Monday, November 27, 2023

If you're interested - more on Zoe experience

 Just a heads up in case anyone is interested, I've done an update on my Zoe experience here:

In short, it's proving fun and effective.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

A dark day

Don't get too worried, its not that kind of dark day. Kath came out of hospital last Wednesday and is doing fine (thank you to readers who sent their good wishes).  She was in there for 8 days in all, which will give you some idea of how ill she was.  However although she is recovering well she isn't yet strong enough to go boating in the cold, so something had to be done to return Herbie to Cropredy after she had been blacked and a couple of other jobs at Tooleys in Banbury.  So our daughter Claire and grand daughter Grace stepped up to the plate and did the job for us.  

It was quite a long job, driving 70 miles to Cropredy to drop off the car, getting a taxi back to Banbury, picking up the boat and taking it a mile up to the winding hole to turn and head back to Cropredy, then of course driving the 70 miles back home. I was at home playing nurse maid and directing operations over the phone, giving advice when they had a small technical hitch, then again when they ran aground by Slat Mill lock, chivvying them along. and getting anxious because I could see that they were unlikely to get the boat back to Cropredy before dark.  In the event that was the case. By the time they entered the marina, feeling cold and rain spattered, it was just too dark to find their way to our berth at the other end of the marina, so I advised them to  parked up on a vacant pontoon next to the services.  The marina office was closed but I managed to phone a member of staff who OK'd the idea and either he or I will move Herbie to her proper berth later in the week.  Phew!

Down at Tooleys, Matt and co  had blacked Herbie's hull, removed and renovated the chimney collar, cleaning up up a lot of rust around it which had caused a leak or rainwater into the boat and then located and replaced the Eberspacher heater fuses which had corroded to the point where they were not conducting.  They also cleaned up and repainted the stove and the flue where the water leak had dripped.  Add to that the work they had done a few weeks ago to replace the calorifier hoses, pump out the engine coolant spilled into the bilges when the old hose failed and refilled with antifreeze, and we ended up with a substantial but not unreasonable bill.  I wish car garages would only charge what boatyards do per hour for labour.

We'll stop off at Herbie later this week to do some winterisation on our way up to stay with our Peter in Cambridge.

December is nearly here and that means the annual Herbie Awards are drawing near.  Something else for me to think about.

Friday, November 17, 2023

One helluva week.

Well it's been quite a week.  Herbie was due in Tooleys dock on Thursday for blacking and the plan was for me and Kath to cruise down to Banbury on Monday or Tuesday and spend a day or two enjoying the delights of the town  before handing her over to Matt at the dock.  Well the best laid plans . . . 

On Sunday Kath took ill - severe abdominal pains, short of breath, low blood pressure, she was proper poorly. Next morning we went to see the GP and he sent us straight to A&E.  Although Kath was triaged within half an hour there then followed a three hour wait to get to a bed.  They did however fit her up with a saline drip while we sat in the busy waiting room.  Blood tests were taken.  It wasn't until 11pm that a doctor finally came.  He'd seen the blood results and said Kath needed to stay in hospital for at least one or two days.  Next morning they had diagnosed a bacterial gut infection and . . Covid! Thus far we weren't all that impressed with the speed of things at the hospital but after that things changed rapidly and since then they have been little short of superb.  Kath was moved to a private room in an acute dependency ward and she has had constant attention,  Tests, scans, xrays, the lot.  A nurse comes in every fifteen minutes and takes measurements. Visiting her was a bit scary with her looking pale and tubes sticking in both hand and up her nose.

What to do about taking Herbie to Banbury?  We didn't want to lose our slot.  Our daughter Clairedid the hospital visits.  Enter our lovely neighbour Andrew who drove me up to Cropredy and acted as crew and lock wheeler in chief to get us to Tooleys.  Andrew had never been on a narrowboat before but after the first lock he was as good as an expert.  We got back to Cropredy in a taxi driven by an elderly man from Kashmir who was a hilarious story teller and put a nice finish to the day.  Getting Herbie delivered was a real weight off my mind and I could concentrate on Kath.

