Friday, 30 May 2014

Wigrams Turn Marina

Just a short cruise today in dry conditions to moor in Wigrams for a few days. Kevin sorted us out a good pontoon close to the facilities, especially useful is the laundry where Sue has spent the day washing and drying everything in sight, even the shirt off my back. 

The umbilical shore power cable has been inserted into FL's electrical loom, for non boaters this will run all the electrical appliances, keep the batteries topped up, allow us to use the immersion heater and the electric kettle.

The ever helpful Enterprise picked me up promptly to collect the hire car, I have had a trip to B&Q for some paint brushes and white spirit. 

Uncle Roy's boys are doing rather well in the friendly against Peru at Wembley, as I type they are 3-0 up.

We will leave about 9am tomorrow for the drive down south and the Aviva Premiership rugby final at Twickenham.


Sitting on her chicks.

FL at Wigrams

Thursday, 29 May 2014


Wednesday...In the morning we walked up to the shop by the bottom lock with Ray & Diane and then to the chandlers to buy some silicon grease for the Vetus stern gland, two longer desmo legs for the dinette and a boatmans pole of a suitable weight for Sue to use as the one on the roof she can't lift.

We were humming and harring about whether to move to one of our favourite spots on the Oxford canal but in the end the worsening weather made us stay tied to the bank for another night.

Today saw us moving up behind Ferndale to use the 'dump your load' facility before the off, no rain.. hoorah.. both boats made their way past the Boathouse pub and took the left at Braunston Turn. We weren't going far just down to bridge 101 to a mooring set in isolated countryside. Ferndale pulled in and we went aboard for a nice cup of tea and to say our farewells... as Ray and I discussed no point in saying have a good trip as being on the canal it's a forgone conclusion that it will be.

We have had a great week with Ray and Diane aka Raymond and Nutfield (an apt name for this lovely bonkers lady) excellent company. Our transient lifestyle  means that all too soon there is a junction somewhere that you will wave goodbye and because of the vastness and timelessness of the canal system it could be months or even years before you meet again. Our junction will be Napton as our companions turn right to start their journey north to Birmingham, tomorrow we turn left to leave FL in Wigrams marina for two days while we head down to Twickenham for the Aviva Premiership rugby union cup final between Northampton and Saracens plus seats for the Groves v Froch rematch at Glyn & Christines.

Passing the Boathouse

Ferndale taking the turn at Braunston

Familiar pose

Ferndale leaving FL tied to the bank

Todays side hatch shot.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Back to Braunston

We were up early this morning and onto the water point at The Moorings, it was still raining but we were suitably attired for the elements. Water tank filled, we moved on to the entrance of the Crick tunnel to moor behind Ferndale, have breakfast and wait for our locking buddies. Working steam narrowboat President towing butty Kildaire went past giving a satisfactory note on the whistle as we were getting ready to leave, it's always nice to see this 1909 boat cutting through the water in her working boat trim towing a butty.

It was slow going once we got into the tunnel, not because of President but the boat in front of Ferndale with a novice crew had lost all power to the boats lights, and in the darkness of the tunnel crashed from one side to the other the full length of the tunnel, the sensible thing to do was for them to pull over and let Ferndale go in front and light the way for them. Diane did ask them if they wanted assistance but they seemed happy to crash their way through.

Once through the tunnel and under the hectic real world up there on the M1, we are at the Watford flight of locks, Ray booked our passage with the lock keeper and we made short work of the locks which include a 4 staircase lock. Ferndale stopped at the water point while we continued, Ray & Diane caught us before we took the right hand turn on to the Grand Union canal. Sue was baking bread and the smell was creeping up to the tiller making me hungry, Braunston tunnel was next, some lads fishing at the mouth of the tunnel told me they had caught some large Zander when I asked.

A few yards into the tunnel, I negotiate an on coming boat doing a fair rate of knots, all FL's paint stayed put, which puts me at ease especially as my moral support was busy in the galley the whole trip through the tunnel. With our locking buddies we were down the Braunston flight with ease, moored and drinking tea, drying out in the warmth of the cabin just as the rain stopped!

Ferndale following the afflicted boat.

Ferndale leaving Crick tunnel

Leaving Crick tunnel.

Crick Show weekend

Saturday....10:00 it was raincoats and wellies on, umbrellas up as we trudged along the muddy towpath up over the temporary pedestrian bridge and into the show grounds. It was a deja vu moment as every outlet is in exactly the same place as last year, selling the same goods as last year, the only differences were the show boats had changed along with the weather which last year was sunny and warm all weekend.

