Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blogger fails maths test

Rick emailed me to say my sums are wrong (see post below). 10.7 million gallons would weigh 47000 tons!! Rick is usually right on these things and I automatically defer without checking.

That's a hell of a lot of water to go missing. Enough to float the QEII in fact. It must be true, Wikipedia says so :-) Now we'll never see the QEII on the Grand Union.

I'm pretty sure the level has dropped because all the way along the canal you can see the damp tide mark of the previous level. I blame the Met Office. The weather has been worse since they left Bracknell and moved to Exeter.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Can we have our water back please?

I noticed last weekend that the canal was about 3 inches lower than normal. Where we are there is a total of 26 miles of level water (Slough Arm plus GU from Cowley to Norwood plus Paddington Arm). If you use a guestimate of an average width of 50 feet, that all comes to 26 miles x 5280 feet (per mile) x 50feet (wide) x 0.25feet (missing) x 6.25 (gals per cubic foot) = 10.7 million gallons missing! I think thats over 4700 tons if my sums are right.

Has it all evaporated off in the warm weather or have BW drawn some off for nefarious purposes? Either way, we'd like some back because the down the Slough Arm, the bottom is too near the top. I wouldn't want to take a deep draughted boat down there at present. Herbie draws only 2 feet and even we have to go quite slowly to get the water past the boat.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


It seems the worst of the weed has passed on the Slough Arm. It is still very weedy at the edges, but there is a narrow channel in the middle where you can get through without too much problem. Woe betide you if you stray towards the edge though. Despite that, it all looks very pretty at the moment as you can see in this rare picture of a boat coming the other way.

However we had another obstacle yesterday when we went down to the winding hole. A boat adrift across the canal. Not tied up properly and surprise, surprise, it was an unlicenced one. Happily another boater from our moorings managed to shove it out of the way for us.

Later, on our way out of the arm we encountered another obstacle. This poor cormorant desperately swam in front of us, diving then re emerging to see us still bearing down on him. This went on for some time until at last he had the sense to just move aside. Then, ten minutes later I at last managed to photograph a kingfisher. Usually they fly off before I get the camera set.

We had a smooth run down to Bulls Bridge where we did a spring clean of the boat ready for Claire and family to take over Herbie while we went home by car to be dog sitters for the weekend. Here we are outside Tesco at sunset, all spruced up and ready for the handover. We even turned the boat round so all they had to do in the morning was turn through the bridge and follow their noses to London.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Weed plough anyone?

Tomorrow we take Herbie for the short cruise to Bulls Bridge where we will hand over to Claire and family who are taking the boat to London for the weekend. So if you are crashed into by Herbie on Saturday, don't blame me!

To be frank, the canal between Cowley Peachey and Bulls Bridge is unspectacular. The best we can hope for is to see some interesting boats and to smell the coffee roasting at the Nescafe factory. Although there is one spectacular sight come the think of it. A new block of (I think) flats being built near Bulls Bridge. Its huge. I've never seen so much scaffolding and safety netting in my life. Also they have quite a number of temporary lifts running up the outside to lift men and machines and materials up to the higher floors. They should stop now and keep it like it is. Far more interesting than the finished building I expect.

I'm not looking forward to the trip down to the winding hole to turn the boat first. No doubt the blanket weed is still there waiting for the propellor to wrap it up. We are developing techniques to deal with it but they aren't that effective. We really need a weed plough on the front of the boat.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Art conkers nature?

Here are another few pics to add to the blog's catalogue of canalside sculpture. These can be seen alongside the Wey navigation at Guildford. What I particularly like about them is than they are carved in situ from standing trees.

I think this one is brilliant , although it took us a while to see what it was. Can you make it out?

I don't think the trees would be so keen of course. I suppose they might be horse chestnuts although I think not. The disease which is currently killing a lot of them off was well in evidence in this area when we passed through. What the future is for conkers I dread to think. It looks as though horse chestnuts may be going the way of elms. If so, better to be made into a sculpture than into firewood.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The long and short of lock gubbins

One day I mean to compile a photo directory of lock gears and related gubbinses. One of the delights of boating is the variety of designs you come across.

Take a look at these three windlasses.

The short one is my "regular" windlass for use on canals. Kath likes to use the middle one, which being a bit longer gives better leverage but can bring your knuckles a bit close to the balance beam of the lock.

The big red one is what they lend you to use on the river Wey. Its nearly twice as long as mine. You get plenty of leverage but your arms have to describe a huge circle when you turn it, and often you are leaning out over the water at the time so it makes it feel very precarious, especially when the little plank you are standing on is wobbling beneath your feet. And why do they paint the windlasses dull red? It makes it quite hard to see them when you lay them on the grass to have hands free to catch a rope. I like my bright yellow one, but as you can see it needs a lick of paint now.

