Saturday, May 21, 2011

On through Cropredy

Saturday 21st May

During last night’s tour of closed down shops and abandoned pubs imaginatively entitled ‘Banbury’s interesting architecture’ I spotted a Majestic Wine Warehouse just up Castle Street from the Quay. This morning, having fitted the new shorter gear change cable, I took Jannock’s folding sack truck and restocked with four cases of beer whilst Brenda shopped successfully for some new jeans – weeks of endeavour now over ;^). She also went to photograph some of the buildings for the log and Banbury architecture was asked what her interest was in the old Co-op building was. The enquiries were from an Australian couple who’d been photographing it earlier having discovered that her ancestor had founded the Banbury Co-op Soc. She’d been told of antecedents in the town and had been to the library to research it. They were overjoyed to identify the relative and find the Co-op and his home only a couple of streets away from each other. They’d also been entranced by Tooleys Yard and asked why on earth a large development had been built around it. Brenda explained it’s history, significance and listed building status as well as trying to explain the effort that went in to preserving it.

Once she’d returned to the boat we set off North, along a bit of canal that we haven’t travelled since we left our Cropredy mooring in 2005. It was interesting to notice the changes since our last visit. A lot of bank protection has been completed but unfortunately the Grass Snakekeepers cottage at Bourton lock is now empty and someone’s had the slates off of the extension roof. Shame but a notice on the door says that it has been bought by local boaters so I hope they manage to do something with it. On through Cropredy and only one boat still moored at Old Mill who was there when we were, everyone else must have moved on as we did.

As Jannock ascended through Claydon bottom lock I noticed a grass snake swimming in the canal just above the top gate and managed to get a picture on my phone before it hurried of under the trees on the off-side.

We decided to moor up on the summit, the first place we tried found Jannock pivoting on an underwater obstacle meaning I could get either the bow or stern against the bank but not both. We moved on 200m and found another spot where she fitted nicely against the bank. I then returned to Twyford Wharf on the Di Blasi to fetch the car whilst Brenda tidied up and prepared for home.


We move INTO town for a quieter mooring!

Friday 20th May

We arrived at Jannock and loaded our stuff on board. I then proceeded to remove and refit the front and rear most windows on the starboard side as they both leak water when it rains.Having replaced one on the other side last week, I thought they both needed re-sealing. I installed them back into the boat using ‘window tape’, a kind of thick double sided tape that is sold by Bottom Lock chandlery at Braunston. I then sealed the edges using clear silicon sealant to provide an extra layer of protection.

Once my task was completed, we decided that the ambient noise from the M40 was too much so we headed North into Banbury. We stopped at Banbury services for a water fill and then proceeded up through the lock to find a mooring space. The usual collection of down and outs was assembled by the lock and one of them closed the towpath side bottom gate for me. He then moved up to the top gate and sat on the end of the balance beam while I worked the paddles. It was only when the gate needed opening that I joined him there and got my first whiff – WOW that was the worst smell I’ve ever smelled and I’ve changed a nappy on a newborn. I left as soon as I could to attend to the lift bridge and to prevent me throwing up.

OldBldg We moored for the night almost below the road bridge at the end of Castle Quay. During the evening Brenda wanted to explore Banbury’s architecture and so I was dragged along for the exercise. The photo on the left shows the wonderful brickwork that now houses a restaurant. I wonder what it originally was? I did manage to persuade her that the inside of Weatherspoons was definitely worth an inspection and so it proved to be, they had an excellent ale called MarshMellow brewed by the Oxfordshire brewery at Marsh Gibbon. We returned to Jannock and had a very peaceful night.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A short day with Gladys

Sunday 15th May

The weather looked reasonable and so we persuaded Gladys, our neighbour who normally feeds our cat whilst we are away boating, to come out for a day trip. As we were preparing to set off from Aynho another northbound boat passed us so I didn’t hurry with my task of casting off. Finally on the move we found him just entering Aynho Wier lock as we arrived and so he allowed us to share this diamond shaped lock with him. Once through he went out first, and Jannock followed leaving the lock open for two southbound boats. I walked ahead of the boats to prepare Nell Bridge lock . Although he claimed to have owned his boat for 20 years, this single handed man did not exhibit a high level of boat handling skill and took a long while to get his boat into the lock. Never mind, as they say in football, “in off both posts is still a goal”.  I worked him up, then assisted another boat down before working Jannock up through the lock as well.

