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Archive for March, 2013

Boat Blog: Old friends warm the day…

Posted by indigodream on 31 March, 2013

Sunday 24th March

Black Horse, Greenford to Brentford

It was a better day on Sunday so Ollie came out on deck for a look - he didn't stay long!

It was a better day on Sunday so Ollie came out on deck for a look – he didn’t stay out long!

We knew that we couldn’t get to Brentford in time to catch the tide to Teddington – this took the pressure off us and we were able to have a more leisurely day. Just as well, the Black Horse moorings had more overnight factory noise than we remembered from previous visits. But Ty slept through the night and felt relaxed enough to have yet another wee in the morning – this is progress!

We made coffee, layered up then set off along the canal. The day was grey and bitterly cold, with flurries of fine snow which stung the skin but didn’t melt, so we stayed dry – a considerable improvement on yesterday’s conditions!

Richard took the first shift on the helm, then I took over while he researched canalside battery shops. With great reluctance, we’ve had to admit that our domestic battery bank is on its way out. The batteries are not dead yet, but they have become so erratic that there’s no option but to get new ones. Richard had hoped that we might get a Halfords fitter to install some new batteries for us. Frustratingly, by the time we googled Halfords, we’d just passed one. Mind you, we had forgotten that it was Sunday and it was only 9.30am – they wouldn’t have been open! There was another Halfords at Bulls Bridge but they only do MOT’s and didn’t have anyone who could fit batteries to a boat. While Richard was finding that out, I wandered across to Tesco to top up our supplies – but they didn’t open ’til 11am!

Ty having a lean - leaning on humans is a major greyhound activity (after snoozing and eating) :-D

Ty having a lean – leaning on humans is a major greyhound activity (after snoozing and eating) 😀

We spent a bit of time at the Bulls Bridge moorings just drinking tea and eating bacon sandwiches while Richard did some more research on batteries. There are very few people who are willing to come to fit batteries onto a narrowboat, but the RAC does! But the only proviso that they could only do it if the batteries were part of their catalogue inventory – sadly the sort we need were not – curses, another cunning plan foiled! Now I should explain that Richard is technically capable of fitting the batteries himself, but the connections are tucked away in the engine bay where only someone of 5′ 9″ or less can comfortably reach; Richard is 6′ 4″ and a bit!

We didn’t get anywhere with our battery research and it was time to move to meet up with fellow boating bloggers Simon from nb Tortoise and Carrie from nb Blackbird. They had offered, with great enthusiasm, to help us down the 10 locks to Brentford. We were delighted to see them – as well as being mega-efficient locking crew, they are also great company. Of course, Carrie is in thrall to our hounds, who exploited her mercilessly for ear rubs and tummy fusses. Ty went for a walk with Carrie and spent so much time leaning on her legs I though she might be left with a permanent kink – he’ll weigh a substantial proportion of her bodyweight! 🙂

With Simon and Carrie’s expert help, we flew down the flight. Unusually, didn’t pick up any debris in our prop – the water was surprisingly clear of trash – this is a vast improvement. Many of the lock gates were also new – those that weren’t leaked like mad, which may explain why some of the pounds (stretches of water between locks) were so low. I was amazed that the pounds were low – it seemed inconceivable when every other waterway seems to be in flood!

Exploitation! Ollie took such advantage of Carrie - while giving me the evil eye as if to say "you never fuss me like this" :-D

Exploitation! Ollie took such advantage of Carrie 😀

The canal wasn’t entirely clean – Simon did pull something from the water – from a distance is looked disturbingly like a boneless body! However it was a spiderman “model” – child sized! We weren’t sure what to do with it – it was a bit too big and sodden for us to carry to the rubbish point at Brentford but you wouldn’t want it round your prop – the sight of it would give you a heart attack! In the end we put it out of reach of the canal, though no doubt it will end up back in the water at some point.

We soon arrived in Brentford and were relieved to see a few unoccupied visitor moorings which was a relief as we had read somewhere that the moorings were very busy. We moored up and settled down for a late lunch and some serious chatter. This went on for some time – it was so lovely to catch up with them that I said goodbye with great regret. However Ollie was most disgruntled when they left – Carrie had found the magic fussing spots on his ears and chest but she’d only been rubbing them for an hour or so – that’s not half enough 🙂

Richard left with Simon and Carrie – he needed to get the train back to Limehouse to pick up the car. This took a lengthy few hours, giving me time to take Ty and Ollie for a walk, pack up the boat and make supper in time for Richard’s return. Ty did not enjoy his walk – everything was just too scary – from the “schlup schlup” of the joggers’ shoes, the beeping of car horns on the M4 and even the raucous alarm calls of the coots – he did not have a wee, though Ollie more than made up for it.

Creepy - that spiderman is a stuffed toy - honest!

Creepy – that spiderman is a stuffed toy – honest!

We eventually got away from the boat at 8pm and had a great drive home. Ty absolutely rejoiced when he arrived home – he ran round the garden, rolled around on his beds, paraded around the house with his tail up and grinned – you’ve never seen a happier hound! It was a relief to see him so ecstatic – this is the big difference since we first rescued him – although he’s traumatised by many things, it doesn’t last once he gets back to his safe place.

So we’re booked to lock onto the Thames on Wednesday – the plan is to transit first to Teddington then do a dash up to the River Wey. There’s only one, no two, complications – the Thames is closed to navigation because of heavy water flows and so is the River Wey. If they don’t come down by Wednesday/Thursday then we won’t be able to join the Basingstoke convoy. Keep you fingers crossed for a 3-day drought – the ground is so saturated now that any rainfall in the Thames’ vast catchment area will go straight to the river 😦

Update: As of Good Friday, the Wey came down to normal on Monday but the lower  Thames stayed on red boards until Thursday evening – too late for us to make the transit to the Wey and catch the convoy along the Basingstoke. So the latest plan is to have a little mooch along the Grand Union before we come back for a potentially VERY exciting convoy in June…

Battery Update: Having been exercised a bit the batteries are less feeble but charge still seems to disappear at an alarming rate. They are of an age that they are going but what to get? Our excellent independent garage in Croydon (A&A Autoelectrical) can source a Lion battery for a fantastically cheap price,  only has a 1 year guarantee but has the terminals the right way round (positive on the left). The choices so far vary in terms of Amp Hour rating and guarantee but actually don’t differ too much in terms of price per Ah if you exclude the rather nice looking AGM and gel batteries:

Lion 11o AH: was £92 but currently on discount so may be cheaper. 1 year guarantee

Numax CXV35MF 120Ah £105, 3 year guarantee (500 cycles)

Enduroline EXV135 Calcium Battery Marine and Leisure 135Ah: £140, 4 year guarantee. Not sure who actually makes it, can’t find a spec for number of cycles

Well perhaps I should mention a gel battery. eg this Elecsol 135ah battery for a mere £214 with a 7 yes SEVEN!!! year guarantee, though I have read some complaints about trying to get Elecsol to honour guarantees which were offputting. That said there seems to be a bit of small print in every company’s guarantee. The only company I have read about so far that comes out well on guarantees is  Halfords but their 100Ah battery costs £130 and only has a 2 year guarantee.

Ah stop press this battery has just had a price drop: Exide ER550 115Ah: Now £90

I gather that Midland Chandlers are having a freaky Friday discount day next Friday but sadly they don’t seem to stock Numax anymore and their other batteries don’t compare so well on price.


We've been watching the slow deterioration of this building over the years - I'm a bit surprised that any of it is still standing - I've always though it was such a waste of a nice house....

We’ve been watching the slow deterioration of this building at Bulls Bridge over the years – I’m a bit surprised that any of it is still standing – I’ve always though it was such a waste of a nice house….

Leaky old gate on the Hanwell flight....

