Category Archives: Boat cats

Dropping The Anchor. 21st to 26th October

Theale to Goring Lock to Abingdon to Sandford Lock

This week has been a busy one on board Oleanna.

Yellow line at Theale

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.

Paul working County Lock

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.

Blake’s Lock down onto the Thames

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.

Paul and Mick coming into view at Goring

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.

All moored up. Mick, George and Paul. Photo stolen from Carol

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.

Tilly getting to know George

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.

Caversham Lock

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.

Troublesome thermostat

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.

One red board

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.

Why now?! Why rain now?!!

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!

Oleanna Has Left The K & A. 23rd October

Today Mick, Tilly and Oleanna with the help of Paul successfully moved off the Kennet and Avon Canal and turned upstream onto the Thames.

By mid afternoon all the red boards had gone from the Thames, but the stream was still strong. Thank you Carol and George (WB Still Rockin) for helping them to moor up. Sorry I wasn’t able to be there.

More on this matter and an update on Panto at the weekend.

Monkeying Down. 19th October

Greenham Lock to Woolhampton Lock

Others were on the move before us this morning, so the lock was emptied before we could make use of it, well there was the Saturday newspaper to buy and a bar of chocolate!

A little after 11 we pushed off to the welcome sight of a boat coming up Greenham Lock. It took a little while for the penny to drop why they were taking so much time to fill the lock, of course we are now on the Newbury to Reading stretch where all the locks have a tendency to be fierce as they fill. We swapped with the boat and descended away from Newbury.

Bye Bye Newbury

At Ham Lock Mick made sure the stern rope wouldn’t fall and get wrapped round the prop and our transit through here was much quicker than on our way up!

Now that’s a good stick!

There are some dogs that are not content unless they have a stick to take with them on a walk. Well along the next stretch there was one such dog determined to get a good stick. He found one and tried his best to pull it out from the undergrowth. It came right across the towpath but no further, his owner persuaded him to leave it.

But this one is even better!

But the woofer wasn’t content and still needed a stick, a good stick. So he decided to pick his own, unsuccessfully!

Autumn colour may be slow round here to get going, but the leaves on the ground are starting to build up, it’ll soon be leaf kicking time!

That saves me a job

Our first swing bridge was being held open as we approached. It was hard to see the boats coming as they were round the bend taking their time. Two recently picked up hire boats being very careful leaving the lock so we managed to sneak through the bridge before they’d got anywhere near it, they spotted us in time so left the gates open too.

As I lifted the paddles at a lock two cheery people walked up to say hello. I recognised them straight away and had been hoping our paths might cross, Mick needed a touch of reminding. It was Ann-Marie and Dave from NB Legend. We’d passed their boat a few weeks back just below the summit on our way west, but I hadn’t spotted them on our way back.

Not the nest photo of Ann-Marie and Dave

We met Ann-Marie and Dave about three years ago on quite a fateful day. They are great friends of Alison and Laura who used to own NB Large Marge. There was time for a quick chat, they’d just moved their car and would be following on shortly by boat. Hopefully we’ll get chance to have a better chat as both boats will be waiting for the Thames to go down.

Filling Monkey Marsh up

Monkey Marsh Lock needed filling, so Mick came to lend a hand. The first of the turf sided locks they take an age to fill. I sat on the beam waiting for the last few inches to fill up, this takes about twice as much water as on a standard lock. Mick decided to give his beam a good old heave ho and surprisingly managed to hold it open a touch to help equalise the levels.

Heave Mick heave!

The moorings at Thatcham were still filled with C&RT boats, but two others had managed to sneak on the end, no space for us.

The widebeam reversing to where the narrowboat was

Approaching Midgham Lock we didn’t know what was happening. A wide beam was winding, were they heading for the lock? Were they planning to moor? Which ever there was a narrowboat in the way, one coming up on the lock, the other wanting to pull out from having lunch. Eventually it was obvious they were wanting to moor up so we pulled up and shared the lock with the narrowboat.

Diddy fungi on a lock beam

The crew were jolly companions on NB Seraph, helping to move a friends boat back up towards Napton, they were only out for the weekend. We shared a couple of locks and swung bridges together letting them continue without us when we found a space before the moorings at Woolhampton Lock.

We could get the bow in and tied on the last ring of the moorings, but to be anyway level the stern had to be quite a long way out. This would do us.

This would certainly do me! Trees, friendly cover as far as the eye could see, brilliant! I came home once, but got far too busy to come home when called the first time. She however caught me in a lull of excitement just before the lights went out.

