Friday 22 September 2023

Alchemy gets a tow

We had been asked to be ready for the tug to arrive at 8.30, so we set the alarm for 6.30. By 7.30, Mike set off for the first wheelbarrow trip to the wharf, this time for disposals.

There was no sign of the tug and then we had a text saying that he expected to be with us by 9.15. Time for another wheelbarrow trip, this time to the car with the frozen food.

Still nothing and later a phone call to ask if we were at the Swan and Bottle - this is a canalside pub in Uxbridge. This would be at least two hours away! There had been some communication error as the tug chap had been told to go to Denham!

Time the for a third wheelbarrow trip. We had already arranged that the tow could stop at the wharf for a short time just to allow us to offload stuff into the car, but we did not want to delay the to any more than necessary.

Mid day and we started to see movement in the distance which gradually turned into a distinct tug shape. After a brief discussion, Neil decided to tow us in reverse rather than go on to the next winding hole and back. The nearest point to turn in the Cowley direction is nearer but reversing is always harder. Also the water depth improves in that direction, whilst gradually becoming shallower towards Slough.

Progress was slow, principally because of weed and at least one stop was needed to clear the tug's prop. Eventually we arrived at the wharf (about third of a mile) and one of the boatyard staff quickly came out (probably from a lunch break!) to help pull us alongside. Luckily there was a good gap alongside (there often is none at all) and so the tug and boat could tie up together.

It took us only a short time to complete the offloading and the tug could continue its way to Watford (it was now expected to get there the next day rather than late today as had been planned) We could also leave and make our way back home by car.

Thursday 21 September 2023

Preparing to Move

Our tow to Watford is scheduled to begin tomorrow at 8.30 so much of today was spent preparing for a speedy departure. Although we will only need to take a minimum back home with us the main category is the content of the fridge and freezer. That, of course, cannot be loaded into the car until the last moment but we have taken the ambient perishables, such as fruit and veg, back to the car. We also had plenty of library books to cover the three or four weeks away that we had planned! They are now loaded as well.

During the morning we had another call from RCR to say that P and S have confirmed that the initial lift will take place around 8 next Friday (29th) during which they will assess the situation and order parts accordingly. 

The boat will then go back into the water until the parts arrive when another lift will be needed to fit them. They are confident that we will have the boat back in good order by the following weekend.

Loading the car today involved two trips with a wheelbarrow but each was interrupted by various conversations with the residential moorers at this boatyard. They are a very friendly lot and so it is easy to succumb to chatting longer that perhaps we ought! But time is not pressing so we chat. A  number of the permanent boaters are now 'working from home' and there are various interesting occupations amongst them.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

We have a Plan

The day was very wet all the way through - at times it seemed as if we would have a month's rain for this time of year, all in one day.

Late morning we heard from RCR with a plan. The tow will begin at 8.30 on Friday morning and we are not expected to accompany it so we can go back home as soon as the boat is collected.

The boat will then be delivered to Watford where P and S will undertake the repair. The boat should be out of the water by the end of next week with time to order parts before the weekend. Since it was an 'out of the box' installation by our original builder, we are hopeful that parts should be reasonably easy to source.

Once they have been delivered it is not expected to be a lengthy job to fit the replacements and we are sort-of promised that the boat will be back in the water by the end of the following week. For now, we will formulate plans on that basis. Time, hopefully, for our Covid Booster. However, we may have to rearrange one or two dates as we will be on the move when we had previously planned a short break. 

Despite the rain we needed to go out to the CoOp in Iver for a few items of food, some for tonight. On return to the boat Mike filled up the water tank as it was now very low. On this mooring that not anything like as simple a task as it normally is, with another boat between us and the bank. Equally difficult is getting a full cassette onto the towpath, not helped that the two boats are not quite the same length. Hence we are tied so that we can cross the other stern fairly easily but it is much harder at the bow. That done, the rain decided on another blast so we opted to leave emptying the cassette until tomorrow morning and swap to the spare.

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Bus Trip to Uxbridge

No phone call as promised so we tried calling RCR late morning only to discover that our contact was away from her phone for the day. No-one else really knew what was the latest news.

We did manage, however, to obtain a key fob from the office - who, as usual were very sympathetic and as helpful as they could be - as well as ensuring that we are booked on the mooring at least until the week end and also acquiring another electricity card.

RCR did make contact later in the day to say that towage was now arranged for Friday but that we will need to wait for a call tomorrow for details on how that will take place and what we need to do. We are expecting that once the boat is with a repairer we will be able to return home whilst it is being fixed.

Mike found that there is a bus from just outside the moorings that runs into Uxbridge. (There is a pedestrian gate at the far end of the moorings, close to where we are, that leads out onto a main road from Langley) It is a half hourly service and we went for the one at 15:16, although it was a little delayed. Part of the route through Iver is quite narrow. Guess where we met another bus coming the other way!

The bus dropped us in the shopping centre and we headed first to The Body Shop where Christine was after a refill to one of her refillable containers. However, she was most disappointed that another item that she has been using for a long while is no longer in production and she was directed towards an alternative to try.

