Saturday, 28 August 2010

Bank Holiday

The river was full of bank holiday boaters, and there was a strong headwind blowing. But this is exactly the type of practice we need, so we decided to join them. Reversed out fine, swung us around, and enjoyed the journey down to Cookham lock, without bumping into either of the two bridges.

There was a female lock keeper on duty, and a nice relaxed atmosphere today. Cliveden Reach was buzzing with day cruise boats full of people enjoying themselves. All the spots large enough to accomodate a narrowboat were taken. So we will have to try our first 'ramming of the bank' on another day.

Coming back, the lock was a bit busier, and a lot of the lay-by was already occupied. But we made it, without crunching into anyone, or making ourselves look stupid. We moored up like veterans at Bourne End, where the crosswind worked in our favour, gliding everything in, gently and safely.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Madam Medusa

MoodyIt heaved it down with rain yesterday. All day. So we stayed put. The new drainage channel under the deckboards kept the water out of the engine compartment well, and it was all still dry down there.

Today, was grey and overcast, but with very little wind. So we decided to venture out. Sheena cruised us up to 'Cardboard Castle', near Marlow. I say 'cruise', but it was probably a 'leisurely walking pace for an octogenarian'. It doesn't look like it on the surface, but there's a lot more current now, and we are quite slow against it. Slower than most other narrowboats, which is a little embarrassing. We're
consoling ourselves with having more time to enjoy the scenery and wallow in the experience of the journey.

All summer we've watched boats whizzing up and down the river between the locks. In a hurry to get somewhere. I understand that they probably have itineries of things they want to see and do. But the haste in which they do it, seems to me, to miss the point of being on the water. Quite a few of them look bored. Which I think is a big shame.

Anyway...After we'd turned round, we felt like a cork, instead a brick. So we carried on down through Cookham lock, to Cliveden Reach again. It's nice and wide there, and today we managed to practice what happens when we engage full reverse when going full ahead. The front swings around to the left, because (i guess) the propellor is turning to the right (clockwise). Scouted out a couple of nice mooring spots for another day. Then turned ourselves around, and headed back to Bourne End.

The locking went fine. We glided in downstream, great. tied up. and it all went like clockwork. But going back, a little GRP cruiser forced us out, and we had to use the offside. It was a bit of a sharp angle, and I couldn't get the stern in to throw a rope over a bollard because of the old lock gates towering above me. Luck was eluding Sheena up front, too. I used a phrase I'd learnt in the navy. Causing the wife of the cruiser owner to stick her head out of their canopy, and gave us a scowl that would have curdled a lemon.

For the entire time in the lock, we were subjected to her sour faced stares, and withering stoney looks. Like a medusa, she was. After much forward and reversing, mister cruiser eventually took pity on us, while his wife was shouting "no, come back... don't help them". he tossed the rope back down to me. I thanked him for his kindness.

Meeting a candidate for "the most misanthropic person on the river" took a bit of the shine off the day. but ultimately, we feel sorry for the bloke who's married to her. Apart from that, the rest of it was fine. We're still learning. And having fun doing it. We didn't bump into anything, Run ourselves aground, or have to call out the marina tug to rescue us.

We pootled past the summer houses of the exceedingly rich again. We admired them, as we always do. But we're both glad we don't have to live in them. Or heat them.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Cliveden Reach

We chugged our way down through Cookham lock to explore a bit more of Cliveden Reach today. Once all the impatient holiday cruisers had raced past us to queue at the next lock, we got the place to ourselves. There was nobody moored on any of the islands. Completely emptied. And they looked much more inviting in the sunshine. But, there wasn't really enough time to practice jumping ashore with the pins and sledgehammer. We're leaving that for another day. We only saw one other narrowboat ('Birdsong'), but they didn't look very happy.

The locking went OK, in both directions. We glided in, without colliding into anything or ramming the gates. Took us a while to get back to Bourne End against the current. But we made it.

Car Ferry

Sitting up front chatting, and.. Bonggggg!
Do you know you have a car on your boat?

No damage done, and we stopped it rolling into the river.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Marlow Lock

Today, Peter ('Big Baloo') kindly came along to help us crew. It was raining as we shoved off, but that soon cleared up. We were going to play it safe, by tackling Cookham lock again. Then, if we felt bold enough, we'd continue on through Boulters lock, down into Maidenhead. But, he suggested we go up to Marlow. Deep lock. Small layby. Big weir!

