Saturday, July 20, 2019

At least the EA is confused as well.

Well the EA might know what their mooring rules are for the Thames, but their lock keepers don't seem so sure.  Here's what I learned today,

Had we moored on the other side of Kings lock, it would have cost us £5 instead of £7.50, except that the £7.50 should have been a tenner as Herbie is longer than 40ft.  The lockie says he assumes all narrowboats are 40ft bless him.

The field with the abbey(?) ruin by Godstow lock is not EA and has separate charges but first night is free.

East street moorings are overseen by the lockie at Osney lock and first night is free.There are no signs telling you that. Next 2 nights are £5 each then please bugger off. You can come back and start again after one night away.  When asked about Iffley lock he didn't know.

There is a pukka sign at Iffley lock (hooray) saying first night free, then 2 nights at £5 and £25 a night thereafter.

Tonight we moor a couple of hundred yards above Iffley where I assume it is free until someone tells us otherwise.


Here's our new windlass, acquired at great expense

was it worth it?  Yeah I think so.  It works well and is hardly heavier than our regular ones.  Here's a picture comparing them for size.

My only reservation is that as the handle is rivetted on rather than just a bend, that makes a potential weak point. I feared for it on the top paddles at Somerton deep, but as they are the stiffest paddles I've ever had the misfortune to wind and the windlass survived, it scraped through the ultimate test.  Using the ratchet is a breeze and makes the job a lot easier on difficult paddles.

Now onto bridge names.  Sorry Sue, you were wide of the mark on dentist (230 -geddit?) and Luxembourg (208, surely you're old enough to remember that!). 76 is of course Trombone.  I'm no better, Jim has me foxed on "cowboy time" -see comment on previous post.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Confused of Oxford

Well here we are at Kings Lock on the Thames at Oxford and it is wet wet wet. No complaining though because the rest of the week has been sunny and they say next week will be too.

Trying to find out what has happened to Thames visitor mooring charges is near impossible. The web site of the company that ran them last year is still up despite their contract being lost six months ago, but Environment Agency have put nothing on their own site. The lockie at Eynsham said that EA moorings were free for the first night but there is nothing in writing. Here at Kings Lock the sign just says there is a mooring charge, but not what the charge is. It says talk to the lock keeper, but there hasn't been one at the lock all day. The sign gives you a phone number for enquiries so I tried that, but the man there had no idea either and referred me to the non existent lock keeper. Grrr.

We had Rick with us for a couple of days earlier in the week and we were musing over potential names for canal bridges based on their numbers. How about 
Luxembourg bridge or Trombone bridge or Dentist bridge? I can think of a few more. How about you? Can you translate the three above?


A nice (but somewhat damp and bedraggled) EA lady just appeared and relieved us of £7.50 for mooring here.  According to her, first night is free except where it isn't, i.e. here.  Apparently at East Street, first night is free.  If you then go somewhere else the next night and then back another day later, you are on first night again. Simples. 

Good 'ere innit?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Solutions to old age

I don't know which is getting stiffer faster these days, lock paddle gear or my back.  Most likely the one is the cause of the other I suppose. Anyhow I seem more often to strain what muscle I've got left when winding up some of the stiffer paddles  down our way.  So after consulting with my co-pilot we've agreed to splash out what seems a lorra lorra dosh on one of those Gowindlass ratchet windlasses.  They seem a good bit smaller and lighter than the other one on the market (a bit less expensive too).  The clinching argument is that we're not getting any younger so if it works it'll become more essential as time goes on. Ours is in the post and assuming it gets here in time we'll test it when we to get a bit of boating in next week so I'll let you know how well it works.  If it saves me from pulled muscles it'll be worth it.

