Bloody hell! It is now 26 September, we are back home in Waikanae, and the jetlag still has us in its grip - it's 3.17am, we have just had a ciabatta roll with coleslaw and tomato and a cup of tea. The blogpost that I am updating here was written about Kirsty's birthday (3 Sept) and the days following...
2IJ had hurried down the Ashby, having eschewed an invitation to stay longer with their daughter because they wanted to spend the time with us. They were the first people we told that we are putting Waka Huia up for sale, so they were hurrying to join us in part for the last of our cruising, but also because they are helping us to get the boat ready for sale. Yes, we are selling Waka Huia. But more about that in the post that I put up this morning but wrote after this one. Clear as mud?
As regular readers will know, Ian is known as the man who can - Irene calls him her man who can, but actually he is also our man who can. He, like the wonderful Ed Shiers, is a treasure: kind, helpful, a great problem solver, and very definitely a man who can.
2IJ are wonderful friends and we feel so lucky to have them in our lives - and all because I moved Waka Huia when they were hovering hopefully near where we had moored on the Thames back in 2015. I even interrupted giving David a haircut to do so. Of such small events are lovely and loving friendships born. 💖💖 Of course, Irene will tell you that we had moored right in the middle of the clear patch, and I would counter by saying that there were big holes in the bank fore and aft and I was avoiding a broken ankle that would result in taking a precious bed and medical time from other people in the nearest NHS hospital ...
So on Monday morning, we headed away from Hawkesbury Jct at very early o'clock. Well, 7am which hardly counts as the crack of dawn, does it? We went down and watered up at the slow taps, and we didn't quite fill up, but thought we would be fine. (I had set one load of washing going and David got another one going another en route - it's important to have clean clothes!)
Then it was a 340 deg turn under the bridge at the junction, past the Greyhound and into the stop lock. I made it with a couple of applications of reverse to bring the stern around while limiting forward momentum. Of course, the only person who was watching from 50 yards the other side of the lock was Irene ... And of course, if I'd been doing the turn in the middle of the day with countless gongoozlers outside the pub, I am sure I would most certainly have messed it up! The lack of audience is very helpful when it comes to performance anxiety ...
It was a lovely morning for cruising and due to be a scorcher. We were on a mission though - get to the moorings just north of All Oaks Wood and get stuck in to the angle grinding and sanding of the rust spots on the roof prior to repainting it with applications of spot primer, full undercoat and topcoat.
It was a really hot afternoon and I did think of the song about mad dogs and Englishmen... But the task was completed: David and Ian detached and moved the big solar panel so we could check what if anything was required underneath it, Ian was on angle grinding and sanding (the runnels are always vulnerable), Irene followed along with the duster, damp cloth and chamois, and I came next with the fertan. Irene was also designated as paparazzi and drinks bearer. David keyed the roof and handrail paint. The whole roof is going to be repainted, so good prep is required.
|I was using Irene's duster and it needed clearing out. Apart from the side of the boat, the only available place to whack it was Ian's bum.|
|The even buttock treatment ...|
By god, it was hot. Many men on the sterns of passing boats were only wearing shorts with their large reddening beer bellies proudly displayed ...
So the wet shirt was a requirement for me and a sensible way to deal with the heat and sun. David had taken one of his shirts straight from the washing machine and put it on. He usually eschews the wet shirt trick, so I knew it was hot. I used a long sleeved shirt - protecting from sunburn as well as staying cooler. It did need at least one extra dunk under the cold tap during the afternoon.
At one point Ian was looking very flushed - he was wearing goggles, ear muffs and his leather hat - and a dark shirt. I ran his shirt under the cold tap and I think he was pleased with the result. Irene complained that she was hot so I helped her out by tipping part of her glass of cold water over her neck and down the back of her T shirt. Was she grateful? No definitely not, but then once she had stopped shrieking, yes she was.
Dinner - an important meal:
As we had travelled along, David had prepped the veg for roasting so I could make a Thai green curry. Not really the day for roasting as it was hot inside the boat anyway. But I did need to make sure Ian was fed with food he likes ...
While Ian was getting a head start on the angle grinding, I made the green curry paste with the ingredients I had rather than all the ones in Donna Hay's recipe. I had to use ginger instead of galangal, lemon zest instead of lime leaves, lemon juice instead of lemongrass, fish sauce instead of shrimp paste. And I didn't have any fresh coriander. Not to worry, it tasted pretty good, I think. Or so they all said ...
