Sunday, December 28, 2008

Premier Award - Best Crew Member 2008

Yes it's the Herbie Awards most coveted award. Best Crew Member.

This year it carries the citation "For forbearance"

It goes to someone who is always patient, and who never pushes herself forward but is always there to help. She cooks, she rubs down paint and she is a dab hand with the paint brush. She works the locks and this year she even took to the tiller. She also looks after the lad that understands all the mechanical gubbins (Rick) and keeps him on the straight and narrow. Most of all she puts up with the antics of the rest of us, hence the citation.

Ladies and gentlemen, this year's winner is . . . . .

Marilyn Bunnage

(loud applause and shouts of "a well deserved and popular win")

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pic of the Year

Which of this year's pictures is the one I most treasure? Not many have been technically very good, so I'm trying to judge on sentimental value.

Is it Saltysplash enduring the ignomony of being towed backwards by Herbie? I think they call it shadenfreude on my part.

Is it me and Rick risking life and limb to paint the rear of the counter?

Is it the snowstorm we encountered on our way down to Bull's Bridge in April?

Or the meeting between Herbie and Herbie

Actually the most treasured picture isn't a photo at all, but the watercolour painting of Herbie done by Rick's sister Julie. It hangs on the wall in the house so I can enjoy Herbie even when we're at home.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

You win

Just a few days of the year left for me to complete the 2008 Herbie Awards and I have decided that as it is Christmas, now is a good time to award the "Best thing in none of the above categories" special awards (part 1).

After giving it some thought I realised that one of the nicest things about doing this blog is knowing that there is someone out there that actually reads my ramblings. In particlular I'm always really happy when someone takes the time to add a comment. So this Herbie Award goes to YOU dear reader for your interest and support.

In particular I'd like to add a Star to the award for people who have sent in comments. So congratulations and many thanks to:

Adam on Debdale
Andrew on Granny Buttons *
Bill Rodgers
Mortimer Bones on Bones
Brian and Diana on Harnser
Grey Wolf
Halfie on Shadow
Heth on Takeytezey
Rick (Best Crew member 2007)
Saltysplash on Lady Elgar
Simon on Tortoise

and a special Gold Star to the wonderful Vally P who has sent in comments on no less than 23 occasions.

Thanks to you all for keeping me going and have a great Christmas

*(if my blog was as successful as Andrew's, there'd be too many people to list)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Final fling -the Thames from the air

After the Will cruise, we took the fast Clipper back to Millennium Pier at Waterloo, right next to the London Eye big wheel. We hadn't planned it but the wheel was there and the queues were short so we decided to go for it. At least Jacob and I did. Kath decide it wasn't for her.

After a minute on the wheel Jacob wasn't so sure either. The first quarter revolution is a bit unnerving, but he gradually got used to it. I was busy trying to take photographs. Getting a clear image is not easy on a moving wheel in the dark, with shiny curved windows giving off reflections, but I managed a few reasonable shots.
Looking downstream

and upstream and across

over Waterloo station

coming in to land at the end of the "flight"
Quite a day all in all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Thames at Warp factor 8

Before we took our boat ride on Will on Saturday, we had a few hours to kill, so we took another boat ride! When we've been down at Limehouse basin in the past and looking out over the Thames we've watched the high speed Clipper catamarans whizz past and I've always fancied a ride in one. These are pretty big boats, I didn't count the seats, but over a hundred I would think and they zip up and down all day between the London Eye at Waterloo and the O2 arena at Greenwich, stopping at several piers in between. A lot of commuters use them to get to Canary Wharf.

We bought a family roamer ticket which allowed us to hop on and off them all day and the first thing we did was to go all the way to the O2 arena (formerly the millennium dome). Even before we got on board I was gobsmacked by how manoeuverable they were. They approached the pier against a fast running tide and pulled in backwards and sideways to the exact spot. I reckon it must take a lot of practice.

