Just A Short Journey Today

It was a lovely bright morning first thing, sad it didn’t last though. Still the wind had calmed down, which made motoring easy. I haven’t been having much ‘practice’ of late on the tiller, so today was my day to be ‘captain’.

Weather couldn’t make up its mind what it wanted to do.

We had planned to moor somewhere at the bottom of Buckby Locks, but circumstances changed that.

As we approached several moored boats we slowed down; but while we were going slow a boat in front of us pushed off from his mooring, forcing us to ‘tread water’ for a minute or so. It wouldn’t have been so annoying if the boater was in a hurry, but he was excruciatingly slow. Then it started to rain….  Rather than get upset with the boater, we took the rain to be a sign, and moored up for the day.

The seasons are changing with a bumper crop from this apple tree!

John took the chance to change a cupboard door in the bathroom, and I made a batch of current scones to try out the blackberry jam I made yesterday. I also made a small loaf while I was in ‘the mood’. We’d run out of cream for the scones, though we did have a tub of mascarpone cheese instead, which worked deliciously well.

This past week the fresh water gauge had decided to pack up again. It stopped working last winter, then a few months ago it started working again. Obviously it’s a loose connection somewhere. John found the problem under the cratch, a loose connection on the sender unit next to the tank. Having a gauge is really handy, when we didn’t have it last year it was a question of counting how many times the washing machine had been on, and how many showers we’d had.

Today we’ve travelled around 4 miles, and no locks.

Catching Up On The Grand Union

The best place to catch up is to start where we left off!

Week last Thursday (9th August)

We left our Ditchford FOTRN mooring on the Nene fairly early for us.

We’d booked to stay the night at White Mills Marina, a promise we made when we’d previously stayed at the marina on our way to the Ouse. We were in need of topping the diesel tank, using the sanny service, and to off load our growing rubbish mountain. A huge Tesco order had also been booked for delivery at the Marina.

The weather forecast advised us that rain was on the way again, and with having 6 locks to go through before we get to the marina at the anticipated time of 2pm, an early start was planned.

With the recent heavy rain, sailing out of the locks was a bit of a nightmare as there was a gentle flow on the river due to the recent rains, the flow had washed downstream a huge amount of weed, which had congregated at the top lock gates.

Just as we were going through White Mills Lock, our last lock of the day, the heavens opened. As fast as we could, while at the same time manoeuvring the tight marina entrance, and going dead slow in the marina, we reached the service jetty where we were helped to temporarily moor. The staff took cover from the rain while we battened down our hatches, and waited for the violent thunderstorm to pass.

When the storm had passed, our diesel tank was brimmed, together with sanny and rubbish duties carried out, an empty gas bottle was exchanged for a full one, and we were helped by obliging staff to our overnight mooring.

Saturday (10/11th August)

Our Tesco delivery arrived on time, though it took quite a while finding space in Cyan for all our delivery.

Looking at the weather forecast, we thought it best to stay another night in the marina. The weather forecast was once again spot on; only this time hailstones was added to the mix of thunder, lightening, and torrential rain.

Sunday (12th August)

Waking up to a fine sunny day, we’d planned to travel through five locks, and hopefully stop on the 48 hr EA mooring just after Weston Favell Lock Flood Gates.

This is a great mooring for Rusty as there’s a park alongside the mooring where he could have a good run.

Monday (13th August)

Not a good day weatherwise, and it was an easy decision to stop on our mooring one more night. By the afternoon the rain clouds had passed over, and it was quite a pleasant afternoon. We were tempted, despite windy conditions, to continue our journey. In the end we plumed for a good start in the morning, and perhaps even climb the 17 Northampton Arm locks, including the Rotherthorpe Flight.

Tuesday (14th August)

A sharp start to the much calmer day, saw us leaving our mooring before breakfast around 7:30 a.m.

We had 3 locks to go through before we reached Northamption Junction, and the end of the Nene.

Just after we’d gone through Rush Mills Lock, once again the heavens opened. We found a spare gap on the EA mooring before Northampton Lock, where we had a good breakfast while we waited for the rain to stop. Luckily it wasn’t long after breakfast that the sun came out, and we were once again on our way.

After Northampton Lock, my lock duties had been completed! It was now John’s turn to work the locks, and the first one, Cotton Lock no.17, took us onto CRT waters.

The journey through the Norhampton Arm was fraught trying to avoid the weeds, but the crystal clear water was fabulous. There’s a huge stock of fish in the canal, and it was fascinating to watch them swim about, some were quite big too.

