Saturday, October 20, 2018

Oh no! He’s at it again

In my relentless quest for displacement activities, I’ve been back at the coding keyboard.  I know, I can’t help it. This time putting together a phone / tablet  App that tells me where I am (as if I didn’t already know!).  Actually it does a bit more than that.  Here, take a look.

Assume I am chugging along the canal, maybe seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  Whipping out my trusty phone and opening this this app ‘wot I have writ’ (no internet or phone connection required), I see a screen like this.

RESULT1

The phone uses its location ability to get the latitude and longitude and it looks that up in my file of places along the canal, so I get some idea of where we are and how far etc it  is to the next five upcoming places we may like to stop.   I tested the “find me” bit last time out and much to my surprise it works!  The GPS seems to be accurate to within three metres or so most of the time.

See the button marked feature search?  I tap that and  get this list from which I can pick any feature I may wish to find “down the road”

FEATURELIST

It might be the next lock or the next pub etc.  This time I tap Water (sorry for the unintended pun there) and up comes this:

WATERLIST

Actually I tapped it once to get Thrupp, then the “further” button to see the next two.  It all works pretty instantaneously despite my probably inefficient coding style.  Cruising times are, as ever, only estimates and assume 2.7mph (which experience suggests is a good overall average on this canal) and ten minutes per lock,  The answer you get seems to be about right unless you get held up.

What does that tell me that Nicholson’s doesn’t, you may ask.  Well not a lot really although it does do the sums for you and it is pretty fast.  You may also ponder why I should bother as by now I know the South Oxford canal rather better than the back of my hand. Hmm, the only way I can answer that is to say I enjoyed the challenge of doing it. Imagine it as a fascinating logic puzzle.  I did have problems in a couple of places where the canal doubles back on itself.  Did you know, for instance,  that when travelling south past Enslow, the canal turns briefly North and also think of all that wiggling around up on the Wormleighton summit.  Up there it’s hard to know whether you’re coming or going half the time.   I had to think up a complicated bit of “ifs”, “ands” and “ors” to get round places like that.  That’s the fun of doing this stuff.

As you would expect, a lot of the canal data was extracted from Canalplan (thanks again Nick), but this time  I have added in my own data about water points, pubs etc as well as including some nice remote mooring spots not specifically identified in Canalplan (Kirtlington Quarry for example).  My idea is that eventually I’ll do versions for canals that I am not so familiar with, then of course I might find it a lot more useful.  Sadly I have no idea how to create this app for an iphone, this version is for Android only.  It can be installed as a standalone Android app, requiring no other software, so it can be transferred to any Android phone / tablet. Using it requires absolutely no keyboard input what ever, just tapping stuff already on screen, so even your granny could do it.    In the nature of things I can still think of ways to improve it and I still have to tidy up tiny things like what happens when you get to the end of the canal, or press a button at the wrong time, but I’m nearly there.  Actually, I have just this minute noticed that I haven’t added ‘Water’ at Heyford Bridge. See, there’s always something to fix.  Software is never finished. I don’t want to finish too soon or I’ll have to do some real jobs around the house/ garden/ boat.  Actually, inspired by Oakie I have started on a padded steerers seat for Herbie.  More of that later.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Making life wetter by water.

I think the people of Banbury must be amphibians. It rained so hard this morning that no normal person in his right mind would come out to wander round a food and craft market. The stall holders at Banbury Canal Day were looking rather forlorn early on, but they soon cheered up when the locals showed up in reasonable numbers. I've never seen so many umbrellas in one place.

I don't suppose any of the traders had a bumper day, but they were selling. We took ruthless advantage of those selling perishable goods who were all doing deals to clear the stock. Sourdough bread, meat pies, veggy quiches,(and I saw Kath sneakily buying Turkish delight). We shall eat like kings for the next few days.

Despite fearing the worst because of the weather, we had a pleasant weekend, and I would think the organisers were, in the circumstances, grateful for the hardiness of the Banburyites.

Not only that, Herbie has had a real good wash:-)

Friday, October 12, 2018

FMC in another world

In a parallel universe where Fellows Morton and Clayton were still operating on the canals:

"Dad, Dad," the grimy faced boy peered onto the engine room where a moustachio'd man was vociferously cursing at a corroded nut on the gearbox housing. "Bloody FMC, how do they expect us to keep goin' when they don't spend no money on maintaining the boats, it's all goin' on extra bleedin' managers pokin' their noses in where they don't belong and 'sustainable development' whatever that is. What is it boy? Can't yer see I'm busy?"

"Dad, I got a letter for yer, off that bloke in the office. Here, look." He held out the white envelope, already smudged with the lad's coaly thumbprints.

