Sunday, 25 December 2011

Xmas Day

Happy Christmas everyone.

Though, not such a good xmas day for the grey haired lady, who overstretched herself while feeding the ducks, and fell into the river. Didn't hear the splash, but popped my head out to see Alan running down the jetty clutching an oar, while Sue followed after him with a blanket. By then, she'd managed to swim around to the pub boat, and had hauled herself out over that. She was soon surrounded by a number of concerned Bourne End dogwalkers, who called an ambulance for her. 20 minutes later, and she was on her way to hospital.

Sumo enjoyed opening his presents. Bounced around like a puppy when he saw his new glow ball.

But now he's having a little nap.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Xmas Eve

Bit windy. Cold. And not a day for shorts. Was thinking of going down to the Cliveden islands for a couple of nights. But by the time I'd got supplies and water together, time was getting on a bit. Doing Cookham lock solo wouldn't have been a problem, but I didn't fancy mooring up in the bushes down there, on my own, in the dark. So I've decided to stay put. Got plenty of coal, logs, food & water.

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Thursday, 22 December 2011


The best december ever. Feels more like august, than two days away from xmas. So warm, I broke out my shorts. Not a cloud in the sky, and lots of lovely sunshine.

The batteries came out OK, with a bit of huffing and puffing. Bit of a long winded process just to find out everything was OK, but easy than fannying around with mirrors on sticks. Relieved to discover that they don't need topping up. And they went back in, a lot easier than when they came out.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


My cold has retreated, and the wind has stopped. It's been almost springlike today, so a perfect opportunity to get out to the shops, clear the back deck drainage channels, and hoover out the engine hole. Batteries were 12.87v, two hours after running the engine for an hour. So I'm thinking I should oik them out and see if they need topping up, before the bad weather comes back.

Now that my sinuses are no longer bulging, and my eyes feel normal in their sockets again, I've been drawn back to books to pass the long winter evenings by the fire. Last night I read this..

Level 7 ~Mordecai Roshwald

Published in 1959, Level 7 is presented as the diary of a military man who is permanently stationed thousands of feet underground in a self-sufficient bunker. His job is to sit in a room awaiting the command to push a button to fire nuclear weapons at an enemy country.
A jolly little tale. Of especial interest to me, because in another time and place, I also worked in a bunker. An underground facility built on springs, capable (we were told) of withstanding a nuclear attack. And all of the times I went to work, I never once suspected that I wouldn't be able to come out again. Or that the people in charge could be so stupid, as to start an all out nuclear war. One of the most chilling parts of the book for me, was when X-127 realiases he is down there for life. The geopolitics may have changed since the book was written, but the detachment from emotions and daily diary updates made for a fascinating read.

Something a bit lighter tonight, I think. I was reading Peter Ackroyd's Biography of the Thames, but got frustrated with his many references back to Hilaire Belloc's The Historic Thames, that I thought I had better go and read that first.

Found a free copy here.. Thankyou, Project Gutenburg.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Bah, humbug!

Wiped out by manflu. I do little sorties off the boat, to attend to Mr Sumo's wants and needs. But otherwise, I'm staying put beside the fire, as the wind cuts straight through me. Our supply of seasoned xmas logs is rapidly dwindling, but thankfully we still have lots of coal and wood on the roof that needs splitting. xmas is not my favourite time of year, and I will be glad when the whole thing is over and done with.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Back on Boat

Back on the boat again for xmas. After a weeks absence, i'd expected to smell damp when i cracked the hatch open for the first time, but was pleased to discover that we were nice and dry inside. There was a "welcome home" whiff of dog, engine oil, diesel, and woodsmoke, but no sign of fungus or damp anywhere.

The outside temperature dropped considerably last night, and there was ice on the inside of the windows when I woke up this morning. River still not flowing fast, so there is the possibility of venturing out, when/if Sheena manages to shake off her cold. (She is still in Devon, until she is well enough to travel).

Our inverter has been sent back to Holland, and we've been warned "not to expect it back before xmas". Our friend Matt said that it was most unusual for a mastervolt unit to fail twice, and we've been very unlucky. Another friend, who sells them for a living, has offered to give us names and email addresses of high up people in the organisation. But what we don't want to do, is antagonise them, so that our unit gets slipped to the bottom of the repair pile. It's a tough one. I feel we have every right to be annoyed. But we also just want it fixed, and back on the wall again, so we can get on with our lives.

Engine is starting OK. Bit slow to pick up, given the cold weather. But I haven't had to get the heat gun out yet, and it is keeping the batteries nicely topped up.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Where are we?

