Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Trip to Stoke Bruerne

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Cath)

Stoke Bruerne
We've been working on Flamingo on and off for weeks now, since we sold Chalice (except for various medical appointments and our trip to Rickmansworth with Sickle). We are making progress, but there is a lot to do, so any improvements seem small compared to the whole of what will eventually be needed.

Stoke Bruerne, near the tunnel to avoid a long trip in reverse!
I have made progress with the improvements to the back cabin (which I will eventually get around to posting, soon I hope), while Alan has done a lot of work mostly in the engine room. He has done a lot towards cleaning the detritus of ages from the engine bilge, but couldn't do any more because of the restrictions of the diesel boiler and its accompanying tank. We spent a lot of time discussing the boiler, and came to the conclusion that it really is too big for the boat, and we don't want to run a boiler every time that we want a small amount of hot water. We decided to bite the bullet and remove it from the engine room.

Alan unbolted the tank, and we managed to remove it from the engine room between us, but at an estimated 50 - 60 kgs in a small engine room it was hard work. There is never anywhere for you to stand to brace yourself, or to get a proper lift, and we were worried about dropping it onto the engine. Additionally, Alan is really not supposed to be doing heavy lifting with the damage that he did to his shoulder with the fall into the canal back in January.

So, to get the much heavier and more awkwardly placed boiler out, we called on reinforcements - our sons were asked to drive up for the day to lift it out and take it home with them.  As they are both in their mid 20s, and one of them lifts weights as a hobby it was somewhat easier for them than for us.  We now have to decide how to get rid of it.

Towards Bugbrooke
With the boiler and tank out of the engine room there is more access to the floor and beneath that the bilge, so Alan can start to clear some more oily muck out.

Alan has done other work on the engine, and the electrics, as well as simplifying the plumbing in the main cabin - for example, decommissioning the 'heated floor' in the bathroom. At the moment if we want hot water we need to run the multi-fuel stove, but to just heat water we need to turn off all the radiators (the hot water system doesn't operate separately from the heating at the moment), and heating the bathroom floor is just a waste of heat at a time when we don't want the boat hot anyway. Alan also plumbed out the diesel boiler from the main heating system now that it has been removed from the boat.

A week or so ago Alan finally had done enough work on the engine room, and the engine to run the engine up for a while, and was disturbed by oil leaking from the exhaust. We knew that the boat had had a 'bottom end rebuild' at Brinklow Boats, but Alan was worried that there might be problems at the top end. He rang the engineer at Brinklow, who said that the engine was a good one, and he recommended taking the boat for a 'good thrash', rather than running it on the moorings.

So, we finally got fed up with painting, plumbing, electricity and engineering, and decided to go to Stoke Bruerne. Not too far away - about 3 hours, and we wanted to find out if the engine would be OK to go there for the Stoke Bruerne Family Festival in a couple of weeks time. There are also a couple of places that we could wind a 72 foot boat before we got to Stoke, if it became necessary.

We set off South in the afternoon, slightly apprehensive, because while we have done many thousands of miles boating, the only boating I have done with a 72 foot boat was bringing Flamingo south, six months ago, and while Alan has done a bit more, most of it was a very long time ago. Steering a full length working boat is rather different.  Interestingly, we had both thought that Flamingo was rather 'sluggish', but the GPS on the roof proved that isn't the case. Yes, she is slow to get going, but once under way she makes much the same progress as Sickle.

When we set off the oil pressure, as shown by the gauge on the roof was well up into the 40s, but it fell through the journey - as is to be expected as the oil warms up. However, by the time that we came out of the tunnel at Stoke Bruerne Alan was quite concerned just how low the oil pressure was registering - particularly with the engine idling, although of course in such circumstances it is not under much load.

We tied up, and decided to think about the problem in the morning, when the engine had cooled. We went to the Navigation Pub, but there were no seats available in the only part of the pub that allows dogs in, and a number of disgruntled diners told us of long waits. So we went to The Boat pub, where the place was virtually deserted, but they were still serving food, which arrived promptly.

In the morning Alan started the engine, to find that the oil pressure was back up to normal levels. He disappeared to go to ring an engineer friend (there is no phone signal near to the tunnel) and came back to check various things that our friend Richard had asked about.

We spent a fairly relaxed morning, there were lots of people on the towpath to talk to, while Alan disappeared every now and again to ring Richard. We checked the oil to see if there was any evidence of diesel in it, but it seemed clear, so we decided that it was time to go back to our mooring.

