Sunday, 31 March 2013


Captain's Log - Week 4

Another week's flown by, but as we are sitting waiting near Braunston for 'Freaky Friday' not much in the log this week.

Monday 25th - Traveled back from Pam and Pete in West Wales. As all over the weekend we'd heard reports of bad snow we decided to head off early to make sure we got the hire car back on time. After having my all time favourite cooked breakfast, thanks Pam, we set off just before 8am stopping after a couple of hours at the services for a quick coffee and pee break. It wasn't until we were about at Worcester before we even saw snow, so I think luckily we missed the worst. We arrived back at Enterprise car hire with about half an hour spare so good timing there. After a lift back from one of the guys we were back aboard LJ and everything was ok, James had done a mini drain down in case. I just had to move the couple of inches of snow from the back door so I could get it open. We soon had the fire going and warmed up.

Tuesday 26th - I had my first boat deliver from Tesco and could highly recommend doing it. I often had home deliveries when we were down in Poole and thought it was brilliant, hadn't thought it was possible on a boat, but thanks to Sue on No Problem and her blog I gave it a try. As we were a hundred yards or so down the towpath from the pub car park where I had requested delivery I wandered up and waited for the van. It turned up in the early part of the time slot and the driver couldn't have been more helpful, I had texted James to come and meet me and give me a hand carrying it back to LJ but there was no need. Mr Tesco picked up my three crates and said (well no insisted) carrying them back to the boat, "but we're about a hundred yards down the muddy footpath" I said, but no off we went meeting James on his way to help, he offered to take a crate but Mr Tesco was having none of that and took them all himself. Excellent service. All I had to do was then get everything put away.

Wednesday 27th - We decided to move a little closer to Brauston today, it was bitterly cold and even a hot cup of tea on the go did little to warm us up.
Napton - Bridge 100 near Flecknoe  4.5 miles 0 locks

Thursday 28th and Friday 29th - nothing to report

Saturday 30th - After breakfast and getting lunch cooking on the stove we took a walk in Flecknoe, we took the long way there about three miles, stopped for a pint and packet of crisps in the lovely friendly local and wandered the short way back to LJ, so probably about four or five miles in total.

Sunday 31st - Happy Easter 

Cruising 4.5 miles
0 locks
240 road miles

Cruising 44 miles
4 locks
475 road miles in 2 weeks

Our mooring near Flecknoe

Saturday, 30 March 2013

I asked a local chap...

I asked a local chap...

" Is it far too the closest pub"
" Ah, feck no" he replied through a toothless grin, then he walked off. 

Charming I thought to myself he could have at least told me what direction it was! I'll have to wait until I get a mobile signal and have a look online. 

It is still very chilly here at the moment, -4°c at night and about +4°c in the day with a wind chill of about zero degrees c. The canal was iced over again this morning and before the first hire boat had gone through the canal was topped with a dusting of fresh snow. 

Another chilly start to the day

At a very reasonable time coal boat 'Jules fuels' came chugging by. I just had time to get on the rear deck to flag them down. Due to the extra long cold spell coal was strictly rationed. They have already managed to squeeze an extra four tons of coal from their suppliers a couple of days ago and that was nearly all gone. We took our couple of sacks and topped up with diesel. We seem to be cooking nearly everything on top of our stove at the moment and with our battery bank at a pathetically low capacity (so fully charging from solar by midday at the latest) we haven't needed to run the engine at all to cook/charge batteries. 

Deb's turn to cook today and before our breakfast teapot had got cold we had a herby Spanish chicken and olive casserole slow cooking on top of the stove.  She has even made some steamed sponge for pudding at some stage of the day. We seem to be into a routine of having our meal in the early afternoon and missing out what we used to call lunch, no doubt pud will be about teatime. 

I did a quick paper power audit yesterday just to see how many amps we need per day as a worse case scenario. The idea is to have a battery bank capacity of between three and for times your daily usage. Also once you know the average usage you can calculate how long the daily charging needs to be. From what I've learned so far it looks like you need to put 130% of what you take out back in to take into account charging inefficiencies. My paper calculations look like we use just under 100A per day (or will once we have the 12v fridge in and working. So that will need 130A of charging. If we use just our generator and 40A charger we will need to run it for just over three hours a day. That's why we have pretty dead battery bank at the moment there has been no real charging regime to speak of its all been very ad hoc. I started to transfer my info to a spreadsheet to check my figures but it would also appear that we only need a battery bank of between 320A and 400A so at least buying them will be cheaper.

