Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A sunny weekend

There followed another two days of lovely weather, although both were dull and cooler to start with, shedding the clouds and the chill by noon. But it's lovely weather for boating!

Moving on on Saturday morning, we caught up with NB Annie just before bridge 28, as she paused mid-channel, a CRT working boat unpinned and at 90 degrees across the canal in front of them. I jumped off Kantara to help the man try to pull the boat back to the bank, but there was only a metre of rope at either end of it, and we failed. The lady at the tiller of Annie moved her forward slowly, and pushed the CRT boat's stern aside, aligning it pretty much parallel to the bank, and on the other side from the towing path. Annie carried on into the top of Bascote staircase locks. Grace now tried to use Kantara to push the unmanned boat across to the towingpath side of the canal, so that I might re-pin it, but the boat's weight proved too much for Kantara, and she had to give up, and drove on into the lock next to Annie. I phoned CRT and reported the problem.

There were two hire-boats in front of us; they'd passed us as we were taking on water at Fosse Wharf, and both helmsmen demonstrated little competence at controlling the boats. Perhaps one or both had passed the moored CRT boat too fast, and un-moored it. In fairness, though, the bank were it had presumable been moored was very soft, and not really fit for mooring pins.

Bascote Locks

We went down Bascote and five more locks with Annie, and the three crew were good company. We parted with them just before bridge 35, near the village of Radford Semple, where we moored for lunch.


Afterwards, we walked out to look at the village church which we could see from the canal. Unfortunately, though, it was locked, with the organist rehearsing inside.

We stayed the night where we were moored.

On Sunday morning, we moved on to Leamington Spa, where we shopped for food.

After lunch we set off for a pleasant mooring past bridge 49. The towing path was very busy with walkers, joggers and cyclists, but the canal remained very quiet. We had to moor with pins, and were a bit concerned about their security in the stony grass verge, so we triangulated the moorings fore and aft (four pins) and kept our fingers crossed. The weather remained very warm, and sunny.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday - another short trip

Friday morning
Moving on
Stockton Locks were today's challenge! On the other occasions we've been through this flight, I'd been ably assisted by Christine and/or Mike. Today, we were solo. We waited in the second lock, ready to descend should another boat come along and join us - or until another boat came up, making us go down to meet him. And it was the latter which happened first, so we carried on down the flight alone.
Stockton Top Lock
Memorial seat at top lock 

We moored for lunch after Little Itchington Bottom Lock, then went shopping, and when we returned, decided to stay here until tomorrow.

Tudor house in Little Itchington

Thursday, September 25, 2014


We had to make a decision today; whether to travel only a short distance, leaving Stockton Locks until tomorrow, or do the whole flight today and risk having a long day. We opted for the former. We're in no hurry. So we moved on to Wigram's Turn,

descended Calcutt Locks alongside NB The River Card,

and moored just after bridge 19.

We're off to Stratford

Tuesday morning was beautiful, just as Monday had been. And it was my 63rd birthday, to boot. So what better day to set off toward Stratford-upon-Avon? It starts, of course, with the now very familiar trip through Crick and the tunnel, Watford Locks, and Norton Junction, which is where we spent the night, opposite the rusty BW butty.

When I woke at around 7:00 the next morning, it was pouring with rain. It had been raining during the night, too. I turned over in bed, and said to Grace, "Rain before 7, fine before 11", one of those sayings of my mum which I don't often use. It was fine before 8 as it happened, and we set out again under a blue, sunny sky.

Approaching Norton Junction

After a very busy Braunston Tunnel - the busiest and most hazardous we'd ever seen it! - we paired up with NB Lady Esther down the locks. The canal was busy today. 

We moored immediately before the junction at Braunston for a leisurely lunch, after which we turned left under the bridge and moved a couple of miles up to bridge 100, where we stopped for the night.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Busy, busy, busy!

When we got back from the cruise with Christine and Mike, we had an unusually large amount of washing to do. With a smallish washing machine, that's a lot of loads, but the problem's with the drying, not the washing. We have a washing line under the cratch, about five metres long, and four radiators in the boat, but occasionally that's just not enough. The answer was to go back to the house, and use the machines and drying space there. This idea was reinforced when Jess texted to let us know she was going to drive herself to Ely Folk Club that evening, to see The Younguns, supported by her friend Kelly Oliver. There was no way we were going to let her drive that distance, with her knee still not fully recovered from surgery earlier this year, so we hurried back to St Albans, started the washing, and took Jess to Ely, picking up friend Kat on the way.

