Monday, 30 April 2012

Top Box and Ben Nevis

The Skipper’s had a busy day today …… Well for him anyway.

After yesterday’s deluge of rain, today has been sunshine all the time and enabled him to finish off the touch up process around my hull and also to undercoat and gloss the top box.

It was repaired earlier by Tooley’s in Banbury as it was badly rotted on two sides but they never painted it other than making the new wood waterproof.


001  All touched up and Top Box glossed ready for the off.

All touched up, Ensign flying and Top Box glossed ready for the ‘off’


So the Skipper climbed up onto the roof in the sun and undercoated it in the morning and then glossed it with Oxford Blue this afternoon.

He’s been a busy boy altogether as he has also replaced the toilet roll holder in the Shower Room. The old roll was badly worn and kept falling out of its socket splaying toilet roll all over the deck. So it needed doing for some time and he’s only just got round to it. 

He’s certainly been taking a lot of care over my wellbeing recently and I do appreciate it. But I can’t help feeling it is all so short lived. I know him too well.

All he’s waiting for is the return from Ben Nevis of Janis the new lady in his life and then, true to his usual form, he’ll neglect me entirely. She has been away for the weekend with two of her chums climbing the peak

He tells everybody that they are just good friends but I can’t help feeling threatened by her for the next few months. Even though they will be living on separate boats, knowing how he behaves when there is any woman nearby, showing off and doing about like he does, I’m sure she will have him wound around her little finger in no time at all and I shall be entirely ignored and uncared for.

It’s not fair!

He’s my Skipper and nobody else’s ….. and I’m his crew!

So why does he want anybody else for goodness sake?

We were doing very well before she came along so why can’t we carry on like that just as before? …. Just him and me! …. Everything’s been going so well up until now.

It’s really not fair!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Newark on Trent

On Thursday last 26th April we arrived here at Kings Marina ready for our rendezvous with Janis on ‘Roots and Wings’. The little blue ship, with her New Zealand ensign flying very bravely was tied up snugly alongside her usual jetty and I moored stern-first a couple of spaces away to wait till the lady skipper finished work. This was her last day before being free to embark on her great travel adventure.

Also close by were my Friends Peter and Jeanne who since we last met on the Chesterfield Canal at Retford, now live aboard their new boat ‘Castellan’. Her newness shone out beautifully in spite of the dull and overcast showery day.


006  Trees hiding the River Tame

Trees hiding the River Tame approaching Fradley Junction


009  Fradley Junction from the Coventry Canal

Fradley Junction


It had been a  good passage from Polesworth on the Coventry Canal and up until Fradley Junction the weather remained fairly friendly. But once we were heading in an easterly direction along the Trent & Mersey we were continually blighted by showers, some of them quite heavy and squally enough for me to close the doors behind me on the top step, slide the lid of the hatch close up, wedging me against the back doors and to unfold my great big black umbrella. This kept the plunging rain away from the back cabin completely and of course off me.


004  Young Horse Chestnut, unbleamished so far

The Passage of spring. Young unblemished horse chestnut



Rain to the south of us


We were soon through busy Nottingham, apart from a short stop at Sainsbury’s for provisions, and through Meadow Lane Lock onto the River Trent; the wide and beautiful River Trent.

It was lovely to be back.


013Exit from Cranfleet Lock into the Trent

Exit from Cranfleet Lock


The river was higher than I had seen it before; well into the amber part of the flood warning gauge and the current carried us swiftly along with us on a low rpm, just maintaining steerage way. However because of the various eddies and currents pulling us strongly in different directions, the Russell Newbery had to work quite hard at times to get us back onto course somewhere down the middle of the river. But mostly it was very peaceful and I was able to share it all very relaxedly with the Swans, Cormorants, Geese, Lapwings, Oystercatchers and of course Mallards in all their mating finery.

Life on the river was unchanged by the weather and progressing as usual.

The showers increased over the days and by the time we arrived at Gunthorpe Lock everywhere was becoming waterlogged with heavy showers becoming more frequent now.


006  On the pontoon at Farndon

On the pontoon at Farndon


001  Sunset

Sunset at Farndon


However the following morning the Sun shone valiantly and sparkled so brilliantly on all the steaming rain soaked surfaces that it encouraged ‘Futurest’ and I  to make the final dash to Newark that day.

