Monthly Archives: Oct 2018

Friends, Furniture, Canoes And A Camel. 28th 29th October

Albion Bridge 166 to Hennef Way to Sovereign Wharf to Tramway Road 168

P1430028smSince getting back to Oleanna Mick has been looking after me, especially on the food front. I’d not had chance to do a food shop when I got to Chipping Norton last week and ended up doing quick dashes to get enough food to keep me going and on some days I didn’t make good choices. So on Sunday morning Mick cooked up a full breakfast. Being near to a Morrisons meant that he was able to do a full gluten free breakfast too, including hash browns and black pudding. Morrisons seem to be outdoing all the other supermarkets on the GF front at the moment, a whole isle including a freezer section. The poached egg was up to scratch too.

I spent some of the day having a look around the charity shops that were open for various pieces of furniture for panto. One shop seemed to have just about everything I was after, but there were still more shops that were closed to check out. Mick made use of being near to a Gap Outlet to buy some new jeans as one of his trusty pairs has suddenly sprung a large hole on the leg.

P1430038smDecisions of where to be over the next few weeks, then into December and possible plans for Christmas had to be discussed this weekend. I know it’s still quite a way away, but with C&RT starting their winter maintenance in a week and closing locks we have to plan ahead somewhat. Did we want a city or countryside? For the next three weeks transport links are important so that played a big part in our decision. We made our minds up and decided to move today, mainly so that Tilly could get a bit of freedom, although I think she seems to be getting away with a lot whilst I’m not on board!

We pushed off and headed up to Banbury Lock. A boat coming down asked how far we were planning on going as they’d just sat for an hour and a half waiting for canoes to go past before they could push off from their mooring. Not far we answered, but we soon realised not far was too far!

P1430040smThrough the lift bridge I climbed back on board and up ahead by Tom Rolt Bridge we could see several canoes. At first it didn’t seem to be anything special, but then as we got closer it became obvious that the bridge was being used as a finishing line for a race. More and more and more canoes came along at speed, our bow rose and fell with the swell they were all creating. As we got to the bridge there seemed to be no marshals on hand, nobody said we should wait. Mick made contact with a chap who had to stand to read a number of a canoe as we passed. He suggested that there was maybe around another fifty boats heading our way, but carry on and they would avoid us! So we did.

We should have counted them, then we’d have had some idea how many more were coming. Just when we thought there had been a long gap a few more appeared around a bend ahead. We crept along having to tread water on approaching a narrow bridge hole to let canoes through. All we wanted to do was wind, but they just kept coming, so we carried on to the second winding hole. One chap said that he was the final one, but a minute later another paddled into view. Do canoe races have the equivalent of a broom wagon from a cycling race?

Just as Mick had tucked Oleanna’s bow into the winding hole another canoeist came into view, he also thought that he was the last. So Mick battled with the silted up winding hole and managed to turn Oleanna. At last we were heading southwards again. Cruising back into town we decided to pull in opposite Sovereign Wharf. A park and trees alongside would be a good place for Tilly for a few hours before it got dark. Ground rules and time stated, she went out, returning frequently for a few Dreamies.

P1430047smShortly before 5pm she returned through the chink in the back doors and proceeded to stare at the bottom of the dishwasher. Hang on, that’s not normal. She went from one side to the other staring. Well it was chilly outside today, so I thought I’d bring my friend home to play with. Only downside was my friend could get into gaps only my paw could reach so far. Bloomin cat!

At least it meant that we got to see where all our plumbing goes under the sink and to the dishwasher! Mick laid a friendly trap, with a treat of peanut butter, under the galley floor whilst Tilly was out of the way. We then waited, so did Tilly. My friend moved from one side of the boat to the other, under the floor. I kept a beady eye on it, even though it was out of view. Eventually the mouse plucked up courage to make a run for it, heading straight through a gap under our pull out corner cupboard. From here it could only go one of two ways and we waited for it to appear, tupperware at the ready. It didn’t take long and soon the mouse was being repatriated to the outside world whilst Tilly kept our bed warm.

