Saturday, 25 September 2010

Moving on from Weedon, tackling tunnels with a 60 watt bulb & apologies to the Jaguar owner...

The trees are changing colour and it has been noticably colder when we've been cruising lately, autumn must be here. Let's hope it doesn't bring the dreaded Autumn Blight (the condition in which one's raw water intake becomes so seriously blocked by dead leaves that engine temperatures begin to rise and the normal exhaust is replaced by billowing clouds of white smoke) with it this year... I glare at dead leaves that dare float too close to us now...

It seems strange to think that it's a year ago this week that Wils and I joined the Thames from the Oxford Canal. The living arrangements, priorities (and living conditions!) were very different then, but the sense of total enjoyment hasn't diminshed in the slightest. This year we've ended up following the same route as it happens, though we're behind last year's schedule, geographically, being somewhere near the top of the Oxford Canal, not the bottom of it!

Jem and I are pleased to report that our attempt to conquer Blisworth Tunnel recently was a success, our fitted tunnel light being still out of action we had to resort to other means - turns out a floor lamp fitted with a regular 60 watt bulb angled towards the tunnel roof from inside the front doors makes for more than ample tunnel lighting! Too many times we've been nearly blinded by excessive lights fitted to oncoming boats, but we were hesitant when faced with the prospect of going through with so little illumination... With the interior lights on and our brave and trusty floor lamp firmly rooted in the saloon we set off, and it worked like a charm! Good to know, tomorrow we plough ever onward and tackle Braunston tunnel again.

We spent some time at Weedon before moving today, and we can strongly recommend a visit to the small greengrocers in the square! A large amount of the fruit and veg are locally produced, and the place has the feel of a genuine, family run business, a pleasing contrast to the grim experience of the chain-owned miniature supermarket nearby... Try the plums while they're still in season! DELICIOUS!

We acquired diesel and water at Whilton this morning, and the issue of whether or not we need a new hosepipe, or pipe fitting at any rate, drags ever on - attaching said pipe to the faucet at Whilton resulted in a perfectly powerful and speedy filling of the tank - but also in a thin but persistent jet of water erupting from the connection that was hastily blown by the wind directly onto the shiny Jaguar parked between Wils and the faucet! If that was your Jag and you're annoyed, I'm sorry. But it's only water, so stop moaning.

Tonight we're moored in the wooded stretch just before Braunston tunnel, it's a popular spot by the looks of things... We were lucky enough to come through Buckby locks with a lovely bloke whose name escapes me - he works as a RYA instructor on the sea as well as the inland waterways, he was delivering a boat from somewhere near the Fens all the way round to Nottingham, a long journey by the sounds of it! Nice to have some company on that stretch of locks!

Here's Jem enjoying the weather somewhere on the Buckby flight:


I look confused:


Jem enjoys the prospect of yet another bridge, just after Norton Junction I think:


We've got the stove on this evening to warm our bones, personally I don't know why people bother with any other form of heating, we couldn't be more snug! Although at this time of year it might have been a little OTT to go for the ROARING VOLCANO setting on the air holes... If it got me through that last winter I have no doubts as to its ability to do the same again this year! Anyway, the laptop is losing the will to live so I'll have to leave it there. For now...

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The return after much radio silence...

It's certainly been a long time since anything was written here! The usual commitments personal and professional are to blame. The truth is it's been a bit of a rollercoaster for us over the last six months, not to mention the last few days for Jem and I, which saw us climbing aboard Wils again only two days ago for what we imagined would be our final voyage. After very lengthy consideration and a great deal of heartache we were planning to sell the boat and move on to pastures new.

Less than forty eight hours onboard convinced us otherwise. A major shuffling of all manner of commitments will be required now but our love of this way of life, of everything that living aboard has opened us up to, is far too much for us to abandon just yet. We love this all to bits! So, as of this post (back on Blogger again, where it belongs!), Jem and I consider ourselves canal dwellers still!

Having spent the best part of six months in Milton Keynes, we've moved a little way north on the Grand Union for now, our heads buzzing with plans and logistics, cities to aim for and ways to make the liveaboard life work for us again.

