Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fearful at Long Itchington

Long Itchington – a small Warwickshire village perhaps best noted by canal boaters as the home of Colecraft boat builders,  will be very busy this weekend.  We stopped there last summer when Herbie was in convoy with Chertsey and had a jolly time.  At the Harvester pub (no not one of the chain, this one is family owned) we learned about the May bank holiday Long Itchington Beer Festival during which the six pubs around the village each put on a big selection of ales and there is food and live music and morris dancing and dray rides and all that. They make the extravagant claim that it is “The Worlds Best Village Beer Festival”.

So guess where we’re taking Herbie this weekend Smile

I’ve just been perusing the published list of ales on the festival web site.  All I can say is I shall have to exercise maximum restraint if I am not to overdo it.  The list contains too many of my favourites including  two Dark Star beers (perhaps / arguably the UK’s best brewery), Loddon Ferryman’s Gold ( a favourite of Kath’s), Deuchars IPA and a few new to me I must try as they have my beloved cascade hops which always makes for a delicious hoppy elderflower taste.  Then to top it all, my favourite cider, Black Rat.  Oh dear.

They seem to encourage a bit of busking, so perhaps we might do a bit ourselves or join in a session if one occurs.

We shall I think be glad of the company of Rick and Marilyn, particularly the latter who will I’m sure exert a much needed calming influence.  They are joining me for the outward journey down through Watford and Braunston locks, along to Wigrams Turn, then down through Calcutt and Stockton locks.  A couple of days at our pace.  Kath will join us on Friday and we will will stay on a day longer than R&M (to sober up?) before making the dash back to Crick so we can get home in time to get ready for our annual sailing weekend on the Broads. 

It’s a hard life.

Monday, April 29, 2013

I eat my words!

A pie! A real pie with pastry top and bottom, cut in a slice from a big tray.  Well who’da thought it.

Only a few posts back I had a rant about the lack of imaginative pub food, bemoaning the limited menus we were likely to be faced with on our trip up the Oxford canal.  In particular I bemoaned the disappearance of the real pie. Well I was wrong folks.  Real pies are alive and well at the Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton. AND there’s even a veggie one.  Actually we had good interesting food also at the Gt Western Aynho, and the Brazenose at Cropredy, so I eat my words. Service was good too.

Speaking of Cropredy, we passed the site of the new Cropredy marina which was scheduled for opening on 1 April.  With a dat like that I suppose we ought to have thought they were joking.  Here’s how it looked last week.



Don’t hold yer breath.  The sign says summer, but Autumn looks more realistic.

Hardly a soul about too, although over the hedge at the back we could see progress being made on the office building.  On the way down the canal we could see roof trusses, and on the way back a proper roof.  

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Oxford canal photos

Our return up the Oxford canal gave me a sunburned head, the old thatch is getting a bit thin these days. It finally feels a bit like spring despite the cold winds.    One advantage of the late flowering of blossom and opening of leaf is that you can see the birds better.  At the moment they all seem to be singing their little heads off, presumably to attract mates or establish territory.  One little wren graced us with his presence by sitting on the lock beam as Herbie was in the lock.  Singing fit to bust, he seemed not to be scared of us at all.  The ideal opportunity to get a photo, but was the camera to hand?  Of course not.   Lots of chaffinches about of course, and some gold finches, but I also saw what I think were a couple of blackcaps.

Not much growing in the fields yet, except little lambs gamboling about.  I thought gamboling was illegal for under eighteens.  Sadly we came across a few that had perished by falling in the canal.  They can swim but they often can’t get out and eventually they tire and drown.

A farmer has been busy here though.  I can’t quite make out what is going on.  Any ideas?  maybe it’s a turf farm.



The lock at Aynho weir intrigues most people and I had a go at taking photos which explain it a bit better.  Here we are in the lock and coming up.

P1060882_edited-1The unusual lozenge shape of the chamber is so that it passes a lot more water down to the next lock which is Somerton deep lock. The fall at Aynho is only a foot or so, so that makes these two locks the deepest and the shallowest on the canal.  If Aynho lock wasn’t this shape, Somerton lock would soon drain the intervening pound.

