Sunday, September 26, 2021

HS2 Monster Munch

Strange munching and graunching noises came from over the hedge as we came back up past Wood lock on the way back from Leamington. It didn't take us long to spot the reason.

Yes it's the dreaded HS2, munching its way through the countryside courtesy of gert big yellow tractory things. .  You can see the big cutting in the distance, while over on the other side of the canal is a man made mountain of mud, presumably ready to lift the line over the canal, and some sort of plant works, perhaps to make concrete or whatever.  

In a couple of years or so people will be hurtling over the canal at what I calculate to be mach 0.3 while we cruise beneath at 3 mph. How strange is that. I'm not sure how many times HS2 will cross a canal, at least four I think.  I should think the trains will be going too fast for the passengers to wave at us.  All presuming of course that it ever gets finished and that the trains actually work.

We did our own bit of munching by the canal on our last night, courtesy of our trusty Cobb barbecue thingy which takes its time but doesn't incinerate your food like a normal barbecue can.  This time it was a veggie meal, peppers, courgettes, baby leeks, mushrooms and halloumi. All tucked into tortilla flatbreads and washed down with a swig of malbec.  Yum!

Don't tell me you don't fancy a bite of that.  

I don't suppose we'll get many more such balmy evenings this year.

When we first bought Herbie we earned ourselves a reputation for picking the worst weeks to go boating.  Many was the soaking we got, much to the amusement of our fellow moorers.  Since then we seem to have got either wiser or luckier.  This last week has been absolutely perfect.  The sun shines on the righteous.

Friday, September 24, 2021


 Flights of locks always look a bit daunting when you come to them don't they? Once you get going though, especially if you have crew to set the lock ahead it all becomes quite fun. Here we are at the bottom of the Stockton flight, big locks but not too heavy, I'll take them over Buckby any day. Half way up we caught up with Nb Zola who we met earlier in the week and are our newest good friends. Locks can be like that.  Tomorrow Zola's skipper is booked in to Willow Wrens very smart looking trading centre near the top of the locks for an engine maintenance course.

Also half way up the locks I chatted to a volunteer lockie about our practice of only using one top paddle to fill these locks. The boat sits nice and still, and according to the lockie, his mate at Hatton locks reckons  you only save about a minute over using two paddles. I suppose that mostly applies when a single person is doing it.

Last night we moored at The Cuttle pub to give it a try. A good mooring (if a tad shallow) right opposite The Two Boats.

 Between them they would make a good pub. As it is the Cuttle has the better beer and the Two Boats the better food. The two boats seems to be winning on the popularity front though, being very busy on the benches canal side. It looks proper nice after dark. I think it gets my vote.

Keen photographers will see I missed a trick there. I should have captured more of the pub' s reflection in the canal. Doh!

Now we're moored barely a half mile from our marina enjoying a final afternoon and evening on the towpath before finishing our short holiday. I admit I was a bit reluctant to agree to go down to Leamington just to turn and come back, but it's turned out to be a lovely trip.  Typical Grand Union, hard work but well worth it.

PS for a change I thought I'd do this post on my phone. It seems to work ok.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Fun and sun on the descent to Leamington

 I've always said that September is a good month for cruising - much more reliable weather wise than the earlier summer months. The weathermen were over pessimistic to start with this week.  Here we are at Ventnor on Saturday night when it was supposed to be raining.

And so now we are enjoying a lovely sunny week tootling down to Leamington and back.  It's been so long since we last came down here that I'd forgotten what most of it looked like, and it's a pleasant surprise.  Mind you, with all those big locks it needs to be. Sunday got us from Ventnor down the ten locks to Long Itchington with a quick stop for a swift half (OK, pint) of shandy to cool us down at the Blue Lias

 where the garden is somewhat better than the pub IMHO.  Then off down the last two locks to Itchington where we were amply and tastily fed  at the Two Boats.  Here I note that the beer pump clips are headed "Charlie Wells" - I wonder if he's turning in his grave at such familiarity.

Our Peter who is travelling with us was a bit distracted on day one, feeling a bit guilty having left his cat Bella at home to be fed daily by friends.  Then the little videos started coming in showing she was perfectly happy and he cheered up considerably.  Bless.

Monday was fun, still sunny and travelling along side by side with a merry crew on Andrew one of Calcutt's boats they hire out to ex Navy people.  At the Bascote staircase locks we performed the famous double shuffle with boats top and bottom changing places mid lock.  The crew coming uphill were a bit reluctant at first until I persuaded them that I'd done it dozens of times (actually it's only twice and  many many years ago). Everybody was slightly amazed that it worked. Here we are safely tucked up in the bottom half having completed the sliding puzzle trick.

Lunch was a rather longer affair than we had planned because just as we were finishing our sandwiches on the towpath, a passing boat yelled "Oi Herbie", and who should it be but that old rascal Maffi and the lovely Susan.  So that took care of the next hour.  I can't tell you how many times we've been ambushed by old Maffi (actually he's younger than me) but it's a few.  There's no escape. So now we're up to date with all the canal gossip of course.

Then on to a quiet mooring where we had a barbie in our trusty cobb after which we filled it with sticks 

and sat in the dark warming ourselves in the wood smoke so that our clothes this morning smelled like kippers -aah well, it was worth it.

