Tuesday 30 June 2015

Day's Lock to Sandford Lock

Late yesterday arvo I saw a boat trying to get in to moor just ahead of us, but it was too shallow. On going out to see if I could help, I saw it was Ann and Keith on Oakfield - we hadn't met them, but I have read their blog from go to whoa; not in real time, mind you: I started reading it last year and caught up quickly.

They had another go at mooring behind us but also too shallow. I had offered for them to breast up with us - they had been on the move since 8am, so it had been a long day. Once moored alongside us we agreed that a drink on the meadow would be a good idea.

About the only thing we didn't discuss was toilets. They got mentioned (thank you, David) but not discussed.
Ann is opening the biscuits - M&S special cheesy ones, very yummy
They all laughed when I said I had a photo of Ann serving the two men ...

We did discuss the tying one on event we'd had at Cleeve Lock in the morning. They said that the same thing had happened to them that day too. I was delighted - not that they'd had it happen, mind you, but that more experienced boaters than us had made the same mistake. We didn't feel quite so stupid after that. Theirs was a bit more extreme than ours - Oakfield's list had cupboards opening and spilling some of their contents and they used to have three glass biscuit containers. What they now have is a very clean floor. Given the crashing and tinkling coming from inside, Keith was strengthened by adrenaline and was able to release the rope, unlike us wimps who had to empty the lock to get the bite to release.

We eventually all went in for our respective dinners at about 9.30pm - already past my bedtime but I cooked the toad in the hole, potatoes, peas and brown onion sauce all the same. And we followed it with a gu chocolate mousse. Yummy indeed. It is an extremely long time since I have eaten dinner after the sun has gone down, as a number of Waikanae friends can attest ...
The green things are tent boats or boat tents (a la Three Men in a Boat, I gather). The crew moved out the seats and slept in them and in small tents on shore (out of shot, sorry). They appeared to have set up the catering division in a bunker in that line of trees a few yards away.

This morning was an early start for us. On the way towards Abingdon, we encountered Sue and Vic on No Problem. A greeting as we passed each other. Maybe some chatting time next year ...

David steered us through this bridge today

He's very focused

I am on lookout duty
We took a break at Abingdon to have a cuppa with Ann and Keith who were escaping the heat of the day there.
Coming in to Abingdon
Houses on one side, meadows on the other.

The 5 day moorings in Abingdon. We are definitely coming back here next year to take advantage of the 5 days!!

We carried on, thinking we'd moor after we'd done a pumpout and got water above Abingdon Lock - ah no. No spaces for mooring between Abingdon and Sandford - well, lots of places if we could brave the shoulder high nettles. Not us I'm afraid.  It's a great way to make sure boaters stay away ...

So we are moored on the 24 hour moorings above Sandford Lock - free and very sunny. We did rescue a leather soccer ball from the river as it floated towards us, and hoped we'd be able to keep it. However the 7 year old whose birthday present it had been came over with his uncle to ask for it back. Dammit! I did show him how to use his birthday yo-yo (had to have a practice without him watching first ...) Soon after that, a plastic boat moored across the river came over to collect the ball again. So two opportunities for salvage rights were lost. We won't be so generous a third time ...

It's nearly 7pm and still extremely hot. No dinner tonight - who needs food in this heat?

Monday 29 June 2015

Cleeve Lock to Day's Lock

We were moored up today above Day’s Lock by 2.45pm. We had intended to keep going to Clifton Hampden but called it quits here. 
Isn't this a beautiful spot?
Since we arrived, the farmer has kindly come around and removed all of the hay bales for us.
See? Such a different method than I remember when back in Taranaki as a teenager, where bales were thrown on to the back of the truck by sweaty, muscly young men ... Now one teenager hoons around with the loader and another drives the tractor and trailer. I guess the beers bill isn't so big for the current method though.
We have decided that we do love the Thames, and this morning we were congratulating ourselves on finally accomplishing getting the ropes over the bollards by ourselves in the locks. Last week, Fred, the relief lockkeeper at Cleeve, had taught David how to hold and throw the rope, and he’s definitely got it sussed now.

