Friday, 29 May 2009

Spring Bank Holiday - part four

Right! I have been admonished for abandoning Blog, so here we are again. This time at Bank Holiday Monday, which started off warm, but cloudy and it seems that the Cashmores on Beaurepaire are returning today. Not in any great hurry though, as they were still ploughing their way through an enormous breakfast at 9:30 when we paid a visit.

This is all leading to the modus operandum of David's turning the boat to face north again. It has to be mentioned that the cut at Braunston was particularly busy; boats passing every couple of minutes and a a bottle neck from time to time at the junction itself. Owing partly to the proximity of the Midlands Chandlers, water point and rubbish disposal. So I was not a little surprised when David decided that it would be quicker to turn by reversing into the junction, under one bridge and out again in forward gear through the other.

Some people are blessed with good timing and as the pictures show, he managed the whole manoeuvre without bumping into or jamming up any other boaters. There was some ribald teasing though about how much easier it would be if he had fitted bow thrusters. David gives me a lot of aggravation over the fact the Gleemaiden is fitted with them. Keeps telling me how embarrassing it must be to be seen using them!

Quite frankly, I am sure that the majority of working boatmen and boatwomen would have welcomed these handy appliances had they been around in those times. They did after all move from horse propulsion to steam to diesel. They were also quite happy to take on rechargeable batteries as well when they became available and use electric lighting.

That afternoon saw us sauntering up the towpath toward the tunnel after the sun had burnt off all the hazy cloud and the day got brighter and warmer. We were also surprised to see that the Admiral Nelson is open again after finding it closed on our last visit.

I should mention at this point that in 1997, Audrone and I paid a visit to Braunston (along with Oxford and Banbury) at exactly the same time of year. We were sitting at an outside table belonging to the Admiral Nelson drinking Scrumpy Jack cider and generally gongoozling as the boats negotiated the third lock of the six in the Braunston flight.

Afterwards (12years ago) we had gone for a walk, following the towpath as far as the tunnel and then across the hill to the other side. We were to say the least absolutely gob-smacked to watch boats being swallowed up by the Stygian gloom as they slipped under the entrance and disappeared into the hillside with steerers standing nonchalantly on the stern.

at the other end we watched fascinated as they emerged swathed in diesel fumes into the dappled sunlight. We wandered a little further down the towpath and stood on one of the picturesque hump back farm bridges and watched boats slide underneath. It was as were were returning to the Admiral Nelson that it dawned upon us that it might be possible to join this wonderful and mysterious clique of waterway travellers - if we only had a boat. . . .

So this afternoon's trip was more than a little nostalgic. But we realised how far we had come from these early years while photographing a boat as it emerged from the tunnel at the Braunston end, for our reminiscence photo file. Audrone said:

'Oh look, that boat has a bubble on the roof for the satellite dish just like Clarence has.'

At which moment I was more like Clarence the cross eyed lion in Daktari, as I squinted through the viewfinder (well actually at the LCD display - ed).

'It is Clarence!' shouted Audrone. And so it was. Derek and Sheila were returning from their cruise and as it turned out were intending to moor at Braunston for the night, before heading back to Brinklow.

Well, things have changed - we could hardly have had a meeting like that 12 years ago! We retired then to the Admiral Nelson and took a couple more snaps of them as they passed us again, passing through lock no. 3 on their way to moor. As it turned out they moored right opposite us at the Old Mill near the aforementioned junction.

We had every intention of having our evening meal at the Old Mill, but when we arrived at just after six, we were told that meals were not served after 6:00pm! How stupid is that? 'Oh sorry, its dinner time now and we've closed for the night.' Most of the time you arrive at 4:30 or 5:30 only to find the pub that you have stopped at is shut for the afternoon, but will be open again at six. We could have had a liquid tea, but opted not to and returned to boat for a simple meal. We were after all heading back first thing in the morning to avoid the traffic.

Above . . . . Sheila has just clocked the camera pointed at her from the pub lawn!

Now here's a funny thing; when we left the pontoon, we left behind Nerus and K2 still moored up and not looking like moving. Neither was there any boat moored behind us.

Come Tuesday, when we return, there is another boat installed in the spot behind us (most unexpected of course when turning in - you don't extra landmarks to appear when you have only been out for three days). And there was Steve from K2, giving us a hand tying up and coiling ropes.

'Going off? I asked. 'Oh no,' he replied. 'Got back from Braunston a couple of hours ago!'

I think I just looked stupidly at him. Firstly, we hadn't seen him at Braunston; secondly, we had left at 7:00am! Apparently Julie had a very early engagement.

Back at Braunston outside the Admiral Nelson (again, the Monday), a boat glided into the lock with one of those beautiful sounding classic engines beating away. I maintained that it was a Lister and Audrone marked it as a Russell Newbury. It didn't sound like K2 though, so I was determined to find out.

