Friday, December 26, 2014

We need help to solve a Boxing Day mystery

We went for a walk today, like you do, to blow away the Christmas cobwebs. A lake near our house gives us a pleasant stroll without having to use a car first

mill pond

and today it gave us one thing to marvel at, and another to wonder at.  The thing that we marvelled at was the steady stream of cars going into the McDonald’s drive-thru just across from the lake. On Boxing day!  Have these people never heard of bubble and squeak? 

Anyway we pressed on round the lake where there are shellducks, cormorants, mallards, canada geese, dabchicks, coots, moorhens, tufted ducks, common gulls and terns and this mystery bird . . .

mystery duck 1

mystery duck 2

It’s a duck captain, but not as we know it.  Rather dapper though don’t you think?  I can’t find it in books or on google images.  I’m guessing its a hybrid of some sort but of what? It’s bigger than a mallard but not as big as a goose. I’ve seen pictures of greeny black ducks, but they don’t have that coppery coloured head.  My guess is that a shellduck has been got at by perhaps a mallard or ???.

Can anyone out there shed any light?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Herbie Special Award 2014 goes to . . .

Yes the Golden Envelope lies on the rostrum and the name of the winner lies inside.  The announcer, suitably clad in Tuxedo and bow tie gives a nervous cough and introduces the award thus:

This year’s Special Award is given for Sufferance and Munificence, and in case like me you are not sure what that means, let’s look at the dictionary.

Sufferance: “Sanction or permission implied or given by failure to prohibit; tacit consent; tolerance.”, or in this case not turning their nose up at a couple of old fogies (i.e. me and Kath) on a semi trad boat (often despised by “proper” boaters) with synthetic fibre ropes hanging off their tiller (sacrilege). But not just tolerating us actually inviting us to nestle Herbie amongst the proper boats at a Historic Narrow Boat Club rally and introducing us to their friends.  We are not worthy.

Munificence: “the quality of being munificent, or showing unusual generosity” or in this case honouring us by allowing and encouraging us to disport ourselves musically aboard their historic boat on two very public occasions. And as if that wasn't enough, they also treated Herbie to a lovely Klaxon "harooga".

Well I think that lets the cat out of the bag.  Anyone who had followed us this year will know that we have twice enjoyed the hospitality of the winners during historic boat events this year.

Yes the 2014 Herbie Award “for Sufferance and Munificence”
goes to

Sarah and Jim aboard Nb Chertsey

Hooray a well deserved and popular win

Thank you Sarah and Jim, it was great.  And thank you for showing us that the HNBC lot are a nice tolerant bunch of enthusiasts and not at all sniffy about other boats.

Despite the Herbie Award having no monetary or other value whatsoever, you are now in the company of some equally great former winners.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Herbie Special Award Citation announced–plus Cheap Little Gadget award

Every year we make a Herbie Special Award to a person or persons that have helped or inspired us in some way.  Previous special awards have been given for Fortitude, for Caring Enough to Do Something, and for Hospitality, to name but a few.  We have thought long and hard about a citation for the winner this year and have decided that it should be

The Herbie Special Award (2014)

for Sufferance and Munificence

(There’s posh)

Confused?  I’ll explain all tomorrow when we announce this year’s very worthy winner(s?).

While we wait for the big moment -   How about this last tiny trinket to keep us going.  Funny how sometimes something really small and cheap can solve an irksome problem.  I haven’t bought any posh gadgets for Herbie this year, (unless you call a new fuel lift pump a posh gadget) but here are three tiny things to vie for an award.

First Silica Gel sachets

Dirt cheap I know and easy to get off Amazon or ebay.  Herbie’s previous owners stuffed a couple of them at the back of the instrument panel to lessen the tendency of the dials to mist up on cold damp mornings.  We now use them in another way.  You might recall that Herbie has DiY secondary double glazing.  Just a wooden frame covered in strong PVC clear tent window stuff.  These are made to fit pretty well into the window frames and we put them in for winter only.  They really do cut down condensation, but unless you put them in on a really dry day, a bit of residual mist can appear later. Also I don’t suppose the push fit frames are totally air tight. Now we just pop a Silica Gel dessicant sachet or two in the space.  Does it work? Seems to so far.

