Friday, October 30, 2015

Mystery poster poster says it all


I really like this poster that some mystery person has hung on the railings by the water point at the Black Horse at Greenford. Well done them.

However , six feet away is someone who either can't or won't read it.


There she was, Nb Doris, moored right between the water point bollards and absolutely not taking on water. Not just her either, but we have seen other boats there too, and just down the canal, less than a minutes walk away are good moring spaces. Meanwhile we have to stretch our hose to its very limit and poke the front of our boat into the bridge hole in oreder to take on water. Grrrr.


I took those photos on our way into London, but now we are back at the Black Horse on our way back, for tonight is our last night of this cruise which started just a month ago at Crick. Tomorrow we take up our winter berth at High Line Yachting at Iver.

We've had a very good time, adopting a very gentle pace and of course finishing with a week in London, where we saw some noteworthy things, like these men, actually there were several of them, all roped and carabinered up, refreshing the aluminium paint on the millennium footbridge over the Thames.



We'd just been to Southwark cathedral


to listen to an organ recital during which I drifted off into thoughts about how to write the next bit of my book (Now up to 15,507 words). I decide to rewrite one of the female characters to give her a bit more strength. I'm sure any feminists among you would approve. Actually, what I really mean is that I was afraid that any feminists among you would have disapproved of her the way she was!

Yesterday, we went to London's best address - No 1 London, aka Apsley House aka The first Duke of Wellington's House. Having done their very good audio tour you begin to realise what a megastar he was in his day, showered with fabulous gifts from the crowned heads of Europe and constantly surrounded by all kinds of mementos of his Waterloo victory. I remarked to one of the guides that it was a wonder he retained any vestige of humility. "Well," she said, "he didn't." A good visit.



Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pumpkins and fountains


Well the dark nights are now upon us, but it's still a pretty view across Brownings Pool. We've been baby sitting Grace for 24 hours and just about managed to keep her entertained, teaching her dominoes and card tricks and making a halloween pumpkin.

and yesterday afternoon playing in the new fountain in Paddington Basin

Different parts of it stop spouting at random times so you have to jump in and out of the two rings of spouts when you can. Grace enjoyed it anyway.

The Friday night news review at the Canal Cafe Theatre was nothing short of brilliant and extremely funny. I didn't count but I reckon they must have done a good twenty five sketches in the hour, a number of them having song and dance routines, all very clever parodies and all topical. I don't know how they do it. A tenner or so very well spent. They keep a cracking pint of beer in the pub below, but at four pounds forty five a pint it flippin' well ought to be. Welcome to London prices folks. We'll go over to the Warwick Castle over the canal while we're here and compare prices.

Boats have been coming and going to and from the basin, so it looks like there is a turnover, which is good, and of course it being a sunny Sunday, the tripboats between here and Camden have all been active, coming and going all day. There's always something to watch here.


Friday, October 23, 2015

A Capital Result

Here we are 101 miles and 91 locks after leaving Crick, having arrived to a warm welcome from Sarah at Rembrandt Gardens in Little Venice. Thanks to Kath for doing the (free) booking and to Sarah for being very helpful and good to communicate with. Sadly, at the beginning of November, Sarah is handing the operation back over to CRT. I find it hard to imagine that they will do it so well.

The mooring is great. It must be one of the best spots, if not THE, best spot in London



overlooking Brownings Pool, and handy for Paddington etc. Our mooring rings were duly labelled up with Herbie's name and the dates of our stay (7 days) and Sarah came along to settle us in and give us any info we needed. It's a small world, it turns out she was brought up in the same village as Kath!

London's canals are, as we all know, chock full of residential boaters and good moorings are hard to find. We crawled past miles of moored boats on the way in. Nevertheless we just took a stroll up to Paddngton Basin and there were three empty spots outside the station entrance plus a couple more over the jacuzzi bubbles (people who have been there will know what I mean).

Yesterday as we left Uxbridge, it was hard to imagine that by mid morning we had no more locks to do. That's it now for locks, we can put the windlasses away for a long time. You may recall that we stayed over in Uxbridge to see Henry V live from Stratford at the cinema. As usual in these Stratford things it was very good and well worth making an effort to see. I'm getting quite cultured in my old age.