Looking through the open engine 'ole, I spotted the bold RN insignia gleaming brightly on the engine head. The skipper of 'Muchgigglin' explained the reason for the distinctive sound of the RN engines and given that this was a two cylinder 19 horsepower engine as opposed to K2's three cylinder engine, it was no wonder that it had such a slow beat - I think I'll know better next time.

When my curiosity was explained to the pipe toting skipper, he laughed and said that I owed Audrone a drink - so I bought us both one!

There is a sequel to this little yarn When we were back on Gleemaiden, we again heard the familiar thump of the RN approaching from under the bridge. As they drew alongside, they were hailed from the shore. It turned out that they had lost their mooring chain earlier on when it became jammed around the armnco railing, and now another friendly boater was returning it, having managed to prize it free with their boat hook. The said item was then passed back to them across Gleemaiden as they hove to outside the Old Mill pub opposite.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Spring Bank Holiday - part three

Well, 'ere we goo as they say in the Black Country, a bit more about the weekend away - there is also another slant on this weekend from Steve on K2 next door - he is right, the traffic was heavy, but in the main 'hail fellow, well met' sort - a quick wave or nod of thanks after giving way at a bridge hole or aqueduct.

After negotiating the Hillmorton locks and passed Rugby Boats, we came accross idiocy - but it took a while to dawn on us what was going on; only a hint. when a boater said somebody had broken down in the winding hole. How unfortunate.

Unfortunate indeed! But did this water pikie call the RCR? Oh no! Anyway, given the state of his boat, RCR membership was probably to price of a years worth of diesel - well some good Samaritan took the boat in tow apparently.

So, the boat in front of us and all those who were behind us were reduced to crawl the rest of the way to Braunston at tickover and less, when the idiots lost control of the towing process. All I have to say is that consideration and help for those in need on the Cut is paramount; but selfish fortitude at the expense of others can only be treated with the contempt with which it deserves.

The Cut is a shared resource, and so on . . . .

It would have been a simple gesture, and a sharing one to allow others enjoyment of the beautiful spring weather without getting sun burnt while trying to keep a boat in steerage way at half a mile an hour!

And so it came to pass that we were the leading vessel of a long and slow convoy arriving at Braunston, surprised that we hadn't been torpedoed by the kayaks and a rubber inflatable that was keeping up the slow pace in the the junction. So we took the first available short term berth available to us, which was opposite the 'Old Mill'. There were moorings further on past Gallows Bridge, but we didn't want to spend an extra hour getting there.

Beaurepaire fronted up mid-afternoon and David complained that he'd had a very slow trip, owing to the fact that the 'silly berk' in front of him couldn't find more revs than tickover!! More angry boaters filtered around the bend at the junction and it became obvious that everyone was blaming the only culprit they could see - the boat in front!

Meanwhile those responsible had crept on ahead, while all the chaos settled down behind - never did get to see the names on the boats.

This however, is not the spirit of boating and the rest of Sunday was glorious.

After all the mooring up and tidying away was done a lot of laughs were had with the crew of Beaurepaire and others who were looking for moorings or sorting out dog walks and visits to the pub.

One of the boats passing us had indeed five dogs aboard and Audrone attempted to picture their enthusiastic greetings as they clambered over each other to gain attention from the fo'rard gunwale of their boat. The issue was that any number would appear at once and then clamber over each other and disappear. Did five ever appear together? Mayhap, but not on camera. It was susggested that calling 'Charlie' would work. It did! Charlies scrambled up and nearly over the gunwale in tumbled mayhem - but never five faces at once!

Moored up opposite the Old Mill, we thought that apart from having to listen to pub crowds all afternoon and night, we were also in the limelight of gongoozelers (which we were). However the scene was in fact relatively quiet and we took our turn to become 'auto gongoozelers', as David, Geoff and I looked over our boats from the pub.
A bit of a jokey session was had by all that night, both in the pub and in the boats; next morning saw a (somewhat late) farewell to Beaurepaire) as all members had various and eclectic duties to perform further north the the Oxford.
I leave you with some of the interesting antics that Beaurepaire executed in order to avoid travelling for five minutes up the Grand Union to wind. I took myself elsewhere while this was happening, because I knew how busy that junction can be at any time. Besides, I wouldn't, or couldn't have been able to help myself waxing lyrical on the subject of bow-thrusters.
. . . . . . Er well, the pictures tomorrow - and the corrections.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Spring Bank Holiday - part two

Just got back from ringing practice at St Johns in Brinklow. Tonight was very special, as all of us (those who are learning new stuff anyway), made great headway. Audrone gained good ground on the 4th; Tim R did well in getting to lead on the treble and I managed to get through some courses of plain hunt without prompting - an then managed to ring treble for two courses of Plain Bob (with prompting from Emily). It gives me a little confidence in that old dogs can learn new tricks.

