Category Archives: The Long Journey Home

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