Friday, 9 December 2011

Patience and The Motorway

Which motorway sign has the greatest connection with our boat?

Probably not the signs for water or bridges that you might first think of.
- though these could be useful ...
What about ....

or (ouch) ...

No, the connection - admittedly obscure - is with the sign for domestic animals.
Why a cow?

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert created a wholesale redesign of road signs that heralded the development of motorways in the UK. The new system became law on January 1st 1965. More detail from The Design Museum.
The cow on the sign warning of farm animals was drawn by Margaret Calvert and was based on Patience, a cow on her relatives' Warwickshire farm.
So Patience the cow, Patience the boat.

Patience  describes the state of endurance under difficult circumstances and is one of the seven heavenly virtues. Given that Patience the boat has endured grounding, near collision, and being clogged by weed, all at a maximum speed of 4 mph, the name would appear appropriate.
According to Jim Shead's Waterways Boatnames  Patience is the 68th most popular boat name of the moment, with 34 examples of boats in that name. Our Patience appears twice in the list, but still, we have a more popular name than I expected.

Other famous Patiences include:
the solitary card game, an uninhabited island off Rhode Island, a comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan, a 14th century poem, a gulf off eastern Russia and a moderately common forename.

"Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can; seldom found in women - and never in a man."

Monday, 5 December 2011

Winterising 2 - changing the antifreeze

As it must be at least three years since the engine antifreeze was changed, we decided to replace it. Antifreeze not only protects the engine against freezing, but is important in preventing internal corrosion. It is degradation of the corrosion inhibitor that limits its useful life and it is usually recommended that it is replaced every couple of years.

There are various types and colours of antifreeze. The original antifreeze in the cooling system was green - probably 'HOAT' (hybrid organic acid technology) in an ethylene glycol base. We have replaced it with Unipart 'Cool Blue' 2 year antifreeze, which is stated as being suitable for all types of diesel and petrol engines. This is a traditional ethylene glycol based mix.
One of the problems with a swim-tank-cooled marine engine is the large volume of coolant in the system compared to a vehicle engine. The volume of the swim tank in Patience was calculated at about 25 litres, which together with the engine block and connecting hoses would account for an estimated total coolant volume of between 30 and 35 litres. We therefore bought 15 litres of antifreeze to give a 43 to 50% mix. The recommended mix is 50% to cover the very lowest expected UK temperatures.

If you use a hydrometer for measuring the concentration, don't forget that the specific gravity of the mix depends on its temperature as well as its concentration. A 50/50 mix at 70 deg C has a similar specific gravity to a 30/70 mix at 20 deg C. Therefore, according to the hydrometer, the mix will seem to be weaker if measured at engine running temperature compared to the same mixture measured when cold.

Another problem is draining the system, as the bottom of the swim tank is right at the bottom of the engine compartment, so draining it into a bucket just doesn't work! We decided to drain it into the engine compartment bilges and then use the bilge pump to pump it into empty containers for safe disposal. This works up to a point, but it is difficult for the bilge pump to extract the last couple of centimetres, which had to be sponged out into a bucket!

We extracted a total of 30 litres of coolant, which, allowing for some coolant left behind at the bottom of the swim tank and engine block, confirmed our original estimate of 30 to 35 litres in total.

Having drained the system and replaced a couple of the flexible hoses that looked slightly worn, we put the 15 litres of new antifreeze into the system and topped it up with water. Running the engine for a few minutes made sure that the water and antifreeze were well mixed and that any air pockets had been eliminated. A final topping up with water was then carried out.
On the way home we disposed of the old coolant mix at the local recycling centre. Job done!

PS Based on our experience above, do this before it gets so cold that you're the one who needs anti-freeze! Make sure you have enough containers for the old liquid; they should be used only for anti-freeze so label them boldly! Finally, don't forget to wear disposable gloves, as antifreeze is toxic, and dispose of the old mixture responsibly - don't just tip it into the river!
See also the earlier post: Winterising

Thursday, 3 November 2011


As our third winter with Patience floats into view we've made sure she is prepared for the cold. Out with the water in the tank (revealing a few rust spots we'll be best touching up before the spring), out with the waste tank (pumped out at Ely) and in with the roof gear such as the poles.

