A Stormy Weekend

The ladies of the boat

We rushed up from Luton back to Hannah the Narrowboat at Gayton Marina in Northamptonshire so that I could watch the Aston Villa game via SkyGo on my iPad but wished I had not bothered – watching the football I mean, not rushing back to the boat. For the first time ever I stopped watching the game half way through the second half as I deemed it a total waste of my data allowance. As you have probably guessed Villa lost and deservedly so. Of course I could take solace in the fact that I had a lovely bottle of real ale in my hand and I knew it was Chinese night aboard Hannah the Narrowboat.

Saturday evenings promise dire television offerings of Strictly, which I deem as ‘pensioners tv’ and that absolute crock of sh*t X-Factor where plastic people with no more talent than singing other peoples songs aka karaoke tell us all a sob story in the hope that somebody votes for them. TV like this is why we have alcohol – to numb the pain. Anyway enough of moaning about the TV let’s talk about something more interesting instead.

As always the Chinese from Yin Lung on St. Leonards Road in Northampton was very tasty and after washing it down with a glass of wine and watching more rubbish football on Match of the Day it was time for bed as I had a plan for Sunday and that plan was to take a trip to Summer Leys Nature Reserve which is not far from Wellingborough. This was another new discovery from subscribing to OS Maps (see last post).

Summer Leys Nature Reserve

The drive only took around 20 minutes from the boat and when we arrived the car park was pretty full so it was obviously a rather popular place. The walking route I had panned was a clockwise one around the lakes which were old gravel pits. We arrived at the first gate which I attempted to open but it seemed locked. I fired up the iPhone to look for an alternative route and as I did so another couple walked up to the gate and opened it straight away – Lee and I just looked at each other and laughed – I had missed the latch on top of the gate!

To be honest the first part of the walk was a bit boring as it was just a long gravel avenue where you could not see much of the lakes and the wildlife as it was obscured by the trees. About three quarters of the way along the path there was a spot where we could climb up a little hillock and get a good view of the land. As we walked on around the top of the lakes the views became much better and there were hides that we could enter to watch the plethora of birds on the water.

The walk was only about 2 miles long as I had opted out of the longer 5 mile walk that would take us into Doddington as my foot was still sore from dislocating it a coupe of days ago when I kicked the dog in the mouth. Wow, that makes me sound awful but it was a total accident while we were playing with a balloon – the dog did not even flinch so she must have a jaw of steel, me on the other hand certainly felt it. When I had a shower the following day I could see the top of my toe pointing the wrong way so I gritted my teeth and snapped it back in myself – now that really hurt but there was no way I was going to A&E for 5 hours!

The Sun Goes Down

After our little walk we headed back to Northampton to get a few provisions as we had very little food aboard Hannah. Once back to the boat we sat out in the sunshine for a while before having a lovely steak, cracked pepper and claret pie with new potatoes carrots and mushrooms for dinner. A nice glass of Banrock red wine was in order before settling down for an early night.

It was pretty windy overnight and the boat was getting banged around a bit and it was only going to get worse as Storm Ophilia approached. As I sat in the cratch I looked up to see a bright orange sun which seemed a little odd but I learned later that it was due to the storm whipping up sand from the Sahara and the ash from the wild fires in Portugal. We decided we needed bigger fenders for our mooring as the little narrow ones really did not do a lot to cushion the boat against the side so a trip to Midland Chandlers in Braunston was in order. As I was looking on their website Lee mentioned to me that there was another chandlery in Braunston so we thought we would give that a look too.

Grey Skies over Braunston

When we arrived the atmosphere was really quite eerie, in one direction we had really dark stormy skies and in the opposite one we had an orange glow which is something I don’t ever recall seeing. The wind was really quite strong now too but it seemed to come in waves.

Orange Skies over Braunston

We could not find what we wanted at Braunston Chandlers so ended up at Midland Chandlers where we picked up two flat fenders that look a bit like small tyres, some rope and two new LED lights for the bedroom. As we headed back I asked Lee if she fancied a little look at the boats in Braunston Marina – you may wonder why she wanted to look at boats so perhaps a little explanation is in order. Lee has become a boat spotter, she’s even got a couple of books with the boat registration numbers listed where she underlines them when she sees them. Stop laughing. So, if you see Lee with a little pad and a pencil looking suspicious by your narrowboat don’t panic, she’s just getting your number so she can underline it!

