Friday, July 31, 2009

Dream boats

Many people, it seems, dream of owning a boat. That's fine, but I sometimes wish they would keep their dreams to themselves. I'm amazed by how many people like to point this out by calling their boat Dreamcatcher. We've seen several of them lately. Jim Shead lists over 30 of them!

There's worse. Just imagine having to ring up to book a passage through a lock and when they ask the name of the boat having to say Our Dream. It would stick in my throat I'm afraid. Then we recently saw Our Destiny. Is it just me, or is that wearing your heart on your sleeve a bit too much?

There are some we find OK, such as Indigo Dream, or (at a pinch, because written in a jolly font) Wildest Dreams.

Well, I shouldn't criticise. People can call their boats what they like I suppose. Personally I like simple names. Some I have seen that I really like are fish names like Dace or Bream, and the old working boat names like Badsey (the village where I was born), or Stour shown below, and Bison.

Don't you just love that lively signwriting?

We passed a wonderful tug style Bison for sale in Milton Keynes. This 57 footer was originally built by Yorkshire boatbuilders Sagar Marine in who built their last narrowboat in 1998 and now specialise in luxury Dutch barges. The engine is listed by Jim Shead as 22BHP which means it might be an old slow revver. Chug chug.

That would be something like my dream boat. I'm quite sure it would be beyond our means or I'd be queueing up to buy it. Externally it looks immaculate.

I'll give them a free advert here so you can phone up and buy it. If you do, can I come for a ride?.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ship's lifeboat lives on as a river cruiser

Of all the boats we saw on our trip, this one took my fancy the most.
It lives and cruises on the Nene and belongs to an old fella who was moving it from Peterborough to Wansford on the day we met them. Both the hull and the current owner are over eighty years old, and they suited each other to a tee.

This quirky little barque started as one of the many lifeboats on SS Tamaroa, hence the name.
SS Tamaroa was launched in 1922 and spent most of her life ploughing the waves between here and the antipodes. She was scrapped in 1957 which was presumably when someone bought the lifeboat and began the conversion into this cute little river cruiser. I think it looks like the cartoon boats we see in kids' picture books.

Peeking inside it had a real old nautical charm and the old fella, who had owned the boat for well over 40 years I think, was equally delightful. His daughter and grandchildren were helping him move it on the day we met them. Sadly we couldn't share locks with them because they were too wide.

Given the choice of this or a modern plastic cruiser with all mod cons, I wouldn't think twice.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Home coming and memories of bridges

Herbie is home and our big summer voyage is complete.

What a trip. 573 miles, and 335 locks over 56 days on the move plus a good number of days off. We've covered a lot of the Grand Union plus its Slough, Wendover and Northampton arms , almost the entire navigable length of the rivers Nene, Ouse, Cam and Wissey, plus the Middle levels through route. No great shakes for some people, I know, but by far the biggest boat trip we've ever done.

I've never really known a lot about the fen country, and although it sure is flat we found it fascinating and the wildlife incredible, and there are so many waterways to explore. Not only that, the journey there along the Nene was so pretty.

My over riding memories of the trip are of lush landscapes, very very low, bridges, sunshine (!), quiet remote moorings, rare birds, snakes, a seal, and friends who joined us for bits of the journey, and amazing people we met. (not necessarily in that order!).

I'm still sorting through the hundreds of photos we took but I'll have plenty to show you in future posts. Here are a few good bridges to start us off. Remember the click the pics to see them at their biggest and best.

Thrapston bridge , where the Nene changes its pronunciation from Nen to Neen. There is a public mooring hidden on the left of the bridge here, but entry to it is not for the faint hearted The "cock up" bridge at the exit of Wicken Fen. Not an easy turn for a 50ft boat! The waterway the other side is only about 15ft wide

On the Ouse at Great Barford

Our lowest ever bridge, at Upwell on the middle levels

The bridge entry to Salter's lode tidal lock which you can just see opening at the front of the boat

Breasted up in Milton Keynes

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The good old southern GU

Rickmansworth tonight. Not far now until we get back home and all day it has felt like we're on home ground. We've been to some fascinating and beautiful places but this part of the Grand Union still looks pretty good to me. And there is a lot less traffic than further north.

Kings Langley is not a romantic sounding place but what's wrong with a lock setting like this?

Or this one near Watford, one of the locks known as Albert's two

There are some pretty lock cottages too like this one at North Grove lock within earshot of the M25 .
These cottages are actually bigger than they look because there is a lower storey hidden from the canal side.

