Monday, 31 August 2015

Not part of the plan

It has been a very quiet day.  Jan has been unwell and spent much of her day in bed.  She is now back on her feet but doesn’t have much of an appetite and little energy.  I spent the bulk of the day sitting quietly at the laptop researching a hack for the Amazon Fire Stick (without success).

My thanks to readers Halfie, Dakin, Adam, Dave, and Kees regarding the “chimney stack “photo in yesterday’s post. 


It is the National Lift Tower. The tower was constructed in 1982 on behalf of the Express Lift Company and opened by Her Majesty the Queen.  The tower is only one to two purpose built structures in Europe designed for the testing of lifts.  It has six lift shafts, including one high speed shaft.  In 1997 it was given Grade 2 status.  The same year the Express Lift Company was purchased by Otis who then went on to close the tower in 1999.

The tower is now in private ownership and recommenced testing lifts in 2009. 

Abseiling from the tower commenced in 2011.  It is now the home of the National Abseiling Centre.  If you want to abseil from the tower the cost is £95 per person. 

Hi Jan,  we are thinking of cruising the Nene and then perhaps head to Ely and Cambridge.  It will depend upon the weather.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Inconsiderate Boater……

All the pre-cruising chores were completed by 8.15am so we decided to make a start down the Rotherthorpe flight of locks towards Northampton.  We made a brief stop at the CRT services at Gayton Junction to top up the water tank and dispose of the rubbish.  It was only a short cruise to the top lock (Lock 1).  Jan went forward to set the lock and then called back to explain the pound below the lock was empty.

dry pound

Jan was going to run more water down when she noticed the top paddles on the next lock were up.  I walked forward to find both the top and bottom paddles up and the bottom gates open.  The next pound was also drained.  As we were the first boat to arrive at the flight it appears the last boat to go down the flight yesterday left the lock in this state.  The problem was that leaving the lock in this situation had resulted in the lower gates silting up in the open position.  I spent 20 minutes gently swinging the lower gates open and closed gradually removing 80% of the silt.  However I wasn’t able to completely close the gates. 

I then walked down to the next lock (Lock 3) to find it in the same state.  In the lock there was a  single hander in a soap dish who was also attempting to close the lower gates.  Ovbiously the inconsiderate b@st@rd who had gone down the flight last had left both locks in this condition.

One of the two rostered regional CRT employees arrived and we spent 90 minutes with a keb (long handled rake with long tines) attempting to clear the submerged obstacles preventing the gates from closing.  In the end we had to drain the pound below the lock.  The CRT employee then put on his chest high waterproof waders and climbed into the lock with a spade.    The major obstruction was a safe.  I asked if the valuable contents were going to be divided evenly amongst those present (apparently not).  He then removed a toolbox and half a dozen bricks.  The obstruction between the lower gates in Lock 2 proved easier to remove.

By now it was 11.45am.  We then spent another 45 minutes slowly and carefully refilling the  upper half of the flight.  By 12.30 the soap dish with it’s Hungarian owner had made his way to the top of the flight.

soap dish We were the first boat down the flight.  Almost no photos as were we in a bit of a hurry knowing there were four boats following us.  I managed a quick photo of this interesting bridge at the bottom.

interesting bridge

There is a large chimney stack on the skyline as you approach Northampton from the west.  We couldn’t make up our mind whether it was under construction or in the process of being demolished?


Neither of us have great eyesight these days but there appeared to be two people abseiling down the side of the stack.


Two tiny black dots on the right side.  Cropping the above photo showed this……

hi climb

We were right!

We’re now moored just above Cotton Lock.  It’s the River Nene (pronounced Nen… as in hen or pen) below the lock.  The plan is to remain where we are until Monday and wait out tomorrow’s forecast rain.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Formula One Start

Yesterday afternoon CRT advised the boaters waiting at the top of the flight that the damaged lock was now open for assisted passage.  The area in front of the top lock immediately turned into the start of a F1 race with boaters jockeying for pole position.

F1 Start

We made the decision to wait another day and let the rush dissipate.  However, being curious I grabbed a windlass and wandered down the flight to see how CRT had made their temporary repair.

They have strapped and propped the damaged gate in the closed position.

lock 12 fix1 lock 12 fix2

This is a quicker temporary solution than my own, but it does restrict lock usage to narrowboats.  Actually CRT were on site and required all boats to be bow hauled in and out of the top gates.  They also only allowed the paddle on the non damaged side to be used to fill the lock.  Finally, transit was limited to one boat at a time.  This resulted in a queue quickly forming above and below the lock.


