Monday, November 01, 2010

Back in Blue

The inverter has made a welcome return from Holland where it was repaired by the manufacturer, Victron. After only a couple of weeks I have reinstalled it in the electrical cupboard. Here it is, lights lit properly again.

I have also rerouted the 240v from the Travelpower to bypass the inverter, direct to the cooker to try to avoid overloading the inverter. This means we can't use the cooker without the engine running, but this is pretty much the situation we were in before as you can't do more than boil the kettle once or twice before the batteries are flat if all the power is coming from them. For hot beverages after 8:00PM (BW byelaws prohibit the running of engines after this time) there will be a small electric kettle.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Return of Inverter

The inverter arrived back from Victron on Friday. I didn't immediately reconnect it to Syncopation's electrics because I want to change the electrical layout slightly. I have a feeling the inverter failure was due to frequently overloading it. Between then the oven and induction hob in the galley are capable of drawing about 11kW if everything was turned on at once. We've been careful in using them (never more than one zone on full and never more than two zones at once) the inverter has shut down due to overload a few times. I suspect we normally push the 3kW (2.5 kW continuous) inverter to its limit. In retrospect there should have been two or even three inverters in parallel to handle the load. My plan is therefore to cut the oven and hob out of the inverter circuit altogether and have the 5.5 Kw Travelpower generator drive them directly. We'll probably have to get a small electric kettle for evening cups of tea but that's a much cheaper option than buying new inverters at £1700 a pop.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Village at War

As Syncopation is moored in the next village I decided to go for a day trip to the 1940s. Stoke Bruerne's Village at War event was held this weekend. Arriving by boat saves the car parking charge. There's a daily re-enactment with lots of gunfire, plenty of old military vehicles to look at and a funfair to take rides on. Oh, and the working boats on the canal around the canal museum.
We watched nb Victoria and butty Angel moving up through the top lock.

The number of locals in period costume was impressive, both military re-enactors to civilians.

There were contingents of the Home Guard:

I was impressed with the full size replica Spitfire,

Complete with replica pilot

Even the Yanks were represented.

I think the guy sitting at the front has watched too many war movies.

And I spotted bloggers Jo and Keith Lodge with their narrowboat Hadar, in traditional costume here chatting to an LDV volunteer.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Not Inverting

Syncopation's inverter has failed. This handy bit of kit draws 12v electrical power from the boat's battery bank and puts out 240v AC for the domestic appliances on board when the engine-mounted generator is not running. Unfortunately at a little over two years old and therefore out of guarantee, our Victron Multiplus has developed a fault and is no longer converting power or charging the batteries.

An email to the manufacturer, Victron, has put us in touch with a UK distributor and the unti is now on its way back to Victron for repair.

Monday, August 30, 2010


We went to the Ashmolean musem today. It's the Oxford University Art and Archaelogy museum, the oldest public museum in the country. It contains a lot of archaelogical exhibits - we went to the Egyptian gallery first to see a mummy. A nice young lady warned Ewan that the museum doesn't approve of five year old boys touching the 3000 year old sculptures as the heiroglyphs wear off.

There is a wide range of exhibits, including curiosities like Guy Fawkes' lantern, said to the the one he was holding when he was caught under the Houses of Parliament with a quantity of gunpowder that proved fatally impossible to explain away. I was also intrigued by Powhatan's mantle (Powhatan was Pocohontas' father) and an outfit that belonged to T.E. Lawrence that he wore between 1916 and 1919.

Powhattan's Mantle

Friday, August 27, 2010

The DUKW Has Landed

Amphibious tour company Meridian Ducks have arrived at the Dome. The company has just started operating an amphibious tour bus from the North Greenwich bus station next to the Milleniumm Dome in London.