A batch of biscuit dough made and in the fridge for fit-up biscuits, my sour dough starter out of the fridge warming up and a roast chicken in the oven. I could then sit down and sort out my receipts so far for Chippy.

Trying to push us out

We decided that sorting our list out everytime a boat filled the lock was pointless, so waited til after dark when boat movements would stop. The stove was lit and tonight for the first time this year we’d keep it in overnight as the temperature is set to drop to around 4 degrees.

8 locks, 5.94 miles, 4 swing bridges, 1 locking partner, 1 newspaper, 1 big stick, 1 batch of biscuits ready, 1 sponge ready, 1 roast chicken ready and in our tummies, 1 outside contender for a stamp, 2 more hours would have swung it, 1 batch receipts, 1 invoice, 1 cosy boat, 2 yellow decreasing boards!

Moving! 18th October

Newbury to Greenham Lock

Hunting round for a printers to do copies of my plans I noticed a group of possibles behind the marina opposite. I chose one to aim for and set off with my tracing paper roll under my arm. After I’d crossed the canal the roll had to be tucked inside my fleece as it had started to rain. They were wrapped in a plastic bag, but all the same I didn’t want to end up with a wrinkly set.

Newbury Salmon ladder

In what seemed to be someones garage I opened the door and enquired if they did A2 copies. No came the answer from a chap hidden behind numerous toner cartridges, but there was a place in Aldermaston. That was no good to me, they’d be closed on Sunday when we might just pass through. They could however do me a couple of copies that covered the whole drawing, that would do me.

Modern printers are like old TV sets they take forever to warm up and get going. A test copy was done, which took forever to appear at the far end of the garage. This was fine and he set about doing my copies for me. once this machine got going it didn’t hang around! They charged a minimum of £7.50, was that okay? Just over 30p a sheet that was great, an A2 would have been around £2 a go!

Ambient! My lasagne the other day was ambient too

Now with a bigger roll I looked like I was hiding a shot gun under my fleece. I met Mick at Sainsburys where we stocked up on perishables. Back at the boat we had lunch and then pushed off.

Dante modelling a new woofer life jacket

Okay so we didn’t go far, just around the corner to wait for the marina service mooring to become free. Then we pushed over doing ‘an Andy’ to get the stern in against the strong wind. Newbury has no C&RT water points, but here you can top up your tank for £2, if you spend enough on other things it’s free. We managed 50 litres diesel and a bag of coal, so we got the H2O for free. I put a load of washing on to make the most of it.

When the new rulings come in for Diesel the chap said they wouldn’t sell to passing boats anymore. How many other places will go the same way?

Impatient locals

This all took time and it was nearly four by the time our tank gave it’s boom to tell us it was full. So we pushed back over, mooring just before Greenham Lock. All was good, with empty and full tanks as required and a clean pooh bucket, happy boaters.

Whilst Tilly explored this stretch of narrow land between canal and river I drew up a template for the pattern in the Boozer for Panto. This recurs on several bits of set, so being able to draw it out quickly will be a great help. With this then cut out I could start putting things away.

Work corner

For months now the corner of our dinette has had a model sitting in it along with boxes of paints and my model making box. It is normally tied away better than in this photo. I’d hoped that the Production Manager for Vienna might manage to pick the model up this weekend, but we are too far off his route, so it will be sent by courier instead, we’ll have to put up with it for a while longer. Everything else though could be packed away again and stowed under the seating until next year.

Mine!
It’s all mine!

Tilly woke up just as I was putting the cushions back and made sure that she claimed them by rolling all over the place and running along the dinette sideways, those poor cushions!

Our forth and final meal from the left over pork this evening. Left over stew, just about anything that I could find went into this in my cast iron pot which was left to bubble for a couple of hours. With a large jacket potato each it was very tasty. The joint may have been large, but it did us five main meals so that’s just over £1 a go. Not bad.

A photo for Frank

Earlier than advertised the Michaelmas Fair firework display started. We tried looking out of the hatch but we were too far away with too many trees in the way to see anything. Oh well, we just listened instead.

0 locks, 0.24 miles, 52.4 litres, 1 bag Glow, 1 full tank water, 1 empty wee tank, 1 clean pooh bucket, 24 copies, 1 chicken, A1 template, 1 corner reclaimed, 1 set loaded ready for Monday, 3 yellow boards, the rest still red, 2 free days hooray!

Busy Busy Busy. 17th October

Newbury

When you wake up, turn your phone on and before you think it’s even woken up fully you get a text message with a question about panto, you just know it’s going to be one of those days!

