Monday, 2 July 2018

Braunston Historic Boats 2018

(With both boats - posted by Alan)
(Retrospective Post for Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th June)

We had a fantastic Braunston this year.

Photo: Kev Maslin
I'm not sure, but I think it is the first time we have got ourselves fully "installed" on the Thursday, rather than turning up on Friday.  This seemed to help immensely with actually having a day to sort ourselves out, do a bit of cleaning and polishing, and actually be more prepared for the weekend proper.  Anyway our guests were arriving on Friday, so we needed to be a bit smarter than sometimes.

Photo: Ian & Becky Mulford
The weather stayed hot and sunny for the whole weekend - possibly just a bit too hot and sunny!  Visitor numbers seemed to be slightly down, though nobody could make their minds up whether this was mostly due to the show promoter doubling the prices for parking, the fact the World Cup was on, or both, (or perhaps neither!).  Lower visitor numbers is, of course, not great for raising charitable funds, but it actually made moving around the site easier, (in particular getting across or under the narrow paths at bridges), and also gave more chance of getting a good vantage point to view the action.

Photo: John Harrison
Photo: John Harrison

Photo: John Harrison

Photo: Lisa Marie Trump

Photo: Ian & Becky Mulford

Photo: Ian & Becky Mulford
The density of the moored up boats seemed to indicate a not particularly high attendance, but lists produced since seem to say it was a good turn out - possinly "eight plus", though as ever this depends on exactly what you count!

Photo: Ian & Becky Mulford
We decided one parade a day was enough, but as we wanted to take both boats around, we decided to parade "Sickle" on the Saturday, and "Flamingo" on the Sunday.  On Saturday our start position out beyond the A45 bridge allowed us to slip into the parade early on, and we got round really quite easily in well under 2 hours, with Cath steering the majority of it.  On Sunday, however, the same approach didn't work so well, and we got severely help up, taking far longer to complete the circuit.  Apparently a boat had decided to stop to fuel up at a point it caused a considerable blockage, and caused a big hold up, (no comment!).  Also one of the tugs managed to acquire a tyre over its propeller, and had to be towed back, (though I'm not convinced that added much to the slowness).  The final time went unrecorded - certainly not as slow as some yeras, but slow enough, and good to finally moor up, and get to the beer tent.

Photo: Ian & Becky Mulford
When one is in the parade, the one thing you don't really take pictures of is your own boat, so I have used some that have been taken by other people, and I am grateful for being able to show them here. (Please let me know if I have wrongly credited any of them).

On the other hand you do get to photograph other people's boats, so some of our own photographs are here.

To Braunston without our extra crew member.

(With both boats - posted by Alan
(Retrospective Post for Thursday 21st June)

Setting off from our home moorings.
Last year the difficulties  with the gearbox on the new engine that had been fitted to "Sickle" meant that our planned schedule for the boats got heavily disrupted, and "Sickle" never made it to the big Braunston Historic Boat Show.  We did manage to get "Flamingo" there, however.

So we were very keen this year that both boats should make it, if at all possible.  We also had one set of canal based friends looking for some festival accommodation, and had invited one of our non canal based friends along as well.  To reasonably accommodate everybody going, we needed both back cabins available.

I set off alone into the tunnel - Flamingo stays behind
Almost invariably when we travel with both boats we take David along as well.  It is fairly hard work, and just the two of us struggle to make good progress on our own through locks.  The lock free pounds are less of a problem, as we each simply take control of one boat, but even that means the dogs left in a cabin on their own.  This year we decided to get more adventurous and see how Cath and I got on working the two boats with no other crew - the challengers were two lock flights, (Buckby and Braunston), but also Braunston tunnel, as the dogs are not keen on tunnels, and we usually ensure someone is inside with them, providing suitable distraction if there is any scraping or bumping of sides passing other boats.

We managed a pint at the Nelson, but were too late for a meal.
The lock flight problem can be solved by breasting the two boats together - roping them side by side, and operating as one large 14 foot wide "boat".  This however keeps the steerer pretty occupied, so whoever works the locks has to work quite hard, as every gate at every lock has to be opened and closed at least once, often more.  The steerer can offer some support with a bit of gate work, and even the occasional paddle wound, but the other person still does the lion's share of the physical work.

