Monday, April 15, 2024

Work and play at Cropredy

 I'm glad to report that Herbie is still afloat - well you never know these days with all the weather we're having; there's a 40-odd mph wind outside as I write.  Anyhow we spend a jolly couple of days on Herbie at the weekend and actually got some jobs done.  We didn't go anywhere of course, but we didn't need to because lots of things were happening at Cropredy marina, it being their (our?) Open Day.  There was Hook Norton beer from the Village Butty and pizzas and a few traders too as well of course lots of other moorers to chat to and make friends with.  

We splashed out on a new button fender for Herbie's rear end - I haven't fitted it yet, first I've got to deal with the rusted upon shackles holding the old fender on, then I've got to lie flat on the rear deck to reach down to the welded chain fixings and peer over the stern hoping my specs don't fall off.  The fender itself is ever so heavy, I hope I don't drop it in the drink before I get the chains secure 'cos it sure won't float.

Jobs I did manage to get done were a) polishing the one side of the boat I can get at from our pontoon and b) fitting a new radio aerial.  Actually the aerial itself we fitted last time out, but this time it was routing the cable through the roof lining and down a covered wooden channel to the radio.  I found myself unscrewing all sorts of bits of boat, then deciding I didn't need to and screwing them all back again, then cutting the cable to length whilst worrying I might have cut it too short, then finally tucking it all away out of sight.  A proper DiYer would scoff at how easy a job it is, but for a dyspraxic old git like me who gets giddy looking overhead through my varifocals it becomes a non trivial exercise.  

One job I won't be handling myself is the fixing of Herbie's MORCO gas water heater which has decided not to keep the pilot light going.  Luckily I know a man who knows all about Morcos and he was at the Open Day - the redoubtable Clive Mantt who for years was the go to mechanic and Mr Fixit at Cropredy.  Now he has officially retired but he still will do the odd bit of gas work.  Other stuff like crawling around in engine 'oles and suchlike he now leaves to the younger generation.  I know how he feels.  Anyhow he's going to fix our Morco on Thursday - good old Clive.

When Aquavista swallowed up Castle Marinas, we moorers were naturally nervous about what it might mean, but so far the changes have all been good.  Cropredy has got posh new showers and toilets, better wifi, a new moorer's gazebo 

and a marked increase in social activities, so it'll be good to come for weekends or short breaks at the marina even if time or the weather precludes opportunities to go out cruising.  But when we do go cruising there's another benefit brought by Aquavista.  Last year they allowed their paid up moorers to visit any of their 29 marinas free of charge for up to 34 days a year.  Now they've put that up to 100 days!  That opens up some good opportunities for taking on a long cruise in bits and pieces, breaking off here and there to get back home for a while before continuing.
How about a trip to Nottingham? Aquavista have 4 marinas en route ( actually one on a short detour) from Cropredy and one in Nottingham itself.  I'm tempted. We could spread the return trip over two or three months.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Drought memories as Oxford is cut off by high waters

I think we're in the longest wet weather spell I can remember.  The table at the end of this post illustrates it well.  But first, the longest dry spell I can remember was 48 years ago and I have good reason to remember.

Kath and I got married in the September of 1976 after months of the longest drought in living memory.  Down in Devon and Cornwall water was being rationed and there were standpipes in the streets in some towns.  

We were pretty skint at the time, we organised our wedding reception with the help of friends - we made all the food and  made our own wine using free ingredients kindly donated by local home brew shop, a friend made a barrel of beer, our musical friends made up the band for the ceilidh.  A neighbour got us free hire of  The Old Gospel Hall in town which by then was occupied by the local drama group so it had a stage and theatrical props draped around the walls.  Kennet Morris dancers (of which I was one at the time) processed us from the registry office to the reception.  Someone remarked that it was all like something out of Thomas Hardy.  

