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.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016


 Ice to the front of her,

ice to the rear of her,

ice to the side of her: our boating was postponed this afternoon because of ice.

Although there was a change in the outside temperature which was soaring toward 10 degC the water was still at zero, the temperature of melting ice, and it was impossible to move. It may look like there is clear water around the boat but the rudder was locked in until we moved it, and not without a bit of force.

I recollect the chapter in Tom Rolt's book "Narrow Boat" where he describes ice in Banbury and the joy that the arrival of the ice breaker brought to the locked in crews. We await the ice breaker because to try to break this ourselves would damage other people's vessels at the waterline and could put fibre glass boats in jeopardy.

We spoke to a fisherman who told us the score along the canal: the only ice free spots were under the bridges and even there he got no bites.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016


Temperatures plunged last night and we visited the forlorn and dejected SONFLOWER today to brighten her day. There was a slight weep from the Morco gas water heater feed indicating that there had been a slight freeze but everything else was in order.

We started the engine to get the calorifier up to temperature and check around that. It is always good to hear it running well.

So, better late than never, I drained the Morco down, isolated the calorifier, opened all the taps, turned off the pump and drained down as much as I could realistically do.

We lit a fire to keep ourselves warm and have left the fridge pilot light on. A little heat goes a long way on a frosty night.

We also have put a triangular cabinet into a corner of the back passage way to tidy up the bit that ends up with a heap of fenders, mooring pins and windlasses.

                                                   0 miles  0 locks   1 hour

Friday, 25 November 2016

A Weather Window

In Kazakstan they say that the sky is blue whatever clouds get in the way!

But on Wednesday we saw a window in the weather that followed storm Angus and we took advantage of it. The afternoon was  clear and bright and we had blue sky above us all the way from Cropredy to Banbury. The chill in the boat was taken off as we lit a fire in the stove.
Waiting for Hardwick Lock to fill

There was one other boat in the move and we caught it up as it came to the bottom of Hardwicke Lock No 28. As it left the crew told me they too had taken advantage of the weather and left Cropredy in the sunshine. We closed the gates and filled our third lock of the day as the sun descended behind the new warehouses that have been built on the old Alcan site. A chill came into the air as we cruised the familiar sites on our way to the town centre. It was cold now and we needed that fire to warm up. We waved to Malc and Dink at the cottage and at many friends in their boats on the Spice Ball Park LT moorings which we had left on 3 March.

We moored on Castle Quay as the sun set. Glad to be home.

                                            4.1/4 miles,  3 locks,   2hrs 20 min

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The weather man said.. .

The BBC Weather forecast for Tuesday at 2200h yesterday evening said that it would be overcast (light cloud) but dry all day with rain from 2200 this evening.

They were wrong but on the basis of their prediction yesterday we arranged for a friend to give us a lift to the boat from where we expected to reach this afternoon and off we went.

We left Fenny Compton at 12.15pm, enjoying the fresh air and the flocks of fieldfares and redwings that were feeding on the haws and hips on the high hedgerows alongside the canal.  Just after we arrived at Claydon Locks it started raining and it didn't stop until we were soaked through and at Broadmoor lock! Here a boat was leaving so it was not a 100% bad road.

But we did achieve the target of getting to Cropredy on a 14 day mooring so we mustn't moan.

The only other boat moving the opposite direction was blogger Herbie who turned into Cropredy marina. Cropredy lock leaks so fast that their presence didn't help us either.

Nb Sawdust was moored just by the old lift bridge narrows at Cropredy North moorings and we had a good chat to him at the lock. He had missed us!

We are very much back on home territory now and looking forward to staying between Cropredy Lock and Nell Bridge Lock for the winter.

                                                6.1/4 miles, 9 locks    3.3/4 hours

Backed Up

As it was dark when I arrived at the Wharf I moored hastily on a 48 hour mooring.

Today I backed through the bridges to a 14 day mooring.

                                                                                 200yds, O locks,   20 mins

Monday, 31 October 2016

Birdingbury Wharf Bridge No 21 to The Wharf Inn, Fenny Compton

I am back on the right side of the stoppages at Napton Locks.

This morning I set off for the Wharf in the car and then got a bus to The Boat Inn, Stockton via Southam. Getting there I had crossed the County border into Warwickshire and my Oxfordshire bus pass, valid on this bus from Banbury was not valid in Warwickshire because I was "twirley". I paid out the £2.70. The plan was to get a breakfast in Southam at the No19 Cafe where I have breakfasted between buses before. But today I was greeted by the sign that informed me "Closed on Mondays"! I was expecting to get a 1000 calories inside me to fuel a day in the boat precluding the need to stop to make a meal. So I went in the Co-op and bought some refreshments: BLT sandwich, pukka pie and scotch eggs. Handing my Co-op card I was told "you are in Warwickshire, those cards are not valid we have our own!" They took my Co-op credit card ok.