That was the main reason for the trip but afterwards Christine was given permission (!) to wander around the almost-next-door M and S whilst Mike people-watched. To her surprise she did find an item to buy and was able to use some discount vouchers with the purchase.

We did look around the rest of the town centre although we had no specific purchase in mind. We have not been back here in the 7 years since we left Packet Boat Marina and it was interesting to see how well the retail business was surviving here. Although most of the outlets are towards the budget end of the market (we have seen places that are more so) only a few vacant units seemed to be available to lease. It was mid week so perhaps they do not expect much footfall at this time but it was definitely not heaving with potential customers!

We found the start of the 3 bus service and it was only a few minutes before we were able to board - quite a queue was waiting. There was much less traffic on the way back and we only had a slight delay at one pinch point.

Monday 18 September 2023

Elsan Day

The boatyard is closed on Mondays as well as Sundays and so we were locked in until tomorrow when we we should be able to obtain a key fob until we leave.

We did have contact with RCR but only really an update to say that they were on our case seeking arrangements but that critical people they needed to contact were not available until tomorrow. They promised an early call on Tuesday.

When we stayed here earlier in the trip we were able to time our need for water and disposals for when we were at the main wharf but that would need us to use our engine and prop to get there (not pulling it again!) Whilst we have water and electricity where we are, the rest are at the main yard. However, with by now two full cassettes - we do have three just in case - there was little option but to walk them down to the disposal point. Overall this did fill in about 45 minutes of the day . . .

Sunday 17 September 2023


As yesterday's blog makes clear, we are not moving the boat for at least a few days. The weather forecast was for a dry, if dull, morning followed by heavy showers, maybe even a clap of thunder, before turning a little brighter later on. For once this prediction was fulfilled.

When we moored at Packet Boat Marina at the junction between the Slough Arm and the Main Line, we went to St Matthew's Church in Yiewsley, not then far down the towpath. We opted to return there this morning, if only to see how they have fared in the recovery from the intervening Covid shutdowns.

Too far to walk from the mooring (it takes 15 minutes just to get to the car park) so we needed the car. All was going well until we realised that the main gate was shut, we have not yet acquired a fob to open it and the office does not open until 11! The system used here, unlike some other we have encountered, needs a security fob to get out as well as in. Christine managed to persuade another helpful moorer, near to the car park end, to let us out. As so often, boaters do try to look after one another perhaps more than in other parts of society. 

The service was well attended, even if a significant proportion turn up well after the advertised start time! By the end, when the children had joined from their own activities, the church was comfortably full. Apart from one two people we recognised being 7 years older than when we last saw them, much was as we recalled. The music is a mixture of modern and more well establish songs/hymns and the liturgy is middle of the road modern. However, they now have an AV installation, inspired by the need during lockdown to offer services remotely and many poeple continue, especially mid week, to join in that way.

As we walked back to the car we popped into a local greengrocer for some strawberries tonight and then into the branch of Wilco which is sadly now only a few days away from closing for good. Christine did find a couple of gardening items to pick up at much reduced prices!

As we were walking back to our boat alongside the moorings, we chatted to the two mooers who helped us open the gate earlier. Turns out that one recognised our boat as he has recently started working for CaRT at Little Venice and supervises the mooring pontoons we used!

Saturday 16 September 2023

Onto a Mooring

Today's Canal : Slough Arm

During the morning we were in contact with RCR and the person who is looking after the arrangements for our repair. Whilst progress has been made, some of it is backwards. It has been established that High Line cannot lift us out of the water for several weeks and that all their hard standing is fully booked. (They only bring in a crame once a month) That would mean that the repair would have to be done on the day of the lift. That is possible but if an incorrect part is ordered or the wrong size or missing then there is a problem. Hence RCR are reluctant to go down that route and, in any case, we would be very unlikely to get back to Droitwich before the winter season. 

The preferred option is to arrange for it to be taken to another marine engineering company but the boat moving will need a tow and arranging that cannot be done until Monday at best.

Christine had already discussed with High Line the possibility of another few days back on the same mooring as the two previous times. After RCR had made as much progress as they could it was agreed that we would take up that mooring - apart from anything else, we are running short of water and having to run the engine to charge the batteries. The mooring has immediate access to both water and a hook up.

However , , , (there is always an however!) the mooring is almost half a mile down the towpath and on the opposite side. Mike turned himself into a towing horse and generated enough power to get the boat down the canal at a reasonable walking pace. Christine stayed on board to steer as much as possible in a straight line. The main issue was to pass the tow ropes over three boats that have been noored on the towpath for a while. It is surprising how fast the boat seemed to be moving when doing this as there is little margin for error and for getting a rope caught on any of the 'stuff' stored on the boats' roofs. We got it wrong on the first occasion but forefather timed it just about right.

Finally we had to push/pull the boat to the opposite side - luckily a neighbouring moorer came to our aid. As the canal is not very deep, the pole was also able to be used all the way across.

