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The Odyssey 2011: Day 3

Posted by indigodream on 21 April, 2011

Saturday 17th April

The moorings below Cowley Lock - these are good moorings with a park, a pub, a tea-shop and a waterpoint nearby....

On Thursday I came down with a bad dose of ‘man flu’ so we abandoned plans to come to the boat on Friday and had the slowest start to the day’s cruising on Saturday. We arrived at Indigo Dream just before lunchtime – she’d been fine on the moorings and we were pleased to see that there were still plenty of spaces available. Indigo Dream was absolutely filthy – she was covered in a thick layer of towpath dust and had turned grey – the roof was also covered in dried flower casings from the trees above – what a state! As we cruised along a boater shouted “but your boat’s not indigo” to which we replied “she might be if we gave her a proper wash!”

We didn’t have any guests on board this weekend, so we though we’d try taking Ty with us – the stretch from Uxbridge upwards is as rural a piece of London as you could wish for – it’s a lovely bit of canal. The Grand Union lacks the flashy glamour of it’s rural cousins the Shroppie and the K & A but it does have its charms. Black Jack’s lock must be one of my favourite spots on the whole network – it’s so beautiful – especially at this time of the year with the apple trees flowering gloriously in adjacent gardens. If the flowers are anything to go by then there’ll be a monster crop this year – ummm, jam or cider – difficult decision!

Anyway, back to the beginning – remember that new canalside Tesco that’s being built in Uxbridge? Well, we found out that although it’s not open from the water yet, it IS open from the road. Supermarkets are not everyone’s cup of tea, but this one is particularly light and airy and has a Costa coffee shop. We had a quick stop for essentials before heading for our mooring, about 10 minutes drive away. We found a parking space in Iver Lane, noting with dismay that the road has been largely converted to double yellow lines with residents’ parking bays – mercifully not operational at the weekends.

Unfortunately Ty had transformed from ‘Ty the brave’ (who lives at home with us) to ‘Ty jelly boy’ the minute we started packing the car – luckily he sees the car itself as a safe place but so far he hates every destination apart from our house or Richard’s mum’s house. Seeing him change into ‘jelly boy’ is simply the saddest thing, but we have to keep gritting our teeth and reminding ourselves that our first two rescue dogs took 6 – 12 months to get settled so it’s a question of time, patience and DRUGS! We got him on board, where he was so distressed that we gave him some diazepam and he gradually calmed down over the next hour. We’re trying Ty on Zyklene (complementary therapy) for a month – I think it might be making a difference, just not quite enough yet. We’re in discussion with the vet and have strategies up our sleeves – if the Zyklene’s not working then we’ll try the DAP collar – our vet is very good and went out of his way to research whether a DAP collar would work in the open space of the boat – it should, apparently!

The Colne Valley is very beautiful and you often catch glimpses of the river as it weaves around the canal

Our first lock of the day was Cowley – it took an age – the bottom gates are leaky and although it makes no sense, as the lock fills, the water overtops the bottom gate before it’s equalised at the top, making it very difficult to open the top gates, especially if you have shut the far paddle already. In the meantime, Lou and Lynx stood on deck on lapped up the attention from passersby – even Ty came up on deck – that wasn’t so positive because the drugs hadn’t kicked in and what he really wanted was to run back to the car! We’ve got him a harness now – it’s so useful for stopping spontaneous leaping. Richard took him for a little bobble up and down the towpath and he finally settled. We filled with water above the lock and filled our drinking water bottles – we’ve given up on buying bottled water if we think we can fill our bottles with fresh every day. We also rinsed the worst of the dust off the sides.

We eventually got away from Cowley and bobbled slowly up the canal – very slowly – there are on-line moorings right up past Uxbridge lock. Still, it was a lovely day for just being in the fresh air. We weren’t in a hurry so we stopped off at the Uxbridge Boat Centre’s chandlery for some new toilet chemicals (see below).The staff were very pleasant and helpful there, though I think that ‘Mary queen of shops’ would faint dead away if she saw the dusty selection of brick-a-brac arrayed on their shelves and counters – ummm, the perfect chandlers then!

