Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Bird sitings in Blue Haven corner

While moored up in Blue Haven, we found a random pack of peanuts in the cupboard. We had no idea why we had them, as they had skins on and we don't eat them that way... So Pete, the bird lover amongst us, decided we needed to share them. On the way home from the train station last week, we stopped by Tebbs and bought a bird feeder. Within no time, the feathered kingdom had informed the known network and we had feeders. Lots. We had to go get more nuts. We'll have to pass on the task to others when we untie and pull out to the canal!!!!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Enjoying the mains...

We're still in Blue Haven as we think about where we go next... But we have enjoyed the electrics and almost mains water and therefore all the laundry.  Who would have thought laundry would be fun???

Pete watched the Swan family break ice again the marina today, this time the adults behind the sprog, watching and encouraging the signet as s/he pushed away at the ice to get to our stern for food.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Blue Haven for a spell

We've been moored up in our usual little landscape of Blue Haven for just three nights, but it feels like weeks! We've got through loads of laundry (every sheet we owned was due for washing...), met up with friends and enjoyed seeing the Forager Family again (Swans Rosie, Jim, Robin and Chris ) though one of the youngsters appears to be flying the nest. We have not frozen in and luckily all the heavy rains have been at night so that our afternoons have been blazing sunshine. Wonderful. Elizabeth finished a cross stitch, Pete's been taking photographs and we managed to fit some wood to keep the window blinds in place. We'll stay here doing a bit of small DIY, filling the store cupboards and generally preparing for going out again. We'll let you know!

Friday, 16 January 2009

No coms in Marston Doles and water management

Well, we unfroze on Monday night in Fenny Compton, but Elizabeth and Pete had to go to Oxford on Tuesday, so we couldn't set out until Wednesday. By then the canal had frozen over again, but just a thin layer. We decided to move in any case and set out late morning. We were certainly breaking ice and were grateful to pass a British Waterways working boat going the opposite direction about an hour after we set out, as all the ice behind it would be broken already! We only passed three other boats on the journey and moored up at the very country Marston Doles just after lunch. No streetlights, no sound of train, no motorway sounds... all idylic except no coverage on Virgin (our personal mobiles) or Vodaphone (our internet) and only a little on Orange, with antenna, our home number. At least we had a little coms! But that's why we haven't blogged until now.

We set out from Marston Doles (in other words, the top of the 9 lock Napton flight) this morning at 8:30 and made a sweet turn into Blue Haven Marina at 3pm this afternoon. We had an interesting time in one lock of the flight. The pound was so low between us and the next lock that we sat in the upper lock for a while with the upper gate sluice open and the lower gate sluice open in order to allow water to flow down from our pound to the pound below, filling it up a little for our journey in it. Elizabeth managed the tiller at this time and found much more energy in the water than anticipated! Finally we filled the lock one more time from the upper pound in order to let that much more water into the lower pound. By the time we pulled out, we had managed to raise the level of the pound by nearly a foot - enough to give us the draught we needed to move to the next one. Apparently the lock gates at the bottom of the lock we were going to leak considerably, hence, emptying the pound between the locks. We expected to do lock management, but never quite so much water management! Luckily, there is a BW office at Napton Bottom Lock, and we were able to tell the story to a grateful maintenance guy at the lock.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Freeze ends; wind begins!

It's the 12th of January now, and the ice more or less melted last night, but the wind and rain have picked up significantly. So we have decided to stay in Fenny Compton just a little longer. We spent the weekend welcoming Jeffrey back to Bella on Saturday, then taking him to the airport on Sunday for his return to Australia. Today sees us connecting long extension leads to plug in to the Wharf Inn to do the laundry.

What fun!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Proud Pete and fuel

Here is Pete, now master of the portable fuel pump. OK, here is how it works. Pete gets the fuel can filled with road diesel, taking the can in Reg to a filling station. Now that the taxation has changed, we can get diesel at any filling station and the road version is much cleaner and more environmentally friendly, as well as cheaper. He puts the fuel can next to Bella on the tow path. Then he inserts one end of a special hose in the fuel filler point on Bella and the other in the fuel can. In between is a pump - the small thing you can see attached to the hose on the deck, just next to the drill. Why the drill? The pump has the equivalent of a drill bit which fits to the drill to power the pump. The drill is the battery powered one, so once completely charged up, the pump was working wirelessly. What things we have learned!