Braunston Marina

Once we were back at Gayton I sorted out the new fenders and fitted on of the LED lights as Lee cooked us some steak medallions – what a treat! I must admit I am glad we got the fenders sorted as it was now really quite windy outside and we were not getting bashed about nearly much as usual.

That’s about it for this post but there is a video below if you would like to watch it showing some of what we got up to this weekend.

Right On Our Doorstep

Above Gayton Marina

I don’t often take much notice of adverts on Facebook as many of the products advertised are either tat or overly expensive products that can be bought cheaper on Amazon or EBay. However, there was one advert that kept on popping up and that was Online Ordinance Survey Maps which had a 7 day free trial for premium membership that gives you access to OS maps covering the whole of the UK. After my 7 days were up I decided to take up the offer which was £19.99 for the year and although I don’t really like the subscription based model for software I think it has paid for itself already.

Once I had the app on my iPhone, iPad Pro and MacBook Pro I started to have a look around our home mooring in Gayton and discovered a circular walk from the marina, up towards Rothersthorpe and then back towards the Grand Union Canal and then along the towpath back to Hannah the Narrowboat. You can see the route below.

Gayton to Rothersthorpe walk

I have two incentives for walking, the first being an opportunity to take photographs/video and the other to kid myself that I can earn beer tokens by burning a few calories! Of course now that I have a drone (and an app that shows where you can fly it along with liability insurance – just putting that our there for the drone haters) I see our little walks as a chance to get some aerial footage too. You can watch a short video of our little walking adventure below.

The starting point of our route was a nice big open field close to Gayton Marina which gave me the opportunity to get the drone up into the sky and get some shots of the marina and our friends boat The Pride of ‘Nuffield’ who were moored up on the stretch close to Gayton Junction.

Above Gayton Marina

Once I had got my fill of flying we headed off north and our first stile had a notice on it warning us to beware of the bull. Luckily enough we could see all the cows and perhaps a bull or two way off in the distance so we carried on across the field to the next stile which was very rickety! This led us into a very overgrown little stretch to the next stile which was also looking very sorry for itself. From here on it looked pretty easy going, that is until we got lost! We ended up by a cow shed where beady eyes were peeping out at us and more glaringly at Buddie our Jack Russell. After a bit of head scratching we sorted ourselves out and got back on the public right of way which then took us through a small horse field where we met an old gentleman and had a bit of a chat.

It turns out that this fella did 8 years continuos cruising on the canal system with his wife on a 30ft Narrowboat, and we worry about 45! By this time we had gained the horses attention and they were soon standing with us giving us a little push with their heads so we would stroke them.

Lee at the Stile

We were now approaching Rothersthorpe where we had to walk a 200 or so yards to the church where we would rejoin the public footpath for the route back south.

Church in Rothersthorpe

We followed the path along the edge of a couple of fields until we entered some woodland before crossing a small brook and back out into an open field which took us to what we refer to as ‘Gnomes Bridge’ – we used to compete with each other on FourSquare and this was a waypoint we put in which is why it has an odd name!

There is another wide open field here where I took to the air again to get some footage of passing boats and generally have a little play as I don’t get to fly the drone very often and a still had a spare full battery to use up – that’s my excuse anyway and yes, I’m like an overly excited kid with a new toy.

Time to head back along the towpath towards Gayton Marina as we were both pretty thirsty as stupidly we forgot to bring a drink with us – and of course there was a cold ale in the fridge with my name on it!

Hannah the Narrowboat

We had worn ourselves out so we decided cooking would be far too much of an effort so we jumped in the car to The Navigation Inn at Stoke Bruerne for dinner. Whilst at the bar I turned around to the grinning face of Ray, another of out boating friends so we sat down with his better half Tray and all ate dinner and sank a couple of tasty ales, a nice surprise and a great end to the day.

A pleasant surprise

Evening Sky over Gayton Marina

OK, I know it’s been a while and we even had a comment shouted from a passing boat that we had not done a blog post for ages. If I’m brutally honest we have just had so many other things going on that I kind of forgot about the blog so hopefully from here on we will try and be a bit more consistent as we do spend half our lives aboard Hannah the Narrowboat.

As we lost a couple of months due to Lee’s unforeseen illness we did not really get the usual summer break for a grand adventure so we thought it would just be nice for her to book a bit of time off work and spend the first part of October solely aboard the boat. Of course we still need to keep the pennies rolling in but I am fortunate enough to be able to work almost anywhere I can get an internet connection.

As well as just getting away from it all for a bit of relaxation we also have a rather long list of jobs that need doing aboard Hannah including replacing the hatch and the door frame as both were pretty rotten so this was not going to be all about sitting around sipping wine whilst watching the world go by unfortunately!

When we arrived at Gayton Marina we were pleasantly surprised to see five familiar faces approaching us, our friends Martin, Sarah and their 3 greyhounds Banksy, Lucy and Abby. They have been having a bit of trouble getting their washing machine to work properly with their inverter so an engineer had been out to have a look and decided it was poorly and needed a new switch which he would have to order. Martin and Co. are continuous cruisers and had come down this was a couple of weeks ago and as they had to wait for parts they decided to moor up in the marina until they get things sorted.

The Green Room

As is the norm for a Saturday night when we arrive it’s Chinese and pink wine night and tonight’s mood lighting is green – we love our colour changing lights in the lounge! We like a lazy night aboard Hannah in front of the TV after we arrive and it was not too long before we settled down for the night with our bellies full and our heads slightly woozy.

I awoke to the sound of my phones alarm as I had an early start – F1 was on the TV and for once I was glad I made the effort as it was perhaps the best race of the season so far. I do like my F1 but if I am honest the last two or three seasons have been pretty rubbish. Once we had eaten breakfast our friends wandered over and we all sat around outside drinking tea and putting the world to rights for a few hours which was nice. Lee and Sarah then went off to do a food shop whilst I got on with a few little jobs.

Lee catching up on Facebook

We all spent a nice evening aboard The Pride of Nuffield (Martin and Sarah’s boat) drinking a few beverages and having a good old chin wag, happy days. All the fresh air got to us and we were in bed by 10.30pm which is very early for me!

Rain, rain, rain

Well I am not sure where our summer has gone, it just seems to be mainly grey mixed with copious amounts of rain and the odd appearance from the sun. Hardly cruising weather! It’s also put back a fairly urgent job we need to get sorted on Hannah the Narrowboat. Our cruiser stern is looking quite sorry for itself as the boards towards the back are breaking up and need replacing, well actually the plan is to completely rebuild the cruiser stern including the wooden structure below decks as they are shall we say, a little springy! Looks like we may just do a temporary fix and then go ahead as planned after winter as it’s not going to be cheap and we have been hit a little by the lady of the boat not earning due to her operation which is taking longer than expected to recover from.


What with all the rubbish weather we have pretty much been confined to the marina, not that I mind that much as we do have a good spot with a nice green space right next to us we use as a garden. We did actually brave the wind and inclement weather this Sunday and decided we were going to have a BBQ. Although not what I would say warm, the rain did hold off and we were able to eat outside albeit wrapped up in autumn attire!


I do actually feel quite sorry for the holiday boaters when the weather is not what you would expect for August as for many this is the only time of year that a lot of families can get away and spend quality time together aboard a Narrowboat and we all know hiring a boat is not cheap by anyone’s standard. Hopefully they can take it all in their stride and enjoy it despite the rain. Of course we are used to the inclement weather now that we have owned Hannah the Narrowboat for just over 6 years and we always find something to do. I work from the boat so during the week it does not matter too much to me if it’s raining outside but I must admit that if work is quiet I can be susceptible to a bit of cabin fever. I enjoy my photography and video making and the weather does make a big difference on that score but lately I have been playing with my new iPad Pro doing more digital artwork. My job is more orientated towards Graphic Design so I rarely get to paint or sketch for my own pleasure but that has all changed now that I have discovered that Apple has really hit the back of the net for digital artists with their latest tablet offering – it truly is very similar to using natural media but with the added advantage that you can erase stuff easily, duplicate elements and not create a mess on the cratch table with real paint!


