Friday, 23 November 2012

Happy Birthday Oscar!

Well, we never thought we’d be in this position this time last year but he’s still here - today we’re celebrating Oscar’s 15th birthday!  As he can’t see to read any more we didn’t give him a card.



Opening presents was also a bit of a problem!


We went for a celebratory birthday walk at the “East Beach” end of Selsey.  This is Doug and Oscar next to the ‘blue plaque’ denoting the position where, during the war, the Mulberry Harbours were assembled and then towed to the Normandy Beaches for the D Day landings.


Also from the beach we can look across the bay to Bognor Regis five miles away.  The spikey building is part of Butlin’s holiday camp. (thank goodness for zoom lenses)


There are some interesting beach residences at “East Beach” – some of the original ones now nestle in the shadow of the newer ones.


Oscar and Doug walking back along the sea wall to the car.  Yesterday, and much of last night, was very stormy but today we had brilliant sunshine with temperatures of 12 to 14 degrees and the sea was as calm as mill pond. The sea wall is the thing that Doug is walking on (not the little white painted one on his right!).  It’s about 8 feet thick and 8 feet high and at the moment there’s a large amount of shingle build up which rather hides the size of it.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

It’s been a bit of a Segway day today.

We’ve had some fairly high winds in Selsey this week and it’s always good to get down onto the beach to catch the atmosphere……
………like this!!  The marker is at the end of one of the groynes which is well submerged by twelve foot waves.  The other marker out at sea warns of the treacherous Mixon Rocks – the scene of many a rescue by the lifeboat.
Today we had some excitement when we travelled up to Marwell near Winchester for a Segway session.  We’d booked it through a Groupon deal and have been looking forward to it for a while.
This is the line up of Segway machines waiting for their riders!
James starting to get the hang of it after a bit of tuition. Notice the look of extreme concentration on his face!
We had to wear all the safety “gear” of course – this is Doug managing a very nicely controlled decent down a very big hill!
A ‘long shot’ of Doug – no, he hasn’t gone off piste!
The machines are really quite easy to ride.  Getting used to them is very quick, especially if you have some experience of skiing.  Pushing the handle gently left or right gives very precise steering and they can turn on a sixpence.  Putting pressure on your toes or heals makes you go forward and backwards.  They are self balancing using an inbuilt gyroscope so all you need to do is stand on them and relax – easy!
This is James at speed (or maybe it’s ON speed!).  We had a great day out and would seriously recommend a session before you go to the grave – a bit like a trip to Las Vegas, it’s got to be done!
Changing the subject somewhat – we’d like to thank who ever it was that told us that Waterways World has used an internal picture of ‘Chance’ in the latest edition (December) so we bought a copy today.  They are suggesting that radiator covers are very nice but they reduce efficiency.  That’s technically true but then so does painting them white.  We like our radiator covers but we’re so glad to be of assistance!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Just can’t keep away!

Today, after packing a few bits and pieces into the car yesterday, we made an early start to get up to ‘Chance’.  We’d arranged to meet Mark from MGM (our boat builders), and electrician Stuart, at the marina to solve the problem of our “sick” bow thruster battery.  They arrived before us, having travelled from Burton on Trent, but Doug was soon plying them with bacon and eggs, toast and hot tea!


This is ‘Chance’ in it’s winter state.  The wooden Taff Rail has been taken off as James is going to renovate and re-varnish it back at home ready for next years’ cruising.  Actually, it might be done before Christmas as we’re planning to use ‘Chance’ over the yuletide season.  The windbreak has also been taken away for cleaning so the ‘back end’ looks a little bare at the moment.  


The front well deck has been cleared of all our ‘clobber’ – fold-up bike and chairs etc.  Returning to the bow thruster battery problem – the solution was soon found – there was a fault with a relay which was causing normal charging to stop (rather than start) when the engine was running.


This is ‘Chance’ with our other “bedfellows” on the pontoon – nb ‘Cressida’ is a very well kept boat with a fairly recent repaint and the lovely old Springer narrow boat behind us is being completed refitted by its’ owners.

After the repairs had been done, and we got a few more jobs out of the way, we were visited by friends Janet and Gerald (nb ‘Toulouse’ – our showboat neighbours at Crick last year) who knew we were at the marina and who popped in from their home nearby to have a cup of tea and freshly baked sponge cake which Doug had somehow conjured up.  We also had an impromptu visit by Sue and John from nb ‘Islay’, who we met at the Crick Show this year, who just happen to be based in the marina and were checking on their boat today.  So it was business as usual – welcome visitors and something to eat and drink!

