Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Christmas

0 Locks and 0 miles.
We can report that our first Xmas afloat was a complete success. We had Tracey who lives in Wimbledon and Brent who is over here from NZ for 3 weeks with us.
Our Xmas day menu was a combination of New Zealand and British fare. Stuffed turkey breast (the oven isn’t big enough for a full sized bird) and a leg of lamb, NZ lamb naturally.
We had bought the usual Xmas pudding, mince pies and custard but a last minute decision by Dot on Xmas eve was to try and make a New Zealand Pavlova. Tracey had not had a traditional pavlova since being domiciled in the UK for the last 6 years. Well to do this she needed a whisk which she found at the local Sainsbury’s store in the form of a Braun Multiquick Professional which is a sort of hand held electric whisk, blender and food processor all rolled into one, (and at a bargain price too)
The next thing was to find where she had stored the recipe on the computer. That found, the final hurdle was cooking it in a gas oven which she had never done before.
Well we can report that the outcome was a total success with a lovely marshmellow centre, that soon disappeared like magic and there were no left over’s.

Boxing Day turned out warm and overcast and as Tracey had her car with her we decided on a trip to St Albans to show Brent something of Britain’s history by visiting the Abbey and some of the very old and quaint buildings that still exists around the town. Brent needless to say was completely overawed once he stepped inside the Abbey and was in no great hurry to leave.
Even though St Albans is not very far from where we are moored there was a distinct difference in temperature. When we left the boat our thermometer was reading 8.2 0C but after walking around St Albans for a while it was quite noticeable that the temperature there was considerably colder. Perhaps it had some thing to do with St Albans being at a higher altitude than Apsley.
The first two photos show the Pemberton Alms houses from the 1600's and the last one of the St Albans Abbey itself with its history dating back to 250AD.

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Fog & Bl#@%y buses

0 Locks and 0 miles.

In the last 2 days we have had 3 separate incidents concerning buses. Two scheduled services never materialized leaving me to freeze in a bus shelter for 30 minutes waiting for the next bus. Dot had the infuriating problem of a bus sailing past without stopping to pick her up even though she was waving her arm franticly. And they wonder why people don’t use public transport more often! We both finished work yesterday as we had jobs to do on the boat today before our 1st UK Xmas. (For Dot anyway). As I had done some painting inside the boat this morning we decided to go for a walk in the fresh air after lunch. Did I say FRESH air, that’s a laugh, it was so foggy and cold but we did manage to explore another part of the area as yet unseen by us both. We can now confirm there is such a thing as a pub with no beer, The Lime Kiln pub on St Albans Hill Road which had all the doors and windows boarded up. The sign outside the pub, as was another sign extolling the beer garden and meals were still there for all to see but that was all. Is the great English institution of the “Local” falling on hard times?
During our walk we found the local “Tesco’s” super market so as we needed a few things we went in. Well what an eye opener, all the checkouts of which there were at least 15, had queues which extended down every aisle with about 10 trolleys in each queue. I know its Xmas but we are not used to this kind of hustle and bustle. Luckily we qualified for the 10 items or less checkout which was less congested.
The unit in the photo was a extendable radiator cabinet from Homebase DIY centre which I modified into a book case. Fitted in very well under the gunnels and it looks original matching the existing timber work.

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Busy, busy, busy.

0 Locks and 0 miles.

You tend to forget how busy life can be when you are working but with both of us working up to 9 hours a day we have not had much spare time. The company we are working for import and sell ‘Pure’ digital radios. They are apparently the best on the market, at a price.
We have had heavy frosts over the last 2 nights but a fine chilly day has followed.

It’s funny what you see when you are out walking which most people in cars would miss.

The attached picture is one such item. Did the developers forget the sign or has the work dragged on that long?

The Ovaltine factory site re-development was of interest to Derek as his mother and aunty worked there when they left school back in the 1930’s. It’s nice to see they have kept the original fa├žade instead of just bulldozing it down and are building very expensive apartments inside. You can check out the Ovaltine apartments here.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Back to Work

2 Locks and 1/2 mile.
Yesterday we went through lock 67 down to Apsley.marina for a pump out & water fill. It was a bit breezy at the time but we still managed to get in & out of the marina without any mishaps.
After going back up through lock 67 we turned & got our original mooring as nothing is moving on the canal at present.
As we are compelled to stay here until after January we called into a employment agency to see about some temp work and bingo Derek got a job straight away starting 8.30 tomorrow morning but Dot may have to wait a day or 2 until something suitable turns up.
So, no more sleeping in, it’s back to reality for a wee while.
The attached photo is at a relatively new business estate of 4 commercial office buildings next to the canal at Hemel Hempstead, all named after famous canal pioneers.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Change of scenery

6 Locks and 2 1/2 miles.
Woke up to a really good frost this morning, second one in a row. The steel work having now been completed there is no need for us to stay at Winkwell so we have moved back down to Apsley Mills which is closer to civilization and supermarkets etc: As Middlesex & Herts Boats had run out of diesel we had a choice of going to Watford or returning to Winkwell later in the week. We had half a tank of diesel but we didn’t want it to get too low. However as we arrived at Apsley we ran into Peter Hawker on n/b’s Bletchley & Argos delivering coal and diesel so we bought diesel from him which turned out to be a bonus as his price is only 49p per litre. After a late lunch we nipped over to Sainsbury’s supermarket for a few essentials just before they closed. We are now settled in for the night but we are being buffeted by wind gusts which we have not had a problem with before this but hey that’s boating for you.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Alterations progress

0 Locks and 0 miles.
We have now been at Middlesex & Herts boat yard in Winkwell near Hemel Hempstead for 2 days and we now have ½ a cratch frame and new front fender mountings. We got fed up with the front fender or tipcat not hanging properly, it was always lopsided. We will also leave here with a new hemp rope fender which will be soaked in oil and creosote to keep out earwigs.Derek has not been idle either, he is re-varnishing the bathroom to protect the woodwork and when it’s dry he will fit a new shower assembly and shower screen. No more cold shower curtains wrapping around us while showering.The fan/light that he fitted last week has now been modified so that it has its own switch and doesn’t come on every time the lights are switched on. He has also caught up with routine maintenance by checking the batteries, greasing the rudder and refilling the propeller shaft greaser.
Last night we abandoned ship for a while to get away from the smell of the new varnish. There is a little pub just across the road which has been in existence since 1535. Its claim to fame are the 4 fireplaces, uneven tile floor, original oak beams and the 2 friendly ghosts who were a highway man and an old lady.