Next day we set off on honeymoon in our beloved Citroen Diane.  Having little money we took our small tent and headed for Dartmoor stopping off at Cheddar on the way for cheese and cider.  I recall it was the weekend before the government introduced the alcohol tax on cider so we got it really cheap from a farm shop.  5 gallons of it!  Wizened old locals sat on a bench at the farm drinking free tasting samples.  One old fella got up to go for a pee and Kath asked "Have you been drinking free samples all day?" "Yas misssus," he replied, "I shall be glad when I've 'ad enough!"

Dartmoor was lovely. Kath fed the campsite chickens from the door of our little tent and we lived mostly on cheese and cider.

Then on the Wednesday, four days into our honeymoon, the months of drought broke with a vengeance and it poured and thundered and poured and poured.  We headed home to complain to our friends who worked at the Met Office.  People were rejoicing at the return of the rain, but another few days of drought would have been better for two honeymooners!

My next drought memories are of the extraordinary dry winter of 2011/12 when the canal reservoirs were drying up.  Here's a picture I took then of the Welford reservoir  that feeds the Leicester arm of the Grand Union canal.  I suspect you may have been able to wade across the middle and keep your shoulders dry.

Over at Marsworth reservoirs which feed the GU main line it was the same story.

So here we are in 2024 and it couldn't be more different. Reservoirs are full.  I suppose we're lucky on the canals because they don't flood anything like as much as rivers do. But down on the Oxford we have the problem of the Cherwell river which in two places joins the canal.  Like a lot of boaters we get the updates from CRT telling us when these places are not safe to navigate.  This week I noticed that these emails contain not only the latest information but also all those events since it was last safe.  So for fun I made the following table.  It reminds us strongly of how long this wet spell has continued.

It shows conditions at Nell Bridge, where the canal joins the river for the short stretch to Aynho lock and at Bakers lock where the canal drops down to the Cherwell just south of Enslow.  If these bits are unsafe, then you can't boat down to Oxford where the canal ends.  Nor can Oxford be accessed by the Thames at these times because the great river is always in flood if the Cherwell is.  

Anyway here's the table Red means not safe to navigate.  Orange means stream increasing  so be very careful and Yellow means stream decreasing from red but still requires great care.

So it looks like it has now been more than 5 months since the All Clear at Bakers lock.  As I write this, it's raining heavily outside so we can't see an end to it yet. Oxford cut off from the known world!

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Kennet and Avon running fast

 We've boated on all the navigable waters south of Chester I think except the Kennet & Avon.  Strange really as it's the closest to our home. Actually, I tell a lie, we have done the bit of the K&A from the junction with the Thames to the other side of Reading town centre.  About a mile I suppose.   People tell us the K&A at this end is a lot of hard work and that the other end beyond Devizes has too many moored boats. So we've not really been tempted to give it a go.

This is Greenham lock in Newbury.  At this point the K&A canal above the lock drops down onto the river below. 

Can you see that red boat moored up in the distance?  That's where Tesco (and Lidl) is.

 Here's a close up of the yellow sign on the lock gate beam

Anyhow, the bit through Newbury is unfamiliar to us and it seems a maze of bits of river and canal and islands.  We were in Newbury on Sunday afternoon and popped into Tesco and noticed a narrowboat just through the car park hedge so of course we had to go and take a look.  At that point it is the river below the lock and it was running very fast, much too fast to navigate unless of course you want to take up water skiing.  The mooring lines on the boats were stretched really tight as the current pushed the boats back. 

Some of the river comes from under that bridge, but most of it comes hareing round the corner on the left of the lock.  It all looks pretty scary to me.   Have you boated on the K&A?  How did you find it?

Monday, March 11, 2024

Back On Board -panic on arrival.

Poor Herbie has been left alone for nearly 4 months in gales, floods and the cold, but now we're back, albeit only for a few days to warm her through. "First thing when we get there", I said to Kath on the way to Cropredy, "is plug into the mains electric and get the fan heater on.  That'll warm the boat up fastest."

Well the best laid plans . . .

