Lorraine at the helm
Sue and I invited our friend Lorraine Charlton along for a short afternoon cruise on Sunday 1st July. We set off about 1:15 with a rather overcast sky that seemed to promise rain but in fact the sky grew brighter as the afternoon wore on and all threat of rain vanished. Rather we were treated to a beautiful blue sky.
We set off down the Tring cutting with Lorraine taking the helm under Sue’s tutelage, passing a delightful clutch of ducklings. Lorraine had never been on a narrow boat before and seemed to enjoy the experience immensely. She certainly took to helming like the proverbial duck to water. The canal was quiet, all the greenery of the trees by the canalside in full bloom and the water levels returning to their per-drought levels. We passed a canal boat on our way up the cutting and another on the way back – apart from that we had the water to ourselves.
After a brief stop along the tow path for a tea cake and cup of tea, and just enough time for me to give the top deck a quick wash we headed back, passing more ducklings, before mooring back up at the marina just past five o’clock.
Sue and I moved Lily back to the marina today, taking the opportunity in the bright summer sunshine for a quick motor up the cutting. The water levels seemed to be back to normal which bodes well for future cruising. We took the opportunity to do some interior paintwork, refill the water tank and wash off some of the dirt from the top of the boat before heading home.
Today we were joined by our friends Jim and Debbie on a swelteringly hot day for a cruise along the canal through Berkhampstead. The weather would have been unbearably hot if it were not for a strong breeze. Indeed the breeze at times proved problematic, making manoeuvring through the locks tricky at times.
At Cowroast Lock
We set off from Cowroast marina just after ten and made our way through the Lock in short time. There were not many boats out and about and we had to manage all the lock to Berkhampstead and back on our own.
The canal looked beautiful with all the summer greenery on show, with ducks and ducklings, geese and goslings, swans and cygnets in the water. The canal through Berkhampstead was very pretty in places where the trees overlooked the canal and gave much needed shade.
Moored up by the canal side
After Lock 49 we attempted to moor the boat two times but each time came aground. The level of water it seems is still not up to its normal level. Eventually we moored up and swung Lily round just before Lock 50. Then we walked along the towpath, passed parkland and a funfair till we came to a pub by the canal side. We stopped for a much-needed cool drink before making our way back and having a simple but filing lunch of sandwiches on board.
Setting off we soon made our way back to Cowroast lock but as we entered we discover that it was chained! Not for the first time since the drought and current water shortages have we found ourselves ‘locked out’ and so we walked Lily back out of the lock and moored her by the towpath before making our way back to the marina to collect our respective vehicles.
We said goodbye to Jim and Debbie and set off for home with wonderful memories of a summer’s day on the canal.
Moored for the night
On 18th May Sue and I set off to Lily to spend the night aboard.There’s something special about sleeping on the boat. Somehow time seems to slow down and on the canal a special kind of peace settles.
Arriving at the marina about 4:45pm we set off down the canal pottering slowly along the cutting. The sky was overcast but apart from a few spots of rain it was dry and not particularly cold. Two herons kept us company as we motored along the canal, flying ahead as we came too close. I spotted a wagtail on the canal side and as the evening wore on we heard the crows roosting for the night in the fields behind the cutting.
We turned round and moored not too far from the marina as we knew we had an early start in the morning. By the light and warmth of the coal fire we had our evening meal and were soon in bed.
Swans on the canal
Waking at 6 we got up and quickly made our way back to the marina passing a group of young swans on the way. At the marina we did our best to moor and tidy up as quietly as possible not to disturb the resident canal boat owners and then were on our way home.
Although we had not spent a long time on Lily, it felt much longer and we arrived home refreshed from our time on the canal.
Approaching the bridge outside the marina
After what seemed like endless days of grey skies and rain it was wonderful to be on Lily in the bright May sunshine. Instead of seamless grey the sky was a brilliant blue studded with white clouds.
We set off from Cowriast marina in the mid afternoon and made our way along the Tring summit uncertain of what we would find. The water was lower then normal but passable – we even managed to pass another boat without mishap. That was the only other boat we saw on the move (apart from a large boat going through Cowroast lock as we left the marina). Other than that we had the whole canal to ourselves. Further along the cutting British Waterways workmen had obviously been busy cutting back the trees. The result was lots of debris in the water!
But we weren’t in fact alone. We shared the canal with a young family of ducklings no more than a days or so old and two herons as well as a robin, crows and countless small birds. Overhead the blackbird sang from the tree tops.
We stopped at Bulbourne and had an afternoon nap in Lily’s bed. Somehow sleeping on a boat is especially restful and we went visiting the land of nod for at least two hours.
Approaching the bridge at Bulbourne
Waking at 6:30 we started Lily’s engines up again (the new batteries working a treat). Motoring to the end of Bulbourne in order to turn round we noticed with disappointment that the Wendover arm was closed – our favourite canal haunt!
If the afternoon light was wonderful the early evening light was absolutely glorious, the low rays of the setting sun illuminating the leaves in a beautiful display of nature’s glory as those same rays danced on the canal’s surface. The swifts came out for an evening meal of insects as we made our way back passed the herons and the duckling once more. Approaching the marina we were accompanied for a while by a young swan, like a sentinel guarding the stretch leading to the marina entrance.
Tucking Lily safely back in her berth we made our way home feeling refreshed and revitalised.
In Dudswell lock
Although the canal will not be fully open until April we took advantage of a window of opportunity provided by British Waterways to move Lily back to her berth in Cowroast Marina.
It was a beautiful afternoon – bright and sunny with blue skies. Lily’s engine was reluctant to start but after the generous application of boiling water she fired up and with the help of William, our son, Sue and I began the short journey back through three locks.
It was great to see Lily moving through the water again – she seems to come alive as she glides through the water. I know I’m biased but I always think how pretty she looks as she makes her way along the canal.
On the way back we had a moment of panic as she struck a leak – not from her hull but from a burst pipe in her internal water works! After a brief stop to bail her out we continued on our way.
William helps out
At the final lock another boat owner warned me that the water levels in the summit were very low. However in the short stretch between Cowroast lock and the marina we encountered no problems with low water.
Back at the marina we were warmly welcomed home by the owner of Charlotte, a little narrow boat (even smaller than Lily!) that shares our berth.
It has been five weeks since we last visited Lily and during that time there has been a very cold snap. I was anxious therefore to visit her today to see how she was.
Well we found her safely tucked up moored alongside the canal between two other narrow-boats. Somehow I felt much more comfortable leaving her out of the marina knowing that she was in company. The lock was still chained up so we were not able to move her but the main purpose of the visit was to see how she had survived the cold spell.
Well, the good news is that the engine started quite happily after just a few turns and Sue and I soon had a fire going inside. Unfortunately the water system hadn’t fared so well. Two pipes in the toilet had burst their couplings – a very simple job to repair which took me just a few minutes. However it soon became obvious that our little valiant water heater was mortally damaged. It has burst a pipe along the outside of the heating chamber. When we turned the water on we were showered with cold water.
Oh well, we shall have to make the best of it and see if repairs can be made. It’s more awkward than disastrous and will simply mean that we will have to take our own water on board for cups of tea and washing up.
It could have been much worse! I can’t wait now for the warmer weather so that we can get her going up and down the canal again.