Gadzooks! The laptop is about to die so I have to be brief, but the long and short of it is this - we're staying put and here's to the ongoing adventure - CHAPTER TWO!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

First Ducklings!

I know I'm not the first to have blogged about the arrival of this year's ducklings, but I promised myself I'd finally get around to adding an entry here as soon as I saw them. And saw them I 'ave!

In the process of moving from Bolbeck Park in the northern half of Milton Keynes to Milton Keynes Marina at Peartree Bridge (in the south of the town) to get a pumpout and fill up with diesel, they were near the water point with their parents, extremely small balls of yellow and black fluff! All sixteen of them!

Moored up again at Campbell Park, I noticed another group of four. In fact, one has just gone past the window, frantically tailing mum by about a tenth of an inch!

I expect they'll be getting into the habit of chewing noisily on the weed just below the water line on Wils in the very near future... Oh joy!

So here I am, still in Milton Keynes for the time being, working on a number of things, including completing my training as a care worker.

I have had some company onboard recently:


I'm pretty certain he belongs to the good folks on the widebeam Our Lucy (seen above) whose movements have been very similar to my own recently, we have been mooring at Giffard Park and Campbell Park with almost identical timing over the last few weeks! He was particularly curious about the wool I've been spinning recently, trying to paw it as soon as it's spun! I'm spinning a great deal at the moment for two reasons, I need to make some curtains for the front windows of Wils, which I thought I really should do from scratch because I can, and I need to make a soft liner for my camping hammock.

I used my hammock recently, over May Day weekend I took it up to Salcey Forest, near the village of Hartwell, Northants. It's a Hennessy hammock, and I think a photo will explain it better than I could in words!


It's smaller than a tent when packed away, lighter to carry, more comfortable than sleeping on the ground and far quicker to set up and pack away! Of course the night I chose to head to Salcey would be the night of the thunderstorm and torrential rain... All good fun though! The owls were very loud and the pheasants nearby didn't like the thunder. It is essentially two parts, the main sleeping section and a waterproof fly sheet over that. The top half of the sleeping section is all mosquito net, entrance is from underneath! Luckily the weight of the occupant holds it shut once you're inside... The only thing it's lacking is a bit more protection from the cold underneath you, hence the soft woollen liner I'm creating. Getting home on the Sunday was interesting! I walked the mile or so into Hartwell from the forest, to realise there are no buses whatsoever going anywhere from Hartwell on Sundays. Huff. But there's one leaving from nearby Hanslope in about 55 minutes! Unfortunately the country walk from one village to the other takes about an hour, and I missed the bus there by 5 minutes... Huff. The rain was picking up by this time too, and the next (and final) bus from Hanslope was four hours off. Huff. So onto Castlethorpe! Now, in the right shoes, with some decent weather this would make an amazing walk. Sadly I had neither of these things! By the time I reached Castlethorpe I had already stuck out my thumb to every vehicle that went past, and was met by the most common responses to hitchhikers in this country nowadays, which are as follows:

  • "What? People still hitchhike?!" (by the time it's sunk in, they're already half a mile away...)
  • "Don't slow down, Dear! Whatever you do, DON'T SLOW DOWN!"
  • "Don't look him in the eye! If we pretend we haven't seen him, it's not our fault if we don't stop."
These, in short, are the three most common responses I get when trying to hitch in this country. It's different if you're a couple, if you're holding pizza, a baby, a musical instrument case or a petrol can or if you're a single girl, preferably without a backpack. Huff.

Eventually a car that had previously gone past me turned around and came back for me! Andy the Gas Man, you are a true legend! Andy was on his way to plant green beans, he kindly dropped me in Wolverton where I was able to get a bus to Great Linford and slowly crawl back to the boat from there! Quite a trip!

I also attended the Woburn Classic Car Show on bank holiday monday, Tom and I went down in his Renault 4! Here is Tom looking very excited to be exhibiting his car with the Renault Classic Car Club:


It was an excellent day, and it has inspired me to get my Fiat 500 going again after a sorry 8 years or so in the garage! Photos of that progress to follow shortly! I hope we can both drive to the next meeting/event together and display both cars!

On the whole the weather has been amazing...