But, as they say, there’s many a slip between cup and lip … Because David was operating the lock (it was early, so on self service) we used the middle rope, and because it’s a fairly long way from the middle back to me, we agreed he’d loop the rope fully around the bollard rather than just over it so it didn’t slip off. And because I was keeping it taut as we rose up in the world, the rope caught on itself on the bollard. As David walked forward to open the top gates I noticed we had developed quite a list. Oh bugger!

We could not release the rope and while I was keen to use the scissors, it was decided that we would travel down in the lock again to release the rope and then come back up. Fortunately we didn’t waste any water, as there was a boat coming in from the top and one coming up from below.

So note to selves: Never tie up in the lock, even if going up!

It wasn’t very dangerous but it was a good lesson. And it added half an hour to our journey. But that was a cheap price for a lesson.

After a brief stop at Wallingford for me to walk to Waitrose (gu puddings, ham, salami) and for David to stay onboard and sort out some banking stuff online, we moved on up here to Day’s Lock. We were delighted at Benson Lock to see Fred again – he is the relief lock keeper, so we have now seen him at Goring, Cleeve and Benson. And I have only once thrown a rope at his head and spat tea over him. He is not aware quite how lucky he is really ...

On the way here, we came through Shillingford Bridge and a variety of housing from quite stately to a static caravan site. It was good to see that some ordinary people get to have riverside views! 
This boat house is not one for the ordinary people but it is beautiful.
If you look closely you can see the decorative brickwork. Beautiful.
Shillingford Bridge
Just in case you aren't sure, this is NOT a static caravan
One of the numerous bunkers we've seen on this trip - they always make me think of the heroic efforts of the British people during the war.

We’ve had a quiet weekend moored on the meadows below Cleeve Lock although there was a constant stream of boats coming past on Saturday and far fewer yesterday – I think the weather had something to do with it! Fine & sunny on Saturday and a bit of rain yesterday, although it cleared in the afternoon and we walked to Streatley – a lovely village across the river from Goring.
A representative of the weekend's neighbours. If you look closely you can see that Mel is studiously ignoring her.
We are off on our walk.
Down the tree-lined public path he goes.
The view from the public path - the last three photos are taken from the same place, proving I can turn in circles with the best of them
Across the field of maize
Poppies growing in the verge
Where are the chocolates to go with this cottage?

David has developed a cold so is not feeling fabulous - a quiet weekend and an easy day today have helped. I think it may be because I cut his hair – didn’t Samson fall apart from that? And David does look like it hurts ...
It's a selfie but doesn't he look like it's all too terribly painful?
I swear I didn't cut him, only his hair! I'm not sure if he's reaching for rescuing arms or taking a photo ...
The end result. Lesley says she'd trust me to give her a trim...

Saturday 27 June 2015

Old friends, blog readers and Samson is undone

We had moored in Wallingford on Wednesday so that we would have a post code with easy road access for our friends Pete and Warren to come and stay overnight on Thursday. I happily went to the swimming pool reception and paid for two nights’ mooring even though the sign says one, but more available by request. We thought £5 per night was dead cheap. And it was a lovely mooring alongside the park with the fountain pool and swimming pool close by us – the kids were having a ball running through spouting water, activating the dam on the ‘mountain’ and then releasing the water down the slopes. Very cool and noisy fun.

On Wednesday I went off with my granny trolley to Waitrose and realised what a beautiful wee town Wallingford is, in just the bits I saw of the old shopping street and the market square. 
The other houses on the main street were more salubrious but these seemed authentic English village to me. Maybe not the colours but they seemed very quaint.
Currently the archetypal English street scene - the tower ,and the white building to the left is an Indian restaurant. Unfortunately we haven't yet tried the restaurant, but next week I think we will as it is very close to the river.
The market square - not far off this is Champions, one of those fabulous English shops that sells EVERYTHING = all of which you need ... I managed to get out buying only sugar soap (my original shopping intention) and a cheese slicing knife. It could have been a lot lot worse!

