Sunday, 31 July 2016

Tomorrow the Thames

Day 8, Rickmansworth to Hanwell bottom, 8 1/2 hours

A later start today, as the crew of Renfrew had a breakfast date so we didn't set off until 10.45. I had forgotten - or failed to appreciate - how much I like the lower GU. Far from being the grubby linear mooring I had feared, it's a good wide deep canal with interesting boats, very few holidaymakers, and very largely friendly natives. I'd say it's a strong candidate for my favourite waterway. And you can't beat doing it in a pair of GU boats. Together we have made excellent time and tomorrow... Brentford and the Thames! We're booked out at 12.30... Just about when it's due to start raining. If you look back at the Warrior blog for August 2008 you will see we have some experience of the Thames in the rain.

We have also almost decided to come back via the South Oxford and risk Napton. One of the locks there is narrow and we don't know whether Chertsey goes through.



Saturday, 30 July 2016

Missing mill

Day 7, lock 56 to lock 81, Rickmansworth, 10 1/2 hours

Another great day boating with Renfrew. Passed the final point of Chertsey's working life, and there's not a thing there to show for it, just an estate of new houses. I'll come back to these brief posts and elaborate once I get home.


Friday, 29 July 2016

Missed a bit

That was day 6, Slapton to lock 56, 11+ hours.



Better with two

Boated all day today with Renfrew. Brilliant. Now below lock 56 and about to have another well earned beer. The first was at the Riser as we passed through, well, you have to don't you. The Marsworth flight was particularly good. We breasted the boats up and Pete took them both up while Jim and Irene worked the locks and I set ahead. There's nothing like taking a pair of Grand Union boats through Grand Union locks. And a hello to the blog reading CRT employee and boat fan who we met at the Riser!



Thursday, 28 July 2016

Good long day

Day 5, Cosgrove to Slapton, nearly 11 hours.

As I sit writing this with my feet in a basin of warm and increasingly filthy water, I apologise for the lack of scintillating wit, and possibly even interest, in these posts - a log in the truest sense, a simple record of events, but it's all that I and the phone are up to at the end of the day.

Today we are back on our rather pointless Canalplan schedule - pointless because it will get us to the bottom of the Basingstoke by Wednesday and we're not booked through the lock until Friday, but it makes us feel better.

As we set off this morning we were joined in Cosgrove lock by Renfrew, who are also en route to Woking. They stopped for shopping but are fully expected to overtake us tomorrow.

We met a variety of other nice people today, and no unpleasant ones, which contributed to it being a good day. Also there was a lot of good boating. I'd been expecting wall to wall moored boats and widebeam a but apparently that's tomorrow :-) There were enough to be going on with but lots of lovely stretched too without another boat in sight.


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Day 4, Buckby Bottom to Cosgrove, 8 1/2 hours.

We had planned to continue on to Wolverton tonight but as we approached Cosgrove lock we saw Adam on Briar Rose, closely followed by some nice looking moorings, so we decided to stop here after all. Should have no problem getting back on schedule tomorrow... if that's not famous last words. Only day four and it already feels like I've been doing this forever.

Stand out incident of the day... I stopped and waited for a boat to come through a bridgehole and narrows. And waited. And waited, desperately trying to stay in place out of the way and away from the shallow water. As he *finally* came by I said, nicely, 'it would have been really helpful if you'd gone a bit faster there' to which his reply was a somewhat perplexing 'no, sorry, I'm not going to do that.' Not going to be helpful?

I am making a point of saying 'boooo!' every time we see a widebeam. I believe I will have my work cut out in that department from here on. I will probably stop at Berkhamsted, as it is only north of there that they are not, historically speaking, meant to be because the canal simply is not suitable for them.



Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Light not so fantastic

Day 3, Braunston to Buckby bottom, 4 hours.

You will notice that we have not moved far today. The lovely new old headlight which was working three days ago at Alvecote clearly took exception to the journey, because when we tested it on returning from our skittles lesson last night, it wasn't. So this morning was spent firstly on a fruitless search for a replacement bulb, and then on fitting another new cheap temporary replacement headlamp, all the previous cheap temporary replacement headlamps having somehow been taken home. Finally thus armed, we set off at half past three. Came down Buckby with a very nice - and, more importantly, very efficient - couple on a 1978 Denis Cooper boat which I didn't get the name of, that they'd had for 23 years, and decided to call it a day at the bottom, still in time to have some tea. Despite the setback we are still almost on course of our Canalplan itinerary which put us at Stowe Hill tonight.



Monday, 25 July 2016

Skittles

Day 2 Hopsford Aqueduct to Braunston, about 7 hours.
A fairly uneventful day's cruising, interesting evening in the Nelson... First we met two other groups from Sussex... Then spent the rest of the evening watching the ladies' skittles team practising. They told us all about Northamptonshire skittles and we told them about toad in the hole. It appears that Chertsey's headlight may not be working, despite a canoeist assuring Jim to the contrary last week, so that will require attention before we depart tomorrow.


