Category Archives: Boat Engines

2019 Round Up.

Checking our vital statistics for a years worth of cruising takes a while. We have a trip computer which records almost all our journeys, sometimes it counts locks twice, sometimes it doesn’t quite catch where we reached before we wind. Before we used this method of recording our journeys I would use canal plan to work out our distances. This method can also miss out parts of our journey but it does give me more statistics. You know how I like numbers! How many bridges, how many narrow locks and what distances we travelled on different types of waterways. So inputting a years worth of cruising takes some time.

Anyhow, here is our round up of the year.

The New Year was seen in at Crick. From here we decided to head to Sheffield to have the last snagging jobs done on Oleanna, we were fortunate that the route north was open with no winter stoppages in our way until we reached Yorkshire. Once in the top chamber at Foxton it was going to be downhill all the way to Keadby.

Going down at Foxton

Sadly our blog started to loose it’s photos, which is a great shame. It was a problem shared by many bloggers who were all doing their best to get things working again. Have to say we ended up jumping ship from blogger to wordpress, but posts still lacked their photos when moved. We hope gradually to rectify this by replacing the missing photos, I miss them when looking back. But this will be a long job.

Waiting at Cromwell

During January we cruised down stream on the River Trent, the weather was getting colder the further north we got. Our route was clear but at Keadby the lock off the river was being dredged, so our journey was held up a touch. Then with February came cold nights and the canal at Keadby froze over. So we waited at Cromwell for things to improve.

First go at Gluten free puff pastry for cruising sausage rolls

Daylight hours and tides meant we split our tidal journey at Torksey. The early morning start from Torksey was very cold, so I was very glad I’d knitted us both balaclavas, we remained cosy cheeked for our journey.

Cosy heads

Our journey up towards Sheffield meant we coincided with the bicentenary of the opening of the canal and a very unseasonably warm weekend. The chaps at Finesse replaced a leaking window, gave us a new one (our choice), sorted out our gas locker lid amongst other bits and bobs. It had been a good decision going to Sheffield, it saved them time coming out to us and it saved us money on the extras we’d asked for.

New galley window going in
200 years old

Next we headed for Goole, the lure of cheap diesel and a night away to see our friends Bridget and Storm on the otherside of the Humber was a bonus. We then hunkered down to sit out storms and rising river levels. Our original plan had been to go to York, but flooding put paid to that, so instead we went by train.

Bridget and Storm with their lovely house

Towards the end of March we decided to give a trip up the Ouse another go, the rivers were at better levels and we still haven’t taken Oleanna there. But first Bank Dole lock wouldn’t fill due to silt, then when we reached Selby the Lock onto the Ouse had a fault which would take too much time to mend for us to wait. This was a relief for Tilly as this was where she’d discovered the difference between grass and duck weed and ended up learning to swim a couple of years ago.

Mark came to meet us from York

At the beginning of April we headed to Leeds. From here we had a day trip to Derby Crown Court for the sentencing of our original boat builder (Stillwater) who had finally pleaded guilty for fraud. I also spent a more pleasurable day in London, having a meeting for Puss in Boots.

Derby Crown Court

With panto in mind we planned our cruising for the remainder of the year. The remainder of April we made our way up the Calder and Hebble and onto the Rochdale Canal.

Being a foot shorter it wasn’t as tight as it had been on Lillian

Our friend Frank joined us to do the stretch from Sowerby Bridge to Hebden Bridge, which included the deepest lock n the network, Tuel Lane. He’d not done this stretch back in 2014 when he and I walked from Manchester locking Lillian over the Pennines to get to the Tour de France.

Tuel Lane the deepest on the network

Once over the top we picked up a boat to share the locks down into Manchester. Clare and Graeme were over from New Zealand for a few months and proved to be very good company.

Mr Blue Sky and Oleanna

On the 1st of May, with the help of a Canal and River Trust volunteer our passage down into Manchester went well. The following day both boats headed down the Rochdale nine with an extra pair of hands from an old college friend of mine, Doug.

Nearly there!

During May we cruised down the Bridgewater and onto the Trent and Mersey Canal gradually heading southwards. A short detour up the Middlewich Branch to look at where the breach had been before we carried on southwards.

