Sunday, 29 August 2010

Aldermaston Wharf

On the way home from the IWA National yesterday, we went through Aldermaston and saw a sign for Aldermaston Wharf and visitor centre.  The centre was closed, although there was a wedding party there having photos taken.  But we walked down the canal past Reading Marine to Padworth Lock, where two narrowboats were about to come up, and a widebeam was waiting behind.

Back the other way is Aldermaston Lift Bridge, where they're building a new waiting area, and beyond is Aldermaston Lock, which has scalloped sides.

There were plenty of boats coming and going, but the electronic mechanism on the bridge makes boaters wait for several minutes before opening it again.  It's not surprising.  The whole process takes quite a long time, and because it's quite a busy road the queues build up quite quickly.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

IWA National Festival

Today we've been to the IWA National Festival at Beale Park near Pangbourne on the Thames.  The sun shone, and there was plenty to see.

They said 450 boats were booked in to visit the show.  And having walked from one end of the river moorings to the other, I think don't think they were over-estimating.

Friday, 27 August 2010

River Wey

Here's the final instalment of Sunday's Thames trip on Indigo Dream, in which we turned off the Thames onto the River Wey.  Immediately after the turn, there's an array of possible ways to go, of which the correct one is the least likely looking.  Then it's just a short distance until you reach the stop gate.

I'd read about this, but it wasn't until I'd seen it in real life that I fully understood what was going on.  Through the gate is a reasonably sized pound, with Thames Lock just round the corner, under the bridge.  There's not enough depth to get boats over the cill into the lock, but a lockful of water let into the pound raises the water level enough.  Having spoken to the lock keeper, a little narrowbeam Dutch barge and Indigo Dream went into the stop pound.  A boat was coming down, and once they'd left the lock we went in.

The rule in Wey locks is to turn off the engine, use ropes, and leave the gates open on exit.  The lock keeper does all the work at Thames Lock, and she was quite gentle with the paddles, which is probably just as well, as they let a huge jet of water into the lock.

Next to Thames Lock is a lovely little cottage, which doubles as the lock keeper's office.  Once we'd risen in the lock, Richard went to get a Wey licence, and ask the lock keeper about moorings.  It took a little while, and we suspected that our locking companions would have already gone up in the next lock, Town Lock, which is approached across a large pool.  In fact, they'd had to turn the lock, and we arrived just at the right time.

The third Wey lock is Coxes Lock, which has a huge mill next to it.  The building has been converted into flats, and at ten storeys tall it must house a lot of people.

By this time it was beginning to rain, and by the time we got to New Haw Lock it was quite steady.  Consequently, I seem to have omitted to take its photo.  The lock has angled metal arms as balance beams, because the road bridge is too close.  It seems they've been there only a couple of weeks, replacing ropes, which by all accounts made opening the gates very hard work.

We moored up just above the lock, in front of the old working boat Fulbourne.  It was just after 8pm, and getting dark.  We'd planned to go to the pub next to the river, which has a Thai restaurant, but they don't do food on Sunday evenings so we all went to the Chinese restaurant instead.  It had been a long but very enjoyable day, with some great boating and excellent company, topped off with good food.  Adrian and I then got a taxi to Woking station, and a train back to Guildford, where my car was parked.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Thames Locks

Back to Sunday's trip up the Thames on Indigo Dream.  Above Brentford, we encountered traffic of varying sizes, from apparent paddle steamers to little sailing boats.

Soon we arrived at Teddington Lock, the end of the tidal Thames.  As there were lots of boats, partly because of the SPCC convoy and partly because of all the people heading for the IWA National Festival at Beale Park, we were directed to the huge barge lock.  We were the last boat in, of seventeen.  Even so, there was plenty of room.

At Kingston, there were three unusual, huge boats moored up.  I'm assuming they don't actually go anywhere.

The next lock, Molesey Lock, is just past Hampton Court.  There was a bit of a scrum to get in, with a large white plastic cruiser particularly keen to make sure he wasn't left out.  The lock keeper didn't seem that concerned about packing the boats in, so we ended up waiting for the next locking.  We shared with a number of narrow boats, a cruiser, a day boat with a birthday party on board, and a rowing eight.

At Sunbury Lock, the lock keeper was determined to get as many boats as possible in.  We were packed in like sardines, with the 70ft narrow boat next to use quite close to the bottom gates.

After Sunbury, our next destination was Weybridge, where we were due to turn off the Thames onto the River Wey.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Aston Marina

Today I've been to Aston Marina on the Trent and Mersey near Stone in Staffordshire, for a boat test.  It's much more than a boat park, having a huge farm shop selling local produce, and a rather up market bistro.