P1430058smThis morning I went to check out the charity shops that were closed yesterday and found a few better options. It was also a good job I’d waited an extra day as the best chars I’d seen yesterday had been reduced by £10 each overnight, result! Everything just needs collecting now. Later on in the day I found out that the Producer has a van tomorrow so will pick me and the furniture up on his way back from Oxford. Perfect as I want to take my sewing machine back with me.

Mick was keen to get back down below Bunbury Lock so that I could help him through the lift bridge. Just as we approached we spotted a face we recognised, Kate Saffin from Alarum Theatre Company and a doyen of composting toilets, her boat was getting a service at Tooleys.

P1430063smWorking our way down through the lock a hire boat appeared below and the crew came up to have a look. This would be their second lock ever and they were nervous, wondering if when they’d finished going up that they should leave the lock empty. We pulled onto the water point and started to fill our tank when the chap asked if I’d lend a hand with the lock. Windlass in hand I helped them up and showed them how to lift the bridge as a local gongoozler asked them questions they had no idea about.

We pootled on to Tramway where there was space for us and then popped into Morrisons for some shopping. Tilly wasn’t too impressed as here she wasn’t allowed out. I’m sure tomorrow she’ll have Mick wrapped around her paw again and be out till all hours!

This week Mick will move Oleanna southwards, aiming to be through Shipton Weir Lock before it closes next Monday. It will reopen after I’ve finished work so as long as we are through Dukes Lock before the 26th November we should be able to slowly but gradually make our way northwards again as the winter stoppages reopen in front of us. Hopefully arriving at Napton as they reopen the lock that is being rebuilt in time for us to find somewhere good to be for Christmas.

chippy camel

2 locks, 1 twice, 2.14 miles, 1 wind, 255673 canoes, 1 furry friend brought in from the cold, 2 days not quite off, 2 days at home, 4 chairs, 3 tables, 1 sewing machine needed, 1 lift tomorrow, 6 portions of bolognaise, 0 freezer space, 1 missed camel.

PS for Joa, sorry I’ve not got round to replying to your email. My brothers would be fine, or Chipping Norton Theatre before the 14th November.

Panto Postcard 1

67 hours

IMAG0614smIt has been a busy week in Chipping Norton, I think my body has started to remember what it’s like to paint for eleven hours a day! In the past I occasionally did more.

P1420976smP1420979smMonday was read through day. A van with the major bits of set was being off loaded when I arrived at the theatre and despite there being very tight access into the building everything fitted. Phew! A meet and greet with the company before we all sat down to see what the script sounded like, followed by a model showing with a difference.

Normally everyone gathers round the model box and I do my best to show them how the show will work without knocking too many things over with shacky hands. However today I showed the company photos of the model. When Gemma and I had visited Plymouth all the bits of model that the builders were building were there but the box with the painted floor had gone missing. Process of elimination suggested that Gemma had left it a few weeks ago in Guildford. Calls were made but there was no sign of the model. Luckily I’d taken photos  so the theatre had printed them out. I decided to show how one piece of the model would work so went to find it amongst all the bits and bobs. The chaps from Plymouth brought out a big box, inside was my shoe box of bits sitting inside the model box, that we’d assumed was missing forever. It would take too long to put it all back together so the photos had to do.

P1420986smThe rest of the day was spent putting things together on stage and finding space for everything in the wings. The base of the Gin Palace had to be cut out making it no longer water tight but manoeuvrable by the actors. Once the builds from Plymouth had been checked we retired to the pub for some food and maybe a touch too much wine.

Tuesday the set was joined by more things that Chris had built in Bristol. A section of the auditorium was cleared to make it into a carpentry shop for more bits to be built. I drew things out and Chris would then jigsaw them out before a coat of white paint was applied. All the time we could hear songs echoing  down the staircases from rehearsals going on elsewhere in the building. Everything existed in one form or another now apart from the main stage set. Due to budget cuts we were planning to reuse old flats that the theatre had, recover them in canvas for me to paint. For this we needed quite a bit of canvas, which hadn’t arrived. We managed to fill the time well and a long day was put in by all.

