...    P E N T A R G O N  ... 

... an unassuming and tatty little Springer narrowboat cruises the ..."Longest Friendliest Village in England" ...



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Beyond Newbury

Posted by PentargonSpringer on October 9, 2017 at 5:40 AM

WIP building up the skeleton


Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 26, 2017 at 8:40 AM

Arrived at Newbury from Kiltbury about 10am on Sat.26th. negotiated the swingbridge with help and tied up to get my bearings with Pentargon starboard to in a 24hr slot on a ring above the town lock.  A passing boat told me 14days was available just east of town by the marina. Since the lock gate was still open on his lift, I swung on the mooring, entered and grabbed the lock, to be dropped down by the crew of a charity boat just about to come up. In short order, Pentargon was set into a 14day slot opposite the marina, boat housekeeping was completed, the bike was brought out to get me to the library about 12am where I updated the BLOG for the next hour or so (and walked off without my wallets which luckily I retrieved later).

It being a bank holiday the show is in town and five trader boats are in situ, including the coffee boat which I last met at Alvecote. Purchase a box of Dorset Black Tea to stock up.  No.1 bus departs Newbury for Reading every 30mins so I grabbed the 1525. What a boring 90mins.. I found Natwest at 1651 and came back by train for £4.50 and 20minutes. arriving about 6pm. Off to Waitrose which is a wee bit out of town and had my few groceries by 7pm.

Down to the station to suss out trains to London for the following day. Because of the Reading Festival and possible Bank Holiday travel mayhem, prudent to get a train out of Newbury on Sunday morning 27th at 1030 which took just over an hour to Paddo. Interconnecting with H&C almost seamlessly, bike and all, I arrived at Upm 1250. Having to wait almost 25mins for a 370 meant I finally arrived home at The Stone Frigate just before 2pm. Call it 4hrs door to door with the Strida playing an active part. 

The Crofton Beam Engine

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 26, 2017 at 8:40 AM

 Friday 25th August

0630 Away from the moorings below Lock 62  [ON54 beam] Crofton Top for Lock63 (0645) to tie up, get breakfast and survey lock 63 which is considered the Top of the Crofton Locks, a series of nine  that lead up from the 8ft Wooton Top Lock (55) with a total lift of over 60' . I had been accompanied up this series the previous day by a volunteer lockie who had carefully padlocked each lock behind me and helped me up.

63 was not padlocked but was effectively out of service. A broken paddle in one of the top gates was letting water through unrestricted and in such a way that when the lock was filled it was not possible to open the top gates without a Spanish Windlass which was was called into service. The lock was cleared by 8.20 being left exactly as it had been found. This was a crafty move as the down flight was not due to open til 10am due to the serious water shortage at the summit.

I set off and began to find locks against, but then met a lovely couple and their sonahead of me who had erm borrowed a friends boat for a few days and were returning it to "just beyond Hungerford". We teamed up at Oakhill Down Lock (68] and shared down to and beyond Hungerford [74] Dun Mill, Wire Lock and Brunston after which they pulled in. I continued round the corner and found 48hr rings just above Lock78 adjacent to Kintbury.

ON54 kint: N51d24m07.2s x W01d26m56.2s.

I took the bike down the village and got bread in Marshalls Bakery. For a sugar hit I got a sticky bun and said it would be fine in my hand. The lady insisted it must be sold in a paper bag "it's the law". The sliced white was strangled in a plastic bag and I suppose that was the law too.

Marshalls Bread in a plastic bag and a sticky bun in a paper bag "because it's the law". There has to be a story here. You got it. I'm working on it. In Teddington Library at 1303 on 5th September. on a day out lock-wheeling forward

Leaving Wiltshire And The White Horse

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 26, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Bishops Canning overnight 23rd/24th ... GPS ON53 cann... N51º22'24.5" x W01º56'19.6"

Today started with therapy 8.30 to 9.30 with Gosia. Then to quote the log: " 0945 Bus to Upminster after therapy, then C2C to Barking and District to Victoria to get a 'Spoons' at the ntrain station and then walk to the coach station at ease and get the bus back to Bath arr.1515. X72 at 1600 put me in Devizes at 1705 to amble to the laundery to pick up my bag and walk to the boat arr.1730".

By 6pm, the bilge had been cleared out and my stuff stowed. Oil level, fanbelt tension and voltages checked and engine started. 1830 engine stalled dived for shore tied up, put juice in the tank and got going 7pm. At 1915 i ran aground trying to be nice to canoists by 8.15 pm I'd arrived at Bishops Canning having done three locks and tied up. I sorted out the GPSs and was in bed at 2145.

THURSDAY 24th August

I woke at 5am dressed, checked forward itinery, waited for light and at 6.15 let go. By 9,15 I'd made Pawsey Wharf, 8.5mls in 3,25hrs, averaging 2.5mph. with swing bridges linear moorings and halts. From there a further 3mls took me to Bruce tunnel where the bilge water was jettisoned in the dark and at 11.35 I faced the Wooton locks [51 to 54].

