I’m used to boats with adults and kids

And picnics with photos and sun

A chance for catching up with the news

With drinks to add to the fun

DSCN7020All aboard

They bring along bags with all of the food

With camera, sun cream and hat

With some at the back and some at the front

We slip into hours of chat

But never before have I been as awake

As lock-waters around the boat swirl

More care than before for my latest of crew

A precious and helpless new girl


First cruise

Paddington’s Pool

Over the May day bank holiday the Canal Cavalcade is held and I am on my way there. It is held in what has become known as Little Venice, mainly in the Pool at Paddington. Now to me Paddington’s pool sounds rather what an unfortunate bear may have left behind after an accident while searching for the public conveniences at that great station. It is actually the junction between the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal, the Regents canal and the Paddington Basin. There is an island in the middle which the band occasionally share with breeding, noisy, wildfowl. There are main roads around and above the venue with emergency vehicles always on the move day and night. The train station backs onto the basin, it is a commuter route for pedestrians and cyclists and a tourist attraction. It is far from quiet and in a way reminds us that the canals originated as industrial and agricultural utilities.

But here be people, determined to enjoy and share what remains of this heritage with their friends and others. Do visit if you get the chance.

So far my run down towards Paddington has been pretty uneventful depending on what you may consider a significant event. To me it was significant that when, putting supplies on the boat, I dropped my car keys and they landed on a drain grating and didn’t drop through.


Picture for illustration purposes only and may be different to the actual one, as they say.

I met a set-building crew converting the outside of a lock cottage for use in the sequel to a popular tv series. There was the elderly couple on a hire boat trying to get it back for its due date with the husband declaring locks to be a mystery to him, as he was about to open the wrong paddles.Then when the weather turned cold and rainy my prop  must has decided it was too cold and found a pair of jogging bottoms to wrap around itself. The boat stopped and drifted side on to the canal and the wind started to blow her sideways up the cut. All minor events.

Then there was the stranger looking in through the window and asking first for brandy, then beer, then any alcohol. Not being successful he asked for money. His attire indicated that his religion forbade consumption of alcohol. I dealt with it, it was for me another minor event. But I am left wondering how he experienced that situation, I may never know.

But what is important, what is a significant “event”. Is it only what affects our own experiences, now or in the future? Is it how it effects others’ experiences? If it is then we do things to enjoy ourselves, we do good and creative things to help others have better experiences. And so life goes on based on having better experiences. Or is there something outside of this? Something that echos in the song of the sky lark, that is stirred by the faint perfume of the bluebell, by the knowing smile or sympathetic hand shake.

To me creation, the material universe, can be considered to be a bit like a clock. The clock has no purpose in isolation. The clock may be accurate or wrong,  ornate or plain, all parts working together like clockwork or worn out, but it has no purpose to itself. It only has purpose when there is an outsider who has an interest in the clock.

For me I think the purpose of creation is love, and the outsider is a loving God, at all events. What a great reason to enjoy sharing one’s enjoyment with others!

Back to the boat and  boating …

She hung up on me

It’s amazing how fast things can happen along the normally sluggish water road of the canals. I was spending a quiet afternoon just moving gentle Breeze down a few locks and was happy to share them with a couple of guys who had come down from Ely. (Forgotten the name of their Springer nb already, but they moor by the Cutter pub.) Anyway there we were, one of us each on the downstream gate paddles, the helmsman on his boat, mine roped but not tied to the bollard. All neat and tidy and ship shape so to speak. Ready to let out the water? yes OK. Up come the paddles out goes the water, final check on the rachet pawl, turn around to see …

Their boat had already gone down some 18 inches, but mine was leaning precariously over towards their boat and looked as if it would roll over onto it squashing the helmsman. The angle was increasing by the second as we all shouted and rushed to begin to drop the paddles. At that moment she dropped back into the water, causing a minor tsunami and bobbed about as if to say, “that got you going”. Well, yes it did!

We tried to see what had caused the problem. All we could see was a slightly chipped brick on the slightly bulging lock wall, which must have been enough to hang the boat. On examination the boat had shipped water into the front deck well, but it had not flooded into the cabin. Also a few items inside had fallen over. It just goes to show that you can not take your eyes of them for a moment when locking.