Once we were tied up and had the inevitable conversation with the other boater it was time for a rather late lunch.

Alas, with both of us rather busy towing and steering we failed to think about a photo.

Needless to say, the rest of the afternoon was very quiet as we recovered from the unusual activity.

0.4 Miles - 0 Locks

Friday 15 September 2023

Test Kit, Tyre and Going Nowhere Much

Today's Canals : Grand Union Main Line and Slough Arm

After mooring yesterday, Christine had a call from her GP to say that something had been mixed up with the tests she had done whilst we were at home and that one of them needed to be done as soon as practical. We ummed and ahhed - the GP had been a bit equivocal about what to do as we may well be away for up to three weeks - but in the end decided that it is better to get it done now. The practicality is that the test kit has to be collected from our surgery in Devizes, the test done and  then posted off to a specialist lab.

So, we set the alarm for this morning and Mike prepared to do the round trip in the car - we are about 90 minutes away. Alas, the car was now a couple of miles away back at the boatyard so we unmoored and Mike cruised back along the Slough Arm whilst Christine finished getting up and having breakfast. All went well until we arrived at the spot we needed to moor, as close to the car as possible. Then, whilst still in mid canal, the boat came to a standstill. We realised that there must be something around the prop.

Mikle dived into the weed hatch expecting to find an unusually large lump of weed but was, instead, met with a large tyre, evidently wrapped completely around the prop. He stood no chance of getting that off with the equipment we carry. So, we poled outselves to the bank and tied up.

Mike set off to drive to Devizes, leaving Christine to contact RCR. In some ways, both of us had a successful morning. The M4 was remarkably quiet and Mike arrived at the surgery several minutes ahead of the original ETA and soon had the special envelope in his hands. He then made a brief stop at home to pick up a couple of items we forgot yesterday (neither was critical). By then Christine had texted four items to pick up from Morrisons and once that was done, he set off on the return trip, again arriving dead on the ETA despite stopping at a service station to take a phone call from Christine.

Meanwhile, Christine had had good response from RCR with an engineer arriving soon after 11. He eventually, after more than an hour's effort, cleared the prop. Not only the tyre but also the rope which someone had used to convert the tyre into a fender were tight around the blades. he checked out other parts of the system that might have been affected by the incident and concluded that it was not sensible to drive the boat anywhere much.

After checking with our insurance company, RCR undertook to put in place a repair plan the first part of which entailed the engineer (by now joined by his daughter, another RCR engineer) writing a description of the problem and damage, together with photos. They then left us - with the tyre!

Later we learned that arrangements for the repair are being made and an estimate is now with the insurers but by the end of play we have no confirmation of when and where the work might be done. We may well have to stay here until we at least have a firm date but at least we are close to the car.

Later, Christine completed her test and Mike drove into Iver to drop it off at the nearest Post Office.

We wait . . . 

2.4 Miles - 0 Locks

Thursday 14 September 2023

Yiewsley tesco

Today's Canals - Slough Arm, Grand Union Main Line

Slightly slower start today but nevertheless we were away by half past ten. Christine had a follow up consultation yesterday afternoon and was advised to acquire a neck soft collar (thin Mrs Tishell!). We found a way of ordering one for delivery to an Amazon Locker, to be collected before end of Saturday but she was keen to get one as soon as possible. After we set off she phoned ahead to chemists in Marlborough and although Boots did not stock them they directed her to a nearby pharmacy (actually on our normal route) which they thought might be help. A further call to them and, yes they did have one in stock. This meant that we only had the briefest of delays to our journey and arrived at High Line earlier than predicted at 11:47.

It is a long walk along the moorings to where our boat has stayed (15 - 20 mins) and we planned to unload the car after moving the boat up to the main wharf. However, we had quite a bit of chilled and frozen food and the day was warming up nicely. So, we used a trolley to take that along the towpath as we walked to the boat and stowed in fridge or freezer as soon as we could.

Of course, the boat was facing towards Slough so the first task was to cruise along to the next winding hole, about 15 minutes each way. By the time we reached the wharf, two boats were moored up alongside each other which meant we had to moor alongside as well. Then, we had to carry our boxes over both of their sterns - a bit tricky but we managed without dropping anything into the canal!

By the time we had done all that, parked the car and set up the laptop (to log our journeys) it was well past lunch time but Mike insisted on food before setting off! Consequently it was almost 3 pm when we finally cast off.

The trip along the remainder of the Slough Arm was slow but nothing like as bad as we had been told it might be. Alas, the camera needed charging so only one photo of the boatyard today.

At Cowley Peachey, the junction with the Main Line, we turned to face northwards as that is where we are heading on our way - eventually - back to Droitwich for the winter. However, first we needed to stock up at tesco, about 200m south of the junction. We carefully reversed - the canal is quite wide so not as difficult as in some places.

We had originally planned to go a bit northwards after the shopping was done but as that was now five o'clock we stayed put until tomorrow.

4.4 Miles - 0 Locks