Saturday, 31 July 2010

Day Nine: Going Underground

Norton Junction - Bridge 51 (North of Husbands Bosworth Tunnel)

GU Leicester Section 19 miles, 7 Locks (4 staircase locks), 2 tunnels

9 hours

Exiting Crick Tunnel

Today we ended up setting off much later than planned: we'd moored last night opposite a boatyard which had a chandlery, in order to pick up some more engine oil (our engine still leaks a bit, especially when run hard for several hours) but they didn't stock they type of oil we needed. So I cycled back to Whilton, where there is a better chandlery, and picked up a 5l tin. It was only a few miles back, but it was very useful to have a bike! We brought our little foldie on the offchance that it might be useful for getting to shops etc.

So it was 11am by the time we eventually set off. The first excitement of the day was the Watford flight, which consists of 3 narrow locks and 4 staircase locks. Staircase locks are special because the top gate of one forms the bottom gate of the next, creating a chain of connected locks. Watford has a lock keeper to ensure that everything runs smoothly. He sends several boats down, then lets several up, to keep things fair. But it can still mean a long wait before your turn comes around. We were lucky that today was 'quiet' - on a busy day there can be 15 boast waiting at either end! In our case we were at the locks for about an hour and a quarter before we left the top one. Locking up was quite simple, once we'd got the hang of it. We helped several boats lock through before our turn came around so we knew what we were doing. And we got help ourselves when we took the Duck up, from others who were waiting.

The Duck ascends Watford staircase

Above Watford locks there is a long lock-free stretch, broken only by a couple of tunnels. However, we did pass nb 4EverMoore, and gave them a wave and a shout! Crick Tunnel was first. Our passage was uneventful, and we moored at the far end to head into Crick village and pick up some provisions. However, before we could go shopping we had to attend to an emergency! I'd seen a chap walk along the towpath towards the tunnel and climb the bank to the top. We were also up the bank by the boat, attempting to herd Lyra back in after she had gone out for an explore. James had just managed to secure her in the boat when the same chap I'd seen earlier walked back towards me. When he came close I could see him cradling his hand and he asked 'Where is the nearest hospital?' 'Erm, I've no idea', I said. 'What's wrong?' He had fallen whilst climbing the bank, had landed on his wrist and suspected that it was broken. He seemed quite distressed, although claimed not to be in much pain. 'Right', I said, 'come with us, we're heading into the village, I'll call you an ambulance.' So we walked up to the main road which was thankfully not far, and waited with him while the ambulance arrived. The paramedic confirmed that it was indeed broken. Once he was in safe hands, we left to get some provisions in the village shop.

Progress was slow north of Crick. The canal was shallow and narrow, with overgrown parts and lots of reeds. But despite that, it was lovely. The sun came out, and we enjoyed the picturesque scenery. Lots of rolling fields, canal bridges and flower lined banks.

Pastoral loveliness typical of this stretch

A proper country canal scene

Curious calves

We decided to keep going until about 8:30, to make up for the slow speed, and put some music on. We soon approached our second tunnel of the day: Husbands Bosworth. Passing though at 7:30pm meant that it was even less likely that we'd meet another boat, and it was as quiet as expected. Now we are moored up on the towpath, having let Lyra out to explore the hedgerow for a bit, and eaten the delicious local sausages we bought in Crick earlier.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Day Eight: An altogether more relaxed pace

Gayton Junction - Norton Junction

Grand Union Canal, GU Leicester Section

12 miles, 7 locks

6 hours

Today we just pootled along, stopping several times. We left Gayton Junction at 10 or so after a lie-in. Our first stop was just on a bit of towpath. I wanted to stop and write a few emails for work, so it seemd sensible to stay in on place and keep the internet connected. Lyra went for a short wander, having been trapped inside the boat for several days while we bombed up the Nene. On the subject of cat containment, we have rigged up a temporary net so that we can work locks without having to keep the back closed up all the time, since the controls are inside! So far it has had to be fortified several times with extra hooks and layers of net as she has found its weak points!