Now having shopped at Morrisons by the canal in Leamington, we're heading back.  I was surprised how much mooring there is in Leamington.  How safe it is I don't know, but there's lots of it.  Right now we're tied up at Radford which is very pretty.

I don't think we would have considered coming down here this week had we not taken up our mooring at Ventnor, but it's been lovely - if somewhat hard work. All this canal needs is a couple more pubs in strategic spots and it'd be a winner.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Slow burner

I fancy I might have just broken a world record.  I mean, how long does it take you to light a fire?  Can you beat 18 months?  Thought not.

We had Herbie's new stove fitted last March on the very day that the first Covid lockdown was announced.  The same day we rang up Wigrams Turn marina and asked "Can you take us in for a few weeks until all this blows over?"

Well our stay at Wigrams turned out to be 18 months and all that time we weren't near Herbie in weather cold enough to light the new fire.  And here we are today barely a hundred yards from where they fitted the stove in Braunston and it's just about cold enough so I dug out the old kindling and some coal  and after three attempts we have a fire going.  It always takes a little while to learn the foibles of a new stove.

The canals are a little bit quieter now the schools have gone back but the hire boat companies are still doing well.  Kate Boats seems to have a Monday start.  Loads of them came past last night as we moored up just a spit from Wigrams Turn.  Most seem to be doing well but one poor chap really hadn't got the hang of the tiller at all and was paying frequent visits to the bushes.  I helped out when he ran aground just past Herbie and then he got going only to repeat his error another twice.  Bless!

Kath popped in to Calcutt Boats to buy a couple of ice creams while the top lock was filling.  The lady in there said that this year had been their best ever for hiring and quite a few punters immediately re-booked for next year when they got back.  Staycations rule OK.

Our new mooring at Ventnor Marina continues to be a delight. Over the weekend they held the annual moorers' barbecue 

which was a good chance to make new friends, and next morning the Moorers' Association breakfast with as many bacon rolls as you could manage to eat and more new friends made. 

We took a stroll round both basins, picking blackberries as we went.  All nicely landscaped with lots of attractive sitting out areas on the banks.  We were surprised to find that the walk was over a mile when we got back, so that gives some idea of the scale of the marina.

We're just out for a few days before our Peter joins us at the weekend when I fear we will tackle the run down to Warwick and back if the 44 big heavy locks (22 each way) don't kill us.  I hope my pacemaker keeps working.

Speaking of which, I went in for a pacemaker check last Wednesday.  Very straighforward now I'm bluetooth enabled. All was fine.  The man asked how I'd been and I said fine apart from just a couple of occasions when I felt breathless after exertion and my pulse dropped to 60 bpm.  (pre pacemaker I was running at 38!).  "Aah yes", he said, peering at his computer screen,  "I see you had a couple of episodes, one on August 27th and one on September 4th.  Nothing to worry about. Mild fibrillation which the pacemaker dealt with."  Clever or what?

Sunday, September 05, 2021

In the pink


Somebody once told me there's only one day a year when the weather is right for painting a boat. Well it certainly ain't today.  Too flippin' hot.

Nevertheless after yesterday's rubbing down and crack filling and rubbing down again and sweeping and mopping up the dust, then seeing bits I missed and filling, rubbing and sweeping and mopping again, this morning I managed to slap on a coat of alarmingly pink primer undercoat.

Now in the heat of the afternoon I think that coat has dried, but it's far too hot to start on the top coat. Any way first I need a gentle rub over the undercoat and another sweep and mop first.

I'm exhausted already, and this is only the starboard side handrail I'm doing. I'm currently staring at a nice bottle of (alcohol free)  cider which I would happily drink if only I hadn't lost the bottle opener.

Naturally I couldn't make all that noise and mess in the marina so I'm parked on the towpath outside and very nice it is too. If anyone wants about two tons of crab apples, this is yer spot.

Will I get a top coat on today? Only if it cools down early enough. Don't want to have wet paint exposed to dew in the night.

Sod's law prevails.

A couple of hours later it cooled down enough

" Job's an ok 'un", 
but far from perfect. The wood is too old and worn, so still a bit lumpy despite all the sanding and filling. Still it looks a lot better than it did.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Caught red handed?

 Having wooden handrails on a narrowboat is a bit of a mixed blessing.  On the one hand (forgive the pun), they never get too hot/cold to touch in summer/winter.  Plus when in good nick they look dead smart.

On the other hand they seem to need painting a lot more often.  I've actually lost count of how many times I've done it now.  Last time, rubbing down and painting in the evenings during a boat trip I made something of a botch job.  It's all in the prep as they say, and I rushed it, plus I painted on quite hot days and it's peeling and lifting all over the place.

So this time I have to get serious about the prep, getting off as much old paint as I can and doing a proper job with wood filler in scarf joints, cracks and screw holes, then using a good exterior wood primer etc etc.  A non trivial task - especially in the groove where the wood meets the metal on the side of the boat. And of course there's about 80 feet of it.

So this weekend you'll see me out on the towpath somewhere between Ventnor marina and Calcutt locks, away from other boats who may not wish to be red,  and covered in red paint dust.  I might even have red hair.  Won't that be nice?