Saturday, October 27, 2012

Winter's here?

We couldn't have timed our painting trip better. Since returning, the weather has been quite unfit for painting, with several days of fog, or drizzle, or rain, with some of the strongest winds we've encountered here. Oddly, the wind has turned 180 degrees, and is bringing in some very cold weather. We really need the Alde gas boiler to warm the boat and the water quickly in the morning, but that won't be fixed until Monday.
(not ours)
The diesel "Bubble" stove is excellent for day-long heating. In fact, we often have to turn it off for an hour or so during the day because it's so effective, but it does take quite a while to heat the radiators and the water initially.
The undercoating of the port side still has to be done, and can be done here in the marina - given the weather. If we can't do it before we return to St Albans in a few weeks' time, it can wait until the spring. The primer will be adequate protection against the weather.

Of course, it'll all need washing and sanding first!
The Rolling Stones film premiere last Thursday, Crossfire Hurricane, was excellent, bringing back loads of teenage memories, but only attended by about thirty people, all about our age. 

It began with live broadcast from outside the Odeon, Leicester Square, with a huge crowd, and the Stones and various other celebrities coming up the red carpet. The film itself was broadcast to 300 cinemas around the world, and shown concurrently with the Leicester Square Odeon. It was a very good evening.

Bill Wyman was there, too, but seemed to keep away from the others
I've busied myself for a couple of half-days, tidying up the marina lending library. With well over a thousand books, and many that had been returned untidily over quite a long period of time, the shelves really were in a mess, and I actually enjoyed sorting it all out, along with the piles of CDs, DVDs, games and jigsaw puzzles. It's a terrific facility for the moorers, and well worth the time spent.
The library, smaller a year or so ago
As I type, two marquees are being erected outside the moorers' lounge, in preparation for the Halloween party next Saturday. A much larger number of folk than last year have signed up for it, and we all look forward to a live band, quizzes and competitions, good food and, of course, fancy dress.

We return to St Albans on Sunday, for a few days. We'll be back there again for November 16th, when Said the Maiden will be performing two 40 minute sets, with supporting acts, at the "Folk at the Pump House", at the Pump House Theatre in Watford. We wouldn't miss that for anything!
Hannah, Kathy and Jess - "Said the Maiden"
After we return from that, we'll be preparing Kantara for a winter without us, and going back to our St Albans home for Christmas and the worst of the winter. But then, who knows what the weather's going to be like?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Painting the boat - part 1 (of many!)

On Friday, we decided to take advantage of the improved weather, and do some of the necessary remedial work on Kantara's paintwork. Under white cloud, and in a total lack of wind, we left the marina (where any extensive painting is disallowed) and moored just a five minute walk up the canal, at a spot where there was a bank low enough for us to have easy access to the rubbing strake which was most in need of painting. This raised strip runs along both sides of a narrow boat, and protects the hull from the inevitable bumps and scuffs along moorings, lock and bridge entrances and so on.

Working in dry, mild weather, we rubbed down the rubbing strake and the various chips along the side panel above it, painted the strake with one-coat hull blacking, and primed the other areas with Red Oxide paint. It was hard work, and took hours. We went to bed tired!

That was the starboard side done, but now we needed to get to the port side. So on Sunday morning, misty and promising, we headed up to the nearest winding hole about three miles away, turned and came back to an ideal spot just north of bridge 27, where others had moored with the same idea in mind. The bank was very low, and we completed the day's work on the port side of the boat.

We were still working as the sun went down, and I missed taking photographs of the amazing light on the autumnal trees opposite the sunset, and the misty spectacle of the sky in the west. I did, however, get some good shots of our latest mooring spot, taken this morning as the mists started to clear.

Rising early this morning, we applied undercoat to the spots where we had primed the port side, and Grace did some preliminary rust spot treatment to the boat's name on that side. The paints dried quickly, and we left to return to the marina. The weather, which had been sunny and mild to start with, deteriorated as we neared Yelvertoft, and, by the time we had berthed, there was a cold, biting wind.

The remaining work on the sides of Kantara can now be done in the spring. The paintwork is winter-proofed, although far from pretty!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mike's photos

Today I finally got round to looking at all of the photos brother-in-law Mike took during the days he and Christine cruised with us. Here's a selection from them. Thanks, Mike.

You might have to wait a few moments for the video to load.