P1420991smWednesday. The last day before rehearsals started on stage. Usually  whilst rehearsals for a show are taking place in a rehearsal room the set is being built elsewhere. There is then what is called a fit-up when the set is put on stage, completed and the lighting and sound are added before the actors join for the technical rehearsal. In Chipping Norton however they don’t really have anywhere big enough to rehearse other than the stage. In previous years the set has been fitted up the week before rehearsals start and then finished off when possible. Time was ticking on and still the canvas hadn’t arrived. Phone calls had been made, Chris and Gemma were due to be elsewhere on Thursday. Just as we were trying to work when and where the flats could be done a lady appeared and patiently waited for a gap in conversation. ‘A delivery from Macdougals’ Bloomin brilliant! You have never seen so many people so pleased to see a large roll of fabric before.

IMAG0631smP1420996smChris covered each flat, which then was primed by me before being positioned out of the way so the next one could be done. One set of flats were put up on stage the other taken into the auditorium for me to paint on Thursday.

P1430017smThursday, Friday and Saturday I spent painting away. I’m so glad I’d cut templates out as this saved me hours of drawing. Having a paintshop in the auditorium has meant that I am nearly word perfect with most of the songs for Act 1 and I know some of the dance routines too. Being on hand for questions has been good as I could see how things were being used by the actors, well when I had my glasses on. The portals gradually came together and I managed to time completing parts with breaks in rehearsals so that things could be moved around without too much disturbance.

P1430023smMy two crew worked hard hauling bits up and fixing them together as they were finished. The last section requiring all three of us, pulling, pushing and  screwing them together with just enough time for me to catch the last bus to Banbury. Having to return the theatre to normality for films on Sunday gave us added impetus.


My digs are close to the theatre, I have a bathroom all to myself, which has a bath. This and my room together most probably equal the full size of Oleanna. There is also a very friendly old cat called Pepper who can open my bedroom door if I don’t lock it. She is persuasive when it comes to being stroked and will tap me on the nose to get my attention, especially when I am asleep.

P1430010sm67 hours, 2 portals, 3 days late, 8 colours, 1 quiet painter, 7 actors, 12 pippins, 5 minutes spare, 2 much still to do next week, 2 days off to recharge the batteries.

A Trip to Get Some Diesel

The alarm was set early on Monday morning. It was just like being back at work, which of course for Pip it was. Pip had a lot a stuff to take with her so I became a Sherpa for the morning. We were at Banbury Bus Station with 10 minutes to spare. The 489 “Chipping Norton Express” takes a direct route from Banbury to Chippy and takes about 35 minutes. There were no school kids, it’s half term in Oxfordshire. I left Pip at the Theatre having also checked in at her digs. The bus back to Banbury was the 488, this is NOT an express! But it was a nice ride around the Oxfordshire countryside and arrived back into Banbury an hour or so later. By the way, aren’t buses expensive? £4.80 single for Pip and £7 return for me.  By the time I got back to the boat it was lunchtime, and after lunch it was getting on a bit so I decided to stay another night in the town centre.

Tuesday morning I did a supermarket trip to Morrisons and also took our winter duvet into a cleaners in preparation for its forthcoming use. I then untied and headed off towards Banbury lock, luckily meeting a boat coming the other way at the lift bridge so they operated the bridge for me. A top up of water then I single handed down the lock although during the process a boat turned up below wanting to come up so I didn’t have to shut gates behind me.  I then pootled on for a mile or so and moored up just before bridge 172 Nadkey Bridge. Tilly was desperate to go out having been cooped up for a few days so off she went. I like it here I think I might stay out for a while. Tom kept on trying to get me to come inside but I was just too busy. At 9:20PM the dirty stop out came home for some food and then wanted to be out again. The door was closed!

