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