It took about 40 minutes to get to the O2 including several stops. Kath liked it, but as we approached Limehouse reach she said, "I thought it would be faster than this". Well, at that point we must have moved into a new speed limit area because suddenly they opened up the power. Its almost impossible to believe a boat that big can accelerate that fast. The brochures say these boats do 28 knots (about 30mph) but I can tell you it feels like about twice that. Herbie does about 4 or 5 mph at 2000 revs. Not only that, the boats can stop as if they had disc brakes. You might gather that I was impressed! If I were you I'd have a ride if you go to London. Stand on the back and you'll feel the force!
We never went to the dome when it was the dome because I thought it was a naff idea for the millennium, but I was interested to pop in now to see the structure. We didn't stay long, just enough to grab a pizza. It sure is big though. This is just the entrance hall.

and this is the view down the Thames from the O2 pier.

Later that day we had yet another treat which I'll tell you about next time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Under Tower Bridge in a Thames Barge

No dear reader I have not abandoned you. It's just that I've been to busy to blog over the last week, what with Christmas coming up and all that. In fact I've got plenty to tell you and some good photos so stay tuned.

Yesterday was supposed to be Jacob's Christmas treat in that we took him to London for a ride on a sailing barge under Tower bridge. Well, he did enjoy it, but to be fair I think I enjoyed it most. I was like a kid in a toy shop.
I won't start at the beginning, I'll save that for later, but at the appointed time we boarded the barge "Will" and set off towards the bridge. I must say it felt a bit like brinkmanship because the bridge only just opened in time. For a minute, I thought we were going to snap the mast off.

Earlier , I took pictures of Will coming back from it's previous trip.

Will is a fine looking boat built in 1925 and she used to carry between London and Portland with all sorts of cargoes. Nowadays she is reduced to carrying corporate parties and the like, and they have converted her hold into an oak panelled dining room.
She does still go under sail occasionally, yesterday we were powered by the big old Gardner diesel which the skipper kindly showed me after I chatted him up. I have to say that I wouldn't want to take Herbie on that stretch in similar conditions. Even will was pitching quite a bit from the wash of the big high speed passenger boats that zoom up and down the river.

We went as far as Greenwich, by which time it was getting dark and the return trip was much better as we had the benefit of all the lights, the best sights being Canary Wharf and the return under Tower Bridge. Most of my photos are a bit blurred because of long exposure times and moving boats, but I still think they are evocative, don't you? The prow of the boat was so high that Jacob wasn't tall enough to see forward properly until one of the crew took pity and let him , and us, stand up by the wheelhouse. Sometimes having a child along has benefits.

It was a great trip, but that was only one part of a great day out on the river. I'll tell you the rest over the next couple of days. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

No way on the Wey, and worrying prospects for a trip next weekend.

I should have taken my camera yesterday when we went shopping in Guildford. We were amazed to see how high the river Wey was. I know we've had a wet week but I didn't imagine there would be so much water. There was only about two feet clearance under the town bridge and the meadows where we moored last summer were all flooded. The line of the river could only be deduced from the row of willow trees where the bank should be. Any boater out in that current would be terrified. Well I would be anyway.

At times like this I get really glad that we moor on a canal and not a river.

I looked up the visitthames website and it seems the Thames is all on red boards at the moment.
Which is all a bit concerning as we are due to do a boat trip on the Thames next Saturday. Not on Herbie but on the Thames barge Will on which we have booked a 90 minute cruise, a Christmas treat for Jacob. This will take us under Tower Bridge, which will have to open for us, and down to Greenwich or thereabouts "depending on tide". Will is a big boat and the tidal Thames is different from the rest of the river, so I hope we'll still be able to go.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fishing boats and brilliant pubs

A brief interlude from inland waterways, but still do do with boats .

Is this what they did before we had post codes? I suppose you can work out where this is from the clue, but I'll tell you anyway. Its in Old Portsmouth where I was this morning. Everyone knows about the Naval dockyard in Pompey, but not so many know that there is also a small fishing fleet operating out of Camber dock, where the Isle of Wight ferries come in.

