Category Archives: Liveaboard

The Long Journey Home – Part 4

The Long Journey Home – Part 4

Sunday 3 June 2018

Drama at Cropredy

Long Journey Home - Part 4 - Cropredy image

The Long Journey Home – Part 4 sees an earlier start than previous mornings, leaving bridge 143 on the Oxford canal at 08:45. Two boats had already driven past but apart from them, it was quiet. Another beautiful sunny day started to appear and it seemed that the practice of the past few days had paid off for us both. My helmsman skills were obviously improving as I could slowly manoeuvre into narrow single locks without banging off the sides and mu operated the locks with ease, helping other boaters as she went. Some of the locks did seem as though they could have benefitted from a little WD40 but we traversed the 7 without incident and in good time.

Just after leaving lock 24; Broadmoor lock we pulled over as the temperature dial appeared to be reading higher than it had been earlier. I didn’t want a repeat of yesterday’s ‘steamboat’ incident. Mu was in agreement “we should pull over, now!”. I edged into the side of the canal then flung the centreline at mu. She caught it, holding cap and windlass but something had to go. It was the windlass – into the drink, splosh!

Aargh! No windlass, no locks.

Gone Fishin’

You may or may not have heard of magnet fishing. It’s where people attach various strengths of magnets to various lengths of ropes and fish in a canal. They fish for metal objects or ‘treasure’ as it is termed. Well, we didn’t have one of those implements. All we had was; my arm, a bungee cord and a claw hammer. The canal was deep at the point of entry for the windlass, which is typical! It hadn’t been this deep on our journey, down the canal so far! Although my helming skills had increased in proficiency, there were still times when I got us grounded in the shallows on a mud bank. The good news is that I can get us confidently out of any situation now – with time and patience.

So, here I am, stripped to the waist, laid on a red & white polka dot piece of material (an old curtain from Mirrless) by the side of the canal. My right arm is dangling up to the shoulder joint with the makeshift grappling hook (of bungee cord and claw hammer). I’m dredging the canal where our bargepole (I wouldn’t touch it) seemed to have located said windlass. After about half an hour and several narrowboaters passing and shouting “lost your windlass? We’ve all done it”, I lift my arm. The windlass breaks the surface, excalibur-like. I reach to grab it but the Lady of the Lake obviously doesn’t think I’m Arthur and it falls; Titanic-like back to the bottom of the canal. No further amount of prodding or dredging could locate it to bring to the surface once more. We had to admit defeat as the marina shop would be closing ()if it was ever open). We cut our losses and headed off to Cropredy marina and to hopefully purchase a replacement windlass.

Marina Blues

After making a pig’s ear of the entrance into the services arm of the marina (to be fair, was like threading a needle), we pulled up to the diesel and water points. The marina was currently closed for lunch (how quaint) but would be open in half an hour.

This is a marina, a famous marina but it had no chandlery. This meant it sold no windlasses. No windlass, no lock. The next part of our journey would bring us to a lock in pretty short order. We were doomed!

Fill Her Up

We filled up the water tank (for free) while we waited for the marina to re-open. A nice marina employee filled us up with diesel (not for free) and after me mentioning about our predicament re. a windlass, he said he would see what he could do. Presently, true to his word, the guy indicated that the man from narrowboat Sturgeon was going to give us a windlass. He came over with one, it was an older type he didn’t want any more. And he didn’t want anything for it! I offered the £2.50 I had in my pocket but he waved it away. It was the second time in 2 days that people had selflessly given, to help us through a crisis – thank you narrowboat Sturgeon.

I left the marina perfectly, without banging the buffers at its entrance but there was no way that 58 feet of boat was going to make the turn to starboard in one. Two reverse thrusts saw us make the turn, just ahead of a now oncoming narrowboat. I then threaded through the old disused swing bridge (this was like a microtome slicing a histology section for analysis compared with the previous threading of needles). We carried on, then moored up, just before Cropredy lock 25. We rope moored to rings this time.