Next Cable Tie Mounts

For all I know these have been around for years (I’ve led a sheltered life) but I have only recently found them. They come in fetching black or white and have an adhesive backing and they cost next to nothing. Great for fixing a cable where you can’t or don’t want to bang in nailed cable clips.  I daresay they don't stick to everything but on Herbie they certainly stick to wood panelling ok.

Lastly a solution looking for a problem.  Rope shackles

I’m sure Tradline Fenders won’t mind me pinching their photo when I say that’s where we bought ours.  They call them Soft Shackles and when we saw them we couldn’t resist getting a couple although I confess we haven’t found the ideal use for them yet, but I’m sure that’s because we just haven’t got round to it.  They do the job of a normal shackle, but softly and flexibly.  Apart from boaty things, I suppose you could use them to clip something to a backpack or a belt. Anything really.They are unbelievably strong. A 5mm polyester one can take a load of a ton and a half and weighs only 5 grams.  The point really is though that they wont scratch paintwork or rattle in the wind.  There is a knot at one end and a loop at the other.  The clever bit is that the loop can easily be pulled wider to slip over the knot, and then under tension it closes up to grip behind the knot. Follow this link to see.  Anyone out there using them?

I’d really like to give the Award to the shackle but that would be unfair as we haven’t used one in anger yet.  So my vote for Best Small Cheap Gadget goes to the Cable Tie Mounts.

Have a great Christmas Eve and come back soon to see who basks in the glow of the 2014 Special Award.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Shock result–disqualified last year, winner this year in Herbie Awards

You won’t remember this, but last year in a fit of pique I disqualified Paddington basin from winning the Best Urban Mooring award. that was because on a visit there I found the place full of winter moorers and overstayers and commercial boats.  I was hopping mad and there and then stormed down to CRT at Little Venice to complain.  Well after Christmas we made a couple of visits there on Herbie and did manage to get moored up so in retrospect I felt a bit mean.  If you can get your boat in there, it has to be said it’s Fab. Now on sunny days they even have deck chairs


Some days at lunch time they have a hot food market


and of course on Friday at Noon they demonstrate the curl up bridge.  Look, there’s Herbie too.



And if you’re worried about night time safety in the middle of the city, don’t be.


There is plenty to see in the area including this shopping / food amphitheatre where I played with my camera’s panorama.

PANO_20140314_133521 (1)

Next time we go. it’ll be even posher as they have finished to work at the far end.

 So Paddington Basin, I forgive you and this year you have to be

 Best Urban Mooring. 

If I had to award a second place I’d pick one of the spots in Milton Keynes, which although urban don’t feel like that at all.


As to rural moorings, we haven’t used too many this year, but one old favourite keeps cropping up. It’s only an overnight stop, but one which feels like home to us. Every time we go cruising we seem to manage our timing so that we spend our last night here. 

so our favourite rural mooring 2014 has to be

(just up the canal from) Norton Junction

some of you will know just where I mean.

This is not just convenient, being a few short hours from base and a short walk from the New Inn at Buckby (now happily reopened and selling the sometimes wonderful elderflowery Marstons New World Ale).  We like it because of the view across the farmland valley.

Next day to get back to Crick we have a very pretty short cruise and the ever delightful Watford Locks (no I am not joking!).


Well Christmas draws nearer and in a few days we’ll reveal the winners of the Oscar of the canals, our main Herbie Special Award for 2014.  But before that I’ll share a few of our best photos from the year and pick out a couple of this year’s very cheap handy gadgets for boaters.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Herbie Awards Pub results and quiz results

As the great and the good wait breathlessly to see if it is them who has won the big Herbie Award (keep smiling at the camera, it might be you), I cruelly keep them waiting with the lesser awards.  First there are a couple of things to clear up.  a) the Best Pub for a Drink with Friends, and then b) the answer to that pesky intermission picture quiz that no–one dared answer (shame on you).  So here we go’

All the nominated pubs – see previous post- are worthy of a visit, but on these cold winter nights, I know which one I would rather sit in, and so that gets the award. Yes it’s the big sofas and the log fire of


The Cowroast Inn

(rapturous applause)

I should add that it is not only in mid winter that we have enjoyed this pub as this photo shows.  It was taken at the end of a very hot day in 2005 when we were parched and slaking our mighty thirsts and the pint we had then was just perfect.  I think that was our second pint, the first one didn’t touch the sides as I recall.The picture also features our dear departed pal Pete and a very young Jacob.  Cooh we look hot don’t we?


