Dobbin Comes Home
Thursday 23rd April 2009
Gloria and Norman - a lovely couple. We spent a little while with them, talking about the boat, and other things, and enjoying a nice cuppa. We were blessed with a glorious spring day, and after filling up with water, eventually left bridge 79 on the Coventry Canal at 1.30, with the bike on the roof. It was in the way - an eyesore!
We ran into a minor technical hitch after 10 mins when the engine died. Have we run out of fuel, or is there water in the diesel filter? The engine did start again after a brief rest. At 'The Tame Otter' close to Dixons Bridge we stopped to use facilities. We had forgotten the bike padlock, so couldn't both leave the boat. A nice take-away lunch was provided by the pub. The engine screeches each time it starts up, until it warms up. It was a challenge trying to find somewhere 'away' to put everything. The bike was put precariously on the front of the boat.
It was 4.15 when we reached Fazely Junction. The locks on this canal are narrow with two half bottom gates and one full top one. Nice easy lightweight gates. At 6.30 we stopped for the night at Polesworth, and made a brief exploration of the battery isolators.
Polesworth 6.30. 2 locks.
Friday 24th .
We discovered that we had forgotten the hose, and also, that we had two flat batteries. This was when the generator came into its own, but it turned out to be a major problem. The boater we moored up close to, was very supportive. He used his jump leads, some of his tools and even his battery, and spent a good 45 mins with us. He declined the offer to 'get yourself a pint', and told us he was going to blog us on the internet. He got us going and we didn't dare let the engine stop. We left Polesworth at 10.30.
Coventry Canal is narrow, the locks are just wide enough for one boat, and it has numerous width-restriction bridges. It requires concentration to make some of the bends and then straighten up for the bridge.
The engine did stop, not far from 'The King's Head' in Atherstone. Atherstone town centre is pleasant enough to spend an hour or so, and the car spare shop provided us with two new batteries - delivered to the pub - and a bike chain. The King's Head offers crushed ice, a nice evening meal, and overnight mooring.
Atherstone 1.30. 6 locks.
We awoke to find water dripping from the gas water heater. There seems to be a bit of a problem with the pump, so we had to remember to turn it off each time we used it. We left at 8.40 in drizzle, and the engine started perfectly. It took us an hour to get through 5 locks
From the boatyard at Bridge 27, we bought another hose, an air filter, and two fenders. I wondered how easy or otherwise it would be to rig up some sort of canopy for purposes of rain protection while steering, but the day picked up and became pleasant.
A late liquid lunch in 'The Greyhound' at Hawkesbury Junction, where Terry enjoyed a pint of green beer, before going onto the Oxford Canal, preceeded hours and hours of relaxing, twisty pound, in the long shadows of the evening glow, with not a lock in sight. We passed under the M6 at 6.00.
The stove was repaired and lit for the first time, and smoking nicely - outside. It is not a good idea to have the stove alight while navigating. Newbold was our first tunnel, and we were obliged to use the plug in tunnel light, as the one on the front is not bright enough. We emerged and moored for the night at 8.00
Newbold on Avon 8.00. 6 locks.
We re-arranged the bike in the front well, taking off the wheels and saddle, and finally got it right, and the new air filter was put on the engine. The platform I use for standing on, needs to be fuller and higher.
Another glorious day. In the chandlers at Hillmorton, we came across a BLUE key cork. We stopped for a chat with Dominic at Rugby Boat Sales as we went past, and lost the engine again. We think it might be the fuel pump.
At Braunston, we entered the Grand Union Canal, and negotiated a flight of 6, before entering Braunston Tunnel at 6.00. It is possible for two narrow boats to pass in the tunnel, but there is a slight kink along its length and we were grateful we didn't have to pass anyone. It was quite an experience to navigate and a good light is essential. Back into daylight again at 6.40, and shortly beyond the tunnel, (luckily) the engine died. However, it always starts again after a rest, and we were not prepared to investigate it until we were safely home. We stopped for the night just prior to Book 1.