I dug out our shore lead, plugged it into Herbie's socket  (through our new galvanic isolator)and then realised we hadn't got our electricity meter.  Boats here, and in a lot of other marinas, are required to have an in line tamper proof meter to measure their electricity useage.  You have to buy your own, we've had ours since we moved to Crick in 2011.  But where was the flippin' thing now?  I couldn't remember where we had stowed it.  High and low we searched, in all the lockers and cupboards, in the roof box, in the coal 'ole, we couldn't find it anywhere.  Had some felon swiped it? I might have left it in the cratch which isn't secure.  In the end I went round to the marina office to report it and perhaps plead for the loan of one.

"Ah," said the lovely Theresa in the office, "I think we've got it here.  One of the lads doing the boat checks saw it plugged into the bollard but not into the boat and brought it in for safety." Panic over.  I didn't want to buy a new one because they cost somewhere around £90 or more I think.  I refrained from saying they might have let me know before I turned the boat upside down looking for it. It was after all a kind thing to take it in.

While I was in the office I asked how the big facilities refurb was going.  We're getting 8 new toilet/ shower rooms complete with hairdryers, a refurbed moorers lounge, fancy new launderette machines where you check availability and pay via your smartphone, a hot water sink in the Elsan hut (there's posh!), and a dog shower.  It's not all finished yet but progress looks good.  Here's a peek inside one of the "luxury power shower en suites"

I'm not sure if I'd call it luxury exactly, but it'll do nicely.  

Meanwhile the rest of the marina waterside roads are a mass of puddles and potholes, but again, Aquavista is on the case.  This week the car park and entrance road are being resurfaced, although how they do it through all the standing water remains to be seen.  We're also getting uprated 'high speed' wifi, CCTV security and new security entrance gate from the road outside.  Some one is bound to wonder how much the mooring rates are going to rise to pay for it all.  The optimist in me says that all they are doing is bringing the marina up to group standards so it shouldn't cost more.  They now have 350 boats here so not to have all this stuff wouldn't be sufficient.  The average fee per boat is over three grand a year now, so that's well over a million squid a year they've got to spend.  We await next year's tariff with trepidation.

So here we are for a few days.   I have some carpet tiles to put down and a radio aerial to fix and we'll see if the engine starts.  It'll probably require a few tugs on the fuel pump lever, but the batteries seem at a good level of charge.  We're not taking Herbie out this time.  It's mainly to get the boat ship shape for a cruise when the world dries out a bit.  The towpaths look pretty muddy right now and we have to be back home on Friday anyhow.

Meanwhile we're already warm and cosy, the stove fan is whirring nicely, the hot water bottles are warming the bed and all is well.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

More water

 Some boaters may know the old Duke street bridge over the Kennet & Avon in the centre of Reading.  The current is always brisk through there and you need extra revs to push upstream.  Well on Friday we were in Reading so we went to look at it. Here's a photo which doesn't really convey the force and speed of the water, but you get the idea.  A game of pooh sticks wouldn't take long.

Not a lot of headroom there. A kayaker might get through if he or she could paddle hard enough. Even then they'd have to duck.

Our friend David aka Rainman who lives not many yards from the canal in Rickmansworth tells me that the canal is over the towpath and the adjacent Aquadrome park is flooded.  CRT emails send me messages daily about floods or flood damage on the Oxford, Coventry, the Soar and the Grand Union.  Our patio floods every few days and the back garden is like a wet sponge. It's all getting serious folks.

On the upside, CRT's reservoirs are mostly full, so if it ever stops raining we might be scraping the canal bed less often this summer, unless of course it's all silted up with mud washed off the fields.  Anyone like to place a bet on when the next hosepipe ban comes in?

Our flooded hall carpet has now dried out even  though we have had no central heating for nearly three weeks.  It should have been fixed last week but there was a cock up in British Gas's booking process. Now they're coming on Wednesday - we think.  They've given us 10%  (£83) of the cost of the proposed power flush in recompense.  We've probably spend more than that running fan heaters.