The marina itself is still fairly empty. But it's changed a lot since we came past on Debdale during our September cruise last year.  Back then, it was still at the "little more than a hole in the ground" phase.

Tidal Thames

The forecast for Sunday had been less than promising, so it was no surprise to wake up to a dull, damp, day.  It was raining as we walked down to Limehouse basin, for another redezvous with Indigo Dream.  On the way to the boat, we met Halfie, preparing for the same trip as us: up the tidal Thames to Teddington and beyond.  There was a convoy of around fifteen boats setting off, and we'd be in the last locking.

As we went round to Limehouse Lock, where we picked up another couple of passengers, Bea and Henry, who'll be doing this trip on their shared boat next weekend, the sun came out.  Then it was into the lock with two other boats.  They hadn't done the trip before, and wanted to follow Indigo Dream, so we were first out onto the tideway.

The water was a little choppy, but not too bad.  It's only really when you look back and see how small narrowboats look on the river, and how they're bobbing up and down, that you realise that we must look the same.

There was plenty of boat traffic, so Richard was at the helm.  He's done this several times before.  It wasn't long before a Thames Clipper loomed up behind, although he both slowed down and waved.

Tower Bridge is the first real landmark.  To be absolutely correct, you should go through the right hand span, but as there was no traffic around, we treated ourselves to the centre span.

After that, the landmarks come thick and fast: City Hall, the Oxo Tower, the South Bank Centre, the London Eye, and the Houses of Parliament.

After Vauxhall Bridge, I took over on the helm.  There's much less commercial traffic on this part of the river, although I did still have to steer into the wash of some large boats.  It's noticeable, though, that the water is much calmer, because there's less traffic.  Soon we were passing the Battersea Power Station, and then on through Putney, Fulham, and Hammersmith.

Before long, we were at Brentford, where the other boats from our locking were leaving the Thames to join the Grand Union.

They were replaced by boats who were just joining the river from the GU, so we still had quite a convoy on our hands as we continued towards Teddington.

The next part of the journey will be in another blog post, otherwise this one will reach ludicrous proportions.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Thames Barrier

On Saturday, I had to go to work.

Adrian, however, didn't.  So he joined Sue and Richard of Indigo Dream, plus a whole convoy of boats, on a trip from Limehouse to the Thames Barrier.  It was organised by the St Pancras Cruising Club.

At some point, Adrian might get round to writing a few words about the trip.  Until then, here's a selection of his photos.  It won't surprise you to learn that by the time he was back on dry land, his face was aching from smiling so much!  Work really does get in the way sometimes.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Summer Run and Caxton's stretch

A bumper Canal Boat for me this month.  First, there's mu boat test of Summer Run, a Cauldon boat shown at Crick, with a parking place for a mobility scooter on the front.

Then there's an article about the stretch that Caxton had back at the start of the year.

In between is a piece by the Editor, Nick, about Barry and Sandra from Northern Pride, surely one of the most visually pleasing blogs around.

Friday, 6 August 2010


Adrian is in Manchester for the weekend, for the birthday party of Alex, who joined us on board Debdale for a few days last September.  He's staying at the Hilton in the Beetham Tower, and has a view of Castlefield from the window.  (I, however, am working all weekend.)  You can see where Debdale was moored during our visit last year -- and here's a photo taken from Castlefield looking back at the tower.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Mobile internet

Our mobile broadband contract with 3 had expired, so they sent us an offer for a new, faster dongle.  The cost was the same, but the monthly allowance was a lot less, down from 5GB per month to 1GB.  We rarely use anything like 5GB in a month, but it’s nice to know it’s there.  So Adrian rang them and said we’d like the new dongle, and we’d like to keep paying the same.  And we’d like to continue our existing allowance.  After a while, they said yes.

When the new dongle arrived, we discovered it had nowhere to plug in the antenna we stick on the roof of the boat to improve the signal.  A bit of research turned up a little device which plugs into the antenna, and connects to the dongle merely by touch.  It’s held on with a bit of velcro.

I can’t yet tell whether it works.  The connection with the antenna doesn’t match, so I’ve had to buy an FME to SMA connector from eBay.  So it looks as though all the savings from the 3 contract are being spent on all the bits and pieces to go with it.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Self managed

So, after Saturday's owners' meeting, Debdale is now officially self managed.  It was a very productive and useful meeting, with a number of owners taking on various jobs, and lots of decisions taken.  For example, from next year, we'll change from a Friday changeover day to Saturday.