Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Locked In. 24th September

Bridge 126 to Claydon Bottom Lock

P1410216smWith the locks behind us closed overnight it meant no passing boats this morning. Most people had headed for Fenny Compton and the pub, but we’d elected to be in what felt like the middle of nowhere. No Mrs Tilly stamp of approval due to the number of sheep, but we certainly liked it here.

We pushed off at 10:30, getting off the summit pound our goal for the day, if we could fill with diesel and dispose of rubbish that would be a bonus. Over the weekend Mick had texted the local coal boat NB Dusty to see if we would be coming across them in the next few days. It took a while to get a response from them which was a touch ambiguous. They may be heading towards Oxford this week then back northwards next or it may be the following week. We decided to top up the diesel on our way south in case we don’t see them for another week.

P1410223smP1410228smThe summit pound of the Oxford weaves and winds it’s way across the top in such a laborious fashion. It’s pretty but it just takes forever at times you turn to your left and not only can you see where you had just left but also Napton where we’d come from yesterday. Then to the right you can see the way you are heading around the next loop of the canal. 11 miles that if you could travel as the crow flies would be 5. Some of the bends make it easy to see a boat coming the other way, but others make it far harder.

P1410238smYou can’t miss the signs as you approach Fenny Compton regarding the site of the bins. They have moved to the marina away from the water point so we trundled our way past moored boats having to pause a couple of times for a boat coming towards us, it’s narrow round here. The service mooring was free so we pulled up, diesel price not too bad at 82p, just a shame they were closed! Closed Sundays and Mondays and an early closing on Wednesdays. Not in dire need of a top up, we’ll most probably last another couple of weeks but it’s getting to that time of year when we’d rather have the tank full to stop condensation.

P1410243smThe bins are down a hill in a locked area with a high fence round them. We’d been looking forward to getting rid of our recycling here. The padlock on the gates not unlockable with a key of power, but two of the bins by the fence have their lids left open so that you can throw your rubbish over. One had a small sticker on it about recycling the other didn’t, so we put our plastic and cardboard in the right one, just a shame that there were what looked like black bags of normal rubbish in there too!

P1410249smFenny Compton Tunnel follows, a long straight stretch, narrow and quite overgrown. It was built in the 1770’s as a tunnel, as the name would suggest, but in 1838-40 parts of the roof were demolished, more in 1866-9. A brick works was set up alongside to make use of the clay spoil, a brick kiln being built n 1841 which continued firing bricks up to 1917. Today the sky is visible. The towpath overgrowth was being seriously cut back by three chaps with strimmers all the cuttings falling into the canal as they went.

P1410255smP1410256smAt one particularly narrow section the off side vegetation caught one of our fender hooks still hung on the side and dragged it along the grab rail. Branches from the sideways trees had been broken off but were pointy  and just at the right height to get the cabin side! Oleanna is not a shiny boat and the Ribble link left it’s mark last year, she now has one graze from the fender hook along the grabrail and one wavering scratch along the cream line on the cabin side. Grrr!

P1410265smClaydon Locks are also on restricted hours at the moment, all the signs we’d seen said last boat in at 3pm, although our friends who’d been on a hire boat two weeks back had them close behind them at 2pm. Now past lunchtime we moored just out of sight of the top lock and had lunch. If the locks were closed by the time we got there then so be it, if not we’d be on our way down. We pushed off again at 2:30 and met a boat coming up the last lock, more were following them up the flight.

P1410286smI helped with the first boat, then had on lookers waiting for their turn as we made our way down. Another boat soon followed along with another in the second lock. At the third lock of the five two C&RT chaps walked by with windlass’s saying that they’d locked the bottom lock, so we’d have to wait for them to let us out.

P1410292smP1410294smThe bottom lock certainly was locked, I couldn’t fill it. The ground paddles had a bar passing over the top of the mechanism through the back of the metal post where a padlock held it in place. A sign on the bottom gates announced Locks Closed, so we waited. One of the chaps returned chatting to a fellow with a bike. He undid the padlock and wound the paddle up all the time chatting away about local goings on. Not one word said to either Mick or myself,what they were talking about was quite interesting, just not good customer service. Once in the lock the padlock went back on the paddle and the chap carried on chatting as I emptied the lock. With the lock empty I went to push both gates open, but no matter what I couldn’t get them to shift. I tried nudging one before the other still it didn’t work!