Luckily the first email I got was from the actor/writer for A Regular Little Houdini who had just worked his way through the model photos I’d sent out yesterday, he was thrilled, so was Josh the Director when I heard from him later in the day.

Then the Panto emails started, questions left, right and centre. Everyone is gearing up to the start of rehearsals next week. Builders wanting to know if they should use prime mixed with colour. Will we need a pay phone in the telephone box? Will a recoiling hoover cable work? Could they have a hanging plot? My plans don’t quite match plans the technicians now have. Which are correct? Mine have to be. How many 1950’s mics have we got? Black or silver stands? Has portal 3 gone? The repercussions of that. They just kept coming all day!

Pub sign

I enlarged writing for signs on the printer and just had one more thing to do when the black cartridge ran out. I changed the cartridge but somehow it didn’t prime itself. Now the printer thinks it is full of black, but can’t print with it. I stopped what I was doing and handed it over to the technical department to fix. That last job could wait.

The designer of Houdini needed to be shot. Drawing up a cross section can be a challenge at times, one I somehow usually sadistically enjoy. But the bridge structure being set at an angle on the stage and then leaning in both other planes! Blimey!! Okay, so doing drawings on a computer would make this so much easier, but hardly a challenge. The sense of achievement when I finally finished it was great.

I just need a shoe horn now to be able to fit the bridge into the actors camper van to bring it back to England after the run in Vienna.

The technical department tried and tried to get the printer working. The final thing was to leave it off overnight and see if it would sort itself out. Fingers crossed as printer scanners are few and far between now. * Edited Looking at the spec of printers Mick found that most manufacturers of printers don’t boast about scanning as they used to! So if needs be we’ll be buying a new one.

Someone’s hard at work!

Tilly came and went. Even though her time outside here has been short, she is bored of this outside. So much so that she constantly got in the way today, being told off for walking on things she shouldn’t and leaving paw prints on drawings! She then gave up and retired to her shelf. When do cats stop growing? Will she be needing an extension soon.

The pork still keeps giving. Tonight we had roast pork and potato pizza. I’d tried making the sour dough base leaving it to do it’s stuff for 8 hours instead of 24. The verdict was either my sour dough starter has died or it simply wasn’t long enough. The base was a touch chewy!

The photo makes it look a touch too done, but it wasn’t

The Thames is still out of bounds, but looking at the levels on the C&RT site the Kennet should be fine. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be able to do a bit of boating.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 days not stepping off the boat, 4 yellow boards the rest red, 1 Still Rockin stuck at Goring, 1 Kamili stuck at Abingdon, 8:20 first question, 2 many questions to get my work done, 1 annoying cat, 3 pawprints that shouldn’t be there, 1 broken printer, 1 expanding camper required, 3rd pork meal, pizza not so good.

In The Week Where The Thursday Is The First Thursday Following The 11th Of October. 16th October

Newbury

The Thames is still high, out of the reaches we’d need to cover five are ‘Caution Stream Increasing’ the rest ‘Caution Strong Stream’, no signs of it decreasing yet. Hopefully after a couple of dry days this will start to change.

A sneaky peek

Yesterday we decided to stay put until all my work is completed for Houdini and the bit of prep work for Panto I need to do. If then we have time to reach somewhere with a station nearer to Reading we’ll move. Getting closer towards the Thames would be a good thing and getting Oleanna through certain obstacles on the K&A would help too. This will give Mick more chance of reaching Abingdon or Oxford for my first weekend trip home from panto, that’s if the Thames goes down.

and another

So today I knuckled down, hoping to finish my model and any amendments to drawings for Houdini. Only one drawing left to do, a cross section. Lots of photos of the model to show the Director, Lighting Designer, Writer/Actor, Videographer. Just annoying that the internet started playing games as everything was uploading!

An Autumnal Mick

Mick cycled off to Halfords for some engine oil. Then he did a biggish shop at Sainsbury’s. They keep giving us really good vouchers so it would be silly not to use them. It’s that thing they do at this time of year, they think they have got you hooked with free nectar points, money off etc. so you’ll do your Christmas food shop with them. For us it tops up the nectar points that we may or may not be able to spend on a Christmas food shop. If all goes according to plan, our bird will come from the butchers in Braunston and our veg from the Post Office at Napton, so our points will wait for another time.