Railway, canal and motorway

We stopped again at Weedon, hoping to provision the boat, but could not find the shop which was promised in the Nicholsons guide. This proved to be a theme. Once through the Watford Gap, where M1, GU and East Coast Main Line all run in parallel, we began to ascend our first GU locks. They were hard going, but there were plenty of other boaters about to share the work, which was welcome. The Nicholsons Guide promised a farm shop with 'homemade pies' above Lock 9, but all that was left of what I'm sure must once have been a lovely place to provision was a sign on which could still be faintly read 'pies'. These small village shops must have been hard hit by the recession, which is a shame.

Norton Junction was our destination for the day, and so once we'd turned off the GU Main Line onto the Leicester branch, we moored up. The next locks are a staircase, which we didn't fancy attempting until tomorrow. Lyra was allowed out again, but not for long, as we could hear a tractor working up and down the field the other side of the hedge, and didn't want to take any chances.

Ex-Something Carnaby at the BW work boat station at Norton Junction

Having not been able to find anywhere to provision, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at the New Inn at the top of the Buckby flight. We enjoyed filling meals and got chatting to some other boaters who gave us some useful hints for safe places to moor in Leicester. It started to bucket it down while we were at the pub, but we managed to make it home during a break in the clouds.

An intruiging rudder loop, on a boat moored at Norton.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Day Seven: Things are Locking up

Wellingborough- Gayton Junction (moored GU Mainline)

19 miles, 30 locks

River Nene, GU Northampton Arm, GU Mainline

9 hours

Before I recount today's thrilling installment of the cruising adventures of Lyra and her staff, I just fancy giving a little update on yesterday, and why we're hammering on at such a comparatively cracking pace, doing the entirety of the Nene in two days (1 evening, 1 long day, and 2/3rds of a day, which I'll say is 2!) and hopping up the Rothersthorpe flight.

We do actually like the Nene! I have changed my mind about it, because the last time we were on it, we were breasting up with snapped tillers, bridge collisions, and all manner of stress. Because of the heavy flow, every lock was a dangerous adventure.

This time, of course, the Nene has been far more sedate. Travelling against the slight stream, it's been far easier to get in and out of the locks, and the weather has been variable from gorgeous evening sunshine to a bit overcast and windy, but no actual rain. The scenery is lovely, in general- there are of course a few boring bits, but in general it runs through bucolic chocolate-box countryside.

Fotheringay Church

That said, it could do with being 2/3rds the length, with less than half the number of locks... Nene locks are a trial, because they have to be left with the downstream guillotine gate open, meaning you have to reset it after going through which is a pain. They're also very big and have very fierce paddles with often awkwardly placed, short landing stages.

So, really, whilst it is very pretty it is tempting to get it over and done with as quickly as possible- hence the long trips. We also like having a couple of days in hand, and being ahead of our targets, so we can afford to dilly dally and explore if we find anywhere interesting. Plus it's also a nice challenge, to occasionally put yourself in something of the mindset of a "proper" working boatman, and seeing the waterways as a means of getting from A to B, as efficiently as possible, at all costs.

Anyway, today we finished off the Nene. The pronounciation changes from "neen" at Peterborough, to "nen" by the time it reaches Northampton. Whilst there were only 13 miles on the river to do between Wellingborough and Northampton, there were 13 locks, spaced much closer together than on the lower reaches. So we set off at about 10am, having had a lie-in, and chugged our way onwards. There was a fair bit of weed around the various locks, and often we had to clear it by spinning into astern- but, luckily, nothing so tangled or tough that it necessitated a trip down the weedhatch. The weed tended to build up in the mouth of each lock, so it was a case of getting up to speed and then coasting through it as well as possible.

Highlights of today included seeing the tree that snapped off the tiller- the EA have thankfuly removed the boulders from the other side that meant we had to get close last time- and also meeting up with Andreas on nb Rowanberry again, our former neighbour at our previous mooring, who was also cruising- albeit at a much less ambitious daily pace!

We were delayed in Northampton by a floating pontoon. There is no access for plant and vehicles to the new marina that they are building, so the contractors moor a pontoon across the river. This of course blocks all access, so we had to wait for a couple of hours until they finished work. We had a tricky reversing maneouver back onto some nearby visitor moorings, but it did seriously delay the start of the ascent up the Northampton arm. We went to town and had a look around, because there's some things you just have to accept! It did split the day up nicely, however, so it feels less tiring now.

