Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Pre-Crick: work

I had to go to work today, and as the late night trains are replaced by a bus between Milton Keynes and Northampton, I went from MK rather than Wolverton.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Pre-Crick: arrival

I needed to come up to the boat at some point this week as we're heading off to the Crick Show, so it seemed to make sense to come today after work. Both the two rail routes between home and work had engineering works today, so I drove to London (a very long and slow journey), then headed north after my shift. I was pleased to see that even at after 11pm, the batteries were at 100 per cent, charged entirely by the solar panel!

Friday, 5 May 2017

Grape Escape on test.

The June edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Grape Escape by Bourne Boats.  This boat will be at the Crick Show.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Bank Holiday Weekend: Day 5

The long term moorers on the offside at Cosgrove have clearly never heard of the rule about only running engines when stationary between 8am and 8pm. One had their engine on until almost 9.30 last night, then just a few minutes later another turned theirs on, until 10.15. Then this morning, that same engine went on at 7.30.

Anyway, with the bank holiday over, it was the sunniest morning so far! I had just a miles to do back to the marina, and it was glorious.

There wasn't much breeze, but what there was was in the wrong direction and it was a bit of a chore to get back into our berth. However, I was soon secure and packed up. As I had time, I filled the water tank and also had a root around down the weedhatch, as the propwash didn't look quite right today. There was nothing round the prop itself, but round the shaft was quite a bit of fishing line, complete with a float and a hook still with bait on it -- so I was grateful not to have ended up with that stuck in a finger. It took quite a lot of work with a knife to get it all off.

The solar panel had been doing its work and the batteries were already up to a hundred per cent by the time I set off for work at about 10.15.

1 miles, 0 locks. (43 miles, 14 locks)

Monday, 1 May 2017

Bank Holiday Weekend: Day 4

There was quite a lot of rain in the night, but today has been much better than forecast. As we realised we had very little in store for lunch, we put the bread machine on first thing. We set off at about quarter to nine; Adrian brought the boat while I walked to Stoke Hammond Lock.

A Wyvern hire boat was just about to come up, with a family on board. The mother said they'd had some boating holidays a long time ago, but it was a first time for their daughters, and the dog was being a nightmare! It certainly seemed quite keen to get off the boat. Below Stoke Hammon lock there seems to be quite a colony of Mandarin Ducks. The other day I saw four males there, today a male and female.

When we got to Fenny Lock, two boats had just come out but they'd already closed the swing bridge. But first one then anither boat arrived below, and they did the bridge. With so many crew from other boats, we got through hardly lifting a finger. We moored up right behind Valerie and Jaq came on board for a cup of tea. She arrived with her timer, as a cake had just gone in the oven. We chatted for a good hour and a half, remembering her Les, talking about America, and of course congratulating ourselves on having composting loos. At times it was pretty emotional, which is understandable. Jaq will be on the move again soon, so if you see her, give her a hug.

It was about midday when we set off again. Just outside Fenny was a whole procession of boats including an enormous widebeam. I was glad we met it where we did, and not in lots of other places. Around Simpson we started seeing runners taking part in the Milton Keynes Marathon. We saw then on and off right the way through to Great Linford. We had lunch on the move, ticking off the bridges along the long pound through MK. At Stantonbury we caught up with the Jules' Fuels pair, which meant our progress was slowed a bit. We moored up again at Wolverton, as Adrian needed to get a train back to London. Once I'd seen him off, I returned to the boat and set off again. As I crossed the Iron Trunk Aqueduct, I worried that this duck was feeling a bit suicidal.

Cosgrove Lock needed turning, then as I was nearly up a boat arrived at the top. A waiting boat really gets in the way at this lock, so I suggested they come into the lock beside me, and then I would leave -- so for a brief moment there were two boats in the lock, facing opposite directions.

There was masses of space at Cosgove, so in an effort to extend the weekend a little I've moored up, and will do the last mile back to the marina tomorrow, before work.

By the way, well done to whoever has cleaned up the bin compound at Cosgrove. On Friday, there was an overflowing bin outside the compound, while inside looked like a disaster area, with all sorts of things dumped all over the place -- including many which shouldn't have been there at all, like cans of oil, batteries, and gas bottles. It was tricky to actually walk to the bins. While I was there, a man came and took a photo. Today, everything has been cleared, the compound is easily accessible, and all the bins are now inside the fence.

