Monday, 29 April 2013


Captain's Log - Week 8

Firstly I would like to thank everyone for their best wishes and enquiries as to how James is doing after his op. 

The captain's log this week has not got one entry with movement of Lois Jane but nevertheless it has been an eventful week and I can't wait to get the cruising miles in and the lock count up.

Well lets go back to last Monday 22nd April, it was an early start and we arrived at Sandwell Hospital, just outside Birmingham, at 7:45am James was checked-in on the ward and there started a marathon wait. I was asked to leave the ward about 9am and left to wander the hospital, I managed to find a seating area and grabbed a coffee and sat watching the hospital world go by. I knew James was the last from his bay on the ward to be going under the knife, so at about 1pm I went back up to the corridor outside the ward to await his return. After about half an hour I saw a nurse I recognised from the morning so asked her if James was back on the ward yet, there was always a possibility he had gone and come back whilst I was away. But no, she said he's not back yet - he still hasn't gone! She went and checked with the ward sister and I was allowed back on the ward an hour before official visiting time. James finally went off at about 2:45pm when I grabbed another coffee and headed back outside the ward so I knew when he returned, which wasn't until about 5:30pm so no chance of coming out today then. I made a quick call to Enterprise to extend the car hire and was able to go back on the ward for visiting at 6:30pm. They are quite strict with their visiting but I suppose that's good for the patients as people aren't coming and going all day. After visiting and the hour journey back to Bugbrooke I finally arrived back on LJ for a night on my own.

Tuesday 23rd April - the following morning after pottering around trying to keep busy James text me to say he would definitely be out today but didn't know what time, I headed up the motorway again so I would at least be there where he was discharged and not have him wait an hour for me to get there. So after another few hours wait he was finally out and we were on the way back. I then went to surgery in Bugbrooke to get James registered as a temporary patient as the nurse there would be able to remove his stitches after a week.

Wednesday 24th April - first job was to get the hire car back to Enterprise in Daventry and then they gave me a lift back to Bugbrooke and that was basically it for the day.

Thursday 25th April - whilst pottering around outside and sweeping the front deck, I spotted Festina Lente going by, James has been following their blog from the start and it bought back memories of our search for a narrowboat. Andy recognised Lois Jane and immediately asked how James was doing, all too soon they had passed but hopefully our paths will cross again. By the way if you are reading this Andy, I loved your Sunday lunch opportunities - its just what James would say.

Friday 26th April - I have been trying to get the outside of the boat cleaned and polished this week, but it's proving to be a bit of a nightmare - it hasn't been polished for a long time so it's been quite hard work. I am even trying to get the brass looking shiny again, I have been putting this off for sometime as it has all been lacquered and its horrendous getting it off but the one navigation light that I've started is beginning to look nice and shiny again, it's going to take some time!!

Saturday 27th April - we met up with Les and Mea from Blue Moon again, they popped in to see how James was doing and also drop off a few bits they kindly got for us whilst they were in Northampton. It was lovely seeing them again but quite sad saying goodbye as it will probably be sometime before we see them again as they are now heading off down the Southern Oxford canal before returning to Thailand in June.

Sunday 28th April - This morning I was on the back deck making sure the drain holes were clear and getting the cover off the engine bay when Adam on Briar Rose went by, we had a brief chat and again he very kindly asked how James was getting on.

We have still had the problem of loosing coolant water after RCR came out to us at Buckby so they have been out again - twice - and still every time the engine runs for an hour or so about 5 litres of coolant end up in the bilges, I have been forever mopping them out and refilling the engine. They have finally manged to track it down (I hope) to a leaking hose and will replace it. It means draining the whole system down and until we get to a water point we haven't got the 80 or so litres spare to replace it, we knew we were going to be here a while so have been very careful with our water usage, I never knew I could wash my hair and shower using so little water!!

Anyway enough of my ramblings, James had his stitches out today he's doing much better and even managed the mile and a half stroll to the surgery and back. Maybe we'll be back on the move before too long. 

Cruising - 64.75 miles
Locks - 17
Tunnels - 2

Our mooring at Bugbrooke, opposite The Wharf

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Yeah, gallstones gone :-) ...

Yeah, gallstones gone :-) ...

Leaving early in our hire car from Bugbrooke we made it back into Birmingham in good time. The traffic reports are always mentioning the M6 approaching Birmingham on radio 2's early morning broadcasts and I would have preferred been early rather than late. The last thing I would have wanted was to suffer the wrath of my surgeon by turning up late!