Following on from my recent posts about gate hopping (which most of my brave readers seem to do despite CRT's advice to the contrary) I'm going to try an experiment to see if I can avoid the need.  The idea is to have a length of rope with a biggish fixed loop on one end which you drop over the free end of a lock gate before you push or kick  it open from the other gate.  Then you open the gate your side and the boat comes in or out, you shut your gate, then pull the far one shut with the rope.  I'm a bit surprised I've never seen anyone do it.  Perhaps because it doesn't work.  Anyway I'm going to give it a shot and see how I get on.  I'll probably strain my back and you can all have a laugh.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Battle Royal at Cropredy

Saturday News from the Civil War

A further report from our war correspondent Herbie Neil who is stationed close to  the front lines:

“All is calm at the moment after the heat and chaos of this afternoon’s fighting when the noise and
smoke of the battle was intense (unlike the respective Armies’ followers who were in tents). 
The parliamentarians with their backs to the river Cherwell endured a cavalry attack by the Royalists
swooping out of the woods below Williamscot before responding with thunderous volleys of musket fire
and charges by the pikemen who had no idea of where they were going in all that musket smoke. 
It was difficult to see through the murk but I fear that a number of soldiers may actually have melted
in the heat. Certainly a good few of them appeared to fall down “dead” at the first opportunity.
Smart move.

In general a good time was had by all, but there was much suffering in the thirty degree heat. 
In the rehydration station (aka The Red Lion) after the cease fire, many were regretting the authenticity
of their heavy woollen jackets and trousers and big boots.  There was much perspiration. Fortunately, the
lower ranks were able to take much comfort from the fact that their more meagre costumes caused a
lot less distress than the fancy topcoats and sashes worn by the officer class.  I believe the fashionable term
is schadenfreude. Surprisingly perhaps, none sought the cooling comfort of a dip in the canal, which was
a pity because they might have been usefully employed in searching for my assistant’s iphone which fell in yesterday.

Rumour has it that the cease fire is only temporary and that further fighting will break out on sunday
afternoon when your correspondent will be taking refuge by escorting a young family up the locks and back
to escape the fighting.

Back to you in the studio

Friday, June 28, 2019

News from the war zone

... and now over to our civil war correspondent Herbie Neil at the battle front.

"Yes, here we are very close to the front line where tensions are running high in preparation for the mother of all battles at Cropredy Bridge.  Earlier today we undertook the perilous ten minute journey from Cropredy marina to our bunker  in the sunken cutting between the two canal bridges.  Peering over parapet we can see the tents of the army supporters and hear their cries as they surge into the Brasenose Arms to fortify their spirits for the battle ahead.  The medical units are bracing themselves for an influx of bedraggled troops in the morning seeking help for their self inflicted hangovers.

"We are reliably informed by the army commanders that the first attacks will take place in early afternoon on Saturday.  Rumours abound however that the action may be somewhat overdue because although June 29th is the right date, the real first wave of attacks in the battle of Cropredy Bridge happened a little while ago.  375 years ago to be exact.  It is not clear who the opponents are because they all appear to be members of the Sealed Knot so in effect they are fighting their own people.  I suppose that's the essence of civil war really.

"Meanwhile the village is swarming with historians arguing about what really went on and who won.  Who was it who said that in times of war, truth is the first casualty?  I understand there may be doubts about the rumour that the Royalist cavaliers are to be led by Lord Boris of Henley and the Parliamentarian roundheads by Sir Jeremy of the Hunt.  All may be revealed tomorrow as I don my flak jacket and enter the field of battle, notebook and camera in hand.  Pullitzer prize here I come.

Stay tuned."

P.S. The first casualty of the skirmish has already occured.  A communications blackout has been imposed on my assistant Herbie Kath who dropped her iphone in the canal.  Those of a scientific bent may be interested to know that iphones appear not to be magnetic as prolonged dipping of our Sea Searcher magnet failed to locate the device.  There's never a frogman when you need one is there?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Fenders up or down?

We just got the quote for having our boat blacked and at first sight it's um, eye watering.  Why so? Well this time we asked for them to rub down and repaint the gunnels in black gloss.  For many years now I've been touching up the inevitable battle scars on the gunnels, but it's time to get back to square one with a deep rub down all over and some decent layers of anti rust primer and top coat,  hence the extra cost.

Did I say inevitable battle scars?   You might say we shouldn't hit anything if we were good drivers, but I reckon we're as good at steering into locks as anyone else. Lets face it, boats have rubbing strakes and fenders for a reason. Boats have to come alongside brick and concrete walls, metal piling which is often buckled and jagged etc etc.  Contact at some point is inevitable.

 "Well that's what fenders are for," I hear you say. 

No, not that sort of fender you idiot.