There are virtually no hire boats down this way but any number of social project boats taking groups of disadvantaged kids, or disabled, or old people out. The kids seem to love it, although it can take ages for them to get through a lock.
Speaking of which, Iron Bridge lock in Cassiobury park just gets slower and slower. The rate of leakage through the bottom gates is only marginally less than the pathetic inflow through the top sluices. So it takes half an hour for the lock to fill, and of course it is an absolutely prime spot or gongoozlers, so boaters get a good chance to get over some canal PR when we inevitably get interviewed by interested onlookers. Today we had an audience of at least twenty people and Kath did her usual trick of showing some kids the inside of the boat (with parent's permission of course).It helps to pass the time while the lock is filling anyway.

On risk

Adam, in response to my steerer's seat pictures is quite right in saying there is a risk in sitting or standing within the arc of swing of the tiller. I was waiting for someone to make the comment because it had occurred to me too. However I will sometimes use the seat in that position for two reasons. The first is that I have a foot problem which has been causing me "toothache" in my heel all summer if I stand a lot, so I'm desperate to sit down when I'm steering for a long time.

The second reason is just one of risk assessement really. I reckon that on stretches of deep river or canal away from places where oiks dump trolleys etc in the water, the chances of getting knocked off the back by the rudder hitting a submerged object are pretty slim. Yes we do hit such objects, but not ever yet one which knocks the tiller through a full arc (or anything near). Just like every time I cross a rain soaked lock beam or step ashore onto a muddy slippy bank I have to take risks. If canals were new things to be built today, they'd never get past the Health & Safety lot.

Nevertheless I am not completely gung ho. I have been trying out the seat in postions forward of the tiller with some success in some conditions. I need more time to experiment really.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Steerers seat trials, belly dancers and a visit from Rainman

The new steerers seat is OK. The right height, comfy, stable, foldable, a good footrest, but not in truth very "boaty". I think we'll use it for long stretches without locks but it gets in the way a bit when people have to shuffle around on the rear deck getting on and off at locks. I don't think Kath likes it much. I can't get her to sit on it!

Tuesday was a very short day from Fenny Stratford to the Globe at Old Linslade, one of our favourite stops. Wednesday was busier as we moved through Leighton Buzzard across the green pastures of Slapton and Ivinghoe (passing yet another new marina being dug) up to Marsworth where Claire and the kids joined us. Having dinner at the Anglers Retreat we had the extra treat of a troupe(?) of belly dancers in full regalia waving their midriffs in the garden. In truth their outfits were somewhat more impressive than their dancing but it makes a change from Morris dancers I suppose.
Today dawned strangely warm and sunny as we kitted out little Grace in ther lifejacket and waited for friend David to join us for the day. I say strangely warm and sunny, because it always rains when David (aka Rainman) joins us. He arrived and we set off up the serpentine Marsworth flight in shorts and tee shirts taking turns at lock winding, Jacob sometimes doing the driving into the locks. Not bad for an eleven year old.
The sun shone through the overhanging branches of the sylvan Tring cutting and at Cowroast where BW have at last installed some proper reycling bins (hooray). It was even sunny through lunchtime as we picnicked on the bank between the Dudswell locks.
When David's rain eventually came after lunch, it did it in style, like stair rods, soaking us to our very pores in minutes. He certainly knows how to organise a downpour. Good to know he hasn't lost his touch. It's just as well he's a good friend and a handy crew member or we'd have to ban him! Also he brings chocolates, so we can forgive him virtually anything.
So here we are, damp but not disheartened at Berkhamstead. Lots of locks or Claire and Jacob to practice on tomorrow. David has departed for home so perhaps we'll have a dry day.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Convivial cruising and a seat for herbie

Sunday was very jolly. You might think that two people travelling alone on a boat might feel a bit isolated, but the truth is far from it. We started off down the locks at Stoke Bruerne and the BW man appeared and gave us a hand on the first. Then we caught up with a friendly couple at the next lock and whistled down the flight spending a happy hour in their company, making light work of it. Like a number of other folks we have met, they have downsized their house and with the money they made, bought a posh boat. We couldn't downsize our house, we have too much stuff and we can't seem to face up to getting rid of it.

For the rest of the cruising hours to Great Linford we revelled in the most enjoyable company of Aggers, Blowers, Tuffers and CMJ on Test Match Special. Kath, who isn't all that bothered by cricket still enjoys the TMS banter. If you've never tried it, give it a go - you'll soon be hooked.