"Well that's no good to me is it, yer daft bugger. You knows damn well I can't read. You'll have to do it. You went to that school last week didn't yer? Didn't they teach yer no readin'?"

"No, they was doin' summat called Topic that day, but I couldn't see no chocolate bars wiv peanuts nowhere, so I come back 'ome at break time."

"Well give to yer Mam then. Er'll 'ave to read it. 'Ere, 'elp me out of this engine 'ole."

The man clambered out and he and the boy walked to the back of the boat, squeezing into the boatman's cabin where in the already cramped and overcrowded space, Mam was struggling to fit the now compulsory life jackets onto her six small children.

"Damn this bloody 'elf and safety rubbish. It takes 'alf the bloody mornin' to kit out this lot, it's 'alf past seven and I ain't even started on today's risk assessment forms yet. What's that you got? Another letter off FMC by the look of it. Give us it 'ere."

She snatched the envelope off the boy and sighing wearily, tore it open.

"Wossit say then?" Dad looked anxious, letters from FMC lately usually spelled trouble, what with new rules and regulations and stupid paperwork to fill in.

Mam unfolded the letter, her brow furrowed as she slowly deciphered the text.

"Ooh, we'm 'avin the boat repainted Bert."

"What?" It ain't five minutes since they done it before, after the paint was s'posed to 'ave too much lead in it. Daft buggers, it's these old engines and gearboxes what needs fixin' . We broke down three times last week."

Mam continued. " 'Ere listen to this." She cleared her throat and commenced reading out loud.

"In order to better promote the business to the twenty first century customer, the FMC board has decided to rename the company, which will henceforth be known as Aquatic Logistics Solutions, and our new bright blue livery will support a symbolic new logo (a thick straight line ) representing our commitment to . ."

"Sounds like a load of old symbolics to me," said Dad

"Oh bugger, it says 'ere the planned programme of boat engine refurbishments has been deferred to allow for the cost of the rebranding. Ooh but we're going to 'ave a new strapline"

"Ooh, new straps for tyin' on the butty," said Dad, "At least they got summat right for once, them old uns is frayed bad."

"Aah no, this ain't that sort of strap line Bert, it means a sort of sentence writ under the company name describin' the business. It says 'Sustainably fulfilling customer expectations by water."

"What the f. . do that mean?'"

"Ang on, 'ang on, there's more. Oh lor! You'm gonna have to take yer coaly boots off when you walks along the top plank in future."

"What?!"

"Well it says 'ere we got to cut our carbon footprints. Coal's carbon ain't it. We'll 'ave to get a new doormat at least."

"Hmmph," said Dad, "The sooner this lot is nationalised the better. They wouldn't do anything so stupid then."

Monday, October 08, 2018

Kath’s Botanical Art

Anyone who has been down to Oxford on the canal will be familiar with close encounters with weeping willows. Quite often they completely obstruct your view forwards and you just have to close your eyes and hope nothing is coming the other wayas you push on through.  Was it me who suggested it might be an ideal subject for Kath’s sketchbook? Maybe.  Anyway she got to work and produced a couple like this:

First_Willows   

Then once on the Thames she reverted to grabbing twigs from ordinary (non weeping) willows as we passed and produced this:

willow2

and this

willow3

Kath is one of those people who’ve always said they can’t paint or draw but over the last year or two, often encouraged by our peter, she’s found that she can.  Good innit?

Another canalside plant that has grabbed her attention is the butterbur that proliferates on the South oxford.  She’s been taken with the weird shapes the leaves take on as they die off at the end of summer.

bbuphoto1       bburrphoto2

This time she produced drawings using an iPad app called Procreate


bburr1 Art_Template

A lot more of her artwork can be seen Instagram where she goes by the name of #sewgran.  What a clever old stick.





Sunday, September 30, 2018

Vital Statistics

Last night being our last night we pushed the boat out before we pushed the boat in. Which is to say we treated ourselves to a final meal out before we put Herbie to bed back at Cropredy. Actually that's not true, because this morning we gave ourselves an extra treat of breakfast at Wetherspoons before leaving Banbury. Very nice is was too, but not as nice as the superb nosh we got at The Three Pigeons last night. That had to be the meal of the trip for me. Pork medallions in a brandy cream sauce with some perfect veg. Their beer is excellent too. It even looks good.



Purity Gold that is.

Now you all know I love a good statistic or two, so here goes with the facts and figures from our trip. They might be of interest to anyone planning a Thames trip

Miles cruised: 204
Locks locked: 96
Hours cruising: 87

That works out at an average 2.35 mph, or if you discount time stationary at locks (say average 15min per lock) it comes to 3.2 mph. That sounds about right. I reckon we were doing a smidge under 4mph on the Thames and our canal average is usually about 2.7.