Ironically two days after our winterising there was the sunniest and warmest day for a long time, so instead of taking her out I set to with the sander and paint brush and smartened up the area around the top of the starboard side and the roof rail. With harsh sunlight it was difficult to tell how it looked but I'm hoping it's an improvement.
In addition to the rust spots in the tank the sides will need smartening up. The fridge is a bit erratic when lighting and John has ordered a replacement water pump, then I think we can really batten down the hatches for a few months.
You might read the Engineer's Report from last year for a summary of what John has done to keep the engine up to scratch for its winter hibernation.
Patience has acquired a new neighbour in the form of a self-built cruiser, Queen Bea. She does rather loom over Patience but we think in a fight Patience's metal might just win out over Bea's laminated wood. Anyway, it won't come to that if we check the moorings frequently.
Next year we'll consider moving further afield though for how long we need yet to decide. We've thought of exploring the Middle Level or The Nene now that we've seen what the Ouse and its tributaries have to offer but we've become quite accustomed to The Lazy Otter.
See also the later post on Winterising and anti-freeze

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Retreat from Reach and The Winning of Wicken

An early start was prompted partly by the addition of crew and partly by the belief that if we left early there would be less chance of meeting another boat coming towards us down the lode.
Leaving Reach on the Lode
It was a serene journey. Knowing that Patience had made it down with only a bit of reed interference I left John at the helm and stood in the bow with my camera. Peaceful and with surprisingly good views over surrounding fields (the lode being rather higher than the fields around) I was stunned to see a bird heading at speed straight for me, down the channel created by the high reeds on either side. Only at the last moment did it veer away revealing a rusty orange breast - a kingfisher.  I have seen these often along local rivers but always as a flash of electric blue from the banks ahead of the boat, never heading towards me.
Lodes Way bridge reflected in Reach Lode
The Lodes Way bridge over Reach Lode is a new creation: certainly not on our maps though linking two existing tracks, we found out later that it was erected earlier in the month (September 2011). It forms part of the National Cycle Network route 11 joining Bottisham, Anglesey Abbey, Reach and Wicken. A beautifully constructed and substantial bridge for a humble lode such as this.
And so to the Upware stretch where we now turned sharp right under the steeply arched bridge leading to Wicken Fen and its National Trust centre.
Bridge at Upware crossing the entrance to Wicken Lode.
Wicken Lode is also narrow and bends rather more than the relatively straight Burwell and Reach lodes. It is, however, shorter and provides a useful mooring only a few minutes walk from the Wicken Fen National Trust Visitors' Centre (cafe, shop and information, loos, bike hire, walks, bird hides etc).
Mooring at end of Wicken Lode

Along the way you might also see the undomesticated Konik ponies, part of a grazing project to create new habitats for a diverse range of wildlife.
Konik ponies by Wicken lode
The visitors' centre revealed to us the details of the new bridge (see above) and ticked us off for thinking that the Lodes were created by the Romans, as we had thought. It is now believed that they were designed for water management, avoiding the flooding of local grazing land and they were probably built by the monasteries at Ely and Ramsey. Later they came to be used for trade (clunch, reeds for thatch etc) and now of course for leisure.
Finally back to Upware, through the lock, grabbed a fortunate mooring at Five Miles - a pub which is very popular in summer despite being Five Miles From Anywhere and having interior decor like a 1970's discoteque. Nevertheless there are moorings, spacious grounds and a choice of beers. And the baguettes were good value too.
And so back up river, the stretch from Upware to Pope's corner being wide and attractive in good weather. Today was accepted as a record breaking day for weather, the hottest October day in the UK ever (29.9 degrees). It was good to be out on the river.