Long Journey Home - Part 4 - Ducks image

A Walk

We walked along to the village shop, which was still open. We bought some provisions and scouted out a pub to drown our sorrows about drowning a perfectly good windlass (she was brand new, shiny. An expensive one).

Long Journey Home - Part 4 - The Red Lion image


We had an ice cream before showering aboard (an experience) in readiness for the Red Lion later. We ate aboard first, then after a short walk it was Stowford Press cider and a pint of ‘Fox’, which was very pleasant and welcome. I also got to charge my phone – we’re freeloading liveaboards now so any socket will do (I did ask).

After a relaxing drink, we walked back via the church (dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin but also mentions the Saxon saint; St. Fremond).

Long Journey Home - Part 4 - Church I image

“What will tomorrow bring?”. We were dreading to think at this point.


Cropredy is famous for the Fairport Convention festival held here every year. It is held in honour of the electronic folk band’s farewell concert that was held here. It returns each year.

Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 4.

The Long Journey Home - Part 3
The Long Journey Home - Part 2
The Long Journey Home - Part 1

The Long Journey Home – Part 3

The Long Journey Home – Part 3

Saturday 2 June 2018

Phew! It’s Hot in Here

The Long Journey Home – Part 3 saw us start the day after a great night’s sleep at Napton Bottom Lock , just before the Folly Bridge at between 08:30 and 09:00. We rose the 9 locks, passing through the quaint little (disused) wharf of Marston Doles to Napton Top Lock. Mu had to empty most of the locks as they ‘weren’t our way’ but a helpful team from the boat following us, helped out at some.

The Long and Winding…

Did I say the canal was twisting and winding in yesterday’s blog? I was mistaken, today’s stretch was twisting and winding – talk about The Long and Winding Road! At every turn was a bridge. At each bridge the canal narrows, so less water. Less water means less propulsion/lack of steering, so down to a crawl. It’s funny how you always meet another boat on a bend or at a bridge!

See the Sights

You see a few people on the towpath as you wend your way around the Oxford canal; runners, fishermen, dog walkers, cyclists, naked people…

Naked people!

There I was, minding my own narrowboat business when, in the distance I saw a man who looked naked. Was I hallucinating from the diesel fumes? Was it dehydration sickness? No, a man appeared with his shirt off but a backpack on and shorts. I said good morning, thinking nothing of it. A minute later I turned to check the flow from the tiller and lo and behold, the man was naked! He must have taken his shorts off once past us. I suppose it takes all sorts…

One thing, you won’t catch me trouser-less on Mirrless 🙂

We stopped for a break for lunch.

Long Journey Home - Part 3 - Roses Around the Door image
Roses Around the Door

Fenny Compton (no, it’s not a made up name)

After continuing on, we finally arrived at Compton Fenny and had to drive straight on by as it was moored to the hilt. We did manage to pull in at a Services Here point, hoping to top up with diesel and more importantly, get an ice cream but after pulling in, slowing up, pulling the boat on the centre line, mooring and getting the gunnel stuck under the lip of the path, we found it was closed 🙁

On and on past moored boat after moored boat until we eventually passed through a really narrow stretch of the canal. Again less water so slow progress but my helming skills were definitely getting better. We passed under our first swing bridge (cue that Big Band Sound…), literally an inch to spare on each side of the boat but straight through without touching the side.

Community Spirit

The sun was hot and we were tiring as we passed a community of Shepherd’s Huts and narrowboats at which point, the engine overheated – the engine water header tank had run dry!

We pulled in on the opposite bank to the narrowboats, mu holding the boat on the centre line whilst I got water into the tank. A concerned boater from the community across the bank shouted out that better moorings were to be found around the bend. I think concern for their boats with some ‘newbie’ pulling up, clogging up the canal may have been uppermost in his mind. However, once we’d explained “We’re overheating!” he couldn’t have been more helpful. The engine had only used a little bit of oil but we didn’t have any so he insisted on providing some. A second liveaboard shouted over

“Oil? I’ve got oil. How much do you need?”

