Saturday, 29 November 2008

Bucks Fizz

Original post 23/06/08
Day 17
Late start today as we only planned to go as far as the Globe. Hadn't topped up the fuel tank since Reading and knowing how hard we had been forced to punch the flow of the Thames I was keen to top up again and see what we had used.
Milton Keynes marina was the first services so we turned in and approached the fuel landing. It all seemed very quiet. I had managed to get far enough into the marina to make getting out awkward when a chap called out from a boat that they were shut on mondays. Pooh!
Never mind, managed to turn without hitting anything and we set off towards Willowbridge.
At Fenny Stratford lock, Nora kept asking....."whats the point of it?" well, its a lock, and it has a swing bridge across it, and, well, what is the point of it?
We took on 69 litres of the red stuff at Willowbridge at I think 86ppl. We shared the first two of the Soulbury three with a boat who were going to wind above the 2nd lock and as we were coming up the third, a chap waiting to come down mentioned he had almost bought Lady Elgar a couple of years ago. It turns out he is a forum member and we chatted for a short while about his Harbourgh of my favourite hulls they are, So Globetrotter a pleasure to meet you sir. Hope you manage to find out more info on the old girl.
Our destination finally approached and I was hoping that we wern't too late to get a mooring as ive never been here before when it hasnt been packed with boats. Imagine my surprise when, We came under the bridge and not another boat in sight, we had a choice of the whole length. yes folks, MY CAMERA NEVER LIES.

A short afternoon siesta and showered and dressed saw us plonked at our table in the Globe. Food as always was absolutly fantastic. There are no words to add. The Ale was good too.
We think so far The Admiral Nelson and The Globe have been the best eating spots, The Boat at Stoke B was also excellent but was very arty and a totally different type of eating house. The Wharf?.....well, just go along for amusment value really, not for culinary delight.
Nora did hear one bloke at the Globe tonight ordering a bar meal moaning....He was telling the barman that it was a right rip off selling the same weight Sirloin Steak as the same weight Rump Steak for £2 dearer......well you dont have to order it!...nobber.
Long day tomorrow...hope to get to the Wendover arm for a Barbie.....nighty night

Friday, 21 November 2008

Electric Light Orchestra

Original post 22/06/08

SUMMER AND LIGHTNING, all around us.
I think it mustve been about midnight that the electric show began in the sky followed by loud rumblings of thunder across the valley. The rain was so heavy that the plants on the roof took quite a battering so when we woke this morning to blue skies and sunshine evrything seemed so much better, except that is for the howling gale blowing from the sou'west.
The plant pots didnt stand a chance and after the 2nd time of putting them back in place, the third time they blew over...over they remained.
We did the remainder of the Stoke Bruerne flight alone, the wind making us contact the side rather more than we wouldve liked but got through unscathed, I suppose if time was no object and we didnt have to be back for work it wouldve been a perfect day for not moving at all....sigh....maybe one day,
Crabbing sideways was the order of the day and trying to avoid moored boats while slowing down enough not to cause them too much problems .
As we neared Cosgrove, a couple on a Wyvern Boat passing us called out " How far is it to the aquaduct?"I smiled at them and said " Youve already done it.....just before the lock"
They looked longingly behind them.....never mind folks, look out for it again on your way back.
The approach to Cosgrove lock was interesting, Once passed the line of buildings and approaching the sanitary station the wind found its way through gaps in the trees and blew us towards the moored boats, I could feel the hull tilt to port as the gusts hit us, so it was a bit of wellie on the revs and regain some control. The mouth of the lock however has no tree cover and as we slowed to stop we were slammed into the side and held there.....who needs ropes when youve got wind power to hold you in position. All we need now is to fit up some form of Gaff Rig and some Lee Boards down the sides and we'd save a fortune on diesel.
Our planned stop was for Great Linford so we carried on past Cosgrove moorings and approached the aquaduct over the Great Ouse. Being in Wyvern country I could see one approaching ahead of us. As they entered the aquaduct and lost the shelter of the trees the wind caught them and slammed them into the side of the trough. Always nice to see what your gonna have to cope with before you have to do it, so, as we entered, I kept well over to the right and as soon as the tree line finished, i steered to starboard and just managed to avoid clanging the sides....with a bit of power of course....Nora was going to take some pics of the crossing but she just confessed that she was actually more concerned with clinging on for dear life.
Finally arrived at Great Linford and was a bit surprised to see a large gathering of boats on both side of the water. Some tents and marquee's then came into view along with throngs of people all enjoying what turned out to be the "Great Linford Waterside festival."
We tied up just before the bridge and did a very quick shop to stock up on milk and booze and bread and then headed off to see what was going on.
A few stalls, a few childrens rides, a large stage with rock bands making a sort of noise and the usual eating establishments. We milled and thronged with the rest of the population of Milton keynes and then...oh joy of joys......a stall selling stuff and things and there, hanging at the back was a Peg Bag. Not just any old Peg bag but a Peg Bag that obviously had our name on it......Ive been looking for one for ages, No longer will our pegs have to hang on the rotary line awaiting the next load of washing, They can now rest easily between loads in their own splendid Peg bag.

