May 24, 2015

What a grey day!

Sunday 24th May

Graham set off at sparrow’s a clock to do a car shuffle. I turned over and went back to sleep just to get the full value out of the new, and very comfy, mattress of course. It being a Bank Holiday weekend I have to get ready for shop-fest. All the TV and press ads tell us that we’ll not get through the weekend without gallons of cheap booze, a BBQ (in the drizzle today) and spending the kids inheritance at a super-warehouse or shopping village ( a pub, but no church or school, do they qualify as villages?) Canal life is different.

As we were considering a bowl of wheat-o-popsies, the diesel boat hove into view. Graham downed spoon and had the convenient ‘we bring your fuel to you’ man fill us up. G also had a need for a holiday special from Halfords. Internet, order and we’ll pick it up as we pass the Rugby store today. A changing world where your diesel, coal and wood gets delivered and you can ensure you have the tools for a successful journey to Switzerland will be waiting for you. No active shopping involved – result!

We set off from Braunston at 10 and were at Hillmorton locks by 12. Another quick and easy transit as they were very busy with boats passing through both ways and no queuing for us. We did have one lady turn our lock against us but Graham went and helped the other boat in the next door lock so we were soon on our way through that one instead. It amused him that she was having so much difficulty to open the top gate – that’ll teach her to turn a lock on him, no assistance offered inconsiderate people.

We stopped at Rugby and found that our hoped for, short walk past B&Q to Halfords was out of the question. Most of the retail park was a building site with all access fenced off. Never mind, down to Tescos and across the crossing. It’s not as if we didn’t need the exercise.

Our evening treat, calorie free, is to listen to a program from the complete series of “Cabin Pressure”, an excellent BBC Radio comedy series. Highly recommended, but a little strange to be told the emergency exits are here, here and here <titter if you recognise the allusion>. If you enjoy air travel, hate CheapyJet or just want a good laugh, then look it up – Brilliant!

An acute shortage of pictures today - Graham has discovered that his camera will let him take pictures all day and not save any when he’s left the memory card in the laptop!


Evening out in Braunston

Saturday 23rd May

Late spring bank holiday and late spring weather. The sun finally peeped Strimmingsthrough the clouds layer at 6.30pm and only hinted at what might have been. It wasn’t warm or bright, but was at least  dry – even in Braunston tunnel which was so polluted it made our eyes smart. We had been strimmed whilst moored up near High House Wharf. First time this year.

We were followed into the bottom lock by nb Meandrine and made thelockshare easiest ascent of the Buckby flight ever with them. We changed partners for the Braunston locks, as there was a single boat waiting there. Oncoming boats were an asset for all locks today, although the newly started holiday hirers leaving Braunston threatened to crowd the canal.

A boat was moored in the pound above bottom lock. With two of us needing to pull over, two boats coming out of the lock ahead and another following us down, it was inevitable that she would get bumped. Twice as it happened (but only once by me, honest) She weren’t ‘arf cross, but if you will moor where it’s really a daft idea  . . . . . . .  I suspect worse was on it’s way.

labourexchangeFor most of the afternoon runners passed us, doing the Grand Union run, 154 miles, Birmingham to London. Most didn’t look as though they were enjoying their sport. Many were walking and the shop at Braunston bottom lock was doing a roaring trade in Ice creams. Does Ranulf Ffienes run on choc ices? Loved this sign on the wall of the cottage next to the shop.bracketfungus

We moored just past the junction and has slow roast pork for tea, followed by rhubarb from Grandad’s garden. Yum!

Up to the Admirable Nelson for a meet up with John and Liz for a beer or two followed by a long walk back in the dark just before midnight. We noticed this wonderful bracket fungus on the way to the pub.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Spring Soddit Cruise 2015

Saturday 9th May

We arrived at Jannock for 09:00 and started preparing to set off. It seems funny starting a Soddit cruise on a Saturday morning as we have mostly started on Friday night for too many years to remember. We ascended through Cosgrove lock after a wide beam had come down through it. We then pulled over onto the wharf above the lock to move the rest of our ‘stuff’ from the car, thus avoiding a repeat of the long walk carrying. Once loaded we set off Northbound towards Stoke Bruerne. We had no tight schedules to keep to so it was decided that this could be a relaxing cruise with a bit more fishing time (the Captain had a few jobs to do on Jannock ;^)Handsome steerer.

We decided to have lunch before we ascended the Stoke Bruerne flight and so we moored on the 14 day moorings at the bottom where Ian managed to catch five roach of various sizes. Brian did lunch of a Ploughman’s type meal and we were just thinking of setting off when a Wyvern boat with a crew of six happened along and so we shared the flight with them. It was a birthday celebration seven day cruise of five males and one female, it reminded me of when Brenda and I took our first ever holiday on a canal boat, she was vastly outnumbered on that trip. Just look what it’s done to us! We shared with them all the way up with the two boats moving from lock to lock, side by side, just like professionals. Brian and Ian took turns to set the next lock so it was ready when we left the last. Out of the top lock, in the land of the Gongoozler, and we pulled over on to the water point outside the Boat Inn. Whilst Jannock’s tank filled, we did likewise from the hand-pumps on the bar. Ian was disappointed that they were a free house but only did Marston’s beers. Not good considering the other pub in Stoke Bruerne is a Marston’s tied house.

P1070401 We then entered the south portal of Blisworth tunnel, only to be struck quite hard by a southbound time share boat who refused to move over to his side of the canal. Even though I had almost stopped he still clouted us a hefty wallop. We managed to pass five more boats whilst transiting through without any further incidents. Brian was once again playing rousing music like ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘the Dam Busters march’ loudly on Jannock’s stereo for the length of the tunnel much to the amusement of boats heading South. It’s not often you get applauded by the crew of a passing boat in a tunnel. Once out of the other end we decided to moor for the night in the cutting as it promised to be a lovely quiet spot and wind free spot with a possibility of some good fishing. Our lock sharing friends passed us an hour later having eaten in the Boat Inn first. Only a single Perch caught by Ian tonight, Brian is not having a good trip fishing wise. After a ‘two pan’ stir fry (bit of a record for Ian, only making two pans dirty) we played four games of Soddit before retiring to bed just after midnight.