The two put together and provided a quart of oil to bring the dipstick (not me) back up to the maximum line, after we’d punted across the canal and moored by centreline to Bill’s boat.

Ian, Bill and Jane were legends. After about twenty minutes had passed I restarted the engine and all was cool, literally. The oil pressure temperature gauge was where it should be and the water temperature gauge was showing cool. We cautiously pulled off, waving thanks to the generosity of decent people who selflessly helped us in our time of need, our faith in human nature restored and BMC engines.

We passed two moored boats and pulled in just beyond bridge 143. Another idyllic setting. All you could hear was the sound of the birds (but not in a Hitchcock sense). This time we used mooring pins for the first time, rather than chains as there was no armcote.

Long Journey Home - Part 3 - Out of the Window image
Out of the Window

Are You Experienced?

Phew! What an experience of a day. It was the boat saying we had done enough for that day. Well, at least we had a shorter trip to Cropredy tomorrow but it will entail 9 locks.

Long Journey Home - Part 3 - Window image
A Window on the World

Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 3.

The Long Journey Home - Part 2

The Long Journey Home - Part 1
rp – peace and narrowboats

The Long Journey Home – Part 2

The Long Journey Home – Part 2

Friday 1 June 2018

The Folly at Bottom Lock

The Long Journey Home – Part 2 saw us awake to a misty morning that cleared quickly then walk into Braunston, a mile hike to find a shop for vegetables and fruit (to fight off scurvy) and the lure of a bakery. A shiny golden Hovis sign proved a false prophet as the place had closed down ages ago and was now a house. A supermarket materialised (small, local) where we picked up supplies and then walked back, down to the canal.

Cast off, not castaway

We cast off, professionally. A kind of side launch and set off on our journey, after making basic checks (and ringing Whilton Marina to discuss the engine water holding tank – always willing to help. Can’t praise them highly enough).

No locks for this journey but a twisting and winding part of the canal. I thought canals were straight! Some are but many follow the contours of the land. This one certainly did – it was like a snake! The combination of contour-following canal, boats moored on bends, oncoming boats, a decidedly under-powered, small, outboard speedboat that owed more than a nod to Gerry Anderson, undergrowth and the concentration required not to crash, it was a challenging stretch. I only managed to bounce, buoy to buoy off one moored boat so I was pleased 🙂

The Snake

One thing of note was a grass snake swimming in the canal, just past a duck. I had no idea they could swim but apparently, they are very good swimmers (noted on a local information board). It’s the first time I have seen a grass snake in the wild.

The Bottom Lock

Long Journey Home - Part 2 - View of the Day 2 image

We continued on to just before Napton Bottom Lock. We were in two minds whether or not to push on through but there were 9 locks. In the end, we decided to just moor just around the corner from the bridge, before the lock. It was a beautiful afternoon and a beautiful location. I used my British Waterways Board key to access a water point to fill some bottles with water. We walked 5 of the locks before tea and then went to The Folly Inn, where there was local cider on draught and a beautifully refreshing bitter called Shagweaver from North Cotswold Brewery. It couldn’t have been better. We sat out in the garden watching sheep & lambs eat their supper before walking to the edge of the village, then back to Mirrless to watch the sun set.

Long Journey Home - Part 2 - The Folly at Napton image

Thanks once again to The Rock of Gibraltar pub for the Wifi for the upload (and phone charge).

Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 2.

The Long Journey Home - Part 1
rp – peace and narrowboats

The Long Journey Home – Part 1

The Long Journey Home – Part 1

Thursday 31 May 2018

Baptism of Fire

It was always going to be a trek, so in The long journey home – Part 1 we set off. We left Whilton Marina at 12:40 with two members of the Whilton Marina sales team on board to help us manoeuvre backwards off the pontoon and turn in the marina, to exit under the marina bridge onto the Grand Union Canal. We chickened out on attempting this ourselves in honour of the other resident’s boats – we wanted to leave them intact.

