Tuesday 30 March 2010

Tuesday Wormleighton to Napton

It was a full moon last night but you couldn't see it because of the cloud. When I took the dog out last thing it was fine drizzle, he wasn't too impressed and went on strike, digging his paws in and putting his head down. The third time he did this I gave him another pull and ended up taking a lead and collar for a walk, leaving a dog on the towing path looking at me, as soon as I stopped and turned round he picked up his collar and we walked back to the boat. This morning when we got up it was still raining.
This clock change is giving me a problem, half of me is on summer time and half on winter time still, the other half hasn't a clue what its doing. As we don't use an alarm clock we have been sleeping late, but then we go to bed by the clock and cant get to sleep, meal times are not to bad,I suspect it would be worse going the other way.

We set off at about 1030 and by then the rain had stopped, we had a gentle run back to the moorings only meeting a couple of private boats and a British Waterways work flat being powered by an outboard motor. At Marston Doles locks we caught up with another boat, it was about the 5th or 6th time we have seen them, the first time was at the bottom of the Foxton flight last week and since then we have been leapfrogging each other or meeting each other.
We just arrived at our moorings as it started to rain and it has done this on and off all afternoon. While Diana was getting lunch I took the opportunity to fit the solar panels and was pleased to see 1.5 amps going into the batteries between the showers.
After lunch it was time for an oil change,this didn't go quite as well as planned as the filter wrench pierced the filter case allowing oil to leak out, luckily I had already put my tray made from plastic guttering under it so all was not lost.

Monday 29 March 2010

Monday Wormleighton to Wormleighton via Fenny Compton

We woke to rain,only to be expected as it was very cloudy last night and the pressure has been falling steadily. so we were in no hurry to get up and away. We heard "Albert" go by with his lovely sounding Ruston & Hornsby engine, much nicer than a BD3.

The rain stopped and we set off at twenty past ten and made our way to Fenny Compton where we winded,this operation would be a lot easier if there wasn't a boat permanently moored in the end of the winding hole or even if he moved backwards as its very tight to come through the bridge and get your bows in behind him. There is room for us to wind without having to get tight in to the bank, but anything over 60 foot would need to. Once round we tied up and filled with water.

We had just completed filling up when a boat came backwards along the canal, waited until we departed and then also winded to follow us northwards along the cut. Once past the long term moorings 2 Hare's came out through the hedge and bundled off along the towing path, unfortunately I was to slow to get a photograph. It then started raining again. We continued on to moor about a 200 yards south of where we were last night at about 12 30 pm. by which time the rain had stopped again.  The boat that came backwards, winded and followed us, came by and moored in the spot we were in last night.

Sunday 28 March 2010

Sunday Braunston to Wormleighton

We woke at a reasonable time considering the clocks changed last night, I do wonder if the boats each side of us forgot to change there clocks as dead on 9 am i.e. 8 am yesterday's time their engines started.

We set off at ten past ten in sunshine, just before we left a brand new boat came passed us,no licence disk and no number plates,we seen several like this now. Is it a case of the tax is in the post or are they just getting a few free weeks. We met quite a few boats during the morning, most of them in good places for a change. Napton Narrowboats had about half their fleet out when we came passed but there were very few boats in the normal places like by The Bridge at Napton and The Folly.

We had Sunday lunch in the Folly complete with a couple of pints of Hooky before getting on our way up the Napton flight. We met three boats on the flight so all the locks were with us for a change. The first two were hire boats and I was glad we met them as opposed to following them. At Marston Doles I though I would check the winding hole for length. The notice says 50 foot so I thought I would try to get round, what's 7 foot between friends? It's slightly more than the distance between the towing path and the point of the winding hole. It was a very pleasant afternoon and we continued southwards finally mooring at 6 30 pm by the radio mast at Wormleighton