We promise to get back to Herbie soon, honest. Although we may not be able to actually go anywhere unless the rains stops and the water goes down.

Hey ho. It is what it is.

My thoughts are with all those live aboard boaters coping with it all.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Water stories. Lots of good and bad news.

 Water water everywhere, even in our hall carpet! More of that later, but first the stuff in the waterways. Well some of it has spilled over rather, so not all actually in..  

The other day we took the guided bus from Cambridge to St Ives. The best way to describe the guided bus experience is that it can somewhat unnerving.  It hurtles along at speeds not normally associated with buses, and nervous passengers with a view of the driver can see that he isn't always holding the steering wheel.  This week however, after the usual breakneck first few miles the bus slowed right down, and looking out of the window we could soon see why.  The many gravel pits either side of the busway had spilled their banks and covered the cycle track alongside the actual bus track.  Mercifully the bus track is a tad higher so the bus had dry feet (or wheels I suppose).  Nevertheless it was a bit like crossing the Holy Island causeway with water lapping either side of the track. and extending as far as the eye could see.  

When we arrived in St Ives we went to look at the river Ouse.  The meadows upstream of the bridge were nowhere to be seen and it looked like the river was half a mile wide instead of its normal 20 or thirty yards.

Just over the bridge, the hotel car park was similarly nowhere to be seen with the hotel nervously perched atop its stilts

and on the town bank, more familiar to boaters, the river was perilously close to the  brim protecting the buildings beyond 

and the current was bowling along at quite some lick.  You wouldn't want to be out on it in a boat I can tell you. Not that you'd get under the bridge of course.

Looking at my CRT notification emails for the Oxford canal I saw that Banbury lock was over flowing and unuseable and the flood gate at Thrupp was closed and of course the bits where the Cherwell joins the canal were not navigable. The Thames I think has been on red boards for quite a while.  I haven't looked at this months reservoir holdings but I suspect that is at least one thing we don't have to worry about.

Good and bad news at home

Returning home after our sojourn in Cambridge we found that our central heating wasn't working.  The good news was that we have a British Gas contract so a phone call got them out first thing next morning.  Hurray! The bad news was that after fitting a new pump and automatic flow valve ( about £350 worth according to the gas man), it still wasn't working.  Boo! The good news is that we don't have to pay because our contract covers that.  The bad news was that the man concluded that the system was blocked with sludge and we'd have to have a powerflush (I'm not all that surprised as the heating system was put in about 35 years ago).  The worse news is that we have to pay £830 for that and the even worse news is that they can't get anyone to come and do it before Feb 27!! (I'm leaning on them to do better).  The good news is that the weather has warmed up considerably in the last couple of days and so we can manage by carting our fan heater into whatever room we are using. But the bad news is that when the gas man drained a sample radiator to check his sludge theory, he didn't fully tighten the connection before he left.  It was only some hours later that we spotted the damp patch (actually sopping wet would be a fairer description) in the hall and found the dripping joint.  My trusty adjustable spanner turned out to be of little use and I couldn't stop the weep, so we put a tray under it and phoned British Gas again.  Our man turned up next morning and, muttering apologies, fixed the leak and had a rather unsuccessful go at the carpet with his wet &  dry vacuum.  So now we have no heating for ten days and a wet hall carpet.  Hey ho. Worse things happen at sea.  I suppose we could go and stay on Herbie to keep warm, but I suspect we wouldn't be cruising because of all the excess water.

But here is good news of a different type.  Over in the graveyard behind our hedge, spring is really springing.  Look at these wild crocuses,

They're so thick in places that you can't walk along without treading on them.

Only the first daffodils are out yet but there are masses of them still to come, along with a big bed of primroses just over our hedge.  Everybody should have an old graveyard over their garden hedge.  We saw a jay over there this morning.