Thursday, 8 April 2010

Coincidental Ongoing Coverage of NB Caxton!

Thanks to the wonders of mobile blogging, and in the spirit of my incidental coverage of their progress through this neck of the woods, I can report that NB Caxton has passed Campbell Park!


Well I have to do something with my mornings...

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Sleeping Seven Onboard, Tunnels, Lambs, Darts, Ale & Mangle Bidding!

So I probably should have comemorated the first anniversary of Jem and I moving onboard on the 31st March, but apart from having little to report I was too busy preparing the boat for the imminent invasion!

For the past few days I've had six of my old uni housemates staying on Wils. We started in Milton Keynes, went north as far as Gayton Junction and returned to the same point. It was an amazing chance to have everyone together again, and the weather was generally kind to us. Sleeping seven people onboard turns out to be no problem at all! The stretch we covered took in a lock flight, urban and rural stretches, impressive pub food, many a dart board, Blisworth Tunnel and the perennially busy Stoke Bruerne, not bad for five days really!





As we came through Stoke Bruerne it was a great surprise to pass NB Caxton, whose blog was one of the first Boaters' Blogs I started reading over a year ago! This is the best photo I could take:


I have been furiously bidding on mangles online, it seems they sell for surprisingly large sums, given that there seem to be so many about for sale, and that most are in advanced states of disrepair, which surprised me most for the fact that for most people they seem to serve little purpose more than that of garden ornaments. Moored at Campbell Park tonight, I'll be moving on to pastures new tomorrow, but I'm still not certain where that might be exactly...

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Me Toby: Receiver of Licenses, Washer of Clothes, Putter-Upper of Washing Lines!

In other words, Wils is now adorned with shiny new purple license squares! Has it been a year already? Well, very nearly, it'll be one year since Jem and I moved onboard a week tomorrow.

Today, out of unequivocal necessity, is washday. The amount of clothes that can be strung over, near, around and past the stove is minimal, and so began the construction of a washing line! Using rope already onboard, a couple of pieces of driftwood and the old barge pole that I broke on the ice some weeks ago. Amazing what you can knock together! No nails, screws, glue - or any real protection from heavy winds... I think a couple of guy-ropes would be a good idea. It's a work in progress!




Needless to say, as soon as the clothes went up, the rain came down! It's still spitting a bit, even now... Of course it was sunny when I was pounding the living daylights out of the clothes with the posser, sunny when I rung them out, sunny when I built and put up the line - nevermind, eh?

Sunday, 21 March 2010

A Plumbing Adventure

Powering down to Fenny Stratford two days ago, I visited Halfords in Bletchley to get a new inner tube fitted to my bike and then I tried Wickes next door for a few plumbing supplies that I required for the upcoming plumbing adventure. Having an extremely limited stock in place and a distinct lack of customer service I decided in the end to go elsewhere... To Travis Perkins in fact, which was (as in Banbury) practically canal fronting! I think someone's twigged that boaters need building supplies on a regular basis! Maybe.

The plumbing adventure itself consisted of capping off two pipes, and then removing the sink from the bedroom and the tabletop into which it was set. A relatively simple job, even for someone whose plumbing experience is firmly established at absolute zero. It took the best part of a day (Friday) to get it done, and involved the following highlights: failing to secure one connection properly and having a classic comedy moment in which the jet of water sprays directly into one's face, and, even more hilarious-and-swear-inducingly; cutting the cold water pipe at the wrong point, effectively relieving the bathroom of its cold water supply. Oops.

But a few hours and another trip to TP later all was well again, pipes cut in the right place and one sink firmly cut off from the system.

Yesterday I had the far easier job of removing the sink and cutting the tabletop. I moved Wils from the 24hr moorings just above Fenny Lock (the one with the swingbridge INSIDE the lock) to our current location just south of Milton Keynes Marina first thing in the morning, then set to work in the afternoon. The journey from Fenny to Peartree Bridge was conducted exclusively in the rain, but no matter.

Along this stretch I came across the same television set that has been floating in the same stretch of canal for at least three months:


How does a TV float?! Is glass buoyant enough to keep it up, despite being the heaviest part of the set? Answers in a comment!

