Moore 2 Life:Exploring the waterways

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Book:'LIFE WITH A NARROWBOAT' © Chas Moore

Chapter 3: A Festival Year, 1997

Back to the boat, Kennett & Avon canal pictures

We have been without the boat since October last year. This is because the ceiling needed replacing. We made several phone calls and visits to Reading Marine. The only good thing was the local pub was happy to make us many Sunday lunches. The work was eventually finished by the end of January when we all went to Aldermaston to collect Nomad. We are pleased with the lovely new ceiling and new lights.

The winter had been very cold with thick ice on the canal. Thankfully the ice had mostly gone and we could now return our boat to Newbury. Some thin ice was broken on the way back. We stopped at Midgham lock for the night and put the curtains back up. That alone made it more homely.

The fire had been on all night and we were warm and cosy inside. Wood tends to burn fast and hot while coal is cool and lasts longer. It is so important to keep the chimney clean because the wood produces tar and ash and can block it. Then the fire will not draw or burn efficiently and produce dangerous carbon monoxide. Without good ventilation the air has been known to kill. Looking outside we were surprised to find it cold and misty. The ropes were so stiff with frost that we had to wait a while for them to thaw out before we could get away.

More improvements

We got back on board in February for two nights. Lit the fire and got the electric heater going as well. Time to admire the improvements. The new ceiling is much better insulated than before and we now have better lights. The hooter and Tunnel Light have been re-wired so they are brighter and louder! You can actually hear the hooter when pressing the button at the back! Terry and Myra arrived in the morning and our carpenter is here to talk about some cupboards to be built. He lives in his boat on the canal. We had dismantled the old cupboard at the front before the ceiling was replaced. He spent the next two weeks doing some good carpentry using some of the wood left over when the ceiling was fitted. We just had to take Nomad out for a trip to Benham lock before he started.

The cupboards are now finished. The new electric fuse panel is fitted and wired to the new ceiling lights, and other items requiring power. This has replaced an unreliable system. The radio is fitted in and working. The TV is also plugged in to 12V and providing entertainment. During the winter lights are used longer and the engine is run less so the battery gets a bit low. The battery charger is on most of the time we are in the basin. Then the surveyor came for his second visit. He is now happy with all the work done and a certificate will follow. The main problem was the gas system. The water heater now vents through the roof. All narrowboat owners have had to get Safety certificates before being able to apply for the BW licence. Now we can relax for four years.

Weekend trips

Two separate weekends saw the boat out and about again. A lot of weed was floating above Guyers lock. They must have been clearing it where the Newbury bypass bridge is being built. Stopped at Benham lock for the night and walked round Hampstead Park the next day. The pound above Copse lock is still a bit low. A farmer is suspected of drawing too much water off. The second weekend we went east to Midgham lock where we lit the fire, washed and cleaned the paint work and played a few games of Mah-Jongg. Two other boats here for the night.

We lent the boat to John and Jean for a week. They have a boat at Braunston on the Grand Union Canal that we can borrow later. It was an odd feeling seeing our beloved Nomad going away without us. She came back after a week bright as a new pin. While J and J were out and about they met up with a couple on the Queen of Sheba who apparently knew the previous owners of Nomad and had a holiday with them in 1991.

A trip for Mum n Dad

Plans were made earlier and a room booked at Woolhampton for Bed and Breakfast in April. Newbury to Woolhampton is 15 lock miles. Picked up parents from Winchester and arrived on Nomad in the morning and we put the kettle on for the cup of tea. Then, when the 'ship was in all respects ready for sea,' we departed and turned left (port) to go east. (Dad was in the Navy). Ann was crew assisted by mum while I was skipper assisted by dad. We got to Midgham in time for lunch on board, provided by the ladies. We stayed inside as the wind was cold and it was cloudy. The fire was lit to keep us all cosy.

After about an hour we were on our way again going down stream on the river Kennet. We decided to go past Woolhampton to see a nice wooden footbridge further east. It is called Wickham Knight Bridge and simply puts the towpath from one side to the other. Lots of trees and bends in the river make this section particularly pretty. Turned round and headed back up stream to the mooring at Woolhampton soon after five. The B and B is just across the swing bridge within sight of the boat. We kept the fire going all night, as it was a bit cold.