Saturday 27 March 2010

Saturday Crick to Braunston

This morning started much brighter and we were away just before 10 am. We arrived at the Watford flight just as a boat was coming into the top lock, Diana fond the lock keeper and we were on our way as soon as this boat had cleared the lock. I upset the lock keeper by not drawing the red paddle first, there was no point as the next chamber was full to overflowing and when I did draw it to keep him happy the level actually fell by 6". I wasn't happy as he had seen me do it but went to tell Diana off. I think its a case of red before white is the only way to do it, don't think, just like some people walk up to a lock, raise both paddles before trying to open the gate when a lock is already full.
At the railway bridge there were two long lengths of tree in the cut, one was long enough to almost stretch from bank to bank, I guess they must have come down in the recent winds. At the winding hole I met a boat coming very slowly through the bridge, I held back to let him through only to find he was followed by two more, I don't know how far they had been following him but the back one looked right cheesed off. We met several boats between here and Braunston Tunnel but nothing in the tunnel which was just as well. I had not seen any boats ahead but half way through the tunnel I could see a shape silhouetted in the distance. I thought that maybe the contractors were working at the tunnel mouth but by the time we got there it was all clear. At the top lock there was a cruiser waiting to enter the lock and they were to wide to get through one gate so went down alone, it was them that I had followed through the tunnel and if they had met anyone it would have been tight. There were a few boats coming up the flight so at first it didn't make much difference to us letting them go ahead and a second boat joined us going down. Once we stopped meeting boats it became a pain as the lads with the cruiser left both bottom gates open as they went and just to top it all the boat we were sharing with stopped at the Nelson for a few days. We pushed on alone,finally meeting a couple of boats coming up at the bottom lock.
A short stop was made at The Stop House to fill with water before heading for the open countryside. Tia was moored opposite The Boatman on his way to Foxton for the weekend extravaganza so we stopped for a while to catch up on the new and examine his new "Bio degradable dog poo bags". We continued on our way to moor for the night just before bridge 99. There was only one other boat moored on this stretch when we arrived so we were able to moor well spaced out in the piece and quiet. Since then there have been several other boats arrive and until 10 minutes ago we had one each end running their engines. They stopped them at a few minutes to 8.

Since we have been moored here I have put a bit more paint on the roof over the rust patches, refill the stern greaser and cut the keep for the rear door bolt into the step. Its only 3 mm brass but it felt like standing on a brick.

Friday 26 March 2010

Friday North Kilworth to Crick

last night the wind blew and the rain hammered down, it was a good job we were eating on board and apart from walking the dog we didn't need to go out.
This morning started bright and we set off at 10 30 am but soon the clouds were gathering  and just before Yelvertoft it turned quite cool and started to rain. The new marina at Yelvertoft now has about half the electric points installed on the jetties and they have moved a lot more soil. The earth dam is still across the marina entrance but the water level looks good inside, I don't know how long BW will make them wait before allowing them to remove it.
We moored at 3 pm in almost the same spot that we moored in a week ago on our outward journey. No one complained that we were in their winter mooring then so I don't expect they will this time.
As I sit here typing this I have a good WiFi signal on an unsecured network, the only problem is they want £3 an hour to access it. I will stick with 3.