As the sun went down on a very warm and pleasant day we packed up and headed back south – arriving home after just an hour and ten minutes on the road.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Family time!

We’ve enjoyed having Vicki and Tom (and “Ernie pups”) with us until Thursday this week.  On Tuesday, while we had Ernie for the day, Vicki and Tom went to London by train from Chichester, as they had tickets for the London Eye and a trip on the R.Thames and after that spent the rest of the day in Harrods (all right for some!).  We had a great day with Ernie – although it took a while getting used to a dog that can see and hear and run about!

On Wednesday we all went Emsworth – a delightful small town just along the coast which fronts onto Chichester Harbour.


Doug, Oscar and Vicki on the water front at Emsworth.


We took a walk along the sea wall which holds a vast area of sea water and creates a water front with the town, even when the tide goes out.  The water on the right of the sea wall is tidal.


We had a marvellous lunch in “The Coal Exchange” pub – all snug and warm by the open fire.  


Back on Selsey Bill during Wednesday afternoon we took Ernie for “walk” – he’s a very energetic dog!


Sunset from Selsey Bill – we even have our own little “atoll” when the tide goes out.


We received our 2013 gold licence for ‘Chance’ this week.  It’s a bit of a pity we only used 2 days’ worth on this years licence – which was the two day dash down the River Thames from Oxford to Reading a few weeks ago.


Today we walked the two miles to Selsey Golf Club where we had a nice lunch looking out over the course.  We were delighted to learn from Julie the caterer at the club that, since our celebrations there last August, she’s been following our blog and knew most of what we’d been doing for the last couple of months – thank you Julie.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Domestic bliss.

The last few days have been mostly about domesticities – getting the car boot struts replaced (our brilliant local garage ‘Tillings’ to the rescue) and replacing a blown up Dyson with a swanky new Dyson.  The company are going to repair the old one as it’s only four years old,  so we will have a cleaner for garage use as well now.


James unpacked the wooden clock, which we bought at the pub in Cropredy back in October, and hung it on the wall where it looks great.  The escapement is a weighted cord which alternately wraps itself round two steel rods at the top of the mechanism.

On Saturday our daughter Vicki and her partner Tom came down to stay for a few days -  primarily to look after Oscar on Saturday evening while we went to see Julian Clary at Worthing with friends Mike and Brian.  It was a very funny evening with the comedy “on the edge” and a lot of audience participation!  They are also here to enjoy a bit of a rest as they both work extremely hard.


On Sunday morning we took the dogs (Oscar and “nephew” Ernie) for a walk around the Pagham Harbour nature reserve which is just outside the village.  We were hoping to find some sloes to make sloe gin.  These little fruits evaded all our efforts at finding them while we were on the boat.  It’s been a very poor year for sloes with many boaters in the same position as ourselves (lots of bushes along the canal side but nothing on them!)  Fortuitously the weather on the south coast has been more beneficial and we were able to pick as many as we needed.  So hopefully we will be enjoying some sloe gin again at Christmas this year.


In the afternoon we took a walk along the sea wall in the sunshine and just happened to end up near the pub.


Vicki, Ernie, Doug and Tom having a Sunday afternoon relax in “The Fisherman’s Joy”.

Today has seen Tom having to return to work with the Wiltshire Constabulary for the day so the three of us made a visit to our very close friends Ann and John, who live at the other end of the village, for coffee and cake.  The cake was to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary during this last week end!


Ann and John (usually much happier looking than this photo shows!) with Vicki and Doug enjoying coffee, cake and muffins – after which James, Vicki and Doug took a ride into Chichester for lunch at “Zizzi”.  The weather today could not have been more different to yesterday – it’s gently precipitated all day!


Vicki and James enjoying a glass of wine with their very large pizzas!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Land lubbers (for a while).

We got home yesterday afternoon with a “car load” as usual.  After unloading and meeting several of the neighbours we were ready to put our feet up. We were lucky that we’d loaded the car at the marina and then unloaded it at Selsey before one of the hydraulic support struts on the rear hatch door decided to give up the ghost and no longer holds it up. That would have been really tiresome had it happened earlier! 


Oscar doing what we really wanted to do when we got home.


One of our neighbours had taken delivery of a very large (and very light) box for us – it held this delightful message from a friend – a late gift for our celebrations earlier in the year.