A few weeks ago I saw a brand new DUKW, failing to leave the river at the slipway next to the Dome during my lunch time stroll. I had left my 'phone behind so couldn't take a picture at the time. The vehicle (actually a Seahorse amphibian) was digging itself into the silt on the slope despite the efforts of four policemen and two crew members. After lunch I could see efforts continuing to bring it up the beach eventually bore fruit after a couple of hours. A week or so later the slope had been tidied up to make the process of leaving the water feasible.

Today, I saw this at the bus station next to the new ticket booth, at the taxi rank.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Heron's Rest - Blue Plaque

Ron and Mary Heritage have returned to Banbury after a three month cruise, following the course of Tom Rolt's honeymoon cruise of 1939.

There was a presentation ceremony with the deputy mayor (wonder where the mayor was?). The heritages have collected a medallion at strategic stopping points along the way and Banbury contributed the final one. They have all been added to a stand that will be displayed

at the IWA national rally at Beale Park. Before all this though, the event was announced by a crier.

I thought he looked a little odd for a town crier:

Tricorne hat - check
Bell - check
Red and gold coat - check

But the ensemble looks more nautical than the traditional 18th century look:

Turns out he was not the official town crier.

After the presentation we all made our way down the canal side to Tooley's. I must confess to being slightly distracted by Victoria, passing south through Banbury:

After a short wait for the Oxford Mail photographer (delayed in traffic) Tony Baldry MP for North Oxfordshire unveiled the blue plaque.

Apparently it's on the fence of Tooley's yard because the Castle Quay shopping centre, owners of the nearest bit of brick wall wanted somebody to take out a tenancy for the plaque (and presumably pay rent). As it is it's clearly visible from the canal.
And finally, I went to the Mill Arts centre on an errand for Cathy and found this outside their front door:

Friday, August 06, 2010

Village Drugs Raid

When we arrived home we learned we had missed a police raid in the road opposite. It made the front page of the local paper (but not the web site, looks like they post their stories about a week later on line). It would appear a couple of local lads have converted their house into a cannabis farm. Police urged people to be "vigilant around houses which have had all their windows blocked up, where there has been little movement or where there has been movement at strange times." Hmm describes a lot of houses I know of. Still, we have not yet seen a hydroponics shop open locally yet as there is near my mother in law. Detection would be fairly simple in this case. Simply follow the customers home.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Home Again

The pound I moored in overnight was drained somewhat overnight and we were aground this morning. I had to push Syncopation back into the water as she was showing about three inches below the waterline.
I thought I was going to pick up a partner for the rest of the Buckby flight but it wasn't to be as the next people following down the flight from our start position were travelling as a pair, so the morning was quite hard work. I had lunch opposite Whilton marina and didn't go in and buy stuff. I have a weakness for chandlery stores, I fear. It's like nautical DIY shopping. After an uneventful cruise back to Blisworth we tied up about 4PM and made our way home. Blisworth is filling up with boats here for the Blisworth Canal Festival. I saw a few working boats and the Cheese Boat, among others.

Edit: I nearly forgot. I passed Tuesday Night Club's boat Earnest, launched in 1999. Earnest was heading north towards Buckby.

Moored at Blisworth.

Total distance is 13 miles, 2¾ flg and 6 locks.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Anchored at Anchor Cottage

We were woken by a boat wishing to pass us as we were across the cut because one of our mooring pins had come out of the bank. Luckily the pin was not lost as they are the type with a loop at the end that I always pass the mooring rope through the loop for just such a contingency.

