Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Too hot to blog


We've been short hopping our way slowly up the river. Bourne End to Henley. Henley to Shiplake. Shiplake to Reading. Reading to Beale Park.. to Wallingford, where we are tucked up under the welcome shade of some trees. The river is ridiculously busy at weekends. When everyone piles out of their marinas at once, there aren't enough moorings to go around. The lock landings are often so full with boats, that you have to hover about in midstream. thankfully, there hasn't been any current or wind to complicate things. We are hoping to get up beyond Osney bridge soon, where we will leave the large doubledecker boats behind.

Beale Park, this morning.

Look who's back on the boat..

Boaters are no longer welcome at Sonning. No rings. No bollards. Shame. It was a popular spot for a picnic, and hireboats often did an overnight there, because it's quiet and more rural than Reading. A familiar tale. Man buys house next to river, and decides he does not like looking at boats. The forest (once a habitat for barn Owls), has been decimated too. I found it quite sad. Though I expect the wealthy residents are delighted.

Monday, 15 July 2013


Slapped another coat of antislip paint on the roof last night. Looking better. This morning, I made my way back to Bourne End (without getting shouted at). So that I could take the anglegrinder to some unsightly rust bobbles I'd spotted, around a couple of windows.

I'm more of a Vespa and Lambretta man, myself. But, even I can appreciate the time, effort, and expense that went into making this bad boy..

While I was sanding the filler, and masking up our windows, I heard..."Badger Sandwiches?". "Excuse me?". "Badger Sandwiches, your blog!". Ahh.... I met Andy (Andy124?) and his daughter's six month old bundle of Black Labradorness, called "Seela". After reading boat blogs for a couple of years, Andy's recently come back over from the Isle of Man, and is now cruising down the Thames, through to London, on his own narrowboat. Congratulations! Nice to meet you, Andy and Seela. Apologies, but I can't remember your boat name...."Ves... ?". I should have written it down. I would have liked to have seen the river 20 years ago. I imagine it would have been much more laid back, and less uptight than it is now. I hope you find that some of the changes are for the better. Have a good journey.

Around 8.30pm, Mv "Golden Quay" came back, and pulled exactly the same stunt they did before. Mister "I don't like narrowboats" wasn't onboard (thankfully), and his partner asked nicely this time. So I consented to them mooring alongside us. Hopefully, the marina will be able to move them in the morning.

"How do you get to live on a boat fulltime?", she asked. "I am nearly 45, a teacher, and will probably be working for the next twenty to thirty years. Then, I will die!". I felt sorry for her. And didn't have the heart to say "Because that's what we wanted".

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Shady Spot

We've been baked for the last few days, so I set off at 9am this morning, in search of some much needed shade...

It took him 40 minutes to hoover the entire island. He found a butter and garlic coated minispud, a slice of tomato and the end of a cucumber.

My man cave. A good book, some Cornish pasties, a few river cooled drinks, and a very relaxed Sumo. A lovely spot for the two of us to avoid the afternoon heat. The only thing missing, was my wife.

At Cookham lock, an irate fat bloke on the top deck of a double decker GRP cruiser yelled at me for "Loitering on the waterpoint". I'd just filled the boat up, and was hemmed in by scullers. What did he expect? Too much sun on his bald head, I presume. I didn't rise to it. And I made it safely into the lock chamber, without squashing any of them. Despite two of their boats being sandwiched down in front of me, where I couldn't see them. The lock keeper thanked me for my caution.

Found the only free shaded place for miles vacant. Lucky us! On the other side of the river, it was completely stuffed. Nice walks. But I know that it gets *really* hot over there in the afternoon.

arrggh.... my eyes.... my eyes...

Completely stuffed.

De-cluttered (almost), with new coat of antislip floor/deck paint (rubber aggregate premixed in). The roof was looking a bit tired and sad, after the almost incessant rain it had to endure last year. The paint cost £30 for 5 litres, which is much cheaper than the marine equivalent. Time will tell if it's tough enough. A shade lighter than we had before. But not overwhelmingly so. Needs another coat, but there's tons of it left in the tin. I managed not to fall in, kick the paint pot over, or otherwise get it all over myself. I'm quite chuffed. £30 for a new roof. Wehey! :)

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


Wehey! The new starter motor (Made in Slovenia) took 10 minutes to bolt in place. And it's working perfectly! By 9am, the sides of the boat are too baking hot to touch, and I'm looking forward to being able to move again, and find some much needed shade for the both of us. Took the boat out for a little spin today. Just to get a breeze through it, and to test out the new oil I'd put in. Everything is working fine.

Mister's been very good. I've been taking him for regular river dunks on the slipway, so that he doesn't overheat. The local swans aren't terribly happy about that. But I can hiss and flap my arms longer and louder than they can.


Cockmarsh Saga

Dear Sir/Madam.

In conversation with the National Trust recently, a boater friend of ours was told that the Cockmarsh meadow moorings are free for a period of 24 hours. And then a £10 charge is levied. Fair enough. But, this is not what the current signage appears to indicate, and I would be grateful if they could be amended with the correct and factual information. (Please see my attached photograph).

We were told by a man from across the river (who tried to collect £30 from my friend, despite there being no signs at all), that the mooring fee is more expensive than Henley, to "discourage" (his actual word) boaters from staying there. Surely, as Cockmarsh is an SSSI, and also an area of outstanding natural beauty, it should be being enjoyed by everybody? And not just the wealthy few, who are fortunate enough to have bought themselves a house directly across the river from it.

Sadly, I have heard all sorts of waffle and justification for their new signs appearing. None of which is, to my knowledge, true. I do acknowledge that there was a problem with abandoned boats underneath the Bourne End railway bridge. But, that land belongs to Network rail, and not to the National Trust. In the four years I have been a resident, I have not seen one overstaying boat on those meadow moorings. Or any litter left behind by boaters. Despite protestations to the contrary.

With their elitist and snobbish attitude, I feel the "Ranger Team" are doing the National Trust a grave dis-service. And I would also be much obliged if you could have a word with them. And maybe inform them that people who live on boats are not at all "Dangerous" or "Nasty" (again, actual words).

Thankyou for your time and consideration.
Ken Downie

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Reply

Sue received a reply from the National Trust. The bits in bold are what they said. and the bits not in bold, are my own thoughts and feelings on the matter. With such outrageous porkies being told, I'm not sure how the truth of the matter will ever be heard.

Signs have been put up informing of mooring charges but they are frequently vandalised and removed.

there have been *one* set of signs, in 4 years. Therefore they have not been *frequently* vandalised or removed. They blew away in the wind, because they were laminated A4 sheets of paper, stapled to hastily knocked in poles. If there was an official sign, made of concrete and metal, it would not blow away.

unregistered and unscrupulous boat owners use this area for commuting into London and Maidenhead and have been long term residents with no payments to the National Trust

this is not true. unregistered boats are dealt with by the EA. unscrupulous liveaboard boaters would soon earn themselves a reputation with local boaters. word travels along the towpath very quickly.

boat rubbish is left on the riverbank which we have to collect

this is not true.

volunteers also engage with dog walkers and remove dog waste and general waste which is significant

i've walked my dog there more times than i can remember. i have never once been "engaged" by a volunteer. seen them picking up litter, or dog poo. people that use that path RESPECT their environment. i cannot recall seeing so much as even a discarded crisp packet dropped there.

Cockmarsh is a SSSI and is equal to Henley if not better as it is unspoilt Thames water meadow with a very unique pub.


All money collected from mooring fees will go to improving riverbank and footpath, we have absolutely no funding from any source for this area, we have just spent considerable amounts of money to make riverside footpath trees compliant.

compliant trees? what sort of bureaucratic gobbledigook is that? and how does that improve the moorings? looks nice from across the river, i presume. but compliant trees are bugger all use to boaters.

Locals are concerned about the amount of unregistered and illegal long term mooring

2nd time they mention this. as above. there is none.

party boats are frequent

party boats are too big to stop there.

rubbish left on river bank

2nd time they mention this. not true.
boaters dump their waste at cookham lock, in the large number of bins provided by EA.

