A Day Of Close Calls!

This morning we left our mooring at the bottom of Norwood bottom lock. It was a lovely mooring, and we did think of staying here for a day or so. Right by the towpath there’s a playing field which was brilliant for Rusty. He had a great game of ball, and a good run around.

After phoning the duty Harbour Master at Teddington Lock, asking for his advice on getting a River License, and to book a passage through Teddington Lock; his reply was pretty straight forward. There’ll be someone on the lock to lock us through, and after we moor up, we’ve to visit the office to obtain a license.

We then phoned C&RT for advice regarding exiting onto the Thames via Thames Lock 101. Passage through the lock is regulated by the tide. Today we could go through the lock at 4:00pm today, or at 8:30am tomorrow. We decided on the morning transit, thinking we’d be tired by the time we’d gone through 9 locks on a lovely hot day like today.

So…. at about 10, we pushed off for our first lock of the day. Luckily we’d paired up with another couple who were going down the flight; sharing the work.

We had intended to moor for lunch after the last Hanwell lock as we were flagging in the heat, but unfortunately, where we chose to moor, the canal was silted up badly, and we couldn’t get into the side. Before we knew it, we were dropping down Osterley Lock, and Clitheroe Lock.

Just before Brentford Gauging Lock our locking partners needed to top up with water, and we needed to dump a bag of rubbish. While they topped their tank, John started filling the electrically operated lock with water, he was soon assisted by two lockies, who had helped us through Clitheroe Lock (more of this lovely couple later).

From inside Brentford Gauging Lock – going down…

Approaching Brentford Gauging Lock – under Heathrow flight path

Staff from Glaxo Smith Kline taking their lunch in the sunshine

We approached Thames Lock, with the view to moor just before the lock as we’re ‘early doors’ tomorrow, going onto the Thames for 8:30 am.  We knew this end of the Grand Union / River Brent was tidal, but we didn’t realise just how much. The bank where we were to moor was a good three foot higher from Cyan’s gunnel. John managed to scramble upwards, to tie Cyan. But now we were faced with getting Rusty off for a piddle. He’s not brave at the best of times, but to make life a bit easier for him, we dismantled the ‘pram hood’ and got him to jump onto to Cyan’s roof, and then onto the bank. Getting him back on board wasn’t easy either. Little did we realise, if we’d waited just a couple of hours, Cyan would have risen level to the bank!

Thames Lock both gates open. The Thames and the canal was at the same level for a short time.

We’re surprised to see a colony of parakeets

Now for our ‘close calls’!

At one of the Hanwell locks, I took Cyan into the lock, and steered her to the side so I could jump off to hold the centre line, stopping her from bumping our ‘lock companions’ boat. She was going too far forward so I put her into reverse, and I jumped off; while Cyan was still in reverse! Thank goodness the guy from the other boat saw what I’d done, he jumped onto our boat from his, and put her into neutral.

John’s close call… at Clitheroe lock John slipped while walking over the lock gates (think it was a fault of his shoes), luckily he was holding onto the railing and only got one wet foot. ‘Jennifer’ the lady lockie, helped him back onto the gate by grabbing his safety jacket. He’s now nursing a bruised knee!

Rusty’s close call… I sailed Cyan out of the Brentford Gauging Lock, with the view to pick up John who was walking down the ramp. Rusty had stuck his head out of the boat looking for John. In a split second I realised he would get his head trapped between the ramp and the moving boat, I pulled him back just in the nick of time!

Think we’ll get a good nights sleep, and thank our lucky stars for today!

Today we’ve travelled 3.25 miles, and through 9 locks.

Almost At The Grand Union’s End

We’ve not really moved for a week as the Thames had red ‘Caution Strong Stream’ warnings signs all along the river.

This bright and sunny morning, on the Environment Agency website there were ‘No Stream Warnings’ up to Sunbury Lock, with ‘Caution Stream Decreasing’ warnings further upstream.

Great! The pressure is off, and we can continue our journey again.

Leaving our mooring at Yiewsley.

While waiting, we’ve been busy. I’ve been wanting to paint Cyan’s ceiling white, to reflect light into the boat, but I’ve been worried as to what it might turn turn out like. So while we were moored next to the shops, I bought a pot of off-white wood paint for the bathroom, as a sort of experiment.