Sunday 10th May

After a quiet night, apart from the dawn chorus, it was decided to move off as soon asP1070378  breakfast was finished to seek better fishing. The weather was overcast and the wind was gusting well making it interesting for the steerer when you passed gaps in the hedge. Just after Blisworth we watched a Heron take a big fish from the water and then carry it onto the towpath. Here he put it down, to flap around a bit, while he composed himself ready to carry it off somewhere safer in order to consume it in peace. We continued on past the Northampton Arm until we stopped in a patch of sheltered calm water to try the fishing there. Nothing was forthcoming and so we were soon moving again. We past our lock sharers from yesterday, moored up with all the curtains closed and no sign of life. We greeted them by repeatedly sounding our horn as we passed because they should be up and P1070404about at 11:30, not lounging in their pits.

On through Bugbrooke until the guys decided they had spotted a good fishing place to stop at for lunch. It was just past Heyford Fields marina by the Badger Sett. Ian caught a nice Bream here whilst I was preparing lunch. After we had eaten they continued maggot drowning without success whilst I check the electrolyte level in each of the cells in our four batteries. Once they had got bored we set off again heading towards Weedon. We finally stopped on a 14 day mooring and I went to fetch the car from Cosgrove while they cleaned and tidied the boat before trying more maggot drowning. Over the weekend Ian caught eight fish (three species) and Brian caught nowt. I wouldn’t mind but he says he enjoys fishing.


Thursday, May 07, 2015

May the Fourth be with you!

Monday 4th May

Having moored amongst the members of the Lionhearts Cruising Club and having been told yesterday that they were sharing four to a lock we wondered, as we breakfasted on fried eggs and hash browns, whether we could share the locks with them.  Crews began to assemble on the towpath but seemed in no hurry. Then along came another boat and so we cast off and shared with him instead. We had a happy share with gone cruising him through all five of today’s locks. Even the sun graced us with its presence for a good part of the day.spitting yoofs run away

National Nice Day seemed to morph into Nice Weekend as we chatted with fisherfolk, walkers and boaters. Milton Keynes was doing it’s bit. There were two charity runs going on.

As we passed the Lionhearts base there were a lot of empty moorings – we know why! Everything was lovely until Wolverton. A group of feral  children were on the footbridge, some waved ever so slightly, some spoke and nodded but we could not hear what they said for the noise of the engine. When we replied that we could not hear them they decide the best fun they could have would be to spit on us from above. Not one of them was proud enough of their entertainment choice to stay and have their photo taken. Gits! I expect they aspired to to join the yoofs, the slightly older group – say 14+ – in the park trying so hard to be hidden that their behaviour stood out. Did they not know that drugs smell quite distinctly and that can’t be hidden? At least they caused us less bother than the spitters.

Once moored up and the car fetched from Soulbury, we had to call into Ikea on the way home. Our second bargain meal of the weekend. We chose slow roasted lamb shanks at under £3 each if you show your Ikea family card. Add our free cup of tea and a shared pud, not unlike a ‘millionaires rice krispies’ and we were well pleased. Delicious tender lamb!


Today we had weather!

Sunday 3rd May

When we awoke this morning it was raining so hard that we did not set off until 11:30. Whilst amusing ourselves before starting, we found that we had four leaking windows. They are all on the port side and two Graham managed to fix from inside without getting wet. He has plans to fix the other two apparently.

When the sun came out it was lovely, warm even, but it didn’t stay out for long. Then it was back to heavy rain again but at least we had IMG_1174cleared most of the locks and were on the long pounds near Linslade by then.

At Slapton lock there was a planning notice for a new marina to be built opposite the lock  cottage. It is planned to hold 180 boats and the period of consultation has been extended by AVDC. Ref number is 15/00164. At church lock we met our first boat going the other way. They were members of Lionhearts Cruising Club who were on a Bank Holiday mass cruise. The others had all turned back but this boat was continuing on to Berko. Once through Church Lock there were lots of black lambs in the field alongside the canal. None of the Ewes  were black so it must have been passed on by the ram.

We continued on through the rain and finally moored up early above the three locks at Soulbury. We didn’t fancy working our way down there in the rain. Moored immediately in front of us were the rest of the Lionhearts Cruising club who had tables booked in the pub at 7pm for an evening meal.

Having had a Spitfire fly over us last Friday, today we had a Catalina do the same.

The rain finally stopped so Graham did a car fetch from Bourne End using the might Di Blasi. He didn’t check the speedo before leaving home and the batteries had gone flat so it was not working. Never mind, there were no 20MPH limits to worry about en-route and it’s luckky to get to 30 flat out.


First Kingfisher of the year spotted.

Saturday 2nd May

Today was national ‘Be Nice’ day, everybody that we met was nice and pleasant.

During last night, the two gas bottles in use ran out. Therefore we awoke to a cold boat. I went out and swapped over to the next two and spotted a diesel boat coming down the cut. He stopped to fill the boat moored in front of us with diesel so I tIMG_1172ook the opportunity to replace the two empty 13kg cylinders without having to lug them along a towpath.

After breakfast we set off and followed a pair of boats up through Berkhamstead lock.  As we were leaving another single boat arrived to ascend so I told them we would wait for them at Gas 2 so we could share the Northchurch flight. They stayed with us all the way up to the summit where they pulled over to visit the chandlery whilst we ate our lunch and travelled on to Bulbourne.

