The adventure ends

January 2, 2012

One adventure ends, another begins. On 15 December we delivered NB Lazy Days to Hilperton where she is up for sale. On 17 December we moved into our new house in Somerset. It’s a far cry from our pre boat life in Hertfordshire, a life that we couldn’t have returned to after the canal experience.

We spent our first night in Lazy Days under the M1 Motorway waiting for the Watford Locks to open. Our last night was similarly eventful. We had remained at the Semington Moorings for the last few days, polishing and sorting and taking a couple of loads back to the storage and others to the dump. On Wednesday, the wind blew into a gale and the boat was buffeted all night. I was awake before 6.00 listening to the crashes when there was a hard bang against the boat. At first I thought that it might have been the wind blowing us against the bank. Then I wondered if the boat moored behind had banged into us. (It was a vast Dutch Barge. I had a great surprise when I went out the back hatch the previous day to find them looming over us, moored so close that their bow was overlapping our stern. Even more surprising when they had two empty mooring rings behind them! Fortunately we also had an empty ring ahead and had moved forward.)
Alan went out to check and found not one boat behind us, but two. The drifting boat that had banged into us was now against the side of the Dutch barge. As we watched it went back to the off side and towards the bridge. Alan wondered if he should go out to try to grab its ropes. I thought not because it was pitch dark and he wouldn’t be able to get near it as the opposite bank was so marshy. At 8.00 I went along to see where it had got to, along with the Dutch barge owner who only realised that anything had happened when I told him. To our surprise we found that the drifter had managed to pass under the bridge and was now moored behind NB Party Animal, owned by Leb, who had blacked our boat. To our disappointment it hadn’t managed to enter the open lock behind it (both gates left open by the lazy Dutch barge owners. Hmmm, the pound above had drained in similar circumstances the week before.) Leb was out unhappily surveying the damage to his boat. We had come off unscathed but he had scrapings all along his running strakes. Not a great disaster you would think, but Leb is very boat proud and his strakes were painted yellow to contrast with the smart blacking. The boat is called Party Animal!

Just before 10.00 when we were about to pull away a lady carrying bits of cleaning equipment came along the towpath, looking puzzled. “I can’t seem to find my boat”, she said. I told her where it was, that it had passed two other boats before it reached us and that it had banged into us on its way. “But it can’t have, it was fine last night”. I pointed out that as it started a considerable way in front of us and was now the same distance behind us and on the other side of a bridge clearly something had gone wrong. Finally she was convinced that her boat really was where I said it was and went off to be reunited with the vagrant, leaving me still waiting for any enquiry about whether damage had been done to our boat.

I walked along to see Alan through the swing bridge and he took Lazy Days on solo while I drove round to Hilperton to meet him. Then it was just a matter of mooring up and completing the paperwork and we were free to head over to Watford to start the move.

Along with the chaos of the removal of all the house contents from storage a week before Christmas we also had to go back to the boat three times to transfer the rest of our possessions. We had thought that it might be done in one trip. It’s amazing how much you can fit into a boat, especially when you think of all the books and clothes that we had already moved!

We have had a wonderful seven years with Lazy Days, half spent as liveaboards. We have travelled most of the system and had adventures that have stretched us, given us great enjoyment and kept us agile and alive! We have discovered many places that we would never have visited otherwise and we have realised how lucky we have been to be able to live as wandering waterways folk. And also how fortunate we are to be able to choose the right time to move on to something else. The pleasure of spending our days slowly travelling through our wonderful countryside was a marvellous bridge between our working lives and our new future as retired people.

I realise that many readers of this blog may have given up on us given the irregularity of postings over the past few months, but to those of you who may read this, it has been a great joy to meet so many wonderful people through the blog. You, along with the other friends for life that we have encountered on the canals, have been the icing on the cake of our boating experience.

Finally, NB Lazy Days is for sale at Hilperton Marina. She’s done us proud, given us a comfortable home and transported us around the system with total reliability. We have every confidence that she will give her next owner equal happiness.

