Friday, 29 June 2012

Lyra: Three Years as Ship's Cat

We brought Lyra home almost exactly three years ago today.

Named after the main character in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy, I've always thought that this passage from Northern Lights describes her perfectly!

"She could hardly take her eyes off Farder Coram's daemon, who was the most beautiful cat she'd ever seen. [...] 
When the sunlight touched her, it lit up more shades of
 tawny-brown-leaf-hazel-corn-gold-autumn-mahogany than Lyra could name."

twitter // facebook // email // follow // any questions?

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Balloon Landing

On Monday night we were still out of town, having a drink with John on Pippin, when we saw a hot air balloon out of the window. Now, John used to crew on these so we went out to have a closer look and hear all about how they work. The air was very still, and the balloon was dropping gradually. As it got closer we thought that maybe they were going to land in our field but they drifted over and landed next door, very gracefully. It was amazing to watch! John also posted some lovely pictures and a bit about his experiences ballooning.


twitter // facebook // email // follow // any questions?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Pyewacket Rides Again!

Pyewacket under tow in Saturday - photo Mareike
This post was a little delayed because I was waiting for some photos.

As I mentioned in my post about escaping the fair, James and Mark managed to get Pyewacket's Petter going again, and went for a hair raising cruise in strong winds on Saturday evening, followed on Sunday by James, Hannah and I taking Pyewacket all the way into Cambridge, leaving the Duck out of town.

Pyewacket's first cruise ! Mark does the hula to celebrate Photo: Mareike

It was a bit of a challenge. Although the engine does now work, it was still only possible to start it by hand. Mark was the only one able to turn it fast enough to start it and he was needed to steer Suzi Q, so it was just me, James and Hannah on Pyewacket. Additionally, for some reason, the engine refused to idle - if it dropped below a critical number of revs per minute it'd stopped entirely. Add to this a dodgy throttle controller which gradually slipped back towards idle if it was left alone, so needed a bit of string to hold it in place, and a gear lever which couldnt be moved into reverse unless said piece of string was removed, and you have some idea of the level of challenge involved! Mark set off behind us as rescue boat in case he was needed to restart the engine, and we headed into town, James at the wheel. 

Thankfully, James did a brilliant job, and we made it to Baits Bite lock and all the way into town without the engine stopping once, despite lots of rowers getting in the way. It was only the second time he'd wheel steered a boat as well. Hannah found the whole thing a bit stressful, but did enjoy steering her own boat for a while! We helped her moor up safely, said our goodbyes, and headed back out to the Duck to enjoy the rest of the weekend.

twitter // facebook // email // follow // any questions?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Braunston By Bike

At the weekend, we made our annual trip to the Braunston Historic Narrowboat Gathering. In previous years, we've taken the bus from Rugby and got a lift back on Sunday to the station since th buses inly run on Sundays. But this year we decided to be a bit more adventurous and independent.

We took our bikes on the X5 bus to Milton Keynes, where we got a train to Long Buckby. From there we cycled the 6 or so miles to Braunston, arriving halfway through the afternoon's parade. We located Chertsey and hopped aboard just as Simon (Moomin) was very competently negotiating the turn.

It was a nice, if quieter, festival than normal, with far fewer boats than last year. I think most had adjusted their cruising schedules to go to other festival since they were worried about water levels on the Grand Union. Willow (or to use his more dignified name Willoughby), the Chertseys' cat, stole the show and spent the weekend posing for everyone's photographs. The other star was the beautiful tug White Heather, which everyone coveted!

We decided to spend Saturday evening in the Boathouse pub rather than endure the ridiculously loud music in the Beer Tent, and enjoyed a nice meal there, having hitched a ride over there on Alan and Cath's Sickle

. Over the course of the weekend we caught up with various bloggers and CanalWorld forum members, including the Herbies, Halfie and Adam from Briar Rose. We were very comfortable accomodated in the hold of Chertsey, without needing to bring a tent or even an airbed - instead using some cushions that Sarah and Jim had acquired from Richard and Sue on Tawny Owl. This meant that we could travel very light - enabling us to cycle there.

On Sunday we cycled back to Rugby rather than Long Buckby because there were only rail replacement buses from Long Buckby. We arrived in Rugby with plenty of time to spare and had dinner in Milton Keynes while waiting for our X5 bus back. However, the bus was full of bikes already, so we had to hope that the next one would take them, spending a worrying hour waiting and formulating plans for how to get back if the last bus had no room for the bikes! Luckily the hold was empty so there was no problem and we arrived back, bikes and all, without a problem.

p.s sorry for the lack of photos, I only had my phone and was saving it to use as a GPS to get us back to Rugby! There are however, loads of beautiful photos of the weekend elsewhere, both by Tim and Peter.

And here are a couple of lovely ones of Willow taken by cheiftiff on CWDF

twitter // facebook // email // follow // any questions?

Friday, 22 June 2012

Fleeing the Fair

Last weekend, we went boating! Midsummer Fair is in town, so we set of with some friends in a little convoy of boats. There was us on the Duck, towing Hannah's boat Pyewacket, and Mark following on Suzi Q.  We made quite a sight, and getting into the lock was a bit of a challenge! Pyewacket is an old Merchant Navy lifeboat - a lovely, quirky boat known by many as the 'wonky boat'!

First we stopped off at the Bridge pub for a drink and some chips, before setting off again for the GOBA moorings above Bottisham Lock.

We had a lovely picnic, flew kites, and relaxed by the river. It was quite idyllic, if a bit windy!

In the evening, the boys had a go at getting Pyewacket's engine going - it had a broken fuel line, but Hannah had the part to fix it with. It's an old Petter, and doesn't have a starter motor, so needed to be hand started! Eventually, they managed to get it going again. It hadn't been run for two years! It was a bit too windy really, but they took it out for a hair raising run none the less! I'll update with some photos if I can get hold of some.

twitter // facebook // email // follow // any questions?

