About Me

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The name describes my demeanour and voice! I love narrowboating and that is why this blog is mainly about the boat and our interaction with it. I have been keeping a log for Sonflower ever since we bought her and moved onto her as our main residence. Some incidents in our boating life have been hilarious, some scary and some down right dangerous. I cannot tell what will come in the future but you can now share them! The crew are an 'ordinary' couple. The Best Mate and I.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Blisworth Tunnel to North Oxford Bridge 85

Sonflower heads away from the mooring at Blisworth Tunnel North Portal later than we had wanted and I headed back to the car to move it to the BW car park at Gayton. Here the car park was nearly full and I was glad to have a tree saw in the back of the car. Well you do don't you? After pruning a low hanging oak branch I had a space. I went down to the canal and boarded the boat as she passed.

We boated well into dusk after a beautiful sunset.

The next morning we discovered that we were short of some medication that The Best Mate needed. There was a reserve in the car.  I cycled back to the car park, finished pruning the tree and then rendezvoused with Sonflower at Skew Bridge. I arrived at the tow path just as the bow entered the bridge hole: perfect timing.

Sonflower turns away form Skew Bridge
Alex and The Best Mate continued while I moved the car to a layby on the A5 just near the New Inn at Buckby.  Cars are considerably faster than narrowboats so I filled in the time to lunch time with a bit if Waterways Chaplaincy. My colleagues who usually walk the Buckby Flight are on the South Oxford Canal so here was an opportunity for them to cover our patch while I covered theirs!

After lunch at the bottom we ascended the Buckby Flight without company. At the top we looked for a mooring and found none. There were none at the start of the Leicester Arm so another decision was needed. We decided to progress toward the Braunston tunnel but here the tow path was cordoned off with red plastic fencing or we could not get near  to the bank because of shallows. I disembarked just before the tunnel and cycled back to the car leaving Alex to steer the boat through the tunnel. I agreed to meet the boat again at the Top lock.

In fact they were at the second lock when I caught up with them. I had looked at the moorings in Braunston and found that the only way to moor before the jucnction would be by asking a boat to move. nb Dreamcatcher were amenable. I then cycled to meet Sonflower and we worked down the locks and moved past the marina, Gongoozlers Cafe, Stop House and under Bridge 91 to where nb Dreamcatcher moved along and we moored fo the night.

Quite tired we went to The Admiral Nelson for a well earned meal. AS we left wenoticed the mooring is only 48hrs April to September. Blah humbug!

Today I moved Sonflower onto the North Section of the Oxford Canal and, because all 14 day moorings in Braunston were full moored up at Navigation Bridge 85, the first bridge with road access after the A45. After fixing the swan hatch lining with "no more nails" (remember ti falling off a few weeks ago) the boat was secure to leave again and I cycled back to Braunston to return to Banbury.

My mother needs my attention tomorrow.
                                                                   20.1/2 miles, 1 tunnel and 13 locks:   12hours

Monday, 1 August 2016

Car Park to Car park: Galleon Bridge to Blisworth Tunnel North Portal

Having returned to Banbury for our WWC Commissioning at Cropredy yesterday we returned to the boat on the quasi 48hr mooring at Galleon Bridge in case it was not a 14 day one!

First a conversation with Tom, a angler who would have liked to be boating to Birmingham to get near a sister who he was in contact with after 40 years but his gearbox had broken down. He just needed to tell his story!