After the tunnel we stopped in Blisworth for me to buy milk and bread, and to let the engine cool. Then after lunch we polished brass a bit. Finally we set off again for 'home'.

It was an enjoyable trip out, and it should be possible to take Flamingo to the Family Festival in two weeks time.

High House Wharf to Stoke Bruerne winding hole and return
Miles: 20.0, Locks: 0

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Back to Base.

(Thursday 21st May - Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

Slapton lock.
We awoke still some three feet from the bank, and fairly obviously on the bottom.  The unusual shape of "Sickle's" hull often means that where we are not able to get to the bank when we moor up, it slowly works away the silt on the bottom, and you awake to find slack lines, and less of a jump to get ashore.  This was certainly not the case at Ivinghoe - the bottom seemed remarkably solid, and quite a bit of the bottom of "Sickle" seemed to be wedged on it.

 Our friends don't chose to travel as far in a day as we often do, so we agreed that as they needed to stop in Leighton Buzzard we would work with them until there, but then carry on alone.

"Sickle" leads "Fiddlers Green" away from Grove Church lock.
Cath had already started walking Odin to the next lock, when it became apparent that "Sickle" really was well "stuck to the bottom" - if I could move it at all, and get one end any further from the bank, the result was just that the other end came closer.  We were on a pivot mid way along the boat, and neither poling nor engine power initially got us off.  Fortunately Steve was able to give us a pull with his boat, and initially I seemed to float free, many more feet from the bank.  However having separated the two boats, as soon as I moved forward, I grounded again, so we had to repeat the whole process a second time.

Waiting for Grove lock to fill
After that we made steady progress towards Leighton, but, as before, most locks were not in out favour, and had to be filled before we could enter them.

At Grove lock we said our farewells to out travelling companions, and set off ahead.  It is unusual for us not to make a shopping stop at Leighton, where there is a remarkably convenient store, but today we had no need.  As we passed Wyvern Shipping, (boats 4 abreast today!), there were clearly new hirers taking over, but none, it seemed yet set off - always a bonus!

Steve and I - probably about 10 yeras since we last met!
At Stoke Hammond "Three Locks" the local IWA branch were doing a "we work you through the locks" event.  I knew the thorny question of a "man with a bucket" would eventually arise, but I am very unhappy with much of what senior people in the IWA do, even if it has many good ordinary members. Far easiest would have been to throw in a few quid, but given some of the things said by their representatives in print, and at recent meetings, I really don't want to be funding them at all.
The anticipated "man with a bucket" didn't actually approach until they had insisted on working the locks, so there feels to be pressure to donate, (or at least that is how we see it).  However, although I engaged him politely throughout, the collector  initially seemed dumbstruck when I told him why there would be no fiver from me. So I talked to him further, and he asked my "what in particular don't you like?". I was then able to tell him in some detail. It would be nice if he fed this up his organisation - though I rather doubt he will.

Descending "Three Locks"
No doubt some will see me as a cheapskate, but I have strong principals about how all boaters should be treated, and I do believe that the IWA currently unfairly writes of many people who have boats. So after reflecting on it, I'm still comfortable I didn't cave in to pressure, and just pay up.

After that an easy passage saw us back to our home mooring, although the amount of clearing, cleaning and car loading we found it necessary to do still surprised us.  If we are going to keep switching boats, we really do need to start to get more organised about moving stuff between each of them, or between either and home!

Overall though, a very enjoyable trip to and from "Ricky" and also a very enjoyable festival itself.  It had been a difficult decision whether we just went and enjoyed some boating, or try and progress work on "Flamingo".  I'm rather glad we decided to "play" rather than to work!

Ivinghoe to Fenny Stratford
Miles: 13.2, Locks: 12
Total Miles: 73.2, Locks: 122

Friday, 22 May 2015

Over the Summit

(Thursday 21st May - Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

"Gas" locks, Berkhamsted
This has been a slightly unusual trip, as it has involved us breaking it in both directions to spend time at home, rather than on the boat.  To some extent this has been down to pure practicalities, and on this occasion I faced some unpleasant dentistry, (and unpleasant it proved to be!), and being in the middle of the day, it seemed sensible spend two nights at home "regrouping" before carrying on with returning "Sickle" to its mooring.

Entering Northchurch lock
Again, even by Thursday there was no great rush, although we did need to get a reasonable amount of the remaining trip under our belts, if we were not to run on late tomorrow.

In keeping with much of the rest of this trip we found all locks against us, often with top gates left open, even at the locks clearly marked as "leave empty".  Only on reaching Cow Roast did we catch up a boat, and share a lock with it.  Unfortunately the owners of this boat apparently had a damaged gear box, and their "antidote" to this seemed to be to turn on us, and have a right go at as, but apparently with no obvious justification.  I couldn't hear the obvious ranting over the Lister, but apparently Cath was shouted at that we should only go into a lock on tick-over.  The obvious implication was that they had wanted us to crawl in even more slowly than we had - a bit odd, as when I had entered the lock, I had actually taken "Sickle" out of gear, and just drifted in under no power!  It is (fortunately) highly unusual to find yourself locking thrrough with another crew set on being abnoxious, so we were mightily relieved when they immediately turned into Cowroast marina!

Coming down from the other side of Tring Summit, through Marsworth locks and beyond, we again found ourselves sharing, but this time with a more typical crew who were pleasant and efficient.  Our load was lightened by two volunteer lock keepers who were often setting ahead for us, and, indeed also for a boat coming down behind us. Volunteer lock keepers come in for mixed press, but these ones were good, being helpful, but without prescribing how things must be done.

"Arcas" tied up exactly where "Sickle" regularly once was.
The crew we were working with had initially said they were going on to Leighton Buzzard that day.  This had sounded highly optimistic, and so it proved, as they stopped after just the first of the Seabrook locks.  We didn't intend to press on late, and thought we might stop just above Ivinghoe locks, but were uncertain if "Sickle" could be got close to the bank there, (important because of getting Odin on and off the back deck - he is reluctant to walk planks).

Setting off in tandem down the Marsworth flight.
However about half way between Seabrook and Ivinghoe we spotted a boat moored up that a former work colleague co-owns with another person.  So far we have only ever seen this boat when it is not being used by my friend Steve, but on this occasion it was, so we attempted to pull in.  This proved somewhat of a challenge - Steve's modern boat was at the side, but we struggled to get front or back of "Sickle" within three feet of the bank.  We couldn't really see how to stay at this point overnight, until I decided to use some of "Sickle's" substantial deck boards as a planks.  Would Odin be prepared to cross one?  No, not one, but two side by side did the trick!  I have not seen Steve in 10 years, since our firm made us redundant when they "off-shored" to India the activities we were involved in, and had never met his wife Claire.  As former dog owners they were more than happy for Odin to go aboard, and indeed we ended up taking food that Cath prepared on "Sickle" aboard, and also enjoying a couple of bottles of wine with them.  There was quite a lot of catching up to do, after so long. You never quite know where your next mooring may be, or who you might find there!

A very pleasant day, apart from that one brief unpleasant interlude.

Berkhamsted to Ivinghoe
Miles: 9.2, Locks: 19
Total Miles: 59.9, Locks: 110

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Very Easy Day

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

A very relaxed day was planned for today, as one of needs to be in Berkhamsted today, and the other of us tomorrow.  So just a gentle run of 3 miles, although in keeping with this particular part of the Grand Union that still equates to 8 locks.

From memory the converted "Bantock" is named "Arden No 2"
We had only just got most of the way through our first lock, (the middle one at Winkwell), when we say someone approaching through Winkwell swing bridge, so we waited at Winkwell top lock for them to catch up.

The boat that arrived was an interesting one, and proved to be a "Bantock" boat built for carrying on the Birmingham Canal Navigations in the mid 1890s, and converted to a motorised leisure boat in the 1980s at theWarwickshire Fly Boat Company.

It's always a pleasure to share locks with an experienced steerer, particularly when it is just taken as read that wherever possible the steerers will "post" each boat into a lock at the same time, side by side, to avoid any of the hold ups caused when you attempt to stop a heavy boat in a broad lock, and will not remain tight against the side, thereby denying another boat a clean path in beside it.

"Sickle" leading, "Arden no 2" (I think!) behind.
In cases like this no words ever seem to be exchanged about how you will operate - both steerers instinctively somehow pick up that the other will be happy to do the same as them, and the result is usually a whole lot tidier and slicker than the alternatives.

Our sharers were only going 6 locks, so all too quickly we said goodbye, and carried on through one more on our own.

We decided that rather than go home by taxi with a dog, and a whole mound of "stuff" that we will instead wait for our son to finish work and pick us up, (he uses our car on work days, so even had one of us got ourselves to our home, no car would be available).

