Sunday 11 December 2011

Saltaire (the forgotten blog entry...)

We made it to Saltaire in late October. It's taken until now for me to write up the journey...

I've loved the village for years, not least because I'm a huge fan of David Hockney (his gallery is in Salt's Mill) and an admirer of Industrial Revolution era philanthropists. The 21st Century had a lot to learn...

We never made it up the Bingley Five Rise because we didn't rush there and only had the one day to ascend and then descend; we 'boated properly' as the crew of Georgian Star said when we admitted to dawdling.

The truth is that with the cold weather, dark nights and the long working hours, we really miss the boat and we're planning the Spring trip already.

Tidal Trent... Mmmmm

Monday 7 November 2011


There is something so wrong about packing a boat up for the winter.

Every instinct tells me that it would be more appropriate to move aboard with a large stockpile of food and fuel and protect the boat from the frost by popping another log on the stove and putting the kettle on. That's what you should do with a narrowboat.

But we can't do that.

So the boat has been winterised.

Once again, the wonderful Paul & Chrissie have provided invaluable support. The radiator that is fed from the boiler behind the stove to keep the bedroom snug doesn't need attention: that is filled with inhibitor and antifreeze. One less thing to worry about, but I still need to climb the learning curve after finding the header tank and wondering whether it needs topping up, and if so, how and when...?

I'm not going to worry about that now.

I arrived this morning with a long To-Do list, and started by lighting the stove and putting the kettle on. No point in being cold, is there?

Draining the water tank took 50 minutes with the kitchen and bathroom taps and the shower on. While that was happening I had a look at a spot of rust that was letting water get past a mushroom vent. There wasn't much I could do about it with the tools I have, so it's been treated with Vactan and when I return in a few days the spot will be protected from the rain by some duct tape. A cowboy repair, I know, but how many people carry the kit needed to repair mushroom vent corrosion in their toolbox?

Once the water tank was empty, I enjoyed the envy of several other boat owners. Apparently the installation of a pump specifically for draining the calorifier once a year is a luxury I don't deserve as a new boater. Paul, you have no idea how much I owe you, and when I see you next the drinks are on me.

Old sheets are covering the good furniture; the cupboards and fridge are propped open; the mattress is on its side; and all the other soft furnishings are stowed in the house.

And we will spend the winter planning our spring holiday.

Monday 24 October 2011

The Leeds-Liverpool Canal Apprenticeship Scheme

If you head North through Leeds, as we are this half term, you serve an apprenticeship on the locks.

You begin with Leeds Lock Number 1, a key operated electric lock in modern urban surroundings. It's easy to operate, and once past the Royal Armouries Leeds Waterfront is lined with imaginative recreational architecture.

The next locks are standard fare for Northern waterways: leaky; complicated; inconsistent with each other; and never left in the proper condition. BW staff are helpful, local waterway professionals take on the role of 'critical friend' but are definitely worth listening to.

But whatever else you do, don't believe the advertising hype surrounding Granary Wharf. The reception from staff is unwelcoming and surly, the noise from the railway and nightlife unpleasant, and the facilities overpriced.

Then the lock apprentice faces their first test: Oddy Locks, a leaky two-rise with low water in the pound above. The trick is to transit both challenges, but without draining the waterway for the poor sods behind you. Pass this test and you are rewarded with the long Aire Valley Pound.

Then, the apprentice faces a pair of three rises. These are more of a challenge, requiring a more advanced understanding of lock operation. By transiting two in quick succession, the apprentice learns and demonstrates competence. If you can pass this test, you are ready for the Bingley Five Rise.

We're having a break first...

An evening with good friends with a walk in Calverley Wood. This is why we bought a boat.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Half Term Holiday

We're pretending that the winter isn't going to happen, and the weather seems to be conspiring with us. We set off yesterday in glorious sunshine for an afternoon cruise to Leeds.

It was cold, though. 21st Century families don't wear thermal underwear, but we all had our Berghaus base layers on and drank hot tea while we wore sunglasses.

In Leeds, Michaela met us (she finished work a day later than the rest of us) and as we tied up at the visitor moorings at Clarence Dock we were delighted to be greeted by some of the long-term berth holders with such cheerful delight that we felt like old friends returning home.

Now we no longer have to fight traffic and hunt for parking spaces, we are beginning to appreciate Leeds. I spent far more money than I should have in the 190 year old indoor market, bringing huge bags of cakes home to the boat.

But first we stopped at Granary Wharf because we had read that The Book Barge was there. Take the time to read the 'About' page on that website and you will see why it is about so much more than just books, what it is that Mic & I believe is so important, and why we fell completely for this ridiculous idea.