Deb dragged me away from my spread sheet and onboard power audit calculations for a walk. The cold wind meant we had a bit of a march to warm up and we were soon in the very pretty village of Flecknoe, outside our closest pub the Olive Bush.  You see local chap hadn't said 'ah feck no' but more of an 'at Flecknoe'. 

Feck no, is Flecknoe!

If you happen to see my kids on your travels, send them home

The bar room of the Olive Bush (taken from their website, I didn't break back in to take a photo!)

Anyway it is a great little pub and the hundreds of boaters who are racing through the Warwickshire countryside going to and from Braunston are missing a treat. Great little bar area, just like it used to be, sat inside someone's front room. Great beer. Friendly proprietor and lovely chat with the locals all making us feel very welcome. 

Lunch was nearly ready by the time we got back at three o'clock and very nice it was too, even if it should have been a BBQ outside at this time of year. Pud as promised was eaten sat in front of the fire at about seven o'clock just after sun set. Of course we get an extra hour of light tomorrow as the clocks do their seasonal jiggling about so an extra hour of solar charge :-) 

Thursday, 28 March 2013



Jess has got herself a 'floppy blue microwave'...

Jess pre floppy blue microwave days

I've had several over the years, you may have had one yourself! Of course up until now only three people knew what a floppy blue microwave actually is. Me, Deb and Jess. And no it's not the boater's next 'must have gadget'

I've suffered with migraines for years. The first one I can remember occurred when I was about twelve years old. I can't remember the phases just the pain, vomiting and days of Zombie like recovery afterwards. Attacks came and went over the years and the only thing I don't know about my migraines are what triggers them. I know what doesn't - I once had a coffee, brie and chocolate binge just to see what happened. Nothing.  Unfortunately a lot of them used to happen after a busy week at work once I had started to relax. The only thing worse than a six day, seventy hour working week is getting a migraine ten minutes into your one day off. 

A few years ago the some of the symptoms of my migraines changed. The first phase became more noticeable. 

Phase one is the Prodrome. Potential symptoms of the prodrome are:

1. food cravings
2. constipation or diarrhea
3. mood changes — depression, irritability, etc.
4. muscle stiffness, especially in the neck
5. fatigue
6. increased frequency of urination
7. yawning

The 2,3,4 and 6 can be regular symptoms for me.

Phase two is the aura, not just flashing lights as many think

1. visual: flashing lights, wavy lines, spots, partial loss of sight, blurry vision
2. olfactory hallucinations — smelling odors that aren't there
3. paresthesia - tingling or numbness of the face or extremities on the side where the headache develops.
4. aphasia - difficult finding words and/or speaking
5. confusion
6. dizziness
7. neck pain
8. partial paralysis (only in hemiplegic Migraine)
9. auditory hallucinations — hearing things that aren't really there
10. decrease in or loss of hearing
11. reduced sensation
12. allodynia - hypersensitivity to feel and touch
13. brief flashes of light that streak across the visual field (phosphenes)

For me - 1, 3 (bottom lip left hand side), 4,5,6,7, number 8 happened only once thank goodness it was just like a mini-mini stroke, and rarely 11

Phase three is the headache. 

1. headache pain that is often unilateral — on one side. This pain can shift to the other side or become bilateral.
2. Although Migraine pain can occur at any time of day, statistics have shown the most common time to be 6 a.m. It is not uncommon for Migraineurs to be awakened by the pain.
3. Because trigeminal nerve becomes inflamed during a Migraine, Migraine pain can also occur in the areas of the eyes, sinuses, and jaw.
4. This phase usually lasts from one to 72 hours. In less common cases where it lasts longer than 72 hours, it is termed status Migrainous, and medical attention should be sought.
5. The pain is worsened by any physical activity.
6. phonophobia — increased sensitivity to sound
7. photophobia — increased sensitivity to light
8. osmophobia — increased sensitivity to odors
9. neck pain
10. nausea and vomiting
11. diarrhea or constipation
12. nasal congestion and/or runny nose
13. depression, severe anxiety
14. hot flashes and chills
15. dizziness
16. vertigo - sensation of spinning or whirling (not to be confused with dizziness or light-headedness)
17. confusion
18. dehydration or fluid retention, depending on the individual body's reactions

That's quite a list isn't it? For me - 1, left side 2, about four am 3 eyes feel like they're about to explode 4, luckily no more than a couple of hours for me 5, hmmm never tried that 6,7,8 and 9 always! 15, 17 and 18 to a lesser extent. 