We even found a couple of pegs on board to start the collection

We purchased some rather fine fudge. Rum an Raison for me and Chocolate for Nora and Choc and orange for both of us, and you cant pass the customery burger bar with out sampling the wares, which in actual fact, were probably the best burger i have ever had from a van .....far better than the cardboard I forced on myself at the Crick Boat show.
We got back on board and both sat down listening to the noise of the band on the stage, We were then passed by 7 teenagers with their Lager cans and Jugs of cider and decided maybe we will move up a bit for the night, so we cast off and cruised for an hour and found ourselves a little spot which will suit for the night.
All in all a good days cruise made even more interesting by the wind. Tomorrow will hopefully see us alongside the Globe Inn. We have booked a table for that is....not for 8 people....unless anyone cares to join us

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


Original post 21/06/08

Day 15
Opening the blinds this morning revealed drizzle and then some more drizzle. It was morning as well, about 6am. We knew we might get a bit of noise from the mainline railway nearby but hadn't bargained for the sheep with megaphones.
Actually we did manage to drop off again and eventually arose about 10am....still a couple of cups of coffee and watched Takeshi's Castle.....Love the High Rollers.We cast off around about 11am with yours truly fully decked out in wet weather gear.
It was still drizzling and it was that fine know...the stuff that gets you wet through. At Gayton Junction we took on and dropped off the usual fluids and got chatting to another couple also taking on and dropping off, about sofa's, of all things, We where suddenly whistled at by a boat opposite and asked if we had finished.....ooppps, far too easy to get carried away...sorry folks.
Laura had been looking forward to the Tunnel of Doom at Blisworth and BREAKFAST IN AMERICA/lunch was delayed for it.

There had been quite a fair bit of traffic this morning in spite of the rain and the tunnel mouth had the usual exhaust fumes shrouding its dark depths.
We chugged through and only met one boat coming the other way. I always think to myself what if this is a widebeam that aint arranged a passage, But no. twas a tug style Nb and we hailed each others dark shapes on the tillers as we passed.
No space at the top of Stoke Bruerne so we dropped 2 locks and tied up to cook the breakfast we had missed for the tunnel. The full works except for my black pudding which had been taken over by mico organisms turning it an interesting bluey black colour....Its my fault for it being hidden at the far end of the fridge.
Seeing the state of the sky and the prospect of further wet clothes we decided to set up the Sky Dish and close up for the day. Nora settled down to watch Hollyoaks and I for some strange reason fell asleep for the next 2 hours....
For the evening meal we patroned the Boat Restaurant....An excellent meal of Wild mushrooms and fillet steak for Nora and Crayfish and Red Mullet for me.We skipped pudding and had a pint outside while watching an Alvechurch boat and a Bromley Youth Trust boat negotiate the top lock.Marstons Pedigree was very good.Weather report shows rather promising for tomorrow
our mooring for tonight