We selected a new toilet product to try – it comes in dissolvable plastic sachets designed to be flushed down the loo into the toilet tank. We looked at the sachets and decided that the macerator impeller wouldn’t cope with the wrapping so we decided to drop the stuff direct into the tank from the pump-out outlet. Unfortunately the sachets refused to go down the pipe so we had to open them up and pour the powder down instead. Richard decided to try this while we were on the move – I was watching him thinking “is this the best time for that – it would be so easy to drop the key, cap or both into the water” and was wondering whether to say anything, when there was a splash and the brass filler cap went flying into the canal – oops! Richard bought a new filler cap on his travels the following day – in the meantime he used a temporary one marked ‘diesel’ – oh wouldn’t the thieves have a fun time if they tried to syphon that tank!

Above Black Jacks lock - its so lovely here - the garden below the lock has half a dozen apple trees in full flower - spectacular...

As we travelled along the canal, my ‘man flu’ gradually descended to my chest and turned into bronchitis. We were so hoping to meet Sue and Vic of nb No Problem this weekend but I felt so contagious I thought we should have a doleful bell at the front warning visitors off!

We did pick up an impromptu visitor on our way – a man called Tim who was researching his own boat and was quizzing us about Indigo Dream’s design. Rather than keep shouting information across the water, we invited him on board for the tour – he made all the right noises and was very complementary about the great sense of space on the back ‘drinking’ deck and in the open-plan interior. Of course, we warmed to him immediately, though I was little doubtful whether he’d get his desired boat – a second-hand 60′ narrowboat in good condition (he doesn’t like DIY and ‘projects’) for £40,000. We haven’t looked at the second hand prices recently, but we wouldn’t want to sell Indigo Dream for that little!

Past Uxbridge, the canal became quieter, with fewer moored boats and fewer canalside developments. As I’ve mentioned before, you’d never guess that you were still inside the M25 – at this time of year, just before the trees come into full leaf, you can see the lakes surrounding the canal and it’s very quiet with little road, rail or aeroplane noise. Of course, there’s always that annoyingly loud and enthusiastic chorus of birdsong, but what can you do 🙂

As I mentioned, Black Jack’s lock is wonderfully scenic and although the mill is no longer a restaurant (shame!) they do offer B & B – they had a little stand of postcards advertising their rooms so we grabbed one for interest (they also have a website here) – these canalside B & Bs may come in handy sometime for those guests that don’t like sleeping under a heap of greyhounds!

As I became more feeble, our targets for the day became less ambitious. We’d planned to get to Cassiobury Park to meet up with nb No Problem, but by the time we got to the ‘Coy Carp’ pub I was ready to stop. Of course, the lure of a nice pub may also have had something to do with our decision!

We moored up above Coppermill Lock – it’s a lovely spot – very quiet and it felt very secure being opposite Hillingdon boat club. The towpath is reasonably busy with walkers, joggers and cyclists but there is an additional hazard here – the towpath is used by cars accessing their houses a little way down the canal. There weren’t many cars and most drove slowly and carefully (as you might with an unguarded edge to the canal!) but watch out for your hounds here.

The canal feels cherished here - this is the stretch between Black Jacks and Coppermill locks..

We’d stopped ridiculously early (by our standards) so there was time to do a little training work with Ty – wouldn’t you believe it – we got him off the boat in this quietest of spots and ‘bang’ – two shotguns went off nearby – typical. Ty quickly hopped back on board, but surprisingly came out again soon after. We actually think that we’re almost on top of his noise phobia – it’s his ‘everywhere that isn’t home’ phobia that’s more difficult to crack! We did some recall exercises with him and he showed some promise – he’s a fine hound and very trainable when he’s not panicking or worrying about things. We kept this up for 10 minutes or so, but by now I was shiveringly cold (despite the thermometer reading a balmy 20 degrees) – I wrapped myself up in my thick winter fleece and curled up in a little ball of misery on the sofa next to Lou. She wasn’t too impressed with this incursion so we formed a perfect little enclave of gloom!

In the meantime, Richard polished the boat on one side – he’d completely forgotten just how long the boat is, but she did look very fine when it was done. He had much gentle ribbing from passersby – by the sounds of it he could have made a nice business polishing their cars. He was wondering how much he’d pay a troupe of boy scouts or similar to polish the boat for him – I suggested £10 between 15 of them because they were doing it for the good of their souls rather than for the money! He didn’t think he’d polish anyone else’s boat for less than £50 – and there’s the rub – I’m can’t see him paying that much either!