Just to remind readers - we have to go through all this as we are still iced in and there is no way we can get to the boat filling station. So we are filling up with 18 to 19 litres a day until we get to a full level. At a 220 litre capacity and a daily use of about 6-7 litres, this will take a little while (!). But at least we have the capacity. And yesterday, Pete got us filled up with water by the use of two (2!) hose reel extensions. One we already had, but we bought another one, the flat kind to take less space. This easily covered the 50 metres between Bella and the watering point, thankfully, not frozen. And in between all that, he travels back an forth to a sewage point with cassettes. And today we made bread, scones, spiced biscuits and the vegetable stock is simmering on the stove.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Still in Fenny and ice


Just to let you know, we are still here. It is the 8th of January and boat dwellers behind us had to give up and go home to Scotland. They were using their boat share, but found that once the sewage filled up and needed pumped out, they could not wait out the weather any more. One more reason to be pleased we have our cassette toilet which we can empty just by using the bicycle, the trolley or the car to take our full cassettes to a sewage point for emptying. A little smug, but we had this conversation with Barry at Blue Haven when we popped up there yesterday for our post. He told us of the frustration of so many frozen in boat owners, stuck with needing to be pumped out...

The one picture is dear Bella, snow on both sides. Most unusual! Today, the towpath has thawed only just in the last hour, and the canal is showing signs of breaking up a little. We won't move until other boats do though; we have done our new blacking little good by the ice breaking we have done so far!

The other picture is Josie on a sitting and viewing spot she has discovered. We suspect she uses this new seat (the top step out to the stern deck) when we are not here, but as we have been aboard quite a bit we have seen things she does far more often. So here she is, caught by Cassie the camera (of course the camera has a name!).

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Frozen Epiphany - Jan 6

Here we are - in Fenny Compton. We're still here, frozen solid. Down to -8C last night, we understand! However, Pete managed to take a taxi to Banbury then a train to Heyford to collect dear Reg who was waiting to be useful again. So, with car, water point not too far, deisel close enough to collect by can to put in the tank, lots of coal, a Co-op fifteen minutes walk away and a decent enough pub, we're not badly off at all. The difference between being here and being in Blue Haven is that the marina has shore power, but Fenny has a much better pub. And, yes, we are warm - still. The stove works well and in addition to providing heat, it steamed our ham on Sunday and steamed the sprouts yesterday. Again, we had to open the side hatch to cool things down a little last night. We had ice on the inside of the windows this morning, but we were still warm and that soon melted.

Among many highlights are that the swans walk on top of the ice to come for food, as the ice is too thick for 4 stone in weight birds to break. Others are that the small covering of snow yesterday has not melted and is beautiful. We have lovely neighbours who are sort of thankful to be iced in. Daughter Poppy has come to stay with mum who is on her own after husband had to go back to work, but Joan is enjoying her seige mentality and Poppy is enjoying not being in school.

The forecast suggests we may be here a while, so we'll let you know!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

New Year Serendipity surprise

Well, we said we were here in Fenny Compton and here we are on the 3rd of January. After having done yesterday's stats, we realised we were rather shorter of fuel than we thought we were, but luckily close to Fenny Marina which was to be open today. So we decided to stay put, reverse up a way to the marina and to fill up this morning. So, completely relaxed, we went to the Wharf Inn.

While Elizabeth was settling in the seating while Pete was at the bar, she suddenly pulled out the tape measure (ever present in her hand bag). Pews were spotted. Re-uppolstered as tiny sofas. She was spotted measureing by the Publican who asked if he could help. She said, actually, that she wanted to put in an offer on the spotted furniture. We have been looking for AGES for the right thing. He said, yes, that could be done, but would we like to see what else they could sell us? We of course said yes and were led to three (!) other options!!! Where were these when we had visited antique centre after furniture showroom after furniture warehouse??? Well, we saw the perfect answer. Dark wood with dark red leather (ish) upholstery. Carved arms, open, but solid back, comfy seat, never anything but what it is (the bottom label reads that it is a benchair ). And a celebratory price to match. We could hardly believe it. So here it is! Our new sofa bought from a pub. What fun!! We put our name on it and proceded to have a lovely simple and beautifully cooked dinner, often glancing over at our new seating, just to see if it was real.

