Sunday, 30 December 2012

Out of Reach

Bottisham - Upware - Cambridge

13 miles

We got back to the boat a couple of days ago, having left it at a secure mooring whilst we had our Christmas trip to see our families. Once we were back, we quickly refilled the water system (having drained it down whilst we were away to prevent frost damage) and arranged to have Lyra returned to us from the cattery.

After spending an afternoon with John aboard Pippin, when we went to get diesel from a very-nearly-flooded Jones boatyard in St Ives by car, provisions, and the obligatory visit to Emmaus, we set off this morning to try and traverse the navigable lodes.

If the water rises two more inches, the carpark and chandlery will flood.

There are three dead-straight man-made lodes which form drainage channels, all of them accessed from a double guillotine gate lock at Upware, which can take boats up to 14' by 62'. They branch off one from the other to the nature reserve at Wicken Fen (where we went camping), and the villages of Burwell, and Reach.

It was quite windy, and there was a fair stream on the river, so we made good time to the lock at Upware.

However, our cruise plans were scuppered by the EA's pumping station. The great, 2' diameter outlets were pouring out water pumped up from the lodes, which were at a lower level than the river, and the red light was illuminated at the lock, forbidding us from entering. That's the perils of boating on what's primarily a system for land drainage!

Illuminated red light and official notice on the pump house.

A bit disappointed, we winded with less than the usual amount of elegance in the 50' lock channel- the very strongest flow was against the stern of the boat and I had to force it around with the engine, rather than using the flow to the advantage, so as not to clout the moored plastic cruiser we were heading towards- we set off back to town and our home mooring.

Progress upstream back to Cambridge was very slow. There was a good 4-5kph stream running from all the rain we'd had, a bit faster in the narrower places, and we managed to make a speed barely above walking pace, with the engine at 2,400rpm - our fastest economical cruising speed, which normally gives a speed of 9-10kph. Frustrating, but at least we were moving. The hire-boat sized skin tank put on by Fox Boats those years ago proved its worth, with us able to keep up this high load on the engine with no movement on the temperature gauge and no sign of overheating.

On the way back, we passed an eight from our rival boat club, X-Press BC. They were rowing to Ely- but I'm not sure if they were brave (or stupid) enough to row to Ely and back in a day as I have with my club! Certainly we've not seen their boat return into town yet.

Flooded fields behind the towpath.

Finally we made it back and moored up happily in our usual space.

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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Devon Floods

We took the train down to my hometown of Exeter on Friday night. Amid all the disruption we were surprised to find that our train departed Paddington exactly on time.

We had booked seats in the Entertainment carriage, complete with TVs in the backs of the seats, for no extra charge.

We arrived in Exeter at 10:30pm and were soon at my mum's house, with mugs of tea. 

On Saturday morning we looked out of the windows (my mum's house overlooks the River Exe) to see that the river had risen. Watching the news, it seemed that all trains to the South West were cancelled. We went for a walk to look at the river.

We trust that the Duck is still safe on its mooring in the Fens!

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Friday, 21 December 2012

Winter Solstice

Fen sunrise

So, today is the shortest day, the longest night. Time to light candles and fires, and snuggle up in cosy blankets with mugs of hot chocolate! But from here on in each day will be a little brighter and longer - a cheering thought, especially for our solar panel! 

Happy Solstice to you all

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

My Favourite Finds v.24: The Re-Cycling Shelf

I've mentioned the Recycling Shelf on Aylestone Road before, but it really came up trumps yesterday! I was with another of the Camboaters committee, having been to buy food for our boaters party tonight, and we passed the niche in the wall with the shelf in it. Leaning against it was a mens bicycle, looking a bit forlorn but full of potential with a nice orangey bronze frame and drop handlebars. James has been hankering after a "fixie" bike for some time and so, with this frame to work on, I thought, he will be able to do it up as he likes. I wheeled it home to leave on the boat as a surprise for when he got home.

I did a little research into the brand, Sun. Based in Aston, Birmingham, it has not made a bicycle since 1961. The company was taken over by Raleigh, which did actually continue to produce Sun branded bikes for a while afterwards. Looking at the graphics on the frame, I reckon this one was produced in the Raleigh era.

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Monday, 17 December 2012

Brummie Weekend

On Saturday afternoon, we went to Birmingham to meet up with our friends from what has previously been known as the Young Working Boaters Society, to think about the future of the club. It was a really good meeting and although there is a lot of detail still to work out, we are feeling really positive about it.  Basically YWBS has always just been a social group, but we want it to be something more. To find a way to make it a club which actively tries to get more young people involved in boating and the canals, not just in historic boats. And so the Young Waterways and Boating Society was born, and we have some exciting plans for 2013. More will follow, but watch this space!

After the meeting, we went out for a curry and a drink. The centre of Birmingham on a Saturday night is an experience not to be forgotten, but we had fun, and rolled into the back cabins of Lamprey and Victoria at about 1am. James and I shared the cross bed in Lamprey - it is titchy! We aren't tall, but only I actually fit. James was a tad too long for it. I thought it was delightfully cosy and had a lovely night's sleep! 