We bought some diesel at Napton Narrowboats. Only about 30 litres as it seemed expensive at the advertised rate of £1.02 a litre. However as it turned out this was closely comparable to the advertised rate of £0.71 a litre we paid at Sovereign in Banbury. I'll digress a little here. Experienced boaters can skip to the next paragraph. Once upon a time red diesel for pleasure boat use was free of the government duty you all pay when you fill up your car. The EU decided to harmonise the duty situation and now we must pay duty on fuel used to move our boats. However, as a concession we don't have to pay duty on fuel used for heating and generating electricity for domestic use in our boats. But we all move our boats and heat and generate using different proportions of the fuel we buy. Most narrowboats use their engine for all three, in different proportions according to whether their owners are continuous cruisers, holidaymakers, residential or even gas free holiday boats like Syncopaion. As a rough guide somebody dreamed up the proportion of 60% propulsion, 40% heat and electric. When a boater buys diesel they must declare the proportion of their purchase that will be used for propulsion and thus attract 48.5 pence per litre duty payment. This is a legal requirement. I reckon we probably use about 50% for propulsion as we cook with electricity generated by the engine and this is what I declared at Sovereign wharf a couple of days ago, which brought the cost of diesel at 71p per litre to an average cost of £1 per litre for the 20 litres I bought from them. Napton narrowboats assume all boaters will declare 60% propulsion and this comes to £1.02 per litre. I'm not sure it is legal for a seller to compel all buyers to declare 60%. But they are probably within their rights to simply refuse to sell at a different rate.

After a collision with the day boat from the Mill House pub in Braunston (not our fault) we passed back through Braunston where half the crew jumped ship and headed home for a doctor's appointment tomorrow. The rest of us continued with me single-handing up Braunston locks. Luckily for me we met up with nb Hyperion whose ample and expert crew took us with them through the flight.

Braunston is a great place to see working boats as they often congregate here. Ilford and Ibex arrived just as we were passing through.

We stopped just below Buckby top Lock, near Anchor cottage, site of the shop that sold the original Buckby can, still selling them today although I think today more of their turnover is due to ice cream sales.

Moored at Buckby Lock No 8

Total distance is 11 miles, ½ flg and 7 locks

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


We made good time today, passing a great number of boats going in the other direction. Most of the locks we went through were already set up for us. In some places we counted queues of up o ten boats waiting to go through. Every other boat we passed seemed to be on its way to Cropredy for the Festival. When we passed through cropredy all the moorings were already taken so the later arrivals will have a long walk.

We also encountered nb Heron, Ron and Mary Heritage's boat nearly at the end of their Tom Rolt centenary cruise. They are due in Banbury on Saturday for the ceremony to dedicate a blue plaque at Tooley's boatyard at noon.

Napton Brickyard Bridge No 112

Total distance is 15 miles, 2¾ flg and 14 locks

Monday, August 02, 2010

Blogger Spotted

We stopped at Morrison's on the edge of Banbury for supplies in the morning and again near Castle Quay in the centre of Banbury for lunch. I tried in vain for a new boat hook at Tooley's chandlery as some light fingered individual lifted ours sometime around Friday last week. I was asked to leave Wilkinson's as well as I had a dog in tow (sorry Arrow) and had missed the sign on (or rather near) the door. Banbury also yielded some more fishing tackle as the children had lost the hooks from their poles in the bushes a couple of nights ago.
The day before yesterday Cathy asked me what Mortimer Bones looked like. She had spotted somebody matching the picture in Canal Boat magazine with a brown dog at Nell Bridge. I recognised the description and recalled Mortimer Bones blogging about the arrival of her Cropredy Festival tickets. As a result, I was on the lookout for narrowboat Bones as we made our way towards Banbury and spotted her this afternoon:

I was aiming to top up Syncopation's fuel tank at Sovereign Wharf but as they only accept cash or cheque I was only able to buy about 20 litres because I wasn't prepared to traipse into Babury again to a cash point. I'll see if we can use plastic at a boatyard further north.

Moored Below Elkington's Lock.

Total distance is 8 miles, 6½ flg and 7 locks

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Back to Banbury

We started late, went down through Somerton deep lock, turned at the winding point at Somerton Wharf (Cathy received 10 out of 10 for her turn from the audience). We moored just past the M40 bridge near the edge of Banbury.