Phase four is Postdrome

1. lowered mood levels, especially depression
or feelings of well-being and euphoria
2. fatigue
3. poor concentration and comprehension
4. lowered intellect levels

Yup all of them a at times but the worst thing is that phase for can last a while. After a very short, sharp headache phase, I have had postdrome last for a week. 

Phase two number four is where the 'floppy blue microwave' comes in.

We were all stood in out hallway in Poole. From memory we were doing a bit of sorting out and were making a trip to the charity shop to get rid of a few nick-nacks. What we really needed was a large container so we could take a load and be in and out in minutes, this was my only day off after all, and of course I had a migraine not a bad one as frequently I had bad stage one, two and four but not too much of a stage three - the headache. 

I was stood at the bottom of the stairs "what we need is the floppy blue microwave" no reaction from Deb and Jess " you know, the big floppy blue microwave!!" I was getting wound up now. The girls looked at each other with smiles on their faces and said " what are you on about" they repeated what I said but my brain had translated to it's new migraine language and it made perfect sense to me. " the floppy blue microwave, it's outside the garage with the old tiles in!" - " that's a floppy green bucket" Deb had finally made the connection. We needed the big floppy GREEN BUILDERS BUCKET. 

Since then severe attacks (that caused me no end of difficulties at work, especially phase four which can have poor concentration, comprehension and impaired intellect levels) are known as 'floppy blue microwaves' - and this week Jess had got one of her very own and got sent home from work because nobody knew what the bloody hell she was talking about :-) 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Captain's Log Week 3


Not much to report in this week's log with regards to canal miles, but this is how the week went:

Monday 18th March - we got the bus from Braunston into Daventry, it's only about three miles and took all of 10 minutes but cost £4.90, saved us walking though I suppose.

Tuesday 19th March - Braunston - Napton 6 miles and 0 locks

Nothing to report for Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st

Friday 22nd March - met Andrew from Enterprise Car Rental at the Bridge Inn for our hire car to get to Pam and Pete in Wales. Then traveled the long way round avoiding all the snowy weather in North Wales.

Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th March - spent a great weekend in Wales being treated to dinner on Saturday evening and having a lovely home cooked chicken roast on Sunday.  We went into Cardigan town on Saturday and into Jess' favorite shop, Yum Yums on the High Street and of course no visit to Cardigan is complete without a visit to the Priory Cafe 

6 miles 
0 locks
235 road miles

39.55 miles
4 locks
235 road miles

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


I have tried to make this a simple way to learn how to make a good curry - as good as you will get in most restaurants and takeaways. The idea is that you can remember the steps and not have to refer back to a specific recipe ever again. 

So the first step to every curry I make is 'Red Stuff'


Equipment - either soup blitzer and tall jug or mini processor or big processor or manual tabletop mincer or knife and board - in that order of preference for me. Pan, spoon small knife

No need for a board yet, cut like most of the rest of the world do; using a small knife in your dominant hand sharp bit pointing towards you with the food between sharp bit and thumb (no scrubbing to get garlic and onion smells out of the board!)

1. Cut up an onion into blitzing jug, follow with -

2. Four cloves of garlic, peeled and cut

3. An inch or so of ginger, peeled and cut

4. Those fresh tomatoes that are going squidgey (3ish) in the back of the fridge

5. Top the jug up to about three quarters of the food height with cold water

6. Blitz til smoothish and looks like something a fit person may call breakfast before they power walk to the office.

7. Chuck it in a pan, bung it on top of the stove

8. Drool at the fresh smell as it warms up

9. When it is about half what it was, you have made enough red stuff for two or three portions :-)

Next - changing red stuff to brown stuff


Brown stuff is different every time depending on the type of curry you are making. Don't let lots of ingredients put you off, build up and experiment. Start off with the most basic - just curry powder.