As we had cruised down from Hawkebury Junction, Irene had made a delicious raspberry cheesecake - and took the opportunity to sit in the cratch and read as Ian steered.
So dinner was excellent and preceded by nibbles - and I ate too much blue cheese and red currant jelly to be able to finish the main and dessert. But David helped me out. He is good like that ...
On Tuesday we moved on from All Oak's Wood in search of a shady mooring - we had agreed we would head off at 8.30am, so I did a quick wash of the roof before we left.
I've given up lifting buckets of water from below my body because the last time (2019) I did it cost me about £100 in osteopath fees near Kilby Bridge. So David delivered multiple buckets of water to me; and then the damn water pump would not stop. We thought it had air in the pipes. We turned off the pump and decided to totally fill with water and see if we could sort it. An hour or so further down the cut, at about the same time but on different boats, Irene and I came to the realisation we had probably run out of water and the pump was doing what it does when there's no water available ... Doh!! Of course, we'd not fully filled at Hawkesbury the previous morning, we'd done two loads of washing, had two cool and longer than usual showers, I'd done several loads of dishes throughout the day and I'd been doing lots of washing of the roof both in the afternoon and the following morning. No wonder the tank was empty.👎💩
It was due to be in the high 20s and I need the roof to be cool for painting, so shade was critical! And there is no way to stand comfortably against the dark blue sides of the boat - that is one of the key heat sources as we worked on the roof. I am so pleased we changed the roof from black to ivory a few years back - it has made such a difference to the temperature inside the boat.
It was a beautiful cruise - through the woods in the dappled sunlight.
Sunglasses on and a sunhat because the sunlight gets in over the top of my glasses! And an approaching boat waited for us at one bridge - I thought the
profiles of the two people on the stern looked familiar: one very tall
person, one much shorter person with long blonde hair. Yay!! Del and Al
on Derwent 6. Neither of us had anywhere to moor for a proper catch up
but it was lovely to see them both.
We stopped for a pumpout and diesel at Armada - Jane there does the best pumpout we've had, and we've done 3 there this season. Highly recommend them.
|The cattle knew it was too hot to be on dry land...|
We filled with water at Newbold and miraculously the pump worked ...
I beetled off to the Coop there for some shopping and while I was in the shop for 15 minutes or so, the temperature outside rose from bearable to bloody hot!
Onwards to Rugby so I could drop David off at the town bridge - he needed to go to Vodafone and the 3 shop to sort out making sure we can have both phone service and internet in the last few days of our time here. Irene was just coming from the path to where they had moored, towing her trolley and carrying a large bag. There was a toot from an approaching boat and I deployed the Mack truck horn. For some reason the approaching boat was in the middle of the channel - avoiding the big willow tree. But he reversed to a stop so I could pass and he could use the centre after me. And then a dog jumped into the canal in front of Waka Huia - the dog clearly wanted to be in the water as he'd just been fished out and jumped straight back in.
Mashed dog a la propeller was not on my menu, so I barped the Mack truck horn again and the dog swam to the side. Not stupid, that animal...
However another boater approaching from around the corner, ignoring the Mack truck horn and having stayed away from the RHS so he didn't go under the trees on the offside, then expected that I would position Waka Huia inside the saloons of boats moored on my RHS, so he could have the centre of the channel. Nope.
He asked if I'd seen him coming. Yes, I said. Did you see me? Yes, but you should have let me through, he said and you should have moved over, he said. He told me I was a bloody idiot. I replied that I had thought the same of him.
Apparently the woman sitting in the front well deck complained to Irene that I didn't know what I was doing and that I was a bloody foreigner. Lovely Irene said 'She's my friend.' Sudden silence ... 👭💓👏
I had been designated as shade mooring finder, so on I went, thinking about the moorings next to the golf course. But then I found a place David had looked at when we last came through Rugby. Perfect, lots of shade with trees on both sides of the cut - the compass showed the orientation was right - no late afternoon burning sun!
I sent a WhatsApp pin to 2IJ and a pin to David.
All good except 2IJ's spot was right beside a wasps' nest very close to the armco. Fortunately the only other boat moored there moved off as soon as its hirers came back from a museum visit - no wasps' nest there.