I reckon we've averaged about 1.4 litres of diesel an hour, which according to other BMC 1.8 owners is just about spot on.

In 28 days we have:
Visited 13 pubs
Moored away from habitation ( mostly on meadowland) on thirteen nights usually all by ourselves.
Paid for a mooring four times ( out of 17 nights on the Thames)at an average cost of £7
Been to a supermarket or food shop five times which is about as often as we have found one.

And had a very nice time.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Gossip and ink.

Just imagine it, three boaters spent a whole evening in the pub together without ever once discussing batteries or toilets. Is this a record?

Ray (aka Oakie) joined us for a night of gossip and yarning(plus a bit of eating and drinking) in the Great Western at Aynho, and with well over 200 years of life on this planet between us, we had plenty to talk about, some of it suitably salacious of course but I'd better not take that any further. For our delectation, he produced a phone app listing all the canalside pubs he had visited and we compared notes. I thought we held our end up well, but we're not in Ray's class when it comes to such things. A jolly evening was enjoyed by all.

Now Herbie rests for the night in Banbury, just a couple of hours cruising from our berth in Cropredy so our September adventure is all but over. What ever shall we do then?

Well one thing I might have a bash at, alongside trying to rescue our garden from the ravages of our neglect, is Inktober.

Inktober can be read about on the web. It's merely a personal challenge to do a drawing, in ink, each day throughout the month. As inspiration, they give you a list of 31 words (the first few are: poisonous, tranquil, roasted, spell, chicken!). Then you're supposed to do your sketch each day (or you can just do one a week if you're busy) and post a photo of it on instagram and wait for plaudits, constructive criticism, or presumably in my case derision, from your friends and family and other Inktoberists. Our Peter did it last year and found that it helped with his technique, creativity and confidence (sketchingwise). You don't have to produce a Leonardo cartoon, just a little sketch. Peter did all his in a little sketchbook about the size of a smartphone. Well I'll give it a go, I need some displacement activity or I'll end up doing something useful. Can't have that.

If anyone else cares to join in, that could be fun. I dare you.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Just in time


Is it autumn yet? The setting sun makes it look that way here at Allen's lock and tonight we could well mark the beginning of autumn by lighting the stove for the first time in several months.

Yesterday we couldn't have done it because the stove door rope I bought was too thick for the door to shut, but the wonderful Alex fixed all that today as well as unjamming our seized on chimney and sealing up a crack in the stove top. He even did a smoke test for us to make sure the stove was fume tight. Top man !

I'm already getting used to the canal again, the sticking gates and rattly paddles. Don't you just love 'em?

Last night's mooring spot was not a good choice in hindsight. Now Herbie is coated in a film of dust from the cement quarry. If I wash the roof will it turn to concrete I wonder? Oo er!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

All change

Phew, back on the canal and having to work again. We're not used to winding paddle gears and pushing gates. People on the Thames don't know how molly coddled they are. When we're even older and more decrepit than we are now, I can see us in a cruiser with driving seats tootling up and down and letting Thames lockies do the work. Some nice old wooden Broads cruiser might be acceptable.

Actually tonight we're still moored on the river, only it's the Cherwell between Thrupp and Enslow. In the peace and quiet of the countryside, if you discount the helicopters, the nearby cement works, the tractor spraying goodness knows what on the adjacent field and the railway trains every few minutes. Aah well.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Swan song

Our last night on the Thames ( or I suppose it might be the Isis right here) and we're at East Street in Oxford. Tomorrow we head back up Port Meadow and onto the canal via Duke's cut. On someone's (Bones maybe?) recommendation we celebrated our river adventure with a meal and a drinky at The Punter at Osney ( now we know it's pronounced Oasney. Nice place The Punter.



And it has a very original menu. I had goat curry pie!

East Street moorings :



How good it would be to show people the beauty of Port Meadow, but being so vast and flat, it doesn't photograph easily, so how about this:



We've enjoyed the Thames more than we expected. I'll do a post about what we learned when we get back home. Right now we have to get used again to flexing our muscles on the canal locks and worrying about water levels. Surprisingly, the river has been at normal levels throughout. Amazing after the hot dry summer.

Look out CRT, here we come.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Bridges



That's more like it. Not a ripple on the water tonight. We're out in the sticks above Swinford toll bridge. You may recall that that bridge, which has been privately owned since it was built in 1796, was sold at auction about ten years back for over a million quid. The toll of 5p for cars and 10p per axle for lorries should have got them most of their money back by now because they get over 10,000 vehicles a day crossing. Locals wanted the council to buy the bridge to get rid of the long queues at the toll, but apparently they didn't have the money to buy and maintain it.

This morning we passed once again through the much prettier Newbridge bridge, probably my favourite on the Thames.





