Category Archives: Boat Engines

Whistling Away. 17th March

Audlem between locks 11 and 12 to Coole Pilate Visitor Moorings

A sliced loaf of bread was found at the Co-op whilst Tilly stretched her legs outside. I finished off making a ball of gluten free pasta which will get turned into Lasagna tomorrow and fed my sourdough starter to get it all bubbly and frothy ready to make bread. Then a load of washing was put on.

Homemade buckwheat pasta

There was a chap in the engine bay of the boat ahead, the one that had broken down yesterday. The oil Mick had given them had ended up in the bilges, an O ring needed replacing and with that done the engine was fixed.

This morning we conferred with other boaters about what we should do with coronavirus escalating. It was good to hear someone else’s measured opinion, we were in agreement to continue cruising. Out if interest Mick checked for any available slots for online shopping at places along the Shropie. No slots available in the next three weeks from all the supermarkets and Ocado we were 7889th in the queue! We’ll be walking to get shopping.

I sent an email to Dark Horse to see if any decisions had been made regarding the show I’m working on for them. Most of their actors are likely to be in the high risk category so rehearsals will be cancelled. Later in the day I got a reply, the actors would be finishing tomorrow, then on Thursday a plan would be formulated, the outcome of this would be relayed to me on Monday, totally understandable. The model can stay safe and sound in a cupboard until then.

Just below the lock

It was approaching midday when we pushed off. Just as I walked up to the next lock I could see a lady with a windlass in hand coming up to the lock which was empty. We opened the gates and chatted away. They were on a Chas Harden hire boat and doing the four counties ring in two weeks. The bywash below the lock was a touch of a surprise to the chap at the helm.

Enjoy your holiday

Once we were down I was left to close the lock whilst Mick pulled Oleanna onto a mooring on the offside. It’s so much easier to empty the yellow water tank moored up on the port side. Once the tank was empty we pushed over to the water point outside The Shropie Fly.

A few enjoying the sun and a drink at safe distance

It was good to see people sat drinking up the sun and pints, not many but a few were spaced out at the tables. Tilly kept them amused by sitting in a window and keeping an eye on them.

Only one high lighted pooh on the whole flight

We were just beaten to the lock by a shareboat and then waited for another boat to come up from the next lock down. We swapped with then and then swapped with another boat in the next pound. It’s always busy along here, but we are always the last boat through so there’s nobody around to help us.

What a lovely view

Once down the bottom lock we toyed with mooring with the great view but decided to carry on to Coole Pilate. The wind got up, it got chilly, but then despite it’s strength straight across the canal Oleanna resisted the push, so some engine had to be used to get us into the side.

The visitor mooring here is long, currently there are four boats all spaced out with plenty of room for others to join. Should we need to we’ll happily nudge up to the nosy neighbours in front.

Our nosy neighbours

Tilly headed off to explore after claiming several of the picnic benches as hers. I mixed up my loaf and set it to rise for six hours on the proving shelf, it wasn’t as sticky as last time.

Outside the wind picked up and for the first time our chimney started to whistle! Maybe the height of the flue and angle of the wind were just perfect for it. All evening it continued, only one note mind. Mick tried adjusting things, he even lowered the flue to the short length, this altered the note by a semitone. The only way to stop it was by opening the stove door! Needless to say we put up with the noise instead.

4 locks, 2.37 miles, 1 plastic loaf, 1 sourdough loaf, 1 batch cookies, 1 ball of pasta, 7889th, 3 uphill boats, 1 downhill, 1 empty wee tank, 1 full water tank, 1 clean pooh box, 1 cat with crossed paws, 1 orange pooh, 1 windy blowy afternoon, 1 nosy woofer, 2 hours shore leave, 4 muddy paws, 1 whistling chimney, 1971 Mrs Didcock on Blue Peter, enjoy.

Magnet Fishing. 11th March

Shushions Bridge to High Meadow Aqueduct, Norbury Junction

Look what Mick caught this morning!

He’s caught something!

Our ash pan. Last night when he was emptying it into our ash can it slipped off the handle thingy and dived into the depths of the Shropshire Union. It apparently made a very good noise as it hit the water, instantly cooling down in a sizzle. Luckily our Sea Magnet did the job of retrieving it from the not too deep depths.

Yay! Our ash pan

A sea magnet is a very useful thing, when we were at Sandford Lock on the Thames, a shareboat moored nearby somehow dropped a side hatch door into the cut. Our magnet managed to hold it’s weight for it to be pulled out. You hope never to use it, but when the time comes they are very handy.

