Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Sitting In The Dark. 27th June

Bugbrooke to Watling Street
P1060541smNearly seven miles would get us to the Long Buckby flight today. So that shouldn’t have taken us that long, but there were things to do on route. First off was to fill up at Rugby Boats, currently 69.9p a litre, their gas was also a couple of quid cheaper than we’ve paid recently, must be older stock. With the tank full we should last to Wheaton Aston for the next fill up (one of the cheapest on the cut), if not there will be Taft Wharf on the way.
P1060550smThis boat for some reason made us both think of Hull it just needed a thick layer of Snur on it’s roof and that would have been perfect.
Next stop was at Weedon Bec to find a post box so that I can wish my brother a Happy Birthday tomorrow. I hopped off at the bridge and walked down towards Tescos where I spotted a post box, I was back at the boat just as Mick had finished mooring up. So we untied and pushed off again.
P1060570smP1060560smP1060575smIf it wasn’t for the noise you’d never think that the canal was sandwiched between the West Coast Main Line and the M1 now that all the trees are fat with leaves. But this carries on for nearly two miles to the bottom of the locks. Here we pulled in and had some lunch, then we walked up to the second lock to find Bedazzled’s new premises. Oleanna had come with mostly led bulbs, but there were a few that weren’t. The light in the kitchen extractor had been easy to change as it was 240volt and a supermarket came up trumps with that a while ago. But the bulb in the bathroom extractor and the light in the cratch needed to be 24volt, so not readily available. However we knew Bedazzled would have what we wanted. Funny thing was for a bulb company it was very dark in the offices. Two people were sat in the almost dark, only light by their computer screens. The chap did turn a light on so that we could look at the bulbs to make our choice.
P1060578smBack at Oleanna we were now ready to make our way up the flight. An Ashby Hire Boat was moored up at the services and didn’t look like they were ready to go up with us, so we started on our own. Once Oleanna was well on the way up I walked up towards the second lock. As I approached, the water cascading over the gates suggested someone was emptying the lock above and then a head popped out under the bridge and told me as much. I signalled back to Mick that one was on it’s way down and then went on to help. By the time Oleanna was in the second lock the hire boat was starting to enter the lock below, so we waited and waited. In the end I walked back to check that there weren’t two boats in the lock, but there was just one. They were two crew members down as one lady had fallen as she’d stepped off the boat and had gone to hospital to get her ankle checked out. This meant that the remaining crew were going solo for the first time and quite nervous about it.
P1060586smP1060591smOnce safely up they joined us in the second lock and carried on up the flight. Quite often we meet boats coming down saving everyone work. The forth lock had been left open for us and as we approached one gate closed, was this the wind? Or someone not looking? Mick beeped our horn, then the other gate started to close, so he beeped it again for longer, the gates started to open again. At the lock there were soo many people, one on each gate and others watching, with more approaching from two hire boats. What seemed like six German ladies and six from the other boat were all there to help. Our team were surplus to requirements!
P1060587smP1060593smBy the time we’d reached the sixth lock, news had come through that their friend had badly sprained her ankle and they were on their way back to meet up with the boat at the New Inn. Should they moor below the last lock, or above it? In the end they were only going to pick up the injured party, possibly a quick glass of wine and then carry on with the hope of reaching Braunston by the end of the day. So we waved them goodbye as we pulled in just short of the final lock as it would be nicer for Tilly here.
DSCF7117sm6 locks, 8.03 miles, 78 litres diesel, 1 gas bottle, 1 card posted, 2 poohy shoes, 2 bulbs, £15, 5 locks shared, 15 crew at one lock! 1 stunning comment, 1 sprained ankle, 1 glass of wine yearned for, 0 rain as forcast, 3 hours instead of 2.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Passing In Blisworth. 26th June

