Saturday, March 17, 2018


What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday we were cruising back up form Banbury to Cropredy with the warm sun on our backs and then as we settled in for the evening we switched on the wireless to hear the 5 to 6 weather forecast on the Home Service.  It didn’t sound good for our necessary journey home next day – snow over the Chilterns, so we hastily changed plans and within an hour had re-winterised the boat, packed our bags and hit the road. Still we’ve had a lovely few days afloat to break our 2018 duck and Herbie seems in fine fettle so that’s good.

Since we’ve been stationed on the Oxford canal, I seem to have been more aware of the subtle changes in season, particularly as regards wild flowers and blossoms.  Maybe it’s because the canal largely keeps away from houses and gardens and the wildlife is allowed to do it’s own thing.  The majority of the canal passes through very old pasture land, unchanged for centuries probably like this meadow with it’s wonderful saw tooth edge where the rise and fall of ancient strip farming ridges and furrows meet the level water.


Emerging in the towpath grass yesterday we saw celandines, coltsfoot, speedwell, and by a lock paddle post a patch of teeny tiny white flowers which we later identified as probably shadflower or common whitlow grass, so small as to be easy to miss, but very pretty.  In a couple of weeks time, we’ll be seeing the blackthorn blossom I expect, and then the hawthorne and then . . and so on.

One thing that I’m pleased to say doesn’t seem to change so much is the old part of Banbury.  Yesterday as a rare treat, we strolled up to Wetherspoons for a cooked breakfast (probably the best thing ‘spoons does and it makes a change from my normal muesli and prunes – vegetarians look away now)


anyhow, next to us I noticed this photo from 1907 of Parsons Street in the town ( please excuse the reflections from the cover glass)


on the way back to the boat I took this next photo from the same spot.


Not much has changed in 110 years. Then on the other end of the old market square they’ve recently repainted this old building, faithfully reproducing the old advertising on the upper walls.  I fear there might have been an outcry had they not.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

This and that

Well we didn't come last in the Reindeer quiz last night, for the simple reason that when we got there we learned that the quiz is on Thursday, not Wednesday. Doh! Now we have to go to the Reindeer two nights running. Somehow I don't anticipate your pity.

My new MPPT solar panel controller seems to be working and I have a suspicion that it is tracking max power better than the old one, judging by the amp readings this morning. This new one is a Victron in case anyone is wondering.

A while ago we bought this nice flat bottomed enamel coffee pot with the idea of heating water on the top of the wood burner.

We've only just got round to trying it out, and while the water doesn't reach boiling point, it gets plenty hot enough for washing or washing up or filling hot water bottles. I like it a lot. Yes I know we have a calorifier and a Morco, but that's not the point. It's much more satisfying heated in this jug, a bit like making toast in front of the fire when i was a nipper. Aah those were the days.

I've been plugging on with my second blockbuster novel and we're up to 62098 words, probably including about 61000 typos. Predictive text is driving me mad because it keeps changing what I mean to say into entirely different words. I'll probably re read it and find I have written Gormenghast. Artificial intelligence has some way to go in my opinion. I have to start thinking about how the mess our hero Eric is in gets resolved. At present I don't have a clue. I hope the world is ready to tackle it when I've finished, it does have several hares running at once.

Soon I'll have to start thinking about how to spend all the money I will make from the book. With a bit of luck it might be enough to buy a new set of guitar strings although that might be a tad optimistic as the good ones (Elixir Nanos) are about £14 a set these days.( I only paid £4 for my first guitar as I recall). Well I can dream.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A soaking indoors

You know those farcical scenes where the man does something to the plumbing and a powerful jet of water shoots him in the eye, and he tries to hold his thumb over the leak and it sprays everywhere? Well that's me that is.

The little drain plug screw in our Morco water heater sheared off as I tried to remove it when we winterised the boat in November. Doing something about it has had to wait until we were back on board, ie. now. The plug has been dripping since we turned on the water and we've had to put a jug under it to catch the drips. So this afternoon, I attempted to fix it. I won't bore you with the details except to say that only a fool would remove that plug while the system was under pressure. The box of matches in the cutlery drawer will no doubt dry out eventually. Of course I didn't have the proper replacement screw to plug the hole again, but a 5mm stainless screw wrapped in PTFE tape seems to have done the trick.