We got lucky at Great Linford and were able to moor at our favourite spot at the head of the park. Here's the view from our side hatch.

Kath phoned her sister Carole and invited her and husband Pat to join us at the Nags Head by the park gate (they live nearby) and we had a belter of an evening. Sadly the pub quiz was cancelled because the pub was too empty, but we cornered the quizmaster guy and got him to test us on the better questions. We all got on famously, and it turned out he and his wife were ex work colleagues of Carole's daughter Mel. Small world.

Today we reached Fenny Stratford and made an exciting purchase. A steerer's seat for Herbie, something we have lacked all along and sorely need. Where did we get this magical chair? A marina? Chandlers? No, we got it at IKEA! Not designed as a steerer's seat of course but we're hopeful it will do the job. Sea trials report and photos tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Brighton dislocated at Buckby

Buses and a train and a lift from Rick's friend Phil got us back to Herbie yesterday afternoon just before it rained. We set off intending to descend the Buckby locks only to find that the first lock was occupied by historic working boat Nuneaton and her butty Brighton and they were going nowhere. The shallowness of the lock pound had lifted Brighton's mighty rudder out of its seat and they we having a hard time trying to relocate it. We pulled in to watch and wait outside the super little canal shop which sells Buckby cans, lamps, klaxons and other paraphernalia. Then the heavens opened and an almighty thunderstorm drove us inside.

We decided to go no further as it was already 5pm and the nearby New Inn seemed strangely attractive.

So there we stayed overnight and today we rose earlyish and finding a friendly boat to partner us got down the locks by late morning. Then on through Weedon, Bugbrooke, Gayton and Blisworth in, for us, amazingly heavy boat traffic. Our end of the GU is never as busy as this. At Weedon we spied Brighton again having her rudder hoisted off by a digger arm on a tractor. Apparently the retaining pin at the underwater end had broken off and they were getting a new on welded on.

In the Blisworth tunnel it was still busy and in the one and three quarter mile length we had to squeeze past five boats coming the other way. And so to Stoke Bruerne where we now sit for the night and yet another sighting of Brighton and Nuneaton. There seems to be a small gathering of historic boats here. Anyway Brighton is now mended, and we're making good progress towards home.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Many kindnesses get us going again.

Tomorrow afternoon our cruise resumes, and if the Met Office is to be believe we're in for a soaking for the first hours. That'll be going down the Buckby flight, which according to another boater on the web this week are the heaviest and most difficult locks on the GU. I remember on the way up we could hardly move one or two of the gates.

This week we have been on family duties as Jacob has been in hospital in Oxford under 24 hour ( times five days) observation for a sleep disorder that occasionally toubles him. They suspect his body clock is out of sync. We have had to have a family member with him day and night. His head has been covered with sensors wired up into an umbilical loom which attaches to a laptop and records his brainwave patterns. He has also been on continuous video observation. It has been fun to watch the graphs move as we say things which might excite or annoy him! Anyway it has all gone well and finishes tomorrow morning and we are released to return to the boat and complete our journey back to Iver. I have to say that the hospital facilities have been superb and they have done everything to keep Jacob comfortable and amused. I can't begin to imagine what the cost to the NHS has been - all that technical gear, a private room, specialist attention etc.

Everyone has been so helpful to us and we have to thank Priscilla for letting us use her lovely end of garden mooring, and especially Rick and Marilyn who have tended Herbie in our absence, done a lot of washing for us and got in essential supplies because we won't be able to carry much by public transport tomorrow. All very humbling and we don't deserve it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Slough basin revamp on the cards plus festival goes ahead

According to the minutes of the latest meeting of the Friends of the Slough Canal (yes, there are a few), £50k has been set aside by the council and BW for a development study and preparatory work. The actual revamp of te basin area could start as early as next year!!! Blimey. Well about time too. Perhaps when its done people will actually find it worth cruising the arm again.

They are still doing further work on the idea for a through route from the basin at Slough to the Thames at Windsor. However, the good old EA has put a spanner in the works by asking for a boat lift rather than a lock at the point of entry to the Thames. That won't be cheap, so don't hold your breath.

Lastly it seems that there will after all be a Slough Canal Festival "of some description" on 12/ 13 September. It looks like facilities for boaters will be improved after last year's poor preparation, including booking a nearby hall for a Saturday evening boater's social. I wonder how many people will give them the benefit of the doubt. I could be persuaded if a few others care to join us.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mooring postcode lottery? Should we move?