The paddle gear on Wey locks is very neat though. They only seem to have gate paddles, so the current in the locks can be pretty fierce, but the mechanisms are super. The horizontal shafts have universal joints in them, which presumably allows for less than accurate alignment of the end bearings,but the rachet gear is the really good bit. I don't know how it works because it is all enclosed in a box. It stops the paddle falling when wound up, but somehow it lets you wind down without having to manually release the rachet. Clever. No sudden clattering drops of the paddle, and no greasy fingers.

What ever the designs of rachet gear, they're all better than the ghastly hydraulic things which BW went through a phase of some years back. I hate them with a passion. They are just as hard to wind down as up, they take ages, they can't be quickly closed in an emergency and worst of all they don't make a nice clackety clack noise.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Backing up to the pub

Last week I mentioned the inn sign at the New Inn at Send. Now you can see it for yourself. I'll leave you to judge whether the boat is actually meant to be going full speed astern or whether the artist hadn't got a clue about boats. As for the position of the chimney, I suppose its possible to have a stove in the bow, or is it meant to be the engine exhaust?

Anyway its only a pub sign, Musn't get too anoraky about such things, and the pub itself was quite nice with moorings right outside.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Picture catch up

I've now had chance to retrieve and sort the photos from our trip, so over the next few days I'll share with you some of the more interesting ones.

First a shot of the chaos at the start of the Guildford raft race
Then the amazing Thomas the Tank Engine narrowboat that came only 3rd in the boat gathering pageant. I think they were a bit miffed. It was easily the best model but they lost points by having no music or antics I guess. Mind you, the wheels actually went round!

And then this boat seen at the gathering.

I thought the only paddle driven narrowboat was Savernake up at Uxbridge (featured on Waterworld on TV), but this one which moors at Guildford is also the genuine article and seems to motor along quite efficiently.

More soon.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mystery solved

I received a comment from Eddy, a former owner of Barka Dio, the unusual boat I featured in my post on June 17th.

He writes "Barka dio was our previous 2th boat in Holland, boat 1 is named Misty too, this is the one we live on in the Med. We kept it as a pied a terre. when we sold it, it is transported to the UK and it looks like they renovated the interior totaly. The boat is a "Westlander" build in 1935 as a sailing farmer Barge. in about 1970 it was turned in to a "cruiser" on our site you wil find pictures from a trip we made tru the dutch canals, including pictures from a trip to Turkey with Misty Too, look at under foto's you will find "Barka Dio" wich is greek for "Boat 2"

Thanks Eddy for solving the mystery of this smart little boat.

Reviewing the trip

Herbie now rests at her moorings while we plan our next trip. We really enjoyed the last couple of weeks and can thoroughly recommend the Wey navigation. It was an easy trip too compared with our more usual rigours up the Grand Union to the Tring summit. This time we did 94 miles and 64 locks, although 10 of the locks were done for us by lock keepers.

In summary our new experiences taught us that:

1. The Wey navigation carries predominantly narrowboats - a surprise to me - and quite a few hire boats
2. The tidal Thames (upstream of Brentford) is not at all scary in reasonable conditions (a surprise to Kath)
3. There are more water fowl, especially coots and herons, on the canals than on the Wey - a surprise to us both. Maybe coots thrive on human detritus.
4. The Wey seems to have no unlicenced boats, no continuous moorers, and hardly any old wrecks - quite different from the GU.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Foxed at the Fox

We left Teddington lock at high water this morning and had a very gentle run down to Brentford with the river as flat as a mill pond. Once safely in Brentford basin we used the BW showers to freshen up and then set off up the GU towards home. Being back on the canal felt a bit like being back on dry land. At least the water stood still. We enjoyed the Thames though and Kath, who was a bit scared of the tidal river is already talking about going all the way up to Oxford next time.

On approaching Hanwell I felt a tiny spot of rain so insisted we moor up by the Fox until it cleared. In fact, overnight just to be sure. So we endured a night of eating and drinking at the Fox, and took part in their pub quiz, which Foxed us a lot of the time. Still, we failed to come last so salvaged a bit of pride.

Tomorrow is the last day of the trip. Back past Bull's Bridge, on to Cowley then down the Slough Arm where no doubt Herbie's propellor will be pleased to cosset itself in the abundant blanket weed.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The maelstrom

The rain arrived on cue and we left the Wey at 9am this morning full of trepidation about having to cross the maelstrom that is Shepperton weir pool. Last evening we walked over to survey it and it looked a bit scary. A lot of the sluices were open to get rid of all the water coming down the Thames after recent rains and there was a really strong torrent flowing right across the pool and then into a big back eddy.

