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Monday, 11 May 2009

The Second Start

Friday May 1st
We topped up with fuel, put in a new gas bottle and on a lovely morning at 10.20 we were off.

Foxton was great, followed 2 boats up, got our ice creams again ( did I tell you how good they are? ) and were out the flight at 12. We cruised fairly hard, got thro Husbands Bosworth tunnel with me at the tiller, so naturally met a boat, the previous tunnels this year have had Carol on the tiller & meeting no-one! The clouds blew over intermittently, cooling the day significantly, and it started to rain as we reached Crick at around 6. Great to be really off, and we decided to set off early as it is a Bank Holiday weekend. Took more pics of the bluebells for Carol.

Whilst cruising spoke to London Narrowboat Co about a mooring there whilst we are in London, and it looks as if we can have a fully serviced mooring there, hoorah! We intend to spend a month or so in London being tourists, we have never really visited it before except on business.

Saturday 2nd
After tightening the alternator belts & checking things we were off before 8 in bright sun. At Watford we topped up with water whilst waiting for 3 to come up and then whizzed down, getting out at 10.20. By that time there were 6 waiting to go up, but there were about 5 to come down, and as we cruised to Norton Junction we passed another 6 heading for the flight. I reckoned it would be at least a 3 hour wait, glad we got in early.

The new charging regulator is working very well and gets us fully charged in pretty short order.

Buckby flight was descended singly but meeting boats coming up at each lock. Leaving the flight at 1pm I collected some front deck covering material and we cruised on. Fairly slow going but such a lovely day. We had thought about stopping at Gayton but carried on through Blisworth tunnel to moor at Stoke Bruerne. I helmed Lily through so we met 5 boats, including 2 hire boats that didn’t hug the side and bashed us. Tunnel incredibly wet!

Moored halfway between tunnel and top lock at 6pm.

Sunday 3rd
Bill ( the alarm ) arrived at 10.30 with wife Vicki and he set to on setting up the system to communicate. This involved lots of mobile calls and internet communications getting things to have the right settings, but unfortunately things weren’t going too well. After about 3 hours he had to give up and said he might be able to sort it out from home, and if not would get a bit of kit from his distributor and would meet up with us on Friday. Very pleasant couple, they are moving into wider beamed craft with their new shell taking shape at Debdale. Bill is going to fit it out himself, but is a little concerned about where to launch it owing to it being 13 feet wide. The Grand Union is supposedly this wide, but I wouldn’t want to take a newly painted boat of this width along it.

At 2 we set off and lucked into arriving at the top lock a few moments later just as Fire Dragon was about to start. We shared the flight with them, he, an undertaker so naturally of a sunny disposition, had just bought the boat and was going to live aboard. As they came out of the first lock one of his rear cabin doors fell off when a hinge broke. Very suspicious this, of the 4 hinges 3 were old, and it was the new one that broke. Flight went very well, weather was OK but cool, and we met boats coming against us at each lock cutting down the work we had to do. Wanted to use sanitary station at bottom of the locks but it was out of order, so we cruised on till just past bridge 60 and at 5 we tied up.

Monday 4th
had family visit including a great niece who is just 2. Pleasant day with them and with a to & fro trip, but the weather was far from good, cold hard wind so the next day we needed to get moving. Daily belt checking shows that the initial stretch has been taken up and they do not need adjusting. The Adverc is working very well, charging batteries fully in very short order and below the rear deck all looks OK.

But time is passing and we need to be in London by 13th and it’s a lot of locks away, but we still want to see things. On Tuesday we stopped at Gt Linford as Nicholson said it was a good example of a manorial village. Well it is within Milton Keynes, the Manor House looks great (owned now by Pete Waterman & with a studio in it) the church is kept locked, the parkland between the two runs down to the canal and looks great and the pub is pretty. Would we stop again….no.
How often do you see a sunken boat? Not often, we came across this near bridge 88 on Tuesday. We also stopped in MK and I set off to find Sainsburys. Google Earth showed it at about ½ mile away, but it had moved further away so I went to Waitrose. Nicholson said you can get a bus from br 82a but don’t try it as there is no access from canal to road here and certainly no bus stop!! If you must shop, stop the bridge before and walk, much better to go a few hours further and stop in Leighton Buzzard where a reasonable Tesco is open 24 hours canalside. We got there on Wednesday after lunch, the weather the last two days has been fine, but where are all the boats? Nicholson said this town too had merits for a visit plus an interesting church. Well it too was locked and the town is far from great, Newark & Harborough offer far more.

Well, not really, where are all the boats on the move? There must be dozens and dozens permanently moored up on the towpath side through Milton Keynes, and in fact it carries on. The K&A was bad around Bath but the GU is getting like this all the way down. We last cruised it in 2001 and there was nothing like this then. I can’t be certain they don’t move, but the mooring ropes, hooks, pins etc look well fixed, the grass around them uncut, so they were in when the towpath was cut.

On Wednesday
We saw this sad sight,
a sunken narrowboat. BW have put an oil catching around it, but the licence had expired some months earlier, so I’m pretty sure it has been down for months.

