Friday 30 June 2023

Blobbing, family, bloggers

Here we are, occasionally feeling as though we are getting too old for this boating lark, and over the last couple of weeks we have met two women who are single handers; one who is 80 and the other who is probably our age. Both of them extremely competent boaters who deal with locks immaculately! The 80 year old we met and locked down with at Braunston a couple of weeks ago, and met up with her again with lovely conversations in Rugby. She lives onboard all year but is out on the cut for 5 months and has a permanent mooring at North Kilworth. The other is a lady we met at the Hillmorton locks last week. We went down in parallel (the locks are paired) and she opened the first paddle for us as she arrived first, then David closed each gate that was on the same side as 'our' lock all the way down - except at the bottom lock where the volunteer lockie did all the work - David having come down the offside and having had to cross the road and then find his way across the boat yard to get to the locks ...

We had started off that morning at about 6.30 from near Bridge 87, less than half a mile out of Braunston, and it was such a beautiful peaceful cruise. I didn't even mind the Barby Straight which is about a mile long and shallow and has very little of interest - except for our curiosity about Barby Marina where we stored the boat back in 2014. We always look to see what is happening there - has it been developed more or is it still a basic operation? From the limited view available at the entrance, we could not tell if there was a clubhouse/marina building in place. Does anyone know? We remember clearly that the woman (Jenny, I think) of the couple was an extremely hard worker (moved boats, served diesel, did pumpouts, dealt with customers) and her husband seemed to spend much of his day on the computer looking at blueprints of a fancy marina building.

 We fetched up in Rugby not long after mid-morning and were quite lucky to find a space; it was on a bend but beggars couldn't be choosers - there are not many mooring spaces on the Oxford, and Rugby is popular. Not surprisingly - it has a Tesco Superstore not far from the cut, and I discovered today after googling, that there is a big Aldi and an ASDA that are reasonably close to Clifton as well.

We did a couple of days of blobbing, interspersed with going to Tescos, checking out where the railway station is so we can walk to collect Karol on Monday, going to the centre of town to the 3 shop - we are feeling the need to improve the cellphone and wifi service that we are getting from Voxi - the deal Voxi gives is great but internet service on the canal needs more ooomph than the Vodafone network provides. I think it's because the canal is lower than the surrounding land, but I don't know for sure. We've had a 3 contract in past years and I think at least my phone SIM will be swapped and I can keep my number which is pretty important given how hard it is to change banking information with a phone number change ...

As Marta, Trevor and Karol were coming down to Chipping Norton to see Olek at Marta's dad's place for the weekend, we hired a car and went over to see them all on the Saturday. I took two cheese tarts as our non-meat contribution, and I took cheese scones for Olek to keep for his work lunches ... Marta's sister Olga and her 3 kids came up from London for the day, so it was a pretty big family gathering and just lovely to see everyone. 

BBQ dinner - Marta's dad Kazek near the table with David. Trev and Marta, Peggy the wee dachsie looking hopefully for dropped or offered food.
Two of Marta's sisters: Olivia in the foreground and Olga. David is still at the table - what's that about?

Karol has had two teeth removed that were getting in the way of his adult teeth being able to grow. The resultant gap and his newfound ability to tuck his bottom lip in the gaps just cracked me up. Every time he did it I could not contain my laughter.

This was a manoeuvre that both Tim and Kirsty can do and neither David or I could. It looks even more impressive with the missing teeth gaps filled ...


We had been going to drive back in the early evening but as Olek also works at one of the pubs, we decided to find some accommodation, so we could have a drink (lime and lemonade...) and watch him work. 


Olek at work  - he had been in asked a few weeks ago if they had any work going as an extra to his day job with Kazek's team in construction/renovation. The night we were there he said he didn't get to pour one pint. I told him the next morning, that when we had pulled up at the pub in Kingham the evening before I had told David they needed Olek - he was absolutely vigilant about spotting and collecting empty glasses. That practice keeps tables looking tidy.

There was an Elvis impersonator that evening - have you ever noticed that no Elvis impersonators impersonate him as a young man - always the white suits with the sequins and the obligatory slight paunch ...

We stayed in a pub in Kingham - quite nice but, god, isn't accommodation high priced now? In the morning, we had intended to call in at Braunston and visit the boat festival, but it was extremely hot and we hadn't slept well (the night was hot so we had the windows open and a fan on, our room was above the main entrance of the pub and it didn't shut till about 11.30). So we headed back to the boat with a stop in Daventry to get a bit of shopping. Then I think I had a nap 💤😴

While David and I were travelling back to the boat, Marta and Trev took the two boys for lunch at the Crown Inn in Church Enstone, the village David and I lived in for 2 years back in 2006/7.  The pub was two doors up the lane from our cottage - the length of a cricket pitch. While they waited for their booking time, they went for a walk in the woods at Heythrop Park - a place we also walked often. 