Climbing the Cheshire Locks

A pause in the Cheshire Locks meant we got to meet up with Tom and Jan who were over for a visit. For Micks birthday we moored at Barlaston and had a nosy at the wonderful hall on the hill, our plan still stands if any of our family are interested!

Tom and Jan

We saw the end of May out mooring at Tixall Wide before rejoining the Trent and Mersey and heading onto Fradley Junction where we joined the Coventry Canal. With Atherstone Locks out of the way I spent time below working whilst we cruised familiar waters on the flat, it might have rained too!

Tixall Wide

A day trip to London from Rugby for us both, me to a seminar for Separate Doors 3 and Mick to catch up with his friend Siobhan who was over from Australia. Continuing down the North Oxford Canal to Braunston where we joined the Grand Union Canal to head to London.

Busy Braunston Locks

A visit to the Royal Ordnance Depot at Weedon meant I bought some lovely yarn to make a cardie for myself (it’s nearly finished!) and caught up with our friend Heather Bleasdale, who just so happened to be moored there as well.

Yummy yarn

Our route then up and down the Grand Union meant we managed to get to see both Mikron shows this year as well as teaming up with the cast and NB Tyseley to climb the locks up to the summit.

Sharing the locks with Tyseley

Tilly was left in charge for a couple of days whilst we headed to Scarborough to check on our house as we had a change of tenants. This meant we got to stay with Jaye and Duncan and catch up on the news from home.

I’d be in trouble if this photo wasn’t on the blog again!

We now pressed on down to London where we booked a mooring in Paddington Basin for a week in early July. This gave us the opportunity to catch with with friends and family before we headed back out west and down the Hanwell flight. I made the front cover of Canal Boat for July.

Mid July we locked out onto the Thames cruising the Tidal section to Teddington. From here we transited to the River Wey, brand new waters for us.

Up onto the Wey

With my final design for panto delivered to Chipping Norton from Guildford we could enjoy our cruising a bit more, despite the soaring temperatures which had us hiding under trees for a couple of days.


On the 26th July we ticked off our third point on the compass, reaching Godalming the furthest south you can get on the connected network. On our way back to the Thames we met up with Adam from NB Briar Rose, both he and Tilly got wet that day.

Furthest South

The original plan had been to cruise the Basingstoke Canal whilst we were there, but sadly the levels were too low and the canal closed before we got there, so we spent a while longer on the Wey.

Hampton Court Palace

Onto the Thames where we managed to get a space outside Hampton Court for a couple of days and I discovered the joys of standing in line for some fresh veg. Gradually we made our way up the Thames. Waking early and getting going worked for us as mostly we managed to get moored where we wanted around lunchtime. Three years ago we did from Teddington to Oxford in a week but with a months licence we took our time.

Waterway Routes
No Problem XL

The further upstream we got the quieter the river got, less hustle and bustle. We met up with Paul and Christine (NB Waterway Routes), missed Carol and George (WB Still Rockin), finally got to have a proper conversation with Sue and Vic (WB No Problem XL) as we headed upstream.

Kelmscott Manor

As the rivers bends got tighter, the banks were harder to get up. A mooring by Kelmscott Manor required a rope from the post to help us get on and off the boat, but it was worth it to visit the house.

At the end of the navigable Thames

On the 26th August we winded at the furthest point we could reach on the Thames on Oleanna and started to head back eastwards. Tilly gave one of our moorings a double stamp of approval and stayed out well after dark!

Isis lock, Oxford

An incident with engine coolant nearly stopped us from reaching Oxford to see War Horse. But a nice man from RCR got us going again so we had a narrow lock fix and headed to the show catching up with Matt and Bill for a drink afterwards.

Lovely chaps

Then at the beginning of September we turned off the Thames onto the Kennet and Avon. For the last five years we’ve been meaning to head this way, but for one reason or another it hadn’t happened.

Gangplank land, the K&A

With tales of lack of mooring we kept to rising early hoping we’d get moorings. This mostly worked and wild moorings were very rarely needed, we did still have to use the gang plank every now and again. We only encountered one pound on our westward journey where even the longest plank wouldn’t have helped which meant we had to carry on up a flight with the clock ticking before locks were locked around us.