On Wednesday I got a message via Pip that my phone was ready to be picked up in Oxford. It has been away for repair, the microphone didn’t work but now it is all mended. So I walked back to Banbury and caught a train to Oxford. £4.35 with an old git’s railcard, that’s better than bus fares! I didn’t stay long in Oxford. I just picked up my phone then returned to the station. Back at the boat it was too late to set off anywhere so I let Tilly out for further Nadkey Bridge adventures. She was back earlier this time, only 9 PM. Considering that we normally try to keep her in round about sunset she has done pretty well in the last two days. I can see in the dark, I don’t know what all the fuss is about! 

It’s Thursday already! This week’s achievable goal was to get some diesel from the nearest place i.e. Aynho Wharf then return to Banbury by Saturday evening for Pip to come home for a couple of nights. When cold weather is forecast I like the diesel tank to be full, it stops condensation forming on the tank walls above the diesel level.  So I did some serious single handing, 2.5 miles and four locks. At three of the locks I met boats coming the other way and they operated the locks for me so it wasn’t too arduous.  Then 80 litres of diesel at 92ppl (ouch!), two bags of coal and a bottle of Calor gas. I made a perfect 200 metre reverse to the winding hole, no bow thruster used! But of course no one was watching.
There are some new CRT winter mooring signs around here. However I don’t think we’ll bother, they don’t look very appealing.
I moored up on some nice Armco a bit further on by Belcher’s Bridge 189. The railway’s a bit close but there is a junction here so the trains aren’t going full speed. Tilly went out and came home at a respectable 6:20PM. I didn’t mean to come home! I was just a bit peckish so just nipped in for some food. Tom shut the door! 

Friday, time to head back towards Banbury. I had to single hand all of today’s three locks. I let an Anglo Welsh hire boat past me. It turns out that they weren’t hirers they were relocating the boat to Wooten Warwen for some winter maintenance and painting. I’ve moored in between the M40 and the railway, it’s pretty unavoidable on this canal. Unfortunately there is a footpath crossing the railway close by so every passing train hoots a warning.

8 Locks. 10.2 miles. 1 mended phone, 1 blog writer away, 1 apprentice blog writer, 1 cat stayed out late 2 times, 80 litres diesel, 50kgs Excel, 13kgs Calor gas. 

He’s Back And I’m Off. 21st October

Keen’s Bridge to Castle Quay, Banbury

Fog, well on one side of the boat this morning. It might have had something to do with there being a hedge on the other side so we couldn’t see very far! NB Tungsten came past whilst we were still in bed, a wave between boats was still possible through. She’ll have been heading to find good TV signal for the next episode of Dr Who tonight.

P1420937smMick rustled together some poached eggs and mushrooms on toast for breakfast, the gas didn’t run out today so we had runny yolks. Tilly made the most of her hour and half outside, not being seen once until she returned bang on time, just a shame we weren’t ready to push off.

P1420938smP1420944smThe list of jobs to be done before heading off to Chipping Norton had one thing on it that couldn’t be put off any longer. Mick needed a hair cut! The choice where to have it done was his, here on a muddy towpath or in the centre of Banbury. Strangely enough he chose the muddy towpath option, fewer people to watch and no need to tidy up afterwards. It’s amazing what an extra inch of hair does to him. After 15 minutes trying to persuade all the stubborn hairs on the top of his head that they also needed to be trimmed I had my chap back.

P1420959smNow we were ready to push off. Three locks back towards Banbury. We passed a couple of boats on route and quite a few walkers. The sun shone down on another lovely day to cruise. Just as well it wasn’t raining as today may be my last day cruising for a few weeks, tomorrow rehearsals start in Chipping Norton.