Next morning my parents joined us after their cooked breakfast made by the proprietor who also carried their bags to the boat. He offered to help with the swing bridge. This is particularly tricky, as you need to set up the next lock as well. No other boats going our way and we arrive at Widmead for lunch. It is now warm and sunny which makes all the difference when on a canal holiday.

Having let two boats out of the lock we move on in and close the gates behind us. In order to fill the lock we close the paddles on the gates. But one paddle refuses to go down. After many attempts Ann goes off on foot to get help. Mean while I discover that the pawl, which prevents the paddle falling, is jamming the gear even in its released position. So we were able to fill the lock at last. A passing cyclist was asked to pass on the message to a lady with a dog. No other boats were seen during the hour in the lock. Then Ann returned having got the message and had nearly got a passing boat to make the call using a mobile phone. Arrived back at Ham Manor at 5 o'clock. An enjoyable weekend none the less.

More work on the boat

Windows were leaking and the paintwork was in need of some touching up. While Ann painted the front deck I went round the window frames tightening up all the screws. They go through the steel and into wood on the inside. Every one required at least half a turn. It was dull and cloudy this weekend and it occasionally rained hard. The cratch cover protected Ann's paint! When it was raining I was pleased to find that the leaks round the window frames had been stopped. When it was not raining the sun dried off the paintwork. I then rubbed off the flaky paint round the frames and applied undercoat. After lunch and another bit of rain I managed to put a coat of red gloss paint round all the windows filling some of the gaps. Must be nice and dry inside now. The next weekend all four of us arrived to continue the work. We changed the oil and swept the chimney. Just had to move Nomad again as we were all on board. So we took her down to Bulls swing bridge and back.

Trips out

Mary and Ray came for the day. The boat was found at an angle to her mooring because both boats either side had gone. Got away late morning and stopped for some lunch at West Mills in Newbury. Ray works hard and he enjoyed the relaxing Saturday. We continued on to Hampstead Lock where a stop for tea was made. Then went for a walk to Copse Lock in the hot sunshine to note that the next pound was full again. It had been very low lately. After dinner on board we returned at eight.

Near the end of May Mum and Dad came again. This time we went to Benham Lock and back. We filled the water tank in preparation for Chris and Tracy who wanted to spend the weekend on board and left them to it. They got themselves fish and chips in Newbury and spent the night at West Mills. After some shopping they got as far as Copse Lock for lunch. Then returned having had an enjoyable hot weekend.

Maintenance

More work and some play in June. The sedimenter was full of gunge. This traps the water in the fuel before it gets to the filter and engine. We also replaced the fuel filter. The fuel line was now full of air and it was tricky carrying out the correct procedure to bleed the line. What a relief when the engine finally fired up after several goes on the starter. It was two years later when a survey was made before Nomad was sold that we found out why so much water got into the tank. The filer cap was letting the rain in! Another weekend we cleaned the air filter.

Then off to our favourite spot at Midgham where normally one or two boats were here. Surprised to find no less than seven Reading Marine hire boats with a gathering of Rotarians from all over the world. At the end of the month we used the boat as a convenient stop over to see the Reading Festival of boats on the canal. Went by car and paid 4.50 to park it. It was so difficult to get into Reading that we resolved to go by train another time.

A borrowed boat

King William is J and J's boat that is kept at Braunston. We borrowed her for a week in July to give us an opportunity to explore the Grand Union canal. Arrived at 10 by car having left Nomad in Newbury at seven. J and J were there to show us the ropes. It was a very different boat. 50 feet long and had a Trad style stern end. Engine or gas boiler supplied the hot water. An electric fridge, a microwave cooker and a gas cooker were installed in the galley. Three batteries supplied power for lights and fridge while a mechanical inverter could be switched on to supply mains power for the microwave.

When the owners left us to it we soon found the pub in Braunston! It was called Old Plough Inn. OK for the evening grub. We are both planning new boats and comparisons between Nomad and King William have helped with decisions. Terry wants to look for suitable builders during the week.

After breakfast we set off down the Grand Union Canal. Stopped for lunch near bridge 103 where several boats went by fast. Turned right at Napton where the Oxford Canal continues south to stay on the Grand Union going west. Took on water at Calcutt Locks. Continued down these three locks and stopped at Birdingbury Bridge near the locks at Stockton. It is still sunny and hot and a quiet spot with a firm edge to moor against. We managed a total of three locks and seven miles today in five hours and all had a meal in the Boat Inn.