Over the summit

At Devizes we met an Instagram friend Frankie who’d been working on the flight over the summer. Despite following another boat down the flight we made good time with the help of the volunteers.

The photo of the year, Devizes

Onwards to Bath and Bristol. Here we moored with HMS GB in the background and met up with two of my old school friends for lunch. A big shame we couldn’t stay longer as there was more we wanted to do and see whilst there, we’ll just have to save up for next time as the mooring fees are quite pricey!

In good company
Old school friends

The section between Bath and Bradford upon Avon was our favourite, with the aqueducts and views along with the second deepest lock on the network.


Mick and Tilly got to enjoy it for a week longer than me whilst I headed off to Cornwall to eat gluten free pasties and start painting my panto set for a week.


Once I was back we had two weeks to reach Oxford, but the weather had different ideas. What felt like the monsoon season started. There was rain on most days, luckily not the day we did Devizes. We managed to team up with two couples from Bristol on a hire boat, by the time they reached the top of the flight they could work uphill locks with their eyes closed, we left them to master downhill on their return journey.

Tilly enjoying the big trees

Our second low pound struck as we tried to leave Cobblers Lock, Oleanna was sat firmly on the ground and unable to leave the lock until a good flushing of water set her free. The rain actually did me a favour as whilst we sat in Newbury hoping for the Thames to drop I managed to get my model for A Regular Little Houdini finished.

A Regular Little Houdini

At the end of October I headed off to panto land leaving Mick and Tilly a short distance outside Reading, hoping they would be able to get up the Thames in the following week. Our friend Paul came and helped Mick out onto the Thames reaching Goring on their first day. Here Mick and Tilly got to met Carol and George (WB Still Rockin’) who’d been clinging onto the moorings there before heading downstream.

Photo courtesy of Carol WB Still Rockin

Paul returned later in the week and despite the engine overheating and having to deploy the anchor they succeeded in getting to Abingdon where Oleanna had her second visit from RCR. Mick battled on against quite a downstream flow and reached Sandford Lock before tying up. Here the levels rose and fell, the engineer came for a second visit and found lots of crud in our cooling system.

A calm paws on the Thames at Sandford

With the engine in better fettle, Mick nudged his way up towards Oxford and finally made a dash up Osney Lock and onto the canal despite that section still being on red boards. It turns out he’d chosen his moment well as the river has stayed on red boards since then.


Once I left all the singing dancing and glitter behind and returned to narrowboat life we had to sit out high levels on the Oxford canal and on the River Cherwell. We loitered in Oxford, but as soon as it looked like things were improving we were on our way.

Lakes not meadows

We paused in Banbury for Christmas haircuts and shopping before pulling in for a few days at Cropredy Marina, from where we headed to London for a Sibling get together at my brothers.


Onwards to the top of the Oxford Canal the day the locks reopened and down the other side continuing onwards to Radford Smelly for Christmas.


In Warwick we met up with my family and then picked up crew Mike and Chris to help us up the Hatton and Lapworth flights.

Our final visitors of 2019

The last few locks were done on New Years Eve bring us up to the Birmingham level for the new year.

Narnia Lock our last for the year

Quite a busy year. So our vital statistics for 2019

According to Canalplan

Total distance is 1199 miles, ½ furlong and 886 locks . There are 119 moveable bridges of which 22 are usually left open; 139 small aqueducts or underbridges and 20 tunnels – a total of 8 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 207 miles, 4 furlongs of narrow canals; 399 miles, 5¾ furlongs of broad canals; 102 miles, 5 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 226 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 212 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 49 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 150 narrow locks; 626 broad locks; 109 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

838.2 engine hours

That is 255 miles and 272 locks more than last year! But 246.4 hours less engine running, just goes to show it’s worth having solar panels.

1336.93 litres diesel, 9 (although we’ve got 2 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 6 overnight guests, 6 packs Dreamies, 1 cover cat, 32 friends, 17 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 1 double stamp, 5 pairs socks, 3 pairs gloves, 1 baby blanket, 2 shows designed, 1 cover illustration, 5 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 39 boxes of wine delivered, 12 bottles of wine delivered.

Thank you for sharing our year with us.

