Norton Junction and the Leicester line

With Amy’s help we did the Buckby locks easily. I then hitched a lift back to Suffolk leaving Eric to polish the floors while I attended to some essential maintenance back home. The trouble with the visitor moorings at the Norton junction is that they are restricted 48 hour stay. They’re fine for an overnight stay but otherwise mundane and functional.  Not knowing how long I needed to be off the boat, Eric decided to cruise around the corner onto the Leicester line. Oh what a treat. Plenty of good 14 day official mooring and even more unrestricted mooring with pilings all within 5 minutes walk of the New Inn pub (that does good fish and chips) it’s even got a water point.

Once I was back on board we cruised up to the Watford Locks.  I still find it amusing to find us travelling at 2 or 3 miles an hour right alongside a motorway. This time the M1 and the Watford gap service station. 

I know which side of the fence I prefer to be on. But this wasn’t the time for us to venture back into the ‘north’ so we winded Firecrest and returned to moor near the juntion ready to head to Braunston.

One of the downsides of this mooring is that it’s quite a hike to the convenience store at Long Buckby, so on Monday we pulled pins and turned right under the bridge at the toll house, in search of a pint of milk.I believe this gorgeous cottage is now a holiday let But it was once the home of Major Feilding and his wife Ivy, who were canal minister with the Salvation Army.

We stopped at the East end of the Braunston Tunnel to walk into Daventry to restock the larder. Lots of boats coming through the tunnel and we got a lovely surprise when we saw Mike off NB Mister E. Mike’s boat was just being completed at Braidbar when we were planning Firecrest. He’d made us very welcome so it was an ideal opportunity to repay the hospitality and show him around our boat.


Building bridges

Last November we cruised south on the Grand Union past a major construction project. The A45 Daventry link road. This has meant a new bridge over the canal and railway. It meant night time closures over the winter to allow the work to progress.

This is what we saw as we approached in November

But when we returned this month, traveling north, they were still at work.

But as we rounded the corner we found a bridge

which was looking quite impressive

Plenty of clearance for the narrowboats

Of coure what we were really looking at was the glorious blue sky.  Not sure what the timescale is for completion of the new road, but I’m sure the locals will be glad when it’s done. And I’ll be sure to post a follow up photo next time we cruise this way.

And after so much rain and miserable non cruising days we had the pleasure of being accompanied by Amy, our crew to see us through the Buckby flight of locks.

Burnt oak oiled floor

Cheryl has not been on the boat this last week so I have taken the opportunity to re-oil some of the floor.

We have a solid oak floor, which has been lightly burnt with a blow torch and then oiled with OSMO oil.  I like oil as a wood finish because it brings the grain of the wood to life, is easy to apply and can be reapplied without having to remove the previous finish.  It also penetrates the wood so gives better protection than a surface finish.

The entrance/utility room suffers badly from our wet muddy boots and was was looking particularly tired and dull, but as you can see now looks really good again, in fact better than the galley floor which is on the left.  (Photo above)

It was a bit tricky doing the bathroom with it being a walk through and in the middle of the boat but I managed it two boards at a time.

And while were talking about Burnt Oak, John and Martina cruised past yesterday so nice to catch up.  Having not seen them for a whole year were now wondering who’s stalking who.

Where the power goes – Part 2

In my last post I looked at the power usage on the canal.  This got me thinking about the data I collected while we were on the river Avon near Evesham last July.  It’s clear we used a lot less power to travel at the same speed.  This surprised me because we were travelling upstream against the flow.

I measured the flow on the river by timing flotsam floating down stream.  It was about ½ a mile per hour which is not a lot, but on the canals that much increase in speed requires a lot of extra power, so for us to use less power was initially a surprise.

Here is a chart that shows the difference between the two sets of measurements.  I have included a corrected line to show the effect of allowing for the river’s flow, which makes the result even more startling.

Chart showing the power required to cruise a Narrowboat on a |River ccompared with on a Canal
Power required for Canal vs River cruising

The difference is so stark I was left pondering.