I asked the Wey lock keeper what would be the best technique to cross the pool and he said “ Aim at the eye of it and give the boat full welly”. So that’s what we did. We pushed the engine up to 2200 revs (our normal cruising maximum is about 1800) and went for it. Herbie rocked as the torrent slammed into her side and then again as it hit the stern. We held straight and in a few seconds we were through. All rather exciting really, but soon over. A good job we weren’t two minutes later, because a little tug type boat pushing a bit flat pallet carrying big bags of sand (I think) came across the other way. Avoiding a collision might have been nigh on impossible.

After that it was all plain sailing, well cruising anyway. Very few boats were moving on the Thames, not surprising since the rain was increasing. We ploughed on past Hampton Court where long queues of punters under umbrellas were filing into the garden festival. Lots of boats were busy earning a crust by ferrying people to and from the site.

We reached Teddington at midday, very wet and glad to be moored up before the heavier rain hit although very big boats keep going past us too fast and their wash slams Herbie against the quayside. We go down on the tide at 08.30 tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Prepared for a soak.

The lock keeper here at Weybridge warns us to expect very heavy rain tomorrow. I hope the Thames will not be running too strongly. With any luck we'll get to Teddington before the extra water catches up. Sitting here now in the early evening sunshine it's hard to believe we're due for a soaking soon.

Today has been our last one on the Wey navigation, for this summer anyway. We'll be sorry to leave it although it'll do us good to get back to reality. Life here must be good for many residents. Lots of properties cost over a million quid, and the genteel surroundings and beautifully managed countryside make you realise that there is still a wide gulf between the very well off and the rest of us.

I can only think of two complaints about this navigation. One is the provision of elsan emptying points. Two which we looked at today had no rinsing water supply so we didn't bother as we have spare cassettes in hand. The other is that one or two locks are a bit scary to operate. New Haw lock in particular has you standing six feet over the water on a narrow platform heaving on a rope to shut the bottom gates, then on the top gates leaning out over a wobbly gate platform to reach the swing of the long windlass you have to use. I'm surprised the health and safety mob hasn't been on to them. Maybe because everything is "listed" as of historical value they are exempt.
Blimey, I managed to upload a photograph! Here we are at lunch time today at Coxes Mill.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Wet dry wey dry wet dry wet

My 3 mobile dongle is still not letting me upload pictures. Meanwhile I'll keep posting the words and put in pics when I can.

Here we are back at the New Inn at Send, moored up for the night while a steady stream of showers pass over. The inn sign here has obviously been painted by someone without a clue about boats. The barge depicted appears to be going full speed astern and the stove chimney appears to be at the other end from the cabin. Ah well.

Yesterday was not so bad as the forecast threatened but we stayed on our rather pleasant moorings in the meadows south of Guildford and watched the Wimbledon men’s final (that took nearly all day!).

Setting off through Guildford town centre this morning it was noticeable thet the river was higher and running faster, so we made rapid progress. After a few minutes we were at Dapdune Wharf, now a museum of the Wey navigation, run of course by the National Trust. We stopped to empty the loo cassettes and had a look round. Most interesting were the huge wooden Wey barges being restored there. It’s hard to imagine how they got up and down some of the narrow and shallow sections of the river. An old guy there who had worked on them said they couldn’t use big horses to tow the barges because they’d never get under the bridges.

We were joined by narrowboat Lily A who we had met at the weekend and accompanied them for the rest of the day’s cruise. At Triggs lock the lengthsman was busy locking boats through and said that he was glad of it, otherwise he would have had to go over to local weirs to draw more water off. Apparently if the navigation rises dangerously, they can normally get it back to a safe level in four hours by judicious use of the weir sluices.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Thunderbirds are go

Sorry, I can't get photos to upload right now. I'll try later. Meanwhile here are some words. Or you can look at Adams blog nbDebdale - he was there and took pictures, including one of Herbie!

We must be righteous because the sun shone on us all day yesterday in spite of a dodgy weather forecast. The Guildford boat gathering proved to be a great event. At lunchtime we walked up to see the start of the annual raft race.

Quite a crowd gathered to see the dozen or so craft that had been built for the race, some of them quite amazing. Boats and costumes were in accordance with the published theme of children’s TV programmes, so we had Postman Pat, several Thunderbirds and an excellent Flintstones. The actual race worthiness of the craft was very variable and the poor Smurfs team had their boat disintegrate within thirty seconds of launch.