Cole Craft

Next day there was no hot water to wash up after breakfast. The engine heats the water so we may not have run the engine long enough. Or had we used it all last night. Cole Craft Boat Builders are at the bottom of the Stockton Flight. It was quicker to walk down the hill as several boats were waiting to go down. Anyway we planned to go back the same day so it saved some water and effort. This flight had a back pump system so the water issue was not relevant but it was a dry day and the walk did us all some good. We had a look round Cole Craft at Long Itchington where their main activity is making the steel shells and were also fitting one out. Having left our requirements we were disappointed with the lack of response.

Back at Napton we turn down the Oxford. After travelling two hours we have enough hot water for all to have showers. The next day we wake to find the domestic batteries are flat and the fridge is not working properly. We reluctantly start the engine very early in the morning! BW asks that engines be only run between 8 am and 8 pm. It seems that the engine needs to be run for four hours to keep the batteries charged. Good job there is no boat near us.

We all went for a walk up the hill to look round Napton Windmill. From there you get a grand view of the canal making its way round the hill. Then we went back down to get provisions in the village shop. It is a sunny hot day. Returning to King William we find that the fridge is still working OK. Despite this we decide to return to Braunston in order to charge up the batteries using the shoreline. Terry did a fine job getting back to the mooring for our overnight stop. Spent the evening playing our favourite game of Mah-Jongg. Our turn to sleep on the floor tonight as there is only one double bed on this boat!

Power problems

We are concerned about electric fridges requiring so much power but realise that a gas fridge is no longer a safe option. The electric fridge on this boat had recently been installed and the three batteries do not store enough power without having to run the engine every day. We never did use the microwave! We resolve to specify at least four domestic batteries and ensure we have a better charging system on our own boats. The small car battery charger on the boat is really inadequate.

Today we had a picnic on board sitting up front under the cratch cover. Our next boat builder is in the opposite direction at Stowe Hill Marina. Not very far today just up the Braunston flight. The water level is a bit low so we moor in the shade of a tree near the entrance to the tunnel. Then we paid a visit back down to the Admiral Nelson in the evening. This was a famous meeting place for commercial boat owners in the past. We watched the old restored boat Brighton pass by having come up from Reading with coal to be delivered at Newbury. Noticeable that there are more boats moving about up here.

The next morning the water level has risen a few inches so we can proceed through the tunnel. You cannot see through this tunnel due to the bends in it. We went on down the Buckby Flight having waited for another boat to join us in the double locks and stopped for lunch at Wilton Marina. Men from BW were repairing a bent paddle bar on the bottom lock and they helped us through. Sharing locks with other boats is encouraged as we continued on to Stowe Hill.

This boat builder proudly explained that they build their own shells and fit them out as well. They take about four months from start to finish. A very good standard of finish was observed and many innovative ideas for using available space were seen. They seem to be very exclusive and expensive! Terry is more than ever keen to go for Reading Marine using a Reeves shell and is not far from Newbury on the Kennet and Avon canal.

The next day we turned and stopped at Weedon. We finally returned to Braunston for our last journey on King William. Went to the Old Plough for dinner and talked about our adventures and considered all that we had learnt on this worthwhile trip.

Back with Nomad

In the middle of July we spent some time with Pete and Deanna on the boat. We arrived in the evening. Engine started OK which is good because it was last used a month ago. On our way to West Mills the battery was charging at 30 amps. Only an hour and we stopped for the night before it got dark. While eating the evening meal a boat went past in the dark with lights on. It was an unusual thing to witness, as BW does not recommend travelling in the dark even with lights. I suspect that the boat insurance may well not cover any damage caused. It was a warm night and we planned to get to Kintbury tomorrow. P and D made up a bed in the saloon for the night.

It is Saturday and we are off after breakfast. Cloudy and cool at first and later the day it was a scorcher. It took the usual time as we arrived at Kintbury. Up through the lock to find moorings just past the facilities. A water tap provided by BW and curiously a privately owned loo block. D then proceeded to prepare lunch in the galley on her own. We sat and chatted outside on the back deck while the ducks swam about and Allie as usual all a quiver watching them.