It has been a day of strange weather so far, mostly sunny and pleasant, but with occasional very heavy downpours, but only lasting minutes at a time.  Either way, it has so far been nothing like as bad as the BBC weather forecast, and for that I am grateful.

Having sat tied up in Berkhamsted for some considerable time now, I'm surprised how quiet the canal is - just one other boat seen moving since we arrived here.

Winkwell to Berkhamsted
Miles: 3.1, Locks: 8
Total Miles: 50.7, Locks: 91

Monday, 18 May 2015

Mostly pictures rather than words for a change!

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

The return trip from "Ricky" commences.  Unusually I have ended up with quite a few pictures that I like, and trying to pad them out with masses of matching text would not be appropriate.

In synopsis.....

1) We managed to get away from Ricky before the slow wide beam that had held us up on the way down.
2) We were joined for the first three locks by the rather magnificent Stewarts & Lloyds tug "Pacific" - a boat I could lust after if I didn't own "Sickle".
3) It rained a lot at first, but improved massively later.
4) We quickly found ourselves to be part of a longish procession of boats, catching up some single handers who were fast enough for 2 people working 2 boats on a windy day, but still slower than everybody else.
5) We were followed fairly closely by "Friends of Raymond", often seeing their lock-wheelers where we were queuing for locks. but never actually the boats, until we stopped to shop and do "services".
6) Cath and I shared steering and lock working fairly evenly.  My duff shoulder has survived maybe a dozen locks, every one of which needed "turning".
7) We met two people still employed by CRT who had worked with "Sickle" in the 1970s.

But that's more words than I promised - here are the pictures!

"Sickle" and "Pacific" share Batchworth lock.

Lot Mead Lock

Common Moor Lock

"Bodmin", "Banstead" & "Sickle" - "Banstead" was at Ricky as well.

Kings Langley

"Belfast" - Our first failed attempt to buy a working boat (in 1972!).

We are not at all impressed with the new high rise developments at "Nash".

Between Nash and Apsley - generally I don't think of this as a picturesque stretch

As above - I love the water in this one.

I think this bridge is quite unique on the Grand Union.

Last remnants of Apsley Mill - we both used to work here in the 1970s, and watch "Sickle" in this very lock!

Jules and Richard with Towcester and Bideford - Bideford was once butty to our Flamingo.

Nutfield and Raymond in the experienced hands of Tom and Alice Lapworth

"Slaughter's" Lock, Boxmoor

Rickmansworth to Winkwell
Miles: 11.0, Locks:22
Total Miles: 47.6, Locks: 83

Friday, 15 May 2015

Onwards to Rickmansworth

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

Trevor with "Corona" at Apsley
What a difference a day makes!  After yesterday's appalling weather, we awoke to what look set to be another excellent day.  Once again after last night's festivities at a local pub, we saw no urgency to get going.  Needless to say the legendary Trevor Maggs was quickly past on his way to Rickmansworth with his working boat "Corona".  Trevor is only mildly younger than his boat built in the mid 1930's, but still gives us "youngsters" more than a run for our money at an age where most people would long have given up trying to single hand a 72 foot long deep draughted narrow boat.

[Footnote:  Someone has suggested Trevor is older than his boat, and that he is approaching 82 this year - which is confusing me, as I felt sure Trevor had told me that despite someone suggesting it in an article previously, he was a bit younger than Corona - now I really am not sure!]

Hunton Bridge
Like yesterday, we did not have much to travel by way of mileage, but this part of the Grand Union only tends to have about an average of half a mile between locks, so even a short days boating will typically have quite a lot of locks.

Hunton Bridge Bottom Lock
Also, like yesterday, most of the locks we came to were empty, so set against us, and all needing to be filled before we could work through them.  Where it differed from yesterday, when we hadn't really seen other boats moving at all, today quite a few were, but mostly headed the same way as us, hence not helping in leaving any locks in our favour.  We eventually caught another boat, and worked several locks sharing with them, before they also dropped out. After that we caught a slow moving wide beam boat on its way to the same place as us, leaving us with a longish wait at many of them.

Cassiobury Locks
However slowish progress was not really an issue, as we had plenty of time, and we arrived in good time to find our mooring, and start to sort ourselves out.