However soon after leaving the rain came again and by the time we had covered the nine miles to Farndon I had had enough. And since a mooring was available on the inside of the pontoon, we stayed there till the following morning, completing our leisurely passage into Newark at around midday.

The river was even higher by then with the current flowing faster. Great care and concentration was required to make sure we passed through the centre arch of the Town Bridge safely.

We entered without mishap through the narrow entrance beneath the footbridge and into the marina. Our passage was completed satisfactorily.


001  Good to see it flying again after seven months

The Staff in place and the ensign flying for the first time in seven months

The River Trent

I love the River Trent.

The splendid and mighty River Trent.

I love its vastness in width and depth and, in all its moods, it excites me wonderfully.

I enjoy the feel of its caress as the water holds me in its embrace, while it moves along my side and under my bottom, softly but firmly like a considerate and thoughtful lover, pulling me here and there in its strong  eddies and currents, leaving little that I can do about it. I am helpless, as a marionette in its grip.

I love the way it teases me by allowing me to force my way through it, pushing ahead a great pile of water with my blunt retroussé nose, before letting it fall aside and swiftly catch the rest as it rushes along my sides.

I am thrilled beyond ecstasy, when the wind is ahead of me and it whips up the spray into my face, stinging me momentarily and then leaving the water dripping languidly from my fender.

With all the rainfall over the last few days, the river is very high. It is showing its strength and is full of impressive drama. How wonderfully it moves me.


006  Exit from Stoke Bardolph Lock into the Weir stream



007  Th swirling currents over Stoke Bardolph Weir

The eddies of the River at Stoke Bardolph


002  The Cliffs at Radcliffe on Trent

The cliffs at Radcliffe on Trent


Monday, 16 April 2012


We have a beautiful ‘3G’ modem signal here in Polesworth so I have decided to forgo a morning’s cruising bathed in glorious sunshine, in favour of writing something down.

I meant to do this last night after tying up at the end of a splendid day’s passage. But the earlier twenty miles and twelve locks overcame me as I sat in the easy chair just for a moment while I had quick cup of coffee first.

Yes, I nodded off, only to awake two hours afterwards, with my hot drink very cold and by then much to late to consider any writing.

So here I am today full of vigour and expectation and eager to tell of my adventures since leaving Napton.


007  The Sun doing its best to show

A foggy Sunrise at Napton


The weather has been fine throughout in spite of a fresh and very chilly north easterly breeze. It has made navigation quite difficult at times and I felt the distinct need, while the Sun bathed us in unopposed sunshine, to bundle myself up with sweaters, coats and gloves in order to keep warm standing on the stern platform. But the travelling has been wonderful nonetheless.

On Saturday I arrived at Braunston from Napton in the early afternoon and as I needed to buy cotton rope from Tradline Rope and Fenders, and a couple of bags of coal from the chandlery I planned to make this my stop for the night.

Just as I left the ship to do so my good friends David and Heather off ‘It’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ happened to be passing by just at that moment. As neither of us had planned this, it does fully endorse the power of coincidence I think.

We hadn’t met for a full year so had quite a lot of catching up to do. I invited them aboard and as my supply of wine ran out before we had completed exchanging our news, we went back to their ship, just a few moorings down from me, to complete our recollections. I managed to arrive back safely to ‘Futurest’ sometime later.


038  Marsh Marigold responding to the Sun's warmth

Marsh Marigold


They were staying a further night but I left the following morning for a brilliant day’s run (for me anyway) of eighteen miles up the North Oxford Canal. I finally spent a very quiet and peaceful night just north, but out of earshot, of the M6, along a firm piece of embankment with pins that hammered easily into the solid unyielding ground.

Then with an 8 am start the following day, I arrived here at Polesworth at half past six after covering the aforementioned 20 miles and twelve locks. I was tempted to remain at Atherstone after completing the eleven locks there and I was ready for it. But the Sun still shone and the breeze had dropped, so I was glad to push on for another hour.

I was so pleased that I did as it was on this stretch that I saw my first Swallows of the year darting and swerving smartly just a few inches above the green grass. I also saw my first tiny Mallard ducklings of the season like little furry yellow and brown ping pong balls swimming so furiously as to be almost walking on the water.