P1420953smOnce moored up (securely we hope) in the middle of Banbury the rest of the day has been spent wondering how on earth I’m going to manage to get everything I need on the bus. Mick has offered to have a trip out and act as Sherpa for me. My landlady had informed me that there was a bus stop more or less outside her house, brilliant. Except the bus I’ll be on doesn’t go down her street, at all! Looks like there will be some walking with heavy bags at that end.

Mick and Tilly will be looking after Oleanna whilst I’m away, who knows Mick may even give her a rinse down if she’s lucky!

The blog will be quieter than normal. Mick may post occasionally and there will be the odd postcard from me in Chipping Norton. Normal service will resume mid November once all the ‘BOO’s’ and hisses, ‘He’s behind you! ’s have been shouted. Who knows which side of the winter stoppages we’ll be on then, we certainly don’t!

DSCF7121sm3 locks, 3.47 miles, 2 poached eggs, 4 slices of toast, 1 friend, 3 trees, 2 waving ladies, 1 glorious day, 1 Malc, 1 Dink sitting in the sun, 1 grumpy cat in Banbury, 4 bags packed, 1 ginger fit up cake baked, 1 ginger cake for Mick baked, 489 in the morning, 4 weeks of being a designer again.

Kamikaze Canoeists. 20th October

Below Slat Mill Lock to Cropredy to Keen’s Bridge 155

P1420905smA beautiful autumnal morning, just the right sort of day to go for a cruise to get our Saturday newspaper. The boats that had moored in Cropredy last night soon started to show themselves at the lock to come down. We readied ourselves and managed to time pushing off with a boat exiting the lock, another just pulling in above. I gave the bow a push and walked up to the lock windlass in hand showing our intention. Oleanna came into the lock and a lady from the waiting boat came to help.

The couple on the boat above have recently bought their own boat but are original owners of NB Jenny Wren a Carefree Cruising shareboat. Jenny Wren was one of the unfortunate boats to have been caught up in the Middlewich breach earlier this year and sat in the mud above Wardle Lock for sometime until dams were put in place to help float the stranded boats.

P1420901smWe were now in the pound below Cropredy Lock. We’ve moored here before and were aware of the canoe club. Today being a sunny day the canoeists were out in force. They speed along at such a lick leaving their wash to bob moored boats about. I can understand that it must be a touch frustrating to them all that narrowboats get in their way when all they want to do is go for it. But there is ‘going for it’ and ‘GOING for it’! We came through a bridge hole slowly as there were moored boats, another boat coming towards us, so not much space to manoeuvre our two boats. A canoe with two ladies was in the process of overtaking the on coming boat. We are big and they must have seen us before they kicked up a gear. There was about to be three boats side by side, one a canoe and two squashed ladies in the mix. We and the other narrowboat, being aware of our tonnage, went into reverse quickly as the ladies certainly weren’t stopping for anything! They most probably would say they had everything under control, they actually said nothing. We felt they’d left it a touch too late, zigzagging their way. Narrowboats don’t always do what you want of them, but luckily for the ladies both boats behaved and were in the hands of competent helms people.

P1420910smToday I had some work to do, so once my lock duties were complete I descended down below where my drawing board was waiting. Tilly sat and watched me work, I was very interested in the cables going up and down.

P1420929smI had templates to cut for the decoration on the pantomime portals. Scaling everything up 25 times from the model I cut three lots of templates. A repetitive pattern can take time to draw up so being able to lay my templates onto the flats in the right place they can be drawn round quickly. As I got part way through cutting out the thick card (my index finger no longer wanting to bend) I wondered if a paper pounce pattern would have been a better idea. This is where you draw out the pattern on brown paper and use a pin to prick holes in it. You then lay this onto where you want the pattern and rub a cloth bag filled with charcoal over the top. The black dust goes through the holes and your pattern awaits painting. However this can be a touch messy if you don’t know what you are doing and with my templates if I’m needed elsewhere I can leave someone else to draw round them.