1. Warm up a pan

2. Add a drop of oil

3. Plop in a knob of butter and warm until starting to foam - don't rush it

4. Add curry powder. Either follow the tin or about a teaspoon per person and one for the pot (or was that Darjeeling?)

5. Once the curry powder has fried for a minute add some red stuff (half a mug full should be enough) and salt to taste.

6. Let the flavours get to know each other for a while (on gawd, I've gone all Nigella) and you're done - you now have brown stuff :-)

The curry I am making whilst writing this just has different brown stuff. Instead of just curry powder I will fry off the following NOTE MY SPOONS ARE CURRY SPOONS, ABOUT THE SAME SIZE AS AN OLD COFFEE SPOON

A spoon of yellow mustard seeds, two spoons of turmeric, a spoon of curry powder, a spoon of cumin, a spoon of garam marsala a spoon of coriander seeds and three green cardamon pods (smashed up with a pestle and mortar), no chili as I put a fresh one in my red stuff and a few dry curry leaves a bit later.

Next - changing red stuff to brown stuff to curry

OK Changing red stuff to brown stuff to curry

What kind of curry to do. I'm doing vegi. Its not that I've gone all ethical and all 'poor little bunny rabbits', we ran out of meat a week ago so its either vegi or  hotdog and pickled onion curry?) - one thing's for sure I'm never going to admit to my vegi sister in-law that I actually prefer home made curry to be vegi - no, no way.

Right steps one

Chicken - brown the chicken, take it out of the pan, start making brown stuff

Lamb - brown the lamb, take it out of the pan.... See a pattern here?

Pork - brown the.... I'm sure you get it by now!

Vegi is a bit more involved, cut your chosen veg (I prefer a bit of a theme) having the hardest smallest and softest largest. E.G. a piece of spud needs to be smaller than a piece of courgette unless you want to cook everything individually first (boring!) or end up with spud in courgette sauce!

1. Colour all your veg in turn and store on a plate

2. Add a bit more oil if needed and foam a knob of butter

3. Gently fry all the spices, the mustard seeds may pop a bit

4. Add some red stuff and slowly cook into brown stuff

5. Brown stuff is too thick unless you want a dry curry and your meat/veg cooks very quickly. Like chicken breast (it will be nearly cooked from browning it), prawns, mushroom etc. If you are cooking anything else you will need to add water. Cooking lamb and beef will need the brown stuff as watery as the red stuff was at the beginning and, ideally a few hours slow cooking.

6. Cook with a lid on to start with and once the meat/veg starts to soften take the lid off to reduce any liquid or add a bit more if needed.

And that's it, simples....

I like to have a theme to the veg; Mediterranean, Root veg etc 

It looks a lot more chopped up - you can see the dish of  'RED STUFF' in the background

Frying the veg - the other pan is the Bombay potato 

RED STUFF added to spices to make BROWN STUFF

Ready for dishing - how many pans can you fit on your stove?

So you know the basic procedure; fry what you've got, take it out, fry the spices, add red stuff (turns into brown stuff) add water and put your veg/meat back in. Watch the rugby, have a beer.

Now the keen eyed my have recognised in my photos that the spuds are not in the vegi pan and the vegi pan has some white lumps on top.

Bombay potatoes - fry spuds, put on a plate, fry a spoon of black onion seeds, a spoon of mustard seeds, two spoons turmeric and salt/pepper. Add some red stuff and cook to brown stuff add water and spuds and cook slowly, once cooked and the liquid absorbed add a chopped fresh tomato and let it sit with a lid on.

White lumps - Now as if home made curry and Bombay potatoes isn't impressive enough how about home made Indian cheese!!

No seriously, you're going to make paneer! I had put it off for years, assuming it was going to be very technical. Since first making it I had decided to keep my little secret but it is the season for sharing :-)


First the hard bit - the equipment you will need is

Square of muslin (its cheap, please no tights or socks!)
Large circular cutter, egg frying ring or off cut of a drain pipe.
Glass of water

And the easy bit the ingredients


That's it, this really is as easy as making hot chocolate, and quicker.