Thursday 25 March 2010

Thursday Foxton to North Kilworth

The heavy rain of last night lead us to a very spring like morning,warm and sunny with very little wind. We said goodbye to Clive and Rita over coffee and chocolate biscuits and headed off towards the lock flight at 1045 hrs. We were straight into the locks but as we were following another boat they were all against us, we were the third through that morning. We had just completed the second lock when the keeper walked down to tell us that there was another boat coming down and that we would have to pass in the middle of the flight. We were to remain in the lock and the other boat would pull over in the basin to let us pass. We continued up the flight arriving at the basin while the boat coming down was still a couple of locks away. The basin was very low and if we had not been instructed to wait in the lock it is debatable as to whether we would have cleared the cill. As the other boat dropped down to the lock above the basin, the outfall between the basin and the side pond above started to gush water and Harnser started to rise in the lock.By the time the gates opened on the next lock we were well up and could clear the cill with ease. The lock keeper who was accompanying the boat coming down laid down at the mouth of the lock with an arm stretched down as far as he could reach ready to take the centre rope of the descending boat as he left the lock. this was to enable him to pull them against the side of the basin and allow us to pass.
We were now on the top half of the flight and of course all the locks were now at their lower level so drawing the red paddle filled the lock we were in while the white paddle only had to drop the chamber by a few inches. We were just about to leave the top lock when 2 boats arrived to go down. We pulled in for water just in front of the "Cheese" boat and while the water tank was filling bought 3 Welsh cheeses from them that we hadn't tried before. The water pressure on the taps up here is far better that that to be found at Market Harborough which was bit of a relief. Once full we continued on towards Welford and through the Market Bosworth tunnel. By now the sun had decided to play hide and seek with the clouds and the temperature had fallen a few degrees, looking to our left it looked decidedly unsettled with rain in the distance and that was the direction the weather was coming from. After a bit of discussion we made the decision to moor just passed the Welford arm against the concrete edging. Like all good decisions this was changed and we moored about 200 yards before the arm. The reason for this was that the wind and rain that was just starting would be against the side of the boat and not the back doors. So at 1500 hrs we called it a day and sat down for a glass of red wine and a piece of our Welsh cheese.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Wednesday Market Harborough to Foxton

Last night we went with Clive and Rita for a meal at The Waterfront and were most impressed, for the type of establishment and food it was very good value. We started with a plate of rolls and an offer of extra if required, a nice bottle of house wine, 4 starters and main courses for less than £60. The portions were so generous that Clive had to finish Rita's main course, Diana asking for a doggie bag and none of us being able to manage a sweet.
It rained heavily over night and was still drizzling this morning but it had cleared up before we left. We made our way back to Foxton and I was very pleased to see a Kingfisher swooping towards me along the canal, but only one. Once in Foxton, Clive and Rita pulled over for the night and we continued on to Debdale to fill up with diesel. While we were there I took the opportunity to examine a boat they had out for blacking and sitting on a pair of trestles about 6 foot high, these are to facilitate the cleaning and painting of the base plate. There is a lot of discussion about whether on not its worth painting the base plate and if it all gets scraped off on the canal bed. All I can say is that all the mussels hanging on the bottom had not been scraped off so I can only surmise that the paint wouldn't be scraped off ether.
Once full of diesel we headed back to Foxton in nice warm sunshine, we moored with Clive and Rita and while Diana and Rita took the dog for a walk I took the opportunity of the warmth to prime the areas of roof that I had scraped back to steel yesterday. I also replaced the seal on the weed hatch, a job I have been intending to do for sometime. While I had the weed hatch top off I checked the prop for fouling and found a load of blue material with plastic piping and zips which I think may at one time have  been a bag.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Tuesday Foxton to Market Harborough

Last night we had an enjoyable meal in The Foxton Locks Inn with Clive and Rita. It was a lovely clear star lit night which caused the temperature to fall to below freezing. We were disturbed some time after midnight by an engine running and this woke me several times over the next few hours, I think it was moored somewhere behind us.
This morning started very sunny, so much so I thought I would have a ply with the solar panels while Diana took the dog for a walk. When she returned we had another changes of plans and joined with Clive and Rita in a trip to Market Harborough, we didn't get away until about 11 am and took a slow run down mooring just out side the basin. Diana steered all the way and I scraped the lose paint from the roof and treated it with rust killer ready to prime, needless to say at this point the sun went in and it started to drizzle, so the patches are still waiting for the paint. This afternoon was spent in Market Harborough with a trip to the towns museum followed by a run round Sainsbury's to top up the food store.

