Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Day Ten- Welcome to the Oxford Canal public baths, no running, jumping, or widdling in the shallow end

Day Ten- Somewhere on the Oxford Canal- Oxford

Oxford Canal

10 miles, 6 Locks

In which the
Duck and her crew discover that plastic bags in the intake cause the engine to run too hot, and that sometimes you just have to jump in; that canals are muddy, the hull is slimy, and that the intake is inaccessible; and that Oxford in the rain isn't too pleasant.

We had a bit of a lie-in, and set off towards Oxford. Unfortunately the engine was still running hot, and looking at the exhaust we reckoned that there was definitely something in the intake, because there was far less water coming out of the exhaust than there should be. So whilst it wasn't completely blocked, there was something there. We moored up below a lock, just after the landing stage, and attempted the normal trick with the hosepipe and the shower pipe to try and flush it out, but we couldn't get it to go. So there was no option but to get wet...

I had made sure that Amy packed her wetsuit, so that if it came to a problem like this, I could legitimately say, "well, I've not got any swimming trunks, and you've got your wetsuit, so, well, it'll have to be you who goes swimming..." Well, that was the plan. I tried saying that, and then Amy produced.... a pair of swimming shorts. So there was that argument out of the window...

We were careful; testing the depth of the canal first (four feet deep, but muddy on the bottom) and rigged a rope from the centre ring so that I could get out again. Then it was on with the swimming shorts and sandals (as I didn't know what could be on the bottom; Weil's Disease from an infected cut isn't too pleasant...) and into the canal.

Apparently it's August. Well, someone should tell the Oxford Canal. Balmy summery warm water, it was not. Not as nice as the Nene, apparently. I managed to refrain from girly shrieks, but it was a close run thing. The hull was understandably slimy and not too pleasant to the touch; and it was an effort to reach around the baffle that was over the water intake and clear it out. I'm glad we did, because not only was there a plastic bag (it always is) blocking it, but also assorted bits of twig and weed. The engine was much happier afterwards; there was enough water coming out and the temperature stayed below 60 degrees for the rest of the day, like it should.

After clearing that out and having a hot shower to warm up again, and a mug of soup, we set off again. The weather was grey and miserable, but seeing a few "famous" boats broke the monotony. First was nb Chough, an unmistakeable boat featured in Canal Boat magazine a few months back; it's VERY odd to see a boat "in the steel", as it were, having only seen it previously in a glossy magazine.

The next interesting boat was nb Shambles, which we think might be James and Emma's first boat; it would be good if it were.

We stopped at Kingsground Boatyard to see how much their diesel was; we saw the price on the pump (87p, very reasonable) as we went past, and after a very quick conference we decided that we wanted diesel there; College Cruisers, the next boatyard, was over a pound a litre, and the Thames boatyards- being used to gin palaces and people with black Amex cards- would doubtlessly be even more expensive. We decided to turn back, although we'd missed the winding hole. There was a gap between two moored boats, and the canal was, in the gap, about 50 feet wide. The Duck is 48 feet, and so it was going to be tight... I impressed myself by getting the bows into the gap and turning round elegantly, even getting a round of applause from some watching boaters- it really made my day! It's nice, too, to realise that I wouldn't have even attempted that manoeuver a week ago; I must be learning something!

We pulled up alongside the wharf and dipped the tank, and were surprised to find that it was about 7/8ths full; clearly the Duck is more economical than we thought! They didn't take cards, either, only cheque or cash, and so we decided to forgo the small bit of diesel we could squeeze into the tank; we hope we'll make it back onto the Grand Union, on the other side of London, with what we have.

As we approached Oxford itself, the frequency of lift bridges increased, and we became practised at swinging the stern into the bank so one of us could hop off and operate the bridge.

There were several interesting boats closer to Oxford, too, including this minute tug, nb Hebe, which was also in Canal Boat magazine some time ago- I think:

As we got to Roundham Bridge, we came accross Nuneaton and Brighton, of the Narrow Boat Trust. It was fascinating to see them working through the narrow lock, with the motor picking up the butty and them heading off. Apologies for the bad quality photograph- I wanted to take a video, but the phone decided to freeze and so I couldn't. Just as well, really, it would have opened me up to accusations of being a narrow boat spotter, with anorak and notebook, if I had...

The rest of the journey into Oxford was quite fun. We picked up Charlotte, our friend with a useful car, who's in Oxford doing some lab work over the summer, and also a chap called Johann, a friend from Sweden. She steered for a bit, after a driving lesson, and we passed the sad sight of Jericho boatyard, with the site sold by BW to property developers, causing an uproar.

We came to Isis Lock, and were assured by Charlotte that there were visitor moorings at the end of the short arm of the canal, past the lock, and a winding hole. The sign at the entrance, however, worryingly informed us that the winding hole was only for boats of 30' or less. Well, I decided that we need the practice at the tricky art of reversing, and so pressed on anyway.

The rest of the evening was good fun; we cooked pasta, showed our friends the boat, and had some nice cider. We did go to bed early, hoping for a good night's sleep.

Unfortunately that wasn't going to happen. There was a rowdy, noisy nightclub about 100 metres away from the mooring, and we were rudely awoken at 2am by someone banging on the roof. I headed forwards to see what was going on, and found out that someone had untied us; annoying enough on the canal, as we had swung round right across it. I took the pole from the roof, and pushed the bow back into place, and tied the boat up with clove hitches on the mooring bollards and a lot of half hitches on the T-stud at the bow and the dollies at the stern; we weren't going anywhere after that. We returned to our disturbed sleep, with a coat and powerful torch by the door in case I had to head out again, but luckily we weren't woken again.

1 comment:

  1. Chough was actually in Waterways World (and on show at Crick). But we are having one of her sister ships in Canal Boat in a couple of months time. I'm told it's even better than Chough!

    Great reports, by the way. Really enjoying following your trip.