Saturday, 15 November 2008

The Beatles

Original post 20/06/08

Day 13+14
YESTERDAY saw us moored at Braunston and no phone signal and no Web an Walk signal for the first time this trip so no post was possible.
We cast off from Fenny Compton and negotiated the lovely summit level of the Oxford winding around the hills and farms. Saw loads of young lambs and hundreds of tiny Moorhen chicks all along the level.
Finally Napton windmill came into view in the distance and we started the descent at Marston Doles. Ive always enjoyed doing the Napton flight, the locks fill and empty pretty quick and its got lovely open views. We passed one or two boats coming up and there were about 2 boats following behind us.
Still playing catch up on our sched, we didnt stop at the Folly but plodded on towards Braunston passing the new marina at Wigrams. I also noticed a boat builder had vanished since my last vist....or so i think, Im sure there was a boat builder not far after the bottom lock and before Napton Narrowboats, as we came under the bridge where I remembered it being, there was just a collection of demolished buildings. Perhaps I dreamed it all.
Approaching Braunston We passed the sad sight of Forum member Carlt's boats Usk and Lucy. We really hope he manages to find someone who can rescue them even if its a hard standing place, before BW run off with their remains.
Braunston certainly hadn't seen much change since my last visit unless I go back of course to the days of Ladyline in the Marina. Long lines of moored boats and no space. We eventually found a gap just before the Union Canal Carrier moorings but as I tied up I noticed that the bollards had Wheelchair symbols on the top of them, so I guess they were for disabled moorers, however no sign confirmed this but we wernt happy.
We took a walk up the locks to the Admiral Nelson and saw a couple of spaces suitable in the pounds between other boats. Ive never been keen on mooring in pounds for obvious reasons but thats preferable to being pointed at for taking up disabled moorings.
We eventually tied up between Locks 3+4 and after a shower and a rum an coke livener we mooched over to the Admiral Nelson to try and improve on the night before's meal. We needn't've tried. Just by looking at the menu it was obvious that everything was cooked fresh and all home prepared. Also, Adnams Bombadier and a couple of Ales which I cant remember the ale was called Doombar and was very smooth and hoppy. Laura chose the local butchers Sirloin on the bone and I had their allegedly famous Cod and Chips. All was fantastic. The batter on the Cod just flaked off and not a smudge of grease to be seen on the plate. Laura's steak was just sooooo tender......Well recomend the place if you wish to eat out in Braunston.
This morning saw us both up and about by 9am and by the time I had prepared the engine for start up and took down the Satelite pole one boat had already gone up the locks, I saw movement at the lock below us and thought oh goody, maybe we could share with these.
As I held Lady Elgar in the side, One of their crew walked past and asked if we were going up and would we care to share the the pope etc etc.
Our companions for these 3 locks were on a Black Prince Boat but the boat name escapes me. It turns out that as they approached the bottom lock, the boat that had just gone up ahead of us was in the lock and our Black Prince chums asked if they could share the locks, The private boat owners declined stating they were in a hurry!!!!!! there was only 2 of them and 4 of our BP friends. They were in such a hurry that they didnt even bother to close the top gates.
Their loss was our gain and what lovely people these 4 were. They were a day early on their reconning and had decided to go up the flight and go through the tunnel and then wind and go back again as they were not due back at Napton till kinda adventurers. Lauras first ever Tunnel then appeared and to say she was excited was an understatement. The landslide from last year still blocks the apprach a bit but once lined up we could see the approch of at least 2 boats coming towards us.

The first boat we passed was actually towing another boat which explained all the clanging noises I could hear as we approached. It bounced from side to side in the tow boats wake. We eventually passed 5 boats in all, without incident.

At Norton Junction we teamed up with Narrowboat DJANGO for the descent of the Buckby flight. A lovely couple who where heading down to London after having wintered on the Llangollan. They stopped at Whilton for the chandlery and we waved goodbye.....if they ever read this then I hope you manage to get onto the Thames eventually. We finally came to a stop just past bugbrooke following a provsion stop at Weedon.
We have the smell of a chicken Tikka simmering in the pan at the moment mmmmmmmm