It was Sandwell hospital that I had to go to not Birmingham city's A&E department that I was admitted to way back in September last year. Since the few weeks of really (REALLY) bad attacks last year, that had marred my stay in the city,  the old gallbladder hadn't been playing up for a while and a nagging voice in the back of my head was saying 'do you really need to go through all that hassle?' I had decided that I had been lucky for a couple of months and couldn't face the likely hood that sooner or later, and no doubt happening in a really inconvenient place, I would have another major attack. 

The drips and antibiotics would cure the infections and the morphine would again numb the pain but there could be more complications. I've heard of infected gallbladders starting to rot parts of the liver, damaging the pancreas and welding themselves to the bowel. So whilst mine wasn't causing any problems now was the time to get it took out. 

Check-in on the ward was efficient and my allocated bed had my name and my surgeons name in black market on a white board above it. On the end of the bed day the obligatory gown, I checked that all the tags were in place on the back, always organised, and was as happy as could be expected. By 08.15 I was starting the never ending paperwork and waiting for my interview with the anesthetist. By 09.00 I was in the queue and Deb had been removed from the ward to wander the lonely paths of the hospital. I settled down with a book and got out my headphones to catch up on my favorite podcasts on my phone. Everyone round me looked at me as if to say 'I won't need that, I was told to be here for my opp by 08.00'. By lunchtime they were looking at my book with a jealous rage. 

Afternoon visiting time came and nearly went before I was summoned. The walking wounded grab a pillow and make their way through the ward shepherded by a nurse, some clutching at parts of gowns where tags once were. I'm glad I'm organised. The warmth of the ward soon dissipated as the lift went down to the theatres below. 

The scene down there was one of rushed disorganisation, one of my consultants sidekicks said there was a bit of a backlog and offered me a cold plastic chair in their office/store room to wait on whilst he went through the same sets of questions that I had answered several times already. Theatres and offices/storerooms are temperature controlled for the benefit of the surgeons not the unconscious clients. I shivered into the operating room and took my place on a black plastic slab. 

The cannula was inserted to administer the sleeping draft, I wondered how long sleep would take. 'Will I start to get drowsy or just zonk out' I thought, well the first injection was just a saline flush so that wasn't going to do much! I started to regret the last conversation I had had with the doc's moments ago. It sort of went, narrowboat - retired at 42 - estate agent, followed by 'strewth mate (she wasn't a brumie) you musthav done some pretty dodgy deals maybe I should've done that instead of all those years in med school eh... Right this won't hurt a bit'....SSSHhittttt......ZONK

An hour and a half after I should have come out I was being wheeled back to the ward by one of the team explaining that 'everything went as planned, we just managed to nick the gallbladder a incey little bit and spill all the contents into your abdomen, luckily the cleaner was still down there so we got her VAX rammed it through your belly button and gave you a good swill out - oh and have you lots and lots of antibiotics, you may feel a little discomfort :-) '

As I went in for surgery quite late there was no way they were letting me out until the next day which I was quite glad about as I wasn't really in the mood for the sixty mile drive back to Bugbrooke. Deb left on her own and I continued to unpack my overnight bag to the icy stares of the less fortunate and less organised. 

Recovering back on LJ is a doodle with everything so close to hand, Deb has even arranged an appointment with the Bugbrooke GP to take my stitches out next week. 

Thanks for all the well wishes from family and friends as well as all the offers for help :-) 

Some of the little buggers!

Sunday, 21 April 2013


Captain's Log - Week 7

I have always wondered what Braunston tunnel goes through and as we had a spare day on Monday (once Tom from RCR has sorted out our coolant leak) we decided to go back and have a look. I'm glad we did, I have always wondered what the air shafts look like, I had looked on Google Maps but as you are looking down on them it doesn't give you that ground perspective.