The only solution to the tunnel problem, however involved us tying up "Flamingo" before the tunnel.  I then took "Sickle" through on my own, and tied it up, (and locked it up) at the other end.  I then walked back over the top of the tunnel, to rejoin "Flamingo" at the other end, before taking that through, allowing Cath to share the cabin with the dogs.  It was a baking hot day, and walking over the tunnel seemed to take a great deal longer than either trip boating through it!

Nearly there - towards the bottom of Braunston flight.
As usual we didn't manage to leave our mooring in the morning until far later than planned.  As a consequence it was pretty late by the time we arrived in Braunston, and we were further delayed because many "historics" were already in situ, and nobody could find us another boat to tie up to that the dogs could cross to get to the tow-path, (the unusual entry arrangements to "Flamingo's" cabin heavily restrict who we can moor against, if we have to go outside of other boats).  In the end we became the first to occupy a length of tow-path further up, where no "historics" yet were.  By now all plans that we might eat in the Admiral Nelson had to be cancelled, as we were well past their time for last food orders.  Just as well then that we had manage to grab a pint at the pub on the way down the locks.

High House Wharf, Weedon to Braunston
Miles per boat: 10.5, Miles both boats: 21.0, Locks: 13

Saturday, 30 June 2018

And finally "home" from "Ricky".

(With both boats - posted by Alan
(Retrospective Post for Saturday 2nd June)

A quick trip back to base, with me on "Flamingo" and Cath on "Sickle", (other than through Blisworth Tunnel, where David took charge of "Sickle" to allow Cath to be inside "Flamingo" with the dogs).

No pictures taken. it seems.

Stoke Bruerne to Weedon
Miles per boat: 9.8, Miles both boats: 19.6, Locks:0
Total Trip Miles: 257.0, Locks: 138

An easy day until the very last bit.

(With both boats - posted by Alan
(Very retrospective Post for Saturday 2nd June)

The rather lovely ex Stewarts and Lloyds "Gerald" passes before we set off.
Things have slipped again!  The push to get ready for the Braunston Historic Boats event, where we needed both boats present, each ready to accept guests, has meant that I failed to write up all of the previous trip.

Not a lot to say really - just a gentle plod back to base with both boats without rushing too much.

We like stopping in Stoke Bruerne, so decided to go no further than that on this day.

Not a good place for this to be if coming through that bridge with a full length boat!

Make up your mind! - Welcome or not?

About to enter Cosgrove lock.

Not recorded in the pictures is the major fight we had to get up the upper reaches of the Stoke Bruerne flight.  Levels in the "long pound" were so poor that I grounded totally with both boats abreast, then had a major fight to get David back on board, to free ourselves, and proceed with them singled out.  Even then Flamingo grounded totally when approaching the lock outside the Navigation, and it was necessary to send down several large flushes of water to get her off, which was only achieved with some difficulty.  It seems that low levels in all the major flights up here (Stoke Bruerne, Buckby and Braunston) are now accepted as the norm ny CRT.  At the worst bits, it can make working boats of the draught of "Sickle" ot "Flamingo" an order of magnitude harder than it ought to be.  A very disappointing situation, but increasingly the norm.

Great Linford to Stoke Bruerne
Miles per boat: 11.4, Miles both boats: 22.9, Locks: 8
Total Trip Miles: 237.4, Locks: 138

Monday, 11 June 2018

Some rather good photos.

(With both boats - posted by Alan
(Retrospective Post for Monday 14th May)

When we were boating down the Stoke Bruerne flight a few weeks ago, I was aware we were being regularly photographed. 

So I had a word with the photographer, to see if he publishes his pictures on the Internet.  He is called Geoff Murphy, he does publish his photos, and they are really rather good.

Once I had seen them, I asked Geoff if I could put some on the blog, but initially missed his reply dues to the intricacies of Flickr.  However I can now see he said this was OK, so I'm posting a selection here.

As I need them in quite low resolution on the blog, if you are interested in seeing Geoff's whole album at a higher quality, you can view it here.

As usual clicking an image in the blog should show it larger.

(All photos copyright Geoff Murphy, but used with permission)

Friday, 1 June 2018

Milton Keynes

(With both boats - posted by Alan

Latest boat found drifting in the middle of the canal
Some canal boaters like long lock-free pounds, where you can travel maybe 10, 20 or even more miles without working through any locks. Other canal boaters like working through locks, and prefer stretches of canal where they come fairly regularly.  Generally I fall into the second of these groupings - I like taking the boats through locks - though I will admit that with the passing of years, and me not getting any younger, trying to knock off thirty or more fairly heavy locks in a days boating no longer holds the appeal it did when I was in my teens or twenties!