It seems to be the tactic before the start to give your opponents a good soaking and there was a huge water fight. Those with mere water pistols were soon outgunned by water bombs, some launched by impressive catapults. The most aggressive team however resorted to the crude expedient of using buckets to chuck a couple of gallons at a throw over the enemy. I’ve no idea who won the race, they all paddled off down the river and we returned then to Herbie to watch the pageant of decorated narrowboats and cruisers (same theme).

The rafts were good, but some of the narrowboats were truly amazing. How about this one as Thomas the Tank Engine. It even had rotating wheels. Our friends on Emily C who had accompanied us up the Thames had a good entry with their Bob the Builder boat, although they had a lot of trouble in the fresh side wind, especially as the superstructure completely obliterated the steerer’s view of the river!

So, a very good event which we shall return to if we get half a chance.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A close scrape and a party

Yesterday for a short while we thought we were marooned. Twice!

The first time was in Catteshall lock at Farncombe when the engine failed to start when leaving the lock. Kath tried a couple of times, then I had a couple of goes to no avail. I thought it sounded like fuel starvation as the engine was turning over OK. I was just considering calling for professional help when I noticed that the stop button (with which you stop the engine) had failed to pop down again after use. What plonkers we would have looked to a boat mechanic! With much relief we were away and off to our next bit of drama.

The day before we only just got under the bridge at Shalford and the river had risen a bit overnight. A number of bridges here are low, like these two
but this takes the biscuit as the lowest we have ever encountered. We approached it inch by inch until I had to shout “back, back” when I could see our stove chimney wouldn’t go under. So I removed the chimney and we had another go, still fearful of the fixed water heater chimney at the back. Well, we got through, but only just.

On then to Guildford where we are joining the annual Guildford Boaters Gathering, a jolly affair it seems. There are about 50 boats here a short way upstream of the town centre. Luckily we had with us our trusty bunting made out of recycled plastic carrier bags so we are doing our bit for the festivities.

Last night was a communal BBQ at which we were made very welcome and got to hear about the Pageant later today. Apparently there is fierce competition for the prize for the boat best dressed up- a bit like a carnival float. As I write people are struggling with hardboard and cardboard, knocking together wooden frames etc. The theme is children’s TV. I can see some one converting their boat into Thomas the Tank Engine!

A week ago I wrote that I was trying to avoid using "Wey" as a pun. Well, the boaters here have no such scruples. We see loads of boats with Wey puns in their name. Weyward Girl, Pilgrims Wey, Wey Out, Hem in Wey, - I'll spare you the rest. One name I did like was "Short Respite" on a little Springer water bug.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Going all the way

Mist lies over the Lammas land below Godalming wharf as we return to Herbie bearing a two pint carton of Elsie Mo bitter from the rather wonderful Star Inn in town. A bat is circling the boat outside and as we approached the boat a fox scuttled across the moorings in front of us. Earlier this evening the horse pulling the trip boat Iona passed us as its handler deftly lifted the tow rope over Herbie’s chimney.

This is the end of the navigable Wey.

We got a good soaking as a sudden thunderstorm hit us as we approached Farncombe, the heavens opened and we had no place to pull in and shelter for several minutes. Up until then we’ve had a lovely day. The Wey navigation is all you would expect of a place run by the National Trust (which it is). It is green, well maintained and full of rustic charm. Often, I felt we were in a constable painting as we approached an old wharf amongst the hay fields. I kept waiting for the grotty bits, but there weren’t any. In the estate agents window in Godalming some nice little cottages were a snip at £1.25 million.

Even Guildford was nice, especially the bits after the town centre. Tomorrow we will return there to join the annual boat gathering, I hope we can get under the bridge at Shalford. Today we had barely an inch of clearance over Herbie’s chimney and it has been raining since, so the river may be higher.

I retract yesterday’s comments about the easiness of the lock gear. After Guildford they get very stiff and we were glad of the extra long handles to get some leverage.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

day 4 - first impressions of the Wey -good for pandas

Entering the Wey is a bit unusual. To get into the first lock they have to raise the short pound beneath it if the Thames is low, otherwise you’d be grounded on the way in. Anyway, that’s what they did and we were soon in and paid our licence and we were lent the unusually long handled Wey windlass. We thought this might mean the lock gears were heavy to use, but that proved not to be the case, although most of the locks so far only had gate paddles and the currents in them were pretty fierce.

