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Archive for December, 2009

Boat Blog: There are worse ways to spend a day…..

Posted by indigodream on 27 December, 2009

Sunday 27th December

Teddington to the Fox pub, Grand Union Canal

Grand views (1)....

The Thames is a moody lover – last week the river was seducing me with it’s grand shores but today it was back on red boards along most of its length, including the bit from Kingston to Teddington. Thank heavens we’d resisted the urge to moor further upstream – we’d have been stuck! As it happens we were moored on the Teddington Lock moorings, far enough forward to be protected from the main river’s flow and the pull of the vast weir.

We were booked through Thames Lock (Brentford) at 11am so the plan was to arrive at the boat by 9am, faff around for an hour then go through Teddington Lock at 10am. The roads were deserted and we had a quick trip up to the boat so we actually managed to fulfill our schedule! Unfortunately, the high tide was working to a different clock….

Canoeists on the wrong side of the river are not uncommon - the flow's less ferocious there....

We’d thought that high tide was at 9.55am – just in time for us to catch it on the turn; unfortunately, the tide had actually turned at 9.20am so we had a super-fast trip downriver, swept by the combined force of the ebbing tide and the meltwater flowing downriver.

But ignorance is bliss, so we carried on faffing around on the boat until our scheduled departure time. There were important things to be done….

Santa was very inspired this year and my Christmas stocking contained the best present ever – electric (12v) wrap-around hand warmers – traditionally used on motorbike handlebars but also perfect on the tiller! Richard fixed this wondrous device just before we set out and I had toastie hands all day – wonderful! In fact, I had to wear gloves because the hand-warmer gets too hot (though it has a useful toggle on/off switch so I could adjust the heat accordingly)! We need to work out a more elegant way of connecting the device to the batteries but the cabling that Richard rigged up today worked just fine and made me a very happy woman indeed. I am now thinking of what else I could keep warm by connecting it to the battery – oooh er missus!

Great views (2)

Of course, Santa’s posh sister also supplied the boat with very nice Molton Brown toiletries so that we wouldn’t seem too shabby when cruising, so that also had to be installed!

Finally, we were very curious as to how our batteries were faring. Herbie’s been very informative in this post, even so, we were surprised that our batteries had gone down to 44% in our absence (9 days) – is that just the Webasto and the automated bilge pump drawing power, the cold weather or some other unexplained power drain? We’ll see how it goes this week – everything’s switched off (including the automated bilge pump – glug glug, there she goes to the bottom….) and the starting power after today’s cruise is 94%.

Opinions seem to vary as to whether you need to talk to London VTS for the trip to Brentford.  We couldn’t get through on our vhf radio from Teddington so Richard rang them, they probably were not too busy so he had a little chat. They definitely do want to know and are very helpful; they seemed pleased that we had a fixed vhf set though I have to say reception was really bad today.

midwinter colour....

Oh, we noticed in passing that the sunken wreck at Teddington Lock moorings had not been removed – I thought that maybe it had shifted a bit so maybe they tried and failed – who knows! I’m glad that they told us they were thinking of moving the wreck though – that’s what prompted us to moor so far forward which was very useful given the river conditions.

As I mentioned, we got onto the tideway about 40 minutes after high tide but there was still plenty of water in the river and we didn’t have to trouble the lock-keeper at Richmond. The river didn’t seem too bad, Indigo Dream was handling well, though the tiller was a tad heavy (as it often is on the river). It wasn’t until we passed by the bridges and moored boats at Richmond that we realised how fast the water was rushing out of the river – piling up against the upstream edge of the bridge piers. It was quite a sight and a useful guide to the rate of flow.

Posh Richmond on the hill and the hermit's heap on the water....

At Richmond Bridge, only the centre arch is marked as navigable – I had to resist a strong temptation to cruise under the unmarked right-hand arch. Two rowers were toiling upstream in an old wooden bathtub and came dead centre through the navigable arch – I had to hang back out of the way and nip in behind them (right across the river) to get the correct  arch (makes sense when you see it). That’s when the force of the river became really tangible – when I was almost broadside to the current with the flow sucking the boat towards the bridge pier…..

Actually, that’s all rather dramatic, Indigo Dream’s got plenty of power, and because we’d got an idea of the speed of the flow earlier it was easy to compensate and get through the bridge cleanly. It did add a little frisson though…..

We enjoyed the tideway as always, more particularly because the sailors weren’t out today and there were very few rowers – how nice to have one’s river to oneself!

What's the story behind this wreckage then?

We seemed to arrive at Brentford in no time at all. I had been concerned about whether the strength of the flow would make it difficult to turn off the river, but it was fine. I think it’s all about being aware of the how much the boat will be tugged downstream when she turns broadside to the flow and maybe starting the turn a little earlier than usual.

Despite being booked, Brentford Lock wasn’t set for us so we needed to hover just outside while the lock-keeper emptied the lock for us. I was surprised by how nicely Indigo Dream hovered – she just stopped dead in the water and stayed there – that never happens, not even on the lazy canals!

We’d been musing about how far to cruise today – Richard has found a gas-safe engineer to come and sort out BSS issues; he’s based at Moseley but willing to travel to Brentford, so we needed to find an accessible spot not too far up the canal. We plumbed the Thames lock-keeper’s local knowledge – there was no chance of getting a spot at the Brentford visitor moorings – all full. He also gave us a very good reason for not mooring in the shelter of the trans-shipment warehouse – pigeons! Apparently they roost in large numbers in the roof and coat moored boats with paint-stripping guano. He did suggest mooring above Clitheroe’s Lock (there is a boat there already, looking secure and unmolested) but we decided to go up to the Fox moorings (2 locks up) and have lunch in the pub.

Magnificent view.....

This was a good decision. Although we were having the perfect day, Blue was having a perfectly rotten day. He wanted to stay and rummage in the riverside park in Teddington – he didn’t want to be on the boat and complained loudly and incessantly (whining and barking like a girlie pekingese – what a racket) for nigh on the whole cruise. Going up to the Fox meant that he could have some lockside rummages and join us for lunch in the pub. Lou, in the meantime, didn’t seem too keen to cruise either, but she just quietly perished of despair on her sofa…..

We had a cruise up the quiet canal – there wasn’t another boat on the move, but the towpath had plenty of walkers – it’s so good to see the canal being used in this way. The locks were set against us, but with such an easy target for the day it hardly mattered. Indigo Dream handled exceptionally well today (or maybe I’ve finally got the hang of the warm tiller!), the weather was dry, we had a welcome bit of sunshine and how nice it was to be in the fresh air – another magic day. There was also far less garbage in the water today and Richard says that the lock mechanisms have been newly greased so BW’s really been busy since we passed this way a scant fortnight ago.

Waiting for the bathtub! Hard work rowing a widebeam against the tide and the flow...

