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70 now and our five wonderful years aboard our narrowboat Skyy seem along time ago. Jacquie, allowed me to build my replica three wheeler kit car, which was a great success. Now it's time to start on a bigger project and that is to make a good Triumph Stag even better, here goes.

Thursday, 30 April 2009



More friends, Colin & Sue, would be joining us at the weekend and we felt that Thrupp was another ideal place to meet up. A very attractive location with a secure car park by the old BW yard and the conveniently placed Boat Inn, and as we were on a seven day mooring we decided we would stay put until Saturday morning.

Jacquie returned from London at midday on Wednesday having missed the most spectacular sunrise. I was surprised to see that the outside temperature was only just above zero and as I pushed the hatch back to get this picture it scraped ice off the runners.

The temperature rapidly rose in line with the sun and it was a beautiful day which we rounded off with a walk to the little Shipton church, that backs right up to the canal. The picturesque little River Cherwell runs right alongside the canal here, as it has for most of the way from Banbury, on its way to the Thames. In a couple of places the canal and river join up, which in time of heavy rain can cause severe problems for the unwary boater. The picture posted under ‘MARKET DAY’ where Jacquie is at the lock, shows where the river leaves the canal under the little arches just above Aynho Weir Lock.

Thursday was a showery day so we postponed our intended bus trip into Oxford as we would have plenty of other opportunities to explore the city centre, especially as the long range forecast, announced today, is for BBQ summer, Hooray!!! About time that global warming made a positive impact on the UK.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009



What a difference a day makes continuous sunshine for over a week and today pouring rain. Our destination was only Thrupp, but a work boat who was in a hurry and lift bridges that had to opened, slowed down our progress, so by the time we arrived we were proper wet, but only on the outside.

We moored up just beyond the old BW Thrupp Yard and before a row of fine stone cottages which terminates in The Boat Inn pub, that’ll be handy when Jacquie abandons me. The old yard is now owned by Oxfordshire Cruisers as a base for its Day Boat Hire operation and they are maintaining the facilities and preserving this historical site, no bad thing.

A short walk up the lane took us to the main Banbury Road with the bus stop on the corner and the 59 bus deposited us in the centre of Oxford. Another short walk and we were at the Oxford railway station in good time for Jacquie to catch the 3pm., train to Paddington, leaving me to my own devises for two days, hense the blog being brought up to date.



The morning was so beautiful, the sun lit up our borrowed back garden and we were loath to leave this place, but the canal called us on and after topping up the water tank at Lower Heyford we stopped for Jacquie’s special ‘Brunch’ It was a bit chilly to eat on the rear deck, but it tasted just as good in the warmth of the saloon.

Steve and Caroline were way ahead, walking the towpath, when Steve came running back indicating that we should slow down as there was this amazing Tea Room just before Pigeon Lock. As we cruised gently passed looking for a mooring, we could see why they wanted us to stop. There were tables and chairs, swing hammocks, all spread out under the trees on the other side of the canal to the tow path. Scones and cream, cakes of all description, tea, coffee, a wind up gramophone and a piano with an invitations to play them. Old Morris Minor cars and vans decorated the place and it also boasted the smallest aero museum in the world hosted by the son or the family, who without doubt will be a pilot in due course. It was all so wonderfully eccentrically English and felt that the clock had been wound right back to a much gentler age. All of this can be found at Jane’s Teas at Mill Lane, Kirklington 07837 362683 but only Sunday’s I think, truly amazing!!

We cruised on just a little further to Emslow Wharf and popped into The Rock of Gibraltar pub, where we were entertained by two young couples who were really determined to having a good time. We wished them on their way, as they later skipped and stumbled down the towpath to their, fortunately for us, out of sight boat.

Steve and Caroline took the decision to travel home late this evening rather than in the Monday rush hour, a taxi was arranged to collect them from the pub car park to return them to their car and we sadly waved them on their way.



Good friends Steve & Caroline arrived at Ayhno Wharf at 9.30 Friday evening, but they were able to access the car park as the lovely lady in the shop had given me the code for the gate.

