Monday, October 24, 2011

The year’s figures.

During our cruise in 2011 Jannock’s engine ran for 278 hours and consumed 332 litres of diesel.

During that time we travelled 567 miles ( 88 of which were new territory to us ) and passed through 376 locks giving us the rate of 3.4 lock-miles per hour. This is higher than usual due to the number of river miles we travelled having been on the Thames, Wey and Nene.

It was an expensive year due to purchasing a Gold licence, mooring and diesel increases and having to repair a broken window as well as the aquadrive rubber gaiter failing and needing to be replaced but the all-in costs were £4148.47p working out at £14.92 per (engine running) hour.

Roll on spring.


I saw three ships come sailing …….

Saturday 22nd October

Here is a photo of the water levels in  Marsworth reservoir Marsworth reservoir levels.that we mentioned last week. The drop down to the fisher-persons tent is about ten foot.

Yet another glorious day, but almost as cold as mid-October should be due to the wind. As we approached Marsworth flight the crew of nb Vital Spark asked to share with us. We worked alongside them, steerers chatting and lockers grafting, an amiable ascent. nb Vital Spark enters the lock. They were completing their trip to new moorings at Cowroast marina as we were completing Jannock’s seven month trip back to Bourne End.

Along Tring summit I saw my first Kingfisher of 2011, a bit late but better than no sighting at all.

As we approached Bushes lock a little Springer Waterbug pulled out and lead us to the lock landing. There were five adults and a bouncy teenage girl aboard so we were pleased thinking that they’d lighten the load down the rest of the Northchurch locks. I jumped off and opened the gates and both craft entered. There was one lady on the Springer who knew what to do and the rest appeared to be visitors of some sort as the men stood around a lot with windlasses in their hands without a clue as what to do with them. I tried offering advice to get a sequence going but it was all forgotten  by the next lock. I told their captain that I would cycle ahead and get the next lock ready and so left them to sort out the bottom gates. At Gas lock Brenda and I were pleased when they said they were stopping at Waitrose as it would be easier doing the locks without them.

We moved down to the next (bottom) lock and I jumped off and opened one gate for JannockThe springer and it's gas bottle. to enter. The Springer appeared between Jannock and the towpath and declared their intention to come through with us. I set off over the lock and to open the other gate whilst their steerer decided she’d just continue on in through the first gate causing Brenda to hit reverse and do some nifty manoeuvring to avoid crashing into their boat or the still closed off-side gate. Their steerer made some comment about not realising that Jannock had intended to enter the lock on the towpath side so Brenda pointed out that was why I had opened that gate. She was told that there was “ no bl@@dy need to be sarcastic”. The crew just hung about, with windlasses in hand as usual, and left most of the work to me and their steerer. Black looks accompanied my departure, having carried the lock-wheeling bike across the bottom gates, to get Raven’s lane lock ready. Once both boats were in, with the assistance on the towpath side top gate of our local BSC examiner, he then started telling off their steerer for the hazardous state of their gas installation. It was a trip hazard at best as well as being lethal if it leaked. Their excuse was that they didn’t have a cylinder of the correct size for the housing and they had to set off in a hurry. His comment was “the number of times I’ve heard that excuse, still doesn’t stop it being dangerous”.

I continued on down and set Rising Sun lock and left them to complete Raven’s lane. They couldn’t get the offside lower gate fully open due to something being stuck behind it but still wanted Jannock to exit first so that they could pull their boat out and close the gates afterwards. Brenda persuaded them to go back in the lock a bit and then got Jannock out around the obstruction. We sighed with relief when they announced they were stopping at the Riser for a drink so once out of that lock we left them to it.