Peter Big BalooWe knew that part of the river pretty well, and the approach to the lock went smoothly. Apart from scaring a few junior canoeists, and me running us aground on a sandbank. Thankfully, it just took a little bit of reverse to lift us off. When we got to the lock, there were so many big plastic boats about, that there wasn't anywhere for us to tie up. So we had to 'lay off' (aka: 'fanny about') downstream waiting for the lock to empty. Peter pulled off a nifty bit of steering in reverse. Which surprised us, as we'd only been able to get dogma to go straight backwards.

Trying not to fall offThe seven foot rise took a surprisingly long time, but the gates eventually opened uneventfully, and we were on our way again. Enjoyed a delightful little cruise through Marlow in the sunshine, with it's manicured parks, and uber expensive riverside houses. Didn't see anywhere free where we could tie up, so we practised manouevering in the wide stretch before Bisham sailing club (who were out in full force). On the way back, lock entry went like clockwork, and we glided serenely into the chamber like veterans. We saw Narrowboat 'Midama' again, who joked about us having kidnapped Peter.

The Marlow WeirThe massive weir turned out to be not so big and scary as it had appeared from on dry land. No wind, and no flow made it easy to traverse.
Going DownstreamOnce the locking stress and ropework was over, the journey back to the Marina was a real pleasure. Turned us around nicely, and slid us back alongside the jetty without a bump.

Csrdboard CastleEngine Off. Kettle On.
Confidence levels good.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Cookham Lock

Slowly does it..

Waiting for the gates
Steering ourselves gently into the lock was no problem. Just took things nice and slow. Didn't ram Narrowboat 'Midama', or the gates. The lock keeper pressed a few buttons, and before we knew it, we were four feet three inches lower.

Gates Open. Engine On. And off we go!

Round the bend from the lock was unknown territory to us. There wasn't a footpath we'd been able to explore. But, judging from google maps, it was all pretty wide, and there would be plenty of places to turn ourselves around, should we feel the need to bottle it.

The Cliveden islands were a great dissapointment. From people's descriptions of them, we thought they would be a utopianesque place. But they were muddy strips of land, hardly deserving of the title "Island". They were also packed with boats, smoky barbeques, and anglers. Don't get me wrong, we're not snobs. They were all friendly people. Waving away, and having a good time. Which is great if you like a party atmosphere with your mooring. But it wasn't really a place to sit back and admire the tranquility of nature, and revel in the history of the spot.

Queen Elizabeth the first, is alleged to have hidden in one of the chalk hermit caves while being pursued by Queen Mary. The song 'Rule Brittania' was first sung at the Cliveden ampitheatre in 1870. All we saw was a bankful of overgrown willow trees. We'll definitely be going back to explore some more. But the first visit was sadly underwhelming.

The journey back to Bourne End, was thankfully uneventful. Against a headwind, and a bit of current we were noticably slower, but nothing to be worried about. Sheena didn't ram Cookham bridge, which she's particularly chuffed with.

Found all the moorings taken when we arrived back at the jetty. But we hovered about in mid stream for a few minutes, and then glided ourselves in nicely. Didn't have to deploy the emergency anchor. Nobody fell overboard. And at no stage were we stressed out. So, our first 'there be dragons' round the unknown bend boating experience went really well. And to put the cherry on top of the day, after we tied up, the nice people from 'Heyland Marine Services' came over and gave us some blackberries.

Me trying to look professional
There is the great house of Cliveden on the hillside, and the curving stretch of river below – where all one not-to-be-forgotten night, I lay in a punt listening to the nightingales, and reckoned all about as holy ground, and had no envy of the lords and ladies in the great house above. ~ Stanley Spencer
Cliveden Woods still wore their dainty dress of spring, and rose up, from the water's edge, in one long harmony of blended shades of fairy green.
In it's unbroken loveliness this is, perhaps, the sweetest stretch of all the river,
and lingeringly we slowly drew our little boat away from it's deep peace
~ Jerome K Jerome
Jim Shead's Waterways Maps

Friday, 6 August 2010

Summer Fruits

Sumo Foraging
Noticably late this year. Quite a few of the bushes we've seen have small wizened fruits which have been frazzled by the intense sunshine. Nothing like the massive crop we had last summer. Sumo managed to sniff out some plump ones, and helped himself.