Saturday, April 23, 2022

The sun shines on the righteous

 Herbie has been naughty.  When our daughter borrowed the boat recently, they got caught by the wind coming back into our slot at the marina and Herbie clouted the adjacent boat.  No particular blame there as it is a difficult manoeuvre in a sideways wind and our particular slot was always a bit of a challenge to get in and out of.  A bit of paintwork damage to the other boat occurred and like a good girl, Claire immediately told the marina about it, and to cut a long story short, we are paying for the necessary touch up to the cream tunnel band on the other boat.  (Not as cheap as you might think)

That's us being righteous.  Now for the sun shine bit.

This weekend has been particularly windy and we took Herbie out on the towpath just outside the marina to do a bit of painting.  Not ideal painting weather with all the crab apple blossom blowing about like snow flakes, but the right weather for boat painting is a rare thing.  At least it was warm and dry so our freshly painted port handrail now looks a lot better in its red gloss.

The other thing Claire did was to forget to tell us that she had left Herbie's water tank virtually empty so this morning we were forced to come back in to take on fresh supplies.  This was a fairly brave thing to do as the wind was quite strong and we didn't want another coming together with our neighbours boat.  We knew the slot two boats along was vacant so it being easier we headed for that and got in smoothly.  I pooped along to the lovely Karen in the marina office to tell her we were temporarily in the wrong spot, and casually enquired whether other berths might be available which were not so perilous to get in and out of.  "Well there's one just become vacant by that weeping willow tree opposite the marina entrance" she said.  "Stone me", quoth I, " That's the very spot Kath has always coveted!  We'll take it."  It actually costs a little bit more, I think because it's an 'end' pitch with no other boat on one side, so you get more light and a much wider gap to steer into.  Worth the extra we think. Even in today's strong wind, getting in was a breeze. (Sorry).

Herbie's new berth

with the marina entrance virtually opposite.

So despite the unfortunate business of hitting another boat and ending up out of pocket, we end up getting lucky and we're very pleased with our new berth.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Wooden handrails - a blessing or a curse? Plus a short marina tour.

Herbie has two unusual features. One is the hinged hatch lid and the other is the wooden handrail atop the cabin sides.  The wooden rail has the great advantage of not getting too hot or cold to put your hands on in extremes of weather.  However the downside is that wood is not so weather resistant as metal and the fact that it moves differently to the metal it is screwed to means that the paintwork on it tends to suffer.  So I need to paint it at least every two years.  

Over time the wood has also developed cracks and abrasions here and there, so prepping it for repainting is a non trivial task.  I did the starboard side rail (not as well as I should have done) last autumn, so last weekend I set about the port side rail determined to be more thorough.  Sand, fill, wash down, spot some more cracks, fill, sand, wash down again etc.  I didn't count how many hours but was quite a few and it's still not perfect because the wood is now twenty years old.  Anyhow here it is in new pretty pink undercoat


I would have put on a top gloss red coat but then it started raining, so that'll have to wait. Then I've only got about twenty other jobs to do.

While "watching paint dry" I took walks around the marina which is looking very smart right now with smartly clipped hedges and lots of daffodils.  The sign on the road gate outside makes a bold claim

I don't know if it is the prettiest but it must be a contender.  (These photos all look rather better if you click on them to see them big)

The marina has two separate basins called Sunrise and Sunset.  Both are spacious.  Here's just a part (about half) of Sunset.

Herbie nestles up in a quiet corner of Sunset. Here she is settling in last summer

The Sunrise basin is huge (too big to photograph) and spread between a number of bays And here's about half of it.  You do need to click it up big to see it properly

A far cry from the overcrowded feeling of some marinas.  A walk round both basins is about a mile and a quarter!

Ventnor does not allow residents (apart from a couple of staff) although I noticed someone is planning to start a resident family on site.

Thursday, March 24, 2022


 Well we might not be on the Dock of the Bay, but we have been sitting in the morning (and afternoon) sun.  On the canal bank actually.  

Butterflies (brimstones and a peacock) have shown up, dozens of rooks are cawing in their rookeries (or crockeries as our daughter Claire used to call them when she was little) and sitting on their nests, no less than seven buzzards circled together above us near Flecknoe (vying for mates maybe), and the towpath has celandines, coltsfoot, daffodils and violets.