It's easy to get into a mind set that the things you are familiar with are best. A year or two back I was certain that canals were better for boating than rivers. Now having done half a dozen rivers in the last year I'm not so sure. Quite apart from the scenic delights, historic interests, navigational benefits and disbenefits of each, there is one thing that really hit home this year, which was the vast disparity in mooring costs.

Now marinas are pretty expensive whether on the river or the cut, but rivers, having more space seem to have a lot more boaters clubs where you can join and share the costs of a non profit making set of moorings. The finest example we saw was the Peterborough Yacht club, but there was also the Middle Nene Cruising club, and a number of others. A boat like Herbie would be charged about £300 a year for moorings in one of these clubs. By comparison, we pay about £1700 at our (good) moorings down the Slough Arm, and would have to pay perhaps another thousand if we moored in the BW marina at the mouth of the Arm. That's a whopping difference, and really makes you think.

Setting up clubs on canals is not so easy. For one thing BW charges for the water under your boat wherever you moor, and space is limited. The the canal is ususally too narrow to allow boats anything excpet linear moorings. There are clubs in Milton Keynes and Cheddington on the southern GU but they are restricted to boats of no more than 40ft length.

What are our options then?

Should we move and try to join one of the Nene clubs? Tempting. But then you have to think of the downside. Last year the Ouse and Nene each lost two months out of the summer when these rivers were too dangerous to navigate because of the current. Likewise the Thames. At least the canal is relatively unaffected by flood. I'm not sure how good I would be at sitting at home wondering if my boat was being swept away. I'm paranoid enough as it is.

The other temptation to move is to have a new canal base for cruising so we get to do some other waters. We don't want to pay for very expensive marina moorings. What we now pay I see as a sort of limit. There are some nice cheap farm moorings like this lovely one up towards Leighton Buzzard. No electrics though, or any other services I imagine. If anyone knows any good moorings up that way I'd be pleased to have details.

Other ideas:

There ought to be a mooring swap system, that would be good.

Or we could do what Granny Buttons does and that is move every week or two - a bit of a committment that and a bit risky but Andrew seems to manage it OK.

Or considering we're out on the boat quite a lot, why don't we pay for temporary berths in marinas etc here and there. It might work out no dearer than paying for a permanent berth that we don't occupy for weeks on end as now, although I doubt it.

I suppose it all goes to show there are a lot of options and "you pays your money and you makes your choice ". In my head this one will run and run.

Any suggestions?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Herbie not stolen!

Should you see Herbie and a motley crew between Buckby and Braunston on Saturday, don't send out a boarding party to arrest the skipper, knowing that Kath and I are away from the boat. It'll just be Rick and colonial (American) relatives enjoying the rain. At least they'll be dryish in Braunston tunnel.

On the strange practices of locks

Before Herbie gets home we have another 82 locks to pass through ( and interestingly, 82 miles!). I don't mind locks, they are the punctuation marks in the day, a chance often to meet other boaters, to chat to gongoozlers, and a way to get some healthy exercise.

(There now follows a discourse which non boaters will probably fail to comprehend, because its all so complicated)
However I can never understand some of the local practices. On the Ouse they have locks with a guillotine at the upstream end. On the Nene they have locks with a gullotine at the downstream end. Why they should be different I haven't a clue. When you leave these locks you have to leave the guillotine open, presumably to allow the passage of flood water. On canal locks with their vee gates you are supposed to shut the gates when leaving, except on the Lee and Stort ( and I think the Wey, but I might be remembering that wrongly) when they tell you to leave them open behind you whichever way you are going.

When you are approaching a lock on the canal, what you want to see is a boat coming the other way, meaning the lock is in your favour. On the Nene if you are going upstream, you want to see a boat approaching the lock from the other direction so you don't have to empty the lock as instructed. It all takes a bit of getting your head round.

It has to be said that the Ouse and Nene locks, although very often in a beautiful setting, are a pain. For a start the gullotines are so slow to lift and drop, and should you pause when raising the gate for any reason and accidentally press the lowering button for a millisecond when you resume raising, the flipping safety timer starts again and makes you wait another two minutes before resuming. And I haven't mentioned the half dozen locks which required you to spin a big wheel two hundred times to raise the gate and the same again to lower them.. Lovely.
Then there are the landing stages. These never seem to be in a good place. By the time you have stopped there to let off the crew, you are inevitably well out of line with the lock and have to do a sort of slalom to enter the lock. Worse still is the task of getting to the upstream landing stage when exiting the lock. Consider this diagram. (actually it's rather worse than I have drawn it.)