Lock 13

Long Journey Home - Part 1 - Lock 13 - our first lock image
The First One!

We turned left under the marina bridge (well, the Whilton Marina sales team member did) straight up to Lock 13 of the Buckby Lock Flight (Whilton Lock). A mere 100 yards. I jumped off with one of the team to watch how the locks were operated (mu was already there), whilst the other member brought Mirrless into the lock.

“So, how do you operate a lock then? You don’t open the gate paddles first, do you?”.

“I don’t know. I haven’t actually operated a lock before”.


The boat was in the lock with another narrowboat (this conserves water in a double width lock). Their hand was doing all the work.

“We need the Windlass” (thats the lock handle you use to open the lock – no Windlass, no lock access).

“It’s on the boat!” Which was now sitting at the bottom of a deep lock, waiting to be filled.

Too Many Cooks

By now, we had now been joined by another Whilton Marina sales team member; Adrian so, the sight of 5 people on a boat, stood around while one person operated the lock must have looked bad. It was all taken in good jest once the lock buddy understood we were novices, we were being shown how to helm the boat, this was our maiden voyage, and we were 2 minutes in and out first lock, ever!

Once through, the Whilton Marina sales team left but not before taking a photo of us, off on our journey.

At this point, I had got back on the boat and was actually driving the boat. This was good as this would be my role for the foreseeable future. Mu seemed to have got the hang of the locks straight off. If only the same applied to my helming the craft…

We went up 6 locks with the couple in the other narrowboat and both learned a lot in a short time. This is where they left us and mu operated the 7th lock on her own. We carried on, past Norton Junction and on to the Braunston Tunnel.

The Bowels of the Canal

Pulling into the side (meaning the bushes and shallows) to prepare for the tunnel of doom (sorry Ben), another boat drove straight past and in. I was being overly cautious in case a boat was already coming through. It turns out that this pinhole of a tunnel was wide enough for two narrowboats to pass. The tunnel was wide enough for two narrowboats to pass? I turned on the headlight (it literally is a car headlight) and followed the boat that had slipped in.

Into the dark, dripping bowels of the canal system. It was a long bowel section. Neither was it straight. It looked like it had been resected several times (from the little you could see of it in the dark). It must have been at least 45 minutes to travel through the 2042 yard long tunnel and it wasn’t without incident. The dark, the dripping water, the cool aspect were fine, it was the clanging off the brickwork sides and bouncing off a boat half way through that came at speed.

“So sorry”.

“It’s OK, it’s a contact sport”

Eventually the green light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t hallucination, it was actually the way out. Made it!

Out, in the glorious sunshine we pushed on a little further to moor up, just outside the tunnel, at Top Lock No. 6. for a well-earned cup of tea.

Long Journey Home - Part 1 - View of the Day 1 image
Out of the Window

Refreshed, we decided to push on further and pass through another 6 locks; the last four mu had to fill and operate alone so by the end, she and I were exhausted.

The Boathouse

We moored up in Braunston, outside The Boathouse Marston’s pub, across the canal. We enjoyed well-earned pints, sitting outside looking across at Mirrless but then the rain started, so we decided to adjourn inside and listened to Northern Soul in an empty pub, with no-one but the cleaners.

The rain came to nothing but lightening and thunder behind the clouds carried on for a while, drifted into the far distance and then fizzled out. We put up the funnel on the chimney and covered it with a metal waste paper bin, making it look like a very strange wizard (we’d lost it’s natty little tin cap in one of several incidents with bushes.

The great thing was, the Wifi from The Boathouse extended across the canal to Mirrless 🙂

Long Journey Home - Part 1 - Mirrless outside The Boathouse image
Mirrless at Braunston

Thanks to all at Whilton Marina; Fred, Harvey, Adrian, John and Nigel to name a few, for their excellent support.

Thanks to The Rock of Gibraltar pub for the Wifi for the upload.

Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 1.

rp – peace and narrowboats