P1420918smP1420921smMick brought us to the water point and had to hold back for the next group of canoeists to get past so that he could wind. We’d really chosen the wrong time and day to be doing this. He winded and then brought us into the side to moor. As there was a dredger on the 48 hour visitor mooring we didn’t think it would be a problem mooring up on the C&RT work boat mooring whilst we got a newspaper. There were plenty of papers and Mick was soon back and we pushed off again. This time we’d timed it just right, to meet all the canoeists coming back! However this time they all pulled into the side and clung on.

P1420923smA stretch of arnco in the sun and we were sorted for the rest of the day. Tilly was allowed to come and go, coming for Dreamies and going to find friends, two of which she brought back for introductions!

P1420932smP1420935smAs I got on with cutting templates and finding receipts, Mick went to find the railway crossing where all the trains hoot their horns. He walked back towards the village along a path visible from the canal.

DSCF7121sm1 lock, 1.92 miles, 1 wind, 1 very close shave, 1 newspaper, 1 new toy, 1 drawing board, 3 templates, 19 receipts, 6 hours, 1 short tree conquered, 2 friends, 6 googly eyes, 3 snakes packed away out of harm from Tilly.

Over Shooting Banbury. 19th October

Samuelson Bridge to Slat Mill Lock 26

A load of washing went on first thing, my painting dungarees needing to have towpath mud washed off them before they return to being my scenic artist costume. It looks like time has run out for me to give the port side gunnels a coat of black before I’m too busy in Chipping Norton. I just hope there will be a little mild spell mid November so I’m not doing it as it starts to snow, as happened last year!

P1420862smMick lit the fire this morning as it had been left to go out yesterday (It was bloomin freezing!), but something wasn’t right. Smoke was coming into the cabin through the vents so he quickly extinguished it and left it to settle whilst we had breakfast. We hoped that it was just a case of the chimney needing to be swept so whilst I headed out to do a bit of work shopping Mick climbed onto the roof. Once the soot had been cleared out from the stove and everything put back he re-laid the fire and all was well. We’re not sure when it was last swept, but it’s possible it was in the spring, at least it won’t need doing for a while now.

P1420868smIn town I hunted out Banbury Sewing Centre for some felt and Robert Dyas for a new chalk line. Not being very familiar with the town as yet it was made harder by every street being full of fairground rides. Weaving my way through snickets and then around all the stands and rides took quite some doing, but I succeeded in the end. For 400 years there has been a Michaelmas Fair in Banbury and boy does it take over! Even some of the car parks are closed and used to accommodate the fairground workers caravans.

P1420858smNext was a trip to Morrisons to stock up on supplies for the next few days, a bite to eat then we pushed off.

Our mooring had been handy for the station and shopping, but it wasn’t the quietest and we felt nervous about letting Tilly out. So we decided to head out of town for a dose of countryside. But should we head north or south? What ever we needed to fill with water by Castle Quays and then head northwards to the next winding hole. Heading south then would be about an hour and half to the next winding hole, northwards around two and a half. Northwards won out with the hope we’ll be able to get a newspaper in the morning in Cropredy.

P1420873smThe water point below the lock was occupied by a very jolly young single hander. When she spotted us she headed up to the lock to set it for us. She helped with the gates and then returned to her boat to check on the water tank. By the time we were up her tank was full, was there time for her to get up through the lock before a boat came the other way. Mick took Oleanna to the water point before the lift bridge and I stayed to help bring NB Tungsten up. I then offered to close the lift bridge for her as a boat had just come through and left it for her. She said that if we caught her up we should over take as she goes slowly.

P1420881smWe arrived at the next lock to see the stern of NB Tungsten disappearing around the next corner with a big wave. By Bourton Lock we had got closer, she was being helped by a boater moored close by, I joined in and then the helpful chap helped get Oleanna up too. We pootled on, the hours of sunny daylight dwindling. The mooring below Slat Mill Lock was empty so we pulled in, it not being complete armco we ended up having to use pins which took a bit of extra time before Tilly could come out. Her paw had been working overtime at the bathroom window reminding me that she was there, her shouting couldn’t be ignored either. Within twenty minutes she’d found herself a new friend and we’d been forgiven for yesterday.