A boat travelling forwards pushes the water out of the way, both to the sides and underneath.  This can be seen as a bow wave.  On a river there is width and depth to accommodate this.  On a narrower shallower canal this water creates more of a barrier because there is less space around the boat for the water to go.  The gap between the base of a narrowboat and the canal bed is sometimes only a few inches.  Whereas it can be a lot deeper on a river.

The effect was very obvious on the Macclesfield canal where the boat almost stops as it struggles to go under some of the very narrow shallow bridges.  It in effect acts as a piston pushing water through the bridge and raising the water level in front of the boat requiring a lot of energy.

As we go faster the size of this bowwave bulge increases, and the water rises further, so requiring more energy to lift it and push it out of the way.  The effect of this for the canal can be seen on the chart by how steeply the power demand goes up above 3 mph.  There is quite a noticeable “knee” at 2.5-3mph, which is why trying to travel faster than 3 mph increases the power and hence the fuel required out of proportion to the increase in speed.

Rivers are much wider and deep and so allow the water to flow round the boat easily instead of creating a bowwave bulge in front, and so requires a lot less energy.  The lack of what I call the piston effect, is seen on the power curve for the river because it is much smoother and lacks the knee where the power starts to rise rapidly.

The usual rule of thumb is that bottom effects can be ignored when the water depth is more than 10 times the draft of the boat.  So for us that is in water that is about 6m deep.  The same rule of 10 applies to river or canal width.  So on canals we are hit by both bottom and bank effects that we can ignore for on the Thames in London.

This is comforting because I was worried that going all electric propulsion might mean we were under powered on rivers, and a few naysayers told me as much.  We need so much less power to travel in deep water, that I am confident the boat is not underpowered.  The Avon is not as deep as the Thames in London, the river Tent, or the Ribble Estuary, all of which we hope to crusie.



Where the power goes – Part 1

We have travelled more miles in March than January and February combined – hardly surprising, Cheryl has been taking the helm a bit more.  Actually this has allowed me the chance to take some speed/power readings to gauge the performance of the propulsion motor on long straight stretches of the Grand Union canal.

I am pleased how little power the boat needs to cruise, less than I estimated when I was designing it and selecting the motor, batteries etc.  One thing that is obvious to me as I cruise is just how much more power it takes to cruise faster.

I can see second by second exactly how much power the motor is using, how much power it is pulling from the batteries.  It is really obvious just what a waste of power it is to try to go fast.  A good thing, because going slowly does less damage to the canal banks, and we have more time to enjoy the wildlife as we pass.

KW vs MPH for canal cruising

Cruising at 3mph feels nice.  3.5mph is really as fast as one should travel on most canals but it uses more than twice the power of 3 mph, so seems hardly worth it. The moral here is just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

When we pass moored boats we slow down and our power drops to under 1 KW.  When we travel through locks we use almost no power because the motor only uses power when turning the propeller.  The Stoke Bruerne 7 locks used just 14.8Ahrs.

For people who prefer figures here is the data as a table.  I have included Amps, because most narrow boaters think about battery power in terms of Amps.


Raindrops keep falling on my head

And if you moor underneath a tree, the dripping onto the roof will keep you awake in your bed. Which in turn leads to a certain degree of insanity. Hence today’s photos will be celebrating sheep. (Loosely connected to our current mooring at Nether Heyford, which has a particularly good independent butchers selling spring lamb.)

I can’t help but get excited when I see sheep. Because without them what would I knit and spin with. So many different breeds across the UK. The first three photos were of sheep I’ve seen in the last few days here in Northamptonshire.

I’m not 100% sure but I think these are Blue Faced Leicester cross.

These look like Romney.

The next three photos were taken a few weeks ago around mum’s village in the Lake District

This one is a Cheviot

A Jacob

And my favourite the Herdwick.

With any luck the rain will ease off and we can get back to cruising again. At least the snow we were forecast today hasn’t happened, yet.

Happy Easter everyone and if you are a first time holiday boater, please believe me when I say usually it’s a lot lot lot more fun than this.

Bank Holiday Blues

Bank holiday weekend, and guess what…..its raining

But there’s still a phenomenal number of boats passing us. I feel so sorry for the holiday boaters.