We arrived at Marsworth and waited a bit before setting off down the top lock solo. As I was working Jannock through, Keith the friendly volunteer lock keeper arrived at the second lock down and started setting it ready for us. When we arrived there he introduced himself, enquired what our names were and then used them in every conversation with us to the bottom of the flight – almost wore them out he did! A foreign family (Dutch?) were watching with interest as we passed through the first couple of locks and assisted with some gates so we invited their two children to sit in the foredeck for a trip through the lock. They were then replaced by a Dad and his two year old son for the next lock. All the time Keith was setting ahead whilst I worked Jannock through and managed the gongoozlers. When ever we caught Keith up he warned Brenda about the cross winds on the flight. She assured him that she had coped with worse at this very location and she would be fine. She was and Keith got a bit sheepish. Not that windy at all today. I offered him a beer to take home at the bottom lock but he announced that he was tee-total. With a total lack of wind, a good lock setter and no other boats on the flight that was the best passage down Marsworth that we’ve ever had.

We continued past Marsworth and down another four locks before mooring for the night, out in the sticks, below Seabrook locks. Lovely and quiet here.


The 2015 cruise starts here.

Friday 1st May

This morning I had to do an airport fetch from Gatwick, Matt and Alice were returning from their honeymoon. Once back to Thame, we loaded the car and set of for Bourne End to finally loose Jannock from here mooring. A very late start this year but we should still make it to our first destination, Husbands Bosworth, in time for the Home Brew Beer Festival in June.Sharing the locks with a works outing.

As we were prepping for the off, a solo boat ascended through lock 59 and so we asked if we could share with them. They were going to Berko and so that suited us. It appeared to be a works outing. The boss wanted to move his boat up to Berkhamstead for a wedding at the weekend and so he closed the business for the day and the staff had a day out helping move the boat. The management even provided the beer and food – result! I wish I had a boss like that.

We shared with them up, to Raven’s Lane lock where we pulled over to moor for the night – a perfect mooring exactly half way between the fish and chip shop and the Rising Sun. They continued through the next lock to moor near Waitrose. I had Best fish and chips I've ever had.promised Brenda a fish and chip supper as she has never tried those from the Berkhamstead Fish Bar which is located at the railway station. Debbi from nb Tiami popped in on her way to the Riser and so I went to join her  and Simon for a swift pint whilst Brenda remained aboard the boat, she was still getting over her lurgi and not feeling up to being social. I then went and fetched our Rock Salmon and chips before returning to Jannock. As per MY previous visit, the quality of the fish and chips was superb. I do believe this is the best supplier for F&C that I’ve ever found.

I then spent the rest of the evening trying to top up my 3 data SIM without success. Hence the lateness of these posts. The ‘Verified by Visa’ part of the process always fails if you try to top up over the mobile networks. Never had a problem on the home broadband though. I retired to bed weary after my first session of locking and cycling for 2015.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hernia repaired and well on the way to recovery

I thought I might copy Sue from  No Problem and post a Wassat!    However then Brenda said that people might not want an un-announced view of my groin as they may be of a sensitive disposition or be eating and so I’ve posted a picture of my operation scar on the website at . It’s about 3 inches (75mm) from end to end – view at your own risk ;^)


I’ve got to take it easy and not lift anything heavier than about 5Kg for a few weeks but I’m returning to work (light duties) tomorrow and really looking forward to next years (pain free) boating.


Our plans so-far for 2015 include the Ashby in June and the Avon and Droitwich later in the summer.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pointing North again

Sunday 26th October

Using the extra hour, we arrived at Jannock bright and early and set off for a two hour cruise to turn her round. This was needed to achieve three objectives.

A. Warm up the engine for a service.

B. Get the pumpout fittings bankside.

C. Get the cruiser stern away from the overhanging tree because the berries it drops keep blocking the self drain holes.

We moved across and dropped down through lock 59 once I had extracted the bike from within Jannock. Just before we left the lock a couple appeared and were interested in watching what we were doing. I explained that it was all over here but if they walk down to lock 60 they could see it all again. I cycled off and they joined us just as Jannock entered the lock and so Brenda invited them aboard to experience the transit from on the boat. Once through 60 I cycled down and opened Winkwell bridge with our passengers still happily enjoying the ride.

Through lock 61 and I left the offside bottom gate open and hopped smartly onto the foredeck when Brenda took Jannock out. We always try to use the offside gate here as when you are re-entering on the return journey it allows you to take the river flow into account and not clout the gate hard. At the winding hole I was able to indicate how close she was to the bank as she winded and she did a perfect manoeuvre which really impressed our passengers. Once turned it was back into lock 61 to retrace our route back up to the mooring.

Our passengers got off once we has ascended 61 as their car was parked in the pub carpark. We continued back through the swingbridge and up the last two locks back to our mooring. Once there I immediately did and oil and filter change on the engine and also extracted and replaced the gearbox oil. Brenda spent the couple of hours tidying up our patch of garden which had been neglected since April.

After lunch I joined her doing gardenny things like cutting off the remains of the branch that the wind broke down last weekend. Our little trip ahs increased our yearly totals to 688 miles and 485 locks for the year.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oooooops – just got told off by Brenda

When I calculated our total mileage and locks for the year I missed out the extra run from Abingdon down to the Plough at Long Wittenham and back on Monday 26th May whilst we were waiting for the slow cooker to finish the dinner for our guests.

That makes the year totals 686 miles and 479 locks. I can add that the Di Blasi folding moped has done 501 miles this year.


Monday, October 20, 2014

And back to Bourne End

Monday 20th October

07:00 - and Graham is up and off to move the car from Soulbury to the mooring.

