Removing Her Smile. 12th June

Frimley Lodge Park to Fox and Hounds

Seriously slow going this morning. Within a hundred meters it was time to lift the weed hatch lid and see what could be found. The canal being quite clear helps with this operation as you can see rather than feel what might be around the prop. On most canals we’d pull into the side to do this, but as we’d already had another boat come past heading towards the Deepcut Locks we doubted we’d be seeing anyone on the move for a while today.

The end of the railway

Plenty of chaps were out doing work on the miniature railway, the track leading way off into the woods. I watched as a chap did a test run whilst Mick battled with weed, a rag and some steel cable around the prop. All clear we carried on, only to have to stop another short distance further on. Was the canal going to be this slow all the way to the end? We hoped not, but it could be, maybe our lunch date tomorrow would have to change venue as we might still be fighting our way along the canal!

The services at Mychett were just up ahead. We slowly got closer, hopping off at the bow easier to go and work the swing bridge. I had to wait for two ladies walking six dogs to cross the bridge before swinging it open. Next task was to find the water point, were the moored boats in front of it? I checked my map for the location, it was further along on the offside, past the rowing boats. Those 5 digit grid reference locations Paul uses on his maps really help in such circumstances to find taps etc.

The muddy weedhatch

Tied up we started to fill with water, pumped out the yellow water for disposal at the elsan, Tilly’s pooh box got a refresh and we headed off to find the bins, a code needed for access available from the visitor centre. We had a quick look round at the information boards, a longer visit planned for our return. A chat with Andy on NB Olive, he was busy doing an engine service and it looked like they were busy touching up the paintwork.

There was still time to clear the prop again before the water tank was full. One of the chaps from the visitor centre came to chat, checking what type of weed we’d found. Thankfully not the invasive weed that we’d find further along.

Smiling at the new position of our nebolink

Today we’d positioned the nebolink ontop of the cratch board, so nothing boatwise in the way of it and the satellites, or sim connection. Still no email to say we were on the move. Looking at the map of the country I could only spot a couple of boats on the move, shown by a boat not a dot. Could this be a problem others were having? I sent a message to Tim from the Doggie Boat, knowing they use Nebo (without a nebolink). His journey tracking was working fine, he did point me to a face book group for Nebo users where I might be able to ask the same question.

Opening out into the lake

Mychett Lake gave us some respite from the trees, seeing the sky above us a change. Here there are moorings that may well be good for Tilly on our return. An oncoming boat signalled that they were going to moor up, NB Rum A Gin who had dashed down the country to take part in the Fund Britains Waterways campaign cruise on the Thames.

Coming into moor

Plenty of back gardens to look at, more and more trees. The sky opened up again as we passed over the A331 aqueduct a walker stopping to take photos of us, old transport going over modern, we were now on an embankment, stop gates at both ends should there be a breach. It was strange to think that we were high up but soon we’d be climbing the last lock on the canal to the summit pound.

The aqueduct

The canal makes two big loops to the south, here on the embankment was one of them, would this be the furthest south we’d make it on the Basingstoke Canal? Or would we be able to cruise the other loop to be the furthest south, only possibly by a matter of feet, but still! Soon we’d find out.

Ash Lock

The bottom lock gates were being closed by someone at Ash Lock. We bipped the horn, but weren’t heard. I walked up to see what was what, no-one about and no sign of a boat either. Up Oleanna came to the summit pound, Hampshire Pound. Here a handy mooring on the offside was pulled into. Now to make preparations to give us the best chance of cruising to the navigable end of the canal. Ahead lay three very low bridges, 5ft 10″. We think Oleanna measures 6ft 2″ to the top of her horns. Taking them off is possible, we did this for Standedge Tunnel, but would the brackets they rest on need to come off too, would the bigger metal support require removing also? The top of the chimney was taken off, easy. Poles brushes etc laid off the rack lower down the roof, well below the line of the mushroom vents, our aim for the highest point on Oleanna to be the vents.

Oleanna’s smile was removed, the horns sat on the top of the cratch for a while all sad and forlorn before being popped inside for safe keeping. The brackets were well and truly fixed to the metal support. would we be better off trying to remove that? We pulled the cratch cover away revealing six screws holding the support to the wood, these thankfully came out easily. However cables to the horns and tunnel light would have to be undone so as to be able to remove it fully. We opted to leave them connected and see how we faired at the bridges.

Look to the right!

My phone started to bing at me. Email after email that Oleanna was on the move! Hooray! Had we done something to get the nebolink reporting again? I checked her location on the map, a boat not a dot. After a while she had moved to last nights mooring, after a longer while she had just about caught up with her actual location. Were things resolved?

The depth of water and lack of weed made our progress much better, normal canal cruising speed again. For what felt like miles we were surrounded by fences, keeping soldiers in their camps, even footbridges were enclosed with barbed wire.

Farnborough Road Bridge

As Farnborough Road Bridge came into view I moved down to sit in the well deck, spreading our weight hoping to keep the bow low enough to not have to remove the tunnel light support. From my position I couldn’t see if things looked okay, but as Mick had only slowed down and wasn’t stopping it felt favourable. The horn supports cleared the bridge by a good few inches, maybe the horns would have been alright being left on. I glanced back to the chimney, glad we’d had at least 9 inches removed from it a few years ago as it would have been a problem. Then Mick crouched down, still able to just about see above the boat. Oleanna who sits low in the water, hunkered down had made it through with plenty of space. We’d not have to reverse a mile to the nearest winding hole, phew!

Farnborough Road Bridge does however sit at an angle, was the 5ft 10″ at the lowest point? The next low bridge was noted at the same height!

A worrisome tree

Should we carry on and get all the low bridges done today? A mooring at the end of Farnborough airfield was available, we decided to carry on and get the bridges out of the way.

Pondtail Bridge

Pondtail Bridges next. I headed to the bow again, this bridge leant the opposite direction, still plenty of room above the horn supports. Reading Road Bridge at 6ft, I didn’t bother going to the bow, we knew we’d be fine. Hooray we’ll be able to get to the end of the canal! Tilly however wasn’t too please as our late arrival and proximity to a road means there’ll be no shore leave whilst we are here!

Moored by the pub

The Fox and Hounds pub mooring, Ann-Marie and Dave had said how good their steak and ale pies were. We didn’t sample them today, instead I made up a couple of my own pies, chicken, tarragon and mushroom in little pots, pasty both top and bottom to use up some of the roast chicken from the other day. Very nice they were and a more sensibly sized portion than I normally do in the big pie tin.

Chicken pies ready for the oven

Mick busied himself putting things back together on the cratch board. Oleanna’s smile reinstated. We’ll approach the low bridges carefully on our return but hope that she’ll be able to smile at us all the way.

1 lock, 9.8 miles, 13 nebo moving emails, 1 report, 1 report to find from two days ago,1 very slow start, 4 weedhatch visits, 1 full tank of water, 1 rollered cabin side, 0 rubbish, 1 clean pooh box, 1 empty wee tank, 2 moving boats, 3 very low bridges, new measurements required of Oleanna, 1 smile safe inside, 1 smile restored, 1 bored cat.