Looking the other way through the bridge we see the arches of the footbridge that lets the Cherwell river flow through and across  the canal


and passing through (this is the photo I particularly wanted to take), we see the canal coming from the left, and the river coming from the right and crossing through the canal.P1060881_edited-1

In the next post I tell you why I eat my words, and show you some pics of progress at the new Cropredy Marina.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pi at Aynho

We had mixed weather today, starting of warm and sunny and turning cold and windy by the time we arrived here at Aynho. I guess it might always be windy in this spot because every other boat on the long term moorings opposite us has a wind generator on the roof. I bet they're generating plenty today. At Banbury over the weekend we had 48 hours of power with plenty in hand out of the solar panel so we were pleased with that.

I don't know what I'll be eating at the Great Western pub tonight. Maybe it'll be a pie, but it won't be like the raspberry pi we have been playing with earlier. We wired up Peter's new tiny little computer and he demoed some of its capabilities. Maybe one day I'll get one and teach it to keep an eye on the boat when we're at home. It could be used to switch on and off the heating, keep an eye out for intruders and maybe with a web cam let me see what the weather was like outside the boat.

Of course I would first have to learn how to make it do all that but the longest journey starts with a single step and I have learned how to switch the pi on.

Tomorrow back to Cropredy.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Chav Alert

Well that was spring. I hope it wasn't summer too, but it was a lovely day. Apparently we're back to normal tomorrow.

Our journey from Cropredy to Banbury was idyllic part from the fact that the Cropredy canoe club was out in force. Canoodlers everywhere. After them the most common animal life seemed to be green woodpeckers, we could hear them yaffling all along the route.

I suppose it was the fine weather that brought out the procession of yoofs strolling along the town centre moorings here in Banbury. Hundreds of 'em. I think they may have been going to and from Spiceball park. Anyway, had Jeremy Kyle, been here he could have got loads of good participants for his show. I began to wonder if mooring here on a Saturday night was a good idea, but as I write this at a quarter to eleven its all quiet. Fingers crossed.

Here's grainy picture I took with the iPad a few minutes ago.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Herbie crew reputation at risk.

This is not like us at all. Kath and I have worked hard over the years to build up our reputation for indolence and here we are having done two days boating (by our standards) in one day and then doing jobs after we arrived. I washed and polished most of Herbie's port side after we arrived at Cropredy. Because we set off at half past eight instead of our usual ten o'clock, we were up the Napton flight by half past ten and plodded on round the twists and turns of the Wormleighton wiggle before lunch. At our usual pace we would have stopped at Fenny Compton, but we pressed on through the tunnel that isn't a tunnel then down eight more locks to get here.

"That's nothing, " i hear you say, "we used to do the four counties ring before breakfast and then sand the cabin back to bare metal and put four coats of paint on before elevenses. ". And well you may have done, dear reader, but that ain't us.

We felt duty bound, after a rather fine chicken in an onion, cider and mustard sauce cooked by Kath, to explore the delights of the Red Lion. We did note that they have a vegetarian option for Peter should we return here on our homeward trip but it was only veggie sausages. Duh. I think we'll opt for the Brazenose.

Peter emailed to say that he was given a raspberry pi as a leaving present from work. If you don't know what that is then you probably don't care to. If you do know, and you know me, you may guess that I am excited to see it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Discretion . . .

. . .being the better part of valour, we opted to stay put today. Winds were predicted to be nearly as strong as yesterday and there would be rain on top of that.

Still, we didn't waste our time, Kath did some art work on her iPad and during breaks in the weather I gave Herbie's starboard side a much needed shampoo and wax polish.

In my usual anorakkey way I also took advantage of our first day without either mains electric or running the engine since I fitted an ammeter on the solar panel circuit. Every few minutes I peered at the ammeter to see how the panel was doing.. As the sun went in and out we got anything between one and six amps. The upshot is that as I write at nearly 6pm, the Smartgauge shows that since breakfast we have made a net 1% increase in battery holding despite having the fridge and radio on all day and using water pump a fair bit. Not bad for a stormy April day.

On the radio Thomas Shaffernakker is telling me tomorrow should be a nicer and calmer day, so we'll be able to make up some our lost time.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Coooh I bet the old isobars were close together today. We were feeling a bit complacent when we left Crick this morning. My three point turn against the wind paid off and then along the
Leicester arm towards Norton junction it was well sheltered. Kath steered us on our best ever transit of Braunston tunnel and things were looking good. Down the locks and then, as we rounded Braunston turn , Wham! The wind slammed into us like a sledge hammer.