Cosgrove to Elliots Bridge, Bugbrooke
Anne’s boat and friend passed us again whilst we were having breakfast, we really should try getting up earlier! Soon we were on our way too pushing off just before a boat appeared around the corner. But we were travelling at a similar speed so it didn’t bother them. NB Franksalot and NB Marmite passed, a lot of boats are now quite familiar to us along this stretch. The sun was back out, but at a cooler temperature than a few days ago it was rather pleasant.
P1060481smWe pulled over for a while to check on a report that we had received about our house in Scarborough. Two differing theories to the problem now. Which one is right or are they both right?
P1060487smThis of course meant that a potential locking partner passed us and had started the Stoke Bruerne flight before we got there. However a hire boat was just finishing filling with water and was ready to ascend with us. The crew quickly mentioned that they were very new to locks and this would be their first upwards lock. So I talked them through what to do as we worked the boats up. The next lock was set against us, but two boats appeared and came down, swapping in the pound between us. However the lock above was being filled by a boat, so once our boats were rising I suggested that someone go and empty the lock above now that the boat had exited it. The lady walked on up.
I could see that a top gate had opened itself and she was looking a bit puzzled being on the otherside of the lock, so as the boats were happily rising I walked up to help close the gate and empty it. It was a good job as she had considered just lifting a bottom paddle to empty the lock and pound above, which would mean that we could go straight through it to the next one! Locks needed explaining to her and she soon realised what a bad idea that would have been.
P1060490smWe shared the first five of the flight and then our partners stopped for the day in the long pound. Outside The Navigation there was a chap with one of the longest drill bits we’ve ever seen. It was about five foot long. He was drilling down to then pump resin into the whole presumably to help stop leaks from the canal. Small bits of blue roll stuck up from the holes he’d already filled.
P1060497smThe top lock was full and a boat just appeared around the bend ahead before I started to reset it. So Mick trod water in the pound below whilst I waited for the boat to arrive and descend. It being lunch time there were a few people out enjoying a pint or two in the sun watching the boats. A stop for lunch was needed and to get the life jackets out for our trip through Blisworth Tunnel.
In Braunston this last weekend there was the Historic Boat Rally with boats breasted up 6 deep by the entrance to the marina. Today we were going to start encountering those heading back south. The first one passed us before we pulled out from our lunch mooring, the next in the tunnel along with three other narrowboats. One chap commented that our tunnel light was too bright and he couldn’t see anything, it was pointing at the starboard tunnel wall not even the roof,no-one else made a comment. We tried out Micks new torch pointing it towards the ceiling at the stern, this illuminated a huge stretch of tunnel. We were worried that this might be too bright for oncoming boats so made sure it was turned off long before they got close.
P1060507smP1060513smP1060515smPopping out the other side of the tunnel we now wanted to get as far as we could before mooring up for the day, yet giving Tilly some shore leave too. Straight on at Gayton Junction and shortly afterwards we met the first of a couple of pairs. Jules Fuels Towcester and Bideford had a very long line between them and of course we came across them at a bridge. The chap on Towcester indicated that he was towing so we pulled up and waited. A while further on was another pair but on a much shorter rope. Which is easier, to steer a butty on a long or short rope?
P1060517smBugbrooke came into sight so we waved towards Unusual where our friend Lizzie works before deciding to call it a day by Hayfields Farm Marina. Here I got to make friends and brought them home to play with. I know that they don’t approve of my friends so we stayed outside on the towpath. Good job as all the doors were very quickly closed! A little behind where we had planned to moor up for the day, but we are still on course. Just a shame that we didn’t pass Anne’s boat again.
DSCF7114sm7 locks, 14.16 miles, 1.8 miles tunnel, 5 mysterons, 4 maybe 3 boats passed, 2 soakings, 2 possible causes, 2 solutions, 1 straight on, 5ft holes, 3 tins of touch up paint ready for collection, 2 friends both lost, 3 oiks, 2 pairs, 1 hitchhiker.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Doffing Caps. 25th June

Broadoak Bridge to Barley Mow, Cosgrove

P1030815We are starting to play leapfrog with the speedy boat from yesterday and Anne’s boat. Anne’s boat (as it has Anne’s name on the side, Mick’s sister) is normally moored at Cassio Wharf and we consider to be the last truly shiny boat before London. They passed us this morning whilst we were having breakfast, so we took a bit more time before we set off as the first bit of our cruise today would be the Soulbury Three Locks.

P1060395smAs we approached it looked like a group were about to make camp just above the locks, there were poles coming out of bags, but as I walked up the shape being formed was that of a canoe. We keep seeing these collapsable canoes and they are quite ingenious, no need for a roof rack just a bit of time to assemble them.

P1060396smIt seemed to be busy at the locks, no volunteers on duty, but there was a narrowboat coming up in the last lock being followed by a widebeam. A chap from the narrowboat said that the pounds between the three chambers were well down and the following widebeam didn’t know what they were doing. He was right the pound below the top lock was very low and about to become even lower as the next lock down was filled. So Mick and I decided to empty the top lock, to give them a chance of getting across without having to try to pass us. They were a bit bemused by an empty lock and us waiting above, but the chap at the helm was having enough difficulty steering as it was, giving the lock entrance a very large biff. There was an 83 year old Dad on the stern being taken for a jaunt and two daughters in the cabin who were screaming everytime the boat hit touched anything. However the lady with it seemed more concerned that the contents of her coke can didn’t get spilt when moving the lock gates!