 So I think we can safely say that spring has started springing.  At our marina they have a super show of daffs between the two basins.

Our solar panels have resumed earning their keep too. I reckon they gave given us perhaps 50 amp hours yesterday.

This is all very encouraging of course, although a not especially close post winter study of Herbie 's exterior reveals a lot of jobs to do.  Hey ho, I'll do it a little bit at a time and maybe it won't hurt too much. I promise to start on it real soon.

Interestingly, although there are quite a few boats about, it's still relatively quiet. In the middle of Braunston yesterday there were at least half a dozen free mooring spaces.  In a few weeks time that'll seem like a distant dream.

As if all that wasn't cheerful enough, how about this lorry which came to empty the waste tank at the marina.

Now that is clever.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Warm at last

 Well who'd a thunk it? Were afloat on the boat at last. I think that's the longest time we've abandoned poor old Herbie in the 16 years we''ve owned her. Actually despite a chilly breeze we're more warm and cosy here than at home. Our son Peter who is a committed eco warrior has persuaded us to set our thermostat at home to 17 degrees, but here on the boat our little stove easily beats that with a  handful of coal.

Today was the AGM of the Ventnor Marina Moorers Association so we thought we should  show up and give some support to the committee who put in  the effort to lay on occasional breakfasts, wine and cheese, barbeques and soup an sparklers during the year as well as craft demos and talks.  Good eh?

The Association also represents moorers interests to the marina management so I was pleased that when I suggested rallying support for the provision of HVO diesel fuel at the the marina ther were some others equally keen. Maybe we'll make iit happen.

Were not venturing far this time, probably to Braunston and back. We might treat ourselves to lunch at the Gongoozlers Rest or maybe the Nelson. For added excitement we might even walk up the hill to the butchers shop and buy a pie. We might be old but we know how to live it up.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Canal Map Quiz answers

 If you're still pondering the results of the picture quiz in my previous post and don't want the answers yet, look away now.

For the rest of us here are the answers.

A. is the ring formed by the Limehouse cut, the Hertford Union (Duckett's cut) and the Regents canal.

B. is the ring formed by going up the Thames past Port Meadow in Oxford, then along the Duke's cut and back down the Oxford canal (or the other way round of course)

C. Is the incredibly tortuous stretch of the upper Thames upstream of Rushey lock where the tiller never stops swinging.

D. Is the ridiculously wandering route over the summit of the Oxford canal between Napton and Fenny Compton

E. Shows the Marsworth lock flight on The Grand Union between the Wendover Arm and the Aylesbury Arm.

F. Is on the Caldon canal where the branch to Leek crosses over the branch to Consall Forge

G. Is the complex where the boater rides the tide between Salters Lode and Denver Sluice. Once navigated, never forgotten.

H. is just past the Northern end of the Harecastle tunnel where the Macclesfield canal leaves the Trent and Mersey canal and crosses over it.

I.  Is the canal basin at Market Harborough - nice place!

J. Shows the distinctive shape of canal basin at Coventry.

How did you do?

Wednesday, March 09, 2022


 Most people enjoy a puzzle or a quiz.  The latest puzzle fad seems to be Wordle which we play as a family each morning to see who gets the answer first. Then this morning I came across WORLDLE where you have to guess places from their map outline.  It's quite clever, giving you help after each guess saying how far away you area and in what direction.  Having coded my own version of Wordle recently I at first mused about doing something like it for canal places, but I can see that is would be a big job because of all the distance and direction thing.

So as a consolation I've knocked together this simpler map quiz for you to have a go at if you fancy it.

The picture below shows ten places on English navigable waterways.  Can you identify them? I'll give a bit of help in the description below.

These are definitely not all to the same scale.

A and B are two shortish circular routes easily done inside a day.  Excuse my poor tracing, the lower right hand line in A should I think be dead straight. This loop contains four named waterways. B is part river part canal.

C and D are extraordinary wiggly stretches D is easy if you've ever been that way. C is on a narrowish bit of river and is an afternoon's run between two locks slaloming sharply all the way  for about 3 miles - a real test on the tiller.

E shows a short downhill / uphill stretch (with a number of locks of course) between 2 junctions.  You could walk it in about ten or fifteen minutes.

F is a junction after which the branches cross over each other

G is a complex which you have to negotiate on a through route. Not for the faint hearted.

I and J  (the lower one) are canal termini

H is another crossover junction.