P1410297smMick got their attention at last and asked if one of them could possibly help, which the chap with the bike did. Still not one word from the C&RT chap, not even an opportunity to say thank you!

A long stretch of armco presented itself so we decided to pull up for the day giving Tilly a few hours shore leave before her curfew. TREES!!!!!! Big ones, small ones, sideways ones, big sideways ones. The big sideways ones must have fallen oven with all the woofer wee! Too much climbing to be done to find any friends today and then when I came home the hot box in the corner was glowing. Lovely, hope we get to keep this outside for a few days.

Once moored up Mick set about replacing the soft shackle that connects our centre lines to the roof. We’d noticed that it had frayed somewhat over the last 18 months of constant use and we’d bought a spare so better to replace it now than when it goes. Followed by a new fuse for the bow thruster charging circuit. Inside I decided now was a good time to give the oak surrounds to the windows a coat of Danish Oil. In the mornings we are starting to get condensation on the frames and windows. This tends to collect and run down the wooden surrounds and has gradually eaten away the finish on the oak. Splashes around the sinks have also done this so before the oak gets affected I wanted to give it some protection. A wipe around most of the windows with the oil whilst Tilly was out, I left the ones she likes sitting in the most until she has a full days shore leave and the stove is lit. The one above the cooker can wait for a day when it won’t be used. Most came up well, one had just started to go dark with the water. Hopefully I’ll get another coat on them in the next few days for more protection.

DSCF7121sm5 locks, 8.08 miles, 1 tunneless tunnel, 1 lufted bridge, 0 diesel, 3 throws, 2 grazes, 3 strimmers, 3 scarecrows, 2 lockies, 2 padlocks, 0 words, 2.5 hours, 7 big trees, 1 warm boat, 5 windows oiled, 100 amp fuse, 1 new shackle, 1 stove lit hopefully to stay in overnight.