15 miles, 3 locks. (42 miles, 14 locks)

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Bank Holiday Weekend: Day 3

Late yesterday afternoon the sun came out and the temperature went up; we had the side hatch open until about 8pm. This morning wasn't as overcast as yesterday, or as the forecast had predicted, but it was a bit breezy. We set off at a little after 8.30; it seemed like a long time since we'd been beyond here into Leighton Buzzard. At Leighton lock I left the camera on the boat, so Adrian started snapping away.

At the Wyvern hire base we counted 14 boats moored up -- on occasions we've been past in the winter there have been as many as 35 there. It meant there was plenty of room to get through, and people had even moored on the towpath opposite.

I went cautiously through the bridge after the shopping mooring, as you can't see very much. Once I was through I found the Jules' Fuels boats coming towards me, breasted up. At least there's a winding hole there so there was plenty of room; almost anywhere else along here would have been worse.

We carried on to Grove Lock, where I used the little arm below the lock to turn around. The wind was pretty strong and not entirely helpful, but we got round easily enough and started re-tracing our steps. We went past the Jules' Fuels boats on the shopping moorings; we knew they'd be stopping to serve the long term moorers here, because one of them had asked if we'd seen them. Back at Leighton Lock, a boat had just arrived below but it was in our favour we we went down first. We passed last night's mooring spot about three hours after we'd left it.

Yesterday, one of the boats moored near the top of the Soulbury Three had been feeding the ducks, and I'd counted twelve ducklings. The lady said there had been thirteen to begin with. Today, all remaining twelve were still present and correct.

At the Soulbury locks, we had to turn the top lock, but could see another bkat coming up the bottom one and soon to go into the middle. That meant we could leave the gates open and cross in the pound. It was the Bromley Youth Trust boat, which we also saw yesterday.

There were a couple of volunteer lock keepers om duty, so the gates of the bottom lock had also been left open for us. A boat conveniently arrived at the bottom, too, so we did all three locks without having to close a gate after we'd left a lock.

We continued just a short way on, and moored in another favourite spot. One summer evening we watched lapwings in the field opposite. The water level is a bit low, and the chances are that it might fall a bit further tonight, but we'll see. After lunch we washed the side of the boat, as the really dirty side was now on the towpath, and I cut up some pallet that the new fridge arrived on for kindling. It's been in storage under the bed. It's been partly sunny this afternoon, but also very blustery at times.

10 miles, 5 locks. (27 miles, 11 locks)

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Bank Holiday Weekend: Day 2

We had a very quiet night at Campbell Park at Milton Keynes, but as we had trouble getting the fire going to any great extent last night, the boat was pretty chilly by this morning. We had porridge for breakfast, and set off at a little after 8.30. We had only about half a bag of coal on board, so were hoping to come across a fuel boat. Sure enough, a bit further through MK we found Gary on Ascot selling diesel to a moored boat; we went alongside too, and bought a bag of coal. A Wyvern hire boat coming the other way seemed a bit confused about what was going on.

As we went through Simpson a swan got up from her nest and started turning her eggs. The Canada geese at Fenny Stratford were a step ahead as they had lots of fluffy yellow goslings.

At Fenny we were looking out for Jaq on Valerie. There was a Briar Rose sized space right behind so we pulled in and knocked on the boat a couple of times; there was no answer, so we decided we'd carry on a try to meet up again when we're on our way back on Monday. Two boats were coming out of Fenny Lock so they left the gates open and the bridge swung put of the way for us. No sooner were we in the lock than Jaq appeared on her way back from the shops. We had a nice chat, then she waited for us to go through the lock and swing the bridge back. Here she is on the left, sitting outside the pub.

We swapped with boats coming down at Stoke Hammond lock, then at the Three Locks at Soulbury a couple of boats had just come down so the bottom lock was in our favour. We had to turn the other two, though.

At the top, it wasn't entirely clear what was going on, as there was a Wyvern boat on the lock landing but no-one making any sign of working the lock. By the time we'd come up, two more boats had arrived, one pulling alongside the Wyvern as it to make a point -- and the Wyvern crew were having lunch on the well deck!

I was aiming for a favourite mooring spot just through Bridge 109, and amazingly (considering how many moored boats there are in these parts) the whole area was free. We moored up at about 1pm, had the rest of last night's lasagne for lunch, and decided we wouldn't be going any further today. Adrian, who's been working lots of hours again, even went for an afternoon nap. Later, we did a circular walk, going across Bridge 109 and the railway line, picking up the Cross Bucks Way across some fields to Bridge 110, and back along the tow path.

9 miles, 5 locks. (17 miles, 6 locks)