After a few hours, I’d revived enough to go down to the Coy Carp – click on the link to get to their swanky website. We’ve eaten here before on our 2008 Odyssey (came down by car from our mooring in Batchworth) – we recalled a fine meal though we had to eat in the garden because dogs are not allowed inside. We left the hounds on board and ate inside this time – it was lovely – very good food and very courteous service.

Richard took the hounds for a last walk and Ty had a wee! Regular readers will know that this is something of an event because when he’s scared, Ty doesn’t eat, drink or wee. However he had a bad night – there are very inquisitive ducks hereabouts – two of them hopped onto the boat roof soon after we’d moored up. Amazingly the greyhounds weren’t interested. No doubt emboldened by this experience, the ducks pecked at the boat’s hull all night long – this makes quite a racket inside, and just as we were going to bed, a few fireworks went off in the far distance – poor Ty ran down the boat and squiggled his way under our bed. He looked wedged in and uncomfortable but he didn’t seem to care – under our bed was obviously THE safe place to be!

Cheeky ducks above Coppermill Lock - they hopped onto the roof the instant we moored - Im amazed that the greyhounds allowed it!

We had a disturbed night what with me tossing, turning and coughing, Ty fidgeting as he got jammed in beneath the bed, the ducks pecking at the hull and occasional visits from Lou to complain about Lynx sharing her sofa. It was a shame because this mooring is lovely – I could imagine spending a few days here – the Hillingdon Trail is nearby for dog-walking, there’s a decent pub and just enough activity along the water and towpath to make it interesting while sitting on deck with a beverage….

Toilet talk….

We changed to ‘odorlos’ enzymatic ‘green’ a few years ago and for a while it worked well. But then they changed manufacturers/suppliers – they swear that the formulation hasn’t changed but it looks more dilute and we don’t think it works as well and is now called “odourlos”. I’ve always thought that you know where you are with ‘Blue’ – full scale germ killer making no pretence at being kind to the environment – it just kills stuff! But with ‘Green’ it’s complicated because some ‘greens’ are also full scale germ killers, but formaldehyde-free, and some are not germ-killers and work enzymatically to break down waste. This is important because the ‘gern killing’ green actually stops the ‘enzymatic’ green from working so the two can’t be mixed. We were after an enzymatic ‘green’ (an alternative to odorlos) so Uxbridge boat centre suggested that we try ‘bio-magic’ but they were out of stock, so we thought we’d try the ‘ecoloo’ sachets, which are enzymatic ‘green’, except that the powder is blue. Are you still with me????

Anyway, a box of sachets should look after our tank for a month or two – that’s £11 worth – if it works it’ll be good because I wouldn’t want Indigo Dream to become the pariah of the waterways, sitting in a little cloud of noxious gas as we blithely drive away for home!

Sunday 17th April

Oh what grand plans we had for the day – it should have been day 4 of the odyssey, but I woke up still feeling weak and shivery and definitely not up for cruising. I was so disappointed – the odyssey’s off to the slowest start ever and it was a lovely day and I love this bit of canal – but it was no good. Richard cycled back to the car on his new bike (his old boat bike was stolen a few months ago, during the day, from his office, which was full of people – the cheek of it!). It was the first test of the bike’s broad saddle and shock absorbers – Richard says its the most comfortable bike he’s ever ridden.

"Have you got a light?" - Im not sure whether this cheeky swan knew that the boater was holding a cigarette rather than food!

It was a bit sad to see that Indigo Dream was covered a fine coating of dust – the cars coming down the towpath raise huge clouds of the stuff – it’s just so dry here.

Because we hadn’t moved very far yesterday he was soon back and we benefitted from the towpath also being a road, as Richard could bring the car very close to the boat for loading. We set off towards Cassiobury Park, where we knew that nb No Problem was moored. The satnav took us down some very bumpy lanes but we finally parked very close to the canal and had a bobble along the towpath. As it transpired, we were looking for them on the wrong stretch of towpath – we reluctantly turned back having assumed that they were on the move, but if we’d walked 500 yards further we’d have seen them! Never mind, I’d have felt very guilty taking my germ-ridden self too close to them! Maybe we can contrive a meeting next week sometime as they’ll still be in the vicinity of London and we’ll have access to the car.