Finally, this is probably the last blog post I shall type on my trusty chromebook, because its now so trusty now as the battery has packed up.   I've had it for some years and it has more than earned its keep. I could buy a new battery, but instead I'll put that money towards a new Chromebook Plus which is a new breed of higher spec machines with extra AI based software features.  Chromebooks are not for everybody but they suit me well and it's nigh on impossible to accidentally lose your work. They get frequent updates  which unlike the Windows ones, are always quick and trouble free and actually worth having. So my next blog post , whenever that might be, will be shiny and more up market although you may well not notice it.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Weathering the weather

 I see some nerk was spotted walking on the ice on the canal in Northampton this week.  I'm surprised it was thick enough, especially in an urban area.  I'm reminded of January 2009 when we were moored down the dear old Slough Arm.  We had some proper ice then, and I was very tempted to walk across it.  Here's how thick it was. A good couple of inches.  Herbie was well and truly locked in.

In those days when it was really really cold, we used to go and stay on the boat to keep it warm enough to protect the plumbing.  We'd get the stove going and enjoy being toasty inside when it was arctic outside.  I think that was the year when a lot of live aboards were iced in and couldn't get to water points or sanitary stations.  As I recall, CRT, (or was it still BW then?) brought the necessaries along the towpath.  I worried about the kingfishers that year. There were quite a few down the Slough arm because the canal was shallow and the water was very clear but obviously they couldn't get to the fish through the ice.  I dare say a lot of them perished, but they seemed to come back the next year.

My dream in years gone by was to own a house by the river somewhere.  I'm somewhat glad now that this was one dream I never fulfilled.  I'll stick to our house half way up a hill thank you very much.  I don't know how people cope with being flooded so often. All I have to worry about is the whopping great lime tree that could fall on our house if we get a hurricane.  If that tree comes down in the wrong direction our upper floor will be a gonner.  Luckily, the wind never seems to blow towards that side of the house.  Only on the morning after the great Michael Fish storm of 1987 did we realise we should have got the kids to sleep downstairs that night, although the tree survived intact.

So with all this weather I send my appreciation and moral support to all those live aboard boaters out there, while I sit snug at home.  I'm sure it'll pass soon enough, and we'll get back out to join you in calmer waters.

In other news, I'm getting near the end of my Zoe nutrition subscription now.  I've learned a great deal and have enjoyed it. If you're interested in how it has all gone and what it has done for us I've summarised it on my other blog

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Dry January? Hardly!

I hear that supermarkets are experiencing a run on non alcoholic gins etc , and putting their prices up, as people have a go at dry January.  The term Dry January must ring a bit hollow for all those people whose houses are flooded right now.  We're keeping a watch on the Huntingdon area on the Ouse where our son Richard lives on his boat.  He's in Hartford Marina, has been for 17 or 18 years.  As luck would have it, he has only recently been asked to move off his long term fixed pontoon  to a floating pontoon on the other side of the marina.  I'm fairly sure his old pontoon must be well submerged at the moment.

A short way down river is St Ives, where Richard used to work.  We like St Ives and sometimes take the guided bus to there from Cambridge where our other son lives.  Boating through St Ives is lovely too.  However I wouldn't want to boat there today

I don't think you'd get under the bridge.

Here's what it was like last time we were there (taken from only a few yards away)

Here's the same spot in happier times, taken as we boated through the bridge.  You can see that the wall which is under the water today is about 7 feet or more above normal water levels.

Of course things are much worse in other places like down the Severn.  Ten years ago when we moored overnight at Worcester we marvelled at the height of the uprights on the floating pontoon at Diglis

I wonder how far up the pole the pontoon is now?  Not far off the top I would guess.

So its a wet dry January for a lot of us, although my dryness is suspended today as it's my birthday and I might have a glass or two of plonk with dinner.  I remember meeting Sue and Vic of No Problem fame years ago and being impressed that Vic was still boating though over 70.  Well I can hardly believe I'm 77 today and although I couldn't manage the four counties ring in a week like we did years ago, I'm still  working through locks now and then without totally collapsing as I hope to be able to report throughout 2024.