I spent a pleasant afternoon assisting boaters up and down Lock 11.  There were too many gongoozlers and angry boaters at Lock 12 (affected lock) for me to want to be near it. By the time I left the above pound  Lock 11 also had a queue of boats waiting to go down.

This morning we departed our mooring at 7.30am, stopping to top up the water tank.  It was a quiet run down to Lock 11.  A peaceful and sunny morning.

M1 & RailwayLock 9 looks so tranquil. A busy adjacent M1 Mortorway on one side and the main railway line to Birmingham on the other means it’s actually rather noisy!

We reached the pound above Lock 11 just after 9am to find the end of the queue.  Fewer boats than yesterday afternoon and the boaters were far more sensible in controlling the flow of boats through the lock.  By 12 noon we had reached the head of the queue and were waiting for a boat to come up.  Eventually they arrived and we noticed the kiwi flag at the bow.


Only time for a quick “kia ora” and advice that they spend 6 months of every year cruising the canals.

We dropped down through the damaged lock with the assistance of the CRT employee. and discovered the long queue of boaters waiting to go up.  There were 21 boats, with more arriving.

looking back 2 lock 12

It appears someone has purchased an old BW bunt nosed working boat and converted to accommodation.

mod working boat

The diesel was 59.9ppl at Rugby Boats and 61ppl at Bridge 32 Supplies.  A familiar looking boater was seated in the same location we last saw him when passing this way back at the beginning of the year.

boater At least he hasn’t died of thirst.

It was a longer than usual cruising day with us finding a vacant mooring at Gayton Junction.  This mooring is rather interesting.  There is clear CRT signage advising it is 14 Days Free.  Yet some boater has placed a sign with his boat name on it along with pot plants and solar lights?????

14 day mooring

The opposite side of the canal has CRT Long Term Mooring signs.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Buckby Lock and Mad dogs

The Buckby Flight on the Grand Union Canal is currently closed because a top gate on Lock 12 is damaged.  We arrived at the top of the flight yesterday to be told by another boater there was probably going to be a 24 hour delay. 

Yesterday evening I walked down the flight to the affected lock.

lock 12 Map from Waterway Routes

We are at the top near the water point and the damaged lock is down near Whilton Marina.

On the walk down to the lock I met a fellow boater coming back who told me it was a simple repair to replace a broken collar.  On examining the lock myself the problem appeared to be far more than a broken collar.

damaged gate2

The steel collar around the top of the gate which forms the upper hinge is actually in tact.  However the vertical gate hinge post has rotted and fractured below the hinge.

damaged gate

I’ve drawn a rough diagram top provide an idea of the gate structure.


The bulk of the weight of the gate is transferred to the lock wall via the vertical post and the collar.  The fracture could result in the gate falling into the entrance of the lock.   My guess is the bulk of the weight is currently being held by the lock beam through the to the collar and then the lock wall.

Each gate is bespoke (ie, has slightly different dimensions) so it’s unlikely CRT will have a “spare”.  The lock will require a new gate.  In the interim boats continue to arrive above and below the flight.  A number of the boats waiting at the top plan to attend the IWA Festival in Northampton this weekend.  My assumption is CRT will attempt a temporary repair. and replace the gate during the winter stoppages.

I’ll walk down again this evening to see if CRT have commenced repairs.  My own thoughts are that it might be possible to fit temporary steel straps to the gate in an effort to transfer the load away from the fracture.  Something like the following


It had been my intention to walk to the lock after lunch but only mad dogs and Englishmen would go during a shower (it’s now raining).

On to Norton Junction

Reader KevinTOO kindly left a comment on our last post advising us nb Musn Grumble had a blog <link here>.  Then we received a comment from Vicki & Pete on Musn Grumble.  The grey matter started to kick in.  Vicki and Pete are another kiwi couple over for six months of canal cruising.  Now I realise they were calling out “Wakaroa”, which is the name of their blog.  The disappointment is we finally (and briefly) meet close to the end of their time afloat!

Last night I took the camera and tripod for a walk around Braunston Marina to do some more experimenting.

crane b&w

crane2 b&w

braunston flight

This morning Jan decided a change in my diet was required.  Breakfast would be spaghetti on weetbix.  OK I’m a garbage guts and can be rather adventurous with my eating; but this was going to be something novel!  In the end Jan realised she had confused a can of spaghetti for sliced peaches. Smile  Looks like spaghetti is on the dinner menu!