Somehow I think those sticks are not particularly effective weapons - especially in a woods

Beautiful older grandson in the woods at Heythrop Park

Two beautiful grandsons - they may be 18 and 13 but they still know how to play...
It won't be long before Karol is too big for Olek to cart around ...

Three lovely guys.

On Sunday evening, Olek went in to Oxford and got a tattoo - it's the Taranaki Hardcore logo - he was wearing a T shirt with the logo on it (a gift from my lovely sister Dee when he was in Taranaki with the family)  so an easy copy for the tattooist. You can see it has the mountain (Taranaki) and the waves, plus the stars of the Southern Cross. It's very cool.

David's original idea for the time from last Monday to next Monday when we collect Karol was for us to head up to Hawkesbury Junction on to the Coventry and then up and back down the Ashby. Fortunately we decided against such mad rushing! Instead, before returning the car on Monday, we headed for Screwfix to purchase a toolbox, a set of spanners, a crescent, a set of allen keys, then headed back to the boat for a rest - such a busy time.

An artful shot David took of nb Waka Huia on the moorings back from the waterpoint. We could get water from that position which was a boon.

On Monday the canal at Rugby was like Piccadilly Circus - so many boats coming back from Braunston and the old and replica working boats take up a lot of space - their draft is deep so they need to claim the centre of the canal. Later that day we moved over to the 1 day park moorings near the water point - we did it during a lull in traffic.

Early on Tuesday morning we headed off to just past All Oaks Wood - Rugby and the traffic noise had been palling. And there we moored up and found that we were moored close to a famous blogger - Neil from Herbie. Kath reads my blog and occasionally comments - she often answers questions for me 😁😃😇

Lots of boaters know Neil and Kath. Neil tells me they are often referred to as The Herbies... Lovely lovely people.

So anyway, there they were. I decided I should make cheese scones to celebrate. And we also met Caroline and Martin from Chester who stopped with their dog (sorry, lovely dog, I cannot remember your name!) to chat about NZ. Half a dozen scones for each boat and there were still plenty for us.

The scones tasted fine but weren't the best I've made. I'm experimenting with a lower temperature in this oven but found this time the scones didn't rise as much as I wanted, and I still had to turn them over and return them to the oven to crisp up the bottoms. However I'm working on the theory that it's the thought and effort that count, people!

In the morning, Neil and Kath came to say goodbye and David was still in bed and I was at the table in my nightie (blogging IIRC). I think a photo of Kath and me on the stern deck of Waka Huia may appear on their blog shortly - and I am in my nightie but I did take off my red and white striped bed socks (a la Dr Seuss, Cat in the Hat, I think) so I could step down on to the towpath to give and receive hugs.

It was lovely to meet them in person - I am afraid I talked the hind leg off a donkey with them - I was so excited 😫😬😳

Duelling cameras as they departed. Neil did the painting on the can himself some years ago and varnished it - it looks fab.
Kath heading down into the boat as they left. Neil going at tickover - you can tell because the prop is only making very little waves on the surface. Good man!


After they left we decided to go and wind and come back to the same mooring spot. The winding hole is about 500 metres up the cut and is at an old and short arm. 

I wasn't sure which side the winding hole was - why I didn't judge that it would be the side with the old arm in I don't know. But I approached cautiously, realised  which side it was and started to turn. Even though David said 'Superb job, Marilyn' (it's ALWAYS the kiss of death to get praise before a manoeuvre is completed), because I was a bit late turning, I managed to get wedged between the rocks and hawthorn on the offside and the rocks under the bridge over the arm. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! David had to use the barge pole to push the bow off and for a few minutes he could not budge it. I even left the stern and went through to the bow to see up close what the situation was. He was able to start moving the bow off the rocks when he stood further back so his weight was off the bow and when I was able to move the boat a bit further back. Eventually we completed the turn, but AAARRRGGGHHH!!! Imagine how embarrassing it would have been to have other boats come upon us in flagrante dilecto, so to speak - wrong position, wrong wrong wrong!