But I’m glad I moored here as I like Polesworth; I’ve tied up here once before, two years ago. It has the ruins of an old abbey nearby the church but like so many of these places, it was dissolved at the Reformation and a Tudor house was built in its stead.



The remains of Polesworth Abbey


100_0086 The disolved bbey was turned into as Tudor Manor

The Tudor house on the site of the ruined abbey


The locals here also tell of a much more ancient legend that after the Romans defeated Queen Boudicca of the Iceni they dumped her body unceremoniously into the River Anker at Manduessadum (the site of the modern Mancetter near Atherstone) and it drifted down the stream coming finally to rest at Polesworth. The  people here then fished her out and gave the poor lady a burial somewhere nearby that befitted her standing much more.

What a wonderful story.


001  The Bridge at Polesworth

The Bridge at Polesworth over the River Anker


And so dear reader you are more or less up to date again with my travels and as the weather is still very fine, I shall press on towards the canal junctions of Fazeley and then Fradley to join the Trent and Mersey Canal going westwards.

Thursday, 12 April 2012


This evening I am with the blogger’s modem nightmare. This particular blogger anyway  …… ‘GPRS’.

The speed of this internet connection is so slow as to be almost non-existent. In fact at times I wait for about ten minutes (so patiently!) for something to upload only to get the white screen displayed with the message that the internet site I require is not available.

Text is about all I can manage if anything to upload so I don’t even try to post photos anymore unless I have the glorious ‘3G’ connection, with its sparkling sapphire blue fixed light shining brightly over me from the modem, like a planet in the heavens.

So tonight I have to be brief.

As the title implies, we are moored in my favourite spot about thirty yards above Napton Bottom Lock. We arrived at 2.30 and have enjoyed the sunshine ever since. Earlier I took a short walk down to the Folly Bridge Shop, next door to the ‘Folly’ Pub, to see my old acquaintance, the Winston Churchill lookalike, who runs it and all the while chatters on happily, while I am trying to concentrate on what I have to buy.

Napton always has a special place in my heart. It is so quiet, even though it’s busy with hire boats going in both directions at this holiday time of the year. But the Sun always shines on Napton Hill so that the houses and windmill seem to shimmer so brightly at all times.

Soon I have to make my mind up whether to try for Newark via the Leicester Arm with its water shortage restrictions or to go for the longer route via the North Oxford and Coventry Canals, turning right at Fradley Junction. The former is quicker and enables me to savour on the way, the lovely River Soar but I need to be realistic and above all practical.

I’ll phone British Waterways tomorrow morning before setting off to see what they advise.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Radio Aerial Mooring