We made a start on the Northampton arm at about 6pm, and whilst progress was extremely slow on the first few long pounds, and the water level really low- down nearly 2 feet!- in some pounds, we soon got into the swing of working through the locks, doing the last few to a glorious sunset and beautiful red and pink-shaded clouds. Then we were onto the GU proper, where we crawled past the moored boats and out to the junction, finding a mooring space on the towpath.

Ascending the Rothersthorpe Flight

Today has been another arduous but rewarding day, and we will now slow to canal pace, moving efficiently but not for such long days- we may even have a lie-in and tomorrow morning off.....

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Day Six: Rather a lot in one day

Wansford Bridge- Wellingborough

River Nene

36 miles, 21 locks

14 and a half hours


Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Day Five: First Ascent of the Nene

Whittlesey- Wansford Bridge

King's Dyke, Morton's Leam, River Nene

16 miles, 4 locks

Today was, thankfully, in two stages. Amy went to work, and I set off from Whittlesey at about 9:30. It was quite grey, and windy. I soon came to the Brigatte Bend, which is a 90 degree corner hemmed in with concrete walls on both sides. You can get a full length narrowboat around this corner, but I wouldn't want to try!

Just before Brigate Bend

Once out of Whittlesey, the water was again shallow and weedy, and progress was slow but steady. Then it started to rain, a particularly insistent kind of rain, and I only had a thin, lightweight waterproof with me at the stern. Rather than trying to moor somewhere and pick up the better waterproof which was in the saloon, I hunkered down and kept on going. Stanground Sluice, the lock onto the Nene, seemed a very long way away! Eventually I arrived, and queued up behind another couple of boats, before being locked through by the friendly but sodden keeper.

After leaving Stanground, I crawled past the moored boats, to emerge onto the main river in the centre of Peterborough. I recently rowed on this stretch, albeit in temperatures of 30 degrees and bright sunshine. Today was somewhat different.... Nonetheless, I found the waterpoint and filled up with possibly the best hose ever. It is a standard firehose, and it filled the tank up from half-empty to full and draining through the forepeak scuppers in about 5 minutes! I also emptied the cassette, as facilities to do so between Peterborough and Northampton are apparently unreliable.

I moored up a little further on, put the kettle on and had a rest before heading into the city to explore. It reminds me of Bracknell, with a very brown and octagonal-themed 80s shopping centre, only with the occasional Medieval church, house, and of course the cathedral. It was still raining as I headed back, so I curled up on the sofa with a good book (Bridge over the River Kwai, incidentally) and awaited Amy's return.

Well, it was as if she bought the sunshine with her. The skies cleared and we decided to head off into the evening light.

Milton Ferry bridge

We were soon out of Peterborough and into the countryside, passing the rowing lake where we raced a little over a month ago, and soon coming to the first Nene lock. With guillotine gates at the downstream end, and vee-doors at the upstream end, these are the exact reverse of the locks on the Ouze- and the paddles can be fierce, too.

Water Newton Lock - an idyllic spot

We fell back into a routine quite quickly. Amy would hop off the stern with a midrope and tie off to a bollard. I'd leave the boat in forward gear, held against the lockwall with the midrope, and then crack open the paddle on one gate once the guillotine gate was lowered by Amy. We only then had to open one gate and lower the paddle when full, before moving onto the lock landing stage and emptying the lock, because these all have to be left empty with the guillotine raised.

Sunset on the Nene

The evening light was spectacular, and we have already covered 10 miles of the 58 between Northampton and Peterborough. It was tempting to "do a Kestrel" and keep going up the Nene until midnight, to get it over and done with (!) but we called it a day at Wansford as the light faded at 9:30pm. Moored to a floating pontoon, we had a brief walk alongside the Nene Valley Railway before returning, eating, and now blogging. Bed now, I think- we're planning on a long day tomorrow!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Day Four: Whittlesey Warriors

March to Whittlesey

14 miles, 1 lock

River Nene Old Course, Whittlesey Dyke

4 hours

Today saw a short hop of a cruise, as we can't start the assault on the Nene until Amy finishes work tomorrow afternoon, so we planned on stopping in Whittlesey where there's a train station with services to and from Cambridge.

