Monday, 1 March 2010

The Ships Log.

Stardate 22nd of February 2010

The beautiful Oxford canal runs for some seventy seven miles connecting to the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction and to the River Thames at Oxford. Construction of the Oxford began in 1769 and was supervised by the famous engineer James Brindley.

By 1774 the Oxford canal had reached Napton. By 1778, after raising more funds, it progressed further towards Banbury. Further financial problems meant that the final stretch to Oxford was not started until 1786. Sections of the River Cherwell where also integrated into the canal creating some tidal stretches. The Oxford Canal finally reached its destination in 1789. It was one of the most profitable canal links in Britain, taking coal and other items from the Midlands to London. A more direct Grand Junction Canal now the Grand Union, replaced the southern section of the canal and was completed in 1805.

The Ashby canal was opened in 1804. The remaining 22 mile navigable section of the canal starts at Marston Junction on the Coventry Canal just outside Bedworth and travels north-east for about 7 miles passing through the Leicestershire town of Hinckley. It then continues to run towards the north through largely rural and remote countryside for another15 miles until reaching its current terminus at Snarestone. In 1918 a major breach caused by mining subsidence caused the last few miles of the canal near Ashby to be abandoned.

Monday: 22nd of February 2010

Our cruise is planned  to go along the northern section of the Oxford canal, (Hillmorton - Hawkesbury) the whole of the Ashby canal and southern part of the Coventry canal (Marston - Coventry basin).

We were up bright and early, the car loaded with ships victuals and the ships dog ensconced in her travel seatbelt. It would be a two hour drive on the M1 from our home in Barnsley down to Daventry.

The sight of what's was left of the old Daventry antenna array always used to take me back to a time - a long time ago - when I would as part of my job tune into the World Service Broadcast from Daventry. The BBC world service could be heard from every corner of the World. I was a lasting part of our "British Empire" which has now been allowed to deteriorate into a shell of its former self! The World Service made a welcome change from my listening watch on 2182 khz and 500 khz. Somehow, as a country we seem to have lost some of the prestige that the BBC world service brought with it. I still think we have lost a vital link with it's many listeners in the old British Empire (or as it is known now The Commonwealth) and other outposts the rest of the World.

  • The radio frequency of 2182 kHz (kilohertz) is the International calling and distress frequency for maritime radio communications on the marine bands.

  • The marine radio standard for the use of 500 kHz as an international distress frequency was made as a result of the sinking of the Titanic.
In 1925 the BBC constructed a broadcasting station on Borough Hill Daventry. From 1932 the BBC Empire Service, now the BBC World Service, was broadcast from there. However, with the decline of the "World Service" the station eventually closed in 1992.

We collected our narrow-boat at Hillmorton. Our intention (BW stoppages permitting) is to head towards the Coventry canal and then to cruise along the Ashby canal before returning back to the Coventry canal basin and eventually to Hillmorton.

We have studied the canal guides, read something of the history of the Oxford, Coventry and Ashby canals. However, rather than being a gentle ramble through an area of canal history. This is in reality a shake down time for both myself and Mag's to put into place a comfortable working system for handling the boat together.

Whilst I have spent some time afloat in the past, it will be a new experience for the Mem-sahib. Being minimalist is something Mag's is very keen on. I also think that minimalist on a boat is a good thing. However, that is with the exception of clothes, make-up and all the other girlie essentials. To give an idea, here is a photo of the Mem-sahib with her bike in India. Note Mag's also has a shoulder bag! A girl just never has enough room....

I think that Mag's will make a good skipper at the helm, she is quite astute and is not phased by challenges. This will in turn make me "the cabin boy and windlass juggler" for the foreseeable future. This change of role is due to some recent surgery Mag's has had performed on her hands. This will make all but the most gentle of locks outside the limits of her slowly recovering hand strength for some time to come.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how well Poppy the Fox Terrier comes to terms with life aboard a boat. She looks quite good - all resplendent - in her dog lifejacket. I am sure it will not be long, before she has her first trip over the side!

Pop's is a dog that has no fear of water. Why, she even likes to join me in the shower in the morning. She adores the warm water from the shower head being sprayed onto her face and will stand with her head held into the water spray savouring the feel of the water jet. As well as the shower, Pop's also finds the more usual bath to be another enjoyable playtime activity.

This attitude to water came about because when she was a puppy, we would put an inch of warm water into the bath as well as a number of her favourite plastic toys. Splashing and chasing the toys round the bath was a great game and thoroughly enjoyed by us all. We did the same with the shower, now the bath and shower are some of Poppy's favourite playtime activities.

It would have been interesting to have brought Jasper (aged 26) the cat as well. However as he is a very old cat - living the life of luxury at home - with his personal harem and a couple of human cat sitters - we think is the better option for him. However, when we do get our own boat, we will try and wean him onto that. He has never been a cat for wandering outside the confines of his own garden. So I hope he will soon adapt to watching the world float past from a cat basket on the cabin roof.

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