This sad boat was seen on Friday. Heaven knows how long it has been under. We also saw another narrowboat with water in it, looking bedraggled. Why don’t BW get then removed and charge the owners?

Thursday 7th
We actually shared locks with a boat!! We came upon “Malvern” a 40 ft boat with a pleasant couple doing the ring from Braunston in 5 weeks. The boat looked familiar, there was no sign writing on it but the colours and nameplate shouted UCC, as indeed it was. Are they trying to disguise their boats? Anyway we shared the Marsworth locks with them before they headed off down the Wendover Arm. We had intended to go into Aylesbury but because of our delays have decided to save that for another day. By the way, my copy of Nicholson says within the text that there are 8 locks into the town in the header, and then numbers them from 1 to 16 on the map! We had a busy day knocking off 17 locks and 10 miles from Leighton Buzzard to Tring. What a feat of engineering this cutting is, over a mile and a half long and up to 30 feet deep, and all dug by hand.

This hungry boater has obviously been starved of something.

Friday 8th
We set off incredibly early (for us) and were at the services at Cowroast by just past 8. Apart from a few showers on Monday our trip had been dry, but as we entered the lock it hammered down. Furthermore before we set off I put on clean socks and stepped off the boat to cast off. As I set my foot down by the hook I had placed on the piling, it went down over a foot. Grass was covering a hole behind the piles, and I had not seen it on the many moves onto and off the boat that evening. Needless to say the hole was muddy and had a good depth of water in it. So much for clean socks! Actually I was lucky I only placed my foot on the grass and went in, if I had jumped onto that spot I would almost certainly have broken my leg.

Anyway having donned waterproofs we spent a hard day working our way down 24 locks in under 9 miles, ending up just past Nash Mill, which is now partly demolished. During the day it brightened, then got hot, then poured, then sunny, then more rain before after about 12 it brightened and stayed that way. We were lucky; one of the few boats we saw moving the opposite way had suffered hailstorms. Carol had got cold mid morning and as we stopped in Berkhamsted at the canalside Waitrose store to get fruit & papers she warmed up with a very pleasant cappuccino.
(A pretty stretch in Berkhamsted)

We actually managed to share one lock this day. Near the end of our trip as we were leaving Hemel Hempstead we saw a boat starting to fill the lock below us just as we entered the lock above. I waved, they saw us and we joined them. It was Lady Eleanor from Debdale, the last time we saw them with the boat was as we crossed on the K&A last year. Incredible. Sad too as they said they were stopping just below the lock and we had several more to do. We met up with two charming girls of possibly 9years age at this lock and they had loads of questions & helped push gates.

We tied up at around 5.40 and reckoned we had done pretty well as we had stopped for probably about an hour during the day. Still lots more locks to London but today we broke the back of the task.

Saturday 9th
Cruising today included arranging to be tied up to watch qualifying for the Spanish GP. The day started bright, strongish wind at first, easing off and warming up through the day. I noted lock 69A was slow to fill, but why is it 69A? Did someone miscount as the locks were being numbered? We shared 3 locks with Days of Elijah around Grove Park, a very pretty bit with some very sharp bends, and of course we met boats coming the other way on these bends. We stopped in Cassiobury Park for the GP & lunch and set off again at the same time as nb Doolittle, a 40ft Sea Otter, they too had been watching. We shared 4 locks until them, and one of these we had a threesome, something we haven’t enjoyed for years.

We stopped at Rickmansworth at
Batchworth lock to fill & empty, and for me to fall in!!!

Mooring at the Sanitary Station was not good, the side was in a concave arch and bollards were not ideally placed. I was kneeling on the side of the front deck to put the hose away, I couldn’t get onto the deck as the washing was set up there on the airer. When I had put the hose away I put my feet down on the side, except the “side” was water and the concrete was 2 feet away! It was not too cold & I’m hoping I got my mobile phone out and dry in time.

We cruised on and I noted that the whole length between Stockers & Springwell was taken up by moored boats. We tied up in a lovely spot a couple of hundred yards below Springwell Lock. It was close to the large, odourless sewage works and just past a boat club. Shortly after mooring we heard the evocative thud of a Bollinder as it passed us. They sound fabulous, I’m sure they are fun and a challenge to work on and with, but we don’t want one, much too much like hard work.

Sunday 10th
Dawned crystal clear blue sky, barely a breeze, fabulous. The day saw the odd cloud blow over but it warmed up and all the pubs had busy “gardens” with people enjoying the weather. We enjoyed the GP tied up in Uxbridge and posted cards & letters as well as getting the papers. Overnight our toilet tank went wrong and could not be closed. It was decidedly whiffy and was taken out and we urgently cleaned it out at Cowley Lock. Our day finished just before the Slough Arm at Cowley Peachy, still in bright sun and with Carol doing an experimental dish using an aubergine. We have done all the locks now on the GU that we have to do, and yet again have been amazed at how pretty the whole run is. Carol says she prefers it to using the Oxford to get to the Thames, I’m not so sure as it is much harder work, but well worthwhile.