While Wooton Rivers Lock was filling I had lock-wheeled ahead to prepare Heathy Close just a couple of hundred metres ahead, Leaving a single paddle up and the winlass in position I backed down to bring up the boat. When I got the boat to the landing and walked up my windlass was gone and two shiny tops were reversing the lock. The stupid cluts had decided the windlass had been abandoned by a previous boat and had taken the windlass on board. I gave them the benefit of my experience for stealing my lock but let them get on with it. They were totaslly clueless about cutiquette and were not going to get any better today or any day. One of them had the gall to say they were experienced cruisers at which comment I really lit up the proceedings.

It was 12.35 and Pentargon had over six hours running behind her. Onwards through Brimsdale and Wooton Top, I pulled into Codley Upper for a rest from 13.30 to 14.00 and on again to face the Bruce Tunnel and the final six of the Crofton Climb. The timing was good as the last boat being let through was Pentargon. I was escorted up the six lead-in locks to Crofton top of navigation by a very helpful volunteer lockie who chained and locked each gate as I passed through. He had been advised ahead by the lockie who was doing the same job at the other end of the pound and had expected me to appear at 3pm which I did. It took an hour to get to The Crofton Beam Lock62] and the  ringed moorings.By 1615, I was all tied and writng my log

A moored boat told me I could get a good meal at Grafton just across the fields (well 20mins across the fields) and I so I ended up at The Swan Inn for dinner in daylight and ccled by a roundabout route through Grafton back to the Beam Engine and stuffed my self and bike through a hole in the hedge to get back on board 8.20pm to move the boat down to Lock63 while there was still light and so as to be first away in the morning .

I had expected to languish til 10oc the following morning. Severe water shortage all Summer meant transit was restricted to between 10am and 3pm. However,  ... on checking L63 it was found be to unlocked. Next morning before 6.30am it was turned and Pentargon escaped. Two hours later we arrived at Lock 66 to find a broken paddle which was part open and a huge vulval leak on the bottom gate. The Spanish Windlass was invoked and passage was achieved, allowing Hungerford to be passed about midday ... WIP ... 20-09-2017

24th August The Beam Engine and an unlocked gate and a 6.30 start and ...

The Leaving of Devizes

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 26, 2017 at 8:25 AM

Lay-over of three days to go home for therapy and TLC and rest and organise Credit Union to pay for my wintering. I want to take the prop off over the winter and also tidy up thwe whole boat so I'm looking for cheap moorings that dry out. 

Caen to Devizes

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 26, 2017 at 8:20 AM

19th August 2017.The final push from the Black Horse Pub to Wadworth Brewery. (ON51 caen)

When the boat is lying at the lock landing above the top lock in Devizes, it is exactly on the 2nd meridian west of Greenwich. Once there was a time when I could use trigonometry to tell you exactly how far i was from Greenwich observatory by using the tan of the angle 51º21'10.7" but nowadays I could not be arsed and anyway by GPS array could do it for me. The meridian conveniently passes through the Brewery front door.

The boat itself was moored at N51º21'10.7" and W02º00'31.0"

Climbing Caen without Carabiners

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 26, 2017 at 8:20 AM


Bath to Devizes

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 19, 2017 at 4:35 AM

Have I said Bath is the most beautiful English city I've ever been in?

After almost three days at sea including a mud mooring overnight at Portishead on Sunday night and a mud baptism at Harwood pontoon on Monday morning while waiting to get into Bristol Harbour and a bit of a rush through that supposedly beautiful city, I needed a bath? You can have a bath at Bath at a price? And you get to soak for an hour and a half and it spirits away not only the grime but every last bit of energy.

The time lost at Wolverton in July had to be clawed back somehow, so it was onward to Bradford on Avon after the bath.  Bradford on Avon is up there among the most beautiful villages I've ever been to in England? I would loved to have stayed a week but time is racing and August is half through.

Thursday I overnighted at Sells Green where I found the Three Magpies Pub on the A365 just yards from the cut. The Three Magpies supplied the nicest homemade dinner I have ever eaten outside my own home, my mother's home or my grandmother's home. This establishment has it down to a tee. Even the Three Horseshoes pie has serious competition from a restaurant where the food and the service is so good you don't even care how it's dents your flexible friend.

Replete and rested,  it was onwards (with minimal haste) to the next tent on my GPS. "Lower Foxhangers Farm" it's called and there is NO apostrophe in Foxhangers.  At this point I am beginning to shit myself.

Ahead of me in the morning are the six lead-in locks to the Caen Flight. All identical; each lifts 8'2". I hit them at 6am and it is nine oclock in the [bright sunny] morning when I emerge from Martinslade and see the staircase for the first time. I am running totally on empty. My candle is burned out and I am going to avail of 48hrs recuperation.It is not funny carrying chronic ME as a passenger and it must be humoured.

Suddenly, life takes one of those turns. The word had travelled along the canal that there was a mad Irishman on a mad venture, doing a circuit of England solo and he was just arrived at the bottom of Caen Hill. Out of nowhere appeared FIVE volunteer lockies, who surrounded Pentargon and declared ...

"We'll escort you to the top of flight

and land you there in two hours time."

Friday 18th August 2017 and 10oc in the morning. I am going to be topside by mid-day. 