Well for good or ill, we choose not to deploy fenders of any type while the boat is moving.  Plenty of boats have the reverse policy in order to protect their precious blacking and gunnel paint, but I've seen no end of them get stuck in narrow locks in the process.  Somerton deep lock is a favourite for this.  I wouldn't like to count how many hours I've lost at this lock because of people with stuck fenders, and in other places down the canal where a bit of a fallen branch gets under or behind the lock gate so it won't fully open.

So normally our fenders only get deployed when we are tying up for the night.  Maybe there's a half way house and we should drop the fenders over before we come in to moor.  That might save a few scratches.  Or should we have them down most of the time and only take them up before entering a narrow lock?  I would value your opinions.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Future Banbury canalscape

I came across this youtube video showing how the canal area in Banbury will look after they complete the regeneration they are supposed to be starting sometime soon.  It includes a sort of fly-through along the canal, CGI I suppose.  The canal and towpath look unchanged.

I think I'm right in saying that the towpath itself belongs to CRT so hopefully we'll still be able to moor in the centre.  The video certainly shows boats moored along there.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Wet paint

"Oooh that paint has beaded up nicely in the rain," I might have said, but I flippin' well didn't.  besides the paintwork being wet in the rain, it was wet paint!  The next meteorologist I see, I'm gonna bust him in the nose. "Less than ten percent chance of rain" said the forecast for that day, and then only light rain.  So as the gas locker lid and the cants were in need of a fresh coat of the old Hempel Bordeaux Red, I got out the kit and sanded and masked and slapped on a  quick coat of gloss.  Job done I retired to my folding chair on the towpath verge and set to The Week crossword feeling pretty pleased with myself (albeit not with my efforts at the crossword)..

When the first tiny spots of rain arrived I wasn't too concerned, then Kath remarked that it was looking very black over Will's mum's and disappeared inside.  That was when the heavens opened.  Not just a light shower but a full blown downpour all over my fresh paint, barely an hour after I brushed it on.  Then to cap it all, it stopped raining, but replaced that with hail!  Anybody looking for happy bunnies aboard Herbie would have been sadly disappointed.  After the rain stopped, the water beads stayed put of course, but I couldn't wipe 'em off because the paint was still really gooey.  So I just had to grin and bear it and tried to get used to the idea of a Hammerite finish on the paint.  What really happened was that when it did finally dry a day later it wasn't too bad - more of a silk lustre finish than gloss.  Hey ho.

We were moored below the Claydon lock flight at the time, planning to have a bankside BBQ - well that never happened of course, but we had a nice relaxing weekend.  On the upside, all this rain will have put another couple of inches on the reservoir levels.  The reservoir figures are out any day.  They might make encouraging reading although they are about a month in arrears.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

One small step for a man

Are you a jumper or a walker?

The latest Boaters News from CRT contains an article warning of the perils of  stepping across the opened gate at the bottom end of double gated narrow locks.  Your feet might slip, the grab rail might be slippery etc.  so don't do it they say.  Of course they're right, but I'll go on doing it.

I would certainly never advise or encourage anyone to do it.  It's a long drop  into the water and you could easily bang your head.  I mean why would you do it?  Or should I say why do I still do it?  Well, to save a walk of 150 feet I suppose.  One pace or 50 paces.

The gap you have to step (not really jump) across is about 3ft 6in I suppose.  Sometimes I stand on the edge and look down and think "not this one" and walk round instead, but more often than not I check that my feet have grip, that my clothing won't snag the paddle gear, that my windlass is safely in the hand away from the gate and make an exaggerated step across, ensuring that I am well onto the opposite footplank and grabbing firmly on the opposite rail. It's not a huge step but I do think and take care each time.  Well like I said, I won't encourage anyone to do it but lots of us still do.  It's funny how at some locks it doesn't feel or look right and I walk round whilst at others e.g. at Broadmoor lock (The one above Cropredy where they sell fenders and windlasses) the other day the step seemed like nothing at all.  I suppose they must all be the same distance.  I must admit, if it doesn't feel safe somehow, I don't do it.  I'm not that cavalier.

Kath, I ought to add, walks round and I'm fine with that.

Are you a stepper or a jumper? It'd be interesting to take a straw poll.  Also has anyone knowledge of someone falling in in the process?

