Loo views

Loo views

Monday 30 May 2016

Hatton and on

I am flushed with success and effort today. My friends joined me at Calcutt and it feels like we have been locking ever since! 15 on the first day, a lighter day of 7 with a shopping expedition yesterday and then the mighty Hatton Flight of 21 locks today. (I do have photos but they are trapped in my camera at present).

These are my first broad locks so I was studying everything we did, thinking how I would do it alone. I learnt how to enter a lock alongside another boat, without ramming either the lock wall or the other boat! I learnt not to loiter by the bywash after my boat was flung violently backwards, right across the pound. I learnt where to position my boat in the lock when I was the only one there to stop it being flung around in the chamber.

I also learnt how lovely it was to have a crew!

We travelled on beyond the flight for an hour before mooring up with huge gratitude on an embankment with a beautiful, pastoral view. We turn away from the mighty Grand Union Canal tomorrow and join the narrower South Stratford which will, through another 30 or so locks, lead us to Stratford Upon Avon. After visiting with the Bard, we will embark on the River Avon.

Thursday 26 May 2016

Challenge didn't end!

Here we are safely moored at Calcutt. You might notice my invaluable, old ladies trolley on the pontoon? Well, I decided to visit the laundry on site. It's about the same distance away from the boat as the laundry was in Banbury! So I loaded up my trolley, having bought tokens from the office. I asked for 4 but they sold me 6. At £1 each I didn't ask why, my mistake! I found both washers empty so filled up both and put the tokens in the payment box. They flashed up 45 minutes. I looked in the helpful little laundry booklet but nowhere did it say how long a wash took. To be safe I put them both on express wash and left them to it.

45 minutes later I hiked back with Bonny only to find both machines stopped but all the washing sopping wet! I couldn't face a long walk to the office again so I started wringing out in the sink. A lovely lady moorer came to free up the drier and told me that you really need 3 tokens to complete a wash and that's why my washing was sodden! When I asked how could i know that, she replied trial and error! So having used all the rest of my tokens to complete my wash, I trudged to the office to buy more tokens for the dryer. I did mention how helpful it would be to have some indication in their booklet about how many tokens an 'express' wash took but they weren't interested.

Dragged a tired, walked out Bonny back to the laundry, loaded up the dryer with tokens and then took her back to the boat. I will return to the dryer in an hours time. If my laundry is not dry, I may well scream!!

Bit of a morning!

I had a bit of a challenging morning. To begin with I left Napton Locks (just in time as it turned out as they closed one of the locks for today!) I then waved goodbye to the Oxford canal, which although challenging in places, I mostly loved. I then launched myself onto the Grand Union Canal and my very first single handed broad locks!

There were only three of them but I was slightly shaky but flushed with success when I managed to get in and out again safely. I was helped at the first one by a lovely lady who greeted me by asking if I was the view from the loo lady? Fame at last! I think her name was Sue, but I was rather stressed, so forgive me if I got your name wrong!

In some ways, broad locks are actually easier than narrow ones for a single handed boater. I only had to open and close one gate to get in and out and certainly with the Calcutt Locks, although the gate was massive, it was well balanced and fairly easy to open. Since I was all alone in all 3 locks, I only opened one paddle so my boat didn't jump around at all.

I then went into Calcutt Marina as I had booked a couple of nights here while I meet my friends and get my laundry done! I hadn't realised that the business end of the marina with Wharf and office is at the top of the locks while the marina entrance itself is at the bottom. I cruised up to what looked like the diesel dock and office, only to find no diesel and the building turned out to be loos and a laundry!

I went searching and finally found reception. I enquired about my mooring and they gave me directions. Back I walked to the boat and went to moor up, only to find there was no pontoon, only another boat to breast up to. I wouldn't have been able to get Bonny or myself safely on or off the boat. I returned to the non diesel dock and trekked back through to the office. For £15 a night I rather expected to actually be able to tie my boat to something! They seemed a little surprised by that, but checked their vacancies and directed me to an entirely different area of the marina. More reversing and pirouetting finally got me to a berth with a pontoon! (I had given up on the idea of getting diesel or a pump out as it seemed likely I would have to go back up the locks for that, and then back down them again!

Still I am safely tied up now and the surroundings are beautiful and very quiet. I have shore power and a TV signal but no phone to speak of. I am currently writing this while waiting for the washing machine to finish doing its thing. Then Bonny and I will have our last night alone for the next 2 weeks or so as our friends arrive tomorrow.

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Our day in pictures

We are moored in a beautiful spot on the South Oxford Canal near Napton so I thought I would show you our day in pictures.

This is the view out of my window at present.

There are some lovely way marked walks here as a recovering Bonny really appreciated.

The canal is dressed in bridal colours at present.