Kintbury has a nice church and rectory where Jane Austen stayed. She certainly knew the vicar at that time, Thomas Fowley. After lunch we all went for a walk into the village through the churchyard. Returned for a cup of tea and set off back to Newbury by half past three. Despite the hot sunshine or maybe because of it we dawdled back in just under five hours. However we did get there and back in one day, some thing not usually done by us on our own.

More visitors

Geoff and Ivy are our guests for the next trip in August. The gas ran out while making the tea, the clock stopped and we filled the diesel tank! So we set off east later than planned at eleven and only got to Thatcham. We had lunch in the sunshine by the turf sided lock at Monkey Marsh. Geoff recognised Thatcham as he had spent some time at the electrical sub station there. We then went west and stopped at Newbury Wharf for an ice cream before returning.

The Henley trip

The Inland Waterways Association organise a boat gathering every year and this year it was at Henley in August. We had booked earlier this year and got lots of useful info. Newbury to Henley is 40 lock miles. We did not even have to pay to go on the Thames because of an arrangement between BW and EA. Terry and Myra had been on board the day before we arrived and got things ready. This is our main two-week holiday of the year. Although we arrived late we got away in sunshine and stopped at Widmead Lock. There we saw four boats already moored for the night and clearly the owners all knew each other. We recognised the boats as they had been seen at Little Bedwyn.

Saturday is dry and hot and we set up the borrowed parasol. There are several boats all going our way, all sharing the locks and mostly leaving them filling for us. Got past Woolhampton and stopped under the shade of a tree on the river Kennet. We have plenty of time to get to Henley so we spend the rest of the day here. Got provisions at the Woolhampton store and set off at ten the next day.

Suddenly much vibration below! Weeds round the prop! Stop engine and clear the weeds out by opening up the weed hatch and pulling the weeds away from round the propeller. After making sure that the hatch was secure we continue on our way. The river winds through trees between Woolhampton and Aldermaston and feels different with the flow of water pushing us onward. We stopped at Aldermaston for fresh water, dump the loo and get rid of rubbish. Even though the water tank was nowhere near empty it is good practice to top up with fresh water when you can.

It is raining heavily now and we are all in wet weather gear. The girls are getting a meal ready so warm air from the oven brings food smells to our noses up on deck. Eventually stopping short of the Cunning Man near Burfield Mill. After dinner we walked to the Mill and back and then played a game of Mah-Jongg. Ann won with a high score!

We made tea and coffee to get up with early next morning. A heavy mist outside burned off by the sun later. But it was eerie while it lasted. Got to Reading by lunchtime and moored under a chestnut tree in Chestnut Walk. Soon other boats arrived while we watched coots feeding their young. This is such a nice spot that we stay for the rest of the day playing Mah-Jongg again. If any body comes to collect, we owe 2.85 for the mooring but nobody did. We had lunch at the Warwick Alms nearby. It was a treat for the girls who did not have to make a meal. It was smoky inside so we sat outside but suffered from the traffic noise, city life at its worst. In the evening we walked to Blakes Lock that is manned most of the time by a keeper. Then we watched as the office lights went out one by one.

On to the Thames, River Thames pictures

The city woke early this Tuesday morning, traffic noise getting ever louder. We moved off after breakfast to see the keeper and fill in forms for our 15 day free stay on the Thames. We travelled up the river through Reading and towards Pangbourne. Now I know that is the wrong way for Henley but we still have plenty of time. First stop is the boat yard Better Boating where we get water and dump the loo down an open manhole for 60 pence! Then moved on to Caversham Lock by 11 up the river with lots of boats coming down. They are all looking for a clear spot on the bank of the river. Waited in the queue at Mapledurham Lock. The Lock Keeper waved us in first in front of other plastic cruisers. Their owners got a bit upset about this but the practice is acceptable because we are solid steel and it is safer, once we are stopped, for them to follow us in. There was plenty of room inside the lock. Terry wanted to stop at Pangbourne meadow because that is where we moored when we first got Nomad. But a lot of boats got there first so we stopped on the right by a field of cows. The owner collected her money (3) in the morning. At least we are in the shade of a tree on this hot day.