I'm sorry to have worried people with my low ebb comment.

Obscured by CloudsStupidly read a newspaper, and the realisation that we are governed by complete and utter imbeciles (one after the other, incessantly) dawned on me again. I normally try to have nothing at all to do with them. And my life is happy as a result. But by reading the newspaper, I foolishly invited this cavalcade of idiots into my home. Several friends phoned or sent emails, worried about my state of health. But I am fine, really. Just a dark cloud passing over the Sun. Something I've faced 1000 times before. There's no need to worry. And I am both embarrassed and touched by your concern. Thankyou.

Boatwise and blogwise... well, there is not so much to write now the short winter evenings have drawn in. We're tied up for the winter at Bourne End Marina. But also free to move, should we so wish. The river is still not in flow, and it's still
possible for us to travel. Very different to last year, when the current was whizzing the ducks past us at 20 knots, and the wind was bitterly cold in our faces.

We're cosy and warm, with 10 bags of coal stashed, and plenty of well seasoned logs to burn. The inverter is off the wall, and on it's way to the manufacturers for investigation and/or repair. We're optimistically hoping to have it back before xmas. I must confess that I feel a bit of a cheat being on shorepower, and safely tucked up in a marina over the winter. Idealistically, I'd like to tough it out in the ice, just for the laughs, and the experience. But Sheena wouldn't enjoy that, and I have her wellbeing to think about also.

Speaking of which, I'm down in Devon at the moment, helping Sheena, while she looks after her mum. But will be definitely be spending xmas on the boat. It's been a year since I was last in a house. And to be honest, I don't miss it at all.

Rubbish in overgrown canal ~ ManchesterNext year, we are genuinely hoping to get onto the canals. I am putting aside my concern that they might be all 'dog poop and carrier bags round the prop', because Alan (Mv 'Latitude') reminded me that there is also plenty of fun to be had, like swingbridges, tunnels and aquaducts. Thanks for that, Alan. Though we've loved living on it, the thames has been here for 1000's of years. And it will still be here, when it's time for us to come back to it. With 2012 also being the Olympic year, we figure it will be stupidly busy, and not very enjoyable.

Our rough, back of an envelope plan is to go up to Eynsham and Pinkhill, beyond Osney bridge again, and then come back down onto the Oxford canal via Duke's cut (and our friend Tom's boat). But not for a couple of months yet, obviously.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Three Gaskets

A fine sunny day, for this time of year. A golden opportunity to put on my overalls, and fanny about with the engine. So I dusted off my spanners (both ring and socket), grabbed the leaking pump by the nuts, and seriously went for it.

Thankfully, it didn't "all pop out, like the insides of a clock", as Steve had warned it might. It all came out in one lump. There were three (yes, three) gaskets inside, where the workshop manual said there would be none. They looked OK. And I figured they must be in there for a reason, so I just cleaned them up, and put them back on.

Scraped some oily gunk from around the joint, and gave it a gentle rub with some fine grade emery cloth, to ensure a snug fit. Made sure to cross tighten the nuts, as Chas taught me, when putting it back on. And I was ultra careful not to lean on the spanners so much that I stripped the threads.

Happy to report that after an hour of running the engine, there is no leakage. The boat still moves in forward, and reverse, too. Which is good.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Bourne End

Sorry for the lack of updates recently, but I have been at a low ebb, and not felt like writing much.

Back at Bourne End
We're at Bourne End Marina again, for the winter. And now we don't have to cruise everyday, I can turn my attention to the little niggly jobs that there wasn't time for previously. There is no more water under the floorboards, and with the aid of a portable fan blower, the woodchip mulch liner is drying out nicely. The floorboards are returning to their normal non-bowed shape, and all is fine internally. Except that our Mastervolt invertor is malfunctioning again, and we don't have shorepower. Steve's kindly lent us a cable reel, so we have some 240v onboard, but it still means running the engine every day to top up the batteries.

Again, nobody knows why the unit is misbehaving. The solution is to take it off the wall, and send it back to the factory. Not very satisfactory, but at least they will be able to get to the bottom of the problem. When they all get back from their continental boat show jolly on thursday.

Leaky Mushroom
Fixed the leaky mushroom vent over the kitchen. Discovered obvious signs of rust, neglect and bodging, which I repaired, filled and made good.