1. Boil milk
2. As it starts to boils add lemon juice
3. Lower the heat and stir for a minute or two
4. Strain through muslin and put it in the ring
5 weigh down with the glass of water
By the time its cooled down it will have set in to a puck shape and be solid enough to fry!

Amazing :-)

Full Fat will produce more cheese

Don't make it if you've got a hangover

Ready to strain

It can be a bit sticky, but will soon solidify

All ready for frying

Next - 'I want a korma!'

I want a #1 korma

Well I don't but somebody will! or at least something identifiable from a takeaway menu, so a couple of variations on the basic theme I'm going to assume for ease of writing that all main curry dishes are now chicken. So korma -

1. Seal the chicken and put it on a plate

2. Not much in the way of spices in this "curry" but I'd suggest, a touch of cumin, half spoon curry powder, touch of gara masala, touch of fenugreek (well you have got to have enough in it to at least call it a curry) two spoons of turmeric. Add a little salt, good couple of spoonfuls white sugar, and a tablespoon each of ground almonds and coconut (don't worry if they're a bit out of date, I doubt you will have much of it, stick to the proper curry) Fry this nice and slowly (no browning) in oil and a bit more butter than is healthy.

3. Add some red stuff and cook it into brown stuff.

4. Now the really healthy bit, rather than water, thin down with double cream (add a bit of creme fraiche if available) and bung the chicken back in.

Cook on a low heat and stir regularly. It won't need more than a few minutes and catches easily (the only thing worse than a korma is a speckled korma)

I'm not a fan of the English restaurant type korma, to me its like chicken in custard. If you fancy making it a little more authentic only use a little cream, get the rest of the sauce by firstly marinading the chicken in yogurt with some turmeric and spices and braise the whole lot slowly. It may look a little watery to start with but tastes better.

I want a #2 Dhansak

Hot and spicy, sweet and sour - my favorite!

1. Seal the chicken and put it on a plate

2. Fry some spices, I'd suggest - curry powder, cumin, ground coriander, dried chili, mustard seeds, a couple of spoons of turmeric, some salt and a couple of spoons of sugar

3. Add some red stuff and cook for a while

A Dhansak has a couple of key ingredients that separate it from the rest, dhal and pineapple

4. Boil a handful of red lentils in water until tender (lentils and yellow split peas mixed are better but take longer to cook)

5. Using the equipment that you made red stuff with, blitz a small can of pineapple, or a few rings from a bigger tin and keep the rest for homemade pizza :-)

6. Put the chicken back in the brown stuff, add the pineapple, more water if needed and then the cooked and drained lentils.

7. Adjust the seasoning to your taste. You can use a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to increase the acidity, I prefer tamarind soaked in a little hot water and strained through a tea strainer using the liquid sparingly as it can be quite bitter.

Job done...

Now from here on don't worry too much about which spices you use, start to experiment and use the ones you like, I don't feel that it has to conform to a particular recipe and there is no chance of remembering what quantity of ten different spices goes in your favorite five curries so just remember the theme. It will at the very least be better than out of a jar.

Korma - mild, sweet, coconut and almond

Dhansak - hot/sweet/sour, pineapple, lentils

Ceylon - hot rich curry stew, lemon, coconut, lots of crushed black pepper

Satay - medium, basic curry with chunky peanut butter

Jalfreze - medium/hot, basic curry but add onion peppers and chili to chicken when frying at the beginning keep it chunky

Dupiaza - means double onion (or two types of onion, one fried and one boiled or poached) chunks of onion poached then fried with the chicken (about the same volume of meat and onion)

Back aboard...

We had a great weekend in Wales visiting Mum and Dad. Later Saturday we were taken out for dinner to the Ship in Tresaith a few miles up the coast. The pub is above a rugged little cove which points directly west, you get some lovely sunsets over here (and about half an hour more light in the evenings). 

We went clubbin Cardigan style on Sunday. That meant Golf club for a drink (full membership is less than I used to pay for use of a driving range on the South coast) and then on to the Boating club for another drink :) before going home for a Sunday roast and watching a wholly inappropriate DVD in front of Granddad - he took it all in his stride as usual.  

Sadly we had to get the car back to Daventry by lunchtime Monday which we managed with time spare to stop for a coffee somewhere near Redditch. We had decided to take the long way round heading towards Cardiff, across the Severn and up through Gloucester to avoid any snowy parts.