Travellers who know the meandering, but magical summit pound of the South Oxford Canal, will know immediately from the title, where ‘Futurest’ and I are spending the night.
About two and a half miles north by canal distance from Fenny Compton, though because of the canal’s winding snakelike nature, only one and a half as the crow flies, is a very quiet and  safe mooring known by all as the Radio Aerial Mooring.
It is on a long stretch of well maintained tow path and the banks of the canal have been well reinforced with interlocking steel pylon; just right for quickly slipping through your ‘gee’ hook mooring pin. So secure is the mooring here that I have made up two hooks with a length of mooring rope spliced to each. At the other end of each rope I have spliced another eye so that when I come to a mooring that I consider safe, like this one, I slip the loose eye on the dolly at the stern and quickly slip the hook down behind the ‘Tin’. Then  going to the bow, I similarly hook the loose eye over the mooring ‘tee’ and similarly poke the hook behind a suitable hole behind the steelwork. The whole process is very quick, safe and the vessel is always held firmly against her fenders. Obviously the two ropes differ in length with the one at the stern being much shorter so it doesn’t do to get them muddled up.
One needs to moor up as quickly as possible for example when one arrives in the middle of a heavy rain shower, as we did today, so I found this method really ideal. Without exaggeration in two minutes flat we were all fast fore and aft.
Apart from this one soggy shower, the Sun shone beautifully for us all day in a puffy brilliant white and blue speckled sky. Nature was all around us bursting forth in all its deep generosity. Clouded Yellow and Brimstone butterflies chased each other about and a herd of cattle galloped and leapt about as  exuberantly as their bulk would allow, like new born lambs. It was a joy to watch.
There was plenty of traffic on the canal as well, families making full use of the Easter school holidays. They were mostly hire boats and came regularly enough in the opposite direction to us so that I never had to open nor close a single gate as we passed through the eight locks. It was perfectly timed as we never had to wait to use a lock either; couldn’t have been planned better.
When I bought ‘Futurest’ three years ago at Great Haywood and while I was waiting for her to be repainted, I got to know a girl called Lesa who lived by  herself on a converted small butty called ‘Eileen’. The boat was in a poor state and Lesa, as she could afford to do so, was refurbishing it. But because she was a working girl the project never progressed very quickly and last October as I was towed through Great Haywood I spotted ‘Eileen’, if anything looking worse for wear than ever. There was no sign of Lesa as I passed so I was unable to pick up her latest news. So today I was most surprised when I met a smart little converted butty with a man at the helm whom I only had time to pass the time of the day with before we were past and gone. It was only then that I noticed ‘Eileen’ on each side of the stern. Whether Lesa has sold up or whether she has found herself a travelling companion and was aboard and down below I may now never know, but I’m sure it has to be the same boat.
Sorry I’m rambling on a bit today but talking of meeting people; yesterday at Bourton Lock I met another old friend; John on a beautifully looked after boat called ‘Mr Jinks’. He and I became firm friends two years ago while marooned at the bottom of the Caen Hill Locks for a month on The Kennet & Avon Canal. Though we exchanged contact details then, we had lost touch in the meantime so it was a pleasure to meet him again. He is on his way south to return to the K&A and we had quite a catch up while we did the lock together.
We covered eight and a half miles today so we did very well. ‘Futurest’ seems to like her new engine as well as I do and always answers the helm and the throttle so quickly and positively. She is a delight to control and behaves impeccably.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


And so at last the voyage has begun.

After yesterday’s glum weather, ‘Futurest’ and I set off from Banbury at around 1130 this morning in beautiful conditions. Though there was no sign of it now, the very recent rain during the night sparkled on the bright paintwork as we set off northwards.


003  More Lesser Celandine

A whole host of Lesser Celandine line the canal for us


The departure time was delayed until then because I needed to find some coal as I was down to my last few shovel-fulls; not enough to see us through another night, if it became cold.

Most suppliers, like me, had been caught out by the earlier fine warm weather and had not renewed stocks, thinking coal wouldn’t be needed any more till the end of the year. However at Morrison’s Garage, though there was none on display, they had a small stock of household coal in 10 kg bags in the lock up behind, so I bought four of them at enormous expense and trundled them through the town, back to the ship on my little fold up sack truck, which due to over excessive use, is looking a bit wear worn these days. But it has been such a good friend to me over the time I’ve been living aboard.


005  The new lambs have grown since I last came this way

How the lambs have grown since I was last this way


On leaving the mooring I called in briefly at Sovereign Narrowboats to top up with diesel at 88 pence a litre. Then with excited hearts we chugged off towards Hardwick Lock in pure brilliant sunshine.

The short passage to Cropredy was soon accomplished and on arrival at the water point to top up the fresh water, there was Mark the coal, diesel and gas man on ‘Dusty’. I bought a Calor gas  and two bags of smokeless coal to make sure I was okay until the temperature starts to creep up again.

My roof top box, which Tooley’s repaired still needs an undercoat and a gloss and normally I would stock this well up on seeing the coal boat. But all my coal is now temporarily in the cratch looking very untidy until I can re-stow it above after the box has been painted. The coal also restricts my movement in this area so I need to keep stocks to a minimum for the time being. Hopefully I shan’t need any more coal.


009  Raindrops on the water

Raindrops on the water


Though fluffy white cumulus cloud began to increase during the day, the Sun continued to shine faultlessly but as we we tied up just above Cropredy Lock at three o’clock a large black mass of cumulonimbus began to build ominously from the south west. But in the end its bark was bigger than its bite and it passed over us with just a few drops of rain falling only.