However today is Good Friday and I have made hot cross buns

I though we needed some sunny photos taken over the last week just to remind us how lovely it can be living on a narrow boat.

This is the Northampton Arm at Gayton Junction

We stayed on the main Grand Union canal and we moored just beyond bridge 45

That’s us, a lovely peaceful mooring opposite a riding stable. I went off for a walk and when I got back found Eric hard at work spring cleaning.

Our reward was the first magnificent sunset of the year.


Blissworth Tunnel

Just beyond Stoke Bruerne is the Blissworth tunnel the third longest canal tunnel in the UK. It’s 3,076 yards (2,813 m) that’s about 13/4 miles long.

Before the tunnel was built, a horse drawn tram was used to connect the two sections of the canal and today there are some attractive sculptures commemorating this route, the track is a popular footpath now.

The tunnel was completed in 1805, joining the north and southern section’s of the Grand Junction canal. It’s construction was beset by problems including wiggles that made it difficult to navigate and a collapse due to quicksand which cost the lives of 14 workers. We are constantly amazed by the engineering skills and sheer physical commitment used to build the canal system. The museum at Stoke Bruerne has lots of information and displays about those ‘good old days’ .

In the 1980’s the tunnel was restored using preformed concrete rings. One was laid out on the embankment so we could see the dimensions. It barely seems plausible that 2 narrowboats can pass by safely. But we can testify that yes it is possible. And what’s even better they have straightened out the kinks making it a relatively easy tunnel to traverse.

The average time it takes is supposed to be 45 minutes. However when we the the Harecastle, our first long tunnel, the C&RT tunnel keeper advised us to go quickly to help prevent us bashing the sides. We’ve stuck with this advise and it took us 26 minutes. Although I am always very glad to see the light at the end


Sharing the load

Last week we shared a coffee with John and Martina from Burnt Oak. 
I forgot to record our meeting with a photo. This week I forgot that not only does my new camera have an auto focus, it also has several buttons that need pressing to return it to its autofocus mode after I’ve been playing with it. Or perhaps it was just the pints in the pub that blurred my image of the past few days. However I did manage to capture one or two moments as we picked the best days weather to work up the 7 locks at Stoke Bruerne.

John and Eric taking the boats through.

Burnt Oak and Firecrest chillin’ out in the Jacuzzi together.

Its a lively busy spot at Stoke Bruerne, lots of boat candy and gongoozelers. We were lucky to get in, that’s Burnt Oak, second the right.

Martina and I getting down to the serious business of spinning a yarn together on Burnt Oak after the hard work. We met through an online knitting forum called Ravelry about 5 or 6 years ago, then met up at a fibre festival. It didn’t taken us long to discover we had other mutual interests, and were both planning to have a liveaboard boat built. Not only that but we both have a daughter called Heather and we are both nurses, albeit at differing ends of the lifecycle, Martina helping with the hatching whilst I was making the dispatching a little easier. As for John and Eric, besides both having perfect wives in common, they also know how to share a pint or two.

Burnt Oak had to move on the next morning but we made the most of our 48 hour mooring and visited the canal museum, which we thoroughly recommend.

We want to Break Free

It’s time to say goodbye to our Bedfordshire winter sanctuary and break free from the security of easy access to civilisation.

Sadly this rather odd boat also wanted to break free.

We’d seen it, afloat, when we cruised south in November and both commented that it looked rather unstable with all that metal welded to the top.

I guess Heath Robinson was having an off day and this project has been abandoned. CRT, aka us licence paying boaters, will have to pay to have it removed and properly disposed of.

EDIT since we posted this, someone has suggested to us that as it is/was a plastic boat, it might actually have sunk because it was damaged by ice or a boat moving past it in the ice. If that was the case then then us narrowboaters with our steel hulls ought to be made aware so we can take this scenario more seriously. When it comes to ice, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. It might have appeared a piece of scruffy junk to us but it might have been it’s owners home and pride and joy.

But as for us it’s farewell Bedfordshire hello Northamptonshire.