When I was a student living in digs in Portsmouth in the late sixties, our landlord used to get fresh plaice from here and keep them alive in the bath, only killing them a couple of minutes before he cooked them. They were fantastic.

Pompey used to be full of wonderful old pubs, but they are slowly disappearing so I've embarked on a plan to photograph the best of them. Just to whet your appetite here are a couple.

Should you want to see more, the collection as far as I have got can be seen on my Pompey Pubs Picasa album and click on the slideshow button to see them full size.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Third Eye gadget you already own.

One great tool I forgot to mention in my recent piece about boat maintenance gadgets. A digital camera. An absolute boon when you can't see what you are doing because you can't get your head or body into a space. Just set the camera on macro, point it at what you want to see, and you can get a picture instantly. Much better than those little mirrors on a stick.

For example the awkward connection to the oil pressure overflow return. I spent ages trying to feel what was there when I was trying to refit it because I couldn't see it properly, then I used the camera and it all became clear.

The other thing where a camera helps is making a record of something before you pull it to bits, eg. the alternator wiring before you fit a new one.

However it did let me down the other day when I was trying to take a picture of the main water tank stop cock.

See that square opening bottom right. That's where I put my hand through to turn off the tap. I stuck the camera in there and had several unsuccessful attempts to get a picture of it.

What would be really good I suppose would be a little webcam attached to a laptop, then you could see what you were doing in real time. Hmm, must add one to my christmas list.

Monday, December 08, 2008

He's a PC at Camden, but nobody at Three Mills

Have you seen the microsoft TV advert with all the people saying "I'm a PC and this is my suit/office"? Well I spotted today that one of them is standing on the footbridge at the top of the locks at Camden. He's standing on the black and white bridge with the curved grey building ( The Ice Wharf bar) behind him.

As you can see its a popular place to hang around and gongoozle or eat or drink. In fact definately the most popular canal side spot in the whole of London. Sometimes you can hardly move, it's so busy.

Then you get a fascinating and attractive place like Three Mills on the Lee Navigation in the East End and its always almost deserted. The Lee Valley Park Regional Authority describes it thus:
Three Mills Island is the jewel in the crown, a cluster of listed buildings and green open spaces in a conservation area surrounded by the Bow back rivers. In the middle of the industrial East End, its main historical buildings comprise of a grade I listed House Mill, the largest tidal mill in Britain and the grade II listed Clock Mill and Millers House. It is also home to Three Mills Films Studios so you never know who you may bump into.
There are good free moorings there too. Always lots of room.
People like to go where people like to go I suppose.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Time and Tide

Visiting friends near Portsmouth last week I took a stroll around Gosport and came across this tide clock. (I'm not sure of the name of the aircraft carrier in the background, but we only have 2 in service they tell me so its either Ark Royal or Illustrious.)
And a nice little mosaic on the pathway nearby. If you look very carefully you'll see the little moon and sun together at the height of the spring tide, I suppose the E in the middle indicates the Earth.

Tide clocks are not that uncommon, but I don't think they can be accurate all the time. They generally work on a 12 hour 25 minute cycle based on a lunar day of twice that. However tides can vary with local geography, wind and estuarial flows. For the Southampton area you can get special solent tide clocks which recognise the double high tides unique to that area.

This Gosport one has a funny little pointer to indicate whether the tide was rising or falling, but whoever designed it failed to make it clear how you are supposed to tell (unless I'm just being dumb).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Best Boat Maintenance Gadget

Time for another Herbie Award and this time it is the search for the best gadget to help with maintaining your boat.

Could it be something as simple as an automatic battery filler bottle? Herbie is like a lot of other boats in that the batteries are tucked away beneath the side of the rear deck making it impossible to see into the filler holes to check the electrolyte level. With one of these bottles you just press the spout into the hole and it pours in water to the required level and then stops. But beware. Some of them don't work, which is why I bought mine here. These good peeople became aware of the potential fault and supply an O ring which fixes it.