On Tuesday 16th we made an early start as we had the remaining 6 locks of the Buckby flight to go through and had spied some logs between the locks which would mean briefly mooring on the lock landing to pick them up. The plan was if we left early there would be only a few, if any, boats around and we wouldn't cause a problem - and the plan worked but we did start off at 6:30am. The Buckby flight consists of seven broad locks (we only had six to do as we moored up after the first one last week), in total it gives a fall of 63ft. I have to admit they are the toughest locks I have done so far, the first few were ok but the last ones were horrendous. I only just managed to get the paddles up on lock 11, being short the windlass was at neck level so not easy to put pressure on them, I persevered and finally got the water out of the lock so James and LJ could escape. It was just after this lock we stopped to collect the wood, we only passed one boat on the whole flight and it was here but luckily enough it just passed straight through and into the problem lock. Continuing on into lock 12, I managed the paddles ok, opened the gates out went James and LJ but could I get the gate closed again - no way it was not budging, so for the first time in our travels I had to call James back to help me get the gate closed. This was not easy for me as I don't like to give in and calling him back meant I had given in!!! Anyway Lock 13 the final one just at Whilton Marina was pretty tough too, but I was determined not to give in twice in one flight. Once back on board I made some bacon sarnies and tea as we continued our journey to Weedon and poor James had to put up with me saying "those locks were really tough, the toughest we have ever done" for the rest of the day (and the next one too, they were that bad!!)

On Wednesday 17th we took a wander to Stowe Hill Wharf where James asked if we bought LJ up could they drill a hole through to the batteries so we could get the fridge cables through. He could do it on Thursday and asked us to be there after 10:30am as he was blacking a boat first thing. With this good news we wandered back to have a brief look around Weedon and a lazy afternoon. In the evening we treated ourselves to a curry at the Indian as on a Wednesday they have a banquet night where you have a starter, curry, side dish, rice or naan all for £9,95 each, not surprising it was really busy in there. I would certainly recommend it if you like a curry and are in the Weedon area on a Wednesday.

Waking up on Thursday 18th the wind was still blowing a hoolie and we had to get to Stowe Hill Wharf, we stopped to top up the water tank on the way and this gave us a taster of what to expect once we arrived at the wharf. The wind was blowing us off the bank and James managed to get close enough for me to jump off with the center rope in hand, I got it round a bollard and tried to pull LJ in, not easy at the best of times but on this occasion James had to resort to using the bow thruster and we got safely anchor to the edge. Once the water was filled the next obstacle was to get LJ reversed into the wharf so the back of the boat was near the workshop door. James managed this relatively easy despite the howling wind. With the hole successfully drilled and grommet inserted it was off to continue our journey towards Bugbrooke. We moored up on a stretch with no other boats as the plan was to get the wood chopped into logs which meant using the chain saw so we wanted a quiet tow path and not to disturb anyone with all the noise. James managed to get the wiring connected up to the batteries as well so now our new fridge is fully working - we just need to get it stocked up,

Friday 19th, we were planning to get the loo tank pumped out at the marina just up the canal from where we were, but after a quick phone call they only offered pump out to their moorers and weren't open to the public, We had passed one a mile or so behind so decided to go back there and get it done. Once that was out of the way and we were moored back in the same spot it was on to tackle the wood pile. We have now got probably the largest collection of logs we've ever had. Yes I know it's getting warmer but we also use our stove for cooking so all that wood will get used, and anyway it is still chilly in the evening. Les and Mea, on Blue Moon, were planning on passing our way at some point today so they would stop so we could catch up again, we only briefly saw them when they visited us at Brauston on 'Freaky Friday'. I had just finished clearing up and putting away after the log sawing session when I got a phone call to say they were about 5 minutes away - perfect timing. So it was coffee and cake on Blue Moon this time, and a quick catch up turned into over four hours, where does the time go. As we parted company Mea and I both said it seems like we have known each other years, but in reality we have been following each others blogs for the last year and only met for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

On Saturday 20th I had arranged to hire a car from Enterprise and they were coming to pick us up between 9am and 10am. We need to get up to Birmingham early Monday morning as James is finally booked in for his gall bladder operation. As we had the car for a few days we decided to pop down to see mum, who lives about 10 miles outside Reading. We went out for lunch at the Cunning Man, a pub on the Kennet and Avon at Burghfield, which is the neighbouring village to Mortimer where mum lives. We just can't get away from canals! We had a lovely late lunch and then back home to walk the dogs and a nice relaxing evening chatting. We didn't leave until about 9:30pm and it took an hour and a half to get back to LJ, we parked the car in the nearest road then walked the three quarters of a mile back along the towpath to LJ, luckily I have a torch in my bag at all times!!  It was only when we got back and caught up on reading other blogs that we realised Tom and Jan on Waiouru were moored just down from the Cunning Man.

On Sunday 21st we were planning to move LJ up nearer to civilization as we need to have the car close by for an early start tomorrow to the hospital in Birmingham. We had planned to move up opposite the Wharf pub but there are only four moorings available there so we would have to be lucky to get one. As it turned out that's where Mea and Les had moved Blue Moon up to the day before as they also wanted to be near the road as they needed to get into Northampton, they planned to move on today so we were going to take their mooring, as it happened I got a call from Mea to say the boat in front of them was moving on so we set off and got the mooring at the front. Thanks for the tip off Mea - isn't it great when a plan comes together. So it was goodbye to them again with plans of meeting up on their return journey and our continued journey once James has recovered. We then set off in the car to Northampton to get stocked up with supplies.

Tuesday 16th April, Long Buckby, Lock 8 - Weedon
4.5 miles and 6 locks

Thursday 18th April, Weedon - Bridge 34 Bugbrooke
3.5 miles and 0 locks

Friday 19th April, Bridge 34 - pump out - Bridge 34
3.5 miles and 0 locks

Sunday 21st April, Bridge 34 - The Wharf, Bugbrooke
0.75 miles and 0 locks

Cruising - 12.25 miles
Locks - 6

Cruising - 64.75 miles
Locks - 17
Tunnels - 2
Our mooring just before bridge 34 near Bugbrooke

Getting to work on the log pile

Les and Mea on Blue Moon

Goodbye until next time

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Over the hill...

Over the hill...

After Tom had left us, with engine successfully holding water, we decided to go out for a stroll. Actually a bike ride and a walk, kind of a walcle. Deb wanted to go back and look at the hill over the Braunston tunnel. As the weather was still blooming windy I didn't really fancy the three mile walk into the wind to get to the eastern portal of the tunnel so we compromised by cycling first, locking the bikes up and walking over the hill. 

Although windy the sun was trying its best to make an appearance and the parts of the towpath that were sheltered were starting to get warm. Our fitness levels weren't helping either and the fairly rapid bike ride had warmed us up by the time we had arrived. 

The mile or so approach before you get to the tunnel is really quite a pleasant stretch of canal. Nice and wide and open with great towpaths and pleasant views towards the Leicester arm of the GU. Even the cutting on the final approach was welcome. There was quite an eerie feel low down here and not a breath of wind. 

As we walked up the first footpath the wind dropped, sun came out and it was time to start discarding layers. The first time for probably six and a half months that you could actually feel the power of the sun. 

The first stretch takes you past the end of Daventry. It appears, as it does in many small towns to be expanding at quite a rate, in this case towards the hill overlooking Braunston. You pass the first of the three tunnel vents on the edge of a new housing estate before crossing the main road and heading up through shrub lined farmland, an altogether more pleasant stretch. If you are thinking of walking over the hill from your boat, I would suggest the same way we did and end up on the Braunston side. The views as you crest the top of the hill are well worth the effort. As you pass the highest point, and middle ventilation shaft you're greeted with a little slice of Braunston in the distance, the two most notable of Braunston's many beautiful buildings the church and former windmill. 

Glimpses of the village stay with you virtually all the way down to the westerly portal and the rather muddy stretch of towpath to the start of the Braunston flight. The only other thing you need is a willing volunteer to pose at the top of the tunnel :-) 

Inside the tunnel

Leaving the tunnel

In an emergency turn off your engine... THEN WHAT!!

Church in the distance

Glimpses of Braunston

Don't do it, it's only three feet deep!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A Quick RCR Review - Call Out Number One...

I guess the most important two questions are could the engineer find a fault, and could they fix it. 

After that I think it comes down to punctuality, engineers customer service, the initial phone call and its customer service and does the service get close to offering value for money. 

So that makes six quick questions to answer based on call out number one

1. Yes - I suspected either a leaking pipe (many of the cooling pipes had spent a good year or so under water so seem likely to perish sooner or later) or a disturbed joint. I guess it could have been a head gasket or internal water ways problem but that did seem less likely. The actual fault was no more than a leaking joint at the thermostat housing and one below the header tank/heat stack. RCR only covers the boat for the engine coolant system and not domestic. Ours are interlinked and you can't isolate one from t'other. It's a system design fault that I probably will get sorted after all it should be no more than a couple of isolation taps. 

2. Yes - not add easy to fix as you may think, parts of our engine are very nearly impossible to get to. In fact the rear bulk head has had an access hatch cut through (now welded up) at some point to get to the front end of the engine. Tom or engineer is a cross between a meerkat and a contortionist. This was why I called out RCR. As wedged as I could get down the side of the engine I was still a good half a foot from the last of the pipes down in the corner of the engine room. Whilst twisted into angles that he won't be able to get into for the majority of his career Tom also 'advised' me as to what joints along the domestic system may also need a look at in the future. After making him a nice pot of Yorkshire tea I had a quick look but they all looked fine :-) its not that RCR don't do any work on the domestic side it's just that they charge £40 for the call out if that's where the fault lies.

Tom, as soon as he pops up he's gone back down again :-) 

So for me that's the two most important bits sorted, I'm not to worried whether the engineer is polite or sits down me engine 'ole with his flask, cheese and pickle sarnies and a packet of woodbines! As long as the job gets done. 

3. Punctually - surely a fluke, Tom arrived at the exact time his office had said he would - to the minute and we were about half a mile from the nearest road so he had a bit of a walk. 

4. Tom was very polite and although only a young guy he was happy to come inside LJ for a chat and a brew whilst the engine was warming up and the system pressurising. He even complimented the open airy feel of LJ, so straight into Deb's good books then. 

5. Our membership paperwork is at Pips and all I had was an old email with our membership number. I googled RCR to look for a breakdown call out number but could only find the main line. I dialed expecting to be hanging on the phone for a time whilst someone gave me a number (that I expected to be an 0800 - so chargeable on most mobile lines) or to have to go through long lists of menu options. After dialing the main number option one is for breakdowns so that was a good start. Charlotte answered within three rings and found our details on their system. After going through a couple of questions she said she would find out which engineer was local to us and call me back. By the time I had sat down with my book she had called back to explain that there was an engineer local to us who was already on another job. She would call back as soon as he had finished with an ETA. Charlotte called back and Tom was with us within 45 minutes. At this point, in line with the info on their web site she asked if I wanted anyone contacted in relation to the breakdown and if we wanted Tom to stop off and pick up any supplies (maybe the AA and RAC should ask if you want a sarnie and coffee brought out as well)

6. Value for money - yes. We are bronze members as the higher levels give you recovery to your permanent mooring , subject to conditions, which we don't need as CC'ers. £124 pounds a year for four unrelated breakdowns seems fair enough. However after your first 30 days membership there is a list of parts that are covered as well. Not just cheap stuff but things like gearboxes and water pumps that can cost into the thousands of pounds. so its probably worth £10 per month to insure those items for breakdown. 

So out first experience of RCR has been a good one and we were able to be up at six this morning and be on out way. 

Monday, 15 April 2013


Captain's Log - Week 6

We have had quite a full week, but not done a lot of cruising again, but hey we're in no hurry!

Before leaving our mooring at Puddle Banks we took a walk along by the River Leam and managed to collect a load of branches which had been cut down and left in piles they were just the right size to fit in the stove and we managed to get enough for a good few days so that saved quite a bit of coal, which seems to be a precious commodity at the moment with the lingering cold weather, Jules Fuels coal boat had problems getting some from their suppliers and we heard Mark on Callisto had to wait for several days at Sutton Stop for his delivery, making him several days behind schedule.  Now the weather has warmed up a bit during the day we have been able to leave lighting the fire until evening.

After collecting the new fridge from Midland Chandlers we stopped briefly outside Braunston Marina, James went off to get some more rope to make more fenders and I walked up the hill to collect a few supplies to keep us going, only bread, burgers, bacon bits and rolls, then we were on our way.  We were straight into the Braunston lock flight, there are six locks in the flight with a total rise of 35'6".  The first lock we were solo so a bit of a pain for James trying to keep LJ in place, but we managed to pair up for the remaining five in the flight making it much easier and it also means after opening the paddles one of the crew can go and get the next one ready whilst one closes up after the boats leave, unfortunately we soon caught up with the pair ahead of us, they were slow going so a lot of hanging around for us.

Once out of the top lock Braunston tunnel was looming in the distance, it didn't feel quite so scarey this time round as we knew what to expect in these long tunnels now.  Brauston tunnel is 2042 yards long and was opened in 1796, there are three air shafts and it is just wide enough for two narrow boats to pass, amazingly though the only one we passed was about 50ft from the end so quite lucky there I think.

Once though the tunnel we passed Norton Junction where the Leicester section takes you up to, well Leicester! Not this time, but one day we'll head up there. We stopped off at the water point just before the top Buckby lock and I managed to try out my new hose, bought in the Freaky Friday sale. It's one of the blue flat ones on its own reel and my only concern was am I going to be able to coil it up properly again. Once filled my concerns were gone, of course it went back on the reel perfectly. We headed off down the top lock of the Buckby flight and moored up just before the canal shop at Anchor Cottage by the next lock.  We have managed to get a few jobs done here meaning a couple of walks/cycles down the lock flight to the chandlers at Whilton buy some small bit and pieces, a switch for the fridge and some foam sealant for our battery cover which we have been meaning to do for a while as the old sealant was worn and it was leaking slightly. I've also had another Tesco delivery so we're fully supplied again for a while. 

We have finished laying down the wiring for the fridge so have been able to everything back in the cupboards and the oven back in place, with the exception of the back cupboard as we still have to get the wiring into the battery bank, nearly there though and at least the rest of the boat is back in order! So half a day was spent dusting, mopping and cleaning windows to get it back in ship shape.

This morning we had a visit from RCR, but I'll let James write about that.

Tuesday 9th April - Braunston, Puddle Banks - Long Buckby, Lock 8
6.5 miles and 7 locks

Cruising - 6.5 miles
Locks - 7
Tunnels - 1

Cruising - 52.5 miles
Locks - 11
Tunnels - 2

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Fridge pickup...

Fridge pickup...

After a pleasant few days we made off for the chandler's to pick up the fridge. We had agreed with them that we would leave it a few days because we thought they would be too busy on sale day. It's strange really, they didn't do too much to advertise the sale day and as a result the shop was pretty quiet, and we thought we would be queueing up at the door. 

Midland's wharf is directly opposite Braunston junction and a boats length from a water and rubbish point so it can get quite busy. We had to turn away from the wharf, towards the centre and reverse in so we would be heading in the right direction when we left. Whilst we were mooring up there was a boat filing with water, two waiting and a wide beam coming through the junction. We decided we weren't desperate for water and would fill up at the top of the Buckby flight. 

At the chandlers wharf

Precious commodity this water

Loo emptied, rubbish dropped off, fridge and a few other bits picked up we left Braunston and headed up the locks. A warmer dry day but still a chilly easterly wind. The lock gates were heavy but the paddles not to difficult to turn. It was slow going though as the pair of boats in front of us were on a bit of a go slow. 1.40 for six locks. 

Bottom lock from bottom...

... and top

We watered up at the top of the Buckby  flight before going down just one lock by the still closed New Inn and back to where we moored 363 days ago, spooky eh?  Next job would be putting the fridge in. 

There is a fair bit of road noise from the motorway and of course we are back in virgin train territory but it is a pleasant mooring spot. Nice wide grassed towpath with fields behind and more farmland opposite. Little cottages look over the canal, all with pedestrian access only, with a somewhat grander property with windy willows. 

The wind certainly is in the willows today!

Mother nature gets out her crayons

The new fridge installation isn't just a case swapping over new for old, the 12v wiring is far too substandard for the fridge that needs chunky wire to stop voltage drop between it and the battery bank. The rule of thumb is about 1mm sq per metre distance between the two. So we had to also buy 28m of rather expensive cable as well. The batteries and fridge just happen to be on the same side of the boat as virtually all our storage cupboards. So to route the cable we had to take out everything from the kitchen cupboards, remove the bathroom storage shelving, both wardrobes and storage underneath and all the office cupboards! Most of which has now gone back away but unfortunately my puny cordless drill isn't up to the job of drilling through the bulkhead into the engine room to make the final connections, a job for the boat yard me thinks. 

The downsides to living in a small space

Yes we even had to take the oven out to get new wires in

Next blog may well be a review of River Canal Rescues service as the engine has decided that it has had enough of holding onto its antifreeze :(

Friday, 12 April 2013

Spooky church, step back in time...

Spooky church, step back in time...

We decided to stay a few more days on our excellent mooring in Braunston. Whilst most people would see the change in weather fortunes as a blessing and get some cruising miles in we thought we would take advantage and get the paint bushes out again and finish off a few of the jobs we couldn't get done over our winter stop in Hawkesbury. 

My first job was to use some of the bits and pieces bought in the chandlers and get the engine serviced. I managed to make a lot less mess than I did last time and didn't even drop the oil filled filter in the bilge this time :-) so its all done for another couple of hundred hours. The only thing I will need to keep an eye on is that I had to top up the coolant far more than I expected. We do have a pin hole leak in the bathroom rad but only teaspoons of coolant are leaking from there. 

Pela pump sucking all the old oil out

Whilst I was servicing the engine Deb was getting to grips with the generator/sander combination and sanding the side that I couldn't get to on 'Sutton stop'. Gunwales were soon sanded and turned from blue to grey primer, white undercoat , light blue undercoat and finally a couple of blue top coats. Now both sides just need a final topcoat once we find a suitable mooring and a dry few days. Last job of the dry spell was to paint the engine cocoon white and were done until the next few dry days. 

Deb vs generator

The other side gets a lick of paint

Sound proof cocoon now nice and white

If you look closely you will see that the handle is on the wrong end of the paint can, actually the bottom fell off the tin when Deb picked it up!

Whilst paint was drying we walked up the hill to the butchers an managed to pick up some really nice smoked bacon offcuts that ended up making a nice sausage and bacon casserole, bacon and onion quiche and a carbonara'ish  pasta bake; not bad for 99p. 

The moorings in Braunston are a bit hit and miss, especially for such a 'honey pot' location. The 48hr central ones are on a very narrow but dry towpath, the 14 day ones north west of the village are always thick with mud and puddle banks moorings which are nice and open with a pleasant outlook have far too many obstructions alongside the edge so you have to moor a couple of feet from the back and use a plank to get ashore. Not a problem in itself but you also get pushed into these obstructions by some of the idiotic speeding boaters. Something that Mrs J off of the Free Spirit knows all about. 

Our mooring, the best in Braunston, was on top of the river Leam aqueduct which is on the pretty part of puddle banks but had the advantage of about 100ft long of adequately deep moorings. Last time we were here at the end of the "summer" the river that you can see trickling through the left arch (actually it's the middle of three) was gushing through with such force that it had expanded and was using the right arch as well. Today we were able to walk under the canal and across a field to the medieval village of Wolfhampcote. Very atmospheric, and a must walk for anyone stopping in Braunston for a few days.   

The old village of Wolfhampcote is located west of the A45 road near Braunston in Northamptonshire, and can be reached by a track from the main A45 road, or by a lane from Flecknoe, or the footpath under the canal in dry weather. The village was abandoned sometime in the late 14th century and is classified as a deserted medieval village. Local legend suggests that the village was wiped out by the Black Death brought in by refugees from London.

Tunnel to Wolfhampcote

Former path of the R. Leam

Medieval village with Braunston church in the background

St Peter's Church

The most recent gravestone we could find were about 1860's and several a lot older. 

'A black lamb appeared confidently from behind the grave, there were no other sheep for miles around....'

Disused railway bridge in the background

Today the only remains of the village are a cottage, a farmhouse, and the old vicarage, located some distance away. The most notable surviving feature of the village is the Church of St Peter, which stands apparently in the middle of nowhere in a field surrounded by the undulating meadow that was formerly the village. The fields surrounding the area have many ornate railway bridges and the little village of Braunston was served by two local train stations, one in the village itself and one the other side of the canal in Willoughby. 

Monday, 8 April 2013


Captain's Log - Week 5

I can't believe how quickly time flies by, it's now been five weeks since we left our winter mooring spot at Hawkesbury, we haven't got all that far but soon we'll be on our way to London. We have stayed a bit longer in Braunston than planned but have got a lot done, we managed to get a good mooring along Puddlebanks, one of only two really as for some reason the rest of the section up to the bridge has very shallow water towards the edge and you can't get moored properly. With the good weather of the last couple of days on our side we have managed to get the other side of the boat sanded and painted, only up to the gunnels, the part that gets all scratched and bumped (got a nasty scratch to add to the collection the other day from a hire boat, glad we hadn't just painted it!!) James managed to get one side done whilst in Hawkesbury and now we have matching sides.

Whilst the paint was drying between coats we managed to stock up on some wood, nice oak so we are pleased with that. It was hard work but certainly worth the effort, we'll be able to stretch our coal out for a bit longer now. We've had a few walks up to the village whilst here the main one to collect our post via the Post Restante service that Royal Mail runs, to collect our new licence for LJ, I felt quite guilty as we didn't get to Brauston for the post until the 3rd and our licence ran out at the end of March. Annoyingly though on our walk there I noticed three other boats with expired licences and all from last year - not the couple of days ours was, and all moored close to the CaRT office at the Stop House in Braunston!!

I only have one entry in the log for this week, and that was the couple of miles back to Brauston for Freaky Friday.