The wind hadn't abated when we got back to LJ in Napton and it was still bloomin cold. I swept the chimney quickly and we got the fire lit. It was just above freezing so I was glad that I had done a mini drain down of the water system.

I bought Dad a spice Dabba for Christmas but, tsk tsk, he hasn't made use of it yet. He has forgotten how good he was at making curry back in the early 80's and how his mates Nick and Paul used to come round on a Saturday evening for a good old curry binge long before there was anywhere in west Wales to get a takeaway. The closest thing you could get to a curry was a Vesta pre-packed dehydrated something or other. So for Dad and Jess (who loves curries and cooking for friends on her day off) I have written a mini curry course that I developed to get the maximum amount of fresh flavours for my curries and a simple way to get them tasting fairly similar every time, it even includes ahow to make Paneer. It also uses a couple of key simple stages so it is quite easy to make a few different dishes from one starting point - I expect a curry banquet next time I visit, all homemade!!

I do think that it is important to be able to cook what you like to eat when living aboard for two reasons. Firstly some of us haven't got the budged to pay for the takeaways and restaurant meals that we used to when we lived in bricks and mortar; secondly, even if we have got the necessary funds how often are we moored in the middle of nowhere when we really fancy a curry, sweet 'n' sour or pizza?

My two Spice Dabba's

I have added it to a new tab at the top of my home page along with anything else recipe-wise I have put on the blog. It is quite a lot of reading but worth it - well if you like curry ;)

Sunday, 24 March 2013

To be read in a strong South Walean Accent...

To be read in a strong South Walean Accent...

Duw, Duw...There's luvley, boys bach... etc

Yup we've come over to Welsh Wales to visit mum and dad for a couple of days right over on the west coast. We hired a car from enterprise for their usual great price and service, picked up from the boat, taken to the office and even upgraded to a higher spec. 

Boring journey though, through rain and down too many motorways. At least we avoided the snow and ice that the rest of the of the Midlands and the north were getting. We did have a quick pee stop in Crosshands and bought a few bits and some flowers. The very friendly assistant offered us a shop discount mag which I was just about to decline before he said "now if you give that back to me, I can give you a ten percent discount", he even tore the token out of the mag for us - not bad customer service eh?

We made it the two hundred miles or so by about seven o'clock, not much before mum and dad had got back from visiting my sister in Cardiff. We had a great evening eating, drinking and catching up.

Up at the lark again today for a stroll around the village of St Dogmaels  (Llandudoch, its proper name). Its been a few years since we walked around the attractions, so I've added a few pictures. 

Opposite side of the road gives a good view of the estuary

Abbey ruins in the village about half a mile away

Abbey and village

Tide on the way out

Mum and dad's place

Annex to the side is à lovely little two bedroom holiday cottage - available to rent at a great price (also a one bedroom detached bungalow behind them, dogs welcome!)

Proper vicarage next to the Abbey

No bad girls step here, I let her out eventually

Pond for the working mill

Fishing fleet a bit bigger than it is now

Once the rest of the household was up and about we headed off to the town of Cardigan about a mile away for a little retail therapy and to meet grandad for a coffee. He still walks down the hill to his favorite cafe for a cuppa and a ham roll most days, stopping for a good old chin wag with the locals before getting his shopping - not bad for someone a few weeks from his ninety sixth birthday! 

What do septuagenarian get up to on a chilly Saturday night 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

My non-routine routine...

My non-routine routine...

A year or so ago I had trouble sleeping. We would start our usual nighttime routine after the 10 o'clock news had finished and usually be tucked up by elevenish, me listening to a downloaded podcast on my iPhone.  I used to be exhausted so sleep came quickly. The problem was holding on to it. By about 2.00 I had usually been woken by a stab of adrenaline right through the guts. What had I forgotten yesterday? what was I going to have to face later today? I am not going to get through the day, let alone next six days unless I get back to sleep. 

I would stare at the Phillips docking station clock for a couple of hours, just watching the numbers count up. I would drift in and out for the last hour or so before giving up and starting the morning routine at six. Shower, shave and... the other one, double espresso and a breakfast bar before convincing myself that if I put the extra hour in this morning in the office it will pay dividends. It rarely did. 