We're staying here for another day; our disabled son needs collecting from respite before we depart on our 'proper' autumn holiday. But over the next week we're going to Saltaire and beyond.

Saturday 24 September 2011

It's Leeds, Jim, but not as we know it.

There's a lot to be said for 'City Break' weekends - especially when you visit a city as energetic and interesting as Leeds.

I have to admit that I have spent the last decade regarding the place as a necessary evil: more theatres than York; better shops than York; but horrendous traffic, worse parking and mile after mile of miserable urban sprawl.

And a boating friend says that 15 years ago he referred to the canal through Leeds as "Gunboat Alley" - he would run through it as fast as possible on his way to the beauty spots of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

But these days Leeds by boat is a pleasant surprise. The last few miles of the Aire & Calder are tree-lined and easy to navigate. Leeds itself is now marked by apartment blocks and waterside bars. Not a concrete jungle, and certainly not an intimidating or unnerving experience.

The reclamation of the industrial waterscape even stretches to some pleasant spots for overnight stops - Thwaite Mills Museum has been noted for a future stopover.

Once again we picked up some friends and went for a cruise, this time through the city centre as far as Armley Mills Museum, and then back to Clarence Dock and the Royal Armouries Museum.

There is more to do in Leeds than we can fit into one weekend. We're going to have to come back a few times.

Saturday 17 September 2011

Working Waterways

Well, it took a week longer than we had hoped, but our little boat is finally back at her home mooring.

Last Sunday's trip down the tidal Ouse was immense fun, but high winds led to delays on the Aire towards Ferrybridge. A power failure at Bulholme Lock held us up for another hour and we didn't get to Castleford until after BW closed the flood locks for the night.

So we had to leave Honey to fend for herself among all the working boats for a few days.

The final part of the voyage home had to wait until this morning - just a short hop along the River Calder in sparkling sunshine.

This afternoon we are clearing out our old beach hut - the loss of which prompted our decision to buy a boat. It's a shame they decided to sell the hut we have rented and loved for so long, and we will miss the beach.

There is a time for everything.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Moody River

The tidal section of the Ouse is an invigorating way to start a Sunday morning- especially with the magical combination of a high tide, a low sun and a strong wind.

It's a beautiful stretch of river, although we missed bits of it because we had too much spray in our faces to see anything.

In still water we cruised at just over 4mph, but once the tide had turned the speed increased to almost 9mph - with the wind and currents in some places creating foot tall waves. The only worry, though, was the risk of losing hats.

In other places the river was calm and smooth with only the GPS to hint at the speed of the tide.

Saturday 10 September 2011


Every now and then you find yourselves in the right place at the right time - like our last visit to Naburn Lock.

Sunday 4 September 2011

Fin de siècle

La Belle Époque has come to an end.

Today was the last day of a golden summer. And yes, it was just a little bit decadent and more than a little bit self indulgent.

In fact it was just plain, old-fashioned downright fun.

 We met Paul and Chrissie (who built Honey and cared for her for 18 years) for lunch on the banks of the Ouse in the centre of York. With the appropriate lubrication, we chatted about the boat we all love and the good times that are continuing on her.

Their kindness continued with gifts of wine, spare rope and a toolbox - they know the way to a man's heart!

 We discussed fuel filters and bilge pumps, antifreeze and coolant, calorifiers and toilets. And we finished with a leisurely cruise through the centre of York to the Archbishop's palace and back into the heart of town...

 ...where we tidied everything up, emptied the fridge, isolated the batteries and then carried the laundry to the car.

 Tomorrow, we all return to work and school.

Next weekend, we take Honey back to her home mooring - and there she will have to stay until October half term.

 Well, we'll probably break her out of jail for a weekend or two before then...

Thursday 25 August 2011

Check the tides

We've spent a few days messing about on rivers, a couple of days on a pretty river mooring in a quiet, remote spot, and a day with a very good friend.

I like rivers. They are my favourite part of the waterways network: never boring, never direct. Today's destination was due East of today's starting point, but we still spent an hour travelling due West and 45 minutes heading South. We saw otters, a mink, loads of countryside and (briefly) some mobile phone signal. We ignored that last bit and pretended it didn't happen.

And we arrived back at Selby lock just in time to catch the tide to York - but decided not to take it because we had our guest on board, everyone's cars were in the wrong places, and we needed a few hours to take on water & provisions.

It turns out that this was not our wisest decision. It leaves us with just one opportunity to head upriver to York in the next three days, because the tides either will be too early, after dark or too high.