Today has been a bit of a lazy day.  A bit of grocery shopping in Chichester and then taking Oscar for his regular swim which we try to do when we’re down here.  (and yes, they were surprised to see him again! – every time we go away on the boat they don’t think they’ll see him any more).


He did very well indeed although, as usual, finding his pink floaty thing is a matter of total luck!


Sadly, he now needs a helping hand to get out – this time courtesy of Julie,  the owner off the pool.


Going for a late evening walk out and along the sea wall we find a full sea view at the end of the road.  Last winter’s storms put paid to part of (an unnecessary) bit of wall built on top of the main sea defences.  The council have now completed the repairs, after almost a year (!), by demolishing the remaining part of the wall and we now have a proper view of the sea from the start of the road.


It was this view, or just the other side of the lifeboat station, that inspired Eric Coates to write “By the Sleepy Lagoon” – famous as the theme tune to Dessert Island Discs.


Sunset over the Lifeboat Station.  The little white building on the right was, we believe, an old coast guard lookout post – now a seaside second home for somebody.  There are quite a number of  intriguing and unusual “residences” along this short stretch of coastline – we’ll try to show a few of them in the future.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Packing up.

Yesterday Doug went back to Selsey to bring the car up to Froud’s Bridge so that we can get some of our chattels back to the house.  Interestingly, the rail fare from Reading (our nearest main station) was £29:00 but only £12:50 from Oxford (further away)! So he booked from Oxford and got the train from Aldermaston station to Reading, to catch the cheap Oxford train at Reading...  ? (doesn’t make sense to us either) James stayed on board with Oscar and got on with some of the winterisation jobs.  Hopefully ‘Chance’ won’t stay in hibernation for too long this winter.  The journey from Sussex to Aldermaston is much shorter than last year’s to Rugby, so we’ll try to take advantage of any good weather and do a bit more K and A cruising. We’ve already booked Christmas Day lunch with friends at a restaurant near Newbury so we’ll be on the boat for the Yuletide period.


Not too much happens in a marina but here is the view we have from the front of the boat.

Today Doug returned with the car while James employed the services of the local marine engineer, Marcus, to help with the sick bow thruster battery. 


Not much happening then all of a sudden – a young cormorant swam past the boat.

Tomorrow we’re going back to Sussex so it will be more packing up for us.  The weather has been good this last couple of days allowing us to make good progress on the boat.  The nights have been very cold with hard frosts on both nights.  One of James’ next jobs is to review the years’ journey and produce some statistics – just up his street!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Scary Sunday.

It was pouring with rain this morning so we donned our wet weather gear for the very short journey from Woolhampton to the marina – 1 lock, 1 swing bridge and 1 mile.  The whole journey only took us 0.7 hours and half of that was spent working the lock.  The River Kennet was flowing quite fast as it entered below the lock and was likely to take us the 100 yards towards the road bridge pretty swiftly.  The bridge must be swung before you leave the lock as the river makes it impossible to stop – and if you can’t stop the bridge will peel the roof off the boat as easy as opening a tin of sardines!  James got ‘Chance’ positioned at the mouth of the lock and Doug went to swing the road bridge - then phoned James to give him the all clear.


‘Chance’ at the starting gate.  This manoeuvre is a local spectator sport and, even though it was chucking it down with rain, there were people waiting and watching for a possible “miscalculation”.


Half way through the 100 yards and successfully past the river entry (notice the boat opposite the river with all the tyres protecting it).  At this point ‘'Chance’ has achieved a nought to eight mph in about 10 seconds and luckily kept to the correct side ready for the approach to the road bridge (which is typically at an awkward angle to the line of the river).


Full power – like a cork out of  bottle!  A bit of a broadside but at least we’re through.  The green floating fenders are positioned to stop boats going head first into the bridge supports as it’s quite a sharp left turn to get lined up with the bridge.  This is the point where the onlookers expect to be entertained!  Luckily they were disappointed on this occasion.


Excitement over and into calmer waters.  The only snag at this stage being that James couldn’t stop the boat on the other side of the bridge to pick Doug up and, because there was nowhere along the bank to pull in, he had to walk the half mile to the marina.


James about to guide ‘Chance’ into the marina entrance.  Luckily the entrance is quite wide and the speed of the water is not such a problem at this point.  (All photos courtesy of Doug who was standing on the bank watching!)