Monday 22 March 2010

Monday Market Harborough to Foxton

After walking round the the BW office to buy a new pump out card we set off at about 10 am. Although it was sunny it was quite windy which made it interesting passing some of the moored boats slowly. Not far out of town I spotted a Moorhen sitting on her nest,I couldn't tell if she had eggs or not.I can only assume that the poor old Kingfisher has a hard time with the canal freezing this year as I haven't seen a single bird and normally we spot a few below Watford and again on the Market Harborough arm.
After yesterdays problem with the road swing bridge we both got off to open it.Diana at the operations end,releasing the lock and me pushing at the towing path end. As we passed through Foxton I was hailed by another boater, Andy. He has been following us all the way from Napton, always being about one day behind. We have never met before but he has followed my postings for several years. Once through Foxton we carried on to Debdale Marina where I had a word with Dave about our paint work, it has gone from micro blistering to the paint on the roof coming off in hand fulls leaving shiny bright steel below,it is even obvious to me that there has been very little adhesion between the primer coat and the steel. There is still talk of this being due to the exceptional winter we have just had, the paint didn't fall off the last boat when it was iced in for 6 weeks of my friends boat in Belgium where they have been able to walk around the boat on the ice, or maybe its the wrong sort of cold. Whatever it is its obviously going to cost me lots of pennies to put right. After talking to Dave we winded and headed back to Foxton just as the rain started. We are now moored just before the locks with Clive and Rita again ready to go to The Foxton Locks Inn for a meal tonight.

Sunday 21 March 2010

Sunday North Kilworth to Market Harborough

We looked out at about 7 am and it was decidedly foggy, but very bright above with all the signs of being a grand day. By the time we were up the fog had lifted but looking out it remained misty until lunch time. 
At twenty past ten we said goodbye to Clive and Rita and set off on our way. It wasn't long before we came across our first fishing match of the season. I don't think I have ever passed through such a friendly bunch of fishermen, there were about 30 of them in all, but they were in 4 small groups, each group being between a quarter and half a mile apart. This meant that you were not on tickover for yunks but just a short stretch followed by a bit of ordinary cruising, even so, poor old nb. Balmaha managed to end up in the middle of the last bunch.
We stopped at the top of the Foxton flight to finish our lunch and set off again a 1 o'clock. There were no boats coming up so we were able to set off as soon as we arrived at the top gate and a volunteer lock assistant offered to help us down, he didn't have a windlass but took care of the gates on the towing path side. It took us just 50 minutes to do the flight and when we got to the bottom we found the boat ahead of us moored on the lock moorings drinking what looked like their G&Ts. A tight right hand turn and through the new swing bridge on the Market Harborough Arm before mooring on the visitor moorings to walk back to Bridge 61 shop and the museum to purchase some reading material. The visitor moorings were all empty, they were moored on lock moorings or the water points just at the bottom of the locks.
The next swing bridge which carries the road across the canal is very stiff and Diana couldn't move it. I had problems with it and had to pull from the towing path side to get it to move at all.Once I got it started it was OK, but once Diana had taken the boat through I had to get it closed again,all went fine until the last few inches which I achieved aging from the towing path end. There are stories of boaters having to use the boat as a battering ram to get it open and closed.
We continued on towards the end basin passing Dewern6 on the way, another boat we had not seen for some time. Once in the basin we made good use of the BW services block as we were in a desperate need of a pump, luckily I had a BW card in my file, it was a bit ancient and I was not 100% sure it would work, but work it did and in a few minutes we had an empty tank, I am sure that if there had been a second boat waiting it would have been sufficient to do their tank as well,an excellent unit, well done BW. It was gone 6 30 by the time we had finished this so we just drew backwards out of the basin to moor for the night. In the basin were more old friends that we had not seen for some time on nb. Hadar, so we walked round to see them and partake of a cup of tea while we caught up on the past year.