Just a little further on we stopped alongside Tiami for our regular autumn chat with Debbi and Simon. Debbi injured her foot a while ago and I lent her some Terry Pratchett books, to stop her going mad whilst incapacitated and stuck in the boat, so she returned them whilst we were there. A single hander on a rather old and smoky boat came past whilst we were chatting and so we decided not to hurry to lock share. When we finally set off we found her at Top side lock . Brenda reckons this boat is just a bow and stern welded together.It was set with just a single top gate open but she rushed round and opened the offside gate for us before bringing her boat in. What a difference!  She was only out on her ‘new’ boat for the second day and was keen to learn all the rules and etiquette of the cut. She wanted to become a safe and efficient boater as soon as possible. The company was as good as our first share of the day and far less effort than our second. We continued on through Bottom side and Sewer locks and explained that we’d be mooring up before Winkwell locks.

We pulled onto our mooring at Bourne End and waved a cheery farewell to her and a very interesting cruising season. We left our mooring heading South in April and returned heading South in October and for once have not had to retrace our steps on the southern end of the Grand Union at all.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Another cracking day Grommit!

Today we were accompanied for another leg of our homeward run south by neighbours Bob and Diane. Bob has been crew on Jannock before (Tardebigge 2010) but it was Diane’s first trip. not a cloud in the sky We set off from Stoke Hammond at 10:00 in another bonus day of summer. Mid October, us in T shirts (Graham still in shorts) and quite literally not a cloud in the sky all day.

We met nb Earnest (yes, that one) moored for lunch above Church lock and Linda reported that they had woken to a heavy frost and ice on their roof despite the cabin heating being on. I’m sure we won’t cheat autumn for much longer. 

It seemed we were unusual in that we were travelling south, but that meant that most of the locks were set in our favour, top gate leaks not withstanding, although we passed through them all solo. The pound between the two Ivinghoe locks was about 18” lower than it should the Tjalk waits to go downbe with the bottom of the cut being exposed at both sides. This meant Jannock’s steering and progress were difficult although the northbound Dutch tjalk that waited for us to ascend through the top lock must had had even more problems in that pound as he drew 3 foot compared to our ‘less than’ 2 foot. All of the other pounds during our journey were close to normal levels and some of the lock bypasses were running.

Once we had moored up, Graham went to fetch the car from Stoke Hammond whilst Bob, Di and I walked to Marsworth reservoir. Here it was very clear that we have paid for our sunny days with water; and that’s over a couple of years now. The normal reservoir water level was clear to see  some 10 foot above the fishermen who were a little way down the ‘beach’ which has been sufficiently exposed to allow green plants to establish themselves on it.Marsworth locks

It was a surprise to see that the White Lion pub, by Marsworth bottom lock, has closed – but once it had been bistrofied I guess their business plan didn’t meet their customer base and so it was likely to be all downhill. The Red Lion and Angler’s Retreat have both been enjoyed by Jannock crews so it’s not a beer desert in Marsworth yet.

On our journey home we were guiltily amused to see the fire engines, all lights blazing, attending Marsworth’s mobile fish and chip van. They weren’t picking up savaloy and chips for sure. It reminded me of comedy sketches  . . . .  didn’t Last of the Summer Wine use a mobile chippy to remove a dead body from a lady’s boudoir?  Do I remember Arkwright providing Granville with an equally flammable catering outlet in Open All hours? Ah British culture at it’s best and men in uniform. What an end to a lovely day. Thanks to Bob and Di for their company and help along the way.


Sunday, October 09, 2011

What month is it?

Saturday 8th October

09:45 and Jannock’s cabin temperature is the same as outside = 11.5 degrees. How did that happen? Normality resumed I suppose but I’m not so sure. After an un-eventful day in the environs of Milton Keynes we can report hedgerows full of blackberries and their flowers, sloes and plums alongside crab apples and  …….  pussy willow? Heroncropped

We left Cosgrove after chatting to a couple off of another boat who introduced themselves as fellow Cutweb members. They spotted us by our large bow stickers but we would not have spotted them as we could not see any trace of  Cutweb  on their boat as we passed. Brian on Harnser recognises members by their boat names but I’m useless with names, much better with numbers me. The herons on this stretch just sit and watch you pass, no flying off as the boat nears for these tough guys. It was Murial3 good to see the restored mural alongside the track south of Wolverton, and a sadness to see that some prats have already defaced it with their oh so simple minded graffiti.

