The long way home

Monday 8th March 2010

There’s still no bus service from Braunston on a Sunday so I had to wait until Monday morning before heading home.  It didn’t help a lot when I woke after 7am, as I was intending to get the 07:34 bus to Rugby and then train home.  But at what price?

(Another train fare rant coming on….)

Rugby to Newbury single, via London £73.50!! or not via London (ie through Banbury) £43.50.
BUT split the ticket into two singles,
Rugby to Banbury  : £18.50 peak, £13.60 off peak after 10.00
Banbury to Newbury: £14.90 all day.
Total £33.40 or £28.50 peak or off peak.  A saving of at least £10.10 or £15.00 after 10:00, once again to travel in the same seat on the same train.

Instead I took the 07:42 to Banbury which arrived late at Daventry and missed the connection, turning a 90 minute trip into 150 minutes.  From Daventry the bus was quite fun as it was empty to start with, but weaving in and out of the villages on the way more and more people got on, all of whom seemed to know at least half of the other passengers.  Definitely a local bus in every sense.  The total fare was less than a fiver, and I already had an unused train ticket home from Banbury, so that was an even better saving.  But due to connections, it took almost 6 hours door to door whereas by car its an hour and a bit.

I did enjoy the journey today, but if I was doing this regularly I would expect public transport to be better than this otherwise I would definitely take the car.

Fosse Locks to Braunston

Sunday 7th March 2010

Ropes frozen solid again
Ropes frozen solid again

Another cold start to the day. This time minus 9.5 and enough to freeze the canal yet again.   I certainly broke some miles of ice today!

Not much to say about the journey though, as it all went like clockwork.  I started very early and arrived at Long Itchington about 9am, just in time to see a mass exodus of boats, all heading the other way, until we caught up with two boats going up the Stockton locks ahead of us. 

At Calcutt the canal became so busy I had to think twice about whether this was March or mid Summer but under a deep blue sky and temperature barely into the plusses, Braunston was in sight by 4pm.

A lot of people seem to like it here
A lot of people seem to like it here

I spent the rest of the afternoon fixing things which had gone wrong yesterday.

I think I have a fair excuse for being tired tonight, after clocking up another 13 miles and 20 locks.  But another milestone in the journey, and here at Braunston 4 days before the canal reopens at the tunnel.

Tom O’the Wood to Fosse Locks. Water everywhere!

Saturday 6th March 2010

Zulu started first time this morning.  That is the good news.

The rest of the day has been very watery indeed.  I needed an early start to get through Hatton so 6:30 am it was.  Beautiful chilly morning with a lovely blue sky.

Wateryness Number 1.
By the time I got to Shrewley tunnel it was raining.  Boo!

Wateryness Number 2.
Shrewley tunnel is a bit drippy at the moment!  One went right down my neck – thank goodness for hoodies.

Wateryness Number 3.
The automatic bilge pump just went off twice in 3 minutes.  Are we sinking?  How on earth is that?!   Oh I see.  The stern gland just opened up to the world.  Nothing that a couple of spanners couldn’t sort out, along with a good dose of grease, but hey – it was dry as a bone last night so how did that happen!  At least the rain stopped and it was really nice after breakfast time.

Wateryness Number 4.
After an impromptu stop to tighten the stern gland I then jumped off at Hatton Station to pick up today’s assistant and dogs.  Ooops why is the back of the boat so low in the water?   Crikey it really is, but the engine bilges are dry as a bone….. with dread I lifted the carpet and found the cabin bilge right up to the floorboards.  Cue the wet and dry vac – for 3 hours as we went down Hatton locks I was preoccupied with removing about 150 gallons of water from the bilges and watching with relief as Zulu settled back to normal draught.  We were only down an inch or so, but that could equate to half a ton.

What caused this – yes our old friend the domestic water system had leaked the entire contents of the water tank – 150 gallons – into the bilges (again).  The good news is not sinking, but looking at the old water tank there was a lot of water under it.  I couldn’t understand why it had leaked though.  I have emptied it every time I left the boat all winter, and it was OK last week. Why!

Wateryness No 5.
There’s plenty of water at Hatton – pouring over the gates as we went down.  I wouldn’t normally have mentioned this but it gives me another watery point to log!

Wateryness No 6.
Dog number 2 fell in (for the third time in as many weeks).  At least he got out under his own steam!