By now I’d decided that I needed to see a doctor for some antibiotics and possibly steroids for my painful lungs – a bit of a palaver in the current NHS. We have a local walk-in centre close to home which doubles for the out-of-hours service and it was hopeless. I had to wait over 2½ hours in baking hot waiting room with uncomfortable seats – in the end I sat on the floor because it was more comfortable there. It’s sometimes very inconvenient being a pharmacist – I knew perfectly well what was wrong with me and what treatment was needed, but I had no means of generating a prescription for myself or helping myself from  the pharmacy shelves (which I never did even when I worked in a pharmacy – it’s very naughty!). So after this long wait I saw a nurse who agreed with my diagnosis – she did give me some antibiotics but wouldn’t give me steroid tablets for the inflammation because she wanted to ask a doctor about it but she couldn’t find one – what, no doctor, in a huge county hospital – aaargh!

I have never been more tempted to try to pass myself off as a 2-legged dog – I’ve never had such poor service at the vet!


I’ve not cruised the waterways of Europe but I find it hard to believe that any country other than the UK would have such rampantly ‘individual’ craft moored on their canals. Many of the most eccentric seem to be moored around London – especially the houseboats on the Thames, but there are a few unique craft on the Grand Union too.

This luxury liner wouldnt look out of place in Portsmouth harbour!

The much-photographed galleon - Im sure that tourists would love to see these sights if a trip boat were to venture out here....

Showboat! Unique paddle-gear - Ive seen this boat going along the canal at a fair pace so this unusual propulsion system obviously works!

Poor old nb Cornwall was listing badly - we werent sure whether that was because she was well aground on the towpath side or because she was taking on water. There were other boaters around so hopefully they will keep an eye on her....

Wide-water lock - some of the lock gates along this stretch are a little worse for wear - there are many leaky gates, but there was also plenty of water in the pounds.

Overhanging branch - now if I was moored below that I'd want to get my chainsaw out and cut it back before it fell on my boat! It's a eucalyptus tree so it should go up like a torch in a boater's stove!

Very nice residential moorings below Coppermill Lock....

8 Responses to “The Odyssey 2011: Day 3”

  1. Hi

    1) We tell people the charge is £10 per foot to wash and/or polish their boat.

    2) Against all my understanding of fermentation processes, we’re getting good results from brewer’s yeast, 10 tabs into the empty tank via the loo, and another ten when the tanks about half full. Brewer’s yeast can obviously ferment much more than just sugars! And it’s sooo cheap.

    Hope you’re better soon; keep taking the tablets 😉


  2. Adam said

    Hi Sue, I’m paying particular attention to this part of the Odyssey because we’ve got three weeks holiday in September and I’m thinking of the Thames ring…

  3. indigodream said

    Hi Bruce, good tip on the brewer’s yeast – can I ask a delicate question – does the yeast fermentation produce lots of gas (carbon dioxide that is!) – does it cause an pressure in your tank? I sort of assume not as I’m sure that if your tank had exploded it would be blog-worthy event!

    Hi Adam, I’d better pay attention to getting the details right then! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by the Thames ring – a great cruise for Briar Rose to show you her paces 🙂

  4. Hi

    Doesn’t seem to; though we’ve got double breathers on SA’s tank, I know plenty of other people with single breathers who use yeast with no trouble. (Nearly said no problem there, but that would be complicating the issue…)

    The final result is a pleasant light brown in colour, too, rather than sinister black.



  5. indigodream said

    More pale ale than guinness then 😀

  6. Adam said

    I like this idea — so we’ve bought a tub of 500 brewers’ yeast tablets for our toilet tank!

    Sue, I spotted this post on the Canal World Forum, so I’ve suggested she contact you. The combination of boating and greyhound sounds as though you might get on.

  7. indigodream said

    Hi Adam

    Good call – Windfola (aka Catherine) joined us on Friday and will hopefully come again – she met Gerygal so she now knows more than any sane person needs to about boating with greyhounds 🙂

    Let us know how you get on with the Brewer’s yeast – we’re persevering with the ecoloo for now (must use up the sachets now that we’ve bought them!) ut are yet to be convinced – this hot weather seems to be a test for any toilet tank!

  8. tom shsw said

    Hi, where is galleon narrowboat please? seen any other double deckers? regards Tom

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