Tag Archives: Tooley’s Boatyard

The Long Journey Home – Part 5

The Long Journey Home – Part 5

Monday 4 June 2018

The Heat is On

The Long Journey Home – Part 5 saw the morning start as overcast. We had slept well and awoke early to make a start on the next part of our trip – the drive to Banbury. We had visited Banbury twice before but by car, on our trips up to Whilton Marina, to see our narrowboat. Banbury is famous for its cakes and the cross of children’s nursery rhyme fame. We were determined to find the Cross this time, if not try a cake.

Best Laid Plans

We planned to pass through the four locks and moor up just outside the town centre. This was a shortish journey so would hopefully keep the overheating problem at bay and allow us to visit the town, before making a further short trip to just beyond.

Long Journey Hone - Part 5 - Working the Lock image
Working the Lock
Long Journey Home - Part 5 - View from a Lock image
View from a Lock

The best laid plans…

Mu had mastered the locks and I was mastering manoeuvring through them so the four were passed with ease and alone. We only saw two or three other narrowboats pass the other way, even though it was perfect weather for boating. We were looking for somewhere to moor, just outside the town (the canal runs through the middle of it), passing the odd permanently moored boat when the temperature gauge moved upwards, from its normally solid position by quite a few degrees. Pulling over onto the canal-side banking, just behind another boat and killed the engine – it has a kill switch. Cool!

I Need to Moor!

Mu walked on, only to find we were still quite a way out of the town and better mooring was to be had further on (it’s all about the quality of the mooring). It turned out the boat next to us was moored against armcote on good solid mooring. We were not. We were on shallow mud banks which took about 15 minutes to free from. Much revving of the overheating engine (the expansion tank now full of water again after loosing it all, somewhere?) was required, which didn’t help.

Finally free, we crawled on, between moored narrowboats, meeting one coming the other way and having to take evasive action. Desperate to stop but forced into the bushes on the starboard side by the slow, oncoming boat, we finally decided to cut a dash across to moor promptly shouting

“Sorry, we’re overheating!”

They didn’t seem pleased, just wanting to get past. If you’re impatient, why come on a canal?

A Chandlery, A Chandlery. My Kingdom…

We were fortunate this time to moor up to armcote and 14 day moorings (gold dust this near to a town).

Long Journey Home - Part 5 - Out of the Window image
Out of the Window

So, engine bay board up, scalding hot water reservoir cap off, cool life-giving water in and a disaster averted. We were moored ‘inches’ (technical term) away from Sovereign Wharf with Chandlery; an idyllic-looking little setup, pristinely painted but only open weekends and now Fridays! It was Monday! Never mind, a couple of hundred yards further on and you’re in the centre of Banbury; well, The Castle Quays Indoor Shopping Centre, next to the famous Tooley’s Boatyard. Here we would obtain the lifeblood of Mirrless; 15 W40 oil. And some stern gland grease.

Long Journey Home - Part 5 - Sovereign Wharf image
Sovereign Wharf

The centre part of this canal has a lift bridge followed by a lock to leave Banbury, so we walked to check them out as we would be passing this way in a few hour’s time. Crossing the lift bridge to Tooley’s Boatyard, we were confronted by the sign ‘Open Tuesday to Sunday – not open Mondays’! Aargh! Instead, we retired for tea and scones at Cafe Red, on the canal front, across from the closed boatyard. At least that was open.

We looked around Banbury, briefly. We still couldn’t find the Cross, then decided to ring the marina to address the overheating issue.

To the Rescue

The engine was supplied by Key Diesels, as used by the River Canal Rescue (RCR), with Whilton Marina fitting it. A call to Whilton, then a call to RCR resulted in an RCR Marine Engineer winging his way (by car, not narrowboat or it would have taken weeks!) to evaluate the situation. The enforced wait meant we could relax on the good mooring and buy some paint for the name (more later), some frosting for the bathroom window and a slimline (narrow) bin. Plus maybe a couple of other items…

Bob arrived after a couple of hours along with his van buddy (a dog) and after some time poking around in the innards of the engine bay, puzzling at the skin tank setup (don’t ask – Mirrless is keel cooled), he found the issue. The offending item was the Bowman water reservoir end cap. It had a hole in it but being rubber, it held water until the temperature and pressure rose and opened a split and dumped water into the bilge, emptying the reservoir. Thus overheating.