P1420897smAs the evening progressed we realised that we were near a pedestrian crossing point of the railway as there was a lot of tooting going on. But the sunset and the cows across the way distracted us whilst a pork stew simmered away on top of the stove and two jackets potatoes crisped up nicely inside. The joys of autumn boat life.

DSCF7114sm3 locks, 3.72 miles, 1 chimney swept, 1 full water tank, 1 clean pooh box, 1 collar, 400 years of fair, 12inch square black felt, 1 new chalk line, 4 thermal tops from Gap Outlet, 1 joint of lamb, 1 jolly boater, 1 friend, 4 trees, that’s better.

A Change Of Roof. 18th October

Brinklow Marina, North Oxford to Lock 7 Long Buckby, Grand Union

P1420800smToday we’ve had a change of boat. This one currently has a bright blue roof and was built around 1995.

Becca and Sam bought their boat last summer along with her mooring at Three Mills in London. They lived on board hooked up until spring this year when they decided it was time to get some work done to her. Both of them are originally from the Sheffield area and ended up asking Jonathan Wilson (builder of Oleanna’s shell) who they should use to carry out the works in the south of England. His suggestion was Brinklow Boat Services who have spent much of the summer working on her on and off. Becca and Sam have spent most of this time sofa surfing around friends and family, but yesterday they picked their home up and moved back on board.

We’d last seen them in the summer at a wedding in Scarborough, got talking about our boats and discovered that they were planning on cruising her back to their London mooring, having done virtually no boating before. Naturally we offered to lend a hand and show them the ropes if we were still in the area. Reaching Banbury yesterday meant that we could catch an early train over to Rugby with a plan of meeting them at the moorings near Tesco. However they’d been held up leaving, but had managed to make it to near Brinklow Marina in the dark.

Excuse me!

A taxi ride got us to the marina gates where Becca met us, then a short walk down the towpath to their boat and Sam. They’ve had all sorts of work done, new floor as the old one was rotten, the batteries had corroded away the battery tray, the galley and bathroom have had lots done to them and they have a new Squirrel stove with a back boiler. We were slightly jealous of the boiler as we’d wanted one, but it proved problematic with the gas boiler that we’d specked on the same system. The copper pipes look lovely running through the boat to several radiators giving out heat. They’ve matched the galley and bathroom sink taps with the copper pipes and their pull out larder unit at the end of the galley is a great idea. All the cupboards have leather straps rather than knobs or handles. It’s going to be a lovely boat when all the work is finished and they’ve re-varnished and painted the interior. Next summer Becca plans on painting the cabin sides too.


Once we’d had a quick look round it was time to fire up the engine and set off, hoping to get through Braunston Tunnel and down the first lock of the Buckby flight before nightfall. The engine took a bit of stirring, but then kept going all day, grumbling at certain revs. I suspect after they have spent the next ten days cruising they’ll be jealous of our hospital silencer.

Sam took the helm and Mick gave guidance whilst Becca continued to unpack inside. Yesterday Sam’s Dad (Roger) had been on hand at the helm and helped them out of the marina. Today we hoped we’d be able to leave them more confident with cruising and handling locks. Progress was slow to start with, but as Sam grew accustomed to the helm the engine was pushed up a bit and our progress increased. It took over an hour to reach where we’d originally hoped to meet them near to Tescos. Passing through Newbold Tunnel gave us the chance to see what their tunnel light was like, not bad, but a bit of a pain to have to go to the front of the boat to turn it on.

Hello! Remember me!!

P1420804smP1420807smTheir stocks of gas were low so when we saw NB Callisto we slowed to see if he’d sell them a new bottle. The gas he had was all spoken for so that would have to wait for tomorrow. The new bridge outside Rudby has come on since we came through. A concrete wall stands on one side of the cut and the reinforcement stands waiting on the other. At Clifton Cruisers Sam negotiated his way around the hire boats as we noticed NB No Problem in the shed. In the strong winds a few weeks ago a large tree fell onto NB No Problem and caused a lot of damage, luckily nobody was injured. We could see a welder busy inside the shed and it looked like a lot of work was happening to the cabin sides.