I don't manage to cock up all of my diy jobs. In the last 24hrs I've installed my smart new solar panel tilting stand and replaced our old 100watt solar controller with an uprated one ready for the new second panel which lies waiting at home. It all seems to be working ok.

Tonight we renew our attempts not to come last in the Reindeer pub quiz in Banbury. The cruise down here from Cropredy was fine despite the canal being alarmingly high. At least the strong current of a couple of days ago has stopped. I guess CRT had all sorts of sluices open to dump the excess water, hence the current.

Unsurprisingly the canal is closed at Nell Bridge above Aynho because of the height of the Cherwell there. Boaters coming up from that direction have told us of ferocious currents through the narrow lift bridge holes. Luckily we don't plan to go that far.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Happy New Year

I don't think we've ever left Herbie alone for so long, but today we managed to sneak away from home while no-one was looking and come aboard for a few days. Other folk have recently posted about how scary it is to come back to your boat after all that freezing weather. Thoughts of burst pipes, broken water pumps, split calorifiers, have haunted our dreams, but as far as we can tell Herbie seems to have survived intact. I did do a perfunctory drain of the plumbing system before Christmas but unlike other years I didn't remove the water pump and the shower mixer, because we've had such mild winters recently. Doh!

Anyway here we are, starting our boating year at last. The Ecofan is spinning and we're warm and dry and enjoying our first cup of tea.

Outside it is raining tortoiseshells and whippets. I 've already stepped in a couple of poodles whilst loading the boat. The marina entrance was awash and the canal looks alarmingly high. We're hoping to tootle down to Banbury for a day or two, but like last year I'm sure that some of the top gates will be under water so I might get wet feet. We haven't seen any boats moving yet. Are we being foolhardy we wonder?

In other news, a couple of days ago I had my haircut. I went from two inches over the collar to a number 6 all over and now my hats fit again. If only I could do the same for my waist.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

An exciting (for me anyway) discovery

Well who’dathunkit!  A few days ago I tumbled across a spiffing App that has helped me to create what I think is my best yet CanalOmeter, which I will demonstrate for you further down the page..  For the non cognoscenti my canalOmeters are devices of my own invention that calculate distances and times from any points A to B along a canal.  The original low tech cardboard ones like this being held by my lovely assistant Simon Tortoise

are still handy , but they are fiddly to make and I’ve had a number of attempts to make a digital one – particularly ones which would work on a phone or a tablet.  First was  a spreadsheet version – a bit cumbersome, then one written in Python which worked very well but was unexciting in appearance and needed the Python language installed on the phone or tablet.  Now I’ve found out a way to create a user friendly Android app that does the job just the way I wanted.  Let me demonstrate with one I’ve done for the Grand Union stretching between Brentford and Braunston.  I call it GUSouth or GUS for short. Let’s imagine I am planning a trip from Fenny Stratford to Cassio Wharf

To the user it’s just an Android App like any other, it sits under an icon on your home screen or wherever and runs on native Android code.  Click the icon to launch it and and up pops this. (This is on my A5ish size Android tablet).  To save space I’ve cropped the screen shots just to show the essentials, just imagine the rest of he tablet /phone screen as blank.


Here I’ve just started typing in Fenny Stratford and got as far as ‘fen’.  That’s enough - I press OK.

Up pops this list of matching places


I choose Fenny Stratford Visitor Moorings by tapping it with my finger.  The next screen then appears


Here I’ve again started typing in the place and after three letters (could be more or less) I hit OK and get another list


I tap Cassio Wharf and up pops my result:


Job’s a goodun.  I can then choose to go round again with other places or just stop.  I timed this whole exercise from clicking the App Icon to getting my result and it took 17 seconds.  There are a couple of other advantages.  For instance if you are passing under a bridge, just tap in it’s number eg. B167 or at a lock,say L75, as your from point.  Or how about this if I just type in Pub


or I could bring up a list of water points or winding holes.

So what are the downsides?

1. It only works on one canal at a time.  It can’t plan routes through junctions like CanalPlan can

2. Accuracy of route timing is necessarily approximate.  I’ve used an average of 3.5 mph and 15 minutes per lock on this canal.  These times are always a rough guide, but experience shows that they’re near enough for journey planning.