Gelid Stumpy. 14th December

Claydon Top Lock to Fenny Compton


No-one mentioned rain! Where did that come from? We didn’t rush to get out of bed, unlike the chap on the boat in front of us who pulled out bang on 8am heading for the locks. At 8 it was dry, but by 8:15 it was wet. He is a single hander and had waited until to go down the locks today when he hoped the wind would have died down, it had a touch but made up for it later in the day.

Overnight I’d had an Etsy order come through for a pair of very miss-matched socks. The request had already been paid for. I checked what yarn I had in stock, one colour out of three would need ordering and it was discontinued! I realistically worked out when I’d be able to have them knitted by, no chance before Christmas, in fact it wouldn’t be until after the New Year as we have visitors. I got in touch with the lady explaining. Her cut off date was the 30th December, no chance, so a full refund was sent back to her. I made sure I added a note onto my shop saying I’d be taking no more orders before Christmas now. A shame really as the shop has been so quiet this year.

The weather seemed to dry up and we started to make ready. Then it rained. Then sun. Then rain! We were dressed suitably so decided to carry on. The aim today was to reach Fenny Compton, not far, so that a newspaper could be bought and gloves and cards put in the post.

Extra weight to help lower the bridge

We pootled along in the now sunshine, but boy it was cold! Under the last of the Oxford Canal lift bridges. A large container of water hung from it presumably to help equalise the weight to make easier to close.

Muddy banks

Signs of dredging, mud along the off side all smoothed out.

This years wreath ivy

At the disused railway bridge we paused for me to hop off with the sheers. Here ivy cascades from the hedgerow and brickwork, ideal for wreath making. I snipped away at long strands, and returned with a bundle.

Fenny Compton Tunnel

Next the roofless tunnel, trains whizzing by just out of view, water running into the canal from every direction. This morning I’d checked the Thames levels, yellow boards had recently started to fill the page (the last reach to the canal from Osney Lock still stubbornly red) but today it was a blanket red again! The tunnel crosses the watershed for the Thames and Avon. Now when we empty a lock it won’t be contributing to the flooding on the Thames.

We pulled in along the main stretch of moorings between the marina and The Wharf Inn. This was troublesome as the wind really wanted to help us to moor on the off side, just as a shareboat was approaching. The cold exacerbated by the wind froze my fingers, my right hand and stumpy squealing with pain, but I clung on and eventually we beat the wind and tied up, ready to defrost in front of the stove.

Too close to the road, they said. Too blowy for my bottom, they said. Your not allowed in the engine, they said. You can’t come shopping, they said. You can’t help post things, they said. None of which I truly understood. All I understood was that they were being the biggest spoil sports ever, so I complained for much of the rest of the day by the back doors!

Wellie fence

Gloves all packaged up I walked into Fenny Compton village to find a post box. The first one a diddy size but with collections early in the morning. The second much bigger, here I fed our Christmas cards and knitted goods through it’s mouth before returning to the Co-op to stock up on bread and milk.

A church sandwich

The High Street is quite pretty. Wellington Boots hung on a fence possibly holding strawberry plants. The Methodist Church sandwiched between two cottages.

The Merrie Lion hiding behind Christmas

The Merrie Lion pub hid behind a huge Christmas tree still looking inviting. A shame their menu isn’t more gluten free friendly, I’d have been tempted to go there for our Christmas work do.

The road to the village under the railway

The road to the village passes under the railway line. Depth gauges show how deep flood water can get here, quite scary. Today the road was just a running stream and most, not all, cars slowed as they passed me.

I decided to walk up to The Wharf to see what I thought. Quite a few cars in the car park and there were certainly people eating and drinking inside. The menu seemed similar to last year, but rumours are that new owners are not so keen on boaters, the laundry here now closed. There were only the usual things I could eat on the menu, which is getting boring now.

Oil, oil and more oil

Back at Oleanna Mick was in the engine bay giving Oleanna some fresh oil and checking everything over. She has now reached 2840 engine hours, the service was 22 hours late!

Time to feed my sour dough starter. Hmm! Why after it looked so good yesterday does it seem to have faltered again? I just repeated what I’d done yesterday! I fed it and popped it back on the shelf an elastic band marking it’s height so I can see if it rises from here. By the end of six to eight days it should be doubling itself between feeds. Here’s hoping.