A bottle of bubbly, some pasta and a few more bottles of wine and the cabin lights started to dim and the water pump sounded a bit puny when the kettle was filled for coffee, when we realized that it was gone 2.30 in the morning and the batteries also wanted to go the sleep. Beds were made up and after some hysterical giggling from the rear cabin, slumber took us in its arms.

We awoke to rain pattering gently on the roof and to some it might have sounded like hammers pounding, but slowly the wind cleared the sky and our heads and off we set. The first lock we encountered was Somerton Deep at 12 ft., a scary introduction to locks for Steve and Caroline.

Our short cruise was terminated just below Allen’s Lock and bridge, at Upper Heyford, opposite the most magical back garden, which was bursting with gentle colours of lilac and cornflower blue, we think they were carefully cultivated wild flowers, but the effect was so enchanting that we decided to travel no further, especially as the Barley Mow was just a short walk through the lovely village.

Friday, 24 April 2009



In the words of George Peppard of The A Team “I love it when a plan comes together”. At 11a.m. all the moored boats had moved off and we are now opposite the wharf, just one boat down from the bridge. Another great laundry day, in fact I was surprised that nothing took off from the whirlgig airer as the wind was quite windy, but all dry and ironed and now and just waiting for our friends to arrive.



Peter and Fran or Eeyore and Fran of N.B. SONFLOWER, in fact turned up Wednesday evening to turn her round in readiness to heading of to London by the scenic route. Tooley’s having completed her new paint job and associated work. I waved to Peter and crew as they headed off first thing this morning.

Jacquie went off to Banbury’s open market (Thursdays & Saturdays) and on her return we went through the little lift bridge and filled with water. By the time we were ready to descend the lock it was lunch time and the surroundings were full of curious folk, but we made a decent job of entering and leaving the lock. We moored up just out of the town centre as Morrison’s supermarket is very conveniently accessible from bridge 168.

After lunch we headed off with Ayhno Wharf as our destination, we arrived about 6 p.m. and moored up just short of the wharf. We found out last year that this was a good place for visiting friends to safely leave their car overnight at £2 per night. Friends Steve and Caroline would be joining us on Friday evening, but I like to arrive in good time, so that I can select a good mooring for easy access, my intention was to move up opposite the wharf on Friday morning when currently moored boats should have moved on. Great TV reception here, useless in Banbury, although the internet speeds were brilliant, hence the pictures being posted at the same time as the blog. so what did we do? we both fell asleep in front of the TV, a combination of fresh air and sunshine I guess, nothing to do with being old bloggers.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009



It was our intention to stay in Banbury for a few days, so that is what we did. We moved SKYY right up into the town centre and whilst I washed and polished the boat very slowly, because of the interesting chats with other boatee people, Jacquie was able to wander around the shops without me whinging. The leisure centre is just of the towpath and Jacquie took advantage of its proximity and had a swim. Unfortunately Cherwell Council hasn’t taken up the ‘free swimming for over sixties’ and Jacquie had to pay over £3 for her swim, scandalous!!

It was wonderful to be able to sit out on the stern with coffee and lunches and watch the world go past. The Canal is a real positive asset to Banbury, used by so many people as an interesting place to eat their lunch or mums to sit or stroll with their babies. Lets hope that Swindon does go ahead with its daring plan to bring the canal back into the town.

What was interesting was that a comment had been left by Eeyore of SONFLOWER on my Blog, regarding his leaking hatch and that it was being repaired at Tooley’s in Banbury, when what did we moor up right behind, but a very shiny SONFLOWER, indeed with a Tooley’s engineer working on it, but no sign of Eeyore or maybe Peter? Maybe we will meet up tomorrow before we head off.



Destination Banbury. A leisurely start to the day as it was, after all, a weekend for Stu & Jen, for Jacquie and I everyday is a weekend. Not so many locks today, but enough to keep the journey exciting and we moored up just before Banbury town centre. Jacquie served brunch on the rear deck and Stu & Jen insisted on doing the washing up, as they had yesterday, thereby ensuring they can come again.