Settling back in

It's odd really. We were only out on the cut for four weeks, yet it seems far longer than that since we were here in the marina. The time out with Christine and Mike, and Michelle, added to that cruising time too, of course, but then we came back here after each trip.

Life in the marina is going to be busy in the next few weeks before we go back to the house for the worst of the winter (will it be the worst, or will that come in March?). We have a long list of jobs to do, several of which we've already done - put low-wattage LED lights in all 22 of the 12v light fittings, meaning that we can run all of them on less energy than just three of the old halogen bulbs used; cleaned throughout the inside of the boat; cleaned and tidied the foredeck, the engine room and the aft deck; replaced the stern mooring rope and added a second centre rope, so that there is easy access from both sides; started the process of touching up the various bits of damage done by the inevitable bumps and scrapes a boat gets. We've booked Colin Rowe to come and do various jobs - replacing the packing in the stern gland, checking apparent oil loss from our gearbox (and servicing the engine), servicing the Alde gas boiler, and identifying and solving the problem with the bowthruster. He might be with us for the entire day at that rate!

Later today, we're going to a showing, "broadcast live by satellite to cinemas from the London Film Festival" of the Rolling Stones documentary "Crossfire Hurricane". I was a great fan in my youth!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Braunston, and on to Yelvertoft

On a day for which 24 hour rain had been forecast, we left our mooring in a fine drizzle which stopped after an hour, leaving grey cloud and a biting wind. I'd not been that cold on Kantara before. However, we arrived at Braunston by mid afternoon, and moored opposite Roy's workshop, at which point it started to rain heavily, and this continued on and off for some hours. We battened down the hatches and snuggled in, having arranged with Roy that he would do the jobs for us first thing in the morning.
On Friday morning, we took Kantara across the canal, to moor alongside one of the boats Roy was working on. He took a sliver off two of the foredeck seats/locker lids, and sealed around the basin he had fitted when he built our new shower room - we had left the option of sealant open at the time. I took a brisk walk up into Braunston village for some shopping, then we set off again, now under blue skies and a warm sun.

We passed the strange craft we've seen once before moored up in Braunston, a boat we dubbed The Stealth Boat, for reasons which will be obvious to those of you who know anything of stealth aircraft.

Our ascent of the Braunston Flight was done in accompaniment with NB Little Grebe, an Alvechurch boat, and the six locks were navigated in good time. Locking was now a hot task, the weather being as mild as it was.

Braunston Tunnel presented us with an unpleasant experience. An oncoming boat had its headlamp mounted to the port side of the bow, giving the wrong impression of its alignment in the dark tunnel. Furthermore, the light was far too bright, and neither Grace, steering Kantara, nor I could get a clear picture of how far away the boat was until it was almost on top of us, nor of how far over to her side of the tunnel she was. This is the worst case of over-brightness we have experienced, but it has happened often. I wish boaters would realise that their lamp is most important as an indicator to oncoming craft of their presence, and does not need to beam several hundred yards along the tunnel to show them the way.
Headlamp mounted centrally (as it should be!)
Out of the tunnel, we turned left at Norton Junction, north up the Leicester Line of the Grand Union. It had started to rain, and was threatening to be very heavy, so we stopped and moored just above the junction. It rained and hailed heavily on us as we tied the boat up, and we were glad to get inside and dry off.
After the rain and hail!

Saturday morning was dry again, after some downpours during the night, and we ascended Watford Locks under blue skies. We only had a short wait at the bottom lock, then went up the staircase with no delays. Crick Tunnel was next, empty of other craft. The remaining couple of miles back to the marina were done without the wind which is characteristic of this stretch of the GU, and entering the marina and moving into our berth was far easier than is usual.

Our cruise is ended. Four very enjoyable weeks, 131 miles and 102 locks, with interesting diversions along the way. Now we have a list of jobs to do returning the rather grubby Kantara to her former state, getting repairs done, painting and so on. The hail which came down hard just after we moored reminds us that winter is on the way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Heading for Braunston

I've been in touch with Roy at Days Afloat, asking him to shave a sliver off the edges of the foredeck seats/locker lids he made for us, since they have now swollen in the wet weather and don't fit together any more. He's happy to do this for us, of course, so I said we'd stop off at his place on the way past. Next stop Braunston then.