And now that we are all battened down for the night, I think I’ll pay ‘The Red Lion’ one last visit for this year.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Plucking up the courage

Sometime ago I decided that as soon as ‘Futurest’ came out of dry dock there would be nothing to hold us from cruising into the blue for the journey up to Newark (refer back to Tuesday 31st January 2012 for cruising details) 

Easter Monday seemed the best day for taking the plunge but since there is no blue today, only heavy grey accompanied by lots of rain, I’ve decided to postpone the departure for twenty four hours. The weather forecast for tomorrow is much brighter and much more conducive to a fair weather sailor like me.

Since the shops were closed yesterday, I need the extra time also to re-provision the ship for the next few days. There seems to be a bit more life about Banbury today so I'll be off to do that after completing this entry. 

However I had to do some emergency shopping yesterday. During the earlier warm spell of weather I had let my fire go out, had cleaned the chimney and generally put it away for the summer optimistically assuming that the cold had now gone away. I was down to my last bag of coal and as my coal box on the roof was at Tooley’s being repaired I didn’t do anything about buying more fuel for the time being. ….. After all I wouldn’t want it till the winter would I?

But since coming out of dry dock I’ve needed to relight the fire and by yesterday was desperate for coal. I thought B&Q would be a safe bet for opening on Sunday but they were closed. All the shops were closed. So the only way to purchase coal was to find a garage and I had noted before that many of these now have stopped selling coal in favour of the BBQ charcoal briquettes. However after a walk with my little fold up trolley I found a garage in Warwick Road that sold 5kg bags of smokeless coal at enormous expense. I bought a couple of those to get me through last night and I shall find some other source today.


002  As ready as we shall ever be for the 'off'

‘Futurest’ newly painted and eager for the off


On my walk to find coal I took a short cut through the local cemetery and passed the grave stone of my paternal grandparents. I hadn’t seen it for a number of years and I don’t expect anybody else in the family has either since chronologically I am the head of the family now. But considering this, it was in quite good state and stood out way above all its neighbours with its decoration of daffodils and narcissi. …. They must have been there for at least twenty years and presumably and very faithfully blossomed at this time of the year every year.


006  The grave of my paternal Grandparents

The last resting place of my paternal Grandparents


And so at last after all our adventures, we are ready again for another year. What a wonderful thought.


Thursday, 5 April 2012

Out of Dry Dock

Today I was re-floated after a few days in dry dock. I don’t know what happened to the Skipper but typically he was nowhere around when all the hard work was needed. He just skinned off out for four days leaving me and the Tooley’s Team to get on with it.

Resting in Tooley’s Dry Dock

I don’t know where he went but he appeared again today after I was back alongside the quay, looking very smart in my fresh black underwater coat.
On Monday they took me in early and as soon as the water was drained away by gravity from this ancient dock (apparently the oldest in the country), they washed and scraped away all the accumulated grot from my bottom and I felt better straightaway. Then two coats of the bituminous paint were put on and each was allowed to dry individually overnight with the heat turned on in the dock. It was a very pleasant experience.

The sacrificial anodes on the starboard bow

Also while I was out of the water they gave me a good inspection looking for abnormal pitting and generally noting the wear of the ten anodes that I have on my sides. It is actually six anodes that are required but four old ones were left in place when the new ones were installed.
Nothing nasty was found and it was a nice rest for me. I enjoyed every minute of it.

My large rudder

Then this afternoon the ‘Old Man’ returns as bold as brass with his usual big silly grin and, like I’ve already said, after all the work was done.
He decided it was time to turn around and face north ready for a quick getaway at the weekend.
So RN was fired up and away we went down through Banbury Lock and out past Morrison’s to the winding point at the bottom of Bankside.

The balanced rudder, large screw and anodes in the starboard swim

We took it slowly because of the many moored boats on the way but it was lovely to be moving again and manoeuvring cleanly and easily on the turn. There was no wind which helped our progress enormously and it was a thoroughly satisfying afternoon out.  I could see the Skipper was enjoying it too. He managed to concentrate quite well for a change (he can when he wants to) but this time it was probably because he was very aware of my spanking new coat of black and didn’t want to scratch it on its first day out.
We are now back at the same mooring, outside the Castle Quay Shopping Centre but facing north instead.

The after end on the Starboard side