Reaching Reach

And so it was that, on the day in late September that recorded Cambridge as the hottest place in the UK, Duncan set out alone in a desperate attempt to reach Reach.
As described in the previous blog entry, Reach is a pleasant little village which is rather in the back of beyond - hence its charm. Reaching it from the Cam is an experience, past the Five Miles with its constant stream of cruisers, (so no moorings for me), through the Upware lock and its warning lights ("You haf only fifteen minutes zen ve shall close ze lock gates!") and into a long string of quiet straight moorings ... It was there I paused to have my egg sandwich and my lukewarm can of beer (the fridge having broken down).
Upware moorings from Wicken bridge looking back towards Upware Lock

After a while improving the gangplank in readiness, by adding non-slip strips and drilling holes to anchor the landward side using tent pegs, I set off down the straight lode to Reach village. Mostly straight, very narrow at times, Reach Lode is not a place you'd want to meet someone coming the other way. I imagine you'd both have to creep into the rushes, probably switch off engines and slowly inch past each other, grim faced. Having done a recce (see previous blog) I knew at least there was somewhere to moor up, though a sluggishness in the engine power and a rise in temperature suggested I had weed wrapped around my prop. A narrow stream between the reeds is not a great place to switch off and delve into the weed hatch, especially if there is (and there was) another narrow boat not far behind you. Reversing in these circumstances is, as they say, not an option ....
View up Reach Lode from Reach moorings

Anyway, got there eventually, a cruiser already in the GOBA mooring who helped take a line as I sidled up the river into a place I'd planned for myself. So many reeds and bushes it was hard to nudge in, but thanks to this chap on land I got it secure, with the stern in the only clear space.
View from and of Reach moorings.
Then up comes narrow boat two, with an experienced crew but they just couldn't find a spot without reeds and bushes so it was my turn to haul them in.
Memo to Parish Council / GOBA / Environment Agency - PLEASE cut the vegetation! It's potentially a great mooring, let down by the fact you can't get into most of it unaided or without a gangplank!
Reach Lode beyond head of navigation. Bankside vegetation makes mooring almost impossible.

Spent the evening in The Dyke's End - an excellent and friendly pub with good food on a varied menu - without the air of a gastro-pub. I think it would be on my Top Ten Pub list, and only four minutes from the moorings! Why don't they make more of these moorings? That evening there were four boats, 7 people, all of whom ate and drank at The Dyke's End. That's £200 in one night thanks to the moorings. Spare a few quid to cut down the vegetation and you could double that from boaters!
Next - Return From Reach

Monday, 26 September 2011


Reach Lode is one of three navigable lodes (the others being Wicken and Burwell) accessed via Upware lock on the river Cam.
Reach lies at the point where Devil's Dyke, a massive earthwork constructed between 370 and 670 AD meets the head of Reach Lode. Before 1200 AD the end of the Dyke was demolished to create what is known as Fair Green where an annual fair was held.
Reach Lode was probably constructed by the Romans and in medieval times it was used to transport clunch (a chalky building material) to Cambridge and Ely.
Reach was a busy port from the 14th to the 18th centuries but trade declined in the 19th century and the last recorded cargo of clunch was carried in the 1930s.
Accessing the Lode by car, drive to the north end of the village through Fair Green and bear left and immediately right around a dangerous corner to The Hythe. Continue to the end of The Hythe and park near (but not obstructing) the Anglian Water works. Continue on foot for a hundred yards to the moorings.
Reach moorings from The Hythe
Reach moorings from the direction of Upware
Beyond the moorings, which are just out of sight in the distance on the right

A forbidding sign warns you to "make prior arrangement" for mooring from the Parish Council. We did and were immediately granted permission, but it is an unusual and rather off-putting demand!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Canal Restoration