09:15 – and we start the last day of 2014’s cruising – quite a long year 12th April to 20th October is 6 months and a couple of weeks-ish. We’ve done 673 miles and 475 locks this year (and I suspect we’ll turn round before Christmas so that’ll be another 6 locks and 2 miles ;^)Autumn

The weather has been kind but a busy winter ahead with one thing and another, maintenance and family to fill the short days. Plans for 2015 – there’s a home brew festival up the Ashby in June .  . 

We had an easy run to our mooring – we caught up nb Picot again at Dudswell locks and shared again all the way to Berkhampstead. He was Kingfishercomplaining that he had left our company yesterday and joined up with “an inefficient crew”. His words, not ours. We also gave a trip through the lock to another couple of children who were out with Grandad walking the towpath. Passengers At Berko he had three clients to empty and so we left him and did Berko and Ravens lane locks solo. At Rising Sun we caught up nb Gloria, who was single handing down to Apsley , just in time to feed him a cup of tea as well.

Treat of the day was being watched, as we passed, by a Kingfisher sat on a branch on the side of the Tring summit. Graham even managed to stop Jannock, and then reverse back so that I could take this picture – shame we haven’t got a good SLR camera with a zoom lens.

Beer of the weekend was Elderflower Ale. Commissioned by me and brewed by Graham. It’s delicious, refreshing and lowish alcohol and WILL be made again next year ;^)


Penultimate day

Sunday 19th October

Past the middle of October and a super day. Mostly warm sun and cardigan temperatures, but we could have done without the winds that are supposed to be the lead in to a hurricane crossing the Atlantic. This made the steering quite difficult at times.

We shared most of the locks with nb Picot. Nice bloke, but a load of sh1t. Yes – literally, he’s a roving trader IvinghoeLock who’ll turn up and take away your toilet tank contents for a fee. We made very good progress, although he was a single hander he did his full share of lockside work leaving his boat alongside Jannock in locks and then shutting gates as we left. As Graham was using the lock wheeling bike we found it worked really well if both boats used the single gate.

A family watched us go up the first Seabrook lock and so we offered mum and kiddies a ride up the second. They were delighted and it seems to have sealed the deal – a canal holiday is being considered for next year. We later met the trip boat from Pitstone wharf at Marsworth locks, the passengers had disgorged and were doing a great impersonation of ants as Japanese tourists (Racism alert) over and around the lock. Quote of the day from a fresh faced teen: (Ageism alert) He’d had a good peer in through Jannock’s windows and announced loudly “oh those poor people – they haven’t got a television!” Just MarsworthYard as well he couldn’t see inside Picot’s back cabin – sleeping bag and single gas burner camping stove. The houses are certainly coming on at Marsworth – as they seem to have metal extensions out over the canal I wonder whether they are balconies or roofs? This could mean the properties will come right up to the waters edge and so affect the mooring for the services there.

Monsieur Picot had a cup of tea and a piece of cake from us and then he went and joined the single boat in front when we caught them up on the Marsworth flight. Typical bloke (sexism alert ;^). Actually it made sense at the time – but it all went wrong, after he left us, for a couple of locks in the flight. The wind was quite fierce and gusty across the reservoirs. I tried my best to accommodate a couple of fishermen who were FISHING ON THE LOCK LANDING and Jannock got pushed into and awkward bankside corner. I did my best to get past the fishists but ended up clouting the lock entrance which made a couple of bystanders jump. As I entered the ReservoirLevellock, having made my excuses, Graham asked me to hover by the bottom gate while he fetched out the sea searcher magnet from the engine bay. He’s managed to drop his windlass off of the balance beam and into the cut. The bystanders opinion of us was restored as he fished it out second cast.

The water levels in the reservoirs look very low, almost as low as during the water shortages in Spring 2013. We made it out of the flight by 5:30 and so tied up for the night just South of the water point and winding hole. Supper – last of the boating year – was a store-cupboard challenge Malaysian recipe mix – best before 2004. Yum! This challenge has now finished it’s second year and still the store cupboard has out of date stuff in it’s deepest recesses. Roll on 2015 ;^)


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Soddit Cruise Autumn 2014

Friday 10th October

We travelled up to Jannock via the Fish and Chip shop in Towcester, eating F&C en-route to the boat on a Friday evening has become something of a tradition for Soddit cruises now.  The food available from this takeaway was excellent – I suspect it was the best bit of F&C shop fish I have had for ages. It didn’t look too big because there was a very thin layer of superb batter coating a nice sized piece of fish. It was not too greasy for eating by hand and the chips were good too. Shame Towcester is such a long way from the canal. Once we were unloaded onto the boat we started to play Soddit and managed 6 games before retiring at 01:30. The beer this cruise was VPA and Fall Back, which is Vale’s special for October.

Saturday 11th October

Blisworth Ian made scrambled eggs for breakfast and then we were off heading South towards Blisworth tunnel. Knowing how Brian likes to play ‘good LiteEndTunnel British music’ whilst travelling through tunnels I had thought to bring my battery powered PA system along to save the speakers of Jannock’s stereo. This system worked really well as I had pre-loaded the tracks from his favourite CD onto an SD card. We entered the tunnel to the sounds of the 633 squadron anthem, as we passed the only boat we met mid tunnel their steerer was singing along to ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. As we approached the southern portal we could see human forms looking into the tunnel mouth trying to identify what was coming through. Just as we made it to the end of the tunnel Queen started playing ‘God Save the Queen’ – the timing could not have worked out better and we emerged into the daylight to a round of applause from a group of bystanders.

We arrived at top lock just as another boat was entering so we shared the whole flight with them. Ian worked the lock whilst Brian walked Seedingahead to set the next. As we were leaving the penultimate lock in the flight, the lady from the other boat commented about how lucky we were that some nice stranger had set ahead for us all the way down – I hastened to point out that Brian was a member of our crew, she just hadn’t spotted him at the top lock. We stopped below the bottom lock for lunch and fishing at 12:30.

