Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reflections at Crick

We have been east of Braunston tunnel travelling the wide Grand Union canal. It has been six months since we left Crick to head south for London. What a trip, what memories and pictures we do have. Now we are wondering where to go for the winter months. Here we are a bit limited because Foxton Locks are closed to save water and it is not known if they will open in the winter. There are friends here which made it feel like a home coming.
We have been keeping track of our boating friends during the summer as they travelled about the waterway navigations and elsewhere. Some have been down south on the Thames, the Wey and Kennet and Avon. Another has been east in Anglia on the Nene and Ouse while another has been up north and done the Great North Run! Yet another friend went to America, got married and returned to the boat with his bride.

Different boating at Oxford, 2007
We have decided to get a Gold Licence which allows us to navigate the rivers and canals next year. It has been a long time since we have been on the Thames. Not since 2007 in fact. There is a certain lack of water on the south Oxford so we may not be able to get down to Banbury. It would have been quick and easy to jump on a train to go home for Christmas, a short journey from there and family may have come up to see us. So we are considering a trip north to Great Haywood again. Whichever way we go we need to get past the winter stoppages at Watford, Napton or Fradley locks that are shut in November.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

At least it was sunny!

We eventually got to the Buckby flight of locks and joined a boat in the double lock. The boat was called Monarco, a hire boat from Napton. Most boats were coming down two in a lock as they should be. Then there was one because the other had stopped half way down the flight. When arriving at the top lock we were obliged to wait with three boats in front. The lock keeper was waiting for another boat to join the one already in the lock to come down. The queue had already been waiting half an hour. Two boats were being allowed through every half hour. We ended up waiting an hour and a half before being allowed in.
We found a space at the top and set about placing an order with Tesco. We logged in through 'Quidco' a site that offered cash back and discount codes. The connection was a bit slow and unreliable so had to shut down and reboot the computer. "That's better now." Unfortunately the discount code was rejected by Tesco. At least the goods arrived next day. We moved to a mooring half way to the locks and could not get a satellite signal due to the trees. We do have an alternative aerial and 'digi' box but Channel 5 and others were not yet available at this location. Strange because the system did list the other channels but there were no pictures. Wonderful technology is it not at times!

Next day we headed up the Watford flight.

The lock keeper does the gardening as well. And may it continue.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Batten down the hatches

We had stopped at Blisworth for the weekend. Oh that wind does blow all day! It is bad here but must have been much worse in the USA where the storm raged earlier. Wind generators get some welcome power but TV aerials do wave about so. Rubbish bins that have just been emptied get blown about like the leaves from the trees. Take care walking under those trees for they wave their arms about like the 'Womping' tree that J K Rowling wrote about. Un latched garden gates open and close on their own. Most boaters have stopped moving and those that try cannot leave their moorings or travel sideways if they do.
A few days later it was calm enough to move so we headed for Bugbrooke. On the way we stopped for water at Gayton Junction. It got busy when at one time six boats were either leaving or arriving at the facilities! It was still a bit windy on the way and there seem to be more boats on the move now.

Friday, September 09, 2011


A single boat coming down got the rudder stuck on the cill. The lady operating the paddle was struggling to get it up let alone lower it in a hurry. She was using one of those ratchet windies that had to be reversed. The boat took on water at the front, leaned over and went down leaving the back end up. Everything inside was crashing on to the floor! Ann happened to be walking Molly past the lock at the time. She came running back to get me to ring BW. The emergency number is 08004799947 and is printed on our licence holder. "There is a boat about to sink in a lock", "Which one?", "Second one down from Stoke Bruerne", "What canal is that on?", "The Grand Union", "How do you spell Bruerne?"
A while later BW rang back wanting to talk to the owner. By the time I had got up to the lock a BW man had already seen the situation and actions being considered. Our friend Ray had got up there to help and the centre rope had been tied up to a bollard to prevent the boat doing further damage. An attempt to refloat the boat only resulted in more water going in so the bottom paddle had been left up with the lock empty. It was quite distressing to see such a sight in reality and I told the owner that I would not take pictures out of respect. By this time Rose had made cups of tea and sandwiches for the owners. Ann gave their 20 year old cat some tuna to eat.
It was decided to lower the pound between lock 15 and 16. This would enable the boat to be pumped out. By now the top and bottom locks had been padlocked and a stoppage notice issued. Several boats including ours had to go down the previous lock and some went down a few more. The water was flushed out of the pound which went down by about 2 feet.
Both the gas bottle and well deck scuttles were blocked with wood. With several ropes and many men pulling on them with the lock paddle opened the boat was refloated and the people watching all cheered and clapped. Once the lock was filled the boat was pulled out backwards.

