I name this boat Zulu Warrior!

The newly named Zulu Warrior at Little Venice

Zulu is not one of the smartest looking boats on the cut, and like many older boats its a long time since a name of any sort was painted on the side.

However when I bought Zulu, the previous owner presented me with ready made sticky backed names for the cabin sides.  I had more imporant things to fix at the time and so they have remained in a cupboard until today.  Spurred on by overhearing a couple of walkers looking at the name on the licence plates and asking if this was the ex Royal Navy narrowboat I decided to investigate whether the old name decals would still be usable.

I originally planned to paint the cabin before using them, as they are green and the cabin is green too (nothing of course to do with the dozen shades of green) , but today I decided that painting the cabin sides has already taken over two years and is unlikely to happen this month.

And so out came the fairy liquid to clean off the grime and on went the decals – the first time I have applied these, and very successful it was too.  Within 15 minutes I had one side done, so quickly turned the boat around and did the other side too.  Why it has taken me two years to do this I don’t even understand myself.

So if you are in Little Venice this weekend, for the Cavalcade, then you will now have a much greater chance of identifying us!  See you there!!

Uxbridge to Little Venice

Monday and Tuesday 26/27th April 2010

Zulu at Bulls Bridge Junction

Whilst the regulars have all desserted Little Venice, Zulu has deliberately made the journey into town, to be around and about during the IWA Cavalcade 2010.

We set off from Uxbridge after treating the dogs to a bus – train – bus journey from Burghfield, near Reading to Uxbridge.  I don’t think they minded too much but I was relieved that all three of us arrived intact just in time for another walk.  Exhausted, we arrived an hour or so after the walk, at Cowley lock where I decided to call it a day, fill up at the handy local shops and introduce the dogs to Cowley Park (well intoduce one of them, as the other has been here many times) and suitably exercised we all had dinner and collapsed into bed.

As a result of our early night we needed an early morning start so when the dogs decided to take me out at 5:30 I didn’t protest, and enjoyed a beautiful walk at this, the best time of the day (at least according to the dogs).

We left Cowley lock at 07:30 and arrived at Little Venice at 12:30 – its about 15 miles, so three miles an hour isn’t a bad average for Zulu.  The weather en route was superb – its hard to remember this is still April – and the thermometer inside Zulu’s cabin clocked 26 C this afternoon.

I was expecting Little Venice to be more chaotic, as the 14 day moorings between Brownings Pool and the footbridge opposite the Waterway Bar, and the 7 day moorings on the Paddington Arm up to the glass footbridge are reserved by the IWA between Monday 26th and Friday 7th.  Most noticeably all the regular moorers have moved back to Kensall Rise moorings, so in fact when we arrived Paddington was relatively desserted, and we found a 14 day mooring without a problem which is more than I could have said if I wanted to stay at Kensall Rise!  There was even one space on the 7 day moorings in Paddington Basin itself, but whilst very secure down there, it isn’t as nice for the dogs.

So here we are.  One of the reasons we are here for Cavalcade is that I am working on a trip boat over the weekend as well as being on duty today (Tuesday afternoon), so after a quick change and an hour of dog walking, I changed boats and went on a busman’s holiday down to Camden and back!

Winkwell to Uxbridge – we finally made it!

Tuesday 6th and Wednesday 7th April

Zulu is home!

On 18th December, the day the Trent and Mersey reopened at Middlewich, we set off from Middlewich on a three week trip to our new moorings at Uxbridge.  Almost 4 months later we have finally arrived thanks to ice and stoppages along the way but it has been a great winter cruise.

So the final leg of the trip was from Winkwell, through Hemel Hempstead where a “charming” boater told me that single handed boaters were the scourge of the canals, then tried to engage me in conversation about how he detested London as it had become a foreign city, staffed by foreigners to serve foreigners.  Fortunately he was heading in the other direction and he cheerfully told me to stay onboard and worked me through the lock – I thought I might as well live up to his expectations so did just that!

Easter Eggs all over the Hemel area.  Are they all gone now?
Easter Eggs all over the Hemel area. Are they all gone now?

All around the canalside in Hemel were plastic A4 sheets tied on with cable ties – remnants of an “Easter Egg” hunt and still flapping from trees, bushes, lock gates, buildings.  Many had obviously been placed there by boat due to their location.  I do hope the organisers are going to make sure that every single one is removed along with the cable ties as right now this looks a dreadful eyesore after only three days.