Tilly was allowed shore leave before we set off, she found her own breakfast and then returned for a snooze.

Stocking up for next winter

Whilst still in bed the first boat went past, then as we had breakfast several more. Has the boating season just suddenly started? We’ve seen more moving boats today than in the last few months! Just as we were pushing off one appeared through the bridge hole behind us, Mick pulled us back in quickly to let them go first.

Our route took us through more wooded cuttings, one boat had stopped to fill his hold with large chunks of tree, suspect he’ll keep warm for quite some time.

Magical yet scary

Looking back the arch made by the trees and ivy were a fairytale, sadly waiting for the next windy day to topple a few more of them.

A day boat came towards us, pulled too far over to the side and got stuck. Mick suggested going into reverse to help pull the stern away from the bank, they were soon free again.

Caution whilst cruising the Shropie

The approach to Cowley Tunnel, all 80 yards of it was a haze of branches just starting to turn green at their tips. Through the tunnel cut from stone with trees clinging on for dear life above.

A magical twiggy haze

We considered stopping here, but first checked out the two canalside pubs menus. With plans on meeting friends tomorrow I wanted to see if I could have anything other than steak or gammon. Sadly neither The Boat or Navigation menus on line gave many options, so we stuck to our original plan and continued.

Cowley Tunnel
Clinging on

Just through the bridge a dog ran back and forth, checking either end of it’s boat. We knew who this was, the plant boat. A couple of years ago we bought a Thyme plant from them which is still going strong, we told the chap, he was happy but it did mean no sale. I’m considering trying to grow strawberries this year, wonder when I should plant them? Have to look that up.

Mandarin Spring Roll Duck

Now on embankments we got views, views stretching to the Wrekin.

The Wrekin

Then we could see the end of moored boats, we pulled in behind one leaving no git gap. But then looked around. The wind was strong and we were under a large tree, at least we knew the size of gap to leave for a 58ft boat, we pulled back to avoid trees should they fall.

From one tree to the next

Tilly spent the afternoon up the trees. One route up, across three tops to a suitable route down again. Mick climbed into the engine bay again to finish off the engine service, this time the smelly fuel filters.

The Garden drawings finished

I got the drawing board out and spent the afternoon measuring and drawing up my design for The Garden. Three sheets of drawings, 1 for a carpenter, 2 for me. The whole show drawn up in a couple of hours.

I’ve not been in here before

0 locks, 6.06 miles, 80 yards of tunnel, 0 mysterons, 1 tasty friend, 1 mandarin spring roll, 1 very fit dog, 2 noninclusive menus, 1 changed fuel filter, 1 cleaned fuel filter, 2 outsides, 1 ground plan, 3 sheets working drawings, 2 much sewing to do, I’d best buy some fabric soon and start.

Insideised. 8th March

Hunting Bridge 7

There weren’t any climbing frames in BUMingham

This outside isn’t all they made it out to be. Now don’t get me wrong, it is far far Far FAR better than BUMingham, but it is windy and surprisingly wet at times.

The frothy thing in the jar. It has two dingdings just like me

She’s been busy just about all day. I did think they were going to be moving the outside today as She followed Tom into the kitchen when he was making tea. But She just fed and watered the thing in a jar before going back to bed, this did however mean I got a game of pen before they got up properly.

Sourdough pancakes with blueberries

She made breakfast and I was allowed to come and go as I liked. After a few turns around the sideways trees I decided to retire to the inside.

A touch wetter than expected!

She was busy again, getting all gooey and sticky, apparently ‘mixing things’ and wrapping them in a towel, then a big bag. She then ignored it all day.

In a t-towel lined bowl
Isolated in a bag on the top shelf for six hours

The sun was out so I did my best to find a sunny spot, a few things needed rearranging, but then the sun wasn’t tall enough to get my head. Quite a disappointment really.


Tom got busy too, down the hole at the back. This meant my comings and goings got all confused. They had to be from the bow and not the stern as Tom had removed that end of the boat. Normally they know when I want to come in at the stern, they can hear me jump onto the hatch, but the bow doesn’t have the same effect. Having the one way door on the wrong side of the outside doesn’t help either. So I have to adopt a different method of attracting attention, shouting through the windows!

Excuse me! Hello!!! Is anyone in there!?!

She came out to have a bit of a walk and said we’d go to the trees as I need to rediscover the joys of them. She thinks I’ve become what she calls ‘Institutionalised‘! I think I’ve become ‘Insideised’!