We were relieved to see plenty of space to moor by the gap in the path which leads to the pub! There are a few long-term moorers on the towpath here but no other visitors. Just as well, we need to leave the boat here for a week or so until the gas engineer can come and the boat’s just nicely accessible here.

Richard had pre-ordered a cab so as soon we moored he went back to collect the car from Teddington; this gave me an hour to pack the boat and wash the floor, which was quite black after our recent moorings in pretty muddy spots; aah maybe I should add a comma – we’ve been moored in pretty, muddy spots 🙂

It was all very efficient, though it did mean that I had to listen to Blue complaining for another hour!

With a good dinner in the offing we left the boat in record time and went off to the pub. The Fox is dog-friendly and has a really welcoming atmosphere – no wonder it’s so busy. We managed to get a table with just enough room to settle the dogs onto their sheepskins. We had the Sunday roast – huge portions and very good.

Brentford's old trans-shipment warehouse - "here be pig'ns"

We were all thoroughly stuffed by the time we left the pub (the dogs had enjoyed some leftovers including mashed potato) and we hastened home to sit and snooze in front of the telly. Simon (our hero of the trip down to Brentford) texted while we were on the M25, offering his crewing service again – curses we’d  missed him. We’ve only just started up the Hanwell though so maybe we’ll see him for the next leg…….

We’re all contentedly loafing around at home now – the human crew members are watching rugby on the telly and the dogs are stretched out on their duvets – fast asleep. We’re a bit mystified as to why they’re so tired at the moment. Then again, they may have had an exciting Christmas Day – we left them at home while we went to Richard’s sister. We diligently double locked the front door but accidentally left the back door wide open, so they had unrestricted and unsupervised access to our back garden and field (fortunately they couldn’t get out of the garden). We don’t know whether they stayed indoors all day wondering why it was so draughty or whether they spent the entire day chasing squirrels….

Happy New Year to you all 🙂


Eveyone gets to open their own presents....

The squeaky pheasants are a big hit - Blue carries them into the garden and Lou carries them back in; they're also very fond of my new fluffy slippers (red, in the shape of welsh dragons!)

Free at last.....

Strange fruit? Poo bags festoon the trees and the railings round here - but there's a bin less than 3 boat-lengths away.....

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Boat Blog: Winter Wonderland (2)

Posted by indigodream on 23 December, 2009

Saturday 19th December

Kingston to Teddington (via Hampton Court)

Our moorings in Kingston - perfect for the dogs and not so far from town either...

We woke up early with the boat bathed in brilliant sunshine – it was a clear invitation to get up and spend some time outside. With the dogs walked, we moved the boat from the moorings – this took some time! The bow mooring rope (which had been wetter than the stern ropes) was frozen solid and was behaving more like a length of rigid cable – it took a while to get it untied.

We could have stayed on the mooring until the rope had defrosted in the sun, but it was time to achieve one of our boating ambitions – tying up outside John Lewis and doing our Christmas shopping in Kingston! There was plenty of space on the JL moorings so our ambition was realised. We left the dogs on board and headed off into town. We hadn’t provisioned the boat at all, so the first stop was Costa for breakfast before enjoying a wander round the market that was just being set up. We then got on with the gift shopping – my goodness, Kingston’s so up-market now…..

With the essentials done we got back to the boat – we’d assured an ecstatic welcome by buying the dogs a (cheap) hot chicken from Waitrose. Blue was very appreciative but Lou’s off her food – she’s having a run of poor health at the moment (various causes) and we’re working with the vet to get her treatments right.

The view back towards Kingston Bridge...

I do worry about Lou, but it was too glorious a day to be worrying about anything really. It was seriously cold – the bow mooring rope never did defrost – but it was brilliantly sunny and the sky was that crackling shade of blue that you only get on a cold winter’s day. We contemplated going straight back to Teddington and thence to home but we couldn’t resist a little potter along the river. We needed to run the engine for a few hours in order to charge the batteries so we might as well be on the move.

The river loses some of its grandness here, though the extensive parkland that flanks the right banks speaks of Hampton’s Court’s ongoing influence – what a luxury to have this vast green space in an otherwise built-up area. The left bank and the islands (or aits) are crowded with a mix of housing ranging from the expected houses and apartments to the quirky bungalows that crowd every inch of the riverside. I noticed that Raven’s Ait, an island housing a once-famous hotel, is now surrounded by a security fence (flimsy) and signs warning that a security firm patrols there. The island was briefly occupied by squatters after the hotel closed – I guess they’ve been moved on!

The John Lesis Moorings (just downstream of the bridge) - sweet!

We stopped off at Thames Ditton Marina to pick up a new calor gas cylinder. We’d changed the cylinders over ages ago but we’d completely forgotten to replace the old one. We were nowhere near running out of gas but it is nice to have a backup on board.

We carried on upriver, making and discarding plans as we went along – should we stop at our favourite riverside pub, the Albany, for a spot of lunch? What about going up to the lock, or through the lock, spending the night on board, going home…….too many fine options to choose from!

Luckily Blue made the decision for us – he’s an action dog so he was agitating for a walk, very loudly. So we achieved another boating ambition – to stop at the Hampton Court Palace moorings (on the right bank just by the golden gates – FREE for 24 hours) and have a wander round the parkland. The dogs had an excellent rummage here, especially when we found a path onto the rough ground at the edge of the golf course. It’s a fine place to walk,well-fenced, no roads and magnificent backdrops – the river, the parkland and Hampton Court Palace itself.

Blue having a mad moment....

There was a dusting of snow on the ground and Blue went completely bonkers – alternatively running around at top speed and throwing himself down to rub his face in the snow and to roll around in the long grass. Lou chased him a few times before pulling up lame (chronic knee rather than new injury). That was the sign that they’d had enough (Blue disagreed!) so we wandered back to the boat well contented.

On such a fine day it was easy to think that we had lots of cruising ahead of us, but the fact was that we’d only have the daylight for another couple of hours, so we turned back towards Teddington. The trip back was a lot faster – although there are no flow warnings, there’s plenty of water in the river and it exerts quite a force!

Lots of room for a hound to run...

As we cruised back I felt an overwhelming desire to live on the river – wouldn’t it be great to buy Raven’s Ait (with my triple Euromillions lottery win, which would admittedly be more likely if I were to buy a ticket!). It’s not practical, of course, we’d spend at least one month a year stuck in one place while the river was on red boards. But today the longing to live on the river filled me completely, the idea making my mouth-water as much as the black truffles served at yesterday’s dinner.

We stopped off at the John Lewis moorings on the way back, just for the hell of it! This time we took the dogs for a wander into town. We’d spotted a german bratwurst stand being set up in the continental-style market earlier and stopped off for a late lunch. Blue loved the market – he sent all his time hoovering up sausages that people dropped around the stand. This was not an indication of their quality – we had a superior hot-dog here – barbecued bratwurst in proper french bread – yummy! We followed this with a freshly toasted waffle from an adjacent stand. Richard bought me an extremely silly hat to go with my super-colourful winter fleece. Kingston’s Christmas market doesn’t yet compare with it’s European counterparts in Lille and Bruges but it’s a good start – we had a thoroughly enjoyable hour here.

