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The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for December, 2008

The hunt for a dog-friendly pub

Posted by indigodream on 28 December, 2008

28th December 2008

Merry Christmas one and all! Sorry we’ve been so tardy with our Christmas wishes.  I’ve spent the festive season up to my neck in beef dripping and sundry accompaniments. Now this beats being up to my elbows in a turkey’s a**** but it’s a close run thing 🙂 Christmas for us is a bit excessive as Richard’s family celebrate it the Polish way on Christmas Eve and then the British way on Christmas Day.

We had a lovely little cruise from Packet Boat Marina up to Cowley Lock and back today. It was a crisp and  sunny winter’s day (with freezing winds) and we fancied a bit of fresh air.  We had the vague aim of checking that the boat was ok, giving the engine a quick run and eating lunch in a warm and dog -friendly pub! It’s a slow bobble up to the lock what with all the online moorings, but we weren’t in a hurry. To our relief, we found that you CAN wind a 60 foot boat just below the lock and the bollards on the towpath side are 24-hour visitor moorings – perfect.

But our desire to find a dog-friendly eaterie was thwarted at every turn. The dog-friendly tea-shop by Cowley Lock was closed (we guess they closed early due to lack of trade – the sign said they were open!). The Malt Shovel pub next door does food but they don’t allow dogs indoors and it really was too cold to be eating outside!

With the boat pointing the right way we headed back towards the marina. Despite having two walks already, Blue complained incessantly so Richard took them for a walk while I pottered down the canal towards the next pub. The Water’s Edge, just by Bridge 190, has convenient moorings right outside. The moorings were empty and there was plenty of room for a 60 footer. All looking good, but a sad smoker standing outside informed us that dogs were not allowed. When we checked, they would have been allowed in the conservatory but it was pretty chilly in there so we thought they’d be better off on board.

The Water’s Edge is an attractive pub from the canal and had a reasonable Sunday menu (£13 odd for 2 courses) with a nice selection of ‘proper’ food. There was a hefty surcharge (£4.50) if you wanted steak so we gave that a miss. But the pub just didn’t do it for us – we can’t put our finger on why that was but it just seemed mediocre where it should have been excellent. The service was friendly but slow; the food was well cooked, at times excellent but also lacked flavour in places; the desserts were processed and bland; the loos were spotlessly clean but somewhat shabby. It’s a shame as it’s the closest pub to the marina and might have become a regular watering hole.

But nil desperandum, there’s an unexplored Fuller’s pub a few yards up the road. It looks unappealing from outside but if it allows dogs and does decent chips, as many other Fullers pubs do, then it’ll be just fine! (Like Herbie we like the Black Horse in Perivale).  I’ve been thinking of writing a page of dog-friendly pubs for easy reference (as per our guide to mooring spots). Watch this space!

The dogs gave us a rapturous welcome when we got back on board. Maybe this was because of the pocketful of leftovers I’d carried back or maybe because they were cold. For some reason the boiler had turned itself off. We’ve had this happen before but thought that the recent service had fixed it. The universal cure of turning the timer off and on again set the boiler running and we cruised round the corner to the marina with dogs wrapped in blankets.

I think we’re getting better at reversing into our mooring – despite a gustily inconvenient breeze, we easily got the boat into our spot,  proving once again that practice really does make perfect!

We finished the afternoon with hot lattes from our most excellent espresso machine and we put my kitchen scales to unusual use by weighing the carbon dioxide cylinders in our life-jackets. We also did the other standard checks to make sure that they’re in working order. Yes, you’ve guessed it, we’re going tidal again. We’ve decided to support this year’s St Pancras Cruising Club flotilla to the London Boatshow. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s a splendid adventure and although the cost has sadly taken a BIG upward hike this year, we can thoroughly recommend it. We’re going off on January 8th and then we come back on 19th January at some unearthly hour in the dark – no doubt we’ll makes a few posts then assuming that Richard gets round to putting some navigation lights on the boat and we manage to track down Diesel Lizzie for us first post-November fill up!

Dog Update

Poor Lou and Blue have been in the wars in the run up to Christmas. Having been in kennels for 10 days while we were on holiday, Blue escaped with his ribs sticking out (he’d lost 2kg) and with a deep cut in one eyelid; he followed up by pulling a muscle in his back two days later and finished the week with a flourish by ripping off one of his toenails on a walk; Lou joined in be acquiring two deep grazes and a puncture wound to her back legs on the same walk. We’ve had four vet visits in 6 days – a new record; not to mention that two of those visits were on one day because Blue managed to experience EVERY listed side-effect to the injection he was given for his back! Many antibiotics and painkillers later they’re recovering well though Blue is still on lead-only walking because of his back. He’s not impressed. Luckily, the house is full of roasted meats so I have been able to ease their distress!