Now that pesky picture quiz. 

This one

 watering was at Leighton Buzzard just through the bridge by Tescos

This one

[boarder%255B4%255D.jpg] was at the entrance to Paddington basin.  For those who know the area, the aeration bubbles give it away

and the last one

bridge looks down the Slough Arm towards the only canal bridge that I know is numbered bridge 0.  I daresay someone will now tell me of others.

In our next post I’ll tell you of our favourite overnight stop and a little something about the pub nearby.  Done all your Christmas shopping yet?  We’re nearly there.  The family don’t much like the tree we bought Sad smile.

Monday, December 15, 2014

More Herbie Pub Awards and picture quiz clues

Well that was the intermission (I’ve been a little bit poorly and out of energy), but now back to one of the traditional type Herbie awards. Yes of course it’s a pub one.  This is a bit strange this year ‘cos we haven’t cruised any new waters and our old favourites remain, mostly, old favourites.  However we have made one or two discoveries and rediscoveries and that has given us some best nights out for a pint. So lets call it the Herbie Award for Best Pub for a Drink with Friends.  I’m not judging this on the beer this time, although it would have to be OK wouldn’t it, but on the ambience (or ambulance as we sometimes call it).

Let’s take these in chronological order of our visit this year

1. Prince Alfred. Formosa Street London W9

Simon and Carrie led us to this wonder when we were moored in Paddington in February.  It takes about five minutes to walk there from Little Venice, and it’s worth the trip even if you don’t want a drink.  To say this place is odd is an understatement.  Here is Simon about to move from one of the bars into a little snug.

Yes that really is the doorway.  Alright for the likes of Warwick Davies I suppose, but most people will have to bow gracefully or practice their limbo dancing to move around this pub.  It has more doors like this!  The woodcarving and etched glasswork in this pub is fantastic.  See Google images of this pub and be amazed.  The little nooks and crannies in this pub make it ideal for a quiet drink and a natter and if you run out of things to talk about you only have to gaze about to be quietly entertained.  They do a decent but not spectacular pint of ale.

2. Cowroast Inn at (funnily enough) Cowroast on the Grand Union

If you are hacking up or down the Grand Union, Cowroast is a good stopover point.  You can get a quick bus into Tring for shopping, the Marina has a chandlery and CRT has a service point.  It’s a reasonably safe place to leave a boat unattended for a few days too.  Just over the road is the Cowroast Inn, a strange mix of village pub and Thai restaurant.  It features in this shortlist because if you get there early enough to grab one of the fireside sofas you will be as comfortable as you could be anywhere.  If it’s winter and the fire is lit, you might get set on fire by the shower of sparks as the landlord heaves another mighty log on the fire, but it’s worth it.  The general chit chat in the bar area is convivial and the landlord likes his little jokes and the beer is good.  Just settle in with a very nice pint and enjoy. You won’t want to leave. Lovely.

3. Bridge 61 at Foxton Locks

If you can’t find a conversation in this quirky little pub, you’re just not trying. Once again if you are lucky you can find a sofa to relax in. Lots to look at around the walls and lots of stuff to read on the shelves.  You might even get a game of chess some nights. Here’s one of my weird panoramic shots of one of the two rooms in the pub.


If you want to know where the sofa is, I’m sitting on it.  And why is the pub empty? Can’t remember but I suspect it was early or late. This little room can get full believe me.  The beer is excellent and the locals friendly.  Here’s Kath sitting under the saw of Damocles sipping what looks dangerously like a pint of Old Rosie.


If you just want to sit and chat and sup and don’t need fancy food then this is a great little pub.  The drinks are served from a tiny hatch in the other room.

4. The Wheatsheaf at Crick



We’ve known about this pub since we took up Herbie’s Crick mooring a few years ago, but until very recently we’ve never been in there for a pint. Well that was very silly, ‘cos it turns out we like it a lot. They have a good selection of well kept interesting ales and the locals and staff are friendly and the bar which is not all that big but being extended just now, is comfy. We’ll definitely use it in future.  They have a weekly quiz too.  The more well known Crick pub is the Red Lion which gets very full of diners most of the time, but the Wheatsheaf, just fifty yards further keeps its diners and its drinkers in separate rooms. For a quiet pint in good company, it’s just what you want.