Last night, just before we lost the light altogether, I got a coat of primer on the newly exposed woodwork which I'm attacking with a paintbrush today. It's a cold morning again, but the stove stayed in overnight, just enough to keep me in the land of the living anyway.

I should have an old railway lantern waiting for me at the Royal Mail depot, which I am hoping to be able to fetch ASAP. I'm also trying to decide on the best place to mount it inside... The problem is that the canal runs along the east side of Milton Keynes, and the depot is right over on the west side of town. Good thing I got that inner tube replaced... Suppose I should get the brakes working again at some point...

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Wilshamstead: Formerly White Stork & Towpath Tree Planting Photos!

Knowing that Wils is an ex-hireboat, today I scoured the net briefly to see if I could find any mention of her days as a hireboat - and here it is!

It's the only reference I could find and there can be no question, this is our Wils! Back then she was known as White Stork and was part of the Alvechurch fleet. The page is a record created by a Mr Nigel Bromley, it forms part of his personal website, he's a canal enthusiast amongst many other things it seems. He and his wife Cath were onboard White Stork in August 1996 - Nigel claims 38 seperate canal holidays/voyages, of which their time on Wils was number 22, which is a very relevant number for me - AND they now live right here in Milton Keynes, my hometown AND the place I'm currently moored! This is getting creepy...

Nigel claims an interest in canal restoration - so if he's active in this interest in this area there's a good chance he's a member of the BCS and has already received his recent copies of The Buckingham Navigator, on whose front cover is a tiny photo of me, kneeling next to the boat he once spent two weeks onboard!

Still with me?!

Nigel goes through an extremely comprehensive inventory of the boat, which proves that Wils has had little or no improvements/changes made since then! Until now, of course. Nigel even mentions that the BMC engine was "a bit noisy"! Right on, Nige!

He mentions that they hired the boat from Gayton Marina, which makes sense with the Alvechurch connection, but I've always wondered where White Stork was berthed before she went feral...

It's strange that Nigel mentions the clock/barometer combo device in his 'diary extracts', the very one that ended its existence yesterday!

In other news, it's noticeably warmer these days. In a boat which is necessarily so well ventilated for safety reasons, you become very aware of the ambient temperature at all times... Yesterday marked the first day I wore a t-shirt from morning to night! Epic times.

And now, a few photos from the recent tree planting with the BCS:







The lock is Hyde Lane Lock, near Deanshanger, between Buckingham and Milton Keynes, which is in the process of being lovingly restored by the BCS. There are only two locks on the Buckingham Arm, which is probably a blessing from a financial point of view!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

More Decorating, Sunny Days in Campbell Park and a Wintry Video at Blisworth Tunnel

Interior decoration is the current occupation here onboard the good ship, and I must enjoy something about it because as eight o'clock rolled around this morning, I found myself with a paintbrush in hand, finally redoing the paint on the front doors/windows which was beginning to look a little sore. Not satisifed with merely painting, I set about reattaching the wooden surrounds that frame the windows there, which we had to remove all those months ago when Martin Kedian fitted our stainless steel water tank. The pieces I could find are now reattached and the doors in the saloon are looking far better already.

How's this for a blue sky?!


Taken yesterday in Campbell Park, Central Milton Keynes, where, it turns out, many fine minutes may be had sans footwear and armed with a premium book.


Above: Wils (just visible!) at the extremely bright Campbell Park.

I found myself staring at the (broken and rusting) clock-and-barometer ensemble on the wall this morning too, and it's full hideousness was all too clear to me at that moment! So out with the tools again and down it came. In a short time the wooden backing board for said ensemble was transformed into a mount for the 12v socket at that end, I know it's disproportionately large for the size of the fitting, but I actually rather like it!


The next thing that end of the boat needs is a nifty solution to the problem of curtains... But I have a plan for that, more to follow soon.

I have to give a mention of the boat that's moored next to me:


The photo doesn't begin to do her justice, she's a beauty! Trad design but just modern enough, large portholes all the way along, I don't know exactly what it is about her, I just love it!

And, in closing, a short video of me emerging at the Stoke Bruerne end of Blisworth Tunnel earlier in the year, only because - because - ?