Wednesday had good boating weather, with early white cloud breaking to give us lots of sunshine, and the early chill giving way to much warmer temperatures. I spoke to a guy yesterday who had been out for a cruise with his wife back in April. I can't remember where they started from, but they were out for 10 weeks, and their turning point was on the Llangollen Canal. In their 10 weeks, they had just 10 days on which it did not rain! With that in mind, we really cannot complain about the rain we've experienced on any of the occasions we've been out this past year. It has rarely been so bad as to stop us from travelling.

From our overnight mooring, we moved on up to The Wharf Inn where we took on water, and bought bread and milk from the tiny backroom shop in the pub.

We were delighted to meet for the first time Mike and Marian on NB Duxllandyn, fellow moorers at Yelvertoft. They are travelling to Banbury, and are out until the end of the month, after which they will be having the boat hull blacked at Debdale Wharf, the place we are thinking of taking Kantara for the same job. We look forward to meeting up with them at the marina, to swap stories and experiences. Mike's a retired teacher, too, so we'll have to try hard not to talk "shop"! Marian is a retired Exams Officer in a school, an office in which I stand in awe! These people do an impossibly difficult job, and I have always had enormous respect for those I've known.

Leaving Fenny Compton, we got onto the most twisting part of the canal again. It was very quiet; we passed just one or two other boats. At Napton Top Lock, however, we found six boats ahead of us, queuing to descend the flight of seven locks. Only one passed us going up the flight, which meant that all but one of the seven were full when we came to them, and needed to be emptied before Grace could take Kantara in to them. This slowed our journey significantly, and gave me lots of extra exercise! Meanwhile, poor Grace suffered from Kantara's exhaust fumes in the locks, probably simply because of the direction of the wind at each one.
Having heard talk of impending heavy rain and thunderstorms, we moored shortly after the bottom lock as heavy skies slid in above us. I have a feeling we won't be getting to Braunston tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Moving on - in good weather!

A brighter day greeted us on Tuesday, and we left Banbury in hazy sunshine which broke through with time, and the afternoon was positively warm. We were surprised how many other boats we passed, several of those whose crew I spoke with on their way back to winter moorings, as we are.

We passed a brilliant sign in a boat window. You might need to read it aloud once or twice to understand its full meaning!

“Considerate souls slow down as they pass moored boats. There are souls who don't.

Passing through Cropredy, we ascended the nine locks to the top of the Claydon flight in good time, found Fenny Compton tunnel (which isn't a tunnel, you remember) free of oncoming craft, and moored up for the night just below the Wharf.

Our stern gland is still letting in too much water, although not as badly as it was yesterday morning. This will require some attention when we get back to Yelvertoft – as will the Alde gas boiler, which now fails to come on, and the defunct bow thruster (battery?) which might well have been useful at times on this cruise.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Banbury Canal Day

Sunday was warm and sunny, and just perfect for the Banbury Canal Day.
We had a lazy start to the day, then strolled along to the wharf after an early lunch. The event was very well attended. Last year, they had over 10,000 people, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were well in excess of that this year.
(courtesy of Banbury Guardian)
There was lots to see and do. There was a large craft market, where we bought a beautiful small wall mirror framed in stained glass, and some stained glass earrings for Grace, and we bought three Welsh cheeses from The Cheese Boat.
There were charity stalls, many and varied food stalls of course, and musical and dance entertainment at three venues. Particularly entertaining were the Alvechurch Morris, who danced an unusual form of morris dancing we'd not seen before, using stout sticks. Very funny, and not a little skilful!

All this along the canal, where people thronged and somehow failed to fall in! Boats featured to a small degree – some visiting narrowboats entering a competition for best-dressed, and children in canoes – and Tooley's Historical Boatyard put on a show of old engines, and talks on canal-related subjects, held in the dry dock, with rows of seats in the dock, and the speaker standing on the front edge. It's also used like that as a theatre!
Canal Day was an excellent occasion.