Or maybe I should choose the fantastic Hand Scabbler that ripped all the paint of Herbie's roof in about an hour. A friend of mine recently had the same job done on his 30foot boat with a needle gun and it took a couple of days! I hired mine from Brandon Tool Hire for about £38 for a day. Money very well spent. So pleased was I that I even posted a video on YouTube of me using it (how nerdy is that?).

Or this amazing gubbins called the Brush Mate. Its a box in which you can hang a number of wet paint brushes (all different colours if you like) and the paint stays wet for weeks or months! So if you are on a paint job taking a few days, you can have all your brushes ready for use all the time. No having separate jam jars for separate colours. No cleaning them overnight to use them next day. It works by releasing a vapour from a pad at the bottom of the box. The vapour stops oil based paints from drying. Now I have to admit here that I haven't actually used one of these things, but I know for a fact that Phil Speight swears by them and that's good enough for me.
Long term I reckon the Brush Mate is the best and most useful of the lot, but I really ought not to award it the prize as I haven't actually used it. So the winner is . . . .
The Hand Scabbler - for removing paint back to bare metal, nothing else comes close.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Warm and dry

The secondary double glazing is reinstalled and already Herbie seems warmer and there is no condensation on the windows in the morning. It really is a cracking design. Nothing to do with me, it came with the boat. I showed a couple of pictures of it last year. Click here to see.

I had a good look at drain taps for the plumbing. There are four of them, all neatly labelled, at the bottom of the cupboard by the back door, which is virtually the lowest point as the boat is a bit higher at the front. Should the weather get very very cold I may well totally drain the pipes if we are leaving the boat.

Whilst I was on the floor there I took a look in the little hole that gives access to the bilges. Regular readers may recall I found quite a bit of water in there in the summer and cleaned it out. I'm delighted to say that it is completely bone dry in there now, so it looks like the previous water there was a one off from when we had a leaky water pump.

The other thing we did for the winter was to re-erect the pram hood over the rear deck. We don't like it aesthetically, and since March it has been in the shed at home, but in this cold weather it makes a super porch. I can even work on the engine in the warm and dry. It's very easy to put up and I managed to erect the hood on my own in the dark. OK, so I did get the two hoops back to front at first, but even then the whole job only took ten minutes.
So little do we use the pram hood these days (we have NEVER cruised with it up) that the only decent photos of it date from just before we bought Herbie.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why I love/ hate maple trees

We're all suppose to love trees. Where we live there are many thousands of trees and I am quite fond of them. Maples and sycamores (same family) are nice to look at, especially when their leaves turn red. You get maple syrup too.

In a stringed musical instrument, a maple back gives a bright clean sound. Most of the finest violins are made with maple backs, giving that lovely flamed effect. Guitars too can have maple backs giving them a light crisp sound.
So what's not to like?

The pesky maple or sycamore that stands alongside Lady Elgar and Herbie, I do not like. It has dropped its slimy wet leaves all over Herbie's roof leaving black leaf imprints (that I can't entirely get off) all over the roof that I (sorry Rick & Marilyn and Kath, WE) took so much care over painting last spring. Lady Elgar's roof, being more under the tree, is nearly all black.
I think the only real remedy, come next spring, will be to clean it down and put on another coat of paint. Now we have a good surface I suppose I could probably do it in an afternoon.
I wonder how well maple burns?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Seeing ourselves as others see us

We received our first Christmas card yesterday! Inside was a note asking how we were getting on with our "Long Boat". I've lost count of how many times I've had to gently explain that it's a narrow boat. I'd rather they called it a barge!

People are always curious about boaters. Quite often we get questioned by bystanders at locks. One Indian family up the Lee navigation were amazed that people could actually live on a boat. "You mean you sleep on it? Out here on the river? At night? Do you have a bed?" We gave them a guided tour and they were amazed. "Look, a toilet. Look, a cooker and a sink!" Kath is now getting quite good at guided tours of Herbie. Sometimes we give rides between locks and occasionally let them steer. I think BW should pay us PR money.