Saturday 20 March 2010

Saturday Welford to North Kilworth

Not much of a trip today really, we woke at a reasonable time and the weather was fine,but it didn't last long and soon we were in steady rain, so much so that we intended to stay put for the day. Diana took magic out for a walk and brought him back half drowned with mud all up his back legs, it didn't bother him but he needed a clean up before coming in.
At about half 10 I decided to start the engine to charge the batteries if we weren't moving, but by 12 it had brightened up and the rain stopped so we pushed off.  Once out of the end of the Welford arm.we turned right towards Foxton. We had only done about 500 yards when I spotted a friends boat moored ahead. We slid in close behind them and moored up before going to bang on their widow. If I say Mary Celeste you will know what I mean, no sign of life. They had had lunch and the porthole curtains were drawn, so may be they had gone for a sleep. A few good bangs at the stern and still no sign of life. We returned to Harnser and employed modern technology, the mobile phone. The had decided to take a walk to North Kilworth and were now on their way back.
On their return they came round for tea and biscuits, later we will go round their for a couple of beers,not a bad deal.
So that's it really, just one lock and the Welford Arm, it must be one of our shortest days ever.

Friday 19 March 2010

Friday Crick to Welford

Last night we moored nose to nose with a boat painted in an almost colour scheme to ours except they had a red roof where as we have a grey and rusty roof, it was even painted by the same person as ours but 12 months earlier. This morning they set off quite early, I don't know what engine they have but I can think of a lot of worse sounding alarm clocks.
We didn't set off until 10 30 on a warm sunny morning. Work is cracking on at the new marina at Yelvertoft with the pontoons all in and the basin full of water. It looks as if they filled it using pumps as there are three large pumps with their suction lines in the canal. All the temporary dams in the canal have been removed and all that is between the basin and the canal is an earth dam in the marina mouth. There is still a tremendous amount of landscaping to do and they are moving large dumper truck fulls up the road away from the site. The marina offices look a bit out of place in the middle of it all.
We pushed on along the Leicester Arm and as we did so the weather turned markedly cooler until we turned right into the Welford Arm when it was quite overcast. We made our to the end of the arm, meeting one boat on the way "Ubique" there is another boat of this name in Crick Marina.At the end of the arm we winded and the first boat on the visitor moorings offered to move back to make room for us, we declined his offer as that would have put him very close to the winding hole and there were plenty of spaces a bit further along the arm. The strange thing is the mooring rings continue right across the winding hole and if boaters use these I would think it would make it very difficult to turn. We moored for the night opposite the layby a little after 3 pm. Not long after mooring up it started to rain again, still it stayed dry while we were travelling.

Thursday 18 March 2010

Thursday Braunston to Crick

9 am and I am off out with the dog walking with Brian from RN and his dog Ghost, Diana is off to the village to get a few odds and ends with plans to meet at Butchers Bridge. 9 30 and I am off, hardly any boats moored in the village and several people enjoying breakfast in the Gongoozlers Rest now under new management. Just past the marina entrance I met the freshly stretched Caxton coming towards me. I hovered at Butchers Bridge as I could see Diana coming down the path. The boat moored just through the bridges was untying so I was hopeful of someone to share the locks with. Wrong, it was Matilda Rose and they were waiting for me to pass before they reversed back to the water point, so we did the flight alone. Needless to say all the locks were against us until the second from the top where we met two boats, There was a short delay at the top lock as the BW contractors were loading a pair of gas cylinders onto a short tug to take them to the tunnel mouth. There is still a lot of work ongoing here and speaking to the chap supervising the moving of the cutting equipment they will still be here for another 6 weeks or so. They are relaying the towing path between the top lock and the tunnel, installing culverts and drains in an attempt to cure the muddy mess that I have always known. On the off side they are installing the flexible fabric piling but instead of using the normal wooden stakes they are using scaffold poles driving them in with a pile driver. At the tunnel mouth there is still bit of a Temporary dam where the ground water is being drained into the canal but they have built a brick sluice to allow this to happen when work is complete.
We met one boat in the tunnel and this was the only boat we saw on the move until we arrived at Crick. On the Watford flight BW are hard at work painting the lock gates and as it was lunch time when we arrived I had to walk right to the top of the flight to find them before starting our climb, needless to say, yet again all the locks were against us.
We stopped outside Edwards to fill with water and then moved on to moor for the night opposite the two marina entrances. There is a sign that says its winter moorings until the end of the month all the way along this stretch controlled by Crick Marina, so I am not sure if we should be here or not, I am just waiting for a boat to come along and the steerer to shout "O you are on my mooring" if he does we will move, if not we will just stay until the morning.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Wednesday 17/03/10 Napton to Braunston