Monday, 15 March 2010

Planting Trees, Eliza Carthy and SUNSHINE!

Yesterday I could be found with the Buckingham Canal Society at the site where the canal walks through wildlife reserve territory between Buckingham and Milton Keynes, putting faces to names and planting trees! Altogether we planted 100 saplings of buckthorn, blackthorn, hawthorn, dogwood, and others whose names I can't remember, that in time will (re)form the towpath hedge after the canal leaves Deanshanger. Photos to follow shortly!

Long lines of trees that I've been driven/driving past in the car all my life now have a new significance, being of course the location of the old canal, particularly visible at the Deanshanger roundabout, no more than fifty metres along as you come off the roundabout onto the road towards Milton Keynes. Whether or not the newly restored one will follow this exact route again seems to be the latest hot topic of debate!

On the sensible side of life, I sorted out another year's worth of membership to River Canal Rescue, which, despite being unsatisfied with their service on more than occasion, seems to be the only option for someone single-handing without expert mechanical knowledge. I know some marinas offer breakdown service, but how likely is it that you're going to break down near them?! And in all honesty, they HAVE saved Wils on a couple of occasions, so no complaining, it's done for another year.

A few nights ago my ma and I went to see the Eliza Carthy Band at The Stables here in Milton Keynes, now I didn't know much of their stuff before we went, but it was an extraordinarily good performance, the eccentricity and chaotic arrangement of Tom Waits meets English folk music - small enough to be intimate but big enough for atmosphere, the band was super-tight, and so into it that it was infectious! Any band sporting a 'headbanging-stand-up-and-dance-everywhere-whilst-playing' cellist is okay in my book! Amazing piano, double bass, drums and harmonies too. They get the Wilshamstead seal of approval!


Here in Milton Keynes we've been blessed with three days of glorious sunshine, and the temptation to cruise today is overwhelming! Sitting in the cratch at sundown yesterday with a mug of Indian chai reading Walden made me realise what I like so much about living on the canal, it's the meditative, magnetic quality of the scene, few places I've been to have such a power to make you feel instantly sleepy... It's also the sky. Ice blue, crisp and bafflingly wide, and the water, which is essentially a second sky, it's trees glowing and firework birds! It's ropes and poles, rust and hatches, flames in the stove, animals EVERYWHERE, the smell of the coal, the feel of rugs, woollen clothing that you simply can't avoid in the winter, thorny hedges and sawn logs, materials with genuine textures, the natural encouragement to touch them, and a palpable invitation to activity! And to find just lying around me all the fuel I need to stay warm, some of the food I need. Not to mention the peace and quiet, the bustling activity at the summer locks - it's like I said a long time ago on here, spending time rather than spending money, not just to save money but rather more to actively embrace the time consuming jobs, collecting wood, lighting a fire, tying knots, weaving rugs, writing songs. It's most heavily a question of quality than a question of economics. I feel quite energized by the sun today! Can you tell?!

No, the weather is far too fine to be sat indoors typing this, meet me on the roof in ten!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Pop Pop Ponyo, Peter Payne's Pulsejets & Pianos: Past Predilection & Present Procrastination!

Still in Milton Keynes, where every wood hunting trip reveals an increasing amount of miniature greenery pushing its way sunwards, so spring can't be too far away... Final amendments for the spring issue of the Navigator are done and dusted, the issue will be available to view via the website of the Buckingham Canal Society in the near future.

It's been relatively warm in the days here when the sun is out, but the mornings can still bring a canal solid enough for ducks to walk across - just! - and more icy windows to wake up to...


When I haven't been painting walls and doors inside Wils, I've been looking into a number of cunning projects on the technological front... Recently seeing the fantastic Ponyo on the big screen got me scouting the internet for information on 'pop pop' engines, such as those featured in the film. Despite a wave of naysaying concerning their potential for use outside of retro toy manufacture, I eventually stumbled onto the work of Peter Payne, and his pulsejets in particular - in short the pulsejet (the technical name for a pop pop engine) is just about the simplest engine ever devised, and by way of the best introduction to their operation is such in toys - search youtube, there are loads of videos of them in use. Peter Payne worked at developing their use in full sized boats, though from what I've read so far his experiments took place in small rowing boats on the whole. It seems that once you scale up the engine, the physics that allowed the water present in the engine to act as piston, working fluid, exhaust propellant etc all in one broke down and the whole subject requires a lot more work. Even multiplying the number of small engines you have wouldn't take you far in a narrowboat weighing in at around ten tons. His work can be found here:

Peter Payne's Pulsejets

So the investigation into an alternative propellant for Wils goes on... I'm not happy continuing to use a diesel engine for a number of reasons, and I'm not satisfied to give up looking for an alternative just because they're unusual. On this topic I was reminded that narrowboats powered by electric motors save 25% on their BW license fees every year... And with the production/acquisition/creation of wood-fired generators and wind turbines within the grasp of amateur wizards and inventors - I can see a way of making this work! More on that as it develops...

The space I will gain from removing the sink and tabletop in the bedroom is begging me to install a piano in it, but I've not seen one quite small enough yet...

Happily it turns out that I didn't interrupt a live radio interview that Athina (chairman of the BCS) was giving on her narrowboat, Brown Trout, when they came past me at Campbell Park! I caught a glimpse of them going past and decided the wisest course of action was to tear down the boat, throw open the stern door and yell "Hello!" mid-interview! Oops. I think the reporter was a little baffled, probably writing me off as some kind of one-man Parks Trust/Waterways Cheer Squad. I'm just glad Athina recognised me!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Life on a Salvaged Car Ferry and MORE ICE!

What's with all the ICE?! We still have blazing sunshine from 'ere to there, and ice, ice, more ice on the canal! I'm getting a little sick of ice but as of this morning, it's back. It's not thick, but it's there. Grrrowwl.

Just a quick post this morning to mention the following because it's AMAZING!

American blogger and houseboat dweller Leslie posted recently about an architect who salvaged a car ferry and made a home of it! I'd LOVE to see more photos inside. Also, the rest of Leslie's blog is well worth a look.

I can hear something walking across the roof, I love it when that happens!

And there goes NB Autumn Glory, breaking up the ice. Gawd bless 'em!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Golden Dinosaurs!

Over a month since the last post! Arrrhhh, the shame!

It's been an extremely hectic "just over a month" too, until recently I was still under the impression that I was hemmed in by Winter Stoppages on all sides, but that appears to no longer be the case. So here I am, still in the vague vicinity of Milton Keynes, and starting to feel like one of the gang, I recognise nearly every boat that goes by! And on that note, there are noticably more boats moving on this part of the system now, brought out no doubt by the good weather in the last few days. Speaking of good weather, today marks a particularly auspicious moment in my career as a professional bilge rat, as it was the first time I've opened a window since about September! Epic times.

Jem has been to the boat on two seperate occasions for a total of nearly a fortnight, and we made excellent progress on the interior decoration we had planned. It's a work in progress, the list of jobs to do on Wils seems to get longer, not shorter! It was great to have her back onboard briefly.

The last few days have seen me feverishly throwing together the Spring Issue of the Buckingham Navigator for the Buckingham Canal Society, which I have been working on all day today while the sun shone outside... Nevermind.

I haven't quite been brave enough to let the stove die out for good yet... But, like I said to the lady at Milton Keynes Marina yesterday, I think that'll probably be the last few bags of coal I'll need this year. Although apparently I was about the tenth person to say so this week! To anyone considering using the services at Milton Keynes Marina, there's a nifty bit of manouvering to be done to get at the facilities! Plenty of room to do it in, but it's quite an interesting test of your 3-point turn abilities!Have fun!

Here is Wils against the backdrop of ubiquitous poplar trees that line the canal through most of the town, when we were moored at Campbell Park a fortnight ago:


And then moored around the corner, poplar trees still in evidence:


Yesterday I spent close to £800, which nearly brought on unfortunate medical repercussions, on coal, a pumpout, diesel, and another year's worth of insurance and licensing! Fortunately I only paid half what I paid last year for insurance, which is a blessing. I calculated my monthly outgoings for life onboard, trying to take every little thing into account, including license and a conservative guess at unexpected repairs, food, diesel, chocolate milk supplies, everything - which, for those interested, came to £325 a month by my reckoning, not bad methought, considering that's EVERYTHING I'm spending.