So we will set off tomorrow evening, two hours and fifteen minutes before dark, on a two hour journey up a tidal river with no moorings.

If we get it wrong, then at some time on Saturday morning I will be posting the next entry as we whip past the Port of Hull on our way to the bottom of the North Sea.

Sunday 21 August 2011


It feels like we have been unfaithful.

We've just got back from a ten day holiday on a boat we hired before we bought Honey, and travelled into central London for a long weekend.

The amazing thing is that if you have a boat, mooring in the heart of the capital is free for up to 14 days.

So we saw friends, visited museums, watched a West End play, went to the Dr Who exhibition, visited the zoo, shopped on Oxford Street and cruised the waterways. What could be better?

Doing it in our own boat, for a start...

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Four Kingfishers, Three Rivers, Two Locks and One Floating Armchair

After a lovely long weekend in York, sampling the beers and chatting to other boaters, we set off yesterday lunchtime to return down the Ouse, along the Aire a little bit, and back home onto the Calder.

In our own way, we have introduced ourselves to the Naburn and Selby Lockies (the former because he has a friend with an autistic child, the latter because he called my wife 'Honey' on the marine radio... It has already been noted that we are a rare boat for having a lady radio operator, and after that incident the planned renaming of our boat has become a little bit less likely. )

I already love the Selby Canal. It's a short stretch of tranquility between the manic adrenaline rush of the Tidal Ouse (the 90 degree turn into Selby lock in a four mph current is exciting in any boat, but in a narrowboat designed to cruise at 4mph it's quite a challenge) and the commercial barges of the Aire & Calder. We met River Star, a 200 tonne cargo barge, coming towards us at speed near Ferrybridge and just got the hell out of it's way.

There's a lot of post industrial decay, a power station and a few factories along the way from York to Castleford, but most of the two day journey is through rural (and beautiful) Yorkshire. We saw kingfishers, herons, gorgeous woodlands and somebody's abandoned chair.

Then we watched the news, heard about riots, and decided we wanted to stay on the boat.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Home Fixture

We've heard about the tidal Ouse - and it didn't disappoint.

First, the aegir came through, lifting the water level by four feet as it passed us. Then the Selby lockie waved the narrowboats through - into a 7-8mph flow. If it wasn't for the pouring rain, it would have been a perfect morning cruise.

We found a fantastic mooring at the museum gardens, and then carried the laundry bag the quarter mile home so we could bestow offerings of Persil on the family god Hotpoint. For the next few days we get to play on the boat and sleep at home.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Home to Fairies Hill

We should have known that our journey had been too smooth and swift: at Mill Bank Lock we saw the happy sight of a BW man trying to remove an obstacle from under the top gate. As the hours wore on three car tyres were removed, but still the gate would not close. A delay of three hours, followed by a display of boat handling that would have won a BAFTA comedy award, would have to be enjoyed before we could start moving again.

But the River Calder was wide, lined with flowers and a delight to navigate.

Finally, the owners and residents of Fairies Hill met us with an open lock and warm greetings (not to mention eggs from the local hens). Honey is home in time for a warm sunset in green, peaceful surroundings.

Monday 1 August 2011

The River Calder

It feels like we've returned to civilisation.

After the low waters of the Huddersfield Canals, not to mention the narrow tunnels, 74 locks with rotten gates and relentless weeds, the clear, wide, deep River Calder has been a delight. Just 7 locks in 5 miles, and two of them were open flood locks. Anyone fancy a spot of water skiing?

The build up of weeds and the lengthy periods on tickover had even worn Honey out: the engine was smoking by the time we finally left the Huddersfield Canal - but a quick clean of the propeller and a lengthy blast with the throttle wide open and all was well again. A service when we reach Fairies Hill won't hurt, either.

What surprised me most about the Huddy was the relative scarcity of traffic. We have seen a small handful of moving boats - although the crew of Napton Lass were an absolute delight and we hope to meet them again. The small but perfectly formed Aspley Marina also went the extra mile to be welcoming and helpful.

And even though the Huddy was hard work, it was breathtakingly beautiful, rewarded us with some charming village stopovers (and delicious beers) and was worth doing just for the tunnel.

Tonight, we are enjoying a calm, warm evening at Shepley Bridge. The swingball and comfy chairs are on the towpath, the autistic child is de-stressing after a minor meltdown by hiding in a dark cabin with the iPad, and a bottle has been opened.

Saturday 30 July 2011

More from Slaithwaite.

Well, it would have been rude not to...


(Pronounced Slowwit!)

Everything a village needs: baker; brewer; butcher; pie maker. And a tea shop. And beautiful as well.