Sunday, 24 July 2016

Maintenance boat

Day 1
Alvecote to an embankment between Ansty and Brinklow
9 1/2 hours

Just going to try to blog the basics each day then catch up with photos etc on my return.
Last night celebrated my forthcoming birthday in the Samuel Barlow with the crew of Princess Lucy, including Rocky's best friend Mr Jones. Got some lovely presents including some super crochet lace which apparently won't suit Princess Lucy mark II but will be fabulous in Chertsey's redecorated cabin.
We left Alvecote just before nine, slightly delayed by my going for a run in the woods and losing my BW key, meaning I couldn't get back to the boat.
Atherstone locks were a pleasure, for which I volunteered, so that my locking quota will be met before we hit the GU :-) Three volunteer lockies were if the helpful variety and made the task easier. We were able to help them out too by providing a platform from which to repair a walkway on one of the gates.
I steered round Hawkesbury Junction with two reverses and NO TOUCHING!! Not even in the bridgehole where I often manage to get myself in a mess.
Aiming for Braunston tomorrow, hopefully in time to replace the key, and maybe another birthday dinner at the Nelson.



Location:M6,Coventry,United Kingdom

Saturday, 23 July 2016

All set

Here we are at Alvevote, all stocked up with a month's provisions, ready to leave in the morning...



Sunday, 3 July 2016

Bed and Board

Just back from a quick but very productive visit to Chertsey at Alvecote. Jim had driven up on Friday with his car laden with wood; I zoomed down early Saturday morning, and we got cracking with building the bed/platform in the fore end.

The dual purpose of this is to give Jim (and Rocky) somewhere more comfortable to sleep than a folding bed frame, intercepted between another boat and the skip, and the coal, and to provide a platform from which to get out of the boat at the front if necassary, or to stand on and reach out with ropes when we need front ropes in river locls - thinking particularly of our forthcoming trip to the Thames. We piloted this method on the Trent a couple of years back standing on stacks of coal, and it proved both comfortable and convenient, as well as feeling a lot safer. An aside - I reckon that last year was very likely the only year we didn't go on any rivers.


Jim started by bolting a length of pre-drilled angle to the bulkhead, then attached a wooden beam to this. At the 'foot' end of the bed, he cut a length of fence post to the right length to sit at the right height, in the curvature of the hull, then picked it up with a leg on each side. A beam was then fixed down each side, and one down the middle, and then the platform was built on top of this using 6x1 inch gravelboard. The platform sits at waist height, so there are steps running parallel to it at one end, mainly for Rocky's benefit.

Not only does the platform serve those two main purposes, it also frees up a massive amount of space underneath for storage. You could even, Warrior-style, fit another bed under but I suppose you'd have to be quite friendly with the occupants.

I remembered to take some photos for the blog, but it was hard to get decent ones, as the crossplank got in the way.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Woking or bust!

A couple of weeks ago I finally sent off the paperwork to attend the Basingstoke Canal Festival, at which HNBC will be holding their fiftieth anniversary gathering. In keeping with the organisation's campaigning roots - and ongoing campaigning role - and wanting to come south this year, it was decided that the Basingstoke canal would be a good, and sufficiently challenging, destination for the Club's intrepid boaters. The challenges basically fall into two categories.
1. Too little water
2. Too much water
I suspect it may be Challenge 2 we are more likely to face. We've navigated the Thames in lively conditions before, albeit in Warrior, and admittedly not entirely unscathed, and we did the Wey in November in Helyn with about a week's experience under our belt, so that side of things is hopefully surmountable; what may not be (or whatever the opposite of surmountable is) is a low bridge at the start of the Basingstoke. We at least can take down the deckboard if we have to, even the mast, in extremis, and if the cabin won't go under then we won't be the only ones and we'll have to have our rally the other side of it. Of course I have no idea where this bridge is or what it looks like, never having been there before, and I'm not one hundred percent sure we even have to go under it, but I'm pretty sure we do.

Before we moved the boat to Alvecote, this was going to be The Year we did the whole of the Grand Union, Birmingham to Brentford. However, starting where we are now, that would be silly, so we'll be going Coventry, North Oxford, then Grand Union from Braunston to Brentford, up the Thames, up the Wey, and onto the Basingstoke. The reason we're not taking the perhaps more obvious South Oxford route is because we have not yet tried to get Chertsey through Napton, and if it won't go, I don't want to find out when we're pushed for time. I'm hoping to make a special test trip in the Autumn, especially as I think we've only been on the South Oxford once before (in 2008).

Being at Alvecote now seems to make shorter trips more of a possibility. It's not really logical - Stretton was apparently the second best place in the country to be based in terms of the number of different waterways you could hit within forty eight hours. But Alvecote is nearer Braunston, and is pastures new, and perhaps also better placed for the places we're more likely to want to go. I was never in love with the Shroppie; the BCN can wait, and in terms of going further north, the extra three days is marginal. More, shorter, trips may be the order of the day now too in light of the way things are going at work. I seem to be responsible for so many things now that I dare not turn my back on for too long.

I'll be off to Alvecote for the weekend, where we are planning to build a platform in the fore end to double as a bed, and somewhere to stand when doing tricky things with ropes, thinking particularly of the Thames locks.