I've decided to stick with this boating lark until the coloured band on the BW license matches the paintwork, and then I'm off. Not really. Good old random decision making though, can't fault it, chaos might just be the best tool for deciding the big decisions in life in a chaotic world... I had a friend who travelled around Europe and based her next move on which way the stick pointed, or whether the coin landed heads or tails, I believe a pack of tarot cards sent her to North Africa in the end, but that's another story.

I plan to remain in the vague area of MK until the beginning of April when my old uni housemates from Lampeter are descending on Wils and I en masse! Ever tried to sleep 8 people on a 4 berth narrowboat?! We might have to! Luckily there are camping facilities along our planned route. It's going to be a mad Easter weekend... Oh, and it's amazing how you can live in one town for most of your life and never realise an enormous golden dinosaur lives just around the corner...


I discovered him today. His name is Philip.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Still Manacled to New Bradwell, Local Exploration & I'm being Spied Upon!

Checking Google Reader just now revealed that the scallywags on NB Albert have been taking sly photos of Wils! The rambunctious swines! Of course I am extremely flattered, this is a first for me, a post in someone else's blog with not only a mention of Wils, but a photo too! COR! It must have been taken the day before we moved south (slightly).

Thank you NB Albert!

I did glance over Kingfisher Marina for signs of you but I couldn't find you!

Being stuck in a boat in the ice in Milton Keynes has, it turns out, many up-sides. Like discovering a beehive in the woods with lots of fallen comb...


And numerous creepy logs...


Ok, so in truth I'm a little bored. ALL the washing up is done. The floor is swept. The doilies are aired. The T'ang Statues in the East Wing are dusted. Really, the deeds perpetrated by boredom on a dirty boat are quite unimaginable.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Halted by Ice Again!

An early start saw me stoking the fire that had stayed in overnight (HURRAY! I'm getting good at this...) and taking on coal and fuel as soon as Yardley Wharf opened. Then onto Cosgrove, and the sun was shining! I had planned to stop at Cosgrove, but upon arrival there at 11am, it seemed like the right time to go still further. Not to mention the fact that I had no internet signal, and nothing else to do...

So I pushed on towards Milton Keynes in the sunshine, the view over the aquaduct just below Cosgrove was amazing.

I approached the second aquaduct, over the road, and saw the figure of my mum walking towards me along the towpath! Thus this photo was possible:

Wils at MK Viaduct Jan 10 003


All went wildly awry, however, not long after that. It turns out that a short stretch of the canal in New Bradwell is shaded so perfectly that no dent has yet been made in the ice there! So here I am! Another in a growing number of boats held up on one side of a very thick (and equally short) stretch of ice!

Tomorrow I go out in the morning with a very large stick or a brick on a string to see whether it could be sufficiently broken up from the bank...Here's praying for sunshine and extraordinarily localised global warming for once, industrial lasers accidentally misdirected onto the canal here from the Super X-Ray Deathbeam Satellite, or just a duck with a hairdryer, the usual...

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Iceman - erm - Goeth?

To echo the sound that seems to be resounding around the system at the moment - I can add the Yardley Gobion stretch of the Grand Union to the list of locations no longer in the grip of ice! So tomorrow will start with the replenishing of fuel/water/coal supplies, and then moving on to Cosgrove.

I recently added the finishing touches to the Winter 2009 Issue of The Buckingham Navigator, which will be available on the Buckingham Canal Society website soon. I will link to it when it's available.

Glad as I am to have fluid surroundings back again, I'm not so happy with what the ice seems to have done to the paintwork on the stern... Blacking the hull isn't too far off so I can probably touch up the paint then. It's certainly warmer onboard, down to just three layers of clothing already, I mean it's practically a heatwave...

Now to analyse the finances, prompt payment for a license is due soon! Can it really have been a year already? Nearly!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Floor & the Ceiling are now Precisely Where They Should Be! Musing on a Route for 2010... & Many Photographs...

I'm happy to say that work has been progressing well and as a result of which the new floor is now down in the saloon! Which means I have the use of the table back and I have the ability to have guests to stay! Including couchsurfers, to whom I will be opening my doors (bow and stern) very soon, perhaps once the weather warms up a bit.