3.  It’s still work in progress.  It seems pretty robust but I’m certain a new user could make it fall over easily enough. 

4. I can’t let you have one right now.  I’d have to put it on the Google Play Store first and I haven’t even  looked up how that is done..  Also the source of the base canal data isn’t mine. It’s extracted from CanalPlan whose creator Nick Atty has been very generous in letting me use it in the past but it’s his in essence.  I’ve just added a couple of words here and there such as “Pub” so I can produce lists like the one above.

5. It won’t run on iphone / ipad.  It’s Android only.

5. I could/ would give you my source code and let you install and compile your own, but you’d need a tiny bit of tech savvy. e.g. installing files on your phone or tablet. If you fancy a go, please ask.

So how have I done it?  Well, for me this is the exciting bit because it was remarkably easy, given a bit of coding skill.  I know virtually nothing of Android code development, but I stumbled across two apps that enabled me to put my first App together in a couple of hours. I had to write about 100 lines of   code, which as any programmer knows is not much at all.

The code is written in BASIC!.  Yes, BASIC! That exclamation mark is not for emphasis although it might as well be, as normal Basic is hardly flavour of the month among programmers these days, being thought of as pretty Mickey Mouse.  BASIC! is a version that comes as an Android App available on the Play Store and is more correctly called RFO Basic! developed by the Richard Feynman Observatory and is freely available.  I hadn’t used BASIC for years but this version is pretty damn good and as well as all the usual  number and string stuff it can use all the clever tricks of your Android device such as speech recognition, speech synthesis, camera operation, sensor reading and all that how’s yer father.  BASIC! is free on the Play Store.

Now comes the really clever bit.  There is a companion app called BASIC! Compiler, costing the princely sum of £2.99 if memory serves me right.  This just takes the BASIC! code wot you have writ and compiles it into  Java and on to an APK which is your finished Android App.  Just like that, you just press the button and off it goes.  It takes less than a minute.  Astonishingly for this type of App it seems to work first time every time.  I’m truly amazed at the wonderfulness of it.  My mind is buzzing with possibilities. Watch this space.

PS Just tried installing the finished app on my phone and it works fine. = and eagle eyed spotters will have noticed the typo in the Dolphin Pub – That’s been put right in the App now.  These things happen.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Too many ideas! Plus fidgety birds.

I used to think I was indecisive but now I’m not so sure. Alf and Oakie have each pointed out different, more weatherproof materials which I could use to make a new roof box, and that sent me off browsing Mr Berners Lee’s interweb looking for more ideas.  Now instead of having a couple of things to choose from, I have lots.  Woe is me.  The problem is that in accordance with Sod’s Law, not one of them is without some sort of downside - cost, available sizes, ability to take paint, weight  -the list goes on.  I really must learn to accept that the perfect solution probably doesn’t exist and just get on with it.  Or I could just buy one ready made.  Those on sale look decent enough, but would they get under low bridges? What about delivery? etc.

Changing the subject to an off topic one, as the birds in my garden pay increasingly regular visits to the bird feeders, presumably for fuel to stop the little dears freezing to death, I’ve been wasting many hours at the back bedroom window, camera in hand to get some photos of the little darlings.  Here’s a nuthatch that came yesterday.


The photos are not as crisp as they ought to be because I’m shooting through a closed window (I’m not dedicated enough to leave it open in this weather!) and hand holding the camera with a long lens and the birds are thirty odd feet away.  I have got a wireless remote shutter release, so I could get better pictures by setting up the camera in the garden and click from the warm bedroom but I left the gubbins on board Herbie. Doh!  My success rate of shutter clicks to acceptable images is about twenty five to one. The flippin’ birds just wont sit still, or if they do, they’re looking the other way or sitting behind a twig.

Should you wish to see other birdie pictures (and who knows what else in future) I have taken / may take I’ve opened an Instagram account. (Ooh there’s posh).  I’m so inept at social media that I’m not sure if I’m called ncherbie or Herbie Neil but one or both names should get to me.  There’s a nice one of a blue tit to start off and I’m working on capturing a coal tit and a long tailed tit.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Rotten luck.

And so back another day to a week ago Wednesday when I drove out to Cropredy to collect anchor, chains and life jackets from Herbie in case disaster should befall us on Nb Bankside on the Friday.  Not that I’m a pessimist or anything!  Anyhow, upon arrival I noticed that the canvas cover over Herbie’s roof box had come loose along one side and was flapping in the breeze.  It hooks on via bungees over big black dome head screws stuck into the side of the box.  On closer inspection I saw that the screws had pulled right out so there must have been some strong winds.  On even closer inspection and poking with a screwdriver I discovered that the plywood had gone completely rotten, so no wonder the screws had fallen out.

“You can’t get the wood these days” is a common cry amongst DiYers, and I remember thinking at the time I built the box that the quality of the plywood I was able to obtain was pretty rubbish.  I had sealed the edges with umpteen coats of varnish but time and weather eventually has done it’s work and now I have to make a new box.  Still the last one, being built in 2011 has given nearly seven years service so I suppose that’s not too bad.  Here it is when I had just finished making it.

“Why have one at all?” I hear you cry.  Well apart from the fact that it stores the anchor, the TV aerial (and has brackets to support the aerial mast), the camping chairs, a luggage trolley and various other bits and pieces, nicely out of the way, it has also become a sort of emblem of the boat.  I recall Bones telling me that she recognised Herbie going past Thrupp when she was out walking the dog and could only see the roof.

So I’m going to have to make another, but this time I’d like to make it stronger and more weatherproof.  I could either splash out on some nice marine ply, or it occurs to me that I could make it out of treated decking and then for the decoration attach pre painted panels on the sides (an idea I used last year on the cratch front).  I think I’ll keep the dimensions the same, so that the old cover will still fit.  I haven’t yet had a chance to get a good luck at the old box, but I may be able to reuse the underfloor slats and even the floor itself - recycle and save the planet and all that. I remember at the time I made the old one being particularly pleased with myself at setting the corner right angles by marking four equal spaces along the long side and three on the short side, then pulling the loosely screwed box into shape until a string 5 measures long formed the diagonal  (maths people know that 3,4,5, triangles have a right angle thanks to Pythagoras).  Watch this space when I embark on the construction.

Apologies to those of a sensitive disposition offended by my spelling of Gunwharf Quay (not key – duh!) in the last post.  Kath spotted the error.

In other news I read with dismay that the Gibson guitar company is on the verge of bankruptcy.  Yes Gibson!! What is the world coming to? Despite being a life long sufferer from GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome)  I have never owned a Gibson, but it was always nice to know that they were there.  As a callow youth I well recall standing at the feet- he was on the stage and I was leaning on it- of Peter Green , awestruck by what he could do with a Gibson Les Paul.  I did the same thing a couple of weeks later with Eric Clapton who played the same model.  That was in the days when you didn’t have to pay a weeks wages to see a famous musician and you could get up close.  Now the music charts are full of nice young guys and gals singing ballady stuff and the days of the guitar gods are fading.  This week a journalist wrote that what Gibson needs is a new guitar hero.  Well I stand ready for the call.  Hello Gibson?  Hello?  I’m here.  I’m younger than Mick Jagger.  Hello?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Stuff you might not (want to) know about ships

Ooh, before I forget, I must tell you what I forgot to mention last time.  On our trip up the Ouse we got a hello from the resident seal that swims up and down (mostly) between Hermitage and St Ives.  I expect he/she has a name, but I don’t know it so I was only able to shout ‘hello, um, seal’ as he/she swam past the boat and stared at us.  Anyway, there it is.  Worth a mention.

Now then, that was Friday.  On Thursday I went on a couple of other boats, the first being HMS Victory where because at this time of year they have no guided tours, I was able to make up all sorts of unlikely tales to tell Grace as we went round the ship.  Actually I’ve been shown round so many times in the past that I can practically remember the script. Square wooden mess plates being the origin of the phrase “a square meal”, the men having to make their own cat o’ nine tails before being flogged, Captain Hardy having a hatch built in the upper deck outside his cabin so he could stand up without banging his head as he was so tall etc etc.  Walking round the ship looking at all the cannons, rifles, pistols, and cutlasses that fill every spare corner, you realise she was built for one thing only –to fight like crazy.  She’s currently undergoing a multi million pound restoration and I fear that by the time they have finished there might not be much of the original ship left.  I think a lot of the decking is already not original and now they intend to replace the hull planking.