You can easily see where it has been patched up over the years.

And then this footbridge which looks wooden from a distance but is in fact disappointingly concrete.



If you read yesterday's post you recall the taciturn lock keeper. Well he was on duty at another lock today and he was quite cheerful and chatty and kind to his dog. Ours not to reason why.

Oxford again tomorrow. I'll try and get some photos this time.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Saving money on the Thames

I've suddenly learned to appreciate the Thames Visitor Licence charging system. We had to buy more time today as our original 2x1 week licence had expired. We reckoned we needed at least a couple extra days. Well for us, 2x1 day would be £67, or 7 days would be £54.90. so naturally we thought we'd get the 7 day option. But no!! We give grateful thanks to the lockie at Shifford who said, as we had already had two weeks we could upgrade that to a month for just £44.50, thus extending our possible stay for two more weeks for less than the cost of two days. Crazy but good.

This means that when taking out a visitor licence, it's best not to buy extra time at the outset just in case, because you can upgrade later if you need to and still get the full discount. Good innit?

A one day licence works out at £33.50 a day, a seven day licence at £7.84 a day, and a one month (31 day) licence at £4.97 a day. That's some discount.

Tonight we rest near the Maybush at Newbridge. That's another off the bucket list.


The river bank here is a bit high for comfort, we'll have to leap or scramble up to the pub.
.
Better not drink much or we'll end up IN the drink coming home.

The pub has been radically altered with a new extension. Traditionalists won't like it, but the tourists might as it capitalises on the views of the bridge and the river.




Dare I mention that the forecasters tell us that we're in for a long spell of fine weather from tomorrow? Better not tempt fate, so forget I mentioned it.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Making the best of it.

When, years ago, all keen to enjoy the delights of the waterways, I signed up to be a narrowboater, days like today were not what I had in mind! Much as I love the river and the rushy bends and the herons and the odd kingfisher and all that, it's hard to enjoy it with a face full of rain.

Luckily we had a cunning plan to alleviate the suffering and after an hour or so we stopped off at Kelmscott to pop round to William Morris's place at the manor. Sadly, he was not in on account of having died in 1896, but after greasing the attendant's palm with silver we were let in to admire the wallpaper and tapestries and the like. The gardens were cute too. Morris was a great advocate of keeping old buildings going by maintaining and "mending" them sympathetically. Well as it turns out, the building was in such a poor structural state when the current owners ( a charity) took it over that it was a wonder it hadn't fallen down. I think it was a good job he put up all that thick wallpaper or maybe it would have.

We couldn't resist wandering on to find the old Plough pub in the village. Forty or so years ago we used to camp for weekends across the river at Eaton Hastings and we'd cross the little wooden footbridge and walk to the Plough, which was small and rustic and had bantams wandering in and out. The beer was served through a hatch. Now of course it has a restaurant and wifi and sandwiches cost £8.50. I confess we were weak with hunger so we splashed out. My hot roast pork baguette with apple sauce and onions and a decent helping of chips was very good so I'll let them off.

Returning across the field to where Herbie was clinging nervously to the crumbling river bank we set off again in the rain. At Grafton lock we were (not ) entertained by the most taciturn lock keeper we have ever encountered. Saying nothing to us,he only emerged from his hut for seconds at a time, to wind up a sluice or close a gate, then scuttled back inside each time to shout angrily at his unfortunate dog. I doubt he'll make the shortlist for the current vacancy in the Chuckle Brothers.

Pressing on in the increasing rain we eventually reached the meadow above Rushey weir and called it a day. A nice little herd of, I think, Dexter cattle came over to inspect us and seemed to give us the ok, so we're here for the night. Little do they know that at midnight we shall become outlaws because our Thames Visitor Licence will have expired. We can buy an extension at the next attended lock.

Second confession of the day: We have resorted to heating the boat. Goodbye summer. Our stove is put of action because I pulled out the old rope door seal then bought the wrong size replacement. Doh! So it was back to the dear old Eberspacher to try to dry our wet gear for tomorrow and to warm us through. Tomorrow morning the weather is supposed to be worse, so the plan is to set off after lunch and make a dash for the Maybush moorings at Newbridge.

Until then, as the French say, "Reservoir".

Friday, September 21, 2018

Skipping cows and good food

1.View from starboard galley window


2.View from port galley window at the same time


The Lechlade cows seemed not to mind the wind, and they deftly skipped over our centre rope :


We like Lechlade very much and I'm sure we'll want to come back. A proper butcher/greengrocer, a sourdough bread bakery, a good chip shop, and some nice tea rooms and pubs, a reasonable Londis for essentials. Plus of course all those lovely Cotswold stone buildings. What's not to like? Except perhaps a man knocking on the boat roof at half past eight and asking for a fiver.

