Saturday, April 30, 2016

Paddington and Maida Vale (cruise retrospective)

It's windy in Paddington Basin. Very windy. It seems as if it's being channelled down the length of the basin between the tall buildings which overlook it. When we arrived yesterday, Grace was able to wind Kantara with relative ease, but getting her alongside the floating pontoon with the wind pounding down on her starboard side was another matter, only ultimately achieved by two strong men on ropes fore and aft.

It was no different when we went for a walk to nearby Maida Vale this morning. We have a friend Elaine, who lived in the Vale for some years about 40 years ago, and Grace promised to visit the street where she'd shared a flat, and take photos for her. It's a really lovely, tree-lined street, though I'm certain these flats would be well out of her price range now. Originally huge mansion-like dwellings, each is now two apartments on each of five floors.

(On a very sad note, Elaine lost her battle against cancer just 18 days after Grace emailed her these photos.)

It was a fascinating walk. We returned along the canal from Ha'penny Bridge, stopping for dozens of photos on the way, and had lunch in the Waterside Câfé in Little Venice.

Waterside Cafe

I love this whole area. It's noisy. The air's not good. But most of the architecture is superb. Towering office buildings and apartment blocks, sweeping curves, acres of glass, and imaginative open spaces between and amongst them. Old and new rubbing shoulders. I could wax lyrical about it all.

Oh! I am!


NB Frogmore is here in the basin. The last time we saw her was at the foot of the Marsworth flight days ago. They were in a bit of a dash then, so they could have been here for some time. We wondered about NB Renaissance, too. We shared locks with them out of Berkhamsted ages ago (so it seems). They'd hoped to moor up close to a church in St Pancras to attend a wedding. Mr Renaissance had bought a dress suit from a charity shop in Berkhamsted, and was dead chuffed about it. Excellent! But had they arrived on time? Did they get their convenient mooring? Did he remember to take the price label off his suit?

There aren't many water birds in the Basin. Gulls swoop for the opportune lunch. Pigeons strut, and peck about, as anywhere in London. Ducks, geese, swans, coots - these are rare. But those that are here are special. They are of a different class, and I think they know it. Not for them the white crust or the dry cheese sarnie. Oh no. These birds dine on croissants, pains au chocolat, brioches and paninis. These are sophisticated birds.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Paddington Basin (cruise retrospective)

The Basin is home for up to 14 days for around 20 boats. We were lucky enough to take the very last remaining space against a pontoon. The man from the boat in front kindly stepped out to give us a hand to hold the boat against a side-wind. The space was actually several feet too short, and we had to leave the stern sticking out beyond the end of the pontoon, with some unorthodox ropework to hold us fast. But we had a mooring, and four or five boats came in after us, and had to turn and leave.

It was here that we decided that our inverter was well and truly defunct. We'd been using it during the afternoon to power the washing machine, and it had displayed a red warning light constantly, complaining that it was receiving too high a voltage from the alternator in the engine. Our battery monitor said otherwise. It had finally shut down, leaving the washing unfinished. We gave it a long rest and tried it again, and it deigned to finish the washing for us. However, with the engine off here at our mooring, it again refused to work for us, saying this time that the batteries were flat. Our battery monitor said otherwise.

BOAT - Bring Out Another Thousand!

It looks as though we'll have to buy a new one. For the time being, it looks as if it might be capable of powering our laptops. Sometimes, according to its whim. But we're now faced with several weeks of not washing our clothes.

The Basin's a secure mooring, with little pedestrian activity, so it was a quiet night, apart from the background hum of London.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016

Still without laptop!!

Apologies for the lack of posts. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

On our way to Paddington Basin (retrospectively!)

We loved the journey towards Paddington Basin. Yes, there's a lot of tattiness and dereliction, old and new rubbing shoulders uncomfortably at times. One stretch close to Little Venice in particular has expensive modern apartments glaring across the canal at squalid, Victorian houses, glaring back at them.

But increasingly, the canal develops a coherent character, a bohemian feel created by the now continuous line of boats down both sides, often two deep, liveaboards, often quite quirky, and bars and câfés full of locals and visitors from land and water, sitting out, socializing and watching the boats pass.