We’re quite pleased with the result, so I went back to the shop to buy enough paint to for the length of Cyan’s ceiling. On a nice dry day somewhere; Cyan will get her ceiling painted.

Our new life jackets arrived without a glitch from Ebay, picked up from Argos.

John also ordered from Ebay some ‘Montmorency Cherry’ supplements, and they also arrived promptly.

John’s foot has been hurting him for a couple of weeks now, he felt he’d sprained his ankle but couldn’t remember when, or how. His foot’s been strapped up, and he’s not really been walking far on it. After a bit of self-diagnosis, we think John’s had a bout of gout! In the past he’s had medication for a high uric acid count. Basically his blood is too acid, and this is where the Montmorency Cherry supplement comes in. Montmorency Cherry is highly heralded on the Internet for reducing the acidity of blood, and relieving gout. I’ve also been using ‘Lo Salt’ in cooking to provide extra potassium (low potassium another symptom of gout), and it looks like our self-medication appears to be working, at least according to the extra time John’s been walking Rusty.

What a fantastic day it’s been today! A First Class Boating Day!

Thought the heron might have flown off when we passed…

The terrapin (?) looks like he wants to get out of the canal?

Terrapins are in C&RT”s ‘Rogues Gallery‘.

We also saw our first duckling brood, sadly though the newly hatched ducklings were trying to swim in a cruddy filthy area.

Houseboats are two story high here…

We hadn’t planned to go down the two Norwood locks, but we were getting short of water. We had planned to fill up at Bull’s Bridge Junction. The waterpoint is on Tesco’s mooring, except there was a boat on the waterpoint when we arrived. It was annoying as the boater wasn’t filling with water, he was busy eating a sandwich (probably waiting for his wife to return from Tesco), and couldn’t have cared less where he was moored.

At Norwood top lock our water tank was brimmed, and when sanny/rubbish duties were completed, we entered the prepared lock. There were two very nice lockies on duty, and they couldn’t have been more helpful. We locked ourselves through the bottom Norwood lock, as it was lunch time for lockies!

Tomorrow we’re heading down the six Hanwell Locks, and I understand they’ll be volunteer lockies on duty! We’ll also phone the lockey at Teddington Lock, asking when is the best time (tide-wise) to go through the lock.

I’m pleasantly surprised at how lovely this area is, we imagined it would be built up, and surround with grime. It’s lovely to be surprised!

Today we’ve travelled 7.5 miles, and through 2 locks.

Prepping For The Thames

After a really soggy Sunday and Monday, we were pleased to move on this morning. The place where we were moored was very secluded, but it was quite busy on Saturday with walkers, and joggers enjoying the ‘Spring-like’ weather, plus there was a half marathon involving the towpath. Sunday and Monday when we had heavy rain, we felt we were the ‘only people left in the world’. With all the rain, the towpath became horribly muddy. But despite the grey and wet day, the birds were busy singing, and the sounds they made, especially at 5:30 in the morning was fabulous – just wish I could identify the birds singing (this needs to be corrected).

We were moored not far from Denham Deep Lock, our first lock of the day. Though it wasn’t raining, it was pretty miserable weather, and we wondered where our Spring had gone.  It didn’t help our mood when the lock gates were stubborn, and it needed both of us to push the gates open. As soon as Cyan was in the lock, a small ‘working’ boat with two strong guys appeared, and joined us in the lock. We worked the next lock together.

At the bottom of the Uxbridge Lock, the little boat left us as we’d planned to top up with diesel, and visit the chandlers in Denham Marina. But… we couldn’t moor anywhere!  Never mind we thought, we’ll stop at Uxbridge Boat Centre’s chandlery. We need a chandlers to buy either a recharger set for John’s life jacket, or buy a new one before we hit the Thames. A few months ago I ‘exploded’ John’s life jacket when I got the toggle caught in the cabin doors as I went ‘below’.

At Uxbridge Boat Centre, the same thing happened, we couldn’t moor.