Monday, 24 September 2018

Reaching For The Summit 23rd September

Bridge 110 to Stoneton Bridge 126
Yesterday the forecast said it would rain today until 11am, then get sunny followed by mounting gusts of wind. This morning it had changed, raining until midday. We pottered during the morning waiting for the rain clouds to clear, which they did at 11, good job we were ready. The forecasts don’t seem to be as reliable as they used to be.
P1410087smWe’d been passed by quite a few Calcutt Hire boats this morning all heading back towards base, only one or two boats were Napton bound. As we got closer to the locks boats were pulling out, either to wind or head up the locks, everyone had been waiting for the rain to finish. Around the last bend there were two boats on the water point, but nobody at the services block, so we pulled over there as a familiar green boat headed straight for the first lock in the flight. The rubbish was disposed of quickly so we were next in line as a very eager man pulled up opposite us, I reached the lock and Lock Keeper before they did.
P1410091smThe Lockie had some handy tips on how to handle your boat in the Oxford locks as they tend to drag you forward as do the ones on the Trent and Mersey. Once up the first lock we had to wait for a boat up ahead to get into rhythm up the flight, so I got chance to chat to the chap from the green boat in front, NB Winding Down (our old shareboat). He was out for a couple of weeks, but had been let down by a crew member so his plans had changed somewhat. One friend was with him today (a lock novice) and they were planning on getting as far as they could on the Oxford before turning back to base, next week he has more crew and will venture further.
P1410096smP1410094smLock 9 is the reason we’ll be on the Oxford until Christmas, it has gone a bit wobbly around the edges. It’s banana shape means that if you are in an aging boat that has developed a touch of waistline spread then you are likely to get stuck. NB Tyseley, the Mikron boat, got stuck good and proper a month ago, she sat in the lock overnight until numerous ropes with people hauling, a boat pulling , the engine going and a tidal wave from the top paddles gave her a boost to get her out. Newer boats don’t have this problem, you just need to have your fenders up, but then they should be up anyway in a lock.
P1410084smThere were plenty of people about to help at lock 9, Winding Down up first. One lady walked up the flight a short way and signalled that there was a boat on it’s way down, so we waited for them. The impatient fellow on the boat behind us didn’t understand why we were waiting. Maybe we’d be saving some water, on this canal it’s in short supply at the moment, but mores the point the pound in between the locks would then have to cope with three boats in it juggling themselves round each other. It looked hard enough for Winding Down to get out of the way of the boat coming down! The man behind would have to wait no matter how much he ran around his boat.
P1410124smOnce through the lock ourselves we were on our own in the growing sunshine. By about the forth lock up boats were coming down the flight towards us, so we didn’t have to close many gates as we left, or open them. Hirers were starting to steam nicely in their waterproofs having battled through the rain this morning. At one lock a lady joined with her dog who sat by the top gate patiently waiting for first us and then her own boat to go through not moving an inch. We both commended the dog and her owner, ‘there’s enough to worry about at locks without a dog adding to it’ she said.
P1410117smWater Buffalo grazed in the fields alongside the canal busy making their milk which is made into chilled medication. The sun was now out and as we gained height we also gained better and better views with each lock. By the time we reached the last lock of the flight we’d run out of downward boats so the Marston Dole Locks had to be reset, we’d caught up with Winding Down, so chance for another chat at the last lock.
P1410127smThere are currently time limits on these locks with the hope of saving water and letting the summit pound recover overnight. Last entry is at 3pm and as we filled with water and had a quick lunch the last few boats of the day came up and one went down before they would be locked for the day.
P1410154smP1410164smThe vintage cars are still at the top of Marston Doles and a short distance on there is still the boat moored in the field. Obligatory photo taken, you’d have thought they’d have done their best to avoid being on a list!
P1410182smP1410183smThe sunny summit pound. We pootled along as the wind blustered around us. Hoping for a view we thought of reaching a mooring we’d stopped at two years ago, but time was drifting. A view, lack of trees but more importantly some day light hours were required by Tilly for some shore leave. As a length or Armco came  into sight by bridge 126 we decided to pull up.
P1410187smHere there is a big tree, it needed to be conquered. I set to with my first leap upwards and started to scoot round the trunk only to come face to face with a wooly mass! What!!! It barrd at me, I leapt off and ran to the cat walk and ran straight down the side of the boat as Tom and her shouted at me. I was safe on the cat walk, don’t know what all the fuss was about, I do it every day. I tried a couple more times but the wooly face was joined by another so in the end I gave up.
P1410195smA nice quiet, apart from the sheep, towpath, only a French family walked across the field towards us and then headed away. The sun setting to our starboard side and the moon rising to the port, what more could you want from a mooring as your Sunday roast cooks in the oven.
DSCF7114sm9 locks, 6.38 miles, 1 st and 3rd boats following each other, 1 very impatient man, 43 curly horned beasts, 1 full water tank, 1 pooh bucket changed, 0 recycling, 5 wooly faces, 1 cat charge along the wrong side of the boat, 1 sunset, 1 moon rise, 1 mooring going on our list to return to.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Bobbing. 22nd September

Long Itchington to Stockton Road Bridge 110, Oxford Canal

Last night the forecast suggested that today would be a good day for cruising, the winds having died down and before the next band of rain was due to hit us on Sunday. So with this in mind we planned to climb back up to the Oxford Canal.

After breakfast was cleared away we made ready for the off. As soon as the pram cover was folded down onto the roof it started to rain! Waterproofs were sought, the rain wasn’t that heavy so we headed for the locks. All the boats we’d seen moving this morning had been heading down, nobody going up until we came to the first lock where two were sharing. We waited a short while but nobody had looked like they were making ready as we passed the moored boats, so we decided to start.