P1060402smP1060405smOnce they were out of the way we made our way down quietly and calmly. A few gongoozlers were already about and a chap taking a breather on his run helped open and close some gates for me. On the moorings below the locks were two familiar boats. As we passed we both doffed our caps and said thank you for our cratch repairs, we wished we’d had a few flowers that we could have left on the roof of Allan’s boat.

P1060410smP1060415smOnwards now to Stoke Hammond Lock. A boat was just coming into the lock with incredibly loud MEOWing going on. Their cat had managed to get out onto the roof of the boat and was scared so shouting it’s head off! Once safely back inside they started to lock up. Next Fenny Stratford Lock where we topped up with water and then pulled up for lunch. NB Freespirit was up ahead but nobody was onboard. We waved as we went by as we did to the lady in her house. Now we had the eleven mile pound that goes round Milton Keynes. I like some bits of this journey, but found important things to do below. The skies were getting darker and inside I was considering turning on the lights even though it was only 5pm.

P1060427smBy Bridge 74 we pulled over. Mick had spotted on Briar Rose’s blog that there was a Council Tip nearby. With a couple of services worth of oil on board and the remains of oily bilge water from Lillian’s engine bay taking up too much space Mick did a couple of journeys to dispose of it all. Despite there being a sign at the gate saying no pedestrian access the chap there had no problems with Mick turning up wheeless. On the second trip the heavens opened, but only for a short period, not enough time to get a soaking.

P1060471smThe approach to Cosgrove Lock takes you over the Ouse Aqueduct where far below cows were paddling in the shallow water. Up ahead we could see a Wyvern Hire boat lining up for the lock, today we’ve seen just as many of these blue boats as any others, our estimate when we passed through Leighton Buzzard the other day was that at least 22 boats were out. We were a long way off so not surprised when they didn’t wait for us. Anne’s boat and the speedy one were moored amongst the long line that we trundled past. Mr Anne’s Boat chatted out of his side hatch as we passed, suspect we’ll be seeing them again in the morning.

P1060479smThe moorings in the centre of Cosgrove, opposite the Barley Mow were empty so we chose our spot. A late finish to a long day, we’re not used to this!

DSCF7114sm6 locks, 16.8 miles, 1 can of coke with a tipple added?! 3 big bangs, 1 almost empty pound, 2 caps doffed, 1 less gentleman on the cut, 1 roof riding cat, 1 full water tank, 1 blogging boat, 0 one home, 11 long miles, 4 bottles oil, 1 large bottle of erggh, 2 paddling cows, 1 life history, 2 helpers, 1 late finish, 1 depressed cat.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Bloomin’Busy And Booked. 24th June

Margees Garden to Broadoak Bridge 109

P1060304smP1060305smP1060309sm


Yesterday evening a swan that had been sitting on her nest a month ago in the bottom of Alison and Laura’s garden brought her babies along to meet us. Still quite small,  the cute factor enhanced by them still being so fluffy. I apologised to Mum that I had nothing for them, but would defrost some peas for the morning. So when Mick had headed off for a newspaper this morning they headed over to see what goodies I had. Mum let her youngsters dive for the peas whilst she watched, she wasn’t interested, maybe some white sliced would have been more appealing. But then if this was a swan that knew Laura I suspect it would have a far superior pallet. The cygnets ducked and dived to retrieve the peas (which all wanted to sink) and all ended up with spiky hair dos.

P1060327smWith breakfast consumed we pushed off and soon approached Seabrook Swing Bridge which was open, well almost. We paused for me to jump off to try to close it, but a boat was following, so we left it for them to close and went ahead to set the lock. The next three locks were set against us, but with partners we soon had them filled and cruised on down. Below Seabrook Bottom Lock our partners winded and then were going to reverse back to their mooring. The wind had picked up today so this would take them a bit of doing.

P1060326smP1060343smAt the Ivinghoe Locks I could see a boat approaching and the lock was in their favour, so I pushed open the bottom gate and waited for them. This was all I did to help as on board there was a troop of scouts, so plenty to work the lock and open gates. They were out for the weekend and when asked if they were enjoying it one replied he liked sleeping on the boat, although they had only this morning discovered barriers that they could pull up to stop them from falling out of their narrow bunk beds! They were going to see how far they could get, possibly the Wendover Arm, before they had to turn to head home. The next lock being in our favour we headed down and as we were finishing a boat appeared below, so I could leave the gates.

