Moore 2 Life:Exploring the waterways

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Chapter 6: A New Way Of Life, 2000

Problems in the Millennium New Year,

We resolved to travel the two-hour trip up to the yard at least once a week. It was great to see the steel boat already floating in the canal. A hollow tube with window holes already cut at least in the right places. Painted grey inside and out and covered over in plastic sheeting to keep the rain out.

A carpenter had started working on the boat. Then some portholes were put in. By the end of February work had stopped and the proprietor had left the business. Aynho Wharf Boat Builders was no more. Aynho Dock Services to the rescue. Ours was not the only boat to be finished. We got to know the owners of a boat to be called Willow Dreamer. They ended up fitting out their boat themselves.

Our boat fit out was nearly finished when the agent found a Tenant to live in our bungalow. Would we be made homeless before our boat is ready?

Aynho Dock Services, Moore To Life boat pictures

Ian Cooper runs Aynho Dock Services along with John, Adam, Simon, Will and Stuart. They have all been very helpful with fitting out the boat after our builder went bankrupt. We have had things welded on, holes cut and advice given. They all enjoy the work that they do. The boat Lone Ranger had all its paint removed down to steel and then re painted. The lads came out after the first day as black as the ace of spades! We watched the progress as paint was applied during the next ten days. We saw the sign writer and showed him our drawings and explained what we wanted in our name panel. Our boat is to go in for painting next and the washing machine is due to arrive soon.

Moving home

We moved out at the end of August 2000 and onto Moore To Life our still unfinished narrow boat currently moored at Aynho Wharf on the Oxford Canal. Our car had been filled to the gunnels many times to transport our equipment, clothes and tools to the boat. The bungalow was left with some furniture, clean and tidy and looking quite empty compared to the last few months. Some of our stuff was put up in the attic and locked away. Our first tenant is to move in next month.

When we arrived at Aynho Wharf the surveyor was looking over the boat for our safety certificate. So even before we could unload the car we spent some time providing him with lots of information for the Recreational Craft Directive documentation. We did not get a safety certificate because of some non-compliant items. We needed two low level ventilators at the front and the battery terminals needed covers. The work was done during the month and we now await the delivery of our safety certificate and boat manual. When it arrives we can then get a navigation licence from British Waterways.

We proceeded to unload the car. Where was it all going! The inside quickly looked cluttered. By now it was time for dinner. Both pets cat and dog, were on board for the first time and also needed feeding. So priorities were decided by necessity! Get the galley sorted then the cabin.

Unpacking boxes

Refreshed after our first night, we set about putting things away. Many cupboards needed more shelves and baskets to keep things accessible. Our main objective was to varnish all the interior woodwork with another two coats, each with a rub down in between. The first coat had been applied throughout as well as inside cupboards during previous weekends. So we could at least put things inside cupboards, unpack boxes and throw them away. It took most of the morning to rub down and clean up before applying varnish after lunch. We planned to stay aboard for about three weeks until the boat went in for painting.

Fuel shortage

We have still got the car and went to Deddington for provisions as it was too far to walk and there is nothing closer. There is a Post Office and a Co-op so the village is good for most things like money, bread and milk etc. There was a protest over the price of fuel that managed to stop the supplies. Within a week there were shortages of most things. A fellow boater offered to get us bread and milk one day but we could only get milk!

DIY fitting

Now finished the varnishing all the way through. Having moved things forward to do the back it all got put back again. We had an offcut of carpet that just fitted and our neighbouring boat owners gave us their spare under felt and the edging strip and we fitted it ourselves. We had a spare book that they accepted as payment. A bit of give and take seems to help each other. Our curtain fittings proved unsuitable so we are waiting for a new set made of brass, and then we can put the curtains up. The boat has six portholes and we have round padded bungs that act like curtains. Our friend had crocheted circles as decoration for them.

Animals on board

Allie, our dog, still insists on going out for a walk at two. So we went up or down the canal on the tow path noting the different boats moored each day and some times chatting to the owners. How we envied their freedom being able to move on. Our cat Tara is getting into and behind things on the boat. She disappeared behind the fridge till we turned on the tap. The noisy pump got her out. Ann takes her out with a lead and harness to explore the outside world.

Another walk was down the road to the fishing pond. A local farmer keeps it stocked up so fishermen can hook them out with barbless hooks and throw them back without harming them.

Need to finish soon

Now that the stoppage list has been published by British Waterways we see that Banbury is to be closed to navigation at the end of October. A new bridge and shopping centre is being built there. We must get away from Aynho by the end of October if we are to get past Banbury and explore the Oxford and Grand Union canals around Napton and Braunston this winter. Luckily the boat can be painted soon.