I’m still here, I’m quiet without my collar.

P1420814smP1420820smApproaching Hillmorton Locks a Lockie set one of the locks for us and as Sam brought the boat into the lock Becca and I hopped off. These three locks would be the only narrow locks they’d come across on their cruise, quite handy as an introduction being lighter than the broad locks they would live with for the next ten days. A work boat came up the lock next door and the lady was very keen to give us a hand, but when I explained that these were their first locks of many she held back and left us to it. This did give them the chance to get ahead of us.

Hello, my bowl got empty far quicker than normal!

P1420823smIn the next lengthy pound we had some food whilst cruising along. No time to stop we had miles to cover to get to do one down hill lock with them.

P1420829smStraight on at Braunston Turn but no sign of another boat to share the locks with.

P1420831smThis was quite handy really as at this time of year they are quite likely to have to do the locks on their own and more importantly we could take our time to explain things to them and try to impart as much knowledge as we could whilst doing the flight.

P1420836smBy the time we were three locks up Mick left Sam on his own at the helm and walked ahead to set the next locks. A boat was coming down so the boats had to pass in the next pound, Sam managed to hold his course and hovered without feeling the need to tie up and wait. By the top lock Becca was getting the hang of doing everything in the right order and safely.

The stove went out ages ago!

P1420839smTunnel light on, chimney removed, and a handy light the boat yard had left onboard was popped onto the hatch for extra light at the stern. Sam still at the helm was about to do Braunston Tunnel, our least favourite on the network. We had the tunnel to ourselves, no one coming towards us, Sam held his line well, not one bump. By the time they reach Islington Tunnel, which is one way traffic, they will be more confident and hopefully they won’t do too much preparation for repainting the grabrails.

It’s getting past my dingding time.

P1420848smP1420852smBecca took over at the helm and cruised us to Norton Junction and then the top of the Buckby Flight. The sun was sinking fast now, we decided it was still worth doing the top lock, so that we’d at least taken them through one downhill. So long as you keep away from the cill and don’t get caught on the bottom gates, going down hill is easier, far less instruction was needed. Sam and I worked the lock in the dark as the light kept flicking on and off at the pub.

We’d reached our aimed mooring, one lock further than they had planned and we’d had three to four miles extra to do too. This was as far as they would be able to go today anyway as the rest of the flight of locks are still being locked overnight to help with water levels. A space quickly showed itself and spikes were hammered into the ground in the dark.

And it is days past morning dingding time!!!

P1420856smA shame we’d not arrived in day light, it was 7pm and we’d still got to get the train home. Sadly no drinks with them at the end of the day in the pub. They had to go to be able to charge their phones after discovering yesterday that they don’t have an inverter and there isn’t one 12 volt socket anywhere on board! Suspect they’ll enjoy their evenings so long as they find a pub.

We walked down the flight past the locked gates of the next lock and joined the road leading to Long Buckby Station. We arrived just at the right moment as a train was pulling in that would take us as far as Coventry where we’d change to get back to Banbury. A long but enjoyable day. We wish them luck for the rest of their journey to London.

Long!! Long Day!!!! Tell me about it! One very long, cold, boring, hungry day! Tomorrow had better be better than today and yesterday.

10 locks, 18 miles, 1 leftish, 1 rightish, 1 tunnel with 2 mysterons, 4 trains, 1 taxi, 1.5 miles walked by torch light, 2 newbies, 0 inverter, 0 hosepipe, 1 new one on the way with Roger, 3 baskets, 1 slash curtain, 3 cuppas, 9 up, 1 down, hope they can remember how to go up again when they get to do it again, 1 hungry cat who should be more proactive about food.