P1400989smThe first lock was full of crab apples all bobbing away as I emptied and then refilled the lock. The winds must have blown a lot off the trees as at times the towpath was a carpet of them, slightly treacherous under foot. The next pound was low, Mick crept along the bottom as I walked onwards to the next lock. There were two boats coming down, one a hire boat the other wanting to return to its mooring just below. Mick still crept along and managed to pass the hire boat making it into the lock. The crew of the other boat needed more water as they couldn’t get close enough to moor alongside another boat, so we helped by filling and rising in the lock. As I closed the gates I could see a windlass turning at the bottom end emptying it straight away.

P1400999smP1410005smAs we got to the first of the Stockton flight I could see the two boats ahead, it looked like they were doing a lock, then loitering in the next pound for the next one to be emptied. This meant they were going slowly and the chap at the helm of the hire boat was having difficulty in keeping his boat pointing in the right direction. It looked like we’d catch them up. Then as I walked up to set the next lock for us I noticed a boat coming down hill, the locks were set in their favour so we waited for them to do them, meaning I wouldn’t have to reset them. A very nice family heading to the Cape Of Good Hope today. I chatted with the crew as we all stood in the constant drizzle that had set in for the day.

P1410012smSadly only two locks were set in our favour, but the lack of wind today meant that Mick was able to stop Oleanna and close up the locks behind him, me setting the one ahead, closing it and setting it to fill before heading on to the next one. Thankfully the numbers on the locks get lower as you rise up them, knowing how far off your goal is made the constant dampness easier.

P1410018smP1410021smOut of Lock 4 and we reached the long pound which takes you to Calcutt locks. We pulled in just after the permanent moorings for lunch and a dry off before carrying on. Even if we’d had enough of the rain the serious lack of internet meant we would move on no matter!

Just as we were about to pull out again a boat came past, Mick checked if we’d be able to share with them, but they were only heading back into one of the marinas before the locks. Oh well! We pootled onwards. At Nelson’s Wharf the arm was full to capacity, the steam boat Adamant sat outside the lift bridge with another just the other side. The towpath and infront of Willow Wren was filled with boats, several gazebos were filling up with people and a hog roast sat in it’s portable oven still cooking away. There was obviously a do of some sort going on. In the hold of an old work boat a couple sat presumably awaiting means to cross the canal to the do, but no one seemed to be coming for them.

P1410028smP1410029smJust before the slight bend at the bottom of Calcutt we saw the bow of a coal boat coming towards us. NB Calisto had just come down, we could do with coal and a top up of diesel but here wasn’t the right place. If we’d been a few minutes earlier we’d have been on the lock landing as he left the lock and all would have been possible. We rose in the lock on our own and swapped with another boat coming down. At the top lock there was a lot of people who didn’t have a boat, but did have windlasses, one in a high vis jacket, training was going on.

We were asked if we minded sharing, of course we didn’t and waited patiently for a hire boat to be brought round from it’s mooring to join us. The chap at the helm had driven a boat before whereas his crew were beginners. We all followed instructions and wound the paddles up half way, ten turns, then another few followed by the last five turns. Oleanna was brought out first so that we wouldn’t be held up, except there was chance for the crew to hop on board of the hire boat at the lock and the gate to be closed by someone else, so Mick had to pull in to pick me up meaning the hire boat was infront.

P1410040smWith the instructor happy with how things were going he hopped off shortly afterwards and left them to it. A new helmsman had a go, zigzagging began, the helm was handed back. At the junction they turned left and we paused for a Napton Hire boat to turn onto the Grand Union towards us. It’s funny seeing all the faces of people having just picked up their hire boats, excitedly checking everything out inside and out whilst the helmsperson gets the hang of steering, the over sized gestures from crew positioned at the front that nobody but themselves understands. We were once those people.

P1410042smAt the junction we turned right Oxford bound. This is new water for Oleanna, the three of us have been here once before on Lillian so it’s not that familiar. We’ll be on the Oxford now until just before Christmas, as a lock on the Napton flight will be closing to be rebuilt. We are done with broad canals for some time. Passing Napton Hire base where a new boat is being fitted out, sticking well out into the cut. We decided we’d by now had enough of the rain and pulled in at the first mooring we came across, not knowing how much space there would be up ahead. Plenty of hire boats came past all heading for The Folly no doubt on their first night out.

