Saturday 29 December 2007
We arrived at the boat after a good journey from Suffolk. I turned on the battery isolators and the domestic batteries were sitting at 24.6 volts. The first job was to refill the water system, as I always drain it down before Christmas to try to avoid burst pipes in the frost. This went to plan and quite painlessly, unlike other years where I have left the bath taps open and then stored stuff in the bath. I then went to the engine room to fire up the engine, it went first time, but I always give the diesel lift pump a few strokes manually before I turn the key to ensure there is no air lurking anywhere. The first thing I noticed when the engine fired was no increase in the domestic battery voltage and no charge current. I checked the drive belts, all OK. I then checked the terminal voltage on the alternator, only 24.6 the same as the batteries. When I installed the 24 volt system I found that the alternator would happily self excite so I have never wired in a warning/ignition light or switch, normally as soon as the engine hits 500 rpm out comes the volts, not today. I restarted the engine and just flashed a lead with a small lamp in series between the positive and the "ind" terminal and we were away. I will need to watch that one. It has worked perfectly for over 5 years and goodness knows how many starts until today. By now the light was fading so it was off down to the top lock to load up with the stuff from car before continuing for about quarter of a mile down the pound to moor for the night.
Sunday 30 December 2007
Being Sunday we made a late start and nothing passed before we set off, however we had not done 300 yards when we met the first boat and we met 2 more in flight with 2 waiting below the flight to come up. We carried on along the S Oxford to Wigrams Turn where we turned left , north along the Grand Union to Calcutt Locks. We wanted water but had to wait as there were two other boats already on the waterpoint. Once full we were able to lock down with a boat called Firefly that moors in Ventner Farm Marina, he told us that the marina has recently been sold to the same company that owns Wigrams Turn Marina. We carried on to the top of Stockton locks where I managed to wind with about 1" to spare with the rear fender lifted and the bows hard into the offside. We moored and walked down the flight to meet Guy, Connie and her brother Maurice on Virgo and helped them up the flight where we both moored opposite "The Boat". We had booked a table in “The Boat” and when we left at about 9-30 they locked the doors behind us. Back on Virgo there was a knock on the door and it was John and Kate who had called in to see us.
Monday 31 December 2007
We set off in convoy at 1040 in very pleasant weather and arrived at Calcutt Locks just as a pair were about to enter from above, the lock was half full as they drew the paddles at the top and were closer than us. As we came up the second lock a boat turned the top lock so we had
to wait for them, it would have been better if a, they had waited for us or b, used both top paddles to fill the lock a bit faster. When we left the lock I followed "Virgo" as we passed under the road bridge 108 Maurice waved me through and shouted to "Kyle" coming the other way that I was under the bridge, unfortunately he didn't hear him and continued steaming into the bridge. It didn't end in disaster as I wasn't going to fast and "Kyle" has good stopping power. From here on the trip was uneventful and when we came in to Braunston we moored opposite "The Mill House" and "Virgo" moored in front of the next boat. Unfortunately this turned out to be the winter moorings for "Kyle" the boat we met earlier and I knew he was going to turn at Wigrams and was now on his way back, so after a bit of discussion Guy brought "Virgo" back and moored on the outside of us for the night. After "Kyle" returned to her moorings the owner wandered up and had a chat with us Later we will all be eating onboard with a shared meal before walking up to "The Old Plough" to see the new year in.
New Years Day 2008
After visiting several boats we finally got together and set off to Braunston Marina to wind. When we arrived Guy was hovering and hadn't winded, he informed us that we had all been invited for bacon sarnies on Black Pig up by the bottom lock. We moored by Butchers Bridge and John brought Black Pig down to moor alongside before we all headed in and waited while John did his chef thing. It must have been almost 2 pm before we bid John and Kate good bye, We reversed back down the cut and winded in the mouth of the marina, while I was at 90 deg across the cut a boat came bearing down on us and didn't appear to slowdown much, he finally stopped just as I was completing the turn giving me about 3 foot to get my stern round. There are two old wooden boats on the offside along the puddle bank, the motor is now completely burnt out, the cabin had burnt out a couple of years back but now the complete hull is a chard shell full of holes and she is hard on the bottom and full of water. The butty was not affected by the fire but she also looks to have sunk where she sat. We were planning to stop at The Bridge for a meal but a phone call brought the information that they weren't even open today. Arun was moored at “The Bridge” as Chris had to go home to go to work, but we continued on to the Napton Flight with the view of going for a farewell drink in the Folly later tonight. Virgo moored below the locks as they have to wind and return to Stockton in the morning, we continued on and moored just above the third lock as we intend to be at The Wharf at Fenny tomorrow lunchtime. After dinner we walked back down to the Folly for a drink with Guy, Connie, Terry and Maurice manly to say good bye to Maurice as he will soon be on his way back to Australia. While we were there I rang John to find our where that had got to that night only to receive the reply that they were at Fenny.
Wednesday 2 January 2008
As “Fringilla” was already at Fenny we had an early start to be with them for lunch . We saw very few boats on the move but needles to say the first one we met was in a blind bridge hole. After we cleared Marston Dole locks Diana went below to make a cup of tea and found the bathroom and corridor flooded, The toilet flushing valve hadn't closed completely and the bowel had overflowed onto the floor, thank goodness it was only clean water. We arrived at Fenny just before 12 and after winding we both filled with water before going into The Wharf about quarter past. I asked the young lady for a table for 6 only to be told that the kitchen was not opening until 1 pm so we sat down with a drink and went through the menu. At 1 o'clock we persuaded the waitress to take our order and after more prompting at 1 30 we were finally shown to our table, it was gone 1 40 pm before the food showed up. The Wharf is running an offer this month, two meals for the price of one, when our bill arrived it had all 6 meals listed and totalled up so we had to send that back and request a corrected one, the waitress was very apologetic but told us she didn't do the bills and didn't know. On top of all this the restaurant could have done with a good clean, there were food scraps on the chairs and the table was not particularly clean, the floor was worse and there was even a fag end by our table. The food was OK with good size portions and with the 2 for 1 discount good value, but not an enjoyable experience. We upped sticks and left Fenny at 1420 hrs, by now it was bright but quite cool with a freshening wind. We continued on until 4 pm when we moored for the night just north of bridge 125 spending the evening on Fringilla.
Thursday 3 January 2008
We set off at 10 am, there was a bit of ice about in the reeds on the side of the cut and also on the puddles but it didn't feel so cold as it the wind had dropped. We didn't see another boat until Marston Doles top lock where there was a boat in front working down. At the Engine Arm another boat slipped out in front of us making bit of a queue with 4 of us waiting for Napton Top Lock, we only met one boat coming up the flight but there were 6 of us on two boats so turning locks was no problem. Several times during the day it tried to snow but other than a few small flakes it didn't come to anything. We stopped for lunch for an hour below the Napton flight before pushing on to Calcutt. As we passed Napton Marina they were about to lift one of their boat out onto a lorry. We later learnt this was destine for the boat show in London, on our return for some reason they were trying to beat the propeller off with a big hammer with the boat on the back of a lorry. At Calcutt we helped our friends down the flight before winding and heading back towards our home mooring. Just south of Napton Marine between bridges 109 and 110 BW have piled and relayed the towing path complete with mooring rings attached to the top of the piling. This now makes a very convenient mooring for anyone wishing to visit the Kings Head at Napton. Buy the time we moored up in the third from bottom pound of the Napton flight it was getting dark at about 5pm.
Friday 4 January 2008
It only took us an hour to get back to the Engine Arm, wind and moor. We then drained the water system before heading back to Suffolk in a miserable fine drizzle