Friday, 30 June 2017

Up The Staircase. 29th June

Watling Street to Crick

Once the van was returned we had chores to do before we could make our way up the last lock of the Long Buckby flight. The first job was to put in the new fuse for the bow thruster so that it’s battery could be charged on our cruise today. A load of washing was put on and by the time we reached the water point above the lock it was nearly finished. We topped up the water tank and disposed of all our rubbish.

At the junction we turned right and headed towards Watford. Passing Welton Haven Marina I thought I caught a glimpse of Roger one of NB Winding Down syndicate members. But as we got closer we thought it couldn’t be him as the chap was busy cleaning a cream boat, not the green of WD. The hedge surrounding the marina is now far too well grown and the odd glimpse through to see which boats are at home are far too few to have a really good nosy.

P1060651smA steady stream of boats was coming towards us from the locks. All fairly close together, who ever was manning the flight today was moving boats through efficiently. There were a couple of boats moored up so we tucked ourselves in front of them so that we could have some lunch before we started our ascent. Another boat pulled up in front of us and went to check in, I soon followed to find the Lockie. Two were coming down and we were to wait for them before going up. The boat in front moved up the first lock and had been told to wait there until the two passed coming down. Mick nudged Oleanna up to nearer the lock gates to await our turn.

P1060667smP1060655smP1060658smAn Anglowelsh boat pulled up behind us wanting water before going up the locks. On board was Granny and Grandad, daughter, son-in-law and the two grand daughters along with two dogs. Mum was ever so chatty, so were the girls and all ever so enthusiastic. Tilly wasn’t too sure about them and gave their dogs a hiss through the window. Well they were outside and they had no intention of helping with the locks! Our turn came after a third boat came down the staircase, they’d snuck an extra one in! One of the girls from the hire boat ran up to work a paddle as Mick was entering the lock. Enthusiastic help is all great, but I still wanted to have my home at the top of the flight, so I called out for her to stop. She waited and wound the paddle up slowly as we wanted.

P1060671smOnce we were up into the next lock we were on our own as they all had to concentrate on their own boat now. Helped on and off by the lady lockie we worked our way up the staircase, her husband, also a lockie, keeping an eye on the hire boat below us. As the levels equalised on the top lock Mick checked our tunnel light focus before bringing Oleanna out.

P1060679smThis stretch is very familiar to us, but we’ve never done it at this time of year. Everything is so fat and green compared to two months ago. All the ewes have been shorn very recently, but their babies still have their tight fleeces. It just doesn’t seem right that these huge lambs are still suckling from their mothers who are just about the same size as them! We wondered whether to moor up for the night this side of the tunnel, but decided to carry on and reach Crick today.

With Mick’s new torch on the stern as we approached the really wet section of the tunnel we could see all the veins of deposits made by the water. It made me wonder if we were travelling through a giant Dr Who monster, all slimy and drooling. No photos as it is really wet in there!

P1060686smP1060697smP1060709smPopping out the other side and familiar boats seemed to surround us. NB Waiouru was sitting right outside the office of ABNB, the first boat you’d see. Then in the next section of the marina there was Lillian all jolly and yellow on such a grey drizzly day, she made us smile. We were wanting to moor up as far away from the road as possible for Tilly but a line of boats at that end of the moorings suggested there wouldn’t be space, but Mick spied a gap. The first boat in the line was NB Tyseley, the Mikron Theatre boat. Tyseley hasn’t been well of late, she broke down on the Soar on her way to meet the actors for this years tour. Since then she has had her engine rebuilt at Debdale. We had heard that she was back on the water and suspected that we would pass her somewhere on the Grand Union. The shows at the moment are on a short road tour, which was already planned. So Tyseley must be waiting for her crew of actors to come and meet her to cruise to the next set of waterways venues, most probably on the Thames.

P1060693smAfter mooring up and letting Tilly out we discovered that we had no internet or phone signal, not unusual for Crick. But there was a gap big enough for us at the far end of the moorings. Once Tilly was convinced to come home by the local magpies we moved up to be the end boat. Here we get a bit of signal, which is better than none! First we were spotted by Jane who we moored next to when we first bought Lillian and later on I received a message from Lizzie who had spotted Oleanna’s bow from NB Panda. We’re not as obvious as we once were, she did know that we were on our way.