The emergency had kicked off at about 9:30 and by 2:30 in the afternoon we were able to continue our journey through Stoke Bruerne and the tunnel.

Wot! No locks

We were at Fenny Stratford the other day when our friends on Plaidy caught up with us. We were just north of that lock with a swing across it and they had stopped just south of it! While the girls went off shopping, the boys set off for a walk to Caldecotte Lake with Molly.
As you may realise, we had travelled up and over the Chiltern Hills and down the northern side. Now we can enjoy a long stretch of water all the way to Cosgrove. That is 11miles going past Milton Keynes. We were having breakfast when our friends went past us on their way early at just after 7 am! We left at 9 and with nothing else to do but drive and walk with Molly the time seemed to drag. Half way through the journey we stopped at Lynford Wharf for water and get rid of the 'unwanted'. At the end of the journey just before the lock we set off for a walk to find that our friends on Plaidy had gone even further than us.
Next day we set off heading up for Stoke Bruerne. But first a quick visit to that handy camp shop to get chips and peas to go with our fish that night. When we arrived at the bottom lock we were joined by Jenny Wren, a boat which was just behind us. After three locks Rose and Ray came down to help.

They live on a boat called Maddy Rose and invited us on board when we stopped below lock 15. We watched boats going up and down the lock sometimes one by one.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Housing on the canal?

It has been quite noticeable that there are more boats being used to live in, presumably due to the shortage of affordable housing. They tend not to be in comfortable marinas but congregate in mile upon mile on the canal. British Waterways have tried and failed to discourage this trend. I met a Captain Jennie from the Waterways Ministry. The Salvation Army are very concerned about the poor state of accommodation available in boats as an alternative to proper housing. A boat permanently sat at a mooring usually has no direct access to water or mains electricity, let alone the ability to dispose of waste products. Water has to be delivered to the boat by container or hose pipe. Diesel or petrol is required to generate power. This is often collected in containers and poured into the boats tank. This practice can present an environmental hazard.
Our friends are on the move again but got stopped at the top of the Marsworth finding the top lock padlocked shut in the morning. A British Waterways operator explained that there was a shortage of water but let them through. As yet we have not seen any restriction in operation at Marsworth posted on Waterscape. Although there are reports that the Foxton flight of locks is closed and there are timed restrictions elsewhere.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Sharing locks?

We came out of the Wendover Arm turned sharp left and entered the open top lock and waited but no boat came. A boat was on the way up so we went down on our own. After dealing with six locks we stopped for lunch. There we saw that Marsworth reservoir was also very low. After another lock we found ourselves following a boat called The Long Wait.
When we reached the next set of two locks with a short pound between we hovered for a while waiting for a boat that never came and finally stopped for some time. A wide beam trip boat in front of us had gone down both locks turned round and proceeded back up after letting a single boat up. When that had cleared the lock we both went in. As the trip boat came up the lower lock we went down. The short pound was a bit low so we had to be careful not to run aground passing the wide boat. We stopped in the afternoon and watched several wide beam trip boats going past in both directions.
What, we wondered would happen next.

Well next day we got no less than three boats in one lock! Us and two short day boats hired from the local boat yard. They were all on a learning curve in the lock. One family had life jackets while the other with very young children had none. They looked the part though with their 'skipper' hats on. We all managed to get through six locks without incident in the sunshine.

A Lion on the hill near Horton