Hampton Court Palace - I reckon we could settle here....

Of course, our enjoyment was greatly enhanced by the fact that we’d had a lovely cruise and moored up in town without queue or congestion. A local shopper told us that they’d queued for 45 minutes to get into the car park!

With human and canine crew well-fed we set off towards Teddington. We got there in no time at all – the helm feels very different coming downstream – it’s a bit like the difference between driving your car with the handbrake partly on and then with the handbrake off 🙂

We moored a little way beyond the sunken boat but after a chat with the lockie (to pay for another week’s moorings) we moved a little further away. Apparently the wreck’s being moved next week and they need at least a boat length either side to get the lifting equipment in. The tide was high, very high, the tidal water was only a few inches below the top of the weir – we checked our ropes again!

The queue into the John Lewis car park - ha ha ha!!!!!

We’ll be at Teddington for until the 27th then we’ll head off back to the canal (provided it’s not frozen solid). I’m not sure whether we’ll be able to fit in a few jaunts along the river between now and then – I suspect we’ll be too busy stuffing turkeys and whatnot…..

We took a good hour to offload, finding ever more excuses to delay leaving the boat. In the end the rapidly dropping thermometer forced us into the car – ideally we needed to be home before our road froze into the Surrey equivalent of the cresta run! We got home by 6.30pm and the temperature was already minus 4….

As we drove home we were a bit amazed to see that nothing much had changed – we were driving into a landscape increasingly covered with snow. We realised that we’d been away from home for less than 48 hours – it felt like much longer – Indigo Dream is obviously a time-machine, warping a few hours of cruising onto a week’s worth of relaxation.

The end of a magical afternoon....

It’s a huge understatement but we’re having a particularly enjoyable time on the boat at the moment. I don’t know what it is, but there’s a really magical feel to it. Maybe it’s because dry sunny days on the river are such a gift after a soggy November; maybe it’s because we’re close to home and that makes getting to/from the boat so much easier.

Whatever it is, our days on the boat have all the relish of a fine vintage, to be savoured to the full….

In case we don’t post before Christmas we wish you a Happy Christmas followed by a merry and prosperous new year.

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Dog Blog: Fun in the snow

Posted by indigodream on 21 December, 2009

We can’t resist a few photos of Blue and Lou enjoying the snow – of course, they’re only outside and going ballistic for about 10 minutes – it’s only fun if you can spend the next several hours warming your toes on a snug duvet 🙂

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Boat Blog: Winter Wonderland (1)

Posted by indigodream on 21 December, 2009

Friday 18th December

Teddington to Kingston

Blue and Lou enjoying the snow...

We did indeed wake up to a winter wonderland on Friday morning – 4 inches of snow with a few drifts to 6 inches. Laughably little if you live in, say, Canada, but a catastrophe in Surrey – we’re just not used to this sort of thing!

The garden and surrounding countryside looked bright and beautiful, the trees were attractively etched in snow that glowed silver in the sunshine. Blue and Lou went ballistic – they chased each other round, kicking up great clouds of snow as they romped around this new landscape.

In the meantime I stood inside and grumbled – I hate snow, mainly because it almost always contrives to fall on days when we need to get out and about. Today we were due to go up to the boat and cruise to Kingston for Richard’s office Christmas dinner (at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant). There was no question of cancelling – although we had to dig ourselves out of our road (ungritted and steep), once we got onto the main roads it was clear and Teddington/Kingston hadn’t had any snow at all!

No snow here - cruising past Teddington Weir...

Once we’d got out of the countryside, the roads/traffic weren’t too bad. We had a surprisingly good drive up to the boat. She’d been fine on the lock moorings. It wasn’t warm on board but Richard had set the central heating to come on once a day during the frosty weather so it lacked that bone-chilling edge. Nonetheless, the heating went on straight away, the dogs snuggled into their beds (well wrapped in their coats) and we set off upriver. We had a fine cruise up to Kingston and had a choice of moorings – what a relief. We’d been afraid that the recent red boards might have filled the moorings with stranded boats.

We were hoping to moor on the townside left bank (looking upstream) – we remembered that there were visitor pontoons but we couldn’t remember exactly where they were. The first visitor pontoon was on the left immediately after Kingston Bridge – I think it may be a new. The moorings were comprehensively signed – the mooring fee is apparently £10 from 9am – 9pm, then £10 from 9pm to 9am – outrageous! There are also signs warning that boats mooring without paying the fee (or overstaying) will be ‘clamped’, or rather chained etc etc. Hmmm, very friendly!

Looking back towards Teddington - what a lovely day it is here...

Out of sheer curiosity we rang to find out about what happened if you moored from 2pm on the first day until 11am the following day – would it be £30? The phone number on the signs got us through to the local office, the man on the end of the line was exceptionally courteous but said it was a new arrangement, he didn’t know how much it cost, or anything else for that matter. He would ring his boss and get back to us. That he did, within 10 minutes, but his manager didn’t know either but if we rang the relevant person in head office then they might be able to advise us…….sorry, can’t be bothered! The new mooring pontoon’s very convenient, but it’s not that convenient, especially when you consider that it’s surrounded by FREE short-term moorings by John Lewis, on the pontoons a little way upstream and on the opposite bank!

We moored on the opposite bank, where there are FREE 24-hour mooring rings, there’s also a bit of parkland for the dogs, it’s within easy reach of Kingston Bridge and a mere a 5-minute walk into town. Now, it is a bit muddy and slippery, but since when has that bothered narrowboaters!

The boys on deck - It was very cold and I think Blue's taking shelter behind Richard...

With the boat safely moored and the heating running full pelt we set off to the restaurant – Blue and Lou stayed on board but they were already tired from their many dashes through the snow earlier. We had a very convivial meal at Jamie’s restaurant – the main courses were amazing, though the desserts were a little disappointing. The portions were HUGE so there were plenty of leftovers for Blue and Lou. We had to be out of the restaurant by 5pm but the party was to continue in Ha Ha’s riverside bar. We popped back to the boat to check on Blue and Lou before we re-joined the party. It was snowing in Kingston by now so I was doubly glad that we didn’t have to face the drive home and the slide back down our road!

On one of our trips back to the boat we got acquainted with one of our neighbours on the mooring – nb Shenanigans, a previous denizen of the Thames and Kennet Marina in Reading – one of our favourite mooring spots. He had some hair-raising tales to tell about high high the water rose when the river was on red boards – the mooring rings were underwater and he had to wade out to his boat!