Before feeding, bubbly on the top but not much more
After feeding, elastic band visible

0 locks, 3.02 miles, 1 lidless tunnel, 1 last lift bridge, 1 watershed, 1 stumpy about to fall off, 1 p’d off cat, 25 cards, 1 pair gloves, £26.50 refunded, 1 bucket of ivy, 2 pints milk, 1 loaf bread, 9 litres oil, 2840 hours, 1 oil filter, 3rd sour dough day.

On the move again. 31st October

Hello. Mick here. Apologies if this post isn’t up to Pip’s usual  standards but I thought you would like to know how things are here on Oleanna.

On Monday morning Pip headed off on the number 35 bus to Oxford City Centre then changed onto the S3 for the hour long journey to Chipping Norton.

I spoke to the engineer who had been called out to the overheating problem and he agreed to come and have a look at our cooling system on Wednesday (30th October).

The boards were still on red so even if Oleanna hadn’t been poorly I wouldn’t have gone anywhere anyway. So I pottered around for a couple of days, went to Sainsbury’s, went for a walk, that sort of thing. I watched two mad boaters taking their narrowboats through the red boarded Sandford lock, against the advice of the lock keeper, downstream on the way to Abingdon.

The boat moored behind Oleanna had five cats on board. They seemed to be allowed out at all times of the day and night. Tilly was having a quiet little stand off with one of them, Tilly at the stern of Oleanna and the other cat at the bow of its boat. But the stand off soon got more complicated, it was no longer between Tilly and one cat but Tilly and three cats with another one looking on from a distance. I decided I didn’t want any unnecessary vet bills so I called Tilly and persuaded her to come inside. She didn’t need much persuasion.

On Tuesday the lock keeper knocked on the roof and asked if we were ok for water. The boards were still on red with no signs of turning yellow for a while. I said we could do with some (there’s no water point at Sandford) so he suggested that I reverse Oleanna back into the lock and connect the hose up to the outside tap at his house. Marvellous! I put the washing machine on whilst filling the tank.


On Wednesday Rusty (Marine Engineer) turned up to have another look at our engine. Last Friday he had removed the thermostat that was full of crud and we thought that had fixed the problem. But Saturday’s events had proved that there was more crud to find. He took the bottom hose off the skin tank and the contents of the tank and the coolant in the engine gushed out at a healthy rate. This was good as it meant the skin tank wasn’t blocked which would have been difficult to clear. He removed the other end of the hose from where it connects to the oil cooler and there was quite a bit of rusty crud in the pipe. Here is some of the rusty flaky crud now in a bucket.


Then he took off the housing that the hose attaches to. There was much glee and laughter at this point, “Ah! Found the problem. Yay!” and other words to the same effect! This housing was blocked with more of the same stuff.


So that all got cleaned out. On the engine where the housing is attached is a gauze, presumably to catch this sort of stuff and that was cleaned too.


Then it was all put back together again, filled with new coolant, system bled and we were good to go. The engine was started and you could immediately see a much greater flow through the header tank than before. Job’s a good’un. Rusty had brought a wet and dry vac to pump out the old coolant from the bilge. I offered him electricity from our inverter but he’d also brought a generator to power the vac. He poured it all into a container and took it away with him. 

I’m very confident that we have found the immediate issue but the question remains  about where the crud came from in the first place. Oleanna had a change of antifreeze last November. The antifreeze that got put in then was supposed to last five years. Rusty is going to show some of the crud to a friend of his who has been doing boat maintenance for about 60 years (Keith Duffy from RCR, now retired) and see if he can shed any light on where it might have come from. Rusty also suggests doing the same procedure again at the end of next summer and see what is there then. We decided not to put the old thermostat back in but to get a new one. I shall do this in the next few days.

On Thursday the boards at the lock had changed to yellow! Yay! But the lock keeper advised that this was only as far as the next lock (Iffley lock) and beyond that there are still red boards.


The share boat moored two behind us was preparing to move on. They have an appointment with a boat painter in Braunston and need to be above the Claydon flight on the Oxford Canal before they shut for winter maintenance on the 4th November. I asked them if I could join them to save having to work the lock by myself. Of course they were only too happy to do so. Sorry I didn’t get your names nor can I remember your boat name other than it begins with S!

