Monday, 29 December 2008


I noted as we went up the Napton flight that three bollards had been installed on the offside of each lock. But these weren't the square, wooden bollards which have caused so much controversy; they were small metal ones, painted black and white, and looking much more like the sort of thing you'd expect to see. The Claydon flight had them too. We still didn't use them, of course, and I can't think of many occasions when you'd need a bollard when using a narrow lock. But at least they look better.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas Cruise - Day 9

It was very cold and frosty this morning, and we'd had to let the fire go out over night in order to clean out the stove, so the boat was pretty chilly. We were up early, showered and breakfasted, so the packing could begin. There was very little space outside the marina, so we left the boat where it was and brought the car along the lane instead. We were on our way shortly after 8.30, at the end of another enjoyable cruise.

But the excitement wasn't over yet. We'd arranged to go and say hello to Lesley and Joe of Caxton, so drove across to Foxton. The roadsigns were littered with places we'd be to only by water. Our route took us past North Kilworth Wharf, through Husbands Bosworth (we've been through the tunnel a few times, but never seen the town before), and into Theddingworth (which has given its name to one of Debdale's sister boats).
Caxton is moored on the Market Harborough Arm, and you can just see the boat (and Matilda Rose) in the distance in this photo taken from the top of the inclined plane.

We spent a very pleasant hour or so with Lesley and Joe. Inevitably, the topics of conversation included toilets. It was lovely to see them, and we hope we didn't disrupt their preparations for family visitors later in the morning.

It was still very cold when we left Caxton, and went for a quick walk up the locks. We'd already seen Zindagi go by, and they were waiting at the bottom of the locks. There was one boat going up the top half of the flight, and one coming down the bottom half, so they probably didn't have to wait long.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas Cruise - Day 8

Boxing Day dawned as the brightest, and coldest, day of the trip. The fire also proved to be more difficult to revive! Porridge for breakfast, then we slipped away from our mooring just after 8.30. it was a beautiful morning, with clear blue skies and lovely sunshine. We arrived at the top of the locks at Marston Doles at just after 10, and found ourselves following a hire boat down. The pound below the top lock was very short of water, and the boat was only just afloat. There were quite a few walkers on the tow path, and it reminded me of Boxing Day last year, when we did exactly the same trip. I even seem to have taken exactly the same photo!

We passed a couple of boats coming up, including one in the bottom lock. At the end of the flight, we stopped at the water point to fill the tank and visit the little shop. They had no fresh bread, but did have some part-baked rolls. Once the tank was full, we moved round the corner and moored up for lunch. We put the rolls in the oven, and filled them with turkey, cranberry, and onions. While we were there, we spotted Ten Bob Note coming towards us and Ernie pulled alongside for a chat.

After lunch, we set off again, turning left at Wigram's Turn onto the Grand Union. A boat was just leaving the top lock, so we had to turn it. Once it was ready, a boat arrived to share; then it turned out that the single boat ahead was waiting in the second lock for us, so we shared the next two locks with them. We recognised the boat, Prairie Crocus, as we'd met the Canadian owners at Braunston a couple of years ago, and noticed a few weeks ago that the boat was up for sale. Today, it was in the hands of its new owners, taking the boat to its new mooring at Knowle.

We ended the day moored up just before Bridge 21 and Stockton Top Marina, ready for our departure tomorrow. No doubt there'll be more leftover turkey to eat tonight.

11 miles, 12 locks. (77 miles, 40 locks)

Christmas lunch

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas Cruise - Day 7 (Christmas Day)

We were in a great mooring last night, very peaceful. The morning was brighter and colder than so far this trip. As it was Christmas Day, we treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast, and got under way at ten past nine. We were straight into the Claydon Locks, which is a favourite flight of ours. Somehow, it was looking particularly good in its bare winter state. There were quite a few dog walkers about, all looking cheerful and wishing us a Merry Christmas. The top two locks were in our favour, but the next three were empty. We wondered whether someone had been mooried in the long pound above the middle lock, and had set off before us,

We left the bottom lock at 10 o'clock, and went to the winding place just before the next bridge. It's not marked in the Pearson's guide, but is shown in the Nicholson (and we knew about it because we moored at the bottom of the Claydon locks on our trip last Christmas). Adrian made a great job of turning the boat. From the towpath, Debdale looked really long!

