Oxford Circuit

There are limited moorings in Oxford where leaving a boat for as long as seven days is permitted.  We were pleased to have squeezed ourselves in to one.  It wasn’t perfect as there were no mooring rings, so we were relying on our spikes holding.  There were some trees above us too, but the roof would get full sun all morning, so the batteries ought to be OK.

As usual, my blood test was booked for early on the day after we got back.  I went straight in to town afterwards for yet another visit to the building society to try to resolve issues relating to settling my father’s estate.  As before, I arrived a little before ten and only then remembered that the branch opens late on Wednesdays.  The sun was shining so I took a walk around the adjacent square.  Temporary animal statues are a regular thing these days.

Three temporary sheep statues in St Andrews Square, Edinburgh.  They are covered in different multi-coloured designs, but otherwise identical, standing on a pedestal looking ahead.
Sheep in St Andrews Square, Edinburgh

Once my business was done, I got in touch with Kenny.  As I’d hoped, he was available for a bike ride.  We managed a circular trip in to East Lothian in reasonable weather.  Thursday morning was gobbled up with admin tasks, and my treatment was in the afternoon.  This was my penultimate treatment, and went very smoothly – not even a bruise.

On Friday, Kenny had a plan to reprise the Loch Earn Loop – a sixty mile bike ride starting and ending in Dunblane.  We added a minor diversion to meet up with Brian and Sheila for a swift drink at St Fillans on the way.  We would have missed the highland cow statue bench if we hadn’t gone to meet them.

A statue of a highland cow lying down on a plinth.  The back of the cow has a segment removed so that it can be used as a bench.  Beyond the cow is a view over Loch Earn.
Coo Bench Beside Loch Earn

I was pretty tired by the time I got home.  I’m not doing enough miles in between to find a sixty mile ride easy.  The next day though, I had promised to help Nye with a woodwork project.  He wanted to build ramps to allow his friend’s wheelchair to be driven in to our flat.  We spent much of the day reusing wood I’d stashed in the cellar over the years.  The result won’t win any prizes for elegance, but it should work.  We were both pleased with the outcome, and with the way we’d managed to work together.

Our journey back via Coventry went smoothly, but I did wonder if the person who chose the coach designations had realised what message they might send.

Doors of a train with large labels giving the designation of the coaches: F U
Coach Designations or Attitude Problem?

We had a shorter change in Coventry than on the way out.  We had time to pick up some supplies in a small supermarket near the station (another small supermarket was available).  In the pleasant afternoon sunshine we found ourselves a bench in a park nearby.  The statue of a horse here was more permanent looking.

Statue of a black horse standing on its hind legs flailing its front legs.  The statue is life-size.  The setting is a park with trees.  The sky is bright blue and cloudless.
Kicking Coventry Horse

When we got back to the boat, I was not too surprised to see that the stern mooring spike had been pulled and the rope was hanging loosely.  The front rope was securely tied though, and the boat was obediently sitting alongside the towpath.  However the roof and stern deck had taken a heavy delivery of leaves, twigs and bird muck.  Despite this and the partial shade, the batteries had spent most of our absence at or close to 100%.

We had been on the mooring for just over seven days, and by morning it would be eight, so although it was quite late, we decided we would cruise on.  It was a short distance to the water point, so we went there first and topped up.  As I had suspected, we didn’t find any suitable moorings before we reached the Duke’s Cut Lock again.  After that we were on our second lap of Oxford.  It was very peaceful in the evening light.

A woman looks out from the stern deck of a narrowboat over a flat landscape.   The sun is low in the sky, visible in a bank of clouds.
Cruising with the Sun Low in the Sky

As I’d hoped, we were able to moor up just above King’s Lock with some daylight still left.  A sign told us there was a charge, but not how much.  The lock-keeper had long gone home, so we’d just have to ask in the morning.  On a walk around the lock in the gloaming I came across another animal statue.

A plastic dragon statue.  The dragon is reclining with a wing lifted.
Dragon Guarding King’s Lock

One of the things that had been bothering me before we went away was the amount of water in the bottom of the engine bay.  I wasn’t sure if this was a problem with the bilge pump or something else, but I discovered it too late to investigate before we left.  Today, I persuaded Clare that she was more suited to get herself in to the very tight spot behind the engine to check underneath the propellor shaft.

A woman  dressed in black folded in to the space under the stern deck of a narrowboat.
Clare as Ninja Engineer

She gamely changed in to all black clothing so that any oil wouldn’t show, and clambered in.  She soon established that the bilge pump was fine, but just couldn’t pump the last bit of water out.  She also found the float switch that turns it on automatically, and that is even higher up.

What she did notice is that there was a steady drip.  Every day we tighten the grease gland to push some grease in to the stuffing box to reduce water ingress around the propellor shaft bearing.  The packing material in the box wears away gradually, so eventually it is necessary to tighten a couple of nuts too.  I passed in a pair of 17mm spanners and outlined the procedure.  With a surprisingly small amount of cursing, she managed to get the drips to stop – result!

Sign on the lock gate saying Welcome to King's Lock. Underneath are two removable panels.  The upper one has a white background and says Lock Keeper On Duty.  The lower board is green with a longer message on it.
Our First Green Board at a Thames Lock

After lunch we decided to set off.  After days of seeing red and yellow boards at the locks, I almost failed to notice the green board.  It looks like a general information notice for the Environment Agency with their usual corporate colour.  

Our second visit to Godstow Lock was much more relaxing than the first.  There was no lock keeper, and no other boats involved.  Clare had a proper look at the controls and had no difficulty working out which buttons to press when.  Meanwhile I held the boat with two ropes and no difficulty.  The big wheel is only used when there is a power cut.

A woman standing next to a lock control panel.  The panel is on a post about the same size as her, dominated by a large wheel.
Clare Relaxed at the Controls

We cruised gently alongside Port Meadow which was much less crowded than last time.  We returned to the same mooring we had used over a week ago on Osney Island.  This time I decided to attempt mooring while facing downstream.  The flow was gentle enough that I was able to hold station in the channel by using reverse.  By pushing the bow away from the bank with the bow thruster I could bring the stern close enough to let Clare take the stern rope ashore.  So now we have done a full circuit of the canal and river in Oxford.  Just before we moored up we spotted another animal statue on a boat as we passed.

A life-size tiger statue lying on a boat.  Human faces can be seen peering out of an adjacent window.  They are statues too.
Tiger Lying on a Boat

We haven’t used any diesel engine since we got back, and still managed to end the day on a higher charge than yesterday.  Tomorrow we’re promised even more sun.