Christmas is coming to the canal.
This photo is taken on the Grand Union canal at Winkwell, the boats are moored in front of us. Making our own christmas lights look almost insignificant. Pity more people cannot see the magnificant display.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Bats in the belfry

6 Locks and 2 1/ 2 miles.
We are on the move again after a nice break at Apsley Mills returning to Winkwell to get a cratch frame and rear doors made. We will also get the covers measured but probably won’t get them this side of Xmas.
Our timing was perfect because after we arrived at Winkwell it stared to rain.
Just before we set off from Apsley Mills we loaded and started the washer drier to give it a trial run. The wash cycle seemed to take for ever but that may have been because of the setting Dot set the machine on but it eventually did complete the full cycle. We monitored the inverter the whole time and were pleased to see that the load monitor only went up to 70% so we are more than happy with our power supply and the washer drier.
The wash cycle had finished by the time we arrived at Winkwell so we decided to give the drier a run. As the battery monitor was only just showing 12v we left the engine running to be on the safe side. By the time the washing was dry the batteries were also fully charged so everything worked very satisfactorily.
Just before we arrived in Winkwell we passed under a railway bridge and what Derek thought was a small bird flew very close to us and then skimmed across the water surface. In the period of 10 minutes this happened again no less than 3 times and the last time it flew so close to Derek’s head he said that had he had a net he could have caught a BAT. Now we thought that bats were nocturnal and this was only 3.30pm but it was dark and overcast.
On further investigation it appears that there is a bat colony living in a dis-used chalk mine at Roughdown Common which is probably only a mile or so from here. The main inhabitants are Pipistrelle bats which feed on insects and there were certainly plenty of them flitting around this evening.

Monday, 4 December 2006

No more launderettes...

4 locks and 1 mile

On Friday we moved back down to Apsley marina to get the toilet tank pumped out and make arrangements to moor the boat when we are away in France just after Xmas. The marina is still relatively new with toilets, a shower and a laundry with 1 washing machine and 1 drier.
Getting into the marina is definitely not for the faint hearted. First the warden has to raise the drawbridge which is a foot path across the entranceway which is only about 12 feet wide. Next problem is that the pump out berth is immediately on your left which is a 90degree turn as you enter the marina. This is where a bow thruster comes in handy but we ain’t got one.
After the pump out you have to reverse out of the berth and then turn around to face the right way to get out again. There is plenty of space in the centre of the marina but you have moored boats on both sides. There is a sign which states “No entry allowed in high winds”. Why ever not I ask myself?

After this mind boggling exercise was completed we moored up between locks 66 and 67.
Saturday we trotted off to Wimbledon again to collect our mail which included our licence plates and registration stickers from BW. Not quite as easy to go by train from Apsley as we had to change trains at Harrow and Wealdstone, Willesden Junction, and Clapham Junction which took 1hour 40 minutes.

When we returned we called in at Comet which is an electrical retail chain to order or buy a Candy washer drier. When Derek finally got the attention of a salesman who was busy chatting up a female member of staff we were told that he was unsure of when this particular model would be available again as it was showing as unavailable on the computer. Derek then tried to barter for the display model which the salesman said he would have to consult the Manager. Surprise, surprise, he said we could have it with another ₤30 off even though it was on special with ₤100 off. As we were moored virtually behind the store but on the wrong side of the canal Derek moved the boat across the canal in the dark where we could load the washer drier onto the front deck straight off the concrete wharf. Once safely stowed aboard, we then had to reverse back across the canal by about 200 yards to where we were originally moored. No easy task especially as it had now got dark with night fall. Can’t get used to this darkness at 4pm which happens so rapidly.
Sunday saw us up early as we wanted to install the washer drier as it was in the way in the lounge. Problem, how to get it into the kitchen when it had to pass between a wall and the gunnels. Derek had measured it all up and was confident that it would fit but he had to take off a passage door and a few other bits and pieces first. He had a bright idea of putting a loose carpet down on the floor with his tool box on top. We then laid the washer on its side on top of the tool box and dragged it through the gap which went off without a hitch.
Once into the kitchen it was relatively easy to push it into the space allotted but then Derek had to re-run some electrical wiring which had originally been in the cupboard over the oven for the microwave. As we had changed our minds over where to put the microwave this power point was superfluous where it was, so he had to pull it all out and run it back under the bench. This meant all the cupboards concerned had to be emptied so he could get into them literally.
After lots of cursing and grunting and groaning he finally got it done. Bit of luck and I will give it a test run tomorrow.

Watch this space.......

Friday, 1 December 2006

Still here.

0 Locks and 100 metres.
Because it is nice and peaceful here above Boxmoor lock we decided 'why move if you don’t have to' (except the 100 metres we pulled forward as we were sitting on a ledge and the boat was leaning over (most uncomfortable)). Not only that, but it’s nice and handy to Hemel Hempstead town centre which is the equal of any shopping centre’s in London without the crowds and hustle and bustle. There are plenty of home improvements / DIY stores around within 15 minutes walk so it’s very convenient for Derek to get bits and pieces for the modifications he is working on.
Our new power supply set up is working well and providing we are careful with our usage each night we only have to run the motor for less than an hour a day to restore the batteries.

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Noisy night

12 Locks and 6 ½ miles.
Monday morning saw a slight improvement in the weather so we pushed on towards Winkwell. Middlesex and Herts Boat services don’t open on Monday so when we arrived we just moored up below the lock. As it was still light we walked into the village to see what shops etc; were available. What a shock, 1 garage, 4 pubs and houses. Nicholson’s book says shops nearby, yeah right! Next problem was the TRAINS, we have moored near railway lines before but this was something else. Four tracks of high speed trains every 5 minutes meant a sleepless night for Dot.
Tuesday morning we went up through the lock to the diesel pump for diesel and water and a meeting with Kevin and Kevin of Middlesex and Herts Boat services to organise getting some work done on the boat. We have now booked the boat in for a DIY blacking on the 13th Jan and next Tuesday to get a pair of back doors on the stern and a cratch frame for the bow so we can get a stern and cratch cover made.
As Dot didn’t want to stay at Winkwell any longer than necessary we had the choice of going through the swing bridge and 4 locks to the next winding hole to turn and go back to Apsley Mills or stern haul the boat backwards for about 200 yards and go back down in the lock the wrong way round and turn in the winding hole by the marina. We opted for the latter which worked out reasonably well.
We have now back tracked to Boxmoor lock which is a 10 minute walk from a B&Q store where we picked up a few more bits and pieces. It is also much quieter as we cannot hear the trains and we are not too close to a road.