By this time the wind was getting up and the sky was overcast and exhibiting all the signs of raining soon. Around under the M40 and the light spots of rain started. At Kings Sutton lock we caught up the boat in front again and I worked him through again. This time I turned the lock for Jannock as there was no southbound traffic. Once through the lock, with the rain going from light spots to a drizzle, we stopped for lunch and later decided to call it a day and moor Jannock up for the night where we were.

Once I had fetched the car from Aynho, we drove into Banbury to visit Tesco where Gladys purchased a flat screen digital TV ready for the switchover which we’ll get in September. Then home to a hot meal that had been slow cooked on a timer while we were out.

It was a brief enjoyable day spoilt only by the combination of cold wind and drizzle that made it feel worse than it really was.


Maintenance Day

Saturday 14th May

As Jannock was moored at Aynho where the towpath is on the Port side (heading North) and I had a replacement window to install I set off from home loaded with stuff to do maintenance.

I reversed back from the 14 day moorings to the wharf where I filled the diesel tank. 160 litres replaced the air, priced at £0.89p domestic and £1.40p for propulsion. Walker Services allow you to self declare whatever rate you want here.  I decided to do a ‘post Soddit’ pumpout as well. They have a small trailer, fitted to the back of a mini tractor, with a 45 gallon tank and an electric pump. When the tank is full it is driven to the workshop where it is emptied into the septic tank. I am amazed that they actually offer pumpouts considering they’re not on mains drainage. That would explain the above average price of £18.oop but at least they did both halves of Jannock’s split tank without quibbling that it requires double payment like some yards do. Several trips to empty the trailer later and both sides were declared empty.

I had hoped that one of the boats moored on the 48hr mooring opposite the wharf would have departed by now as it would be a better place to fit the replacement window, but no luck there so back onto the 14 day mooring with the dodgy, un-piled bank. Once the screws were removed I used a paint scraper to loosen the mastic sealing the window frame to the cabin side and the window unit came away quite easily. This surprised me as when she was repainted in 2004 the painters asked to leave the windows on as they tried, and could not remove, the lounge one. Maybe it’s the technique I used. Any way, I cleared up the surround and then offered up the replacement. It is slightly smaller but not enough to make a difference – apart from only having two original holes that lined up. This meant I needed 18 new fixing holes drilled through the steel cabin side. My battery drill gave up during the creation of the third hole and so I walked back to the wharf where I managed to borrow a mains electric drill for an hour as long as I put a donation into the charity box. What excellent service Walker Services provide!

The replacement window fitted a treat and all that was left was to clean up the mess on the inside window frame. Luckily I had left the secondary double glazing panel on inside the frame and so the magnetic strip on that caught all the metal swarf from the drilling. The rest was swept up and I then returned the drill and headed home feeling good.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Soddit on the Oxford

Friday evening we arrived at Jannock carrying fish and chips collected from Smarts in Kidlington. We ate these and then loaded all our stuff onto the boat. I then parked that up before we started playing Soddit. We managed 4 games before calling it a night and retiring to the sound of heavy rain beating on the metal roof.

Brian got a nasty surprise at 08:00 as my phone, located at the rear of the boat, was still connected to the bluetooth handsfree kit in the lounge and he got a very loud wake-up ‘alls well’ text from the alarm system. A lazy start as it was still trying to rain but we were moving by 10am, up through the lift bridge and onto Thrupp Wharf for a water fill.  Kate Saffin was moored next to the wharf and I also met Maffi for the first time as he came a calling on her whilst we were there.