Which of these do we feel like giving the award too?  Hmm. I’ll ponder and report back.

Meanwhile what about that picture quiz last time?  I wasn’t surprised to get a text from Adam (he of Briar Rose fame) at twenty past seven in the morning with all the right answers.  Other than that no –one has sent in a guess.  That’s either because of my warning about giving away the answers or because the scenes were too hard to identify.  Either way just send in a guess and I’ll reveal all next time , and to make it easier here are some clues.  Picture one was taken on the GU near a large supermarket, picture 2  - the clue is in the bubbles, picture 3 looks down an arm of the southern GU.

Now then I’m tempted to see if I can give a really hard one for Adam. I have to beat him sometime.  Here is a handsome chap taking a nice boat out of a lock this summer.  Which lock is it? Can anyone beat Adam to it?


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Surprise Award awarded plus an intermission picture quiz

So what did I decide was our Best Cruise on Someone Else’s Boat for 2014? What a tough choice. Could it be Richard and Sue yet again? I think they practically own this award in having won it a couple of times before.  Or should it go to Sarah and Jim for treating us to yet another fun Braunston parade and allowing us to busk in the process?  It almost comes down to a choice of who to disappoint. Well, in the end I’m going to be completely selfish and give the award to

Canal and River Trust

for letting me do the RYA helmsman course on board their work boat Samson

not forgetting Andrew Phasey for teaching us so well

and Clive, Samson’s everyday skipper for being so welcoming and friendly

samson lock 2_edited-1

Forgive me S&J and R&S but it was such a rare treat to spend a day practicing manoeuvres at the wheel of this quirky little vessel and to cap it all the weather was glorious. 

More awards to come, but to allow you time for a comfort break and to recharge your glasses, here’s a little intermission picture quiz about places we have been this year.

1. Herbie takes a drink at what I always think is an odd place for a water point, but where?



2. Where is this?

the clue is in the picture


and if you thought those were too easy, try this one

3. What is the number on the bridge you can see further down the canal?


Clue. If you know the number, you know why I ask. 

If you don’t then perhaps you could just try and identify whereabouts this is.

if you know the answers and want to show off by commenting, then do it cryptically so as not to give it away to others.  I suppose that might offer secondary clues to those struggling.

Answers next time as we rejoin the award ceremony for more nominees.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Best pub for an evening out awarded –and best cruise on another boat nominees

The 2014 herbie Awards continue and we had quite a toughie ranking yesterday’s nominees. In the end it all came down to a nice relaxing meal at the Great Western, Aynho or a rather more hectic bite to eat and a fun show at the Bridge House at Little Venice.

After some debate in the judging committee we have a unanimous decision to award Best Pub for an Evening Out to:

The Bridge House / Canal Cafe Theatre at Little Venice

(Loud Applause)

The combination of location, food, beer and entertainment makes for such a special evening.  Kath wishes me to add that had it just ben for the meal and service, the winner would have been the Great Western.

Well done them. In fact well done to all three shortlisted. They’re all worth a night out.

And now, as they say, for something completely different.  This year we’re able to resurrect an old favourite award – Best Cruise on Someone Else’s Boat.  It’s not every year we can award this because, well you can work that one out for yourself.  So what treats did we have this year?

1. Olympic Park cruise aboard Nb Indigo Dream

stadium 1

The wonderful  Sue and Richard have already won this award twice for taking us on the mighty tidal Thames.  Could this be their third?  Well it was indeed special for we were privileged to join them for the very first post games cruise of the Olympic Park.  It was a grey March day as we sneaked along the concrete sided  Bow back rivers where the tides had to be just right to get through some of the locks.  The redoubtable Andrew Phasey led the St Pancras Cruising Club flotilla as we crept into the Olympic park itself, dwarfed by the huge structures which seemed t be right on top of us at times. 


Indigo Dream cruises as strongly as any boat I have steered and it didn’t take us long to get to the point where we had to turn round.  Work on a bridge there prevented us from doing a circular route, but Sue took us right beneath the mirrored underside of the bridge for some great photos.


A tough one to beat.


2. Brentford boating aboard CRT working boat Samson

samson lock 1

Hardly a long cruise, but for me a special one. It was part of the RYA helmsman training I received for my CRT volunteering duties, and yet again I found myself in the company of the wonderful Andrew Phasey, this time he was the trainer.  We spent much of the day practicing manoeuvres, holding the boat against the bank at various angles to let crew on and off, reversing round corners and going through locks, all terrific sport on such a novel boat with its Archimedes screw prop and wheel steering.  To top it all, the weather was sublime – and I got a certificate too.  Absolutely brilliant.

3. Braunston Rally parade aboard NB Chertsey

Yet another treat. We are lucky bunnies. It does me good to do these awards because it reminds me of all the fun things we do. This time it was courtesy of Sarah and Jim.  Now I should say here that we did two parades at Braunston, Saturday and Sunday.  Here is a picture of us on the Saturday parade.


You might not be surprised to know that I won’t be giving a nomination to that one.  However on Sunday the sun came out and we reverted to our plan of busking aboard Chertsey while Sarah  navigated us through the chaos, unbelievable stopping en route for Jim to load a ton of coal into Chertsey (no I am not kidding)!).

It’s always a privilege to ride on a boat like Chertsey and to be given the chance to play to the crowds at the same time was brilliant.  We even got a wave from Richard Parry.  A special day indeed.

Blimey, another hard choice.  The phone lines are open if you want to vote. Well, you could send in a comment anyway.  The results show is next time, when I’ll include an intermission picture quiz. 

Friday, December 05, 2014

Best event award and nominations for a special treat.

Aah sorry I kept you waiting, I’ve been busy doing stuff.  Now, back to the Herbie award for Most Enjoyable Canal Event. Well of course we enjoyed them all.  Oakie cleverly spotted that I didn’t say the beer was good at Banbury.  That’s because there wasn’t any at the actual event, so that didn’t do much for Banbury’s chance of winning the award.  After some debate Kath and I agreed that our winner ought to be the one that surprised and delighted us the most, and that was the somewhat low key but very friendly

Historic Narrow Boat Club gathering at Foxton.

Well done HNBC

your beer was lovely!

and your quiz night was tough but good

and the auction was fun

and as for the buskers – we were alright I suppose

Now we have to move on to our next Award.  How about a pubby one? Let’s try Best Pub for a Special Evening Out. This has of course to be within walking distance of the canal, and in this case somewhere where you might feel you had a bit of a treat.  There are loads of good pubs by the canals (and we’re working hard at exploring as many of them as we can Smile), but now and again you find one that perhaps you might go to for a birthday treat.  I can think of three we visited this year, all very different.  Let’s take them in chronological order of our visit – click the names to see their websites.

1.The Bridge House, Little Venice

Just across the road from the canal, this pub gets rather too crowded really, but it’s easy to see why.  The beer is very good indeed- we drank Windsor and Eton Knight of the Garter which is a cracker of a pint if you like modern style beers.  You need to book a table to eat and don’t go there for a long quiet meal, but the food which is a bit bistro like is good. Even a simple burger is worth having.  the pub being where it is, the grub is not very cheap but you can have a nice main course for eleven or twelve quid.  What makes it special there though is that after you’ve had a very nice pint and a bite to eat, you can go upstairs (taking another pint) and enjoy the excellent little Canal Cafe Theatre.  We’ve been to a few nights there and it’s always good fun and extremely well done.  They have comedy news revues every week as well as other plays.  So you can eat, drink and be entertained. What’s not to like?

2. The Brasenose Arms at Cropredy

A very short walk from the canal brings you here where you can eat and drink good stuff and at weekends listen to super live bands - Not yer local lads who’ve just got together as a band, but proper professional bands of a high quality.  In fact this is a bit of a musicians pub, in fact I suspect it might be a bit of a musicians village.  On week nights they have recorded music paying in the bar and it always seems to be an eclectic mix of interesting stuff.  You might get Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and John Martin in a twenty minute period.   Once again you could do worse than have a burger here. They’re hand made and come in a ciabatta bun  with particularly nice trimmings.  The beer is Hook Norton.  A really good place if you are into music of their type.

