Is spring here yet? I know the daffodils have been out but they’re either covered in snows or soaked.
Thankfully Angela Dawn has kept us dry. My daughter Kirsty and her puppy Lottie has been with me all winter, sadly they’re moving on next week. As the weather’s been so awful, keeping the boat clean with 2 dogs, wet coats and muddy wellies has not been easy. Anyone buying a boat have plenty of hooks and good washable mats.
We haven’t cruised much this winter, partially because of the weather but also as Kirsty was working in Windsor. The river conditions have been racier this year than last. Several weeks the river speed had been high enough for the Environment Agency (EA) to publish red boards. It’s not impossible to move but not recommended particularly with a single engine. Over the new Year period a willow was stuck fast to the bridge and the EA had to wait for flow rates to drop before it was safe to move.
Unfortunately the EA installed automated sluices on the Romney weir just behind my mooring. These have been erratic to say the least. Whilst Dorney below the weir is flooding I’m sat on the river bottom above it. Very frustrating, after several tweets and calls they now seem to be improving water flow which I’m sure is more comfortable for those in Dorney.
The boat has mostly been perfect. The boiler’s had a few intermittent problems
resolved by a local heating engineer. Thankfully I have the oil stove which has kept us very warm. Chris from Thames Diesel and his dog Stanley have been doing a great job of mooring his narrowboat floating fuel station alongside and keeping us topped up. I usually service the engine myself but last month the River Canal Rescue (RAC of the waterways) came along and gave a full service and check up for a very reasonable price. A good use of manpower over the quiet season.
In preparation for a Channel crossing I’ve had an AIS B Transponder installed so other ships / harbour controls can see me and an electronic compass. I’m due to cross to France mid June with a pilot and one other crew person aboard.
The waterways network in France is huge and the licence is a fraction of the Thames cost. I should have no problem navigating most as they’re built for big commercial barges. I confess to being a little daunted by the thought of going into huge deep locks alone but talking to bargees and reading others blogs gives me some encouragement. Like all my boating experience it’s scary first time. I don’t have a fixed plan except to explore northern France this year probably finishing in Saint-Jean-de-Losne south of Dijon for the winter. Only a 3 hour drive to the Ski resorts.
Hopefully next week the river levels slow so I can do 2 or 3 weeks cruising upstream before returning to Windsor for the Royal Wedding and then heading east for the sea.
I shall certainly miss my new friends and living by a pub but the vineyards of France are calling.