P1060349smApproaching Slapton Lock the world got busier. A boat was on the water point just through the bridge and two were waiting. We joined with one of them down the lock. They used to have a mooring here and had planted all the shrubs which were looking good and very much looked after. They were coming down to the lower pound as the one above had dropped somewhat, but both pounds looked as they had done when we were heading southwards a month ago, quite low. We stopped for some food in amongst the boats, not able to get our stern in, but that didn’t matter, just so long as we could get off when we wanted to.

P1060354smChurch Lock had both it’s bottom gates open, was this due to the wind? No, someone was coming up. Two single handing ladies brought their boats into the lock. One a Sea Otter (small aluminium boat) and the other what looked like a 70’s style cruiser. I helped them up and chatted to the lady on the cruiser. They were on their way to London. Normally when people say this they mean that they are going to join the masses of shufflers living on the Paddington and Regents Canal, but these two ladies were out for the summer from Ripon, both in their 70’s. They’d left in April and were due back at the end of August.

As they were rising we were joined at speed by a narrowboat who just about managed to pull in on the off side. As the ladies pulled out from the lock, Mick gestured for them to go in, but they were waiting for another boat that appeared soon afterwards. We worked our way down and as we got near to opening the bottom gates crew came from the speedy boat and sat on the top gate waiting to refill it. When Mick mentioned that there was a boat waiting to come up, she returned to her boat to wait. Nothing like lending a hand and getting to chat to others, making your wait shorter, oh well, it takes allsorts.

P1060359smP1060365smP1060367smGrove Lock was empty and with an approaching boat I opened the gates for them, might as well save water. The boat came in at such a lick that the lady at the front had no chance of stepping off to help. She finally managed to step off when  the lock was nearly full. A procession of people and their dogs then wanted to cross the top gates, each dog having to be carried over separately in turn. The boat was after a pump out at the marina but that meant a wide beam needed to move, which it did aided by the strong wind after Mick had brought Oleanna into the lock.  The lady from the narrowboat walked to climb on board her boat, but the chap said he’d pick her up on the service mooring. She then crossed the gates and waited behind a set of railings that didn’t allow her access to the services just as her boat was blown right back to the other side infront of the widebeam. As we were going down I could see that the chap had managed to get his stern over to the services and was starting to pull the boat in just as the speedy boat from before arrived above the lock, thankfully managing to stop before ploughing into everyone! To add to the mayhem a young lady was trying to cross the top gates with her toddler in her arms. We were glad to be away from it all.

A quick stop to stock up on suncream from Aldi and some perishables from Tescos before we were on our way again. One last lock for the day stopping with a view of the West Coast Main Line, we should have carried on to the Soulbury Three, but we didn’t fancy going through with a crowd of Saturday afternoon drinkers gongoozling, so that has been left for tomorrow morning before the pub opens.

P1060382smOnce moored up, my brothers old T square came out from storage (I knew it would have another use) and had inches over 2ft marked on it. Our mooring wasn’t deep enough for us to get the end of it under Oleanna’s hull. so Mick slid it down the side until it touched the edge of the base plate. This gave us our current draught, a more accurate measurement than using the boat hook. At the moment we exceed the depth for the Ribble Link, but we are hoping that this will be sorted by Finesse as we know we shouldn’t be quite so low in the water. Another phone call with Bridget and Storm from NB Blackbird who had also been measured today. We decided to go ahead and the two of us clicked through the booking pages on the C&RT site. As we both read out that our passage was confirmed Bridget said “Oh what have we done!” No going back now!! Later on we also booked a week in Liverpool. North here we come.

DSCF7117sm10 locks, 9.04 miles, 4 shared, 100 floz of peas, 6 spiky heads, 2 single handing ladies, 10 scouts, 1 queue, 3 dogs, 1 toddler, 2 bottles suncream, 2 lots mushrooms, 1 more late finish! 1 week Liverpool, 1 month Lancaster Canal, 2 slightly nervous boaters, 1 oblivious cat.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

When You’ve Finished With That Lock! 23rd June

Berko to Margees Garden, Cheddington Bridge

Time to get going but first to fill the water tank. This is the emptiest it’s been, an exclamation mark had come on on the gauge! With wanting to use the dish washer and washing machine we needed water sooner rather than later so nothing for it but to reverse back to the water point. We pushed off and despite the strong breeze and aided by the bow thruster Mick took us backwards in one go, like cutting butter with a hot knife. Once the hose was filling the tank you could hear just how empty it was.