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Baking... in France! Apricot Chocolate Brioche Pudding

While we were away in France, my little sister and I got increasingly more adventurous with our cooking! On my last night, we marked the occasion with an Apricot and Chocolate Brioche Pudding which was easy to make and quite delicious - a perfect summer dessert for when it's not quite as sunny out as it could be and you would like some sunshine in your pudding, but with a bit of warmth!


8 stale mini chocolate chip brioche
Fresh, ripe apricots, sliced thinly
2 eggs,
300ml milk (or 150ml milk and 150ml single cream)
150g sugar 
tsp vanilla essence


Slice the brioche into strips and layer up, alternating with layers of sliced apricots.
Mix up the eggs, sugar, vanilla and milk (and cream). Heat gently until just simmering, then pour over the brioche and apricots. Bake for 30 mins until golden brown on top.

twitter // facebook // email // follow // any questions?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A Few Days in France

Last week I got back from a lovely week in France, with my dad, my littlest sister and her boyfriend. We had the run of my dad's friend's holiday cottage in exchange for my dad's transporting a dinghy (on a trailer) to the house for them. The cottage was on the south coast of Brittany, in the Gulf of Morbihan.

We had a lovely time, despite changeable weather, mostly eating and relaxing as well as a bit of exploring of the local area. We found a WW2 gun emplacement bunker which we investigated with torches.(I studied these fortifications fro my Architecture dissertation so I am a bit geeky about them!) James would have really enjoyed it too but alas he had to stay at home and work.  

I came back early to attend James's grandmother's funeral, but that did at least mean I got to fly back, and have a little adventure, getting the train across Brittany at 5 in the morning to catch the plane!

Here are a few photos:

twitter // facebook // email // follow // any questions?

Monday, 18 June 2012

BCN Challenge 2012

Ack! I am so behind with blogging! But I am resolved to catch up, beginning with the BCN Challenge. Andy, Jim and Karen have already written about it on their blogs.

This year's BCN Challenge attempt was less last minute than last year's, and we had the boat booked for the weekend some months in advance. We were all set to take Yeoford out, but when we arrived, we found that Yeoford's gearbox had packed up and we were to be taking Collingwood out instead, complete with alternative skipper, Graham, who lives in Collingwood's back cabin. 

The interior was much the same as Yeoford, however, so there was no problem with swapping boats.

Collingwood is an Admiral Class boat, one of a fleet built for BW in the twilight years of canal carrying (late 50s and early 60s), as a last ditch attempt to make it commercially viable. They could carry more cargo and their hulls were designed to cope better with the increasingly silted up canals. These boats also had 'blue top' instead of fabric cloths to cover their holds - modular glass fibre lids which linked together and were supposedly quicker to use. {EDIT- Thanks Sarah!} Actually, the Admirals had a hoop system for covering the hold (rather than blue top) originally, although Collingwood's had blue top for many years now.

As well as a different boat, we had quite a different crew line-up to last year. Most of the YWBS lot were unavailable, so in fact only 4 of us who competed last year were in this year's crew: that's me, James, Sarah and Mikey. In addition, we had bloggers Karen and Ian from NB Tacet, as well as Jim from Starcross, Nick and Matt, coastal boaters from the South Coast who heard about the event on Twitter, two of our friends from Cambridge, Freya and Will, neither of whom had been narrowboating before, and latecomer David, who was to be competing on a friend's boat, but ended up joining our team instead. Completing the line-up was Jumble, Ian and Karen's lovable dog. So, most of us had never met before! But it was a great bunch of people and somehow worked really well!

Last year, we has moored in Gas Street Basin but had found it very noisy. So, this year, we moved the boat around to the top of Farmers Bridge on Friday night, ready for teh off on Saturday morning. After a fairly decent night's sleep we set off apace down Farmer's Bridge and Ashted locks, then up towards the Tame Valley via Garrison Locks (this year, thanks to us, they are included in the Challenge).

Up Perry Bar (the New Thirteen) and Rushall (Ganseys), making great time through all 48 locks! I designated myself official photographer, since we had plenty to work the locks, but without Tim or Rebekah's skill, we won't have quite as well documented a weekend as we did last time!

We were then on the Wyrley and Essington (aka the Curly Wyrley), and Sarah gave us all one of the sweets of the same name to celebrate! It was on this stretch that we nearly quite literally bumped into Andy on Wandrin' Bark!

Mostly, the rain held off, and we made good time, heading up the Anglesey Branch and the Cannock Extension before tying up for the night on Pelsall Common. We made dinner as we cruised along - a big chili with rice and nachos which was gobbled up very quickly, with hardly any left for Jumble! We went to bed after a quick nightcap at the Fingerpost. 

On Sunday, we awoke and set off at 4:30am in pouring rain which didn't let up all day. Luckily we were mostly on the level and so a few hardy souls took turns steering, while the rest of us ensured that those on the stern were well supplied with cake and tea! David conjured up a wonderful breakfast on the somewhat rickety gas stove!

We stopped briefly in Broad Street Basin in Wolverhampton, where we said goodbye to Mikey and Freya, then we had to get back to Gas Street, rather than finishing in Walsall Town Basin with the rest. We took a little detour to go down Brades staircase locks, then the boys on the stern prevented us from feeling guilty for staying in the dry by proceeding to do both the Icknield Port Loop and the Oozels Street loop on the way back, despite the weather! We thought about going to Walksall to see the other competitors but were so tired that we decided to head home straight away. After all, I did have to pack for a week in France and leave the next day!

Thanks to all who joined us, for a fun weekend despite the weather!

More (!) photos here.

twitter // facebook // email // follow // any questions?