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Herbie Special Award winner - plus talk of floods

 So for the final and most important of the 2023 Herbie Awards (yes I know it's already 2024 but I've been busy)

Every year we give a Special Award to a person who has performed above and beyond the norm and has been helpful either to me and Kath, or to Herbie or to the canals in general.  The winners find themselves in distinguished company.  This years award has been many years in the making with the recipient growing in helpfulness and dependability year upon year to the point where they are now able to run and manage Herbie for us even in difficult circumstances and we know that they will do the job properly and thoroughly. This award is a first because the recipient has previously won the Best Crew Member Award, but now they have gone beyond being a mere crew member and can now be fully trusted as Skipper when Kath and I are not aboard.

So the 2023 Herbie Special Award goes to 

our lovely grand daughter 


I can do no better than to re-use the pictures that I used to illustrate her eralier crew award. Here they are.

Yes, now a teenager, we started her early. Here she is at nearly 4 years old , already hands on the tiller

then at 5, opening lock gates

then at 8, flying solo


And here she is in 2024:

Grace started off at the helm when she was a tiny tot and has progressed in ability and confidence ever since.  We're quite confident now to leave her 'in charge'  of the boat even though she is only just 16 years old.  A couple of months ago when Kath was in hospital with Covid and Complications, we sent Grace and her mother Claire  to collect Herbie from Tooleys in Banbury and return her to our berth at Cropredy. In gloomy and breezy weather they had to turn the boat in Banbury's awkward winding hole then return to Cropredy through 5 locks and a lift bridge.  Conditions were difficult and as the days were short it was dark by the time they got back to Cropredy having already survived a running aground in the falling light half an hour earlier.  I think they had to negotiate Cropredy lock in virtual darkness.   Grace followed her instructions to a T, tying up the boat in the dark and remembering all the 'leaving the boat' jobs like tightening the stern gland etc.  Claire merely acted as crew and was instructed throughout by Grace.  What a star.

So that's that for the awards.  

As I write the rain is hammering down outside and our patio at home is an inch deep (and rising) in water. Our soakaway drain can only take so much. If the rain persists the water could be lapping over the threshold of our conservatory by morning.  An email has arrived from Aquavista saying 8 of their 29 marinas have been affected by flooding this week and they are sending out teams to deal with the necessary clear ups etc.  I suppose the affected marinas will be those on rivers like Buckden on the Ouse and especially Diglis on the Severn at Worcester.  

Our friend John and Irene keep their boat in a marina at Tewkesbury and having seen photos of the town this week I'm sure that'll be flooded.  Of course boats in river marinas are usually on floating pontoons but the car parks and other marina facilities have no such luxury.  When John and Irene had to be rescued  from their boat on the Avon in the middle of the night some years back, the boat was saved but their car back in the marina was a write off I seem to remember.  Us canal users are much luckier.  Canals don't often flood.  It's more often the wind that is the problem, pulling boats off their moorings or bringing down trees.  Meanwhile back in my garden one of the fence panels has blown down.  Hey Ho. I'm not going out in this weather to fix it.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Herbie Awards Resume -Dramatic moment and Best Boating on YouTube

 We're back! I hope your Christmas was happy and that unlike me, you didn't eat too much. I'm back on the Zoe diet on New Years day and actually looking forward to it.