We had a lovely evening, but by 8pm everyone had gone home (concerned about the snow) and we were back on the boat; by 9.30am we were all tucked up in our respective beds. The boat was toasting by this time – we’ve got the winter quilt on and I finally found the hot water bottle which I’d stashed on board in January but promptly lost! The dogs were snug in their pyjamas and wrapped in blankets so were set for a good night’s sleep.

nb Shenanigans - when the river was on red boards the water was just below the level of where the boat's roof is now..

Except it wasn’t to be – there were a couple of trip boats carrying parties up and down the river – it may have been the one party whizzing up and down several times. Whatever! ‘Whizzing’ was the operative word – they created a big wash which rocked Indigo Dream on her moorings with tedious regularity. It’s not just the movement (which would have been enough to induce nausea in the sensitive) but it’s also the noise – the slurp and gurgle of the water against the concrete bank which lasted for long minutes after the boats had passed.  The last trip boat passed at 12.15am and we finally got some peace.

Except that Lou then got me up twice in the night – once to tell me she was cold and the second time to tell me she was hungry! Blue joined in and looked hopefully at the cabin door (he’d been frightened by a distant firework and had adamantly refused to go out before we went to bed). I gave him permission to whatever he needed to do indoors – no way was I opening that cabin door with the outside temperature reading at minus 4 (the external thermometer transmits a reading to the clock indoors)! Luckily Blue didn’t have any really urgent needs and went back to bed – by the time I’d got them settled and re-wrapped in their blankets I was despairing of getting any sleep at all. But it was lush under the duvet so I needn’t have worried.

I spent some of my waking hours musing on how we’ll reconcile the needs of commercial traffic and leisure users in the future. I think that calls to bring the waterways back to their commercial use have a bit of a rose tint, harping back as they do to a romantic notion of quiet horse-drawn freight boats replacing the roar and rumble of trains and trucks. But the reality is that new commercial vehicles will need to work hard in order to compete with road and rail – they may well become the waterways equivalent of “white van man”.

I support commercial use, in principle, as I think it is a means of protecting the waterways in the future; but I find myself bleating about the cost of our Gold licence and what that rights that might entitle us to. I hope that the rights of both types of user are not mutually exclusive and that we can find a way forward that allows commercial traffic to make money and for leisure users to have a peaceful mooring!

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Boat Blog: BSS

Posted by indigodream on 20 December, 2009

Wednesday 16th December

We welcomed Andrew Phasey on board today to our  BSS inspection.

We first met Andrew a few years ago where his meticulous attention to detail made the convoys down to the Royal Docks such a success. We expected that he would be a thoroughly thorough inspector and so it proved. The inspection took around 3 hours.

Now as I mentioned a couple of posts ago, if you browse the BSS booklet it’s obvious that most of the safety features should be covered in the design and build. But of course, our build was a bit shambolic because our boat builder was in the process of going under at the time! So it was with some trepidation that we let Andrew on board.

So, what’s the result? All passes BUT the gas system’s not up to scratch – aaaargh!  So we now need a gas-safe fitter to come in and adjust the system. We’re hoping that it’s not too much work – our boatbuilder has used flexible hose to connect the hob and the hob specification says that rigid pipes must be used;  we also need a few more clips to fix the gas pipe more securely to the wall. Before you comment, I’m sure that Richard could manage the extra clips himself!

The more problematic issue is the debate where about whether it’s ok for the gas pipe to run through the cupboard where we keep the inverter – if I understand it rightly, if the cupboard is defined as an ‘electrical equipment space’ then it’s not ok; it’s it’s just a cupboard with a bit of electric in it then it is ok. There is both an added complication and benefit as we have an automatic gas cut off in the cupboard and the LPG sensor is in the base of that cupboard. We need to look into this and discuss it with Andrew, who’s been very helpful. If it’s not ok then we’ll need to come up with a solution – preferably one that doesn’t involve re-routing the end of the run to the gas locker but if that’s what needs to be done then so be it.

I have been wondering how our old share boat ‘Dragonfly’ got on in the BSS – her gas pipes used to run past the back of the coal/wood stove – one of the reasons why we never lit it 🙂

It’s all so frustrating because these are things that go right back to when Indigo Dream was originally fitted out. However, taking the positive view, these things will only need to be fixed once!

So, is Indigo Dream unsafe?

I do hope not – she’s been fine for three and a half years, though, as we’ve seen in the financial services industry, past performance is no guarantee of future success 🙂

Luckily our existing certification doesn’t run out until the end of January so we’ve got a bit of time to find a gas-safe  fitter to do the work. Do let us know if you can recommend anyone reliable in the London area.

ps. The good news is that we’ve already got out 2010 licence – less than a fortnight after we posted the application – how’s that for efficiency!

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Boat Blog: Wonderful Weekend (1)

Posted by indigodream on 16 December, 2009

Saturday 12th December

Perivale to Brentford

Fine morring at Perivale - zoon in to see how the pins fared....

Fine mooring at Perivale - zoom in to see how the pins fared....

The forecast was set fair so we set off to the boat – the rain’s finally let up and the Thames is slowly becoming navigable again so we headed west.

I dropped Richard and the dogs off at the boat – predictably enough she’d been fine at the mooring though interestingly, the single pins that I’d used had been dragged through the soft towpath and were barely clinging on; the ‘interlaced’ pins had stayed put, so maybe it does make a difference. I’m surprised that the pins had dragged – the water on the Grand Union was crystal clear – an indication that there hasn’t been much traffic to stir up the mud.

I headed off to Teddington (or rather, Ham, which is just across the river from Teddington proper) to drop the car off within easy reach of the lock moorings. This is where we’d be finishing our cruise tomorrow. Public transport from Teddington back towards Bulls Bridge (our rendezvous) is a bit hopeless so I caught a cab instead – a reasonable £20 and perfectly timed to allow me to stock up in Tesco’s Bulls Bridge before Richard picked me up on the boat.

How perfect is that sky - what a wonderful day for messing about on the water....

How perfect is that sky - what a wonderful day for messing about on the water....

While I was doing the car shuffle, Richard set off down the canal, going past the worryingly full moorings at Black Horse, giving Engineers Wharf a wave, stopping in Willowtree Marina for fuel (our split calculation was 70/30 this time) and a very well done pump-out. We like Willowtree and saw a fine looking Marmaduke there – they must have shifted a bit to come across from Stourport as it does not feel that long since we read the sad/happy news that she had been sold/bought.

With boat provisioned we headed South for the Hanwell flight and our meeting with Simon of nb Tortoise. He’d generously offered to cycle to the top of the flight and lockwheel down with us – foregoing a day’s pottering on his own boat. He said he’d really enjoy a day’s boating – someone needs to have a quiet word with him to explain that ‘boating’ generally means getting on a boat! He and Richard worked really hard – cycling between locks with great efficiency while I stood on the back deck wiggling the tiller! Of course, I won’t be explaining the meaning of boating to Simon – having a crew of two doing my bidding was far too nice 🙂

Heading away from town - bye bye Wembley...

Heading out of town - bye bye Wembley...