We actually arrived at the boat last night at about 6 pm. While I filled the water system, no leaks this time and lit the stove Diana trundled back and forth with the wheel barrow unloading the car. The battery voltage was still quite good when I turned the power on but lost half a volt running the water pump. The engine fired up first shot and pushed a few more amps into the batteries. As time was getting on and the stove was not up to temperature we decided to drive down to the Folly pub to eat as we have heard some good reports about the new management. Where the top dining room use to be is now the pool table and food is served in the lower dining room round to the right as you go in. I don't know if they are still claiming to be a pie pub, but they have dropped the large range of pies from their menu, however they had beef and ale pie on the special board so we gave that a try and it was worth  it. The pie contained lots of large pieces of meat in a very tasty gravy. The chips were hand cut and nice and long and it was all fresh and hot. I would say its the best pie that I have eaten there for 12 or 13 years when it was a pie pub. The beer was good as well with a nice pint of Hook Norton. To finish off I had a nice fresh pancake with ice cream. We will defiantly visit again.
We returned to a nice warm boat and settled down for the night.

This morning the weather was grand, nice warm sun and just a light breeze, during the night the inverter had shut down on "low voltage" the batteries were sitting at 20.5 volts. We started up and moved down to the lock where I loaded our 4 new Trojan batteries aboard, the only down side that I can see with these batteries at the moment is that they don't have lifting handles, just two slots where a removable strap handle is fitted. We then drew back along the towing path clear of the lock moorings to fit them. I was a bit concerned that they would be to tall and I would have to modify the battery box, but the lids went on with at least a millimetre to spare above the terminal posts, these batteries have both posts and bolt, as I used the bolts it meant the top of the post was the highest point. Being American the terminal bolts are probably AF, luckily a 14 mm spanner fitted nicely.
This all done we were on the move, I unloaded the old batteries while we were in the lock and then moored below the lock both to carry the batteries from the lock side to the car and also have a bit off lunch. I returned to the boat after moving the old batteries only to see that the Sterling Battery Management panel was showing zero charge. First thought was that the alternator had packed up, so I stopped the engine but the readout was still zero, no discharge. The next thought was the panel was faulty, but on investigation I found that I could rotate the signal wire connector on the shunt round the screw. Now the mystery bit, the screw was dead tight, but I could still move the connector, this connection has not been touched since I put the panel in about 6 years ago and in that time it has never failed to give a reading. The problem was cured by putting a washer on the terminal screw to make sure the ring connector was tightly nipped up.
We set off again  at 2 pm  down the flight. It looks as if the bywash culvert has collapsed on the second from the bottom lock, lock 9 and the boat in front of us flooded the towing path. seeing this we waited until they had left the lock and Diana had drawn the top paddles before dropping down lock 10.
There were three boats moored opposite the towing path below the Napton flight, one of them had his front mooring rope right by the "No Mooring" sign.
As we passed under bridge 107 there were two dead foxes floating in the canal, I found this quite unusual as I very really see a single dead fox in the cut, but two together seems most strange, I wonder how they got there.
By now I had expected them to have lifted the sunken butty on the puddle banks,but no,its still there, out side the motor with a dumb barge on the out side of it making the channel quite narrow, it was like this last time we passed through. We carried on into Braunston mooring for the night just after 6 pm opposite the old "Mill House", I can't remember the new name, I hope they don't leave the extractor fans running 24/7.