Leaky old gate on the Hanwell flight….

The new lock gates are very fine...

The new lock gates are very fine…

Spiderman up where he belongs :-D

Spiderman up where he belongs 😀

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Dog Blog: Ty’s doings….

Posted by indigodream on 29 March, 2013

Me pals, Iz a poor houndie wot has bin forced to have lots of hadventchewers – I hates hadventchewers – Iz bin to the vet, lots, an’ on the boat, lots, an’ mummy Sue boughts me a new fing…..

Anyhoo, on Sundie, mummy Sue sed “come on Ty, let’s have a lovely walk along the towpath”

“nu-huh” I sed “Iz will just stay in me bed fanks”

“Afraid not” she sed “you’re coming for a walk”

Fis is me bein' crooelly forced to have a hadventure - an' I dudzn't have me coat on eifer!

Fis is me bein’ crooelly forced to have a hadventure – an’ I dudzn’t have me coat on eifer!

So she dragged me out an’ I woz a scaredy wuss jellyboy…

“What on earth are are you so scared of?” sed mummy Sue

“Well” I sed, takin’ a hooge breaf…

“there’s joggers wot go “schlup schlup”

…an’ bikes wot goes “ting ting”

…an’ ducks wot goes “wark wark”

…an’ swans wot goes “hizzzzz”

…an’ burds wot goes “tweet tweet” then they pecks you to def”

I took anuvva breaf ……

” an’ there’s cars wot go beep an’ trains wot go “c-lunk c-lunk” an..”

Mummy Sue sed “Oh Ty, you are silly – it’s not logical, I mean, you’ve never been pecked to death by birds”

Logic, huh, I sawed the movie wif burds wot went mad, and then she sed “Tell you what Ty, how about I get you a new snug bed for the boat – that can be your safe den then you won’t be scared any more….”

But mummy Sue, a bed’s a new fing – I hates new fings…

Fis is me new bed - Iz dun walking round it for 10 minits then I dun sniffin it for 10 minits now Iz tryin' it out but me feets are outside so's I can run away if me bed viciously ataks me....

Fis is me new bed – Iz dun walking round it for 10 minits then I dun sniffin it for 10 minits now Iz tryin’ it out but me feets are outside so’s I can run away if me bed viciously ataks me….

Ooh maybe I cuds just have a little snooze....

Okey dokey, me bed hazn’t ataked me yet so maybe I cuds risk a little snooze….

Mmmmm - it is qwite cumfy....

Mmmmm – it is qwite cumfy….

Ooh look, if I moves me this way then iz like a big wall an nuffink scary can gets me - specially if I snuggles down like fis....Mummy Sue, can me an' me bed jus' stay here an never hav an advenchewer eva agen....

Ooh look, if I moves me bed like fis then it’z like a big wall an nuffink scary can gets me – specially if I snuggles down like fis….Mummy Sue, can me an’ me bed jus’ stay here an neva eva hav an adventchewer eva agen….

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Boat Blog: Make that our “winter” cruise….

Posted by indigodream on 28 March, 2013

Saturday 23rd March

City Road lock to Black Horse, Greenford

Amazingly swanky (and unoccupied) new visitor moorings at Kings Cross - the sign says they're "day visitor"  moorings - and are "arranged" via Estates Management on 0207 664 5700 (according to the sign)..

Amazingly swanky (and unoccupied) new visitor moorings at Kings Cross – the sign says they’re “day visitor” moorings – and are “arranged” via Estates Management on 0207 664 5700 (according to the sign)..

It made a nice change NOT to be woken by Ty needing to go out at 2.30am, but it was also slightly alarming as it meant that he was too distressed to wee, even in the middle of the night – city cruising is overwhelming for him. The stretch between City Road Lock and the Islington Tunnel is surrounded by high walls so, for us, it feels cut off from the world. But Ty was perturbed – whatever time of day or night there’s always a siren going off or a car horn beeping….

Although I wasn’t disturbed by Ty, the weather kept intruding, showering the boat with what sounded like fine gravel, though it was probably hailstones. This uninspiring sound  woke me properly at 7.30am-ish. Richard was up and about; I was very reluctant – we had to cruise at least part of the day and the forecast was dreadful. We layered up – it’s not often I wear my balaclava but it was absolutely essential today. I also added my battery-heated insoles – they didn’t seem to generate any heat (unlike the tiller hand-warmers, which get really hot – bliss!), but my feet did stay warm all day so they must be doing something.

We set off with hot drinks in hand and were soon in the relative shelter of the Islington Tunnel. How I blessed London’s builders today – tunnel and wide bridges – what great things they are when you want a moment’s respite from the day’s incessant blizzard.

As we came out of the Islington tunnel we were hailed by an old friend, Christine of nb Ketura – as waited for us to emerge, she wondered who was mad enough to be cruising in this weather “should have guessed” she tartly observed!

Strange craft - a narrowboat with a flat platform bolted on and heaped with stuff....

Strange craft – a narrowboat with a flat platform bolted on and heaped with stuff….

We plodded on – it was a truly miserable day, but again, though it was bitterly cold, I didn’t really feel cold – well, apart from when my so-called waterproof gloves got wet!

Once again, we noticed that every possible towpath mooring was occupied – London has become impossibly crowded, though that may be with winter moorers – it will be interesting whether there are a few more spaces when we come back this way in the Summer. Having said that, the canal to the west of Paddington has not been similarly colonised – I’m not sure why..

There’s a lot of canalside development going on – it’s nice to see the canalside being smartened up but I think that many of the developments are just too tall. In places they feel as if they’re falling over the canal, making it dark and uninviting. This was particularly so just below Camden Locks, where the concrete frame of a multi-storey building is already casting a considerable shadow over the water. I also wonder about the relationship between the buildings and the canal – they face the water and have balconies overlooking, but the offside buildings are right on the waterside with no room for a path or a bench; few,  if any, of the towpath-side ones have entrances that allow direct access to the canal, so they feel strangely isolated.

But the canalside sights were overshadowed by the weather – snow, sleet and biting gusts of wind. We didn’t see a single other boat on the move until we got to Maida Vale tunnel. I was inside and suddenly heard the engine turn to reverse – a boat glided by – I’m secretly convinced that it was a ghost boat, put there by fate to make our entry into Maida Vale tunnel more awkward!

This is a full-length butty full of soil and filled with potted trees/shrubs. It looked fab, even when dormant. It's part of the London Wildlife Trust Camley Street natural park..

This is a full-length butty full of soil and filled with potted trees/shrubs. It looked fab, even when dormant. It’s part of the London Wildlife Trust Camley Street natural park..

I like to tweet – it’s a totally trivial medium and I love it! I have many correspondents – disturbingly most of them are tweeting greyhounds, but some are female boaters. Today I’d arranged to meet, in person, a tweeter called “Inkognitoh” to whom I’d promised some chutney. She was moored somewhere in Paddington – I wasn’t sure which boat she was in when suddenly we heard a familiar voice shouting “where’s my chutney then?” . Inkognitoh was none other than…well, I won’t say in order to protect her anonymity, but she was an old friend and I hadn’t recognised her from her tweets – ooops! We exchanged quick greetings, and chutney, before allowing Indigo Dream to be blown to the bottom of Paddington Basin to turn. Some things never change – Paddington Basin, surrounded by very tall buildings, is an atrocious wind tunnel. We swept past the Crossrail Works, which have progressed beyond recognition – they were just a big hole in the ground last time we were here! We exchanged yet more gossip on the way back but couldn’t stay long – the wind was blowing us all over the canal and we either needed to tie up or move on!