We got up late. Many boats had moved on so we moved up to the meadow and did some shopping in Pangbourne before going to the Greyhound for lunch. It is getting very hot again and Allie is suffering a bit. By about four it had cooled down a bit so we set off back down stream. Took about half an hour to get through Mapledurham Lock with another bunch of boats. Then stop at Caversham near the park where the Reading Festival opens at the weekend.

The I.W.A. organisers advised us to be sure we had a full tank of water when at Henley as we were to stay for five days. So the tank was topped up again at Better Boating. It is Thursday and we are on our way to Henley with lots of other boats joining the queue at every lock. Five or six narrow boats were getting in to each lock. Some repair work was being carried out near one lock and we were all obliged to wait as the workboat took priority over pleasure. Passed Raymond Baxter's house near Marsh Lock with his Dunkirk boat at its mooring.

Henley on Thames

It was a treat to travel through Henley on the river in our Nomad. All those posh boats being out numbered by narrowboats of all types with colourful paint work and decorations. The riverside between Henley Bridge and the next lock down stream was occupied by narrowboats three or four abreast over a distance of two miles. Found our spot. We are the third boat out from shore. Just happen to be alongside the boats from Little Bedwyn and people we knew. We are about 10 minutes walk from the show ground and we go there to get our wrist strap identity tags. This gives us free access to the show. We had paid 25 for the mooring that included access and lots of local information.

We all set off to Henley to shop for food in the morning. Friday is boater's day so off we go to see lots of stalls with things to buy and trade tents with information about things to go in boats. We are looking at detail for our new boats. What engine? What fridge? What shell. Terry and Myra find Reading Marine who is building their boat and we all get a look through the boat on show. Got back to Nomad by five, worn out and ready for a cup of tea. Then after a bite to eat we dressed up and went to listen to the evening entertainment, which sadly was poor. Back on our boat to watch pleasure craft all lit up travelling up and down the Thames all evening as they were looking at us!

The next morning we set about putting our flags up. Most boats had already decked themselves over with flags and balloons. Posted cards in Henley to family and friends and got our pictures developed. Walking back along the towpath we saw a pretty sight, all the decorated boats so colourful. This is the first time the I.W.A. have been at Henley on the Thames. Many boats are going by to look and lots of public walking on the towpath. This is a popular event here because there is so much more room for the boats.

The I.W.A. are so well organised that if we left the Porta poti out on deck it gets emptied for us! Being the boat furthest from the shore we get all the potties from the other two on our back deck. The Lavender boat comes by each day ringing a bell and calling out "Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead." Volunteers did it all and we gave them 5 and a big thank you for their services. The big advantage of being on the outside is that we get a grand view of the river and the passing boats.

We listened to Keepers Lock, a group singing traditional songs and stories about the canals. In the evening many boats travelled up and down decorated with lights. It was a wonderful show that night on the river Thames. A bag piper was playing Scottish type music all evening. He was on one of the boats not far away. Everybody has put in a lot of effort to make the evening a memorable night for us all.

Yesterday was dry which was good, but now it is raining. So what do the fab four do in a boat in the rain? We play Mah-Jongg don't we? And we listen to the local radio broadcasting live from the show ground. They report that 4000 people are living in this temporary village of boats. By lunchtime it was sunny again and after a sandwich we go off back to the show and meet familiar faces from Newbury. Bill and Sue are here on their Dutch Barge from Newbury. A barge is twice the width of a narrowboat. "Yes, the Kennet and Avon is wide enough for barges being a river navigation." In the evening we walked to Henley for a drink.

Return home

Tuesday 26th August is the day we leave. So after putting away the flags were off to Henley for lunch at the Cottage Inn. Then we stock up for our journey home. After five days at this mooring our water supply was only down 6 inches so there is plenty left. The domestic battery had gone down to just less than 12V but was still capable of pumping water and providing lights. There are so many boats about to leave to day that we are booked in to pass through Marsh Lock at four thirty. The got engine started and we move off down stream past the show site, round Temple Island and back upstream past the church and under the bridge. Five other boats go in to the lock. Passed through Sonning Lock by seven and moored for the night.

After a very good nights sleep we wake at eight to grey skies. Some narrowboats are already on the move. We set off before breakfast and we take turns at the tiller while eating corn flakes and toast. Need to stop at Better Boating to do the loo and get fresh water again. Several boats in front and we wait our turn. Most of the boats went up north while we go down to find the River Kennet.