Monday, 27 November 2006

Night cruise.

8 Locks and 3 miles.
We were in no hurry to go anywhere this morning due to heavy rain so Derek put up some coat hooks that we bought in Denham marina. He also found enough bits to fit our new extractor fan/light in the vent in the bathroom. It has improved the lighting and will help to keep the room dry.
By 1.30pm the weather had improved so we decided to pull the pins and put some more mileage under our belts. By the time we got to Hunton Bridge locks the light was starting to fade and we were looking at our options when another boat caught up with us and asked if we wanted to lock through together on the next lock to which we agreed. After going through North Grove lock Derek thought that the other boat was going to do 1 more lock so we pressed on into Home Park lock even though it was dark. After setting up the lock and going in we wondered what had happened to the other boat. After a quick look back down the towpath the other boat appeared to have moored for the night so as we were already committed to go through so we carried on and moored up about ¼ mile above the lock. The only problem being is we cannot get in close to the bank as it’s shallow so we are sitting about 2 feet out from the bank. Ho hum such is life, not an experience we would like to repeat, daylights hours from now on.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Protest at Batchworth Lock, Rickmansworth

3 Locks and 21/2 miles.

After walking into town to get some provisions at Tesco’s we checked out what was happening at the protest and took some photos. On the way back to the boat the heavens opened and Thor made his presence felt with a horrendous thunder storm.

See BBC news item http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6182654.stm


After lunch the weather cleared up and the sun re-appeared so we pulled the pins and moved up to Cassiobury Park where we are now moored. This is one of Derek’s old fishing spots when he was a youngster.
As it was Derek’s 61st birthday today, we celebrated with a quiet drink tonight.

He says he’s 21 with 40 years experience.

Yeah right, dreams are free.

Saturday, 25 November 2006

Pushing on

6 Locks and 6 miles.
Despite constant showers we had to bite the bullet and push on because we had found out that there is going to be a protest over the Save Our Waterways campaign at Batchworth lock in Rickmansworth on Saturday afternoon. They are hoping for up to a hundred boats to take part so there is going to be some congestion in that area. As the protest is not going to take place until 2pm on Saturday we are unsure if we can delay our travels to our winter moorings that long but we have signed the protest email to Parliament.
When we arrived at Batchworth lock there was already a lot of boats breasted up 2 and 3 deep below the lock so we proceeded through the lock hoping to find a mooring above the lock. This proved to be a problem as we have now travelled over ½ mile and are now in sight of the next lock before finding a mooring. We will walk back to Batchworth in the morning to see what’s happening and take some photos as there are at least three working pairs moored close together.
This photograph was a rare sight parked on the towpath but we are unsure as to its heritage. Its probably WW2 vintage but American or German, who knows?
Over the last few days we have seen some horrendous wrecks of boats along the way which people appear to be living on and what crossed our minds was if they are licenced by BW how the hell they pass a survey to be able to re-licence the boats is beyond belief.

Friday, 24 November 2006

Sight for sore eyes

3 Locks and 5 miles.
After heavy overnight rain we started the day with blue skies and very muddy towpaths. Not long after we pulled the pins we were greeted with the sight of real working narrow boat carting aggregate from the gravel works at Denham to the gravel wharf at West Drayton. The boat was well down in the water with not much freeboard to spare. We saw the same boat later in the day returning empty and we could see just how deep in the water the boat really was.
Another wide beam boat doing the same job passed us and we noticed how much he was stirring up the mud on the bottom even in the centre of the canal. This boat only just squeezed through the narrow bridge holes. It’s no wonder that the moorings along this stretch of canal are so shallow as the mud he stirred up must settle along the canal edge.
We arrived at Uxbridge just before lunch and called in on Uxbridge Boat Centre for diesel at 48p a litre and a few items from the chandlery. Back tracking about half a mile we moored up again and set off on foot to find Uxbridge Engine services for some filters and oil to do the next engine service which will need doing by the time we arrive at Winkwell. They are only a 10 minute walk from the canal which is still reasonably convenient.
Our next port of call was Denham Yacht station (Denham Marina) to see what he had in stock in the chandlery. The young lady in the shop was very knowledgeable and helpful and a credit to the marina. Between the 3 chandleries we spent a small fortune but we now have just about everything we need to complete the upgrade of the boat.
We are now moored for the night close to Denham Place which is a 17th century home and the Denham lakes which are old gravel pits in the Colne valley which were excavated for use in the building trade and are now recreational and nature reserves.

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Bought and Sold

2 Locks and 4 miles.
The start of the day was leisurely with just 2 locks and a quick top up of water above Norwood top lock. From here it was a clear run to Bulls Bridge and Tesco’s where we had a moderate shopping list to fulfill.
Now I must digress a wee bit here to say that since carrying out the electrical up grade last month we have had a sign in our window advertising the old equipment we had upgraded from was for sale.
Now we had barely moored up at Bulls Bridge when there was a knock on the hull and another boater asked if he could have a look at one of the articles for sale. After checking it out he asked how long we planned to stay at the Tesco mooring as he wanted to make sure that the piece of equipment would do what he wanted and he would get back to us.
Off we trotted to Tesco’s to return an hour later with a full trolley load of goodies. We had not even got the groceries on board when the boater returned saying that he would buy the equipment and would I accept a lower offer. Well you never look a gift horse in the mouth so deal done and he went away a happy chappie.

Anybody want to buy a Sterling 1800W Inverter that’s had very little use?

After leaving Tesco’s we travelled to a spot between bridge 194 and 195 where we are now moored for the night. We had been looking for a mooring for quite a while as the light faded but the canal is very shallow on the tow path until we found this one of the few good mooring spots up as far as Cowley Peachey junction.
The sign in the picture is on the bridge over the canal at Norwood top lock. You can see where the word Junction has been ground off the top and the bridge is now closed to vehicular traffic.