We have a very poor internet connection at present but when we finally get around to sorting out our broadband I will put up some pictures of our highlights from the last three and half years. – Alan

Final Journey 15/12/11 2.69 Miles and 1 Swing Bridge

Statistics so far:-

3060.62 Miles, 2051 Locks, 198 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels

Semington Dock

November 26, 2011

We were thinking about getting on our way to Semington when an ex working boat sped past towards the open lock. I dived out and waved until I caught the boater’s attention and Alan ran round putting on boots and taking down the aerial. The boater kindly waited and we travelled down the remaining two Seend Locks with him. I left them at the bottom and walked back to the car while he and Alan went on towards Semington. There were three swing bridges ahead and Alan said that their way was made very easy because walkers opened two of the bridges for them. (So much for having to use a windlass to open them!) By the time they approached the first Semington Lock I had driven to the dock where we are blacking the boat and had the lock open and ready for them.

The dock was filled and NB Meandering Mo which had just been blacked was tucked along one side with plenty of room for us to join it. After a while Leb, who is to black our boat arrived and using the centre rope manoeuvred Meandering Mo out. Then, with Alan’s help, he placed the sleepers across the dock entrance and set the pumps to work. We held the ropes while he placed spacers to hold the boat in the centre of the dock. We had to make sure that the boat stayed in place so it would land on the supporting wood in the right places. This was all new to us: we hadn’t blacked in a dry dock before. It seemed to take ages for the water to be pumped out and there was some problem with reducing the leaks at the edges. Finally the giant pump was switched off and the small pump remains on all the time. It switches on every time the water rises to a certain level in the sink in the corner of the dock.

We really feel that we have chosen a delightful place to have the boat blacked. The surroundings are pretty. Ian and Liz Williamson who own the dock have chickens and three little pigs. Leb who is painting the boat is great company and giving us all sorts of other help. There is no boat coming in after us as we really are the last boat to black here this year so Ian has said its ok for us to stay on for a couple of extra days to make sure that the paint has set.

Today we did 2.06 Miles, 3 Locks and 3 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:-

3057.93 Miles, 2051 Locks, 197 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels

Seend Cleeve

November 24, 2011

We have crawled a little further on our journey to Semington Dock. Our plan was to moor at the bottom of the Seend Locks but we stopped to pump out after the third of the five locks. It’s fatal for us to pause because it takes very little for us to agree to stop. The mooring is opposite The Barge which Pearson says is the most popular pub on the K & A. Normally we would be heading there about now but I have a cold and don’t want to mix beer and cold remedies, and really don’t feel like going out. Both the grandchildren have had bad colds this week so I think they shared the lurgy with Grandma before we left them last Friday.

It’s a lovely stretch of canal round here. The towpath is vastly superior to the mud baths the other side of the Caen Flight and there are equally pleasant views. It would be a great place to over winter. Today was bright and fairly mild; a lovely day to be moving along. There are two swing bridges which were very easy to operate. They connected good walks on either side of the canal and were obviously well used by walkers. Then as we approached the first of the Seend Locks we had the rousing sight of the local hunt crossing the bridge below the lock. There weren’t huge numbers, about four red jackets and two black with a great troop of hounds and a quad bike behind them to keep back traffic. In the past my appreciation would have been tempered by disapproval of hunting: now it’s possible to enjoy the spectacle guilt free. We collected the car and went over to Trowbridge. On our return towards the canal we followed the hunt back along the road. Apparently they are out three days a week.

Today we did 1.13 Miles, 3 Locks and 2 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:-

3055.87 Miles, 2048 Locks, 194 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels

Sells Green

November 23, 2011

We cast off just after 9.00 and moored at 11.00 so this wasn’t our longest day of travel! There are seven locks in the Foxhangers Flight and they were all set in our favour by a hire boat that passed us just as we were about to set off. I worked the locks and Alan had his turn at steering. Some of the gates are exceptionally heavy – maybe I am just out of practice.

We wanted to top up our water so pulled in at Sells Green. There was a very pleasant mooring in front of a massive BW barge so we decided to stay put. We are complete suckers when we see moorings with rings and NO MUD! After all, we are quite close to Semington where the boat is to be blacked. We were a little low on diesel and the fire wasn’t performing so we went off to Hilperton with the jerry can, stopping at Semington Dock on the way. (We wondered if they had diesel but they don’t). The boat currently being blacked was still in the dry dock and we have postponed our arrival a day to Friday to give them longer for their blacking to set. There isn’t a boat booked to follow us in and hopefully our departure can be similarly relaxed. It seems a very pleasant place, with chickens and pigs in an enclosure. The Somerset Arms nearby is apparently very good for food so we might have a meal out and enjoy our stay.