Richard had a madly ambitious plan to get to the bottom of the Hanwell flight today; my aim for the day was to stop cruising as soon as possible. But practicalities first – we’d run out of milk for the all-important lattes that fuel our boat. The canalside Sainsbury’s at Kensal is a decent sized store with an excellent hot chicken counter – a MUST for boating greyhounds. Richard took the dogs for a walk while I started the shopping. The big news, (insert hallelujah chorus here!), Ty had a wee. We were jubilant – he hadn’t been for 30 hours and that can cause harm to the kidneys if it goes on for too long.

With the boat well-stocked, and the hounds emptied, we set off in weather that was getting worse by the minute.

Richard took the helm for an hour or so while I warmed up inside. Then he suddenly came to a halt – he’d come across another service boat, nb Denebola, and stopped off for a bit of diesel at under £1/litre.  I think that nb Denebola might have a bit of history – I wonder whether this is her?

Ollie and Ty spent the day swaddled in their fleece coats and blankets with the heating going full blast!

Ollie and Ty spent the day swaddled in their fleece coats and blankets with the heating going full blast!

At this point I got layered up again and went onto the helm – it’s a lock-free pound between Paddington and the top of the Hanwell flight so it’s an easy cruise. I sent Richard inside to warm up – as part of my writing work I’ve been looking into hypothermia – it’s a deceptive condition that can creep up unnoticed. He was keen to stay outside and keep me company (misery loves company :-)) but the way I saw it, if we’d been at home neither of us would have put a deckchair in the garden in a blizzard saying “isn’t it nice to get some fresh air” – boating is MAD!

The further west we travelled, the thicker the snow fell. Just after 3pm we got to Black Horse and snaffled the last of the mooring rings. Richard was contemplating going on to Bulls Bridge, but after the last appalling hour on the helm I was desperate to moor up. It was great to get indoors, get warm and rest out of the weather.

Richard, ever gung-ho, went out to find a plumbing store – we still had an intermittent leak (of clean water) from the back of the toilet which just needed a bit of sealant to sort it. I settled down for some R & R with the hounds. Unfortunately the local plumbing store shuts at 12.30pm on a Saturday, but he did manage to get some sealing tape from an old-fashioned ironmongers nearby. The tape worked perfectly and fingers crossed, the loo is now working perfectly.

We mooched around the boat for a few hours before setting out early for the Black Horse pub. It’s one of our favourites, an unpretentious Fullers pub which has friendly staff, serves plain pub grub and welcomes hounds. Ty and Ollie came with us – Ty has been to pubs before and is surprisingly calm about it – he likes being indoors, and as long as he can hide under the table and the other clientele are not too noisy then he’s fine. Of course he’s rewarded with sausages and sundry leftovers so maybe that makes a difference too.

"there's so such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing" - so who's appropriately dressed in this photo? ;-)

“there’s so such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” – so who’s appropriately dressed in this photo? 😉

As always, the hounds attracted a lot of attention  – we met a man at the bar who has worked with actress Annette Crosbie, a fierce advocate for retired greyhounds. Funnily enough, I’d met another man in Sainsbury’s earlier who’d also met her and was keen to tell me how much she supported retired greyhounds. The chap at the bar, Mike Parish (he gave me his card for some reason) is apparently filming a TV series which will cover every inch of the canal system – watch out for it!

After a filling meal in the super-cosy pub, we wandered back top the boat and, hellelujah, Ty had another wee, once we’d walked to the quiet area past the noisy and fragrant samosa factory with its humming machinery.

Battery Bulletin

Last night, after using a bit of power on the TV etc, our batteries crashed to 25%; we ran the engine for a bit and got them up to 37% then I went to bed. By morning, with no other input, they were up to 46% – this is a mystery! Well, not really, they’re on their last legs and need replacing….

Note: Yesterday’s wakeboarder on Youtube!




Camden Top Lock - on a Saturday morning - it was deserted - there are normally hundreds of gongoozlers - that tells you how bad the weather was :-D

Camden Top Lock – on a Saturday morning – it was deserted – there are normally hundreds of gongoozlers – that tells you how bad the weather was 😀

The end of Paddington Basin - I wonder if that half-finished building will be the last of the developments here or will they start demolishing and putting up new buildings???

The end of Paddington Basin – I wonder if that half-finished building will be the last of the developments here or will they start another cycle of demolition to make way for new ones???

Crossrail at Paddington....

Crossrail at Paddington….

Portal to Paddington Station from the basin - handy!

New Portal to Paddington Station from the basin – handy!

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Boat Blog: The start of the Spring (?) cruising…

Posted by indigodream on 27 March, 2013

Friday 22nd March

Limehouse to City Road Basin

Ollie proving that he is a reliable boating dog - he was so well-behaved :-)

Ollie proving that he is a reliable boating dog – he was so well-behaved 🙂

We decided not to cruise last weekend (w/e  16th March) because the weather forecast was foul and the rugby forecast was good! Not that it was an idle weekend, my charity jam customers have been nagging me to make red onion chutney for many months, so on Sunday Richard was a true gentleman and chopped 16kg of onions so that I didn’t have to cry over them. I then set to chutney making – around 70 jars, but of five different varieties. Chutney is a leap of faith – it needs 6 weeks to mature so when I pot it I have no idea whether it’s going to taste good – I only know that I’ve put in good ingredients….

We HAD to move the boat this weekend to have any hope of joining the Basingstoke Convoy next Thursday. However I’ve been watching the weather forecast with an increasing sense of doom. The Thames then went back onto red boards with little hope of redemption. In addition to our weather worries, we also needed to fix the toilet and sort the batteries.

We vetoed travelling up to boat on Thursday evening partly because of fatigue, but mainly because of complicated travel arrangements. These involved my car going in for repair thanks to a landrover reversing into my door – fortunately Ollie and I weren’t in the car – we just watched the action from across the park! This was followed by a debacle involving a hire car provided by my insurance company that arrived late and, when it turned up, did not allow pets to be carried, even in the boot– bah!

Anyway, enough with the whinging, let’s get onto the important stuff:

Battery Bulletin

The riverside cranes were not working in the wind today but they were busy pouring concrete here - the canalside is sprouting cranes all over the place as the East is gentrified....

The riverside cranes were not working in the wind today but they were busy pouring concrete here – the canalside is sprouting cranes all over the place as the East is gentrified….

There’s a good reason why the Smartgauge is right by the door – it’s the first thing we check! I’m pleased to say that after a fortnight of being fed by shore power, the domestic battery bank was at a pleasing 100%. So far so good, no immediate action needed. On our way to our berth we’d spotted a fuel boat in the basin so we made haste to get over to them before they moved up the Lee. We turned the ignition key and……nothing!

Indigo Dream’s ever-reliable engine, which I don’t think has ever failed to start, gave a whining cough then died. Yes, you’ve guessed it, our starter battery had failed. For the uninitiated, we have a bank of four domestic batteries which store power for important stuff like the coffee machine, TV, fridge, boiler ignition, lights and other stuff that we might use when the engine’s not running. We also have one “starter” battery which is used solely for starting the engine. This is important as it means that we can always start the engine, no matter how much TV we’ve watched…….unless the starter battery’s finally died after almost 7 years of faithful service that is!

Richard went off to get some jump leads from the car so that we could jump start the “starter” from the domestic bank. Alas, he didn’t have any, so he jumped into the car and went off to Halfords. He bought some jump leads for the boat – this was something he’d intended to do anyway; but rather than mess around with reviving a well-past-its-design-life battery, he just bought a new one. The new battery worked a treat and the engine roared into life – what a relief – the alternative was that the starter motor had failed – that might have scuppered the whole weekend’s cruising. As it is, we were late starting out and missed the fuel boat – no worries, we bought a gas cylinder from them (£25.50) – we like to support fuel boats where we can.

So we move onto…..