Bonny was minding her own business after lunch when she got a visitor.

And not a very friendly one at that!

She treated it with the contempt it deserved!

It wasn't used to being ignored after trying out his very best hisses and wing flaps. It sailed off in disgust.

Monday 23 May 2016

Thank goodness for Facebook friends!

I couldn't get the view from my loo window today but even taking one from outside doesn't catch the full glory of the surroundings. The north part of the South Oxford has the best scenery of our trip so far. The canal is also quite isolated here, a fact that suddenly became very real this morning.

Bonny woke me just before 5am to tell me she was feeling very rough. She obviously wanted to sleep but seemed to find it painful to put her head down. She was shivering despite being warm and she was very flat. Bonny has hardly had a days illness in her 7 years so I really wasn't prepared for this.

By 7am I was really very worried. She had managed to wee but showed no interest in anything which is unheard of at walk time. I checked the map and found the nearest road of any description was an hours cruise away and the nearest village even further. How on earth would I get her to a vet if she needed one?

Well, for those people who rather looks down their nose at anyone who uses Facebook, can I say that without my many online friends, I would have descended into panic. Thanks to their questions and suggestions I worked out the most likely cause of Bonny's sickness was heatstroke. Thanks to a cooling breeze yesterday it didn't really register with me how hot the sun was. Bonny had been outside hunting mice and riding on my roof for most of the day.

I then found out how to treat it effectively and by the afternoon, she was recovering nicely. Another Facebook friend was on standby to drive to a nearby farm, pick us up and take us to a local vet. I ended up cruising just for an hour to be closer to a village, just in case. Here she is recuperating. She has been inside almost all day but she needed some fresh air so I put her in the shade for a bit.

So thank you to my real, virtual friends. I am very grateful for your support and sympathy and wisdom. Fortunately I still have a spare day before making the last bit of the trip to meet my friends, so we will have a quiet recovery day tomorrow in this beautiful, peaceful place.

Friday 20 May 2016

Pit stop

We have been cruising for nearly 2 months now and haven't stopped for more than 2 days anywhere. It caught up with me on Tuesday, when I had a full day doing 7 locks, 6 miles, stopping for diesel at Cropredy marina and for water in the village. The locks had all been against me and had heavy gates and very stiff paddles, so by the time I stopped my neck and shoulder muscles were in spasm.

Fortunately I had reached a lovely spot at the bottom of Claydon locks, with shade for Bonny in case the sun actually came out and lovely walks. It was also wonderful to rediscover silence. I think part of my tiredness stemmed from the constant background noise from the M40 that had been present for days and days.

I am meeting friends at Calcutt Marina on the Grand Union on the 27th and I wanted to have a few quiet days first as my friends are all day cruisers and so Bonny and I are probably going to be pretty tired by the end of the two weeks or so that they are with us.

So we stopped at the bottom of the locks from Tuesday afternoon until this morning (Friday). I was going to stay longer but I'm ashamed to say I was missing my telly too much as well as blogging etc as there was virtually no reception there for either. Lord, I am such a 21st century boater! However, we haven't gone very far. Just five locks (all set in my favour at long last!) and we stopped again at the top of the hill. Reception is good and we are still within reach of the lovely walks we have been enjoying. We will stay until Sunday morning.

I am really looking forward to seeing my lovely friends Roger and Shirleyann Andrews who are coming on board for a couple of weeks. We are cruising to Stratford to visit with the Bard, before embarking on the Rivers Avon and Severn to Stourport. However it will be a big change for Bonny and I. We have been entirely solitary for all this time and so to share a pretty small space with two other people will be a challenge. Also my pattern of cruising in the morning and tying up for the rest of the day to explore and rest will not suit them. They prefer a full cruising day, sometimes not stopping until dark! So compromise will be the word of the day. However, I want them to have a brilliant holiday so I am prepared to do most of the compromising!

Sunday 15 May 2016

What is good and what is bad?

There is a Taoist saying "Who knows what is good and what is bad". We assume we know, but can be proved wrong sometimes.

I set off early this morning, hoping to tackle two difficult locks before it got busy. The first was Somerton Deep Lock, (no prizes for guessing why it's called that!) The difficulty is not it's great depth but that the paddles are almost impossible to shift, they are so stiff.

As I arrived at the lock I sàw someone had beat me to it and was just trying up at the lock bollards. My heart sank because, if nothing was coming down, it effectively meant working this hard lock twice. The boat in front looked single handed and he took ages to manouver it into the lock. I told myself that this was going to be a long day! I wandered up to do my duty to find the man had climbed up the ladder but had forgotten his windlass and was looking a bit lost. So, with a bit of a sigh, I lent him mine and helped him work the lock. We started chatting and it turned out he was waiting for a friend to join him, so he tied up just after the lock and came back to help me through. I was very grateful. It meant that I actually got through several minutes quicker than if I had had it to myself.