Wateryness No 7.
I stopped at Cape Locks to try to fill the water tank again, and this time packed paper towels all over the place to try to find the leak.  It seemed to fill OK but towels under the tank were very wet indeed.  It kind of comfirmed worst fears that the tank really was leaking as opposed to a pipe or join.

Wateryness No 8.
Checked the water pump and it was leaking too.  Damn it.  This could be part of the cause of the leak but it didn’t look too bad.  Out with the PTFE tape and remake the joints and all seems ok again.

Wateryness No 9.
Quick thinking as we passed “Do It All” in Leamington Spa.  Get a garden water bowser as a temporary water tank.  They even had them in green to match Zulus colour scheme.  I spent another 20 quid on various bits which may or may not come in useful when fitting it.

Wateryness No 10.
Dog number 2 took fright at the wet and dry vac and jumped into his water bowl catapulting it all over the lounge carpet.  What’s another couple of pints between friends though?

Wateryness No 11.
While investigating the best way to connect new temporary water bowser to the water system, bypassing the water tank guess what.  I discovered that the water tank filling pipe was no longer attached to the water tank.  Elation!  Last night I had spent an hour filling the bilges while only a small amount of water had gone into the tank by pure luck.  So with a bit more luck I never had a water leak at all and the tank is OK.  All I need is a new jubilee clip to stick the inlet pipe back onto the tank where it belongs and we will be back to normal.

Wateryness Number 12.
Tonight I can’t be bothered to remove all the panels to get access to the water tank filler, so with a tap near our moorings I have filled the new bowser anyway.   At least I will get some use out of it then!

So apart from that its been a great day!  No really – it has!  The only regret is not stopping for a pint at the Cape, at Warwick, but something always keeps me going on without stopping till I am past Leamington Spa too.  Which is what I have done tonight, arriving at Fosse Locks where strangely and most unwelcome, Fosse Bottom Lock had a boat moored on the bottom lock landing and the top too.  Folks – when someone is single handed, which I have been since my Hatton assistant departed in preference for football over lock wheeling, they actually need to use the lock landings and it really doesn’t help when you peer out of the curtains incase I touch your paintwork or otherwise give you cause to complain.

So I think the word of the day, apart from wateryness which I think I have invented, is exhaustedness.  Which I have also just invented.  Fosse locks aren’t a good place to moor, as the main moorings are long term, but theres several spaces so here we are.  We will be gone by the time anyone wakes.

I kind of think Zulu has had her revenge during the last two days.  Everything is back to relative normality tonight.  We are warm and dry, watching tv with lovely charged batteries, and blogging away with an amazingly strong 3G signal in what is a most unexpected location.  At least something is going well today!!

Today? 12.5 miles and 26 locks.  1 tunnel.  12 waterynesses, 150 gallons of hoovering… and the rest is history.

Flat batteries at Lapworth

Friday 5th March 2010

Ah well it had to happen sooner or later.  After 10 days at Lapworth Zulu has consumed every last bit of battery power and I really can’t work out why, as the isolator was off leaving only the bilge pump to drain them.  The starter battery is also isolated from the cabin batteries when the engine is off.  There was such a resounding silence when I turned the key that I actually thought someone may have taken the batteries, but they are all there intact.

Then a little towpath magic happened.  Several people stopped to offer their advice, most useful being “see him over there… go and ask him to borrow his genny”.  And so I did.  And 10 minutes later a lovely 2Kw generator was topping up the starter battery.  Thanks very much mate – that was very generous to let me walk off with your generator in your wheelbarrow.

I phoned River and Canal Rescue a bit late in the day, but their engineer did offer to come out even though it was going to be after 8pm.  I was pleased to be able to call them back before the guy set off, in the knowledge that I was probably going to be able to start the engine myself before he got here.

One hour later I risked turning the key and Zulu fired up instantly.  So instead of leaving at 5pm and being at Hatton top lock by dark, I left at 7pm and am only at Tom O’The Wood moorings tonight, filling the water tank at the convenient tap and blogging by candlelight while the engine is still squeezing or hopefully pouring some charge back into the batteries.  The cabin battery bank was down to 4.5 volts – the technical people amongst you will realise this is not a good thing as not only does it make the lights very very dim indeed, but it also enters that grey area where they may not ever be charged properly again.  I do hope this isn’t the start of battery troubles.

The day started well through, after a very heavy frost and minus 5.5C at 7am this morning.  I took the train to Lapworth and discovered that the single fare would be £42.00 whereas splitting the ticket into two halves, from Newbury to Banbury would be £14.80 and from Banbury to Lapworth would be £9.80.  A saving of £17.40.  But then my Network Railcard saved another £1.80 despite the minimum fare on a weekday of £13.00. And the ticket lady said … save another 20p by getting a return to Lapworth from £9.60.

Therefore I paid £22.60 for exactly the same seats on exactly the same trains instead of £42.00.  There is something seriously wrong with the system when a return ticket is less than a single, and two tickets are almost half the price of one.  What can we do to get a fair fare structure!

So tonight its an early night.

Total progress today. 1 mile.
They all count, as long as they are in the right direction.

Hatton here I come!

Hatton Locks
Hatton Locks

I have recently been praising the power of blogging as a means of on the spot reporting, and thanks to another blogger I can rest easy that Zulu is still safely moored at Kingswood Junction having seen her photographed by John on Epiphany on Monday morning.  “On the left, a fellow bloggers boat” –  that’s Zulu!

British Waterways have now confirmed that the over-running stoppage at Braunston Tunnel will be completed by 11th March and so there is now nothing stopping us from making some good progress.  So Hatton locks will soon be behind us and with a bit of luck this weekend I will be able to reach somewhere in the Braunston area, or possibly Long Itchington.  Within one boat’s length of our current mooring I will finally be on the Grand Union Canal, but there is still a long way to go!

Meanwhile I did say that there is one flight I don’t like doing single handed – yes Hatton!  After 3 months of narrow locks, Hatton locks are going to seem even more enormous and as there’s 21 of them all in a row, it is a lot safer and much more efficient to have another pair of hands.

So for the second time in this journey I am offering an endless supply of coffee, bacon rolls and something stronger if required in exchange for some enthusiastic lock wheeling.  Whether you fancy a day’s exercise, would like to know more about the canals or just love doing locks for the sake of it, please dont be shy in coming forward to volunteer your services!   It will probably be Saturday 6th morning if anyone really is interested.  I would appreciate the help!

Have you chosen Internet Explorer as your browser?

Hello.  Microsoft here.  We just broke your computer.
Hello. Microsoft here but we don't say so. We just broke your computer in revenge.

Well I feel sorry for those of you who say “What’s a browser?” or “What is internet explorer?”  I suspect a huge number of people will be saying just that this week.

Microsoft have just implemented the patch to beat all patches.  It’s job – to satisfy the EU Regulators that users of Windows have had a chance to select their web browser, albeit retrospectively, instead of being “forced” to use Internet Explorer, bundled with every version of Windows since the Ark.  Microsoft have just been fined an extraordinary amount of money for this “violation of anti trust laws” whatever that entails.  If I buy a Sainsburies pork pie I don’t expect to be warned at the checkout that I didn’t need to buy Sainsburies tomato sauce to go with it, so why on earth if I choose Microsoft Windows can I not be trusted to choose my own programs to go with it if I don’t like what they provide me with?

This whole farcical Windows Update, inflicted on Europe this week, means that everyone who has been happy with Internet Explorer to date will now see an anonymous warning screen next time they start their computer.  It is titled “Information Regarding Web Browsers” and looks to all intents and purposes like one of those infuriating virus related popups for which I spend half of my professional life warning customers how dangerous it is to click on a link on an unexpected email or popup window.   

Now how about a new browser?  We have hidden the ones you wont want, on the right.
Now how about a new browser? We have hidden the ones you wont want, on the right.

So this week Internet Explorer will cease to be your web browser of choice until you select it again from a list of five..  no wait theres more hidden ones if you scroll along…. possible candidates.  How bloody stupid can it get when someone who didn’t know they had a choice is now able to select a totally inappropriate tool for the job, some of which I have never even heard of.  Even more ludicrous is the only option if you want to keep Internet Explorer is to press a button marked “Install” which doesn’t install anything luckily but simply tells you how to put things back how they were before.

Is the EU going to pick up the bill for all those who break their computer while trying to put this back to how it used to be?  Don’t we have any rights to make our own minds up about this without being told we have to?  This moment certainly has to go down in history as the first time Europe demanded a supplier deliberately broke their product leaving the consumer to piece it back together again.  I expect the phone’s going to ring a few times before this one lies down.

But wait a minute …..  I bought an Apple Macbook Pro last month and it came with Safari browser.  It must be faulty.  I must call the European Parliament immediately………………..  My human rights are being violated.  I wanted a red one too, like Dell do, but Macbook Pro only comes in aluminium……   aaarghhhhh.