Monday morning was, in contrast, dull and drizzly. We gave Tooley's time to put things back to normal after yesterday, then drove slowly the mile from our mooring back to the wharf. John fitted the replacement part on the fuel primer pump and adjusted our stern gland, which had been leaking even worse since he first did it for us. By the time we'd had lunch and done some shopping, it was three o'clock, and we decided to stay here until tomorrow. The drizzle was back, and we had a good mooring, so it didn't seem worth moving just another couple of hours. Cropredy would be where we would have to stop then, and that didn't have quite the same attraction as where we were. So we settled in for the rest of the day, and Grace went shopping again, this time for a jacket.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

On to Banbury

We left Thrupp the next morning in mild weather with clear skies, the mists having just lifted from the canal and the fields.
I opened the electric lift bridge, and watched Grace take Kantara through it at a rate of some knots in order to take the 90 degree left turn against the cross wind which had been a problem when we came here from the other direction.
(courtesy of Google Maps)
(courtesy of Google Maps)

It was the correct approach, and Kantara swung gracefully around the bend and on, back up the snaking route of the Oxford Canal. We enjoyed again the wide and deep half mile of the River Cherwell,
passed Kirtlington and Lower Heyford, mooring finally at Allen's Bridge at Upper Heyford.
A phone call to Tooley's led us to expect our fuel pump would be replaced the next morning, and they would ring us within the next hour or so to confirm the time John would arrive, so we settled down for the night. We got no confirmation phone call.

Friday morning was mild, with broken cloud, not a bad day for cruising. Having heard nothing from Tooley's I phoned several times, but no-one answered. Getting through finally at around midday, they told me that they had emailed me yesterday to say that they would not be able to fit the pump after all, since they were far too busy preparing for Banbury Canal Day on Sunday. They would make us their priority on Monday morning, wherever we happened to be. Unfortunately, we had had no Internet connection for some days, and I hadn't seen the email.

So we continued on our way, up though Allen's Lock and on to Aynho Wharf, taking on water there, and buying some milk.
Very shortly after leaving the wharf, we came across another drifting narrowboat, “Little Tinker”, both of whose moorings had pulled out of the ground, leaving her drifting, crewless, right in the middle of the canal. There was nothing we could do about this apart from phone the CRT emergency line and report it, and carry on, on our way.

We were amused to come upon this boat, which bears the name of Eddie, Naomi's husband!

We moored at the spot below Belcher's Bridge (189) which we had used on our way out. The rain started shortly after that, and carried on hard throughout the evening and on into the night. At least we had decent phone and broadband connection, after several days with little or none.

After the torrential rain throughout the night, we found the towing path flooded in places, and the canal levels very high on Saturday. The weather was glorious – very sunny, clear skies, and really warm – as we made our way towards Banbury. I met an unusually large number of people at the locks on this journey, and had some interesting chats. One lady told me a lovely story of her meeting a boat carrying ten men. But these gentlemen were not the young men one becomes accustomed to seeing in groups together on hired boats. They were all quite elderly, and enjoying themselves immensely. The lady asked them if this was a stag party. “Not at our age!” came the reply. “No, this is a wake – we just don't know whose it is yet!” Brilliant!

Arriving just south of Banbury, at the spot where we had moored between bridges 170 and 171 on our outward journey, we moored again and walked the mile into Banbury. Here we shopped at M & S for food, and had a look at the programme for Sunday's Banbury Canal Day. The plan now is to stay here overnight, go to the Canal Day and then proceed to Tooley's Boat Yard to get our pump fitted at last on Monday.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

"Welcome to Oxford"!

...or, “This is Oxford, and you're welcome to it”!

It rained heavily on and off during the night. I wouldn't have known, had it not been for the frequent passage of railway trains throughout the night, on tracks just tens of meters away from the boat. So I didn't get much sleep. Fortunately, Grace slept fine. Wednesday morning brought clear blue skies and warm sunshine, so, after a half-successful shopping trip to the local Londis, we cruised on into Oxford.
It turned out that we had made the very best choice of mooring the evening before, for the bank along the towing path continued to be totally unusable because of excessive reeds and rushes, or severe deterioration – and often both. The only half decent places were designated Long Term mooring, or “Agenda 21”, a local authority response to shortage of affordable accommodation in Oxford, and mostly looking very slummy. The only decent visitor moorings came another mile further on, after bridge 240. And the frequent signs said, “Welcome to Oxford”. The funny side of it was that other signs generously offered 24-hour mooring in a number of places where no-one in their right minds would dream even of attempting it!