When we filled up our jerry can at the Boatyard at Hilperton he offered us the loan of another jerry can if we wanted. We took him up on it but it was rather leaky and the car has a pong of diesel now, not very pleasant. Forty litres of diesel and the boat lying very flat in the water with the full water tank did the trick and the fire is now blazing beautifully. The temperature seems to be dropping enough to put a chill on the air after some very mild days so the warmth is very welcome.

Today we did 1.85 Miles and 7 Locks

Statistics so far:-

3054.74 Miles, 2045 Locks, 192 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels

Caen Flight

November 22, 2011

We set off on our descent of the Caen Flight at 8.45, expecting to get down to the bottom around 2.30. In fact we tied up at the bottom of the Caen Hill sixteen at 12.00 exactly, thanks to two guardian angels, in the guise of Kennet and Avon volunteers Roger and Dave.

We had worked our way steadily down the Devizes six and as we came out of the fourth lock two figures in fluorescent yellow vests and life jackets approached. We thought that they were on routine maintenance so it was a wonderful surprise when they asked if we would like them to assist us down the flight. They are both boat owners, Roger in a shared boat on the Grand Union, and Dave in a local boat, and they spend each Monday volunteering on the flight. What we hadn’t realised is that each of the sixteen locks that make up the main flight must be left empty with a bottom paddle up at the end of the day, otherwise the BW maintenance yard and the road are flooded. Each lock has a side pond but no by wash and it seems that these ponds can overflow. Because we were the only boat travelling the flight today we would have had to lower the paddle and fill each lock, a slow process. Instead Dave and Roger took it in turn to fill and open the top gates of the following lock while the other and Alan worked the boat through. I had the easy job of steering and making tea. Alan had steered the six town locks and we would normally have switched over again after I had finished my quota but he was so enjoying the craic that he stayed on land. So greatest thanks to Roger and Dave for their help and company on a wet and otherwise grey Monday!

We had thought that we might go on through the Foxhanger seven locks after lunch but the rain increased and we already faced a fairly long walk back to get the car. So we retraced our steps and brought the car down to the bottom of the flight.

There was a second surprise today when we spotted two very new ducklings at the second lock. Lucy Mangan had chosen a picture of two very unseasonal ducklings as her unsettling animal picture of the week in Saturday’s Guardian. Well these ducklings were much smaller, maybe on their first or second day on the water. We wonder if they will survive if the weather gets colder: Alan saw the body of another tiny duckling in one of the locks, presumably one of their siblings.

A less pleasant occurrence was a very heavy diesel slick that started below the duckling pound (thankfully) and lasted through several locks. We suspect that it originated from one of the boats moored in the third pound below the Devizes Wharf. The diesel was like a heavy sludge and the smell was dreadful.

Early or Late Ducklings

Today we did 1.66 Miles and 22 Locks

Statistics so far:-

Manoeuvrings at Honey Street

November 2, 2011

We had been over in Surrey visiting our daughter and grandchildren yesterday so we needed to leave the 24 hour mooring in front of The Barge this morning. The two boats that had been on the water point had gone so we pulled back to take on water while we mulled over alternatives. We could move on towards Devizes but there seems to be a shortage of moorings all the way along and it seems preferable for us to stay the maximum two weeks at each mooring centre if we can. We also needed diesel because our fire was playing up last night, and calor gas. While the water tank filled Alan went back with the empty gas canister to what was Gibson’s just before the road bridge. (Apparently the Gibsons sold up about eleven weeks ago after thirty years of running the on line marina.)

A woman boater who had been on the visitor moorings had taken her boat along to fill up with diesel as well. She said that she would bring the full canister with her when she backed down again and also that BW were monitoring the visitor moorings very closely in a pilot scheme for the Kennet and Avon. She said that while we were away yesterday they had marked us down as being on the visitor moorings, which was fine as we were moving on anyway. However she also said that they were asking other boaters how long neighbouring boats had been on the visitor moorings which she thought completely unacceptable. We tend to agree because it is quite wrong to record a boat as overstaying based on someone else’s opinion, or perhaps even untrue statement. There also needs to be some understanding of the difficulties faced by continuous cruisers when they are hemmed in by closed locks and the need to be near services. For example Gibsons seems to be the only place selling diesel between the closed Crofton Locks and the Caen flight, apart from the diesel boat which I wasn’t able to contact today. And after Christmas the situation will be even worse when the Seend and Semington Locks close as well. Seems to me that people like ourselves who have always genuinely cruised are being penalised for the large number of stay put boaters on the K & A. Circumstances dictate that we need to overwinter here but we are looking back nostalgically at our previous winters the other side of the Thames.