Friday, 7 November 2008

The Beach Boys

Original post 18/06/08
Day 12
Fired up the engine by 10.30am and toddled up towards the windly windly hole come water point at Cropredy. While I held Lady Elgar into the side waiting in the queue, Nora plodded over to the Bridge Stores for some supplies.
I was still queue waiting when she returned, Her bags seemed rather light. She was outraged! " they hardly have anything" said she......"No bread, no veg, no potatos".......I sent her back with instructions for more Coke and Tobacco.
She returned heavily laden and sheepishly said she found a back room this time with all we needed lol.
Finally got our turn at the water point which has water pressure of biblical proportions. After our hose had flown out of the filler hole for the third time searching for suitable victims to drench we resorted to holding it in place. Eventually water tank full and toilet empty we set off up the first lock towards the summit level.
There was a steady procession of boats coming down and at least one following behind us. Intermittant rain and strong winds were the order of the cruise. A young chap working a boat coming down the Lock at Cropredy informed me that he had dropped his windlass in front of the bottom gates at the next lock so if I had a magnet I might get some results. We had a good few attempts at trying to find his handle but eventually the boat behind us came into view so we had to leave if your in the area with a magnet.....Broadmoor Lock bottom gates may prove fruitfull.
At Varneys Lock we waited for another boat to come down and again the boat behind us caught up just as Nora was steering through the bottom gates. I was just starting to pull the gates shut when, imagine my surprise to hear the top paddles being drawn by Mr Nobby Nobster of Nobbsville. Anyone who has cruised the South Oxford knows that most of these locks have a vicious draw on em so I have always taken the boat right upto the top gates where the water holds her in position. Lady Elgar suddenly shot forward in the grip of the flow and I called out to Nora to go full reverse. This made little difference and LE's button fender smacked into the cill. Nobby Nobster had toddled off back to his boat......I guess he mustve been in a real big hurry.
The annoying thing, When things like that happen, Nora thinks its something shes done wrong and knocks her steering confidence when in reality there is nothing she couldve done to prevent the collision.No visable damage done to either LE or the lock, we exited, and approached the next lock
. As I came in to drop Nora off I put LE into reverse and there was an almighty juddering and shaking from beneath me.....they certainly wernt GOOD VIBRATIONS. So I leaped off with the centre rope and we dragged the boat to a stop. Being so close to the lock we pulled her back off the lock holding area and tied up.
I gave her a quick touch of reverse and the shaking and shuddering happend again with the steering step also vibrating, a short burst of forward gave no vibrating at all. I shut down the engine and had a smoke.
Having read Trevors book 'Living The Dream' I had a slight inckling that the prop shaft had shifted backwards. I just didnt know if there where any sheared bolts or loose nuts. I lifted the floor in the Boatmans Cabin revealing the propshaft and it looked like it had shifted backwards a good half inch or more. What I couldnt see was the connection with the gearbox. There is an access hatch under the Battery box to assist in this so I set to, removing 2 of the four domestic batts to allow access to the joint.With everything eventually undone and 2 batts removed I checked the UV joint and found all secure? very strange.

I went back to the BMC and pushed the propshaft, forward, back into its normal position.....I then tried to pull it back again but found I couldnt budge it.....the only thing I could find to tighten up was a small nut with an allen key head on the rear bearing. Everything else was tight.I reconnected all the batts and restarted the engine.

Forwards gear no probs either....all very strange....The only thing I could think of was that Noras emergency reverse from forward gear direct into full reverse mustve been enough to throw the shaft backwards......We both made a mental note to always pause for a second or two before engaging reverse from forward.
No further problems or troubles and we eventually tied up on the summit just past The Wharf Inn where we had promised ourselves an evening meal in the pub.

Our evening meal proved to be quite amusing.

Nora's starter was described as Mushrooms in a creamy garlic sauce.......They turned out to be thinly sliced button mushrooms in an hint of garlic oil. I had Filo Prawns with sweet chilli dip....Being a customer of Costco, I recognised them as coming from that fine emporium..."ya cant go wrong with deep fried stuff" I proudly announced to Nora as she fiddled with her mushrooms.

While waiting for the next course a couple next to us were served their main....He complained that his Sausages in onion gravey ....had no gravey...The waitress said she would bring him some in a jug.

Our steaks finally arrived but not the onion rings...We asked the waitress for vingegar, a fork and if our onion rings where expected...she said, " oh sorry, I normally work the bar, Im sure they will be here shortly, Ill just get your cutlery"

The man next door finally got his gravey as he finished his last sausage.

Our steaks wernt too bad but the chips were oven chips and Nora's veg were Raw, not even Al Dente. However, when the onion rings arrived they were spanking hot...see ya cant go wrong with deep fried food.

I appreciate that they must find it difficult surviving on summer trade but youd think they would at least get a chef who could cook instead of leaving it to Darren in a back room with a Deep Fat Fryer and a large bag of Tesco Value Mixed Salad.

Braunston tomorrow....all being well .

PS its blowing a gale outside and I think ive just heard one of the roof pots of flowers blow over

The Specials

Original post 18/06/08

Day 11

We had cast off by about eleven and chugged through the lovely winding countryside hoping to arrive at Banbury in order to stock up at the supermarket.
The sun was out but a bit of a breeze kept the heat down as we passed through familiar places to me from 15 yrs ago.
Laura decided there was no way she was going to steer in Somerton Deep Lock so that honour was left to me. Its still a great feeling going into that narrow chasm and seeing that huge slab of wood close behind you.