Then we joined nb Dire Straits in Cosgrove lock. In their honour Alex played "Money for Nothing!" and other tracks from Brothers in Arms while in the lock. Here we unloaded the folding bike and I peddled back the way we had come to get the car from the Ouse Valley Country Park car park and drive to Blisworth. The Best Mate and Alex cruised the lock free pound while I drove, aided by the satnav "Sheila", toward the Tunnel Hill Riding Stables. Just past here I found a small but neatly hidden car park and a path down to the North Portal of the Blisworth tunnel. I walked down and checked out the spot and was pleased to find rings and a piled landing stage with no signed mooring restriction. An orange ball bounced past me into the canal and a lady with a beagle followed close behind. As she fished for the ball she dropped her extending dog lead in the canal. "No problem" I said and returned to the car for a magnet to fish for the lead and a pole to help retrieve the ball. Unfortunately no amount of magnetic fishing could latch onto the steel clip which was the only bit of steel on the lead and reel. I returned up to the car to give her a piece of rope that I keep in the car for coralling loose horses and she used that as a lead to get her beagle and ball back to the car. I felt such a failure!

I then rode over the Tunnel Hill and down into Stoke Bruerne to meet SONFLOWER and crew at the services below the locks. We worked up the locks just ahead of FMC Motty Boat "Owl" (1928), with a 1951 Kelvin Engine, and her Butty boat "Hampton"(1912). Their advance party of a female crew member with two life jacketed dogs helped us through and reset the lock in their favour. We stopped for lunch in the long pound between Locks 15 and 14 and they passed, chugfully.

After the last two locks the flight we continued to enter the wet and dark  Blisworth Tunnel and came out to our mooring. I tried to find the lead with the sea searcher: no luck again. Here Alex celebrates as the Best Mate sizes up the climb to the car park. As we left, it started to rain.

Galleon Bridge No 68 to North Portal Blisworth tunnel:
9 miles, 5 furlongs and 8 locks, 1 tunnel              7 hours

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Thrilling Day

At a canalside service in sleepy Cropredy we were commissioned as Waterways Chaplains for the Oxford Canal (South) today. We have been working as probationary Chaplains for over a year now so this day is long overdue.

We hope that we can use our official windlasses to help boaters through locks and the other ups and downs of life with humour, compassion, empathy and love. Boating is great fun and we meet many many people who for many many reasons are finding it hard at the moment. All we want to do is help them on their journey.

Thank you to our Senior Chaplain, Mark  and his colleague and wife, Zilla, who made these exceedingly wonderful celebratory cakes!

Thanks too to the Vicar, Minister and members of the Cropredy churches for enabling us to use their service as a backdrop for this occasion.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Dog in a lock! and other excitement: Ivinghoe to Old Wolverton

We set off in time to get a bite of lunch at The Grove Lock. I am not sure whether the pub is known for its dog friendliness but a dog owner was on his way there with his dog extending lead while we were descending the lock. Suddenly behind us was a whippet on a string on the cill, water cascading through the leaking closed gate and perturbing him somewhat. Gently backing the boats toward him spooked him more and he jumped into the water: the most dangerous thing for him to do with two narrowboats backing and props sucking in water to the swim. We feathered the props and gradually drifted in, getting him back on the cill. A crew member of the Wyvern hire boat bravely whisked him up and handed him back to a very pleased owner. They were seen in the garden together enjoying the sunshine and a beer.

I have never shared a lock with a dog before and don't really want to again.

The afternoon was slightly uneventful after that and we enjoyed the fun at Soulbury Three Locks amongst six Wyvern boats going down and two coming up. It was just the place to observe that the seriously good training of the crews that we witnessed earlier in the day at Leighton lock really did not permeate to every member of the crew. We advised and helped as necessary but did not want to be too intrusive in the proceedings. Suggesting that the crew member opened the paddle to let the water out rather than just standing there looking pretty is hard to do tactfully though! Two of eh helmsmen just did not seem to be interested in the lock operation at all, staring into space instead of paying attention to the water and positioning of their craft.

Dinner was taken outside the Three Locks Pub and we stayed on for their Friday evening offering of Beatles, Hollies and Stones covers (live music). Our musician called it "guitar karaoke" as the two guitarists, one tele, one strat, played and sang along to drums and bass from a box!