Waiting for slower boats to clear Common Moor lock.
We were going to have a friend camping on "Sickle's" deck, some of "Sickle's" ballast conveniently acting as "tent pegs", so once Barry had arrived, a few trial attempts were made at erecting his compact tent, before the preffered method for further nights was arrived at.


Historic boats already forming up at Rickmansworth
Possibly one of the largest errors of the day was the amount of Indian food that Cath went and ordered at a local restaurant that does take-away.  Suffice it to say we were never going to run out, and Barry's dog, Riko, had ample portions of left-over waiting for him for breakfast!

Apsley to Rickmansworth
Miles: 8.4, Locks: 16
Total Miles: 36.6, Locks: 61

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Deep Joy! (Rain, rain and more rain)

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

So after one transitory night at home,it was eventually back to the boat today, although we were certainly slow to get going.   We have never tried ordering a "dog friendly" taxi locally before, but, of course, it was easily arranged.  In fact it was our mounds of "stuff" that might have caused the taxi driver to do a runner, rather than the presence of a well behaved dog!

Highly typical of the whole day - not many photos taken!
This was certainly never going to be a pleasant day of boating like the previous two.  By the time we were on board it was raining steadily, and continued to do so relentlessly throughout the entire day  I threw on an old coat on arrival, intended to be temporary measure, but was not wearing sensible footwear, and somehow I never changed either, my unsuitable clothing just adding to the unpleasantness of the day.

Cath needed to be somewhere in the Hemel Hempstead area by the eveing, so she could be collected and taken to a Morris event at a nearby pub, (although the prospects of that event actually taking place continued to look slim!).  This meant not a lot of miles to do. but there are still a considerable number of locks in that short stretch, and many are marked as "leave empty", so if previous crews have done what they should, many will always need to be filled before they can be used, doubling the effort over arriving at an already full lock.  In practice I think every lock was against us, and with nobody spare to go ahead, each meant even longer to stand in the rain.  There become a point when you are so wet and cold you just have to carry on that way, and I reached that point long before Hemel.

"Sickle" passes one of its less attractive replacements!
Cath was fretting that she could not contact anybody about here evening event - surely they would cancel it, but we had to carry on any way.  We did stop long enough in Boxmoor that I could shop for various things we needed, but before I allowed myself the luxury of retreating inside with the stove, (and possibly giving up!), we were on our way again.

We made Apsley, and I have seldom been more relieved to stop, as we sat surrounded by soaked through coats, jeans and shoes.  The Morris event it seems was still on, and indeed the weather had improved from heavy rain to more of a drizzle by the time they danced, (although the musicians did need to be protected by people holding umbrellas over them - melodeans don't like rain!

Berkhamsted to Apsley
Miles: 5.3, Locks: 14
Total Miles: 28.2, Locks: 45

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Going home, very temporarily.

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

Bottom of the Marsworth flight.
We had a cracking day's boating yesterday, but I had gone to bed with the knowledge that there had been perhaps rather more oil underneath "Sickle's" Lister than I had been expecting.  So, after a fairly casual breakfast sat on the tug deck opposite "Chalice's" old mooring, the first real task of the day was to start assessing whether we had a serious problem or not.

Passing the immaculate "Holland".
I had thought I had checked oil levels OK before we left yesterday, but in all honesty the side to side trim of the boat can give false readings, and I was not that confident today that it had actually been up to the mark yesterday.  So I decided to top up the oil today, and try and get the level right, with "Sickle" on an even trim.  It took quite a lot, but, again, in all honesty, I have little idea when it was last topped up.

We agreed to carry on, but to stop again quite soon, let it settle, and to make sure the level was not quickly being compromised, so we worked on up until the bottom of the Marsworth flight, (having managed to get through a very low pound between the "Perter's two locks).  Three boats had been following us at "Peter's two" so we thought we would wait at Marsworth until at least one caught us up.  It never came, nor did we spot any of the three heading down the Aylesbury arm, so after half an hour we checked the oil level, (which was OK), and set off up the locks.

Leaving Northchurch Lock
Circumstances have dictated we have not come South on the Grand Union in some years, so had not actually done this delightful flight for some time.  It is disappointing to see things getting worse though, with water levels low, despite two volunteer lock keepers, and the top pound particularly bad to the point we rubbed the lock cills.  It is also disappointing to see more "leave empty" locks, something that will bug us for the next few days, as the number seems to grow, with very few ever being fixed.