I kept a close eye on the temperature gauge and, with the thermostat out, it didn’t manage to get above 40 to 50 degrees, not enough to heat the domestic hot water! Normally Oleanna runs at about 80 degrees.

When we got to Iffley Lock that was also showing yellow boards so we decided to carry on upwards. There was an off duty lock keeper there who operated the lock for us. However he advised that Osney Lock (the next one) was very definitely red. The share boat decided to carry on towards the centre of Oxford. About half a mile above Iffley lock I spotted a single mooring with bollards to tie to just near to Hertford College Boat Club. There were no “No Mooring” signs in evidence but it looked to good to be true. However I plonked Oleanna onto this mooring and tied up.


I worried a bit about the strong stream and whether to let Tilly out or not. But she’d been pretty much cooped up for quite a few days so I relented to her meows and opened the door for her.


After a couple of hours she came home and I went out on the bicycle up to Osney lock to have a look. The current is flowing quite fast through the narrow bit at the East Street moorings. Hopefully in a couple of more days without rain it will ease off and we can gat back onto the benign waters of the Oxford Canal.


10 litres of Antifreeze, 1 happy cat, 1 happy boat engineer, two happy boat owners, 1 red board ahead, 1 rainy forecast for Saturday. 1 substitute blog writer who can’t remember how to do the map thing.



Back In The Red. 27th October

Sandford Lock

Tea in bed with the Saturday newspaper, just what was needed along with an extra hours sleep.


The sun was out warming the lock cut and making it steam. At 8am we got the first rowing boat arrive and sit chatting for ages as we read the papers. Then as the world warmed up more people walked past on the towpath.

Mick spotted a Lock Keeper and was about to say we’d like to stay a while due to our engine overheating, but the Lockie beat him to it saying that the river was back on Red Boards again, so our stay for the time being will be free.

I checked the levels and sure enough this reach isn’t the only one to have gone red overnight. It’s interesting how often they update the conditions, a week ago there were four updates in a day, but today there had only been one in 24hrs.

Sunny day

We had a long discussion this morning, should we eat out at the pub across the way, or should we cook ourselves. The later meant having to go shopping, we chose this option as we knew we’d end up with a much better roast for half the price. Mick headed off on a bike to a big Sainsburys where most of Oxford seemed to be restocking their cupboards.

All very well going downstream

Tilly and I stayed put enjoying the sunshine, watching a chap row by standing up, bet that’s hard work going up stream. What a lovely day for doing just about nothing.

The lock landing on 20th August

After lunch we went for a wander. Coming up the lock was a boat Mick recognised from Goring, the one with the cats on board. We chatted to the chap who moored behind us. They’d come through Abingdon this morning, fighting against the stream believing it to be on yellow boards, when they checked quarter of an hour later, it was on red. They battled their way upstream at about 1mph against the current. Serious hard work. Oleanna won’t be doing any of that!

The lock landing today

We walked down to look at the reach below the lock, it was very high, higher than yesterday, just about to come over the lock landing. Back in mid August there had been at least two foot below the landing visible. The stream from the weir was very strong, I’m surprised the boat had managed to come past it.


A sunny slow quiet day ending with a nice roast chicken before I head back to Chippy tomorrow and paint my arms off for a second week. Here’s hoping the levels improve along with Oleanna’s engine.

My route to work in the morning

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 bike ride, 1 lazy morning, 1 lazy afternoon, 1 lazy evening, 1 roast chicken,1 boat, 2 kids, 3 dogs, 5 cats that’s one very full boat behind us!

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!

Chaperoned. 15th October


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!


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.

Panto Postcard 1, 2019

58 hours

On Sunday Mick helped me with all my things to Avoncliff Station.

This used to be a request stop

I had quite a lot and a quick change at Westbury Station so he decided to come with me that far to help get me onto the next train. After another change I got a taxi to Admirals Hard where I caught the Cremyll Ferry across to the Rame Peninsula. Only an eight minute crossing but just long enough for those of us sat outside to get sprayed by the waves.