The wind is at last dying down so we upped sticks and pulled across the river to moor on the New Inn garden, as recommended by No Problem Sue. Thanks Sue, nice one.

This evening we ate at the said New Inn and we're pleasantly surprised with the food, local and fresh and well cooked, the service, efficient and friendly and the beer, a good choice and well kept. Not too pricey either . No surprise then that it was busy. And of course we got a free mooring . Recommended.

Well of course Lechlade is as far as we'll get up the Thames so in the morning we'll turn and start heading back. If things go according to plan, we'll manage to stop at places we missed on the way up.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sitting it out

"The battle outside raging
Will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the Thames it is deranging."

Bob Dylan helped me write that.

Well we've hammered on every available stake and tied to a wooden post and we're all nicely sprung in the proper manner so let the wind do its worst.

We set off early this morning and got here in Lechlade just as the wind was getting up Here on the meadow below the bridge, Herbie is rocking gently in what according to Beaufort is a "force 7, moderate gale - whole trees in motion- waves 13 to 19 ft at sea" while we wait for the threatened midnight thunderstorm. I'll probably be fast asleep by then. I'm happy to report that the waves on the river are somewhat less than 13ft, but the trees are certainly getting a workout.

If you're going to be stuck anywhere on the upper Thames, Lechlade is the place to be as it's the only place with shops and such like. I can already highly recommend the fish and chip shop.

Various people have warned us that the cows here like eating rope, but when they came and inspected ours this afternoon, they turned their noses up. What's wrong with our rope then? I feel slighted.

Our planned itinerary is all awry because of this weather, but are we downhearted? Nah!

San Fairy Ann as they say in the trenches

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Interesting times

"May you live in interesting times."
So goes the old Chinese curse, and on that basis our cruise today was one of the most interesting we've ever done.

I must have a word with the Met Office. Their wind strength predictions were about an hour out, so when we set off at three o'clock expecting the wind to drop, we were cruelly misled.

Another saying is "There are no problems, just opportunities." Well I had plenty of opportunities to get Herbie blown into the reeds. Blimey it was hairy going round all the hairpin bends with the wind blasting in unpredictable directions and the rain on our faces. I feel quite proud that we arrived unscathed at Radcot, grabbing a just-long-enough bankside mooring and tying to some scaffolding poles before the boat blew away.

All is well though and we are warm and dry in the very friendly Swan pub


where a nice man says it's ok for us to tie up on what is really a private mooring. After a pint and a plate of pub grub I feel ready to do it again tomorrow to get us to Lechlade which is effectively the head of navigation. So then we can say we've cruised the whole of the navigable Thames. An early start might get us the least worst of the weather. If the met office has it right this time of course.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Gung Ho cruising

Tonight's mooring:



"Hang on," says the observant blog reader, "I thought you said you were going to the Maybush. This looks like you're out in the sticks."

Well we might have stopped at the Maybush if it had been open, so whilst we did cross another item off the bucket list and pass beneath Newbridge.


and peek up the final yards of the River Windrush

and made a note of the Maybush moorings for our way back, we decided to press on.

At times this morning it was scarily windy and we saw some boats pull in and peg down, but we are made of sterner, or stupider, stuff and plodded on in the knowledge that the weather may be worse tomorrow.

Steering a boat on this stretch requires a fair bit of concentration at the best of times. I've never experienced so many consecutive blind hairpin bends. With this wind, and warnings of silt shallows on the inside it was challenging at times, but fun. I felt like I was applying the wee bit of sailing knowledge that Rick has mostly failed to teach me. I'm sure Rick, who is a fan of such things, would have loved it. Kath did sterling work with the haroogah, sounding the klaxon to warn any unseen boats coming the other way. In the event though there were only one or two, like us, sufficiently stupid to be out on the river. A couple of times we caught lockies napping as they weren't expecting any boats to roll up.

When I was about thirteen, I read all the angling books I could get hold of, devouring wonderful old works by "BB" and the glorious writings and paintings of Bernard Venables. Angling was different then. Fishing rods were wondrous things made of split cane, floats were made from porcupine quills and ages old techniques like long trotting and stret pegging were what you read about. Baits included 'bullocks pith' whatever that is, and maggots if you used them rather than bread or worms, were called 'gentles'. I am happy that the largest fish I ever caught was tempted by a piece of ordinary bread. Nowadays it's wheelbarrows full of gear, carbon fibre poles and electronic bite alarms. Yuck. I'm not sure I ever want to fish again, but I have a deep affection for these lovely old books. It was in such works that I first read the magical names of Tadpole Bridge and Tenfoot Bridge, and today for the first time I travelled beneath them. I was not disappointed.