The modern Royal Navy has some interesting differences quite apart from the obvious advances in technology.  We took one of the harbour tours that take you round the bits of the dockyard you wouldn’t otherwise see and our guide showered us with stats, (ooh I love stats), about the ships tied up there. Sadly the new carrier was away annoying the Spanish as it visited Gibraltar so we’ll have to save that for another day. There are a couple of type 45 destroyers there at the moment and it occurred to me that most of the money (our money!) spent on these ships has gone into defending themselves from attack.  Maybe it would have been simpler and cheaper not to have the ship in the first place then nobody would attack it.  You and I own six of these ships.   Of course these days they get used for all sorts of stuff Lord Nelson might have scoffed at, providing humanitarian assistance after natural disasters and the like.  He might have approved of the anti piracy role I suppose, but I think he might have been a bit peeved that we can no longer swan around ruling the waves and bashing the French and Spanish like we used to.  So now the ships seemed designed primarily to defend themselves and the rest of the fleet.

Apparently the weird angles of the hull, the decks and the various turrets are all about confusing enemy radar such that they can’t make out the profile of the ship.  Then they have this big ball on the top that they say can simultaneously track a thousand objects the size of a cricket ball travelling at three times the speed of sound and prioritise which are most likely to hit the ship and somehow shoot them down.  Don’t ask me how. I wonder if they’ve ever proved it. Then on the bow they have this gun that can fire streams of big shells to hit targets so far away that they can’t see them, with pinpoint accuracy.  To loud cheers from a number of the passengers on the tour boat our guide suggested that it could be used to knock out Southampton’s football stadium from it’s current mooring at Portsmouth.  If Pompey residents love to hate anything, it’s Southampton.

Round the back of the harbour is where the cross channel ferries come in and the banana boats (‘Day O’ I hear you cry.).  Here’s another good stat, some of these ships bring in 28 million bananas at a time.  You’ve almost certainly eaten one of them. And I know you’ll be thrilled to know that the largest number of bananas ever carried on a ship at one time is 43,635,280.  Not a lot of people know that.

Grace and I hopped off the tour boat at Gunwharf key so I could take her up the Spinnaker tower, which is a lot less scary than I imagined. Kath and Jacob, who were with us, chickened out.  That was their loss as the views are spectacular. Grace has no fear of heights and happily strode onto the glass floor of the viewing deck oblivious to the 300 foot drop below her feet.

Here are a couple of views from the top. First looking North, up the harbour.  There’s the destroyer in the middle with its pyramidal radar tower.


The looking west over Haslar / Gosport

IMG_20180215_150111 (1)

and finally over my favourite bit of Portsmouth, Spice Island, Camber Dock and along towards Southsea.  The modern white building in the middle is where Ben Ainsley and co built their Americas Cup racing boat.  I can’t say I like it there in the middle of all that historic stuff.

colour chart

Next time we’ll go back another day to Wednesday when I reveal a visit to Herbie and find a big job to do.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

A push up the Ouse.

“Where have you been? “ you may ask.  No posts for ages.  Well I’ve been busy enough – too busy sometimes, but no boaty stuff  so nothing that belongs on a boat blog.  Then just like buses coming all at once,  I did boaty things on three consecutive days this week.  I’ll do one post for each in reverse order of how they happened.

First after waiting some weeks for Strong Stream conditions on the Ouse to subside, we got the go ahead to move our Richard’s boat Bankside back from Hermitage marina where it has been repainted, to his home mooring at Hartford marina at Huntingdon.  The boat had been up at Hermitage since September, while the painters failed to get on with the job.  Having seen the rather ramshackle appearance of the little marina and experienced all the delays, I was a tad worried that they might not have done a good job, but it looks like I was wrong in that.  The finished job looks smart and the attention to detail is a lot better than I had expected.  It’s all done in International 2 pack paint over a two pack rust preventing undercoat.  The new hull blacking looks very good too.  Apparently the hull which hadn’t been blacked for far too long was in good nick.  Richard doesn’t deserve to be so lucky! I don’t think Bankside looked this good when she was new.

Anyhow, not wishing to arrive at the other end after dark, we set off soon after I arrived, dropping down Hermitage lock onto the tidal section which looked benign enough.  Time was pretty tight as we expected the trip to take five hours or more and it was already approaching noon. There was a bit of a current against us but not too bad.