Waterways World Annual 2011 is a great reference book and one of the sections deals, at great length, (12 full pages) with restoration campaigns and projects. Now, there's a big difference between a campaign (We want this done!) and a project (We have arranged this funding and that permission on this timescale) but I was thrilled to see how much had been done and how much was hoped for in our Great Ouse region.
The Lodes at Wicken, Reach and Burwell are already navigable, but the Lodes at Swaffham Bulbeck (3.5 miles), Cottenham (2 miles), Bottisham (2.5 miles) and Soham (4.5 miles) have been identified as practical projects for restoration. Indeed parts of Soham and Bottisham are already navigable by small craft.
GOBA have also promoted the extension of the Little Ouse beyond Brandon, current head of navigation, to Thetford - a further 10.5 miles, though this would mean a further four locks.
Burwell Lode - the cockup bridge

Most exciting of all, I think, is something I hadn't heard of and am only just beginning to grasp: The Fenland Waterways Link. This could become the biggest waterways enhancement in Europe and open up 150 miles of waterway. It would connect Lincoln, Peterborough and Ely with Boston, Spalding and Ramsey to create a circular waterway. Black Sluice and South Forty Foot Drain have already been reopened and apparently it needs a new lock and road crossing for the A151 to link the rivers Glen and Welland.
An interactive map and a detailed leaflet about the Fenland Waterways Link are available.
Finally we must not forget the proposed Bedford to Milton Keynes Canal. This scheme will build the first new canal in over a century and provide a navigable route between the River Ouse in Bedford and the Grand Union Canal in Milton Keynes. It would also mean I could get down to see my daughters in London by boat in 9 days (60 hours) instead of 15 days (103 hours) ! Thank you Canal Planner for working this out!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Choosing Your Boat

As this blog was started as a way of recording our trials and tribulations in buying, maintaining and using Patience I thought it about time to celebrate our choice and think about the alternatives.
It's now coming up to two years ago that I stood on the banks of the Old West river with my daughter Sarah, who asked how much a narrow boat cost and started us off on this boating adventure.
 Back then we knew nothing of the pros and cons of different narrow boats and even now we have little experience of other types. But using a bit of common sense - and a thorough survey - we bought only the second boat we looked at.
So why is Patience the best boat for us?
Look at her from the outside and what can you tell? She has a cruiser stern (more room outside, though a trad stern might offer more protection in poor weather as the navigator can partly retire into the cabin). Note also that the chimney is towards the bow. A trad stern boat with a captain's cabin would have the chimney to the rear, while ours has a wood burning stove that heats the forward saloon rather than the rear cabin (though there's a radiator for the aft area too)..
Superficially the condition of paint work tells you something about the condition of the superstructure. But in fact most narrow boats are made of steel plate (plating specs are in millimetres eg 10-8-5 being the thickness for hull, sides and roof respectively) and it would take substantial rust to affect its sea worthiness. Rotten wood outside or in (eg benches, or gas boxes) would suggest poor maintenance and might be expensive to replace but could be done by a competent DIY-er with time to spare. Old boats with wooden superstructure in poor condition are to be avoided.
Patience is 45 feet long and 7 feet wide - the longest boat that can use all standard sized locks  across the country. She sleeps four in some comfort. Longer boats would have more space for sleeping and living, including single beds with doors off a gangway for privacy, while Patience is open with just the possibility of a dividing curtain to conceal the two bedroom areas from each other if required. The longer boats have manoeuvering problems in tight spaces and are restricted to which locks and turning areas they can use. And longer boats usually cost more to moor up. However 55 feet would also be a good compromise.
Seating and Sleeping
Patience has a forward saloon, with bench seats and lockers beneath, side to side, that convert to beds and house a table too. See a previous post if you're interested. The rear area has two bench seats facing fore and aft with room for a table between - the so-called Pullman arrangement. This converts to a double bed fore and aft leaving a narrow corridor - forward to the loo and aft to the wardrobes and storage spaces, including the electrical panel.