So here we are above Rushey lock having doubled our intended number of miles and locks, so if it is stormy tomorrow we can make a short hop to Radcot or Kelmscott and head for the pub. Nice one.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Warp factor 7

We came up from Abingdon todayin a bit of a convoy - three, sometimes four of us meeting up at each lock. As it happens we were first in Abingdon lock, so first out and away. This week I've been a bit conscious that most boats seem to go a bit faster than us, so today we wound Herbie up to warp factor 7 (1800 rpm) in a bid to not hold up the others. Using my patent Herbiesoft Speedo Android phone app,


it looked like we were getting up to an amazing 4.6 mph at times. Kath was downstairs shouting "She canna take any more Captain" while I struggled with the G forces on the command deck.

When we got to Iffley lock I said to the lady on the next boat, "We weren't holding you up were we? That's about as quick as we can manage."

"Blimey no,"she said," you were going really fast, we could barely keep up!"

Aah well we've slowed down now to our customary 1400 rpm and at last we're on the "upper" Thames where the pace of life is more leisurely. Tonight, having departed Oxford via the amazing vastness of
Port Meadow, we dine al fresco on the moorings below Eynsham lock. ( That's spelt K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M only without the K.(apologies to anyone below about 65 years old who won't get that joke.))



Tomorrow we venture into waters hitherto unpenetrated by Herbie. I'm particularly keen to revisit my old haunt of Newbridge where the lovely river Windrush ( possibly named after a ship full of Jamaicans) joins the Thames. There we shall have the dilemma of choosing whether to give our patronage to The Maybush or The Rose Revived, or I suppose we could do both.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Thames trivia



Here we are at Abingdon. Well here's Kath at any rate. Someone has to take the photo.

I love the waterfront here, so many lovely old buildings, and the moorings are not only lovely but free too.

I was annoyed on the way here seeing that this Thames side house



had been sold. If only we had come by earlier I could have bought it with the proceeds from my book. Hmm well I might have been able to afford the Sold sign anyway.

Thames thoughts No 1:

I have decided that the Thames looks gorgeous when the sun shines but often drab when it doesn't shine. Something to do with the reflections or lack of them on the wide water. Luckily we've had enough sunny periods to enjoy some lovely scenes.

Thames cruising handy hint No 1:

We've got a broom with rubber bristles, and it has proven a boon for sweeping the dried goose poo off the grass to clear a patch to sit out and have a BBQ. Last night at Day's lock we really needed it.

Thames cruising handy hint No 2:

Take a boat hook to pick up the coil of rope from your boat roof when you enter a deep lock on self service (as most have proven to be). Ours must look a bit like a harpoon since one lockie said to Kath, "Are you going whaling with that?"

Friday, September 14, 2018

One off the bucket list

Well it would have been a shame to moor in Reading without taking the canal trip through the town centre, so that's what we decided to do before we turned round and headed back up the Thames. Reading is our local big town, so we know it well, but we've never boated through it. The canal follows a narrow and twisting route through the Oracle shopping centre, and because it is narrow and twisting and the current is often strong, there is a traffic light system to avoid opposing boats meeting in the middle. It was fun.



Once through, we just turned round below the County Lock weir and did the whole thing in the other direction. The turning was a bit scary, because I wasn't sure how deep the pool was or how strong the current was. I just stuck the bow out into the stream and let the current swing us while I kept the stern close to the bank. The weir is barely a foot high, but there's a strongish flow over it. I suppose the front of theboat was about two thirds across the river.


It was fine, but I'm not sure I'd do it after a week's heavy rain. The Kennet has a hell of a pace on it sometimes.

Anyway we enjoyed the little jaunt immensely and felt we had crossed something off our bucket list.

So after that urban fix, we're now back out in the sticks and tied up for the night in a quiet spot in Beale Park.



We ought to be making a bit more progress on the way back up river but Herbie seems comfortable at about 4 mph (as measured by my home developed Herbiesoft Speedo App) which is a good bit slower than the plastic cruisers and a little bit slower than most other narrowboats, but we find it less tiring when Herbie is happy.

Who knows where we'll be tomorrow night? I don't.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Reading Gaol

I think Reading Gaol is now shut, but readers of my first novel Jobs for the Boys might think that that is where the opening chapter is set. In the interests of anonymity of inmates I couldn't possibly comment.

The moorings here are I suppose the best in Reading, but they do cost £9.50 for 24 hours. A number of boaters who fail to comprehend the small print on the signs claim that it costs £100. Cobblers! That's what they could demand if you fail to comply with the procedure. You pay on line.

Here's us tied up there.





That's the prison wall on the left in the lower picture. Next to that (not shown)are the attractive old abbey ruins

Carol asked where it was, so here goes.