Kath was very ill for a time with low blood oxygen, abdominal pain and shortage of breath and numerous other symptoms. The gut infection took buckets of antibiotics to clear.  Now it's Friday and she is so much better.  Infections have cleared and she is no longer breathing oxygen through a nose tube. In all likelihood they will allow her to come home tomorrow.  Big relief and many many thanks to the superb folk at Frimley Park hospital. The facility Kath was in was impressive and the care was brilliant.  Good old NHS.

There is a downside though.  Kath was diagnosed as type 2 diabetic a couple of years ago and the hospital tests revealed that it has got considerably worse.  This probably contributed to her condition this week. It was quite a struggle to get her sugar levels down to an acceptable level. Now she has to be very careful with her diet and will have to have daily insulin.  Happily the foods that Zoe have been recommending for me are very good in a diabetes context so we'll be well prepared for her needs.

So that's the story of the week.  Kath has gone through quite a serious illness and Herbie has been delivered for her blacking and a handful of other jobs which Matt has agreed to take on.  If we can't get back to Herbie when she is ready on Monday she can rest in Banbury on a 14 day mooring and even after that CRT will let us overstay on medical grounds if need be.


Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Cropredy marina goes posh.

 One thing we noticed when coming back to Cropredy Marina after being at Ventnor was that the bathroom facilities were not nearly so good.  Ventnor has a smartish suite of toilets, showers and washbasins. Cropredy marina has expanded so much that they really need to up their game in this respect.  Currently they only have two toilets and one shower for 350 odd boats.  So I was pleased to see today that Aquavista are going to remedy this and more with - I quote: 

  • High-speed Wi-Fi 
  • New main entrance gate and CCTV for additional security
  • 8 brand-new luxury ensuite bathrooms with power showers and hairdryers
  • A refurbished laundry area with 2 state of the art washer & dryer stacks, plus a pet laundry machine
  • A refurbished customer lounge and reception area
  • A refurbished Elsan with hot water sink
  • A new dog wash area with warm water
  • A new outdoor socialising pergola and BBQ area
Ooh there's posh!

Apparently this will all start construction in January and take 2 or 3 months, so it ought to be done by Easter. 

Which, as they say, is nice.

Friday, October 27, 2023

The luck of the Irish

 I see in the news that boaters on the Shannon are dismayed at the proposed introduction of a 200 euro annual registration charge and a new requirement for their boats to be insured.  200 euros irrespective of the length of the boat?  I wish we only had to pay that, we're about five times that in CRT waters. There's also some fuss about changes to winter moorings over there that I can't quite get a grip on.  It seems like they are doing away with some of them.  Surely they didn't have free ones did they?  Can anyone enlighten us?

Over on my other blog,  I've now finished blood glucose testing and I have photo's of what's been stuck to my arm for 14 days.  An amazing piece of bio-electronics.  Take a look.  I've learned lots from it such as how to mitigate the effect of naughty foods -  if you must eat fish and chips, have it with mushy peas - eat the peas first and then the fish and try and keep the chips till last.  The fibre in the peas and the protein in the fish will slow down the sugar spike from the carbs in the chips and you won't feel hungry again so soon. So there.

Monday, October 16, 2023

At last, bilges drained and engine protected.

 You may recall we had a breakdown on the way to Cropredy, losing all our engine coolant.  I was anxious to get the gallons of spilt antifreeze out of the bilge and to get the engine refilled with proper antifreeze as it's currently sitting with plain water in it.  With the weather turning colder I was fearing a heavy frost might do some damage. I really didn't want to tackle it myself as getting all that water out without a bid wet vac is a right pain in the wotsit.  I'd rather pay someone else quite frankly.