The last two miles into Oxford look and feel generally neglected and run down, despite the fact that some pleasant, no doubt expensive, houses flanked parts of it. Finally, we arrived at Isis Lock, the end of the Oxford Canal, surprisingly still some distance from the heart of the city. Boats over 50 foot long were unable to wind (turn around) without first passing down through this shallow lock onto the River Thames, there to turn around, re-enter the lock, ascend, and return back up the canal, out of Oxford. We had not been impressed, and could think of no reason to stay even for a short while.
The weather all the while had been fine, but this changed now, and we had a number of squally showers from which we could not escape, owing to the absence of anywhere to moor up for a while. We needed to press on and find somewhere pleasant to moor for the night, so we simply had to carry and on and get very wet. But even then, a warm sun broke through from time to time, making us and Kantara steam.

We were a little alarmed to come across NB Jorja, a boat we had seen several times over the past months, moored at the stern, but drifting her bow out across the canal and almost blocking it. There was no-one aboard, and the bow mooring pin had been pulled out of the very wet and soft ground, probably by the passing of another boat. I boarded her from Kantara, retrieved the rope and pin, and pulled her back to the bank while Grace took Kantara on to where she could moor safely, and came back to me with a mallet which I used to re-pin the bow. We left, hoping that this new mooring would last until the crew returned.

We arrived at Thrupp just as the skies opened again, and moored up at a good spot just across the road from the cottages. It was getting late, we were tired and achy, and were glad to take the opportunity to enjoy an evening meal at The Boat Inn just at the end of the road.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


We left Pigeon Lock on Tuesday morning in a strong wind, which can be something of a problem on a narrowboat. The canal continued to be very winding, and went under a number of quite scary lift bridges. The mile of canal between Baker's Lock and Shipton Weir Lock (40 & 41) merges with the River Cherwell. Here, it is wide and deep, and great fun, with Kantara going faster than we've ever taken her before - the deeper water improves steering, too.

The canal at Thrupp has a very sharp right turn under a lift bridge from a wide stretch of water, and the cross wind took us hard over to the left, very nearly turning her to 90 degrees to the bank. Grace patiently persuaded her to go where she wanted her to go, however, and completed the right turn on her second approach. The lady who opened the bridge for us (me having failed to get off the boat in time before she blew across the canal) said that the wind problem at this point is very common, and that she's seen many attempts fail from both directions.

Just beyond the bridge, we stopped to have lunch in the charming little village of Thrupp.
We carried on next towards Kidlington, hoping to visit the Tesco there, but finding no suitable mooring, so cruised on into the outskirts of Oxford. We were dismayed to see that the canal bank  continued to be unusable for mooring, the only places where this was not true being designated for Long Term moorers or residential boats under a local housing scheme. Since time was getting on, and the weather starting to deteriorate, we needed somewhere to stop overnight. After a long walk for me, with Kantara not far behind, searching for somewhere we could stop, we finally found a place just above Balls Bridge (no. 236). The water was shallow at the bank, the bank itself was breaking up, and we had to moor the boat standing out a little from the edge. But it was secure, and it was just before the rain came down!

Monday, weather good for cruising!

Monday's weather was positively mild, with a lot of sunshine getting between scattered light clouds as we carried on towards Oxford. It was again a pleasant journey, winding, often very narrow, but sometimes opening quite unexpectedly into wide stretches. We stopped for services at Heyford Wharf, and moved on to Pigeon Lock, just west of Kirtlingtonvillage  where we hoped to be able to buy some provisions. The mile long footpath took us into a pretty village with a lot of relatively new buildings. The village store/post office/tea room was not what we were hoping for, and we came away with only a few items ticked off our shopping list.
By the time we got back to Kantara it wasn't really worth travelling any more, so we settled in there for the night. Tooley's still haven't contacted us to tell us when they're going to replace our leaky fuel pump!

Monday, October 01, 2012

One year (and a bit) on

I'm 27 days late in writing this. I did notice the arrival of the first anniversary of the start of our canal life, but I guess I got distracted by the present, and I didn't take the time then to look back over the past year.

When Grace and I took possession of Kantara on September 2nd last year, we knew that we were embarking upon a new way of life in which there were lots of unknowns. The numerous week-long holidays we had had over the years had only given us experience of handling a narrow boat – very useful experience, of course, but only a part of the whole thing of living on the boat. Furthermore, we had never before been responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of a boat, and this was going to be something of a steep learning curve. So, now that we've lived on Kantara for ten of the past thirteen months, what are my thoughts as I look back over them?

In no particular order...