M40 Bridge (Northern Crossing)

Total distance is 5 miles, 5½ flg and 4 locks.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


After a morning of shopping in Banbury we set off for a leisurely bimble down to the stretch before Somerton deep lock to moo overnight at a secluded rural spot. I spent another hour polishing brass after dinner. It's always the same on our summer cruise. We spend over a week cleaning and polishing to bring Syncopation up to scratch after the winter lay-up. This year I am lacquering the brasswork immediatley after polishing to preserve the shine for a little longer than a couple of days.

Moored near Chisnell Lift Bridge No 193

Total distance is 7 miles, 6¼ flg and 4 locks (not counting Banbury Lock No 29 and Lift Bridge No 165).

Friday, July 30, 2010


We have stopped in Banbury this evening with the intention of a little light retail therapy in the morning.

We passed through Cropredy today and stopped at the Bridge Stores, where they stock everything, and procured the ingredients for chicken Balti this evening.

It's been a leisurely day moving through the Oxfordshire countryside for all except the dog, who can exhaust himself anywhere.

Moored at Banbury

Total distance is 8 miles, 0 flg and 12 locks

Thursday, July 29, 2010


All day we kept meeting people going north who reported heavy traffic ahead. When we reached to top of Napton locks there was a queue of 10 boats and there was a steady stream of boats passing.

The western end of Braunston puddle banks was nearly blocked by a sunken working boat and the equipment in place to refloat it.

We set off in the morning following the motor Collingwood and butty Ash. As we neared Napton junction we encountered a boat across the cut. They had swerved into the trees to avoid the pair and lost a pole in the canal. The following boat picked it up and the following scene ensued. I looked as if they had decided to start a jousting tournament.

Moored near bridge 142, Oxford canal South.

Total distance is 19 miles, ¾ flg and 9 locks.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Braunston, My Favourite

We stopped at Braunston after a leisurely day making our way up the Buckby flight of locks and down Braunston locks. The tunnel light needed some fettling to make it shine as there was a poor connection in the plug connecting it to the boat. Single-handing up Grand Union double width locks is made much easier if there's another boat to share with.
I found a lovely mooring spot just outside the Marina at Braunston but Cathy needed us to move as she arrived with Dominic and essential supplies just after we had eaten dinner and delivery of said supplies would be easier near the road bridge. The boat is now 50% cleaned up outside after a couple of months neglect.
Among the essential supplies are the camera so there will be pictures from now on.

Moored at Brauntson puddle banks.

Total distance is 6 miles, 2½ flg and 13 locks.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Afternoon Start

We untied at 3PM and made our way North. This week the plan is to cruise the picturesque South Oxford canal. An uneventful afternoon with no locks, just the Northamptonshire coutryside, the M1 and the West Coast Main line for company. The machanical side of things seem to be holding up OK. We are missing some regular crew members; Dominic developed a migraine this morning as has stayed at home with Cathy to minister to him. They will join us in a day or so when he feels up to it.

Moored near Whilton Marina

Total distance is 12 miles, 0 flg and 0 locks.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Kitchen So Far

Here, by request, are pictures of my efforts so far in the kitchen.
This side is almost complete:

This side has farther to go:

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

Average Contents

Whilst buying shoes for my youngest in a large shoe store I came across this:

Look Closely..

Unlike a box of matches I don't think any deviation from the average is acceptable for the purchaser.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


We went to London on a day trip to see the Natural History Museum.
Animatronic T. Rex:

After the dinosaurs we went to look at the Blue Whale in the mammals gallery:

It's just as I remember it from school trips as long as 30 years ago, with one small change: There used to be lots of pennies on the whale's tail. Today there is a discreet sign that says you should not throw things onto the tail as it will damage the exhibit.
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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Turned Around

As it turned out we couldn't turn until the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne flight, so on we went. Last night I washed the right-hand side of Syncopation and touched up the gloss black paint below the gunwhales. At lunch time we turned round below lock 20 and headed back up the flight, having washed down the left hand side of the boat. We stopped for ice cream again in Stoke Bruerne before re-entering the Blisworth tunnel and arriving back at the car at around 3 PM. A quick dash home, fed cat and fish and then back to the boat and up to Bugbrooke to turn the boat again. Seems like a lot of effort to go such a short distance but the weather has been glorious. Touched up the gloss black below the gunwales on the left hand side this evening. Syncopation is finally in a fit state to be seen in public again.