Leaky Fuel Pump
Fixed the leaky nozzles on the fuel pump. Great. They were bodged with flat O-rings and plumber's PTFE tape. But now the increase of pressure in the system has caused the fuel pump itself to leak. Will have to oik the whole thing out, and make sure there's no gunk underneath it, causing a partial seal. Not a big job, but a messy and fiddly one, because there isn't enough access for spanners, without removing the fuel delivery system first.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Dorney to Cliveden

Our last night out in the wilds, for a while, so we're tied up on 'Goose Poo Island' again, and making the most of it.

Autumnal ColoursThe journey up from Windsor went well, though the stretch from Dorney lake to Bray lock was quite hard going. As soon as we got through Bray lock, the river resembled a pond once again, and our progress up to Maidenhead (and beyond) was quite rapid.

Smiling statueNew statue at the Dimbleby's old house (by Boulters lock). Looks very lifelike, indeed. You expect him to move at any moment. But he just sits there smiling. Like the buddha.

Rainbow over ClivedenWhen we got to Boulter's lock, the power was off, so Sheena had to hand wind one of the gates. Then the lock keeper appeared and turned the power on again. We got to Cliveden, just as the sun was setting. The orange, russet, reds, and browns of the autumn trees looked spectacular. And to top it all off, there was a rainbow arcing across the river.

The Round TowerOi! No Photography!Sheena enjoyed her trip around Windsor castle, but was dissapointed to report that there was a complete photography ban, and that very few places inside were open to the 'Public'. What there was, was well worth a visit, but Hampton court delivered more on the historical and fun fronts.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


We're at Windsor, which is very quiet at this time of year. Hardly any visitors. And all of the tripboats which normally make this reach so hazardous, are tucked up in their winter moorings. The only downside, is the roar of jet aeroplanes every minute or so. Wouldn't want to live here full time, it's a real nuisance. Sheena has gone for a wander around the castle, for tea with her majesty in the state rooms. While I was doing the washing up, this happened...

M/V 'Flat Over Crest'Tried to turn themselves around, and got completely stuck on the mud. To make matters worse, they tried full ahead, to shift themselves clear of it, but ended up getting stuck even further. Full astern is also doing nothing, except causing a huge wash of water out the back. They're well and truly stuck, and will probably have to be towed off of there. Poor sods. Not a nice way to spend a sunny afternoon in Windsor.

Bit of a dilemma. Do I take the boat over, and try to offer assistance? Doubt our engine could tow them off, but maybe I could help to land crew. But, if I ran myself aground on the mud too, Sheena would not be very impressed to come back and find no boat to get on. It's also too far across the river to shout anything meaningful at them. Scrathing my head, wondering what to do, while their Skipper (a big bloke) heaves on the pole, trying to shift them.

Off they go..Happy Ending: After 4 hours of heaving on a pole, and manoeuvering this way, and that, they finally shifted themselves. Managed to swing their bow into midstream, and then caned the throttle to budge themselves. Took off down the river at a rapid rate of knots.

Sunday, 30 October 2011


The weather forecast lied, as it's been grey and pizzly.

Goos Poo Island ~ ClivedenYesterday, we cruised down to the Cliveden estate to give Sumo a nice run around. The autumn colours of the trees were spectaular in the late afternoon sunshine. Then, we spent the night on 'Goose Poo Island', because we can get good satellite reception TV there. Shame about the goose poo. But a free mooring is a free mooring.

This morning, on our way down through Maidenhead, Boulter's lock was on 'Self Service'. So Sheena operated it, while an expensive cruiser with 4 posh and grumpy gits onboard, didn't even bother to say thankyou.

We noticed that a lot of overstaying boats had been moved on. And were saddened to see the dissapearance of the EA 24 free moorings, which have been replaced with a lot of new white signs saying the local council want £8 for you to moor there (or anywhere else in Maidenhead). Even the awful moorings, by the main road. £8 ?!!

Whether this is as a result of the council's greed, and their need to squeeze somebody to make up their deficit, or the overstaying boaters scuzzing up the place, and causing a nuisance, we don't know. But we do know that we won't be bothering to stop in Maidenhead ever again, if that is their attitude.

The rest of today's journey went fine. No problems going through Bray lock, and there was very little traffic on the river. Mostly hireboats again, or large plastic cruisers fully buttoned up inside their canopies.

Dorney Reach MooringWe've stopped at a nice spot, just before Dorney lake. The towpath has recently been strimmed back, and is closed off to the general public, so we'll most likely have a nice peaceful night. Probably off down to Windsor, tomorrow.

Dorney Reach Sunset

Friday, 28 October 2011

Spade Oak

"You did well to get down here, like that."