Simon was delightful company and we had one of those wonderful days just ‘messing around’ on the water. Having an extra crew member was a good start, but the flight itself was as sociable as ever – no other boaters on the move, but there were a few walkers. Blue and Lou had a wonderful time – Blue explored the length of the flight; Lou ran a bit then rested a bit – very sensible as her arthritic knee has been troubling her recently. She was very well-behaved with other dogs today and managed to have a friendly rummage with a little staffie with NO barking or chasing – result!

I’m always excited when the canal water clears – I always imagine that I’m going to see all sorts of wonders under the surface. Golden Wonder maybe – what you mainly see on the Hanwell flight is submerged crisp packets! It is good to be able to see what’s in the water – I was able to avoid picking up some of the larger bags in the prop, though I came a cropper with a length of clear plastic which was invisible. Simon did a sterling job of picking rubbish out of the locks – the coal sack that he originally plucked from the water was soon filled. There’s more trash in the water above Clitheroe’s lock – bits of tree as well as footballs for some reason, probably carried there by the River Brent (as Simon later explained).

Engineer's Wharf looking very tidy indeed...

Engineer's Wharf looking very tidy indeed...

But it’s not all trash – the flight’s very attractive, a surprisingly green corridor nicely disguising the canalside prison! Two or three locks from the bottom of the flight there’s an attractive lock cottage with a fine end-of-garden mooring. The narrowboat moored there had got into the spirit of the season with a giant inflatable snowman waving from the boat’s roof – brilliant! You can see it from quite a distance and it seemed very welcoming, though I don’t know if you’d be scared witless came across it’s ghostly whiteness at dusk when you’re not expecting it. 🙂

There were many positive aspects to having Simon’s company, not least his suggestion insistence and demand that we stop being teetotal and stop in The Fox for a quick half pint on our way down the flight. (Note from Sue: I had diet coke!). The Fox has been highly recommended to us by a few boaters but we’re so used to being on the move that it’s never really occurred to us to stop. But with Simon’s local knowledge we found a good spot to moor and found the pub, which is slightly off the canal just below Lock 97. The pub is very cosy and dog-friendly – we didn’t eat here but we’ve heard that the food is very good. We got settled in and it’s so companionable that I could well have sat there for the rest of the afternoon and evening. But we were booked to go onto the Thames at 10.15 the following morning and we’re not that reliable before 11am so we thought we’d better press on to Brentford.

nb Marmaduke at Willowtree - the last time we saw her she was moored at Stourport on Severn....

There’s a longer gap between the last two locks down to Brentford so Simon finally got to come on board!

Despite my ground crew’s herculean efforts, it was still pitch black by the time we arrived at Brentford. The water was dark but the buildings around us were brightly lit; the moorings were illuminated by some bright blue Christmas lights strung along the roof of one of the residential boats. In the half-light, the sounds were strangely amplified – the rush of the planes taking off from Heathrow, the nearby trainline and the roar of the football crowd from Brentford’s football ground to the East, echoing off the buildings to the West.

We were alarmed to find that there’s now only one visitor mooring here (occupied) – the rest have been given over to winter moorings. This left us with an ethical dilemma, made harder by darkness, fatigue and cold. We needed to moor in Brentford to catch the tide in the morning. The moorings below the gauging lock are too high for offloading the dogs; there was one empty spot not taken up by a winter moorer (we knew there was a vacant space there from our own investigations into winter moorings) or we could take the water point or moor underneath the overhanging ‘warehouse’ (which we weren’t sure is allowed). In the end we guiltily took the winter mooring at the end of the line, hoping that no-one else came down the flight behind us in the dark.

Leaky gates are a feature of the Hanwell flight - some of the locks were slow to empty. I hope they're on BW's wish-list for maintenance....

Having recommended the Fox earlier, Simon’s local knowledge came in useful yet again as he directed us to the best pubs in Brentford. We spent the early evening in the Crown and Magpie (across the canal on the High Street). It’s a small cosy pub with a wide-range of ales and ciders on tap, including strawberry and cherry beers (the latter looking deceptively innocent, being the same colour as Ribena!). We’d left the dogs on board, but we found out later that this pub is dog friendly – it’s certainly people-friendly – there’s a good atmosphere, beer and food – the Thai menu was very simple but subtly flavoursome – delicious.

We said goodbye to Simon around 8pm, he was going out to Central London for more socialising, but he left us with firm instructions to visit O’Brien’s on our way back to the boat. I’m afraid that we wimped out, though we’ve made a note of it for the future. In all fairness, if we’d been by ourselves we might never have gone into such local pubs as the Crown and Magpie (or O’Brien’s for that matter) so we have to thank Simon both for his company and for the local insight – now we understand why the visitor moorings in Brentford are so popular 🙂

We wandered back to the boat well-satisfied and full of goodwill towards Brentford, although it doesn’t always make its charms obvious to the casual visitor! The dogs gave us an ecstatic but brief greeting – they were exhausted after a busy day on the canal. We were too, and by 10pm we were all tucked up in our respective beds.


More of the Grand Union's vivid murals; the one of the dog chasing the swan is NOT modelled on Blue and Lou, honest.....

Sculpture - this one's built by humans but moorhens can also weave rubbish into fantastic 'installations'

The story behind the sculpture....

Property restoration at Bulls Bridge - is that an old BW building?

There's a gorilla on that washing line - always something new to seen on the Grand Union!

What a luxury - moving into a lock prepared by Simon while Richard closes the gates at the last...

nb St Florian and the snowman....

One of the nicest spots on the flight, and so close to the prison! Blue and Lou are well-wrapped against the cold - it was a lovely day but seriously brass monkeys!

The Crown and Magpie - the half-timbered building looks so out of place in the plain high street, apparently the building's not as old as it looks - well worth a visit....

Brentford by night - it looks as if London's burning in the background but it's just the sodium glow....

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Boat Blog: Wonderful Weekend (2)

Posted by indigodream on 16 December, 2009

Sunday 13th December

Brentford to Teddington

Great new mooring pontoon below Brentford Gauging Lock

We had a quiet and peaceful night on the moorings though, very unusually, I woke up before the alarm. Even more unusually, we were up and away from the moorings early – just as well, we needed to fill with water and we couldn’t remember what the pressure’s like in Brentford (not very good, as it happens!).

We had moored overnight just by the old Transhipment warehouse, it is a shame we did not take more photographs of it as we read that it is under threat (again) – newspaper article here

We approached the water point with a bit of trepidation – nb Leo (we think that’s her name) had come in and moored there a couple of hours after us last night. I was afraid that we’d ousted them from their proper spot, but it turned out that they were visitors too – booked to lock onto the river at 11am. We brested up to them to fill with water – they were so courteous and helpful. As we pulled in, an  amazing number of heads seemed to pop into view at Leo’s windows – they were a large group of friends out from Kings Cross and doing a weekend jaunt round the  London Ring.