Good luck.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Electric rockets

 We got an email form our marina telling us about new electricity tariffs.  The old supplier contract had expired and the marina company has been searching for the best deal (they not are legally allowed to charge us more than it costs them, as I understand it). The email says "Although initial indications were that we could expect an increase of 122% due to the current UK-wide energy crisis, we are now pleased to confirm that, with the help of Aquavista’s broker, we have managed to secure an improved deal of 98% increase for  Ventnor Marina effective 1 March 2022. "

Only 98%, well that's alright then. Well they've done what they can I suppose.  One good thing is that the price is guaranteed "static" for 18 months.  Static electricity eh?

Actually we use very little electricity in the marina, and outside of it we generate our own of course. Our solar panels look more and more worthwhile. Perhaps we should get a third one.  Diesel for charging by engine will go up too of course.  I don't think diesel is going up 100%, but you never know.  Now I believe that most HVO diesel is made from sources other then crude oil so maybe the differential between HVO and normal diesel will reduce.  That would be good.

In other news, spring is springing at last.  Our lovely graveyard just over our garden hedge is looking very vernal.  The graveyard is a constant source of interest and delight to us with it's wildlife and history.

Over in Cambridge where our Peter lives, the Cambridge black squirrels are out and about.  Here's one he saw last week. 

Cute huh?  They're actually the same species as grey squirrels, just a different colour, like dogs and cats vary in colour I suppose.  Our other son Richard who lives on his boat in Huntingdon sees black squirrels there too. 

In other other news, at home we're lucky to have some very nice neighbours living opposite; a young couple from Ukraine who both work in the NHS. who have settled here permanently.  The woman's mum who still lives in Ukraine is over here visiting at the moment, so hopefully the government here will let her stay on if she wants.  They are of course angry about what is going on, but level headed about it. Remarkable how they keep smiling. We could all learn from their resilience and good nature.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Highway code on the towpath

 Who thinks a Dutch Reach is a stretch on the river Amstel?  

Sorry, I've been watching too much Weakest Link. So much nicer without Anne Robinson.

Well the new Highway Code comes into effect in a few days so you need to be practising your Dutch Reach in your car, but does the code apply on the canal towpath?

If you are a boater or a towpath walker you won't need me to tell you what a menace speeding cyclists can be.  When I was volunteering for CRT they would speed through our "Share the Space" awareness road blocks, on more than one occasion aiming straight for me in the process.  I was actually struck a couple of times, once by a motor cyclist. One chap got very indignant blaming me for preventing him from breaking his journey to work speed record.

Well do we have a little bit more legal ammo now? Annex 4 of the new Highway Code states:

It is important to note that references to ‘road’ therefore generally include footpaths, bridleways and cycle tracks, and many roadways and driveways on private land (including many car parks). In most cases, the law will apply to them and there may be additional rules for particular paths or ways. 

Under the new code there are strengthened rules on the hierarchical priority of cyclists and pedestrians, so I dare say that if you are knocked over by a cyclist you might have some improved redress in law against them.  However, statements in the Highway Code are legal requirements when they use the word MUST rather than SHOULD. Sadly, in the bits of the new code that I have read, it states that on shared cycle/pedestrian paths cyclists SHOULD give way to pedestrians.

Will it make a jot of difference to general behaviour?  I'm not all that optimistic but you never know.  Maybe CRT will beef up their signage by pointing to the code's requirements.  That might be a start.

Note to self: Must get back out on the boat soon.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Coming of Age

Some people have a bucket list. I never have written one down although of course there have been things I always wanted to do.  This weekend I shall attain the terrifying age of 75.  Yes, I know, who'd a thought it?  Somehow it seems a more significant milestone than 40 or 50 or 70. I don't think I can any longer claim to be middle aged.  I'm probably technically elderly. Hah! Time to review that non existent bucket list I suppose.

Travel the world?  Total failure on that one.  Switzerland is as far as I ever got - in an ailing old dormobile with a gang of fellow students.  We were aiming for Split in Yugoslavia but the van kept overheating so we turned round at Lake Zurich. We were so scruffy and the van so beaten up that we routinely got pulled over and searched for drugs at border posts.  One guard got very excited at finding a pouch of something in my holdall, until he discovered it was a tea bag.

