Tuesday 29 September 2009

The CIBC Rally at Blue Lias

Thursday 24 September

We arrived at the boat late in the afternoon and had the ropes off about 5 pm. From our mooring we made our way down to the top lock and while the lock was filling managed to unload the car into the boat, this included the carpet tiles for the lounge that we had taken home to clean. We met the first boat just as we left the top lock which saved closing gates, this is one of the few Narrowboats that I have seen with wheel steering. The second boat appeared as we left the second lock, things were looking good, but after the next lock which had almost emptied its self we were following craft travelling down hill and didn't meet any more boats. Just beyond The Folly we were able to pull into the 48 hr moorings for the night.

Friday 25 September

Another fine day and we were away about 9 am. Steady run down the Oxford Canal and then sharp left at Wigrams Turn to go north along the Grand Union Canal. We were contemplating weather to stop at the top of Calcutt Locks and tack water, but as we arrived there were two boat coming out of the lock towards us, one of them shot over to the water point and the boat ahead went into the lock, the obvious thing for us to do was to go in and join them, locking down together. I got chatting to the chap on the other boat as we locked down, his boat was a trad with a Gardner engine, the interesting thing was his exhaust which was hinged to drop back if it hit anything and had a spring fitted into the hinge mechanism so it came gently to rest as it fell back, level, but not hitting the cabin roof. We parted company at the bottom of the flight and continued on alone towards Stockton.
The approach to Stockton Lock is quite slow due to the number of moored boats along that section and before we reached The Boat pub we were passed by a chap on the towing path carrying a windlass, some way behind us was a converted working boat and I am guessing that the chap had probably walked from Calcutt Locks to Stockton Locks along the towing path. I dropped Diana off at the bridge by the pub and by the time I reached Stockton Top Lock he had opened both gates and was on his way down to the second lock. I was in the lock and Diana was ready to close the gates before NB Chiswick arrived and slid in beside me. She is acting as a floating stage for two waterway artists, you can see more details at http://www.sounduk.net/event_page.php?eid=12 . With 2 crew with the boats and one member setting ahead we had a good run down the flight. The young lady steering Chiswick was very capable of handling such a fine craft and we slid down the flight side by side entering and leaving the locks together, we didn't meet any other boats to disrupt our rhythm.  We winded and after taking water moored outside the Blue Lias while Chiswick visited WFB to get an estimate for some repair work they needed doing.

Our reason for visiting The Blue Lias was that it was the annual Cutweb Internet Boat Club CIBC rally that weekend and we had 12 other boats moored with us plus some camping units in the field behind the pub. Our Saturday night entertainment was provided by Kate Saffin in her one woman show. On Sunday we had a charity auction, I was a bit late arriving and Diana gave me a wave to show me where she was sitting, it cost me a pair of glass decanters, the first lot knocked down to her for a pound.  As usual we were very well looked after by staff of The Blue Lias.

Monday 28 September

9 am and we were on our way in the company of nb Jannock up the Stockton flight, all the locks were against us at first but then we met a couple of boats coming down which eased our way slightly, then on to the Calcutt flight, here there was a boat read to go into the lock so Jannock went in with them, we in turn went in with another boat that had just arrived from somewhere, probably the marina, that was on a "training day" the two chaps and the trainer just stood there talking to each other after the other boats in front had left the lock and the top gates were closed. I walked up and asked them if they intended going up the flight and they said they would like to join us, I then suggested it might help if they did some of the work as I had nothing to moor to and walked past, leaving the boat drifting to set the lock. Graham saw my plight, sent me back, turned the lock opened one gate, I passed the boat went in and moved across before any of the others wandered up. At was at this point I found out it was a training day and suggested that maybe the trainer should train them to do some of the work. I had been standing on the towing path holding the boat right behind them all the time the other boats were going up and none of them bothered to walk back and tell me what they were up to. We shared all three locks with them with some pointed comments about how we were working the lock and not asking for a "thumbs up" before opening paddles, I don't think they would have noticed a flag waving and they were well roped up before they closed the bottom gates.
We turned left at Wigrams turn and followed Jannock into Braunston where we winded and made use of his self pumpout kit before returning to Calcutt to fill up with diesel. Once toped up with diesel we moored for the night just above the locks opposite the reservoir  at 5 30 pm. later we witnessed a glorious sunset with a bright red sky reflecting in the water.