Tilly enjoyed her shore leave as we sat and listened to the locals playing tunes on their car horns as they crossed the two bridges which book end the moorings. Maybe we should have gone that little bit further!

DSCF7114sm13 locks, 1 shared, 4.75 miles, 2 soggy boaters, 1 very low pound, 3462734 apples, 1 right, 2 honking bridges, 2 hours of soggy fun.


Saturday, 22 September 2018

Something’s Missing. 21st September

Radford Semele to Long Itchington

We stayed up quite late last night as the wind biffed us around. Everything was either tied down or brought inside the pram cover, only a large piece of wood that we’d forgotten about on the roof made a bid to escape, which was brought into the cratch before we retired to bed. Both of us slept very well, outside the elements must have calmed down.

P1400925smThis morning the wind was still quite strong, but with a dry day forecast we wanted to be on our way. Whilst I finished up inside Mick prepared Oleanna to cruise, I joined to roll the cratch covers up as we’d be going through locks today. Experience has taught us better to have them rolled out of harms way than try to avoid missing them entering and exiting locks. The pram cover is also folded down, removing the sides first and folding them for storage whilst we cruise. This reduces the amount of bulk around the hatch and hopefully will mean that they last longer, not being scrunched up with creases in them day after day. The main frame and cover are the last things to be folded down before we set off

The temperature was such this morning that fleeces and gloves were needed. Having not seen our gloves for sometime they would take a bit of finding. I know where they should be, it’s just are they still there, or have they found their way to the bottom of the bike cupboard! Mick went in to have a look, but I could tell that this would be a boy look rather than a more successful girl look so I came in to look instead. Some gloves had been found, but more were delved from the depths of the cupboard. This done we were ready.

P1400928smAs I made my way to the bow to untie Mick started to look around, puzzled. He wasn’t unpoppering the cover. I quickly realised what he was looking for, we both hunted round. The wind had picked up the starboard side of the pram cover that had been folded and placed where it always is by the side of the hatch and deposited it out of view. Experience has now taught us that covers do not float!

It wasn’t in the hedgerow, so it must be in the canal, somewhere! With boat hook in hand Mick gradually walked down the gunnel prodding at the base of the canal. With only one hand on the boat hook due to the other clinging onto Oleanna this didn’t find the cover, what it did do was mean that Mick lost grip of the hook and that too ended up in the canal, too low for either of us to pull out whilst stood on the gunnel, resembling Excalibur. I thought about taking a window out and reaching for it, but by now Mick was already on the roof with the landing net. He eventually managed to wrap the net around the hook and pass it along towards the stern where I managed to grab hold of it. That was one thing out of the cut, still the cover to find.

P1400931smMick sat on the roof with the hook prodding. In between the galley and dinette windows there was something, the hook didn’t sink into the silt. Inside we stowed the dinette table to give us more space, then removed the window. Had an argument as to where to put it out of harms way, no point in something else happening for the sake of another minute. With the boat hook through the window you could definitely feel a difference with the canal bed. After a few minutes of poking some blue fabric surfaced. From the galley window I grabbed hold of it, Mick leap frogged me to the stern and took it from me. Hooray! One muddy cover retrieved.

P1400934smThe dry cover had been brought inside just in case, the wet one had a rinse down in canal water then was folded and put next to the hatch, with a lump hammer and rope fender positioned on top!

This all took about an hour and in that time nobody had gone past, just as well as they would have found our cover for us quite quickly, around their prop!

P1400940smWith traffic being very quiet when we reached the bottom lock, with nobody in sight I set the lock in our favour and we set forth on our own, well we had waited at our mooring. As we reached the top a couple of boats came towards us, so we could leave the gates for them and we were on our way. Kate Hire boats were all heading back towards Warwick, we passed at least three of them, one single hander glad to be paired up with them as he’d been struggling with the wind, his boat and lock gates.

P1400950smSome of the pounds had been as low as when we’d come down and on narrow stretches we held back allowing boats to come through to where it would be easier to pass. They made slow progress as we battled to hold our position in the wind. As soon as they were past us we found out why, the canal was so shallow you had to coast along to get through rather than use your engine.