The run down through MK revealed the same boats on the same towpath moorings with exception of the official BW long term moorings just south of Fenny lock which now seem deserted compared to last year. After all, we’ve been doing this same post-rally run south for 6 years now and I’m amazed how many boats I recognised.

We filled with diesel at Willowbridge marina (95ppl domestic) and as they were selling small trial phials of Fuelset, I purchased enough to treat Jannock’s tank for the winter closedown.  Shortly after leaving there I suffered a sneezing fit.   About 15 minutes later we identified the allergen as a swathe of oilseed rape in bloom – this is supposed to be October!


Sunday, October 02, 2011

2nd day of October ….

…  2nd day of tropical temperatures.

The cabin temperature was 27 degrees by 12:30 and 33 degrees by 14:00. Luckilythe wonderful views north of Cosgrove we only had a short day today caused mainly by staying late for an enjoyable evening at SB. It was a lovely day today with the early autumn colours, the hawthorns heavy with deep red berries and the being passed by a Stewarts tugfarmers preparing the winter wheat fields all looking at odds with the temperature.  Just before noon we encountered our first fishing match of the season and it seems that being warm and dry doesn’t improve the mood of those with grumpy tendencies one jot. I have always put their curmudgeonly demeanour down to trench foot and chilblains but no excuses now. We moored up and had lunch after which Graham fetched the car whilst I tidied and locked up before desperately trying to find some shade in which to await his return. 


If you can’t stand the heat …..

Saturday 1st October

Well here we are in October and needing the factor 30 by 10 am. 28 degrees or thereabouts. Working boats moored outside the tunnel At 2 pm we entered Blisworth tunnel where it was a chilly 17 degrees with frequent drips and deluges that cooled Graham down nicely for the locks. the Home Guard As we emerged from the tunnel it became obvious that their ‘Village at War’ event had been declared and so I searched out my boatwoman’s bonnet and put it on for a while. As we stopped to prepare the top lock Graham was ordered by a clip-boarded warden to move the boat nearer the lock in order for the trip boat to be able to access it’s mooring. He pointed out the fast back pump outfall and explained that if we moved forward into that we’d end up in the pub opposite. That in itself would make getting into the lock difficult enough without the hire boat that was bobbing about in the general hoo-haa also waiting for the lock. Mr warden looked very sheepish and went about his characterisation elsewhere. We shared the whole flight of locks with the hireboat using their crew to work the boats through whilst Graham cycled ahead and prepared the next lock. By the bottom lock I had trained their steerer to stay alongside as we moved the two boats between locks together.

We decided to moor up at the bottom of the flight and walk back up to the village to enjoy the war. Mooring was a bit of a problem, insofar as there were none within easy marching distance but then we noticed nb Justice moored there and so we took advantage and moored alongside. Thanks Steve! (incidentally – Kevin of SB says he hopes you’re OK after nearly getting run over) We met up with Sean (sb Laplander), had a quick recce and a look at the black market (they call it vintage clothing, I call it a jumble sale, only the price breaks are different) before deciding on the pub. The place was heaving with soldiers of all nations (including Germans). The Yanks on the next table The yanks looked like the cast of South Pacific and were augmented by the navy. There was even a gentleman trying to sell corsets and parachute silk directoire knickers. Our cider was attacked by a wasp (told you it was hot) and all this militarism was getting to me. so I killed it! I then flicked it towards the cut but it flew like a kamikaze pilot into some poor blokes beer. Oh how they laughed! I offered to buy him another but he declined. What a gent. The people sat next to us had some rather un-pleasant children and were not really looking after them. I decided to make their lives as unpleasant as they were making ours so I bought myself an ice cream. That made the little darlings whine and plead. Result! The ice creams at the Boat are highly recommended. After more drinks, a meal and lots of chat we wandered back down the flight. Graham had promised me a moon lit night, star spangled as there were no clouds. Just as well that I’d taken a torch as the black-out warden had obviously spoken to the man in the moon. I overhead someone saying it was not a night for a dambusters raid – too dark.