The other picture speaks for itself.
Beautiful.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Hailstones

8 Locks and 2 3/4 miles.
After watering up and a pump out we bid farewell to Brentford and started our journey up the Grand Union canal. At the Osterley lock we met up with the BW staff that had been cleaning up the rubbish at Brentford the day before. As they knew of our intended travel plans they had cleaned up all the rubbish at Osterley lock and the pound above it because it was absolutely impassable. Earlier this morning they had escorted another boat through the rubbish by pushing a path way through with the other boat following close behind. They then set to cleaning up the mess and filled one of BW’s working barges and were part way through a second barge load by the time we arrived. It makes you wonder where all the rubbish comes from??
From here it was plain sailing until we got to Hanwell lock 94 when we were bombarded by a hail storm. We had seen the black clouds gathering and had had some fine drizzle but the hailstorm, which only lasted above 5 minutes, certainly sent the temperature plumetting.
We are now sitting just below Hanwell lock 91 where we decided to call it a day due to failing light. We did not want to get caught in the dark as we are not used to it getting dark so quickly.
The bridge pictured is Gallows Bridge which takes the tow path from one side of the canal to the other. I wonder how many horses have been over this bridge prior to barges becoming self propelled.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Leaving Tomorrow

Still at Brentford Lock.
On Saturday we decided that as the weather was fine we would go into Oxford and Regent Street’s to try and get a “T” mobile data card for the computer and check out the Xmas lights. After several hours wandering around the streets of London we finally found a “T” mobile shop and bought a data card which we had to take back on Monday as we were unable to maintain internet connections due to a conflict in software. The staff in the shop were very helpful and had told us when we bought the card,” any problems, bring your computer into the shop and we will set it up for you.” After nearly an hour and a new set of instructions the “T” Mobile assistant had the thing up and running. Now we have internet aboard we will be able to update the blog and keep up with correspondence much quicker.
Once darkness fell we then strolled up both Oxford and Regent Street’s photographing the lights which we felt were a bit of a disappointment. I think the designers of this years lighting display have lost touch with what Xmas is all about. No reindeer, sleigh’s, fairies or pixies or the big man himself but commercial advertising which meant nothing to us. I suppose it might mean something to children here as we thought the characters displayed were probably cartoon characters or something similar. Debenhams store front and Hamley’s toy shop were the only real displays to make somebody feel that Xmas is just around the corner but I am afraid the rest of the lights left us wanting and would only give them a 5/10 rating.


While in London on Monday we took Tracey out to lunch for her birthday but we are sworn to secrecy as to her real age.
Just sufficient to say that her age is getting closer to the time when birthdays start going backwards if you get what I mean. On the way home we called into Curry’s and bought ourselves a colour TV together with DVD player for the long cold winter nights.

Saturday, 18 November 2006

Big improvements

Kingston on Thames to Grand Union Canal 3 locks and 8 miles.
Our plan had been to stay on the Thames until Thursday or Friday but the weather forecast on Wednesday morning for the next 2 days forced a change of plans. Even though we had a 15 day licence for the Thames and could have stayed longer we did not want to get caught on the Thames in flood condition which is always a possibility at this time of year.

We set off from Kingston early so that we were in plenty of time to be able to lock through Teddington lock at 9.30am. Once through Teddington we had the whole river to ourselves. The closer we got to Brentford the more we could feel the resistance of the incoming tide and at one stage the wind was creating a bit of a swell reminding us we were at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Along the way we saw some very strange live aboard accommodation on the river one of which we photographed and attached. It was all made from anything that would float as a base and then all sorts of timber framing covered in all sorts of plastic sheeting to keep the rain out. Power came from a bank of old batteries on the back connected to 2 solar panels. Basically it was mostly recycled refuse but what an eyesore and what a way to live.

We were warned that there is a sand bar on one side of the entrance to Brentford lock but our arrival at Brentford went without a hitch. The lock keeper let us into the lock but thoroughly checked our paper work before allowing us to pass through and was very keen for us to stop at the new moorings and check out the new facilities block which had only opened earlier in the year.

As we had last been here in March 2004 when the re-development had barely got started we were keen to have a look to see what was on offer. First thing was to try out the showers which after a bit cursing we mastered and enjoyed a rather hot and high pressure shower. Next to get the once over was the laundry. With 2 washing machines and 2 driers it is well provisioned. It cost us £8.40 for a wash and dry as each machine costs £4.20 per session. We have checked out the pump out system which costs £12.50 but have not needed to use it. All in all, BW can take pride in the whole set up. May they build many more.

We have found Brentford railway station and the shortest route to it. We plan to go into London to see the Xmas lights in the next day or so before we leave here on Tuesday to move up to Winkwell where we hope to base ourselves until January.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

We came, we saw, we conquered

Pyford Marina to Basingstoke Canal 0 locks and 2 ½ miles
On Wednesday 7th November we left the River Wey and at 9.30am entered the Basingstoke Canal. They would only issue a 3 day license as the canal is only open as far as lock 7. The ranger unlocked the padlock and opened lock 1 to let us in and will return on Friday morning to open lock 6 to let us out.
Traversing this canal has been a challenge not unlike when we traversed the Huddersfield narrow canal in March 2004. Low water levels, untold foreign objects, reeds and lilies were a constant problem which was a bit of a let down because the locks on the canal are probably some of the best kept and maintained in the country. We were told we could go as far as Arthur’s bridge which is where the last winding hole is situated. When we got there we found a huge “U” shaped winding hole with posh houses all around it. We then tried to turn around but got stuck in the mud in the winding hole (it needs dredging) which bought a couple of the householders to their windows as we made a lot of noise and stirring up the mud which let off a lot of smelly gas in our attempt to turn. Eventually we succeeded and then stern hauled the boat back up the canal to the Bridge Barn pub which was a couple of hundred metres further on from where we had winded. The canal had only recently been re-opened since August after the first serious rainfall in a very long time but is still blocked by a slip near Deep Cut locks.
The return journey was much the same except the ranger Andy, followed us down through the 6 locks to seal them up with a concoction not dis-similar to compost. It was very effective in sealing up the leaks. Just above lock 3 we had reported a bike in the water so Andy had a fish around with a long pole with hooks on the end to see if he could locate it. Well we all got a big surprise when he fished up a computer chair, a steel chair frame, a street name plate complete with mountings and concrete footings, a kids scooter, a barrel, two car tyres AND four bikes all within 50 yards. (See attached photo) He then had to call up for reinforcements to collect all the booty and take it away.

