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

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.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006


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.