The galley is in the centre adjoining the bathroom / loo and shower. We have seen small baths in the larger boats, and longer boats sometimes have bathrooms that use the full width of the boat. However, in that pattern closing the doors for more space inside means no-one can pass along the length of the boat while the bathroom is in use. Ours has the benefit that the whole length of the boat is accessible. The galley has a sink with  hot water heated by the engine, cold from the water tank in the bow and potable from a rather basic jerrycan below. All the taps rely on a pump, so the battery needs to be on for taps to function.
Cooking and the fridge are both powered by gas so they don't drain the batteries (there are two 13 Kg propane cylinders in the stern and three car batteries) and the cooker is a 4 hob plus oven and (rather feeble) grill. The fridge is very effective when working, but we have had problems telling whether the pilot light has been lit by the piezo lighter. Annoying - but having no fridge would be worse. Modern small 12v electric fridges use little battery power, if you are cruising most days.
External electrical power is available if there is a socket at your mooring, but we have never used it. We do have a small inverter to convert battery power to AC and we use that for low power devices such as phone charger, camera battery charger and the television. A small inverter is inexpensive but a larger one to power a washing machine, say, is unnecessarily luxurious for us and would risk draining the battery if used when the engine isn't running. A pure syne wave inverter is quite expensive but would be preferred for charging a laptop.
The shower is a bit cramped but we don't use it much as we aren't often on the boat for long continuous trips. The loo is a hand pumped version that drains into a holding tank to be pumped out only occasionally (we always use pub facilities when we are customers). The alternative, cassettes, have to be cleaned out more often and are I believe more expensive.

Height and width are standard rectangles rather than port holes. Brass framed port holes look dinky but they need polishing and most people agree they let in less light.  All our windows open on a bottom hinge and can be easily removed from their frame for cleaning or in hot weather.
We have no roof lights ("Houdini hatch" or "pigeon box") which would let in more light and let out summer heat but could leak if not well maintained. Our roof is slightly curved (so the rain pours off) and covered in a non-slip paint (useful to walk on, especially in locks - gloss may look better but performs poorly) with only air vent "mushrooms" for ventilation. It's painted cream, so reflects heat in summer. We also have a rail along each topside - more convenient I think than a ledge as we can tie centre ropes to it, hold on to it and it doesn't collect water or leaves.
The gunwales, those narrow ledges along the sides, have to be non-slip; traditionally sand is applied while the paint is still wet, then brushed off later. You can also buy paint with small rubber granules embedded to provide surface grip.
I'll leave John to write an entry on the engine - whether it's powerful enough (I think it usually is, though we've had occasions in weed, wind and current which could have used more power), economical enough (we believe it does 8 mpg) and whether the engine cooling system is effective enough (probably not, we'd prefer a larger cooling tank) - and electrics (strip lights versus halogen and LED, mains power versus batteries, 12 volt appliances versus inverters). Modern boats with a "hospital silencer" are quieter than ours.
The Answer
But the answer to my original question must be that Patience is ideal for 2-4 people holidaying rather than living aboard or using it for lengthy cruising. For more extensive use we might have chosen something longer and with more storage. As it is, it's an ideal size, with all the mod cons you need for a week or so at a time without anything superfluous. And as it is 16-17 years old the price wasn't huge compared to a new one.
Read Waterways World and  survey boats of the length and age that suits you. The other variables are condition (modernised, or not) and place (comes with a mooring? conveniently placed or needs to be moved to your preferred mooring?)

Good old Patience!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Brandon - At Last!

Behind us a restful and silent night at the GOBA moorings on the Little Ouse and now we continue up the river towards Brandon. Somehow it felt longer than it should have, though we were at the lock by 10am and ready to go.
Brandon Lock Facing East
The lock turned out to be only just long enough for the 45 foot Patience and we were shuffling to and fro to avoid hitting the gates. Then on exiting we hit a wide patch of duck weed that cut our power, just as we needed to make a sharp right turn and avoid the reeds. Meanwhile the wind was pushing us into the reeds and the overhanging branch of a tree was dead ahead.
Weed collectors moored at Brandon Bridge

Magnificent pole work from the bow got us through and within a few minutes we were under the bridge and at the charming EA mooring at Brandon, which marks the end of navigation.