Wednesday 3rd April - Br 100 near Flecknoe - Puddlebanks, Braunston 2 miles and 0 locks.

Cruising - 2 miles
Locks - 0

Cruising - 46 miles
Locks - 4

Friday, 5 April 2013

Sadly our gap year has come to an end...

Sadly our gap year has come to an end...

That's right, 365 days ago we were on our way up from Poole with a bongo groaning under the weight of the last of our possessions, it was so full that the last minute washed clothes couldn't fit in a carrier bag and had to get taken out and wedged in separately.  

Unfortunately there are so many fellow blog readers and writers that we haven't met yet that we feel it would be plain rude to go back to reality now and if Disney Land Paris can extend their 25th anniversary into another year I don't see why our gap year can't be over 12 months. 


We survived our 'Freaky Friday' 20% off day and have loads of bits and pieces to keep us busy. First job for the new fridge installation will be to run the extra think cables from the back of the boat to the about the middle. It will have to go through the office storage cupboards; under the bed and behind the loo tank; under the void below both wardrobes; behind the loo panelling; somehow behind the basin; into the kitchen and under the cooker before the finishing straight through the kitchen cupboards. So I thought that whilst Deb was doing a little bit of cupboard sorting, I might do a few outside jobs on what, hopefully will be the warmest day of 2013 so far :-) 

A slightly cheaper but very successful purchase was a small TV aerial. There's nothing wrong with our all singing all dancing self seeking satellite system but two features of our 12v TV that I had sort of forgotten about were a built in DVD player and recordability. So I've been hitting eBay to get a few cheap films. So far ordered 22 films season one of Catherine Tate and the misfits all for about £12 :-) 
Secondly the 'record to USB facility' doesn't work with satellite, but only with the TV's tuners. All works well with the aerial stuck on a wooden pole. 

We had a lovely visit from fellow boaters Les and Mea today who have just arrived at their boat from their island paradise of Koh Samui and 35 °c sunshine to muddy towpaths and freezing nights. Lovely to see you guys and look forward to the next time. 

Deb, Mea and Les

Thursday, 4 April 2013

20% Off day at Midland chandlers tomorrow...

20% Off day at Midland chandlers tomorrow...

And online for 24 hours too. If you are buying though double check their prices first, I recon we will be saving closer to 15% as some of their prices are a little toppy!

We are back on our favorite Braunston mooring today. I think it is the only part that is ok for more than 48 hours at this time of year; solid towpaths; satellite and data signal (just about) and sun for the solar panels!

We have had our fair share of idiot boaters though (very few of them are hirers as well). One guy had such a big bow wave it was threatening to go over onto the path. Another insisted on overtaking another boat about 200 yards before Braunston junction! I am considering a new tab on the blog to name and shame these idiots, and maybe post them to one of the canal Facebook groups and CaRT. 

Rant over. We had a lovely few days in the middle of nowhere just below Flecknoe, of course a few extra degrees on the thermometer would have been nice. We were lucky enough to bump into fellow Sandhills boat owners Bob and June, onboard (link) Autumn Myst who have braved the weather, locked up their warm home and headed out onto the ice. Bob (Tucker) runs the Sandhills boat owners group, LJ was number one and the latest boat from their list is on test in this months CANAL BOAT mag. (Link to authors site)

Lovely sunsets in Flecknoe

I will need to be a little more observational over the next few days. From our stay here last year I have noticed that star gazing man has some new optical equipment, jogging woman was only walking and had only one collie with her and no sign off walkie man  yet. 

Deb has now got oven management sussed. As we have been cooking just about everything on top of the stove we have rarely had the generator, and therefore oven on. Today she fancied doing a bit of baking and loaded up the oven so we now have Easter biscuits, sponge cake, a quiche and I made a fruit cake and some soup so I think we're sorted for a while :-) 

I really like how my sambar (fire broth) soup has turned out the last couple of times but fancied something a bit more substantial to go with it so yesterday I made some mini apple potato and chilly parathas, some tandoori chicken and a big pile of far-far stars  and dips (think prawn crackers but brightly coloured and a bit chewy obs you won't be far wrong).

Bit of a spicy medley. 

The next blog may well make even less sense than normal, it'll take me a few days to get over spending so much money at the chandlers sale. The list price of our intended 12v fridge is £559. For that price I would expect it to do the shopping for you, advise what to cook and do the washing up!