P1060239smP1060241smWith the dishwasher on drying mode the washing machine could go on and had done it’s first fill before we pushed off again. Good job the water pressure was good here. Onwards and upwards. First the Gas Locks, both were full and I could see a boat at the top, so I opened the top gates and we waited for them to come down. The by wash was running furiously which caused a bit of a problem with the two boats coming down. A discussion had been had that the day boat should go first as they were continuing, he’d spotted the by wash, but then didn’t move. The other boat then started to leave the lock, all it’s crew were on board then joined by the day boat who had to stop to pick up crew. The bywash pushed both boats over towards our bow leaving little room for manoeuvring. Eventually everyone was back on the right boats and heading away from the lock, peace returned. Upwards for us.

P1060244smAt the second lock the Lockie from the other day appeared. The pound we’d got stuck in two days ago was low again, so he was letting water down from the top. Today he had no help as all the other lockies were helping to erect an aluminium bridge on the Aylesbury arm. So he was working his way up and down the locks between Cowroast and Hemel to restore the levels. As soon as we were through he emptied the lock. Next lock up he appeared again as if by teleport. We waved our goodbyes and thanked him for the other day. At Northchurch Lock there was one coming down and another waiting above, both looked narrow, so I didn’t understand why they weren’t sharing. Once we were up I asked if they needed both gates open, no umming from this lady, ‘Both please, we’re eight foot wide’. Too wide to share and only an extra foot more space for all the extra work.

P1060246smP1060248smWe could see that Dudswell Bottom Lock had boats in it as we approached, not sure which way they were facing I walked up to see if I could help. NB Nomad and NB Goblin were sat in the lock almost at the top, but all gates and paddles were closed. The two chaps were pawing over a Nicholsons and in deep discussion. When they noticed me they were apologetic and got ready to move their boats out of our way. I went up to open the gates, but they had been there so long that the level had dropped by at least a eighteen inches! They apologised again and I was told I was a hero, ‘Just don’t do it again at the next one!’

They moved on up and I reset the lock for us. By the time we were up and moving along the pound I could see that there was only one of the boats in the lock, blimey only two locks to the summit, but how long would this take us! However one boat was stopping for some lunch and the other was waiting for us. Up the last two locks in no time and on the summit pound, where we decided to stop for some lunch ourselves. NB Nomad carried on with the aim of stopping at Marsworth tonight. Our aim was similar but after a phone call from the agents who look after our house, we decided that we should get a move on as a visit to Scarborough would be needed next week, meaning we’d loose another days cruising.

P1060270smP1060273smAcross the three mile top and we started our descent down the other side. I would set the lock, open a gate and then leave Mick to start coming down so that I could walk ahead to set the next lock, returning to let him and Oleanna out and close the lock behind. I’d then leapfrog and set the next one down. After three locks we had caught up with NB Nomad. I carried on going ahead to set the next chamber as the boys brought themselves down and opened one gate, I then returned to close that behind them. Mr Nomad was pleased with his locking partners and as everyone was doing their bit I reckon we got down the flight quicker than if we’d been on our own.

P1060300smWe carried on wanting to get a bit further along before stopping for the day and waved goodbye to NB Nomad. The bell ringers were starting to practice as we passed the village, the sound being swept along by the stiff breeze. We’d already had to put an extra layer on! Down the last two locks of the day we meandered along for half a mile more and then pulled up at the bottom of the Margees garden. Here we were ahead of our selves and could get a Saturday paper in the morning before setting off again.

This evening we’ve been in conversation with Bridget and Storm with the aim of booking our passage to cross the Ribble Link. On C&RT’s booking page neither of our boats had our draughts marked. We both put in the dimensions we thought that we were, but these were both too deep to make the booking! We will both double check how deep we are and reconvene tomorrow to hopefully make our booking. Reading up on it lots of people say they have managed fine being deeper than the recommended depth. Fingers crossed!!!

P1060250smDSCF7114sm16 locks, 7.84 miles, 6 locks shared, 6 water riding cygnets, 1 dog pooh incident, 2 wrongs don’t make a right! 1 nice lockie, 1 beautiful UGLY cat1 grey day, 2 boats hogging a lock, 2 jumpers, 1 house needing it’s owners, 2 boaters now on a mission, 2 annoyed blackbirds, 4 cute baby blackbirds, 0 friends thankfully.