Cor, it didn't half blow. I'm not sure what it would register on the Beaufort scale, but only idiots like us would go boating in it. At one point the wind was so strong I thought it was going to blow my specs off. We were running a bit late because of waits at the locks and needed to get to Napton to meet Rick and Marilyn. Tootling along at a slow speed didn't seem to be an option, the wind would just push us wherever it wanted, so instead I piled on the revs. So it was a great pity that when we came upon NB Yarwood we had to give just a wave and a toot rather than stopping for a chat. We have been following their adventures stuck on the Fens for some time and it would have been nice to make their acquaintance better. I think if we had stopped, we would probably been lee shored against the piling and might still be there now. Sorry Joe and Lesley, we'll see you another day. Just be grateful we didn't hit Yarwood.

The wind was amazingly steady, not the gusts we had expected, but a very strong push from the South West. There are two or three good S bends on the stretch between Braunston and. Napton and they were er, interesting to navigate.

Looking at the Pearsons Guide it looked as though when we got to Napton the wind might stop us getting in to moor, but when we arrived the moorings turned out to be a lot less windy than almost anywhere we had been today. Amazing what a decent hedgerow can do.

R&M arrived at the pointed hour and we dined in the warmth of the Folly, where landlord Mark showed us some of his collection of hats. He is very excited because he is getting a new bowler tomorrow. Whatever turns you on :-)

Well we didn't hit any boats or bridges, so I guess you might call it a good day.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Batten down the hatches

We're off to Napton tomorrow via Watford locks and Braunston and it looks like we'll have to hang on to our hats. The forecast is predicting pretty strong winds over the next two days and that stretch between Braunston and Napton is pretty exposed. Apparently on Thursday when we will be traversing the Oxford canal summit it could be gusting up to 40 mph!! It's a pity the wind won't be from behind us or we could have rigged up a sail.

This I suppose will be one of the few times when I will be happy to be in Braunston tunnel. It's an ill wind . . . .

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I’ve started so I’ll finish. Digital CanalOmeters now easier thanks to CanalPlan

Thanks to the co-operation of Nick Atty, the author of CanalPlan you can now make one of my CanalOmeter spreadsheets without most of the kerfuffle I described in my recent post.  That one seemed to be received with a deafening silence, so perhaps the sight of the download palaver put people off.  So forget all that because . .

Now Nick has built us a dedicated CanalPlan output format for CanalOmeter data, so all you have to do is your normal CanalPlan  “plan a journey” – no messing with option settings or output headings – and go to the Export page where you can click on the Select output format button to reveal an option for CanalOmeter.  Da Daaah!

Download the file and copy it into my new improved template (Mark III) and Bob’s yer Uncle.  Simples.  Thanks Nick.

Now in a couple of minutes you can build easy to use sheets to instantly calculate the time between any two points on the journey of your choice.  All you have to do is look down the list of places on the journey, type an F for your From point and a T for your To point.  The spreadsheet does the rest.  In half an hour you could create sheets for half a dozen of your favourite trips, then use them off line whenever you want.

Is it perfect?  Naah. Nothing ever is.  Nick’ s bit works fine and mine does too if you are using a Windows (or possibly Unix)  PC /laptop.  Ipads are OK too if you drop the data into the template on a PC and then sync to the iPad through iTunes.  Sadly though, I have yet to get the iPad to do it all on its own.  Despite many hours of cursing and swearing iPad spreadsheet apps don’t seem to let me pick up the exported data direct from Nick’s download. It’s all to do with the way iPad apps hold their data files.  Blame Apple, not me.

If anyone out there can crack it, I will buy them a large drink.

So just to clarify – the CanalOmeter spreadsheets do work on an iPad, but you’ll have to download the CanalPlan data onto a PC first and then transfer it.  Sorry about that.

My new template contains all the instructions you need to make your own sheet and use it.  Try it.  It’s free.

Things I would change in a later version would start with protection of the calculation cells.  This ought to be easy, but the protections don’t seem to survive the download process from the web to your spreadsheet.  So just be careful not to overwrite the formula cells.  Stick to the pink To and From column and you’ll be fine.

As ever I’d be glad of any feedback.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Canal Pub Food–a rant

Now I know yer typical boating male is a bit like yer typical morris dancer i.e. tending to the overweight, usually seen with a hat on his head and pint in his hand and bits of pie and froth in his beard.  Don’t have a go at me, I used to be one. Reading Canal World Forums does little to dispel this image as correspondents often grumble about fancy food at fancy prices and good honest pub grub is the favoured repast.  A pie and a pint is what they want. Unsurprisingly I suppose, canal side pubs have cottoned on to this and tend to offer a fairly standard menu of old favourites with very little in the way of variation.