It's a good way to spend a few hours exploring all the wonders of brand new machinery, shiny gadgets and chandlery pieces on display. We had a look on a dutch barge "Blue Belle", somehow the copious space inside looks more than twice that available on a narrowboat. Ray and I had engine room envy while sitting comfortably in a cavernous space under the wheelhouse deck while our host explained all the systems. This boat had me dreaming of disappearing down the Canal Du Midi, after a jackpot lottery win.

In the evening we all went to the entertainment marquee to see Toyah Willcox, and later Sean Cannon the front man for the Dubliners. Sue and Diane fought their way to the front of the assembled crowd to throw a few shapes to "I want to be free". We eventually met up with my brother Bob and Marilyn who had driven up from home to visit the inland water show for the first time, the lack of phone or data signal in the area meant we missed each other for most of the day.

Cute Moorhen

Bob & Andy
Sue Diane & Marilyn
Ray Sue Diane Marilyn Andy & Bob

Sunday after more trawling around the show ground stalls we walked down to the village for lunch in the Wheatsheaf. We spent the afternoon back on board our boats. Sue and Ray made their signature dishes of flatbreads and chocolate brownies to be eaten at the show later in the evening.

We all re-assembled back in the marquee for a Roy Orbison & Travelling Wilburys tribute acts, the R.O. songs were disappointing at first but got better later in the show, the Wilbury's were very good. Sue and I stayed for the final act, a blues band, but left half way through the first song.

Monday ... Raining again as we walked all the stalls we had visited to pick up all the bits and pieces we had seen over the previous two days, a brolly mate, tunnel band paint, polish and lacquer remover. We looked over two more wide beam and two narrowboats before we returned to the dry and warmth of FL.

Friday, 23 May 2014


We were awake at 5am but soon re entered the land of the nod until 09:30, chilled out for most of the day until we met up with Ray & Diane (correct spelling !!)  for a bus journey to West Haddon and a superb meal at the Pytchley, a taxi back to Crick marina got us into the free Friday night show in the entertainment marquee listening to the famous Half Cut band while starting my way through the 46 craft ales. I have now sampled numbers 1 to 5  + a swift 38.

Sue pointing to her ale selection

Ray Diane Roger Diana and Sue


We spent the morning doing a few jobs around FL, defrosting the ice compartment on the fridge being one, we had so much ice in there it was concealing a bottle of Becks! The weather is showers, some heavy, with tantalising short bright spells with a bit of thunder mixed in. Sue has been looking out the side hatch excitedly awaiting  the arrival of Ray & Diane aboard nb Ferndale. A tap on the roof, Diane has arrived on foot closely followed by Ray at the helm of Ferndale, we walked down to their allotted pitch, after Ferndale was secured to the bank we enjoyed a cup of tea and a boaters catch up.

Later we all went to dine at the Wheatsheaf, where we enjoyed burgers, steak and pork belly all very enjoyable... on the way back to the boat we stopped at the Red Lion for a nightcap, Diane's favourite Mulled Wine was on tap, Bombadier's and a Old Speckled Hen for the rest of the crews. The 17C thatched Red Lion  has a much better character and ambience for the imbibing boater with its wooden beams stone walls, and copious amounts of polished brass adorning the walls. We spotted many groups of boaters at the tables enjoying drinks. Much laughter during the evening with the four of us finding all sorts of obscure topics to laugh about. On our way back down the towpath boaters pocket torches were out to help shine the way for a kitten to climb down from a high branch of a tree and into the arms of it's frantic owner.

Strange glow in the sky behind the Red Lion

Dianne & Ray

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Two Tunnels

Wednesday - We were up early and away at 6am, we crept past the sleeping boats as quietly as a 17 ton diesel powered narrowboat will allow, pulled in to the Stop House water point to fill with water. We cruised down to the bottom lock with mist rising from the warming canal water. The sun was shining but it was fleeces on in the chilly morning air.

As we exited the first lock a single handed boater arrived to come up the flight, we got the second lock set and waited for him to catch up and we did the next five locks together. Locks all done we cruised through the mighty Braunston tunnel with not a slither of FL's paintwork being left behind, no other traffic coming from the opposite direction helped.

As we exit the tunnel off come the fleeces as we cruise down to the junction and turn sharp left onto the Leicester branch of the Grand Union Canal, we moor up to have breakfast of tea and bacon banjo's.

