Monthly Archives: February 2014

Thea Update

Today Thea goes to the vet to have her second set of jabs. She’s settling in well. There’s a lot to get used to, what with a new environment, strange noises (engine, rowers, swans pecking at weed, stove pipes bubbling etc) let alone getting used to Lyra. The two have now met, and are doing as well as can be expected – they’ve not fought but Lyra has asserted her dominance with some grumpy huffs and low yowls. They keep to themselves at the moment, with Thea occupying the bathroom and bedroom and Lyra having the rest of the boat. When Thea is with us in the bedroom, she’s very sweet and affectionate. snuggling up at our feet most nights. I’ve ordered some Feliway (artificial cat pheromone diffuser) which has come recommended as a cat de-stresser but it’s not arrived yet annoyingly.

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Thea also needed her own ticker, to match Lyra’s. See the side bar.

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Getting ahead

When we bought Willow it came with a beautiful car head lamp which Simon had bought to wire in as a tunnel/ head light. So far we’d not used it, relying on a 240v flood light for night boating.
During the week, James had a bracket made up for it by the ever useful Mackays metal-work shop. It will be demountable because the light is very shiny and nickable.

Today he worked out the wiring for it and connected it up temporarily- it’s a little complicated as it’s an auto headlight. It can be dimmed and so it has 4 wires coming out of it. But weve worked them out now so we can dim the lights when approaching another boat in a tunnel!



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Feeling blue

In light of the fact that we often lend out mooring pins to stricken boats, we decided to paint all of our “bank furniture” the same colour as Willow.



Hopefully this will mean we are more likely to get them back!

The fence feet are now serving as a useful step up to the high fore end, and we’ve cleared the mud from the bank as well as dug some bricks in to ease access down the slippery bank.

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Birmingham Trip

James’s Christmas present from me was a pair of tickets to see the fantastic Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, prompting us to spend a couple of days in the city.

Naturally, James having just passed his test, we drove, stopping at the Hatton flight on the way for tea.


Sadly we didn’t see any boats passing through but it was a nice spot, and we’d not been since we took Lucky Duck that way in 2008!

Our hotel was a Travelodge in central Birmingham, and was just £35 for the night (parking an extra £5). I’d chosen it partly for the price but also for its proximity to the Farmer’s Bridge flight, and it turned out that our window overlooked the locks, once you looked beyond the rough ground which will shortly be a further wing of the hotel.


Once we’d checked in we went for a stroll around the city. We wanted to visit Houben’s newly opened Library of Birmingham, and it didn’t disappoint. What an amazing building.






We had dinner at a place called Urban Pie, close to the Bullring, where we filled up on pie, mash and gravy. It was excellent, and good value. Then it was back to our hotel to get changed for the evening show.

The Ukulele Orchestra were brilliant, performing their own uniquely witty take on classical and popular music. The highlight was their hilarious version of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, and we enjoyed every minute!

The next day, once we’d checked out and left our bags in the car we headed over towards Gas Street Basin for a cooked breakfast on narrowboat George.


Suitably fortified, we walked to Snow Hill station where we got a tram and a train out to Langley Green. We wanted to go for a walk along a bit of the BCN we’d not done before, and so armed with our Pearson’s Canal Companion we set off up to Titford Pools and then down the flight (known as “The Crow”). It’s been suggested that we may struggle to get up these locks in Willow, an additional reason to visit by foot.



Our walk started off on glorious sunshine, as we explored this lesser known part of the BCN. Despite its proximity to industrial estates and the M5, this is a really lovely canal, lined with trees and populated with herons and geese. At the bottom of the flight the cut winds its way dramatically under the M5, making for an interesting  walk past old and new feats of engineering.



At Spon Lane we had the choice to double back to Sandwell and Dudley station or continue on to Smethwick Rolfe Street, where we arrived on a rainy day nearly 6 yeau ago to view a little boat called Lucky Duck. We decided on the latter. Our route took us along the stretch we’d taken the Duck out on a test cruise, so we reminisced about that day and how far we’ve come since then as we walked along the Old Main Line.