Passed on through Reading to find the mouth of the river with the bridge by the double gasholders. Having got through the last manned lock (Blakes) we decided to turn right into Chestnut walk because it is a pretty and quiet backwater. Suddenly the engine nearly stalled and chucked out black smoke. Terry quickly pulled the stop lever. We drifted under a bridge out of control. Ann got the boat pole and used it to guide us to the side. A very large plastic bag had got wrapped round the prop. It is a miracle that the coupling to the propeller did not shear. It took some time and effort with the knife to clear the bag that proved large enough to fill the rubbish bin on shore.

After spending the night we continued through a few locks to stop at Burghfield and the Cunning Man for lunch. We had another good meal and time off for the girls at the pub. It rained while we were in the pub so we had coffee. Then it stopped and we continued on to Theale. The old infamous swing bridge has been replaced and the new one is electric. Just press the button and it stops the traffic and swings all by it self to allow the boat to pass.

Problem in a lock

Two working boats were coming down in Sulhampsted Lock. When the lock emptied they could not open the gates! They were too long because the cill at the bottom makes the lock shorter. We waited while the lock was filled and one boat at a time came down. The butty was called Brighton. Seen before on the Grand Union by us and had just delivered coal to Newbury. We moored up past the swing bridge after the lock.

While walking Allie we picked blackberries for our supper. Had some apple to cook with them. On a previous trip we also found an apple tree but not this time. Ann baked another loaf of bread. Just mix the contents of the packet with water and follow instructions. Once made the bread does not last long.

The next day is Thursday. We get to Aldermaston for lunch. The Canal centre is open and we get fresh milk. It is raining but we continue on to our favourite spot at Midgham and played Mah-Jongg that night. The last night on the boat for this holiday and it is cold and windy.

Cat on the boat

Terry and Myra have a cat called Honey. In September she is introduced to boat life. When the engine started she found refuge behind the cooker. Thankfully came out later when the water pump started. Honey got used to the surroundings and explored the rest of the boat and she is happy in her bed. No problem either when actually moving Nomad through a few locks. Terry spent some time fixing an oil leak at the fuel pump by replacing the gasket.

A week off in October

Our plan is to go to Great Bedwyn 35 lock miles away from Newbury. We have a week off work for a trip on our own but find out that the water is a bit low past Kintbury. The towpath telegraph is responsible for the news. We go west on a warm dry day. We got to Benham for our first night out and arrive just before seven with the sun low and red in our eyes. We forgot to bring the pressure cooker so the stew will take a bit longer to cook in the oven. Then the gas ran out! Managed to change over the bottles by torchlight and eventually had some hot grub. About six boats went by, going east in the dark. All hire boats getting back to Aldermaston by Friday night. Oakhill was one of them and we know Mary who is to pick it up at the weekend.

A cool early morning with blue sky and cloud. After breakfast on our laps, as we could not be bothered with the table, I checked the fuel pump as Terry was still concerned about it. It was wet with oil so wiped it dry and resolved to check it at the end of the day.

A boat came down through the lock after breakfast so we got going to use the empty lock to our advantage. The pound after Copse Lock was six inches down but we got through to Kintbury before lunch. Lots of boats here but found a space and tied up. Went shopping in the village and got some Lardy cake at the bakers. Then visited the Church to find evidence that Thomas Fowley was indeed a Vicar there between 1739 and 1762 and was known by the Austen family. I left a message in the visitor's book.

Water shortage

Hungerford Lock is only open at nine in the morning or three in the afternoon. So we go on to Hungerford but miss the three o'clock opening by 45 minutes. Did not really want to stay here because the ducks are so noisy. Lucky to find a mooring because Hannah and Rebecca the trust barges are here as well as Rose of Hungerford, the trip boat. An engineer is here fixing the engine on Rose. Apparently one of the trust boats is going our way tomorrow at ten by special arrangement with British Waterways.

Friday is our third day on Nomad and we get up early to be sure to go up through the lock at nine. When in the lock the BW man told us that locks 51 to 64 are closed every other day and we are advised not to go up the Crofton Flight if we are coming back the same day. So we will turn at Great Bedwyn. We stopped past Coblers Lock to go for a walk at Freemans Marsh. The river Dunn passes under the canal here. Hanna passed by at 11. After a coffee we continued on this pretty length of canal.