Then we get the questions about where the canal goes to, why they put in all these locks to slow us down, how much it costs to moor up overnight, etc etc. The one comment we nearly always get is "Oh it looks such a lovely relaxing way to travel". Well it can be, but I wouldn't exactly call a day working 15 Grand Union locks relaxing. Actually, I see it more as a way to keep fit!

A picture of me "relaxing" at Stonebridge Lock. My back still aches at the memory!

It really does seem though that a lot of people envy us in our "long boats and barges". And so they should.

It is rather nice being envied. Although I sometimes add "You could have one too if you work hard for thirty odd years and save up." Anyway, it's all a question of priorities. I expect they have newer cars and nicer houses than we do. Half of the cars on Top Gear cost as much or more than Herbie.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Winter checks

This weekend we hope to stay on Herbie for a couple of days. Hooray -let's burn some coal.

I don't think we'll be going anywhere but it'll be nice to get some respite from family duties. One thing I will try to do is to check that the plumbing on the boat is as frost protected as we can get it. When we leave the boat we always turn of the water and open all the taps, and drain down the heat exchanger in the gas water heater, but that only offers limited protection.

This time I want to look at the plumbing to and from the hot water tank. Ideally I'd like to be able to drain the tank itself if we ever get a really cold spell. I know there's a drain tap on the floor of the cupboard by the back steps. That is probably the lowest point on the boat so that might do it if it's in the hot water circuit. Even if it is, collecting several gallons of water from a tap an inch off the floor might be fun!

We'll also reinstall our removable secondary double glazing which Roy, the previous owner made. It really works well, especially at eliminating condensation on the windows.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Signwriting - second attempt

This time I tried it freehand - albeit with a strip of masking tape top and bottom to get clean top and bottom lines. Yes I know Herbie has an E on the end, and No Ididn't run out of space by mistake. I sacrificed the final E so that I could do larger letters.

The paint I used was a bit of a disaster really which made it quite a bit harder. Hence the blotchy colour and the raggy edges because it was clogging and drying on the brush. I used some old emulsion for the main lettering because it was all I had in a creamy colour, and mixed up that with some pink and grey undercoat for the blocking. Remember his is only practice. The blocking paint was useless, a bit like trying to paint with polyfilla! For the dark shading I used some grey undercoat. All in all I reckon I could do a much nicer job with proper paint.

When I first started (on the H) I was convinced the whole thing was going to be a disaster and I was wondering how to get out of my promise to put a picture of it on the blog. But I kept going, and whilst the end result doesn't stand up to close scrutiny I'm not too ashamed of it. Think of it as a sketch. I think I put the letters a bit too close together which put me off making the blocking wide enough on the top half of the letters, so they all look base heavy.

Doing it freehand is not that hard if you use the brush decisively, and on the curved bits I found that if I started a bit inside the width and got the curve right, then I could extend it to full width afterwards. The first curve strokes were inevitably misjudged.

Thanks to those who suggested chalk for marking out. I'll have a go to see if it works next time.

I think that for attempt 3 I'll make sure I have some paint that flows. It's too hard to keep the brush in control and get clean edges otherwise.

I'd welcome any comments and advice.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Signwriter's block

Completing my second attempt at signwritng is proving much more challenging than my earlier attempt.

This time I started by gloss painting a dark red background, which is probably what I would use on Herbie. Actually I was very pleased with the finish I got considering the painting only took a minute or two and the fact that I was onlt using some old Wickes gloss paint. I remembered what I had learned on Phil Speight's painting course this summer. Use a long bristled synthetic brush, put plenty of paint on it, quickly spread the paint in all directions then lay off with straight vertical strokes. So far so good.
The bit which is not so easy is laying out the lines for the letters. I tried a white crayon, but I couldn't really see it. Painting the letters will have to be done without clear marking out lines, and I reckon that will be harder. However I'm going to have a go in the next day or two, this time with a font copied from the signwriting on Saltyspash's Lady Elgar. However bad, I'll let you see it when it's done.