Just before the Watford locks a lady signals to me to pull in, which I thank her, for it saved me the embarrassment of passing a queue of boats waiting for the lock. Passage up the Watford flight is controlled by a jovial but strict lock keeper, Sue went to find him and book our passage, we had an hour and a half wait for our turn to ascend the locks. no matter we spent the time chatting and getting to know the other queuees  around us.

The next obstacle to negotiate is the Crick tunnel here we had a bit of a caffuffle when we entered the dark interior I shouted to Sue to turn our tunnel light on.. she confirmed that it was on .. after a few moments of panic at not being able to see, I remembered I was still wearing sun glasses!  ....what a dummy.

The show moorings at Crick are all set out along a mile of towpath with boats names on signs in the hedgerow but after Sue doing the walk twice alas FL's name was not there.  A phone call to the marina office confirmed they had no record of our order. This after numerous emails and phone conversations to Waterway World's office about our requirements. A call to WW who then phoned Crick Marina to confirm our mooring, fortunately for us they had a cancellation and could fit us in. Oh well good job us boaters are a laid back bunch and can take these cock ups in our stride.

In the evening we had a drink in The Moorings by the bridge and then walked up to the village and had dinner in the Wheatsheaf.

Mist rising from the water.

Braunston Tunnel.

Watford Locks

Watford staircase locks

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Demise of the Beer Hunter.

Still in the good weather zone, we have had a cruise into the countryside to moor for a couple of nights, the traffic has increased we have met more boats on the move in the last two days than we did on the the whole or our two month cruise from Staffordshire. Maybe they, like us, are on their way to the Crick boat show next weekend.

This morning we made our way to Wigrams Turn Marina to fill the diesel tank, Kevin the most affable of marina staff on the canal system greeted us with his usual enthusiasm and a new knee, we had a pleasant stay here for a couple of weeks last year.

We have moored back in Braunston and will get up early tomorrow to tackle the 6 Braunston locks and tunnel.

The Beer Hunter has gone, being out in the elements all winter had not been kind to it, gear selector's were more or less welded together with rust which made hard work treading it along the towpath. BH needs a new owner with a shed to keep it dry, some TLC and a tin of WD40 to this end it is on the towpath 'free to new home'. Sue never liked it adorning the roof and I did get fed up with the continual punctures every time I used it.

We had a wander up to The Admiral Nelson, we spent an hour sat by the lock watching the boats go through the lock, with a glass of Landlord and a pot of tea.

Buttercup and Daisy

Coot on her nest

Wide in the  beam 

Braunston's All Saints church steeple (aka Cathedral of the canals), a welcoming sight for 150 years of old boating families as many were christened, married and buried here. The building next to it is a sailless windmill now a private residence.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Pressure relief

We have moved today as our 48 hours on the visitor mooring was up but we haven't moved far we are still in Braunston area.

Sue walked up to the village to the Butcher of Braunston for some supplies while I potted about doing odd jobs. One job was to replace the faulty pressure relief valve on the calorifier, as with all DIY tasks I undertake things never go quite according to plan. I drained the system down, removed the PRV by undoing one connector nut and a jubilee clip to the overflow and off it came. Now there are two fittings on the old PRV I need to remove, then screw on to the new PRV. My best efforts couldn't budge either of them Sue offered to take it to Midland Chandlers to see if they could help, they sold us a pair of mole grips which didn't help at all.

What I needed was a workshop with an engineers vice but being a Sunday afternoon I didn't hold up much hope of finding one open, but find one I did, the helpful Brian had the fittings moved in quick time. I fitted them to the new valve using Pfte tape on the threads and did them up tight using my new mole grips and a adjustable spanner.

Its all back together now with no leaks and no more disturbed sleeps when the pump starts up after enough water has seeped past the PRV.

Saturday, 17 May 2014


The sun was hot from the word go today, I got the wet and dry out and rubbed down some rust patches on the roof and gave them an undercoat, I had rubbed this area of the roof down last year but I used a top coat from a tin left on board when we bought the boat and I think it was passed it's best as it has started to peel in patches, I will have to find time this year to give it a thorough sand down and repaint, until then a bit of touching up will do. Yesterday I put an undercoat on the starboard rubbing strake and today I applied the black topcoat ready for when we scrape it off again in the Braunston Tunnel in a few days time.

We have booked a berth at the Crick Boat show and will make our way there for Friday

This evening we met up with our niece Jacqui, Tom, young James, A J and Lynne for a meal in the Boathouse. After A J and Lyne headed off home to an epic session of Downton Abbey.... the rest of us had a stroll along the towpath to show James the boats in Braunston Marina and a cup of tea on FL.

The Boathouse