We decided to reverse back under the bridge to top up our diesel, always tricky in a brisk wind as there was today, a curving route and between continuous moored boats. On the way we passed Carol coming back with the gas canister and decided to leave it on her boat until we returned, rather than making the whole business even more difficult. When we did get back to her she was moored at the end of the line of boats after the visitor moorings and it looked as if it was possible to get quite close to the bank so we decided to tie up next door. We soon discovered that yet again we will be walking the plank as our extra eight inches of draft make all the difference. However we have a very pleasant view of one of the Wiltshire White Horses and the wellies are out of the top box ready to tackle the muddy towpath so we will be ok for a week or so.

Today we did 0.66 Miles

Statistics so far:-

3043.50 Miles, 2016 Locks, 190 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels

Honey Street

October 31, 2011

We are now trapped west of the Crofton Locks as the closure has started. We still don’t know if we have chosen the right side to be on. We were moored at Milkhouse Water, near Pewsey, a very attractive place to be, but diabolical for internet coverage. So poor in fact that we gave up making any effort to log on. That couldn’t continue so we have moved on today.

Our plan was to take on water at Pewsey Wharf but another boat beat us to it. Alan dropped me off at the bridge and steamed on towards Wilcot. I walked back to Milkhouse Water to collect the car. We thought that we might be able to stop at Wilcot but Alan called as I pulled into the Co-op car park at Pewsey to say that he couldn’t get the boat near the bank and there was absolutely no coverage for phone, internet or TV. Apparently it took him ages to get the boat off the side as it was well aground and the water was thick with leaves. He was very irritated by a boater, moored nearby, who told him at great length how to deal with the situation, even how to point the rudder. Alan didn’t say that as he had travelled over 3000 miles in the past three years he had picked up a few techniques, but he did wonder if that particular boater ever travelled very far!

After doing the shopping I had a wonderful drive through the Vale of Pewsey to Honey Street where I parked and walked along the canal to meet Alan. The moorings are really full here, hence our regret at staying this side of Crofton. It looks as if the Kennet and Avoners have settled into their regular winter places. There are even two boats on the water point. One had passed me as I went to meet Alan and the other was already there with a hose sitting next to the boat but not connected to the tap. That was at 12.30. They are still there now (at 8.30) with no change despite the fact that there was a mooring empty next to them, which we took, and room for another boat in front of us. We will have to fill up before we move on so will have to ask them to move or moor up to them and cross their boats. It’s a degree of inconsiderateness re water points that we have never seen before. Maybe they think it’s OK because there isn’t actually a BW notice saying not to moor on the water point?

Today we did 5.57 Miles

Statistics so far:-

3042.84 Miles, 2016 Locks, 190 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels

Warm and Cosy

October 27, 2011

I woke this morning with neck and back ache: too much sitting in the cold I suspect. Thank goodness it was the day we could fill up with diesel. We had to wait until the afternoon so walked into Pewsey for bread and treats. Marshalls Bakery is a very tempting place indeed. We bought a lovely cottage loaf and scones for today and an extra special lardy cake. That’s something I haven’t tried before but it seems to feature in the bakeries around here. I suspect from the little smidgeon that I tried that we will look like balls of lard if we eat too many of them so this had better be a one-off treat.

We had received a text message from the chap on Tipton and Scavenger, the diesel boats, that he would be back on board early afternoon so we set off back from Pewsey Wharf to Milkhouse Water at 2.00. It was with a great feeling of relief that we tied up and started taking on diesel but it was somewhat short lived as he had less diesel remaining than he estimated and well short of our requirements. 125 litres went in but we needed over 200. Much to our surprise though, after we had turned and moored, we managed to get the fire going without having to suck the fuel through. All went well for an hour or so (Alan was starting to say he felt too hot) and then I noticed it was nearly out. I climbed on the roof to get the extra long chimney out of the top box and Alan turned it up and breathed incantations and it seems OK for the time being. The diesel boat will be going on to Great Bedwyn, filling up somewhere on the way and then turning back to here. We may be able to last until he comes back or we may move along to Devizes earlier than we had planned. But for now at least we are warm!