Mick spent the rest of the afternoon sat out the back, keeping out of my way and chaperoning Tilly. It was such a mild afternoon that I had the hatch open for much of it and Tilly could return as often as she liked. The Fish Selection Pocket Pillows have nothing to do with it! They are rather nice, thank you to Joa or Adam for them, although I think I still prefer the Chicken and Cheese ones.

Autumnal catwalk

She’d had enough after a while and returned to sleep leaving her chaperone outside. He eventually came in to carry on working his way through programmes on the channel tunnel, Heathrow and the first series of Star Trek.

Why the title? Today is the first day of Newbury’s Michaelmas Fair which happens in the week where the Thursday is the first Thursday following the 11th of October. It dates back to the 17th Century when Shepherds and Maids turned up to seek work in the town. It is about a mile away, but we could just about make out the words coming across the PA. Neither of us are big fans of fairs, so I doubt we’ll be paying it a visit. Although the fireworks on Friday may be worth it if we are still here.

0 locks, 0 miles, 0 steps of the boat for me, 4 hours, 10 litres oil, 4 boxes wine, 1 model finished, 2 groundplans, 6 sheets, 1 cross section still to go, 25 year anniversary, 2,000 robot women, 2nd left over pork meal, teriyaki stir fry.

Chaperoned. 15th October

Newbury

Left floating, right sunk!

Time for breakfast, we’d some big eggs to eat so a couple of poached eggs each to start the day. We have poach pods and normally only two sit in the pan to poach. But today with four in there it was a little bit cramped, so much so two of them decided to sink! So we had one poached egg and a boiled egg each. Getting the timings right was a touch harder than normal as they were so big to start with. But they turned out well. The yolks on the sunk ones just, but only just starting to thicken up, so lovely and creamy. Yum!

Hmmm

A dry day, the first in an age! The thought of maybe having to put up with a bored cat for a week made us reassess shore leave. It was decided that she could go out if chaperoned.

Tilly and I went out to access the situation, the river had quite a flow to it and was making a noise which caught Tilly’s attention. An amorous couple across the way did too, I told her not to stare! The noise was off putting and the trees were more attractive. So up into the ivy of a dead tree she scurried, the only sign of her position was the waving branches.

One sluice open from the canal to the river

Mick took over so that I could get some work done. The aim to get all my model wet so that it would have to have time to dry, meaning we could go out for a walk and explore Newbury.

That’s interesting

The warmer and drier weather meant this took some doing as everything was drying quickly. Tilly came in to lend a paw. Today for the first time she became fascinated with the paint water. I’ve been fortunate that she’s not noticed it before and today I was able to keep an eye on her.

I’ll just put my paw in it

Houdini our previous second mate, couldn’t keep her paws out of water pots. When I worked full time I had to remember at the end of the day to pour the contents away. If I ever left it on my work bench, by the morning it was guaranteed to be spilt over everything! Living on a boat means I am very unlikely to leave my water out as we’d be needing the table for other things.

Mid afternoon we set off to stretch our legs. I was after some grey card and we wanted to see if we could get rid of some rubbish. Newbury is quite a good place to be for transport, shopping and things to do, but unless you pay at a marina there is no water and there are no bin stores along the towpath, these are marina based also. So Sainsburys got our recycling, then we set off to walk to Hobbycraft.

Much nicer than the dual carriageway

The walk involved dual carriageways, underpasses which after a while I decided wasn’t worth all the noise and pollution for two pieces of card which I could get away with not using. So we turned back towards town to see what was on offer.

Clock Tower

A large town center with many big names including John Lewis and Lakeland tucked away to the side in a new shopping area. The main street is long and ends with a clock tower. Here fingers point towards Oxford and Bath. Oxford closer, but inaccessible to us for the time being.

Bath feels so much closer right now

We had a good nosy around the shops, if you ever want to buy marker pens go into Wilko first before WH Smith, they are a third the price there! I maybe got a couple of things for Christmas too and we had a discussion as to whether one decoration on a tree in John Lewis was a pie or pudding.

Pie or Pudding? The holly thew him!

More Houdini model painting before I put it all together, but by this time it was a touch too dark to check to see what else I might want to do to it. Hopefully not too much more, then I can have a couple of days off before Panto starts in earnest.

0 locks, 0 miles, 4 eggs, 2 floating , 2 sunk, 1 engine run, 8 red boards, 1 purple wash, 1 hour shore leave, 1 blue sky, 1 canoodling couple, 1 tree conquered, 2 red tabs moved, 2 black tabs okay, 0 grey card, 1 paw painting assistant, 1st pork left overs, paprika pork and peppers.