We have moved out to spend two weeks with Mum and Dad. Saw family and friends, watched a film called Billy Elliott and took Allie to see the Vet. The boat safety certificate arrived and we applied for the British Waterways licence. We also got a full set of 'First Mate Guides' written by Carole Sampson. These proved invaluable by providing information about shops, post offices, medical centres and dentists etc. that are near the canals. Nicholson publish a set of books containing maps of all the canals so we started collecting them.


We moved back in to Moore To Life in the second week of October. The boat had gone in to the painting bay like a chrysalis and came out looking like a butterfly! Nice bright blue with a yellow line and grey roof. Our car was filled to the gunnels twice more to transport the rest of our stuff. The sign writer was still busy and we moved in when he had finished a while later. It was cold and wet that evening and the boat needed warming up so we lit the fire, fed the animals and ourselves. Then went to bed.

The next day the washing machine arrived and was installed. After a bit of trouble getting the door open we found the instructions inside! When the washing machine went in, the boat tended to list to one side. So I found some heavy lumps of Pig Iron and put them in the opposite corner of the boat out of site below the water line to get level. By now we had some dirty clothes to clean, so into the machine to test it. Worked great on the landline power. Next time we will try it on the inverter and batteries but run the engine for the hot water!

Last minute jobs

Another major job to do was getting the curtain rails up. We went into Banbury while we still had the car. Found what we needed to finish the job. Must say the curtains do look good and makes the boat even more like home. Then we went to the local coal yard and picked up a bag of smokeless coal to keep us warm at night. We planned to leave the yard in October so we have just over a week to get the cratch finished. This is the wooden triangle at the front that will support a cover over the well deck. Ian was still painting it with a diamond pattern and Bill was to fit windows later. During the last week at the yard we disconnected from the shore mains power. Relying now on batteries and running the engine for an hour in the morning and afternoon to provide hot water and keep the batteries charged up. The horn and tunnel light was fitted.

Naming ceremony

Spent some time tidying up and putting things in cupboards out of site ready for the arrival of family. When they arrived we performed the naming ceremony. Tracy did the honours with a bottle of bubly, "I name this ship Moore To Life, may god preserve her and all who sail in her". Dad was amused that we referred to the boat as a ship! Then we went to the pub before taking a trip south to Semington lock and back before finally, the moment of commitment. The family left us to our new way of life as Tracy drove our car away.

Bike to shops

Ann went off to Deddington on the bike to get provisions from the Co-op just over three miles away. Left at 10 and got back by 11:30. Mean while I walked to the coal yard to get two more bags of coal delivered to the boat. After using the washing machine and having a bath/shower we filled the water tank again. The final thing to do before leaving was to get the loo tank pumped out and the diesel tank filled. By now the engine had done 32 hours. Been on the boat long enough now to count three full months. We finally left Aynho Wharf on the 24 th October 2000 after paying the final bill to Ian Cooper. We are grateful for all his help in making our dream come true.

Discovery mode, Oxford canal pictures

Now moving at last. Stopped just outside Banbury for a night and went shopping at Morrisons after doing our first twelve lock miles. Got past the lift bridge with help from passers by because it is out of balance and needed several people to keep it up! The old bridge is being replaced in November, which is why we had to get past it. A few days later we arrived at Cropredy (Pronounced Crop reedy) having done another nine lock miles. The Bridge Store has good food, fresh bread, Banbury cake, milk etc. Even fire lighters, coal, wood, mooring pins, hammers and boat magazines. British Waterways have their facility here that provides water, loo and refuse. The winding hole enables us to turn the boat round if we needed to.

It will be some time before we go south of here because of the winter stoppages. We continued all the way up to Fenny Compton, which is where we met Terry and Myra. After getting coal and water we moored up behind Butty Lark. Then walked to the village to find a Medical Centre and a Co-op shop but there was no Post Office. These facilities were noted in a book for future reference. We were back on our friends boat for a game of Mah-Jongg after dinner, together again, now with two new boats on a different canal.

The next day we both went on up the cut to Napton. The Oxford canal is narrow. That is the locks are only wide enough for one boat at a time. So we help each other get through them. Moorings are usually good with many hard edges to tie to. There was a large pile of wood in the field by the canal next to the pub. Next evening the locals gathered and set light to the bonfire and set off fireworks on November the fifth. The pub is now called The Folly Inn but in earlier times it was the Bull and Butcher when the author of Narrow Boat, Tom Rolt, paid it a visit. We all had a good lunch at the Crown Hotel in the village under the hill. Having spent five days together we parted company to return to Cropredy to meet family there.