Once out of Hemel I love this stretch of canal as it drops down lock after lock into the wonderful surroundings towards Cassiobury Park where the dogs had a fantastic run with at least six others.  Cassiobury lock is one of the slowest I know, and one of the busiest for onlookers.  We certainly gave them something to watch as I met up with a boat already in the lock, despairing that they had picked up their rope on the propellor and after an hour still hadn’t managed to free it, or to find anyone who could do it for them.

So always up for a challenge when it comes to getting rubbish of props, I was delighted to be able to get them moving again within 15 minutes.  Plenty of practice I guess!

I travelled with them as far as Rickmansworth, stopping briefly to reminisce at the old moorings where exactly two years ago, on 7th April 2008, I picked up Zulu from her long term home on Batchworth Farm moorings.  I moored opposite Tesco, exactly where I stopped two years ago and took a walk into town for something to eat.

At Wetherspoons Tuesday night is Steak Night, offering exceptional value – just the job after a hard day’s boating and I look forward to Wetherspoons April Beer Festival taking place for the next couple of weeks. 

Back to the boat for the night, and an early start with the dogs next morning led us down the final stretch towards Uxbridge.  For many years Black Jacks Mill has been empty so it is nice to see it all restored as an up-market bed and breakfast.

Continuing to drop down the locks, I got badly caught out at Coppermill lock where a fierce side stream enters the canal opposite the Fishery Inn Coy Carp.  Its not like I didn’t prepare for it and steered right up into the current but I was taken by surprise by the strength of it and poor old Zulu’s engine was no match, so with an almighty bang we hit the concrete coping sideways on, but no damage was done – nothing even fell off the shelves so it probably felt worse than it was, but next time I will crawl along the towpath side if the river is flowing like it is today!

From there it isn’t far to Harefield and the long stretch down to Denham Deep Lock with its charming tea garden and lovely walks through Denham Country Park.  This is our new home territory – a short walk from Uxbridge – and before long we were passing our new moorings and dropping down Uxbridge Lock for a quick service stop at Denham Yacht Station and a night at the Swan and Bottle.

Next morning we finally made it up back up Uxbridge Lock and onto our new mooring.

The trip from Middlewich has been 208 miles and 219 locks.  I think Zulu probably needs a well deserved rest, for now!

Banks!

Well this isn’t boat related but it may save someone a few pounds, so let me mention my banking experience today.

First Natwest, with whom I have held a business account for 10 years who have just told me.  “Sorry we can’t send that because we do not have your address on file.”  What?  After 10 years?  Well just put it back on file and send me what I needed. “No you need to come into your branch (Brighton) to sign a form.”  “No I don’t. I am not changing anything but simply asking you to sort out a problem of your own making.” Etc. Etc.

“You can speak to your business manager”, they suggested, who’s voicemail was 4 days out of date and directed me back to the same 0845 number I had already used.  I dialed it again and got through to someone who managed to sort it all out without a fuss.  The address was on file all the time!

Fully fired up in anti banking mode I then took on Abbey, or should I say Santander, who had just delivered me a statement for my ISA account showing only 50 pounds interest for the whole of last year.  “Could you please let me know what interest rate I will earn on this account during the current tax year?” 

“Yes – that’s an ISA Issue 1 account  so it will be 0.3 per cent.”

“Is there any way to increase this?”

“Yes.  I can change it to an ISA Issue 6 account so you will be given 0.5 per cent plus a 2.0 percent bonus for 12 months. Would you like me to do that now?  OK that takes effect tomorrow.”

So for the sake of one quick phonecall my account will at least pay something approaching an acceptable rate – but this really does demonstrate that the banks are taking full advantage of anyone who doesn’t update their accounts yearly.  I’m sure Santander are not alone in this so do take a look at your current savings and ensure that you are playing along with this new invention of  “Issue numbers” and not letting them take advantage of you!  Take nothing for granted and make a call now!

Marsworth to Winkwell

Easter Monday 5th April 2010

Marsworth locks are one of my favourite flights in a beautiful setting alongside the reservoirs.  They are quite easy locks too, not too deep and in very good working order, so we made light work of them, meeting the first boats of the day at the top lock where a small queue was forming.