Works at Mile End - there was a lengthy stoppage here and it's still very awkward to get to both side of the lock (you wouldn't need to but the wind blew the bottom gates open!)

Works at Mile End – there was a lengthy stoppage here and it’s still very awkward to get to both side of the lock (you wouldn’t need to but the wind blew the bottom gates open!)

Toilet Talk

When we last left the boat, the toilet was not working – it looked like a blockage somewhere, which was unfortunate given that the hose carrying stuff from the loo to the holding tank is 24’ long! Richard dismantled the loo and had a poke around the back – fortunately, blockages usually happen around the impeller, which macerates the stuff into goo before its drawn into the tank (too much information? Never, not for toilet-obsessed boaters!). But the impeller was clear, leaving us the unappetising prospect of checking the pipe, which runs under the floor, and might involve ripping out the kitchen units! Hmmm, desperation being the real the real mother of invention, Richard came up with the idea of using the pump-out machine suck the blockage out of the hose. I’m delighted to report that Richard’s idea worked perfectly – he reported that after a few rinse-throughs, a plug of stuff shot into the pump-out machine and things seemed to clear from there. Phew – can’t cruise without a loo; well, I can’t anyway!

After all that excitement, the rest of the blog seems superfluous!

Back to the cruising….

We need to get to Woodham Junction (Wey Navigation – Basingstoke Canal) by Thursday 28th – I’d wanted to go by canal – we haven’t cruised the Regent’s/Grand Union for an age. But the quick alternative was to shoot up the tideway. I’m so glad that we didn’t attempt the big river – the wind was whipping little whitecaps in Limehouse basin, the river would have been wild. We knew we’d made the right decision when we saw that the cable car crossing the Thames had been stopped today (or was it being maintained?).

We’d managed to move from our berth to the service pontoon with relative ease – that’s because the wind was with us. Getting off the service pontoon was a performance – the gusty wind kept pushing us back. A combination of brute force (Richard!) and science (a spring on the back rope) finally got us away just after midday.

The first few locks were set our way and the gates had been left open – this would have made us really cross if we’d been locking down, but it worked in our favour today.

It took us a few locks to get back into swing – we’re pretty slick once we get going, but we spent so much time with the manned locks on the Thames last year that we’d slipped out of our normal routine. This was also Ollie’s first proper cruise. For the most part he stayed on the boat, but Ollie supervised Richard at a couple of the locks and was very well-behaved – even though he was off-lead – he’s shaping up to be a natural boater, unlike Ty, who still finds the world away from home to be one big stress.


Wakeboarder – that’s not a sight you normally see on the canals!

I always worry about whether boating and indeed this blog, will get boring when we’re cruising such familiar waterways. But there’s always something new! Today’s revelation was the sound  of a moped haring down the offside canal path; this was followed by a sharp “slap” and a splash as a waterskier came flying over the lock weir. Well, that’s a new one on us! When we got closer, we realised that he had one board, rather than skis i.e. he was wakeboarding and the moped was a stationary motor pulling a cable, The young man was rather shapely in his wetsuit – shame he was totally insane – I was wearing so many layers I could barely lift my arms and no way would I swim in the canal – at any temperature!

It was fun to see something so unexpected on the canal (the last time we’d encountered waterskiers was on the Trent and that was shock enough!) so we cruised on in good spirits.

We haven’t been this way for over a year and we enjoyed trying to spot how the landscape has changed since the Olympics – new residential developments, the tarting up of Victoria Park (including some new mooring rings), and the less welcome colonisation of the towpath. There wasn’t a visitor mooring to be had – this became a problem later – the weather closed in, the light dissolved into gloom and we were nowhere near Paddington Basin, our fantasy destination.

There was a bit of drama at Sturtts Lock – as we approached we noticed two boats in the lock – apparently coming down. But there was no crew to be seen. As we got closer, someone on board noticed us and they started to think about emptying the lock and moving on. To us it looked suspiciously as if they’d chosen the lock as a convenient place to stop for a cuppa. Over the years we’ve encountered a LOT of boats sitting in locks having their tea/lunch, especially on windy days! They eventually came out of the lock and one of the crew apologised – apparently the delay had been caused by one of their party falling into the canal – they were recovered safely but needed warming up. Well, it was two community boats so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on that one….

Victoria Park - busy as ever - but there are nice mooring rings on the far side of the bridge - part of the Olympic legacy :-)

Victoria Park – busy as ever – but there are nice mooring rings on the far side of the bridge – part of the Olympic legacy 🙂

We got through Sturtts Lock and moored up at the end of the lock moorings (not helped by the wind). Richard had to whizz back to Limehouse to move the car – that’s the only disadvantage of cruising on a weekday – the lack of the free unlimited street parking that you get at the weekends. I had a little bimble with the hounds then retired indoors to warm up – it was a bitterly cold day, though I wasn’t really cold on the helm (with my layers and electric hand-warmers round the tiller). Nonetheless it was a relief to get inside – not having been heated for the last fortnight, it took an age to warm the boat – by 3.30pm the cabin had reached the lofty temperature of 15 degrees; it took another hour to reach 16 degrees – nonetheless it felt marvellous!

Before anyone says anything, we don’t have a wood burner, don’t need one and won’t have one!

It took a while to sort the car out – by the time Richard got back I was toasting and it took an enormous effort of will for me to put on my multiple layers and get back on the helm. Luckily we didn’t have far to go. Predictably, the moorings below City Road lock were jam-packed but there was a space on the rings above the lock. We moored up, only realising later that mooring was free because the towpath was closed and it was a bit of a scramble to get back through the fences to get to the Narrowboat pub for supper.

We were severely disappointed by the Narrowboat pub (not for the first time) – it has no soul and the food was very poor given the gastro-pub prices that they charge. I was glad to get back to the boat – it was only 7.30 so we hooked up the TV and enjoyed an evening in – the boat was a cosy 19 degrees by now. We put a winter duvet on the bed and I tucked a hot water bottle under the covers – we’re looking forward to a snug night, though no doubt I’ll be tramping along the arctic towpath at 2.30am. That’s Ty’s cruising wee time – he’s just too scared to go during the day when he’s away from home 😦


Not sure why I took this photo but it does show a typical Regent's canal lock with the bywash, lock weir (which used to be a lock chamber) and the remaining working lock chamber...

Not sure why I took this photo but it does show a typical Regent’s canal lock with the bywash, lock weir (which used to be a lock chamber) and the remaining working lock chamber…

There are some striking developments along the canal - many of these were still in construction when we last passed this way - ooh, back in 2011!

There are some striking developments along the canal – many of these were still in construction when we last passed this way – ooh, back in 2011!

I know that canalside sculpture is controversial but I like seeing quirky things like this pink mushroom - this was offside to I assume it was privately funded :-)

I know that canalside sculpture is controversial but I like seeing quirky things like this pink mushroom – this was offside to I assume it was privately funded 🙂

The triumph of nature over weather - early blossom - probably a wild plum tree (looks like the ones in my garden) - bit cold for the pollinators - remind me to check for plums in August!

The triumph of nature over weather – early blossom – probably a wild plum tree (looks like the ones in my garden) – bit cold for the pollinators – remind me to check for plums in August!

Green wall - these are becoming very trendy in London - this is ivy, a surprising choice given how much effort goes into eradicating it when it grows up building naturally!

Green wall – these are becoming very trendy in London – this is ivy, a surprising choice given how much effort goes into eradicating it when it grows up building naturally!

Looming! Many of the new developments seemed to overshadow the canal....

Looming! Many of the new developments seemed to overshadow the canal….

This half-completed block seems every worse - wonder what it will be like when it's finished??

This half-completed block seems every worse – wonder what it will be like when it’s finished??

I shouldn't be so sentimental but I have a preference for a more traditional canalside restoration/development.