Then, about half an hour further on I reached a lift bridge that is normally left open. Two men were standing by it, obviously about to drop it but they saw me and waited until I got through. It was only then I realised that the reason they were dropping it was to shepherd a huge flock of sheep across to the opposite field. Had I been even a minute later, I would have had to wait while they rounded up the sheep and funnelled them over the bridge, which would have taken quite a while.

The next difficult lock was OK because I met a boat coming the other way so didn't have to close the impossibly heavy iron gate (it's a weir lock). The next two weren't that challenging and there was no queue. My biggest anxiety was to find somewhere to pump out my poo tank as it was very full and I hadn't realised what a long stretch on this canal there is without such facilities. I had heard that Twyford Wharf might do it. This is basically a private house with a small jetty where they hire out the grand total of 2 boats. I didn't even know if they would be open on a Sunday. As I came round the corner to the Wharf I saw a man picking up a sign that said 'Pump out £15', obviously just putting it away. I called out 'Oh please don't put it away yet, I'm desperate!' The lovely man said that he was just about to close up, but since he hadn't yet put the machine away, he could squeeze me in. Another minute and I would have been too late.

Oh the relief of being able to go to the loo without anxiety, I can't tell you! I found somewhere to moor up just past the Wharf, the last space on Armco for a while.

I had thought it was bad news when I saw the scruffy wee boat in front of me at Somerton Deep lock, but had they not been there, I would have been just a few minutes later and that would have changed my whole day! So my lesson for today is to accept whatever happens without judging it to be good or bad, because who knows?

Friday 13 May 2016

Friday the 13th

I hadn't realised that it was Friday 13th when I awoke. I soon worked it out! My first bit of bad luck occurred when I took Bonny for her morning walk in the stunningly beautiful area of Pigeons Lock near Thrupp. She was behaving herself beautifully when we met a small woman with two big dogs. One, an Alsation Husky cross at a guess, was obviously on guard. She didn't help matters by making it sit in front of her for ages while we approached. It was snarling so I asked the woman if it was OK to pass by. She said yes, but as soon as we got close the dog lunged towards Bonny and the woman lost control of it. I immediately put myself between the attacking dog and my wee girl, earning myself a bite in my calf.

Fortunately it didn't break the skin and only left a bruise. The woman was very apologetic, but I suspect this wasn't the first time and probably won't be the last. Bonny seemed to think everything was fine and trotted on quite happily!

We cruised today through four locks and the impossible lift bridge (I had just about worked out a way of doing it myself when a boat came along). After 7 miles or so the wind was getting troublesome so I decided to moor up. There are some lovely water meadows between the canal and River Cherwell near Somerton with long lengths of great Armco so that was where I stopped. What I hadn't reckoned on was the force of the wind blowing across the meadows, straight into the side of my boat. As I got her almost to a halt and stepped off with my centre rope, the wind pushed her straight off again and the bow swung round and embedded itself in silt on the far bank of the canal. The stern did the same on the towpath side so that the boat was almost sideways across the canal. I pulled and pulled on the rope but could not get her to shift. I then threaded a C clip through the rope and by pulling hand over hand I eventually got it close enough to secure the centre rope on the Armco. Then it was a matter of pulling a bit at a time and eventually getting her into the side. It took me over 10 minutes.

Then, just as my arms were giving out and I'm trying to tie the centre rope on so I can sort out the bow and stern, a boat came by not at all slowly and my arm got trapped between the rope and the roof of my boat. (Thank you very much n/b Phoenix). Once the boat had passed, which obviously didn't take long, my rope loosened a touch and I freed my arm. There is a lump where the rope pinched the flesh and a bruise around the lump. It could have been so much worse! My back, neck, arms and legs also ache from all that pulling so a day off cruising tomorrow.

We are moored in a very lovely spot with loads of walks, so at least someone is happy!

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Lower Heyford tears and laughs

You can't see it, but the River Cherwell is just the other side of the towpath, here at Lower Heyford. It is a lovely mooring beside a very pretty Oxfordshire village, but getting here reduced me to sweary, angry tears!

I started off that morning feeling slightly out of sorts, probably because I have been doing too much. I got to the first deep lock which had such stiff paddles that I had to stamp on my windlass to turn it at all. As I am sweating and struggling, I look up to see a woman of similar age to me, standing behind me holding a windlass. 'Oh good', I said, 'help' and gave her a big smile. Nothing. Not a glimmer from her. 'There are some really stiff paddles on this stretch, aren't there? Still, at least the sun is shining'. Not a smile or a comment from her at all. 'Is there something wrong'? I asked. 'No, why?' she asked.