Tonight we've got tickets for the little Canal Cafe Theatre just over the way, to see their weekly comedy news review. We've been there a few times and it's always good and if I recall correctly they keep a cracking pint of Windsor Brewery Guardsman downstairs.

Last night we rested at the Black Horse at Greenford, oft times shortlisted for a Herbie Award and still good. They have a Thursday quiz, which they buy in and its a good one not overburdened with questions about soaps, celebs and the like. I like questions like "who invented the aqualung?" and "who first had a hit with Magic Moments?" and "name the EU countiries whose name inlude 'LAND' " Good old general knowledage stuff. Do you know? Despite there being only the two of us, we came second.

Anyhow, here we are for a week in London before returning to High Line Yachting for our winter berth. Feel free to envy us.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A problem solved

Today is a rest day for the Herbies, which is just as well, cos it's peeing with rain outside. This gives me a chance to catch up with things I meant to blog about, particularly the story of the Tachomatic Revostat and its more successful successor. Regular sufferers of this blog may recall the stainless steel wavy washer that Rick made to slip behind the Morse control spindle on Herbie to stop it slipping backwards. Well that kind of worked but not all that well because the steel was too thin and just got squashed flat. Now people who know Rick know that he is a clever old stick and has a determination not to be beaten by an engineering problem. Accordingly he went of in search of a source of thicker stronger stainless steel, preferably of the springy variety.

So on his return to Herbie last week he presented us with (loud fanfare),


I would show you a picture of it, but it is installed invisibly within the Morse control, so here instead is a picture of the box



and the instruction leaflet

In the Amish tradition of leaving a small mistake in something you make to show that only God is perfect, you may notice Rick's leaflet refers quaintly at one point to the Morose lever.

That's all very well, you may say, but does the flippin' thing work? And the answer is . .Yes it does! The lever now stays where we put it, instead of slowly creeping back and dropping the engine revs. It took two goes to compress it to the right level, but we dunnit.

Any sufferers of the same problem may enquire as to where the correct grade of steel may be obtained and why Rick is unable to make any more Revmasters. Well, let's just say that Marilyn's kitchen pallette knife now looks an inch shorter than it used to. That woman is a Saint. The other reason that Rick won't be making any more is that all his drills are now blunt!

Tonight we are off to the cinema to see a live broadcast of Henry V from Stratford-upon-Avon. Just a little tip for you: Note the hyphens, some satnavs and web maps won't find it without!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why isn't everyone here? It's lovely

I'm a dope. I've been taking quite a few photos for the blog with my camera, but I forgot to bring with us the lead to get the flippin' photos out, and as you all know, Ipads don't have SD Card slots, so you'll have to manage with my deathless prose and a couple of not very good pics I took with my phone.

This first one like me, is poor but kind of interesting. It shows a bee or a wasp(I suspect the latter although it was rather small) flying towards a hole in a lock gate beam at Kings Langley lock.


The little darlings were coming and going all the time as I waited for the lock to empty, so there must be a nest within. No animals or humans were harmed during this photo shoot, although Kath nearly died of boredom while waiting for the lock to fill a few minutes earlier.

I know lots of boats never venture down to the southern GU, but they are making a big mistake. Even we had forgotten how lovely it is when you get past Ricky. Once again my phone failed to catch the beauty of the scene, but here it is anyway.

Today, we have arrived in Uxbridge in glorious autumnal weather. Yesterday was rather dull, but only weatherwise for we had a jolly evening with Mr and Mrs Rainman at the pub quiz at Wetherspoons. As is our usual custom in these events we were doing swimmingly until the round about soaps. No it is not Knights Castille and Imperial Leather to which I refer, nor indeed the humble Wright's Coal Tar, but something called Corrie and Brookside and stuff like that. We did however get one right referring to Dr Kildare, which I suppose shows our age.

You don't get down to this lovely neck of the woods without paying the price in terms of hard graft lock wheeling. I suppose it might be doing me good, but sometimes it feels more like it's finishing me off. The prize though for Best Lock (maybe I should save this for the Herbie awards but what the heck) goes to Lady Capels. It was such a nice change to find gates that don't swing open after you have shut them, and paddles that wind smoothly and lightly and balance beams that don't require full on brute force. And as a treat, you get to cruise through the elegant Grove Park afterwards with it's lovely turnover bridge.

At least with the GU's double locks, you get to meet new friends as you share locks. Today we have travelled with Nb Vox Stellarum, aka The Fender Trading Co, makers and purveyers of beautifully crafted thingies wot dangle under your tiller pin, and monkey's fists and stuff like that.

We have met some very nice people. Yesterday, near Cassiobury Bridge lock a boat was about to pull out in front of us as we approached the lock, but he stopped and waited. It was not a posh boat, in fact very much the opposite and the young man on board looked very much like many people do on such boats. I rather envied him his hair, which extended to not far short of his waist. Anyway, he enquired if we would be stopping at the water point, in which case he would let us go first because he needed to go from empty to full, (although he was in front of us and had every right to take it. ) He was well spoken, charming and polite. How nice. It just goes to show you should never judge a book by it's cover. By the way, we didn't need water, we were heading to go in the lock, so the young man got his water straight away.

Speaking of books, I am now up to 12598 words in my second novel. One or two of the words are quite good. One of the main characters speaks in a broad Geordie dialect, so it is in part a foreign language novel. I can't understand a word he is saying. I still have no idea of where the plot is going. I'll just have to keep writing to find out. All I will say is that it is still about Eric, who is still in trouble.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Winkwell Rocks (BURP)

The 16th century Three Horseshoes inn, by the swing bridge at Winkwell, with it's old fireplace and its flagstone floors is perhaps not the place you would expect to find a twenty five piece band busking covers from five decades of popular music, but last night that's what happened. Kath with her meticulous planning had arranged it so that we would be there on the night of the monthly meeting of BURP, the Berkhamsted Ukulele Random Players. Sadly we were unable to co-ordinate our earlier arrival in Leighton Buzzard with the meeting of the wonderfully named Ukes of Buzzard.

Kath has two ukes so taking one each we went over to the Horseshoes to see what happened. The place was packed and the enthusiasm palpable as we launched into everything from Everly Brothers to Coldplay. I must admit I am not over familiar with the works of the latter, being myself a bit like this:

Learned Judge: (Speaking in the tones of Dame Edith Evans talking about handbags) Mr Farquhar, would you enlighten me as to what is this Cold Play the plaintiff keeps referring to?

Mr Farquhar (Barrister): Certainly M'Lud. It is I beleve the name of what in your day might have been referred to as a a popular beat combo.

Learned judge: Ahh, I see.  Something akin to the Dave Clark Five perhaps

Mr Farquhar :  Precisely M'Lud

Learned Judge: I am obliged to you Mr Farquhar. Pray continue with your cross examination.

Anyway, using copies the group's mammoth shared songbook, we got along fine and a great time was had by all. Even a couple of blokes who called in for a pint and stayed to listen were applauding enthusiastically.

Earlier in the day, on our journey from Berko, we had quite a job getting through the quaintly named Sewer Lock where the leakage from the bottom gates exceeds the flow through the open paddles at the other end. It took the two of us every bit of strength we had to get the top gates open. I must check if it is on the winter stoppage programme. Someone had written in large letters on the bottom gate balance beam "THIS LOCK IS A DISGRACE". Nuff said.

This afternoon we have arrived at Apsley and seized the rare chance to get on the short offside 24hr mooring by Sainsbury's.

I'm not sure why that bollard is painted blue.

Over at the water point above the previous lock I notice that the notice board has a significant number of notices all talking about British Waterways. Now if they towpath rangers here like we do further south, that would have been sorted.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The East End comes to Bulbourne

I know what I forgot to tell you yesterday. As we came through Bulbourne, by the lovely old building where they used to make lock gates, we noticed that the canal was full of historic narrowboats. I can't remember which ones they all were except that Owl was one of them. I always remember Owl because it has that lovely Kelvin engine that used to drive the air compressor for a lighthouse fog horn. Anyway, I digress.

In the yard there were carefully placed stacks of old barrels and packing cases, and strings of washing hanging out to dry. Period stuff, not modern. When we enquired what was going on, they told us that they were setting up for the filming of an episode of Call the Midwife. So look out for it when the next series comes out and see what you can spot. To the general public I suppose it will look like something from London's docklands, but we'll know better won't we?