At Smethwick Pump House it was time to leave the cut and get the train back to New Street and collect our car for the journey back. A great couple of days.

Categories: Out and About, Travels | 2 Comments

Happy Birthday Willow

Willow was first health registered in Gloucester on the 18th February 1935, making it 79 years young today! This is not the day Willow was launched, but it’s the very earliest record that exists for the boat that we’ve found, and had to be done before the boat was allowed to actually work. It would be good to find the records for the builder, Charles Hill, to find out when the boat was completed but our book on the shipbuilder only lists the year not the date.

Still, it was an excuse for a little party on board for a few friends, (at one point we had about 17 people on board!) with a cake, candles and singing happy birthday! We’ll have to throw a more extravagant one next year!


P.S it was a double celebration as James also passed his driving test today!

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Introducing Thea

As soon as we bought our full length boat we began to think about getting another cat. But we needed to wait until the boat was more complete. A few months ago we started to look more seriously. But none of the cats we met were right. We were refused one lovely silver tabby from the Cats Protection because they didn’t like the idea of two cats on a boat near “all the homeless people and the Staffies”- a somewhat prejudiced view of river life! I’d almost given up when I happened on the profile of “Nala” at the Blue Cross where we got Lyra. Young (about 1 and a half) and very pretty, she was used to other cats, so I went to visit her. She is beautiful, with pale blue eyes and what looks like some tabby point Burmese in her family but she’s a moggy none the less. She was such a friendly affectionate little thing when i met her that I reserved her there and then. Having had a cat from them before they didn’t ask for a home visit, but she needed to be neutered.

During the week we swapped the cats’ bedding to introduce them to each others’ scents. Today we brought our new ship’s cat home. She’s now called Thea, after another Grand Union butty (Lyra is a Small Northwich, whereas Thea is a Middle Northwich).

The two cats have not yet met, just sniffed and hissed at each other under the bathroom door. Thea is living in the bedroom and bathroom for now, whilst Lyra has the rest of the boat. We’ll try to keep them apart for a good few more days before gradually setting up encounters. Even through the door grille Lyra asserted that she’s the boss and Thea acted submissively in response. Lyra didn’t seem too perturbed and later on came up to the door curiously. Thea had retreated under our bed by then but has now grown a little bolder and is happily sleeping curled up and purring between us.

Fingers crossed that with careful supervision they will get on eventually!




Thea dozing off on the cross bed

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Snail Mail

A couple of days ago I received some nice parcels in the post – a friend of ours, Rebekah, had sent us some lovely old strip maps of the River Ouse and tributaries. I’m struggling to date them, because they are post decimalisation  (75p) and show the “New” Elizabeth Way Road bridge, which was built in 1971, but still show the chain ferry at the Plough in Fen Ditton, which sank in 1961. So rough guess is a slightly inaccurate map from the early 70s.

The other package was our National Historic Ships annual report and calendar – very nicely produced and a good way of presenting their annual report. As a bonus, the October photo is Sarah‘s great shot of Walton‘s (re)launch.

Nothing beats good old snail mail sometimes!

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Going Down

Thankfully, the Cam is now mostly back to normal. It’s still high but at the moment it’s on its way down. River levels going down can be a danger of its own though, as a neighbour’ found out. His boat had no flood poles in, had drifted over the bank and caught on the concrete as the river went down and was listing dangerously. It took eight people pushing it, but finally we floated it again.

We decided to invest in some 5ft scaffolding poles from Mackays poles to bang into the bank, as well as our long pins and ground anchor. Now, we are happy that we can cope with anything, even if it gets as high as it did in 2001!

Pictures from this morning

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Going Up

Last weekend, yesterday, and today. Thankfully we are on our way down now, level slowly dropping.




