Saturday, 23 April 2011

Up to my ass in alligators

Here we are in Oxford and very pleasant it all is. However, it has not necessarily been a dry day as I have, for the second time since buying the boat, fallen in the cut. It happened in a place that I was well and truly warned about by, as it happens, Maffi who we met for the first time yesterday. Maffi has mentioned in his blog the installation of a new barrage outside Isis Lock that had been located in the wrong place. And I would absolutely agree.

We arrived at the pub The Jolly Boatman, Thrupp, at the lower end of the Oxford Canal. A lovely area with well maintained moorings by the TCCC, we took a walk to the local co-op and passed Milly M, Maffi's boat. Comments on the blog indicated that Maffi was around and we met up later in the evening. A very pleasant time was had by one and all. Maffi was the first person to find this blog and mentioned it on his own.

Oh, and by the way, further to my story of emergency brickwork in one lock earlier in the week, I have found more emergency work had been carried out. In this case an emergency path laid to the paddle gear necessitating the closure of a paddle on Easter weekend and more queues for slow filling locks. Isn't BW management just brilliant. You really couldn't make this stuff up. Is this the result of a navigation authority being run by non-boaters? You decide. I'm starting to sound like Maffi now.

Emergency concrete path
Today we left Thrupp and made our way to Isis Lock to wind and find a mooring opposite Collage Cruisers ready for the meeting of friends and the return leg of the trip. Out through Isis I thought it was a little tight but considered it could easily be done if I take it easy. Well I took it easy and got stuck due to the constraints imposed by the new barrier that has been built by BW. There may be enough room to turn a 70 footer but, in the (bastardized) words of Eric Morecambe, not necessarily in the right places. I got stuck in the trees at the back end and in the mud at the front end.

Attempting to extract myself I (stupidly) managed to place the boat pole against a 'v' in the bough of a canal side elm and the inevitable happened, it slipped and I was swimming for my life. Well possibly a slight exaggeration but I was standing up to my chest in water, tangled up in underwater roots and up to my ankles in mud. However the boat was moving in my direction and I was stuck in the mud so was slightly worried that the boat would move over the top of me but fortunately I was able to physically stop it and the propeller wasn't turning.

A particularly wet yours truely
Fortunately, despite the number of gongoozlers, nobody apparently saw my possible demise and I extracted myself onto the counter without anyone seemingly noticing and wielded the boat pole like a true pro. Even Lisa who had been examining my progress from the open Isis saw that I had disappeared for a minute but failed to recognise that I had been swimming. Even the bloke who was also watching my progress and came to chat to me recommending that I write a letter to BW telling them of the difficulty of turning at that point also failed to notice that I had taken a dip even though I was dripping wet and covered in mud.

Looks big enough to me
I don't want to blame the positioning of the barrage for my dunking but it is certainly in the wrong place and does not make easy the turning of a full sized boat in that space. And there wasn't any flow in the water which would have made it virtually impossible.

Needless to say that I will indeed be joining the protest to have the barrage removed from it's current location and will be writing to BW. Well it could have contributed in killing me, couldn't it. That's a relatively good reason to protest don't you think.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Emergencies, shopping and BBQs.

 I spoke a little too soon when I said that there were no queues for the locks. At Slat Mill Lock south of Cropredy, BW decided to do some 'emergency' brickwork and there was a small disgruntled group of ten boats waiting to go through in our direction with a simlar number in the other. The workers seemingly didn't expect so many boaters to be around (quizzical look). I think some appalling BW management may have had a hand in this. We considered getting to the front by declaring a medical emergency as we were running short of alcohol but fortunately Lisa found a dusty bottle of something indescribable so all was well.

Disgruntled boaters
Two hours later we were through and on to Banbury which was a little bit of a surprise as the canal goes from rural tranquility to having heavily leaden shoppers tripping over your boat and waiting for Lisa to lower the mid town lift bridge so they can continue their retail therapy, back to rural tranquillity again all in the space of about twenty minutes. Did that really happen or did I doze off and have a nightmare.
You don't get these on the Ashby
The highlight of our Banbury excursion was watching the arrest of a cider drinking type beside our boat for the theft of a belt from the Blue Cross!!!, whatever that is. It was like being in one of those Real Life Cops With Cameras type shows. I was hoping we weren't going to be following the unfortunate cider drinker to the station as the police poured his bottle of White Lightning away stating that it was a non-drinking zone. We had several bottles of opened beer on the hatch and had consumed several before our arrival. With relief I then realised that we would be perceived as being middle class as I was attempting to wrestle 20 tons of badly behaving steel so those rules wouldn't't apply to us. Toodle pip. More Pimms anyone.