Don’t get me wrong folks, I like a bit of liver and bacon as much as the next man and I truly rejoice on the rare occasions that I get offered a proper pie with short crust pastry all round it rather than the usual casserole with a bit of puff pastry floating on top.  What has got my goat (mmmm delicious) today is the lack of much imagination and especially the lack of any decent veggie options.  Next week we are off down the Oxford canal and our son Peter will be joining us to cruise back from Aynho.  Peter is a vegetarian, and a hungry one at that.  As the cruise is supposed to be a holiday treat for him, we plan to lend our custom to hostelries on the way for beer and food each evening.  Thanks to the wonderful WWW I’ve been able to peruse the menus of these pubs before we even set off, and on Peter’s behalf I am sadly disappointed. 

If the published menu at the Red Lion at Cropredy is to be believed, they have no vegetarian option at all.  Carnivores only it seems.  Luckily at the Brasenose round the corner they do offer what sounds like a nice veggie burger with halloumi and mushroom so that’s that night sorted.  Then we look at the other pubs on our route and apart from more veggie burgers with halloumi or just battered halloumi and chips they seem to have run out of ideas.  Poor Peter will look like a piece of halloumi by the end of the week!  Although I’m not a veggie, I do like veggie food and I for one would be delighted to see  and eat some interesting veggie options on pub menus.  In fact, as I write, I am sitting here with a belly full of mozzarella and parmesan and tomato pasta bake.  It didn’t cost a lot for the ingredients and cooking it was dead easy and I defy anyone not to like it.   I am not Heston flippin Blumenthal, this is easy and cheap stuff.

As to the rest of the menus, you can only eat so much steak & ale pie and fish & chips and lamb shank.  Not that any of it is rubbish, I like it, but it’s just all the same!!  Come on you pubs give me something new to eat.  Now you might say a pub is a pub and not a restaurant, but is that really the case these days?  I’m more than happy to sup a fantastic pint at the little Bridge 61 at Foxton eating only a packet of crisps.  That is a proper pub pub.  If a pub has no food on, or only snacks, that’s fine by me.  That makes it a pub. But most of the rest these days are really restaurants selling beer. They rely on selling evening meals to fill the coffers, so they ought to at least make an effort.  Half of the menu is most pubs is bought ready made from catering suppliers and the other half is grills.

I’m not looking for Michelin stars here, just something different.  If the Greyhound at Hawkesbury and the Anglers at Marsworth, to name but two, can do reasonably priced proper home cooked food and make a profit, why can’t so many of the rest?

I suspect the answer is two fold.

a) They just make what sells and what they can buy  ready made from catering suppliers

b) they don’t have the time / inclination / skill to do any different.

Not very ambitious is it?  No wonder so many pubs are closing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Busy busy. Whilst we should be preparing for when we shoot off on the boat next week (to Aynho and back), we have other more urgent and important matters to attend to. Friday is the day of Pete's funeral and memorial bash and we are not only rehearsing a lot of music for it, but I seem also to have been put in charge of purchasing and collecting a rather alarming quantity of real ale.

Today we drove up to collect 72 pints of Sidepocket (yum!) from the Tring Brewery, so to make a day of it we took Grace to the Natural History Museum in Tring. If you are ever up in Marsworth or Bulbourne, take a walk down into Tring and go and see it. Absolutely brilliant -a stupendous collection. It was packed today with little kids holding clip boards and following the customary spot the this and that trail.

Then being in the area we thought it would be rude not to drop in for lunch at the Anglers at Marsworth. Then we took a short stroll by the reservoirs which I am happy to report are fuller than I have ever seen them.

Tomorrow I have to visit Windsor to pick up 72 pints of Windsor Knot ale from the Windsor and Eton brewery. I'm looking forward to tasting that. I have heard excellent reports. You may think that would be enough beer but I am told that a similar amount is also coming from elsewhere. Dear old Pete enjoyed a pint and it looks like we'll be celebrating that in style. I shall attempt to be moderate whilst honouring Pete's memory.

