Saturday, April 28, 2007

A shiny bottom

We went back to Earith to see Richard's boat Bankside with its shiny black hull. It appears that the hull is still in very good nick, which is a relief, and Graham at the boatyard had done a good job. He had waited for us to inspect the boat out of the water which gave us the opportunity to watch her being craned back in - exciting but nerve racking as she dangled from the crane. Actually it was all very smooth and controlled despite some initial creaking from the straps as they took the strain.

Despite a cold wind for the first half of the journey we had a very pleasant run back up the Ouse to Hartford. Richard's daughter Stephanie joined us for the trip and helped with the locks. I'm getting used to these new fangled locks with their strange terminology. What we call paddles, they call slackers, and the hinged gates are called Vee gates. Here you can see the control panel at Hermitage lock. The lifting guillotine gate is on a timer delay, so it opens a fraction and then waits until the water levels are close to equal before you can lift it right up. What's more it won't lift at all if the sensors on the vee gates show they are not fully closed. All very safety conscious, but very slow. It takes roughly twice as long as the equivalent canal lock.

Back at Hartford, we had a difficult manoeuvre to do, turning the boat round and backing it up in a narrow space to its mooring, all in a stiff breeze that kept blowing the boat offline. Narrowboats have next to no steering in reverse so you have to back up a bit and then when the boat goes off course, use a bit of forward power to steer the boat back on line, then backwards again and so on. Anyway we did it without mishap and Bankside is now safely back home.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A cruise on the Ouse

Richard's boat, Bankside, needs its bottom blacking so we offered ourselves as crew to accompany him on the journey from his mooring at Hartford Marina, up to Westview marina at Earith where Bankside was to be craned out. Friend Rick also joined us for the day as boat jester and as someone who understands the technical gubbinses.

The bridges and locks on the Ouse are so different from what we are used to on the canals and made a nice change. We joked that it was an old person's river really because the locks are all electrically operated (and really slow). No muscle needed. Mind you some of the lock and sluice arrangements are huge in comparison with canal stuff.

We passed through St Ives with its ancient bridge with a chapel in the middle. This years Inland Waterways Association national festival will be held here. It won't be so quiet then!

We saw very few other boats out, but one we did see was broken down with an overheated engine, so as they were struggling to get back to the boatyard we were headed for, we gave them a tow. Bankside's engine performed manfully under the strain, although it did slow us down a bit.

We arrived in good time and moored up against the craning yard (Richard doing a brilliant turn in a very tight space surrounded by valuable plastic boats!). We didn't stop to see Bankside being lifted out, but we hope to see her going back in when we go back to collect her after she is blacked.

On the previous day we stopped off at Marsworth when travelling up by car, and after lunch at our favbourite Angler's Retreat pub, we stolled up the canal. Kath walked right past this heron without even noticing it!

Then just a few yards further on, we saw these ducklings and couldn't resist the photo opportunity.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Out again at last

Back on Herbie for a two day trip in the sun. The spring wildlife is well in evidence now with lots of ducklings, and coot and moorhen chicks about.

More unusually, we spotted this terrapin basking on a log at the edge of the Slough Arm. We had seen one before in London, but not here.

We stopped off at Uxbridge Boat Centre to enquire about a suitable anchor and chain etc for Thames crusing - £93 ! I guess we'll have to have one though for safety reasons. Uxbridge is not the prettiest place on the canal , but once you get above the lock things become very pleasant again.

We moored up for the night in a favourite spot above Denham lock before returning next day via Denham Marina where wqe bought a new ash boat pole. Before that Kath (bless her) spent a happy half hour in the engine bay mopping up the remnants of spilt oil from our old oil leak. Now the engine floor tray is squeaky clean. Fresh newspaper under the engine tells us we still have a small drip, but nothing of significance.

Next week we're off to help our son Richard to move his narrowboat up the Ouse to have her bottom blacked, then we're off for a weekend sailing on the Norfolk Broads with friends, and then we hope to take herbie out for a longer trip. let's hope the fine weather continues.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Here we go here we go here we go

Normal life has been suspended in recent weeks in preparation for the wedding of our daughter Claire. A rare family photo (plus Joe , Claires new spouse)- our kids are hardly ever all together at the same time. Doesn't little Jacob look dapper!
Although it was only a small affair she elected to have the reception at our house, so I had to get the house and garden ready while Kath made Claire's wedding outfit. Anyway it all went off well, the sun shone and now we're back to some semblance of normality.

So tomorrow we're back on Herbie for a couple of days. We need to pick up a new boat pole from Denham and hopefully an anchor and chain etc for our forthcoming trip up the Thames. More money :-(

We have been hoping to detour down the Wey navigation and the Basingstoke canal whilst doing the Thames but they all need separate licences. The short visitor licence on the Wey won't give enough time to branch off it up the Basingstoke, or even to get straight down the Wey and back without putting in quite long days. I wish they'd get their act together and do a decent joint 10 day licence at a reasonable cost. The BW licence begins to look comparatively good value even at over 500 quid for a year. At least you get hundreds of miles of canal and free mooring almost everywhere.