We've stayed put in Berko today and took a stroll along the long main street, which is full of good old buildings. There was also a small but very good street market selling upmarket (as you'd expect in Berko) food and such like. Sadly, our food cupboards an fridge on Herbie are fully stocked at the moment, so we confined ourselves to buying a nice chunk of cheese and olive focaccia.

Radio 4 afficionados will be sad to hear that Ed Reardon was nowhere to be found.

Oh, one last thing. I've resumed writing the continuing stroy of Eric, taking up from where the last book left off. I have been playing around with it for a long time now, and had several false starts, but I think it might be rolling now. I read through a number of my attempts at the first five thousand words or so, all different, and one leapt out as being the best (or the least worst), so I have now committed to one and am already up to over ten thousand words. Watch this space.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Not that sort of Fender Rick

When I asked Rick to hang a fender over the side of the boat, this wasn't quite what I meant!

Rick has form when it comes to losing fenders, but I managed to rescue this one before it came to any harm.

Oh well, Rick and Marilyn are going home tomorrow after a few days helping us on our move southward, so we can have a return to sanity. Tonight we are at Berko, so you might say we have broken the back of the journey. It's literally down hill all the way now and things have gone pretty well really. No one has fallen in and we have all had a jolly time.

Tonight we will all be joined by the legend that is Rain Man for a celebratory meal at Wetherspoons (no expense spared with us as you can see).

I have been very remiss in not keeping a camera about my person, especially on Sunday afternoon when we saw a rare(ish) meteorlogical event in the form of several "fallstreak holes" in the cloud cover. This where a circular or elliptical hole forms in the cloud cover with brush like whisps of falling droplets descending from the hole. Its all to do with ice crystals - quite impressive, especially when you see three or four of them at the same time. Google them if you are interested.

Hmmm, what else can I report? Oh yes, we tried out the Three Locks Pub at Soulbury and we were pleasantly surprised. The food was better than average and you could buy three different ales in third of a pint glasses for ther price of a normal pint. Very useful when you are faced with a number of unfamiliar brews. I would definately go there again.


Friday, October 09, 2015

Back and forth

There might be some CRT boat checker somewhere with a headache today. He probably thinks he's losing the plot, because earlier in the week they will have spotted us moving southwards down the GU, then they will have seen us moored up in Great Linford for two days, still facing South, and today they would see us back up at Wolverton, still facing South. Perhaps they will think we reversed for an hour and a half this morning! all will be explained below.

Despite some inconsiderate person having moored in our favourite spot in Great Linford (how dare they?!), we had a pleasant berth for the last two nights almost opposite it and were compensated by this nice view out of the window.

Yesterday we caught the bus into the great metrollops of Milton Keynes to go and see Mr Holmes at the cinema. After years and years and years and years of never going to the cinema we have started this year to go most weeks, courtesy of the Odeon Silver Screen programme which puts on very good films each week for over 55s for three quid including coffee and biscuits! Not old films, just maybe two or three months after general release. I'm becoming quite a film buff. Mr Holmes was very good. Go and see it if you get the chance, or I suppose wait until it comes on telly in a year or two.

Returning to the boat last evening we discovered that Herbie must have had her pins pulled out by some careless boater going past too fast, and some kind person had banged them back in, and added a third one on the centre rope. Thanks whoever you are. One of the pins was hammered in so deep that it took me five minutes to dig it out this morning.

Actually it's not to fool the boat checkers that we have retraced our steps to get back to Wolverton. It's because I have to catch a train tomorrow to meet Rick at Long Buckby, when we will nip up to Leicester to visit the Space Centre along with the old boys of the engineering association from where we both used to work in 1970.

Did you know the boat checkers log us into their system even when they see us cruising along the canal? I didn't until I saw one doing it the other day. I suppose some people will complain that it's all a bit too Big Brother, but I don't mind if it helps to deal with the people who pretend to be continuous cruiser when they are not.


Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Of cloudbursts, curries and Kiwis.

