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

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Moving again - Another short hop

(With both boats - posted by Alan

A slightly obstructed approach into our first lock of the onward journey.
Having the boats in Berkhamsted at least gave us the opportunity to spend time on them in easy reach of our home.  Thus we could both support Michael as required, but also do a few tasks on the boats, as well as simply keeping an eye on them.  Some nights we managed to be aboard, others we were at home.

One disadvantage of the part of Berkhamsted we initially moored in is the masses of bird poo that descend on the boat from the trees that overhang the moorings.  This seems to be from birds that turn out a particularly unpleasant variety, and which quickly becomes remarkably difficult to remove from paintwork.  No sooner do you get most of one lot off than another arrives.  Eventually after a few days an adequate space opened up a short way further forwards, and we were able to shuffle the boats far enough to make the problem far less bad.

Second lock - the "Upper Gas" lock.
I'll not go into too much detail about attempts to clear part of the main cabin roof where paint has been peeling off, and to get it into primer.  Suffice it to say that on a day where rain was only forecast as a vague possibility, shortly after I had finished painting the heavens opened on to paint that was still completely wet.  Minutes later torrents were running ovr it, and the wet paint was under at least a centime of running water.

After about five days in Berkhamsted we judged that Michael could survive without us for a few days, and because of other planned commitments we really did need to get the boats back to their home moorings.  So we loaded up again with all that we needed to move two boats together, (and that included David!), and set off on the first available evening for another short hop up to Cow Roast.

Berkhamsted to Cowroast
Miles per boat: 2.9, Miles both boats: 5.9, Locks:7
Total Trip Miles: 162.0, Locks: 106

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Another small hop

(With both boats - posted by Alan)

Sickle passes her twin Tycho, which is currently based in Berkhamsted.
These will be only brief postings with a few photos, as we are now some time after when the boat moves were actually able to take place.

Following working around our son Michael's ankle operation the boats were left at Winkwell for a bit under a couple of days, but as soon as we reasoned we could get away from home for a few hours, it clearly made more sense to move them up to Berkhamsted.

This is one of those stretches of canal where the locks come thick and fast, so although we only travelled less than 3 miles, the brief trip still involved 8 locks.

Fortunately the water situation South of Berkhamsted is massively better than when we attempted the same journey a year previously.  Back then several of the pounds were down by twenty inches or more, making moving deep draughted boats a major struggle.  This year levels were normal, and we were pleased not to bounce over anything!

Winkwell to Berkhamsted
Miles per boat: 2.7, Miles both boats: 5.4, Locks: 8
Total Trip Miles: 156.1, Locks: 99

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

I wish that I knew then what I know now.

(With both boats - posted by Alan)

Kings Langley
Today was a day that was never going to go to any agreed plan, however hard we tried.  As I explained yesterday our son Michael was booked into hospital today for another ankle operation, and reliant on us both as transport, and to meet the requirement that he has someone with him at all times for 24 hours after the "general".

Last surviving part of Dickinson's Apsley Mills
To this end we stopped early yesterday, and Cath took a train home, with me, David and the dogs staying on the boats.  Today Cath had to have Michael in hospital by 07:30, after which she drove to Boxmoor, (Hemel Hempstead), intending to cycle down and join us.  We reasoned we could get her back to Boxmoor before Michael would be released.

Massive cill leak at Boxmoor lock - no paddles are drawn in this picture!
However instead of Cath arriving I got a phone call to say there were problems with the bike, and I would have to cycle out to her on our boat bike with what was necessary to solve them.  However as I hastily tried to compose myself, and set off, she rang me to say she had instead gone in to B&Q to buy what was needed to solve the problems - insulating tape and bungee straps, but I'll leave you to guess what two problems she needed to solve!  So eventually she arrived with us not a lot later than originally anticipated, and we grabbed a quick breakfast before setting off.

We rather expected to make quite slow progress, and indeed so it proved - quite a lot of boats are now travelling the same direction as us, quite a few of which we recognise from the festival.  With two boats, and being somewhat over-tired, we are not that fast anyway, but can generally roughly match the pace of those ahead and behind.  We had arranged for Cath to leave the car at Boxmoor, thinking Michael might need picking up by about the time we got up to that point.  However a call to the ward suggested that even though he was out of surgery and awake, he would be "several more hours", which left us in a quandary about what to attempt next.

Bridge operators view at Winkwell swing bridge.
In fact we decided that Cath would move the car further up the canal, and that David and I would try and proceed with two boats on our own, expecting Cath to meet us by walking back South, to bring us back up to three crew.  It sounded a simple plan, but travelling breasted I could have done without the wide-beam coming the other way that decided to make his way to the tow-path as I was about to pass him.  Fortunately the resulting grounding of Flamingo wasn't serious, and I was able to get the pair moving again - just as well, as the only other "people" on the boats at this point were two dogs. 
Once through the Winkwell rail bridge, we encountered another loose wide-beam floating tied only by one end.  Once I had worked out how to get a sledge hammer to David he re-moored yet another boat.