Having a motor bike?  Many a middle aged man's fancy.  Well I had a little 50cc Honda when I was a student but I don't think that counts. Top speed 50mph downhill. I fell off it several times.

Playing guitar in a band? Many a young or middle aged man's fantasy. Yep done that, although not exactly sex, drugs and rock 'n roll - we played for barn dances. Still we weren't too bad and it was terrific fun and we often got free fish and chips.  One year we did 22 gigs. I think I made about 15 quid a time which just about covered expenses. In the 1990s Kath and I and a friend Alison formed a folk band called Man Sandwich - we were alarmingly good and huge fun until poor Alison died suddenly.  In recent years I have gone electric so I look really cool in our spare room when no one is watching. I'm not Jimi Hendrix but I can play a bit. I even have a Stratocaster copy - bought off Maffi, permanently on the boat.

Having an exotic car?  Well we did have a Citroen Dyane (a sort of 2CV estate) when we were first married.  Exotic enough in my book. 602cc of throbbing power, requiring dropping in to first gear to get up some hills. We loved it to bits.  Not exactly a Ferrari though. Actually I never wanted a fast car or a Rolls Royce. I prefer miles per gallon over miles per hour and our Skoda has a bigger boot than a Ferrari.

Writing a book?  Twice ticked! Not exactly a commercial success but I'm not ashamed of either.

Seeing one's idols at live gigs? Lots there. In my twenties I went to lots.  First ever performance of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac.  Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart, John Mayall (many times), Pink Floyd, The Who (who were dreadful), Cream in a tiny club when they had just formed, James Taylor, Rev Gary Davis (very niche but a real catch) and so many more.  Plus many folky greats like Nic Jones and Martin Carthy lots of times. Sadly I never saw Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell though. 

Owning a boat.  Biggest tick of all.  Lots of people dream about having a boat.  You can see gongoozlers doing just that.  It's great.  Waterways, countryside, city moorings, BBQ's on the bank, industrial heritage, waterside pubs.  What's not to like?  There were doubters when we first decided to buy a boat - "You'll never use it enough" etc.  Well they were wrong. It's one of the best things we ever did and we're still doing it.

I've just set out on my latest bucket list item.  Now that I'm about to be 75 I've started learning piano, well a midi keyboard in truth.  I'm doing it properly, scales and arpeggios and all that stuff.  I don't suppose I've got the time to become the next Liberace, Rick Wakeman or Vladimir Ashkenazy, but I know I'll enjoy trying.

Come back when I'm 80 and see how far I get.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

New Years Honours

Happy New Year everyone.  Statistically, I'm guessing that the probability of it being better than last year is reasonably high, so let's look forward to it.

Apologies for the late completion of the Herbie Awards - I have to admit that the 2021 Awards have been pretty limited, as has been our boating.  Anyhow I still have to give the Special Award for 2021.  Maybe, being so late it should be called the Herbie New Years Honours.

Looking back, I'm amazed to find that the Herbie Awards goall the way back to 2007! In the very first of them I wrote

With the nights drawing in, I spend more of the evenings idly planning future cruises and contemplating the highlights and low points of this year so far. So I reckon it'll soon be time for the Herbie annual awards. When I say annual, I don't imply I ever gave awards before, but I might do again next year.

Well here we are all these years later.

 Herbie Special Awards are generally given to those who have given exceptional service to Herbie , other boaters, or to Canals in general.  Past winners have included: (in no particular order)

Maffi -for Caring Enough in collecting towpath rubbish

Sue (No Problem) - for leading by example the survival of liveaboards in the harshest of winters

Oakie and Kathryn - for Indefatigability in keeping on keeping on despite infirmity

Sue and Richard (Indigio Dream ) for Hospitality, giving us so many very special (but sometimes scary) day trips

Jaq (Nb Valerie) for Fortitude  in her dedication to her dear Les fighting illness while living on board.

Best friends Rick, Marilyn and David (Rainman)  for crewing, DiY and general moral support services to Herbie

The 2010 Herbie Paintfest Crew  who put in such extraordinary effort and support in the great Herbie repaint.

Sarah and Jim (Chertsey) for Sufferance and Munificence in generously allowing Kath and me to participate in events on "real" canal boats.

Val Poore (aka Vally P) for Generosity of Spirit in continuously giving moral support to boat bloggers.  I'm delighted to say she has been a supporter right from the start and she is till with us.

