It's taken well over a year, but I've finally got to grips with igniting our 'instantaneous water heater'. It wasn't easy to overcome my unease with things that go 'boom' inside the cabin, but it's just a smaller version of the one that was inches from our head in the house we used to own. I've cleaned out the flue of dusty old spider's webs, and make sure the mushroom vent is fully opened before use. Now I feel quite safe with it.
This year's boating season is nearly upon us, so I guess it's inevitable that this is the best time for people to get going to where they want to be.
It's sad to see the marina start to thin out, and familiar faces that i've got to know well over the last year, dissapear. Estoban (Mv 'Gutsy') departed on sunday. And today, Peter ('Big Baloo') set off singlehanded for his new mooring in Reading, before anybody had the chance to get up and wave goodbye. I know they're setting off for new adventures, and nothing stays the same forever; but I will still miss seeing them around. Alan & Sue (Mv 'Latitude') are staying until the end of April, so it looks like we'll be the next liveaboards to shove off.
In a remarkable contrast to yesterday, today is a cold grey day, so me and Sumo are taking it easy with some first class chillage. Sheena is due back this afternoon. Big shout out to Richie's uncle 'Gramps' for turning up with his chainsaw, and making light work of our logpile. Cheers..
Sheena is back for a few days. Not quite enough time for us to make it down to Runnymede and back, so we're currently moored up in Windsor. Enjoyed lots of sunshine on the way down, complete with the added bonus of avoiding the Bourne End census operative; who came sniffing around the marina. ohdearhowsadnevermind.
Just before Boveney lock, we got mucho free wood from some generous workmen who said we could take what we wanted. They're laying the foundations for an olympic bridge. It will span the river, enabling rich people to walk across from Windsor racecourse, to the Eton boating lake. It's due to be knocked down two years later. Which sounds quite insane to me. But I guess somebody will benefit from it.
Sour point of a beautiful day, was walking around the park with Sumo. I was glowered at by followers of a religion that does not like dogs. Especially black ones. Sadly, we get this regularly. Almost every time we bump into them, in fact. I find the attitude quite depressing. Not an event I am proud to record. But as the blog is also "thoughts, feelings & impressions", I feel I must.
What a beautiful day. Unfortunately, early morning tranquility was ruined by hordes of people, who'd decided to descend on the marina, and start buffing up their boats in preperation for the beginning of the boating season. Peace and quiet was replaced with the whirr of power tools, and orders barked at children. Decided to forgo the pleasure of the England vs Ireland six nations game, and get myself out of there. Several narrowboats had gone downstream earlier in the day, and I doubted if I'd get the best mooring at Cliveden Reach. But, I went for a jolly in the sunshine, anyway. And thankfully, it was unoccupied.
Enjoyed a lovely stroll around the woods with Sumo, who couldn't believe his luck. And then spotted an American Mink swimming across to one of the islands. It sneaked up to some people having a barbecue, where I lost sight of it. Massive thing! And a really good swimmer. More graceful in the water, than out of it. Glad it didn't come our way!
Peter wanted me to take some photos for the local magazine, which showed the marina staff out in all weathers; illustrating that their job is not all just about skylarking around in the sunshine. I know 'dogma' is my home, and not Bourne End marina. But when it comes round to the time for us to move on, I will really miss these guys.
We're hoping to get going on, or around, the 15th of April. So I'm making the most of every remaining day here. Not that I didn't before. But some nights, I look out of the back door at 3am, and feel there is no better, more peaceful or tranquil spot on the earth. Feel really lucky and privileged to have been able to spend a whole year here.
A nice sunny day with a preponderance of narrowboats on the river. Three in each direction may not sound like much, but it is good to see things moving again, after such a long winter. Hurley lock is officially "Open" again tomorrow, so that has probably got something to do with it.
Sheena is still down in Devon, so I painted the engine. Hammerite Red. Exact match. Sorted.
The sun is out. And so is Mister "Golden Quay", with his boat. He pitched up and plonked himself on our mooring. When he'd moved off, the marina moved us back to our place. He came back downstream 10 minutes later, and said "I'm going to breast up next to you overnight. Is that alright?". "No, it isn't, We pay for this mooring and I don't consent to you moving across my boat, or leaving it there all night", I replied. His face flushed with anger, and while I went to phone Peter the marina manager to come and get him off my back, he and his wife continued to harangue me, and upset Sheena. "You're on the thames, you should abide by the laws", was one comment thrust in our direction. He then accused us of "never moving", and "living on a public mooring for six months".
I asked him to show me the signs where it says "free public mooring", and he exploded, "You've been sat over there, on a 'no mooring' spot all afternoon". Which is true, as a working boat had needed the jetty, and the marina had put us there. After which, he'd turned up, and we were unable to move ourselves back.
Peter explained to him, "The marina has an obligation to provide a certain amount of berths for public mooring". And continued, "if the jetty is occupied, please come and see the marina staff, and we will find somewhere else for you". (all of which was explained to him, when he tried pulling the same stunt last summer). He grumbled. And moored himself in the empty space in front of us.
Ten o clock this morning, him, his wife, and his whiny kids, all took off. But now he is back again.
Peter says he doesn't like Narrowboaters. With an attitude like that, I expect many narrowboaters don't like him, either. Thankfully, I stood my ground, and he had to move elsewhere. His face was red, and his voice angry and raised. "How dare somebody have the audacity to challenge me?!!". Well, I'm glad I did. He's a bully, with no consideration for other people. I also resented his implication that we are freeloaders. "He only sees what he wants to see", was one comment in the pub, when I relayed the tale to local boaters. "Obnoxious Knob", was another, from somebody else, who had encountered him before.
We've made it safely back to Marlow again. The journey up to Henley went fine, apart from Hambledon lock, which was a pig to negotiate, in both directions. Going up, the weir stream drags you off of the layby, and coming down, the wind blows you off, into the path of the weir. Which was a bit hairy. Had to do a 360, and attempt it twice, because it was so squally. Hambledon has surpassed Marlow, and become my "least favourite lock". According to the lock keeper, a widebeam boat had trouble there on the same day, so I'm relieved it genuinely is troublesome, and it wasn't just my lack of skills.
There were some 47mph winds on the wide stretch coming downstream past Temple Island, but we managed it OK. The overnight in Henley was nice and peaceful. But, the town of Henley itself, is very built up, and I think I prefer the open plan pleasantness of Marlow.
Hurley lock is nowhere near finished. The concrete lock chamber looks new, and there are nice shiny chains for canoeists to cling onto. But the bollards are not done, and only one side of the lock is fully operational. Workmen had to hold our lines for us, and I don't think they were terribly impressed at having to down tools and help boaters. Nice of the lock keepers to let us through, though.
Sheena is back for a few days, and we are on our way up to Henley. Currently tucked up beside Higginson park in Marlow. Last night, the fridge popped it's 10a fuse, so we're currently fridgeless. But we've decided to go for it, anyway.
Patricia & Anthony of 'Heyland Marine Services' kindly gave us lots of fruit from their garden last summer. They wanted some new faces to appear in their summer brochure, so I was happy to volunteer my services. I wore a high viz jacket, whilst pretending to look like I was employed. Sumo had never been inside a rowing boat before, but seemed to enjoy the experience. At least, for twenty minutes, until he got bored, and started woofing incessantly. "let me off, i want to get in the wet stuff".
He got paid in Bonios, and I got a massive box of Marks & Spencer's Belgian chocolate biscuits. Wehey!
Had a peaceful night, despite being disturbed by noisy Owls. Got up at the crack of 11 'o' clock, and had to work through Cookham lock myself. It was set against me, and took twenty minutes to sort it all out. Slight moment of consternation, wondering if my knots would hold up against the water gushing out of the bottom sluices. But they did. And we made it through, with no worries. There were "stream increasing" boards on the lock gates, which translates roughly as "tie up safely somewhere, you fool". The stream was quite fast, and the journey back was a bit slow going past Cookham Bridge, but nothing to be unduly worried about.