Once tied up at Winkwell, we expected Michael would be ready for collection - not so, however, despite being a morning rather than afternoon operation.  We could in fact have got the boats to Berkhamsted, which would have suited us much better, but we lacked any information that allowed us to have done this, so had to err on the side of caution.

It was getting on for 7:00 pm before Cath set off to collect Michael, who was finally being released, complete with crutches. She has now ferried him home, where he is not allowed to be on his own.

Thinking back to this morning, (and as I have titled this post), I wish that I knew then what I know now!

Home Park (Kings Langley) to Winkwell
Miles per boat: 4.7, Miles both boats: 9.3, Locks: 10
Total Trip Miles: 150.7, Locks: 91

Monday, 21 May 2018

Starting the return trip - with complications!

(With both boats - posted by Alan)

Phil on Hyperion is already away from Ricky and serving customers.
We have had a great weekend at Rickmansworth.  We couldn't leave yesterday evening, as David was still involved in other things in London, and got back to the boat far too late (and tired) for anything to happen last night.

Cassio Bridge Lock
A complication has arisen about our return trip, not originally envisaged when we booked in to "Ricky".  It relates to the continuing issues that our son Michael has with his ankles.  The last operation was one on the ankle he didn't smash up spectacularly last August, but once that had occurred they would not operate until he was well through the very long recovery from the broken ankle.  However the broken ankle, has also continued to cause issues, and he has been awaiting further surgery on that.  With our usual luck on timings, that operation was recently advised to him as taking place tomorrow, Tuesday.  Once again he will need someone at home to take him to the operation, or more particularly to bring him home, and to support him until he can manage on his own.

Iron Bridge - possibly the most photographed lock on the Southern GU.
We debated calling off yet another planned trip, but decided that with some ingenuity we could probably still go to "Ricky", but would have to stagger and delay much of our journey back to give Michael the support he needs.

Very low pound between Cassiobury locks.
So today we decided progress away from Rickmansworth would be slow, as many boats moved North, and that we were unlikely to get beyond Kings Langley before someone would need to leave the boats and catch a train home.  This was a good guess - progress has been slow, and despite no hiccups by us, Kings Langley is still as far as we have managed to reach.

What has now been called "North Grove" lock foe some years - a modern name
As I write this, Cath has already headed for home, where hopefully she now is.  Having taken Michael to his operation first thing tomorrow, she hopes to be able to join us for two or three hours moving the boats a bit further, before heading off again to take him home.  As we have no idea how much support he will need, and for how long, after that the plan can only be flexible.  The only certainty is that it will take a lot longer to get from Rickmansworth to our home mooring than it did to get there.

Batchworth (Rickmansworth) to Home Park (Kings Langley)
Miles per boat: 6.5, Miles both boats: 12.9, Locks: 12
Total Trip Miles: 141.4, Locks: 81

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Boats at the Rickmansworth Festival.

(With both boats - posted by Alan)

Whilst we regularly travel to these events, and I record the travel, I am often lax about taking amy photos at the event itself, or recording it in any way.

I still didn't take that many photos, but here are enough to prove we were actually there.

The final leg

(With both boats - posted by Alan)
(Post is for Friday 18th May)

Home Park lock.
With more than enough time to arrive on time now, even if we met a lot of congestion, there was no need to rush today.  Probably just as well, because eventually we did catch up several boats that dictated that none of us could go any faster than the slowest of them.  These included one of the wide beam charity boats from Nash Mills that always have a presence at the festival, and never go very fast, followed by Phil with the local fuel boats Hyperion & Hyades.

David in charge of Sickle again
Nothing else to report, really, other than that our moorings were on the inside on the tow-path at the Festival site, but boats that were meant to surround us were already tied up three deep.  It didn't appear to me to be rocket science to me to get our boats on the inside, with other boats on the outside of us.  However we seemed to end up with more plans than people actually present, and nobody seemed at any point to know which one we were following, or to impart that information to me, steerer on our breasted boats.

Another one nearly done
Eventually our friend Mike, who was officiating, arrived, and came up with yet another plan, (which was also not communicated to me!).  We got there eventually, but I jokingly said we had used up nearly as much fuel since arrival at Rickmansworth as we had up to then used on the sixty plus miles to get here.  OK, an exaggeration, but you should get my point!

Probably one of the most photographed boats on this stretch!
Thereafter we met up with friends, and even managed to play some music on the tug deck of "Sickle", which was once again serving as "Flamingo's" patio area.

Waiting at Widewater as the coal boats enter the lock.

Lovely to see boats here still worked as a pair.

I seldom see it from this angle, and am surprised how long it is when I do.

Arriving at the Festival site, with most "historics" already here.

Kings Langley to Batchworth (Rickmansworth)
Miles per boat: 7.0, Miles both boats: 14.0, Locks: 13
Total Trip Miles: 128.5, Locks: 69

Friday, 18 May 2018

Only loose boats to hold us up today.

(With both boats - posted by Alan)
(Post is for Thursday 17th May)

Tycho - Sickle's twin - I failed to get a shot with both in, unfortunately.
Another fine day that made both the canal and its surroundings look stunning at times, but it was never actually that hot - I started the day in a pullover, expecting to shed it quite early on, and in practice I never did.

About to leave Berkhamsted
We didn't start particularly early - David had taken a trip to do things at our house last evening, and not actually returned to the boat until midnight.  As he occupies one of the back cabins we can never really move the boats until he gets up!

 Approaching the rising sun
There is nothing that notable to report really, other than the continued frustration of people who can't tie their boats up properly.  We witness much use of inadequate stakes in soft ground, often with a foot of slack in the ropes to guarantee the boat moves freely back and forward as a boat passes, to give the best possible chances of the stakes being pulled out.  Today we had no sooner stopped to re-tie a large wide-beam boat that was blocking our path than we moved forward again to find a narrow boat doing the same.  The stakes were short, bent and totally inadequate for the ground they were in, and David was trying to hammer them a bit straighter before making the best of a bad job.

First of boats blocking our path.

There really do seem to be lots of loose boats these days, and I'm far from convinced most have had their stakes tugged out by speeders.  In many, (most?),  cases I would say the moorer is responsible because of their hopeless attempt at tying up.  I have to admit that because it is really quite difficult on much of the canal to stop with two heavily draughted ex working boats that we do not necessarily stop for boats obviously loose at one end, but not actually blocking our path.  Each one takes considerable time, and often some risk, to retrieve and sometimes you can't actually find a stake to use to retie to, so can anyway do nothing.

And the next - "Glad All Over" - A Dave Clark built boat - get it?
I suppose what has surprised us a lot is us so far simply not having seen any other boats actually on the move travelling to the same major festival as we are.  Hundreds of boats attend "Ricky" - I have no idea how many travel from the North, and how many from the South, although the evidence is that there are far more of the latter.

This appeared to be a pedal powered litter pick, but he didn't explain!
In the evening we moored at Kings Langley where a couple of friends from New Moon Morris also had their boat, so beers and chat were enjoyed until really rather late.  I really must learn to drink less beer - if I did, I might not have to get up so often in the night!

I hate this inappropriate development at the old Nash Mills site.

Retired Waterways tug Sickle passes tug Aynho, still at work with CRT

Berkhamsted to Kings Langley
Miles per boat: 6.8, Miles both boats: 13.6, Locks: 17
Total Trip Miles: 114.5, Locks: 56

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

A better day.

(With both boats - posted by Alan)

One of only 3 surviving Grand Union swing bridges.
I apologise that my last two days of postings have very much concentrated on our failures to get along at the rates we hoped might be possible - perhaps too gloomy for what I acknowledge should be, (and generally is), fun.

Marsworth locks
Firstly I am aware that many who go canal boating specifically do not set themselves any particular deadlines about how far they want to get in a set time.  They would say it should never be about rushing, and that anybody who sets targets is doing it all wrong, and denying themselves the relaxation that canal boating can give "why be in a rush" or "it's not a race".  I have absolutely no problem with that view, and for many it us undoubtedly the right one - in fact I have some considerable sympathy for it.

Marsworth again
Consider however the situation where various fixed appointments are competing for your time, and you actually do not wish to miss out on one thing you want to do, in order to do another.  A big thing in our life, where the situation permits, is to try to get our historic boats to any appropriate festival we can manage.  This at the very least sets a time by which we need to complete a journey - if we are not at an event by the time it starts, we will miss some or all of it!  However we also have a considerable commitment to New Moon Morris, a Morris dancing side based in Ivinghoe, Buckinghamshire, but which also attends fixed events, with similar constraints - if you are not there in time, you miss it, but also potentially let down the people who were in time.

Ducks at Marsworth
So our personal calendar has to consider what canal events we will do, also what Morris and Folk events, then try to ensure a plan that those we commit to, we actually get to.  Last weekend New Moon Morris had agreed to do an event, and Cath and David at least, (myself less so, as I'm no dancer!), were needed for the numbers, due to quite a few others not being available.  This coming weekend we are booked into Rickmansworth Canal Festival.  A canal planner showed that we should have enough time, once we had travelled to the boats, to make the boat trip from Northamptonshire to "Ricky", so we hoped not to have to work long days.  Given our rate of progress, we can still be where we need to be by a certain time, but the length of the days has caught us out, or at least  it did yesterday and the day before that.

Some interesting curves to steer around at Marsworth.
I was worried about today - it was a lot more locks, and I thought the same might happen, as lock working is decidedly slower with two boats instead of one - twice as many gates to open and shut, for a start, as a single narrow boat can pass through broad locks with only one of each pair used.  However today we have come very much nearer the time predicted by the planner, so wherever we are losing time, it doesn't seem to be the locks.

Marsworth yet again - a very smooth ascent.
I would judge we have had "a good day" today, and if we can replicate it over the remaining two days I will be well pleased.  I think we have thirty more locks to do, in two days - we did nineteen today, so put that way it doesn't sound too bad!

Waiting for Dudswell bottom lock.

Amd in Dudswell bottom lock.


Ivinghoe to Berkhamsted
Miles per boat: 9.0, Miles both boats: 18.0, Locks: 19
Total Trip Miles: 100.9, Locks: 39