For road users Brandon itself is  a bottleneck on the way to Thetford, but this once noble town has plenty of fine 19th century houses though it is now especially popular with eastern Europeans attracted by the agricultural work and cheap house prices (bungalows for less than £100k).
For boaters the river is attractive and winding, with pubs (very cheap beer!) and restaurants, food shops and takeaways for all tastes, supermarkets and a good DIY shop. See also this link to a previous post on Brandon.
But the attractions of Brandon on a sunny Saturday afternoon could not hold us and we headed back to the mooring for a 180 degree turn (keep the bow tight to the mooring and turn slowly round) back under the bridge, past Jean Paul's restaurant (phone 01842 813137) and again through the weed and the lock. This time the bow was pointing directly at the vee gates so it felt even shorter. We had about 18 inches to spare but we knew we could fit in.

The way home was familiar this time and the only aim was The Ship for 5 pm or so, to meet up with our wives for an evening meal.
Along the way we looked more closely at the unexpected floating dry dock of Little Ouse Moorings.
a floating dry dock
 Mooring in these parts is £18 per foot per annum - not expensive. And before we knew it we were at The Ship. Good EA moorings, more than acceptable food, served with a smile. A good way to end our trip up and down the Little Ouse.

The Little Ouse

On our way up The Ouse heading for Brandon we broke our journey at Littleport. The stretch from Ely north is dull even on a fine day - a broad straight functional motorway for boats. So arrival at Littleport with good moorings on both sides of the river and a pub (The Swan, previously The Black Horse) by the water's edge.
The Swan is a renovated pub, a far cry from the scruffy old Black Horse and worth a visit. A restaurant and bar in tasteful modern hues it's a comfortable place to break the trip up river. Supplies can be had in the town centre 15 minutes away and a railway station (Cambridge to Kings Lynn) is to the north of the town.
The Swan, Littleport
Then on to Brandon Creek which is basically The Ship, a popular pub right on the corner of the Little Ouse and The Great Ouse. Arriving after 5 hours of boating (including our break at The Swan) just as they closed for the afternoon we had to decide whether to plough on up the Little Ouse or stay here for the night. Noting that if we'd set off from The Otter a bit earlier we could have enjoyed a drink here before closing time we opted to head on up the river.
The Little Ouse is not particularly little really - 13.7 miles long, which is quite a few hours boating when you've been underway for 5 hours already. Nevertheless we left The Ship at 3.30pm and gawped at the many boats moored up the first part of the river. As they thinned out to a sprinkling of private moorings, increasingly isolated houses and curious shacks we were being drawn deeper into countryside that changes from fenland to breckland. The river in fact marks the border between Norfolk and Suffolk and east of a sluice and cut-off channel the landscape becomes visibly different.
Decoy Farm - should be Decay Farm ....
Nevertheless it's a long way upriver and we cut our journey short at the GOBA mooring (pretty much the only usable mooring we saw the whole way, so thank you GOBA!) still 5 miles short of Brandon lock. Our only neighbours a motley herd of cattle, not a sign of any habitation we drank beer and dined heartily on soup followed by scrambled eggs and bacon.

We aimed to get to Brandon promptly next morning.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Hospital boat on the Ouse

Strolling around the Godmanchester backwater today I saw a substantial boat heading my way, featuring a St John's Ambulance badge.
I know there are emergency retrieval boats, the AA of the water world, but I'd never seen an ambulance boat. I wondered, are there boating paramedics too?
Of course a moment's searching threw up this link to Ladybird used to give trips to disabled children and the terminally ill. It turns out that Fox boats at March, Cambridgeshire, built Ladybird, its third boat for St John's. There's more about that here. And the passengers were having a good time on a substantial, light and quiet vessel, ten feet wide I believe.
Good for St Johns!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Sail has finally given way to power

With other projects taking his time, including of course narrowboating, John has decided to sell his much loved but, in recent years, rather under-used Mirror sailing dinghy. It was bought 15 years ago, but in the last year or two had spent most of its time in the garage rather than on the water. It was advertised on the excellent web site which specialises in sales of boats of all types. After putting a free advert up on Friday afternoon, he had 5 enquiries and had sold it within 24 hours!
This has released more space in the garage - we now just need to sell the two very comfortable reclining swivel chairs with matching footstools and we might even get a car in there one day! Any takers? [NOW SOLD!]