Herbie rests in Stoke Bruerne after a good soaking this morning. The crew are pretty damp too, at least they were before a change of clothes and a sit by the fire. Meanwhile a warming curried store cupboard random concoction (devised and executed by yours truly) of chicken, onions, peppers, apricots and tomatoes sits on the hob to warm our insides later.
- after which we will drag local resident Katherine over to the pub to celebrate / commiserate over the recent sale of her boat Leo to new owners and no doubt to hear her gloat over her team, New Zealand, still being in the rugby wold cup, whilst our lot are out on their ears.
I narrowly escaped a garotting today, during the sharp right hand bend just after the Spiderworks Paint dock where you go under the road bridge. Unexpectedly, a boat came the other way towing a butty on a long line. All three skippers held their nerve and nobody came to grief, but it could have been interesting if our timing had been slightly different.

The Tachomatic Revostat performed a little better today and held us nicely at our cruising speed of 1400 rpm. It still needs a tweak though to hold us steady at other speeds. Nevertheless it held steady for 32 minutes through Blisworth tunnel without adjustment - the only time it didn't rain of course, although it was chilly in there.

Our target for tomorrow is Great Linford where I hope we will find space to tie up.


Monday, October 05, 2015

Poetry in motion

Monday morning 9.30 am.

Blimey it's gloomy here at Norton junction this morning. I sit here awaiting Kath's arrival at lunchtime and my mind turns to the prospect of the afternoon's entertainment as we resume our journey in the general direction of Antarctica, or more precisely, Slough. A little poem forms in my mind as I only just stop myself from putting a spoonful of instant coffee into the kettle. Must concentrate.

Going down Buckby locks in the rain

Going down Buckby locks in the rain

It's a pain

It does my brain


When it's rain


Going down Buckby locks in the rain

My own brilliance humbles me.


Adam, who has good form in solving my riddles, correctly deduced that the Tachomatic Revostat is indeed a device to stop Herbie's morse control lever from slipping back. Halfie got it too, but as it was his second attempt and he was three minutes behind, Adam takes the biscuit.

Sadly, the beautifully crafted stainless steel that Rick used to make the TR seems insufficiently robust to exert the pressure required to apply the necessary friction between the lever and it's mount. I have reinstalled it for a second trial, but I fear that we may have to revert to the previous solution, suggested ages ago by Oakie, of installing a rubber O ring. That is not perfect, but is fairly effective. Better anyway than my previous effort, which was to hand a weight ( a mooring chain actually) from the lever knob.


Sunday, October 04, 2015

Solo Flight

Kath didn't make it back to Herbie yesterday, too busy being a grandma, so I set off as a single hander in order to keep us moving. The only obstacle would be Watford locks, which have a good supply of volunteer lock keepers, so I expected they would help me down the flight.

it was a long wait at the top of the locks, about an hour and three quarters I think, and the lockies were busy, so when I got into the actual staircase bit, they left me to get on with it. So there was I hopping on and off the boat and red-before-white paddling and all that, all on my tod. Actually I enjoyed it and it was easier than I thought. Thankfully a kind couple of boaters waiting to come up, worked me through the last two single locks and then I was away.


Herbie purred along the canal with the mark 1 Tachomatic Revostat not exactly living up to expectations. I think I may have compressed it beyond its elastic limit. I have rebent it and reinstalled it for further trials. No one has correctly guessed what it is yet. I'll give you a clue - it's there to ensure steady progress.

Today Herbie has another rest day just before Norton Junction. I don't fancy Buckby Locks on my own. In fact I don't fancy them anyway. They are not my favourites.


It's very pleasant here. The solar panel, in dappled shade is managing about 2.6 amps and there is the occasional passing boat to look at. And of course, should I need it, there is a pub just around the corner.


Friday, October 02, 2015

The Tachomatic Revostat

Rick made us a present for Herbie. We will be testing it out on our trip south which starts tomorrow.

Here it is:

Beautifully hand crafted by the master himself. I fitted it yesterday. Can anyone guess what it is for? The only person who might guess it correctly is Oakie I reckon.


Herbie sits in glorious sunshine out on the canal just outside Crick marina while I wait for Kath to come back tomorrow after taking the car home, when no doubt it'll start raining. Then it's off down south for the winter. When we get there our first port of call will be Rembrandt gardens where we have booked a week's mooring. Then it'll be off back to Iver and our winter mooring ar High Line Yachting.