A woofer passenger on the Cremyll Ferry

Lou was there to pick me up, we dropped my work things off at the workshop where Ade was busy and then she gave me a lift down to the village of Kingsand. With keys to my flat I made myself comfortable, stocked up on some things to eat and drink from the shop, possibly getting ripped off and then went for an explore. This was likely to be the only time I’d get in daylight to look round.

The old border

Kingsand and Cawsand are twin villages in Cornwall, however until 1844 Kingsand was in Devon and Cawsand Cornwall. A house still marks the boundary, about 100 ft away from my flat.


Several small beaches link the houses together, all very characterful, smugglers hiding in the corner of your eye. Narrow roads with no parking make for a tranquil place, well until the tide comes in! It did however feel as though nobody actually lives there, it’s just for the tourists now.

My groundfloor bedroom window and the sea!

My flat was about as long as Oleanna but wider. Have to say that our bathroom layout is better designed despite being half the size. Everything was very comfortable, but the kitchen lacked a few basics that would have made cooking a touch more flavoursome.

Last bit left to prime

Monday morning I was picked up from outside one of the pubs and was at work for 8.30. First thing was to lay out the back drop. Normally this would have been stretched on a frame, but as my design needed me to be able to draw lots of circles we laid it out on the floor. By 10am I’d primed the cloth and gained a couple of blisters in the process. Ade and Lou’s workshop has been having a new roof fitted, the central ridge still needed replacing and in parts it was open to the sky. So as the day progressed and the weather outside became damp, buckets were deployed around the place.

Drawn up ready to paint

By the end of the day just about every bit of set that was ready had been primed and my backdrop was marked out. A pencil and string being my compass, I could have done with Frank’s trammel heads (ends of a compass that you can attach to a length of wood), but I managed in the end.

Wednesday the sun came out, only one thing for the canine assistants to do, sunbath

Tuesday and I started to lay blocks of colour onto the backdrop. Three shades of blue paint, a straight edge and a steady hand were needed. Occasionally a helping paw would appear, Bo and Shine two collies spend their days over seeing what happens in the workshop and hoping to be able to gain access to the bins from next door.

Pasty powered painting

The workshop is next door to CornishPod, winner of the World Pasty Championship in 2016. The smells wafting through from them were too much for me, on Monday I’d put in an order for a couple of gluten free pasties. Fresh and warm I enjoyed one for my lunch, keeping the second one for Wednesday. The day was wet again, water flooded in through a hole that had been made for new electrics, a blocked drain was found and sorted by the landlord.

Wednesday thankfully a dry day but water had seeped under the wooden floor where my cloth was pinned out , it had crept up between the sheets and was creating quite a stain. In parts the cloth was wetter than when I’d first painted it. Action was taken and we relaid it on sheets of plastic, a fan heater deployed to drive off the worst of the moisture and I concentrated on painting the portals. The roofers were back in for the day, covering up sections of the ridge.


Each morning I woke to wonderful sunrises, some from Tellytubbies,

A new day

others more moody and grown up. Not a bad view to have from your bedroom window. The local sea swimmers would all walk down for their morning dip shortly after dawn. They’d bob away in the swell as the tide came in, Kingsand only seems to have high tide!

Oops I might have bought some cheese!

Thursday was the start of the next storm. We hoped the worst would miss us. The team grew by two, Ade’s nephew Frank and a scenic artist Debs. Debs had come to paint another set they have been building for The Drum in Plymouth. Nothing quite so time consuming as my backdrop and portals, just lots of washes and rust. Lu and Frank lent a hand where needed, basing things in for me and painting black for Debs. As the day progressed the winds got stronger and stronger, necessitating brushing more bits of decaying roof off my backdrop.

The view whilst waiting for my lift

By the time I got back to my flat the tide was being aided by the wind. On other evenings towards high tide the waves had been making it onto the road outside my front door, but the direction of the wind having changed and the tides not being so high the waves just crashed against my bedroom wall instead. Their bumping giving the sofa a slight nudge. I hoped I’d be able to get some sleep, but thankfully things calmed down and I managed to get some shut eye.


Friday, Debs and I were left to it in the workshop, the others on apple duty back at the house. Ade and Lou have around 250 apple trees from which they press apple juice. This years crop has been plentiful, so whilst painting brushes were working hard at the workshop, Lou and Frank picked up the latest windfalls and Ade worked his way through the first of 40 crates of apples.


