Monday, 26 June 2017

Another brief run back to base.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)
(Retrospective post for Monday 26th June)

After another very enjoyable Braunston gathering, this was simply a quick run over familiar territory to get "Flamingo" back to its home mooring.

I could tell the story of the water can and the overhanging trees down the Buckby flight, but lets gloss over that brief incident!

Braunston Locks

Braunston Locks
Buckby locks

Buckby locks

Monday 26th June

Braunston to High House Wharf, Weedon
Miles: 10.5, Locks: 13

Friday, 23 June 2017

So 45 Years later on, where exactly is the precisely same bit of the Grand Union?

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

Some 45(-ish) years ago, I took a couple of photos of the British Waterways maintenance tug "Sickle", little expecting that one day I would own it.  (Had I known that, I would certainly hve taken more, despite the cost of film and processing it).

The pictures were taken just South of the railway bridge that carries the West Coast main line across the Grand Union below Winkwell bottom lock.

"Sickle" ventures down that way less often now, but when she does it is always in my mind to take a "now" photo to marry up with then "then" photos I have had since about 1972.  However I never seem to have those photos easily to hand and my memory plays tricks with the exact location and the camera angles used, so I'm left guessing when I try to take an equivalent.

It's made worse that s much additional vegetation has grown up that fences in the original are no longer obvious today.

Anyway, all these photos were taken very close to the same place, but two of them about 45 yeras before the other two.

This I think is actually quite close to being the same spot......

.......though the vegetation and trees are quite different.

I needed to do better with this one......

.... as the railway line should be just in frame on the left

Sickle has had two new super-stuctures since the old photos, but now looks broadly similar again, although the back cabin was wooden then but is now a replica of its origial one by Yawoods in riveted steel.

Steering in the current pictures is Cath.  Back in 1972 the steerer was former working boatman Alf Best, with Tom Sibley, (another ex working boatman) sat on the roof.

Moving Sickle - Not Quite Out Of The Woods Yet!

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)
(Retrospective post for Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd June)

Hunton Bridge
Finally we got to move "Sickle".  The gearbox had been removed at Cassio Bridge, and taken away to  repaired by the person who sold us the engine.  The actually problem had proved to be exactly what the experts though it must be - a very large nut that holds all the mechanism onto the main shaft had come loose by several turns, even though it is meant to be locked in place.  No damage done, but that is probably only because I refused to carry on with it, once the problem first arose.

Nash Mills
The gearbox had been refitted several days previously, but this was the earliest we could collect the boat, and still at least take "Flamingo" to the events at Foxton and Braunston - we had originally planned to take "Sickle" to both as well.

They have painted it, but it is still "unusual"!
The first day of this two day trip passed largely, (but not entirely!), without incident.  However on day two, we were bugged by the same problems of severely depleted water levels South of Berkhamsted.  Once again the pound between Bottomside and Topside locks was down so far as to be almost unnavigable in a deep draughted boat.  Once again the level was a full twenty inches low.  A foot can be survivable, but when nearly 2 feet if water is missing, problems are inevitable.  There is one bridge in that pound.  We stuck firm approaching it, and had to let some water down, knowing, as usual, that all the water you take from the next pound may cause further problems there.  Eventually we bounced slowly through the bridge, only to get stuck again on the other side.  Once freed from there, I thought we could get to the lock, but we grounded firmly maybe 100 yards from it, despite being mid channel.  quite a large additional flush finally saw us into the lock.

Approaching Winkwell Bottom Lock.
Thinking our troubles were over, and we had only three more locks to get into central Berkhamsted, we then hit issues with the bevel gear mechanism that works the gears.  This is not, I hasten to add, the gearbox itself, which had just been repaired - it is a "highly bespoke" separate gearing mechanism unique to "Sickle", and perhaps less robustly engineered as would be totally ideal.  The mechanism was now part jamming and sometimes jumping - that much was obvious, but I couldn't at the time work out why.  We managed to creep on to Berkhamsted, but were now long overdue on plans to drive up to Braunston to rejoin "Flamingo" for the historic boat gathering there.  Not for the first time "Sickle" would have to wait for me to investigate what had happened now!

Winkwell Bottom Lock.
Winkwell Swing Bridge

7 courses of brickwork that should be covered by water!
Stuck mid-channel and going nowhere - pound about 20 inches down.

Stuck mid-channel and going nowhere (2)
The Rising Sun, Berkhamsted - "Sickle" is misbehaving again, though.

"Sickle's" twin "Tycho" is once again advertised for sale.
Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd June
Cassio Bridge (Watford) to Berkhamsted
Here to There
Miles: 11.7, Locks: 27
Total Trip Miles: 2.0, Locks: 2

Tuesday, 20 June 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

Friday, 16 June 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

Saturday, 10 June 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