As it turned out I did two trips to Waitrose as there was no way that all of the things on the list (as well as those not on it but mysteriously ending up in the Waitrose trundler …)  would fit in the granny trolley. So half the shopping done and back to the boat for David to carry the granny trolley down the steep steps to the mooring. Off I went with the second granny trolley which also got filled to the brim. They are an absolute boon and they carry far more than the 10kg the label indicated. Good thing too.

We finished emptying both trolleys and storing things away (we have to do it together, or I have to do it alone, because David likes to set everything out on the bench before putting it away and the double handling drives me spare!) Then I prepared lunch and as we were eating it, I looked at the stern of the boat and saw a couple of pairs of legs. Pete and Warren had arrived!
They've been together 40 years - it'll never last!
While we ate lunch, they ate crackers and a lovely brie and some stilton they had brought with them – of course I had to help! They caught us up on their doings since arriving in the UK – that morning they had been to the place where Downton Abbey is set.
Leaving David behind to rest his still intermittently poorly foot, Pete, Warren and I set off on an explore of the town. After a wander along a path that was signposted Castle Gardens but didn’t seem to lead there, we found said gardens when we asked for directions – note to men: asking for directions is a valid response to not knowing where you are, and does not, contrary to male opinion (which is dodgy at best) lead to loss of testicular function. This however, may do:
So where do vengeful women get hold of these fish??
The gardens are beautiful, lovely roses, lovely lawns and a great place for the local teenagers to play. There was a big bunch of them playing some kind of chasing game – wonderful to see kids so active and not an iphone or tablet in sight.
Warren (L) and Pete (R) taking time out to smell the roses in Castle Gardens
The roses were beautiful
Hot pink again and a lovely perfume

In the middle of the lawn
Part of the old castle. Judging by the distances between sections still standing, the castle was enormous!

Back on the boat, out came the table, chairs, wine, glasses, platter of nibbles on to the lawn above the mooring. Out too came the laughter, the stories. 
David, Warren, me and Pete with Wallingford Bridge (the part re-built in the 19th century) in the background

By the time we had consumed most of what was on the platter of nibbles, we decided that two courses for dinner were all that was required, so it was avocados, prawns (tuna for David), boat grown lettuce and seafood sauce. Then David prepared dessert – Waitrose’s chocolate brownie cubes, strawberries and whipped cream.

Back on board we decided to skype with Gary back in Wellington. Bruce was already at work, poor man – must be time he retired! Then off to bed. David and I prepared the dinette bed for W&P, and I went to bed, put in my earplugs and then added my noise cancelling earphones – Pete started to snore immediately his head hit the pillow! Fortunately he stopped not long after or he may have been tipped into the river …

In the morning, we took a quick trip up to Benson Lock and turned after it and came back down. We were all impressed with the Benson lock keeper as she used a very NZ saying ‘No worries!’ I don’t think I’ve ever heard an English person say that before. However her boyfriend has been to NZ so perhaps he brought the saying back with him.

Then back at Wallingford we moored up again with a bit of faffing around – part of the space we had vacated had been taken by a plastic boat, so we breasted up against another boat while the people who had been in front of us moved off. We said goodbye to Warren and Pete who were heading for their hotel at Heathrow to stay overnight and fly to Spain today. They have promised that next year they will stay at least 4 nights with us. They are excellent company – they travel around NZ a lot in their campervan, so are used to small spaces and the compromises required, eg showering with very little water – Gary and Bruce, please note: Warren can do it! Remember that at Waikanae …

Then we decided to head back down to Cleve Lock to get water and moor up at the meadows again for the weekend. The feather that David had stood up by ‘our’ spot was still there.. We were joined overnight by two other boats, one of which left this morning. 
Photo taken by Irene of Jamiesons Afloat fame - hair needs to be thoroughly wet for a decent cut, Michelle, my esteemed hairdresser tells me ... See the deadly scissors in my left hand? The result is not a bad cut - I used to cut David's hair years ago and gave it up. I am NOT re-establishing the habit, just so he knows!

