Round the bend at Napton

When Brindley was building the Oxford Canal back in late 1700’s he favoured following the contours of the land when planning it’s route. Its a very twisty canal and you never know if you’ll be facing north south east or west. Which is why the windmill on the skyline is such a landmark.

Even when we got to the locks it’s just about visible, if you know where to look.


We got a lovely surprise at the locks, there were 2 volunteer lockies waiting to help us along. Not only that, one of them greeted us by name, it turned out to be Bill from Beltaine Spirit, Braidbar 168. Bill came though all the locks with us and lots of chatting was done an route.

Unfortunately I’d gone ahead to set the last lock so didn’t get a chance to say Thank you to Bill before he turned to help the oncoming boat back down. So if you’re reading this, Thank you Bill.

We did the 7 Halton locks and the 2 at Marston Doles before we moored up to enjoy the sunshine.



Napton on the Hill

The first place you arrive at going down the South Oxford, is Napton on the Hill, although the village itself is just over the hill. Not being deterred by the strange yellow object in the sky, I thought I’d go exploring in the hope of finding some refreshment.

This pub, imaginatively named “the Bridge” has sadly closed down but it is being renovated into a rather nice home.  I left the tow path and followed the signs pointing towards the windmill. And as I climbed up and up and up I was able to sit on these fabulous rocks to look out over the vista.

It looked like I could see for miles and miles, although it was too hazy for the photo to pick up, I could see the Rugby cement works well over 10 miles away as the crow flies.

I eventually made it up to the windmill, which is also now part of a private home so not accessible to the public.

However there was a small commemorative garden, recognising  the service from the village during the second world war as Naptons elevation made it a key observation post.  The brow of the hill now has too many tall trees to see 360 degrees but I can imagine how terrifying it was to see the bombs being dropped on places like Coventry. 

I carried on walking down the lanes past the Norman church, saying hello to the sheep on the way

The sensible ones where taking it easy in the shade.


Onto the South Oxford

On Tuesday we woke to the what promised to be the first day of summer 

So we said goodbye to our Braunston moorings and set off under Butchers bridge (having first gone up to the butchers and stocked up on Braunston Bangers).

Under the twin iron bridges that so gracefully mark the entrance and exit to Braunston.

We’re never quite sure what this next stretch of canal is called, is it the South Oxford or the Grand Union. One day I’ll ask.

The weather really was glorious, too hot to be standing at the helm. So we moored up at Napton  for a late lunch and to soak up the heat.



Braunston in bloom

You know how sometimes things just go well, Monday was one of those days. We woke refreshed and eager to get on. We got to the tunnel just before 9 and came through in 22 minutes without meeting any other boat. We dont like Braunston tunnel cause of its kinks. It makes it so much easier when you don’ have to tuck in close to the wall. Then we had the locks to do.  No other boat to share the workload with but again we struck lucky.  We kept meeting boats coming up, which not only meant all the locks were all set for us we were able to go through open gates and didn’  have to close them.  No wonder I was still smiling at the bottom of the flight.

Beautiful daffodils by the admiral Nelson pub bridge.

And the cherry trees were in their full glory in the marina. Spring has sprung and we are very relieved.

While we were in Braunston had a visit from Jo-NB BluePearl, chatted so long a quick cuppa ended up in sending Eric up the hill for fish and chips from the Braunston Fryer.

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.