I've also been studying close ups of Phil Speight's signwriting which I photographed on the course. He does it all freehand. The close ups give some interesting insights into how he does it. Take a look below.
I love the little gap left between the cream letter and the orange blocking, and also the little white highlights that give the letter a sparkle. Incidentally you can see the great man's reflection in the background.
Then on this one I love the black shadow to the right of the letters. It really enhances the 3D effect. You can hardly believe he does it all freehand and very quickly too.

For now, however I'll be concentrating on basic shapes, proportions and neat brushwork. I reckon that will be challenge enough.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Signwriting practice - first attempt

I thought I might as well be brave and reveal to you my first practice attempt at signwriting - warts and all. There are more things wrong with it than I can list, but here are a few.

1. I don't like the font - next time I'll use something with more exaggerated serifs and wider uprights
2. I forgot to use masking tape at top and bottom of the red lettering to get nice sharp edges
3. My vertical lines are wonky - next time I'll use a marl stick (one of those sticks with a cloth knob on the end) to steady my hand
4. I used whatever paint had to hand so the pale shadowing on the uprights doesn't stand out well enough against the background (a piece of painted hardboard)

Never mind, it's only a first practice, and I've already learned a lot of lessons. I was generally pleased that I took trouble to work out letter spacing OK, and I liked the long hair chisel tip brush I used.

In real life the signwriting would need to be about twice the size which I suspect might make it a bit easier. However the big disadvantage of doing it for real is that you have to work vertically sitting or kneeling on the canal or dock bank. I aim to do a lot more practice before I would dare try. Anyway, I'm enjoying it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Best Pub, Best Pint

Herbie sits patiently waiting for our next visit which ought to be soon if only to clean the roof of rotting leaves and top up the batteries. In the meantime , and after deep soul searching, I can now announced the 2008 Herbie Award for Best Pub, and it goes to . .. . . . .

The Grapes at Limehouse - a unanimous decision. It's a pub you want to take your friends to, and it scores on character, location and quality of food and beer. What else is there to say?

The Best Pint Award is always going to be more contentious, so the Award will be based on my personal choice, although I suspect Phil would back me up as he waxed lyrical about it on our recent trip. There are lots of good beers, but occasionally you get a pint of a generally good beer that is in absolutely tip top form, and such was the case this time. Even one of the local regulars in the pub was singing the praises of this particular barrel. So the big prize goes to a pint (well more than one actually) of Fullers ESB served at the Black Horse at Greenford in October. Stunning.

A really really good pint like this must surely rank alongside the very finest of wines. The difference is I can afford to buy the beer whereas a bottle of wine of that quality would cost about twenty times as much.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fear and trepidation

Have I got the nerve to paint Herbie’s cabin sides next year? They could do with it, and they’ll have to be done some time. The trouble is it’s a non trivial task in terms of time and money and anything less than a good result would be a big waste. I’ve been going over it again and again in my mind and now I have a cunning plan.

I‘ve decided not to commit yet to the full job until we’ve practiced on a relatively inconspicuous bit. When we get a spell of decent weather I’m going to have a go at the rear doors and the inside of the semi trad stern walls. I reckon the painting is relatively easy once you get good surface, but it’s the rubbing down and levelling that will be hardest. I don’t suppose we’ll get the right weather for it for a while but that’s the plan.

Meanwhile I’m going to practice sign writing. Oddly enough I’m less scared of that than the plain painting of the flat surfaces. The people next door at home have just had their kitchen ripped out so I’m off to scrounge some cupboard carcase offcuts for something to practice paintng "HERBIE" on.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Most scenic days cruise award , and nominations for Best Pub