Two more boat rescues were needed today, but none so dramatic as last night. Now things have settled down a bit, we’re hoping for a quieter night tonight!

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Water, water, everywhere

Phew, finally got time to sit down and write this, it’s been a bit of an eventful day. Yesterday, the Cam began to rise again, and today it rose to the highest it has been this year. When I left for work on Friday morning I was still just about able to step down on to the concrete bank, but I slackened the lines just in case it rose more, wearing wellies to work just in case. When I came home it had indeed risen, and it was glad of the wellies! I was able to climb on and got out the plank which had come with the boat. It was just about long enough, but due to the sheer height of our fore end from the bank it was at quite a steep angle. So we went to B&Q that evening and bought a longer decking plank, and some additional pieces to strengthen it. With a hole drilled and a rope attaching it to one of the old loops used to cloth up the hold, it is pretty secure. We went for a late night walk to check neighbours’ boats and bashed in a few pins further.

On Saturday morning we woke early to check the river conditions and James decided to cancel his outing as the stream was very fast and the river still high. By now, it was (and has remained round about) three feet higher than normal. We saw a message online from a rower saying that there was a narrowboat loose from its mooring so we went out to investigate. NB Rebecca had pulled her pins in the night, and come to rest on the opposite bank, well over the concrete, putting it at risk of grounding and even sinking if the water dropped. The owner was away, but able to come down to the river, arriving just as we had secured it safely, with help from our neighbour Chris, and some rowers. James helped her bring the boat over the other side, and we secured it as best we could.



The problem was that the boat had come from the canals, where smaller pins are normal as there are rarely dangerous conditions. However, they just weren’t big enough for a river situation. Her owner had to go out for the day, so we went over to Mackays to buy her some 4ft scaffolding poles, cut on a slant at one end to ease bashing them in, to hold the boat more securely. We also got their metalwork shop to cut a couple of smaller lengths for us- we had a plan to make getting on and off our boat a bit easier. Ages ago, John Pippin had given us a couple of those fence weights for use in supporting RSJs when extracting Friendly Fox’s engine, but we’d kept them in the spirit of “that’ll come in handy one day” as they didn’t take up too much garage space. Well, they did. We took them home on the trolley (Jasper the Fforde is on holiday for the weekend, as a friend needed to borrow him), and put them on the bank, with the Mackays scaff poles through the holes. Then the plank could be raised up on the bank end making it far less steep to climb. Once Rebecca’s new poles were in and secure, we were finally able to sit down and have a nice cup of tea!


In the afternoon, we got on with finishing those door frames. They’re looking good and I’ll do a separate post for them. James was just finishing a bit of woodwork, and I had just turned on the iPad to blog about our day when…


Biggest bang I’d heard in a while….

We and outside, and our neighbour’s 45′ boat, Suzie Q had come loose, hit our fore end, and was moving past at a rate of knots in the stream…..

I just managed to grab a loose rope as it passed but there was nothing to tie it onto and I couldn’t hold it. It looked like the other boat would be swept away, when all of a sudden, its stern rope, with pin still attached, snagged on something underwater. It was hooked onto the small lip at the bottom of our stem post, where the baseplate projects forwards. The whole boat heeled over and crashed into our side, but it mercifully came to a stop. We had considered getting that lip removed when it was out the water next, too! This gave us a few precious minutes to grab a spare rope and tie Suzie’s stern dolly on to our fore end T stud.

Then it was a case of getting another rope onto it, and slowly moving it forwards and back into position and repinning it. Our neighbours, having just returned via rescuing another boat, helped us get it safely back into its mooring. It had come loose despite our checks because the strong winds had been tugging at the pins and the repeated shocks had loosened them. We always have a spring line in to take up this shock and prevent this. We put in another pin for Suzie Q and attached it’s mid rope as a spring.

Now, just as I am about to hit Publish, James has had a call from another boater wanting help, so he and Chris have gone over with what spare pins and rope they can find, to see if they can do anything…

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