At 10.15, we were going back into the bottom lock, and by 11am, we were passing our mooring place. So we'd taken almost two hours to get absolutely nowhere. Which is ideal, really.

We carried on through Fenny Compton, heading for our traditional (see previous post) Christmas Day mooring spot, between bridges 130 and 129. There were no boats here yesterday, but there were already three moored up when we arrived at 1.30, and several (including hire boats from Kate and Rose) have been past since.

The famous Braunston turkey is in the oven, the roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips have just gone in, the brussells are ready and the pink bubbly is in the fridge. Even the Christmas pudding is already steaming. We are trying hard not to forget to cook the little sausages wrapped in bacon that will have to go under the grill as there's no room in the oven, and we also need to remember to get the home made cranberry sauce out. If it all works out OK, we may have to add a photo later!

We hope everyone is having as great a Christmas as we are! Merry Christmas!

8 miles, 10 locks (66 miles, 28 locks)

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas Cruise - Day 6

Christmas Eve dawned dry, and not as grey as forecast. We were up reasonably early, had scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast, and set off at 8.30. There were very few boats on the move - I think we've only seen four or five all day. Of course, the first one was met at a bridge hole, with boats moored either side.

We stopped at the water point at the bottom of the Napton flight, and it was just as well we did, because the water point at the top was blocked by a load of moored boats. We set off up the locks at 10.45, and the whole lot took an hour and three-quarters. There were some BW boats at the bottom, and above the bottom lock. They've done some much needed work on the lock landings above the second lock, which until now had been falling forward into the water.

While we were in the fifth lock, a BW man arrived and started running some water down through the lock above, and the pound was very low. We met a couple of boats near the top, an OwnerShips and a Clifton Cruisers hire boat. Harnser was moored in its usual place near the Old Engine Arm.

Once on the summit we had soup and bread on the move, and the sun made a valiant effort to break through the cloud. A couple of times it almost succeeded. We passed our traditional (ie: last year, and tomorrow) Christmas Day mooring spot, and noted that there was no-one already there. We carried on, passing through Fenny Compton, and eventually moored (in the gathering gloom at just before 4.30) immediately before Bridge 144, at the top of the Claydon Locks. It's another very quiet, remote, and dark spot, but with a surprisingly strong 3G signal.

18 miles, 9 locks. (58 miles, 18 locks)

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas Cruise - Day 5

I arrived at the boat at around 8pm last night. I got the 1903 train from Euston, and pulled into Rugby station 47 minutes later. I wish my commute to work was that quick. I got a taxi to Tesco, and Adrian met me with a torch so we could see our way along the muddy towpath. It turned out we had visitors on board too: a couple of Adrian's colleagues, Nicola and Alex, who'd been working at the Warwick office, had come over to Rugby to have a look at the boat. It was lovely to see them.

This morning, the boat was nice and warm -- the fire had stayed in, and was easy to get roaring again. After porridge, we prepared for the off, and had a chat to Dot from Gypsy Rover moored over on the park side. We slipped away just before nine, in grey drizzly conditions. We were soon at Hilmorton Locks, where we passed Hadar on the water point, and shouted greetings to Jo and Keith. The right hand lock was empty, so we went straight in. I then noticed that Hadar was heading out way, so lifted a paddle on the other lock. Eventually, we got to the stage where we were going up side by side.

Going up the locks gave us a great opportunity to chat to Jo and Keith, and it was nice to meet them having followed their blog for so long. Once at the top of the locks, we let Hadar pass us, as they were clearly going quicker than us.

We got to Braunston at around 12.30, and moored just before the turn. We walked up into the village, and (as the Gongoozler's Rest is closed for Christmas) went to the Old Plough for lunch -- very good baguettes with bacon (for me) and sausage and onion (for Adrian). Then it was along to the butcher to pick up our stuffed turkey breast. This must be one of the most famous turkey breasts around this Christmas, as everyone keeps asking us about it! It fitted in the fridge OK, and I think it will go in the oven, with space for veg.