Apart from getting stuck numerous times and not being able to use some of the best moorings due to a large reed bed or deep mud we enjoyed ticking off another canal on our been there, done that list.

Basingstoke Canal 12 locks and 10 miles (There and back)
Its good news for the canal that the Surrey County Council have had a change of heart over the funding and running of the canal and it’s future looks brighter.
We are now back on the Wey moored just below the Pelican pub ready for our entry on to the Thames on Saturday and it is just starting to rain ever so lightly.

Woodham Junction to Thames Lock
After overnight rain, Saturday morning dawned overcast and mild when we set off for the Thames Lock. We were locked out onto the Thames in the company of another narrow boat called Indigo Blue with a Polish and Irish crew so it was a real league of nations between the 2 boats. As we were in no great hurry Indigo Blue soon left us in their wake. Our first priority was to prepare the boat for the Thames so we needed fuel, water and a pump out. We called in at Walton marine but they directed us to Shepperton marina directly opposite on the other side of the river. We carefully maneuvered our way into the marina and onto the water supply and pump out jetty, that was easy. After obtaining a token for a self pump out we were shown where to go to get diesel and this meant reversing onto another jetty in between all those very, very expensive plastic/fibreglass gin palaces. Nerve wracking is putting it mildly because a breeze had sprung up pushing us away from the jetty but Derek performed a perfect 4 point turn and got onto the fuel jetty without touching a thing.
On our arrival at Sunbury lock we found the lock keeper out to lunch. We could have locked ourselves through but as we needed to buy a Thames licence we stopped for lunch until the keeper arrived. With this legality taken care of we set of to find an overnight mooring and finished up mooring opposite Platts Eyot where we stayed until Monday morning so that we were handy to Otter Marine where we had arranged to get the Mikuni central heating looked at because of an exhaust leak.

Weybridge to Platts Eyot 1 lock and 4 miles
On Monday morning it only took 15 minutes to find Otter marine and another 45 minutes for Tony (alias the Otter) to run a few spanners over the machine and cure the problem and we were under way again. We are now moored at Kingston upon Thames where we found the local launderette and caught up with a weeks washing. Dot can’t wait to get a washing machine on board now we have the power to run it.

Platts Eyot to Kingston on Thames 1 lock and 4 miles
Plans for tomorrow are a train trip to Watford to register Gypsy Rover with British Waterways, check with Teddington lock to see what the locking times are for the next couple of days and a stop off at Wimbledon on the way back to Kingston to have dinner with Dot’s daughter Tracey.

The more observant of you will notice that I have changed the colour of the font back to black! This is because an avid follower wants to print it off for someone without a pc. Easier and cheaper to read and print in black.

Friday, 10 November 2006

Finally underway.

On Saturday we returned to Farncombe Boats to meet up with Ted the engineer to fit the last few remaining parts to complete the electrical up grade. As it was too late in the day to start traveling we opted to stay over another night at Farncombe and make a move Sunday morning.

Sunday dawned a beautiful morning as we set off to our first port of call at Dapdune wharf where we planned to moor up overnight while we did a quick train trip into Wimbledon to meet up with daughter Tracey to collect the mail.

On our return to Guildford we hailed a taxi to Shalford railway station where we met up with Tony and Barbara again for dinner at their flat. While there we messed around on the computer trying to get Skype to work. After several attempts we got through to Keith and Margaret (Barbara’s Mum and Dad) in Tauranga NZ. It was good talking to them both and seeing them on screen via the video camera.

Monday morning found us experimenting with our 240v appliances to see what would or wouldn’t work and coming to grips with what was happening at the inverter end of things. Eventually we realized that there was a delay when something was switched on unlike on mains power where it is instantaneous. The only problem was Dot’s heated hair brush/roller. It only has a 10w rating but it kept tripping the overload so I think it may be faulty. The microwave gave us cause for concern but as soon as I started the main engine it sprang into life. Phew!

With all this sorted we pulled the pins and headed for Pyrford marina where we bought a few bits and pieces and stayed overnight.

Our next problem is the Mikuni central heating unit. This probably hasn’t been used for a long while and although it is working well and keeping us warm it has developed an exhaust leak around the combustion chamber and the fumes are polluting the cabin at times. So we have obtained the phone number of a Mikuni agent who we will be ringing in the morning to try and get the unit serviced. In the meantime we are leaving the weed hatch lid open to allow the fumes to escape from the engine bay that way.

We are now only 4 locks and 5 miles from the river Thames with the Basingstoke canal somewhere in between which at this point of time we would still like to experience but are unsure if it is open.

Saturday, 4 November 2006

Double whammee’s.


Due to our delayed departure from the river Wey we decided to move up to Godalming wharf to stock up with groceries from Sainsburys and a few other bits and pieces. While I went to the library to check emails etc Derek went to Jewsons hardware to try and get some hardwood to finish modifying the seat over the battery box. They apparently only had some 5 x 1 which was twice the width he wanted and they didn’t have a cutting service but they managed to arrange for him to get it cut down to size by a cabinet maker about ½ mile away. So Derek set off with this 6 foot length of heavy timber over his shoulder to find this cabinet maker. Eventually he found the place called Huxley Joinery and the guy there was most obliging and kindly did the job for nothing. So there are still some good Samaritans about.

Of course he then had to walk about a mile back to the boat with 2 lengths of timber on his shoulder. Life’s tough eh!

Tonight was also the Lions Club firework and bonfire night which was held directlyopposite from where we are moored so we were in the pound seats, so to speak. The four pictures are of the bonfire before and during incineration and a couple of shots by Derek of fireworks beautifully mirrored in the calm water hence double whammee.


Nearly finished.

Our engineer arrived mid-morning for another session on our electrics. He has just about completed the installation of the inverter but is stuck for a larger than usual overload cutout which he hopes to have by Friday night and will install on Saturday.