Once on the move again, we passed this enormous tracked tractor seeding a field for next year. Being a home brewer, I hope it’s barley ;^) On to Cosgrove where we passed through the lock solo and continued on to New Bradwell where we stopped out in the countryside for the night. I did a chicken and stir fried vegetable evening meal before we settled down to another 6 games of Soddit.

Sunday 12th October

LeapTugI was up and had the boat on the move at 08:00 and Brian brought me my bacon sandwich breakfast at the helm a little later. We have been  playing ‘leap Tug’ with this lovely Stewarts and Lloyds tug most of the weekend so far, she had passed us last evening and was now moored just around the corner from our overnight stop. On through Milton Keynes with little to report apart from the eventual arrival of ThereIsASun the sun to brighten up our trip. Not many other boats were on the move until we got to Fenny lock where the tug, who had caught us up again, shared the lock with us. He left first as I was aware that he was travelling faster than us and so we missed out on sharing Stoke Hammond lock as he went up with the boat already there. We followed after turning the lock.

Ian had arranged for his daughter, and grand-daughter, to meet us at the Three locks for a short trip on the boat at 3:30. We were early and so stopped for fishing, just after a fishing match, at Visitors Stoke Hammond. I went of on the Di Blasi and fetched the car from Gayton before we set off again towards Soulbury. Once at the bottom locks we waiting for a while. No sign of either someone to share with or Ian’s daughter so we set off solo. This worked out OK as they met us  halfway up and the next boat along was a pair. We completed the flight and said goodbye to our temporary passengers before continuing on to find a suitable 14 day mooring.IansFish

This was a very unusual Soddit cruise as the Friday night meal was not the only fish we saw, both of the fishists managed to catch fish from the canal.  Ian’s beauty (pictured) was caught at Stoke Hammond. Good job the fishermen in the competition were around the corner and could not see.

Brenda and I should be able to get Jannock back to the mooring on Sunday & Monday next weekend.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An update from Saturday’s events


It would appear from communications that we have had from another Cutweb member who travelled down the Buckby flight on Sunday, the day after we went down, that the two gents supposedly delivering the boat in Braunston were doing no such thing.

We wondered at the time how their knowledge of working locks could be so bad if they had brought the boat down from Leeds. It turns out that our fellow club member was sat outside the pub at Buckby top when they arrived and sat next to him. They informed him that it was their boat, had no licence, BSS or insurance and they were after someone to give them a tow down the flight due to the engine and gearbox being dodgy. They admitted to him that the boat delivery ruse was made up as a cover while they travelled.

After they caught him up going down the flight on Sunday he rightly refused to share locks with them due to their lack of insurance. Had we known on Saturday we would not have done so either.

Be careful out there!


Sunday, September 28, 2014

No locks today ……

Sunday 28th September

… only bridges. If yesterday was all about hassles with locks, today was about meeting boats in blind bridges. No sooner had I undone the mooring ropes than the first boat appeared rapidly through the A5 bridge. From then on it seemed we met approaching boats at every bridge that could not be seen through, sometimes several boats following each other quite closely. At Flore Lane bridge we had just narrowly avoided a head on collision with a boat that seemingly appeared from no where when a second then appeared as well. When I pointed out to the hirer that it was best to leave a bit of a gap when following another boat through a bridge he explained the the first boat had pulled out smartly in front of him the other side of the bridge – that might explain the speed then.IMG_0839

IMG_0836 Today Brenda has been taking pictures of the nice paintwork  on a couple of working boats and even got one of the owners to throw in a pose. We decided to moor up and have lunch and then I went and fetched the car from Hillmorton whilst Brenda cleaned and tidied before we headed home. The weather has been good this weekend, not as warm and sunny as predicted but not cold or windy either.


It was OK until Braunston

Saturday 27th September

We set off from Hillmorton at 11:10 and had a good clear run into Braunston, meeting Mike, Krystina, the dogs and ferrets on Draco, about to MuddyBullocks2 go fetch Success, en-route. We stopped briefly for a water fill and pumpout at the sani-station before making our way to the bottom lock. As we arrived, a single hander had just opened a gate and so we joined him in the lock. He complained that the ten strong crew of fit males on the hireboat in front had failed to wait for him and had ascended the lock solo. He was only passing up into the first pound as he wanted to be close to the Admirable Nelson and the second pound was well down with the top being far too close to the bottom. It turned out that the whole flight was like this, we know not why.

We shared the second and third locks with a pair of gents delivering a boat from Leeds to Cambridge. The boat was quite old and it’s gearbox worked on the ‘one armed bandit’ principle – you waggled the stick about to see what you could get. How they’d made it this far we do not know. Once through the third lock and opposite the Nelson they decided to moor alongside the hireboat with the 10 fit young men on board and join them rather than continue up the flight. A mooring rope was thrown across the roof of the hireboat dislodging a zillion empty bottles and cans from the roof. As we were ascending the third lock, the gent who’d stopped two pounds down waved his pint at Brenda and said “you want one of these love” She responded that she didn’t want to get arrested for drunk-in-charge. He replied “that’s the benefit of being a live-aboard. If it’s your home they can’t do you for drunk driving” He also thought it applied if you owned your own boat. Worrying if it is a shared belief – explain that to a magistrate.

We continued up the next couple of locks solo and were slowly catching up a single boat ahead. The water levels were between 12 and 24 inches down in each pound until the summit which made transiting between locks very difficult, It’s at times like this that I’m glad we have a shallow draught boat.. As we ascended the penultimate lock in the flight we spotted that the other solo boat was waiting for us in the empty top lock. At least something worked out well.