So which was 2023's most dramatic moment?  Well that's hard.  Most dramatic for me was breaking down in the middle of nowhere in a strong wind and a bank too soft to take mooring pins.  However, for the elderly man who was up to his shoulders in the canal it was probably even more scary so the 

Award for Most Dramatic Moment 2023 

goes to the 

Rugby Ladder Rescue 

And now for a new award category.  Us old bloggers (I've been blogging since 2006) are now in the dinosaur league I suppose with our handful of readers.  Those folk who now do it with youtube videos are far far more popular.  For the most part I don't follow them unless they are travelling on a patch I know (e.g a chap who calls himself CountryHouseGent has been boating down to Oxford recently so it's been handy to see which locks and lift bridges have been fixed since I last went down there)

But there is one vlog I do look forward to each week.  A young couple who live aboard and do lots of interesting and impressive DiY  as they travel the canals, including fitting out an old Springer from scratch. I'm full of admiration for them, they work hard and they deserve the 30,000 (!!!) subscribers they have.  I think they're able to make a living from it too.  So I give the 

Best YouTube Boat Vlog


Ben and Emily

(and Alan the Cat)

Look 'em up, they post once a week and more often than not it's a good watch.

So the awards draw towards their close but it wouldn't be right (or traditional) to end without the Annual Special Award for a Special Person who has been Especially Good this year.  Tune in next time to find out who he or she is.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Herbie Awards 4- Winner of Favourite Stopping Place and nominees for Most Dramatic Moment 2023

It's Christmas Eve and in our house we should be ready for Christmas in about a week. Ah well, we're as ready as we'll ever be I suppose.  Lights are twinkling, boughs of holly and ivy hang precariously from picture hooks and our conservatory is doubling as an extra fridge because the proper one is over full.  Meanwhile back at the Herbie Wards there's work to be doine.

First we have the result of the 

Favourite Stopping Place 2023

.  After sleeping on it, the judges (ie me) have decided to give the Award to 

Coventry Basin

Poor old Coventry doesn't get anything like the recognition it deserves as a canal destination. Maybe it's because it's 5 miles down a cul-de-sac from Hawkesbury and because some years ago it was noted for having a lot of rubbish in the canal.  Well let me assure you that the canal is clean and tidy now and the 5 mile run in is a pleasant and interesting one. Go for it.

Boating is not all fun and games. Sometimes things go wrong and often the problem can be that things go wrong when you are miles from anywhere.  Getting help can seem almost impossible.  Last year of course we had the drama of Kath falling in the canal on a quiet afternoon when nobody was about to help.  Fortunately a nearby  boat we thought was empty, contained a strong young man who came to our rescue.  

Drama No 1

So it was nice this year when we were able to help someone else in a similar predicament.

Rounding a bend we saw a boat skewed across the canal with a bunch of snior citizens faffing about at her stern.  Then we noticed one man in the water looking helpless as he tried in vain to reboard the boat.  Luckily after Kath fell in I had bought a ladder should such a thing happen again and so we were able to deploy it to help the poor bloke out of the water.  He was very shaken, and even with the ladder he needed a lot of help clambering over the taff rail.  It was a team effort but I hesittate to think what would have happened if we hadn't have been passing with our ladder.

Drama No 2

South Oxford Summit.  The wind had been too strong for boating for 24hrs and we were moored up by the radio mast ( a popular spot).  Eventually in the afternoon the wind dropped somewhat and we set of gingerly towards Fenny Compton.  I suppose we'd been going for ten or fifteen minutes when I noticed the engine temperature gauge rising rapidly.  I slowed down, but to no avail.  The temperature rise was inexorable eventually reaching the point where we had no option but to pull over to the bank and investigate.  The wind was still pretty strong and we could hardly hold the boat as the wind tried to pull her away from the bank.  The bank was soft mud, and the mooring pins we hammered in weren't really enough to hold us for many minutes.  We were still some way from habitation.  After a while letting the engine cool, I opened the coolant filler and of course the engine cooling tank was empty.  I could see a lot of water beneath the engine.  In an hour it would be dark.  Yikes.  We couldn't stay there, we'd be blown adrift in the night.  I refilled the tank and we set off  at tick over desperately hoping we could make it to Fenny and safety.  The temperature was rising again and with luck it reached no-go point just as we arrived at Fenny bridge. Phew.  We retired to the pub to wind down.  Next morning a nice RCR man came to our rescue and replaced the hose which had broken away from its end.