We now have an exhaust pipe that doesn’t leak and fill the engine hole with diesel fumes and associated gunk. The starter battery also has a new cradle on the swim in the engine hole.

Talking about engine holes, Derek borrowed Farncombe’s pump out machine and pumped all the water out of the engine hole. There is a bilge pump but it only pumps out 1 compartment and our engine hole is divided into 4 compartments. He intends to rectify this problem and slap a bit of paint around as soon as it’s all dry. It will make it easier to spot faults early and a cleaner working environment.

As we’re obviously still going to be in the area tomorrow night we will head up to Godalming to watch the bonfire and fireworks display to celebrate Guy Fawkes.

Friday, 3 November 2006

First UK Frost.

We woke this morning to a lovely white and chilly morning, followed by a beautiful blue sky, my son Richard in New Zealand not quite up with the time difference yet, his text acted as my alarm clock.

Derek managed to get the central heating going last night as they had predicted cold temperatures (forecast again for the next few days) and wow did we need it. We were tucked up nice and warm and didn’t realize how cold it was outside until we looked out this morning. Our new duck feather duvet kept us nice and cosy and is still the 4.5tog which is summer weight. Time will tell if we need to put on the heavier winter weight one.

I must get out and make the most of the sunshine. More to follow......


Thursday, 2 November 2006

Increased power.

We had a very pleasant surprise yesterday when the engineer who is doing our electrical modifications turned up unexpectedly. We were unsure as to when he was going arrive due to a heavy work load but he had a cancellation yesterday so he gave us his undivided attention for the whole day. He has now fitted the second 110amp/hr alternator, and alternator to battery charger and the Sterling 3000w pure sine wave inverter. The latter is not fully operational due to a couple of connectors being unavailable. However the battery charging system is now working a treat so no more shortage of power. WHOOPEE!!!!

Derek has been busy making extra shelves for various cupboards and has adapted a 4 tier sliding basket storage unit to fit into the kitchen cupboard. We are gradually resolving the storage problem which hopefully will mean a tidy boat.

The next thing on the agenda is to check out the Mikuni central heating unit as the night time temperatures are starting to drop and we had our first hint of a frost last night.

The photo attached is of a WWII bunker or pill box as they were known we passed on our way up to Farncombe from Guildford. It is surprising how far inland from the coast it is, these bunkers were installed at strategic places around London to protect the city from waterway enemy incursions. There are quite a few still in existence around here and one local house owner has one at the bottom of his garden on which he is building what appears to be a summer house where he can sit and survey the scene over his back fence to the river and fields beyond.

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Tight Fit.

We are now back at Farncombe after having just returned from a weekend in Guildford. Lovely mild weekend with temperatures still around 18 degrees during the day and dropping down to around 10 degrees overnight. Amazingly mild considering we are now almost into November, although temperatures are predicted to drop in the next couple of days. I think we are having better weather here than at home in New Zealand from the emails we are receiving, and there it's meant to be Spring.

Tracey caught the train up on Sunday and spent a couple of hours with us, swearing she hates trains as many were not running due to line maintenance. It took her almost two hours to get to Guildford from Wimbledon which should only take 20 minutes or so. Never mind its just one of the things we’ll have to get used to here.

Derek is also getting frustrated with the slowness in getting anything here. Looking for a vanity for the bathroom we found an ideal one but delivery is about a month. At home we can just go and buy something from the display, but no, here so much is mail order or the shops do not hold stock.

No problem sir, we will deliver it to your home, ...........what you have no home, well that could be a problem” What do other boaties do? I think we are spoilt in New Zealand and take so much for granted.

We are finding that it is a lot easier to up stakes and move compared to life in a caravan. If we don’t like the surrounds we can be on the move in a couple of minutes, so easy, we can even leave breakfast or the dishes until we are settled.

The river Wey was closed for a couple of days last week due to river levels but today it is down to normal again. The photos show the small clearance on one of the bridges today, firstly with Derek crouched right down to save getting a headache from the low road bridge and the second when he popped up again. We were one of the last boats up river last Monday before it was closed due to flooding. Boy, that was a bit hairy and there was less clearance then. The river then came up further so that one couldn't get under the bridge at all. We hope that the rain stays away until we can get off the Wey and head down the Thames to Brentford and up the Grand Union.

Work is progressing on the boat, the new batteries are now installed and we now have 800 amp/hours. We should manage well with these once the second alternator and management system are in place. Good, then I can have my washing machine. We are not used to Laundromats, (another thing I have taken for granted.) we have just arrived back with two backpacks of clean washing.

Halloween is celebrated here more so than at home and all the shops are sporting pumpkins and the like. We first noticed this in Canada but didn't realise it was celebrated here also. Guy Fawkes day also follows this week and Godalming has a huge bonfire built up ready to be lit.

Friday, 27 October 2006

Slow progress.

Tonight we are back at Farncombe boathouse awaiting the remaining electrical equipment. Today we received our new inverter and alternator to battery charging system but we are still short of an alternator and various cables and connectors. The cables from the batteries to the invertor are huge multi strand cables, 13mm thick and capable of carrying 600v, a bit of over kill here I think. The engineer hopefully will buy the bits and pieces tomorrow and we can start on fitting it all together.

We had lunch today with Tony and Barbara Jarvis who live not too far from where we are moored. For those in the know back in New Zealand, Barbara is the daughter of Keith and Margaret Harman, old friends of ours from the Heretaunga Caravan Club. We had long discussions about all sorts of things one of which was the internet and mobile phones. As Tony is in the computer business he has kindly offered to help Dot set up Skype so we will have phone and internet on the boat. This will be better than using the library internet service.
The weather has improved over the past 24 hours and
we had sunshine, a blue sky and 19 degree temperatures this afternoon. The river has re-opened to navigation but we both feel that it could be Tuesday of next week before we get away. Another piece of good news is that the Basingstoke canal has re-opened to navigation. The Basingstoke runs off the river Wey before you enter the river Thames and hopefully we will be able to traverse the Basingstoke before we leave the Wey on our way to the Grand Union Canal.

The 1st picture shows Gypsy Rover at Godalming and the 2nd picture shows the southern most point of the Wey navigation at Godalming where we were moored overnight.


Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Retail Therapy….

