Monday, May 08, 2006

Stoppages, snake, and sunsets - our trip to Bulbourne for blacking

1. Stoppages, a mysterious death and other complications

We were booked in at Bulbourne dry dock on Friday to have Herbie's bottom pressure washed and blacked, so it was with some alarm last week when we discovered that the canal had been closed at Cowley, just north of our moorings at Iver. A dredger had pushed a hole in a culvert under the canal's bottom and millions of gallons of precious water was disappearing down the hole. Until they fixed it we had no prospect of getting to Bulbourne.

Luckily BW pulled out all the stops (er, somewhat inappropriate metaphor there) and fixed it in the nick of time, so on Tuesday morning we were on our way. Interestingly it was a bad week all round for the Grand Union as they had to drain the canal at Stoke Bruerne to recover a dead body in a car!

A further potential delay was that Kath had to go home on Wednesday afternoon for an unavoidable appointment. Luckily we found a volunteer to crew us through the locks that day. Adele, Neil's former boss from Surrey CC was persuaded to join us and put in a hard days locking, having had no previous experience at all. Watching her helping us in the morning we wondered how she would manage in the afternoon without Kath's help. However, we needn't have worried and she rose valiantly to the challenge, working nine heavy locks in very warm conditions. I confess a certain satisfaction to having her work for me after the years I worked for her! Here she is pulling her weight -

2. Snakes (well one snake anyway)

This grass snake was writhing its way up the canal as we approached the M25 . Actually it was very close to the spot where I saw a mink on our last trip. It just goes to show you don't have to go to the wilderness to see wildlife.

The snake would have made a nice meal for one of the many herons we saw, our favourite being the resident heron at Berkhamsted lock. He takes no notice of boats at all, or the passing commuters over the bridge.

3. Dry docking

Thanks to Adele's help earlier on we arrived at Bulbourne in plenty of time for our dry dock appointment, and that evening we walked down the superb Marsworth lock flight to the Anglers Rest for a meal and a pint. Walking back up in the sunset was incredibly beautiful looking out over the reservoirs and all their wildfowl. A more perfect evening would be hard to find. Naturally I didn't have the camera with me! Next morning we had an extra treat to be surrounded by loads of large carp basking in the warm water, and spent some time feeding them bread.

Just after nine o'clock Herbie went into the dock and we had a nervous couple of hours wondering what they would find when they pressure washed the hull. We needn't have worried, because when we returned Ben at the dock pronounced the conditions of the starboard side as "good" and the port side as "very good", as were the anodes. Here's Herbie in the dock, prior to washing. The two coats of blacking could now go on. However the tiller/ rudder bearing was a bit worn so we decided to have that refurbished (not a big job). While we were in a spending mood I also asked Jem the owner of the dock to attend to the oil leak from Herbie's engine, so is going to fit a new sump gasket.

And so we abandoned Herbie to await her overhaul and set off for home by road. Next weekend we'll go and mover her to await our visit to the nearby Tring Canal Festival on Bank Holiday weekend.

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