By the end of the day the other set was finished and Panto had a completed backdrop and two portals. Plenty more for me to do, but at least the main aim of the week was completed. I celebrated by having a halloumi and roasted pepper pasty for lunch, very tasty it was too.

Saturday my last day. A quick tidy up of the flat before I got a lift up to the workshop to see what I could achieve before heading home. I made a good start on two large flats, but I’d hoped to get them almost completed but the paint just wasn’t drying quickly enough. There was also the matter of packing paint and mixing colours so Lou can carry on basing things in,hopefully saving me hours of work.

Mixing grey

The last job was to mix a huge vat of grey. I hate mixing grey, you think you’ve nearly reached the right shade, just a bit more black, a bit more, a bit more, maybe just a touch more. Damn! Now a bit more white!!

Frank and Lou, my cloth was raised and stretched out shortly after this

The other set was loaded onto a wagon. The pieces I’d finished were stacked away and the backdrop was hung to help it continue drying. The water stain is fading but I doubt it will go completely.


Back in my civvies it was time to head for the train. A lift down to the ferry which was just coming in, then an awaiting cab to the station. I had 4 minutes to get to the right platform, my luggage a touch lighter as my brushes will go to Chipping Norton with the set. Two trains and I arrived back in Bradford on Avon where Mick was there to meet me.

A hard weeks work in the company of the lovely Lou and Ade in such a wonderful setting. It’s just a shame I never really got to see the village at low tide in day light.

Meanwhile back on Oleanna.

Mick and Tilly have not been idle. On Sunday afternoon Mick moved the boat a little towards Bradford joining the local boats. On Monday he took the toilet to bits. We have a Separett Villa, the urine gets separated into a tank under the floor from which we can pump it out into another container for disposal. Gradually when rinsing through the system I have noticed it taking longer and longer for the water to drain to the tank, so I’d raised a chitty with the maintenance department.

It was quite sometime ago that Finesse showed us how everything had gone together but Mick managed quite easily to remove the toilet and then the floor above the tank. From the separator one pipe leads to another which then does two 90 degree turns to enter the underfloor tank. Here was where the blockage was gradually getting worse and when Mick poured vinegar into the top it stayed put, the pipe finally having blocked.

Our yellow water tank, the blocked bend on the left

With some drain unblocking cabley thing and more vinegar he eventually managed to shift the blockage. No need to cross our legs, we can go to the loo again. But maybe we need to add more vinegar to the bottle we spray the separator with, or even add it neat every now and again, or maybe we should just drink it so that the pipe doesn’t block again.

On Tuesday morning I made a request that Tom should move the outside. This outside was okay, but another would be better, so he moved it to a Mrs Tilly stamp award winning mooring, Dundas. Here I busied myself outside, returning to check on Tom only to find he’d lost his legs! I found them for him down in the big box at the back of Oleanna. It was quite soggy down there so Tom was trying to get rid of all the Aunty freeze that had leaked there a month or so ago. He was very careful to keep me away from this Aunty, apparently it can be deadly to cats.

Purring paws

Thursday they filled with water winded and headed back towards Avoncliff. All the sink U bends and shower traps were given a good clean and then on Friday they moved up to Bradford and managed to get a spot on the 48hr moorings below the lock. Here was good, plenty to keep me occupied, but then Tom decided to nudge the outside a touch. This touch to the outside meant there were far more woofers, in fact a constant stream of them. It really wasn’t worth stepping off the boat!

0 locks, 7.24 miles by boat, 5 different moorings, 1 calcified lump added to the yellow water tank, 10 litres anti-freeze, 2 winds, 5 trains, 2 taxis, 2 ferries, 13 lifts, 2 pretty villages, 0 beach to be seen, 6m plus high tide, £51!!! 2nd shop at the co-op, 1 flat almost on the beach, 1 thumping sea, 4 bottles wine, 1 bottle oil and some garlic required, 58 hours, 1 fat knee, 1 pastie powered painter, 1 back cloth, 2 portals complete, 1 well used straight edge, 2 woofer assistants, 1 slightly blue ball, all three crew back on board, 1 purring cat.

PS The last three posts all have photos now.