Monday, 2 August 2010

Boxmoor to Cook's Wharf

(Posted by Alan)

Boxmoor to Cook's Wharf

Resuming my attempt to remember what happened on the intensive final two days of this trip!

In fact we did not intend to make a particularly early start, but a pair of community boats had been moored behind us, where not a lot of control seemed to be being put on the youngsters aboard, making their antics look quite dangerous. So when it looked that "Pisces" and "North Star" might be about to start up, we decided we would rather be ahead of them, than behind them.

Once we had worked a few locks, and were approaching the middle Winkwell one, someone hailed us from a moored boat, and asked if we would wait for them. I thought they might be a while getting going, but in fact we were quickly sharing locks, which helped us on our way a bit.

"Wooden stake and mesh" bank reclamation just below Berk- hamsted, something we have seen elsewhere, but new to the lower Grand Union, we think.

Small tug being delivered to these these works by lorry - I had previously thought it was being taken away, but have since met the lady who drives it, and who corrected me!

We continue to share locks at Berk- hamsted's "Rising Sun". I was fascinated to hear that the owners of this boat had saved at least £20,000 over an equivalent new one, by a second-hand purchase of an almost unused boat. (It's an Aqualine, built in Poland).

Alan lock wheels past extensive floral display at The Boat, Berk- hamsted

Our companions were stopping at Berkhamsted, leaving us to press on up the next eight locks to Tring summit alone. As we started encountering every lock against us, despite frequent boats the other way, we were clearly catching up another boat, but never quite seeing it. Often pairs of top gates were open, so we were guessing either two boats or a wide-beam.

Typical state of the refuse facilities at Cow Roast

We were not long on to Tring summit, about 3 miles with no locks, before we quickly caught up a wide-beam community boat. Much of the summit, being in a cutting, is relatively, (but not exceptionally) narrow, but they seemed to be navigating it incredibly slowly, even before they decided to start letting some of the visitors steer the boat, and were actually virtually stopping on a fairly regular basis. As we caught them at one of the wider parts, they could easily have held at the side for half a minute or so, and waved us past, but they didn't, and eventually we stopped in a bridge-hole and shut down the engine until they were out of sight. It didn't help much, as we very quickly caught them again, so we repeated this, waiting longer, but still caught them quickly.

Imagine our relief when as we finally got to Marsworth top lock, a narrow-boat was waiting to enter, meaning they could not share the lock, due to their width, but we could. I don't think I have ever been waved past with quite such bad grace, or such condescending comment. A great shame, as this was one of the usually better operators of coimmunity boats, but their arrogance and unhelpfulness that day has left me with a rather different view of what can happen.

Fortunately the lady we then shared with proved to be the perfect antidote. She was not young, but single handling a boat she had recently bought, and which was not without some mechanical issues. She was clearly having the time of her life, and neither the fact that a warning beeper kept coming on on the engine, nor that she had no idea what it meant, really didn't seem to trouble her at all. In fact she was not fazed when the engine decided to stop as she was under way, ("it does, sometimes", she said quite simply!).

So thank you, unnamed lady, as well as our accompanying boat earlier in the day. Not an auspicious day for community boat crews, we felt, but some very nice private boaters made our day. (And we got back within out target time too, which was surely a plus).

Almost home! - leaving the penultimate lock at Peter's Two

Boxmoor to Cooks Wharf
Miles: 12.2, Locks: 27

Total Miles: 179.8, Total Locks: 189

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Widewater near (Harefield) to Boxmoor

(Posted by Alan)

Widewater near (Harefield) to Boxmoor

Apologies to those who have told us repeatedly that they are waiting to see if we made it home!

We did, of course, but immediately embarked on our project to try and give Chalice a DIY repaint.

Now any amateur that has ever tried it will tell you this is not a job for the faint hearted - that roof that doesn't look too big normally, for example, suddenly appears a lot larger if you are trying to take it back to bare metal, or to apply many layers of new paint to it.

So we have been busy, and the blog went on stall, but I'm now finally going to attempt to record those last two days.

In fact, the wet dock booking made us decide to try and get back from Widewater, (near Denham) in just two days, to allow us a clear day for getting at least a bit reorganised at home, before boat painting completely took over our lives. This is not a massively hard target, but we were both very tired, and we knew it would take a bit of effort.

Above Widewater lock is usually a good tie-up, and this time was no different, so I have no real excuse that I woke early. However it was a good opportunity to take Charlie for an early morning walk, which I did trying not to disturb the other people on board, (a challenge!).

Leaving Widewater on another fabulous day

A strange feature of this part of the trip was that although the canal had become quite busy, we still ended up sharing very few locks, or indeed even finding very many in our favour, necessitating someone regularly being ahead with the bike to set them up, if progress was to be maintained.

However at Lot Mead, just north of Rickmansworth, the resident of the lock-side cottage approached me, and said there was a problem with the top gates, and despite multiple attempts to shut them or dislodge obstructing matter, they could not be closed. I was just thinking "what chance of getting BW out quickly on a Sunday of a Bank Holiday weekend.", when A BW guy appeared. I'm not sure if he was actually working, or just doing a good turn, but miracle of miracles, he knew where to find a keb. Now a keb is a long shafted rake, with end like a digging fork with it's tines bent through 90 degrees, and exactly what you need, but finding one near a GU lock these days is nearly unheard of. So when out man fished around expertly, we were mightily relieved when he pulled out the obstruction. It was one of the shaped metal caps used to top off the mitred posts of the gate, but curiously it didn't belong to the current gates, as both theirs were still present. Good old BW man - our chances of getting back on schedule suddenly recovered!

Approaching the pair of locks at Cassiobury

It is unusual this far down the Grand Union to find many low pounds, because much of it has rivers flowing in and out, and water is usually plentiful even when rainfall has been unusually low. However we did realise we were seeing quite a few pounds where levels were down from usual. Fortunately Chalice has a shallow draught, and is little affected by small water shortages on a canal like the Grand Union.

Using British Waterway's property as a waiting point to avoid the shallows in a low pound at Nash Mills

The schedule we were trying to stick to actually required that we got beyond Boxmoor, but there are opportunities to moor there that are rather quieter and less affected by road and rail traffic noises, so we decided enough was enough. We had done 23 locks, but stopping a bit early left us 27 to do on the final push.

Widewater (near Harefield) to Boxmoor
Miles: 14.0, Locks: 23

Total Miles: 167.6, Total Locks: 162