In the marina James was met by manager, Mick, who showed him to our pontoon.  Luckily there was no real wind to speak of so reversing into the space was an easy job with Doug arriving on foot before James had time to properly tie up.  We’re in the new part of the marina (which was being dug out when we were here with our last boat for the winter of 2007/8) where the berths have two boats on each side and, as we use the rear deck for general access, reversing in gives us less pontoon to walk along with Oscar.


We had time to get cleaned down, hooked up to the shore power and a cup of tea (plus James was able to meet some of the neighbours with a nice but chilly chat with Bill and Cathy on nb ‘Wysiwyg’ – the very shiny green boat at the far right of the photo).  At 3 o’clock one of James’ past work colleagues, who lives quite close, came with her son to see us for a couple of hours.


Doug with Neil and Thelma having one of those all important catch up chats over tea and cake.  It was lovely to see them again.

This evening we’re being treated to a firework display a short distance away from the marina (as we were at Woolhampton last night).  Lucky lucky! 

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Last of the Summer wine!

Well today’s journey from Thatcham to Woolhampton took only 1.2 hours (according to the engine hours recorder) - not enough time to charge up the batteries!

However, this morning we had a visit from Janet, the wife of one of Doug’s work colleagues from years ago when he was a financial adviser and, living in Thatcham, she took the opportunity to see us.  We had a very pleasant couple of hours with her over a cup of coffee before we left for our “mammoth” journey to Woolhampton.


Not much happened in the 3 miles we covered today, but this replica Dutch barge based narrow boat did catch our attention.  It was very nicely done with lovely proportions.

Another attention grabber today was a Red Kite which hovered so low over our heads we could see every feather.  So amazed was James that he forgot to take a photo.  He thought it was positioning itself to poo on the roof!


At 2:30 we moored at Woolhampton as this is the last place before we get to Froud’s Bridge marina where we’re booked in for the winter months.  James set about a few cleaning jobs and some winter preparation work while Doug took Oscar on a ‘long’ walk to see what the conditions are like where the River Kennet enters the canal.  We will need to negotiate this little “log flume” tomorrow on our way to the marina and the river is running quite fast at the moment.

When Doug got back he took a photo of Oscar next to ‘Chance’.  This is our last day’s cruising for this season and we’re never sure these days whether he’ll see another!  (He’ll be fifteen on November 22nd).



‘Chance’ on the last mooring of the season.

Our choice of marina this year has mainly been because it’s the furthest south we can get and, therefore, closest to home for us.  It’ll also mean we can more easily take advantage of any good weather in the next few months and enjoy some winter cruising.  We can also get up more easily to check on “things” and we’ll also be well positioned for next years’ early cruising plans of”doing” the River Thames, the Wey Navigation and London. 

Friday, 2 November 2012

Wartime Kennet and Avon

It was a fairly long day today (that’s the consequence of too many short days!).  We left Kintbury at 8:30 this morning and moored up in Thatcham at 4 o’clock – stopping in Newbury for an hour to get provisions and a pasty for lunch.  However, we had a great run – the weather stayed dry again and the sun shone quite often.

One thing that can’t be ignored when travelling on the Kennet and Avon are the large number of  World War 2 pillboxes - every quarter of a mile in some cases.  They were built in expectation of a German invasion where the waterways (rivers and canals) where deemed just as viable a route for enemy troops as roadways.  The K and A was designated a Blue line defence by the government of the day.


A World War II bunker (or pillbox) next to the canal.


Our first lock (Dreweat’s Lock No 79) was having major renovations carried out on the nearby culvert.  As there was no lock landing available ‘Chance’ got well and truly caught up in the “heavy plant” as the wind blew us onto the equipment while waiting for the lock to fill.


The next lock was very different – total serenity!  Very much in the middle of nowhere we enjoyed the surroundings of this lock on our outward journey as well as today.


We are taking part in our own “Autumn Watch” every day and today was no exception – this Kingfisher was sitting on the lock gate when we arrived at Hampstead Lock.  Added to this we saw several more Kingfishers plus Red Kite, Herons, Cormorants and Kestrels.  The wildlife on the K & A is amazing!


Another lurker – no not Doug, the pillbox!


Heading towards Newbury we pass under the A34 – a road we use quite a lot (when we’re not boating) and we always watch out for the canal when we pass over it.


A nice approach to Newbury. 

After a stop off in Newbury we continued for a couple of hours and moored up at Thatcham for the night.

IMG_0319cChance in turf  lock at Monkey Marsh (an artistic impression!)


A ‘Chance’ sunset.