I always thought ‘micro-fish’ was a method of storing printed Brian and I at the noisy end. matter until I saw Ian’s first catch of the day. We stopped just North of Enslow wharf for a spot of lunch and fishing.

<Ian> The resulting catch here was two (too?) small Perch. Much of this trip the canal and River Cherwell followed the same route. The river looked a much better option for fishing but being ‘out of season’ meant it was not allowed. </Ian>

On test from the Vale Brewery for this cruise was my firm favourite, Vale Pale Ale, and also their May monthly special ‘Brill Steam’. We managed to make quite a large hole in the stock during Friday evening and Saturday. We moored for the night just above Lower Heyford on the well kept visitor moorings there. A very nice peaceful setting for a slow roast beef dinner and more Soddit.

We had a lot more heavy rain during Saturday night but it cleared for Sunday morning. After breakfast we set off North and at Allens lock I put Jannock’s bows onto the lock landing to drop of the crew and then selected reverse to get back into the Ian trying the new bridge lock centre of the cut ready for the lock gate to open. I heard a metallic twang and discovered that the gearbox was now permanently in reverse due to the gear cable not functioning. I opened up the engine covers and stepped down onto the engine bearers from where I operated the gearbox by the selector arm and managed to steer back onto the lock landing again. We let another Northbound boat have the prepared lock, complete with willing crew to operate it, while I dismantled the Morse lever and re-fitted the gear selector cable to the operating lever. It was all done by the time the lock had been turned again and we continued on our way with only a 5-10 minute delay. Above Allens lock we past nb Virgo with Guy and Connie on board. They obviously noticed the name or Cutweb logo on the bows as they came rushing out for a chat. Shame I missed JPs birthday do at Napton last night ;^)

At Somerton deep lock, there was plenty of water leaking past the top gate and so I tried to hold Jannock back against the bottom gate to keep the front well dry. The eager crew of two Southbound dayboats whacked both paddles straight up so I didn’t stand a chance of keeping her there. A short whitewater ride later and the front fender was firmly planted against the top gate – thanks guys! We stopped for lunch, and another session of ‘non contact’ fishing,  just above that lock where Ian prepared “I can’t believe it’s not Duck” to eat. After lunch, with a steadily increasing wind, we continued on until we reached our destination for the trip. I then fought that wind doing a car fetch on the Di Blasi.


If only all weekends were like this one. (re-posted)

Saturday 16th April

Wildlife of the day – Woodpeckers

In order to set off from Grove we had to shift Jannock off of the mud as the water level in the pound had dropped quite a lot during the week we’ve been moored here. No wonder Sue on No Problem complained about getting stuck there. We moved a little way to Grove Mill bridge where we tied up and loaded the Di Blasi etc. as the walk to the boat from the car was a bit long. Once loaded we set off an immediately ran aground again above Cassiobury  Park top lock when I tried to get off the boat to set the lock – luckily a passer by assisted with the re-floating effort as I couldn’t move her on my own no matter where I tried with the pole. Before Iron Bridge lock I met the aforementioned Sue and hubby Vic on the tow path as they were going for a walk with the dogs and so a very brief hello was said, and Brenda introduced, as we passed.

We stopped at Ricky Tesco for a mega-shop once we had manoeuvred around a new boat owner who was trying to be in control even though he was constantly being attacked by a tiller that was far too BlackJackTree2long to allow him to use it from the rear deck of his trad. stern boat. As we were untying from Tesco we agreed to pair up with nb ‘the Cat’s Whiskers’ and managed to share with them all the way to Uxbridge.  At Coppermill lock we met Dave and Beryl Chapman heading North towards the IWA bash at Northampton. I helped work them through whilst having a good chat with Dave. Once through Coppermill lock I managed to cycle past the bank where Brenda fished our lock-wheeling bike out in 2006 without it wishing to return into t’cut. The flowers on the tree at Black Jacks lock were so nice I had to take a picture of them.