I shouldn’t be so sentimental but I have a preference for a more traditional canalside restoration/development.

These glass-floored balconies are far from traditional though - I'm not sure I'd fancy standing on one...

These glass-floored balconies are far from traditional though – I’m not sure I’d fancy standing on one…

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Boat Blog: Serendipity

Posted by indigodream on 17 March, 2013

Sunday 4th March

Ponder’s End to Limehouse

Oldies Ollie and Ranger doing "looking" - the olympic sport for retired hounds :-)

Oldies Ollie and Ranger doing “looking” – THE olympic sport for retired hounds 🙂

The human crew started to come to life from 8am – I wasn’t among them – having done the night shift, I buried my head under the duvet until the enticing smell of coffee tempted me out. Andy woke at 9am complaining wryly that “12 hours sleep wasn’t nearly enough” – he’d managed to sleep through all of the overnight commotions – including the running of the engine! So we had a slow start – the hounds, having done the essentials at 6am, weren’t particularly interested in getting up either. We weren’t in any rush – we took the time to have breakfast before tackling the turn. and heading back towards Limehouse

We had a big debate as to whether the canal was wide enough at the pub moorings to allow us to turn. I thought it would be, but experience proved otherwise; however we did manage to avoid getting inextricably wedged across the canal! We were probably only 2″ off, so Richard reversed Indigo Dream back towards the lock where the offside bank wall had partially collapsed, giving us the extra inches that we needed. On the way back to the lock we picked up a foam yoga mat that had blown off the boat roof earlier – we did have an unworthy microsecond of temptation just to leave it as it floated out of our reach in the flow, but then the thought of it getting wrapped round our prop (or anyone else’s) made us do the right thing!

It was a fine morning – for the first time in an age the blue sky dominated the white clouds. Sadly it wasn’t to last but we appreciated the warm sun while it was there.

We had a few serendipitous moments today – firstly, Greyhoundhomer was doing a “Meet ‘n Greet” at Pets at Home in Chingford. I was keen to go along, as they currently have a lot of black greyhounds in the rescue kennels and they wanted some “black beauties” along to show people what spectacular pets they make. I should explain that black greyhound can be difficult to rehome – mainly because the brindles/blues and fawns, in particular, are strikingly beautiful. When they publicised the dates, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to make it; but then I spotted that Pets at Home was within easy walking distance of the navigation – sorted!

Blue skies and the march of the pylons..

Blue skies and the march of the pylons..

We moored opposite the big waste processing plant, conveniently close to a scrubby path that led to the shops. Sarah and I took Ollie, Herbie, Eddie and Bertie along – Ty would have been far too scared and we decided that the walk was a bit much for oldies Ranger and Monty. We left Andy in the boat to coddle the scaredy wuss boys; Richard came with us – there was a convenient Halfords next to Pets at Home so he could get some stuff for tweaking our ailing batteries.

We had a great time at the “meet ‘n greet” and the hounds, apart from Herbie, were calm and great ambassadors for the breed. Herbie was beside himself with excitement – the “meet ‘n greet” had been set up right next to the live rabbit enclosure and he was surrounded by squeaky toys. Seeing his level of excitement, Sarah deftly managed to delegate his care to “co-mummy Sue”, while she handled the truly exemplary Eddie and Bertie. In the meantime, Ollie didn’t need a handler at all – he was flat out – more of a meet ‘n sleep really! We also met up with old friends Sue, Tony and Ellie and scaredy wuss boy Brennan – they’re all Indigodreamers, and their new hound Nellie, who has yet to come cruising – I hope they’ll come soon. We also met with some other Greyhoundhomer stalwarts, so it became a really sociable event. Pets at Home had generously collected over £1,200 for the charity and they collected another £200 over the weekend – that’s good going in the current economic climate. We stayed an hour but then the canal called us back…

We’d had a lovely afternoon’s cruising when we had a little period of aggravation – typically back at Tottenham locks….

The towpath flanking the reservoirs is in great condition - perfect for hounds...

The towpath flanking the reservoirs is in great condition – perfect for hounds…

When we arrived at Tottenham lock, it was set against us with the bottom gates open and annoyingly worse the paddles open. This meant a tedious amount of winding for Richard and Andy, particularly as whomever had left the lock in that state had ignored the signs asking boaters to leave the paddles down and gates closed!  We got through the lock and the ground crew got on with lowering the paddles and closing the gates behind us. In the meantime, I was struggling with a fouled prop at the lock landing. All this meant that we didn’t see a boat approaching from below the lock until it was too late – our ground crew were already clambering aboard. The woman on the upcoming boat was very cross indeed- we strongly suspect that she had left the lock open in the hope that no-one would come down before she needed it for her return trip. She let us know, in no uncertain terms, that lock gates should always be left open! In the meantime, I’d got my prop clear but in the process Indigo Dream had drifted a little way across the cut. The oncoming boater insisted on pushing on into the relatively narrow lock approach and our boats gently kissed – given the ill-tempered muttering from across the water it seemed unlikely that their skippers would do the same 🙂

Just below the lock, Richard suddenly realised that he’d left his keys at the lock – Stonebridge Lock! It might not have mattered if it had just been a BW key, but he’d left his whole bundle of house and office keys (along with a BW key) in the electronic controls. We hastily moored up and he walked back to Stonebridge, just under a mile away, keeping his fingers crossed that they would still be there (they were – hurrah!). I was quite surprised that we managed to moor in the shallow waters below Tottenham Lock, but we even found a mooring ring….

Part of the Greyhoundhomer team - Ollie's hasn't really got the meet 'n greet spirit though ;-)

Part of the Greyhoundhomer team – Ollie’s hasn’t really got the meet ‘n greet spirit though 😉

We wondered what it would be like to moor in Tottenham – even briefly – but the passersby were courteous and very interested in the greyhounds.

While we were waiting, I unwrapped Andy’s birthday cake, lit the candles and sang him a Polish song (Stolat) which seemed more appropriate for the weekend’s general jubilation than “happy birthday”. We settled down to a slice of cake, though I don’t know what possessed me to leave the remainder of the cakes on the galley worktop. Herbie first managed to reach up and grab a HUGE mouthful of the strawberry cake. At least some of that cake was salvageable. But 10 minutes later Herbie managed to snaffle the whole chocolate cake and was munching it on the floor – I managed to wrestle the mangled remains from him, but the sad left-overs were definitely unfit for human consumption! As Herbie knows, crime does pay – I packaged the mangled cake into a bag for the oldies at home – they need the calories and, before you worry, the chocolate cake won’t have enough cocoa solids to hurt them.

We had the second bit of serendipity while I was indulging in the cake wrestling match – Adam and Adrian from nb Briar Rose rang us from Stratford – we offered them a lift back to Limehouse and they walked to meet us near Old Ford Lock. It took us an age to get there – maybe it was the cake we’d eaten, but Indigo Dream had sunk into the ooze so getting off the mooring was more difficult than getting onto it. It was also slow going past the multitude of moored boats.

The Lee can be dismal in places but I like cruising here..

The Lee can be dismal in places but I like cruising here..

But eventually we spotted them, thumbing a lift from the towpath. It was so lovely to catch up with them both and discuss cruising past, present and future. We mooched along the canal with the temperature dropping as fast as the westering sun – it was almost dark when we got back to our berth in Limehouse – where had the day disappeared?!

And now, the best part of the post…….