Off to MarlowIn a marked contrast to yesterday, our cruise downriver was in beautiful sunshine. Everything that got wet yesterday had dried out by the time we surfaced, which made for a much more pleasurable boating experience.

Traversed Marlow lock safely, by crawling in and out extra slowly, so no big bursts of reverse were called for.

SortedThe 'flap' on the lever arm, turned out to be a grub screw that had vibrated loose. So that's now been tightened up. Amazing how such a small thing, can cause such a large problem.

Spade Oak ~ Downstream to Bourne EndNo room at the Inn, in Bourne End. So tonight we are tied up at the Spade Oak moorings, before heading off downstream for a few more days. The weather forecast for the weekend is "lovely", so we're going to make the most of it.

Spade Oak ~ Upstream

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Temple Lock

So, we waved goodbye to Sonning, and set off for Shiplake, to give Sumo an offlead run around. But, sadly, it was stuffed with boats, and we had to keep going. Passed down through Henley, which, apart from a couple of widebeams, was almost completely empty. Hardly anything else was moving. A few narrowboats, but predominantly LeBoat and Caversham hireboats.

Passing through HenleyTotal distance covered today was 13.04 miles, and we've come down through 5 locks.

Shiplake, Marsh, Hambledon, Hurley, Temple.

The last two, in the dark and pizzling rain. Hurley was the hardest, it was pitch black, and the chains for canoeists snagged one of our fenders. Temple was much easier to negotiate, because it was well lit.

At Hambledon lock, something inside the control column failed. There is a lot of slippage before the gearbox engages. So we had minimal reverse for the last couple of hours. Wanted to moor at Remenham, but it was so overgrown with weeds and rushes, we couldn't get near to the bank, or see where the shallows were. Very surprised it's that bad, because in the height of summer it was full of boats and trimmed right back. It looks abandoned now.

Same thing happened at Medmenham. Too shallow for us to get anywhere near to the bank. Figure that may be the bags of coal on the roof, dropping us down a couple of inches.

Up early tomorrow, to see if I can fix the control column. No locks between us and Marlow, so we may limp down there and get some supplies. Still a few days to go before the lock closures, so no worries.

Long old day, though.

Monday, 24 October 2011

New Hobby

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. We've been enjoying the tranquility, and spectacular sunsets of the Sonning to Shiplake reach; where unfortunately, our modem and phone signal is very weak.

Overstayed slightly on moorings belonging to The French Horn Inn, but the owner was sympathetic when he discovered we had Sumo to hoist off the boat. And he was quite relieved to hear that we wouldn't be stuck on his mooring all winter. So he didn't come out and hassle us again. Thanks for that, Mr. French Horn. Appreciated.

We've also got ourselves a new hobby.
Peering down holes...

Hole of the PumpUnbeknown to us, the seal on our circulation pump had failed, and dumped gallons upon gallons of water into our bilge. The first we knew about it, was when we started listing slightly, and the floorboards started curling up at the edges. Oh Dear. Chas helped me fix the pump, because the first time I tried to put it back together, the leak was worse. All it needed was a new rubber O-ring, which thankfully, we had onboard.

Hole of ExtractionOnce we'd stopped the water piddling onto the underfloor lining (cheap chipboard), mushing it up, and dribbling down through the length of boat, we needed to drill a small hole to see what was going on and extract the water. There was about three inches sloshing about down there. I forget how much we removed with Chas's siphon pump, and our wet/dry hoover. But it was a lot.

Now we are ventilating the boat. And waging war on mold, with bleach. Thankfully, it has hardly rained at all, and we are well on the way to becoming dry again. The floorboards are also returning to their original shape. Flat. Which is a relief.

On our way back down the river again, soon. Because we have to be behind Marlow lock, for the 30th of October, when the lock closure and mainatainence program starts.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


I forgot to mention, that we had to dial 999, ahd call an ambulance out the other day. A cyclist (called 'Gordon') fell off his bike, into the river. He was wedged between Chas's boat, and the concrete of the bank, and just laying there stunned. He'd hit his head on the way down, and when we fished him out, he drifted in and out of consciousness.

When they arrived, the paramedics opened his bag to look for ID, and we all noticed a very nearly consumed bottle of famous Grouse whiskey, which we surmised was the reason why he'd taken a tumble in the first place. Hope he's OK. But he's not been back for his bike, yet.

Thanks to Andy & Zoe (Nb 'Vigorina') for helping.
Hope you are OK, Gordon.

Sonning Triangle

We've stayed on the Shiplake reach much longer than we'd anticipated, because it's so nice, quiet and peaceful here.