At the last two locks we were helped by a CRT employee. Luckily we were in time, though we hadn’t realised there was a ‘curfew’ on the locks. The flight of locks are being padlocked between 6:00 pm, and 9:00 am, due to water shortage. See CRT Information.

It had been a long day, and we were pleased, yet very satisfied, to moor just before Gayton Junction.

Wednesday (15th August)

We’d been thinking about having a few adjustments done to Cyan once we got back onto the canals. One of the urgent jobs was  Cyan’s drainage system. The waste from the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink, and the shower flows into a sump. Once the water gets to a certain level in the sump, the ‘Whale Gulper’ kicks in and expels the water into the cut. This has been such a pain, as every 6 weeks or so the sump has to be dismantled, and cleaned of grease and gunge that had built up. As you can imagine it’s not a job we look forward too. Plus it’s a pain (literally) for John to get on his arthritic knees to access the sump. There is also, with this system, the potential to flood the bilge should the ‘Gulper’ fail to work.

As we were across the ‘way’ from Gayton Marina, we made enquiries via a telephone call to see if they’d like to quote for the work. Unfortunately the guy who could help us was having a day off, and that he’d give us a call when he returned.

In the meantime, John was chatting to another boater about the work we wanted doing, and he recommended the boatyard next to Gayton Services (Grand Junction Boat Co). John walked to the boatyard, and after having a chat with the manager, we were booked into the boatyard on Friday to have the work done. They will be cutting two holes in the hull, one for the kitchen sink waste, and one for bathroom basin, so the waste from the sinks are drained straight into the cut. A pipe will be welded into each hole, and attached to the sink’s waste pipe. The shower waste will be connected directly to the gulper, and the water evacuated through the original sump hole.

Thursday (16th August)

We had a gentle cruise to Bugbrook winding hole where we winded Cyan, returning and mooring just before Gayton Junction.

Once moored, John dismantled panels in the bathroom so the boatyard staff could access necessary areas.

Friday (17th August)

We set off early on Friday as we were booked into the boatyard for 9:00 am.

As soon as we arrived we were direct where to moor, and the work was promptly started. All went to plan, with one snag, which is no big deal.

The bathroom sink waste pipe is now lower than the hole in the hull where the waste water will flow out. Meaning the water will not flow out through the pipe, water doesn’t travel uphill. The hole in the hull had to be 10 inches above the waterline for obvious reasons (we don’t want to sink), the hole was just on 10 inches. We’ve planned to have a cabinet made in the bathroom to support the sink, rather than the chrome pedestal we presently have, it’ll make better use of the space for storage purposes. This job now looks to be a priority. Presently the bathroom waste from the sink is draining into a bucket.

Work wasn’t completed until after 5:00 pm. After paying our bill to the boatyard, we pulled forward onto the sanny services to take on water, use the Elsan services, and dump our rubbish.

It was late for us when we finally moored at basically the same spot we were the night previous.

Saturday (18th August)

Time to get straight again. John ‘rebuilt’ the bathroom, and completed the project of installing new/extra LED lights in the bathroom. Trouble was, the bathroom ceiling fan came on automatically when the light was switched on. We don’t always need the fan, and it was decided that an isolater switch be installed so we could switch off the fan, and turn it on when needed.

Sunday (today)

We stayed put today, we’ve chilled, and I’ve caught up with our blog. This morning we picked about a kilo of blackberries for a pie, and make a couple of pots of blackberry jam. The weather was rather windy this morning, and I doubt it would have been a great idea to battle with the wind by cruising. Lots of boats, especially hire boats, have passed us, but we’ve not envied their challenging wind conditions.

Tomorrow the weather looks to be a calmer, and dry.

We’ve planned our next journey which will take us through Braunston, down the Oxford, and onto the Coventry. We’re hoping to call into Springwood Haven Marina on the Coventry where Steve fitted out our kitchen last Autumn. He made such a perfect job of it that we’d like him to build the new bathroom cabinet/sink unit. Hopefully he’ll be able to fit us in quite soon, then we’ll be on our way again. Down the Coventry, turning right at Fradley Junction, through the Trent & Mersey…. and onto Crick down the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union…. and who knows where after that!

Venturing Out Onto The Nene

We spent the night moored at the top of Cotton End Lock no 17. We were the only boat around, and if I’m honest, I didn’t feel too comfortable. There’s no doubt we’re both feeling a little stressed after yesterday’s drama. I slept rather well, but I’m afraid John kept playing ‘the drama’ over in his head through the night. He should feel proud that he successfully recovered the situation.

After Rusty had his walk with the yeast aroma from the Carlsberg brewery permeating the air, we pushed off and dropped down the lock very carefully, being well aware how a ‘situation’ can happen very fast.