A remnant of Brentford's industrial past - it's hard to believe how busy this important junction between rail, river and canal must have been

I’ve always considered the Thames Tideway to be a means to an end and not suitable for a frivolous jaunt. The more I talked to our neighbours the more I thought that it might be a very fine weekend adventure. But not this winter – by the time we’re ready to come back onto the canal the stoppage at Victoria Park will have broken the ring until March. Maybe in the Spring….

I was cheered by our chats with the crew of the Leo and we set off down the gauging lock in good spirits. The mooring pontoon below the lock is now complete and is such an improvement on the previous arrangement. I was pleased to see that the pontoon’s made of proper non-slip wood decking rather than the horrible hard plastic that they’ve used on the Weaver.

I was fascinated by the sudden appearance of a flock of seagulls as I opened the lock sluices. They seemed to be enjoying the flow and bubble of the water – I wondered whether they were missing the sea! I’ve not seen this phenomenon before, but it happened again at Teddington Lock. The lockie told us that sometimes the turbulence throws up a fish or two – enough to bring the seagulls flocking.

We got to Thames lock with 10 minutes to spare – nb Thermopyle

nb Thermopyle at Thames Lock, Brentford

from the River Wey was just locking up to the canal – they were able to reassure us that conditions on the Thames were ok. Then it was our turn to lock down.

I stayed at the front of the boat as a lookout for the turn onto the river – I’d thought it was academic as I couldn’t imagine there being many boats on the river on a freezing December morning. I was wrong! There was a positive regatta of rowing boats and canoes on the river – fortunately they move a lot faster than us so they’d disappeared by the time we got onto the river proper. It’s always interesting to come onto the river – there’s absolutely no doubt about where you are – the sense of depth and movement is unmistakable.

We were on the river proper before I suddenly realised that none of us were wearing our life-jackets – I hastened to put them on. I was shocked, I normally approach the tidal river with an advanced degree of paranoia but this time I wasn’t at all worried. I’ll have to watch out for that – there’s only a thin line between confidence and complacency! Mind you, the numerous rowers on the water didn’t have a single buoyancy aid between them though they did have a watchful safety boat!

Richmond Bridge

As always, we enjoyed our trip up to Teddington. The Thames is so grand here and everything’s on a lavish scale; the river’s wide, the banks are flanked by extravagantly ancient woods, exclusive modern apartments and vista’d manor houses looking down their noses at the riff-raff on the river . The river flaunts its wealth so conspicuously that the occasional flotillas of moored boats and the hermit’s heap of junk (which seemed to be on a different mooring now) felt like a welcome little rebellion.

To my horror, in addition to the rowers, there was also a sailing club on the water. Now, there’s enough room on the wide river for everyone but I still worry about collisions – the sailing boats seem so random. The general advice is to slow down and maintain a steady course – we actually stopped – one of the sailors just drifted across right in front of our bows – the helmsman’s back was turned. We waited patiently for him to realise we were there and get out of our way (we daren’t overtake as there were too many sails on the water). The sailor did quite a double-take when he finally looked behind him and saw Indigo Dream’s bow looming – he hadn’t heard our engine, so the silencer’s obviously working! It seemed uncouth to do this at the time, but in hindsight we could have used our horn to send a sound signal – five short blasts – which roughly translated into the vernacular means “You’re in my “££$%^ way; I don’t know what the !”££$$ you’re doing? do you know yourself, you !””££%$%??” 🙂

Sails across the water - at least we've passed them at this point....

I was almost sad to arrive at Teddington Lock – the river’s so interesting and it was such a crisp morning – perfect for cruising. We had a nice chinwag with the lockie at Teddington – he was a cheerful soul. The signs at the lock showed that the river was on yellow “Caution – stream increasing” – this was a bit alarming as we’d thought that the stream was decreasing  – the lockie reassured us that the board was wrong!

We’ve arranged medium-term moorings direct with the lockies along the length of the Thames for several years, but it was a bit more of complicated this time. We wanted to moor at Teddington for up to 2 weeks (paid, of course) so we rang in advance to sort it – there was a possibility a few weeks ago that we’d get to the river while it was still on red boards so it was essential that we had a place to stay. However, the lockie on duty that day referred us to his boss. His boss told us that they’re becoming stricter about selling lock moorings because they think that some people have been taking advantage of the red boards to scrounge free moorings. I’m not sure how this works – red boards are red boards and you surely wouldn’t want to discourage people from mooring up safely when they need to. But it sounds as if they’re feeling a bit hard done by, so that’s that.

Teddington Weir at high tide

Having reassured the boss that we were definitely prepared to pay for the lock moorings he duly authorised it and we sorted it out with the lockie on the day – £7 a night – very reasonable when you consider the location. We moored up and our weekend’s cruising ended on a high note with the boat bathed in warm winter sunshine. We spent an hour or so pottering around the boat, and while we were doing that, Blue enjoyed a potter around the adjacent park (supervised, of course). Lou just lay on her bed – she’d hopped off the boat, had a look around and decided that Teddington wasn’t worth the effort. Running the Hanwell flight does wear them out!

Despite our great organisation in getting the checklist for the BSS, we seem doomed never to use it. Last weekend Richard remembered the BSS booklet but forgot the boat keys; this time he remembered the keys but left the booklet in his car at home! Ah well, we had a fair idea of what might be lacking so he went round and put stickers in the appropriate places, re-sited one of our fire extinguishers and fitted a new bilge pump. We’ll find out what we’ve missed on Wednesday, when the actual inspection takes place.

Working lock flights is very tiring.....

It’s nothing to do with the BSS but we have a mysterious damp patch on the bottom of the partition in the corner of the bathroom; it’s not a leaky loo or a leaky loo brush holder (we immerse the brush in Green), the floor behind the partition is not wet so it’s not leaching through from the galley, the bilges are relatively dry and the boys on board swear that their aim is true 🙂

Where on earth is this dampness coming from? We’ve now outlined the current damp patch with pencil so that we can see whether it’s getting worse. We’ve also left a few portholes and a window open to ventilate the boat to reduce condensation. This may have been a mistake – the temperature’s due to plummet so let’s hope that our pipes are ok. That’s one of the downsides of our form of cruising – we’re not on board to deal with sharp fluctuations in the weather but we’re moving far too much to drain down the system and mothball her for the winter. At least she’s within half an hour’s drive now so we can pop up and adjust the heating, mooring ropes etc as and when it’s needed.

In addition to this busyness, we did find time just to soak in the ambience. Teddington’s one of our all-time favourite mooring spots; apart from the sheer luxury of the High Street nearby, there’s easy access by car on the Ham side and by train on the Teddington side. There are lots of friendly walkers which makes it a very sociable. It’s hard to imagine  getting bored with the ever-changing landscape where the tidal waters meet the weir – it’s fascinating.