We moored up for the night along the Uxbridge straight having bade farewell to the Cats Whiskers as they continued on to Cowley to view their new mooring.

Sunday 17th April

I was out and on the Pirates1road at 6:30am to move the car from Grove.  Brenda was amused when I reported “I got lost in Southall, I hate traffic lights – they’re a nightmare” on my return nearly 3 hours later.

After breakfast we untied and set off immediately passing a moored narrowboat that has been done up to resemble a galleon (see picture). We met the Cats Whiskers heading back North again who reported that their prospective new mooring was good and so they would be moving to Cowley marina.  The rest of the day was relatively un-eventful passing down through Cowley, then Bulls Bridge and onto the Hanwell flight.  There was a BW widebeam workboat loosely tethered with the regulation length of baler twine immediately below lock 95 which blocked off half of the lock entrance so I’m glad we were in a narrowboat. Any widebeam trying to exit that lock would have to go and rein it in a bit first. Brenda was wondering what the ‘secure’ unit was alongside lock 95 but we have since learnt that it is St. Bernards Hospital. We finally moored up above a rotting collection of autumn leaves which made the canal surface bubble with a horrible smell as we moved in over the top of it all. – loverly ;^)


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In praise of Black Prince Holidays

As many may know, we purchased Jannock (nee Powys) direct from the fleet of Black Prince in 2000. One of the things that helped sell the boat to us was the promise of a years warranty (unusual on a second hand boat) which proved valid when they supplied us with a brand new starter motor when our old one failed at Bradford on Avon on the K&A in 2001. John Lucas (General Manager) prides himself with the support he provides to his ‘owners club’. In the past we have experienced this by obtaining new replacement mattresses for the single beds from him at cost price, over £60 per mattress cheaper than the best quote we had obtained from alternate suppliers. When I needed a quarter of a sheet of 19mm Hexaboard to replace the front seat they sold it to me for less than a quarter of the price I could have purchased a full sheet for. Last year we were given one weeks free secure mooring at Stoke Prior as we were travelling down to Worcester.

Jannock’s recently broken window (see Friday, April 22, 2011) is the latest example of service above and beyond expectation. I rang them to try and identify the manufacturer of said window so that I could find out how to replace the broken pane. I was told it was made by ChannelGlaze and that they still had some in stock at Stoke Prior. If I would like to go there and identify the correct size I could have a complete replacement window ready glazed. I visited and found the stock they had was the right size and when I asked how much they wanted for it, I was told ‘nothing – take it away’. I couldn’t do that so I gave them a contribution towards their Christmas party or whatever as I was so pleased to pick up a spare for an obsolete item.

So Hats Off to John Lucas and his team at Black Prince for yet another wonderful example of customer service.

Graham – a very happy ex-Black Prince boat owner

Monday, May 02, 2011

Thar she blows

I thought it was hard work last night mooring up Jannock with a strong wind trying to blow her out into the centre of the river at the same time. Eventually I had her firmly connected to terrafirma using four mooring ropes, two to long stakes and two to corkscrew type  screw in eyes. Last night’s strong wind had increased this morning which made the process of untying more of a logical puzzle. I left the centre line connected and removed all the others but still needed Brenda to anchor one of the stern lines to keep the back end in near the bank. I then wrapped the centre line around me while I unscrewed the mooring eye from the ground. This meant that both of us were on the bank, being anchors, and the wind was trying to move Jannock out into the river. Eventually I got Brenda to get aboard and then I ran and jumped on board carrying the centre line with me. I just made it – phew.