After dropping down the lock, we turned left onto the River Nene

Now we’re on the river, all river equipment appears huge

Passing through our first Nene River bridge

Like most who sail through these parts, we stopped off to visit Morrisons for fresh fruit and veg.

Very near to the mooring above; we slipped into Northampton Marina to purchase a lock key (£10). While he was chatting to the friendly staff, John was offered several pieces of advice including leaving the lock gates open when exiting locks.

Northampton Lock, our first lock on the Nene. All was very quickly sussed on its use.  

Didn’t take John long to complain about the amount of ‘paddle winding’ he had to do 😉

The river opened up, and the weather even made up its mind what it wanted to do, and brightened up

Father ducks from what I’ve seen, don’t normally make good fathers, full credit this father duck.  

We finally moored by the entrance of ‘Western Barrage Flood Gate’, just before Western Favell Lock.

This is a fantastic spot, backing onto to a huge flood plain, which is carefully maintained. Rusty thinks he’s in heaven.

Tomorrow we plan to stay moored here, possibly moving up when the boat in front leaves in the morning, we’ll then put out our chairs and ‘chill out’! Weather willing of course.

Today we’ve travelled 3.5 miles, and through 4 locks.

All’s Well That Ends Well!

We pushed off from last night’s mooring around 10:30 this morning, and we were soon at Gayton Junction Services, doing the necessary!

Pleased to report our water gauge has ‘miraculously’ starting working again. It stopped working around October/November last year; and we missed it. There’s probably a loose connection somewhere, but while it’s working, think it’s best to leave well alone. After the water tank was brimmed, and sanny/rubbish duties carried out, we were on our way!

Our plan was to descend down the 13 Rothersthorpe locks, and 3 others, stopping overnight at Northampton Junction.

John was on a mission to do all the locking, despite my offer to go ‘halves’ with him.

The locks turned out to be great, they weren’t deep, and they were within easy walking distance. The only problem was the lack of water in the pounds.

John tried his new idea (pinched from lockies at a lock on the Thames) to use the boat hook to open and close the ‘off-side’ gate. It worked quite well, and saved him the journey of walking round the lock, and over the top gate to swing the bottom gate.  He couldn’t use his ‘new technique’ on all the gates, as we were lucky that four boats were climbing up the flight, and reciprocally we left gates open for each other.

John’s new technique for opening and closing the off-side bottom lock gate

 

More ‘babies’ except these have big hairy feet

It looks like there’s a ghostly figure sitting on the wooden seat on the left – it’s a figure of an old lady cleverly constructed with ‘twigs’

I imagine no driver on the M1 would spare a thought about the lock beneath them.

On our ‘cruise’ below the locks, it was a real treat to see how clear, and clean the water was. We could see the bottom of the canal, and we hardly saw any rubbish in the water.

At our last lock of the day, thank goodness we managed to divert a disaster.

Our last lock was  Hunsbury Lock no 16. While John was setting the lock, he noticed a log in the water by the lock’s top gate. As I was taking the boat in, and saw a log outside of the lock, by the gate, we thought that was the log he’d seen…. WRONG!

As John opened the paddles, letting the water drain out of the lock, the boat’s stern got stuck against the wall. My first thought that it was stuck on some sort of lip in the brickwork, and shouted to John to push us off the lip. The scary bit was that I didn’t notice how much of a dilema the boat was in (strangely), but John noticed the bow was alarmingly down, yet the stern was hung up.  He quickly closed both paddles that was letting out water, and ran to the top gate to let in some water to ‘re-float’ Cyan. It was there he noticed our prop was out of the water by about 2ft!

When John let water in, the bow came up in the water, but he soon saw the stern wasn’t moving, in fact the water was going above the strike band at the back, and was quickly rising to the level of the exhaust hole. John quickly closed that paddle pronto. Obviously the stern was stuck somehow. At first he thought there was something under the boat, until he looked, and realised there was a log jammed between the boat and the lock wall, causing us to be stuck. All this happened within seconds!

Eventually after banging away at the log with the pole, and with me trying to rock the boat, the log gave way. The lock was filled with water and I backed the boat out of the lock while John cleared the lock of any dross. We noticed there were several of these logs floating about. Just before the lock we spotted that a tree had been cut down and there were several large lumps of timber on the towpath, the probable source of the offending timbers!

They were too heavy for us to haul out of the water, and I’m afraid they are still there – so please be warned. (CRT will be notified).

This could happen to anyone, in any lock, anywhere! What shocked me the most was that I didn’t realise just how much the boat had tipped, it was rather disorienting, perhaps I didn’t have a ‘register’ to the boat’s position?