“I don’t think I’ve got one on the van but I’ll check. We might have to get one sent over tomorrow”.

He removed the old one (it was actually a Beta Marine engine part and the split was where a previous union clip had been). Off he went to the van. We waited. He returned.

Lucky Day

“It must be your lucky day”.

He held in his hand, a part. Back in the engine bay – it fitted! Against all odds, the replacement fitted. Bill connected it all up, the engine ran and no water leaked. It was fixed!

A celebratory cup of tea and biscuits, the engine running and not overheating. It doesn’t get any better…

Our problem had been found and fixed, so we could be on our way the next day. Bill had done good and the 2 months complimentary support had proved its weight in gold.

Liquid Engineering

We ate on the boat and then set off to visit Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn but upon arriving, found it was closed due to a private function – is Banbury permanently closed on a Monday?

Ah, well. Their loss was The Old Auctioneer‘s gain. Stowford Press and a nice Caledonian Brewery IPA on draught. Afterwards we wandered the streets and found the Cross! And the amazing statue of the lady riding a cock horse. It was a good night.

Long Journey Home - Part 5 - The Cross image
The Cross

Still hungry because the ship’s biscuits hadn’t filled us up, we searched for a chip shop. There are no traditional Fish & Chip Shop’s in Banbury town so, we eventually found Paw Paw; a Chinese restaurant which made delicious Egg Fried Rice and Chips & Curry Sauce – recommended.

Banbury is a nice town.

Long Journey Home - Part 5 - Fyne Lady image
Fyne Lady

Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 5.

The Long Journey Home - Part 4
The Long Journey Home - Part 3
The Long Journey Home - Part 2
The Long Journey Home - Part 1

Finding a Narrowboat Pt 2 – All Aboard

Follows on from Finding a Narrowboat Pt 1 – Second Hand

All Aboard

So, with all the previous worry out of the way, we descended the steps into Whilton Marina to view ‘the purchase’.

At this point, it should be mentioned that we had only seen the boat once before and when viewing others. Would it look like we remembered? Was it that we had seen it through rose-tinted glasses before? Ourlegs were weak and swaying. “Oh no, that was the pontoon leading out onto the water”. Phew! The narrowboat? It was how we remembered it, it was perfect.

Long and sleek in the water, light and airy inside, not a hint of damp. Entering via the Bow onto the Tug deck, keys in hand (with one of those floaty devices as a key ring from when you inevitable drop them in the drink), we were opening the door to our new home. I couldn’t get in! The door was a bit stiff so wiggled the key and pushed the door and we’re in – hurray!

Light and Airy

The thing that hits you is that this narrowboat is so light and airy. Traditional is good but but it can be dark and depressing. This is the boat for us, we think she’ll scrub up very nicely.

We spent a good hour looking into cupboards, poking into spaces, measuring lengths and tapping things to ensure they were solid (they were). All was good. It seemed a pity to have to give the key back at the end but we reluctantly did and made our way back to the car, looking over our shoulders, down into the marina, at where our boat stood. Our boat!

On the way back we stopped at Banbury.

Under The Bridge image
Under the Bridge – Banbury

We parked by the canal (where else) and walked along its towpath and stopped to look at narrowboat names and their colour schemes and configurations. It’s called gongoozling; the watching of canals and narrowboats and their peoples by people who don’t have a boat. Technically then, we weren’t gongoozling. A black cat

Towpath Cat image
Towpath Cat

appeared out of nowhere, onto the towpath, in front of us. It was cute and affectionate. It obviously knew we were in the process of purchasing a narrowboat. I could tell.


Banbury is the home of Tooley’s Boatyard

Tooley's Historic Boatyard image
Tooley’s Historic Boatyard

which houses an 86’ dry dock and a 200 year old working forge. It’s right next door to the Banbury Museum which houses hands-on canal-related stuff like how a lock works and the great little Cafe Red; good coffee, great food, nice people and it overlooks the canal

The Dancing Duck image
The Dancing Duck

we waved at a passing boat 🙂


A Short-lived Fix

On the drive back home, we passed over canal bridges and shouted as we saw narrowboats but as we left Northampton and dropped back down into the county of Wiltshire, the canals seemed far away, as if we’d put them aside. The fix is short-lived at this stage of proceedings. We would have to be content with memories and magazines, until the next time.

rp – peace and narrowboats