I still thought I'd missed something as I could see no reason for her unfriendly attitude. 'I just wondered why you weren't speaking to me?' She just stared so I continued 'It's just that most people I meet at locks are friendly. Best way in my opinion'. 'There is friendly and then there is garrulous'. I knew she had just insulted me but wasn't sure what it meant! Meanwhile I had at last managed to empty the lock and open the gate (with no help from her at all). So I smiled and said 'well, it was a REAL pleasure to meet you' and continued on. (Garrulous = overly talkative!)

On I went to the next lock where I saw there was a woman just bringing her boat in. I went to give a hand and said brightly 'Oh it's lovely to meet another single handed woman!' She looked at me for a second and then said 'Why?' My heart sank. 'Well, I don't meet that many'. I knew the conversation was doomed when she replied that she knew plenty, but then she had lots of friends! I wondered was it me or am I in an unfriendly area of the country?

Rather deflated, I carried on until I reached Lower Heyford's lift bridge. I had been warned that I wouldn't be able to operate it on my own but I had a go anyway. They were right. It is a large, aluminium bridge which is cantilevered to stay down. Even when I managed to, using every muscle I had, get it up, there was no way of securing it in the upright position and so I couldnt leave it to go get my boat. I did try and jam it open with my boat pole but I couldn't hold the bridge and wield the pole at the same time. Also I quickly worked out that jamming it open would have been dangerous as it could easily slip causing the bridge to crash down on my boat. I was hot, tired, stressed and rather scared to be stuck.

I struggled with it for about 20 minutes before I accepted defeat. I backed up my boat, intending to moor up until I could find help, when around the corner came a cheery little woman in a cheery little boat. She quickly calmed me down with a few cheerful words and between us we soon got both our boats through and I found this mooring just a little further on. What a relief and I was so grateful to my saviour that I admit to shedding the odd tear.

The rest of the day improved, culminating in a lovely pub meal with friends I had last seen 16 years ago! Much laughter and reminiscing over a meal brought the evening to a happy end.

This is the mooring at Lower Heyford and a glimpse of the Cherwell.

Thursday 5 May 2016

It's a hard life

Even in paradise there are chores to be done! I managed all of one lock and about half a mile this morning before seeing just the spot for my washing line! So we are just south of the Claydon locks in a beautifully sunny spot. I have done the laundry and am now watching it dry while Bonny busies herself in the bushes. Oh it's a hard life...

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Lost and found

Bonny and I love our morning walks. They are sometimes the only constant in the day. It doesn't matter how far we are cruising or how many locks I have to do, we always walk first. It clears my mind ready for the day too. However I was reminded how important it was to carry a map and / or my phone the other morning.

I decided we would climb Barby Hill and looking at the map the path seemed to be very clear and easy to follow. What I only realised when we reached the top was that, although the path up and over was very clear, the path on the way down had been ploughed over and trying to guess where we should go was a bit scary. Here is what we could see from the top, just before we lost the path:

Then, as we were scrambling through fields trying to find our way down, this happened:

Fortunately I found the canal and followed the towpath back before the storm broke!

We left there and cruised to Napton, where there were 9 locks and a lovely little canal side shop waiting for us. Grazing in the field near the shop were water buffalo! And in the shop.... What a find!

I have never tasted water buffalo but I am looking forward to trying it!

This morning we were out for a walk and saw the perfect example of a continuous moorer!

Monday 2 May 2016

Help at Napton

My view from the loo today is of a very relieved Bonny who was happy to be back on grass after a long time on the boat's roof.

I did the Napton Flight of locks this morning. There are 9 of them over a couple of miles. That's not too many but on this occasion it was made harder by the fact that a) it was blowing a hooley, b) the locks were all against me as I was following another boat up and nothing was coming towards me and c) the gates are mighty heavy!

By only the 4th lock I was starting to feel all my muscles, particularly as the wind was blowing the boat away from the lock bollards, which meant lots of heaving on the centre rope. All of a sudden an angel appeared out of the bushes, in the form of Gordon, the volunteer lock keeper. Not only did he set the next lock for me but, since nothing much else was moving, he came up the rest of the flight with me. He rode on my boat in one long pound and told moorers that I had kidnapped him!

That saved me from having to try and balance my boat in the neck of the lock in order to close each gate behind me. He was also a fount of knowledge about working broad locks, something I haven't done yet, but will on this trip. He also volunteers on the Hatton Flight, which makes the Napton Flight look like a nursery slope!

I was so grateful for his cheerful assistance that, when I moored up for a rest, I emailed the Canal and River Trust to tell them how helpful he had been. We boaters can sometimes be a bit quick to complain to CaRT but a bit slow to praise!