But as we were returning along the cutting to the mooring place (with a strong smell of pig poo from one side or the other of the canal ...) a traditional boat came towards us. I was so pleased the steerer timed his approach when he did... And after that a NZer who had moored a couple of boats behind us whom I had taken a dislike to and avoided (within about 2 minutes of mooring up, he told me his ex-wife had been under Jacinda's thumb and was too scared to go outside during lockdowns, and that Jacinda had delayed NZers getting the vaccine...) came past us as well. 

So all in all, I had a lucky escape from ignominy!

We moored up again where Neil and Kath had been and pretty much blobbed the day away - I added the photos to the previous blogpost and published it but not much else, and David sorted out the toolbox; and then when everyone else had gone inside their boats and wouldn't be disturbed by the noise, he proceeded to hacksaw the D-rings off the chains attached to the solar panels - right above my head. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! And then he took about 40 minutes to file down one of the bolts that hold the pramcover sliders in place. Double AAARRRGGGHHH!!! Bad end to the day...

Have you ever been inside a metal boat with someone clanging, banging, sawing, filing metal on the roof? It is not something I would recommend.

Then the wind came up straight along the canal from the area of the pig farm. I raced through the boat and shut all doors and windows - I hate the smell of pig poo!

 Yesterday we left All Oaks Wood at about 8am - a late start, because we needed a pumpout and the Armada Wharf opens at 9am and we were only an hour away - no point in arriving early. A cheap pump out - only £15 - and diesel at £1.15 a litre. We were happy enough with the price as we have seen it for sale at more than that. (Ian told me this morning that he got some at 85p a litre recently - that was the price for over 50 litres.)

We had been going to moor up again at Rugby, but decided to just stop there for water. We assisted a couple on their boat whose bearings for the prop shaft had come loose. They didn't have a 17mm spanner, so we donated our spare one to them, helped them move their boat down a bit so we could get in behind them and clear the channel, Tied it up so the lady didn't have to keep holding the rope. I also helped a hireboat crew get in alongside us and breast up while waiting for our tank to fill.  The tap seemed much slower than it was before we headed for All Oaks Wood, but David reckons that the hosepipe may have been a bit kinked last time and what he thought was the gurgling of a full tank may actually have been the hose speaking... So we need to be a bit careful, but I am sure, based on the flow and the duration, that the tanks was pretty close to full. 

Once all our do-gooding had been completed and the tank was reasonably full, we moved on to beside the golf course. A pretty nice mooring and certainly quieter than in the town.

Today we walked to Tescos - there and back was 9268 steps so even though it was a 30 minute walk each way, I still didn't reach 10,000 steps! Hardly fair, I reckon.

We needed flour and other stuff. But how on earth did I run out of white flour? And I have bread to make - plenty of rye and wholemeal, but no white flour left! Doh!

Wednesday 28 June 2023

We are either flexible or indecisive - whatever ...

 Early one morning, well over a week ago now, we set off from just above Lock 11 on the Napton Flight towards Banbury, as per the intention noted in the last post. 

Beautiful peaceful morning - and it started off so well!

Working, boss, and happy in his work. He is so good at the locks.

However, I soon found myself wishing we weren't. Not because I don't like Banbury or Cropredy or Claydon - I like all of them. But because the section of canal between Marston Doles and Fenny Compton did my head in.

I had at least three right hand bends go very badly wrong, i.e. in trying to keep to the right hand side of the canal, I kept having the bow pulled over to the left hand side of the cut, because the right hand side didn't have enough water to keep the RH turn going. I know there is an explanation in physics or somesuch science... But it meant reverse, forward, reverse, curse, swear, grump, grump and the will to live or to continue boating were all but lost...

At one such crapshoot, ACP carried out two things that made my head explode - the only place anything could reasonably (not!) and physically (yes) escape was through my mouth. And it did. Nearly as loudly as the Mac truck horn he decided to sound loud and long. AND he followed that up with an instruction that I needed more acceleration.

WTAF - this is the same ACP who went into a panic recently when I asked him to steer, in tickover, along a very straight piece of canal so I could make a mad dash down to the toilet. And here he is giving me driving instructions!?!

Is it humanly possible for a mouth to have both barrels - on anyone else but me, I mean? Because I am sure mine developed them at that point. 

Magnesium applied orally, a statement in less fraught but quite tearful tones that I did not want to keep doing the South Oxford and wanted to turn around asap (or go home immediately ...). Only one problem - the next winding hole is at Fenny Compton. And that was what felt like light years away. Seven miles (11 kilometres) in real distance but slow, winding, pretty shallow and narrow - all of which make for slow going. Gritted teeth, girded loins, magnesium working, and off we went, keeping on keeping on. And to avoid the bow pulling over problem, I stuck to the middle of the canal where the water is deepest.