On through Braunston tunnel where Brenda steered most of the way through, only handing over to me as we approached passing the first of three boats heading the other way. Sod’s law dictated that we met him in one of the bends within the tunnel and removed a bit more paint from the top of the cabin side at the front. When we arrived at Buckby top we were fifth in the queueIMG_0835 as there had been a three hour stoppage after a boat had lifted a top gate out of it’s seating. I went down the flight, on the bike,  to identify what was happening and  spotted a single boat at the head of the queue which would mean all of the pairs would split up. So, with no-one else wishing to descend, we passed down through the first lock solo and then shared the rest of the flight with nb Silkwood. The gates and paddles on this flight have not got any easier and I ended up helping the lady from Silkwood with her half of the lock as well when there were no ascending crew about to assist.

Out of the bottom lack and it was rapidly getting dark but I had no intention of mooring up alongside the M1 so we continued on to Landing Spinney where we moored in the dark adjacent to the A5 road bridge.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Late crop fruit harvested

Tuesday 23rd September

Misty Graham was up and at ‘em at snoozle o’clock again, I put my head out just as Son 1 phoned; a quick stop-over in Manchester to sort out a passport. We were able to have a quick chat but not able to give him the answers he needed as we had no internet connection on board – and I was completely unable to top-up my Three account successfully due to the Visa Secure system failing to work when I tried to use my card. Never mind, all was eventually sorted by the time he got to the passport office in Liverpool.

The time advantage that Graham created by starting early was spent harvesting fruit from the offside of the canal. Blackberries were found in the cutting above Brinklow and the same Plum tree at Clifton still had some serviceable plums left on it’s branches. As we passedLostTortoise Armada Marine at Brinklow wharf Graham spotted the diesel was a very good price (£1.02p per litre 60/40) and so we stopped there to add 150 litres to Jannock’s tank.

On down through Rugby where CaRT contractors are edging and dredging opposite Willow Wren’s yard; little boats all over the place with two tugs returning having just taken a dumb barge full of mud down to the road. At the road bridge we met a HillMortonstrange little craft sprouting wires everywhere and manned by blokes wearing what looked like deep sea divers suits. They were EA folk who were stunning all the fish and counting the species. They told Graham that they had very few Zander when he enquired.

We were moored up by 4pm, ready for a car shuffle and home. Another successful Cutweb rally , thanks guys. And as for the Pork rolls and roast beef at the Samuel Barlow  .  .  .  .  .  .  I have never seen so many doggie bags being asked for after a meal. The food was too good to leave on the plate, and far too much for many of us to finish. We were so pleased that we had not ordered a dessert to follow Sunday lunch. Mind you, that looked so good we also wish we’d had room for some as well. We drank Bonkers Conkers as well as playing it, we played Boule, we treasure hunted (and we won) we quizzed (and we didn’t win) we ate cake, we enjoyed Cutweb company and the rally had a new company of auctioneers – Floggit, Loggit and Droppit! We hope to do it all again next year.


Monday, September 22, 2014

And so the run home begins

Monday 22nd September

I was up and at-em at 07:30 helping nb Just Heaven extract themselves from the raft to head South.PooleyHall Nb Earnest (yes, that one) had left at 6:45 and we set off behind at 08:00 after I had used our car to give Glen’s camper van a jump start.  The run to Polesworth was very atmospheric with the low sun lighting up the mist rising from the canal. Brenda surfaced at about 9am bringing me a much needed refill of tea. As we  approached Grendon I managed to get some breakfast ready for the run up Atherstone flight. The first 6 locks were either in our favour or someone was leaving as we approached and so we had a smooth run up to the bypass bridge. We stopped there to visit Aldi as we needed some bread and milk. What we came back with was a rechargeable vacuum cleaner, a waterproof jacket and a new blade for my circular saw at AtherstoneFlighthome. Very expensive bread and milk then.

The run up the remaining 5 locks of the flight was equally easy with every lock being vacated as we approached. We have never had a run up Atherstone like this before. On through Hartshill, Nuneaton and Bedsworth where we stopped and tied up alongside nb Grace for SparklyTree a chat with Christine and Terry. They fed us tea and cake as well as returning an empty beer bottle in exchange for a couple of full ones. After a couple hours I decided we had better set off so I paid a visit down the weed hatch and removed a large sheet of black plastic from around the prop before we left.

As we turned onto the Oxford canal we found the lock empty with the gate open so I steered straight in, it’s definitely been our day today. I walked ahead as Brenda brought Jannock along the moorings and i found a gap that was just the right length. Brenda got annoyed because as ByeByeRigdens she was bringing Jannock nicely into this gap, the bloke on the boat in front obviously thought she was going to hit his boat and damage the paintwork so he pushed Jannock away which really messed up the manoeuvre. He then hung around until he was happy with my knots and mooring ropes before scuttling off back into his boat. The next boat along complemented me on the skill used to get Jannock into such a short gap so I was a gentleman and gave the credit to Brenda who had steered her in.

Faggots for supper  ( yum!)  followed by an evening doing nothing as I was absolutely shattered.


Friday, September 19, 2014

And so to the 2014 Cutweb rally.

Friday 19th September

Whilst we were walking to the Indigo Lounge last night Brenda got into conversation with an old lady walking along the towpath. She lives in the flats by the canal and walks every day. She told Brenda how she remembered when she was young and her father worked in the coal pit, the nice FMC boatmen would give her a lift IMG_0773up to the pit to meet him when he finished his shift (only with mums’ permission though). A lady with a very interesting past.

We left Polesworth for the short run to Alvecote where we found nb Just Heaven already in the layby. First job was to get Steve to turn her around so thatIMG_0777 she was stern in to the bank and then Brenda expertly manoeuvred Jannock back in alongside him.