3. Great Western Arms at Aynho

Unlike the other two pubs, this one does not have entertainment, but we’ve included it because eating and drinking there can be a real treat.  It’s just over the bridge from the towpath visitor moorings.  You could just have a nosh and a pint in the bar, which we did with Maffi (and Molly) and Oakie and a few others one night, or you could eat in the cosy restauranty bit where you will get very friendly and attentive service and some extremely nice food.  It’s probably 40 or 50% more expensive than a cheapo pub grub place but you get what you pay for.  The chef Rene knows his stuff and the bar and waiting staff are welcoming and professional.  We’ve eaten there a few times and it has always been a treat.  Hook Norton beer, well kept and well served. If you went there for your birthday meal, you would not be disappointed.

Who will win?  As I write, I’m not sure, but I’ll consult Kath and we’ll have an answer next time.  Now I have to go and cook dinner. It won’t be as good as these pubs provide.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Herbie Awards 2014 begin!!

Oh Yes, Oh Yes. 

Forget Strictly

Forget the X factor

Forget BBC Sports Personality thingy

This is the BIG ONE.

I am assuming you are now all seated at your round tables, a glass of Bolly in your bejewelled hands and ready for THE glittering event of the year –

the fabulous HERBIE AWARDS for 2014.

All your favourite categories will be here, Best Moorings, Best Pubs, Worst day’s cruising etc plus of course at the climax of the event, the announcement of the Winner of the coveted Herbie Special Award for 2014.

(Just a quick reminder that all these awards go to people, places and things that the Herbie crew have directly interacted with over the year.)

Well if you’re all ready, let’s get straight on for our first category.   MOST ENJOYABLE CANAL EVENT 2014

This year we attended four such events.  here they are in chronological order

1. Historic Narrow Boat Club gathering at Foxton


We should have felt like interlopers, not being historic boat owners ourselves (that is to say we might be historic, but our boat isn’t), but we were made very welcome, partly because we were invited by Sarah and Jim on Nb Chertsey and partly I suppose because we provided a musical backdrop to some of the weekend with a bit of busking and a spot in the Saturday night entertainment.  Not too many of the great British public came to view the boats because we were tucked along the Harborough Arm away from the locks, but it was primarily a gathering rather than a show. One of the highlights was the boat jumble auction which was a jolly jokey affair with people buying some useless items to give to others who didn’t want them either.  The beer was good.

2. Crick Show

crick show pano

The usual multitude of traders gave people ample chance to spend their dosh and despite some heavy rain the organisers kept us mostly dry.  The bands in the music tent were by and large excellent and there were lots of shiny new boats too.  Adrian and Adam gave Grace rides on the funfair and turned green in the process.  Crick is a good show to buy boaty things at a discount and although I can’t remember what we bought, I expect we did.  The beer was good.

3. Braunston Historic Boat rally

Famous for its chaotic parade of smartened up old boats and good times in the beer tent, this year’s do was notable for the awful rain on the Saturday. Our coats dried out by September. Kath and I were supposed to play merry tunes on board Chertsey during the parade, but as we didn’t fancy our instruments getting as wet as we ourselves did, we hid them in the dry below deck.  Sunday was much better and we did play while Sarah steered a near miraculous course through the crush of boats.

parade squash

I say near miraculous because she did manage to demolish a “don’t hit this jetty” sign.



I’m considering giving that an award all of its own!

As well as all the boating we managed to see performances by both Mikron Theatre and Daystar too with Mikron I think winning that particular duel this year.

The beer was good.

4. Banbury canal day

banbury mayor

As usual people turned out in their thousands, not so much I think to see the boats as to shop at the canal side food and craft markets or to use the kids’ attractions in Spiceball park. Nevertheless it was a good do, and the boaters entertainment evening in Tooley’s dry dock was especially good.  Banbury canal day is also good for boaters to get together and we had a number of visits from boaty friends.  We’ll certainly consider a repeat visit even though the event is a bit lacking in the good beer department.  We did however buy some really superb French cheese.

Well, there you are, that’s our shortlist.  Were you at any? If so, which gets your vote?  Decision tomorrow, then we’ll move on to Best Canalside Pub for an Evening Meal.  Yum.