I still seem to have a bit of a nighttime routine. We never watch TV late so it starts with me announcing 'I'm tired, I'm gonna bed'. This can be any time between 9.30 and 1.00 but often over winter it has been dictated by the temperature of the stove. Now more often than not it is radio (4Extra) rather than podcasts that I choose to listen to but I am usually asleep before the 30 minute sleep timer is up. And that's me done until morning. I am still rubbish at laying in though. If its cold, wet and windy I can usually make it to eight at a push but I much prefer waking up, and getting up as one continuous fluid movement. 

This morning I was awake early, my brain still tries to tell me I had a crap nights sleep, ok I've got a bit of a stiff neck and arm from messing around with the batteries yesterday, but big deal. I make the fire up (then turn it low) kettle on top, and managed to drag Deb up by 7.00. A few minutes later we were off out in the blustery, just above freezing, watery morning sunshine for a walk up, over and round Napton's hill. A rather pleasant village with great views over Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, through farmland, past the windmill and through sleepy old stone terraces (and some rather big houses as well) full of people starting their morning routines. We were back on board, refreshed, three miles and an hour and a bit later ready for breakie and ablutions. I like my non-routine routine.

Nap ton Windmill

A pretty little terrace of cottages 

A little tug style hire boat in the early morning sunshine

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

30-3 Really?...

30-3 Really?...

After leaving Barby we had a quiet but grey trip back into Braunston. You never quite know how busy the moorings are going to be in Braunston so we moored up as soon as we could and took a stroll nearly up to the locks. There wasn't too much space between the two bridges junction and the marina so we decided to stay put. 

The main reason we are hanging around here is to wait for Midland Chandlers 'Freaky Friday' 20% off day. 12v fridges aren't cheap and not getting the discount would have been a deal breaker. I hadn't seen it advertised anywhere so walked back over the road to ask (again) when it may be and to get a shopping list together. One of the lads there said it had been advertised but nowhere we were likely to see it!  Anyway it is all day on Friday 5th April, so if you need anything that's your day. Do check first and compare Internet prices because some of their prices are way out. 

The only other things on the list here were to get some more rope and sit in and watch the last day of the rugby six nations to see England win the title with a grand slam or at least get the title, we only needed to loose by less than 8 points and job's a goodun. Saturday was set to rain but I hadn't figured on the effect of said rain on our satellite dish. We rarely watch TV and it has only been turned on for the rugby over the last few weeks. Braunston is a bit of a communication black spot though and by the time the England-Wales match had started the digital signal was a psychedelic blocky mash of colour so I watched most on my mini tab using the midi. It was lucky we had any kind of TV signal as we had difficulty getting through cloud and trees. In the end England were embarrassing, I know that Wales held the title and we had a young team but there is no excuse for a 30-3 defeat. I'm only glad I hadn't paid to see them. 

We had promised ourselves a quick bite out for a few weeks so took the opportunity to head sliding through the mud up to the Boat house - a Marstons two for one pub. Although fairly cheap chain pub fodder we have always found it pretty good in there. Good beer, friendly service and reasonable prices at least if your party is an even number and you all get the two for one. The walk back was horrible and we ended up back at the boat with soggy feet and jeans as the mud had changed to deep puddles. 

Snow again

Waking up the next day to snow, we decided to try our luck with the hard standing 48h moorings outside the marina. We were going to bus it into Daventry the next day to try and get a good doc to write my monthly prescription. Having moved to the better moorings we now didn't have a phone signal to call the docs so we went in on the off chance. A well organised receptionist took all the details and booked an afternoon phone appointment with said doc. My phone rang at just gone two and my prescription was waiting behind reception minutes later. Definitely the best surgery so far. 

Much dryer mooring

Deb fancied a sit down 

Having spent far too much money at my favourite rope and fender emporium we headed off down the Oxford canal to Napton on the hill to wait for 'Freaky Friday'. Having arrived with the intention of giving the batteries their first desulfation cycle (4 hours charge at 15.5v) we decided to use a bit of the power and sat down with Debs leftover soup and a toasted cheese and chorizo sarnie, all cooked on top of the wood burner  and watched 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' for the first time The film was good but blimey the adverts are weird these days. Slice up a cricket ball with wooden stumps, add an oxo and - magic a stir fry... what's that all about!