Bankside looking a hundred times smarter than when she last came through Brownshill Staunch

Then when we reached Brownhill Staunch I remembered the trouble with this river – these locks take ages to operate because of the timers on the guillotine gates.  The gate opens a crack and then you have to wait for anything up to five minutes before you can lift the gate further, which in itself is a frustratingly slow procedure.  A watched clock goes even slower and the count down display seemed to creep along.

IMG_20180216_144300Browshill has guillotines at both ends and is infuriatingly slow.  Time was looking tighter as we left the staunch and noticed the current against us getting stronger, and as the river narrowed through Holywell and approached St Ives the flow was getting really strong, I would think about four mph (I don’t think we should use knots on inland waters).  Our speed against the bank had slowed to hardly one mph.  After a brief debate we decided to crank up the old BMC diesel to higher revs, a bit scary because it has hardly been run in the last ten years.  I was glad I had brought along Herbie’s anchor in case the engine conked out and I was watching the temperature gauge like a hawk.  It wasn’t long before we realised that the engine actually sounded happier at higher revs and our speed picked up nicely although we were still running late when we got to St Ives Lock.  I feared we would be backing through the maze of moored boats and floating cabins in Richard’s home marina in the dark.

As it turned out I needn’t have worried because once through St Ives lock the current was a lot slacker and we were soon pushing towards the beautiful old town bridge – always a treat.


Well to cut a long story short we got moored up about fifteen minutes before sunset and all was well.  Bankside now rests back at her home jetty in Hartford marina waiting for my next visit when I have accepted Richard’s challenge to sign write her with her new name which, mysteriously, is Egnabod, apparently a random word one of Richard’s teacher’s came up with when he was at school.  Richard denies it has anything to do with the fact that it is also an anagram of Bondage!

In my next post I’ll tell you about another interesting boat trip on the previous day and show you some photos I took from an alarming height.

Monday, January 08, 2018

130 miles to find nothing

A belated Happy New Year to you all.  Now that the Christmas decorations and the yuletide coffee mugs are stowed away for another year, it’s time I posted something on the blog, although we haven’t been boating just lately. 

It’s always a bit of a concern leaving the boat unattended.  Will the stern gland drip and sink the boat? Will the solar panel or the plank and pole  get blown away in the gales? Will the loo fan and the Eberspacher timer clock drain the batteries if the dark days are insufficient to generate any solar energy from the panel?  Although I drained most of the plumbing water when we last left the boat and lagged the shower mixer, have the very low temperatures caused any plumbing damage?  It’s a wonder I can sleep at night, especially as I’m having a dry January so I don’t have any late night alcohol to knock me out.

There was only one thing for it. I jumped in the car and drove the 65 miles to the marina to look Herbie over.  Once there it took me five minutes to see that she was fine.  I wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or annoyed that I had driven all that way for nothing. So I drove the 65 miles back home where Kath said “Didn’t you get my text?  I asked you to bring back some stuff I had left on Herbie.”  Doh!  That’ll have to wait, but not too long I hope, we do like to have a short cruise early in the year.

One or two of you will be glad to know I have resumed work on my second, as yet untitled,  novel.  Aware of the advice that sometimes you have to “kill your favourite children”, I have done some ruthless editing.  If it ain’t interesting, funny or essential to the plot, chuck it out.  The plot bit is a bit of a problem though, because like the previous book, it is developing organically and I haven’t got a clue how it’ll end.  Eric, our hero, is of course in dire trouble and I have no idea how to get him out of it. I am though having fun by realising you can get three different sets of characters going concurrently so you get three angles on the story and the reader knows what some of the characters don’t.  It makes it more fun to write because when you get blocked on one thread, you can hop across to another.  Anyhow I’m up to 55,019 words – every one a gem.  I should have the book finished within the decade.  The queues are already forming outside Waterstones, you could take along my first book to read in the queue.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Special Award to finish off

OOOh, still lots to do and it’s Christmas Eve. I’m running out of time for everything, but the final Herbie Award has to be , er, Awarded.  In customary fashion, the Annual Herbie Special Award goes to someone who has impressed us over the year with their kindness or fortitude or patience and perseverance (Hmm, thinks, I’ll never win one then) or sometimes their contribution to the good life aboard Herbie.