As to the music, we are playing at the memorial service and at the wake afterwards. The memorial service will be tough. Playing whilst in an emotional state is never easy but we have strength in numbers because a lot of Pete's friends sing and play. He will not go quietly!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Valerie Poore's book - Watery Ways

I suspect a good few of us know of Val Poore (or Vally P as she used to call herself).  She has been posting encouraging comments on boater's blogs ever since the beginning.  When I look at her blogger profile I find that she shares some of my own favourites in books music and films, so she must be alright! Although we have never met, I feel she is a friend, and I expect other bloggers do too.  Val has written a few books but Watery Ways is the first I have read.

Watery Ways is about how she came to live on an old barge and then go on to buy her own.  I didn't really know what to expect of the book, and in many ways it resembles a blog, being a diary record of her life since arriving in Rotterdam and joining the community of boaters in the Oude Haven. To me it sounds like Oude Heaven. A collection of lovely old boats all being lovingly restored. I have have often thought that if ever I chose to live on a boat, I would like it to be a Dutch barge. Not one of those English contraptions they call Dutch barges, but a proper one. All those lovely sweeping curves.

According to Val, they don't let just any old boat moor in the Oude Haven, you have to have it approved by what seems like a board of elders. It doesn't have to be posh, just historic, authentic,  and in the process of restoration. She also demonstrates that unless you have got loadsamoney, you need to roll up your sleeves and put in some hard graft if you want to turn one of these beauties into a comfy home.

Val's description of her early days settling in the community is written with a fresh eye and so picks out much of what we boaters in the UK discover when we first take up boating, particularly the ease with which you can find people willing to help you out of a problem. Nevertheless the obligatory disasters are all there, and told with good humour, from falling in to having a nasty allergic reaction to bitumen.

When the book moves on to trips out, I began to wish Val had included some maps to show where she was going. Then I realised I had Google maps and it didn't take long to get the picture. Until I looked at the maps I didn't fully appreciate the fantastic network of waterways they have in the Low Countries, and the diversity of them. I found it quite an eye opener.

Lastly, when Val moves on to her search for a boat of her own, it rang a great many bells with me. The search for the right boat is often frustrating and the emotional experience of finding it is something you don't forget. I found myself turning the pages longing for the right one to appear. When it did, it sounded (quite literally) lovely because it an had an old one pot engine. Who cares if it took twenty minutes to start each time.

In summary, I enjoyed this book more as I got deeper into it. It offers a glimpse into a boating community which is quite different from ours yet with so many things with which we can identify. Read it and I'm sure that like me you will want to learn more about waterways and boats across the North Sea.

Thank you Val.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Leicester Arm pics

Wonderful to be back out on Herbie at the weekend.  I needed reminding how much improvement our mechanical work last October / November had made. Cor she does run smoothly now.

Anyway here are some photos starting with MB Willow ascending Foxton locks with James at the tiller. 

Now you see why Severners were sometimes called long boats!


James waits patiently for the gates


and entertains the gongoozlers


back to Herbie, moored next night in the middle of nowhere.  Not much sign of spring despite the lovely evening.


a picture of me walking tall


and this wonderful (ex) tree seen over the thorn hedge.  Pity about the pylon cables, I suppose I could photoshop them out, but life is too short


and next day our trainee skipper brought us home


Saturday, April 06, 2013

Cruising to nowhere


I took some great photos in the last hour of the sun this evening but I forgot to bring the right lead to get em off the camera, so you'll have to manage with my deathless prose. Anyway, why are you reading this when you could be reading about Sue on No Problem preparing to face nine foot waves when they cross the wash tomorrow. I can offer only mildly boring fare in comparison.

After our longest ever lay off, we actually got Herbie moving today, and what a good day to pick. Probably the first pleasant spring day we've had, although it's cold again tonight. We are out in the middle of nowhere along the Leicester arm -people who have done that bit will know what I mean. Somewhere between Yelvertoft and er , um, nowhere really. I'm hard put to think of anywhere more remote. Nice to see some stars for a change.

Earlier I ran James and Amy from Norton Jn to Braunston in the car so they could pick up a ton of goodies from the chandlery. I expect my rear axle will recover in due course! Then a quick dash back to Crick where little Grace was champing at the bit and really excited to be going out cruising. The decision to turn right instead of left out of the marina was a last second one. After such a long break it was reassuring to find that Herbie ran smoothly, and were it not for the fact that some crazy guy in a hire boat rammed us and pushed us aground on a perfectly straight bit of canal, it would have been an uneventful trip. I have yet to steel myself to see what it has done to our lovely new blacking.