We ambled into Banbury and down to the railway Station where Stu & Jen said farewell and hopped into a taxi to take them back to Fenny. Skyy seemed very empty when we returned to her.



As it was change over day all the hire boats had gone, leaving the water point and adjacent mooring, right outside the pub, free, so that when Stu and Jen arrived we were ideally situated for them to step aboard after the obligatory refreshment at the Wharf Inn, to satisfy the ‘patron’ requirement for leaving their car overnight.

A simple lunch and then on to Cropedy and as soon we got to a straight bit I handed the helm to Stu, who after the usual zigzag course handed the helm back to me. I promptly passed it on to Jen, who was a natural except when it did start to go wrong she also handed the helm back to me just in time for me to run SKYY aground.

However they were incredibly keen to operate the locks, Oh it really is great to have some willing crew aboard at times. The weather was perfect, the new born lambs were jumping about in the adjacent fields and to their first time eyes it all looked idyllic as indeed it was.

A drink or two in The Red Lion pub, before Jacquie served up dinner, which was rounded off by her signature desert dish, bread and butter pudding, but this time made with Hot Cross Buns, delicious.



We were expecting Jacquie’s nephew and his fiancée, Stuart and Jen later on Friday, but they were going to be delayed until Saturday, the day was spent doing those boring, but essential jobs, such as washing the towpath mud from the decks, filling the washing machine with laundry as it was a good drying day and generally sprucing up SKYY ready for inspection.



Fenny Compton here we come, the journey started with just a sprinkling of rain drops. I knew worse was to come later in the morning, so leather brimmed hat and long coat were donned in readiness and was I right, it tipped down just as forecast, but by the time we arrived in had eased off.

We popped into the canal side Wharf Inn for refreshment and to ask if it would be OK for Stu and Jen to leave their car in the pubs car park over the weekend, that would be fine, provided we were patrons, no problem!! Suitably refreshed we wandered the mile into the village of Fenny Compton, the little Co-Op store provided our immediate need for bread and milk and again the centre of this little place fulfilled all the requirements for a quintessential English village, with a pub and beautifully situated church amid a tumble of cottages.

We returned to Skyy in warm sunshine which was to be the beginning of a wonderful spell of weather.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009



We were woken with a bang at 7am. A thunder storm was passing directly over us, just the sound of the rain on the roof was deafening and one of the continuous lightening strikes was so close that the sound was a huge POP!!!, at the same time as the flash. I thought for a moment that the TV aerial had taken a direct hit but as the standby light on the TV was still glowing, obviously not. I assured Jacquie that we were as safe as boats, being inside our own Faraday Cage and the storm departed and quickly as it arrived.

This was the first real opportunity to test the hatch’s non-drip lip and I can report that apart from a little drip that ran down the side of the hatch, my neck stayed dry, success!!

By early afternoon the sun slowly emerged and we went for a walk to Prior Marston. After leaving the canal at Lock 16 it was about a mile and a half along the road, but what a delight awaited us. Firstly charming stone cottages and then impressive three and four story houses all solidly built in warm natural stone and surrounded by converted coach houses and now all lit by generous dollops of sunshine.

This idyllic village even boasted a smart pub/restaurant, The Holly Bush, which sadly was not open, but we will bear it in mine for another time. Our visit was made even more perfect, for whilst sitting upon a bench on the little village green a tiny deer popped out of a drive, just to our right and skittered nervously across the road.



Shopping, loads of it. Aldi and Tescos at Daventry provided all we needed to stock up SKYY with the basics. We parked the car at the marina and said goodbye to it.

After a quick visit to the quayside for a pump out and three bags of coal, we were on our way. The sun was really warm on our backs and our fronts, courtesy of the twists and turns of the Oxford Canal. It was great to be out on the cut again, passing pleasantries to other canal users. Jacquie needed no encouraging putting her back to the paddles and beams of the Napton Flight of locks and we moored up for the night at Marston Doles, Jacquie having selected the precise place, ensuring a good TV and radio reception.