We love the life! We both settled quickly to the new home, and the huge reduction in space after our years in a house has not been a problem at all. Being in the marina for most of the year has not been what we had in mind, but we have met lots of new people, and made friends, and are very glad indeed that we chose Yelvertoft over the several other options in the area. There are so many canal routes easily accessible to us from Yelvertoft, we have years of cruising to do from that base.

Cruising is brilliant! When we have been out, alone or with family or friends, it has been such fun to be taking our home with us as we explore new places. We had this, of course, on holidays, but it is somehow very different now the boat is our home. Waking up in a different place most mornings is magic. Meeting other boaters is great fun (usually!). Seeing the countryside, new towns and villages is fascinating. It's great to have family and friends with us, and to share with them something of the magic of life on the cut. All of our visitors have been really enthusiastic, and it's lovely to experience that.

The suggestion that the word BOAT is an acronym for Bring Out Another Thousand is not just a joke. Regardless of age (and Kantara is 11 years old, remember), things go wrong with boats, and we've had our share of problems on this first year, many of which resulted in us having to forgo cruising, and to spend additional money. But we have learned a lot, and feel much more confident of being able to handle such problems in the future. And now that we've had all of our systems professionally serviced, and problems solved, we're expecting to have less go wrong in subsequent years. Membership of RCR has proven useful already!

We still have to settle down to doing “ordinary” things, particularly when we are in the marina, those kinds of things we would be doing if we were still in the house. Both of us have writing we want to do. Grace has painting, sewing and other creative gifts she wants to be using. I want to write more music, do some serious photography. So far, we've not established those as a routine part of this boat life. Work to be done here.

It may be at least partly attributable to boat life that I have entered my 62nd year weighing less than I have for years, and being a lot fitter and stronger. My blood pressure is significantly lower, so is my resting heart rate. I have established a good routine of cycling and strength training, and have done more walking than ever before. And this has happened as a deliberate response to my awareness that life in a boat could easily be one of little exercise, poor eating, and reduced health and fitness. The book “Younger Next Year” has had a great impact upon me.

So, as we carry on into our second year on Kantara, still not knowing how long we'll be living here, we look forward to a lot more cruising, and to sharing some of the enjoyment of that with others. It's been a good year, and we feel really thankful and privileged to have been given the opportunity to live the dream which we'd had for nearly forty years.

On towards Oxford

Saturday morning was sunny and bright, but nonetheless windy and cold, and we set out after lunch wearing several layers of clothing. This stretch of the Oxford Canal has a lot of lift bridges, all of them already open so far, and there were three locks to descend, one of them being only 12 inches deep. Strangely, however, the lock chamber is wider than the gates, and the one foot descent is stupidly slow!

We see a lot of boat names, of course. Many are very ordinary – Heron, Kingfisher, Willow – and many are human names, mostly female – Jenny, Alice, Anthea, and of course the famous May family; Peggy May, Betty May, Molly May (I'm waiting for the boat called “Cindy Might”, “Mary's Thinking About It”, or “Susie Did”). But today we came across one of the most unusual names we've seen - “P45”! The owner was made redundant, and used his redundancy money to have the boat built. I love it!

We stopped at The Pig Stop, a free range pig farm selling their own produce as well as a small range of other food. Unfortunately, they had sold out of bacon, but we bought a cylinder of gas and fitted that.

We moored in another bright, open and quiet spot just below Belcher's Lift Bridge (no. 189)
Sunday's weather was nothing like the heavy, all-day rain forecast by the BBC. It was cloudy, although the sun broke through from time to time, but cold and very windy. We made our way down to Aynho Wharf for services, but found it closed.

Carrying on along the meandering route through beautiful farming countryside, we found the canal very narrow in places because of large trees overhanging the edges. Although these add to the attractiveness of the canal, they really need to be cut back. The canal is often shallow towards the edges, and passing other craft can be more difficult than it should be.

Where our last lock had been just 12 inches deep, the next, Somerton Deep Lock, is 12 feet deep, with a very heavy bottom gate which I simply could not close on my own. Thankfully, a young lady from the boat which had just left the lock came back and gave me a hand.
We stopped for lunch at Upper Heyford, just above Allen's Lock, and afterwards walked into the tiny village in search of a shop selling food. It turned out that the “shop” mentioned in Nicholson's Guide is an art gallery. In future, we'll look for what the guide calls “stores”!

Since the wind was really quite unpleasant, we decided to stay here the night.