Boat Blog: Long time no blog…
Posted by indigodream on 14 March, 2013
Rewind to Saturday 2nd March
Limehouse to Ponder’s End
Well, that’s not strictly true – I wrote that heading before I realised that I’d have something to blog about following my exciting Sunday in the music world!
But January and February were a bit of a washout – I got the measles, or something that was very like it, then Richard got a chest infection and we had the care of Herbie – Sarah’s badly injured hound who stayed with us for a couple of months to convalesce. I’m pleased to say that we’re all recovered now, including Herbie, who went back home a few weeks ago (without a backward glance – he hadn’t forgotten his real hu-mum!).
In other news, Ty has managed to break his toe, but, unusually for a greyhound, he didn’t make a fuss about it so we didn’t realise for 3 weeks (!) when the toe eventually got inflammed/infected! No harm done – the bone seems to be healing well – we were afraid that the toe might need to be amputated, but that doesn’t seem likely now – phew! Ollie is fine!
The other news doesn’t really belong to us, but while Herbie was staying with us, Greygal accidentally adopted another hound – Big Bertie – and I mean BIG – an archetypal gentle giant. He’s another black boy, so alleged arch-criminals Henry and Herbie will never be short of an alibi when black dog hairs are found in the vicinity of a ransacked kitchen bin
So, all in all, the human Indigodreamers haven’t done anything particularly blog-worthy until this weekend; obviously the hounds always have enough to say, but I just wasn’t up for taking their dictation – you just can’t get the staff! I don’t doubt that they’ll insist on writing a few posts soon…
So, with the winter bugs behind us and a mild weekend ahead, we decided to go cruising with Greygal, Andy and some of the pack – I was really looking forward to it as we had things to celebrate:
- It’s a whole year since we took Ollie into our home; it’s also a year since Eddie joined Sarah’s pack – worthy milestones, especially for Ollie, whose little friend Poppy sadly didn’t make it after being neglected by their previous owners.
- It was Bertie’s first cruise – would he try to jump overboard? Would he be “boat-sick”? All important things to be discovered before he goes on Sarah’s pristine, newly restored nb Henry H!
- Greygal sold her beloved narrowboat “Greyhound” in February, so this cruise was dedicated to happy memories of nb Greyhound and to the future ahead on nb Henry H and another boat which has yet to be bought/built!
- Andy missed his birthday celebrations in February because of a winter lurgy so we could celebrate that as well…
So we set out from Limehouse in good spirits on Saturday – we didn’t get away until late morning, but that gave us time to fill up the water tanks and do the usual pre-cruising checks. Although we’ve been up to the boat several times to check that she was ok, we haven’t been cruising since the Royal Docks convoy at the beginning of January.
We set off up Limehouse Cut with a vague plan to cruise up the Lee navigation – maybe as far as Waltham Abbey, then we’d head back on the Sunday. We haven’t been up the Lee for ages – I was looking forward to seeing the post-olympic landscape and just generally enjoying the navigation – the Lee is full of surprises – the lavish country park with its lakes and reservoirs on the right bank and the relative desolation of the Eastern outposts of London on the left bank.
I’m happy to report at the outset that Bertie took to boating immediately!
We ambled up Limehouse Cut towards Old Ford Lock. We couldn’t miss the works just past Pudding Mill Lane – when we passed this way on New Year’s Day, we’d assumed that it was something to do with the Olympics. However, the men working there today told us that it was part of the Crossrail project – the tunnels go under the canal as you can see in this fab photo. The workmen told us that they were looking for timbers in/under the canal bed that might impede the works; however, the project is also doing a bit of archaeology and they hope to find bronze age artefacts in this area.
When I said we couldn’t miss the works, well, there was just enough room for us to creep past – the workmen were relieved – they were working on a huge floating platform which they’d have to move for us otherwise – the navigation is officially open!
We were a bit disappointed at Old Ford Lock – the new lock landing pontoon, which we’d hoped to use, just for the sake of it, was occupied by a deserted dutch barge. Ah well, there was plenty of room to land a crew on the towpath side. Andy and I went up to operate the lock. The left-hand side lock was restored to use in 2012 and the bottom gates were enticingly open, but the water was so full of trash, including some sizeable bits of timber, that we decided not to risk our prop. This left us to work out the new electric controls for the right hand lock – that took some time – the screen was difficult to read in the bright daylight! We had to empty the lock – obviously with no boat in there we’d have been happy to let the water whoosh out; but the controls are set to give a descending boat safe passage so it all seemed to take an age. One innovation is that the screen gives a countdown to when the gates can be opened – although, in theory, this should be helpful, Andy and I got increasingly cross with it because it felt as though the second counter was running backwards
Above Old Ford, we were slightly dismayed by the number of moored boats – this area has been well-colonised – whether by winter moorers or continuous moorers remains to be seen. It was slow going past the moorings, but it give us time to look at the Olympic Park and try to work out what had been removed from the infrastructure. Of course, having taken a keen interest in the site’s growth up to 2012 for us it feels like watching a film being played in reverse. The aquatics centre itself looks very strange as the top tiers of seating seem to have gone but the stairs are still there – they reminded me of diving platforms, though even Mexico’s famous cliff divers might quail at the drop there!