It was a great gig. Kelly did a good set, and The Younguns were excellent; hugely talented musicians with a hilarious sense of humour. We had a brilliant time.

We finished the washing and returned to Kantara the next day, travelling via Aylesbury to pick up a 56lb weight Grace had bought on Ebay. We needed this to add to the ballast in Kantara, to counterbalance on the starboard side the difference in weight of the port because of the galley rebuild. It's now been positioned, and works a treat.

We got back to the marina to find that NB Cream Cracker had moved into the berth next to us. Grace immediately recognised the boat, and Karen, who'd been on the Castles and Roses course at Stoke Bruerne in May. We realised later that we'd actually met Karen and Darren back in 2012 at a Halloween party at the marina. They'd only just bought their boat, which was moored here at the time. And they'd shared a table with us at the event, along with another couple. On that occasion, though, they both looked rather different!

We went to the cinema on Friday, to see "The Hundred Foot Journey".

"Hassan Kadam is a culinary ingénue with the gastronomic equivalent of perfect pitch. When Hassan and his family, led by Papa, move to a quaint village in the South of France with the grand plan of opening an Indian restaurant in the picturesque countryside, they are undeterred by the fact that only 100 feet opposite stands a Michelin starred classical French eatery. However upon encountering the icy proprietress, Madame Mallory, the Kadam family realise they may have bitten off more than they can chew. Outraged by the new arrivals, Madame Mallory is determined to have their business shut down. As cultures clash and food flies, an all-out war escalates between the two establishments -- until, that is, Hassan's passion and talent for French cuisine begin to enchant Madame Mallory and even she can't deny this young chef could have what it takes to garner even more acclaim for her beloved restaurant. This, along with his new-found friendship with her beautiful sous chef Marguerite, starts to weave a magic between the two cultures and, despite their different tastes, they discover an unlikely recipe for success that surprises them all."
As expected, it was a very good film, and well worth watching, although we both thought there was something missing, though we couldn't say what.

While we were out, we went to nearby Maplins and bought some best-quality co-axial cable for our satellite TV dish. We'd had the darned thing for at least two years, and never been able to get a consistently good service from it. We'd tried the TV's built-in receiver, then the receiver which came with the dish (from Maplins), then another box being given away at the marina. We failed repeatedly to get a decent signal. Then Grace read about this superior grade cable on a forum, but we'd never got around to buying any. When we discovered the tiny antenna I wrote about a week or so ago, we believed that our viewing problems had been solved.

But it turned out not to be as good as it had seemed, so we went back to the satellite dish idea, and bought the cable and new connectors.

When we connected the dish to the TV, straight away we got a strong signal, and the set connected to over 400 (!) channels. OK, so most of those channels are duplicates, rubbish, or pay-to-see, but the remaining dozen are ones we want, and we celebrated by watching the first in the new series of Downton Abbey last night!

At 3 o'clock on Saturday, we joined in the marina "Three Village Treasure Hunt". This had been put together by Jenny, the marina manager, and followed two similar, very successful events over the past couple of years, both of which had focussed on just the one village - Yelvertoft. This year, we could choose from three villages - Yelvertoft, Crick or West Haddon - or do any combination of them. Grace and I teamed up with Jane from NB Rainbow, and Chris, the lady from NB Thursa, and we opted to start at Yelvertoft and see how far we got!

It transpired that the Yelvertoft hunt took us to a completely new part of the village, was very detailed, quite challenging, and great fun. And it took us two hours to complete, so we didn't do either of the other villages. Grace and I have kept the clue sheets, so we might well do these two some other time.

Returning to the marina, there was the usual barbecue and quiz which we did with Jane, Chris, and her husband Clive, and this was very enjoyable, as always (though I didn't care much for the live music, I have to say.) To our surprise, we came second in the treasure hunt, and second in the quiz - though the team in first place got no less than eight points more than us! It was a really enjoyable afternoon and evening.

Back in December, our niece Kathryn gave us a couple of seedbomb starter kits. The idea of seed bombs is to plant appropriate flowers in derelict, abandoned pieces of land - so-called guerilla gardening. Of course, one has to be very careful to choose appropriate sites, and there is, understandably, a lot of controversy surrounding their use. One doesn't want flowers growing where crops are to be planted, or where animals are grazing, for example. So it was with due care and attention that I distributed fifteen poppy-seed bombs along the bank of the North Oxford Canal while we were out most recently. Often these landed alongside bridges, sometimes where buildings had long ago been pulled down. We look forward to returning up the canal in a couple of years' time, to see how they developed. We now have one more kit to use - "Birds and bees attracting" - when we head over to Stratford this week.