Today we did 1.59 Miles

Statistics so far:-

3037.27 Miles, 2016 Locks, 190 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels


October 21, 2011

I had planned to catch a bus back from Wootton Rivers to Great Bedwyn to collect the car. After breakfast I walked up to the village and along to a bus service notice outside the pub. There didn’t appear to be a regular service but there was a number to call, so I did. Turns out that the service from Wootton Rivers to Great Bedwyn in our no doubt out of date Pearson no longer exists. We decided therefore to go on to Pewsey and make our way back from there.

There were many less boats at Pewsey than the last time we were there. It seems that many boats have crossed to the other side (of the Crofton Locks) before the closures. We had passed the diesel boats on the way and will return to take on much needed diesel tomorrow. Our first task was to pump out and I was relieved to find that both the card and the machine worked.

When we walked up to the station to get a train to Hungerford and then back to Great Bedwyn we found we would have to wait for over an hour so we went on into Pewsey and caught the bus to Marlborough. Unlike Alan I don’t yet have a bus pass and it cost £4 for the comparatively short journey. We had 30 minutes to wander up and down Marlborough’s High Street before catching the next bus onto Great Bedwyn. Despite its small population Marlborough boasts an amazing choice of very up market shops. I could spend a lot of money there (if I had it!)

Great Bedwyn moorings were very full, I guess with the people who have moved on from this side. It was a shame that we couldn’t stay over there longer. The car park by the canal is very convenient and we are finding it quite a nuisance having a car with us when we want to move on. There is only a pay and display car park at Pewsey Wharf and we have had to park on a small road over a mile’s walk away. Luckily Alan can walk again! By the time we got back to the boat The Waterfront pub was open and we decided to pop in and try the place out for the first time. The bar is upstairs above the bistro which was a surprise. The landlord was on his own watching a black and white war movie when we arrived, (it was only 5.30) but others came along while we were there and it was a great place for chat and an excellent keg beer from a Salisbury Plain brewery. It even got me off lager for once. We thoroughly enjoyed the hour or so we spent there: there is a quiz night on Sunday which sounds fun and I might have to go along to represent New Zealand at the World Cup Final breakfast in the morning. The landlord is a fanatical rugby fan it seems!

Today we did 4.3 Miles and 2 Locks

Statistics so far:-

3035.68 Miles, 2016 Locks, 190 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels

Wootton Rivers

October 19, 2011

We woke to a very chilly morning. The diesel boat is not far ahead of us but not available for us to buy diesel until Friday. Because we are so low on fuel there is no point in trying to light the fire for the first time: the diesel would never get through to the front of the boat. We have always had to pump through the diesel when we first light the fire but this would be beyond miraculous. The thermals have come out and we use the Ebersbacher from time to time, though sparingly because we don’t want to run out of fuel altogether. Are we the only boaters to have lasted from March until now without lighting the fire? There were many boats with fires blazing right back in August.

I had to drive the car back to Great Bedwyn and found that the windscreen was covered in ice. On my walk back to Crofton I passed a lady boater who I have chatted to several times and she gave me the phone number for the diesel boat: we passed another boater further along who told me where the boat was at present, so at least we know that warmth is in sight!

We made a solitary ascent of the six Crofton Locks, across the summit and then down the first two Wootton Locks. I knew from my walk back from Great Bedwyn that there was no one else coming our way and there was no point in waiting for another boat to join us. There were several boats going the other way back to Great Bedwyn. A couple were hire boats but the others were making sure that they were through the Crofton Locks before they close for the winter stoppages on 30 October. I was surprised to see that there was a large winter mooring section in the first Crofton pound. It obviously wasn’t suitable for anyone wanting to stay on their boat and I wondered if the boats would end up sitting high and dry on the bottom.

For most of our journey the day was bright with the lovely clear light of a sunny Autumn day. It didn’t last however, the sky became ominously dark and we scurried to a mooring one lock short of the Wootton visitor moorings just as the rain started. I thought that I might walk along to check on the bus timetable but every time I looked out the rain started again and it was much nicer to stay inside, under a warming blanket!

Today we did 4.3 Miles, 8 Locks and 1 Tunnel

Statistics so far:-

3031.38 Miles, 2014 Locks, 190 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels