Monthly Archives: April 2014

Head of the Cam 2014

James’s rowing club, Chesterton, organises the Head of the Cam race every year. This year, James bagged the position of marshal at Green dragon bridge, so that he could carry out his duties from Willow’s cabin top! We moved Willow down river to the bridge first thing Saturday morning. The race went well, and we supplied cold marshals with tea and bacon butties, as well as allowing them to use Willow’s facilities.


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HNBC Foxton Easter Boat Gathering

We had originally hoped to be able to bring Willow to this gathering but alas thanks to the late Easter the dates didn’t work out: James needed to be back at work on the 22nd. So we went by car instead.

We arrived on Saturday just in time to go parading on the boat where we’d be staying the night: Richard’s converted BCN dayboat Squire, built in 1898.


After the parade, we headed over to the village hall where the weekend’s events were based. We were on bar duty from 3-5pm, serving real ale (Langton’s Inclined Plane) and popcorn to people who’d come to watch films about historic boats in the village hall.

In the evening after there were burgers and chips served, and a musical evening, with many boaters singing and playing instruments, including bloggers Neil and Kath from Herbie and Halfie. Neil and Kath’s version of Boots of Spanish Leather brought tears to my eyes, and Neil’s ‘Bacon and Eggs’ song, a musical rendition of A.P Herbert’s 1931 poem, brought the house down.

This last verse gives a flavour and the full brilliant poem can be found here.

“Oh breakfast! Oh breakfast! The meal of my heart
Bring porridge, bring sausage, bring fish for a start
Bring kidneys and mushrooms and partridges legs
But let the foundation be bacon and eggs”

We slept well in Squire’s beautiful new back cabin, noting ideas for when we get Willow‘s back cabin fitted. A tiny sink in the corner seemed a particularly good idea. We wandered up to the cafe at the locks, stopping numerous times to catch up with boater friends, and on the way back popped in to Jubilee to see the “Halfies”, John and Jan. Then it was time for the “tat auction” – lots of boaty bits and comedy items for auction amid much cheerful banter. We sucessfully offloaded the lump of clunch we’d acquired for 10p at the last HNBC auction at Droitwich, as well as a few other bits and pieces. We bought a semi rotary hand pump for £5.50, of the type which Willow used to have for emptying the ballast tank under the back cabin floor, a nice green cast iron trivet for £1.50, and a willow pattern plate for 50p.

The evening’s entertainment was in the form of a waterways quiz. We haven’t done a lot of travelling of the more far flung waterways, but were able to answer a few questions for our team, which thanks to the vast knowledge of some of our members, came 4th overall. There was even a question about Cambridge!

We drove home afterwards, as we had lots to do on Monday, but it was a great weekend. Many thanks to those who organised it. We hope we can bring Willow to the next one!

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Fitout 50: Carpet and a virtual tour

When we got back from our boat delivery trip, we spent a day just unpacking and relaxing after what was quite a tiring trip! But then we wanted to get on with things on Willow, beginning with the bedroom floor which was just bare ply. We chose a dark grey carpet and decided to go with tiles instead of one complicated shaped piece.


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We then had a massive sort out sparked by a desire to rearrange the living room furniture to its “summer arrangement” i.e everything is no longer quite as close to the woodburner as it was, leaving more space. We also took the woodburner apart inside and gave it a good clean out with the vacuum cleaner. In the way of things with boats, this also meant that in order to use the big 1600W vacuum cleaner we needed to fix the generator – the starting cord had snapped and needed replacing. After several abortive attempts to remove the casing we took it to a chap in Mildenhall (15 miles away) – Pete of PetePower, who fixed it while we waited, and gave the whole thing a once over, including blasting the contacts with compressed air to clean then off. Highly recommend his service.

While it was looking all tidy (well more so than normal anyway, I thought I’d take a few pictures of the inside, as I realise I often blog little details of what our home is like inside, but you probably don’t have a sense of the whole thing if you’ve not visited.

So here’s a little virtual tour of Willow (not including the engine room, which is still just full of junk!) There are lots of trims and panelling and painting and things to finish but the important bits are all in place now, I think.

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Loldia’s Return Day 8: Salter’s Lode to Cambridge

15th April
32 miles
4 locks

The Salter’s Lode lockie came out at about 9am to help us check if Loldia would fit. Having found that yes, she would, just, I called Ian, her owner to let him know, and suggested that he meet us at Littleport to take his own boat back to Cambridge. It took us longer than we’s hoped to get through the lock, and it was a tight squeeze – the walkway across the gates was very close to snagging the tiller, but we made it.

We got to Littleport at about 12 noon, an hour after I’d originally said we’d get there – luckily I’d suggested that Ian bring a book! We swung in and picked him up, and so finally he was at the tiller of his own boat!

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It was a lovely sunny day and a great run back into Cambridge, through Bottisham and Baits Bite to moor up in town at 6:30pm or so. A great trip, and wonderful that Loldia is now on her Cambridge mooring!

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Loldia’s Return Day 7: Peterborough to Salters Lode

14th April
29 miles
3 locks

We were booked through Stanground Lock onto the Middle Level at 10:30 to give us time to go to Asda and pump out before we set off. The pump out is also free in Peterborough like it is in Ely. Just along from the pump out and water is a boat which drifted over the bank during the flooding and thankfully didn’t sink when the water went back down but has been left high and dry! At least its near the water point!


I think it is still lived on.

Once through Stanground the next stop was Ashline lock in Whittlesey. Then through March where we stopped to check the weedhatch before carrying on to Marmont Priory. Now you’re supposed to call ahead but Maureen’s phone was broken so she didn’t know we were coming. We had a long wait to make sure there was no one coming down before eventually locking through. Sadly we’d just missed the wonderful display of daffodils through Upwell and Outwell and then it was on to Salter’s Lode.

Loldia is 62ft, the very upper limit of being able to fit through the lock without needing to go through on the level tide. Paul, the lockie had said we may have trouble-depending on whether the boat is a “long 62ft” or a “short 62ft”!  When we arrived we’d hoped to test the fit but Paul was out. We sat down to a dinner of chili and cheesy nachos then it was time for bed. We were booked through (if we fit) at 9.30 am and all being well would hand the boat over to her owner the next day!


Waiting for Marmont Priory lock.

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Loldia’s Return Day 6: Islip to Peterborough

13th April
35 miles
15 locks

The day dawned beautifully and the first task of the day was to fill the diesel tank. We’d been in touch with Alan from fuel boat Bletchley (an unconverted big Woolwich) who sells coal and diesel up and down the Nene.

(If you want very reasonably priced -92p/l last week- diesel on the Nene,
Alan Buckle trades as ANA Fuels and can be contacted at 07856 686363. Or see Bletchley’s Facebook Page. )


He was tied up above Upper Barnwell lock and we came alongside to fill Loldia’s tank. Alan also gave us a box of fresh eggs from the hens on the moorings there. Very tasty they were too!


On our way again towards Peterborough we saw our neighbours on nb Eleanor at Cotterstock lock. They’re off for a summer of boating!

Water Newton lock was looking particularly pretty. It’s one of the lovliest locks on the Nene I think.



By the early evening we were in Peterborough, and decided to stop at the rowing lake moorings. We tied up next to another boat and went to have dinner in the pub overlooking the moorings. There were some kids sitting drinking and chatting but we weren’t worried, they seemed friendly enough. However after a roast dinner (two for £9.99!) we got back to the boat to find they’d lit a bonfire very close to the boat and were being generally high spirited and noisy. The other boat was just leaving too. So we set off in the dark to the embankment in town where finally found a bit of peace and quiet!

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Loldia’s Return Day 5: Northampton to Islip

12th April
26 miles
21 locks

Our first day on the River Nene. We did the first three locks through Northampton alone but at Weston Favell we met up with nb On Schedule who are Canal World forum members. Their boat was very quick and we were soon flying down the Nene to Wellingborough. It was cold and grey but it was good to be getting ahead.  On Schedule stopped at Wellingborough but we carried on. The weather improved and we enjoyed a beautiful late afternoon and evening on the river.

We decided that CHIPS were in order, remembering our first trip on the Nene with Jim on Warrior when we were foiled in our search for chips! Mooring at the Islip Sailing Club allowed easy access to the towb of Thrapston where we picked up some chips and ate them back on Loldia. A good day’s boating but we didn’t feel worn out, having tied up at about 6pm.


Cruising under the A14 bridge.

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Loldia’s Return Day 4: Yelvertoft to Northampton Marina

11th April
24 miles
31 locks

We were through Crick tunnel early and the first boat down Watford locks so no queue whatsoever. Just before Norton Junction we picked up a boat with whom we would share the Buckby flight and we made good progress down the locks to Whilton. Then it was the busy lock free stretch of the Grand Union to Gayton.

We made it to the top of the Rothersthorpe flight at about 3.30, and so there was plenty of time to get to the bottom at a reasonable hour. I called up Northampton Marina and arranged to stay the night there. Melaleuca was already tied up on a pontoon at the marina.

Thanks to the help of a boater called Tim, who was moored near Gayton and waiting to help a friend up the locks, we fair flew down the flight. It was a beautiful evening and the only trouble we had was a drained pound between locks 3 and 4. But we soon had it filled and were on our way. It wasn’t too weed either.



Northampton Marina was a great place to stay and we’ll certainly try to organise future trips to break there. It costs £10 /night but you get access to wifi, electric hookup, water, showers and laundry for that, as well as the security of a pontoon mooring and a gated compound. Plus the Malt Shovel, a great pub, is just a few minutes away. We spent the evening there with the crew of Melaleuca and then retired to bed.


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Loldia’s Return Day 3: Newton Harcourt to Yelvertoft

10 th April
24 miles
15 locks

The day started well with a run of 5 locks up towards Foxton in glorious morning sunlight.



Then it was through Sapperton tunnel and it was after than when  James turned the bilge pump on and it didn’t stop pumping that we realised something was up! The weedhatch gaskets were failing and letting in rather too much water. (Who wants one of these newfangled contraptions anyway? Willow doesn’t have one as they weren’t invented in 1935!)

So we stopped just beyond Debdale and had a look. The gaskets were made of that grey foam pipe lagging you get in DIY stores (which are perfect for sword fights in the aisles!) One edge had no gasket at all so we cut a strip off one of the rubber doormats and used that but it still leaked a bit. We were nearly at Foxton so we resolved to head up the flight and have another look once we were through.

We only had half an hour to wait before we were able to start up Foxton locks, just enough time to pop into the shop for bacon and jaffa cakes.

Once up the flight we moored and had another go. This time we removed the old gasket, sanded it and stuck on new door mat rubber all the way round, using a tube of roofing mastic we found in a cupboard. This helped but water was still getting forced in. Round a few corners we stopped again, adding a second layer of rubber and some of the grey lagging we’d stripped off back in. Thankfully this seemed to do the trick. Just as we were testing it for a final time, who should come round the corner but John (Halfie) and Jan on Jubilee! They stopped next to us and we had a look around their lovely boat and a catch up before heading off, hoping that the seal would hold.

Thankfully it did as we wanted to get as far as possible- we’d set ourselves another deadline because our friends on Melaleuca were going to be stopping the following night in Northampton Marina and we wanted to be able to join them there. This meant we needed to be down the Watford staircase,  along the Grand Union, down Buckby and the Northampton flight the next day.

We stopped when it got dark, at Yelvertoft, close to where we’d stopped when coming this way with Willow last year ready to get started early the next day.

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Loldia’s Return Day 2: Barrow on Soar to Newton Harcourt

9th April
21 miles
28 locks
River Soar, Leicester Cut

Today we had a deadline. The Canal and Rivers Trust were carrying out maintenance work on a lock south of Leicester and if we didn’t get through it we’d be stuck twiddling our thumbs for a day waiting for it to open.

Firstly though we had to fill up with water and thankfully there was a tap at Barrow Boats just round the corner from where we set off. Tank full, we carried on. It was a beautiful day and the Soar was looking fabulous. We like the Soar, it reminds us of the best bits of the Nene with none of the awful Nene locks!


We were very fortunate that through Leicester we had a lockwheeler, a lovely lady called Maggie who I know from a group on Facebook called Women of the Cut. She heard we were on out way through and offered to meet us at Birstall Lock and set ahead on her bike all the way to Gee’s lock beyond the city! From Birstall through to the centre we shared locks with another lady from the same group, Yvonne! It was a godsend to be able to cruise straight in to all the locks and I doubt we’d have made it through the stoppage in daylight without her. Thanks Maggie!

We were lucky not to pick up anything nasty on the propeller blades through Leicester and so we were soon out of the city and off into the country side. We said bye to Maggie as we neared where she lived and carried on. We had a ‘good road’ – all the locks were in our favour, and also got help from a CRT volunteer at one of them.

As the sun began to dip below the horizon, we tied up above the stoppage at lock 23 on a mooring with spectacular views over rolling fields and hedgerows gently sloping down towards the ancient church at  Wistow.


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