We were awoken by the chiming town-hall clock at 6am, and Amy left March for work just after the next set of chimes at 7. It was quite like living in Trumpton...

I headed off at 9am for the sani station and waterpoint just beyond the town bridge, but unfortunately they need a Middle Level-only key that we don't have. We must buy one for the way back! I carried on to Fox's boatyard on the outskirts of town, frequently spinning the prop into astern to clear the bladefuls of weed. The level was down 6 inches or so, and the prop often fouled. Progress was slow but steady.

When turning into the marina, I happened to come across nb Rowanberry, who shared our previous moorings! Andreas was making the turn out of the marina as I turned in, and we'll probably meet up on the Nene and catch up.

Once inside, I breasted up to a shell that was in the process of being fitted out, and had the tank and a jerrycan filled. Not the cheapest diesel at £1.02 per litre, with no self-declaration permitted- which some would declare to be frowned upon by HMRC- but there's no alternatives! Maybe next time, we'll fill up on the Lark, where apparently there is a riverside retailer with far more canal-like prices.

Once out of the marina the on the Old Course of the Nene, the water deepened and widened and the amount of weed in the centre of the channel lessened, so progress was much faster. It was only after coming onto the Whittlesey Dyke, which is completely man-made, that it became shallow and weedy once more.

Tumbledown bridge- the Duck is on the Greenwich Meridian at this point! Lyra in the saloon was in the Western hemisphere, whilst I was in the eastern.

I put on some suitably uplifting music- an iPod is a great companion when singlehanding on navigations with high floodbanks and not many views!- and eventually came into Whittlesey itself, where I helped a Fox's dayboat through Ashline lock before finding the special Middle Level windlass (it has an extended head to fit the paddlegear) and locking the Duck through.

Once through the lock, the moorings came up very soon and I came alongside just as the first drops of rain began to fall. Good timing! I rewarded myself with a cup of tea- it's impossible to have tea when singlehanding unless you stop, have a thermos, or a backcabin range!- and headed into the town for a look around.

The highlight of the evening was the visit of Jim and Sarah, the Warriors- or even the Chertsey Warriors as they ought to be known, perhaps. They arrived by car and enjoyed tea and cake aboard, having admired Amy's signwriting, before we all headed into town for a pubcrawl. The "real" pubs were nearly deserted, which was fine, with many draught real ales (good for the Warriors) and several nice ciders (good for Amy and I!). The locals were all in the Wetherspoon, packed in several deep around the bar...

We had a very enjoyable evening, talking over engine thermostats, sidecloths for big woolwiches, diesel selling- but we didn't talk about toilets once! That must be a record.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Day Three: 7.5 out of 10

Denver Complex- March town moorings

13 miles, 3 locks, 1 tidal windy bit

7 hours

The alarm went off at 7am, as we were due through Denver sluice at 8.30am with the tide. However, having assiduously checked fuel, engine oil, the tightness of the shaft-coupling bolts, and locked a complaining Lyra in the bathroom- we didn't want her falling in and heading out to sea via King's Lynn!- we joined the queue of waiting boats.

The process was quite slow, because there was two- way traffic in the tidal window, and boats could only be dispatched one at a time from Salter's Lode lock at the other end of the tidal section. We had to wait for them to cover the short tidal stretch and be safely through Denver lock before we could head through ourselves.

A brooding Denver Complex in the distance

We finally got through, sharing the lock with Moondaisy, at 10am, and then were out onto the tidal section. There wasn't much tide running at all, but there was a fair bit of wind. This time, with a lot of trust in the engine and coupling, I was able to do it "properly"- head down the right hand side of the river, then turn sharply nearly 170 degrees to enter the lock. The last time, I was too cautious and ran aground on a sandbank near the lock, achieving a score of 0/10 from the lockkeeper and incidentally winning a fiver back from big James- this time, I managed to get in without touching the sides, but because the conditions were fairly benign, Paul the keeper gave me 7.5 out of 10. A big improvement on last time, but still not big James' 10/10. Maybe next time....