Another little job that I did over the last few days, was to shorten the chrome tiller arm. My anonymous friend JB, who recently left a comment, had been urging me to do this for ages and I have indeed now removed twelve inches. This gives more space for friends to perch on the taff rail without the risk of being swept overboard if a sudden need to apply full rudder should arise and also for the steerer to sit on the taff rail and comfortably hold the wooden handle of the tiller arm. The extra effort required to apply rudder under maneuvering power is soon got used to and I am sure JB will be please with this adjustment.



A lovely bright, drying day at last. I hoisted the airer into the bracket on the tiller arm, I had previously drilled two indentations into the underside of the tiller arm, so that the brackets securing screws could locate into the indents and prevent the bracket from slipping over and dumping all the washing into the water. I saw on the blogg of Julia and Mark of N.B. Poppy, that they had a similar problem which they resolved in a slightly different way, by drilling a hole in the top side of the bracket, in line with the hole for the tiller pin and using the pin to secure the bracket. The airer now shows no sign of moving and in no time at all the washing was dry. The bracket can also be used for the big sun umbrella which I am confident will be needed in the summer.

The rest of day was spent getting ready to depart Wigrams tomorrow. The forecast for Wednesday and Thursday was for rain and although we only need to be at Fenny Compton by Friday to meet up with Jacquie’s nephew and his fiancée, we decided it might be prudent to kick off on the Tuesday.



The forecast for the Easter weekend was that the best of the weather would be Sunday, but it started off wet, however when it stopped raining we did go for our planned walk around Draycote Reservoir. Jacquie made the sandwiches and we donned our long raincoats and our brimmed leather hats and set off in the car, ensuring that we had the £1.50 for the car park. It was great!! Not too hot but load of big midges, but the hat brims kept them out of our face. The walk is five miles and would be ideal for walking a dog, but as this reservoir provides drinking water for Rugby, no dogs are allowed. We detoured to the delightful village of Thurlaston, complete with a converted windmill and stocks. This must have added another mile and we had hoped that this little village might have had a pub, but as it didn’t we finished off our outing by stopping off at the Two Boats pub for the necessary refreshment.

Monday, 13 April 2009



The really good news is that the new foam mattress is a great success; I really did have concern that a flat pack mattress could be an improvement on the old one, but it most certainly is.

The sliding hatch at the rear of the boat has always caused rain water to run down the back of my neck whenever I pull open the hatch open from inside of the boat. Do you remember those old black and white, war time submarine films, when the submariner who opens the conning tower hatch after a submarine has surfaced, well it feels just like that must have felt.

The hatch hasn’t got a lip on its rear edge to deflect the water and for a long time I had been considering how best to rectify this. Whilst wandering around Focus I found a slim plastic moulded strip for sealing the joint between a kitchen worktop and wall. I cut the strip to the required length and decided to glue it to the rear edge with contact adhesive. I masked of the area to be glued so that the adhesive wouldn’t spread onto the surrounding paint work and also spread glue onto the strip, after ten minutes I placed the moulding accurately in place and pressed down and removed the masking paper and that was it.

I masked off the slight indentation to the joint line to the rear of the moulding and filled the gap with mastic, again removing the tape immediately. I just need to paint the moulding to match the hatch, but already after the light rain I no longer get a wet neck.

Friday, 10 April 2009



We waited anxiously for our new mattress to arrive and when Trudy from the Marina office phoned to say it had, we scooted down to collect it. Our surprise was complete when we saw this box, about four foot long and twelve inches square., this couldn’t possible contain our new mattress.

I had originally made a fold out extension to the bed which allowed a twelve inch wide section of mattress quality foam to slot in under the gunnel when the mattress was pulled out onto the extension, this had worked really well, giving us a bed width of nearly five foot and still allowing just enough space to walk pass the bed. On Tuesday Jacquie had finally decided that she couldn’t sleep anymore on our old mattress, it was a coil sprung affair of between five and six inches thick and when you sat on the edge of the bed it went completely flat and when lying down, you could feel the coils trying to escape.