Approaching Cowley Lock, we dumped our rubbish. What a mess the rubbish area was. Basically all we could do was to lob our rubbish over the fence! Obviously we’d have loved to have used the bins, but they were full, with piles of rubbish stacked on top.

We sailed under the bridge, to use the sanny and top up with water. The lock was in front of us, with two lockies in attendance (our first lockies this year).  As we approached they opened the gates for us. Must admit I felt guilty ignoring their help while we moored at the Sanny Station; when we had a minute I legged it to the lock, to thank the lockies, and to explain we needed water.

While waiting for the water tank to fill, a C&RT guy recorded Cyan’s number on his tablet. John took the opportunity to mention the mess at the rubbish area. Basically the guy said; “You’re in the middle of a rough part of the canal, and that is the  ‘norm’!” (He didn’t really say ‘rough’ he used another word.)

The water tap was running so slow, by the time we’d topped up, the lockies had locked two other boats down the locks, and had again set the locks for us.

We moored just after the lock.

When we were settled John phoned ‘High Line Yachting Chandlery’ which isn’t far from where we’re moored (didn’t want to chance not being able to moor near their premises), to enquire about recharger sets. It appears they don’t stock them, but they do have new life jackets in stock. They could order us a recharger set, but it would cost about £35 – an amazing amount.

In the end we ordered two new life jackets (for us both) from ebay, to be delivered to Cowley Argos store which is next to the canal, just after ‘Packet Boat Marina’ by the Slough Arm. Delivery is expected on Friday, as with 2 other items we ordered: ‘River Thames Book’ by Chris Cove-Smith, and a set of digital bathroom scales (yes, this has to be done!).

So again we’re ‘playing for time’, but that doesn’t matter because the Thames is still on ‘Red’. We did get a bit excited yesterday, when Teddington Lock went ‘yellow’. Unfortunately it went red again this morning.

Over the weekend we’ve been preparing for our journey on the Thames. John gave Cyan’s engine an ‘oil change’, while I dug out our summer gear (ever the optimist!). Did anyone else hear the BBC weatherman say that Spring arrives next week? I’m certain I heard him say those long awaited words!

Our anchor was retrieved from inside the bowels of the bow. Which set us off researching how best to use it. It’s highly sensible to find out now, rather than wait until we’re in a pickle! Our research didn’t come up with anything clear.

Therefore, John wrote to Steve Vaughan at Willow Wren Training asking for advice. We both took a ‘RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman Two Day Course’ with Willow Wren when we first ‘took to the water’. The course has been invaluable to us, and would thoroughly recommend it.

John wrote:

  1. “We have a river anchor, it came as part of the boat’s equipment. Can you give guidance as to how and where it should be connected and carried on board?”
  2. “In the event of needing to secure the vessel, how best to deploy the anchor?”

Steve promptly wrote back:

“As with a lot of aspects of boating this is another grey area but let me tell you what I can to help.

A Danforth anchor should have a chain connected nearest to the anchor and then a rope from the end of the chain to the boat. Strictly speaking, the rope should be connected to its own fixed anchor point on the boat but most people don’t have one so they connect it to the normal mooring “T” stud at the bow or the stern dolly aft.  This isn’t totally safe because the T stud and dollies are really only strong enough for mooring but if it is all you have then it is better than nothing. The options are that you have a proper anchorage fitted or you look for the most secure point on your boat and connect the line to that. It is best to use proper shackles not just a loop of rope that can be cut through under pressure. Knots by the way, actually reduce the breaking strain of a rope.

Ref Deployment:

The anchor should be positioned upstream. I.e., if you are going up river then it needs to be tied on at the bow, going downstream and it should be at the stern. However, if you are on your own and can’t get to the bow to throw it over the side then it is best kept at the stern. If you are on tidal waters, as with the Thames below Teddington, then you will be going with the tide so although you are going upstream, it is best kept at the stern. Unless you are in really slack water, if you have an engine problem then don’t waste time trying to fix it, just put the anchor over the side to secure the boat then look for the fault.

Unlike sea going craft where the anchor is used to secure the boat every day, when it is used in an emergency on a narrowboat it is usually “single use only” and it is left behind on recovery. The last thing you will be thinking about when you are rescued is trying to get the anchor out of the river bed.