The policy is free mooring for 1 day and night or 24 hours then a charge of £ 10.00 per day.

that is not what the signs are saying at the moment.
(see the post entitled 'New Signs').


And they have completely ignored the fact that the volunteer told Sue, that the mooring fee was to "discourage" boats from stopping there. unlike Runnymede, where the volunteers are proud to point out that the mooring fees are *all* put back into improving the moorings.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Bendix ?!

Steve had a look, but when the bolt fell out, something had shredded inside. And (according to him) "our bendix wasn't engaging with the flywheel consistently". we tried bending the internal yoke back, but then the bendix wouldn't spring back and release the flywheel. Result: Alarming smoke, from friction on the fanbelt. Oops.

New starter motor from eBay  = £160

About the same as a refurbishment for the old one.
hopefully, "Brand New" will be more reliable.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

New Signs

Three new "Ranger Team" signs have appeared on the Cockmarsh side of the river. £10 a night is ridiculous.

Edit: I've edited this post, because although it's an issue I feel strongly about, I am not the best person to address it. Sue, from "No Problem" has sent a well worded letter of enquiry to the National Trust. And hopefully, she'll post up any response she gets on her blog.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Visitor Attraction

Follow the path..
Turn right, at the old man of the Woods..
And you'll find....

Pythagorean musical instrument.
Perfectly pitched..
The interior picnic area...
The exterior picnic area...
 The "take your photo here" stump...

Some photogenic logs...

Very nice.

Grey & Pizzly

What a distinct contrast to the sunshine of yesterday. I had to break out the wet weather gear, when it started raining at Bray lock. Nearly fell off the layby at Boulters Lock, when I was heaving the boat in with the center line, and it slipped off of the bollard. Thankfully the safety railing stopped me from plunging over the other side into the weirstream. Phew. a little bit hairy there. Still, it is all a part of the singlehanded challenge, I suppose.  I miss having Sheena there at the bow, pulling our nose in, out of harms way. Solo, I have to do quite a bit of heaving on that center line to compensate. Anyway, I will be more careful there next time. And wait for the rush to water from the lock gates to abate, before pulling against it. The lock keepers have all been friendly and helpful. So the cruise of today was plain sailing and enjoyable. Average speed 3.61mph. The river is hardly moving at all on these reaches.

Safely tucked up in the bushes of the Cliveden estate now. A nice comfortable spot for an overnight, and a great place for good dogwalking. Sumo was trying to clamber up the back steps before I'd even got the pins in. He definitely seemed to know where he was.

The starter motor? It only misfired once today. Which was a relief. The engine put out a fair bit of black smoke, when I had to 'floor it' (technical term) because I'd drifted out into the path of an oncoming jollyboat, while chatting to Les & Jaq on Nb Valerie. So it's time for an oil change too.

Mister is hassling me for another walk now. And, sadly, it is still raining out there. Classic British summer time.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Sunburnt & Knackered

Phew, 9 hours at the tiller today. Sunny and hot. The starter motor made me play "third time lucky" a couple of times, but I've made good progress up the river. Sumo wasn't terribly impressed with the amount of sniffs he got, but I will try and make it up to him when we get to Cliveden woods.

Just as I was piling out of Chertsey lock, Lisa & David (on Narrowboat "Water Lark") tried to communicate something to me. But I couldn't hear what they were saying above the engine noise. Sorry about that, folks. I can't hear a thing at max revs. Nice to see you though. At Staines, a canoeist wanted to race me upstream, but was quite dissapointed, when I told him that I was already going flat out (3.16mph).

Near Old Windsor lock, I saw a woman pushing an elderly labrador along the towpath in a wheelbarrow. She'd taken him out for a walk with her other labs. When she lifted him out, the poor thing could hardly stand up. But he was still wagging his tail, and getting the sniffs. I think I would do the same for Sumo, should that sad day ever come. But, thankfully, his hips are fine at the moment.

He's not stopped looking out the back door this evening, presumably waiting for Meg & Penny to turn up. Aww....