Aynho, where we moored and fitted out our old Harbourgh boat had seen quite a few changes. There were now moorings both sides of the canal and not just the offside where we were. Those offside moorings had also seen big improvemnets, In our day the path was an over grown muddly affair but was now neat and gravelled.

Aynho wharf itself seemed a little sad from the days of it being an Anglo Welsh base with all the usual activities but a sign in the window of the Wharf building stated it was under new management so maybe it is up for a looks like boats are still either built or fittedout in the yard so its good to see its still a going concern.

My timings of canal travel never seem to work out properly and it wasn't till half six that we exited Banbury lock into what I can only describe as a GHOST TOWN.
All the shops were shut up, Plenty of boats yes but where was everybody?
We tied up just under the main road bridge and set off armed with our Tesco bags to find Morrisons.This was my first visit to Banbury since it had all been done up and I didnt recognise the place. We wended our way through narrow allys past shops all shuttered up for the night and pubs with lights on but no noise from within, not even the customery smoker outside.
It was as if the towns folk had all hidden themselves away after 6 lest the dreaded Banbury Boggart should take them unawares. The Boggart had also stolen or demolished Morrisons and with nobody around to ask for directions, after half an hour we hotfooted it back to the boat and cast off towards cropredy.

Again, timings and memory failed miserably...I didnt recall it being that far.....we eventually exited Slat Mill Lock at 9pm. The pubs would no longer be cooking and yet again I had managed to avoid buying Laura an evening meal.We found a mooring, set up the Sat Dish ready for Deadliest Catch and settled down for a Fry Bentos steak pudding each......smashing.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Make and Model?

Original post 17/06/08

Day 10
I was up and about by 8am and following the first brew of the day, left Nora sleeping and I set off down the Botley Road to find Halfords armed with my electrical component complete with box and Lucas part number.
I passed a cycle shop on the way and looked longingly at a smashing little folding pushbike in the window but payday is still to far away for toys like that plus the car needs MOT'ing when we get home.
Found Halfords and presented me at the parts desk. I showed them my item and enquired if they had any in stock?..." what make and model is it from?" they asked, "erm...its not, its from a boat" says I. A long sucking in of breath through teeth and shaking of heads brought the response,
"We can only search our records if we have a make and model" "what about the part number? are you not able to look through the store room to see if you have one?"
" Not without a make and model of car Im afraid"
Thankfully they did suggest a local Motor Factors which was another 20 mins walk further along the road....(oh for a folding push bike) so I plodded off and found the place in a little industrial estate. I showed the chap my Item and within 2 mins he was back with a replacement. smashing.
Arriving back at LE, Nora was up and about and not fancying any further exploration of Oxford we cleared the roof of all protrusions above pigeon box height in readiness for navigating under Osney Bridge.Following comments from Trevor, Lady Elgars original owner I decided to hold fire fitting the new part and waiting till we return to Iver to speak with Steve at the yard who has already mentioned his thoughts for the starter problem. Thanks Trevor, will check out your suggestions.
We Cast off and fought against the current towards Osney Bridge. We passed under with reasonable headroom although I did have to crouch down. Once through the bridge and the narrow sections we increased speed on the wider sections towards Godstow Lock

At Godstow lock, The Lockkeeper said he'd remembered our engine from a few days earlier. It appears he likes to have a decko in the engine room doors of passing craft and state he had already seen a 2 cylinder Gardner, an old Lister and now a 3 Cylinder Perkins....It seems he does different locks on a daily basis.
Finally through Kings lock and the sharp right turn towards the Dukes Cut, and then back on to the calm waters of the Oxford Canal.
Nora, having been spoilt by Thames Locks had a momentary lapse of lock working memory and walked upto the top gates of a full lock intending to wind the paddles to empty the lock. I promised her I wouldnt mention it.
Bridge 228 managed to do what Osney Bridge couldnt, All looked good on the approach but as we went under I noticed a nasty sagging bit in the centre. This managed to topple the coolie hat off the stove chimney which luckily plonked itself down onto the roof without going overboard but then the sag collected the exhaust pipe.....just on the top leading edge and brickdust and soot and a slightly bent pipe where the remains of the contact....Think I will use Trevors 'Titch Pipe' for the next days.
At Thrupp we took on water and emptied the lav.We finally tied up just before Northbrook Lock by about 7pm and as the evening was so lovely, the BBQ was fired up and burnt items of meat were offered to the Gods.
a few more pics

Back on the Canal