This year the Herbie Academy it has been decided to award the Award to a boating beginner. Someone who started of his boating experience with considerable fear and trepidation and quickly overcame it to become a valued crew member attracting people to Herbie wherever we went and making us lots of new friends.

So , breaking all records for the age of the winner, the big prize goes to a real youngster, as we tear open the Golden Envelope and congratulate the winner of


Herbie Special Award 2017,

who is …


ronnie (1 of 1)

Ronnie’s acceptance speech:


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Quiz answers and a winner

Well it comes to something when people’s answers to my quiz are even more accurate than the one I had in mind. See question 4 below.  Very well done Sam and Terry who knew a bit more than I did about the waters around the Isle of Wight

So, to the answers. I’ll recap with a smaller picture of each.

1. Where is Kath having a cuppa and what might she be reading?

qc (1 of 1)

She is on board the Gongoozlers Rest cafe boat at Braunston and reading the Braunston Village News which is always found on the tables there.

2. I suppose someone might have been fooled by this, thinking that the water you see is the canal, but that’s the river Colne which flows under the canal on the left of the picture.  It’s Fran’s Tea Garden at Denham Lock.  Near miss Terry who said Fern’s, but I’ll give him that.

 qf (1 of 1)

3. Well you can see it’s called the Narrow Boat cafe and its adjacent to the Lea Navigation at Waltham Abbey

qg (1 of 1)

4.  Here we have Grace aboard the cat ferry from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight.  You can just make out the iconic Spinnaker Tower in the background.

qd (1 of 1)

The reason I asked for the answer to be more specific is that a lot of people assume the whole channel between the IoW and the mainland to be the Solent, but it isn’t, the Solent being the Westerly or Southampton end and the eastern end being Spithead which was the answer I was looking for.  However Sam and Terry were a lot more specific (and knowledgeable) and talked about the Swashway and Spit Sand.  I’m sure they are right, but if you just said Spithead, you get the point.


q4 (1 of 1)

Once again I have to defer to the superior knowledge of Terry.  I took this photo from the heights of the Port Lympne zoo in Kent.  The answer i had was the Royal Military Canal, but Terry is right to point out that the bit in the distance is a drain connected to the canal.  I’m not sure if the foreground is the canal or the drain.  It does have the zig zag line that the main canal has.  Anyway if you thought Royal Military Canal that’s good enough for me.

6.  Anyone who has boated along the Paddington Arm from Bull’s Bridge ought to recognise this one. It is indeed the Southall (Uxbridge rd) visitor mooring which virtually no-one uses because of the preponderance of swan poo everywhere.

qa (1 of 1)

7. And finally the little arm inside Braunston marina.


I have to confess that although it was me who took the photo, I had a job recognising it at first. maybe the snow or perhaps the wide camera angle put me off.

So it all goes to show that no matter how tough you think a quiz is, there’s always someone out there who can solve it.  Huge congrats to Terry of Nb  Midnight Owl, not only for getting it all correct, but even more correct than me.

Talking of quizzes, I was in one last night at the annual Christmas bash for the London CRT volunteers.  The picture round was fiendishly hard, showing pictures of  London region locks in the half light, some of them taken seventy years ago.  I didn’t even recognise a picture of Cowley lock until someone else figured it out.  Still I did know that narrow boats in London were at one time called Monkey Boats (they still are by some folk I think) and a few more bits like that. Between us, our table of eight (Rangers in the Night) had a strong knowledge and we won the quiz by a comfortable margin.  Hooray.  First quiz I have won in a long time. 

CRT senior staff made their usual earnest thanks to all the volunteers without which etc etc.  London Waterway manager John Guest and Sam Thomas, who’s job title I forget, were eager to point out that without the work of volunteers, a lot of important stuff just wouldn’t get done.  A few “Oscars” were handed out to star volunteers,  a trawler full of fish and chips were consumed and a vast number of empty beer bottles adorned the tables by the end.  I’m not sure how many registered volunteers CRT has in London, but there were around a hundred at the do last night. I’ll leave you to guess what the average age might have been, but it sure wasn’t anything south of 50.

It’s getting close to the time for the Herbie Special Award.  Stay tuned.