An accident

Ann fell into Lock 70 off the boat. She took Nomad in to the lock while I was doing the gates. The bottom gates were shut and the lock empty when it happened. I managed to climb down the ladder, get on board and help haul her wet heavy body up and on to the back deck. Luckily Ann had managed to grab the fender ring. The gunwale is about 18 inches above the water so you need something to grab hold at water level. While Ann got her clothes off I put the kettle on to make a hot drink. We always make sure there is a set of spare dry clothes on board. With nobody else about the lock remained as it was until we were ready to continue. After a long day we stopped past Little Bedwyn at lock 66. Lit the fire to keep warm and dry all the washing.

Half way

The next day we are slowly getting up. Breakfast at half past nine. Pulled out the pins and moved on to Great Bedwyn. The next lock is closed to day due to the water restrictions so we wind round and moor on the hard edge. Many boats are here either waiting to go on up tomorrow or like us going back east. Here is a small private boat yard, which looks after Hannah and Rebecca. I asked the owner if he wouldn't mind if we emptied our loo in his private facility. Permission granted, no fee requested. A couple from London were driving by and stopped when they saw the boats. They were so interested that we invited them on board and gave them coffee. Great Bedwyn is a nice village to be stopped at so we paid a visit to the shops for supplies.

We turned the boat round here because were nearly half way through our week on board. Boat owners going east have reported that the long 15 mile pound to Devizes is very low because a paddle had been left open over night! That is an awful lot of water lost and not good news this year when there is already a shortage. Note that the local Church Lock is open every other day so boats had come through yesterday. "It is just as well we went to Bath last year!" There is a phone in the village but we could only get through to mum and dad and everybody else we knew was out that night. Lit the fire with less coal as last time it got too hot. Now it is difficult to light! We had spent the afternoon polishing the brasses, doing some painting and cleaning up. We took it easy going back up so we should have time to get back.

Wild life

It is Sunday. Yesterday we watched a large flock of Canada geese fly in and this morning they flew out. The ducks are still here, as are the rooks in the trees and Muscovy ducks have chicks. Wonder if they survive the winter?

We left about ten and found it slow going with fishermen all the way down to Lock 68 at Little Bedwyn. We continue on down to Froxfield where the canal opens up and has a good hard edge to moor up to for another night. It is usual at the end of a days cruising to check under the boards, for that is where the engine is. A leaky coolant hose had been attended to earlier and is now dry. The oil level was a bit low so a drop more was put in. All this is of course noted in the Boat Log.

More problems

The next day we set off at nine o'clock. It was misty and cool earlier. We wait for a Sally hire boat to come up through Lock 70 and gave them some assistance. They had problems coming up because the pounds water level was very low. We are in no hurry because Lock 74 at Hungerford is only open at one o'clock to day and we should have plenty of time to get there. Got there by 12 and found a boat in the lock already waiting to come up going west.

When the lock keeper arrived he let us through but told us that the long pound between Kintbury and Dreweats Lock 79 was nearly empty! That is about two miles of canal and another waste of water. Hopefully by the time we get there it may have filled up. There is a weir near Lock 79 which may well have suffered some damage and leaked badly. It has been in need of repair for some time. Got some supplies in Hungerford before moving on under the bridge to the facilities. Here we can get fresh water and dump the loo.

Several boat have been seen going west so maybe the pound is passable by now. It has been raining since we left Hungerford and the River Kennet does at least feed the canal below the town. Arrived in Kintbury by five and found much more water here. Ann lit the fire so that we could dry off. The pound below the lock was now filling rapidly. Spoke to Denis and Shirley on Spring Time who told us that they and other boats had been stranded for a day on the mud. They are going our way to morrow so we agree to go down with them. It is still raining the next day so we keep the fire going. Through the lock at ten to find the pound still a foot low and join Spring Time. No more trouble and we all arrive in Newbury by four thirty. Pack up and go home.

Winterising

We are all on Nomad again in November. We have called ourselves the fab four because we have had a fabulous time! Drained the water out, ran the engine and charged the batteries. The rest of the year was spent a day or two at a time keeping the boat clean and tidy. We spent the rest of the year painting patches of rust, checking the replaced fuel pump and taking the boat out for day trips.

We had spent 92 days on the boat this year.

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