We set off again just after 2pm, and carried on for almost an hour to a mooring spot we've used several times at Bridge 101. We've never stayed here facing in this direction, though! We know this mooring will be dark and quiet (neither of which could be said for the one in Rugby). A few boats have been past since we stopped, including Gosty Hill, the coal and diesel boat.

12 miles, 3 locks. (40 miles, 9 locks)

Monday, 22 December 2008

Christmas Cruise - Day 4

Set off around 9am today. Lovely morning, very still. Stopped at Lime Farm Marina to buy 3 bags of coal. Nice little marina, with very friendly staff.

Had some excitement when approaching bridge 52. Fellow on the footpath warned me that there were two lads on the biridge with an air rifle firing at a floating can in the canal. They were facing the direction I was heading, so probably had no idea I was about to come under the bridge. Thought about sounding my horn to warn of my presence, but then thought that if they were planning to use me as target practice they'd have time to aim. As it happened, I passed under the bridge without incident. Quite disturbing really, as if they'd wanted to use me as target practice, there was very little I could do about it. Having stones thrown at you is bad enough, but being shot at...

As I was mooring at Brownsover, Rugby, the boat following said that they had been shot at, and had called the police.

Mooring at Rugby has been quite an experience today. I am now at my third mooring spot, and am finally happy! I had initially stopped before the water point thinking that the sides looked straight and not too bad condition. Sides may be straight, but the boat still ends up being about two feet from the bank. Not ideal...

So I decided to carry on under bridge 58 to see what spaces were there. When I was passed this way a few days ago, the tow path side had no boats at all. I was surprised to see that today the tow path side had 5 boats moored, with the only spaces being on the sharp bend to the right... I had little option but to moor up on the bend as I had to pop into Tesco. Around half the boat was on a straight edge - I'd tried to balance out the gap at the bow and stern to the edge, otherwise one end would be sticking way out into the cut. It was good enough to leave the boat for an hour or so, but again far from ideal.

As I got back from my exciting trip to Tesco, the boat moored behind me set off. I took the opportunity to move our boat back to what looked like a much straighter edge. Pleased I did, as about 90% of the boat is now moored along a straight edge.

Apart from picking up the turkey at Braunston tomorrow, all our Christmas food shopping is now done (if I've forgotten something we will just have to do without). Adam is due to arrive from London at around 8pm tonight.

5 miles, 0 locks (28 miles, 6 locks)

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Christmas Cruise - Day 3

Pulled the pins around 8am. My challenge for the day was the Hillmorton 3. Worked through the top lock without too much trouble. There was another boat also heading down, and given they had a crew, were a lot quicker than I was. They kindly filled and then opened the top gates of the next two locks for me. Made the whole process a lot easier for me. Thanks guys.

View from the top lock looking along the visitor moorings:

Stopped for water at the bottom of the locks with just enough time for a warming cup of tea. Then passed Gypsy Rover moored at the Hillmorton visitor moorings:

Carried on through to Newbold, stopping at the 14 day visitor moorings for a break. Ten Bob Note was moored a couple of boats ahead. Nice walk down to the shops to get a paper, followed by lunch on board, before heading off again.

Am now moored near bridge 34, having winded at the Brinklow Arm (bridge 32). It's been a lovely bright day, with blue sky and plenty of sunshine. Ideal winter boating weather. Tonight's mooring:
10 miles, 3 locks (24 miles, 6 locks)

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Christmas Cruise - Day 2

Some pictures of the marina yesterday:

And last night's mooring:

Set off around 9:20 after a leisurely breakfast. Wet start to the day with drizzly rain. Finally dried up around 11:30 as I approached Braunston. Decided to pop into Braunston village to get a few bits and peices from the Spar store there, so moored between bridges 89 & 90. Walk up the hill through the field was really muddy - I was amazed I'd made it to the top without ending face first in the mud!

Braunston lunchtime mooring:

After lunch I headed off towards Hillmorton. Afternoon was dry, with the sun trying to make an appearance. Very pleasant cruise. I'm now moored near bridge 75 along one of the few sections of Armco in the area.

