Theale to Goring Lock to Abingdon to Sandford Lock
This week has been a busy one on board Oleanna.
Early Monday morning Mick helped me with my bags to Theale Station and on to Reading where I headed off to Panto world and he headed to Screwfix where he bought us a new thermostatic mixer tap for the shower. This was fitted and we now have hot, cold and intermediate water in the shower, no need to look like cooked lobsters anymore.
Tuesday he stocked up on provisions for the dash up the Thames. The levels were dropping and yellow boards were starting to out number the red ones. With friends positioned along the river Mick was getting first hand knowledge from Goring and Abingdon.
Wednesday morning, Mick and Tilly were joined by Paul Balmer who had volunteered to come and crew for Mick whilst I was away. The cruise to get to Oxford would involve two long days. With Paul in charge of the ‘Key of Power’ they passed through Theale Swing Bridge just before 9am holding up a good few cars. Then they dropped down through the remainder of the K&A locks reaching County Lock 106 (the final lock) a little before midday.
We’ve been wondering for a while if the K&A has the highest number of locks on the canal network. Answers on a postcard if you know otherwise.
The traffic light button was pressed and they were on their way through the shopping centre and back onto EA waters. For a jaunt they went round the Jail Loop* in Reading and then down onto the Thames. Oleanna had now escaped the K&A canal.
The trip heading upstream was a touch harder due to the current which was stronger than we’d had earlier in the year. Lunch was had on the go, helping to tick the miles off quicker.
As Oleanna passed under Gatehampton Railway Bridge, Mick gave Carol on WB Still Rockin a call. A space was available in front of Still Rockin’ and Carol and George were at the ready to catch ropes and help to moor up. Despite the river now being off Red Boards at Goring the flow was strong, so the extra help was much appreciated.
Tea and biscuits on board Still Rockin* was enjoyed by all before Paul headed off to catch a train back home. 18.41 miles and 10 locks. Mick joined Carol and George for some food at The John Barleycorn in the evening. Over the years our bows have crossed and we’ve followed each others blogs, but we’ve never had time to properly meet*, so a couple of hours was spent chatting and getting to know each other.
The flow on the river had been deemed too strong for shore leave to be allowed for Tilly. So instead on Thursday morning she received visitors at home, Carol and George coming round for a cuppa and a neck tickle!
Oleanna caught foam from the flow over the weir all day, a weeks Thames licence was bought and Mick had a look around Goring* and then was invited over to Still Rockin for some food in the evening. A good day of rest before the next long day up the Thames.
Friday morning and Mick was waiting for Paul’s return with the covers rolled back early. With help from George they ascended Goring Lock and waved goodbye, Still Rockin will now be heading downstream to their winter mooring.
A pause for water above Cleeve Lock and they were on their way again. Lunch on the go, ticking off the miles against the current. The hope was to reach Oxford so that I could return to the boat on Saturday night and Paul would have ease of access to Oxford Station to get home.
Around 1:15pm however an alarm sounded! The engine had been working hard against the flow, the temperature gauge (inside!) was showing how hot the engine was, too hot!
Mick put the engine into tickover, but things didn’t improve. Paul headed to the bow and dropped the anchor*. He was able to hold onto the rope once it had dug in giving Mick the chance to check the engine out.
Below the deck boards things were hot and steamy. Water and coolant were over the engine bilge. Mick topped the system up with water, the engine started again, the alarm stopped sounding and the temperature gauge dropped to about 90, not 80 which is good, but good enough for them to carry on to Abingdon to find a mooring.
They pulled in below Abingdon Bridge, the engine still too hot, was it a faulty thermostat? In the end it was decided to call RCR out to have a look. Rusty arrived after about an hour. Once Mick had convinced him that we’ve been on tidal waters going against the flow for far longer without any problem in the past they discovered the thermostat to the skin tank was full of crud. It was cleaned, dropped into boiling water to see if it worked. It did, but Rusty wasn’t convinced it should go back in. Unless this wasn’t the full problem it would be okay to run Oleanna without the thermostat for a while.
Paul had headed home and by now it was too late for Tilly to go climbing trees. A discussion on the phone at gone 10pm (my work finish time) and Mick thought he’d carry on to Oxford in the morning on his own. With rain forecast he didn’t want to now get stranded on the river if the levels came back up.
Saturday morning I received a message saying he was on his way, the Lock Keeper at Abingdon had said that there should be no problem getting to Oxford. Well except the engine was still being a touch too hot for comfort.
At 12:30 I checked the river levels on line. The rain was having some effect. A couple of reaches above Oxford were increasing again and Osney to Godstow Lock had gone into the red! This is the last reach where you turn off to get onto the canal. it is narrow and there is quite a low bridge too.
I messaged Mick. I could hear the cogs going from Chippy. Maybe he’d turn back, but then Sandford Lock came into view, this lock closes in a couple of weeks, so would be good to get through it.
He pulled in and opened the lock, the first he’d have to do single handed. Luckily a narrowboat appeared behind and pulled into the lock with him, with spare crew now they operated the lock and left Mick to attend to ropes. They were going to continue on to Oxford and try to get off the river, but Mick didn’t want to risk it with a hot engine. A 24hr mooring above the lock on bolllards was free so he pulled in there to have a think.
Being on a lock cut the flow is next to none, so Tilly could go out. Only problem was the amount of rain! This actually put her off for sometime despite having been locked in for days. The weather eased a touch and this outside proved friendly. I decided to bring my new best friend home to meet Tom, but the excitement was obviously too much for it. Tom picked it up and took it outside for safe keeping. He says it’s getting too cold now, so the back doors will be closed when I’m out from now on.
Staying put was the only way forward, Rusty was called and he’ll come back out to flush through the system hopefully in the next couple of days At least if the river goes red again we have a few feet to rise before the river would top the banks here and we’re on bollards. We’re also through the closing lock, so once things improve Oleanna can carry on up to Oxford and off the river, following NB Kamili.
Thank you so much to Paul for his lock wheeling and to Carol and George for keeping Mick company and fed in Goring.
18 locks, 42.63 miles, 1 left turn, 1 thermostatic mixer, 1 cruddy thermostat, 2 days with Paul, 2 evenings with Carol and George, 1 frothy bow, 1 weeks licence, 1 missed evening with Irene and Andy, 1 soggy friend, 2 buses instead of 1 to get home, 5 * things that happened for the first time, that I missed out on due to Panto!