Don’t think any damage, apart from scratches, was done to the boat or to the lock.

Glad that peace has now reigned once again.

Today we’ve travelled 5.75 miles, and 16 locks

Down The Buckby Flight

We started today’s journey with the weather promising to be excellent, and it didn’t disappoint!

By the time we were ready to ‘roll’, two boats were spied exiting Buckby Top Lock. We quickly pushed Cyan off, and we were grateful to the two volunteer lockies who kept the gates open for us, and locked us down the lock.

This time going down the Buckby Locks we were on our own. Although we were lucky there were several boats coming up the locks, leaving a couple of locks ready for us. Yet there were a couple of locks that were empty, and had to be filled. In a couple of hours, Cyan was at the bottom of the 7 locks.

Leaving Buckby Bottom Lock

Sheep sheerers were very busy…… several bags full!

Come on then…. which one of you is called Shawn?

The bright sun shining on the canal’s water showed up a ‘film’ of pollen

A professional ‘fisher’! One of several we spotted today.

Mother duck shooing her little ones to the side for safety.

Daventry interlink rail and road is well under way

It’s not a very clear pic; one of the cygnets is feeling tired and is having ‘a ride’ on Mum. We actually saw the swan help the cygnet onto her/his back by using a wing.

Cygnet climbing on Mum’s back.

Lupins in a typical English garden in summer

We stopped for lunch at Weedon Bec, afterwhich we continued on until we moored just after Bridge 46. Last February when we came down this way, it took us 5 days! It was so cold; and each morning we were greeted with ‘cat ice’ on top of the water.

Tonight’s mooring is very quiet, and after taking Rusty for his last walk of the day, it looks to be highly populated by bats!

Tomorrow we’ll probably start the day with a cheese and spinach omelette; as we’ll be tackling the 13 Rothersthorpe locks. The flight will drop us down into Northampton, and onto the navigable River Nene.

Today we’ve cruised 11.25 miles, and 7 locks.

Through Braunston and Beyond!

We had an early morning start as we set off on our journey to Cambridge. We wanted to leave before the single woman boater, in the boat behind us ‘stirred’. John received a verbal tirade from her last evening when she returned from her bike journey. We moored on a favourite spot of ours, nearby to Bridge 100 on the Oxford/GU, about ‘half a boat’ (30ft) away from her. The spot was carefully chosen, keeping a reasonable distance from Bridge 99, and taking a bend into account. “Couldn’t you have moored closer, like inside my boat?”, she ranted. “I moor here for seclusion and don’t want you moored on top of my boat! “. We didn’t want another confrontation with her, and thought it a good idea to forgo breakfast, and have brunch instead.

Weatherwise the day started rather gloomy, but we were optimistic the weather would be brighter as we progressed.

At Braunston Bottom Lock #1, past Braunston Marina, John paid a visit to the chandlers at Phil Abbot’s boatyard (Wharf House Narrowboats Ltd). The hooks on two of our fenders have broken, and we needed a couple of replacements, for a bit of plastic, we thought them to be rather expensive. After visiting the chandlers, returning with two new hooks, we joined another boat ascending the locks.

The other boat had a full crew of ‘bell ringers’! They were returning from a bell ringing function in Halifax. Every year, they said, they attend the function in the boat; with the boat sleeping about 10 ‘bell ringers’. When I was safely in the lock with Cyan, and while the lock was filling, John popped into the gift shop next to the lock and purchased the book ‘The River Nene’ to help us navigate the river. We now need to purchase one for the Great Ouse.

Leaving our last lock of the day, Braunston Top Lock No 6 was soon occupied by a boat descending the lock.

It’s only a short journey before we came upon the 2000 yd Braunston Tunnel. Rusty did his normal ‘jelly’ routine, with his heart going ‘nineteen to the dozen’. I cuddled him as tight as I could, in the hope to reassure him. Pleased to say we didn’t encounter the ‘boggart’ who likes to tip up boats!

The sun looked like it tried to welcome us as we sailed out of the tunnel

Dredging and bank repair work being carried out

It wasn’t long before we were at Norton Junction

At Norton Wharf we stopped for brunch, and an overnight mooring!

Today we’ve travelled just under 6 miles, and 6 locks.

Continuing Our Journey To Cambridge

We’ve been hanging around Napton / Braunston for over a week; waiting for our Gold Licence to arrive. The Gold Licence is posted by ‘snail mail’, instead of receiving the licence via email, and leaving us to print the licence for mounting on a window both sides of Cyan. Looking at the Gold Licence I’m sure it could have been emailed to us.