Toilet talk:

Regular readers will know that we have a macerator toilet which pumps to a giant tank under the back deck. This arrangement works well but every now and then we get a blockage – eeeeuw! Through the late afternoon, I had noticed that there was (clean) water in the pan when  it should be dry. I assumed that someone had pressed the flush buttons in wrong order – the “before use” button puts water in the bowl – you only need this for more substantial productions (or “triple kebab specials” as Richard calls them!); the “after use” button is the flush itself. But alas, as we were getting ready to leave the boat we realised that the water in the bowl was being caused by something else. Richard had a little poke around the back but there wasn’t an obvious blockage. It was getting late and it was obvious that we wouldn’t get to the bottom (sorry!) of the toilet problems this evening. Oh dear, we MUST remember to fix it before we go cruising again in a fortnight’s time 😮

Battery talk:

The aim had been to buy a hygrometer in Halfords sadly they don’t sell hygrometers so we had to look at alternative tests. Our batteries are awkward to access but with a mirror I could see that there was an equal level of fluid in the first cell of each battery. Disconnecting the leads every battery had the same voltage to within 0.02V, one or two of the terminals were not as tight as perhaps they could have been but that was a bit arguable. So for the second time we have had a few odd things happening on our first day out but nothing obviously wrong? Can’t remember the actual voltage when we disconnected the leads (12.59V?) but I remember thinking it was about right after an hour or so charging.

Our batteries have had weeks sitting at float and getting lazy? Could there be some sort of surface charge effect going on? Before we invest in new batteries it is time to give our batteries a but more exercise and an equalisation charge? Aim was to do that today (17th March) but the w o r k thing got in the way.


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Boat Blog: Keeping the Basingstoke Canal alive…

Posted by indigodream on 16 March, 2013

Friday 15th March

The Byfleet Boat Club had an excellent presentation this evening, featuring the Basingstoke Canal’s “Heroes and Villains”. The speaker, Roger Cansdale, outlined the canal’s troubled history right up to its troubled present. I though that Roger might be being over-dramatic when he said it was a miracle that there was a canal left at all, but as he wove the tale of dastardly chicanery involved in its management over the centuries I had to agree with him!

I won’t go through the details of the presentation – if you want to know more then invest £3 in the Basingstoke Canal Society’s booklet “A history of the Basingstoke Canal”- available from their website – click here

The crux of the talk was that while it takes hard work and vision to restore a canal, it’s as nothing to the hard graft needed to keep it alive when the fanfare of the re-opening ceremonies has faded. So, what can do to keep the canal alive…..?

… boating there – what easier and more pleasant way can there be to keep a canal working 🙂

So, what else can you do to keep the canal alive?

Of course, donations are eternally welcome and they’re always looking for volunteers to help with various projects – Roger couldn’t overestimate how important volunteers will be to the ongoing maintenance of the canal.

So, we’ll be joining a convoy at Easter to cruise the available length of the canal – currently as far as Odiham. There are an impressive number of boats booked on – in fact, it may be the biggest boating event since the jubilee! If you have a boat in the vicinity why not come along – click here to get to the details and booking form.

If you don’t have a boat in the vicinity then why not join us as day crew – we’ve got room for 4 – 6 people. We’ll be cruising along the Basingstoke from Thursday 28th March to Saturday 30th; we’ll do the return trip the weekend after. If we get innundated with interested then we can always put the word out to the rest of the convoy – there are quite a few locks so I expect that extra crew members will be made very welcome indeed 🙂

So, why not take the easy option – come boating on the Basingstoke – if you’re inspired then you can get satisfyingly muddy with the volunteers 😀

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Dog Blog: The Auntie Proficiency Test

Posted by indigodream on 15 March, 2013

Rewind to Saturday 2nd March

The examiners - dat's me, Eddie, on de left and dat's Bertie lyin' down, worryin' about weder he's goin' to get a decent new Auntie...

The hexaminers – dat’s me, Eddie, on de left and dat’s Bertie lyin’ down, worryin’ about weder he’s goin’ to get a decent new Auntie…

Well me fine friends, tis Eddie the oirish one here – I’m not de t’ick one any more coz o’im now hexaminer for the “Auntie proficiency test” – dis is a staged test just for Sue, coz me mam has ter be sure, ter be sure, that she can look after us prop’ly wen she’s off on her swanky boat.

Auntie proficiency (applies to day/weekend visits): provoide 24-hour buffit of home-made dog treats, take us out in de middle of de night so mummy can get a good noight’s sleep; clean any mess off de floor; launder our coats if we gets ‘em covered in poo; dry us off if we fall in de pond; give us fusses as required. Tests set by me ma (optional): give us a bath if we’s gets covered in fox poo;  clean and dress little cuts; do health inspections; recommend vet visits…

Step-mummi proficiency (applies to long holidays widout me ma): as above plus extra treats an fusses becoz we’s poor abandoned hounds; lettin’ us break all de normal house rules so we feels at home e.g. brekfust ev’ry day, giving up her chair so’s we can be comfy etc. Tests set by me ma (optional): weekly vet visits to make sure we isn’t dying (actually me ma would prefer if we didn’t go to de vet’s quoite so often, but she knows Sue is a vet addict).

Co-mummi proficiency: (applies to long-term hound convalescence): as above plus intensive nersin’; makin’ special food for poorly houndies; extra fusses; doin’ sum worryin’ for me ma; daily vet visits (optional); naggin de vets til they get it roight .

Roight, from from front ter back - Monty (step-mummy); Herbie (Co-mummy); Bertie (new Auntie) an that's Ollie on the sofa - Sue is his proper mummy!

Roight, from from front ter back – Monty (step-mummy); Herbie (Co-mummy); Bertie (new Auntie) an that’s Ollie on the sofa – Sue is his proper mummy!

So, dis weekend, Sue had to pass de “Auntie Proficienty Test” for Bertie, wid me as chief hexaminer. It was good to see her taking it serious now – she’d baked us some liver cake and some sardine parcels and gave Bertie lots a fusses – of course, as chief examiner oi had to make sure that she could keep up her co-mummy; step-mummy and auntie duties for the rest of us so she had to fuss us too an’ change Herbie’s dressings. Oi was tinking dat tings were going well – we made sure that we woke her up in the middle of the noight but den, oh dear, a slip-up, Bertie was dancin’ ’round and asking to go out and Sue just showed him a comfy bed. Well, what’s a dog ter do? He had ter have a little wee on de floor – well, make dat a big one bejesus, because he IS big! I was worried – was Sue actually going to fail her test?

Well, I’m glad ter say that she just scraped through – she apologised to Bertie for not recognisin’ his signals den took de rest of us hounds out at 2.30am, 4am and 6am – well, it would have been cruel to fail her after dat!

So, here’s Auntie Sue’s trainin’ record:

Co-mummi test: passed for Herbie hound, who had a whole 3 munths at her house and his leg didn’t fall off!

Step-mummi test: passed for Henry B Beanz; Archie an’ Monty – who had a munth of de old hols and weren’t spoilt at all…

Auntie test: passed for me, Eddie, Susie, Ranger dawg an’ Miffy….

I’s available, for a small fee ye understand, to hexamine udder potential aunties, because, begorrah, a hound can’t have enuff good aunties….

Bejesus, you humans need watching...

Bejesus, you humans need watching…

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Boat Blog: Long time no blog…

Posted by indigodream on 14 March, 2013

Rewind to Saturday 2nd March

Limehouse to Ponder’s End

Big Bertie CAN go boating :-)

Big Bertie CAN go boating 🙂

Well, that’s not strictly true – I wrote that heading before I realised that I’d have something to blog about following my exciting Sunday in the music world!

But January and February were a bit of a washout – I got the measles, or something that was very like it, then Richard got a chest infection and we had the care of Herbie – Sarah’s badly injured hound who stayed with us for a couple of months to convalesce. I’m pleased to say that we’re all recovered now, including Herbie, who went back home a few weeks ago (without a backward glance – he hadn’t forgotten his real hu-mum!).