It’s been a wonderful weekend – maybe because of a combination of interesting waterways and good weather, but mainly because of the company. We appreciated the spontaneity of Simon’s company (he only got in touch on Friday!), and his wit and hard work, then there’s nb Leo’s civility, the efficiency and thoughtfulness of the lockies and the cheerfulness of the towpath denizens. You just can’t beat it.

We dragged ourselves off the boat in the early afternoon – our house to-list was calling; it’s still calling – we came home and just sat and watched club rugby all afternoon while the dogs dozed and dreamed on their duvets.


Typically old and new scenes along the stretch to Thames Lock

Through the lock and approaching the Thames tideway....

I've never noticed these details on Twickenham Bridge before - the piers all have this art deco detailing; the bridge itself looks more 70's though - interesting! I must check when the bridge was built.

Part of Richmond's grand facade....

One of Richmond's less impressive (but no less well-known) facades....

I took a fancy to this boathouse though you'd have to watch the headroom as the tide comes in....

Disturbing sight - sunken boat at Teddington Lock moorings

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Boat Blog: Housekeeping…

Posted by indigodream on 10 December, 2009

No, not the usual fight against fluff on the floor, but those routine tasks that need to be done to keep Indigo Dream legally afloat!

Winter Moorings

Well, we’ve finally given up on the moorings in East London. The tale of the East London moorings isn’t ours to tell, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty there. The latest news is that it now seems unlikely that the boats moored on what we hoped would be our moorings will be gone before Christmas. With the lock at Victoria Park due to close at the end of the month it’s just all too tight for us to get there, even if the moorings abruptly came free.

So, we’ve booked and paid for 3 months’ mooring at Black Horse (Greenford) – we’ll move in there towards the end of the month after we’ve had a little trip down to Brentford to check out the Thames (still on red boards but the forecast is for dry weather so it all depends how the river responds).

Much as we love the western end of the Paddington Branch it’s such a shame that we won’t make it east over the winter. We’re not the only ones – largely because of the Victoria Park stoppage, the St Pancras Cruising Club flotilla to the Royal Docks won’t happen in January. We do hope that they’ll run it in the future though – it’s a great trip.

We are planning to head East when the stoppages have stopped, as it were. We’re hoping to have a spring exploration of the Lee and Stort before setting off on the 2010 odyssey – no idea where that will take us yet! As Greyhoundhomer has a shelter in Bishop’s Stortford we’re hoping to fit in at least one more charity cruise – we’ll keep you posted….

Annual Licence

Aah, December is an expensive month, especially if your annual licence expires on the 31st! We’ve sent in our application – we’re going for a Gold licence again. It’s a stunning amount of money but it is nice to have the freedom to move to/from the (applicable) rivers, especially the Thames, which is likely to get a few winter visits if the rain eventually stops.

BSS (Boat Safety Scheme)

Our inspection is due on the 16th but Richard has decided to do a pre-inspection check (provided that at least one of us remembers the keys this weekend!).

The BSS do a really useful booklet which has comprehensive checklists of what the inspector will be looking out for. I think we need a few tweaks (mainly signage), however, from what I’ve read of the booklet so far, a lot of the BSS is in the original design and build. Let’s hope that our boatbuilder did the right thing! I’m hoping that we won’t be too far out on the BSS requirements – after all, we did get a certificate of seaworthiness (or whatever it’s called) for the Manchester Ship Canal only a few short months ago (I won’t tempt fate by suggesting that means we’re not sinking!)

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Dog Blog: Recovery Progressing

Posted by indigodream on 6 December, 2009

5th December 2009

Does Lou want to go for a walk?

We had a day off today and no boating, which is a strange feeling but then Richard is off to the boat tomorrow to look to get it ready for the BSS (Boaty MoT). With Richard being at home, dogs recovering from a traumatic month and it being a nice day would they be up for a high octane walk?

Except of course Richard went to the boat minus keys, so that’s a job for next weekend now …

Yes she did get up!

Blue enjoying a run

Come on Richard, Keep up!

And of course after a walk, a bit of scrabbling around in the mulch makes a perfect spot to cool down in.

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Boat Blog: Equilibrium

Posted by indigodream on 2 December, 2009

Tuesday 1st April December

Aharr me hearties, now as ye know, I be liking nothing better than a bit of lawbreaking before breakfast and then bragging about it on me blog…..

So, ’twas with a merry heart that I devoured a few hot crumpets on me neighbour’s lawn before speeding down to the station, bein’ careful to talk on me mobile phone, park over 2 spaces, dodge the old train fare and, ah course, drop a bit of litter on me way.

Me day was off to a flyin’ start, don’t ye know, an’ me heart soared as I hoisted the Jolly Roger up me mainmast and set off down the canal to be a nuisance to all law abidin’ boaters.

I wove me way down the cut with the sun glintin’ off me bow wave, but blow me down, there was Johny Depp looking mighty fine on the towpath and I had to leave me mischief for a minute to kidnap this delightful piece o’ pirate. We was plotting our next bit of mayhem when the sober voice of John Humphries came out of the wireless…

“It’s 6.30am and you’re listening to the today programme”….

….and the glorious view of Johny Depp faded out to be replaced by the far less exciting view of the bedroom curtains (though Richard still looked mighty fine, obviously!).

Ah, it was all a dream – how I wish that nasty allegation of yesterday had been as well – we had 419 direct hits yesterday – many times our normal volume – this makes me very nervous; but I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of our friends, fellow bloggers and total strangers (or should that be friends that we haven’t met yet!). So, I’m going to carry on blogging for now at least, and I won’t publish my rather sad “to blog or not to blog – that is the question” post that I drafted at the height of the furore yesterday.

The magnificent Millennium Stadium in Cardiff - do go there if you have the chance, it's an awesome venue...

We’re weren’t able to cruise over the weekend – I was singing in a wedding (solo and with the village choir that I run – I’ll just put my diva hat on and say that it went very well – it was the choir’s first formal performance and my first solo for over five years!). In the meantime Richard was down in Cardiff for the rugby. The Millennium Stadium is simply fantastic, though he says it was a little quieter then normal… I joined them for the evening and can say that Cardiff after a match was as busy and buzzing as ever, full of good humour and, as always after a rugby match, we saw no trouble.

Anyway, our 14 days at Little Venice were up so today it was time to move Indigo Dream – what a day, this might be the best cruising weather that we’ve had for weeks.

The early start that I mentioned wasn’t just a literary tool, though it was James Noughtie that woke me rather than John Humphries! I was up at 6.30am with the aim of getting to the boat while the sun was still shining, but the early start was wasted – we decided to drive into Croydon together so that we could sort out who was doing what with the boat but we got totally snarled in a traffic jam and in the end I didn’t get to the boat until 11.30am.

Look at that fantastic window - it's worth walking to the end of platform 8 just to look at it.....