Interesting boats abound, just two of them.

Final note, Carol’s experiment was excellent, loads of vegetables etc in it and really tasty, if she can remember how she did it she may well offer it as a dish when friends come to dine.

Monday 11th Another bright day but with a strong and biting wind.

It has been a fabulous year for Clematis an Wisteria.

Roy in Gerald thudded past us at 8 on his way back North before I fitted DryDeck to the front deck before we set off at 11, and we set off in a rush as we saw this approaching.

We had seen the loading point yesterday, sorry, didn’t grab the camera in time to picture the unloading wharf.

We saw few boats moving, but of course s..s law applied as we met the first one at bridge over a tightish bend in the middle of two long straights! The next one was as I was about to turn at Bulls Bridge, amazing timing. Saw this weed collector on the Paddington Arm, perhaps it would have helped to collect floating pennywort on the Soar? Meeting a few more boats we arrived at Little Venice at 4 and moored just into the Paddington Arm in bright sun, but still with that bitter wind.a

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Back for repair

Sunday 26th April Another beautiful day but we are stopped waiting a decision about our failed oil seal, still the Grand Prix from Dubai was interesting and I had a pleasant walk to Wilton Locks chandlery to collect Sunday papers. On our wander down there on Saturday we noticed a boat named Encharnted and wondered who the funny spelling. On Sunday I saw the owner and asked, but he had only bought the boat so named and wondered if it was the signwriter’s error, but thought not as both sides are the same, so he thinks the boatyard may have given the wrong spelling to the signwriter. I can’t understand why the owner of the boat paid for the job being done if the spelling was wrong, any ideas?

Other little bits were done to the boat, including laundry and the preparation of the front deck for a repaint, but it was lovely to sit down and read the news and prepare for Monday and decisions. I had already sent an email with photos of the problems to the marina and called first thing to make sure that it was opened & the pictures printed and passed to Mike, who rang me around 10. He said he needed the serial number as stamped on the drive motor, and that he was going to speak to Steve. The number, of course, was on the underside of the unit, but a mirror helped, and I phoned back to get the info to him. Whilst waiting for him to get back to me went onto Peachment’s (the makers) web site, to see if any exploded views were shown (no) and then rang them. They were surprised that the seal had gone in such a relatively short time, and then went through the procedure to get at the part. I asked whether they considered it would be OK for us to cruise the 10 hours back to the marina, and when they said this would be fine, we set off at 1pm.

Monday morning had been wet, but shortly after we set off the rain stopped, but it was far from warm. Our passage up Watford locks was quick, we met no-one in Crick tunnel, which was still very wet, filled with water at Edwards, and then the heavens opened! I sent Carol below as there was no point in 2 of us getting wet, but in fact the umbrella, jacket & hat kept me dry and we cruised on. The weather improved later, though still cool and we cruised on until 7.30 when we stopped in another pretty spot.

Tuesday dawned cool and overcast with rain forecast, but in fact it held off until nightfall where we were. We cruised on steadily, past these lovely bluebells.

We went straight into Foxton flight, Carol with another ice cream ( I was busy working locks so couldn’t lick ) and we arrived back at Debdale by 2pm. I reported into the office, had a few words about pulley sizes, and dived below the deck to start dismantling and found a belt had come adrift again! I got bolts loose and the drive shaft uncoupled before Steve arrived with some larger kit for splitting the drive from the thrust bearing. With it all off and in pieces and cleaned out eventually we felt the thrust bearing because something had caused the grease to overheat, and we do not cruise at great speed. We are not sure but Steve thought the bearing might be a bit rough, so I decided to blow another £100 on a new one, better sure than sorry. Still waiting news on the alternator pulleys and belt problems.

Wednesday Busy day away from the boat, Carol had her hair permed, I visited the doc, then off collecting post plus a piece of clothing Carol needs for later in the month. Can’t recall all we did, but we were out from before 9 till after 5. Got back to find nothing fixed back on the boat, but was told a new drive pulley was being sent. It seems everything fitted was supplied by engine manufacturer, it’s just that they have made few of our engine/alternator package and don’t know what they supplied. The new pulley was being locally sourced but had not arrived.

Thursday another busy day for us, including re-provisioning but first interesting bit at Matilda Blue and her Australian owners were loaded up on a lorry first thing to be-floated in Holland prior to their cruise through Belgium & France. We were interested in this as it is something we hope to do. Set off to get our tasks done and got back to find drive unit fitted but that alternator pulley that came was useless. They refitted the originals & used narrower belts, but have ordered in a set of poly-V pulleys for fitting in the Autumn, or sooner if we ruin these belts. The only thing left now was our alarm system. This was fitted years ago, but no sensors installed. It works thro mobile phone text messaging, but we needed to see the supplier who is a South African who moors in Debdale. We were supposed to meet on the K&A last summer as they were supposedly coming round from Sharpness to Bristol, but never made it. He was due to see us today but…..

Friday A bright sunny morning, suddenly Bill arrived about the alarm. He said he had to get a couple of bits and arranged that he would catch up with us on Sunday…………….So………….