Family visit

When we got back to Cropredy we called in to the Bridge Store to collect our photographs. The owner of the shop had offered to take the film to Banbury for processing. He told us about the local surgery so we booked Ann in for a flu jab. We collected so many letters from the Post Office that they got to know us and our letters were quickly fished out of the box of mail for collection. The office is in the front room of a private house. We stayed near Cropredy for eleven days while members of family made their visits. It was good to see them all again.

Winter storms

We are learning how to keep the fire in over night. The trick is to clear out the ash morning and evening. Our stock of wood is going fast and although free does make more mess on the roof! So we now keep a stock of at least four bags of coal in the back and are comfortably warm most of the time. Still alive and kicking after no less than two storms when we were on our own. Luckily we were moored up early before the wind and rain got going. The wind is the worst thing, and rain is tolerable. We were being blown on to the bank so the pegs were not under too much strain. Kept looking out during the night with a torch through the windows still with our clothes on, as we did not sleep much that night. The normally flat calm canal looked like a raging sea. It has been better since with cheery warm sunshine and no wind but there have been a few frosty mornings.

What do we do all day! There are several options available. We can move the boat, go shopping (walk to a local shop in a village), take the dog or cat for a walk, collect post or dump the rubbish. Then there are other chores like sweep the floor, keep the fire going, get the coal in, washing and cooking. We have been finishing inside. The more time we spend in the boat the more improvements we think of. Sorting what we need and want. Then there is the engine maintenance, check diesel, water, coal, grease stern gland, check oil and water in the engine. Make sure the alternator belt is properly adjusted to ensure the batteries get well charged. Then we can sit down in the evening and enjoy a bit of TV if we can get a good signal. Listen to CD's or read a book, even write a letter or make a phone call now that we have a mobile phone.

Stoppage !

After the family visits we intended to go back up north to Napton but then we saw the BW Notice. Two locks were to be shut for three days! A farmhouse next to one lock had a flooded cellar. In order to carry out repairs the canal between the two locks had to be drained. We walked up to see the strange site of an empty pound, the canal between locks. The canal is surprisingly deep in the middle with a flat bottom and sloping sides. Fresh water clams were making groves in the mud. A BW man assured us that the pound would be filled on the third day. We spent the extra time writing Christmas cards.

We moved up and through the locks and observed that the water was as green as grass. A dye had been used to ensure the leak had been sealed. Further up we saw some Swans and the flash of a Kingfisher. We stopped for the night at Claydon locks. It had got cold and windy. The next day we got to Fenny Compton again. By now the diesel tank was half full so we got 128 litres. It is a month since we left Aynho so we reckoned it was about time to pump out the loo tank. Also got six bags of coal. Claydon to Fenny took all morning and by the time we had got filled up and emptied it was dusk at four o'clock.

The next day we walked to the Medical Centre in Fenny Compton and got my pills. Filled in the Temporary Patient form and waited for a Doctor to approve the issue of drugs despite the fact that I had a signed prescription. This is the first time we have visited another medical centre since leaving home. Then got more food from the Co-op. It was a cool dry day and we proceeded up to Marston Doles in the afternoon. It took three hours to travel along the meandering canal section that seems to take forever. Saw a heron just standing there on the edge of the canal.

Friendly help

Our friends Terry and Myra had walked up the Napton flight of seven locks and helped us down them. We played Mah-Jongg and had a pie at the Folly pie pub. Another day we got the bikes out and all four of us cycled just over two miles to Southam for the shops. The first town we have been to for some time. The cycle ride to Southam in December was a new experience for us with cars and lorries rushing past and quite scary on the road. We pedalled in low gear all the way as it was easier to keep going even on the flat. Clearly we were not fit! Once recovered the next day we moved both boats to Culcutt where Terry filled Butty Lark's water tank. We had plenty at this time but usually fill up when about half full. It takes about half an hour to fill half a tank that lasts us about a week. Think on that next time you water the garden for half an hour.

There is a flight of three locks here at Calcutt on the Grand Union canal and each one takes two boats. So we go down together for the first time. It is windy and proves tricky to aim the bow into the lock. Then on past Ventnor Farm where T and M keep their boat and on to a turning point before the next set of locks which were under repair. Moored up and walked to Stockton Post Office and back before playing a game of Mah-Jongg again. Next day we went to a Country store not far from the canal. We got some good quality waterproof leggings, body warmer and gloves. We moved the boats on to Ventnor Farm and stopped outside. Terry had already gone in to the marina to get permission to let us walk in, as we needed another gas bottle. When at Stockton we chose a Cantonese meal to be delivered later that evening. We all consumed it on our boat outside that exclusive marina.