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Trolling Banned!

Oh no, just when I had planned a bit of weekend trolling!
Noticed this on the way up The Great Ouse north of Ely. I didn't feel guilty - but then I didn't quite know what I would have been guilty of! Should I support a campaign to BRING BACK TROLLING? Am I relieved that EBSSC have protected me from Trolls? Are Trolls endangered by my cruising up and down river? I just didn't know what to think. Until I got home and Googled it. Maybe you know already ... but for those of us to whom trolling is a novelty here's the answer from wikipedia.

And if you think the answer is a let-down - just Google it again, to find the alternative meanings. Oh ... really?! And here is a very serious article about nasty trolling, from the BBC. Definitely not a joke.

And if you've time on your hands try guessing what EBSSC is. If you think it's a secondary school in Santa Cruz you've been cheating by Googling - and you're wrong anyway!

[Postscript: Trolling, defined as "online abuse" or "virtual violence" is a form of bullying that has hit the headlines in March 2012. This blog entry was written long before I became aware of this and the lighthearted tone of this blog entry reflects that. There can be no excuse for insulting and bullying people online.]

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Solved the Mapping Problem

Following on from my previous blog I'm now thrilled to say that I've solved the problem! For the benefit of those who care, here's what I did.
I checked I had Google Earth installed.
[Update: latest blog for list of Railways near Canals]
Choose the downloaded kmz file to open in Google Earth.
Knowing I wanted mainly railway lines and stations I selected More > Transportation > Rail in the Layers panel and unticked mostly everything else.
River Ouse and Railway Bridge at Ely

Finally in the Places panel I ticked My Places > Temporary Places > UK_Canals_Route_only and ticked absolutely everything within that. If you're only interested in a small number of canals you need only tick those you need. Screenshot below with Ely station highlighted for clarity. The Ouse is lined in blue.
So here's my next (or the one after that...) project - noting railway lines near to canals so I can moor up, catch a train and come back later - or friends and family can catch up with me while I'm away.
Next, to find friendly folks who will accept me mooring for a short while and where I won't block anyone else - a bigger problem altogether!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Best Canal Map in the UK?

We use the Norie and Wilson Guide when underway (The River Great Ouse and Tributaries by Andrew Hunter Blair) and find it perfect for our needs, full of detail. But looking further afield and using up to date technology Google Maps and Google Earth are fantastic information sources.
I've just come across a site called UKWRS here which shows all UK canals laid on Google Maps. I know Canal Planner does this but there it's static, while the UKWRS is more interactive.

Now I'm confused over the relationship between Google Maps and Google Earth. The reason? I'm trying to find a way of overlaying the canals and the railway stations on a single map so I can identify places where I can moor up for a few weeks, walk or bike to a railway station and make my way home for a break before returning to continue where Patience left off.
Anyone know a way? It must surely have been done. To have marinas featured too for safe short term moorings would help ....

[see next blog entry for my answer ...]
See 2015 Blog for my final solution - a Google Earth layer featuring railways near canals.]

Friday, 22 July 2011

Porlock Weir

July saw us away from our usual Ouse rivers and down in Somerset in Minehead near the Porlock Weir. Porlock Weir has been a small port for hundreds of years populated mainly by fishermen and their families.

The harbour at Porlock has some fine and recently restored dock gates and a sluice tunnel to keep the harbour free of stones and to stop inrush of heavy seas during storms and high tides.
Here you see the gates open at low tide ...
... and here a closer view from the side. Pulleys linked by wires to electric winches on the harbour wall pull the gates closed as required. No hand winding of lock gates here .....

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Hilgay on The Wissey

I drove down from Stoke Ferry, where I'd been told there were no moorings until Hilgay. It was rumoured that there was a single landowner who held the land between Hilgay and Stoke Ferry and would not permit moorings.

