Thursday, 5 November 2015

Cleaning Day

We had a slow start to today although we had quite a long agenda of things we wanted or needed to do before we set off back home for the next few weeks. However, Mike was feeling a little under the weather (acid reflux breaking through once again - happens two or three times a year) and even more reluctant to make a start!

Events - see below - also meant that it has taken until now to face up to giving a report on what happened.

We usually divide up the work roughly into outside - Mike and inside - Christine. Things were proceeding reasonably well until late morning by when Mike had removed all the dirt from the roof and was about to give it a final rinse before turning to the sides.

Alas, his attention slipped as he made his way along the gunwhale to tackle the chimney stains so that he slipped and dropped vertically into the marina water (which, fortunately, he had already noted as being a lot cleaner this year) A cry for help rapidly attracted Christine's attention and she passed Mike a rope to hold onto whilst she retrieved the life ring from the cabin so that at least he would not sink without trace.

She then recruited a nearby boater who tried valiantly to help Mike clamber out from the water at the stern and onto the pontoon. This proved incredibly difficult and one of the marina staff joined in. Although the height of the pontoon above the water level does not look very much, when you are lacking in strength anyway it seems a mountain almost too far to climb. (Ladders out of the water are quite sparse in this marina)

Eventually, by angling the rudder to the right place Mike was able to gain some purchase and, with assistance, eventually roll himself flat onto the pontoon! Fortunately nothing was broken and only later was a small scrape to one elbow discovered.

Needless to say, we were all a bit discomforted by the experience. However after thanking his rescuers as profusely as possible and then having a shower and finding dry clothes, the work of cleaning was still waiting. Although the roof was finished, there was obviously no time to tackle the sides. In any event we had already concluded that trying to do them from our normal short pontoon was not realistic and that we would have moved the boat to a better full length edge. They will have to wait until a later return visit.

After lunch the greater priority was to make sure that the drainage gutters around the semi-trad stern were clear of leaves so that any rain will not end up in the bilges.

We were a bit disappointed in how much water had collected in the side section of the engine bay so out came our 12 volt small movable pump. Alas, although it extracted one bucket full of water it then gave up working (buying a new one is a priority before next trip) so it was back to the mopping with an absorbent rag! Slow but feasible and most the the water under the engine itself was also removed. With the stern tube tightened and greased, Hopefully the boat will be safe in the hands of the auto bilge pump.

Meanwhile, Christine had done a great job cleaning and packing inside so that by the time darkness fell we were ready and able to give up, make a short trip to the supermarket and then collapse!

The next day we were surprisingly speedy at packing the car and completing all the other things needed before leaving the boat in winter and were on our way back to Cornwall earlier than expected.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Packet Boat

Today's Canal - Grand Union

For our last day of cruising this season it was a grey day, dry and reasonably warm but no exciting sunshine at all, all day.

We set off in good time, about ten minutes after nb Trinity passed us on the way down. We caaughtb up with them at the first lock as they were taking on water. However, they quickly rolled up their hosepipe and joined us in the next four locks.

Sharing turned out to be quite handy for them as a change in their plans meant that the wife had to walk back to the prvious lock to collect their car and take it on down to Batchworth, leaving husband single handing.

The offside moorings below Common Moor Lock have been greatly improved and given better access. Not that long ago it seemed to be the haunt of various irregular moorers trying to hide under the radar! No doubt as a result CRT gain a worthwhile income from them.

Just before Lot Mead Lock we came across another drifting boat, the second day in a row. The steerer from Trinity foud thta he could not pull it in as there was insufficient centre line rope. So we repeated yesterday's exercise and brought the stray boat back to the bank. Its bow had been fastened with a rather deformed piling hook so we added a mooring pin to make it more secure as well as tying the centre to the bank. Hooe that the owner realises that something is different when he returns!

Splendid creeper on the front of the lock cottage.

Spotted this unusual and ornate rope fender - a bit showy for our tastes but definitely catches the eye!