"Nice bit of mooring", said the bloke who watched me glide back onto the jetty at Bourne End. "Cheers..", said the man who was relieved to have made it back upstream without an engine failure. Enjoyed an hour of nice spring sunshine, until it clouded over, and threatened to rain.
Not a cloud in the sky, and the river looked like a pond. So, it was another good day to sally forth, and buff up on my solo boating skills. Decided on downstream, because it's a journey that i've done lots of times with Sheena, and I knew that I could take it all at a leisurely pace.
Blew it, by tieing up on the opposite side to the lock buttons. Doh! Manoeuvered to the other side, and just as I was tieing up again, the lock keeper appeared. "I've just come back from lunch, and the last thing I expected to see was a boat!", he said. He then pressed all the buttons, while I dangled off of the ropes in the sunshine.
Enjoyed a nice little cruise down to the Cliveden estate. Nudged myself into the trees gently, and swung the stern around gracefully. "Would you like a hand?", said a passing dogwalker. "But it doesn't look like you need it", he said. "Thanks, but I'm fine. We must have moored up here twenty times before, it's a lovely spot. Cheers for the offer, though.", I replied. Engine off. Tied up. Tiller removed. Stern gland greased. Kettle on. Nothing but sunshine and birdsong. Ahhh..
Enjoyed a nice peaceful and relaxing night in Marlow. but it was cold and grey when I woke up in the morning. The wind was also whipping up waves on the river, which was a bit disconcerting.
Set off at 11am. Didn't get sucked into the weir, and only had to wait a couple of minutes at the layby, before the lock keeper opened the gates and waved me in. I hadn't seen this one before, and he gave dogma's plates and license a big old scrutiny. The passage through the lock was ultra rapid, and I was on my way again a couple of minutes later. On the way back, it was very windy, and quite rough. But the journey to the marina only took twenty minutes, as the current was whizzing us along like a pencil in the stream.
Tied us up safely. Peter and the marina lads seemed quite surprised and impressed that I'd tackled Marlow lock on my own. Tried not to make a big thing of it, but I am secretly well chuffed with myself.
As it was a nice sunny morning, I decided to spend the rest of the day away from the marina. I fancied an overnight stay at Gosmoor, so I could check out how the inverter and batteries would behave. Consulted the river conditions website, and it said "stream decreasing". Righto, safe to venture out then. After a quick blast from our heat gun, the engine started up first time. And an hour and a half later, I was approaching Gosmoor, where I'd hoped to moor..
Oh Dear. It's full with unoccupied boats. Stuffed.
Thankfully, the river gods took pity, and smiled on me. The lock gates were open, and the lock was in my favour. So I took the command decision to carry on, and try to tie up at Higginson's Park in Marlow. The first time I'd been through a lock on my own. And Marlow is quite deep. Gulp! Two tourists appeared out of nowhere. So I also had an audience. Deep breath. Eased myself in gently, and didn't ram anything. Engine off. Walked down the gunwhales and up the steps, with center and rear lines. And then, as if by magic, the lock keeper appeared. Which was a relief.
Unfortunately, I didn't notice that the shiny black bollards had just been painted, and it smeared itself all over the ropes. The lock keeper didn't seem too fussed, "I can just repaint them, I'm more concerned about your lines". He suggested white spirit and a cloth to remove the black paint. Which worked fine.
Ten minutes later, I was tied up at the park, and Sumo was off checking his peemail.
So, today I discovered that the engine is reliable against a fast current, and it can handle long bursts of full revs without overheating. I doubt we will be using full revs anywhere on the canals, but it's good to know that it's there, should we need it. I also discovered that if I take things slowly and methodically, even a deep lock can be done single handed.