I had put in a call to Matt at Tooleys asking if he could come and sort it out but a couple of weeks had gone by without a response.  I was starting to think that he wasn't interested in doing it. So I was glad this morning to get a call from him to say he was at Herbie at Cropredy and had redrained the engine and was dealing with what now must be quite a few gallons of fluid in the bilge.  The whole issue was caused by one of the calorifier hoses being too tightly stretched and breaking loose, so Matt is returning in a couple of days to fit a longer hose before he refills the engine.  He's also seeing if he can wrap some better lagging round the calorifier tank, as being out under the rear deck, any hot water loses it's temperature overnight.

I seem to have a list of things to fix at home at the moment so it's a relief to have the boat problem sorted. One less thing to worry about.

Meanwhile my Zoe experiments and lessons are going apace and I'm already getting some interesting results.  If you're interested head over to my

Saturday, October 14, 2023

I've started a new blog! Take a look.

 Yes a new blog, but not about boating, which is why I'm not writing it here.  Just an intro and an invitation for you to join me. 

The new one is about my experimental journey using the Zoe nutrition programme.  Zoe is a huge scientific programme aimed at teaching people to understand the foods that are right for them on a personal basis. I won't go into detail here, take a look at the new blog

What is Zoe?  Go to to find out.  It's serious food science stuff offering you a chance to test and understand what food does to your body. No faddy diets, nobody tells you what to eat. You just learn about how different foods affect you -personally.

Zoe is not a cheap or trivial thing to take on.  I'm doing it because I'm interested. The more I get into it, the more I see that it is quite an undertaking if you want to get the best out of it.  So anyone thinking of doing it might find it useful to see what they are letting themselves in for.  Either way, you might enjoy seeing what shenanigans I have to get up to to do the programme.  It's science, it's fun and it teaches you a lot about what food does to your body.

I'm currently on day two and have already undergone numerous tests and can see more fascinating trials coming up.  I'll try to describe them all and let you know what I learn.  

Join me over at if you are interested.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Nature notes - inc spiders on boats

 As Roy Rogers nearly sang: 

An eight legged friend

An eight legged friend

He'll never let you down

Yes folks, autumn seems to be spider time, and I realise that I've come to enjoy and even welcome them.  The one I like best is the little one that hides overnight in the hole where the tiller pin goes through the swan neck on Herbie.  Perhaps I should call him Trigger after the Roy Rogers song. He's always there in the morning and I'm careful to let him escape before I drop the tiller pin in.  I still haven't worked out how he spins a single thread from the side of the boat across three feet of thin air to get there, but it's impressive.

Kath, although a nature lover is not quite so keen on spiders inside the boat, especially the bedroom.  Nevertheless we never remove them, preferring instead to just discourage them. She adopts the old custom of putting some conkers on the shelf in the belief that they give off some odour that deters spiders. I admit that it seems to work, although whether it's causation or correlation I'm not sure.

Although it's autumn there are still loads of bees about, and the best place to see them now is on ivy which is flowering at the moment. We noticed loads of them by the side of Claydon top lock last week.  Not just the so called ivy bees which are like smaller versions of honey bees, but honey bees themselves, bumble bees and even wasps.  If you have some ivy near you, take a look this week and you'll be amazed how many of the little critters are buzzing round it.  I think this first picture might be a honey bee.

This morning we took a stroll around the lovely old graveyard behind our house.  Half of it is left as a conservation area and it's a great place for wild flowers, grasses, butterflies and other insects.  And of course the birds come there to dine on them. Here's Kath looking at this year's abundant crop of holly berries.

People will tell you that lots of berries means we'll have a hard winter.  Personally I'm not persuaded that plants can tell the future, and it's more the result of the previous summer's weather. You might think otherwise.

We have quite a few varigeated holly trees over there, and one which has  some white leaves.

Soon the council workers will show up with their strimmers and cut the long grass back.  It's probably a good thing but I rather like it long. It makes the gravestones look more dramatic.  

That's our house you can see in the background.