Would we have greyhounds again, even after these two most accident-prone specimens? OF COURSE WE WOULD. They’re tremendous and just remember, Blue and Lou are collecting everyone’s bad luck so that other greyhounds can enjoy an injury-free life 🙂

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Boat Blog: Denham to Cowley Peachey

Posted by indigodream on 16 December, 2008

December 7th 2008

We collected the boat from her winter service today. I’d love to say that she looked good but she’s actually covered in a fine film of soot from the numerous boat chimneys along this stretch (along with quarry dust)! I’m not sure whether I want to know what the boaters actually burn in their stoves round here – coal, for certain, wood, possibly, but judging by the rich aromas they also burn a mix of chicken feathers and entrails as well as putrid socks. Yet another good reason for not having a stove on board.

Indigo Dream is beautiful under the skin though – engine all serviced, diesel leak from one of the filters fixed, webasto serviced, toilet hoses sorted. It was a rather big bill but the boatyard did sort out a lot of little niggles and it’s amazing how these mount up. We were alarmed to find that the full run of hose from toilet to tank (about 30′) will need to be replaced in 2 – 3 years’ time. It’s a big job but then again there’ll be a lot of water under the bow between now and then so let’s not worry about it!

So what have we done with our fully serviced boat? Well cruised her straight back to the marina to shiver in the cold while we go off to the Canary Islands for a week 🙂

It was a lovely day for cruising today – I let Richard have the helm for a change while I first took the car to meet him at Cowley lock and then later at the marina. I got to the lock first and the plan was for me to set it by the time Richard arrived. I did get a bit distracted (you just can’t get the crew….) but Richard forgave me as I was busy chatting to a dainty greyhound (and her owner) on the towpath. She was a lovely mid-brindle with a very delicate build and still very fast. Her owner had raced her then kept her as a pet after she retired – good on him! She got an extra-big fuss from me; I was feeling full of remorse having dropped Blue and Lou off in kennels this morning – they’ll be in for 10 days, their longest stretch yet. I KNOW they’ll be well looked after but I still feel like an unfit mother! Mind you with the cost of kennels perhaps we should look at alternatives?

Once we got through the lock I took the car down to the marina and Richard cruised on through the crisp sunny afternoon. The temperature was only 6 degrees but it was lovely in the sun (provided you were wearing lots of layers).

I had a surprise at the marina – the basin was covered in a sheet of thin ice, as was the entrance to the Slough Arm. Luckily it had been broken in places and had thawed around the heated boats but there was no sign of ice on the mainline. The Slough Arm must just be a cold pocket. Richard picked me up at the marina entrance and I took her in for the mooring. I’ve never cruised the boat through ice before – what a racket! The noise was very disconcerting but not as much as the feeling that the ice was pushing back! She was very sluggish on the helm but it was a still day and we got into our mooring without any drama. We have now perfected a technique where I get on the helm to reverse her in while Richard acts as a ‘bow thruster’ with the barge pole at the front. Beautiful it ain’t but efficient it is!

With boat wrapped up in her mooring (with the webasto set on timer to keep her frost-free over the next week or so) we set off back to Cowley lock in the car. The greyhound’s owner (who was also a fellow boater) recommended the tea-shop at the lock for lunch. It was not your typical tea-shop; instead of dainty scones we tucked into sausage ‘n mash and liver ‘n onions plus soft drinks all for less than £15. The pub at the lock looked good too but we thought we’d trust the greyhound’s owner recommendation – he must have good judgement to own such a fine dog!

With our usual reluctance we dragged ourselves away from the canal – it has an almost electric attraction for us and we always spend far too much time gossiping with other canal folk, messing about with the boat and generally dithering. But tomorrow we’re on a plane and I can’t wait to get some warmth and light into my bones.

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Tidal Cruising

Posted by indigodream on 4 December, 2008

Not yet been out on the tidal Thames? Do it in the right circumstances and there is no need to be scared witless.

There is a perfect occasion coming up. The St Pancras Cruising Club are again organising a trip to the London Boat Show. If you get a chance go for it! We did it 2 years ago, the whole thing was well organised and being in convoy with other boats means that you feel safe. Next January’s cruise apparently has 13 boats committed or expressing a keen interest and is again being organised by Andrew Phasey which is good news. If you have difficulty accessing the SPCC site then try again after 13th December – apparently their web host has closed down and they had to move everything in a bit of a hurry.