I know we did some work that afternoon, but I cannot remember what - rust treatment, applying primer, Irene applied and removed paint restorer to the starboard side. Drinks and nibbles on the towpath, dinner (cheese tart) and a game of cards. I may have won, but most probably it was Ian or David - definitely not Irene...
|Nibbles on the towpath in the all important shade!|
Wednesday and Thursday
We stayed at that mooring for 2 more nights and got quite a lot of work done. Undercoating the white parts of the roof that had needed priming, undercoating the dark blue spots that had needed priming. Sorting out the seals on the starboard side windows - they and the bottom of window frames needed cleaning and seals re-inserting.
|One day David
was on heating the additional cheese tart for lunch. He got it out of the fridge and put it on
the bench, he got it covered in baking paper, then he got squirrelled because
there it stayed for some time...|
One morning David and I shouted breakfast for 2IJ at the cafe at the Clifton Cruisers yard. Very nice and a very reasonable price. So do call in if you are nearby. There is an ornamental fish shop on site and guess who had to go and have a look while waiting for her brekkie? I had forbidden her to look on the way to the cafe - I was HUNGRY!!
|Irene looking longingly at the fish tank - I think that one had koi carp in - ghastly invasive things...|
|Irene did a sterling job of cutting and then polishing the starboard side of the boat - it looks amazing. And when we moor with the port-side by the towpath, we will replicate her performance.|
|Well earned cups of tea and see the sanded and fertaned runnel/handrail.|
I painted, Irene cut and polished the starboard side of the boat, Irene and I sanded the table top outside and I coated it with Danish oil. (I've now done it 4 times, so perhaps just one more coat will be enough protection.)
As you can see, the day was filled with more work, drinks and nibbles and then dinner.
Food has been a feature as I was determined to make sure 2IJ were well fed. I know that one night we had chickpea, squash and potato curry, and another night mushroom sauce with pasta; and desserts (Irene's province) have been trifle without the jelly, meringues with cream and berries. All very yummy. I did make dessert one evening: nectarines roasted in white wine, honey and lemon juice (a Joy Bilby recipe - it is superb. Usually I use a range of stone fruit but all that Irene had were 4 unripe nectarines - state of ripeness didn't matter!)
David did the honours a couple of evenings - we had shared the cooking and he was on serving up as I was almost comatose in the chair outside!
|Irene with her new haircut and her bottle of wine - well, it saved walking back to their boat for a top up, after all. Economy of effort was a requirement given how hard we were all working!|
When we decided to move on from the shady place before Clifton Cruisers (therefore still in Rugby) we had thought we would head for Hillmorton. But it was SO DAMN HOT that I could not cope with the thought of mooring anywhere with sun. So about 15 minutes tops down the cut, I decided to stop near Rugby Golf Course which is not far from Hillmorton. A lovely mooring, wide towpath, no wasps nests, and space for more work and more eating and more cards - only one game per evening because we were all pretty pooped.
|It was too hot to close the windows and too buggy to turn on the lights. David resorted to his head torch to see his cards. He wasn't allowed to point it forwards as it blinded the rest of us. Interesting movie scary person effects, I thought!|
2IJ needed to get on their way back the way we had come as they are heading for a boat gathering, so we decided that we needed to cut the umbilical cord and part. Before we headed away, I finished one section of undercoating and then we were off.
There was one more job for Ian to do that required being able to moor on the port side. We accomplished that between the second and third sets of locks at Hillmorton. As Ian worked and the rest of us did other chores, Waka Huia developed more and more of a list to starboard - there were lots of boats coming down the locks and with every lock load of water leaving the pound, there was less and less clearance under the stern... It's a very disconcerting feeling being inside the boat when it's listing - it's very hard to walk without lurching into the side and it feels very dodgy!
But a lock load of water, a giant push with the bargepole by David and strenuous heaving by Ian and me and we were off. The bump down into the deeper water was significant and also funny!
Up into the third lock, expertly steered by Ian as I was sorting out something else, and then once we were temporarily tied up, it was a quick re-trim of Irene's hair. I had cut it for her when we were near Clifton, but realised I had left the back section a bit heavy. I had prepped the sourdough loaves and put one loaf into Irene's loaf tin for her to bake onboard Free Spirit. The other two sat proving above the freezer on Waka Huia.
Lots of hugs, some tears and promises to see each other again asap, and a commitment to playing cards by WhatsApp, as per our lockdown habit. Then they waved and waved and we waved and waved and headed off.