When Brian and Diana arrived on Harnser, we persuaded them to collect nb Black Pig, which was moored on the 48 hour moorings opposite, and bring it into the raft as well.IMG_0787

From there on the day continued with general organisational duties and getting more boats into the raft. In the evening we had an informal meal and drinking session in the bar having moved all the tables to form one long one.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Willing helpers down Atherstone

Thursday 18th September

We arrived at the boat at about 11am and offloaded our stuff from the car. As I approached Jannock I heard a ‘plop’ in the water near the rear tyre fender and was in time to observe some ripples in the water. We use floating wheels to keep Jannock off of the bank and provide protection against passing boats that are going too fast as they absorb some of the too-ing and fro-ing that is generated on the ropes. There was clear evidence that during our stay at Hartshead the rear tyre had been a feeding base for a water vole or rat. It had a smooth layer of mud with loads of droppings scattered on the upper surface. Once loaded, I loosed off and noticed a furry creature swimming about in the reeds opposite the towpath but was unable to clearly identify what species.

We cruised along towards Atherstone and tried to grab a sandwich for lunch before the activity started. At the top lock we met Brian and Diana (nb Harnser) who had moored their boat at the bottom of the flight and kindly volunteered to help work us down. They said they need the excercise. I wasn’t fussy what excuse they need, it was great to have their help and the flight was cleared quite quickly with no major issues.

Once out the bottom we stopped at Grendon services to fill up with water and then continued on to Polesworth where we moored for the night beside the sports field and tennis courts. I returned to Hartshead, on the DiBlasi, and then moved the car on to Alvecote marina where we are having the Cutweb Rally this weekend. I then returned to the boat and the four of us went out to the Indigo Lounge for a meal. They do a nice Sunday to Thursday deal of four courses for £9.95p and very good it was too. Another advantage is that this establishment is at the rear of the Fosters Yard hotel so the beer selection is what they have on in the bar.

It’s international Talk Like a Pirate Day tomorrow so that should provide us with some amusement whilst we are setting up for the rally.


Sorry – no pictures as the camera remained packed for the journey today.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

First job of the day–Scrumping

Saturday 30th August

Well, we have to promote the Old English Traditions in this age of multi-Plumscultural and Euro centric era. Add it all to the mix I say, and that’s my excuse for taking three large bowls of plums from trees overhanging the cut at the bottom of the gardens of a Victorian terrace. Jam will be made but 8lbs of plums means that I need to get more sugar in.

We also had a good crop of Cutweb members today as well. We passed nb Rosie and nb Jacob whilst they were moored up. We also met Mike and Krystina on nb Draco, passing like ships in the day so only managing a few words. Approaching Sutton’s Stop we found nb Levick moored so we pulled alongside and had a lovely catch-up with sunbatherMichael and Angela until the next boat came along towards the lock and we had to move off to get out of their way.

Charity Dock appears to have gained a sunbather now.

As Jannock approached Marstone Junction, nb’s Tench and Ilford were making the tight turn onto the Ashby canal. There’s precious little room to manoeuvre at the best of times but Ilford was working long line throughIlford running blocks so we held off and admired the skill and boatmanship being displayed as they completed the turn with just the gentlest of shoves to Ilford’s bow to get her through the bridgehole.

As we were searching for a quiet overnight mooring spot we passed a little boy who was up a tree. He shouted at Graham about his googly eyes. As we were mooring he, 4 years old, his sister, about 8, and dad all came along on their way home. The lad was intrigued by everything. It felt like the Spanish inquisition – it’s the EU influence! Having asked politely if he could hold our centre line for us whilst Graham was making us fast, he considered all things Jannock. A guided tour was quickly arranged. Big sister was most impressed by my rhubarb crumble, waiting to go in the oven (the Italian oven – EU again) and our tiny bath. Little lad was impressed with my ‘flap-up’ serving table, all decorated with roses, and the spider in the engine bay. Bless.  It seems that Dad had taken them for a walk yesterday – “too few people walk these days. They don’t know what they are missing” – and they had picked enough blackberries for a crumble. So Dad stepped up to the mark and had made his first ever crumble, and he was so proud. Off they went to tell Mum that boats float away when you are in bed if you don’t tie them up.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Napton on a bank holiday–why do we do it?

Sunday 24th August

We started by being second in line for the first lock with another boat behind us. Descents were interspersed with ascending boats of various skill levels. The Kate boats crew in front of us had a habit of leaving the top paddle up whilst trying to empty the lock. They were embarrassed when this was pointed out but it didn’t stop it happening at the next lock as well. They did, however, back set for us where they could.

A Calcutt hireboat heading up the flight had a crew of six who all got onboard after a lock and then had fun and games trying to get off again at the next lock, all of approx 20 metres. In the lock, mum had to climb the slimy ladder and then take ropes from front and back before realising that the windlass was still on the boat. We persuaded them that walking between locks was OK and that ropes were not really required in a narrow IMG_0675lock.  Try telling that to a Thames lockie came the response. Well, these locks and Thames locks are totally different beasties.

As we were descending lock 10, where CaRT are working to shore up the wing wall, another boat turned lock 9 that was set in our favour and waiting for us to enter. This meant that we now had to try and shuffle three boats around in the intermediate pound which already had two CaRT workboats in there. The lady was not impressed when I expressed my disappointment that they could not wait a few minutes and instead had now created a log jam in between 9 and 10.

Down through the bottomlock and we found that the Folly had a marqueeIMG_0676 in the garden. This must have been where the ‘music on the wind’ was coming from last night. Once we were on the Napton to Braunston stretch, Brenda went inside to have a shower and I immediately came across a loaded plum tree on the offside just past Wigrams turn. Luckily there was little traffic so I could hold Jannock on the offside and harvest a load for Brenda’s Plum Vodka that she has obtained a recipe for.