Someone mentioned that at Aynho there is a pig farm that you can pick up very good BBQ meat products for our evening fare. Fortunately we decided to use Morrisons instead and forgo the pleasure of meeting the unfortunate BBQ meat's live family. No idea where we are this evening but I can hear the M40 and Lisa snoring.
Another rubbish mooring

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

First time on the Oxford Canal

After a pleasant trip from Braunston and up Napton to overnight at Marston Doles. We arrived in Cropredy today but alas are several months too early for the folk festival. Decent Hooky around here though. It's a pleasant change on the Oxford from being at Braunston in that it is much quieter. It's like Piccadilly Circus round Braunston but here there are no queues for the locks and everything is quite civilized.

Another bridge!

Too hot for wooly jumpers. Sheep in the shade.  
 Lisa's has been trying on her summer clothes and today was the perfect day for that. She's taken to wearing my old army trousers for some strange reason but has a habit of spilling beer over them by mistake. Personally I'd rather drink the stuff but everyone to their own.
Those winter floods really left their mark

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Ex-working boat Renwick

To back my previous discussion point, I've just seem nbRenwick entering Hillmorton Top lock, hit the gate when entering and bang into the bottom lock. And before any ex-working boat owners tell me that that's the way the old working boaters used to do it I would like to say, 'Rubbish'. Some of you just can't handle a full sized boat.

Braunston today and tomorrow. Bit busy around these parts.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Ex-working boat Aldgate

I've just watched ex-working boat(big Woolwich), nbAldgate at Sutton Stop turning from the North Oxford to the Coventry in one go without engaging reverse. I'd heard that it could be done in a full sized boat but had never seen it. I have nearly done it myself in the past but always failed in the end. Should I put it down to my inferior stern gear or a lack of ability on my part. Well Mr Wolfe, I doff my hat to you sir for you are indeed a master boatsman (if there is such a thing). There are few enough ex-working boat owners out there with any boat handling skills at all. I reckon that I just have inferior stern gear (or possibly inferior abilities). And I thought I knew everything.

I am so jealous (but trying to hide it).

Monday, 11 April 2011

Coventry Beer Festival

Can you believe it. It was the Ashby Canal and you don't expect crime around there. We have been drilled. That is, the fuel tank on our car was drilled with an electric drill, the fuel stolen and the remainder left to flow all over the road. "Happens quite often." says the AA man as he pushed some epoxy into the hole.. Not to us it doesn't. There are scronks everywhere and with the current price of fuel, it will be more prevalent in the future. No wonder all the livaboards round there drive small, cheap cars. Lets be careful out there.

I did have a diatribe about Paul Davies' position (well somebody's got to support minority groups and lost causes) but have decided that life's just too short to place it on here. I'm possibly one of the very few who support his right to be a bridge hopper. It was one of the comments on nb No Problems blog that convinced me not to bother. There was one person who claimed to be struggling with his finances but was having a brand new boat built but who was currently a hirer and that constant moorers made his blood boil. I would advise him to not have that boat built if boating is that stressful and he doesn't have any money. We really need less boiling blood on the canals and more of the easy going, relaxed sort of boater. Maybe boaters who didn't interfere with other people's lives and just concentrated on their own. Maybe a little rationality might be nice. Just my tuppence worth.

Here we were at Coventry Basin for the Coventry Beer Festival (Surprise, surprise). Our daughter Terri also stayed over and attended the festival although she was a tad overdressed for a beer drinking event. I think she even enjoyed it. I most certainly did, as did Lisa. The festival itself was what a beer festival should be. Small enough to be friendly but with a large enough selection of beers so you can sample many different types.

The canal on the way to the basin had a certain amount of debris in it but no worse than any other urban canal despite others telling me that it was full of mattresses. Indeed it was a very pleasant journey and the basin itself is lovely and in the centre of the city. I think that we shall make this one a date for the future.

First bend, that's not a good start

And again

Some houses!
Old and new
This ones not in my fifteen year old Nicholson

The bridge into the basin, very low and no towpath. For security apparently

Masses of room to spare

All very pleasant when you're here

Even James Brindley thinks so.

Not many others here though. Do they know something we don't.
We've decied to pop down to Oxford during the two weeks of the Easter holidays. We were planning the Warwickshire Ring but thought we need to visit pastures new.