At Batchworth Lock in Rickmansworth we left nb Trinity behind as they wanted to stop and use the facilities before going just a little further to catch up with their son who was on his boat just ahead. We worked out who he was when we arrived at the next lock!

A parcel of land below Coppermill Lock is being developed. So far they have constructed a huge retaining wall and are now beginning the footings for whatever is go up up there. No doubt we will see when we come this way again.

Just around the corner we came across this new design of marker buoy - not sure what it was guarding!

As we neared Whitewater Lock we could see that something was different and then thought that we had caught up the boat that had been leaving all gates (and some paddles) open when leaving each lock. When we arrived the owner was skulking inside but made no effort to come out and speak - seems he was having his lunch right against the top gates. Fortunately we could pass him on the off side.

At Denham Deep we wondered what had happened to the well-know floating dry dock which we have always seen just below the lock. As we continued beyond the lock we found the answer - it has been repainted in a bright blue colour!

At Uxbridge Lock we chatted to a chap with a lock key who arrived as we were emptying the water. Mike recognised him from a boatyard a little further back where he was working on a boat engine. It seems that his company specialise in canal maintenance and in providing work boats, including full size barges, for use by contractors building alongside the canal. He was awaiting one of their boats coming back up from work in London. A short while later we encountered it! It felt as large as it looked. A photo from the rear is included as Christine had not hitherto known how these huge things are moved.

Just a little further and yet another drifter - it looked as if its badly placed bow mooring pin had been pulled out of soft ground when the barge passed by. We repeated our well-rehearsed manoeuvre once again!

Only Cowley Lock to go. A boat had just come up but another couple were below, presumably having just missed out on sharing. She was carrying a very small baby in a front sling and operating paddles and gates at the same time! They have just taken a mooring at Packet Boat whilst they work out what might be possible with a young baby in tow!

Before finally turning into the marina we stopped first to fill up with diesel and also to buy an electric card for the hook up. Eventually we were successfully installed in our latest winter mooring.

12.3 Miles - 12 Locks

Monday, 2 November 2015


Today's Canal - Grand Union

It was very foggy when we set off and it did not lift until after lunch. Quite eerie at first.

The dampness meant that cobwebs caught lots of condensation, making them even more attractive.

At the first lock, the nearby cottage has a strange shape chimney which we have not spotted before.

Passed a boat with this warning sign at both ends. Have spent all day trying to think of a funny remark to make about it. Any suggestions?

Just below Fishery Lock we could see a boat right across the cut. As we came near it was obvious that it had lost its stern mooring. Christine brought our boat slowly up to it, hitched a rope around its rear stanchion and pulled it backwards close to the bank. Mike was then able to get aboard and pull it to the bank. He pulled up the stern rope which ha been hanging in the water and found that a mooring pin was still attached, presumably pulled out by a passing boat. Mike hammered it back in but the ground is quite soft so how long it will hold . . .

We could tell it is not real as it had strange feet and cobwebs!

Just below Lock 64 near the centre of Hemel Hempstead, we have on several times taken quite pretty pictures of the trees alongside. Today was not a good day for adding to the portfolio!

The phantom tearer-offerer had been at work again.

The former cottage alongside Lock 65 now seems to be in use as offices - there is quite an extension at the rear. For a long time it looked as if it had been abandoned but the closed shutters do not make an especially attractive facade.

At Apsley Lock we stopped to use the services. Whilst Mike was waiting for the water tank to fill, Christine visited the nearby Sainsbury, famous in the past for its doughnuts. Perhaps because it was a Monday, although they weer OK they were not as fresh and special as we recall from previous visits!

At Kings Langley lock we discovered that the Coelacanth is alive and well - incidentally the dinosaur was also still around.

We stopped for lunch just before North Grove Lock and by the time we set off once more the fog had lifted and the rest of the afternoon was delightfully warm and sunny.

We were a bit concerned about the angle at which this boat was listing. It did not seem occupied right now.

By the time we were at Hunton Bridge Locks there was a clear blue sky.