Once onto Well Creek and the Middle Level, progress was slow and steady. There was plenty of weed, and the level was down 6 inches or so. The Commissioners were, however, doing their best to remedy this by pumping up water from the 16-foot drain and the Main Drain, but it would clearly be some time before the effect was felt!

We soon reached the twin villages of Upwell and Outwell, and progress slowed further. The bottom of the creek was quite close to the top, as the working boatmen apparently used to say, and the weed thickened. We didn't have to head down the weedhatch, but we did have to spin into astern several times to clear it.

Big Fenland skies!

Approaching Outwell.

When we arrived in Marmont Priory lock, a padlock- with a set of keys to the boat in it- was knocked overboard, but luckily I managed to retrieve them with the Seasearcher magnet- to the cheers of a family who were gongoozling and watching us come through!

There were even more weeds below the lock, but the sun came out and we made it to the town moorings in March in time for ice-creams- a very welcome end to the day's boating!

The Duck, along with n.b.s Moondaisy and Friendly Fox.

Day Two: No, not THAT Denver...

Ely- Denver Complex

15 miles, 0 locks

4 hours

Moored in the last gap in Ely!

Often, whenever we said we were going through Denver, peoples' response would be "Colorado!?" But no, this is the namesake- the brooding, industrial Denver Complex which controls a good deal of the drainage for this portion of East Anglia.

After the epic last night of the bumps party, we stayed over at Queen's college boathouse, on a couple of sofas- and having gone to bed at some time in the wee small hours, we made our way by train back to Ely and the Duck.

We went to Tesco for provisions- bread, sauces, milk, and diesel- along with all the provisions we wanted, and also visited the "Ely £ound Superstore", where we bought some pea net and some screw-in hooks- so as to make a cat-proof barrier to keep Lyra in the saloon, and avoid her coming on deck to lend a paw at inopportune moments!

We set off at 3pm, and set up the speakers for the Queen Adelaide straight, and to the sound of Queen's greatest hits opened up the engine to 2,100 rpm and set off down the four-mile straight at the dizzy speeds of 8.2kph, according to the GPS on my phone. Well, don't stop me now....

Soon we were on the twisting, boring part of the river, but fortified by tea and cake, we finally made it to Denver.

Moored up at Denver

We toyed with the idea of heading up the Relief Channel to Downham Market, and went as far as inspecting the lock- but then we saw the Jenyns' Arms opposite, and the lure of CHIPS was too strong to resist! Whilst sitting on the outside terrace, we saw another narrowboat, Moondaisy, try to breast up with some boats on the lock landing stage which were waiting for the morning tide. They were rebuffed, so we shouted across to them with the description of our boat, and they winded and headed back to moor alongside. They were amused by Lyra's reaction- apparently, she wasn't too keen on them coming alongside, and gave them a Very Hard Stare!

One last job was to remove the chimney, because the Middle Level has some extremely low bridges. It was eventually persuaded off with WD40 and a hammer!

Bumps 2010 Day 4


M1: Row over
M2: Down 1
M3: Row over/Row over

W1: Row over
W2: Up 1 (BLADES!)

A fantastic night for my W2. We bumped up four nights in a row, earning ourselves what is known as 'Blades'. Each night we caught the crew in front quicker than we had done the night before! Traditionally a crew which went up four would get to keep the blade they rowed with and have it decorated with the names of all the crew and who they bumped. Whilst we won't be painted the actual blades we rowed with, many of us will choose to get blades paited up specially.

This is an example of what ornamental blades look like. They have the names of the crew, which boats they bumped, and the names of the coaches. So James' name will be on it too!

Closing in on Nines 4

A triumphant W2: From top left: Laura, Lorraine, Bev, Claire, Freya, Jo, Ali (cox), Janice, me.

Will took a photo of the actual bump!

M1 had a fantastic row over and would have caught the boat in front had they not run out of river!

Video here:!/video/video.php?v=410102793756&ref=mf

Friday, 23 July 2010

Day One: Ely does it...