The long grass also lets us see where the foxes have been. There are nearly always foxes over there. They frequently make their dens in the old graves.  This photo tries to show one of their paths but I'm not sure if you can make it out. I can see it, but then I know where it is, straight up the middle of the picture. 

We used to have foxes regularly visiting our garden but sadly because I've had to put chicken wire in the hedge to keep our daughter's little dogs in, it also keeps the foxes out. Instead we have to put up with squirrels trying to rob our bird feeders.  Bah!

There are still a few wild flowers out amongst the graves, most notably the not-all-that-common Devils Bit Scabious which is supposed to be good at relieving some skin ailments including of course scabies. I like it because it flowers late on and I love the colour.

Don't tell anyone but we harvested a bit of its seed today to see if we can introduce it into our garden.

Lastly a more winter flowering plant is poking through the grass

The good old cyclamen.  Is it a wild flower?  Probably not technically, but it grows wild.

The nights might be drawing in, but we still plan to go boating over the next few weeks and months.  Anyhow we have to take Herbie to Banbury in November to get her blacked at Tooleys.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Cool Running - The Herbie has Landed


Here we are on our new berth at Cropredy, only 4 boats along from where we moored four years ago.   The staff here are exceptionally friendly and welcoming and all the admin was easy.  Not a great deal has changed since we left despite the marina being acquired by Aquavista.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it seems to be their mantra.  The free wifi is beefed up a bit,  but still not as good as you'd like.  Of course there is the new basin up the other end, but that's well out of sight from where we are.

Speaking of moorings, I really like some of the offside ones you see above and below Claydon.  I wonder how you get one and what they cost.  Do people buy the plot or rent it?

How nice is that? You own little canalside garden with your boat right there alongside. 

It's interesting how many of them have shepherds huts like this one

One just above Broadmoor lock even has a gypsy caravan, but my photographer of the day  (Kath) was too busy with the lock gates to take a picture. Who said women were good at multi tasking?

What a difference a day makes in British weather.  Wednesday was all heavy wind and lashing rain, and next morning, all sunshine and blue skies.  We were somewhat trepidatious when we left Fenny in the morning after the engine problems we had earlier but everything went fine and the engine temperature gauge stayed exactly where it should be. Phew!

It's all getting a bit autumnal although some youngsters still think it's OK for a quick dip even if the canal is a bit shallow.  I guess the water is still warmish, but I don't think I'll be trying it.

On the subject of autumn pusuits, two of my uncles, Bert and George, used to make a barrel of cider every year from windfall apples from the many orchards around our village.  (You'd be right in assuming that I come from rustic stock).  Everything went in, bruised apples, partly rotten ones, any old variety, probably quite a few wasps and various grubs and as you'd expect, the cider they produced was strong but quite frankly, bloody awful.  Why do I mention this?  Well it was seeing these apples, mostly crab apples, on the towpath that reminded me.

You probably could produce some sort of cider from them but I'm pretty sure it would taste as bad as Bert and George's.  A pity, because this year's hedgerow crop really is a bumper one.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Fixed! Thanks RCR.

After yesterday's breakdown (see previous post)  the RCR man arrived promptly at 9.30 this morning and by 10.30 he was gone and we were fixed.  The poor bloke opted to investigate and effect a repair in the rain and wind, but he remained cheerful throughout.  All it was, was one of the pipes that feed the calorifier heater coil had come adrift, so all it needed was a new jubilee clip and a good tighten up and a cooling system refill.  He did take a lot of trouble (more than I would have done I think) to get any air out of the system.  The engine has been running now for an hour and a half and all is good.  Phew!

We get a free basic membership of RCR along with our GJW boat insurance.  We just have to pay £65 for a callout which includes 2 hours labour on site.  I reckon that's a bargain.  Our man had to drive an hour and a half to get to us.

The weather forecast for the rest of the day is not conducive to boating if you don't have to, and we're in no hurry so we'll stay put.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Broken down!!