There's the boat in the lock waiting to come out. The landing stage is at an angle outside the left of the lock. The probem is that you can't begin to turn the boat until the back of it is past the extended lock walls, because the back needs to swing out to get the front in to the landing stage. So by the time you can turn the boat you are already half way past the stage. So what you have to do is,

1. Exit the lock pointing the boat away from the landing stage

2. When you are in the clear, do a 90 degree (or more) left turn to get the front into the bank. (you are now at right angles to the landing stage with the front of the boat touching the bank.

3. do a full 90 degree turn on opposte lock to swing the back in

4. Reverse back to get the boat back alongside the stage

All while the current is pushing towards the weir which is often on the right. All very good steering practive and I have to say that both Kath and I got quite good at it!

Or you can go on the Ashby canal which has no locks!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Us and Them

When we were in Ely recently, we moored for the weekend next to Barry, a GRP cruiser owner. At first he didn't seem to be all that pleased to see us and made the odd (polite) remark about the Ouse not having enough moorings to accommodate all these narrowboats. I decided on a charm offensive and over the course of a couple of days we chatted a fair bit. Suffice it to say that by the end of the weekend we were the best of pals, and he told us to look out for him waving as we passed his house in Upwell the following week.

Cruiser owners see the river in a different way. To Barry cruisng was a bit like caravanning. Tootle out for a couple of hours in his covered driving seat (avoiding locks if at all possible), then find a nice mooring, preferably alongside other members of his cruising club, and have a nice day or two sitting in his deck chair reading the paper and enjoying a BBQ. Its a comfortable social event. Nothing wrong with that at all, but it ain't how the narrowboater sees it.

The narrowboaters in general are a hardier lot. They travel further, more slowly, stand or sit at the tiller in the open air and see the journey as more important than the destination. There's something about standing close to the water on the back of a slowly moving boat that brings you closer to nature.

You would have thought a 25 ft cruiser could go all sorts of places a narrowboat couldn't reach, but in fact it's the reverse. Barry couldn't take his boat to his home in Upwell because he couldn't get under the bridges. We met another couple in a beautiful big cruiser that couldn't get down river from Buckden that day because the river was up a couple of inches and a bridge was in the way. I couldn't even get Barry to cruise up Wicken Fen because he said it was too shallow. Then of course the cruisers can't get into narrow locks.

So I suppose it's not surprising that the two types of boater have a different idea of what their boat is for.

Then there is the third category, which Barry refers to in hushed and sinister tones. The Liveaboards (shock horror!). Now it's true that there are non licence paying new age traveller types in decrepit boats making a life on the water and many of them do make a lot of mess and a lot of noise with their generators. Most are very friendly, but I can see that Barry would prefer to keep away from them when he wants a nice quiet weekend on a visitor mooring. The problem is that he lumps all liveaboards into that category. What about the Sue and Vics ( No Problem) of this world who continually cruise, living on their smart and and lovingly cared for narrowboats. Barry, I fear, sees no difference.

Now we met a lot of cruiser owners on the Ouse and Nene and to my mind there were all just as nice as the narrowboaters - just different. Why we can't all get on better beats me. I suppose the narrowboaters all have some degree of gypsy in them . I'll own up to that. The cruiser is rather like a nice car and the narrowboat more akin to a lorry I suppose.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I don't believe it - but its true

Amazing. I've just calculated our mileage and locks for our current trip and it seems we have done 478 miles and 249 locks so far. On top of that we still have to get from Buckby back down to GU to Iver. No wonder we need a break.

This week I'll catch up on some things I forgot to tell you whilst we were travelling.

You know we've seen a lot of wildlife - a seal (3 times), 4 barn owls, a few marsh harriers, about a dozen red kites, 3 snakes, a mink, thousands of fish, ten thousand damsel flies etc. We've also spotted a couple of real rarities. First shoveller ducks at Wicken fen, and then most surprising of all last week at Wellingborough a Bewick's Swan. If you don't know what one looks like, here's a link. Doesn't he know he's supposed to be in Siberia at this time of the year? No mistake though, the people on the boat behind us spotted it too.