Then while I was giving David a haircut (Michelle isn’t coming, I cannot get David to a barber – poorly foot, don’t you know) two boats came past, turned and came back to moor. We moved up about 8 feet so they could both fit in comfortably. So our neighbours now are Ian and Irene Jamieson (Jamiesons Afloat blog) and the Heather and Dave Fox on Vixen. We had a cup of tea together late in the morning and a chat this arvo. But I needed a nana nap and David was busy sorting out the techie thing that enhances the wifi and phone signal. Not particularly sociable activities!

Hopefully we will catch up with them all in the morning.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

2 degrees of separation and a new adventure

We were running shy of water after Barry and Pauline left on Sunday as we did a few loads of washing, so we investigated our filling options. As you may be aware, filling by hose is more limited on the Thames than on the canals, or at least that’s the way it seems. There are some water points which are just for filling bottles and have no hose fitting. So the symbols are different – a coiled hose and a tap. A trap for young players unless you have been forewarned, as we were by Jaq and Les. Thank you, friends!

So the options were to find the water point in Reading and we couldn’t work out where it was as we were each thinking it was near different bridges (either Reading or Caversham). David phoned about that and I phoned the lock keeper at Cleve Lock to make sure that the info we had been given was still current re water availability.

We decided to head for Cleve Lock on Monday – through a variety of weathers – wind, sun, heavy rain, more sun, showers. But as we had used pretty much all of the water, we needed to press on. When we got to Goring Lock, we met Fred, probably the nicest lock keeper we have encountered. And that was in spite of my throwing the rope at his head and then coughing a mouthful of tea over him!

His suggestion was that we go up through Cleve Lock and get water then come back through the lock and moor up on the meadow. When we saw the meadow we decided we would stop immediately, and forego/forgo/which? water overnight – we knew there was enough for cups of tea, face washing, teeth cleaning and essential toilet flushes. So up we moored and relaxed. The sun had come out and it was a trifle windy but it was a beautiful spot. We got out the table and chairs, the wine (doesn’t that go without saying?) and the cheese, hummus and crackers and settled down for a pre-prandial session. Shortly afterwards two narrowboats travelling in convoy turned up, and moored fore and aft of us – we had selected the best spot of course. But they were both slightly shorter than us and more expert in their coming alongside the bank techniques.

Janet and John on Renaissance took their dogs Coco and Snoopy off for a walk, and we invited Mike, Marian and son Guy from Duxllandyn to join us for a drink and nibbles. More glasses, wine, food and chairs were assembled and we settled down to continue the pre-prandial session. David and I had already decided that it was actually our prandial session as we didn’t require more food. Janet and John arrived back and joined us, then went in for dinner, and MM&G brought their dinner out.

As you do, we asked about their kids and they mentioned that one son Adam is a musician in the RAF. Aha! Maybe he knows Hamish Dean? Yes he does, they play together. Did Adam also perform the fanfare at Kate and William’s wedding? Yes, he did.

Well, there you go for two degrees of separation – Hamish and our son Tim were best buddies when we lived in Wanganui back in the 70s. His mum Mary and I were best buddies then too and spent lots of time together. As it was 6pm in the UK and at least 5am in NZ, I decided that Hamish’s mum and dad needed to be woken with this news. A text was sent and a short, sleepy one came back. Sorry, Mary, but it was too good an opportunity to miss!

After dinner and a shared dessert that Marian provided and Guy’s expert predictions of when the sun would reappear from behind the clouds, we all boarded Duxllandyn and played Hearts. By good luck rather than good management I managed to win – I do not know how that happened but there must have been some vestigial coaching messages from David left in my brain somewhere! Things like short suiting in the preliminary card passing, suck play, second player plays low, etc.

It was a lovely fun night and I went to bed way, way past my usual bedtime.

They all departed in the morning but not before we’d had a chat and I got a photo of them all apart from Snoopy who was tied up waiting patiently for the departure call.
L-R Guy, Marian, Janet, John, and Mike, and Coco (or is it Snoopy?)

