Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Relaxed return

The out bound journey is chronicled here. The return to Welford from Napton boasted new crew, with wife Jenny and brother in law Peter tackling the locks while Duncan was at the helm.
Dropping off the second car at Napton was made easy by the good people at Crossroads Garage (thank you!) on the Shuckburgh Road at Napton, who let us park for a few days in their forecourt in return for a donation to Air Ambulance, while we took to the canal. Our temporary mooring was by bridge 110 just 5 minutes walk away, so we carried our stuff and set off straight after an onboard lunch.
And so just a couple of hours later we made our entrance to Braunston. Torn between mooring in the main line or knocking off a few locks to make tomorrow's work easier we first took in the sights of the marina then compromised and went through three locks to moor above The Admiral.
AS a useful aside it's worth pointing out that some of the Braunston locks have ground paddles as well as gate paddles. The former are very stiff and hard to work. For those unaccustomed to them the idea is to avoid a surge of water by opening the ground paddles gradually - ideally the paddle opposite the boat first, if there is only a single boat in the lock. You then reassess the situation before completely opening the ground paddles. Don't use the gate paddles until the boat is above their level. This should avoid water in your bow. Here's a gate paddle when the water was very low at Braunston.

Unfortunately The Admiral is not currently serving cooked food on Monday or Tuesday so apart from a few drinks we couldn't give them our custom; otherwise we found ourselves in a good spot.
Lock Keepers' cabin, Watford flight top lock

Next day was a bit more like hard work, with the remaining three locks and the tunnel at Braunston, then turning at Norton junction, the usual queue at Watford locks followed by the staircase, and finally Crick tunnel to moor at Crick itself. A full day.
An evening meal at the Red Lion (excellent fish crumble) finished off a good day.

On our third day we headed straight up the Leicester line and down the arm to Welford, finally driving back to Napton taking both cars back home.
We all enjoyed a relaxed three day trip in very good weather (no rain) and I think we converted Peter to narrow boating. He'll certainly be invited again!

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Plans go awry

It seems to have taken an age to plan, discuss and execute this simple trip, but what with constraints on time, crew and other events the out and back trip to Warwick from Welford seemed easy enough....
The original plan was to go to Stratford on Avon, delightful town with wonderful if busy waterside moorings. That was before I realised that it would be 5 days 3 hours and 94 locks. Each way.
Little wonder John was less than thrilled at the prospect (for retired English teacher Duncan the sparkle of Stratford rather outshone the pain of 94 locks at first - but the truth sank in after a bit of thought.)
So we thought let's try Warwick - grand castle and all. At 41 miles and 39 locks it looked a breeze in comparison. Three days, easy!
And then we noticed that the last 8 miles included 20 locks, which is not so appealing, so we looked for an alternative terminus. And that's how we ended up in Napton, a mere 27 miles and only 14 locks, achievable in 3 days or two at a push.
What should have been a straightforward cruise started with a slight delay as we had to drive to our starting point at Welford (we rarely leave Welford before 11 am) and so we moored at Crick as the most convenient spot (good pub, the Red Lion, Crick - very good fish pie) leaving the tunnel and the Watford flight till tomorrow.
All was well until the next morning when an attempt to start the engine showed a completely flat starter battery. Batteries these days do have a tendency to go flat very suddenly and though there had been some evidence on our battery condition monitor it was not at all clear.
Fortunately we have three batteries, so switching to the other two got us going immediately. But now what to do? Retreat to our home mooring a day away or go on to Braunston a half day on, through locks and tunnels? We opted for Braunston and its excellent chandlery, phoning ahead to ensure they had a suitable battery in stock. We would be there by lunchtime.