We also did a little bit of sight seeing, and one nice surprise was the little Church in Outwell on the Middle Levels. It has this wonderful set of carved angels (very very old) in the roof vaults. Unusually it also has a kind of mezzanine set of pews above the normal ones. This was to accommodate folk from a neighbouring village who used to arrive by boat each Sunday. Kath seems to attract the attentions of local cognoscenti and this was no exception. We got a long talk from a passing historian, not only about the church, but about Well Creek, the tiny river which we were navigating and which runs past the church. Apparently it was once a lot bigger and sea going ships used to come right up to Outwell. Even plastic cruisers are too big for that these days.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Herbie takes a break after meeting a more famous boat

On Friday Herbie met leading blog boats No Problem and Moore to Life. Sue on No Problem is the doyenne of boat bloggers and one of the originals, so I was disappointed when we passed her boat on Friday and no-one was on board. Then, a few boats further on, a lady popped her head out a back cabin and said "Are you Neil?"
I was confused. It was Sue of course but coming from the wrong boat I didn't recognise her for a minute. Anyway she looks a lot nicer in real life! It was nice to discover that she had been following our adventures down the Nene.

We couldn't really stop as we were mid canal and on a tight schedule, but we chatted for a few minutes recalling our previous meeting four years ago when we rescued Sue's keys after she had left them in a lock mechanism cabinet on the Nene.

This time cameras were quickly got out and we snapped each other before saying our farewells. This is Sue and Vic, looking I must say very fit and well and showing us that a life permanently afloat is a healthy one.
Then on through Wilton and up the locks to Buckby to rest Herbie once again at Priscilla's house.
Tomorrow I'll work out how many locks and miles we have done on our fenland tour, but right now I'm back at home and looking forward to a couple of weeks on terra firma before we set off again to bring Herbie home. Herbie is looking a bit tired too. She needs a few hours tidying up the engine bay and clearing up oil and water and good wash and brush up. The stern gland needs repacking too - a job I've not done before. There's always something to do when you have a boat.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Finishing off the Nene and nearly finishing off ourselves!

Its flippin hot here. We're pretty tired by the time we stop for the day, which is early afternoon because we have been getting up early.

The Nene continues to look like a Constable painting, with its old mills and lush meadows. I wish I was as enthusiastic about the locks. They are tediously slow, and the ones right out in the sticks have no electricity to raise the massive guillotine gates so you have to struggle with the wretched handwheels as you see Peter doing here watched by mum wrapped up against sunburn!

We saw two more grass snakes, both in the same lock. Mr and Mrs perhaps.

Last night we sat out in the dark at Cogenhoe listening to the owls and having a veggie (because of Peter) BBQ. Taking photos in the dark is always hard but I liked this one of Kath.

Today we completed the Nene, dropping off Kath in Northampton to catch a train home while Peter and I soldiered on in the intense heat to tackle the 17 locks up the sometimes incredibly narrow and shallow arm into Gayton.

Blimey it was hard going in the heat. Peter is not normally keen on hard physical work, being more the cerebral type, but to his credit he locked wheeled like a goodun and surprised me by some near impeccable driving into the narrow locks.

By the time we arrived at Gayton I was all but done in.
One thing Peter is good at is cooking, and using whatever we could find in the galley cupboards he knocked up a delicious pasta meal this evening using me as sous chef.
Two post today as I have a good signal, so read on below for an earlier report.

To Irthlingborough

So where did I last leave you. Ah, Monday lunch. So much has happened since then. The weather as English readers will know has been geting hotter and hotter. So much so that we elected to start cruising at half past six or seven o'clock each day instead of our more usual nine o'clock. Monday night saw us at the Kings Head at Wadenhoe, moored up against a willow tree and generally chilling out.
That night we saw a barn owl carrying its unlucky prey as it flew over us quite close.

The trip from Fotheringhay had been hard work in the heat although the river looked its best below the blue skies. I still can't get over the exceptional clarity of the Nene water. The plant growth is as abundant below the water as it is along side it. We seem to be gliding over a field of waving grasses and lettuces! Fish are everywhere.

Then next day on to Irthlingborough accompanied by Andy and Sally on their boat The Puzzler, so called because until recent retirement they ran a business making and selling jigsaw puzzles. They had fitted out their own boat, and most interestingly to me, Sally had done her own signwriting which I thought was pretty good. I'll return to that subject some day soon when I'm writing from home.

At Irthlingborough we were visited by a grass snake, right next to the boat. The picture also shows the incredible density of the blanket weed we have been getting here and there.
Visits to the weed hatch are becoming more frequent.

That day was Peter's last day of employment with Cambridge University so we went out for a celebratory Indian meal. Now he is unemployed for ten days before starting his new job, also in Cambridge but this time with a company rather than in academia.