Frank Jordan the ever cheerful Abingdon Lockie for Brightening Boaters' Days

Ronnie the dog for Best Boating Beginner at less than a year old!

I may well have forgotten someone, but rest assured if you are that person, you deserved the Award.  Award Holders, a number of whom proudly display their logos on their blog sites, only have to look through the list above to realise that they are esteemed company. 

For 2021 I could offer the Award to our so Peter who valiantly worked every lock on our holiday cruise to protect me from over strain following my pacemaker fitment. But that could be construed as nepotism.  Instead for delighting us with their helpfulness, friendliness, efficiency and a caring welcome we're more than happy to give 

The Herbie Special Award


Karen (manager) and Chris (harbourmaster) at Ventnor Marina

I suppose I should let them know, although I doubt they'll be putting the badge on the marina signage.









Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas Picture Quiz

Well we made it to Christmas Eve, so dear readers I wish you all an enjoyable and safe Christmas.

While we take a break before the envelope containing the name of the Herbie Special Award 2021 winner envelope is opened, how about having a go at this picture quiz.

The pictures are all of mooring spots in cities or towns.  Can you identify them?

1. It doesn't look like a city centre, but it is

2. A less than salubrious spot which you have to share with pigeons

3. Just a couple of minutes after leaving a city centre canal basin

4.  100 yards from a nice old county town centre

5.  Pontoon moorings in a cathedral city

6. A crazy footbridge very near an old town centre

7.  A normally busy spot but strangely quiet when I snapped this

8. Another town basin

9. A town centre basin due for a much needed update

10 Finally a splendid mooring at the heart of a city

I think they're all easy, mainly I suppose because I took the photos. Anyone getting 7 or more must be quite well travelled.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Herbie Awards day 3 - Best Pub

What? Only five waterside pubs visited this whole year?   Actually that doesn't seem too bad going given how little cruising we've done. And I should add that this year only once did we go "just for a pint" - the rest were always for food too.

The poor old pubs have been having a hard time so they all deserve an award for keeping going, but this is the Herbie Awards so  we have to find the very best.  With only five contenders, we can afford to put them all on the short list. Let's try it alphabetically.

1. The Admiral Nelson - Braunston.  We walked up there to meet Rick and Marilyn for lunch and sat lockside.  I can't remember what I ate (fish and chips?), but it must have been fine because I would remember if it wasn't.  I do recall that the beer was very nice. A very good pub as most boaters know and a great place to watch the lock traffic.

2. The Blue Lias - Long Itchington.  This was the one where we only drank -as a refresher after working down the Stockton locks on a hot day. What a nice garden to moor up on.

 This pub seems to get mixed reviews, but for our purposes it was fine and the beer was very acceptable. We only stopped for an hour, but it was a pleasant one and I would certainly go back.

3. The Cuttle at Long Itchington - also deserving a mention because they have a mooring (albeit treacherously shallow at one end) at the end of their big garden. Here we ate and drank on their terrace and it was 'OK' and the staff were friendly..  

4. The Folly at Napton. What can I say?  The Folly has won more Herbie Awards than you can shake a windlass at. This year Mark and Caroline(?) have really put in the extra mile with their beautiful garden plants, the smart marquees and the building of their huge wooden Potting Shed - which is as big as many a pub in it's own right.  I haven't been in the shed since it opened but it looks gorgeous.   All this despite struggling with staff shortages and new kitchen staff to train up.  Beer good as always.  In the circumstances we have to let them off for the limited menu and the polystyrene food containers.

5. The Two Boats - Long Itchington (again)

This where we settled for the night after leaving the Blue Lias.  Here we see it from our mooring some days later at the previously mentioned Cuttle across the canal. I do like a proper old canalside pub.

Here we ate home made pies. I'll forgive them for the fact that it was a pastry top on a dish of filling (I don't call that a proper pie) because the filling was really very good indeed.  The moorings right outside the pub door are a bonus too, and the landlady was very friendly.  I'd certainly go back even though the beer was no better than OK.

So that's the lot for 2021 pubs.  As for the winner? Well there could only be one.  For sheer hard work and dedication to the job in the face of huge obstacles, expanding while others contract, and always striving to create a great environment for customers,  yet again 

The Herbie Award for Best Pub 

goes to

The Folly at Napton

They're going to need a bigger trophy cabinet.