Thursday 1st October 2015 Deja vu (that is in these parts, we believe a rarely used language called french). Yes we are on an unplanned (often the best-est of times to be had) journey of assistance/help to a boating compadre. Unplanned until quite recently. Original plan (if there actually was plan) (not sure there was anyway) to ascend the Grand Union Canal in a northerly direction. Not now it isn’t. At 3.45pm Black Bart joins hire boat Laura in one of the Thames locks at Brentford.
The Waters of the River Thames had risen considerably, and sufficiently to allow our passage into those said wide, deep (for a short while anyway) dark waters. Following only the slightest of delays we are cruising out of the River Brent/Grand Union Canal to retrace our ‘steps’ of exactly one (yes 1) month previous. Quite incredible !!
Crew were (not sure why) slightly of nervous & concerned minds. No need to worry though, of course. A most Fantastic crews was had by us all three. Clear blue sky. Bright, hot sun. Brilliant. The windiness of the weather did not bother us or detract from the enjoyment.
Only one hour, tracking NB Laura & NB Black Bart and companion have arrived at Teddington Lock. Best hour cruise ever.
After moneys have changes hands (Those lock keepers are terrible, doing nothing for free anymore), we leapfrog our cruise buddies.
Hot footing it out of Teddington Launch lock, past the usual floating river debris of rowers, canoeists, dinghy sailors and their craft (or even, their chosen mode of transport) onto Kingston Bridge moorings. Having been caught, we are followed into the generously sized vacant landing strip. New hire boaty friends from Germany join us for drinks in the shade of the cratch cover, and all those neighbouring big trees. A Grand end to our second tidal Thames cruise. Chink ! CHINK !! CHINK !!! . Food. Delish. And Good Night.
Friday 2nd October Good morning to all, in fact any person who may be bothered to stumble across this ‘ere tittle blog. We (as you should already know) is now floating in the non-tidal flow of the River Thames. We are up sharpish & on our way. Lines Slipped, Bart is leaving Kingston behind. Good progress is made by Black Bart as we steam on through fourteen wet miles & locking up four big, wide Thames locks. We land at Laleham moorings with the sun indicating we are only one ‘er past midday. We have arrived at Michael Dennett Boatyard to meet his new creation ‘Leap of Faith’. Wonderful new boat for our Lovely Tittle Venice friend. A Fabulous & unique craft for enjoying the River Thames & more.
We join Leap for a practice cruise with very happy new owner, locking up, & after a tittle jaunt, locking back down Penton Hook Lock. All good fun. Boat designer & builder extraordinaire joins us for our lovely jaunt. Leap is a completely different ‘animal’ to our Bart. Skippet takes the helm & shows off her skills. Fantastic. After a return to base to see the boatyard & the team we slip leap’s line & return to Bart, moored just round the corner, for chat & foodies. Lovely. ciao for now dear reader(s).
Saturday 3rd October Skippet is heading off with Leap & her crew of one, back to the place of her creation. Birth some might say. A couple of minor tweaks (after a typical boat builders slow reactions) by ‘The Boss’ and the flotilla (of two) are finally ready to ‘make hay’ while the sun still shines. The rains are a coming soon they say, so we will try make the most of the last of this fantastic weather we have been able to enjoy in recent days/week(s). We leave Laleham boatyard early afternoon soon negotiating Penton Hook lock before passing through Staines, cruising onto the Crowns Estate, locking up Bell Weir, Old Windsor & Romney Chambers. We avoid the shallow Brocas mooring positions, but luckily, a Bart sized berth is spotted just after on tuther side, of the water, on the banks of Windsor’s tree lined river island. Perfect. Sufficient depth of water. Great. Black Bart moors & Leap of Faith Rafts up.