Jan walked up cardiac hill to visit the Braunston Butcher whilst I headed for AJ Canopies to discuss repairs to our cratch where it was hit and torn by a passing hire boat. I was somewhat surprised to be told they were too busy to take on any additional work.  It’s the first time I’ve experienced business being turned away.  Jan did rather better at the butcher’s, although she thinks the Braunston bangers have shrunk since we last visited.

Back at Waiouru we had an early lunch and then filled the water tank before heading towards the Braunston Flight.  It looked as if we might be going up the flight on our own, but then a boat appeared from behind us. We shared the locks with the crew of Dabchick.  The boat looked very familiar and on asking the steerer we were told it was an ex hire boat purchased two years ago.


The entrance to Braunston Tunnel is on an angle, which means you can’t see if there is an oncoming boat in the tunnel until you are in the portal.

tunnel entrance

There was a tiny light in the distance so there was at least one boat coming towards us. Both boats slowed to a near stop to pass without incident.  Then we could see another oncoming boat.  Passing this one proved to be slightly more difficult because the eastern end of the tunnel has a few kinks where the tunnel surveyor must have sneezed when using his theodolite.

tunnel exit We’ve only been through the tunnel three times and this was the first where we met oncoming boats.

Jan took a photo of the large hay bales on the fields.  It’s obviously hay baling time because the farmer at Newbold was doing the same last Saturday.

hayAs we approached Norton Junction a passing boater called out that the Buckby Flight was closed because of a damaged lock and there was a long queue of boats waiting to go down. When we arrived there was no sign of a long queue and we managed to grab the last vacant 48 hour mooring.  Actually most of the moored boats are facing the opposite direction.  There is a sign on the top lock advising the flight is closed due to a damaged gate on lock 12 (2nd from the bottom)

I managed to wash and polish the port side before beer o’clock.  Spaghetti for dinner! 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015


The weather forecast was for rain in the afternoon which made our cruising decision rather easy.  We would move to Braunston in the morning and wait out the rain.

Three boats had already passed us heading towards Braunston but we were reasonably confident of finding a mooring space (perhaps too confident).  I mentioned to Jan that the span of the bridges on this part of the canal seem considerably greater than those further north.

wide spanWe have see a wide beam boat as far north as Barby Marina and now wonder whether there was an original intention to have the North Oxford Canal navigable for wide beam boats?

We were just short of the bridge at Navigation Bungalow when a boat appeared from the opposite direction.  The steerer callout out something (my bad hearing) when I realised he was telling me he read our blog.  It’s always nice to hear from a blog reader and were sorry we didn’t get your names.  Happy cruising to the blog readers on nb Musn Grumble.  Love the name!

musn grumble

Jan took a photo of the locals out drinking at 10am.

drinking time

The canal started to get a little busy closer to Braunston.  The young lady on the ABC hire boat ahead of us was doing a very good job of controlling her boat.

passing at braunston

This is starting to become a very familiar scene for us.


There was a short delay at Braunston Turn.  An Ashby hire boat was attempting to wind (turn) at the junction.  Much rev’ing of the engine which didn’t help them much.  Eventually they resorted to bow and stern hauling the boat around. 

ashby winding

It was during this time that I noticed a familiar figure standing on the towpath giving advice.  It was James, the pen maker from nb Lois JaneAnother quick glance and I saw Debbie nearby.  There was time for a very brief conversation before we headed off to look for a mooring whilst they went in the opposite direction taking Dudley for a walk.

lois jane

We managed to find a spot just before the last water point before the entrance to Braunston Marina.  Later in the day an elderly grey haired man kindly did a 250 hour service on Waiouru’s engine.

oil change

Jan then got me very worried when she mentioned the Smartgauge was showing an E11 error message.  I checked the manual which stated the cause was either insufficiently sized cable from the alternator or a defective relay.  It meant the output from the two alternators wasn’t being combined.  I knew it couldn’t be the cable size and was rather concerned the expensive (it’s very large) relay might have to be replaced. <look for the easy things first Tom>.  A short search on the internet revealed another boater had the same problem several years ago and the cause was a defective battery isolation switch.  <light went on in brain>  That grey haired old man had just finished servicing the engine.  Perhaps his wide posterior had accidentially nudged the main battery isolation switch, dislodging it?  A quick check in the engine compartment confirmed this is what had occurred.  I do like a cheap solution!

Wet Cruising

We departed from Newbold with just the odd little lost raindrop hitting the surface of the canal and slowly headed down to Rugby where we moored for 40 minutes.  This enabled Jan to make a quick trip into Tesco for a final top up of the cupboards.  Whilst I was waiting for her return our youngest son called on Skype.  He had returned from his five week trip through China, Tibet and Japan and is trying to catch up on outstanding tasks before the next big trip which is to the USA. He has a few short trips in between, one of which is to London.  We’ll have to see if it is possible to organise a day together.

