Thursday, 25 May 2017

Pre-Crick: Journey Day 2

Another lovely sunny morning, and we were again ready to go by 7.30. At Buckby Top Lock a couple of boats were just coming down; above, Ryan on the fuel boat, Southern Cross, was getting a delivery.

We made the turn onto the Leicester Section, and then comes the stretch to Watford Locks, which always seems further than I expect. At one point I saw a squirrel jump from a tree one side of the canal to a tree the other. The distance wasn't far, but the receiving branch was pretty flimsy.

At Watford Locks, a boat had arrived just before us and was starting up. I went and found the lock keeper who said we could follow them. Adrian did the very tight turn from the seond lock into the staircase with great aplomb.

We were at the top of the locks by 9.30, and set off along the summit pound. The scenery is very typically English along here.

Crick Tunnel was, as usual, dry at the southern end and fairly drippy at the northern end. The Crick Show harbour masters were outnin force, but thanks to a message from Bruce thenother day we already had a good idea where our mooring was. What's more, we planned to go on further and have a night in the sticks, so we had to tell a few people that we'd be back tomorrow.

The canal is full of twists, turns, and blind bridges, and there were quite a few boats going the other way including some we recognise from previous Cricks. Some seemed determined not to give upmthe centre of the canal, or thought moored boats had to be passed with six feet of space, so a couple of times we were in the offside shallows and heeling over a bit. Before long we caught up with a rather slow Canal Boat Club boat, which seemed to go into tickover for every bridge hole. So when it was lunchtime and a nice bit of piling came into view just through Bridge 27, I pulled over and we tied up. There's a nice view here, the solar panel is in sunshine, and it's very quiet, so we decided we'd stay put. There's a winding hole after the next bridge we can use in the morning. Adrian is working anyway, so it makes very little difference where we are. We've seen more boats go by heading for Crick, including MGM's show boat, with Mark and Rachel at the helm.

10 miles, 8 locks. (31 miles, 21 locks)

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Pre-Crick: Journey Day 1

Adrian arrived at a little before 10 last night. This morning we were awake early, and uo, showered and breakfasted in time to set off just before 7.30. It was a glorious morning.

We didn't see another moving boat until we were half way up Stoke Bruerne Locks. In fact, the first boat we saw was being carried. It was a pedalo, with two guys going from Birmingham to Brentford for charity. They were on the path on the offside, and Adrian pointed out that the path under the A508 is narrow and low. They decided the proper towpath was better, so put the boat in the water above the lock and pushed themselves across.

At the penultimate lock we met a confused volunteer lock keeper. A boat was coming down and the lock needed a little topping up, so he quite sensibly lifted a couple of top paddles. Then when I arrived he dropped them again. I asked why, and he said there was a boat coming up (us); I pointed out that the lock only needed a little bit of water to enable the downhill boat to use it first, at which point he shrugged and said he didn't know what to do it that situation. I opened the top paddles again and the boat went down. We did the whole flight in an hour and a half.

Blisworth Tunnel wasn't cold but it was wet, and I wished I'd put my coat on. We passed two boats. The railway bridge north of Blisworth has some lovely blue griders underneath. We've been under this bridge loads of times, but I only noticed them when I did a boat test up here a few weeks ago; actually I didn't even notice them then, it was when Andy's photos arrived. They may be making another appearance soon!

At some point after Gayton we passed Jaq moored up, and said a quick hello. We had lunch on the move, then stopped for diesel at Rugby Boats, where we met the new owner, James. Chance was moored in the little marina. At what used to be one of our favourite moorings, before Dodford Bridge, the works for the new road and bridge are in full swing. Tonnes of hardcore are being delivered and compressed

As the M1 came into view, we noticed that the traffic was down to a crawl. We were moving faster than they were. We were making good time, so decided to press on up Buckby Locks. A boat was just coming down the first lock so that was in our favour, but then we were following a rather slow pair of boats, one a single hander, and the other a couple in which the Chinese lady didn't really seem to have fully mastered steering.

We decided to stop in the long pound. We haven't stayed here for a while because the level used to drop alarmingly over night. But work has been done on the lock, and the bottom gates now look pretty water tight. The M1 is still audible, but not as bad as at the bottom. Tomorrow, assuming we don't have a huge delay at Watford, we'll overshoot Crick and spent the night somewhere out alomg the summit pound.

21 miles, 13 locks.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Pre-Crick: messy jobs

Because of work, Adrian can't come up to the boat until this evening, so I had a day of boat jobs to do. The one I really wanted to get done was to scrub the cratch cover, which was looking decidedly sorry for itself -- covered in bird droppings and turning green. I took it off, which is quite a job in itself; I'm sure I've said this before, but you only realise how big a cratch cover is when it's off the boat. I took it up to one of the picnic tables on the bank behind the boat, so I could lay it out and scrub it. What also needed removing were loads of spider nests, under the flap over the cratch board.

After the first scrubbing and rinsing, I left the cover to dry out and went to tackle all the spider nests on the cratch board. I even laid the board down to get under the bit at the bottom. When I went to look at the cover, it wasn't as non-green as I'd hoped, so I gave it another scrub all over, then tried to squeegee off as much of the green water as I could.

Other jobs completed today include driving down to Tesco at Wolverton to stock the fridge and cupboards, and lots of cleaning. I cleaned out the stove and then polished it with stove blacking; I swept through the boat from end to end; I cleaned the shower cubicle.

During the day, I had several visits from a swan who was just going around hissing at people. A better visit was from this crowd.

The day started very cloudy, but the sun has been out for most of the afternoon. Might we get a Crick Show with decent weather this year?

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)