I do normally pay her reasonable attention, this is the first time she has hung up on me, but we are back on speaking terms and have a date for today.

Annex on the water

Its been good to host a few friends, new and newer, on Gentle Breeze this last week. Our house overflowed and we used GB as a nearby annex to put up guests.

Chris flew in from Inverness, Emily drove down and picked him up from the airport, and joined us with her friend from Chorleywood, with Chris Short the baptist minister from Park Street. We had a pleasant cruise in the evening but as Chris J had come straight from a night shift and not slept for over 24 hours I think he must have been glad to  be rocked to sleep on board. I was

Katye and Gwyn

Katye and Gwyn

Meeting the swan family

Meeting the swan family

Gwyn’s friend is staying at the house prior to her wedding and seemed to be taken with the idea of living aboard. However the idea of coping with frozen canals did seem to deter this bubbly young lady from Kansas City.

Other guests are expected soon, but that’s what it’s for. And GB has her name painted on both sides now.

Shy signet

Shy signet

It’s all them others

It’s all them others


Sunrise on Aylesbury Arm

Sunrise on Aylesbury Arm

I bike and drive and boat and walk,
But whichever one I pick,
There’s us and them, at odds again,
They’re getting on my wick.

There’s one or two, perhaps a few
Who wind me up anew,
But most are fine, just take the time,
To see it from their view.

When with the boat and working locks
Those bikes rush past at speed,
They never slow or ring their bell,
They never think of me.

When in the boat and pouring tea,
Boats pass too close and fast,
They never slow to tick over,
They never think of me.

When cruising late with far to go,
Moored boats is all I see,
Can’t they use marina berths,
They never think of me.

And what about the lock-side pubs,
With drinkers sprawled awry,
With cans and glass all o’er the grass,
They never think of me.

When driving down to get the boat
There’s cyclists in the way,
I can’t get by, they cause delay,
They never think of me.

When biking on the towpath track,
The walkers ramble free,
With dogs and phones and music on,
They never think of me.

I think I’ll take up angling,
And bid the rest begone,,
That way I’ll tend to not offend,
Or have I got that wrong?

There’s one or two, perhaps a few
Who wind me up anew,
But most are fine , just take the time,
To see it from their view.

There is one way that I can think,
To live in harmony,
To walk a mile with them and smile
And not to think “poor me”.

Canal sheds bugs, bogs and bushes

What do retired men do when their wife gets fed up with them in the house? Some push off down the garden or  allotment if the weather is OK. Or perhaps down their shed but that can be a lonely place, unless they got some other friends around, then it would be too cramped to swing an circular saw. That’s where Men in Sheds comes in, an initiative to get groups of men, yes MEN for a change .. no apologies to the women’s institute either!, men together in a larger communal shed to create what ever they want. A local council guy is spearheading the startup of a local men’s shed. He says its for nippers (Not In Paid Permanent Employment or Retired). We went for a shed crawl last week around a couple of established sheds. Wow! So much talent, and cake, and expertise, and tea, and enthusiasm, and tea and cake. In one we saw a couple of their model railways with canals.

Narrow boat on small canal

Narrow boat on small canal

The detail of the folded canvas on the work boat was fantastic

part of the layout with staircase locks

part of the layout with staircase locks

The modelling is but one aspect. Some make bird boxes, some repair anything electrical for the public, some make disability aids. One guy was building an electric car from a Reliant Kitten and doing a PhD on the in built data acquisition system he was installing.

Tiny part of the Milton Keynes  shed Tiny part of Milton Keynes shedIMG_20140321_120017

Last week was a good week for hedge layering. I’d not tried that before but with a team of volunteers (Mainly MEN) we turned a straggly line of short trees into a neat hedge. Or at least it will be neat once it has grown back a bit. The only slight irritation was the insistence on use of high viz jackets (in case we bumped into each other I suppose) and the warning not to go near the canal ( most of us have/hire or use boats). But a most satisfying day it was.