From the Thames turn down Kennet mouth and pass through Blake's lock. Shortly afterwards, just after the Weir on you right take the sharp right hand turn and follow round through two low bridges ( not much more than 7ft for the first one) and there you are. It's called Chestnut Walk. The town centre shops are barely five minutes walk away. To get back to the Thames just follow round the loop back to the lock. No winding required.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Oscar and me



Here is our view from the window as I write. We're at Pangbourne meadow, empty when we arrived late this morning and now choc a bloc with boats. It was a ridiculously short run from Goring, but we are pacing ourselves to arrive in Reading tomorrow for Grace's birthday.

Kath took the train into Reading to do some shopping while I rested my rather painful left knee. She came back with a thing to strap it up, scarily robust. I feel like my leg is in plaster.

I have been reading Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray ( well it was free on Kindle)and I must say I'm finding his smarty Alec prose a bit annoying. Contrived, I think I would call it. However as one great author to another, I'll do him the honour of pressing on in order to see how it unfolds.

I have to admit that the river is very attractive down here, if somewhat gentrified. We might moor up by the prison in Reading tomorrow, that won't be so salubrious, at least it wasn't when I did a bit of work with young offenders in that establishment in the 70s. Now I'm in my 70's I suppose I might be an old offender. I find that thought quite stimulating.

Of course old Oscar himself spent a while in Reading jail( or gaol), so perhaps we have more in common that I first thought. He was of course in there for outraging public decency whereas my young offenders were mostly in for "Taking and driving away" and such like. Happy days.

PS look at the sunset outside the boat now


PPS I'm writing this blog post on my phone. How magic is that?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

What rich people can buy.

Yesterday's lovely mooring above Day's lock does have one disadvantage; the wind fairly whistles across the river there. Admittedly it did push us securely against the river bank, but we were buffeted overnight. When we set off this morning we feared a blustery trip, but once we got round the corner we had no further trouble, apart that is from having forgotten how to work a Thames lock when it's on self service. We didn't realise that mere mortals like boaters are prevented from operating sluices and gates from the console at the opposite end, while superior beings like lock keepers have no such restriction.

We passed quite a few more ultra posh houses today. I don't now how people get all that dosh but it sure ain't through a regular wage or salary. Maybe it's by selling their one bedroom flat in Knightsbridge and moving up country.

Anyhow we got to Goring about lunch time and tied up on the moorings below the lock.



Soon after we were joined by a family on a hire cruiser from Kris Cruisers of Datchet. A nice boat if you like that sort of thing, nowhere near as huge as many you see on the Thames.



Now I have some sort of notion of the price of most narrowboats we see, but when it comes to these tupperware boats, I had no idea. Luckily this sort of boat tends not to be bespoke like a lot of narrowboats, so like a car it has a make and a model number for all to see. A quick call to Mr Google got me a price and I was fairly stunned. £215k for a new one, or you can pick up a ten year old one for around £100k. I mean it's not as if you would want to sell up your house and live aboard on of these things like narrowboaters do. That makes narrowboats look very good value don't you think? It also makes you realise how much spare cash some of these private owners must have to splash out on what is usually a weekend boat. And they still have enough left for Breton fisherman's smocks and yellow wellies. Not that I'm envious or anything.

I looked up the cost of hiring the boat, and the next available slot was 7 days in October for £1400. A bit dearer than a narrowboat hire, but compared with the cost of each boat, it looks like the canal hire companies get a better return on their outlay.

Monday, September 10, 2018

An everyday story of country folk

Dum de dum de dum de dum ( If you don't know why I wrote that, just forget it and read on).

After cruising through Abingdon, admiring its gorgeous old waterfront, (I can't think of a better one) we pressed on past posh boathouses, sweeping lawns and the houses of the super rich until we reached the moorings above Day's lock (near Dorchester) that looked so inviting that we decided to stop. All the way along we have been supervised from above by red kites who looked down on us wondering if we were good enough to eat. Some came very close. We also saw three kingfishers.



After lunch on the river bank, the amiable young farmer stopped to collect our mooring charge and stayed chatting for an age. We saw pictures of his prize show cattle, he has longhorns, Belgian blues, and Herefords and often gets first prize in shows. Then we heard the tale of how the wild geese had eaten all the grass his cattle should have had on the riverside meadow (apparently three geese can eat as much grass as a cow) and how grass and hay is very short this year, and finally his scary stories of run ins with hare coursers.

The hare coursers come from far and wide (Wales even), mostly operating at night in the stubble fields where they unleash their dogs, betting large sums on which one will catch the hare. The local farmers hate them and work closely with local police to catch them when they can. Such is the dislike of this practice, the police are always ready to send up their helicopter (at great expense) to help with catching the coursers. The baddies use their 4x4s to make their escapes while the police give chase, on one occasion doing serious damage to their posh BMW police car. Sadly, even when they do catch them, the coursers don't suffer any significant punishment and so it goes on.