For some unknown reason, Blogger is removing my blank lines between paragraphs today and I can't seem to fix it, so this is all a bit of a slab. - sorry.
Having considered and discussed our nominations for the Herbie Award 2008 for Most Scenic Day's Cruise, the winner is . . The Wey Navigation fron Send to Godalming. A really pretty stretch full of rustic charm, gentle meanders, lush countryside and variety too. I'm sure we'll be back before long.
Now we come to the agonising one, choosing Best Pub. Well, you can't say we haven't done some serious research in this department. A good pub should have character, friendly locals and staff, good beer, good food if they serve food, and preferably a bit of a buzz in the evening. A quiz gets it extra points. For a Herbie award I suppose the pub should also be close to the canal or river (say under 5 minutes walk).
So what do we have to choose from this year? Let's start with the long list.
1.The Fox at Hanwell (last year's winner) - great beer, great food, good moorings, quiz .
2. The Warwick Castle at Little Venice - a new find for us. One minute walk from Brownings Pool, this pub is busy, but you can generally get a table. The decor is Victorian or Edwardian I suppose - lots of decorated ground glass panels and carved woodwork. The beer is good - Doom Bar, Tongham TEA, Deuchars etc and the food is modestly priced and innovative. Quiz
3. The Grapes at Limehouse. Tiny, old Victorian pub, two minutes walk from the basin. Always packed, but people will move up to give you a seat. Good beer -Timothy Taylors. Good food - mostly fish. Efficient and helpful staff. Packed with history and character and mentioned by Charles Dickens in (I think) Our Mutual Friend. It has a tiny veranda at the back overlooking the river.
4. The Old Barge at Hertford. Biggish pub right on the riverside. Numerous well kept real ales always available, and even the young barmaids seem to know what each one is like so they can advise!! We have never eaten there but the bar manu looks OK. Their Sunday night quiz is excellent.
5. The Magpie and Crown at Brentford. A locals pub, very friendly and good for conversation. Interesting real ales all kept with care and enthusiasm. I don't know about food, as we've only been there mid afternoon. One minute walk from the gauging lock.
6. The Anchor and Hope - Tiny tiny pub alongside the Lee navigation at Clapton, south of Tottenham. Good beer, very friendly staff. A real gem. Sadly, we've only used it for a quick lunchtime pint in passing.
7. The Black Horse at Greenford - Right by the canal, this big pub has excellent Fuller's beers (the ESB was cause of us overstaying and having to cruise home in the dark recently), good food, newpapers, football on the TV, comfy seats, friendly staff, a big garden, an upstairs room with big windows overlooking the canal. Its just about half way between our moorings and Paddington. Very convenient.
Phew that's more than enough to choose from. Even then I have ommitted the excellent Star Inn at Godalming (CAMRA regional pub of the year -several real ales, 8 real ciders), because it's a ten minute walk from the river.
So how about a shortlist of nominees. I'll eliminate the Fox as they won it last year.
1. The Warwick Castle
2. The Grapes
3. The Anchor and Hope
4. The Black Horse
Stay tuned while we agonise for a few days.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Slough Arm news - faint glimmers of hope

If the Slough Arm had a tunnel there might just be a chink of light at the end of it. This summer I paid a tenner to join the Friends of Slough Canal and the minutes of recent committee meetings bear interesting news.

First, the idea of linking the Slough Arm through the town and out to the Thames near Windsor.
Should this ever come about it a big deal indeed and would shave 30 miles and 21 locks off the journey to the upper Thames from the Grand Union. That's about two days cruising, plus up to a day waiting for the tide at Brentford.

I think it fairly unlikely myself but the news is that Slough Borough Council plan to set aside money for a further feasibility study next year. The prospect for the Slough Arm would be major improvement as I don't suppose it could then keep its (unique?) status as a remaindered waterway, and maybe then it would be properly dredged and kept more clear of weed.

I was amused to read that councillors in Windsor were not impressed by the promise of increased tourism, saying they had more than enough already!

The second bit of news is that Slough Basin will be included in the target area for Slough's regeneration. This seems a lot more likely and is very good news, as the basin is the major let down on the Arm. If it provided a good place for boats to visit, then the Arm would get a lot more use. At the moment it looks like this.
In a previous set of Friends minutes they recorded a discussion of this year's Slough Canal Festival, and a determination to make improvements next year. Amen to that. One or two of us from High Line Yachting, our moorings, would give it our support.

Here we are at the festival mooring in 2007

and this is it in 2008*

Notice the subtle difference?
*PS Do my eyes deceive me or is that Saltysplash with a glass of beer? Surely not!