This comes to an abrupt end at Little Venice, where one parts company with the throng. The junction where the Regents Canal turns north away from the Paddington Arm surprised me. It's a lake-like expanse with a small island in the middle. Boats moor in this pound only by prior arrangement. Pleasure boats pick up their passengers here. It's bustling and beautiful.

The approach to the Paddington Basin is crowded with boats, and with people. Businessmen and women, tourists, boaters, many in a great hurry, many simply enjoying the ambience, or drinking coffee at one of the several câfés. It's very odd to see the entrance to the Tube station just a few metres from the canal.

And then the canal turns a bend and you face a remarkable skyline that frames the basin itself.

Monday, April 18, 2016

(I have electricity until tomorrow morning, so...) Onto the Paddington Arm

...I'll post another retrospective account of this fabulous cruise. We're back in Willowtree Marina in Yeading, not far from the exit of the Paddington Arm onto the Grand Junction Canal. We're plugged into a mains electricity supply, so we've been washing clothes, vacuum cleaning, recharging things, and catching up with email and stuff. Tomorrow, we carry on with our journey.


Catching up... Day 24

Our journey on from Denham Deep Lock - the deepest on the Grand Union, at 11 foot 1 inch - took us through Uxbridge and Cowley. Large, modern buildings lined the route, some of which I remember from when I taught at Bishopshalt School in nearby Hillingdon.

The weather was fine. Almost summer. Fish were jumping, the cotton was high.

It's good to meet in person folk I'd only known previously on the web. I'd been Tweeted by Wobbly Boater a few days earlier.
I replied...
A few days later, a boat hooted as it passed us, moored up but preparing to leave. It was NB Wobbly. We exchanged a few words this time. It was likely we'd meet up now. And we did.
It was at Cowley Lock, in fact. They, too, were headed for the Lee and Stort, and would get there "eventually". It's their habit as continuous cruisers to stop from time to time, sometimes for a week or two, so they were going to take rather longer than us to get there. It was good to see them, and put faces to names.
We left them at Cowley Lock, had lunch shortly afterwards, then carried on through Yiewsley and Hayes. Canalside properties were an uncomfortable mix of new and old, rich and poor. And it was definitely London suburbs now.

Bull's Bridge, the junction of the Grand Union with its Paddington Arm. We waited to turn in as an unusual craft pushed a houseboat out, and left onto the GU. It was quite a manoeuvre.
It was followed immediately by a short narrowboat, nipping out quickly in the wake of the others, then we turned in.
The Paddington Arm was an immediate disappointment. There was rubbish everywhere. On the water, on both sides of the canal, particularly where junk had been thrown over the the fences of canalside businesses. The rural setting was very pleasant, however, and we enjoyed this for the couple of miles to Willowtree Marina.

The marina was our safe choice of overnight mooring. Having had no previous experience of canal travel through London, we didn't want to find ourselves not able to moor at the end of the day. Unable, because there were no suitable places to stop, or because there were no spaces at suitable moorings. So we'd booked in to Willowtree. The mooring had a mains electricity supply, and there were full services, of course, so we made the most of this little haven, tidying up, vacuum cleaning, dumping rubbish and so on.

We booked a table in the restaurant, too, but when we arrived at 7:30, the waitress apologised that there was a huge party celebrating a 70th birthday and taking up most of the tables. The one she's booked for us was actually in the bar area, but it was one of the two that had been taken up for the past four hours by a large, noisy family group. She seemed rather intimidated by them, but nonetheless managed to persuade them to move to just one table. Grudgingly, they did, but our meal was frequently disturbed by small children pushing behind us, and one particularly obnoxious man talking far too loudly, and shouting very close to my ear at his kids, who took no notice of him.

The waitress was brilliant, managing to serve everyone most efficiently without getting at all flustered, despite the chaos around her. And the food was good, though far too plentiful!
Grace's burger and chips!
We were in no great hurry to leave on Sunday. I'd been given no deadline. Actually, it was all very informal. There were no instructions or rules, and no paperwork at all, save our receipt for £21.25. Money very well spent!