We do hope we catch up with them all again.

Yesterday morning, we went up through the lock (Fred was on duty at Cleve and I didn’t throw the rope at him or spit on him yesterday), got water, chatted with the crew from a fabulous dutch barge, Lady Emma, who told us Wallingford was lovely to moor in. We then turned around and went back through the lock and moored up where we had been an hour before, just facing the other way. One of the fab things about the Thames is you can turn around pretty much anywhere!

We blobbed, did more washing, showered, went for a walk down the canal path. We had a drink (non-alcoholic) at the Swan at Streatley and found out we could moor there next time if staying for a meal, went in to Goring and found the butcher’s and bought burgers for when the grandsons come to stay and a few cheeses for when our friends Warren and Peter come to join us tomorrow. I hope the cheeses are up to scratch because Pete is a bit of a connoisseur …

A fabulous relaxed day in wonderful summer weather.

This morning it was turn around, go back up the lock, re-fill the depleted water tank, say goodbye to Fred and cruise on to Wallingford where we were moored up before noon. We have paid for 2 nights’ mooring and are heading out soon for lunch. David is preparing by having a shave but he is also watching Prime Minister’s Questions, so shaving is intermittent …
We had lunch here at the Boat House - it was OK but David's serving of risotto was too small for over £10.

And here we are, moored up across the river by the splash pool and park - it's a quick walk to the pub that serves an Australian unoaked chardonnay - nice tho.

The new adventure of the post title is that twice in the last three days, David has had a go at steering the boat! On Monday he asked to do it when we were on a long straight and very wide stretch. One condition was that I was not allowed to leave the deck. This morning however, I asked him to take over as I needed the (DWOD) dunny without delay (I know, too much information!) I had found somewhere I could pull over and he could hold the boat but as it was an end of garden mooring he wasn’t keen. Said the better option was to steer alone but at almost tickover. Fine by me. So he was left alone and did a grand job. When I came back he kept steering and I gradually raised the speed. His steering is fine – after all he has taken a shift a few times at night steering a yacht across the Cook Strait (“Just keep the mast between those two stars, David’”). I think he finds the stars easier to see than skiffs and coaches’ boats though – and they can’t be crashed into. 
And he's smiling!!!

So from now on he will be taking a shift each day. I don’t mind if he likes me to stay close, and I will like having a bit of a break from being the steerer when it’s only the two of us on board. Yay!!

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Henley to Reading

Saturday saw us moving from Maidenhead to Henley, and on Sunday  we cruised from Henley to Reading.

David sorting a rope coming in to Henley.
Even the boat houses were out of our price range ...
Beautifully decorated eaves and soffit
We are through Henley Bridge and looking back
Lovely apartments, a party boat and plenty of cash ...

·      A plethora of skiffs on the river both days. There was a schoolgirls’ regatta at Henley, and a schoolboys’ one after Shiplake Lock, and lots of practising and coaching in between them. It makes for interesting narrowboating with the practising crews and crews returning from their heats travelling backwards at speed and not always on a parallel track to us … Intersecting lines came to mind several times. But I just edged closer to the bank and went into neutral to give them time to correct their trajectory. The occasional little toot on our over-loud horn let them know we were about. At one point at the boys’ regatta they got hailed by the marshalls to keep right and keep checking behind them, then he apologised to us. We weren’t worried – it was great to see kids out and active.
·      At Shiplake College there were about 7 crews out and they were zigzagged across the river. It looked really cool but there was no way we could go through them. We just stopped and watched them until they were aware of us and edged over. I think their coach was a bit concerned though.
About 40 seconds before this, these skiffs were spread out across the river. It did look cool and the kids were very good natured.
·      There’s also a lot of older people into rowing too, and they take it seriously enough to have coaches coming along behind in their little motor boats.
·      From our observations, every schoolgirl rower and every young woman rower has long hair – didn’t see one with short hair. All wore their hair up in ponytails. What is that about?