First things first.  Grace is now out of hospital (see yesterdays post) and doing fine.

Second things second.  More stress.  We've just called River Canal Rescue and you know what that means.  We need a repair.  Luckily we're at the Wharf at Fenny Compton so at least we're very accessible by road.  It was blowing a hooley up by the radio mast this morning, so we stayed put until after lunch.  Come to think of it you could hardly pick a more windswept spot.  Once we did get going we got into the trees and the high hedges and it was much calmer thank goodness.  About a mile before Fenny, I noticed the engine temperature gauge climbing rapidly.  We pulled into the bank just as it hit max :120 degrees C. Lifting the engine cover, a good amount of smoke/steam clouded out.  

It was a difficult spot to moor up in the wind but we managed it with a struggle and after half an hour letting the engine cool I looked in to investigate.  Peering in the coolant filler cap it was clear we had lost virtually all the coolant (I had only topped it up 2 days earlier), looking in the bilges, there was the coolant - a couple of gallons of it at a guess. Clearly we had a leak somewhere, probably a hose loose or split.  Only a mile to Fenny, so I refilled the coolant tank, topped up the engine oil, and we set off again at tickover speed.

It was ok for about 5 mins, then the temperature rose again.  We just made it to Fenny bridge when it hit max again.  This was our destination today anyway so it could be worse.  I just got a call from RCR and they'll be out to us in the morning.  That's fine. I just hope they bring spare hoses.  If my diagnosis is right then it's not that big a problem.  If I'm wrong . . . 

Monday, September 18, 2023

A nail biting afternoon.

 They say that moving home is often a very stressful time.  Well, we're on the move to Herbie's new berth in Cropredy and we are quite stressed but not for the reasons you might think.  As I write, our lovely granddaughter Grace is undergoing emergency surgery  to deal with a very painful abscess near the base of her spine. They have been giving her morphine, so you know that's proper pain. She's been complaining of back pain for a few days and it got so painful that paramedics were called and she was admitted to hospital  last night.  Poor Grace, she's in hospital and were in the middle of nowhere half way across the Oxford canal summit. It was her birthday a few days ago and she was not feeling well then, although she did enjoy opening her presents

and now she's 16 she's just started a part time after school job in Fenwicks store.  The timing could hardly be worse.  Hopefully once they remove the abscess she should feel better quite quickly.

Otherwise our trip is going according to plan.  We did a cunning car move on Saturday  when I delivered the car to Cropredy then got two buses back to the Boat inn at Stockton top lock near to where Kath had taken Herbie to pick me up.  Getting the bus from Cropredy is no simple feat, they only have one on a Saturday and one on a Thursday and the bus stops have no signs so you have to guess where the bus will pull in.  I asked three village people and each one said they didn't know where it stopped and that the service was rubbish so they don't use it.  Actually it did arrive on schedule although I had to flag it down because I was standing in the wrong spot.

Speaking of the Boat Inn, we ate there on Saturday night and I have to say it was really excellent.  In previous years we've avoided it because it was said it was very expensive for what you got.  Well they seem to have  opted for a less 'cheffy' menu now and it's a bit cheaper but the food and the service was top notch.  I had one of the best pizzas I've ever eaten, very generously topped with four cheeses, various bits of  charcuterie and olives.  It was juicy and delicious and too big to eat in one go, so I got a doggie bag to take back to the boat to finish later.  The beer was nice too. Still not cheap but worth it.

We're in no rush to get to Cropredy, so tomorrow it's a short cruise to the Wharf at Fenny Compton.  I see there's a yellow storm warning for  Tuesday and Wednesday, so we might hunker down.

BTW I said I would report on my new Pixel phone as regards how well it meets its reputation for photography.  I haven't taken many photos yet but here's one I took in Bracknell town centre when we were on the way to Grace's birthday meal.  I'm pretty impressed. Actually the compression to blog size doesn't do it any favours.  It looks a lot crisper in 'real life'