Tuesday 29 September

After a very quiet night the dog had us up before it was light, when we finally surfaced it was sunny and as the morning went on, things got even better, probably the warmest day all month. We set off at 9 30 am heading back to Wigrams Turn where we turned sharp right up the South Oxford canal. We met a few boats between the junction and the Napton Locks.  As we cleared the bridge by The Bridge Inn, Napton a passing boater was trying to remoor a boat that had drifted out across the cut, we assisted by pushing the bows in and then throwing the front mooring line to him. This boat was here when we passed last Friday, at that time the front line was strung across the towing path and tied to a post in the hedge.
At the bottom of the locks the working boat Gosty was bunkering diesel, he only sells none propulsion diesel and to commercial users at the low rate of duty. He also had a full load of coal on so if you get behind him he may be a bit slow through the bridge holes. We didn't have a bad run up the flight meeting a few boats on the way but also catching some up. Just above the top lock a Rose Narrowboat was moored on the lock moorings with the engine boards up, Diana went to enquire if he had a problem and he said he had found a pipe come off in the engine bay. I got volunteered to go and look, it was the pipe from the bottom of the sump to the oil change pump, apparently it had also been off when he picked the boat up and the chap just pushed it on again,  so he had done the same and didn't know what it was. I told him that if it fell flat in the bilge it could drain all the oil from the engine. We then went up to our mooring and moored up at about 12 30 pm. Whilst I was changing a bulb in the stern light an Oxford hire boat pulled up beside me, the chap asked the best way to turn round. I told him to back up, stick his nose in the arm and drive the back round, this resulted in the request for me to demonstrate, I didn't demonstrate but I did hop on his boat and instruct him on what to do and within 5 minuets a happy boater was heading back towards Marston Doles locks, I don't know if he is still happy as he was hoping to get to Cropredy tonight.
We shut the boat up and headed back to Suffolk.

Monday 7 September 2009

IWA National back to Napton


Again we were off at 9-30 am. first stop Watford Locks where we booked in with Madam Lock Keeper, if you are not booked in you are not in the queue and we were third to go down after the three coming up cleared the flight. By the time we went down there was at least another three behind us and six at the bottom. The normal routine when the flight is busy is 3 up and then 3 down. Once we reached Norton Junction we started meeting hire boats, we had seen very few other than Canaltime over the past few days, but that was about to change. We met 4 boats in Braunston Tunnel, one at the first S bend, but he held back for me so I could complete the bend before passing him and one on the slight S bent at the Braunston end. BW have started work on the site of the land slide by the tunnel mouth by improving the land drainage, but have done nothing about removing the obstruction. We didn't have to turn any locks on the Braunston flight due to boats coming up but we did have to wait while some were turned as we left the lock above. We found a boat moored under the bridge at the foot of lock 2 but a boater coming up moved it as we were leaving the lock and tied it to the piling. We stopped for water at The Toll House and then pushed on with a view to stopping at The Bridge, Napton. That plan changed as we continued on as Diana said she had food in the freezer she wanted to use up. This was a good decision as there were boats moored both sides of the bridge by the pub including across the winding hole. As we approached the A 45 bridge just before the Mill House I could see clouds of white smoke or steam and expected to meet a steam boat at the bridge , so held back. I was therefore more than slightly surprised when a Willow  Wren boat from  Rugby came through with not only a group of chaps on the roof but also a BBQ that was causing all the smoke, I am glad I wasn't going to share the locks with them!  A short way before Wigrams Turn we met a broad beamed boat, as we passed I asked him if he intended to go through the tunnel to which he replied "yes" I can only assume he didn't know about the landslide that happened about two years ago closing half the canal, I doubt he will get past it. We arrived at the bottom of the Napton flight just as a Napton Narrowboats hire boat was about to go up, it was their first lock and the yard had told them to moor before the locks and they would send someone out in the morning to show them how to lock up, unfortunately there were no vacant moorings by the Folly so they rand the yard and told them they were going to push on. Just as the boat was entering the lock the yard rang them, so this young lady is trying to steer into her first lock, stop in the right place and talk on the phone, she did well doing 2 out of 3 and only failing to stop until she hit the cill. The yard were still on the phone as she was about to drive out of the lock. We helped them and gave as much information as we could and as we followed them up two more locks they looked to be doing OK. We arrived at our moorings at about 7-30 pm. winded and got in reasonably easy as the water level was well up.

This is the end of our present journey.