In the morning we set off to help Victoria down Farmer's Bridge and Aston locks. With four of us, we whizzed down the locks and were at Aston lock 8 in under two hours.

Victoria, now a coal boat, was fully loaded, resulting in some interesting effects as it came into some of the locks (hope this video works!)

Then we walked back up the locks (remarkably quicker than we came down!) to meet the others on Lamprey and head to the Black Country Living Museum along the Old Main Line. It was a lovely day and a nice cruise through the BCN. We made it to the BCLM in a record two and a half hours. just in time to wangle entry into the museum (the canal gates were locked) and dash up to the top of the village for some delicious fish and chips, cooked the traditional way in beef dripping. Yum!

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Thursday, 13 December 2012

A cold and frosty morning

It was -5 this morning, but with the stove going, we were nice and warm. Outside, the Common sparkled with a layer of hoar frost and it was quite beautiful.

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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Meet the Boaters 4 - Lucy

This is a new series I've started on the blog - a chance to meet some of  the diverse bunch of people who live on boats on the canals and rivers. I've asked them all to answer a few questions about themselves and their life afloat!

Meet Lucy, who tweets as @narrowboatlucy

A bit about me:
I live onboard our 1978 Hancock & Lane narrowboat Kingfisher with my husband and our cat. We live on a residential mooring but try to get away when work permits. My favourite cruise to date was the Thames ring, which we did clockwise (250 miles, 175 locks!) in just 17 days last year. A bit of a whirlwind but very satisfying. Our boat's a year older than I am, and we're continually working on some project or other (currently reinstalling the stove), but it's been liveable from the day we bought it. When we first viewed it I actually cried (with relief or happiness, I'm not sure).
How did you end up living afloat?
An old pal of mine has lived aboard for 20-odd years. I never really fancied single-handing, but when my husband and I decided to move in together it seemed the right time. We viewed quite a few boats before buying, and it's safe to say we were pretty naive, but we were also very lucky. We've stuck it for several years now without getting fed up with it. Even since the cat joined us it still hasn't felt too small.

What are your favourite things about life afloat?
I really love our floaty home. It's cosy and I love the style of the decor. I love the feeling of having a place for everything - as a child I loved my dolls house, and I think campervans are just ace. There's a touch of 'playing house' about it I think. I love watching boats passing by, and the I find the motion of the boat calming somehow. The birds and other creatures are great and our neighbours are supportive and fun.

And your least favourite?
We live in a really urban area and the litter really grinds me down. The wind blows it towards us and it collects by our bow. I suppose you'd get the same thing living in a land house, but somehow it really blights living aboard for me. I hope that one day our lives and careers might take us to a slightly more rural location.

Has living afloat changed you at all?
I pay a lot more attention to my environment now. I've always bit a bit of a greeny, but living aboard has definitely made it seem more important. I haven't quite given up the car and motorbike, but I now cycle to work, preserve water obsessively, monitor my energy use, recycle more fervently, haven't used a carrier bag in ages and have reduced my consumption of STUFF significantly. Boating can be expensive though so my bank balance isn't much better off! We've also become crashing boat bores - everyone we meet hears about it before too long.

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Monday, 10 December 2012

Productive Weekend

It was a weekend for sorting things. This time of year, daylight is at a premium, and we had quite a few things to do which needed light to be carried out effectively - James wanted to check the tappet clearances on the engine, as well as change the fuel filter. The engine's now running beautifully, and starts well even from cold. We also needed to take a few things over to the garage - we are slowly clearing things out of the boat to leave us less to do next year. The garage doesn't have any light, so anything over there ideally has to happen in daylight. Whilst over there we set to work on some pallets to chop up for kindling and now have a couple of big boxes ready to burn. We've been selling it to neighbours as well so wanted to have a nice stock of it.

The other job we got done was one which could be done in the evening, thankfully, and involved sorting out the contents of the kitchen drawer, otherwise known as the junk drawer. This sounds like a minor task, but perhaps you have not seen our drawer! It was stuffed full of "useful things" but far to jumbled up to make finding things possible! Inspired by a post by A Thrifty Mrs about saying "no" to Junk Drawers, our drawer now looks like this:

And the pots on the table where a lot of these pens were stored are gone, leaving more space on the table.

I had bought some cheap plastic pots from Poundland and now we have a fixings pot, a batteries and fuses pot, a torches pot, as well as using a spare cutlery divider for pens, tools and stationary. Lots of obsolete and duplicate things went to the Recycling Shelf, and some markers and pencils went to James school. We celebrated getting so much done at the weekend with a takeaway curry!

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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Cambridge Christmas Head Race

It was the Town rowing clubs' fancy dress race on Saturday. Here's a few of the boats I saw while I was marshalling. The red and green guys were a bit unnerving!

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