I have been following a guy on YouTube who uses his iPad Pro to create amazing pieces of art which inspired me to step out of my safety zone of creating sterile commercial graphics and do something a little more painterly instead. The picture above was created in ProCreate – perhaps the stand-out art app out there and used by many professional artists and took around 3 hours to produce. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed doing something a little different although it won’t win any art competitions! I have also started sketching out a scene featuring Narrowboat Brighton at Watford locks as seen below. Of course it’s only at it’s first stage and will take a lot more than 3 hours to finish it, if I ever get around to it as it was more an exercise of seeing if sketching is viable on an iPad.

Another advantage is that I can actually use the iPad Pro for work as I can produce illustrations fairly easily on it, much easier than using a mouse and you can mix you media on it as shown below – the frog is hand drawn and the background is a blurred out image which I think works quite well.


In think you can see I’ve been far from bored during this rainy period we are going through, that’s the great thing about our Narrowboat, we have equipped her with everything we need for it not to be a disadvantage to be floating rather than on solid ground in a brick box. I love the fact that I can work just as efficiently aboard the boat as I can in the studio, in fact it’s more inspirational aboard the boat as all you have to do is look out through the window for ideas.

I’m now having a little play to see if I can actually produce professional quality musical compositions on the iPad Pro too and early signs are quite encouraging but I do feel at the moment songs would still have to be polished and mastered on my Mac in Logic Pro. Having said that the iPad Pro is great for getting ideas down with my wireless midi keyboard.

That’s just about it for this blog post, I know it’s not been focused on the great outdoors we are lucky to live amidst as per usual but hopefully it gets across that even when it’s terrible weather outside there is still plenty you can do aboard a Narrowboat.

A Different View

Sunset over Gayton Marina

It’s been a while since I posted to the blog site, in honesty so much has happened over the past couple of months I kind of forgot about it, or maybe I should say I put it on the back burner for a while. First off we had to have open heart engine surgery as poor old Hannah the Narrowboat suffered a broken injection pipe and the fuel was leaking into the sump – that was not the end of it though as we also needed new valves and a whole host of other stuff so basically we had a complete top end rebuild. Whilst Hannah was at the boat doctors my wife Lee decided to come out in sympathy and have a bit of surgery herself. No, not the cosmetic type, she had her Gall Bladder out along with the fixing of an umbilical hernia! Once she was fit enough to move around a little we decided what better place to relax and recover than to get ourselves back aboard Hannah the Narrowboat, which is where we have now been for the last couple of weeks.


We had planned a three week cruise down the Grand Union Canal to Tring for Chillfest (a music festival) before the spanner was put in the works but I for one was not going to let that worry me, so long as I am aboard Hannah The Narrowboat I am happy enough. As soon as we arrived at the marina and could see the boat a smile appeared on my face. I’m home.

I was also looking forward to playing with my toys I got for my 50th birthday (I know it’s really hard to believe that I am so ancient!). I was lucky enough to get a GoPro Karma package which includes the GoPro Hero 5 action camera, a stabilisation device and a drone. On top of that I got an iPad Pro 12.9″ so now I have a completely mobile video package to make even more terrible films! I can also do some proper work on it too which is how I sold it to my mum and my wife!

It was not long before I persuaded the better half that I am quite capable of handling Hannah The Narrowboat on my own and that we should venture out onto the cut so I could have a little play with my new toys – I was desperate to get the drone onto the air! Just for the record, or perhaps more aimed at the people who seem to unjustifiably dislike drones and think that anyone that’s flies them is a rapscallion with no responsibility I actually took out 3rd party liability insurance which covers me up to £5m and joined a government approved scheme for responsible drone flying. We only had to travel about 1.5 miles to the spot I thought would be best for my maiden flight, a big open field right next to the canal. You can see my first attempt at flying below. I really hope I don’t get whinged at too much as it would be fantastic to get some good footage of the canal system (and our own travels) from above – a completely different perspective.