I came across two seperate references to the retreat of the ice in the canal blogging world, so here's hoping we will be able to move again soon! Saying that, I have no doubt that as the weather warms up and the hire/summer boaters begin to creep back into view, some of us might even look back fondly on White January...

In other news, I'm sorry to say that Jem will not be returning to boat life with me. As part of her ongoing recovery she is completely engaged down south indefinately.

As everyone else on the system seems to be saying at the moment, what else is there to post online but more photographs of the snow?! So here goes!







I'm engaged most evenings poring over the waterways charts by candlelight, my compasses grasped in hand, quaffing rum and waiting for the ice to clear... (What? That's mostly true...) Having covered the Southern Waterways with the exception of the K&A and the disconnected sections, I'm thinking that a journey of epic proportions in a north-westerly direction is the thing... Perhaps the word I'm looking for right now is:


Monday, 11 January 2010

Yardley Gobion Wharf: Then & Now!

My mum took both of these photos in another of the worst winters in living memory, the dreaded winter of '81. I thought that, given our current white-out, and the fact that I'm moored right on the spot - what better time could there be for another Then & Now?! So here goes...

(Note the fact that there's no Kingfisher Marina in 1981! Other than that, not much changes on some parts of the cut in 30 years or so, eh? Why should it?)

Yardley Gobion Canal Bridge 1981


Yardley Gobion Canal Bridge 1981 no.2


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Back Onboard! Snowbound for sure... Making hot water bottles for the engine...

So now I'm back onboard the good ship after the frolics of Christmas and New Year, both of which were supremely good fun. All of my hoping that the coldest weather was behind us seems to have been in vain! It's snowing real powder snow, here at Yardley Gobion right now!See?!


Mum and I arrived at the boat this afternoon, armed with supplies including petrol for the generator and some food, which is always nice... After puncturing a four-pinter on I-can't-fathom-what, and duly spraying milk all over the bedroom unwittingly, it was time to begin the fun of coaxing the engine back to life after more than a week of sitting idly in sub-zero temperatures. Oil topped up, electric keys plugged in, raw water valve opened - I thought it prudent to check in the water filter for signs of ice - and ice there was! Not a solid lump but a strange 3D latticework of the stuff... I squeezed a couple of the water lines and heard a disconcerting crunching sound...

I attempted to turn over the engine, but something was wrong - I noticed that the water pump belt was not moving! So next job was to get into the impeller housing and -

Okay, fast forward to the juicy bits because you're a busy person, right? You don't want ALL the details!

Short version is: I had to resort to using a hot water bottle to warm up most of the water lines around the engine! In the end it worked just fine, and despite grumbling at the beginning she was ticking over happily within seconds, while Mum did sterling work getting the stove going.

We bought a bag of coal, which is doing wonders in the stove this evening. It's my first night with coal on, and what a difference! It seems warmer throughout the boat, and requires far, far less attention than relying solely on wood. Wood which has sap in it, sap which runs down the flue and stinks!

Officially they're saying it's the coldest winter in the UK for 30 years, which makes it the coldest winter I've ever lived through! And it's turned out to be the winter I'm on a narrowboat... HURRAY! If it's this desolate and wonderfully bleak opposite a Marina with a village nearby, I can only dream what it must be like for the lucky souls moored out in the wild stretches of nowhere! The lonely stretch near the north end of the Oxford Canal springs to mind... 

It seems like everyone else blogging from the canals is going nowhere either! We're a community of stationary nomads for now... I hope everyone on the system can easily access water and similar essential facilities. I'm lucky enough to be directly opposite the wharf here so facilities could hardly be nearer. If this continues for much longer we'll be saying to each other; "Ahhh, I remember when those thin bungalows at the bottom of the hill used to MOVE!" And our Grandchildren (of the post-apocalyptic-winter generation) will scarce believe us. 

Tomorrow morning I'm on an adventure with my camera, so expect a photo-laden post tomorrow! Now I'm off to explore exceptional whisky and science fiction at the same time.

A couple of recent photos, just 'cos...