At 10.30am we were on our way to Hillmorton and happened to notice whilst passing Clifton Cruisers that they were erecting a large box tube frame which looks like It will be a plastic sheet covered workshop.  I guess they intend to move their floating paint booth from the end of the arm down to the hard standing beside the canal.

Perfect timing at Hillmorton arriving at the water points just as one boat was leaving  The only problem with the water points here is the water pressure can only be described as “old man”.  I know the feeling!  An Ashby Hire Boat was on the water point ahead of us and it was apparent they hadn’t filled their tank for some time.  We took the opportunity to eat a light lunch on the towpath whilst our tank filled.  The hire boat finished 10 minutes ahead of us and was still attempting to enter the left lock when we approached the right lock.  For those readers who don’t know it, the locks at Hillmorton are paired.  Our lock was almost full and the hire boat crew had only just shut the lower gates to their lock.  Apart from the stop lock at Hawkesbury Junction, this was the first lock they had ever seen.  We had to stop the crew from opening the paddles on both the top and bottom gates.  A little like turning on the bath taps whilst pulling out the plug.  Jan gave them some lock safety instructions and emptied the next two locks for them whilst they sorted themselves out.  We were actually through the third lock before they had exited their second.  It was about then that the very light rain decided to get heavy.

No point in both of us getting wet so Jan went in side and got herself all excited with a dustpan and broom.  We cruised on down Barby Strait passing the odd drenched boater going in the opposite direction until we reached the moorings at Onley and decided to quit for the day.  No sooner had we moored and got ourselves settled than the rain stopped! <grrrrr> 

The engine hours tell me it’s time for another blood transfusion.  I’ll do that tomorrow or Wednesday which will enable us to dispose of the waste oil at Braunston Marina.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The internet issue and a fine lunch

Thank you to our readers who either left a comment or sent us an email regarding the internet issue we need to resolve.


We have three mobile phones.  Two have Vodafone SIM’s with £5 on them.  The credit doesn’t time expire but the phone does need to be used at least once per month to keep it active.  What we do is send each phone a text from the other which is free.  Consequentially there is still £5 credit on each phone.  If we are going out and heading in separate directions we both take our phones and agree a meeting point before parting.  One of us will phone the other when we want to meet and the other won’t answer the call but now knows they need to go to the meeting point.  All this costs us nothing…….. We’re cunning old grey nomads!

The third phone stays on the boat and is linked to the 3 network via our external aerial on the cabin roof.  Our current £15 plan gives a monthly allowance of 200 voice minutes, 2000 text messages and unlimited internet data, including tethering.  Tethering is where the phone is converted into a personal wireless hotspot.  We rarely make phone calls, never send a text and both regularly tether to the phone for internet access.

3 have changed the plan, increasing it to £20 per month (25% increase) and; more importantly for us; altered the unlimited data allowance.  It is still unlimited for the phone but there is now a tethering allowance of 4GB per month.  The 3 website doesn’t display the amount of data that we use every month.  We assume because until the current change it was unlimited.

We’re now in the position of not knowing how much data we routinely use every month and therefore don’t know whether the new plan will be suitable.


After looking at other providers it appears there is no other mobile phone plan providing unlimited tethering data for £20 per month.  An option would be to revert to a SIM data only plan.  We still have the Zoom wireless router from our arrival in the UK back in 2011.  We also have the original USB dongle purchased in Plymouth.  This dongle has an external aerial port which would enable us to connect the dongle to the aerial on the cabin roof.  The Zoom wireless router is battery powered and only 3G but that is sufficient for our needs.  I can be powered by the boat 12V system.


Both 3 and EE have a 15GB per month pre-paid SIM only data plan for £20.  Further research revealed Carphone Warehouse have established their own mobile network and have a 20GB monthly SIM data plan for £20.  The irony is Carphone Warehouse use the 3 network!  So the best value monthly data plan I can find is with the Carphone Warehouse.  We have excluded 12 and 24 month contracts.  They are slightly cheaper but we would be locked into a plan in a market where allowances are increasing and prices reducing.


We have decided to do nothing for the remainder of this month.  Our £15 “The One Plan” with unlimited tethering will expire on the 20th of September and I will contact 3 a few days before that date and ask how much tethering data we use on average per month.  If we use 4GB or less then we will stay with 3.  If our average usage exceeds 4GB we will probably change to the 20GB Carphone Warehouse plan.  The cost is the same with both options.  If we decided on the latter option then any outgoing voice calls can be made through Skype.  We’ll use one of the existing phones to receive incoming calls.