Jacquie scoured the internet for specialist mattress makers and settled on ‘Sleep Detox’, who say that they can provide a mattress in any size, thickness and density of foam and deliver it within forty eight hours. After speaking on the phone, to Keith at Sleep Detox, who was very helpful, Jacquie placed her order over the internet. The mattress had to be the same depth as the foam infill which was thirteen cm. So five cm., of memory foam would be bonded to eight cm., of high density ordinary foam, to give a soft but firm mattress. This sounded great and the mattress was indeed delivered within forty eight hours, but we just couldn’t believe that a mattress could be in this relatively small box.

Well it was, vacuumed packed and rolled up tight, when we cut into the plastic bag the air whooshed in and the mattress started to expand, in all it took about ten minutes to reach its full size. It is covered in a snug, zipped on cotton cover and is exactly the right size. Well done Sleep Detox, who can be found on

The old mattress we just dumped into the canal, so easy to dispose of unwanted stuff these days. No of course not, we managed to fold it in half and after lowering the roof of our little convertible car we squeezed it onto the back seat and took it to the local dump (re-cycling centre) at Daventry. Now I know where that is. I know where I can get rid of my old engine oil in future. Good days work, hopefully followed by a good nights sleep. I’ll let you know!!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009



I forgot to mention, but last Tuesday, Jacquie and I were just about to leave SKYY to join the Southam walk group, when into Wigrams cruised PARSONS PASSAGE. In the bow was Janet, Peter her husband was on the helm and Emma and Daniel, daughter & son, were sitting on the roof. Janet was a client and a friend along while back and she left a comment on the blog last month, to say that they were on their way from the Kennet and Avon Canal to Wigrams Turn, but had been delayed by a sunken boat.

We were looking forward to meeting up again and we joined them for a while until their taxi arrived to start them on their return journey to Dorset. Good timing, if they had arrived five minutes later we would have missed them totally. Yes I know that the observant will notice that the picture shows PARSON PASSAGE leaving the marina, but that is because that as soon as they arrived they had to go to Calcutt Marina for a pumpout as unfortunately there was no one at Wigrams to provide this essential service.

On Sunday 5th we drove to Kenilworth and for £6 concessionary ticket we wandered all over the old ruined castle. The castles most important time was during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st when she gave the property to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whose Father had been beheaded at the Tower of London, but the then, Princess Elizabeth and Dudley had both been in the Tower at the same time and it is probable that it is then, that he became her favorite, although they never married, the rest is history.
The village immediately surrounding the castle is delightful, with white painted, thatched cottages huddled together complete with a sprinkling of pubs and a tea room where we lunched. The main high street of the town is by contrast very uninteresting. An enjoyable excursion and the castle entrance price is realistic compared to Warwick castle, where, I recall that the full adult price was £17. English Heritage certainly wins this comparison against Madame Tausauds

Monday, 6 April 2009



When I started this blog just over a year ago, I had only the scrappiest knowledge of how to make it interesting, apart from just writing what I might like to read in someone else’s blog, or, as my original intention was, to have a permanent log book to remind Jacquie and myself, when this adventure is over, where we had been and what we had done. I am amazed and delighted to get comments left on the blog, even if it’s just my sister-in-law, Penny, demanding “We want more blog”.

However, amazingly, the last two comments are both from America, Christzee, a fan of lighthouses and Jess from Boulder, Colorado, who admits to being landlocked, not arf!!!. Many thanks for your comments and good wishes and in Jess’s case, thank you for the offer to ride Highway 77 and to ski. Who knows?, but in the meantime, I wish you both health and happiness.