We’ve not been lazy though! The whole of Cyan’s interior (baring the bathroom) has been painted and varnished, including having her ceiling painted off-white, covering the varnish.

Five sets of window curtains, and a blind has been washed, dried and re-hung.

Last Wednesday (27th May) we moored in Wigram Marina, while we hired a car to visit family, picking up the Gold Licence in the process.

Today, after a huge Tesco delivery, we moved out of Wigram, and are now moored for the night just before Braunston Junction. With water and diesel tanks topped up, we’re ready to start the next leg of our ‘continuous’ journey, destination Cambridge.

We now need some glorious sunny weather!

Back To Square One

Gosh it was a cold morning we woke up to. Our diesel boiler had to be ignited to warm us all up.

At around 11:00 a.m. with a blustery wind blowing we set off for Braunston, and  moored outside The Boat PH.

We could hardly believe how ’empty’ Braunston is. Perhaps everyone has gone to Crick?

Cyan was locked up securely while we walked up the hill to Braunston High Street with ‘the granny shopper’. We’ve still got loads of meat in the freezer, so we didn’t want much from the butcher except some rather nice plump pork sausages, and fresh free range eggs. At the convenience store, just across the road, we picked up quite a few provisions, including delicious English strawberries, and other fresh fruit and vegetables. Hopefully this will keep us going until we can go shopping with the hire car, we hope to get in a few days time.

After lunch we visited the Boat House PH, rude not to really, and sat out on the sunny terrace with our lunch and drinks. How changeable is this weather!

So, we’re now ‘treading water’ until the licence arrives.

We’ve managed to catch up on our diary, while listening to the beautiful evening practice bell ringing from Braunston Church, bliss!

Old Stomping Ground – Catch Up

We’re now back in familiar territory. On 5th February 2018 we set off from Braunston on our journey, which finished today.  It’s taken us 15 weeks, to go from Braunston to Brentford on the Grand Union, then onto the Thames (our first time), onto the South Oxford, and back again to Braunston. That’s 245 miles, and 178 locks  travelled. We moved at a slow pace, considering how some boaters travel. We experienced snow, ice, wind, rain, battled with the ‘Beast from the East’, had many more ‘adventures’, and finally sunshine!

Today we popped into Wigrams Marina to top up our diesel tank (70p per litre), change a gas bottle, use their sanny station, and fill up with water. We’ve also tentatively booked Cyan into the Marina for a few days while we hire a car to visit John’s sister, and pick up our Gold Licence, which at the time of writing hasn’t yet arrived.

There is new life all around us following the spring hatching’s. Ducks, Swans and Geese have all been busy protecting, and raising their broods.

Lovely to see some of the ducklings taking after their mum by showing off their white chests

Our best travel companion!

Plants, and pots, purchased in Banbury are now planted. Just hope Jack Frost doesn’t make an appearance!

Down The Napton Flight

We discovered at rather short notice, the Napton lock flight will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday. So rather than feeling ‘trapped’ this side of the locks, we thought as it was such a glorious day, we’d see if we could descend the flight before it closed on Wednesday. It appears Lock 9 of the flight is ‘moving’, and a couple of vintage boats have been stuck in the lock, one of them recently had to spend the night in the lock.

Winding our way through the summit was fabulous, though John had to keep his wits sharp. It wasn’t easy, and he did well not to ground Cyan in the shallow water.

Glorious views from the summit

Now it’s the turn for the Flag Irises to show off their beauty

Lengths some boaters go through to avoid paying their licence fees.

Pill boxes, relics for WW2 showing how important the canal was to the war effort.

Now what’s that supposed to be?

There are now lots of hire boats about, from Calcutt, Black Prince, Rose Narrowboats, Napton Narrowboats, and probably more.

The locks as anticipated were relatively busy, there was only one of today’s 9 locks where we were on our own.

At one of the locks, a silly mother duck took her 10 ducklings into the lock for a swimming lesson, just as Cyan sailed in. Joined by a lady who was locking the boat waiting to come up the lock, John cracked the paddles open just a little bit to drain the lock slowly; we didn’t want the ducklings to be washed through the sluice gates. The mother duck who had now flown out of the lock, was anxiously quacking and pacing up and down beside the lock. By the time the lock was emptied, there was a crowd of anxious onlookers around the lock, watching very closely. As soon as the lock gates were opened, the ducklings ‘torpedoed’ out of the lock, and the mother duck flew down to join them. Disaster diverted!

We moored at the base of the ‘famous’ hill at Napton.

Today we cruised 10 miles, and 9 locks.