So two dramas with a happy end.  I'll decide which was most dramatic between now and next post.

In the meantime I hope and wish that anyone who might read this  (there must be somebody out there)  has a Happy and Peaceful Christmas.

The awards will continue after boxing day

Friday, December 22, 2023

Herbie Awards -3: Best Pub Grub and nominees for Favourite Stopping Place

 British pub food is generally getting better over the years.  I remember when you could hardly get more than a cheese sandwich.  The one year when we were cruising down the Staffs and Worcester (it might have been on a hire boat so that would have been in the 1990s I think), the landlord of a pub showed us his first boil in the bag offering, supplied I suspect by Brake Brothers.  I think it was a Boeuf Bourguignon, and a good step up from anything we'd had in a pub before.  Pubs could now offer food of a 'reasonable' standard without having to have a trained chef.  Such ready prepared food is now the staple of loads of pubs.  Finding hostelries who prepare food from scratch is still not all that common.

Of our three nominees for best pub grub this year, I'm not entirely sure if they all prepared our meals from scratch.  The Greyhound surely did my ploughman's lunch that way, and at the Boat our pizzas didn't taste or look like pre packaged ones. My pork belly at the Wharf may well have been bought in, but the veg with it were certainly fresh.

I could well award the Greyhound the Award again, but their trophy cabinet is already stuffed with Herbie Awards from previous years so this years

Herbie Award for Best Pub Grub 

goes to

The Wharf at Fenny Compton

whose food is always wholesome and tasty and generously portioned.  This year they seem to have stepped up the range somewhat too.  So well done them.

Now onto the nominees for 2023 Favourite Place to Stop .

Of course, as ever, we can only choose from places we visited in the current year, so that limits us to North and South Oxford Canals, Coventry Canal and the Ashby Canal, plus Braunston on the GU.

Our nominees are:

1. Coventry Basin - always a pleasure, being a safe place to moor in the city in clean and  relatively quiet surroundings.  Here's Herbie in situ.  I mean just look at it. What's not to like?

It's a very short walk into the city centre, the Cathedral, the excellent  Transport Museum and all that good stuff.  And within the basin there's a nice little cafe, ideal for afternoon tea of a yummy breakfast. Lots of boaters we talk to seem afraid to venture into Coventry, but trust me it's absolutely fine, and the run in from Hawkesbury junction is fine too especially since they seem to have established a volunteer group to keep the canal free of rubbish.

2.. Stoke Golding on the Ashby Canal - a hidden gem.  It has two excellent mooring spots, one just the other side of the bridge from the Ashby Boat Company hire base, and the other on the bend at the other end of the village.  Both have access to the village 10 minutes stroll up the hill, and a pretty and interesting village it is.  The George and Dragon pub at the top is a cracker, serving the terrific Church End Brewery Ales in its very comfy lounge bar and pretty garden.  The decisive civil war Battle of Bosworth Field took place nearby, so near in fact that the action was watched by the Stoke Golding villagers from the top of the church tower.  After the battle, King Henry Tudor was given an impromptu crowning half way up the village hill and a plaque marks the spot.

Just down the lane from the bridge mooring is a handy farm shop selling enough food items to keep any hungry boater going (shops down the Ashby are a rarity). Here's one of the visitor moorings. It's got
mooring rings -woo hoo!  And the boat hire base opposite sells ice creams.

3. Sutton Wharf - Ashby Canal

If they are open, don't go past without stopping.  It's a very popular summer spot for canal watchers and the little cafe does very good real food (being real and made to order it might take a while for your order to arrive).  Lots of picnic benches, plenty of boats to look at and just a few yards away among the bushes, a cosy little landing stage visitor mooring.  

We stopped on a hot June afternoon and just enjoyed the ambience.  The canal from here northwards is some of the best of the Ashby and in the summer is pretty as a picture.

The golden envelope will be opened in our next episode.  Which one would you choose?

And well have nominees for Most Dramatic Moment.  Ooo Er!!