DSCF7121sm8 locks, 5.41 miles, 1 full water tank, 1 empty yellow tank, 0 rubbish on board, 1 right, 1 wet tunnel, 0 mysterons, 1 hour wait, 1 Anglogerman hire boat, 6 ever so enthusiastic crew, 2 lockies, 2 poles in a rucksack, 2nd mooring better, 2 very chatty magpies!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Damp! 28th June

Watling Street

IMAG3723smThis morning we picked up a hire van. Well we’d semi hoped for a car, but they were almost £20 more for the day and quite often the Daventry depot doesn’t have enough vans, so you get a car instead. Sadly today they’d found us a van and unfortunately the van wasn’t big enough for us to fit a scaff plank in the back. So we missed out twice, but got what we’d booked.

Today was going to be a damp one, as we drove past Nottingham heading north the drizzle that we’d woken to got heavier and by the time we’d reached Scarborough it was a major downpour! Both of us should have known better heading to Scarborough without a coat, it was around 9C today! However we had taken a brolli. The drive over the top of the wolds brings you down Staxton Hill. Normally as you turn a bend you get to see the sea miles off, nestled between two hills tucked just under the horizon. But today we could only just make out the hills never mind the sea.

P1060600smOur mission today was to visit our house. Our previous tenants had left the house in quite a state, their deposit has been spent on trying to correct things for our new tenants along with quite a bit of our money. The other day as the old stinky carpets were being taken up some damp floor boards were discovered, along with a rotten joist below. A couple of builders have been to look and have given their versions of what should happen, so we wanted to see for ourselves. We met with one of the builders and Mark the main man from the letting agents. Sadly the simple solution that had been put through was very obviously not going to solve our problems. But our knowledge of what was done when we knocked the houses together will save us money, so it was worth the trip.


It is very odd seeing other peoples things in your house. A back bedroom has been redecorated for their two year old son/grandson, who would have thought a nursery in our home! We just hope that the work that is needed won’t be a step too much for them.


We then had a visit to our possessions on the top floor. Just how much stuff! I hunted out some wallpaper for repairs and Mick found one of our old computers. Over the last few weeks we’ve been wanting various things that were stored on this computer so we have brought it back with us.

P1060629smA hunt then to try to find a 100 amp fuse for our bow thruster. We reckon that this blew the day we picked Oleanna up in Sheffield as the bow thruster didn’t work that day, but it’s battery had been off and that at the time was thought to have been the problem. But Mick for the last few weeks has been wondering if the battery for it has been charging. After he tested allsorts with his volt meter, he discovered a blown fuse. We’ve been able to use the bow thruster so far, about 20 minutes worth before the battery would stop working by our reckoning, and it is getting quite flat now. We’ll be passing through Braunston very soon, but Mick wanted to get a new fuse to try and rectify the charging issue as soon as possible. So we tried various motor spares places around Scarborough. The third one we tried meant that we parked bang outside a familiar door, we rang the doorbell, but no-one was home.

P1060633smP1060637smScarborough of course has chandlers so we drove round Marine Drive to see if they could help us, this meant that we got to see the sea which was quite rough. Scarborough is on flood alert this evening due to high tides and winds. The chandlers couldn’t help us, but sent us round the back streets near the harbour to a marine electrical engineer. Here the chaps hunted through boxes of fuses, eventually finding the right size which then had to be gone through one by one to find an 100amp one. He had just the one and at nearly half the price Midland Chandlers would have charged a bargain.

IMAG3726smSo, now soggy but with our missions accomplished it was time to drive back to Long Buckby. Tilly won’t tell us how many boats went by today, but we know of at least one as we have a new neighbour tonight. Here’s hopping tomorrow is a drier day as we need to move on for our next appointment.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 small van, 1 exceptionally wet day, 0 sea, 1 full Morrisons cafe, 0 coats, 9C, 3 year olds are big, 60cm deep hole, 1 membrane, 1 new joist, 1/2 price hopefully, 1 nursery, 2 sets new curtains, 0 carpets, 1 poorly  house, 2 half rolls, 1 kitchen computer, 0 kit bag obvious, 3 motor spares, 2 windswept yellow butterflies, 2 soggy boaters, 0 Carley, 1 chandlers, 1 full box, 100A fuse, 2 small van, 1 hungry lonely cat.

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 Hayford Fields 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.