Cambridge- Ely

17 miles, 2 Locks

Well, today is the first day of our summer cruise! As I write this, I'm in the library in Ely, having taken the Duck up here this morning.

It's part of the complicated plan to get as far as possible through the Fens before Amy's leave starts, and the itinery over the next few days is simple:

Today, Ely; Saturday, Dunver; Sunday, 8am tide then on to March; Peterborough by Tuesday, whilst Amy commutes by train; and from then onwards, up the Nene and onto the canals!

Amy did have to work today, so I singlehanded. Not too bad, I set up some speakers and my iPod for music after Bottisham lock, and the engine is running well after the oil and filter change, with SAE30 oil, not the too-thin 15w/40 that it had before. The oil pressure is now higher, and the engine happier, as because it never fully gets up to temperature the 15w/40 stayed thin.

Lyra decided to miaow her displeasure at the noise for a minute or two, then fall asleep on the swivel chair under the bed, only emerging in Ely.

The city is fairly full of boats, with many narrowboats and cruisers breasted up. There's two music festivals this weekend, hence the congestion. However, I managed to spot a 48-foot long gap under a willow tree, next to a very high quay, and nipped in.

Right, I must be off- got to pick up some bits and pieces before heading back into Cambridge by train for the last night of bumps tonight...

Bumps 2010 Day 3


M1 - Down 1
M2 - Row over
M3 - Row over/Row over

W1 - Up 1
W2 - Up 1

Another fairly sucessful day for Chesterton. M1 were unlucky not to row over, having got as far as half way down the Long Reach, just in sight of the finish, before finally getting caught by Cantabs 3.

The rest of the men rowed over, including poor M3 who are 'sandwich boat'. This mean that they form the continuity between their division and the division above, and row both at the top of M4 and and the bottom of M3.

The womens' boats both bumped up, meaning that W2 are now on for Blades (bumping every night) if all goes well. I'm quite nervous about tonight!

A picture from Wednesday - photo: Ivan

Thursday, 22 July 2010

A Family of Bloggers

My dad just started a blog at He is a retired electronics engineer and boatbuilder. He lives in Plymouth and he is always working on some interesting project or other in his shed. I've always been impressed by his skill and workmanship. Recently he has made a beautiful Stevenson screen and a Wasp Trailing Log Spinner which measures the speed a boats.

Photo from ebay. The screen is not currently in use.

My little (17 yr old) sister, Milly, also blogs at, about her life and inspiration as a photographer. She really has an eye: she sees beautiful images surrounding her in her everyday life that most people would just pass by. I never fail to be inspired by her work.

Links to both of their blogs are down in my 'other blogs' section.

Bumps 2010 Day 2


M1 - Down 1
M2 - Up 1
M3 - Up 1

W1 - Up 1
W2 - Up 1

A fantastic night for Chesterton as a whole, although M1 were a bit despondent having been the only boat not to bump. But they didn't row badly - they were closing on the boat in front, it was just unfortunate that the boat behind was closing in on them faster!

Here's a brilliant bow-cam video from the first night, if us closing in on City.

The Chesterton RC blog has more videos and pictures, and one of our M2 has a Bumps blog for the Cambridge News, which is very funny and well worth a read.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Duck Migrates

On Friday, our blog will once again be a cruising blog - our long awaited cruise is now just days away. Bumps and training has taken up most of our spare time to get prepared but somehow, everything is coming together.

Inbetween rowing and more rowing, we have found time to repaint, master the art of signwiting, service the engine, buy provisions and make arrangements. We owe thanks to Simon of nb Melaleuca for lending us his oil extractor on Monday night. Its been quite good to have so many distractions actually. Bumps has meant that I've not been counting down the days to the holiday too much, and the holiday preparations have meant that I've not got too stressed and nervous about Bumps!