After the inaugural flight we moved on up towards Heyford Fields for a couple of days before heading back to Gayton Marina as Lee had invited a couple of her clients for a day out aboard Hannah the Narrowboat. I have to say it was wonderful to spend a couple of days with my good lady out on the cut after what has seemed an eternity! I shot some more video, took lots of photos (inbetween proper work as I don’t really get a holiday being a self employed graphic designer) and generally took in the views whilst the good lady convalesced (slept lol).

We headed back to Gayton Marina in time for her visitors and she seemed to be well on the road to recovery but is was not to last despite my warning but we will get to that later. Jack and Cheryl arrived on the Saturday morning and after the usual pleasantries I cast off and headed back out onto the Grand Union Canal for a repeat of our last journey. It’s a nice little run from Gayton Marina to Heyford Fields Marina which takes us around an hour and three quarters at a gentle pace. The weather was a little inclement and it was not too long before I was wet – the girls were all inside up front viewing the scenery from the cratch. The ladies serviced me well with a hat and some cider so I was more than happy to continue chugging along!


As standard once we arrived at Heyford and had moored up the Lotus Grill came out and a BBQ was initiated and again, as standard we cooked more meat than we could possibly eat!. Obviously the ale/cider/lager/wine flowed before a little chill out and a head back to the marina.


We certainly slept after that day out on the cut!

The following few days were a bit of a setback for my good lady. Sadly a family member on her side had recently died and she wanted to go down to London for the funeral. I was not so sure she was up for it but could totally understand why she wanted to attend. I pleaded with her to take it very slowly and after dropping her off with her sister in Ampthill I was confident they would all look after her as she was still pretty delicate even though she would not admit it. She got through the day OK but the following day she slept in until after 2pm. It had really worn her out and to be honest I think it has put her recovery back at least a week.

That’s about all for this post and I promise it won’t be so long before the next post (I am working on it already).

Rain Showers at Gayton Marina

The Rickmansworth Canal Festival

Bunting on Narrowboats

As our narrowboat is in the yard having major engine work carried out on her 1956 Lister SR3 we were at a bit of a loose weekend so we decided to jump in the car and head off to the Canal Festival at Rickmansworth. I did not really know what to expect from this one as a few we have been to have been little more than car boot sales with a few boats moored up for good measure. This one was different, very different.

When we arrived in Rickmansworth it absolutely poured down with rain – not a great start but as we were directed into a field to park the car the sun broke through. After a little bit of puddle dodging along the walk to the festival we were pleasantly surprised as this one looked epic. The deal was that you paid £3 for car parking and then a ‘voluntary’ £2 donation so it cost us as a couple £8 (we gave a fiver) which was well worth it as this festival really was quite a big one.

Music Tent

There was the odd bric-a-brac (car boot) stall but there was also a plethora of arts and crafts stalls, canal related stalls and lots of weird and wonderful food on offer. Of course there was also the obligatory beer tent offering a wide variety of ales and a main stage if live music is you thing.  We love food and beer (what boater doesn’t?) so we indulged in some Thai food and washed down with some Timothy Taylors.

Beer Tent

The one slight criticism, and it is only slight was that we had no idea where the actual canal was as from the direction we came in there was nothing telling us where to go after we had visited all the stalls which were situated away from the canal. Google maps to the rescue. Of course the main attraction for us was the boats and once we had found our way onto the tow path we were in our element. It was a great turnout of working and private boats and we were kept entertained by the working boat ‘tug-of-war’ competition although I am not sure I would like to put my engine through that!

Narrowboats

Apart from the odd heavy downpour we really enjoyed this Canal Festival and it’s definitely one we will be watching out for next year, perhaps we will even potter down the Grand Union Canal aboard Hannah the Narrowboat!