So Hilgay came as a pleasant surprise, with a flurry of boats, a lengthy GOBA mooring and some additional green stretches alongside a recreation ground for general visitors. Shops and a garage too.
The GOBA mooring is just yards from the Rose and Crown which boasts food every night except Mondays. From here it's a little over 2 hours by narrow boat to Stoke Ferry and half an hour to  the Great Ouse and thence Denver.
George Manby lived most of his life in Hilgay, famed for his invention of a rocket to send a line to ships in distress. His memorial is in the churchyard.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Stoke Ferry on the Wissey

As part of my recce by car before going up by boat I drove from Brandon (see previous post) to Stoke Ferry on the River Wissey. There I found not quite what I was expecting.
Reaching a roundabout joining the A134 and the B1112 here I followed signs to Stoke Ferry village (perfectly pleasant, a pub or two and a shop or three) but had to go round to come across the river and moorings, a bit of a walk from the village.
Aerial views show lines of narrow boats along the banks leading up to Stoke Ferry, which is encouraging, but this turned out to be very pleasant but private moorings. No room for visitors.
Walking on through this private area I felt a bit of a trespasser even though I was entirely harmless. Then I came to some more warning signs and decided to turn back. On the other side of the roundabout opposite Whittington Garage (shop included) I found the Grange Farm Touring Park - an unlikely site for mooring, I thought, bristling with caravans in orderly rows, very neat and well scrubbed. Dogs only on leads. No children.
Look carefully and you will see a long list of "don'ts" or at least things you have to pay for. But as it's a GOBA mooring surely that's fine? Turns out GOBA rent the mooring from the caravan site owners - and look where they've put it -
right next to the road bridge, and an overflow outlet.
Prettier from this view ...
... but less than perfect.
So, worth thinking about before you take the 2 hour trip from Hilgay, further down river. On the plus side you could use this mooring and with a bike easily get to Oxburgh Hall just 4 miles away. There are pubs and shops in the village and a shop at the garage opposite the caravan site and ample winding space (it can take 60 foot) a little further up river before the limit of navigation.
On the other hand you are a second class citizen at the camp, (you have to report to reception showing proof of GOBA membership, adults only, barbecues only by agreement, mooring fees of £2 for one hour for non GOBA members, not allowed to use their facilities, pushed away in a corner ...) and there seem to be no alternative moorings anywhere near. EA where are you?
Interesting factoid: it's the Wissey, a tributary of The Great Ouse, that gives its name to the town of Wisbech (Wissey + Bech meaning "shore")
You takes your choice .... I'd say - stay at Hilgay down river and if necessary use Stoke Ferry only as a brief launch pad for Oxburgh Hall, which is a fabulous National Trust moated building, before going back to Hilgay the same day.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Brandon on the Little Ouse

Doing a recce of local rivers by car in advance of a future boating visit I visited Brandon, at the end of navigation of the Little Ouse.
I've driven through Brandon  many a time on the way to the north Norfolk coast but this was the first time down by the river.
The river is reached along the High Street on the Swaffham Road. Cross the bridge and immediately after it on the left are Jean Paul's restaurant and The Ram, a traditional pub. Park in the layby outside the pub.
Jean Paul's Restaurant garden downstream from the bridge
The bridge from downstream, on the riverside walk - restaurant on the left
The Ram has a beer garden and a track signposted Riverside Walks. Brandon House opposite is a more upmarket hotel/restaurant.
Opposite the Ram is Riverside Way. Pass the retirement home and follow a bridleway sign down a narrow track to the river and the Environment Agency moorings, sturdy and some 20 metres long.
EA 48 hour moorings
A small stream with a bridge adds a little turning space to the river, ample for a 50 footer I would think.
After this the EA's signs warn of low water levels and inadvisable navigation.
Brandon town provides food and supplies, take-aways, restaurants and shops.
The bridge from upstream, opposite the EA moorings

All in all a good place for an overnight stop and an attractive trip up the Little Ouse.
PS Link to a later post about Brandon.