At Grace's suggestion we opted to stay out overnight. Must come back here for a couple of nights in the summer, there are plenty of places where you could have a BBQ and a picnic on the bank and you'd be unlucky to be disturbed by walkers or cyclists either as it is so far from habitation.

By the way did you know that Boat Sales at Crick Marina have been given over to ABNB? Neither did we until we saw the signs as we drove in through the marina gate. Makes sense I suppose as they are only over the road. ABNB have got a nice Mel Davis boat in at the moment. We are trying not to think about it.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Sciving and spending

We were supposed to be boating today, but the forecast said winds gusting to 35mph so we gave ourselves the day off. Not that our time was wasted. Knowing that James and Amy were coming down the Leicester line on Willow, we texted to offer our help coming up the Foxton staircases.

J&A gratefully accepted so we met them at lunchtime as they came into Foxton, and with Grace's help made short work of lifting their splendid old boat up the hill. 10 locks in a little over half an hour.

We are privileged to be some of the first to get a look at Willow since the Ducks took her over, and I have to say I reckon they've done really well to find and acquire her. Granted she needs a good deal of fitting out, but as a base to work on she's brilliant. Some really unusual and attractive features such as the posh stove and the oak panelling and loads and loads of space.

Amy had been on the phone to Midland Chandlers at Braunston spending loadsamoney as it is their 20% off day. As soon as we had waved Willow off at the top of the locks, we drove over to Braunston and spent a rather smaller sum, coming away with a new chimney and a thermostatic shower mixer and a boat hook. I had been a bit worried about fixings for the shower mixer because our old one has quite different fittings from the way they do them now, but the nice man at the shop showed us the adapters provided with the shower and I think they'll do nicely (Rick please note).

Here on board Herbie I've just finished reading Valerie Poore's book Watery Ways about living on a barge in Holland. It's worthy of a post all of its own, which I'll do in the coming days. Suffice it to say for the time being that it makes me want to visit the Dutch waterways. Val is an avid boaters blog commenter and has been keeping my spirits up ever since the early days of this blog.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Drinking(?) water

Just look the the photos at the foot of this post. Both glasses of water from our fresh water tank on Herbie. Which one would you drink?

Today we chucked a couple of bottles of Milton into the tank to sterilise it. Then Grace and popped outside to give the boat a good side to side rocking to stir up the tank. I suppose we should have told Kath first as she was making the bed at the time. She was not all that happy about suddenly being tipped base over apex, but fortunately no serious harm was done.

After an hour we ran the taps until the tank emptied, and very near the bottom I drew off the two glasses of water you see in the photos. The clear one is through our water filter which shows that it works. The brown one is through the main sink tap. It''s not a pleasant sight but it is only rust which I don't think is harmful. We only ever see that when the tank is virtually empty. Under normal conditions it settles on the tank bottom and doesn't reach the taps.

Then of course we had to refill the tank which seems to take forever. Or so I thought. Of course I had reckoned without the addictive charms of Pointless on the telly, which made us quite forget the hose until Kath enquired as to the strange gurgling and splashing noise up front. Suffice it to say that the well deck was awash. Still the drain holes did their job and no harm was done.

I'm pleased to report that our water is now running crystal clear on all taps, although we will only be drinking the filtered stuff. In actual fact, tonight I am only drinking Jim Beam which I am sure kills 99% of all known germs.

Herbie rides again

I've been feeling a bit of a whimp. we generally do a fair bit of cruising in the winter but this year we haven't. Although we have spent a good few days and nights on board, we haven't taken her out since she was blacked in December, partly because we didn't want all our nice new blacking scratched off by ice! Now after a record layoff, we plan to take Herbie out tomorrow, albeit for a short shake down cruise.

Little Grace is coming with us, and she is excited at the prospect of another chance for her to work some locks either at Watford or Foxton. We haven't yet decided which way to turn out of the marina.

With a bit of luck we might bump, not literally I hope, into James and Amy (formerly the Ducks) who will be passing our way as they bring their new old boat Willow home from Nottingham to Cambridge. Look out for us J&A.

I always get a bit nervous before taking Herbie out after a long break. Somehow it causes me to doubt that all the mechanical bits will work. Of course they generally do.

For anyone who was a bit daunted by my instructions on how to download from CanalPlan into my CanalOmeter spreadsheets the other day, I have good news. Nick Atty (Mr CanalPlan) contacted me to say that he will very shortly be adding a facility to generate the CanalOmeter output format without all the fuss, so it'll be dead easy. Watch this space.