We're back out to Herbie today for a little bit of sanding and painting up at the pointy end.  I noticed the other day how scruffy the bow cants and the gas locker lid have got.  It's really noticeable how horizontal surfaces suffer paint degradation more than vertical ones.  The area I have to deal with is so small that the sanding should't take more than ten minutes and the masking and painting no more than half an hour, but we still need two or three days to get it done because of drying times.  So I have to work a few minutes and then take the rest of the day off.  That's my kind of hard labour.

We had a lot of rain last night but I'm not complaining.  I spoke the other day to one of the CRT chaps walking down Claydon locks and asked him about reservoir levels at the summit.  He said they were pretty grim.  Now I read that they're putting restrictions on the Leicester line and on Buckby locks. I hate to say it folks but we need a wet month.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Food and drink

Having got a letter from the cardiac consultant saying that after the angiogram and the echocardiogram they can see nothing wrong with my ticker,   I've decided to ignore my symptoms unless they get bad and just carry on.  Maybe I just had a virus or something, or maybe I have a nasty case of acute hypochondria (Oh no, not that as well!).

So here we are sneaking a few days away on Herbie.  Tomorrow we head just three locks up the hill to a favourite stretch below the foot of the Claydon flight  where we plan to do not a lot except potter about and I'll do some guitar practice following some cool theory stuff I just learned.

Having had an exhausting day getting packed up and driving here, tonight we succumbed to one of our favourite ready meals (not that we often have such things) - M&S Gastropub Moussaka.  I challenge you to cook me a nicer one.  Anyway we scoffed it sitting outside Herbie at the marina and washed it down with another naughty but nice treat.  Here's an appropriately blurred picture of Herbie with the treat in the foreground.  If you like wine with bags of flavour this a good 'un.
 Tesco's finest.

I've been cutting back severely on the old alcohol in recent weeks and experimenting with alcohol free (or nearly free) wines beers and ciders.  Most Wines of this genre are pretty ghastly, the best we found was from dear old Tesco.

Ciders are generally ok - just sweet fizzy apple juice mainly.  Beers are very mixed.  Low alcohol wheat beers are pretty good if you like that sort of thing.  Sainsbury's do a good one.  As for English type beers, many illustrious brewers have had a bash at it and most have produced quite nasty stuff.  There is one however that is a belter if you like beers of the Ghost Ship genre(American hops and light malts).  Look out for Infinite Session Pale.  They describe it as an American Pale Ale and it is typical of that type of beer, which I happen to love.  I've seen it in bottles in Sainsbury's and cans in M&S.  Virtually alcohol free but really really good.  Very hoppy, and I'm pretty sure I could be fooled into thinking it was a 4%er if someone got me one from the bar.  And only 36 calories in a 330 ml can. Sadly (there has to be a down side) it ain't cheap.

So tomorrow he head up hill for sea trials of our new steerer's seat and to check that lock working doesn't give me a heart attack.  I'm quietly confident.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Uncomfortably numb no more

Pink Floyd may have made a lot of dosh from being Comfortably Numb (at the same time as inspiring the naming of a narrowboat or two), but sitting on Herbie's rear end whilst steering makes my rear end uncomfortably numb.  So flagrantly copying an idea from Oakie, Kath and I have manufactured ouselves a padded steerer's seat covered in an alarmingly scarlet shade of vinyl.

Held in place by two bolts and wingnuts we sincerely hope it will not deposit us in the cut.  Sea trials have yet to be carried out.

Anyhow our couple of days aboard Herbie in the marina have not been entirely wasted. I even washed and polished Herbie's port side.  What a good boy am I.

This picture fails to show the full glory of my efforts but at least you can see the full glory of our lovely spot in the marina.. The starboard side will have to wait until I don't have to risk life and limb to get at it.

Tomorrow we depart by car for Cambridge for our annual assault on the beer festival on Jesus Green. In deference to my current medical predicament I promise to exercise a modicum of restraint and stick to halves of lowish alcohol beers. Actually the hard bit will be to refrain from the delights of the cheese counter. It's a hard life.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Not a Constable

I don't do much sketching and I do even less painting, but I though I might as well make an exhibition of myself and show you this pencil and watercolour sketch I did of Kath sitting outside Herbie at Abingdon last autumn. Not that you'd recognise Kath or Herbie from it, but you might at least be able to make out that it's Abingdon.

Today we're off(by car) to Long Buckby to help celebrate Rick and Marilyn's golden wedding anniversary.  If she'd have strangled him all those years ago, she'd have been out by now.