We set off in the morning at a gentile time of 8am. At Stoke Hammond lock a hire crew were moored on the lock mooring but were not, at this time, ready to descend. A lady crew member said that she would like to watch us do the lock as we "looked professional". Her children were buzzing around the whole time too. We told her we all have started in hire boats and made a load of mistakes! But this time it went as it should and we parted wishing them a lovely holiday and assuring them that Milton Keynes was not such a bad place from the canal side! We  stopped for breakfast just before Fenny Stratford and then worked through the lock with the one foot fall and silly swing bridge in the middle. Here I disembarked the bicycle and left the tiller in my son's hands to steer her around Milton Keynes while I went to Bletchley Station and took a train to Cheddington to cycle back to where our car was parked. I then drove to The Galleon at Old Wolverton and waited for the boat to arrive with a beer and nachos.

We rendezvoused as planned and finished the boating day with a meal in The (All New) Galleon Inn.

Ivinghoe Bridge 123 to Galleon Bridge No 68   23.3/4 miles, 12 locks 1 Swingbridge  

Tuesday, 19 July 2016


Hottest Day of the year and I set us a target of 6 miles and 9 locks.

We started in the shade of the bar at The Old Swan on Cheddington, a 15th century inn that has been brought into the 21st Century and serves local real ale.  I looked for a Tring Ale but had to satisfy myself with Vale Brewery Brill Gold It was gorgeous! The posh fish finger sandwich was a bit of a let down. But this is not a pub revue it is a boating blog.

We walked to the boat beside Cheddington Bridge 126. On the way I discovered that I had not got my keys with me! The front doors are padlocked! They latch easily without a key but are not so easy to open. Our 6 footer said that was no problem as he would jump down into the houdini hatch!  In fact he didn't need to. When we got to the boat I lifted the swan hatch lid and the "no more nails" (well past its useful life) gave way and the lining ply to which the bolts are screwed fell off and we were in!

So we set off! It was sweltering and all the locks were set against us. After the 3 Seabrook locks we were gasping for water and called it a day!

I am now sipping cooled Brecon Brewery (bottled) Target IPA in the evening sun while the best mate has a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Past Marsworth Junction

 We decided to move the boat to allow the Tring Anglers to teach their novices to fish safely and considerately without disturbing the occupants of boats moored nearby and the boats using the flight. Hopefully by doing that we gave them enough room to keep clear of the lock landings.

Our first task was to refresh the water tank because the water had started to taste metallic. We did this very quietly and carefully so as not to disturb this local fisher.

This we did successfully. The skies darkened and our tummies rumbled so we moved the boat away from the water point to the opposite side of the canal and hid it behind the grass on the towpath.

We retired to the Anglers Retreat for lunch al fresco. As we finished our meal the rain started to fall in a serious style so we decided to leave SONFLOWER exactly where she was. No use getting wet again.

The hum of Contractor's strimmers was heard through the Yard Bridge so we might be able to see her again soon. Alternatively we might have hay on the gunwhales again.

                                                                          1/2 mile; 1 lock                 1 hour

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Bulbourne to Marsworth

Sounds like nowhere at all doesn't it?

We had arrived at the boat in the evening. We went to the Grand Junction Arms and found that they do not cook on Sunday evenings so supper was dry roasted peanuts, cashews and hand cooked crisps accompanied by Local Ale. We retired to bed early and decided to get up early.


In the morning it was raining! But with only the morning available to move to the next place before lunch with friends 45 miles away we had to do it. All except one of the five locks we worked were against us and one had a bottom gate left open as well.

On exiting Lock 40 we noticed a mooring space which is conveniently near the CRT Startop car park where we had left the car the night before (Pay and Display £3.00 for 24 hours). SO we pulled in and started to hammer home the mooring pins. Then I noticed the sign on the bank asking us not to moor there (between Lock 39 and Lock 40) for a Beginners Event by Tring Anglers.

Wet to the skin and running out of morning we were not going to move to the next 14 day mooring, about half a mile and two locks further on.

So there we are.

                                                                        1 mile, 5 locks, 2 very wet hours