Our friends went home the next day and we made our way to Braunston. It is the centre of the universe as far as canals are concerned. Took three hours with only the locks at Culcutt to deal with on our own and filled our water tank this time when at the top. Passed a narrowboat called Hobo, which belongs to Bob and Jane. They had their boat built at Aldermaston and have just moved up here. It is now five years old and they are having a major refit by Mark and Margaret, who live on Knot Normal. We asked Mark to do some improvements for us later. When we had found a mooring in Braunston, Dave and Georgina on Willow Dreamer went by, returning from Rugby up on the North Oxford canal. "We have met some more friends on the cut," I told Ann.

During our stay we got Moore To Life measured up for canopies to be fitted front and back. Should keep the wind and rain out and make it a bit warmer inside. Also collected post from the local Post Office in the village past the church up on the hill. Ann needed some more inhalers and after asking around discovered that Daventry is the best place to go for a Surgery and a bus goes there every hour. Ended up going with Dave and Georgina who had been before. The town has plenty of good shops. More information to go in our book of facilities!

North Oxford canal, Oxford canal pictures

Having come up from Aynho on the South Oxford we wanted to explore the North Oxford. So off we went. Got the maps and some information from the locals. Headed for Hillmorton, a suburb of Rugby. Only seven miles but it took three hours in the rain and we had soup in a cup on the way to keep warm. All flat with no locks, mainly straight with some sharp bends and several bridges. We stopped at a bridge called Moore's Bridge next to the Rugby transmitter.

There are six single locks here that are in pairs. So a boat can come up at the same time as one going down. We went down two locks to visit Hillmorton Lock Services. They can carry out a service on our engine, which will be needed some time after Christmas. Willow Dreamer had been following us a day later and caught up at the last lock. We then followed and stopped at Clifton, a suburb of Rugby. Found a sheltered spot because the forecast was for wind and rain again. Overnight, Clifton Brook below us had swollen and flooded the golf course.

Shops at Rugby

A long walk with Dave and Georgina got us into the shopping centre of Rugby. Got the bus back having filled our bags with heavy goods. The canal goes round the edge of Rugby and a railway follows between it and the town. But still some sections of the canal are spoilt by rubbish presumably dropped from bridges. Next stop near Tesco at Brownsover. Lots of boats moored both sides of the canal here and had to use our plank to get off the boat. There were a number of out of town large shops a short walk from the canal. Then on to Newbold where we found a Post Office / Store, Butcher and a pub. It is getting dark early at four thirty so we stop for the night.

Modified canal

Next day we passed through a short tunnel and discovered that our light had failed. Luckily you could see the other end of the tunnel, as it was short and clear. Back in 1829 this northern section of the Oxford canal was shortened. Previously it followed the contour of the land, and now raised straight sections on embankments that make them rather exposed to the wind. Side arms and iron bridges reveal the existence of the old route of the canal. The side arms have water and contain boats tucked away off the main canal. We continue on past All Oak Wood. Dark and peaceful with the tall trees reminding us of the New Forest. On our return we stopped the night there.

We had read about the Duckweed growing rampantly in this part of the canal. Our friends told us that their dog jumped overboard thinking it was grass! We found patches of it just past Brinklow and it got thicker as we progressed. One patch was so long it took an hour to get through because the boat slowed to a crawl. We stopped at Ansty village for the night and were advised not to go on to Hawkesbury Junction but to turn at the Wyken Arm. This is not far short of the end of the Oxford Canal where it joins the Coventry Canal.

We got back through the tunnel and filled the water tank the next day. The Barley Mow was cooking lunch. Right there by the canal. Very inviting. So we had to go in. A friendly pub all decorated for Christmas with a large family enjoying their lunch with party hats and crackers. After posting more Christmas cards at Newbold we moved round to a sheltered spot as the forecast was for another stormy night.

Coal boat

Next blue sky day was calm and we moved on to shop at Tesco a short walk from the canal. Then saw John Chard on Stokie just round the corner. It is a working boat selling coal and diesel. So as we happened to be down to our last bag of coal we got some more. John now travels up and down the north Oxford. We had first met him on the Kennet and Avon canal when we had Nomad. During our trip we had seen a few herons, woodpeckers, king fishers and fed swans through the window. The swan's heads were popping inside the boat through the open window. Eventually we got back to Braunston where we got our new covers fitted. Good at the front as it does provide a dry tent and helps keep the front end warm inside but the cover on the back forces you to crawl out! Collected loads of post, put up the fairy lights, tree, hung the cards up and collected our boned turkey from the local butcher. One day we took the bus into Daventry again. Dave and Georgina came round with their game of Monopoly that we played one evening.

Thank you for reading Chapter 6. Return to Book.