This is one of the temporary bridges constructed for the works on HS2, the high speed railway that will cut all of 11 minutes off the journey between Birmingham and London - such a huge disruption to the countryside and for just 11 minutes and a huge huge cost. A vanity project if ever there was one...

Bridge 130 - nearly at the apex of the two long sides of the isosceles triangle that this part of the South Oxford canal looks like - the canal was built with very few locks, and instead follows the contours of the land. False economy at the time of building because it meant much longer journeys for the working boats - any time saved by not having to do locks was eaten up by the longer distance and tight corners.

We counted down the bridges (we were aiming for Bridge 136), I went slowly, ACP gave no more driving instructions, and we got to Fenny Compton unscathed. It was lunchtime, the pub looked inviting, but we eschewed it, winded, and then pulled back for water. While David filled the tank, I had a 10 minute blob - short blob, good fast tap! Well, I did some other stuff for a few minutes and then sat down with the kindle and my eyes closed.

We had already scoped out a mooring place for the return journey - just before bridge 124. And of course, I overshot it! Heaven knows how. But fortunately there was space after the bridge before the bend, so we stopped, closed up and the rain came down. Spectacular! And then I blobbed in a concentrated and horizontal fashion for much of the next 14 or so hours.

Early the following morning (there is a pattern developing of early starts...) we headed away again. The weather had cleared and the cut was quiet - I do like it like that! So it was a peaceful trip to Marston Doles. But that was about to change...

A boater exiting the top lock there told us the pound below was particularly low and that we should keep to the middle. Good advice that we were happy to take onboard. However, if it was going to be that low, it appeared to me that we could usefully let some water down, i.e. more than a lock's worth. I checked with the couple who were following us and due to use the lock after us - to make sure they were okay with a bit of a delay. Yes, they were fine and the man suggested we open only one paddle on the top and bottom gates. That done and water flowing through with more leaving the lock than was coming in, I asked ACP to hold the rope and keep the boat forward as I needed a pee. Off I went for a quick pee, not realising that, once I had gone inside, instead of holding the rope, David had tied it loosely to a bollard thinking the outflow of water would hold it forward against the front gates (where it needs to be when descending because there is a cill at the back of the lock that is not the rudder and prop's friend), not remembering that water in the locks is a very fickle thing and often does not behave the way you intuit that it should.  

After the pee (and washing my hands, of course), I came back towards the stern steps and saw that the boat was hard up against the back gate. I flew up the steps and shouted F*CK F@CK F#CK very loudly and yelled loudly at David to go and close the bloody lower paddles. Then I politely asked the lady from the following boat to open the second paddle of the top gates to let more water in fast. I opened the throttle hard to push us off the cill, and fortunately away we came.

Disaster averted but we were both shaken - David had panicked that the boat would sink in the lock with the stern hoisted up on the cill, I would get caught inside and drown; I had envisaged the rudder and prop needing to be replaced or repaired at great expense and panicked about that. 

It is the first time in 30 years of boating that we have ever had that close a call, and it is not an experience we ever wish to repeat!

All is well with the rudder and prop, but we have developed a bit of a squeak when I pull the tiller towards the port.

We moved on thinking and worrying about the close call - as you do, I think. Then it was the Napton Locks - we do enjoy them. There are always people to talk with and lovely scenery.

This lock in the Napton flight  is not in good condition


Let's hope it's on this year's winter schedule for repair.
Not just bricks missing but the plaster is broken
There is a whole field of these beasts near one of the top Napton Locks - and look at those clouds, the rain is imminent.

They are water buffalo

And we moored up again at Lock 11 - our home away from home... It was lovely being tucked up inside with the rain coming down!

Sunrise the next day - about 4.30am I think. And a clear morning forecast.

We did wait until about 6am to head away and we did it very quietly.


He started work very early too! This season he is not doing the step across from one open gate to one closed gate - confidence, damp lock gates, 3.5 years older than the last time he did it. It means a walk around the whole lock, but I am pleased. Watching him do that step always makes my legs turn to jelly!

The next morning we headed away early again and then stopped at Bridge 100 for breakfast and to make a consultation call to Ian Jameison on Free Spirit re the squeak. His suggestion was that we go to the marina in Braunston and ask them to grease the swan's neck steering gear. But we decided if it was a reasonable price, we could buy a basic grease gun and do the job ourselves. After all, we need to be a bit self sufficient! (I've managed to put it together but have one last question for Ian - which way up does the grease cannister go?)