The Watford flight was slow going, with a stream of solo boaters needing assistance going up and leaving us waiting at the top. Then the Braunston tunnel had eight boats coming up towards us so we proceeded with caution having previously lost more than one navigation light in the tight pinch points.
Finally to the top lock at Braunston - only to find that the lock gate was jammed shut and they were having to drain the lock and the pound to get at something jammed under the gate. This took nearly two hours of hard work before poking and pushing, bouncing and pulling extracted a large log and allowed the pound to be filled again. Well done the men from CRT, especially Brian with his metal spike, floppy hat and his alluring waders.

The Pound beginning to drain. Note the mudflats to the right.
Now we were nearer tea time than lunchtime, so it was 4.30 by the time we reached Midland Chandlers at Braunston. Fortunately they are open until 5.30 and while John did the hard work of removing the old, installing the new, and checking the other two (in surprisingly good condition despite being 9 years old!) I wandered around the shop and selected paint and boat wash. John certainly deserved a pint at The Boat House and another at the Old Plough that evening.

John works on the batteries
Note that The Admiral Nelson, a popular lockside pub, does not currently serve food on Mondays or Tuesdays. Beware! Try the Old Plough in the village instead!
And so we came to Napton on the Hill, to the winding hole at Bridge 111, next to where there was until recently a pub - The Bridge at Napton, now sadly closed. Winding here and mooring near bridge 110 we were near enough to The Kings Head on the main road where, to cut our brief but eventful journey short, we caught a taxi to Leamington and thence home by train.
Our return journey will be in the next post, while Patience recovers.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Boat Brushes

I spent a while scrubbing down Patience, getting the old green mould off the gunwhales, sponging the green stuff off the windows and frames, swapping a sponge for a scrubbing brush then an old toothbrush ... and I got to thinking about brushes, as you do. I thought, "We use a lot of different brushes on Patience", which was true. So true that I went in and pulled out a few at hand.

 Here are
  • a broom, best for brushing away leaves from the deck and roof, 
  • dust pan and brush for clearing the ash and burnt area around the stove (we have a car vacuum cleaner for the floor tiles),  
  • two scrubbing brushes for the old green mould, (one with a protective handle so you don't scrape your knuckles, the other in traditional wood), 
  • a toothbrush for getting into those awkward corners, 
  • two sample paint brushes (both for painting, and there are other, smaller, brushes, some angled, for painting). 
Then, not pictured, there's
  • a loo brush (no comment), 
  • small and large wire brushes (for scraping off rust)
  • a washing-up brush and 
  • our own personal toothbrushes.
Where would we be without them?

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Walking Through Spring

It may not seem topical, but I've been reading a delightful book about walking from south to north across England and following the slow spread of spring northwards.
Walking Through Spring is by Graham Hoyland and the author muses on countryside matters as he walks along rural ways.
A passage about horse-drawn narrow boats and canals caught my eye.
It is calculated that one US gallon of fuel can move a ton of cargo 533 miles by barge, 209 miles by rail or 61 miles by truck.
"An eighteenth century canal horse could pull a 30-ton load at a steady 2 miles per hour with no noise and only the occasional pollutant, which could be used to fertilise the fields."
The load was ..."around a hundred times the horse's own body weight and about fifty times more than it could manage using a cart on ancient roads."
This was a highly efficient transport system - the best in its day. If even a small fraction of the loads carried by trucks across our roads was transferred to the canals I'd be pleased, but sadly trans-shipment costs and the limited number of large wharfs in the right places mean that we are unlikely to see much being transferred to our canals.
Hoyland did not give the mileage for a diesel-powered barge....

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Cotswold Canals

The Cotswold Canals, comprising the The Stroudwater Navigation and The Thames & Severn Canal, formed an early 36 mile link between the Thames at Lechlade and the River Severn at Saul Junction. It provided a through route between Bristol and London before the Kennet and Avon Canal opened. The Cotswold Canals fell out of use before the Second World War.  The Cotswold Canals Trust has restored sections of the Stroudwater Navigation, but much of the Thames and Severn Canal is still in a derelict state and some sections have been filled in.  John and Sarah have been staying near Cirencester and walked a short stretch along the towpath of the derelict section between the Gateway Bridge at Cerney Wick and South Cerney locks. The following photo is of one of the pair of locks at Wildmoorway, showing the lockkeeper's cottage, now restored as a private dwelling.
Unfortunately, this is yet another West Country canal that Patience is unlikely to be able to visit - like the Somerset Coal Canal, the Grand Western Canal, the Itchen Navigation or the Bude Canal!  Never mind - there is still plenty to go for on the main network!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Ready for winter

