Thursday, March 29, 2007

Other boats

Herbie sits waiting for her spring cruise while we are busy at home. However we never seem to be far from a boat. Last weekend I was up in Galloway where I spotted this one looking in need of a bit of TLC.

On the way home I popped in to see Rick and we had a look at the impressive model he made of the Norfolk Wherry Albion.

We had sailed together aboard Albion in 1973 (Rick is seen in the centre here)

and spotted her again when we were on the Broads last year. She is a magnificent boat, built in 1898 and still going strong.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Ugly ducklings no longer

I had to go into Reading today, so I popped down to the swan sanctuary area on the Thames near Caversham Bridge. Last years cygnets now have only a few brown feathers remaining. Actually I rather like them as they are.

I couldn't resist this next photo opportunity

The river is still flowing fast, but looks more benign than last week.
This coming weekend I'm off with my pipes to Gatehouse of Fleet in Galloway, Scotland for an "empirical workshop" organised and hosted by my good friend Jock Agnew of the Lowland and Border Piper's Society. I've booked myself in to a small hotel which I discover was recently awarded the accolade of Best Pub in Southern Scotland. I can't wait!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Jolly boating weather - but not for us:-(

Here in South East England the weather has been beautiful all week. I should have been out on the boat, but I need to attack the garden while its dry. I'll probably neglect it all summer so it needs a good spring clearup to keep it in some sort of shape.

Meanwhile after weeks of wet weather, the rivers are still very high with floodwater. The Thames at Reading last weekend was all over the adjacent meadows (in this pic the actual river is somewhere in the distance)

and roaring along like a train. Footpaths become swimming pools.
I pity those poor souls who keep there boats on the river. I don't know how they sleep when the river is so full. Is the boat tied up securely enough? Will it be deposited on the bank when the floods susbside? I'm very glad we're safely tied up on a canal where the level rarely goes up or down by more than an inch, and there is no current to speak of.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Tale of Three Cats

They say things come in threes. Well, they did in the last couple of weeks. Three totally separate cat related events. The first was amazing, alarming and somewhat stressful.

In the gales we lost a tile from the roof at home and because it was out of sight from the ground, we didn't know until the rain started dripping though the landing ceiling. A quick nip up to the loft spotted the hole and later that day the tile was replaced. End of story, or so we thought. It wasn't until a few days later that we heard a cat meeowing and scratching over the back bedroom (which has a flat roof).

Next evening we heard the same and it became apparent that the cat was somewhere in the loft, although a search through all the boxes and stuff revealed nought. Then I spotted some cats poo on top of the loft hatch. It must have got in when the tile was off and became trapped when it was replaced.

Next time we heard the noises we could tell it was not in the open part of the loft but behind the plasterboard in the void over the stairs. A search with a torch revealed how the pussy had tunnelled through the fibreglass insulation down into the void. Here you can see the tunnel.

We had visions of the poor thing starving to death and me having to cut holes in the wall to retrieve the body. Calls to the RSPCA were disappointing to say the least. I have to say we were not impressed by their lack of response. They seemed more interested in getting my name for their fund raising mailing list. Suffice it to say I shall not be making a donation.

Anyway, we put a nice smelly tin of tuna in the loft and next morning it had all gone. So at least we knew the cat was able to move about and we could keep it alive. It was now over a week since the tile had been replaced and still we hadn't seen the cat, although every night it made a racket and ate our food, and every day it went quiet. We left the loft open with a ladder in place constantly, but to no avail. Then, on Thursday, twelve days after the incident began it decided to show itself at the loft hatch, meeowing loudly. With a piece of tune in one hand to entice it, several attempts were made to grab it until at last Kath managed to seize the cat, receiving a nasty scratch in the process, bring it down. It was a sizeable tabby and despite our fear, it looked in good health although it was obviously hungry. Here it is on our doorstep. I turns out it belonged to a neighbour round the corner who was used to it disappearing for days at a time.

The second cat belongs to a boat which moors near Herbie. It paid me a visit yesterday when I was aboard and wouldn't go away. Not that I mind a friendly cat, but after our recent experience I didn't want to inadvertently trap it aboard Herbie when I locked up and went away for a week! Every time I put it out the back door it would sneak back in the front. Needless to say I did a thorough search before locking up.

Finally, our new ship's cat for Herbie. No problem this one, it just lies there curled up. Well there's not much else a cat made of cardboard and rabbit's fur can do.
This one is a copycat, being a replica of the famous Mrs Chippy, the cat that accompanied the Shackleton expedition to the South Pole.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Navigation by pubs

I just came across an amusing waterways map of the greater London area on the web site of the London Waterways Recovery Group. I'll leave you to follow the link rather than risk infringing their copyriht by putting the map here. Suffice it to say I like it very much as it uses pubs as the only landmarks and copies the familiar London Transport map style.

Here's a picture of another pub landmark lurking behind a weeping willow.
The Rising Sun heralds our entrance to Berkhamstead, a town well endowed with pubs, none of which (amazingly) we have yet sampled! Must put that right this year.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Time and (Semi) Tide

Signs of spring and thoughts of trips to come. March 1st and the daffodils are out on the roundabouts and roadsides near us. British Waterways is nearing the end of its annual stoppage programme and we'll have a free run up the canal again.

I've been researching the journey up the Thames to Oxford and beyond. We have to buy an additional visitors boat licence for this, costing £75 for 15 days. Ouch! Should we wish to venture up the Wey Navigation (belonging to the National Trust) on our way past, that would be another £26 for 3 days or £51 for 7 days. Hmmm. All that is on top of our standard BW licence which this year is £540 odd. At least with the BW licence you can moor overnight almost anywhere on the canals for free. On the Thames you often have to pay a few quid.

Just before we enter the Thames from the canal, we go through a short stretch described as "semi tidal". I had to find out what this means. The Thames itself at Brentford is fully tidal and sealed off from the canal by a lock. Surplus water in the canal spills over a weir alongside the lock. When the tide below the lock goes out, the level in the canal stays at the level of the weir, but when a high tide comes in, it overtops the weir and raises the level above the lock. Semi tidal - geddit? Beyond the next lock further up the canal the tide has no effect.

Once we get on to the tidal Thames we dash upstream an hour and a half to Teddington, where there is a big lock above which the tide cannot reach.