We ambled along and eventually arrived at Tottenham Locks – the approach is unique – as we passed through the shallow water we were surrounded by little bubbles – like cruising through a jacuzzi……populated by teenage boys on a bean-rich diet. We were overwhelmed by the ripe smell of methane stirred up from the turbid bottom. Knowing how mucky the water is here, I’d approached the lock landings very slowly – just as well – the landings were occupied by another moored boat so there’s wasn’t much room. Richard was at the front of the boat, signalling with increasing urgency for me to stop. But I couldn’t stop – the throttle was in “full reverse” position but nothing was happening. Fortunately we were travelling slowly enough for Richard to jump off with a rope and slow us down so we didn’t land with too much of a bang! Once we were under control, I pushed the throttle into forward gear – there were two explanations for the lack of “gear” – a broken throttle cable or rubbish round the prop. This being turbid Tottenham, it was a fouled prop, though a burst of forward gear seemed to dislodge whatever it was and we had steerage again. Richard went down the weed hatch anyway to double check, then joined Andy to work the lock. We had to use the manual lock as the electric one was closed for maintenance – this meant a LOT of hard work on the windlass – the controls are hydraulic – both to open/close the paddles AND to open/close the gates! The previous user had left the far gates open and paddles up.
It’s much more pleasant above Tottenham Locks, so we stopped to give the hounds a quick walk – we had seven on board – Ollie and Eddie, obviously, but also scaredy wuss jellyboy Ty and his soulmate, scaredy wuss pantyboy Monty, along with Ranger Dawg, Big Bertie and Herbie. They’re always a fine sight on the towpath and they were exceptionally well-behaved, even when a squirrel ran across the path in front of them. Ranger did find a large bone, hopefully not human, and strutted proudly along the towpath dangling the disgusting thing from his mouth!
After that brief pitstop, we just mooched along the navigation, drinking coffee, eating pastries and watching the world go by – though there was little enough to see – the towpaths were quiet and I think we only saw one other boat on the move all day. We passed through Stonebridge Lock – we have fond memories of buying ice-creams from the coffee shop there and sharing them with the hounds on a warm day. Today the shop was shut and the service point had been colonised by shrieking girls, ridiculous in their onesies, looking for trash to throw into the canal – charming!
We cruised on and started to pay a bit more attention to our surroundings – we needed to spot the path up to Chingford for an outing that we had planned for Sunday. Once we’d found that, we started to think about supper and an overnight mooring We were 8 lock miles from Waltham Abbey – so, call it 2 hours – we’d be mooring up at 6.30pm – just after dark. Now that would normally be a done deal for the Indigo Dreamers, but, to my astonishment, the crew got onto google to check for canalside pubs and/or chinese takeaways in the immediate vicinity!
We eventually moored right outside the Navigation Harvester Inn just above Ponder’s End lock. The pub moorings were a little unkempt – apparently the pub has had trouble with travellers breaking into their car park and leaving behind great piles of trash when they’re evicted. However, there weren’t any trespassers there tonight. The moorings are secure offside and although we had to check for broken glass and hidden trash in the undergrowth, they were just too convenient to miss. The pub moorings under the willow tree (nearest to the lock) are fine, but a little further along they were too shallow for us. We were very close to the road that crossed the canal but we weren’t too badly affected by traffic noise. I should note that there were nice towpath moorings just below the lock opposite the boatyard, but it’s just as well that we didn’t moor there, as I’ll recount later…
After a brief bobble with the hounds, we gave them a big dinner – the boat has a convenient serving hatch which allows food to be passed from the galley to the towpath – it’s the perfect hound cafe! We went off to the pub for supper, being a Harvester, it’s not dog-friendly, but the hounds seemed happy to curl up on their boat beds…
When we got back to the boat everyone seemed sleepy, so the hounds were evicted for another bobble while Sarah and I got the beds, human and hound, ready. There was the usual commotion while the hounds tried to work out who was sleeping where, then we all settled down – until I looked at the clock and protested – it was only 8.45pm! I’d thought it was much later! I’m more of a night owl and was appalled to be in bed so early
I needn’t have worried though – Sarah has trained her hounds to come and wake me up if they need anything so I did the night shift! There were dog bed debates to be sorted and blankets to be distributed as the night got colder. Ty always needs to go out at 2.30am – this was a bit of a logistical nightmare with almost every inch of floor covered in hounds. Of course, you wake one hound and you wake them all
It may sound as if having hounds sleeping on board is a bit of a drama, but Eddie hound did us a big favour at 4am – if he hadn’t woken me up then I wouldn’t have seen that the domestic battery alarm was about to go off. We needed to run the engine for half an hour to get them up from an alarming 2% to 20% – enough to protect the batteries from further damage. That’s the reason that we were glad that we’d gone for the more remote mooring away from the boatyard and its residential moorings. There wasn’t a soul around in the pub or on the water so they couldn’t complain, though Indigo Dream’s engine is well-silenced! So I, the night owl, sat up doing puzzles by torchlight and took the more curious hounds out in turn to explore the rat-haunted bins nearby (top entertainment for a greyhound). I was also up again at 6am for more hound walking – this time with the few that had refused a walk at 4am!
Note on batteries: At 4am the smartguage showed the batteries were at 2%; by 4.30am they were up to 18%; with no other input, by the time we woke up they were up to 36% – we suspect that our batteries are done for! And before you ask, we’re pretty certain that the smartguage is working properly!