In other news, Ty has managed to break his toe, but, unusually for a greyhound, he didn’t make a fuss about it so we didn’t realise for 3 weeks (!) when the toe eventually got inflammed/infected! No harm done – the bone seems to be healing well – we were afraid that the toe might need to be amputated, but that doesn’t seem likely now – phew! Ollie is fine!

The other news doesn’t really belong to us, but while Herbie was staying with us, Greygal accidentally adopted another hound – Big Bertie – and I mean BIG – an archetypal gentle giant. He’s another black boy, so alleged arch-criminals Henry and Herbie will never be short of an alibi when black dog hairs are found in the vicinity of a ransacked kitchen bin 🙂

So, all in all, the human Indigodreamers haven’t done anything particularly blog-worthy until this weekend; obviously the hounds always have enough to say, but I just wasn’t up for taking their dictation – you just can’t get the staff! I don’t doubt that they’ll insist on writing a few posts soon…

Crossrail works - the narrow gap to the left of the photo was just enough for a narrow boat!

Crossrail works – the narrow gap to the left of the photo was just enough for a narrow boat!

So, with the winter bugs behind us and a mild weekend ahead, we decided to go cruising with Greygal, Andy and some of the pack – I was really looking forward to it as we had things to celebrate:

  • It’s a whole year since we took Ollie into our home; it’s also a year since Eddie joined Sarah’s pack – worthy milestones, especially for Ollie, whose little friend Poppy sadly didn’t make it after being neglected by their previous owners.
  • It was Bertie’s first cruise – would he try to jump overboard? Would he be “boat-sick”?  All important things to be discovered before he goes on Sarah’s pristine, newly restored nb Henry H!
  • Greygal sold her beloved narrowboat “Greyhound” in February, so this cruise was dedicated to happy memories of nb Greyhound and to the future ahead on nb Henry H and another boat which has yet to be bought/built!
  • Andy missed his birthday celebrations in February because of a winter lurgy so we could celebrate that as well…

So we set out from Limehouse in good spirits on Saturday – we didn’t get away until late morning, but that gave us time to fill up the water tanks and do the usual pre-cruising checks. Although we’ve been up to the boat several times to check that she was ok, we haven’t been cruising since the Royal Docks convoy at the beginning of January.

We set off up Limehouse Cut with a vague plan to cruise up the Lee navigation – maybe as far as Waltham Abbey, then we’d head back on the Sunday. We haven’t been up the Lee for ages – I was looking forward to seeing the post-olympic landscape and just generally enjoying the navigation – the Lee is full of surprises – the lavish country park with its lakes and reservoirs on the right bank and the relative desolation of the Eastern outposts of London on the left bank.

I’m happy to report at the outset that Bertie took to boating immediately!

Approaching Old Ford Lock...

Approaching Old Ford Lock…

We ambled up Limehouse Cut towards Old Ford Lock. We couldn’t miss the works just past Pudding Mill Lane – when we passed this way on New Year’s Day, we’d assumed that it was something to do with the Olympics. However, the men working there today told us that it was part of the Crossrail project – the tunnels go under the canal as you can see in this fab photo. The workmen told us that they were looking for timbers in/under the canal bed that might impede the works; however, the project is also doing a bit of archaeology and they hope to find bronze age artefacts in this area.

When I said we couldn’t miss the works, well, there was just enough room for us to creep past – the workmen were relieved – they were working on a huge floating platform which they’d have to move for us otherwise – the navigation is officially open!

We were a bit disappointed at Old Ford Lock – the new lock landing pontoon, which we’d hoped to use, just for the sake of it, was occupied by a deserted dutch barge. Ah well, there was plenty of room to land a crew on the towpath side. Andy and I went up to operate the lock. The left-hand side lock was restored to use in 2012 and the bottom gates were enticingly open, but the water was so full of trash, including some sizeable bits of timber, that we decided not to risk our prop. This left us to work out the new electric controls for the right hand lock – that took some time – the screen was difficult to read in the bright daylight! We had to empty the  lock – obviously with no boat in there we’d have been happy to let the water whoosh out; but the controls are set to give a descending boat safe passage so it all seemed to take an age. One innovation is that the screen gives a countdown to when the gates can be opened – although, in theory, this should be helpful, Andy and I got increasingly cross with it because it felt as though the second counter was running backwards 🙂



Above Old Ford, we were slightly dismayed by the number of moored boats – this area has been well-colonised – whether by winter moorers or continuous moorers remains to be seen. It was slow going past the moorings, but it give us time to look at the Olympic Park and try to work out what had been removed from the infrastructure. Of course, having taken a keen interest in the site’s growth up to 2012 for us it feels like watching a film being played in reverse. The aquatics centre itself looks very strange as the top tiers of seating seem to have gone but the stairs are still there – they reminded me of diving platforms, though even Mexico’s famous cliff divers might quail at the drop there!

We ambled along and eventually arrived at Tottenham Locks – the approach is unique – as we passed through the shallow water we were surrounded by little bubbles – like cruising through a jacuzzi……populated by teenage boys on a bean-rich diet. We were overwhelmed by the ripe smell of methane stirred up from the turbid bottom. Knowing how mucky the water is here, I’d approached the lock landings very slowly – just as well – the landings were occupied by another moored boat so there’s wasn’t much room. Richard was at the front of the boat, signalling with increasing urgency for me to stop. But I couldn’t stop – the throttle was in “full reverse” position but nothing was happening. Fortunately we were travelling slowly enough for Richard to jump off with a rope and slow us down so we didn’t land with too much of a bang! Once we were under control, I pushed the throttle into forward gear – there were two explanations for the lack of “gear” – a broken throttle cable or rubbish round the prop. This being turbid Tottenham, it was a fouled prop, though a burst of forward gear seemed to dislodge whatever it was and we had steerage again. Richard went down the weed hatch anyway to double check, then joined Andy to work the lock. We had to use the manual lock as the electric one was closed for maintenance – this meant a LOT of hard work on the windlass – the controls are hydraulic – both to open/close the paddles AND to open/close the gates! The previous user had left the far gates open and paddles up.

It’s much more pleasant above Tottenham Locks, so we stopped to give the hounds a quick walk – we had seven on board – Ollie and Eddie, obviously, but also scaredy wuss jellyboy Ty and his soulmate, scaredy wuss pantyboy Monty, along with Ranger Dawg, Big Bertie and Herbie. They’re always a fine sight on the towpath and they were exceptionally well-behaved, even when a squirrel ran across the path in front of them. Ranger did find a large bone, hopefully not human, and strutted proudly along the towpath dangling the disgusting thing from his mouth!

The Olympic stadium - now under deconstruction...

The Olympic stadium – now under deconstruction…

After that brief pitstop, we just mooched along the navigation, drinking coffee, eating pastries and watching the world go by – though there was little enough to see – the towpaths were quiet and I think we only saw one other boat on the move all day. We passed through Stonebridge Lock – we have fond memories of buying ice-creams from the coffee shop there and sharing them with the hounds on a warm day. Today the shop was shut and the service point had been colonised by shrieking girls, ridiculous in their onesies, looking for trash to throw into the canal – charming!

We cruised on and started to pay a bit more attention to our surroundings – we needed to spot the path up to Chingford for an outing that we had planned for Sunday. Once we’d found that, we started to think about supper and an overnight mooring We were 8 lock miles from Waltham Abbey – so, call it 2 hours – we’d be mooring up at 6.30pm – just after dark. Now that would normally be a done deal for the Indigo Dreamers, but, to my astonishment, the crew got onto google to check for canalside pubs and/or chinese takeaways in the immediate vicinity!

