Thursday, 17 August 2017

Moving between Festivals.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)
(Retrospective post for Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th June)

This was simply a move from the Foxton Locks Festival to Braunston, ready for the Historic Boat Gathering there the following weekend.

A good run, with nothing notable, other than the Leicester summit from Foxton Locks to Watford Locks can be fairly slow going in a deep draughted boat.  The return trip confirmed what we thought n the way up - the Southern half generally seems worse than the Northern half.

Good deep overnight mooring on rings near Welford Arm junction.

Back down the staircase locks at Watford

Looking down the staircase

They empty quite fast.
Bottom lock of the staircase.

On into single locks at the bottom.

They are pretty locks, but sadly there is an ever present din from the M1,

Last lock of the flight, and last narrow one of the trip.

Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th June
Foxton to Braunston
Miles: 27.0, Locks: 13

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Up the Leicester branch of the Grand Union to Foxton Locks.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)
(Retrospective post for Wednesday 14th June to Friday 16th June.

As promised, at least some pictures from the period from early June until mid August when the blog has remained unupdated.

This trip should have featured both "Sickle" and "Flamingo", but the failure of "Sickle's" gearbox after we left the Rickmansworth Festival meant a complete revision of our plans, at it was left South for several weeks until repairs could be carried out.  We had hoped to take both boats to the Foxton Locks Festival, and then onwards from there to the Braunston Historic Boat Gathering.

We could now either still take both boats to Braunston, but cancel plans for Foxton, or could do both Foxton and Braunston with "Flamingo", but make no attempt to get "Sickle" to either.  Having not been up the Leicester in many years, we elected to do the latter.

Given that Cath and I have not been up the Leicester in years, and that the last time I did it in an historic bit was about 1971, I'm surprised how few photos we took.  I suppose that is because there are few locks, and much of the time was spent crossing the summit, (often very shallow!), so unless someone got off with a camera, most of it goes unrecorded - a lot of our photos do feature locks, of course!

We were made to wait a very long while before being allowed into Watford locks.
Not that Cath is one to miss a chance for music practice!
Finally we are allowed in.
Ordinary locks at the bottom before coming to the staircase.
Max and Odin are being encouraged to wait quietly at locks.
Approaching the staircase.

Steerer's view.
On our way up the staircase.
Ascent can be quite brisk once you are finally in the staircase.
The pounds to the side carry out the function those not present between the locks.
At Foxton, having failed to take photos on the long summit.
At Foxton looking towards the lock flight.

Wednesday 14th June to Friday 16th June
High House Wharf to Foxton Locks

Total Trip Miles: 29.3, Locks: 14

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

So what happened to the blog?

( Boat Sickle &Flamingo - posted by Alan)

So we are now into August, but the last blog posts related to any boat moves currently fizzle out in early June!

I don't imagine many people have been seeking out updates, but, if you have, I apologise, because we are clearly not doing very well!

It has been somewhat of a case of "life got in the way", but as we hope to be travelling again soon, I really don't want to let the blog die.  Even if we are its only regular readers, we do regularly find ourselves searching old entries to refresh our memories of past trips.  Often they contain useful information about what to expect, what hold ups or other difficulties we might encounter on a repeat trip, and general information about time taken.

So even if we don't record in detail everything that happened from June to now (August 15th), we will attempt to get it up and running again on our next trip out.

In brief between 3rd June and now we have done the following....

4th June - Completed returning "Flamingo" to its Northamptonshire mooring.

14th to 16th June - "Flamingo" to Foxton for the Foxton Locks Festival.

19th to 20th June - "Flamingo" from Foxton to Braunston ready for Braunston Historic Boats event.

22nd to 23rd June - "Sickle" moved from Cassiobridge to Berkhamsted following completion of gearbox repairs, but then failed again at Berkhamsted with problems with the linkages that operate the gearbox.

26th June - Flamingo" moved back from Braunston to its home mooring.

5th July - With "Sickl'e's" gearbox linkages now mended, moved from Berkhamsted to a borrowed mooring at Cow Roast.

27th to 28th July - "Sickle" noved from Cow Roast to Linslade ready for Linslade Canal Festival

30th July to 1st August - "Sickle" moved from Linslade back to its home mooring in Northamptonshire, meaning our boats were finally reunited for first time in about 2 months.

In parallel with this we have been trying to keep up the program of works on "fFamingo"  However two major equipment failures on "Flamingo" have diverted us from anything planned, and side-tracked us on to work we did not anticipate doing at this stage - I might write this up at some stage!

If I can, I will post at least some pictures relating to the 8 (or so) separate trips we have not been able to write up fully.

Friday, 9 June 2017

These Pictures Have Made Me Rather Sad!

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

I have just in rather unexpected circumstances been put in touch with a former owner of "Flamingo".

Phil seems to have owned "Flamingo" from late 1998 to probably 2008, so around 10 years in total, before selling it to the person we bought it from.

When we bought "Flamingo" its then owner claimed to have done large amounts of work on it, but it actually arrived with us as a major project.  Some areas, such as his "re-modelled" bathroom were almost a wasteland of (presumably) ripped down tiles, and badly damaged plywood surfaces, in need of a complete rebuild.

It has therefore come as rather a surprise to now see photos taken by Phil under his ownership that actually show a boat which, although having a fairly basic interior, actually looks to have been quite homely, and certainly much loved.

Phil explained to me on the telephone that he had not had huge amounts of money to spend on "Flamingo", but had tried to keep it in good order.  He acknowledged that even under his ownership the engine badly needed a rebuild, which he was never able to organise, but we now know the boat was fully repainted externally about 10 years ago, (in fact it was done twice, because the first attempt was done in unsuitable paint dock conditions, and was not satisfactory).

The following photos are unfortunately not high resolution, but give a fair idea of what "Flamingo" was like 10 years ago.  To be completely blunt, life would have been so much easier had it come to us in this condition, rather than in the state it was after a further seven years of ownership by someone who had done little to improve it, and much to spoil it.

(The pictures are reused with Phil's full permission, and we are grateful to him for making them available).


Saturday, 3 June 2017

Long, Long Day

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)
Retrospective post for Saturday 3rd June

Three Locks on a gorgeous day.
We actually had no definite need to put in anything like such a long day as we actually ended up doing.  We really only planned to do at least half of the remaining trip back to base, and once we were not far North of Cosgrove we had probably already achieved that.

However by the time we were where we could legitimately have called it a day, we realised that we could easily press on to the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne flight, so we decided to do just that.  A friend that we met at Cosgrove lock assured us that these days there is invariably space on the moorings at the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne flight.

Three locks
So we pressed on, but when we arrived there two boats were just taking up the final moorings that were available.  Not too deterred we though we will just push on up five locks to the "long pound" - surely there would be space there?

And Three Locks yet again

About 4 locks up, our friend Barry was cycling down on his way to the services at the bottom of the flight, with a toilet cassette in a natty little trailer.  He wasn't sure the only space he had spotted in the long pound could accept a seventy footer.  Needless to say, when we got there, there was nothing approaching a suitable space.  Now very tired, options were running out, but we had little choice but to do the remaining two locks of the flight, despite being warned of no space at the top.  Maybe we could moor alongside the museum's boat Sculptor - we have been told in the past that we can.  However Sculptor proved to be facing South, and had we moored alongside it, the point the dogs need to get on and off would have been opposite its open hold - so not a possibility.

Working our way up Stoke Bruerne locks
Fearing there might be no other moorings we contemplated mooring on the bollards just South of trip boat Charlie's mooring - not ideal, although another boat subsequently did just that.  Then someone said a boat was pulling out further up - some people I think like to tackle the tunnel at the end of the day, when it is not so busy.  We quickly moved up there, and it proved ideal.

The engine had run continuously for 11 hours - about an hour longer than CanalPlanAC shows with our settings that are too optimistic for travelling with Flamingo - I really must tweak them to something that reflects reality!

I promised Cath a pub meal, and we went to the Boat, where I have to be fair and say the food was considerably better than other recent experiences we have had there.  We were joined for the evening by our friends Barry and Jan - always a pleasure, despite Barry persuading that by far the strongest beer on tap was the one to switch to.  Strong it definitely was!

Above Stoke Hammond Three Locks to Stoke Bruerne
Miles: 22.1, Locks: 13
Total Trip Miles: 185.1, Locks: 138

Friday, 2 June 2017

More Slow, Steady Progress, With No Dramas.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)
Retrospective post for Friday 2nd June

Below Marsworth top lock and dry dock.
After a short day yesterday, it was time to start adding the miles and the locks.  When we had our leisure boat "Chalice" we would have considered that the trip from Tring summit to our home mooring in Northamptonshire was a relatively easy three days.  Now, however, when moving a full length, deep draughted ex-working boat about, such assumptions are dangerous.  It should still be fairly straightforward, but we knew we would pass today through pounds that are notoriously shallow, or where the water level is regularly badly down.  THe worst cases of course are the pounds that are shallow even when full, but the level has also dropped, making the "bottom too close to the surface" effect even more severe.

Ex Thomas Clayton "tar" boat Towy - a well kept wooden boat.
Slow steady progress - not rushing!
Ex "trust" boat Belfast in need of TLC, now sold to someone we know
We started the day with Marsworth locks, which used to be my favourite Grand Union flight, but these days many of the gates leak so badly that shallow pounds are guaranteed.  In fat today was not as bad as sometimes - I suspect the an in the CRT van we had seen drive past the boat had done some topping up - though not really enough.  Most locks were against us, and with only two crew, this clearly wasn't going to be the fastest of days.

Unusually another problem pound, the one between the two Ivinghoe locks was not too bad - again I suspect recent topping up, as it is regularly well off level.  We managed to avoid grounding anywhere below Grove Church lock as well, which was welcome.  For a boat that draws around 3 feet, this is now one of the worst bits for many miles.

By the time we arrived in Leighton Buzzard we were once again well down on timings we would have been used to with "Chalice"  We hadn't done anything particularly badly, and the extended timings just go with the territory with "Flamingo".  We find that trying to go faster when conditions are poor achieves very little, other than maybe making us make unforced errors, so we now largely back off to a slightly slower speed, chosen appropriate to the conditions on any stretch.

After leaving Leighton Buzzard we suffered considerable hold ups as the crews of a pair of Wyvern Shpping hire boats were supposed to be under instruction.  The male crew of one boat seemed to be fairly merry already, and paying little attention.  At least the all female crew of the second boat were trying hard to learn, though I thought the trainer wasn't doing a grand job!  We then waited as a returning Wyvern boat came up.  The couple were from New Zealand, having come to the UK just to do this.  They had been out 4 weeks on what to us would have been a very leisurely cruise, but had clearly enjoyed themselves enormously.  I can only imagine what a 4 week hiring must have cost them - I hope Wyvern had offered a good discount!  Shortly after we passed our old boat "Chalice" still looking better cared for than we often managed - it is good to see it has not joined the ranks of boats of that age left to deteriorate rapidly.

Our old boat Chalice showing some of the new paintwork we did before sale.
We were not totally unsurprised as we had passed most of the "Jackdaw" pound up to Three Locks to find the all female hire crew firmly grounded in the bushes on the offside of the canal, and unable to get themselves off.  So we did the "Good Samaritan" bit, and quickly towed them off, and on their way again.  By now we were fairly tired, and it was getting late.  We could have gone down Three Locks, but the first pound in the flight was maybe twenty inches down on what it should have been.  We decided to stay at the top, and tackle it refreshed in the morning.

Bulbourne to above Stoke Hammond Three Locks
Miles: 13.0, Locks: 19
Total Trip Miles: 163.0, Locks: 125

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Time To Get Flamingo Moving Again.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)
Retrospective post for Thursday 1st June

Northchurch lock
Following the break down of "Sickle", and being forced to continue with just "Flamingo", we had taken the decision to leave "Flamingo" in Berkhamsted as long as we were able.  Here we could both keep an eye on it, but also hoped to carry on working on it.  In practice other pressures meant very little happened on that second front - in fact leaving it there actually generated yet more work.  It was left under overhanging trees, and as a result got covered in massive amounts of bird "poop".  This actually stuck like glue and proved initially very hard to remove to the extent that several days later some has still resisted all attempts to "unstick" it, and is still present!

Leaving lower Dudswell lock
Unfortunately there has been no further progress on resolving "Sickle's" gearbox issues, so with any hope of reuniting both boats in the near future now evaporated, we could wait no longer before starting to move "Flamingo" on again, this time back to its home mooring.  Our schedule required we complete that before next Monday, and today was the last day we could start to guarantee that.

Upper Dudswell lock
In practice we started late enough that we could only do the remaining "uphill" locks to Tring summit, and the summit pound itself.  Starting the descent through the Marsworth flight would have to wait until tomorrow.  This should be OK - we had some slack, if nothing went badly wrong, though not huge amounts of slack.

Berkhamsted to Bulbourne (Tring summit)
Miles: 5.3, Locks: 7
Total Trip Miles: 150.0, Locks: 106

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Very regular locks, but nothing like enough water.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)
Retrospective post for Wednesday 24th May

The decision was to take Flamingo to Berkhamsted, at laest for a while, whilst we sort ourselves out, and hopefully work out what can happen to Sickle.  I was now back with the boat, so with only one boat and three crew life should have been a bit easier. (But read on!...)

Apsley - almost unrecognisable from when Cath and I worked there.
I always reckon that on the Grand Union, south of Tring summit, as you pass down through Berkhamsted, Boxmoor, Kings Langley, Cassiobury, etc, you can broadly reckon on 2 locks per mile.  A few are in closely separated pairs, but the majority have maybe anything between a third of a mile to three quarters of a mile between them, meaning they can really only be set up in advance if the lock wheeler has a bike.  Today's stats, I note, work out at nearly 3 locks per mile, but the total distance travelled of little more that 5 miles fails to tell the whole story.

Mind numbingly stupid features to add to a lock that is in active use.
South of Berkhamsted, except in periods of real drought, water levels should not be a problem, as rivers flow in and out of the canal, and also the treated outfall from Berkhamsted sewage works contributes thousands of gallons.  However things seem to have deteriorated, and pounds that in the past would have been brim full, are now regularly very very low.  We encountered three very low pounds in a row once we had passed through the attractively named "Sewer", (or "Sewerage"), lock.  We reckon they were in order about 20", 16" and finally 21" down.  With an "historic" boat like "Flamingo" this can be a major issue, and at best we were stirring the mud throughout, but at worst grinding through bridges, and getting almost stuck mid channel. Time and time again we were near halted on the various rubble and other obstructions in the channel.  Frankly at times it was ridiculous.

Attempting to clear lock cill where gates not sealing.
These were not the only hazards of the day.  At the bottom Winkwell lock, David reported there were some 50 or more steel bolts that had been let into the masonry of the offside lock wall!  These were each projecting some two or 3 inches into the lock chamber, turning a wall that a boat should be able to slide up and down freely into a major hazard where a descending boat could get hung up, or an ascending boat could get held down.  There were no warnings, and although workmen's rafts and tools were present the workmen were not.  Until this point we were sharing locks with another boat, but clearly putting 2 boats in to this lock together could be a major hazard, so we elected to work through singly.  This is frankly the most mind boggling stupid thing I have seen happen on CRT waters  in many a year, and unsurprisingly we were not the only ones making urgent complaint.

Barely enough water for Flamingo to float in.
Some other locks on this stretch are in a very run down state, and leaking exceedingly badly - no doubt a major cause of the very low pounds.  However we though the bottom gates at Rising Sun lock so bad that we though something must be blocking them, and that the lock looked unlikely to seal enough to fill.  I spent some time with a shaft attempting to find obstructions on the cill, but locals at the pub assured us that it genuinely always was this bad.  In the nd we worked through it regardless of the huge amount of water being wasted.

Multiple reports about problems encountered were sent to CRT that evening, but I doubt much can be done about any of it whilst so little maintenance and repairs are being carried out.  All in all a rather depressing day, as we watch our most local canal getting steadily worse every time we make a trip this far South.

Apsley to Berkhamsted
Miles: 5.4, Locks: 14
Total Trip Miles: 144.7, Locks: 99

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

I wasn't even there!

(Now with Flamingo only - posted by Alan)
Retrospective post for Tuesday 23rd May

Backwards down the lock, unpowered.
For the moment I will not concentrate on the problems with "Sickle's"gearbox, other than to say we decided that we were definitely in a position where we could not carry on with the boat, and would have to continue on just with Flamingo.

A deal was struck to put "Sickle" on a mooring in a local marina, so the first boat movements of the day were rather unusual ones.  Firstly we took "Sickle" backwards through the last lock we had worked the boats through together, then, not wishing to risk use of the gearbox, we turned her around then used the long shafts from both boats to poll it back down to the marina entrance, and on to the allocated mooring.

Sickles long flat deck makes it an easy boat to pole.
Although I am writing the belated blog entry, I was not involved in the main boating activity of  the day.  I had an important Doctor's appointment in Berkhamsted, to be followed by an evening out in London with former work colleagues.  So I had worked out how to get to Berkhamsted by a combination of buses and trains, and then on to London by train.  I would return by train to wherever was close to where Cath and David had managed to move "Flamingo" to in my absence.

It's very rare that we move boats, and I'm not part of it.
In practice I was exceedingly lucky that a well known local boater spotted me at the bus stop, and guessed I was trying to get back to Berkhamsted.  The bus and train for that part got replaced by a comfortable ride in a BMW, leaving me with lots of time to kill before my Doctors appointment.  From then my day ran to plan, leaving me only needing to phone to find what station I needed to come back to, once I was finished with friends in London.  The answer was Apsley - Cath and David had done well.

This looks to me like Hunton Bridge locks.
I say they had done well, because although Cath has regularly steered "Flamingo" she had not ever actually taken it through locks.  That may sound surprising, but much of our locking has been with both boats, and invariably I take "Flamingo" and Cath takes "Sickle".  So for the first time she had to quickly learn the tricks to stopping nearly 72 feet of heavy boat in locks that are only a few feet longer.  She must have done well, because the record shows that despite a late start, they had done a dozen of them.  Equally all the gate and paddle work had been down to David, who had clearly supported Cath superbly as she got to grips with "Flamingo" in the steady run of broad uphill Grand Union locks.  Unsurprisingly, by the time I got to the boat, they had treated themselves to take away pizzas.  Everybody was bushed, but at least we had managed to achieve all we wanted, once it was obvious "Sickle" had to be temporarily abandoned.

The rather unattractive new development at Nash Mills
Cassiobridge to Apsley
Miles: 6.1, Locks: 12
Total Trip Miles: 139.4, Locks: 85