So, James will take the Duck to Ely on Friday (alas I have to cover for someone at work so can't help him). We'll stay over with friends on the Friday night, and then set off towards Denver on Saturday, to catch the 8am tide on Sunday. Then for the next couple of days, I have to go back to work, so I'll commute from March and Whittlesea while James takes the boat slowly accross the Middle Levels to Peterborough as there are no useful train stations beyond there. Once I'm on board full time we'll blast up the Nene, putting in some long days to get to the GU asap. And then we'll be off, on a loop:

  • GU heading northwards,
  • GU Leicester arm,
  • Up to nearly Nottingham, then a bit of the Trent, then the Trent and Mersey
  • From Great Heyward, onto the Staffs and Worcester
  • Through Brummagem, do a few loops, then up the Birmingham and Fazeley
  • Then the Coventry, onto the North Oxford, then down to Braunston.
  • Possibly a jaunt to Cropredy if there's people still there
  • Then back onto the GU mainline, all the way back down the Nene, across the Middle Level, and back up the Ouze.
Now, time to get down to the river and take on Day 2 of the Bumps! Wish me luck!

Bumps 2010 Day 1

The Town Bumps started last night. It was lovely weather, and not a bad show by our club, Chesterton:


M1 - Row Over (James' boat)
M2 - Row Over
M3 - Down One

W1 - Row Over
W2 - Up One (My boat!)

We had a fantastic row, catching up with the boat in front (City 8) within about 100m. We all had big smiles on the row home, and wore willow in our hair (the tradition method of indicating that you've bumped).

Saturday, 17 July 2010

What's in a name?

This evening I took the plunge. Not literally, I hasten to add!

The Duck finally has its name back, after a year incognito. And it was pretty nervewracking (I had to ask James to go to the pub - this was something I needed to tackle on my own) but it turned out OK I think.

I started off trying to use a one stroke brush, but once I found I could get straighter lines with a long signwriting brush, I carried on with that. And yes, the C's and U's don't match or look as smooth as I'd like, but I'm pleased with it.

That dent above the C is from where the Georgina hit us two years ago...

Friday, 16 July 2010

Happy Birthday James!

James is 23 today, and we are enjoying an evening in the pub with rowing friends. I made him a cake which was a brownie recipe with Celebrations in it. Yum! I decorated it with an aerial view of the Cam complete with rowing boats, Mr Asbo the swan and Battleship Bob.

He got a kite from his dad, a new cycle helmet and cycle computer from me and a nostalgic duck toy from hiss mum. Lyra brought him a feather at 4am, yowling as if she'd caught something live!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Exciting News

James has a new job for next year - working as a TA in a local primary school, in order to gain experience before applying for Primary PGCEs. I'm so pleased for him!

The Blues

We decided, a while back, that we were going to paint the Duck in the 'two blues' which used to be used on Grand Union Canal Carrying Co. boats in the thirties. Not because we want to paint it like a trad boat, but because those two blues look fantastic together on every GU boat we've seen restored in that livery, so we knew they'd work.

But, of course, the shade of blue is based on black and white images, contemporary description, and the odd flake of paint which survived, so there are various interpretations of what the colour scheme looked like. Below are two of them: Archimedes and Ara, and Callisto.

Callisto is the only one I've ever seen that uses the light, greenish blue. All the others are variations of the blue Archimedes and Ara use. So I was a bit disappointed to open the can and find it Callisto blue. So we are not sure if we will be using tho other blue after all. It is a shame but I just don't think it will look right. We should have had a swatch sent, but foolishly assumed that because every restoration we'd seen in the two blues was nice-looking, if we bought a 'GU Pale blue' to go with our Union Blue, it would be a colour we liked.

This weekend was absolutely the worst weather for painting: very hot and very windy, right up until quite late on Saturday, and threatening rain on Sunday. Still, we've just got to carry on with the Union Blue now, paint a line along the lid in grey, an then next weekend I shall attempt sighwriting!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Grand Onion Pale Blue

Our tin of GU Pale Blue just arrived from Craftmaster. I am dying to know what it looks like!

Note the name!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


Last night we painted one side of the Duck in its first coat of Craftmaster Union Blue. It is beautiful. Such a rich indigo. And it's shiny. Even on our battered boat, we can see our reflections in it (although they are quite hazy!)

Now, I am beginning to think about signwriting! Exciting. Although I have one question, which I hope someone can answer: What is the point of a mahl stick and how does one use it?