In the last week we have been conducting some very serious retail therapy buying things required to make the boat a live aboard. The only problem being that a lot of the retailers only carry display stock and have to order the stock in for you, which might take up to a week, which of course is no good to us because we are hoping to be on the move by the end of the week. Some things will have to wait until we find a mooring for winter and then it won’t matter about delivery time.
Today we are still waiting at Farncombe boats waiting for some electrical gear to be delivered. Our new batteries (840 amp/hr) are now sitting on the stern deck awaiting installation but we cannot install them until we get a new alternator from Isuzu and the battery management system from
Sterling Electrical. All ordered last week.
The river Wey has been closed to navigation for the last 24 hours due to flooding. It’s apparently flowing in excess of 15 knots making things a little tricky. We came through Guildford a few hours before they closed the river and due to a clogged air filter reducing the engine power and the flow of the river it took us 20 minutes to travel about 300 yards. However we survived and live to tell the tale.
This afternoon the rain stopped and the sun re-appeared so we went for a walk to a motor home dealer we had seen on the main road on our drive in from Heathrow last week. We were hoping that he might have some parts that we could use on the boat but no , the old story, they had to be ordered in and would take a week for delivery. While we were there we did browse around the motor homes on display and did find one that could be a replacement for Gypsy Rover in 3 or 4 years time.
On our way back to the boat we walked around a large lake where there were numerous fisherman trying their luck. At the top end of the lake we found 2 signs stating “Please don’t feed the birds or fish with bread”. Now I ask you, you take kids to a pond or waterway and the first thing they want to do is feed the ducks, it’s only natural. Anyway, there were some mum’s and a grandad with kids trying to feed the ducks but the ducks were being hassled from below. Huge carp were taking the bread before the ducks even got a look in. After this we walked on a bit further and found a fisherman who had hooked a fish and was in the process of trying to land it. We stood and watched the battle unfold to see who was going to win, the man or the fish. The man eventually won to land a 15lb 8oz common carp. He told us that he had caught 8 fish during the day, the biggest being 22lb so he was going home a happy chappie.

Hope our spare parts arrive tomorrow but I won’t hold my breath waiting.

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

Now on board

Just a quick update to let everyone know we are now on board Gypsy Rover, moored at Godalming and getting everthing organised. We are using the internet at the Public Library as we have not sorted the internet on the boat yet.
Our belongings arrived safely from New Zealand , although the boxes looked worse for wear there was no damage to our belongings and they were all there and no duty payable.
We have made a decision not to fly Air Canada again due to a combination of errors on all of our flights. Only good point was that there was plenty of leg room.
We are in the process of stocking the boat and acquiring all the necessary essentials for household living.

Friday, 13 October 2006

Rocky Mountaineer

Vancouver to Calgary via Kamloops in Canada.
With a 5.30am start, the first day of the train trip on the Rockie Mountaineer train through the Rockies finished up 4 hours longer than scheduled. Unbeknown to us the train had been travelling at a greatly reduced speed for some time due to a fault on one of the Gold Leaf carriages. Eventually the train stopped where the faulty carriage could be removed from the train. This created a logistical nightmare for the crew as they had to move 70 passengers into the remaining 3 Gold Leaf carriages. Luckily the train was not full so they were able to relocate everybody. After an hour or so we were under way again at normal speed. As it was another beautiful day nobody was complaining as the scenery was spectacular as can be seen in the bottom photo where the view is reflected in the calm surface of one of the lakes west of Banff. With the train being so late the chefs aboard the Gold Leaf kitchen were given the additional task of supplying an extra meal for all the passengers both Gold & Red leaf. Normally Red Leaf meals are airline style meals pre-prepared and loaded aboard for breakfast and lunch only, with snacks for in between.
Another downside to all of this meant we were going to be late arriving in Kamloops and would miss out on the dinner and live show. However all was not lost as the Rockie Mountaineer tour company offered everybody who was affected a refund and when we arrived at our overnight accomodation we received a written apology from the company and a copy of a book about the Rockies and the train.

Day 2
Another 5.30am start because the train departed at 7am with breakfast being served onboard. Today was the day everybody was on the lookout for wild animals as we were travelling through the Rockie Mountains national park. During the course of the day we spotted a lone coyote hunting in a hay field, hundreds of red salmon in the crystal clear rivers, several elk and a couple of white tailed deer. Also seen were two mountain goats AND one solitary black bear which was no more than ten feet from the train track. We thought that we might miss out on seeing a bear due to them hibernating during winter but we struck lucky (unfortunately we came across it too quickly to take a photo).
The remainder of the trip was even more spectacular scenery.

Anyone thinking of doing this trip on the Rocky Mountaineer we highly recommend it as one of the worlds greatest train trips. A special thanks to Doug our tour steward in carriage CB04 for making it such a special event.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Vancouver tour

We took a guided tour today on a trolley pictured left. It's modelled from a San Francisco tram but on a bus chassis.
Our tour driver, Larry, was a real character who had a wicked sense of humour. He gave Derek the ignition keys to look after the trolley while he went to Starbucks for a coffee.
After doing the complete tour circuit we hopped off at the Aquarium for an hour or so before catching the trolley back to town. What we had not realised was that this
week-end was Thanks giving so the city was crowded but it was a beautiful sunny day and everybody was out and about making the most of the lovely weather. As the temperature was starting to cool down we headed back to the hotel to get some warmer clothing before we heading back into the city to find somewhere for dinner. The choices of eating establishments are endless. We eventually found a place called Red Robin which is a bar / eating house. Dot ordered a chicken caesar salad which turned out to be just cheese and lettuce. When we were presented with the bill she complained about it and the cost of the salad was duly removed from the account, no if's, but's or maybe's. Now that's good customer PR.
During the course of the tour we were shown the 6 o' clock cannon which was used by early mariners to gauge tide movements. In more recent times it has been highjacked by varsity students as a fund raiser and on 1 occasion it was loaded with rocks so when it went off the rocks damaged a petroleum installation out in the harbour. Needless to say the cannon has now been moved and caged so no further repetitions can occur. It has also had it's time slot changed to 9 o'clock and we have just heard it go BOOM.
Tomorrow morning we leave early on the Rocky Mountaineer train through the Rockies to Calgary. May not have the opportunity to update before arriving in the UK. Will update as soon as we have internet access again.................

Monday, 9 October 2006

Exciting times ahead............