I hesitate to say this under the circumstances, but I’m very familiar with this journey; nonetheless there are still new ‘old’ things to be observed. Do you know, I’ve never noticed before how evocative Paddington Station is; maybe it was the bright sunshine illuminating its glass & wrought iron roof (Isambard Kingdom Brunel), but the structure looked outstanding. In all the years I’ve traveled to and from this station from Wales I’ve just never noticed it.

Note: I found the exit that leads to Shebdon Square (nearer to Little Venice than the Praed Street path) – walk down platform 8 towards the Metropolitan and City Line, go up the ramp/steps and the exit’s on your right.

I do hope that the server in Starbucks in Shebdon Square reads this blog – yes, I really do want an extra large latte with an extra shot, no really, I didn’t mean a small one, yes I know that ‘Venti’ means extra large in Starbuckwahili, just GIVE ME MY COFFEE……

Interlacing pins - not sure if it makes them less likely to be pulled out, but it certainly makes us feel better!

I really enjoyed the brief walk to the mooring – the still water was like glass, reflecting the startling blue sky above – there weren’t many people around and and no boats on the move – it was more tranquil than I could have imagined. Indigo Dream was fine on her mooring – from a distance it looked as if the front rope had come free but it was an optical illusion – Richard had interlaced THREE pins and woven the rope around them – there was no chance of us coming loose – just as well, it’s been pretty breezy! No problem today though – it was as perfect a morning for a cruise as any I’ve seen AND it was warm – the morning sunshine in this sheltered spot (none of the Paddington Basin wind tunnel effects here) had heated the metal shell and it was gently radiating warmth around the back deck.

I set off in high spirits, noting in passing that there are plenty of mooring spots here, so come on down…..

I took more notice of a large mural on the way out of Little Venice at the back of Amberley Road sub-station – there are many dotted along the canal and mainly made of rubbish reclaimed from the waters. I love them – they’re very clever and I hope that the kids who put them together enjoyed the project. I suspect that every wall in London could have a mural if they used every scrap of rubbish that came out of the water! But then again, what would the coots and moorhens use for nesting materials if we took away all the trash – they’re such resourceful birds.

Mural made of rubbish - it does brighten an otherwise plain wall....

Of course, I had to write at least one more post because I’ve been dying to tell you about Tinchy Stryder’s video (for his song “You’re not alone….”). I have no idea who Tinchy Stryder is – I was just watching MTV and looked up to see the stretch of canal running under the A40. I’m such an anorak – instead of appreciating Tinchy’s modern rap style (or whatever it is), I was busy spotting other waterside sights. The video features moody shots of London at night, mainly around the river and canal. The skinny model that they filmed under the giant A40 viaduct didn’t look too happy – neither would I if I’d had to pose in that tiny a dress, at night, on such a bleak bit of canal! Mind you, the stretch under the A40 looked substantially better today – the long wall of graffiti has been painted brilliant white – it’s amazing what a difference it has made – it’s so much lighter. I don’t know how long the paint’s been there but the graffiti vandals are already starting to fill in this new canvas 😦

Under the M40 - looks much brighter now...

I actually had the camera with me today so I was finally able to capture some of the things I’ve been trying to describe – like the strange spiderman thing going on in the atrium of what I though was a block of flats; maybe it’s a gallery; I don’t know – do you? The other thing that’s been intriguing me is the hanging canoe – do they hoist it up to the first floor and then take a long walk round to the canal edge or do they just level the canoe, climb in and splashdown! Sadly I wasn’t able to get a photo of nb. Sea Mistress, which I’ve been admiring every time I’ve cruised past – they seemed to have moved on from Kensal Green.

Maybe it was just the weather but the canal looked very fine today. There was hardly a soul on the water or the towpath at first and I had the Grand Union to myself. This canal still feels so vibrant, even in its winter rags, not dead, just dormant, as I’ve mentioned before.

I did have a nice surprise later, as the first boat I met on the move was Ten Bob Note – wow, she looked good, her paintwork’s great. I also loved the dog on the roof, s/he looked so alert and obviously enjoying all the sights along the canal. We exchanged a hasty greeting as we passed by and it was lovely to get a comment from them later on. Another couple of boats passed by and later on I caught up with two narrowboats brested up and meandering slowly up the canal. They weren’t a problem – I just slowed down and enjoyed the ambience – it wasn’t far to my destination and it would have been way too stressful to overtake them.

Powerday Wharf...

The Powerday wharf has been strangely quiet each time I’ve passed recently, though at least there was a working boat moored there today. I wonder how much they’re actually using the waterway for freighting waste? Unlike the increasingly busy aggregate wharf just south of Cowley Peachey, I’ve yet to see a Powerday rubbish boat on the move. They’re certainly using the canal – there’s a big pipe leading to the water – presumably to extract water for some unknown purpose, keeping dust down maybe or perhaps for ballast purposes?

I don’t know why I’ve never noticed them before, but there are stop gates at Bridge 7a – it’s obvious in hindsight, can you imagine how much water would be ‘liberated’ if this long, broad and deep lock-free pound was ever breached?

And so I meandered on – I spotted a pub (the Pleasure Boat) on the offside just after Bridge 11 in Alperton; the pub has it’s own moorings – I’d always assumed that they were part of the long-term moorings a little further on. Has anyone tried the pub? There were spaces there today and I wondered whether it was worth a visit.

The 'Pleasure Boat' pub's moorings - I've never noticed them before. Is the pub any good?

I’ve had a very good trip today – I seemed to get to Perivale in no time at all (2 hours instead of my usual 3 though I didn’t have any stops). Maybe the journey went quickly because I was enjoying myself so much, though I’m not sure how much longer I’d have been having fun – it was getting rather chilly on the helm as the sun started to sink towards its nightly oblivion (the light had a dusky quality even at 2pm) .

Even though I say so myself, I did a particularly neat mooring at Perivale (opposite nb Shiraz this time, where the water’s a little bit deeper. The towpath was soft so I’ve gone to my usual excess with the pins – three at the front and the same at the back, using Richard’s new ‘locking pin’ technique.

So, what to do next? Richard’s going to the boat this weekend to prepare her for the Boat Safety Certificate Inspection on the 16th. We’ve asked Andrew Phasey, the interpid leader of the Royal Docks adventure to be our inspector but we’re not sure where the inspection will take place. We’ve got a plan for taking the boat onto the Thames and using her as a base for Richard’s office party in Kingston on the 18th. So, do we do the white knuckle from Limehouse or the relatively sedate trip from Brentford? There’s only one snag – the red boards are up and, apart from today, there’s nothing but rain forecast hereabouts…..


Fine morning in Little Venice...

Spiderman! What's that all about then?

Suspended canoe....

This isn't the best end of town (Wormwood Scrubs is nearby), but look at how these bridges have been painted - it's a nice touch in an otherwise bleak area......

This old lifeboat could hold 60 people.....

Approaching Horsenden Hill - I know golf courses are 'artificial' countryside but surely this view is nicer than high-density canalside developments.....

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