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Archive for October 18th, 2008

The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 50

Posted by indigodream on 18 October, 2008

Brentford to Cowley Peachey

Indigo Dream on a dreamy day

Indigo Dream on a dreamy day

We actually managed to get up before 9am today and enjoyed the sight of a fine morning with bright sunshine and a crisp blue sky completely devoid of the big planes that roared over yesterday.

Blue was in good spirits this morning, yesterday’s discomfort seemed to have been forgotten. That’s a good sign – no lasting harm done then. Of course, he may have been feeling cheerful because the morning started with a ride in the car. The dogs like the car. Even though many trips seem to end at the vet, they always seem to take the optimistic view that I might be taking them for an exciting walk or back home to their duvets.

This time we were doing the car shuffle to the Packet Boat Marina in Cowley Peachey – our new winter

Kool Karolina....

Kool Karolina....

home. We had a great drive there – no traffic and easy to navigate. Richard got there first and went to the office to sort out which was our berth and collect the relevant gate keys. In the meantime I took Blue and Lou for a high-energy rummage in the heathland nearby. You can’t beat this marina for dog-walking! It was only a quickie though as we had to get back to the boat to meet today’s guests – two lady engineers from Richard’s office and their partners.

We had a nightmare journey back – it was totally gridlocked – where on earth had all this traffic come from? We had to do a cunning backtrack to get to Brentford or I’m afraid we’d still be stuck on the sliproad to the M4!

Captain Voytek!

Captain Wojtek!

Our guests, Karolina, Duncan, Agnieszka and Voytek were already at the boat when we finally got back. No big deal – it was such a sunny day and there are worse places to spend a morning than the basin at Brentford. Agnieszka had thoughtfully bought a round of Costa coffees with her so we were off to a brilliant start. She also brought 10 doughnuts, adding to the 12 we already had on board. We knew then that we’d have to throw some ballast overboard just to cope with our increasing weight as we cruised along πŸ™‚

The first bit of interest was the looming edifice of GlaxoSmithKline. I always have to fall on my knees and worship as I go past here. We once ‘borrowed’ one of their magnificent training rooms to deliver a course for NHS nurses. We almost lost

Duncan - our lockkeeper

Duncan - our resident lockkeeper

our participants in a stampede for the HR department – we all wanted to work here. GSK provide the most amazing facilites ever – the ground floor of the building has a mini-city for the staff with a small supermarket, several coffee bars, a couple of staff restaurants, a hairdressers and a beauty parlour, all set in a lavish atrium with soothing fountains and modern art installations. I knew I’d struck gold when the chef in the staff restaurant asked me how I’d like my salmon pan fried! GSK also have very good moorings – I don’t know under what conditions a boat would get to use them – maybe I should apply for a job and find out.

There’s plenty of interest for man and dog on this stretch of the Grand Union. The Hanwell flight is amazingly rural and apart from the first and last lock seem to be totally isolated from the road. The dogs love it here – plenty of rummaging and we predictably ‘lost’ Blue in exactly the same places as we did last year! The dogs were very relaxed with our guests – they’re spending every Friday in Richard’s office and move from desk to desk looking for food and fuss (in that order). Being as there were so many people on board, and as Blue had been in wars, we allowed them to have a ‘sofa service’ meal (see the dogblog below!) – what a great life!

Interested parties....

Interested parties....

We saw very few boats after we left Brentford so we largely had the canal to ourselves. But although we were locking up by ourselves, with our multitude of crew we shot up the flight. There were lots of interested walkers on this stretch – it was a beautiful day and people were out in force. It’s always a bit amazing here because the Hanwell flight is surrounded by some truly rough old areas of London as well as being flanked by a large prison. Yet on the water it feels as rural as any shire we’ve visited.

Sadly, though, the Grand Union here has one typical feature of an urban canal – garbage in the water. We came up the Grand Union on the first part of our odyssey, 50 wonderful cruising days ago. It wasn’t anywhere near as dirty then, it seems that the locals have spent the summer throwing stuff into the water. Despite passing an almost

Rear Admiral Richard

Rear Admiral Richard

overflowing BW rubbish barge, there was still plenty of trash in the water. I’m a bit amazed that we only had to clear our prop once!

One interesting feature hereabouts (which I don’t find offensive) is the presence of large numbers of coconuts in the water. We’ve heard that this is an asian custom – giving gifts to the holy ganges; all water being spiritually linked to the sacred river. What have you heard? We’d love to know.