We eventually moored right outside the Navigation Harvester Inn just above Ponder’s End lock. The pub moorings were a little unkempt – apparently the pub has had trouble with travellers breaking into their car park and leaving behind great piles of trash when they’re evicted. However, there weren’t any trespassers there tonight. The moorings are secure offside and although we had to check for broken glass and hidden trash in the undergrowth, they were just too convenient to miss. The pub moorings under the willow tree (nearest to the lock) are fine, but a little further along they were too shallow for us. We were very close to the road that crossed the canal but we weren’t too badly affected by traffic noise. I should note that there were nice towpath moorings just below the lock opposite the boatyard, but it’s just as well that we didn’t moor there, as I’ll recount later…

The Lee navigation is a waterway of contrasts - here lined by reeds and pylons...

The Lee navigation is a waterway of contrasts – here lined by reeds and pylons…

After a brief bobble with the hounds, we gave them a big dinner – the boat has a convenient serving hatch which allows food to be passed from the galley to the towpath – it’s the perfect hound cafe! We went off to the pub for supper,  being a Harvester, it’s not dog-friendly, but the hounds seemed happy to curl up on their boat beds…

When we got back to the boat everyone seemed sleepy, so the hounds were evicted for another bobble while Sarah and I got the beds, human and hound, ready. There was the usual commotion while the hounds tried to work out who was sleeping where, then we all settled down – until I looked at the clock and protested – it was only 8.45pm! I’d thought it was much later! I’m more of a night owl and was appalled to be in bed so early 🙂

I needn’t have worried though – Sarah has trained her hounds to come and wake me up if they need anything so I did the night shift! There were dog bed debates to be sorted and blankets to be distributed as the night got colder. Ty always needs to go out at 2.30am – this was a bit of a logistical nightmare with almost every inch of floor covered in hounds. Of course, you wake one hound and you wake them all 🙂

It may sound as if having hounds sleeping on board is a bit of a drama, but Eddie hound did us a big favour at 4am – if he hadn’t woken me up then I wouldn’t have seen that the domestic battery alarm was about to go off. We needed to run the engine for half an hour to get them up from an alarming 2% to 20% – enough to protect the batteries from further damage. That’s the reason that we were glad that we’d gone for the more remote mooring away from the boatyard and its residential moorings. There wasn’t a soul around in the pub or on the water so they couldn’t complain, though Indigo Dream’s engine is well-silenced! So I, the night owl, sat up doing puzzles by torchlight and took the more curious hounds out in turn to explore the rat-haunted bins nearby (top entertainment for a greyhound). I was also up again at 6am for more hound walking – this time with the few that had refused a walk at 4am!

Note on batteries: At 4am the smartguage showed the batteries were at 2%; by 4.30am they were up to 18%; with no other input, by the time we woke up they were up to 36% – we suspect that our batteries are done for! And before you ask, we’re pretty certain that the smartguage is working properly!


On the "road" again - passing the now familiar "Three Mills"...

On the “road” again – passing the now familiar “Three Mills”…

Haphazard raft of rubbish barges - not far from the entrance to the Bow Back Rivers...

Haphazard raft of rubbish barges – not far from the entrance to the Bow Back Rivers…

"Colne" full of water - have we really had that much rainfall??

“Colne” full of water – have we really had that much rainfall??

Looking back at the Crossrail works - that tug looks tiny next to the width of the working platform...

Looking back at the Crossrail works – that tug looks tiny next to the width of the working platform…

Sharp architecture - they must have had a great view of the Olympic Park...

Sharp architecture – they must have had a great view of the Olympic Park…

That's a very green bridge!

That’s a very green bridge!

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Odds Blog: the unimaginable future….

Posted by indigodream on 10 March, 2013

Sunday 10th March

With the big 5-0 looming, I’ve been musing on the things that I will do, the things that I can imagine doing and the mysterious unimaginable future…

Well, I had an unimaginable experience today……as part of a choir taking making a pop video!

Me and Roma at lunch - we had a good day!

Me and Roma at lunch – we had a good day!

Because of restrictions laid on us by the organisers, I can only tell you that we were filming in a big venue in London, with a male singer, with a choir that shall be nameless – I can reveal more when the video is eventually released 😀

I wasn’t expecting to be taking part in a pop video today – my friend Roma, who sings with a large modern choir, emailed me LAST NIGHT to say that they were short of singers to take part in this video shoot today. I immediately said I’d help out – ok, so I prefer classical music, don’t really do pop and didn’t know the song – but really, how often do you get opportunities like this?

Roma kindly picked me up from Clapham Junction this morning so that we could drive to the venue together – this meant that I could actually hear the chorus that we’d be singing. Luckily I have a good ear for music and it seemed pretty straightforward – phew! The pressure was also taken off when I realised that although we would be singing today, it wouldn’t be our voices on the final track – that’s been recorded elsewhere (probably in the US) with another choir! If I was them I’d be peeved that another choir had stolen their voices for the UK release 🙂

We arrived early and at 10am the conductor gave us a good rehearsal with the track – I had no problem with the tune, but knowing when to come in was more of a challenge. However I needn’t have worried – by the end of the day we must have done over 100 “takes” – even the most tone deaf would have worked it out by then 🙂

When the film crew were ready, we were led to the set – a vast room of cathedral proportions (but not a cathedral), filled with artificial smoke, giving everything a flattering soft focus. As well as a small orchestra, there were 100 singers in the choir, arrayed on stepped staging, meaning that we were all very visible! I’m not shy when performing, but I was a bit worried by the obligatory swaying – it’s banned in the choir that I run – our motto is “choirs do it with their voices”! But once again, with over 100 takes even I got the hang of singing and moving at the same time!

The set lights were astoundingly bright and we were surrounded by an array of cameras and a legion of technical people – it’s a relatively simple video but I dread to think what it cost….

We had a few takes before the star arrived. He was very charming and treated the choir with respect and good humour – this was a great relief. Being something of a diva myself, I wouldn’t have enjoyed working with a proper one! We found it a bit wearing to stand for hours on end, but the star had to walk the length of the vast hall (around 300 feet each way apparently), miming his heartfelt emotions one way then marching back to his starting ‘mark’ for the next take. I was a bit surprised that they hadn’t got him a golf buggy!

The first session lasted until 2pm – it was, by degrees, interesting, repetitive, tedious and exciting – but by the end of it we were hungry and very cold – being so vast, the set hadn’t really warmed up by the time we went to lunch. There was a certain amount of consternation, because although some singers had brought extra layers, they couldn’t wear them in the afternoon – we all had to be exactly the same for continuity!

We had been warned that there would be a certain amount of hanging around, so lunch stretched from the 30 minutes we were expecting to just over the 2 hours, which was very boring, though we all welcomed a chance to eat and get warm.

Then we were led back into the set – this time to do the close-ups – this took another two and a half hours! However, we were entertained by the star, who came to talk to the choir, and by the interesting process. The frequent takes were not because of our poor performance, but rather because of technical nit-picking over camera angles and lighting. The trouble is, the floor crew gave us very little feedback other than “one more time” which was frequently repeated. I lost track of the number of takes, but by 6.20pm I was losing the will to live! However, this may have made us a little more free in our performance – certainly the floor manager eventually told us that we looked “really awesome” before saying the magic words “that’s a wrap”, which got the biggest cheer of the day 🙂

There followed an obligatory photo shoot with the star and we were away – it felt like a long day, though the floor manager assured us that much longer days were not unusual – all for a 3.5 minute pop video!

I don’t know how many of the choir will be recognisable in the final video. We were unpaid volunteers, though they did give us £10 travel expenses – which yielded me a £1.20 profit! Now I wouldn’t normally get out of bed for £1.20 so, would I do it again? To be honest, I’m not sure – I enjoyed the experience immensely, but I’m not so star-struck as to like working for nothing, unless a charity can benefit in some way 🙂

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