Lovely open grassy (arsy) area for Roxy ball games. She has a Fantastic time, running around for ages. Skip spots a handy ‘bit’ of tree to add to our ‘spot the wood competition’ on Bart’s roof. Bow saw is brought into action. ‘Leap’ Skipper has performed well handling new craft. Confidence is growing. Skippet has been marvellous assisting her at locks & sharing the helming to. Skip has been mostly successful handling Bart on his ownsum. Has been interesting at times locking-up, particularly as some are quite deep & side filling along the lock length too. Bow & stern ropes need to be tied & controlled at the same time. Some of those locks fill very quickly. Just aboat managed to keep things under control.
Sunday 4th October Glorious sunny day, again. Fab.
We depart Windsor, Making steady progress, passing up through Boveney, Bray & Boulter’s locks before Bart progresses through the wonderful Cliveden Reach, leading us to Cookham Lock.
As Bart leads Leap through Cookham onto Bourne End we encounter (one of them extremely closely at one point) sailors in their tittle craft, racing, tacking this way & that, and completely oblivious to 24 tonne of (agile) metal boat in amongst them. Bart must be invisible. That was too close for comfort. Particular sailor concerned was putting his hand up as he passed across Bart’s bow (for the second time) (at least he actually saw us this time), with the nose scraping (presumably) his port side. Bart being in full reverse from an already very slow forward crawl. Obviously unable to comprehend the danger he had just put himself in. Bart, as with most 70′ narrowboats cannot be manoeuvred, for example, like a tittle car. Nutter !!! We crawl on, following udder sailors until they finally turn out of our close-ish (to the bank) route. Ahead is finally sail boat free so Bart makes improved, & less exasperating progress onto Marlow lock. Ah !! Mr. Marlow Lock Keeper. He proves he has a talent to really wind old Skip up. We moor on the lock waiting platform behind one plastic pig and wait. boaters are being locked down. Other boaters arriving behind us, also waiting to lock up. Boats are now leaving the lock & Leap of Faith is moving into the lock following plastic pig one. Bart’s lines are slipped & moving forward. NO !!! Mr. M.L. Keeper crosses his arms to Bart shouting “No entry !!” to ‘the narrowboat’. He lets a tittle power boat in & then a great big Fat Plastic Pig. Skip is extremely annoyed, now having to re-moor & tie up again. When Bart is finally allowed entry to lock next time round skip let’s Mr. Keeper k-no-w aboat his unhappiness. A half hearted apology is returned & a comment “I realise now, you could have fitted in”. Strange that. We knew Bart would have fitted in before he foolishly allowed others to jump the queue. Words & feelings expressed cannot be repeated on this blog, but you might be able to guess the gist of skip’s reaction at the time. Anyway, Bart cruises out of filled lock & rejoins the waiting Leap, swimming onto Higginson Park moorings & later, foodies at the George & Dragon. Pies all round. Splendid. Caio for now.
Monday 5th October Today is grey. And Wet. Decision made to leave Leap rafted up to Bart & just cruise along all cosy like. Rising through Temple, Hurley & Hambleden locks eventually leads us to Henley & ultimately through Marsh lock. Do you know it ?? Ever been there mate ?? We ‘ave. Shiplake & Sonning locks at (approx.) three miles intervals on from ye olde Marsh bloke. Apart from difficult first lock entry (inexperienced twin boat helming me thinks) this long slowish seven hour jaunt of fifteen-ish miles & six mostly lock keeper-less chambers drips & soggily washes by. After leaving the last (Sonning) lock of today’s cruise Bart & Leap & Crews are on the lookout for possible morning positions. As Leap is ‘attached’ to Bart’s Port side we spin the old girl round & approach first option on towpath side. Too shallow. Abort. We re-align Bart & move on little, passing a black wide beam & then make a successful landing attempt. Mooring pins out. Bang. Bang. Bang. Then some more of those Bangs. Mooring pins going in, silly. Sorted. Time to go in & drip dry.