Today was bracing, with a chill wind, but the rain held off and the middle of the day was quite warm. A good day to collect Patience from the tender care of the folks at North Kilworth Wharf who have given her a proud black bottom and a new hatch over the engine - as well as a pump out. This was good work at a fair price and we are very pleased. Once again we can stand firmly at the stern without worrying that we would slip and slide away.
And so we should add to our annual servicing a coat of varnish to the edges of the hatch as it was damp creeping in from the sides that caused the previous hatch to swell.
Returning with pride to Welford (and being extra careful to avoid scraping her freshly painted hull) we enjoyed the usual excellent lunch at The Wharf before setting to with winterising.
We've given details of winterising elsewhere but in summary we've drained the water from tank, taps, shower and loo, changed the oil in gearbox and engine and given her a general brush up before the winter sets in. Patience will be generally on her own until the spring so it's important that things are ship shape and closed up. It may not feel as if she will be ice-bound, but it's only a few years since this is what happened on the Old West river -

Yes that really is ice and snow, in 2010
I also took away any food that was out of date, listing it all so we can replace with basic food next year. See the article on basic food for your boat.

Homeward go beans, tomatoes, soups, pasta sauce and long-life (not long enough!) milk.
Meanwhile John enjoyed messy play with oil ...
So rest quietly, Patience. We'll pop in to check you're OK when we are passing, but there's no need to stir until spring.

Monday, 23 October 2017


Every four years Patience has her bottom blacked with a couple of coats of bitumen. This is essential to keep her hull in good shape, preventing pitting of the metal.
Though this can be a DIY job we've found that the cost of landing her is greater than the cost of having someone paint her and it is a messy job, so we pay a bit to have someone do it for us.
This is the fourth time we've had Patience in dry dock and it's interesting to compare the techniques as well as simply staring at the parts of her that aren't usually visible.
First time was for her very first inspection, a survey in dry dock when we were considering the purchase. Fascinating to see her bottom for the first time!
Second time was for blacking at Earith. A broken crane caused delays (she was craned out of the water in a sling) and perhaps the blacking was put on in a bit of a rush, but no harm done. And we did have the chance to see one of the grey seals that have made their home in the marina.
Third time was in the comfort of the workshop at Oundle, where we were moored.  We had an Oundle man apply the blacking then we paid for an extra few days under cover while we painted her up in other areas more easily reached when she was out of the water.

And now the time has come again, and we have brought Patience to the workshop at North Kilworth Wharf, where she will be cared for this week. This is the tractor that towed her out of the water into the slipway. First you float the boat over a cradle that is attached to a long towing pole. Then the tractor tows the cradle out of the water, with the boat resting on top.
Now we have our first view for four years of the condition of the hull. Surprisingly there are large numbers of fresh water mussels clinging to her.
Patience is here on the cradle which in turn rests on wheels on rails.

 In addition to blacking they will weld on some sacrificial anodes. These are blocks of magnesium which are bolted to the hull and corrode faster than, or in place of, the metal of the hull and prop, thereby giving protection. It is important to check the anodes, as they prevent electrolytic corrosion of the steel plate and the bronze stern gear. And we don't want the steel hull to wither away ....

And so we leave Patience for a few days while the hard working guys at North Kilworth dry her off, paint on the bitumen, weld new anodes and attend to her every need. More details next week.
And by the way, don't confuse the well established wharf at North Kilworth with the yet unfinished new marina. A lot of work going on there and it will be a fine sight, but we prefer the well established wharf.