 

 

Excited and Nervous

Hannah the Narrowboat

At present we probably spend half our time aboard Hannah the Narrowboat and half our time in a brick box – I prefer the boat! I don’t really like our house anymore, well actually I don’t like where that house is located – Luton. So with that in mind it is getting close to the time where we want to move so one way or another we are going to have to clear out 24 years of junk we have collected that is sitting on the loft, garage and shed. We do not own our brick box and have no desire to own a brick box at all so after a proper chat with the better half we have come to a decision and it’s really quite exciting! In March 2018 we plan to be aboard Hannah the Narrowboat full time which will save us a fortune on rent which can then be ploughed into renovating the boat. We’ll try it for a year or so and if we decide we really do want another brick box then we can rent one nearer the boat in Northamptonshire.

Ducks on the Canal

So here we are then, a year to sort ourselves out, sell all the stuff we have not used or even seen for years and plan our new life aboard the boat. It’s all very exciting but also a tad nerve racking as there is so much to sort out. Some people think we are mad but I think of it like this, when I am sitting in the brick box watching a large screen TV from a distance of 10ft it is not different to watching a 24″ TV from 3ft – I am still doing the same thing! We will of course need to think carefully about storage solutions and that type of thing but in essence we don’t need 45 t-shirts, 8 pairs of jeans and 6 pairs of shoes!

I kind of think we are half way there already as the boat has many of the gadgets I need already as I have already installed them all. We have solar, we have 240v, we have a fridge, we have a microwave, we have bluetooth audio throughout and  much more – all we really need is some way of washing our clothes and some way of storing my studio gear (which I will cut down the the bare essentials). Technology has already allowed me to have a full room of recording equipment shrunk down into a Macbook Pro!

So, that’s where we are for better or for worse we are going to dip our toes into living aboard our beloved narrowboat full time – wish us luck, we may need it!

A walk along the towpath around Gayton

Sunset at Gayton

We are so lucky to have such an amazing back garden, yes that is how we see this beautiful part of the Grand Union Canal around Gayton in Northamptonshire.

Although the day started off quite misty we watched it lift from the warmth of Hannah the Narrowboat before deciding to get out there and enjoy the countryside on our doorstep. This video gives a good idea of what life is like when you abandon the confines of a brick box and get out there and enjoy life. The music in the background is by yours truly, a bit of a rest bite from the usual pop rock I write with Sanity Bypass!! Hope you feel completely relaxed after watching.

Gallery – Out and about around Stoke Bruerne

Stoke Bruerne

Most people who frequent the canals or indeed own or live aboard their own boat have undoubtedly heard of the quaint little village of Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire. Our home berth is just a few miles north along the Grand Union Canal at Gayton Marina so we often have a wander around this lovely village and can often be seen having a sneeky pint of ale in The Navigation Inn! We had an ulterior motive yesterday as Tracy and Ray, who own Tea Junction were moored up for winter and were open for tea and cake – would be rude not to participate!

Here are a few pictures from our jaunt around the village and the Woodland Walk which takes you over Blisworth Tunnel.

A Winters Walk around Stoke Bruerne

Stoke Bruene in Northamptonshire

We awoke up to a lovely warm and cosy boat this morning whilst outside the marina and canal was frozen over. We decided there would be no going out ice breaking on the canal so instead took the short drive down to Stoke Bruerne to blow off the cobwebs from our chinese and pink wine night the evening before!

Stoke Bruerne is a lovely place whatever time of the year it is and there is always a bit of a buzz about the place with people meandering around out for a walk or just to take in the idyllic sight of working boats and private narrowboats alike. We decided we would take a walk up the ‘Woodland Walk’ which takes you up and over the Blisworth Tunnel.

Above Blisworth Tunnel

Once we decided that we had burnt off enough calories it was time to go and put them back on again at Tea Junction, a narrowboat run by Tracy and Ray. If you get the chance then pay them a visit, they often post up on Facebook where they are going to be and they make a great selection of really naughty but nice cakes! After a bit of a chat we said our goodbyes and headed off up the towpath to the car and then back to Hannah the Narrowboat at Gayton Marina. Going to be freezing again overnight but we will be warm as toast again! We may have to pop to the Royal Oak in Blisworth for a pint of Timothy Taylors first though!

Tea Junction