P1400960smAll the locks were in our favour until we got to Lock 18 where we could see it was partially full if not totally full. We pulled in to wait for someone to come down whilst we had lunch. Our timing was spot on as someone was opening the gates at the top of the lock as we came out to untie. We entered the lock after them just as another boat appeared behind us, even better timing. Well it would have been if they weren’t sharing with the boat behind them. So went up on our own with two boats having to reset the locks behind us. We managed to keep ahead of them up Bascote locks and staircase and pulled in on the first ring at Long Itchington, leaving the rest for the following boats.

P1400963smThey think they can fool me, we’ve tied up this outside before. It was okay, but today it was better. I came and went, occasionally assisted back inside as woofers came past. Then the friendly cover behind the sideways trees called. Plenty of friends to find here. I seem to have got carried away and lost the time, slipping through my paws, just like my friends. It was a touch chilly and dark when I got home for my dingding, at least it was cosy inside.

10 locks, 2 a staircase, 0 shuffle, 4.92 miles, 1 damp day that was meant to be dry, £250 saved at least, 0 boaters cursing us, 0 embarrassing phone call to Gary, 1 pair muddy jeans, 1 pair socks completed, 20 minutes extra turned into 2.5 hours! 3 friends, 1 long tail, 1 dingding of Coley, not my favourite!

Friday, 21 September 2018

Crossing Bows. 20th September

Radford Semele

P1400904smThe weather today was meant to be atrocious. Heavy rain in the morning followed by very string winds in the afternoon. We woke to the rain, not too bad, Tilly still went out.

Last night Jennie from NB Tentatrice had left a comment on the blog saying that she thought they were moored just along from us. As we’d missed each other literally by a couple of boat lengths earlier in the year at the top of Tardebigge we couldn’t do the same again this time. We knew they were heading our way  and as we’d pulled in last night I’d looked up the line of boats already moored up but not spotted a bright blue one.

We weren’t planning on going anywhere today due to the weather, so after I’d worked through the forth version of the Aladdin props list and sent it back to the director Tilly happened to come in and there was a lull in the rain, so we put on our waterproofs and walked along the towpath.

P1400905smThe reason I’d not seen them last night was that NB Tentatrice was hunkered down behind the next two boats in front of us about 100 yards away. Chris welcomed us on board as did Monty their dog. Mugs of tea and conversation flowed for a good couple of hours, which included comparing the capacity of our yellow water tanks! At last our paths had crossed and we’d got to meet each other after following each others blogs for sometime. Chris and Jennie are heading home after their summer cruise, crossing The Wash and exploring the Middle Levels. Next year they are considering heading up to Liverpool and crossing the Ribble Link. So we were able to give them some pointers and them us as we vagally plan to cruise the Middle levels in a couple of years time, which may be prefect timing for the next Bedford Festival.

P1400909smThey planned on heading into Leamington today, hoping to find a mooring that might offer them some shelter from the growing winds. As they pulled off Jennie walked Monty and Kiera (a visiting dog) along the towpath, the woofers sticking their noses into MY boat! I was keeping an eye on them from the sideways trees. Hope you managed to be moored up before the big gusts came and sorry if we delayed your start Jennie, but it was great to meet you all at last.

P1400910smP1400913smThe afternoon was spent writing my programme biog, doing a bit of research whilst Mick mended some of the poppers on our cratch cover. Tilly braved the growing gusts of wind for some time but eventually came in, we decided that she should stay in for her own safety rather than get blown away. Some more of Bake Off was caught up with and another half sock knitted as the noise around Oleanna grew by the hour. Very odd sitting in doors in  t-shirts with howling gales and sideways rain outside and the stove wasn’t even lit!

P1400920smWe’re hoping tomorrow we’ll get chance to move on a touch, here’s hoping the wind calms down some.

0 locks, 0 miles, 3 boats away, 4 boaters meeting for the first time, 2 woofers, 1 soggy moggy, 150 words, 4th version, 1 reference to do now, 0.5 of a sock, 1 heel turned, gas mark 2 for a couple of hours instead of on top of the stove, 1 very blustery night ahead.