The wind was so strong as we made our way towards Dukes cut that Brenda needed a fleece winter hat on as she got earache without it. Up through the stop lock and things were getting a bit more manageable now. The crew of a southbound boat coming down through Dukes Lock were complaining about the effect of the strong wind on their boat. I pointed out to them that they aint seen nuffink yet and things were going to get a lot worse once they got out on the Thames. We experienced a couple of dodgy moments when we slowed to pass moored boats and found ourselves being blown onto them by the crosswind. No pictures today as were far too busy trying to stay mid channel   ;^)

We found a suitable mooring for the week and tied up, Brenda created a great lunch from what was left in the fridge and then I was off to Wallingford on the Di Blasi to fetch the car. The wind now became very useful as I covered the 25 miles back to the car in under one hour – the Di Blasi normally averages about 20mph due to the effect of hills but the tail wind sorted that out today. I even had 38MPH on the clock at one point on the Oxford bypass which is definitely a first, never been above 35 before.

On my return we finished packing and putting away and then set off home. It has been a glorious 12 days and we did not have one drop of rain fall on us even though we watched several thunderstorms pass by one evening last week.


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Day eleven on the big Jannock boooat!

Quote of the day :- 4 hoorays oboard a wannabe gin-palace "The Basingstoke canal is, like, lock heaven, Yah?" Yeah right, the Basingstoke canal is, like, mostly closed - so there!

As ever, Abingdon lock was hassle, but the lockie was letting boats ascend with room for one or two more of those left waiting and also opening the bottom paddles before all craft had exited at the top making it difficult for some to leave.
We entered the lock and tied up to watch the confusion that was an Anglo Welsh crew come into the lock. They seemed to think that as long as their bows were in then someone (anyone) else would complete the manoeuvre and tie up for them. We suggested to the lockie that if they came forward then the small boat behind them could also get in. Well, he thought about it and decided it was a very good idea. We thought it bleedin obvious. Then he decided to try and get another cruiser in as well. We could see it was too wide to fit but he had to try, and then pull it back out again after attempting to crush it's stern with the gates. The Anglo Welsh crew then started to have a row, based on domestic inadequacies, as to who would hold their front rope in the lock. We finally ascended and exited to try and access the water point which was now full of craft waiting to lock down. We finally moved across onto it and were approached by the crew of a southbound cruiser wanting the hose as they'd not been able to get any water out of the hose at the pumpout station. Brenda pointed out that it was a sewage disposal point. "yes, but we can't get any water out of it" was the puzzled retort. What fun?
We met the A.W. crew again at Sandford lock. It was self service now as the lockie was at lunch. They entered the lock and we followed on Jannock. I suggested that Brenda played lockie, she declined stating that there were 6 of them - except all 6 were now back on the boat. One of them then realised the situation and went lockside but only to take the ropes - he tried to do one at each end at the same time. Then he realised that he'd have to operate the lock as well and then wondered why nothing on the control panel worked. He even tried turning the wheel but to no avail. I suggested he closed the bottom paddles which he did and went up to the top end of the lock and started flirting outrageously with a couple of girls whilst getting 25p off his girlfriend, aboard the boat, to buy a cigarette from them. He told the girls that he was "having to do it all because the lock keepers didn't work Sundays". Brenda was not having that so she told them that it was only due to lunchbreak that the lockie was not there. He then continued to inform the girls that his hireboat had a bed and a 'banging sound system' Yeah really? We left the lock with me explaining to him that he needed to close the gates and paddles, as no-one was waiting, and suggested that his boat pull over onto the lock landing to pick him up. Personally we would have just left him behind. A Darwin Award could be in the post.
Do the maths - We saw them again today, moored just below the Head of the River, at 15:00. They aint gonna make it back to Guildford in time!
Port Meadow in a strong wind is a phenomenon of nature no boater needs. The lockie at Godstow was great, using our barge pole to try and prise boats off of the lock landing and into the shelter of the lock.
We continued up through Kings Lock and on towards Eynsham until we found somewhere suitable to turn, and tie up against the wind ready, for an attack on the Southern Oxford tomorrow.