In 2007 we went out in flotilla down Bow Creek, coming out opposite the Millennium Dome sorry O2 arena

Dome ahoy
Dome ahoy

then out through the Thames Barrier

Thames Barrier
then out through the Thames Barrier

then you can play chicken with the woolwich ferry

Fulbourne reckoning they have right of way

Fulbourne reckoning they have right of way

and then in through the most enormous lock into the Royal Docks. The year we did it we went in with a load of gin palaces including Eddie Jordan’s new dinghy (£10M, loads of storeys, needs a crew of 7).

Locking into the Royal DOcks
Locking into the Royal Docks

You park up for 2 weeks or so in the Royal Docks then at the end of the boat show you join the migration out. We almost did not get out as the Boat in the lock at first did not want to share (Captain must have been an only Child). They eventually relented but rather than putting fenders out they had a load of kids with big guns up on deck.

The Captain was not keen to share a lock with us ....
The Captain was not keen to share a lock with us ….

So a cracking good cruise in the company of experts. Go for it!

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Boat blog: Cowley Peachey to Perivale to Denham

Posted by indigodream on 1 December, 2008

Saturday 22nd November – Wednesday 26th November

I’ve been a bit slow with the blog this week – I blame the cold and the dark. Never mind, we’re determined to cruise throughout the winter so Indigo Dream’s in JP Marine’s yard in Denham for a general service and bit of TLC. I’ll let Richard do the technicalities later!

As regular readers may have guessed, I was working in the Wembley area again this week. I’m wondering whether this will be as reliable a weather forecaster as the seaweed outside the door – “Sue and Camilla in Wembley, weather be chilly”. Based on our two visits here I can say it’s 100% reliable!

We moved the boat down to Perivale on Saturday after stopping off at the marina’s pump-out machine and filled up with water. The wind was very gusty and made for interesting manoeuvering – the service pontoon is a bit awkward for a 60 footer – if you go in bow first then you have to reverse out because there’s not quite enough room to turn. I think that this is yet another little niggle to add to the list – I don’t think that this marina will become our long-term home.

Having said that, the marina have sorted out the electricity on our mooring bollard, having apologised profusely for the delay. We also had excellent help from the marina staff which enabled Richard to make cunning use of the wind to move Indigo Dream out of the marina without any drama.

Once he’d done all the hard work, I took over on the helm and he drove off to drop the car in Perivale. The plan was for him to park the car then cycle back along the towpath to meet me. “Rather him than me”. I thought, but if I’d realised just how cold it was maybe I’d have volunteered to stay in a warm car for another hour!

I was better prepared this time though – I’d worn extra layers (the phrase ‘michelin man’ comes to mind, unlike Greygal’s rapidly streamlining figure) and I’d invested in cashmere socks. This worked up to a point – I was warm for the first 90 minutes but then I had to resort to dancing around at the helm again. The towpath was deserted – just as well, I may be the only dancer that’s worse than John Sargeant!

I met six narrowboats – more than I expected. We all looked like aliens at the helm – bright eyes glittering in the narrow gap between woolly hat and woolly scarf (or balaclava in my case). We all waved cheerily with heavily gloved hands – you can’t keep a narrowboater down!

We’ve done this stretch a few times now so I’ll have to sharpen my observation skills for the blog. Today I noticed that the tug and butty had disappeared from the cement works and I didn’t spot them further down the canal. I wonder if Debdale spotted them in Paddington?

I also noticed that the Nescafe factory (which sadly didn’t smell of coffee today) has a windsock on one of its buildings – I wonder why?

I forgot to mention two rats that I saw last time I came this way – one on the towpath and one swimming across the canal. I have a friend who thinks that rats on the canal are ‘nice’ rats and much cuter than the ones I campaign against in my garden. I don’t think so – these looked like common brown rats to me (rather than water voles) and far from cute. They are agile though and amazingly adept swimmers.

Unlike my solo cruise of a few weeks ago, I had Blue and Lou on board today. They were snuggly wrapped in their coats and spent most of the time inside with the central heating, looking smug and laughing at the little jig I was dancing at the helm. Blue whined almost continuously – he’d spotted a cat at the marina but we didn’t let him chase it; he spotted a cat on the towpath, I didn’t let him chase it; he spotted a squirrel on the towpath, I didn’t let him chase it. His life was just full of unreasonable restrictions 🙂 Of course, he chose to forget the three high-energy walks he’d had on the way to the boat!