Late it is now, so for the time being, I am going to summarise this posting and finish it tomorrow:

  • inconsiderate bastards

  • hi-jinks at Braunston

  • we meet a neighbour exiting Braunston Tunnel

  • The Admiral Nelson is back on line (real, not virtual)

  • A short reminiscence from this time 12 years ago
Just the one image to go on with . . but this may be replaced tomorrow:





Come aboard and:

  • Explore the Braunston Tunnel - only six locks and a mile to the east
  • Go right at the junction and cruise the 10 miles to rugby
  • Take in the Warwickshire countrysied under the romance of sail
  • If the desire takes you, turn left at the junction and explore the beauty of Napton's nine narrow locks under sail
  • Negotiate Fenny Compton Tunnel in wide beam comfort

At least those huge fenders would help if a narrowboat should bump you as you swept majestically past. (That's enough sailing nonsense - ED).

Right goodnight!!

Spring Bank Holiday - Part One

After a windy and sometimes rainy week, followed by an amusing if blustery Saturday - I burnt both myself and the kebabs on the Barbecue, while Jeeves was being entertained by David and Doreen, who were supposed to be at a wedding reception (D &D from NB Beaurepaire), we set of in convoy on the Sunday morning. Clean water tank full; black water tank empty; nice stable boat!

Cracking weather, no wind and plenty of sunshine. Plenty of boats too (of which more later). Heading off first and again remembering the TV aerial a split second before ramming Bridge 40 with it, we headed right into the North Oxford without banging into any boats on the way. D & D on Beaurepaire following shortly after - as can be seen in the image through a bridge hole.

We were now a convoy of three heading for the tunnel at Newbold; Gleemaiden leading (another three and we'd have a peal of boats - that's enough stupidity, Ed.). As we emerged at Newbold, an oncoming boat got just past us as we swerved to avoid him with moored boat on the starboard; he proceeded to enter the tunnel as I pointed out that there were two boats already in there.

'Two can pass.' he shouted back with a surly frown, and entered the tunnel mouth, disappearing out of sight as we rounded the sharp bend that greets your exit travelling south That wasn't the end of though, as the boat behind David was most upset by the slow speed that all this kerfuffle caused when David had to slow to tick over to pass the idiot. The boat behind kept blasting his horn at David! All this I heard later.

Our next adventure in the realm of ignorant boating was just past Newbold and and emerging from bridge 51 that Audrone spotted a boat meandering along about three or four feet from the towpath bank heading straight for us. What the . . was it doing? Audrone sounded the horn and slowly but surely it moved over enough to leave us room to pass port to port - but not before we scraped the bottom doing so! Jeeves was furious and gave vent to the steerer of the errant boat, whose compressed lips and averted stare said anything but sorry. We did get a good picture of what was taking their attention away from boat control - swans and cygnets.
With the sun beating down on the late Spring landscape, we journeyed on through the Warwickshire countryside and then through the seamier part of Rugby's industrial hinterland and a huge residential development turning hundreds of acres into a dustbowl on the south side of the bank past bridge 58. One; two; three; four and five bedroom apartments - all, claims the billboard, with canal-side views.

Once clear of the moorings and the eyesore on the starboard view, we cruised under (or nearly under) some overhanging trees. Our little visitor literally dropped in on us!

There was a flutter about my head, and Audrone jumped up from the taffrail. Then before you could say 'tiller', a little bird flapped down past my shoulder and landed heavily on the gunwale just about two feet fo'rard of my left foot.

The gunwale is an extremely narrow landing strip even for such a little bird. Well, Audrone came to the rescue and saved him/her from a watery death or being made into chop suey for the local carp or pike after passing through the prop.

The poor little thing wasn't going to go very far, because as far as we could tell he was only just a fledgeling. So inside he went to live temporarily in a surrogate nest (a hat which was more suited to a jackdaw than this one).

Meanwhile our attention was taken up with navigation and the Hillmorton locks which were coming up. So it was quited surprising to find that the little bird had found wings and sorted out for himself a spot among the hops in the dinette.

It wasn't before long though that it was evident that the little creature was tired and probably hungry. They must use up a lot of energy trying to fly and have such little body weight that for every effort there is a need for energy replenishment. This was going to be a difficult problem - we didn't know anything about what such a tiny little bird would like for elevenses.

Jeeves and I held a conference at the earliest convenience and came up with the idea that it could have a choice of water and odds and ends of finely chopped up stuff that we eat.

Then we hit upon the idea of feeding the little bird some tiny bits of 'Fat Ball' bird feeder that we use to feed the wild birds in a bird feeder. The bird proved equal to a feast of this (must praise Wyevale for this), and soon recovered energy enough to try out every perch available in the boat, accompanied by loud 'tweep' 'tweep' sounds. Also tame enough to be fed on a regular basis now.

After a quiet night, we were aroused the next day to more chirping and demand for food. Lots of flying around as well was reassuring us that this little bird was indeed much healthier and had plenty of energy. Then mid-morning I noticed that it was up and down the saloon window sill tweeting for all it was worth, looking through the window and hopping about. We heard the same tweeting coming from the hedgerow and realised that another was calling him.

So Audrone took him on her finger and released him - hopefully to friends that were waiting to show him around the Braunston hedgerows divide the cut from the fields on the southern side of the cut.