Hedgelayering  on the Grand union

Hedge layering on the Grand union

Finally we are pleased to say that the old toilet has left these parts for a new life in the north (Newcastle). An ebay bidder won the auction at  £1 more than the reserve (they were the only bidder). Then started the problem of getting it couriered. Toilets are on the prohibited list of many couriers, as are batteries, marble, liquids, and just about anything you would want to post from A (Alcohol) to V (Vodka)!.Why are those two listed separately? Who does not know that vodka has alcohol in it?  Anyway ipost took it away today. The new owners had me send it to a primary school in Newcastle. I can’t help wondering why? Do they think that southern toilets have had a poor education? I mean its not that there is anything for them to read now toilet paper is not printed with IZAL on it. And as for maths, they only have to count up to two, as in number one and number two. Well I really don’t know, but I will think of it sitting at a school desk on Monday in its new class. Ahh that’s it. Perhaps the new owner is a teacher and wants somewhere appropriate to put all of Mr Gove’s (minister for education) ideas.

And finally, finally, what about bugs in the title of this post. When I looked at the model railway with the model people  working around their model sheds I was reminded of that saying sometimes attributed to J Swift but at any rate made way before bacteria and viruses were discovered. It goes something like this

Big fleas have little fleas,
Upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas,
and so, ad infinitum.

But in this case it could be

Big sheds have little sheds,
Made by men that like ’em,
And little little sheds have lesser sheds,
and so, ad infinitum.



Some of the features along the Trent and Mersey in the Stoke on Trent area.

Entering the bottom of Staircase lock Stoke

Entering the bottom of Staircase lock Stoke

199Brindley, originally a mill designer surveyed and helped build the early canals067this is a horse tunnel under the road, note where the tow ropes have worn into the stone work081

This is an unusual rotating stonework/rope protector

Below you can see the split bridge that allowed the tow rope to pass through the bridge when the horses towed the boats out of the lock. it also allows steve to keep a semblance of control as he drags GB out of the lock. 209

en route up north

The problem with a blog is it can become a long list of “what I done”, or “what I’m doing” or even worse “what I might do”. I have always believed in saying nothing unless I have something which I think may be worth hearing. So this not going to be a boring list of canals that I have cruised, locks opened, or even canals that I have fallen into. What I am trying to work out is what do you want to hear (if there is anyone out there that is). Gosh, now there’s a thought, if you are not there then I can say what ever I like … but,  you might be there mmmm.

Getting back to the subject of the blog, yes I am taking some time out from inactive retirement to cruise further up north, at present the boat is at Rugby. You may imagine a Midlands working town, grey and dirty etc, the canal with tyres and supermarket trolleys in it. But no, see the photo, like many of the canals these days they really are very pleasant green routes for walkers, cyclists and boats. Check out the Canal River Trust web site You can even become a member for a small regular donation. Had you noticed that the last part of the CRT title is “rust”, that’s pretty appropriate for most narrow boat owners.

Canal through Rugby

Canal through Rugby

How come that the boat is at Rugby and I’m in Watford .. well train and bike of course. Now I know that for commuters the train fares are expensive but can I urge you to consider the trains for leisure use. An off peak return from Rugby to Watford was £20. That is about how much it would cost to drive one way, and I could do the crossword whilst travelling, you normally have to wait until the next traffic jam to do that on the motorway. I would have used National Express but their service coverage has really gone down over the years. Unless you want to go to a major city (Watford is not one) or an airport, then expect to have to change many times and spend one or more days getting there. If you don’t believe me try their route planner .. no don’t, I don’t want to ruin our friendship!

What have I been up to on the boat, I will post other updates on this but as a taster : fixing the electrics on the gas stove (yes you read that right), a new switch / fuse panel, fixing and clearing up the two hot water leaks/floods, and beginning to paint Narnia scenes on a cupboard door. I know I can’t paint, that is why it is inside the boat. Also I can’t paint partly because I have never really tried.

Finally what about all that pressure from work, the responsibility not only for the staff but also the patient? Well, next time you walk past a lock, watch the guy opening the paddles and letting 300 tonnes of water out and away, that is how it feels! that’s all my rambling for now, byeee.


On reflection

Assuming boats go both ways along canals then a boat must have come out of half of the locks you come to and the lock will be ready for you to enter.

This must be true even when half of them gradually fill and half gradually empty depending on which end leaks most.

Therefore, as from my experience, it seems rare that a lock is ready for me, what I want to know is why are most of the boats going the same way as me and the locks rarely set in the “right” direction? If I am on a long journey I worry that there will be no where to moor in front, leaving a canal devoid of boats behind me! Am I being paranoid? I don’t think so.