There are many other elements to consider but don’t let this spook you. Providing you are not trying to cruise on flood conditions you shouldn’t have a problem with a standard narrowboat anchor setup.

One other thing I should mention, have you checked your insurance covers you for tidal waters? Some don’t but if you speak to them they are usually okay with Brentford to Teddington. If it is Limehouse then they might impose extra conditions such as a second bilge pump, nav lights or life jackets which you already have.

More info can be found at:

https://www.thefitoutpontoon.co.uk/external-equipment/anchors/

http://www.waterwaysworld.com/questionspost.cgi?post=39

Hope that helps.”

Great advice – Thank You Steve! Absolute Top Man!

Today we’ve travelled 2.75 miles, and 3 locks.

AGM Batteries ‘Depth of Discharge’?

Since purchasing and installing four new ‘AGM’ batteries for our domestic bank I have been puzzling as to what their level of charge, or discharge is. They came with a 5 year warranty, but I suspect that is conditional on how they are maintained, or abused!

Firstly at what point are they requiring to be re-charged, or in other words ‘How Low Can You Go’…?

The supplier states that:

AGM Leisure batteries can be drained using 80% of their capacity. They can also be re-charged almost 3 times as fast as a conventional standard wet flooded leisure battery.”

But what is 80% capacity, and how is it measured?

The state of charge is measured by the voltage of the battery bank, and this chart shows battery condition vs voltage reading.

We are recommended to:

Remain in the ‘Green’ zone to maximise the batteries life although occasionally dropping down to 11.66V is permissible.” 

Secondly what is the maximum rate of charging they will accept…?

Fast re-charging is very useful, but at what rate? I am advised to set the charge controller as follows:

  • Max charge current 30A
  • Max voltage 14.30V
  • (set charge controller to AGM or GEL batteries)

That’s all there is too it… so I am told.

Since their installation our battery overnight voltage, has been held above 12.10V; despite demands from lighting, TV, water pumping, and fridge freezer.

Long may it continue.

Top Of Denham Deep Lock

As mentioned, we’re biding our time until the Thames is safely navigable. We found a lovely spot to spend a few days, it’s at the top of Denham Deep Lock, alongside a wooded area with pathways crisscrossing woodland, which is great for Rusty.

We’re also within easy walking distance of ‘London’s Biggest, Busiest, and Best’ car boot sale. The bad news is that the car boot’s been cancelled today! 🙁

We’ll be spending our time preparing to go on the Thames, the first thing we’ve to do is dig out our anchor; it’s been well buried under the bow. John also wants to give the engine an oil change.

Today we’ve travelled 1.5 miles.

Waiting On The Mighty Thames

We’ve not travelled much today, merely a mile, and dropped down two locks.

At the bottom of Black Jack’s lock, we discovered more canal side humour, and a gorgeous tree in full blossom.

It’s surprising what you find in people’s gardens, take these two houses, they share a WW2 bunker between them. The building looks like a pillbox, and no doubt its job was to defend the Grand Union Canal during the war. The canal was a vital artery for getting supplies too, and from London.

At the bottom of Wide Water Lock, we moored Cyan while we took a trip into Harefield. When we returned, we had planned to move on, except we got stuck into a couple of repair jobs on Cyan, namely: cleaning the ventilation fan over the cooker, and repairing the bathroom’s sliding door because it had somehow ‘dropped’ a fraction.

I really don’t know what to make of the boat below. Every item on the boat looks like it’s been placed. Complete chaos. The pic doesn’t do the boat ‘justice’! We’re just hoping nothing falls off the boat, wrapping itself around some other boat’s prop.

We’re now officially dragging our feet speed. As we’re only 14 miles, and 14 locks away from Brentford, we’d rather hang around this end of the 14 miles, that the ‘other end’ near London as we await the Thames calming down.

Today we’ve travelled one mile, and dropped two locks.

Cyan’s Completely ‘Full-Filled’!

Tuesday was another wet day where we decided to stay attached to the bank. In stark contrast, yesterday the weather gods bestowed on us a glorious boating day! The ‘Gongoozlers’ were out in force, also it seemed enjoying a ‘glorious boating day’ except without a boat (been ‘there’ as Gongoozlers).