You can’t hurry down the Wey even if you wanted to. There just isn’t enough depth or width to cope with the water the boat displaces so you proceed at about two miles an hour for much of the time. Not that that is a bad thing, because the surroundings are lush and pretty. I was quite surprised to find that most boats there (and there are quite a lot) were narrowboats. I had expected more plastic cruisers.

Rules are and customs are different here. You have to switch off engines in locks and leave gates open when you leave. People don’t seem to throw ropes, they use boat hooks to grab them off the boat to tie up in the lock.

There are some superb water side properties. This is Surrey after all. I particularly liked this old mill converted into (expensive) apartments. Another interesting feature was the occasional pair of flood gates with which they shut the navigation if the river is too high.

The feel of the navigation changes all the time. At one time it felt like the middle levels, another time like the broads, and then like the Nene. I don’t know if giant pandas have ever visited Send, but they should because for quite a distance the river bank is thick with huge clumps of bamboo.

We were planning to stop at the Anchor at Pyrford, and we did for lunch, but then chose to press on to Send so that we could reach Godalming tomorrow night. The Anchor is one of those pubs that has become a good eatery but is not really a pub any more. All very nice but not a place to sit and natter to the locals.

The New Inn at Send where we moored for the night was a different matter. They do serve a lot of food, but the staff were very chatty and we had a very sociable evening talking to them and another boating couple we had shared locks with all day. The moorings by the pub were nice too.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Day 3 - a tale of nearly two rivers

I was sound asleep. “Wake up, “ said Kath, “it’s half past ten and we have to leave in an hour.“ I sat bolt upright and tried to shake of my drowsiness. “Oh no, sorry, it’s ten to six. I misread the clock!” she admitted. I bit my tongue.

So a bit later we actually got up and got ready. At the appointed hour we descended Brentford gauging lock and set off in the company of another boat down to Thames Lock. Kath was very nervous and was glad of her new lifejacket. Three boats went into the lock and we all emerged onto the tideway with not so much as a quiver. Luckily one of the other boats was headed for the Wey too so all we had to do was to follow them all day.

The tideway was in a benign mood and we had a very gentle ride up through Richmond and into Teddington lock. Kath was beginning to relax. Teddington lock is huge and very busy, but the lock keepers seem to take it all calmly and with a smile.

The sun was beating down as we cruised under Kingston Bridge. In 23 years of working in Kingston I must have driven over it thousands of times, so cruising beneath it held a special relish for me. On we went down to Hampton Court where there were actually moorings free. I bet there won’t be next week when the flower show is on.

The Thames banks seem to alternate between ramshackle yards and ultra posh residences. You can always tell when a posh bit is coming because the first thing you see is the weeping willows. A surprise was that there were as many narrowboats moving as there were plastic cruisers.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, here we are moored up at the entrance to the Wey navigation ready to go through the lock first thing in the morning. The barby is on, a G&T is to hand and all is well with the world.

I would post more pictures but this dongle thingy doesn't seem to like doing them in a hurry!
Tomorrow our first taste of the Wey.

Day 2 _ Pickled sprouts and Agincourt

An easy but not uneventful day. After a late start we cruised down to Brentford where amazingly there were plenty of visitor moorings free.

The view from our mooring.

We pulled in and a head popped up from the boat behind saying “Are you going out to the Thames?”. We said that we would be tomorrow and he said “Well, I’ll be your lock keeper”. Excellent. We were able to ask a lot of questions about the procedure and got all the answers we needed without going off in search of them. He said “I’ve moved down to moor here close to work while the fuel crisis is on.” “You could be here for years then. “ I said.

Following advice, I did a check over of the boat engine, fluids etc and found that the spare fan belt I thought I had was non existent. Enquiries at a local garage told me of a supplier and enquiries in the magpie and Crown told me how to find them, so I used my trusty bus pass to get to Isleworth and pick one up. Meanwhile Kath waited in the Magpie and Crown watching Andy Murray play tennis. Of course she had to sample the Mordue Blond Bitter on offer. Very nice it was too. When I got back the pub conversation turned to flavours of crisps, a new one being jalapeno and something or other. I asked if anyone had tried cheese and pickled jalapeno sandwiches ( the signature sandwich of Rick). “I can beat that” said the barman “You’re talking to Mr Pickle of Brentford here. Last Christmas I did pickled brussels sprouts with chillis and they went down a storm”. Hmmmm.

Speaking of pubs, it came to our notice that they had a pub quiz in the Brewery Tap down the road, so in the evening after Murray was two sets to love down we abandoned the telly and went there. They had the match on there too as it happens so we saw the famous victory over the French (best since Agincourt).

The quiz was amazingly hard and we did very badly.

Having probs posting pics. WIll try to add them later.