A huge day of boating for us: we had started at the golf course, 15 minutes into Hillmorton, up the locks and then all the way to Braunston, a stop for water, rubbish and Elsan and a shop at Midland Chandlers (oil, cratch cover cleaner and waterproofer), and I put the bread in to bake before we headed away from the waterpoint - there'd be time while we did the locks before we got to the tunnel. (I quickly dashed into the wee shop and got Magnums, milk and cheese) and then it was on through the tunnel.
We moored just outside the tunnel yesterday late afternoon, and sat outside in the beautiful shade of the overhanging trees. I was pooped - but for some reason I got a second wind, and at about 6pm after a dinner of freshly baked sourdough I started painting - after all there was only about 2/3 of the port side and the centre blue panels that needed undercoating. However, discretion was the better part of painting in the approaching dark and I decided to leave the centre panels which I can hardly reach (i.e. not reach at all) with the solar panels in place, and just focus on the runnels.
This morning, I washed the whole roof, then dried it off and sanded the runnels and centre panels. And then the rain came down. So painting stopped.
Instead we did inside cleaning and when the rain stopped I went out and cleaned one side of the cratch cover. I think the stuff I got at Midland Chandlers has worked pretty well - there was a fair amount of green stuff being scrubbed off anyway! I have checked it a couple of times after multiple rinses, but it needs to dry out more so I can clarify if the inevitable green stuff has been banished!
Fried rice for dinner and the second mint magnum each from the shop at the first Braunston lock. A cup of tea and early bed.
We had thought about staying at the same mooring because the shade was superb for painting, but it also meant the roof would take ages to dry and, being autumn, we were being leafed... So we got up early and headed for Norton Junction, planning to take on water there. However after we had moored up, hooked up the hose and rolled it out, we discovered the tap was not delivering water - doh! So on we trundled to the bottom of the Watford flight, discussing as we went how we would handle queuing and getting water. Well, no problems: no one else was waiting below, and the lockie sat and chatted with us while we filled with water, then off up the locks we scooted. While we were ascending, the other boaters walked up to register, and it wasn't until we were leaving the top lock that a boat appeared at the top ready to descend - where was everyone?
We decided that it was best to get through Crick tunnel and moor up - no point in painting and then having seeping ground water spoil the work by dripping down from above.
We painted and got hot, David walked into the Coop, and that evening we took the recommendation of Jen and Scotty on the boat moored behind us and went for dinner at The Wheatsheaf - given I'd been on my feet most of the day - steering or standing on the gunwales while painting - my feet were really sore and the walk felt very very long ... It wasn't or otherwise something magical happened and the walk back was shorter 😆.
It rained again overnight, so painting had to be delayed. And because it didn't matter if I washed it while wet (?!) I cleaned the portside of the cratch cover. Lots more green stuff came off ... Amazing how it grows. I reckon that along with rats, cockroaches, bindweed/convolvulus, algae will outlast everything after a nuclear holocaust or global warming knocks us all off ...
The next morning we got up ready to move regardless of the weather and found that while we had been inside the previous evening, Jen and Scotty had returned from their Welford Arm saunter and were moored in front of us. Lovely.
We headed away looking for somewhere we could continue with the painting and found a nice long patch of armco - for a change we were looking for sunshine as the weather had cooled. More painting - it's interminable ...
At the end of the day I asked David to set up the chairs in the shade of the boat as I needed to cool down. Better than that, he said, look out the front - and there in the far distance, he had set up the chairs in the shade of a tree. It was a very very long way to totter on sore feet and legs. It was another early night and I have to own that the standard of catering left a lot to be desired by that stage of the journey! Boiled eggs, cans of soup - they fill a gap but they are definitely not gordon blue, that's for real.
And so we moved on to the top of Foxton Locks the next morning, not hugely early; and we had the usual discussion re where would we be able to moor while queuing - but once again, there was no one waiting at the locks! It turns out they had been very quiet for ages because of the Lock 42 failure in Leicester.
Earlier we had thought for nostalgia's sake, we would moor up for the day and night at the top of the locks, but changed our minds and went down. It was quite emotional, especially for David. I'm hard, me.
We moored there for two nights and I waterproofed the cratch cover with Fabsil and finished the painting - in that order because the Fabsil needed a clear 8 hours of drying time.
We had lunch from Bridge 61 on the day we arrived at the bottom of the locks, then dinner the next night at Foxton Locks Inn, we wondered about the moral compass of the owners of two boats who moored right on the waterpoints for the whole 2 days we were moored just forward of the signage. I know we are goody two shoes about this stuff, but what makes people think the rules don't apply to them?
All painting was done so we could head back to Debdale. More later...