Everyone on board took a turn at steering the boat into the locks – we started off by generously opening both gates (well, we had to do something with that many crew members) but we soon reverted to just one lock gate. I got to the helm for one of the lock gates and went through quite fast (without touching the sides I might add, and yes, it was just one lock gate open!). Speed rarely concerns Richard so I had to grin when he warned the next person at the helm NOT to try a lock entry as fast as me πŸ™‚

After all the activity at the locks, the rest of the afternoon passed quiet and balmy along the lock-free

Able crewman Agnieszka

Able crewman Agnieszka

stretch up to Cowley Peachey. It was a VERY relaxed cruise – we caught up with a narrowboat which had a very novel idea of how to save diesel. They put on some revs for a few seconds then went into neutral and coasted for 5 minutes, when they were almost stopped they put on a few revs then coasted again. I know narrowboating is a slow pursuit but this was ridiculous. We put Indigo Dream into neutral and STILL caught up with them. The only thing that kept us going was the fact that we’d be turning into the marina soon. Bad news, so were they! It took ages as they seemed determined not to use any revs to make the turn and just jerked the tiller back and forth while the boat coasted – it was painful. As we now share a home with them maybe we’ll find out the logic for their mode of propulsion and advocate it to all of you in blogland (NOT!).

Once we’d moored up at our new home, Richard took our guests back to their cars in Brentford while I took the dogs for a walk and packed the boat up. We’ve had mixed views of our now home – it doesn’t seem as friendly as some of the other marinas we’ve inhabited. We’d just

So that's what lock beams are for!

So that's what lock beams are for!

moored up when one of our near neighbours walked past, determinedly looking away, avoiding eye contact and lips tightly sealed. The boat behind us seemed a little more promising – he was a residential moorer who helpfully told me about all the local dog walks.

However, the staff are very helpful and as we’re not actually living here then maybe it doesn’t matter if the folk here don’t seem so welcoming. On the other hand, maybe we just haven’t given them enough time. I must remember that we’re back in the reserved South East now; we’ve come from the west where people tend to be more open. Just as well we weren’t tempted to go right across the channel to Wales, where it’s a person’s human right to know everyone else’s business, I’d never

The marina by moonlight

The marina by moonlight

have adapted πŸ™‚

The dogs enjoyed another fine walk in the heathland by the marina; now that we had keys we could even cross the canal to the far side where they could have a splosh in the river. They had a brilliant time but we made ourselves even more popular (!) when I got distracted by trying to take photos and failed to spot another walker until after Lou had chased his dog away. No harm done, they hadn’t gone far and its rural so they were in no danger but I couldn’t help but think “oh lordy, Indigo Dream has landed”. Lou built on her ‘bad girl’ image by barking ferociously at another boater’s dog (she was on the lead this time!). Blue topped off the evening by cleverly catching another fat rabbit. He proudly strutted down the towpath with his catch but he considerately buried it out of sight before anyone saw him!

Lou rummaging in the - oh damn, where's she gone......

Lou rummaging in the - oh damn, where's she gone..

Richard came back a short while after and we reluctantly packed our possessions feeling both sad and happy. Happy that we’d got here before the winter closures but desperately sad that our 2008 odyssey was over. It’s been a remarkable summer – we’ve had such a great time. According to the excellent canalplan we have done just under 500 miles and 439 locks and are so looking forward to the next odyssey – we’ll be plotting that one soon.

One of the greatest pleasures has been keeping this blog and getting to know new people, and, if I can presume, making new friends. It was great to meet Sanity in the flesh and I hope that we’ll catch up with the rest of you on future cruises.

The BIG question now is do we retire gracefully from the blog, like nb Martlett or do we carry on with such trivia as catches our eye and gentle cruising notes from our winter tours back and forth between between Slough and Camden.

Are you kidding??! We love the blog so it’s very likely that we’ll be adding bits and pieces as we go along though probably not quite as often. Of course, Blue and Lou have their own fan club so I expect they’ll be at the keyboard replying to their fan mail. We’ll also be adding an index for the odyssey – even we forget where we’ve been and when! Then Richard took some photos last week of the Bow Back Rivers which he wants to post once he gets them off Agnieszka’s camera.

Thanks to all of you for you support – it’s been great. Can’t wait to see you all on the cut. Don’t forget to let us know if you’re passing by Cowley Peachey on a weekend – we’ll get the coffee on!


Lots of photos for the fan club!

Hound of the Baskervilles (1)

Hound of the Baskervilles (1)

Hound of the Baskervilles (1)

Hound of the Baskervilles (2)

Blue leads the way - don't jump in without your water wings...

Blue in the lead - don't jump in without your water wings!

Some greyhounds just like to go their own way...

Blue just likes to go his own way...

Your greyhound may enjoy agility training....

Lou's getting very agile on lock gates....

Don't separate them from their duvets...

It's drastic but sometimes you just have to take the duvet away.....

Always elevate their food bowls to a convenient position

We always elevate their food bowls to aid digestion!

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