Norton Junction 715. 9 locks.
Pouring with rain, and we discovered we have a bit of leak on one of the windows, and water was dripping from the window catch making the seat cushions damp. It's no problem if the window is open, something else to investigate once we're safely home.
We left at 9.15 and began our descent of the Buckby 7. Soaking wet and chilled to the bone, we went into 'The Wharf Inn' at Bridge 36 to warm up a bit. The best place to do this was in the toilets, under the hand dryer. It stopped raining while we were in the pub. But it started again, when we were back on the boat.
All the way we've criss-crossed the main inter city London to Glasgow railway line. Trains run frequently and audibly.
Blisworth Tunnel is a long one at 3057 yards, and although it is possible for two boats to pass in the tunnel, if you're not blinded by their tunnel light, we waited for the oncoming boat to emerge. We found it reassuring to see a tiny pinprick of light at the far end of the tunnel, and travelled through with ease. It was not a particularly pleasant experience, though, because there were constant drips from the tunnel roof, plus the occasional torrent coming through the air vents - it was still raining, and the constant flow of cold air chilled us. Having become accustomed to the dark, our hand held tunnel light proved to be very effective, making steering easy.
The stove proved its worth. All wet outer garments were hung close to it, and dried well overnight. In 'The Boat' during the evening at Stoke Bruerne, Terry got talking to a couple from his stamping ground. SHE - we didn't get as far as names - knew his area and a few of his colleagues, and they enjoyed a deep nostalgia trip.
Stoke Bruerne 6.30. 7 locks.
Just after 10.00 we began the flight of 7, this time shared with another boat. It makes such a difference with one either side of the lock, especially when an oncoming boat allows us to leave gates open. We filled up with water just after the bottom lock. While tidying up a bit, we found two holes in the flooring which take the two table legs that had been left in one of the holds. The boat really does seem to contain everything we might require.
Locks apart, we had been averaging 4mph. It's a nice spring day today. Spring is such a lovely time of year, and the middle of a canal is the best vantage point for observing waterfowl and their young. Boats are no threat to them, and the babies are taught that boats (sometimes) mean food.
While cruising the Milton Keynes pound, we came across a boater in distress. His boat was silted up close to the bank, and unable to move. So we threw him a rope and towed him out. Our 26ft boat pulled a 70ft narrow boat. It takes a such long time to pass moored residential boats. The owners can be quite aggressive if they think you are moving too fast. We seem to have parted company with the railway. It's been very peaceful since coming out of the Blisworth Tunnel.
Mark and Suzanne, with whom we shared the Stoke Bruerne flight, recommended we moor at Linford, where there is a water point, Elsan disposal, a shop and a pub. We topped up with water, and spent an enjoyable evening with them in 'The Giffard Park'
Linford 6.00. 8 locks.
At 7.15 we were pulling away to embark on a long stretch with no locks. Mist was coming off the water, and the sun was low in our eyes, making navigating a bit difficult. We fell in behind a wide beam moving at snails pace, and slowing down for bridges, forcing us to go into reverse. They went through Fenny Stratford lock ahead of us, and stopped for water. That would enable us to pass them. However, we had picked up a large sheet of heavy duty plastic, which had wrapped itself around the propeller, and weren't going anywhere. By the time we were moving again, they too had moved on. Sod's law.
They were only turning round, so we made some progress after that, and we shared the three Soulbury locks with someone else. It was another glorious day, and all went well. Overall, we negotiated 17 locks without a hitch, and were grateful to be able to stop for the night.
Marsworth 8.30. 17 locks.
We began our ascent at 8.20 after topping up and emptying out. The locks are now padlocked, and a BW key is necessary. The whole time that water is gushing out through the paddles, it is trickling in from the other end, and we found it was a good idea to open the gates before closing the final paddle. Vandal proof locks don't really work. Vandals either take the padlock or glue up the keyhole.