I met Richard on the towpath just before Engineers Wharf. I’d made good time though Richard had a slow drive to Perivale. He came on board and elected to go inside and cook lunch while I turned into an ice lolly on the helm. Bacon sarnies (sorry, Greygal) and a large hot latte thawed me slightly. When I whinged about the cold to a boater at his mooring I had a stereo response as he and Richard shouted “it’s not that cold” from the comfort of their cabins – Bah!

We headed for home on Saturday. I had friends coming round to make Christmas Puddings on ‘Stir up Sunday’, the traditional day for stirring fruit and fortune into your puddings. I was back on Indigo Dream by Monday afternoon and was joined by Camilla in the evening. I had a car in Perivale and it only took 20 minutes door-to-door to get to where we were training – it was perfect. We had a lovely time, the boat’s such a relaxing place to stay but it’s so hard to drag ourselves away from it. We loitered around both mornings, sipping tea, having a second cup, making a second pot and generally forgetting that we were actually there to work! But we had plenty of time and our course went very well with a friendly and dedicated group of learners. It’s a wonderful life!

In the meantime, Richard had the dogs in the office for a couple of day and I think it’s fair to say that sausage sandwiches were scoffed!

With the days now impossibly short, there wasn’t time for me to take the boat back after the training course on Wednesday. To think I was complaining about short days when it was going dark at 5.45pm! So Richard took the afternoon off and moved the boat for me. We had a serendipitous afternoon – Richard had just started emptying Cowley Lock when I caught up with him and took the boat through. Then I took the car up to JP marine and waited for him. The friendly woman at the boatyard was showing me where we should moor when Richard turned up. We like this boatyard- they’ve been very friendly so far. if they do a good job of the service then we’re quids in!

We packed up and drove back to Perivale for Richard’s car then headed to the Black Horse pub for supper. Blue and Lou like it here – the staff always give them a big fuss and they scoffed four sausages between them, together with our leftovers. We figured that by the time we’d eaten, the M25 would be clear and so it was!

The Dog’s view

First Patrol run

First Patrol run

G’day mates, Lou here to set the record straight.  It’s gen’rally not known but it’s tough being a dog ‘specially when the Sheila’s away. Richard gets up way too early and then has to stop off at his ma’s house. He just strolls in, but for us, well, stone the flamin’ crows, we’ve got heavy duties. That garden’s full of foxes and cats hiding in the wood or behind the hedges. So our first job is to do a high speed patrol of the garden.

Top o’ the morning to yez all, this is Blue taking on Lou’s tall tale coz she hasn’t told you the half of it. Our toils are endless, we have to check the park by Richard’s offices for squirrels.

How come Blue got his sandwich first? Surely should be Ladies first?

How come Blue got his sandwich first? Surely should be Ladies first?

More wild runnin’ and still no breakfast. Mind you, Richard does stop off at ‘Fat Boys’ sandwich bar and gets us a sausage sarnie. We used to get them in one piece but now they are cut in 4 with no mustard and no tomato ketchup – just because oi’m Irish doesn’t mean I’m not refined. But it’s cruel hard to sit in the car with the smell of a sausage sarnie.

Starvation being abated, sonic booms echoing as sausage breaks sound barrier

Starvation being abated, sonic booms echoing as sausage breaks sound barrier

Richard makes us wait ’til we get to the office before we can finally stop dying from starvation – something pathetic about allowing the sandwiches to cool…….

2nd bit goes down a bit slower

2nd bit goes down a bit slower

We’re not on squirrel duty then ’til lunchtime but there’s no rest for us poor hounds. We spend our time helpin’ the engineers with their drawin’s – steel beams with paw print designs are Richard’s speciality!

At lunchtime it’s back to the park for more squirrel clearnace duties, hungry work but we have to wait till all the humans have eaten before we get anything – sigh….. At least on Tuesday we got left over fish and chips (and half of Agnieszka’s salmon sandwich). Fish is very healthy for us, that’s why my coat’s so glossy! Then it was back to the serious technical consultancy – Richard and Simon had 10 book credits to use up and couldn’t decide what to buy. We sorted them – recommended this book. It was hungry work so we finished the day off with some tinned dog food – well, someone’s got eat it and Richard won’t eat his supper if Sue offers him ‘meatloaf’!  Cor, what a day, by 7pm we’re totally bushed.


It was good on Wednesday though coz Sue and Richard ended up in the nice Black Horse that Herbie rates but for quite the wrong reasons. Far better reasons: Sue couldn’t quite finish her steak…. oh, and the nice Chef cooked us 4 !!! sausages. Oh course, we were almost too tired to eat but we just about managed to lift our heads above the carpet – it’s a tough life, as I may have told yeh before…..

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