Tring summit was charming, with the sun shining through the trees, but the level again a little low, despite the bore hole pump running at Cow Roast.   Is there now a policy to keep the summit lower, I wonder - we hear it is now very problematic for deep draughted boats to be pulled out on the slip way at Cow Roast Marina, due to consistently lower water levels.

We took a longish stop for a meal and general boat servicing at Cow Roast.  This was mainly to let the engine oil settle, and re-check levels.  Fortunately all looked good, so we were able to continue.

I had been steering up until now, but Cath took over for each lock as we started to descend from the summit.  I was relieved to find my damaged shoulder didn't stop me winding paddles, though tugging on some of the gates seemed harder than usual.  Boats had gone ahead of us whilst we were moored at Cow Roast, so now even most of the locks that are not "leave empty" needed filling before we could enter them.

Berkhamsted was "fairly full" on arrival, but suitable spaces were available.  We got our son Michael to pick us up, and take us home for the night, from where tis is now being written.  With no car we haven't exactly worked out how we, the dog, and all our worldly goods are getting back there to continue our journey today, though!

Cooks Wharf to Berkhamsted
Miles: 7.9, Locks: 16
Total Miles: 22.9, Locks: 31

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Rickmansworth Bound

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

Dilemma, dilemma!  Decisions, decisions!

Stoke Hammond
We now realise we have a gargantuan task to turn "Flamingo" into the boat we would love her to be, and progress is depressingly slow so far.  In all honesty so far it has been very much about assessing what we have, and trying to find short term tasks that move us forward, but which will not get thrown away when e do start to attempt to do far more major things.

So when Cath and I manage to grab a few consecutive days, and actually produce some positive results, clearly we would dearly like to keep up the momentum, and do more of the same.

Leighton Lock
But, of course we still own another very serviceable boat that has lain somewhat neglected on its moorings whilst we have acquired "Flamingo" and prepared "Chalice" for sale, and even managed to get her sold.

My skirmishes with multiple hospitals have not helped, and it seems that we are constantly torn between progressing with the "new" boat, or actually going out and doing the fun things we love.

We missed the Rickmansworth Festival last year, (and several other events as well), because then it was Odin who was having his own "hospital moment".  So we very much wanted to do it this year, but it would stop us progressing "Flamingo".  Curiously the idea of a week or so of boating has won over from cleaning engine room bilges, repairing fractured oil pipes, or trying to stop a central heating system from emptying out its water on a regular basis.

Sharing Grove Lock
So today had us heading for "Sickle", hoping the engine would start, and that we had not "borrowed" so much from it to use on "Flamingo" that we would be struggling!  We shouldn't have worried about the Lister of course - that always starts, and we eventually seemed to have enough "stuff" to survive.

However we didn't want to make life too easy for ourselves, so Cath had also promised we would manage to get near Ivinghoe, where she does Morris on a Tuesday evening!  We left Sickle's mooring late enough to make this a bit of a challenge(!)

Ivinghoe Top Lock
It was a gorgeous day for boating, and initially we were storming through  Then we encountered a Wyvern Shipping hire boat, and started sharing locks with them, but at each lock they got into extreme difficulties trying to leave it, to the extent that we were so far down the canal each time that when we turned a bend, our last view of them was still diagonally across the last lock mouth.  Eventually at Slapton they were nowhere to be seen, so we carried on through - they arrived just about as we left.

Normally the journey up through what boatmen used to call "the Fields" at Ivinghoe seem very sedate, with lots of hold ups.  Today, however, we got lucky, with many of the locks not only empty, but with bottom gates open so we could motor right in.  If I'm honest, only this luck got us to where we wanted to be in time, but in the end we did easily.

Seabrooke Top Lock - Last of the day.
The down side of the day only came as we moored up - there seemed to be considerably more oil under the engine than I might have expected.  "Sickle's" engine has never been oil tight, and some leakage goes with the territory, but this looked rather worse - perhaps Ricky wasn't going to happen after all?  But this was firmly "to investigate tomorrow".

Not just Cath and I, but also Odin, were all collected by car, (thanks Peter!), and taken to Cath's Morris session - I'm becoming a bit of a Morris "camp follower" these days, it seems!  The pub in Ivinghoe is dog friendly, so a much appreciated drink was enjoyed to round off the day.

Oh - did I mention it was my birthday?  No?  Well it was, and very good to be boating again!  I had an excellent birthday!

Fenny Stratford to Cooks Wharf
Miles: 15.0, Locks: 15
Total Miles: 15.0, Locks: 15