The young man at Midland Chandlers is a gem - extremely helpful and knowledgeable. Not only did he sell us a very reasonably priced basic grease gun, he gave me instructions on how to use it. He also most usefully made an extension for our hose. We have one of those crinkly hoses which start out quite short and wrinkled, but expand when filled with water. (I am sure there is a source of inspiration for this in nature but I'm struggling to work out what it is ...) The hose is a really cool piece of kit, but with one fatal flaw. To keep the nozzle in the water tank inlet, you need to hold it in place right at the deck level. Oh my aching back ...

So the young man made a fitting from a couple of pieces of rigid hose and an inline tap and fitted them to the wrinkly hose. Magic! Now David can sit comfortably while we fill with water, and he can turn the hose off without having to race to the tap.

And what's more the Midland Chandler chap even said it was fine for us to stay moored up at their mooring while I headed briskly up to the grocery shop and the butcher's (fruit and veg and veg samosas, honest!).

This field below the church in Braunston has a public footpath  through it and either side of the footpath are the ridges and furrows that are pretty common in this part of the country. The path is on a ridge.


When the trolley was on board, we moved on and moored up not far from Braunston near Bridge 87, with a lovely view across the fields. More blobbing outside with my kindle and a cup of tea in the sunshine and then inside when the rain started.

Not the best shot with the fence posts and barbed wire, but peaceful - we could vaguely hear traffic in the distance (the road to Rugby).

And these were our neighbours. They didn't have their TV up loud, they weren't playing the radio or stereo. Ideal sort of neighbours to have. I'm not sure the feeling was mutual though!

And then it rained again - welcome actually because it cuts the heat! A bit like Taranaki sunshine though - rain and sun at the same time.

And this family were good sorts too.

David had thought for himself and decanted the four older eggs from their original pack into the newer pack that had 6 left. I had been going to only use the four for baking. So I asked him to mark them. 'What shall I call them?' 'John, Paul, George and Ringo' I said. So he did 😆😉😊😍

Sunday 18 June 2023

Slowing down with age - Bridge 100 to Napton

 Gone appear to be the days when we boated for long hours each day. We have made arrangements to pick up our younger grandson, Karol, at Banbury and we are only about 36 lock miles from Banbury. That equates to 12 hours of boating. In years gone by we would have cut that out in a day and a half. Now we have about 15 DAYS to do it in! That is just ridiculous!

After blobbing happily at Bridge 100 for a couple of days, and after I had washed the starboard side of the boat with bucket and cloth, and after we had been for walk to and from Bridge 102, we decided to head towards Napton.

I was delighted that I could see my reflection in the paintwork after I'd washed the side. And I am going to see if I can find a product a guy was using in Braunston as we left the other day - Demon Shine that he told me can be purchased at Halfords.
Before we left Bridge 100, Mel was restored to his proper place on the roof. He was pleased ...

Travelling to Napton did involve a stop at Wigrams Turn for a pump out, emptying the elsan and getting a pack of English Breakfast tea bags. 

I had thought we had another pack of English Breakfast teabags in the cupboard. BUT when I got the box out, I discovered it had already been opened and was being used to store EARL GREY teabags which ACP had decided he no longer wanted to drink, having swapped back to EB from EG. Why oh why would anyone put smelly EG teabags in a pristine EB box? Why would anyone think that was a good idea? Why would anyone be so cavalier about causing their dearly beloved wife such distress? So regardless of the need for toilet emptying, teabags were a must!

David and I have very fond memories of Wigrams Turn Marina - it is one of Black Prince Holidays hireboat bases, one we have hired from several times. It's a good base as there are several route options available: South Oxford, North Oxford, the Grand Union heading either north or south, with a deviation off up the Leicester Arm to Foxton, Market Harborough and/or Leicester and the River Soar.

A special memory for us is that we brought one of their hireboats into the marina when it was first opened back in 2005 - we had hired from the Stoke Prior base and made arrangements to deliver the boat to Wigrams Turn. It was cool to be doing a one way hire (it's always an out and back) and cool to be one of the first boats into the marina. And I remember being chuffed because I got in the entrance without touching its sides and I pulled up alongside the wharf impeccably - it's especially good to do so when there are people watching ...