9 miles, 0 locks (13 miles, 3 locks).

Friday, 19 December 2008

Christmas Cruise - Day 1

It's Adrian here. My first posting to the Narrowboat Debdate blog. Not sure what is more daunting - tackling the Calcutt locks single handed, or posting my first entry!

The journey to Stockton Top Marina was very easy. I'd expected the roads to be busy, but ended up having one of the easiest journeys to the marina ever. I've never seen so many boats in the marina. Debdale was moored 5 deep from the side with another boat moored along side. This presented my first challenge of the day. Thankfully there was a willing helper at the marina who took control of the boat moored along side, allowing me to slip Debdale out of the marina.

I was welcomed on board by a Christmas candle decoration and card from co-owners Alison and Nigel. Very thoughtful, thank you.

Once loaded up I headed along to Calcutt locks. My first 25 minutes were spent on tick-over as a passed a flotilla of moored boats. Three boats had left the marina before me, bringing hope that I'd be able to share the locks with another boat. Turned out one of the boats was stopping at Calcutt Marina, leaving me the three locks to handle on my own.

I worked through the first lock without too many issues. While in the second lock waiting for the level to rise I went ahead to the next lock to set the paddles. As I was leaving the second lock I was thrilled to see a boat approach from the other direction to start their way down. The crew from the boat, Coldwater Morning, were really helpful... working the lock for me. Thanks guys!

Turned left onto the Oxford, and am moored before bridge 108. I'd hoped to get past bridge 104, but I was starting to get cold, so decided to call it a day.

I've had the Webasto on for a while to take the chill out the air, and am struggling to get the stove going. I've tried a few different approaches but am not having much luck. Our stove is a Puffin - does anyone have any helpful hints?

The connection here is not so good... so no pictures today.

4 miles, 3 locks.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Turkey, ordered.

We'll be on board Debdale for Christmas. Adrian's going up first, but I've got to work for a few more days, so he'll single-hand up the North Oxford, and I'll get the train to Rugby after work on the 22nd and get a taxi to the Tesco moorings. Today's achievement was to order our turkey from the butcher in Braunston, which we'll pick up as we go past the village on the 23rd. We're having a butterfly crown, which will come ready stuffed. I just hope it will fit in a) the fridge; and b) the oven. Incidentally, we found the easiest way to find the phone number was to google Braunston Butcher, and find a photo of the shop.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Amber Boats on test

There's a nice Christmassy feel to the front cover of the January issue of Canal Boat, which is out today. Inside is my review of Paris, the Amber Boat which won an award at the IWA. At £74,000, it's by far the cheapest boat I've tested for CB, and I was surprised by how good it was. It's not an aficionado's boat, but for anyone who just wants to get afloat cheaply it's worth a look.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Earnest in Ireland

As I happened to be staying in London last night, I went to a talk at the London Canal Museum by Neil Arlidge of the Tuesday Night Club. He was talking about the exploits of his narrowboat, Earnest, in Ireland over the past couple of years. During that time, Earnest has convered virtually all the connected waterways, including crossing many wide Loughs, tackling several tidal rivers, going to lots of dead ends, and travelling right into the centre of Dublin. All the details and hundreds of photos are on the TNC website.

Monday, 1 December 2008


I'm just back from Brinklow, where I've been doing a boat test. We were fortunate that there was bright sunshine and blue skies for most of out short trip out, so the photos will look good. It was very cold, though, and I was glad of my multiple layers, including thermals under my jeans, and ski socks. I'd forgotten quite how pretty this stretch of the North Oxford was. While some people regard "lock-free cruising" as the ideal, I think of it as rather boring. But in the winter sunshine, the canal was looking lovely (and there were even a couple of other moving boats).

At Brinklow marina, I surprised myself by doing a rather successful reverse onto the pontoon. The marina seems a pleasant place, (and will be even better when the trees they were planting today have grown to windbreak height), and is home to plenty of bloggers. I spotted both Khayamanzi and K2. We also waved at Graham from Matilda Rose, who was on the service point.