Rural moorings with large gardens

Lick of paint and it'll be fine

Nearly time for babies :-) 

The desulfation cycle went fine, although probably too late to start the regime with this set of dying bats, and  today we took the batteries out and cleaned out the battery box and checked the cells with a hydrometer to see if they were poorly or dead. Prognosis is that they should last the summer. 

New mooring

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Captain's Log - Week 2


Here's my round up of our weeks cruising, walking and cycling (although no cycling this week).

Monday 11th  Bridge 68 near Rugby - Hillmorton 1.5 miles and 3 locks.

Tuesday 12th  Walked 3 miles return to get stocked up at the local Aldi in Hillmorton. We had the surveyor visit in the afternoon to carry out the Boat Safety, which, as James has mentioned LJ passed - phew! 

Wednesday 13th Hillmorton - Barby 2.6 miles and 0 locks.

Thursday 14th We have always said we must walk up Barby Hill and today was the day.  Although very cold out the canal was still iced up at lunchtime we made it being a 4 mile round walk.

Friday 15th Barby - Braunston 3.5 miles and 0 locks.

Saturday 16th We stayed put and James watched all three games of the Six Nations rugby, well he couldn't miss the final matches.  This is the first year EVER that he has managed to watch the whole tournament, in previous years work inconveniently got in the way and he always missed some.  We ventured out in the evening to the local Marston's pub in the rain and the towpath where we were moored was extremely muddy, at one point the puddles were so deep I thought it would go over the top of my boots. Although we plan to stay in Brauston for a few days we must get moored on a better section of towpath.

Sunday 17th Braunston - a bit further in Braunston  0.75 miles and 0 locks. Yes we moved, waited for the snow to stop before venturing out. I only realised how much snow we had when we passed a hire boat at the water point and they had made a snowman on their roof, only a little one, but still enough snow to make one! We are now moored on a better section of towpath so hopefully it will help keep the mud out of the boat.

Cruising 8.35 miles
Locks 3
Walks 7 miles

Cruising 33.55 miles
Locks 4
Walks 7 miles

Setting off for Barby Hill
Just starting to go up now - what a clear day, we could see for miles

Not far back to LJ 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Up to Barby...

Up to Barby...

The frost was more widespread and the canal ice thicker than I expected this morning. The sun was shining and by the time the stove was lit the boat was being warmed by the sun. As soon as tea and toast was over with I set about identifying a leak from one of the mushroom vents. The seal was good to the roof even after thirteen years but the top of the wooden ceiling insert was exposed to rain splashing off the roof. They regularly drip from the centre but I don't want water tracking between the steel and oak roof planks. 

Whilst I was on the roof Deb was getting chicken stew on the go so we could take advantage of the sunny morning and hike up the Barby hill. Even though there are several pathways up the hill they are difficult to see from the bottom. We decided to walk a mile down the towpath to bridge 81 which led us to the most direct path, a straight line ESE. First boat of the day passed under the bridge as we went over, crunching its way through the ice which was thick enough to veer the boat of the steerers intended path. 

Ice breaker

The lower field was waterlogged but as it was now only a couple of degrees above freezing the larger tufts were still frozen. A steeper field was sheltered from the wind and all of a sudden it felt like spring was back, at least until a style took us into the shade of a northerly sloping field and the frozen ground turned back to rock. 

Hot in the sunshine

Luckily all still frozen

Must be some heat in that pile
A farm path took us the last half a mile or so to the centre of this pretty little village. The size of the church shown that it was probably a village of note locally and there were several quite will sized houses going back to the mid 1700's. A large area in the middle of the village that I presumed was the green is now hedged off for allotments, a sign of the changing times that allotments that were once the preserve of the working classes are now the focal points of middle class villages. 
Barby Church
We took the road back the majority of the way before skirting the field above the canal and crossing one of CaRT's project bridge repairs of last year. A short walk back along the towpath took us back to LJ on  a grassy bank in total seclusion, well apart from the yiong offenders institution a couple of hundreds yards behind the hedge.  

We're down there in the middle somewhere

Rebuild bridge with no rebuilt fence - 'please shut the gate-