And we always found the Black Prince staff to be kind and helpful - and that continues to this day, even though the site is now owned by Aquavista. And their limited range of groceries did include English Breakfast teabags, so that was a win! And a stroke of luck for ACP 👏😈😅

And I got into the marina and moored up on the wharf impeccably again, and I got out just as impressively - clearly a fluke as I had to reverse out from the wharf that had three boats abreast just behind us, with the 'seaward' side one at an angle rather than abreast - it was touching its neighbour at the stern but about 10 feet away from it at the bow - which of course was closest to us ... Somehow, I managed to get the nose into the wharf and then reverse quickly and have the bow stay where I needed it to to to travel backwards in an arc out past the angled boat. Very pleased with myself, I was ...

We decided we would go to lunch at the Folly Inn at the bottom of the Napton lock flight, and given:

  • we don't have the Waterways Routes maps loaded on to any of our devices (see previous post), and 
  • when I asked for the Nicholson's Guide Book 1, I was given not Book 1, so I was unclear how far we were from the bottom of the locks, and
  • we suddenly hit quite a good wifi signal area, and
  • there was armco available ...

we moored up at the very end of said armco - leaving, unusually for us, a git gap (i.e. a gap not long enough for another boat) but to be fair, if we'd pulled hard up to the boat in front, there wouldn't be enough armco for any other boat than one that was about 40 feet long. We started getting ready to head away to the pub, and then the 20 something year old crew of a hire boat that had winded (turned around) at the winding hole a few metres up the cut, looked quite disappointed as they approached. So we asked if they had wanted to moor up. Yes they said. So we pulled Waka Huia hard up to the boat in front and left them the small gap behind. We helped them moor up with an overhang, and then we headed away to the pub. A short walk we thought but after about 20 minutes with no measurable progress to the Folly (because we couldn't see it or the locks, only ever more bends in the canal) and given the towpath was overgrown with nettles and prickly things and long grass, and very narrow with drop offs where the edges had crumbled, we decided to turn back and forgo the pub lunch.

So back we trekked, passing the hirers on their way to the pub - complete with their dehydrated dog who was salivating and dribbling like mad looking very distressed (they'd had him lying in a dogbed filled with water on the boat's stern but were unaware [I asked] that dogs have no sweat glands and they can only cool down through their mouths). 

And while I made lunch David attempted for about the 900th time to download the Waterways Routes maps. Still no luck, dammit, even though we had 3 bars of 4G and direct line of sight to an internet tower... I was all for getting a refund (still, as I had been on previous days of this attempt) but OCD people and boffins don't give up; oh no, they keep going, getting frustrated and complaining and cursing - and getting grumpy with a long suffering wife who just wants to forget it because it's all too much faff and hassle ...

Anyway, once again (4th or 5th time perhaps), ACP determined he wouldn't bother with it, and we headed on the boat to Napton, to fill with water and possibly head up a few of the locks. The tap was very slow, of course, and we were still filling when two boats in convoy arrived to go up the locks. It was blisteringly hot and we were both losing the will to live.

We looked at whether we could pull back past the waterpoint and moor up, but the straight wasn't long enough and our stern would have been sticking out on quite a tricky bend for boaters approaching. So off up the locks we went - surprisingly, our moods both improved with being on the move. And as we ascended the locks the views improved, there were people to chat to - one group of four (Leo, Lesley, Sue and Trevor) were most interested and I invited Leo to get onboard as we headed out of a lock and into another a few yards further on. Then Sue and Lesley came on board for the last lock. I tried very hard to sell them on the idea of hiring a boat from Black Prince and having a holiday on board themselves - not sure if I succeeded.

We moored up after Lock 11 - exactly where we moored up with Ginny and Graham a few years back when they were over for their daughter Sarah's wedding.

Towpath is wide enough for a chair and sitting out reading.
The view back to the village on the hill.

And the view across the canal - lots of sheep over here, but not seen in this photo. There are a couple of them (mother and child, we think) who were calling each other constantly at first ...
Graham also recognised the fence apparently when I sent the photo to Ginny ...


And here we have been since! With

  • yesterday
    • a walk up to the Napton store for a few groceries and treats
    • I saw this plant on our way back - a pelargonium or geranium? I don't know, but I like it!