The target for the day was The Wharf at Fenny Compton. I had convinced myself that I had done this single-handed before. I am not so sure now.  All went well as I approached Calcutt Locks as there was another boat, NB Albert, just ahead and I could join them to aid me up the locks. However, there was no water in the pound between the Bottom Lock and Middle Lock. Not even enough to get over the cill. So a crew member was dispatched to let some down from the next pound. Boats do move better on water!

Just after the flight I was hailed by a BCF member who had an AWCC Burgee for me. He had been asked to take it to Banbury but never got there so in seeing SONFLOWER in his windows shouted out. Just in time as they are moving to Wales next Saturday!

So to Napton Junction and a sharp turn onto home waters: the South Oxford Canal. At Napton a CRT employee was adjusting water levels at the bottom lock. He stopped what he was doing and emptied it to let me through and then told me that there were boats coming down who had been trapped behind a butty that they had just released from the notoriously narrow Lock 9. It had been stuck since 3.30pm on Sunday. Progress was slowed some more by a LNBP boat nb Lancelot which was moored in a very short pound with a central bridge between the third and fourth Lock. The crew had to abandon shop as they could not progress to the Braunston Base with the butty stuck in the lock. It was not a very good place to moor as two boats are unable to pass with ease with the bridge narrows and a boat on the lock landing. We managed, just.

The rest of the flight was slow and steady though I was pleased to have two of the locks set for me by oncoming boats and pleased not to have to shut the top lock top gate as a boat was coming in. I was not so pleased to stub a toe on the roof gangplank rack while getting to the ladder of Lock 15.

I cleared Top Lock at Marston Doles at 1520h. With the loss of the hour on Sunday, I would not have enough daylight to get to Fenny Compton but I pressed on. I did consider a mooring at Brige 131, close to the main A423, but there was no suitable piling here so I pressed on, the last two miles in darkness. The sunset was spectacularly beautiful but I would have valued it to be an hour later today!

I arrived at 1810 and moored by torch light outside The Wharf Inn. I am still "Sober for October"! I limped to the car which I was very glad to get into.

                                         14 miles, 12 locks,  7h 40minutes

Friday, 28 October 2016

Long Itchington to Birdingbury Wharf

Not far today: Grabbed a half day to boat up Stockton Locks.

The bottom lock was set for us but the next was not. How does that happen? The next four were slightly against us in that leakage had filled them a little bit. Then we met a pair of hire boats and swapped locks with them. It took ages to convince one of the crew that we only needed one gate left open. There were boats in the next lock too and also in top lock so we had quite an easy time of it.

We stopped for a bottle of gas at Kate Boats and then moored just past Birdingbury Bridge.

CRT have prepared Winter Moorings here. I wondered why. There are 400 yards of empty moorings on Stockton Long Term Mooring site!

The Best Mate enjoyed the tiller work, even though she hates driving a car, and I enjoyed the footwork and paddle work. It is really good to be boating.
                                            1.1/2miles, 10 locks, 3 hours

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Moorings at Myton to Long Ichington

We needed to move off the pub moorings. Well you can't stay for ever and as I am "sober for October" there was no point in staying any longer so we thought we would move to a suitable 14 day mooring nearby.

While preparing the boat to leave my sister (on nonagenarian mother care duties) called to say Mum was wobbly so she would stay a little longer and get her to the doctor this evening. My decision maker was alert to the possibility that we could now go a bit further and make some progress toward the goal of getting south of Napton locks before the winter stoppages.

The Best Mate agreed with this cunning plan and willingly took the tiller while I returned once more to the car and drove it to Radford Bottom Lock via a Sainsbury's local for a couple of baguettes for lunch.

All went very well with my sister updating me on plans and with great assistance from two retired RAF/civil airline pilots (Concorde and Airbus) who lock wheeled and shared locks from Wood lock to Bascote top Staircase Lock. We had good fun with them but the continual walking and winding, pushing and pulling does take a toll and the Best Mate was almost rigidly fixed to the tiller for four hours.

We also met new BCF members who were working in the opposite direction after the Staircase.
The last leg:200 yards from the mooring spot
So the boat is now near the Two Boats pub. And we are home and hoping that tests tomorrow show Mum is not too bad.

Another thing we had forgotten in assessing whether we could go further today was that I was supposed to be at a management company leaseholders' meeting at lunchtime (I am Company Secretary): oops! Apologies were given by phone but I needed to do it in person on return!

What a busy life we lead! And tomorrow we say "goodbye" to Jo, a very good friend who was taken to heaven far too early for us.

                                                                              7.1miles, 10 locks   5 hours