But by Lady Capel's Lock things were a but hazy again. Still warm though.

Grove Mill was looking pretty today in the late afternoon sunshine.

Along this stretch someone has been along painting the end bricks/stones that provide footholds when opening or closing gates. presumably it was thought that they are a trip hazard and so should be highlighted. What is not then clear is why all the others are not trip hazards!

After dropping down through Iron Bridge Lock we decided that is was best to find a mooring in the next pound as there is not much until Croxley Green and our estimate was that we would not get there until after dark.

7.9 Miles - 17 Locks

Sunday, 1 November 2015


Today's Canal - Grand Union

Today began bright, sunny warm and with a clear blue sky. There was none of the fog which the forecast threatened might hang on after overnight.

We had a slightly slower start as we had stopped below Northchurch Top Lock in order to be able to go to the morning service at the nearby church. In fact, as we finished getting ready we were accompanied by the sound pf the bells being rung, traditionally calling people to church!

The walk was about four times as long as the crow flies distance (the church was just over the canal hedge) but it took not much more than eight minutes to get there.

In the churchyard Christine spotted a very complete fairy ring.

The congregation numbered around fifty and was a pleasant middle-of-the road format. Three readers and a curate all took part in leading the worship with several others reading and so on. The reader who preached seemed to be an academic - at least his format suggested that. It was all good stuff but perhaps a tad over long for the context. However, he was the one person who made an effort to talk to us afterwards.

The church inside has had some imaginative re-reordering in recent years (even if they still have conventional pews!) The layout makes effective use of the cruciform shape with contemporary furniture and overhead lights. At the back is what appears to be a new organ, again in a very contemporary case.

Back at the boat we changed and set off - we needed distinctly fewer layers than on the past three days. However, w discovered that the water level had fallen quite a bit since we left for church. At than the boat was easily afloat but now it was firmly aground at the rear half. Fortunately the bow section was still free so by pushing it right out across the cut we were able gradually to prise the rest of the boat free.

The route ahead is largely one of an unremitting succession of locks, nearly all about ten minutes apart. There were plenty of people out walking this afternoon and we were able to recruit several families with young children to help work the locks. Whilst the parents generally enjoy seeing their children taking part - with several happy photos - the real deal is that they get asked to close the lock gates for us after the boat has left!

Since we had managed to get away a little more promptly than we had anticipated, we stopped for lunch alongside the open park area opposite Berkhampstead station.

This bear is still celebrating Halloween - someone should have told him that the monkey face and pumpkins were for yesterday!

At Top Side Lock, the low sun shining through the trees made pretty patterns on the pink rendering of the lockside house.

The lighting continued to illuminate the scenery. No wonder so many people were out enjoying it.

At Lock 58 a sign clearly gives instructions about how to leave the lock. What, of course, it assumes is that all boaters can read which cannot be true for the boats which had just come up as all paddles were closed! At least this one admits the reason - many of the locks from the summit downwards have special instructions, some of which seem to have been in force for quite a long time. When we came up, a waterways person told us that there is a phantom-notice-tearer-downer in the area which removes paper signs almost as soon as they are put up. They imagine that it is a disgruntled boater who does not accept that CRT gave issue this advice! At one lock it was clear that a sign had been torn away and so we left the lock as we remembered it being requested. However, the sign here is of much sterner stuff and is almost year old!

OK, so in the fading light this photo did not come out as well as it might but we could not pass on the opportunity to record the inventiveness that turned an ex fire extinguisher case into a distinctive boat chimney!

We have seen nb Africa moored here before but have never taken the opportunity to say how attractive the painted figures are.

After passing through Winkwell Swing Bridge and the lock below, it really was getting time to moor but we were intent on finding a spot with a fighting chance of getting a tv signal. (Looking back at recent posts, this seems to be a bit of an obsession but our new sat finder box is proving itself). Along here, it is not possible to moor far from the busy railway line but at least it is less intrusive than a motorway!

4.3 Miles - 12 Locks