We set off early around 8:00 am, the sun had been shining since daybreak, and we eventually moored at 5:00 pm. We covered 10 GU locks; cruised 7.5 miles; brimmed the diesel tank with 95 litres of diesel, and bought 3 bags of coal from M & P Canal Carrying Co (salt of the earth these coal boat people); we called into a sanny for Elsan chores, filled the water tank, and dumped the rubbish; then we called at Frogmoor Wharf (Tesco’s wharf) to restock our provisions. I love days like this! At the end of the day we were happily tired, and felt we’d accomplished quite a bit.

After dinner, a drink, and an episode of ‘Vera’ on ITV3, there wasn’t much time to write a blog.

Our journey was really pleasant, all we met had bright smiles and wanted to chat. Surprising what ‘magic’ a little sunshine can do.

Grove Mill with it’s ‘feisty’ mill race

What a hard life we live….

A splendid Magnolia tree about to burst into bloom.

John worked all 10 locks today, a sure sign his ankle is on the mend.

The ‘first’ lock after visiting Tesco was ‘Stockers Lock’, the adjacent farm was the setting where ‘Black Beauty’ was filmed. Which has got us thinking if the canal featured in the film?

At Batchworth Lock there’s a canal ‘experience’ museum, their ‘star attraction’ is Roger an historical working boat.

Outside of Rickmansworth is a whole community of ‘house/boat’ dwellers.

A magnificent Pussy Willow in all its glory.

Plenty of humour on the canal.

Excited the willow leaves are about to ‘explode’ into life – wonder how long it will be before we start cursing them?

A brilliant use for a redundant mast.

Where we are moored

We’re moored just before Black Jack’s Lock.

We’re now 15 miles away from the end of the Grand Union at Brentford, and 20 miles away from Teddington Lock which will take us onto the ‘Mighty Thames’. Presently the Thames is on red, meaning:

River conditions

The river is flowing extremely fast and the majority of the weirs are fully open. Many of the tail lay-bys are underwater and completely inaccessible. Large items of debris are being carried by the strong stream. We strongly advise all boaters not to navigate in the current conditions.”

We don’t want to go too far into London while we wait for the Thames to ‘calm down’, as rumour has it the canal has quite a lot of debris above Hanwell locks. We’re in no rush, and being fully provisioned means we’ve got no worries. We’ll use the time to study our route on the Thames.

Today we’ve cruised 7.5 miles, and 10 locks.

Running Aground After All The Rain

We’ve changed our ‘grand’ cruising plan, instead of joining the Kennet & Avon Canal from the Thames, we’ve now decided to continue going up the Thames, and joining the Oxford Canal. We still hope to do the Kennet & Avon at a later date. Amongst our reasons; we’d like a break from doing double locks, and we’ve heard the Kennet & Avon is very busy during the summer months.

After a wet Easter Weekend at Hunton Bridge, we were pleased to continue with our trip this morning. We had hoped to drop down 10 locks today (John and I sharing 5 locks each), and mooring across the way from Tesco’s shopping mooring. But that wasn’t to be…

Over the ‘wet’ weekend, and being moored on the part of the canal where the River Gade runs through the Grand Union, we watched the river gathering a pace as the rain came down. So imagine our surprise when Cyan nearly grounded in our first lock of the day #72, and actually got stuck on the silt in the pound between locks #72 and #73. The water was cascading through the weir at the top of lock #72 at quite a rate, hence our surprise there was no water below the lock.

John walked back to the top of the lock, and opened the paddles on lock #72 to let water down. We also phoned C&RT who agreed we should open the paddles, and that an engineer will be with us in an hour. We did say; if we were able we’d continue our journey, leaving the paddles open for the engineer.

Nothing else to be done except make a cup of coffee, and by the time we’d drank it, Cyan was floating again. John slowly filled lock #73, and as soon as we could, we continued our journey.

Lovely row of daffodils at lock #74

Could these leaky bottom gates on lock #74 be the problem?

How typical is this…. we hadn’t seen a boat ‘on the move’ until we came to a 45 degree bend, and with a turnover bridge to boot! We let the boater know the situation about the pound and the paddles, and said they may come across a C&RT engineer.