This morning we woke to solid ice. A little too much for Bella to break and certainly too much to break going backwards toward the marina to fuel up. Backwards in ice means that the ice could be sucked into the propeller and cause serious damage. So, iced in, we cleared away much of the Christmas decorations and went to collect our wonderful new sofa. The old one, temporary anyway as it was an Ikea garden bench, is now folded on the roof.

So, we could not go backwards for fuel, but still needed some. Pete had the brainwave to give our petrol which we use for Levi (generator) to the publican for his motorhome so that Pete then had a fuel can to go to the marina to collect fuel. Two trips and 39 litres later, we have enough to make it back to Blue Haven when the ice clears to some degree. One more trip meant one more bag of coal. Lesson; fuel up before ice up, but miss sofa. Hmmm.

Forecast is for more cold and ice, so its a good thing we like the Wharf Inn.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Back in Fenny Compton and 2008 stats

January 2nd and we're back in Fenny Compton. We spent January 1st in Cropredy because we like it, and because we felt as though we needed a rest. Oddly, rest did not mean hang-over recovery!! Just rest. But we set out this morning to a sky which slowly turned clear blue with a gorgeous winter sun and misty green fields. We need to find more adjectives! We are running out of wonderful, gorgeous, lovely, etc. Of course we see some heaps of boats and some run down fields and some piles of rubbish, but they are about 2% of what we see. So we started our second new year on Bella looking at beauty. We're not sure we'll ever tire. And we like Fenny Compton moorings. We are moored up now where we first moored in our first hire boat, the Burcott, now four years ago. Then, our friends Jane and Simon joined us for dinner at the Wharf Inn. And we moored up here in November 2007, when Bella had her Blessing service, conducted by Mike (Naval Chaplain) and family, Clare, Peter and Rebekah. So, though Fenny is not in itself a huge place of beauty, it is a place of fond memories. We are please to stop here and may not tire of it, either!

For those who are interested, we clocked up 1160 "clicks" in 2008. Clicks, if you recall, is the combination of locks, lift bridges, swing bridges, other obstructions and miles. Some boaters call them lock-miles. We've managed around 800 travelling miles this last year. But now we are keeping very clear records and will be able to tell you exactly the travelling miles each month. We only used to keep a record of hours of engine time, just to let us know when Bella needed a service. Now that the duty on diesel fuel has changed, we need to keep a record of our boiler hours (domestic use of diesel) and the hours we travel (propulsion hours) and the hours of engine on, but moored up to charge batteries (domestic hours again). This is because there are now different rates of tax on domestic fuel and propulsion fuel. And we were hugely curious as to how many locks we've done in any given period of time compared to miles. So, sad creatures that we are, we've created a spreadsheet to tell us boiler hours, domestic engine hours, propulsion hours, locks (and others) and miles travelled. So the statistitians amongst you will enjoy knowing the totals as we go along. Others have permission to yawn and roll your eyes up to your foreheads...

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Moored up for New Year's Eve

We had a lovely journey to Cropredy from Aynho - breaking ice along the way, as the last post mentioned. 11 miles and 10 locks later (passing these gorgeous cows - Sarah, enjoy!), we got to Cropredy and moored up between the Bridge stores and the lock.

We were two boats north of Ravenspur who had arrived a few hours earlier. They and we had a sudden creative spurt from our dogs - swimming! Their Defa decided to jump from a lock gate into the canal and slightly froze as he was encouraged out. Our Josie jumped straight in from Bella's deck, thinking she was jumping onto the tow path. A little shocked, she managed to clamber up the opposite side, stressing ever so slightly as Pete went to collect her while Elizabeth shone the torch on to where she had arrived. She was not best pleased that Pete trespassed into a garden to find her and legal arguments aside, decided to walk home with him rather than swim back the way she came. We need to point out that this was the first time ever (!) that Josie has swum. A few years ago, her friend Twix led her to the water in Devon and after the first jaunt, she retreated with a few balletic shakes of paws and a gentle but haughty expression saying that swimming was just not her thing. After a few clutched withdrawals from the canal before swimming even was an option, we are relieved to know that when needs must, swimming is an acceptible form of survival.

The Famous Eve brought nibbles on Bella, dinner on Ravenspur and the new year cheer brought in at the Brasenose pub with a final toast on board Bella. Cropredy is a wonderful place for New Year's Eve. The bell ringers practice early, parties then take over with music from all around and then the midnight peal of bells is stunning. We think we prefer all this to fireworks!!!