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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.

r_london-ring-220313-014

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 😦

Photoblog:

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…

5 Responses to “Boat Blog: The start of the Spring (?) cruising…”

  1. Halfie said

    What an amazing photo! I’ve never seen anything like it. Terrific action shot.

    I would think, though, that the canal water would have felt warm in comparison to the icy blast from the Urals – especially in his wetsuit. Next time you’ve been standing on the tiller for a bit, dip your hand in the cut and see what I mean. Of course, I could be completely wrong …

  2. indigodream said

    Well, Halfie, I know you’re a meticulous researcher so why don’t you stick YOUR hand in the canal and let me know if your hypothesis is valid 😀

    I do have a wetsuit – but no way am I getting in that canal voluntarily!

  3. Halfie said

    Ha ha! OK, I will. I’ll be on Shadow soon. Just got my last day of work to get through first …!

  4. Adam said

    I notice there’s also a photographer in your photo of the wakeboarder. We’ll probably see him in an ad soon — possibly with ID in the background!

  5. indigodream said

    ID and the strangely padded scarecrows that crew her 😀

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