AugustDucklingsWe went into Braunston and did a water-fill/pumpout at the sani-station before winding at the marina entrance and heading North on the Oxford. We had a good run with no issues until we passed Wharf Bridge at Hillmorton where we spotted a couple more plum trees on the offside in the narrows and raided them as well.

Today we spotted Goody Two Shoes, Rosie and SilverCrest which are all Cutweb member boats


Aground again

Saturday 23rd August

We arrived at the boat last night to find her aground again, this has IMG_0667happened so often this year that it’s not novel any more. The angle that Jannock was listed over was not as steep as on the Thames. Brenda thought we might be able to sleep aboard without tipping out of the bed but I had other ideas. Having worked out how to ‘float my boat’ last time I decided it shouldn’t be too difficult here, the level was only down about 6 inches. After the prep work, and with a small shove from another boater, we were free to move back into deeper water and moor for the night against some piling in the glow of a terrific sunset.

We loosed off this morning and found ourselves aground yet again. It was easy to get her afloat this time but I do not know what is wrong with the Cropredy pound. The locals were complaining that it had been like this for three days. Village opinion was that there was some illegal extraction occurring as both the canal and river levels were well down.

As we set off up the locks from Cropredy to the summit we decided that this was the most boat traffic we had encountered all year so far. This is the first time we have passed this way since the new marina has opened and we spotted PC2 moored parallel with the canal and safely hooked up to a mains cable. We queued for every lock, usually third in line and it was the same for boats coming the other way. Aaah! August Bank Holiday on the Southern Oxford, mostly sunny with blue skies but the wind was very chill.

Once on the summit I was amused to find a boat approaching us through Fenny tunnel ( not a tunnel anymore as the roof was taken off a long time ago, but still narrow) with his tunnel light on. When I commented that it was the first boat I’d ever seen use a light there the steerer said that he thought it would make his grey boat stand out more.

Many of the boaters we met today were hirers. All seemed to be having a good time. If the weather co-operates an English holiday floats many a boat ;^)

As we moored for the night (well, actually Brenda was making our supperIMG_0672 and experimenting with the Italian oven, Blackberry sponge worked well at Gas Mk 6 and the top of the oven, it took 45 minutes) part way down Napton flight, a hire boat came past very close. It’s crew of lads were walking to the next lock. We’d put the closeness down to the canal narrowing and inexperience. Not so, the steerer was almost taking the paint off the whole side so that one lad could get back aboard across Jannock’s cruiser stern. No “do you mind?” – of course we wouldn’t have, or “ may I?” Manners maketh the man or some such.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Back to the past

Sunday 17th August

Last evening we checked the weather forecast for today – Rain 30%. Now, in a rare cerebral moment we entered the worlds of meteorology and statistics ( a word I can spell but not say) What does that mean? Rain for 30% of the day? A 30% chance we’ll get some rain? The latter meant a 70% chance of no rain and was a better hope. Possibly rain all day but at 30% of total wet out. None of the above it seemed.

We set off, arrived at the first lock and found that it meant that in the few minutes it takes to lock through a narrow lock only 30% of your clothes will remain dry, and 30% of all cabin space will be taken up by dripping hats, coats, trousers and so on.

Flypast of the day – a Canberra. Not a common sight round here.

We arrived in Banbury to find it was awash with gongoozlers who are happy to stare into your home and watch your every move but not catch your eye or acknowledge you. By now the rain had stopped and eventually the sun came out but it was accompanied by a strong wind that increased as the day went on.

By early afternoon we were ready to moor up in a convenient spot and get out of this steerer unfriendly wind. Other boaters heading South reported that they had not seen any rain at all. We moored up just before Cropredy Old Mill, a place where we had moored for 5 years after we first bought Jannock, and locked up and headed for the comforts of home.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Blackberry Scoffins

Saturday 16th August

We set off from Enslow wondering if the day would be summer or autumn. Luckily it tended towards the former, although the fruits along the canal IMG_0655have all come early and herald September. A short run and we pulled over at Kirtlington quarry. We’ve had good blackberrying there before and it lived up to it’s promise. Another boat pulled into the mooring in front of us, so we told her that we’d be moving off once we finished gathering fruit. She said she’s hoped her teenage daughters would get up out of bed, maybe they’d collect blackberries. I suggested that blackberry muffins would get them up, a ‘must do’ after a previous visit here many years ago. “How do you make them?” I gave her a copy of my MayoMuffin recipe so she decided that a mother-daughter baking session was in order.

Since I’ve had my new Italian cooker on Jannock I’ve avoided baking. TheIMG_0660 IMG_0656

oven heats the base and it cooks very differently to any other oven I’ve used. It browns the bottoms leaving the tops pale, and best position in the oven has been too difficult to calculate. In went a batch of blackberry muffins and ten fingers were crossed. Twenty minutes later we were eating them hot on the back deck. The remainder were spotted by a gongoozler whilst they were cooling in the galley, I’d put them to cool upside down with the brown flat surface uppermost, he complimented me on my scones. Time to rebrand , Blackberry scoffins!

IMG_0658We were advised that we were following both a stag and hen party heading North up the Oxford. The stags were not to be seen but at Aynho wharf we passed the hens. It was clearly a ‘girly’ party before we got to them, the smell of perfume was carried down the cut by the wind. A refreshing change from the smell of booze normally associated with hen cruises. Forget our scoffins, as we passed their boat a traditional afternoon tea was laid out on the table. We’d already been offered Indian treats by the crew on a dayboat, as we passed them lunch was being passed around and Brenda commented “oooooooooooh lunch!” Would you like some? was the very fast response – shame we’d just eaten our own lunch so “no thanks” was my sad reply. Just as well no hen tea was offered, could we have resisted?

We moored for the night just south of Banbury. After we’d eaten our dinner Graham went off to move the car before it got dark.