One of CRT's this time - at least there was some (just) usable rope!
Even now I like to take things a bit easier, though, I am not a huge fan of travelling relatively local stretches of canal that I know well, but which have no locks and which I need to cover on a regular basis to access destinations further afield.  The stretch of the Grand Union that takes a fairly circuitous route around Milton Keynes is such a stretch.  (OK, strictly the canal didn't exactly choose to be routed around Milton Keynes because it was there getting on for 200 years before most of Milton Keynes was - it just happens that Milton Keynes has been built so it now looks like the GU passes around much of it!)

Quiet passage through "Three Locks"
There is nothing really wrong with this stretch of canal as a cruising route, in fact much of it is quite pleasant, and some of what it passes through is very nice indeed.  But once you have left Leighton Buzzard and the locks at Stoke Hammond behind, it is all one lock-less stretch, other than the very shallow lock at Fenny Stratford.  Even as you pass out of Milton Keynes through Wolverton, there is still only one fairly shallow lock as Cosgrove, before several more miles to Stoke Bruerne, the first point at which you get to start working again.

We find that for overnight stops in Milton Keynes it is well worth getting to know the "best" bits near some of the old villages it swept in as it grew.  Favourite overnight moorings with us include Stantonbury - still very rural, with a walk out to a derelict church, although new housing is now changing this area.

However even better is Great Linford, particularly if you can get on one of the very few "Parks" 48 hour moorings on the non tow-path side.  This time we couldn't, and consequently struggled to find anywhere deep enough on the tow-path side to tie up our deep draughted ex working boats. without having to get the dogs to walk a plank to get on and off.  However once we were finally moored, we were still able to walk a circuit across two different bridges, so the dogs got to enjoy the rather nice park anyway, (even if Odin was a bit miffed at not being allowed to swim in a pond that looked like more mud than water!)

Leighton Buzzard to Great Linford
Miles per boat: 14.3, Miles both boats: 28.6, Locks: 6
Total Trip Miles: 214.5, Locks: 130

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Need to get to the pub!

(With both boats - posted by Alan)

Heading away from our overnight mooring at Cowroast.
With all the disruption and delay to our return journey from Rickmansworth, (the result of Michael's latest operation), I had completely overlooked the fact that I had arranged to go on my regular monthly pub night with former work colleagues,

setting off dowm the Marsworth flight, breasted up.
When the emails started arriving to confirm the meet up was on, I realised I had a problem........

Unless.......  If we could arrange to meet somewhere I could get to from the boat, I could still attend.  We regularly meet up in Leighton Buzzard, and that looked a possible target for me, so that's what we agreed to do.

the large sweeping curves at Marsworth are great fun.
In theory getting to Leighton by boat and in good time should have been easy, but in reality it was again harder work that I had hoped.  I'm now coming to the realisation that it is mostly the locks that take longer with two boats, significantly more so than the travel between them.  At each lock we have to open and close every single gate at least once, and this involves quite a bit of walking right around both sides of the lock, and across a set of gates.  With only one boat you can usually avoid much of this.

Carrying on down Marsworth
Also factor in that where we pass through lock flights, or even just locks in closely spaced pairs, we generally breast the boats together - that is tie one alongside the other, and use only one for power, ragging the other one along as if unpowered.  This should be quite efficient - it frees up a second person to do the lock work, as only one steerer is required, but if you encounter gates that will not push far enough back into their recesses to allow both boats out together, you can get both boats jammed tightly between two gates, and it can take considerable time to extricate yourself from it.  Generally it means singling the boats out again, meaning an unplanned change in how we are working, as a second steerer is now needed, leaving only one person to to all the lock work.

Seabrook locks
So Leighton Buzzard was reached a fair bit later than plan, but I still got to enjoy my evening out.

Reading back through this, I see I have failed to mention the totally unexpected deluge that started to fall on us shortly after we left Grove lock.  I don't think I have ever got as wet and cold quite as quickly ever before when boating.  For the remainder of the trip the boat was festooned with wet clothes, shoes and boots, non of which had dried out several days later!

Seabrook locks are also done breasted together.

Last of the Seabrook locks.

David with Sickle between Church and Grove locks.

Cowroast to Leighton Buzzard
Miles per boat: 12.0, Miles both boats: 23.9, Locks: 18
Total Trip Miles: 185.9, Locks: 124