Some of the coursers know that the farmer is helping the police and on one occasion set fire to his straw store to warn him off.

Well it was a very entertaining chat, and we didn't begrudge the farmer his £8, especially when we were told the money is going into a fund to improve the river bank for moorers.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Thames tribulations

Phew! We're not used to all this rivering lark.

Last night whilst still on the Hythe bridge canal arm in Oxford we went out for a pub meal with Bones, Maffi and Susan starting at the Royal Oak (nice pub) and ending at the ice cream emporium down the road (also recommended). I mention that I was having concerns about getting under Osney bridge (now I know it's pronounced Oasney). Maffi, ever helpful, said " never mind Osney, the bridge in the Sheepwash channel, (under which we would need to pass), is the really low one. "

That did my confidence no good at all and I confess to losing a bit of sleep that night worrying about what we would do if we couldn't get under due to our stuck fast chimney.

This morning we prepped the boat, readying the anchor etc, and set off up the arm towards Isis lock. That bit was easy as we had backed into the arm so we could come out forwards. Then of course we had to go through the lock backwards which was fine although because of the wind direction I had to do a 450 degree turn to face us up the Sheepwash channel. The boat following us was very bemused they told us later. Anyway, halfway through that turn, I glanced down the channel to see the bridge, which only looked to be about five feet over the water. Well it was, but that was not the bit we had to get under. In the event we had about a foot to spare, and under Osney bridge more like fifteen inches. Yippee!

Osney lock next where we splashed out £109 for a two week Thames licence and then on down through Folly bridge where you feel a bit special


and then on to Iffley.

Well that was nice. Then we learned that Iffley lock was out of commission because of a split hydraulic hose. You don't get them on the canals, nineteenth century engineering has it's benefits you see. The lady lock keeper was very nice but told us that she was trying without success to contact the contractor who fixes these things.
The lockies so far have all been very friendly and it seems that some of the have a good sense of humour, as shown by this sign at Abingdon lock.



We settled in and had lunch, realising that this was a nice spot and if we were stranded overnight it would be no bad thing.



Although I looked up the advice we had had from Still Rockin' Carol giving a thumbs down on the nearby pub :(

The boat tied up behind us was full of eight people from Oz who seemed cool about the delay. One of them was waxing lyrical about English ale, having sampled an alarming amount in the two and a half days since their plane landed. He was keen to learn more so I recommended a few to him. Kath wandered over complaining that the wind was getting chilly. I said, think of these poor souls from Oz, they had just told me it was usually 50 degrees back home. "That's only in the bloody shade", said the man.

Eventually a man with spanners appeared and isolated the split hose, thus allowing
the lock to operate on one sluice. To loud cheers the lock once again fulfilled its purpose and we set of in search of Abingdon, some three and a half hours behind schedule.

I'm not a fan of long wide Thames reaches where all there is to see is willow trees and water and we were very glad when we we sighted Abingdon lock just a couple of minutes after the lockie had clocked off for the night. Many thanks the the German? lady who knew how to do the lock on self service and saw us through to the excellent free moorings below the lock where we are now.



A partially stressful day, but now I've had one of Kath's G&Ts it all seems fine.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Backing up

Well we plucked up Courage today and dared to reverse Herbie down the narrow little arm at the end of the canal in Oxford. It's a bit of a palaver, requiring us to drop down Isis lock, turn round, the come straight back up the lock before reversing down the arm, a long row of moored boats on one side and muddy shallows and overhanging bushes on the other.
Kath bravely took the tiller while I fooled about on the bow prodding things with the long shaft in an attempt to keep us straight. Despite my best efforts we didn't manage to hit any boats or run aground in the bushes, but it was hardly a showpiece demonstration. However we're now in what must be one of the best moorings in this fair city.





And only a couple of minutes walk from the city centre. Worth the effort.

Maffi called by and introduced us to his friend Susan while we all drank tea, and then I wandered off down the road to view our next challenge, Osney Bridge.



It sure looks low, and our chimney is still stuck fast on the flue and cannot be removed so we'll just have to tell it to duck as we go under. According to the charts and my measurements of our air draft, we should have six inches to spare. Fingers crossed. That'll be on Sunday after we've had a mini city break amongst the supposed dreaming spires.

Ever since Aynho the canal water levels have been fine. I don't know where all the water is coming from.

Ps I amended my canal place gps gathering app to record the time (as supplied by the satellite) as we pass each spot on the list. Now I can look back at our timings and speeds. This is getting more like Formula 1 data work by the minute. Engine revs next?