    • lunch at the Folly Inn on the way back
    • Raspberry and soda - not a very good choice as it transpired, but thirst quenching anyway
    • a blobby afternoon
  • today I have
    • made two loaves of sourdough (did the leaven last night and left it outside on the back deck, brought it in at 6am today and got the process started)
    • made a veg chilli
    • refitted the centre stay for the starboard side bottom curtain rail
    • refitted the bottom curtain rail on the port side
    • refitted the curtain rail and the curtains for the forward doors
    • blobbed this afternoon and I know I slept because I heard myself snoring in a sleep apnoea sort of way...😴😴
  • and this morning,
    • there was an email from the Waterways Routes man saying that from the screenshot David had sent him he could see that David is using Memory Map for All, when he needs to be using the older version
    • David tried with the older version, and did it download? No it bloody well didn't...
The chilli before the kidney beans, green beans and capsicum went in - already more than enough for two people! And that is only one kumara, by the way!

The sourdough (note to self: lower the gasmark to 7 instead of 8) and the chilli with its full complement of veg

The curtains over the front doors are back up

The lower curtain rod is back - not sure it's the original but it is doing the job, nonetheless.

The centre rod stay on the portside window back in place instead of sliding about between the ends.

Tomorrow we are heading towards Banbury and we will make haste not so slowly - we are going to moor in Banbury and hire a car for a few days and do some exploring of our former haunts - we lived in Church Enstone for 2 years back in 2006 and 2007. It's a very lovely area so there is lots to see and do.

Thursday 15 June 2023

Yelvertoft, Braunston, South Oxford

I've done a fair bit of this lately - and it's good!
Phone too...

Reading near Yelvertoft in the shade - lovely!
In the distance it's the A5 or the M1 - so good not to be on that!


After losing the will to live about just how slowly you have to travel along the L_O_N_G  L_O_N_G  L_O_N_G pound between Foxton Locks and Watford Locks, we moored up at Crick - we hadn't boated far but we needed some groceries and Crick has a nice Coop. David delegated himself for shopping and instructed me to blob -  I do not like the intense heat so I was not too sulky at agreeing...

I do get grumpy about the marinas that have somehow managed to convince CRT that they need a hundred yards or so of clear towpath outside their premises - not sure what for. If a boater leaving or entering cannot do the turn in one and a half boat lengths they should have their boats impounded and sold for scrap or something equally (s)crappy!

We noticed this phenomenon at Yelvertoft, Crick and at Weltonfield and given there's not a lot of clear mooring along that pound, it's a pain that a fair chunk of what is open (i.e. no reeds, trees not overhanging, and nice armco) is not available to use. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

OK, rant over.

David got back to the boat about 10 minutes before the start of the second thunderstorm in 2 days. We are getting rather quick at putting the sides on the new pramcover and closing down the cratch cover! We had done a load of washing (just one) as we travelled and I had vetoed putting it on the clothesline - I had read the forecast ... So the duvet cover was hanging in the pramcover and was pretty much dry before the storm hit.

Warm and dry in the cratch during the storm. Some of the longest, loudest thunder I ever remember. And that rain was heavy!
Sitting at Mick's table - drinking port

Taylors - but any port in a storm, don't you think?

 We decided to leave early in the morning, to boat before the heat picked up. So we were away and heading into the Crick tunnel by before 7am. A couple of days before I had got a bit freaked by the Husbands Bosworth tunnel - couldn't keep in a straight line for some reason. But my performance through the Crick tunnel was much better! My shoulders were not up beside my ears so clearly I was more relaxed!

On the way to the locks I saw these rooks in the field with the sheep - cohabitation... Made me smile.

The Watford Locks open at 8am and we had about a 15 minute wait close to the M1.

There is a confluence (right word?) of transport modes and routes as you approach Watford Locks - there's the main trunk line (for this part of the country) which crosses the canal, as well as the A5 and the M1 - plus a myriad of little local roads. Not the most peaceful part of the canal network ... But it was a BEAUTIFUL DAY

A couple of guys had pulled out in front of us a mile or so out from the Crick tunnel and so were ahead of us at the locks. No worries - it was a pretty quick trip down them: one lock, then a staircase of 4 then two separate locks to finish the flight. 

One of the staircase - know how I can tell? It has one paddle in red. The rule in a staircase is Red before white and you'll be alright. White before red and you'll be dead. Not quite dead, but the flooding is prodigious, I gather.

A couple of miles to Norton Junction and then a right turn on to the main line of the Grand Union. 

Very good surname - one I used for about 23 years... Thanks, Ted.

We decided to keep going to Braunston, so through the tunnel - met one boat coming towards us and I am fairly sure he was pretty much stationary when we passed him. As we approached the locks we found a single hander to lock down with. The woman whose name I didn't get, is 80, has been singlehanding for 14 years... 

 It was 25 minutes through the tunnel. 5.25 hours of boating for the day with 11 locks and 9.5 miles.