We stayed In Newbold so we could enjoy Sunday lunch at the Barley Mow.  They have a buffet and the food is very tasty.  I opted for all three meats (beef, pork & turkey) whilst Jan chose the beef and turkey. The plates were very hot which made it interesting trying to fill them with vegies.  Perhaps it was part of the pub’s strategy to limit the size of the portions? Smile

buffet lunch

After lunch had settled we decided to do the annual bilge inspection and clean out the deep storage compartments.  Everything was removed from the lockers and inspected.  Then the cabin bilge hatch was removed.

bilge hatch

When I shone a torch into the bilge I was pleased to see it was completely dry.


I suspect our strategy of not having ballast and ensuring the sidewall insulation was sealed to the underfloor insulation has been very successful.  The bilge is well scoured with dry air and the heavy insulation almost eliminates condensation.

Three interesting boats today.  The first has a very fine name.  Did you know it means strong handsome and courageous!

fine boat name

An old working boat passed with Jan managing a photo just before it rounded the bend.

working boat small

Finally, here is a photo of SB Adamant


Whilst walking back to Waiouru from the Barley Mow we were both bemused by the small, hand written sign in the window of an unattended boat that has been left moored on the 48 hour moorings for the last three days.

“Arrived on 20 Aug.  No free 14 Day moorings”

I guess that’s alright then!  Winking smile

Three Mobile

Well after yesterday’s problems we now have a connection of sorts.  The problem was Three have changed their SIM Only “The One Plan”.  They appear to be doing it gradually in order not to overload their customer service support system.  Not that this helped us yesterday.  I was on hold for an hour and then unsuccessfully attempted to get through to Three on numerous occasions during the following four hours.

The problem was our pre-paid monthly ‘top up’ took effect on 20 August and Jan had applied the top up three days earlier.  Our plan was a  £15 monthly 200 minutes, 2000 text and unlimited tethering (ie making the phone a personal wifi hotspot).  Three had accepted the pre-payment for August –September but then on the 20th had cut off our tethering.  At the same time they had changed the plan to £20 per month with the same conditions EXCEPT unlimited data now only applies to the phone.  Tethering is limited to 4GB per month.  We had no tethering and I wanted to contact them to find out what had happened to our £15 payment which they had accepted. 

This morning tethering on the phone was again available and we guess the Three technicians had been working overnight to correct the exceptions such as our early payment.  However we also anticipate we’ll only get 4GB of tethering per month.  That will be insufficient so we need to start looking for an alternative. 

Meanwhile, we moved today cruising up to the Armada Boatyard beyond the Newbold Tunnel for a fuel top-up (65ppl) and a pump out.  The last pump out was at Abingdon.  Armada told us by the time they had emptied our tank their holding tank only had an inch to go before it would overflow <oops>.

We then winded and returned to Newbold where we filled the water tank.  After 10 days it was half empyy and the bow had risen by nearly 5 inches.  We now have a good mooring around the corner.  In the early evening I washed and polished the starboard side whilst Jan did her nails washed a load of dirty laundry and then managed to get it all dry.

We’re both now pooped!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

No post today.  Three have taken our money but disconnected our tethered data.  Their phone help line is overloaded.  We can't imagine why

Friday, 21 August 2015

Six monthly service

There wasn’t much of a wait to see the mechanic for the six monthly maintenance check.  A brief discussion about any problems with the working parts followed by a pressure test.  Everything was fine for vintage equipment.  The mechanic did remind me old equipment was more prone to breakdown.  The meeting ended with him providing some additives to keep the main pump working and then he told me I’d have to have an oil sample taken for analysis.  Fortunately this didn’t require fasting which meant Jan and I could indulge ourselves in a “Spoons” cholesterol attack.  At least you know the Weatherspoons “Big Breakfast” is freshly cooked.

Whilst I gave an oil sample Jan bought a replacement shopping trolley.  She selected one with a lovely a bright butterfly pattern on the cover knowing I’d love to tow it around!  The last outstanding task here in Rugby is tomorrow’s visit to the fang mechanic and then we can be on our way.

On returning to Waiouru we both settled into internet browsing mode when there was the sound of a steam whistle.  SB Adamant passed us but by the time I had reached for the camera the boat had rounded the bend.  About 30 minutes later things became very busy with boats passing in both directions.  At one point we had vintage NB Nuneaton pass towing Butty Brighton. 



Travelling in the opposite direction was nb Willoughby

willibough againBy the time we had the camera out they had passed us.  Looked like the crew were having an enjoyable time.