So having reached the summit level we were definitely on the last leg of the trip to Uxbridge but by no means there yet with still another fifty or so locks before finally reaching the end of the journey.  Somehow these locks fly by as they are mostly quite well spaced and in a variety of rural and urban locations which adds a bit of interest, dropping down through Berkhamstead which always has the air of a holiday destination, with a very popular mooring site in the town centre, lined by a park on the offside.

We made a quick stop at the canal side Waitrose where for a small fortune I got myself a reduced price meal for one and a supply of dog food, bonios, biscuits, chews and poo bags.   At least the dogs will be well fed!

It was so tempting to stop at the lockside Rising Sun but we kept going and arrived at the last locks of the day at Winkwell, where Zulu spent the first two months of her new life being repaired on land just after I bought her two years ago.

Another stroke of luck with the electric swing bridge as two boats were just coming up as I was coming down, so I got a free ride through without holding up the (very) impatient traffic here.  I moored on the long straight down to Boxmoor in the shadow of the railway line and took a walk back to the Three Horseshoes at Winkwell bridge for a couple of pints – another great dog friendly pub where we all curled up at the fire and dozed off! 

Today :: 9 miles 23 locks

Simpson to Marsworth

Easter Sunday 4th April 2010 

Busy scene at The Grove Lock
Busy scene at The Grove Lock

Here we are in Marsworth then. Its been a great run today as I set off about 9am and got here about 7pm so the batteries are well topped up, but TV reception isn’t great here and 3G broadband is almost non existent, certainly on O2 and T-Mobile, so I popped out to the pub for a couple of beers instead.  Note the reference to topped up batteries, which is something that seems somewhat uncommon here.

Marsworth is certainly a lovely place and I can see why mooring vacancies here attract a lot of interest, but I do have to make an observation that between the BW Marsworth Yard and the main road bridge, where there are currently maybe 15 boats moored on both Residential and Leisure Long Term moorings, at least half of them are running engines or generators right now between 21:30 and 22:00 – like no other place I have ever moored.  Normally running the engine 1 minute after the normally accepted 8pm deadline attracts mumblings if not bangings on the cabin side so I can only assume there’s some sort of local agreement that nobody will complain because everyone does it. 

Marsworth is such a picturesque location, with a great dog friendly pub, the Anglers Retreat, and a dog friendly coffee shop beside the bottom lock but its certainly not a peaceful place.

Punctures galore at Slapton on the Grand Union
Punctures galore at Slapton on the Grand Union

Anyway today has been very pleasant with a blue sky but slightly windy, and being a bank holiday the towpath was very busy with walkers and cyclists many of whom seemed to have had punctures between Grove Lock and Slapton due to thorns on the towpath!  A mobile tyre repair service could be making a fortune here! 

I passed Nuggler in the Soulbury Three Locks, on their way to the Lancaster Canal, and this is the first time I have seen the refurbished Three Locks pub which seems to be getting some good reviews since being reopened almost exactly a year ago and recently achieved Cask Marque status according to the local CAMRA newsletter.

I have become so used to working on my own that its a bit of a shock to be joined by another boat, but towards the end of the day I was very grateful to see one approaching in the distance, so I waited then enjoyed the assistance of the twelve eager crew on a day boat from Pitstone Wharf, and the last few locks of the day soon disappeared, leaving only Pitstone swing bridge to do before they returned to base.  Single handed this is slightly awkward as without an offside landing stage the boat has to be walked through the bridge hole but with good timing an oncoming boat had left it open for us.  I thanked the hireboaters for their help – all they had to do was to close the bridge behind us but when I looked back in the distance, they had left it open and despite my best “close the bridge” gestures, all I got was a wave back.  Doh!

17 miles and 17 locks – the end is in sight!

Thames flowing too fast for Pooh Sticks

Easter Saturday 3rd April 2010

The World Pooh Sticks Championships have been cancelled for safety reasons.  Traditionally held on Easter Sunday at Days Lock on the Thames for the last 27 years, sadly this year’s event will not take place, according to the Oxford Mail.

Am I bored tonight?  Yes I guess I am – LOL!

But tomorrow, Easter Sunday morning, nice and early, Zulu will be off through Fenny Statford, Leighton, Marsworth and maybe even down towards Berkhamstead.   Fingers crossed for a nice day.