We decided to moor up just below the Admiral Nelson pub so we could go for lunch, but not before we both had a shower and I'd hung out yet another load of washing - where does it all come from!? Considering I had been thinking how much like being at the bach it was being on the boat (and in the motorhome) where you take lots of clothes and then wear the same t-shirt and shorts for days with only changes of underwear, I am not sure what keeps filling the laundry bag ... (I do know - it's bedding that we were catching up on washing - from motorhoming when we borrowed sheets from Marta [I gave up on the sleeping bags as they are too constraining and I got cold when I had the zip open], and bedding from being back onboard.)

My lunch - falafel and halloumi burger. Very yummy. Gave the coleslaw to David - I'm not a fan of mayo on coleslaw, I prefer vinaigrette.


I think there were about 10 of them - like little bumblebees buzzing around. Amazing how quickly they learn to swim flat out!

While I was sitting out in the shade a couple walked past and stopped to chat - they had noticed the name of the boat.  Conversation went well until:

  • he defended Boris as being just like all politicians - well, that's not true, particularly if you measure him against the UK Labour politicians I know, and especially if you measure him against the entire Labour Government in NZ,
  • he then said that Jacinda was an evil poisonous person.

I said to him to go away and to do it quickly. He did, muttering ... He was a bloody conspiracy theorist, FFS.

And Braunston - nightmare! no internet! They are having a new tower fitted or swapping from copper to fibre or something. But for the two days we were there there was NO SERVICE!! And we realised just how much we rely on it nowadays. We couldn't WhatsApp anyone, couldn't get emails, couldn't look up anything - and I couldn't do Wordle!! David was missing the US current affairs stuff about the dumpster's indictments - that was the worst of a tragic situation!

The only place we could get any service was on two of the public paths that head down the hill from the village towards Midland Chandlers. Enough to download podcasts but not enough to download the Waterways Routes map updates, dammit!

However we had a blobby couple of days, moved down from the Admiral Nelson to not far from the Waterside Pub, moored up, went to the shop and the butcher (for fruit and veg and two very nice veg samosas), to Midland Chandlers for a list of things only about half of which they could help with, and back to the boat.

Not sure where this family was - probably down by the Waterside pub.


This morning, I woke David and sprung on him the information that we were going to reverse back through the bridge for water before anyone else was moving. So by 7am, we were dressed and chugging backwards, with several corrections to make sure the boat was heading properly around the curve - there is no steerage when reversing in a narrowboat because no water goes past the rudder - and we don't have bow thrusters (or boy buttons, as I call them - most men call them girlie buttons, but so far I have only ever seen men using them ...) So there was the occasional use of forward gear and tiller while still moving backwards because it takes a fair bit to stop this craft once it's got a head of steam up ...

We watered up at the fastest tap ever, I (jet-)washed the port side and roof of the boat and then helped a hireboat crew come in for water, and then we were on our way having made sure we had a cup of tea at the ready and breakfast was prepared.

We have boated all of a mile and a bit. About 200 metres up from the Braunston Turn on the South Oxford, both of our phones pinged with WhatsApp messages - service restored. I had suggested yesterday that we move but we were both too buggered to do so in the heat... One of the messages was from Marta. A call to her and arrangements made for Karol to come and stay with us for a few days before he heads to Bulgaria to spend time with his dad. Yay!!

We stopped by Bridge 100 not much after 9am 😀😆😎 and will stay here overnight. David has tried to download the Waterways Routes updates on both the phone and the computer but it times out - copper in this area rather than fibre means there's not enough download speed or somesuch technical detail. So it's back to the Nicholson's Guides - good old paper rulz OK!

I had wanted to stop near Bridge 101 anyway as it is lovely and peaceful here. While David has battled with the internet service, I have 

  • taken photos of where we are
  • made a cauliflower, broccoli and carrot salad as part of dinner (we will have asparagus, pickled beetroot and this salad, plus a couple of slices of my SUCCESSFUL sourdough made yesterday)
  • washed the starboard side of the boat using bucket and a cloth
  • written this blog
  • made baked beans on toast for lunch, and 
  • got myself prepped for an afternoon of not very much - thank heavens for my kindle that has about 700 books on it ...

Bridge 100 in the near distance, David doing something at the cratch. Peaceful! Notice the clean roof - I had hosed it down this morning - by about 7.15am...

The view from the stern deck across to the starboard side

David thought putting the umbrella up on the Brollymate (that we use to hold the clothesline) would give me somewhere to sit in the shade. Now all I need is a floating chair...