To hopefully make my blog a little more interesting I have just found out, how to list ‘Followers’ of my blog, Julia and Mark on N.B. POPPY, good wishes to you and I will start to follow your adventures. At the same time I discovered that I could list the couple of Boaters Blogs that I have been following from the beginning of our considering the possibility of life afloat. Dot and Derek on ‘GYPSY ROVER’ and Sue & Vic on ‘RETIREMENT NO PROBLEM’ I appreciate their blog style and maybe you will, if not already. They are both much more immediate, time wise in their blogging than I manage to be, maybe that’s because they are both continuous cruisers and don’t get as distracted as I do.

We will soon be casting off and then, hopefully the adventure proper will commence and there will be more than mastic, paint, varnish and bitumen to blog about, keep your fingers crossed.



My big BMW motorbike had been languishing in our garage in Surrey for over a year now and I decided that it was unlikely that I would have the opportunity of seriously riding it again. The decision was taken to travel down to Surrey early this morning, leaving at six am., buying a new battery from the local BMW bike garage and hopefully getting the beastie to start. The intention was to get the bike back up to the Midlands, get it MOT’d and sell it to a local, interested dealer.

Fortunately it did start, first jab of the starter button. I thought I might at least have to put some fresh fuel in the tank. I climbed into my rather musty bike trousers and jacket, wiped the mold out of my crash helmet and headed down to the petrol station to fill the tank with petrol and the soggy tyres with air. Jacquie followed me in the car to ensure that I still remembered how to ride it, but it is a bit like riding a bike isn’t it?

All topped up, Jacquie headed off to visit her sister in law, who is recovering from a hip replacement operation, whilst I enjoyed a perfect, 120 mile, ride back to our marina. Having had such an early start and an exhilarating ride, it was definitely time for a nap whilst I awaited Jacquie’s return.



The weather for the previous days had been wet and very windy and we just hunkered down and relaxed, but this morning was calm and blue. A table for lunch was booked at the nearby Bridge Pub and we set off to give Joy a little taster of cruising. It was lovely to be out on this balmy spring day and surprisingly there were very few boats out and about, the hire season not starting until Easter. The last time we came this way we collected a tyre around our propeller, but all went well this time and we returned to our pontoon with our fresh paint intact.

Joy’s response to her stay and trip was “I could get used to this”. It was definitely time to put her ashore and wave goodbye at the railway station before she decided to move on permanently.



Today, one year ago was the day we vacated our home to move permanently on board. The year has flown, but it has certainly given us the time to enjoy time, whether it has been cruising the canals, driving around Europe and catching up with so many good friends and relatives or just spending time at the marina and living life, almost like normal land based folk. SKYY has now really become home to us and sometimes when I refer to the roof storage box, I say “I’m going to put it in the loft” and the engine room has becomes the cellar. I will soon be parking the boat up instead of mooring it.



A final tidy of SKYY before Jacquie headed off to Leamington Spa to collect long time friend, Joy from the railway station. Joy, like most other friends and family who have visited us, had no preconceptions of what our life afloat was like, but as soon as she had got used to the floor moving about when one of us moved about, she was amazed at the feeling of space and the tranquility and all the ‘mod-cons’.



The weather wasn’t as balmy as last week, but I was determined to black as much of the bottom of SKYY above the waterline as possible. Firstly I used a stiff broom to brush away as much as possible of the weed growth and muck, above and below the water line. With the water tank nearly empty, an empty gas bottle and no coal stored in the front lockers the bow was quite high and using a foam roller I was able to apply the bitumen right down to the waterline. Sometimes the roller touched the water, but it didn’t affect the application of the bitumen, any water picked up just beaded on the surface and dried up without leaving any marks.

I poled the boat from my pontoon over to an empty space on the opposite pontoon, allowing me to do both sides. After a new propane cylinder was installed, the water tank filled and three bags of coal loaded on, the new bitumen extended below the waterline and until we take the boat out onto the cut and through the first lock the shiny black hull will look very smart.
I also took the opportunity to repaint below the gunnels and the rubbing strakes and re-varnish the front cratch boards and now SKYY is almost ready to go, it only remains to get the ingrained paint off my hands, I really should wear latex gloves instead of using white spirit to get the paint off as it makes my hands so rough!!!