Sometimes you can see someone leaving a lock coming your way, and you hope they see you and leave it open for you, saving the trouble of mooring up and reopening it again. They may not see you and close it, even all your jumping up and down, waving frantically and flashing (the tunnel head  light) does not attract their attention. If you are tired and, as usual this is the only boat today going the right way for you, then it can be irritating. It does not lead to canal rage, but perhaps a less than genial greeting to them as they pass.

And it is always “them” that do it. The training boats, the hire boats, the day boats, the birthday party lot who don’t know what they are doing, not keeping a watch properly, don’t care for others. Yes, THEM.

Oh dear, I did it today, I accidentally became one of THEM and HE wasn’t happy.

Perhaps we all need to try to see it fro the other’s point of view.


The Family

The Family

On a lighter note I came across this family of swans. The pen and chicks were mildly curious, looking for an easy source of food. The cob thought he would be more proactive in the search. The picture is taken as he is nipping me, he has a surprisingly strong bite actually.




The cob

The cob

Really throw myself into the Ricky festival

Moored at Ricky

Moored at Ricky, gang plank can be seen behind my seat ( and life ring!)

Here’s a right collection of boats at Ricky, the picture is taken from my roof and you can see I am hemmed in by boats with tales to tell.

To the left is the back of Persephone, the Bassets boat, often used for training and advertising Boat Shed Grand Union, the one on which that Chris and I did the helmsman’s course. When it arrived the water heater was not working well and we spent some time trying to get the pressure better regulated. Next clockwise was an original restored wooden butty (working boat with no engine named Nutfield), towed by the next one along named Raymond. I think they worked OK but as you can’t walk over the back of the butty because it is too high I put my new gang plank between Persephone and Raymond. (more about that mistake later).

Next comes the reproduction red and blue working boat ( I forgotten the name). That had a major problem and the owner spent the whole weekend stripping the engine ( an original) down and reassembling it. I lent a hand a couple of times when more muscle power was needed. He still supplied most of that to be honest.

Next along was the Hillingdon training boat. That was gradually sinking until (reportedly) a Tesco bag was stuffed into the stern gland and the pump run long enough to lower the water away from the fly wheel. That enabled the engine to be started and the boat to join in the tug of war.

Elk on my right in this picture was not suffering any major issues at the time, and of course I had just fixed my major oil leak. Like I said, a right collection!

As you can see we did leave enough room for the trip boats to blast up and down past us, one is just coming into view. At least we left room apart from when the outside boat was swung across the canal to form a bridge to Tesco. When it comes to making a festival go well for your friends every little helps.

Now that is were the gang plank came in useful for most. They would pop along from Persephone to Raymond and off to Tesco via a swinging boat. We just got to Ricky on Friday and I had mentioned I needed to go to Tesco so my dear friends urged me to join the trip, “Quickly, they are going.”  “No, I’ll go later” “No you may as well, hurry up!”.

“Ohh where’s my wallet and phone, got them, OK, I’m coming”

I’ll just step onto the gang plank from my boat, into the middle of it, at an angle, onto the unsecured gang plank,.

Err, why does it feel like I have stepped on ice, why is my foot moving away from under me, oh no, not again, I wish I was able to blame someone else for this. splash..

Silence, not too cold, no pain.. that’s good and lucky considering there is virtually no room between these boats, .. B ** ell,  my phone is in my pocket.

“Are you OK, did he fall in, is he OK, get the rudder over under his feet, here hold onto this, can you get out, put you foot on the rudder, you OK?”

Now they were all very good, they should be considering there were at least two instructors, several professionals and only experienced handlers. I would like to see the pictures though, yes I did see a camera when I was still in the water.

Well the phone dried out, eventually, my provisions were got by Phil for me, and I paid him in soggy notes. However the whole festival seems to know that I fell in. even complete strangers were overheard saying in whispers, “that’s the guy who fell in.”

The rest of the weekend was good. With the boaters having impromptu jamming sessions, boat tug of wars ( or is that tugs of war) and drink sharing all around.

And afterwards, back to base at Apsley for some much need paint touch up and to repair the shower. Roll on next year.

salzburg 020 salzburg 022