Checking the higher view

Apparently I really liked this outside two years ago and explored everything there was. Climbing trees, pouncing on the friendly cover, nearly making it to the distant wood and running around like a ‘loon’ in the field. Maybe I used it all up!

Woofer fencing that needs careful negotiating

But today it was blowy, very blowy and the sideways trees have had an extra layer added to keep woofers out. I have to choose my places to climb through very carefully and then remember where it was I’d come through. It’s not normally that hard, I do it by smell, but today the smell was being blown away.

I hope he grows again!

Tom got very short in the hole. I left him to it, not much I could do really.

She’s added a cloud at the back

She got her head in the clouds and talked mud on the phone.

Double rainbow in the field

It hailed, it rained, it blew, it rainbowed a double rainbow.

Countryside again, wonderful

Then we got our first Shropie sky. Apparently the Shropie outside does good skies.

Hard wetness

There’s been too much fresh air for one day. The main question of the day remains, does this outside deserve a Mrs Tilly stamp of approval? I’ll think about that behind closed eyes.

Zzzzzzz ….. Mice ….. Trees ….. Zzzzzzz …..

0 locks, 0 miles, 0 straights, 0 rights, 0 lefts, 0 tunnels, 0 boats, 14 sourdough pancakes, 2 hours to fluff up, 1 very sticky mess, 6 hours in a bag, 8.5 hours shore leave, 17 trips outside, 2.5 hours shore leave taken, 1 Houdini phone call, 1 cloud, 1 white card model final amendments, 750hrs engine service, 0.5 of it, 10 litres oil, 1 oil filter, 1 air filter, 2 rainbows, 1 double, 1 haily hail storm, 1st loaf of gluten free sourdough, 1 jury still out, 1 cat still inside.


After 6 hours in the bag on the proving shelf.

Turned out.

onto a layer of grease proof paper. Ready to go in the cast iron pot and the very hot oven

End result.

Think I should have scored it deeper. Have to wait til tomorrow to see what it’s like

3000! 10th February


Mick had his eyes tested a couple of weeks ago and today it was my turn. We always go to Boots, hoping that there will be some link to previous tests, but their systems still haven’t been sorted so that they can compare digital photos of the back of your eyes with previous ones. Certainly at the High Street branch of Boots they look like they keep everyone’s details on cards in a long line of filing cabinets.

I had all the normal tests, had difficulty with the periphery vision test as I did last time and had to redo it. The usual comment about high blood pressure came up, apparently I have wiggly veins in my eye which suggests this. The optician wanted me to get this checked out ASAP along with referring me through my GP for another test.


This is one of those moments as a boater that you don’t fit into the normal sized and shaped box. So you spend sometime explaining.

My GP is in Scarborough, I’m not likely to be there until the summer, maybe, unless I need to go there. My address is London, this is a correspondence address and I may not go there until December. I have also got a medical address in Scarborough, but my GP seems to have been able to work with my London address recently. I however do not live in any of these places as I live on a boat and constantly move around the country. I am currently in Birmingham, I refrained from calling it BUMingham as I didn’t want to cause offence.

Naturally I really don’t want to head all the way to Scarborough for my GP to do a blood pressure test which was likely to be normal, as it has been before. This was quite an easy one to solve as this Boots has all sorts of clinics in its basement, one being a Walk-in Centre. So I promised to go there. The referral, well we’ll have to wait and see. She asked where I might be next week, suggesting I may get an appointment in Birmingham, bingo! However when this happened to Mick a couple of years ago in Chester his refferal didn’t come through for weeks by which time we’d made it to Gloucester. So we’ll wait and see what happens with that.

No new glasses required, but my next test will be in 12 months not 48.

With a letter in hand I walked straight over to the Walk-in Centre, filled out the form and sat down expecting to have quite a long wait. After about twenty minutes my name was called, pressure checked in all of five minutes. Verdict all normal as I thought. But better to be sure, just glad I hadn’t booked a train ticket to go to Scarborough.

The day has been blustery and wet. At times it has been trying to snow, but not succeeding.

Back at Oleanna, Tilly had been allowed out today, not that she’s that keen.

At 17:44 I wrapped up warm and headed out to sit in the pram cover. Oleanna was about to hit a milestone. At 17:45 the digital engine hours clicked/flashed from 2999.9 to 3000.0.


0 locks, 0 miles, 0 straights, 0 lefts, 0 reverses,1 needless alley, 2 tortuous eyes tested, 1 needless blood pressure test, 2 discs, 1 lucky dip referral, 1 sleety day, 2 late to work, 2 wishes of a speedy recovery for Paul, 3000 engine hours.

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.