Tuesday 6th October Today is Very Grey. And Very Wet. Mooring pins retrieved from the ground & lines reclaimed. Leap is still safely ‘strapped on’ (the side) & We’re off. Bart does an aboat-turn & is now moving in the right direction again. Suddenly. Precipitating down. Water running off Bart’s Roof drain points like mini powerful waterfalls. Most impressive. Skip evolves into one big droplet. Read/take that as you wish/feel. Wet progress is made, chambering Caversham lock as we pass through Reading, & Mapledurham lock, where unfortunately the cafe (sausage/bacon rolls) was not open. Companion turns up trumps with cumberland sausages so our late lunch is saved. Yeh !! Yum Yum. (after a short delay you understand) (Have to be prepared & cooked ya-k-no-w). We are approaching Pangbourne readying Bart for the ascent of Whitchurch lock. Skip changes tack. A Sailing term I do believe. We spin both narrowboat & not quite so narrow boat round together & moor at Pangbourne Meadow. Lovely position. Friends from the localality are summoned & viewings of the new Leap (& the not so new Bart) are enjoyed by all. Doggies have fun ball chasing. Sum while later – Good Night.
Wednesday 7th October We are ‘expecting’ to become less wet today, than in recent past days. Hopefully, anyway. Yes we have a better day, but is on the windy side (to side). Some precipitation is experienced on occasion. Like a mid summer’s day compared to previous too. Sorry, two, that should be. English is not always Skip’s first language. We successfully chomp away the watery miles, ascending three moor wet chambers. Time is marching on & crew(s) are on the lookout for a berthing position. For one night only, you understand. Bart has been swimming for six hours already today. Five, six, seven & five ‘ers on previous days. Me thinks Skip was dozing off. Bart finds oneself on the wrong side of the green marker buoys as we come round the corner to find the BIG Benson Weir & lock in front of us. Bart is struggling for depth & trying to reverse finds the flow from the weir is pushing us aboat, losing control. Trying to creep gingerly forward when boater coming downstream from lock helpfully warns of there being a sunken boat round here somewhere abouts. Unnerving. Bart (& the still attached Leap) become stuck again. We have landed. Not in a good place, but at least no unpleasant noises from below so hopefully not stuck or caught on sunken boat. Attempts to reverse and/or forward off river bed (hopefully) fail. OK. We are not moving or being pushed (luckily) by the weir’s flow, into the row of green marker buoys yet, although they are very close. A ‘slightly’ nervous, worried Skip takes Bart’s trusty depth gauge & walks the gunnels, investigating the depths (shallows) below. The checks round/below Leap. Bart is 3′ deep in the water. Leap is less that half that. Skip is more concerns aboat Leap as she is new, & made out of wood. Bart is slightly moor battle weary & metal so slightly moor impact resistant. Skip tries to make sure Leap & Leap’s rudder/propeller is/are not caught on anything under water. All seems OK. Here We Go !! Full steam reverse. Bart (& Leap) start moving backwards. Managing to avoid green buoys on our Port side. After what seems like an age we ‘flick’ to forward motion & swing Bart & Leap through the biggest gap between our tittle green friends. Neutral being used as Bart’s stern is crossing their line, just incase there are any underwater connections lines or chains. Phew !! & ‘quickly’ turning Bart & co into the narrow (correct) lock approach path. The lock is opened in front of us by Miss/Mrs L.Keeper (who seems blissfully unaware of our very recent troubles just down from the lock). A few deep breaths are taken while Bart & Leap slowly ascend the 6’2″ Benson lock. Only a mile on & Bart pirouettes with Leap & lands beautifully in the bushes just round the corner from Shillingford Court.
Thursday 8th October A Gorgeous, warm Sunny day develops after the misty flows above the Thames waters have been wisped away.
Spiders webs look fantastic in the misty morn.
Bart almost whizzes round to face the right way again & soon after Shillingford Court Leap is making her escape, cutting her lines, But OH !! Leap has no forward motion. Try reverse. Quick. Stop. Neutral. Very unpleasant noise down there. Lines uncut. Bart hanging around mid channel, nothing coming from either direction. Skippet investigates in the dark waters below & behind Leap. Big lump of wood is extracted from the deep. Ideal for a winter fire.
Take Two. Leap now has forward & reverse propulsions & no nasties down there in the wet dark below. Line slipped, Leap leaps forward & Bart makes chase.
We make fine hay in the sunny blue of the day.
Thankfully, the lead boat in our tittle convoy gives Bart’s Skip clear navigation signals of directions. Spaghetti junction of the waterways won’t get the better of us mate !! Finally, after three exhausting locks and miles & miles of river we arrive in Abingdon & stake the mooring pins out on Andersen Island. We like it here. Abingdon made her mark on Bart’s crew in pre-Bart days. Lovely river side town, Great moorings on open space for doggies & crew alike & (if you have the time to spare) you are welcome to remain for five days free of charge. Highly Recommended is Abingdon. Caio for now. Arriva derci . coma stai.
Friday 9th October Both Crews enjoy a rest (mostly) day. A few tittle chores are completed. Diamonds are improved yet further by more coats of paint as required. Again I say. Highly Recommended is Abingdon. It gets even better. We are treated to a most delicious scrumptious meal in a wonderful little Italian eatery. 10/10. Belissimo. Caio for now. Arriva derci . coma stai.
Saturday 10th October Misty start to Abingdon morn.
Well. We are on ‘the home stretch’. As far as Leap of Faith & one careful owner is concerned anyway. A slow start to this morning. A restock of the larder & lines are slipped. We lock up three water chambers, all operated by wonderful lock keepers. Most (when locks have been manned (womanned)) have been good, except for a handful of not so cheery exceptions. A slow swim is enjoyed by both boats & their crews today, even though tis a tittle grey & cool out here.
We have an interesting time negotiating & avoiding maritime incidents (just) with a plethora of eight man/woman crewed rowing boats from the various local colleges as we approach the famous city that be Oxford. The wide long reach up to Folly Bridge was a stern test for any helmsman/woman in charge of a big, long heavy, agile (not) boat.
Amazing how blissfully unaware or concerned these (mostly) novice rowing teams seemed to be of their fragility.
Either just sitting there in front of you or crossing in front of you or just aimlessly wandering about near you, in groups. Scary !! We made it. Not sure how. More by our care than theirs.
We soon arrive at Leaps home berth. Bart pulls, very carefully & gingerly into the slipway, straight off the river & Leap’s crew run down to help secure the lines, once Leap is safe & secure. Chill. Relax. That was ‘Fun’.
Sunday 11th October Bart is still ‘safely’ in the watery part of the slipway. A sunny start to the day outside. Inside we are awakening to the sound of a steady weterly dribberly noise. Initially thinking sumit ‘is up’ outside, then realising dat noise is inside, to the rear of our Bart. Oh!! Dear !! Skip lifts rear floor boards to investigate likely culprit. Yes, the pressure release valve on the hot water calorifier is expressing milk. Sorry, expressing hot water. Bilge pump is turned on & overspill is magic clothed up. Calorifier valve is manipulated & sprayed with (hopefully) magic spray. Time will tell. The bed is reconstructed (hot water storage presides under this night time rest facility) & we are ready for our soft boiled eggs & soldiers. Sunday you know. Our companion of recent days comes round with some friends who are very impressed with our Bart. The time has come. We must leave our friend. It has been wonderful to help keep her & ‘Leap of Faith’ safe. Bart reverses carefully out of our overnight slipway & cruises onto & through, locking up three moor locks before change of course is ordered, to traverse Dukes Cut. Only a mile or so long, flowing Bart & crew to Dukes Cut lock which leads us all safely back onto the Oxford Canal where we ‘set sail’ for Base, ‘up north’ sumware. We k-no-w not where yet, but mayhaps will k-no-w when we happen to ‘fall upon’ said place. You are the weakest link. Good Night.
Black Bart has cruised from Brentford to & including Dukes Cut North of Oxford, swimming 105 miles (including five miles tidal) of the Fantastic River Thames ascending 36 Big locks. A Truly Wonderful, rewarding & interesting experience this last eleven days has been. Thankyou Leap & your lovely crew of one for allowing us this experience.