Beautiful turnover bridge

We’re now moored by Grove Ornamental Bridge.

We had a few hours today of lovely sunshine, and we even managed to have the side hatch open; the first time this year!

We’re also just across the way from The Grove Hotel, Golf Course, and Spa – very posh! Trip Adviser describes The Grove Hotel as the Footballers Wive’s paradise!

Today it took us three hours to traverse one mile, and 3 locks. We had wanted to drop down 10 locks, but not to worry; we’re in no rush. The remaining 7 locks can be tackled tomorrow; providing of course we don’t need to fill any lock pounds.

On Familiar Ground

The weather’s quite contrary at the moment, and the forecast appears to change by the hour. It was a really wet day in Kings Langley yesterday, so we stayed on our moored spot. We tried to find Pip’s (NB Olleanna) kingfisher; unfortunately we didn’t have any success.

This morning there looked to be a ‘window’ of dry weather, so we slipped our mooring on the stroke of 8.

Mrs Swan looks to be exhausted brooding over her ‘babies’…

What a great ‘garden feature’!

…while Mr Swan keeps a protective eye on her.

Our first lock of the day was old and stubborn, it took an age to empty, and then the gates took a lot of effort to move.

At our second lock, we missed the sanny station! It wasn’t until Cyan dropped down the lock and sailed through the gates when I spotted the Elsan point was at the top gates. Luckily John spotted the rubbish bins which was at the bottom gates of the lock, so at least we got to dump our rubbish.

As we cruised away from the lock we had to manoeuvre through a bridge and a sharp bend; it took an age for us to fathom what was ‘in our way’. We were pleased when the ‘boat’ backed up to let us through the bridge ‘hole’.

I expect motorists on the M25 are completely oblivious to repair work that’s in progress under the bridge.

Most beautiful evidence that winter is over!

We’ve moored just before Hunton Bridge (#162). Watford/Rickmansworth area is where I’ve roots, having lived in this area for over 20 years.

We’re just along the way from the lovely St Paul’s Church, and we’ve plans to attend the Easter Sunday Service there tomorrow.

Today we’ve cruised 1.5 miles, and through 3 locks.

Basildon Bond Land

Our fears of not being able to sleep on Tuesday night because we’d managed to moor near to a travelling circus, turned out to be unfounded. We were surprised though when we got up yesterday morning, the circus had vanished overnight, gone completely!

Yesterday we stayed on our mooring because of the torrential rain. It wasn’t the best mooring as the towpath was sodden causing black sticky mud. We did manage to tip-toe through a short length of the mud to access a common area, giving Rusty a run.

This morning from our mooring, I walked and picked my way through the sticky mud, to set our first lock of the day (Boxmoor Bottom Lock #64).

Just before our third lock, we had a sanny stop. The Service Station already had a boat moored there; it was filling its tank with water. There was also a wide beam which was taking up 4 bollards.

The boater filling up with water kindly inched his boat up so Cyan could squeeze between both boats. The other boater was ‘fizzing’ about the wide beam, he said it had been there for weeks, and was causing all sorts of problems for other boaters. John did manage to talk the other boater out of leaving a note on the wide beam, before he cast the wide beam adrift! It was a smart wide beam, but looked unoccupied. We took a picture of the boat, and passed a complaint onto C&RT (John promised the angry boater he’d complain).

Looking down from the lock towards the Paper Mill PH.

The ‘Paper Mill PH’ sits on the site of the Old Dickinson Paper Mill:

“The company was founded in Apsley, Hertfordshire in 1804 by John Dickinson, who invented a continuous mechanised paper-making process. Dickinson patented his ideas in 1809, and in the same year he gained financial backing from George Longman, whose family controlled the Longman publishing firm. He established paper mills at Apsley (a former flour mill), Nash Mill (formerly a medieval corn-mill) in 1811, and Croxley in Hertfordshire. The river and canal at Apsley and Nash Mills provided power for the mills and transport for materials and product” More information…

We’re now moored in a beautiful spot, just before Toovey’s Mill Arm. The best thing about where we’re moored, is the pristine towpath!

Today we’ve cruised 3 miles and through 6 locks.