We have just spent two lovely days in Honolulu after flying out of New Zealand on Friday. Beautiful sunny weather at around 30 degrees. We have never been to Honolulu before but wished we had. It is beautiful.
We took 'The Bus' to Pearl harbour and spent the day reviewing the memories of the 7th day in December 1941, (my birthday but not the year). I grew up knowing that I was born on Pearl Harbour day. After a filmscreening we were taken out to the Arizona Memorial to the watery grave of so many of the crew. Nearly 900 personnel died that day including many civilians, men, women and children. The United States Navy provide the men and women to show the world what can happen in War. There is no admission charge just donations towards a larger museum if desired. We were there nearly 4 hours before returning to the hotel with another New Zealander from Christchurch who was returning home that evening for the children to get back to school after the holidays.
We are now in Vancouver after arriving at 5.30am this morning. Only 11 degrees, a bit of a shock and raining. We checked into this lovely hotel before having a sleep until lunchtime. The view from our 15th storey hotel room when we awoke was warm and sunny, the rain had gone and showed what a lovely city this is. More to follow tomorrow after we take a tour of the city .

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

What no cars................

For the first time in our adult lives we now have no vehicles. Strange feeling that, well we own a narrowboat..........is that a vehicle? Both cars and caravan have gone and we are relying on my son's borrowed Toyota MR2.
The last couple of days have been sorting out possessions that will be stored whilst in the UK. No mean task this, years of accumulations to be sorted between keep or throw. Derek has built a lockable storage in our double garage enabling us to store things securily on our own property. My son Richard will be living in the home and looking after things for us while we are away.

Saturday, 30 September 2006

Unemployed as of yesterday.........

As of Friday 29th we are now semi retired or unemployed depending on how you look at it. It will seem strange not having to get up early on Monday morning but we won't be sleeping in too long as there is plenty to do before Thursday night. All our travel documents are now in hand so roll on Friday.

Friday, 22 September 2006

Just packing......

Next week-end is another hectic round of social engagements before we depart. We are spending most evenings still packing and sorting out what we are taking to the UK. One never realises how many belongings one has until one starts packaging them into as few boxes as possible. We realise that space on the boat is limited so we are trying to pack essential items first & then pack extra's or a few meagre luxuries in the gaps.

Sunday, 17 September 2006

Au Revoir

We have just spent the weekend in lovely Otaki at a farewell party from members of the Heretaunga Caravan Club. Yesterday, club members had to build a narrowboat out of anything they could find lying around, these were then tested in the motor camp swimming pool. Two floated beautifully but alas the 3rd sunk like the Titanic. The first was called 'Tipsy Gypsy' , the second 'Derekdot' and the 3rd just plain 'Gypsy'. The evening eventually finished up with a nautical theme for dinner, Jenny and Robin dressed as the Lockeeper and his wench together with several pirates with skull and crossbones and of course the Ships Captain and ships girl. Fun was had by all & we were given a very fond farewell.

Thursday, 14 September 2006

The dawning of Spring...............

After a long cold wet winter. Today dawns bright and sunny and the birds are all singing. The last few months of slips and floods are becoming forgotten apart from those that were hit badly. Derek has the garden almost sorted and the house is in an organised chaos of boxes and boxes ready for our move to the UK.
Last weekend I caught up with my friends of long ago over a long lunch and we made big promises to stay in touch from one side of the world to the other. This weekend we are travelling through to Otaki (minus caravan) for a farewell dinner with other members of the Heretaunga caravan Club. Our calendar is full at the moment and each weekend is fully booked catching up with everyone before we leave.
It is hard to believe that we have finally resigned our jobs and head forth into the unknown. Rather scary as it is a complete new life. We have not burned our bridges and have a home to come back to eventually, as my son Richard is looking after our home whilst we are away.
We are both looking forward to our life aboard Gypsy Rover.

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

The birds & the bees


Our garden is becoming a haven for a variety of birds & Derek managed to get a beautiful shot of a little Wax eye bird cavorting in the one of our Rhododendron bushes.
These lovely little birds are about half the size of a sparrow & are usually found in a group. The other bird is a Tui, which is a New Zealand native & he sits up in the trees singing away for hours on end. We wake up to the sound of our friend most mornings.The plumage is an iridescent black and turquoise green & looks beautiful in the sunlight.

Monday, 21 August 2006

The end of an era................

We went away for the weekend in our caravan for the last time. The weather started off ok but torrential rain fell on Saturday night keeping most of us awake. We held the AGM of the caravan club and followed it with dinner at the local cospomolitian club and most of the men were glued to the TV for the final of the three nations rugby test in Auckland. The All Blacks won again beating Australia although it was a tough game and many were holding their breaths for long periods during the game.
Sunday dawned a lot brighter and Derek and I had the job of packing up the caravan and its contents. We then reluctantly left it behind in Otaki ready for sale.
Well, we won't be using it again while in the UK so, one door shuts and another one opens..........
7 weeks to go.

Monday, 14 August 2006

Going back in time

Somebody is trying to tell me something.
Yesterday morning I received an email from Juleen an old girlfriend that I nursed with nearly forty years ago. She had been reading our website and was catching up. Moving to Australia some 30 years ago we have only met up a couple of times since. There were four of us friends who used to hang around together and the others I last saw at a reunion about 20 years ago, although they live reasonably close. Last night Derek and I went out to dinner, and guess what? We met up with Sandy and Linda the other two of the foursome. All in one day! I hope to catch up again for a coffee with Sandy and Linda before we leave New Zealand in, would you believe 6 weeks? Just shows that christmas cards sometimes are not enough, although keeping the door open.
The same evening Derek bumped into an old workmate of 20 years. Perhaps these things are telling us something, but we are not interpeting them right.

Thursday, 10 August 2006

The countdown begins

Well the days are counting down fast. We are packing up our home in New Zealand for the big move onto our floating home for the next few years.
The dream is finally coming to fruition, we leave Wellington on 6th October and arrive in the UK on the 14th October.
We fly from Wellington to Honolulu via Sydney for a couple of days relaxation and then on to Vancouver in Canada for a train trip through the Rockies to Calgary before flying onto London. Our boat is currently on the River Wey at Godalming and we intend to bring it closer to London for Christmas.

We are looking somewhere around Berkamstead at this stage.