Just as well as there are plenty if gongoozlers at Stoke Bruerne.

Moored at Bugbrooke.

Total distance is 8 miles, 2¼ flg and 11 locks.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Afloat Again

Finally made it back aboard. Cathy is in Manchester as her mum is ill. I've decided to be brave and single-hand with three children in tow. We arrived at Syncopation's mooring at about two in the afternoon despite my best intentions of a prompt start. We headed south through the Blisworth tunnel, arriving in Stoke Bruerne in time for ice cream from the Boat Inn and fridge magnets from the narrowboat shop moored just past the museum.

I then braved the gauntlet of gongoozlers at the top lock. At about this point I realised I had forgotten to pack number one son's medicine so the plan for the last half of the week has been changed. We'll turn around and go back to Blisworth to pick up the car and go home for the tablets before continuing North for a day.

At the end of the day..

Moored below Lock 15, Stoke Bruerne

Total distance is 3 miles, 1¾ flg and 2 locks.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trip on the Thames

More video from my trip on the Thames last month:

Chelsea Flower Show Water Feature

This caught my eye on the news today. Leeds City Council's entry in the flower show feature a replica pair of lock gates. The gates seem to be built at somewhere near full size (although I guess they don't go down far below water level).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thames Clipper

I went by boat from North Greenwich rather than the tube for a change.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Back at Buckby

Back down the Watford flight and onto the Grand Union main line at Norton junction. We passed the new Yelvertoft marina, now dug out and nearly finished. There are even a few boats moored in it:

I took some video footage at Watford with my ipod. I'll post it later when I've edited it somewhat to remove the twenty minutes of the inside of my pocket.

Moored above Buckby Lock 8.

Total distance is 7 miles, 5½ flg and 8 locks and 1 tunnel.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


We pulled the pins and left Foxton, heading back towards the south, disappointing the swans that approach every boat that stops there.

There are no locks between Watford and Foxton, the meandering course of the Grand Union punctuated by tunnels at Crick and Husbands Bosworth. In all it takes about a day to travel this stretch so we have been without locks for two days, although we were able to look at the ten staircase locks at Foxton yesterday afternoon. We broke our return trip today at Husbands Bosworth for food supplies and at Kilworth Boat Services for diesel and water and to empty our toilet cassettes.

Near the turning for the Welford arm I spotted the rather lovely nb Zulu and although it is considered rude to peer into peoples' cabins it was hard to miss the fact that the interior of this tug style narowboat is decorated with replicas of old working boat name panels.

There was also time to polish some more brassware (boater's bling) on Syncopation. Here you can see a mushroom vent before and after cleaning:

Moored at bridge 20, Yelvertoft.

Total distance is 15 miles, 3¼ flg, 0 locks and 1 tunnel.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Foxton at Last

We arrived at Foxton in time to buy ice creams and visit the museum. The day's cruise was relatively uneventful with no locks to navigate. Nicholson keeps referring to the route as isolated and remote. We didn't pass through any villages at all. Husbands Bosworth is bypassed via the Bosworth tunnel, considerably drier inside than the Crick tunnel.

View from the top of the inclined plane.

An old boat at the position of the gate into one of the caissons.

More on the engine problem we had earlier in the week: The crankshaft oil seal was badly damaged by fragments of the failed Travelpower drive belts we have lost in the last two years. These had wrapped around the crankshaft end, worked into the area in front of the oil seal and ripped it in two, separating the inner and outer parts. I need to keep a close eye on the Travelpower drive belt.

Total distance is 17 miles, 3¼ flg 0 locks and 1 tunnel.