I don't remember where this was and I don't remember noticing the shark's teeth on the dinghy. But now I've seen it, it reminds me of the shark's teeth that Dad painted on the dinghy he built for us about 55 years ago. It lasted for about 30 years before the bottom rotted and my brother put his foot through it when we were on the far side of the river ...

·      On Saturday, I had given up and was hating the locks, and wanted to get off the Thames as fast as I could. Every lock keeper seemed to have different ways of doing things and gave different instructions; at our first staffed lock of the day, I’d been growled at for hovering back from the lock and off to the right, instead of tying up outside the lock. Being growled at really set me up nicely for the day – not! Then my capability at steering into and settling in a stable fashion at the side of the locks seemed to go from bad to worse!!!! AAARRRGGGHHH!!! I said to David that if it wasn’t so expensive, I’d pay to have the boat trucked to Oxford to avoid more locking on the river!
·      But fortunately that afternoon David was growled at by one lock keeper for coming into the lock enclosure while we were waiting outside the lock for it to empty (tied up of course!!), and he was told he should stay on the boat. Back he came, and our technique now is so much easier. We hand the ropes to the lock keepers and let them do the work. I think I could get used to that!
·      We met some nice people back at Hampton Court moorings, Phil and Deborah on their nb Four Miles On. We have seen them several times since then at locks and they are lovely. They told us to take things at our speed and not be rushed – good coaching. By the way, Phil is the master of mooring in small spaces. On Sunday arvo they moored outside the Tescos in Reading. The space he got into was about 6 inches longer than their boat – Impressive! As we walked across the river at Reading we saw them and were most un-English in our behaviour as we shouted and waved to them from the bridge …
·      The lock keepers at Caversham Lock were lovely.
·      I think the secret on Sunday was that I wore my boots – goretex and leather, brown lace up, very butch. They are my lucky boots, like tennis and golf players etc have their good luck charms. So everyday from now on on the Thames, I am wearing my boots … To be honest, it’s only because I stubbed a toe on Saturday and I need to keep it covered.

There is lots of it about on the banks of the Thames.  
David dropped an NZ $2 coin over the open cabin bilge - he is trying to find it. It isn't there - it fell behind the step ladder above his head ... But this isn't the money I meant!
David's $2 won't buy him this ....

or this ...

We moored up in Reading on Sunday arvo at Churchill Meadows. A lovely mooring with bollards and just enough room for us. A small boat could fit either end of us, and we were in the middle of the space – we could have moved to either end but the mooring wasn’t straight so we’d have been sticking out into the river. No one turned up though so it was quiet.

We thought lots about our dear friend Melita over that 24 hours – she lived in Reading for some time and every time we came to visit her when we were living in London and Church Enstone, we had to phone for instructions as we couldn’t find our way to Earley … In the end, Melita gave David the Microsoft maps package which he used to use on the laptop as we travelled. He had to go out to the car 10 minutes before we were due to leave so he could set up the little satellite searcher on the sunroof and get the package up and running and enter the address we were heading for. If he didn’t get there before I was ready, he used to get grumpy if I started driving before he’d got the directions sorted, even if I knew my way out of Church Enstone …

Barry and Pauline:

We are so lucky to have such good friends in Barry and Pauline. Barry was with us for over a week, and Pauline came for both intervening weekends. As well as being great fun, they were a tremendous help while David and I were stressing over the locks, and were able to take over when I needed a break. It is a bit tough being the only steerer, so it’s great having people on board who are extremely capable.


I am getting more suntanned as we move along. However, there was the heaviest rain with lots of thunder on Saturday late arvo/early evening, hence mooring up next to the schoolgirls' regatta at Henley. And it was mid-summer’s day on Sunday, and while it ended up being warm, it started out like this:
I am wearing shorts, but only because I can't change into jeans while steering. I have a long sleeved top, a fleecy, and my goretex windproof jacket and leather glove (only one as the iphone doesn't respond to leather, only my soft and lovely skin) - it may look sunny but it was bloody freezing! I nearly called for my scarf it was so chilly. And even Barry, who is the hardest hard man we know, was feeling the cold. David had his stress to keep him warm though.