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?