After much needed refreshment in 'The Three Horseshoes' at Winkwell, we had to stop the traffic to operate the swing bridge. It is fully automatic and all we had to do was press buttons. The Fishery Inn where we spent the night, has become an Ember Inn. It had no character of all the long forgotten boaters who used to congregate there with their cargo, heading for Nuneaton or Birmingham. A bit of a disappointment. 25 locks today and not much time for anything else.
Fishery Inn 7.00. 25 locks.
Friday 1st May
Time was not on our side. Our lock sharer ran into problems with his engine, and then got stuck on the rear cill as we went down, so I had to close the gate and let some water in again to float him. He appeared to be on his own, and it took him time to pull his boat through, while I waited to close the gate. Terry put his bike back together and went off with the windlass, and further on we had to wait for another boat to catch up in order to share the next 5 locks with us.
After the last top up, the water in the tank began to taste foul probably because it had previously been left for so long without being touched, rendering it fit only for washing up and showers,.
As we were about to pull away from 'The Coy Carp', I 'took a look'. It was classic action. While reaching to untie the bow rope, the boat drifted out leaving me spreadeagled, until I could spread no more. So I fell in, and was surprised how warm the water was. A strong young passer-by helped Terry heave me out, waterlogged and excessively heavy. I used some of our foul tasting water for a shower. We ended the day with a nice meal in 'The Water's Edge'.
Cowley Junction 9.00. 27 locks.
Right next to the pub, almost, is Packet Boat Marina, where we flushed out the water tank, bought two more fenders and some other bits from the chandler, and used the facilities. Another glorious day. My phone seemed to be the only thing that suffered from its dip. A good drying day. So far, we have bought 2 batteries, 4 fenders, a broom, paint, brush, and another hose.
We were held up slightly when we found ourselves in convoy with a canoeing club. The little bloke flanking us made it look quite an effort. As we progressed along the Paddington Arm from Bulls Bridge, we began to feel at home as the canal rubbish increased. Some areas have made very attractive murals out of collected rubbish. Both of us have caught the sun and are glowing nicely. Canalway Cavalcade was in full swing at Little Venice, where we were lucky to moor right at the end of visitor mooring, a few minutes walk from the action. Our local IWA group were all there, and we enjoyed a social evening with them in 'The Warwick Castle' after strolling round all the stalls.
Little Venice 4.00. 0 locks.
Terry was obliged to attend an impromptu committee meeting first thing, and because of the boating activities taking place in the basin, we were unable to get the boat through until 1.00, so we wandered around for a while looking at all the stalls again and watching the competition. A dose of canal water had left me feeling out of sorts.
Going through the 3 Camden locks, we found non-friendliness and a lack of support from other boaters. The onlookers were quite interested, especially those with young children who wanted to help. The Islington Tunnel is nice and friendly, a short one. It took only moments it seemed, before coming out at the other end. On the Hertford Union, a group of gorgeous young men with windlasses operated the lock for us - the whole procedure. They didn't appear to be attached to any boat.
The River Lee is our home ground, and made us welcome, with its rubbish and heavy weed. Just prior to 'The Princess of Wales', we had our first stones thrown at us. Our time is nearly over. I shall miss it.
Springfield 7.00. 11 locks.
By 9.00 we had to be gone, when the boatyard opened for the day. There was work going on along the river. Not on the river, although it partially blocked access to the locks. It appeared to be something to do with the power lines, with men working up on the pylons. None of them offered to assist with the locks!
Just past the very last lock, we ran out of diesel, so we measured with the dip stick, and now we know how low we can allow it to become. We arrived at Broxbourne at 3.45, and were allocated a temporary mooring, as they are going to rearrange the boats.
Broxbourne Cruising Club 5.15. 9 locks. Dobbin is Home.
12 days, 127 locks.
For pictures see photo album page