IWA National back to Napton


At 9 30 am we said goodbye to Clive and Rita and head off to Debdale Wharf to fill with diesel, we have always found them to be the cheapest in the area. Opposite the marina is a burnt out steel narrowboat that has suffered quite a fire in the front half, the stern end looks OK still so it could well be worth salvaging. Just behind it was a brand new boat "Oakfield". If you notice that they don't seem to have a licence, don't bother reporting it to BW as BW sent them the licence for another boat. I expect the right one will arrive one day !
Once topped up with diesel we were off, a bit of welly required after reversing out of the marina to miss the moored boats in the wind, but we were soon on the straight and narrow again and soon at the bottom of Foxton Locks. Diana was dispatched to find the lock keeper and we were told to follow the boat that was just going into the bottom chamber, it would have been difficult to time it better. The smell just outside the bottom lock was hard to bear, they were cooking and selling bacon butties. I think if I had been third in the queue I would have succumbed.
A swift run up the flight and onward towards North Kilworth Wharf, this is once again a hive of activity after laying unloved a few years ago, it was also the first place I picked up a decent 3 Mobile 3G signal since we left Leicester, so as Diana drove I sent of two blog reports. We decided against a trip to Welford and continued on to Crick, Its good to see that Water Voles are only liable to be disturbed during the Crick Show and that moored boats don't affect them at other times, in other words the "No Mooring" signs and buoys have been removed. There was a good gap in the moored boats between the two Marina entrances but a fisherman was right in the middle, we pushed on to Edwards's and found all the moorings full, so had to back up all the way to the lone fisherman who was just packing up as we arrived, backwards. One of the reasons for making for Crick was to eat in the Red Lion, it was absolutely packed out and we waited well over an hour to get a table for two. The beer was constantly changing as the barrels ran out and different ones were put on. We wandered back to the boat in bright Moon light and Mars very visible not far from it. Interestingly I had a chap try to convince me that what I thought was the moon was actually Mars as its the closest to the earth and largest its been for many thousands of years. He did succeed with some of the drinkers he enticed out to look at it at Kegworth

Friday 4 September 2009

IWA National back to Napton


Last night the weather was to say the least unpleasant, with high winds and rain. Today wasn't to bad with not much rain but lots of wind. We pushed off at 10 am.  and found most of the pounds very low with most of the top gates wide open. Closing these gates when leaving the locks was sometimes impossible as the strong winds soon opened them again, but one or two with low pounds above them did stay shut, due to leaking bottom gates if you took the trouble to bring them both together. We did meet 3 boats in the course of the day but with boats going up just ahead of us this didn't help much as the next lock up was always against us and they were just too far ahead for us to see them. At Pywell's Lock there was a BW work boat using a majority of the lock moorings, it wasn't as if it was being used but just sitting there all locked up, in the way. We moored for the night just over Smeeton Aqueduct opposite the feeder arm behind our friends on nb. Treivalic at 3-30 pm.

IWA National back to Napton


Last night we had an Indian Take away onboard, They offer "free delivery" but 10% discount if you collect. It seemed to offset the "Free Delivery" a bit.
We heard a boat go by quite early this morning and then another, who we shared with at 8-30 am. We were ready to go but the dog wasn't as he didn't oblige on doing what a dog should do on his morning walk, so it was 9 am. before we set off alone with all the locks against us. We caught the boat up that left half an hour before us in Leicester and shared with them all the way to Kilby Bridge where we moored at 4-30 pm. The weather has been very showery and quite cool. Once in Leicester we met a couple of boats so we then had a few locks with us, but it didn't last very long. The pound below Kilby Bridge Lock was very low and I was well aground a good four feet from the towing path bank at the lock moorings, requiring quite a bit of shoving on the pole to get free. Most of the locks along this section are secured with a BW padlock and chain, we found several cases where the lock staple had been chopped through by someone.
The Soar has its fair share of Floating Penny Wort and BW have been treating this with an approved chemical weed killer, this looked to have worked in places where the Penny Wort had yellowed and was dyeing off, but there are lots of places where it has not worked at all or the patches were missed because there is still a lot of bright green leaves about with no sign of yellowing.

You will find our latest position at

Tuesday 1 September 2009

IWA National back to Napton


We set off at 9-30 am, we should have left earlier and found ourselves in a queue at the locks for most of the day. At the Bishop Meadow bridge we shared with a full length boat, he found it a tight fit, bow fender against the cill and the stern as near to centre as I could let him come over. Once in, unfortunately his crew opened the gate paddle which shot water straight into the front cockpit, even more unfortunate was the fact that the front doors were wide open and the accommodation floor level a fair bit lower than the cockpit floor. They were still mopping up at the next lock. By now it was obvious that it was going to be a slow day, a few boats coming down who took ages to untie before coming into the lock and then even longer getting all the ropes off to come out. Some of those in front were not the fastest in the world ether, wandering up to the lock forgetting to take a windlass etc. attaching lots of string before closing gates.
We had quite a good run through Loughborough and pulled over to take water by The Boat at Meadow Lane bridge but it was out of use, so we filled up at Barrow Mill Basin, it was just after this that a couple off a new boat said "we almost called our boat Harnser, but saw your web site" It turned out they lived about 8 miles from us before becoming live aboard's.
At Junction Lock it rained, hailed, thundered and lightening, as we were going to moor within a couple of miles or so we decided to pull over and moor above the lock, as soon as we tied up the rain stopped and the smoke from a bonfire drifted right across the boat so we decided to carry on to Birstall where we had originally planned to spend the night on the town moorings below the lock. The first attempt at mooring close behind a boat already there was a failure due to underwater obstructions and we finally tied up at 5-20 pm about 40 feet further along. Now all the passing boats will say " Look at that inconsiderate boater, he could have moored close to the next boat to make more space.

You will find our latest position at