Goodyear Blimp at ReadingThe unseasonally warm blob of late summer weather and clear blue skies was nice, though it had the unfortunate side-effect of bringing all the massively massive plastic cruisers out of their marinas for one last jolly before the boating season ends for another year. Busier than at the height of summer, there was a boat queue every few hundred yards. And all of them racing to get to the next lock first. Which wouldn't have made for a very a relaxing experience at all, so we stayed put. And have enjoyed some leisurely bimbling down to Shiplake meadows, so that Sumo can run around like an idiot. And up to Reading for supplies.

Blue Sky at ReadingIt was our 29th wedding anniversary yesterday. Our furniture anniversary, apparently. Sheena tempted me with the crispy leeks and jumbo sausages at the Bull inn. But in the end, we stayed in and enjoyed a quiet evening.

Finished reading Jerome K Jerome's "Three Men on a boat", and was surprised at how funny it was.

Saturday, 24 September 2011


Sorry for lack of blog updates recently. We are shuttling up & down between Reading (for supplies), and Sonning (quiet and peaceful idyll). Unfortunately, 3's mobile broadband signal is...

PantsChas has kindly helped us to change our light fittings over to LEDs, throughout the boat. We can now have all of our lights on at once (which then makes it resemble Wembley stadium inside). For less than the electrical equivalent of ONE of our old style 21w bus bulbs.

1.5w !!1.5w?! Amazing.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Beale Park

(new graffiti spotted near Wallingford Bridge)

Had a frustrating time, trying to get away from Dorchester. Every time we pushed the bow out, the wind blew it back in again. Eventually, we made it. The 'not very nice' weather, meant we had the river virtually to ourselves again. On the journey down to Wallingford, we only saw a couple of other boats moving. And when we got there, one side of the town jetty was completely deserted. Which was a very strange sight, as it's normally heaving with boats here in the summer.

Empty JettyWe've done about 11 miles today, and come down through 4 locks (Days, Benson, Cleeve and Goring).

Staying at Beale Park for the night.

Sunday, 18 September 2011


Tucked up under the trees.

DorchesterArrived here yesterday, in the pouring rain, and unremitting chilly wind. Discovered that all the narrowboat moorings were taken, and had to turn the boat around, before we were commited to going through Days Lock. But the wind wouldn't let us do it, and we got blown down the river sideways for a few hundred yards. Until we found a sheltered spot to swing the bow around in. Thankfully, nothing was coming the other way.

We had hoped to walk up to the Wittenham Clumps today (colloquially called "The Berkshire Bubs" and "Mother Dunch's Buttocks"), but the weather is not very nice again, so we've treated ourselves to another well deserved lazy day.

Al Fresco Lunch

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Guess Who?

Just moored behind us...

Timothy & Shane SpallVery kindly posed for this photo, and told us about the 'lock every mile' of the K&A. "Enjoy your life on the boat", they said.

The Princess MatildaThankyou Timothy & Shane, we do.
Nice to meet you both.

Back at Abingdon

We were pinned against the bank by the winds for a couple of days, but it was no great hardship, as we had supplies, and the Farmoor nature reserve was such a lovely place to be stuck at. Nice summery weather going downstream.

Scrapped BargesStopped in Oxford for 30 minutes, to let the engine cool down a bit, have a cup of tea, and say hello to Dave (Nb 'Chavori'). Didn't fancy overnighting there, as it was all a bit grey and nondescript. On the way down to Iffley lock, we noticed that Salter's Steamers have finished cutting up their barges for scrap. Didn't take them long at all.

Annoying DribbleOn our way back down to Sonning now. We have an annoying dribble of diesel leaking out of the fuel pump nozzles, and Chas (Nb 'Long White Cloud') has offered to help us fix it. Not a major problem, but it's making our pristine engine look a bit grubby, so it needs sorting out before we tackle the K&A. (Yes, we are finally venturing onto a CANAL!).

Sumo Vs. the Stuffed Sea CreatureYesterday, we did a grand total of 17.83 miles, descending through 7 locks. (Pinkhill, Eynsham, Kings, Godstow, Osney, Iffley, & Sandford). Our longest journey yet. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. zzzzzzzzz...

Through the Back DoorThis morning's view.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Pinkhill Resevoir

Windy at PinkhillThe gale force and gusty winds are angrily howling down at us from straight across the river, pushing us snugly into the bank. We're tucked up securely and safely, listening to the fury of nature outside, with a nice log fire going. Not seen another boat moving all day, unsurprisingly.