Later, I'll pad the story out... but suffice to say that at 1156,... we said our goodbyes... and I am eternaly grateful to volunteers ...

who give freely of their time ... to help their lesser brethern ... achieve improbable dreams ...


Sandford to Bath

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 16, 2017 at 7:45 AM

Kennet & Avon Canal Broad canal, 86 miles Bath to Newbury, 106 locks, 1 tunnel, at least 1 week to cruise. Locks on the Kennet and Avon Canal were built to take barges with maximum dimensions of 73 feet long by 13 feet 10 inches wide.

On paper it appears the K&A starts at Avonmouth, comes up the Avon gorge under the magnificent Isombard Brunel Cliftin Suspension Bridge, passes through Bristol towards Bath and continues eventually to Reading. The Avon Gorge is tidal for about 6mls and under the jurusdiction of Bristol VTS. At Harwood Pontoon (totally derelict!) control passes to the Bristol Harbourmaster and Bristol Council has authotiy over the navigation for some six miles and the first actual lock, where authority passes to C&RT.

None of this is clear from any publication I could lay hands on.   It seems obvious to me that no-one has ever before attempted this trip solo. Suffice to say I spoke on VHF with thge harbourmaster at 8.45am and he told me if i could hang around Harwood til about 10oc, he had a couple of boats going out and he would then get me in. I had left Portishead on the very first of the incoming tide at 7.30 and followed the tide up the Avon gorge on tickover as always. It was intriguing to see the tide pushing up the gorge on lone side while the river continued to flow out on the other.

WIP ... 30/8/[email protected] ...

Hang in there for the rest of the totally right way to get from Portishead to Bristol titally against written advice from, among others, Imray! ...

Bristol Bath via Sandford

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 16, 2017 at 7:45 AM

At last a pontoon dedicated to cleaning a boat

Re-entry of C&RT Waters

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 16, 2017 at 7:45 AM

Nothing in Nicholasons or Imray on the subject. Nor anything on how to clean up yer boat after two days at sea

Through Bristol like a Dose of Salts

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 16, 2017 at 7:40 AM

Money money money. It costs about £30 a day (or part thereof) to stay in the floating dock. However you can transit the whole system at tickover for a mind-blowing experience for nowt, if you know how to do it.

Portishead Bristol on tides

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 16, 2017 at 7:35 AM

Has anyone actually EVER done a solo transit from Sharpness to Bristol floating dock? ALL the published information from all available sources is so totally off the wall. Read all about it and then do it your own way as you would if you were going from barking Creek to Dartford

Portishead in the overnight mud

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 16, 2017 at 7:35 AM

Now I know why a pilot would be needed and why only a very skilled sea sailor could get away with going down entirely on the tide.

Sharpness to Portishead in four hours on tickover

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 16, 2017 at 7:30 AM

The decision to go was determined by the weather window which presented itself at 8am on Sunday 13th August, enabled by another boat which had booked a passage (and pilot) from Sharpness to Portishead marina. He had booked entry past Sharpness low bridge for 1015. I followed him in while the gate was open and took my bollicking from the C&RT lock-keeper (who had no prior knowledge of my passing). I told him I could not book the weather and had been waiting a week.

Following the other boat through Sharpness Dock, Pentargon was tied alongside and later let into the interim lock at about 11oc. The sea gate was open, the tide was flooding and would be for about another hour. The lock-keeper made peace with me, maybe never expecting to hear from me ever again and the other guy's pilot told me what he would be doing.

Because the pilot had to race the tide to make the lock into Portishead marina, he would shove off at about 11oc and punch tide for an hour to get him abeam Blakeley power-station on the turn of tide. As soon as he was in an ebb, he would gun it, following the flow and keep the power on all the way to Portishead. I don't think he had any idea how much sea experience his listener had. I kept my mouth shut and absorbed what I heard.

My method would be entirely different.

"Pentargon" has about 6-8BHP in her Lister engine and has never punched tide. She sails like the lighters of old, using tide, and the techniques have been honed over many passages of the Thames during the past three years.

The Sharpness lockie told me he needed to close the sea gate at 12oc and this was enough for me to know I had to be OUTSIDE the gate before then. So, at 1150, I slipped and eased Pentargon out through the sea gate to tie up on the pier outside.

I would be waiting for the tide to turn, and be seen to have turned, before I would let go. The next 15 minutes was spent watching seagulls and gradually easing the boat further out the pier. There was a slight SW breeze which sailors call "wind over tide"; the sky was slightly overcast but blue. It was a nice day to go to sea ...

Have patience. You ain't read nothin yet ....

Sharpness Patience Virtue

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 16, 2017 at 7:30 AM

This is where you piss yourself when you you actually see the upper reaches of the Bristol Channel for the first time. The story is being writ at the moment. But nothing in any book bears any relation to reality.

The Gloucester Sharpness Ship Canal

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 16, 2017 at 7:30 AM

The greatest surprise of the whole trip. This is a stunningly beautiful waterway. More later

Gloucester Docks

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 16, 2017 at 7:25 AM

It all happens on the pontoon under Fosters imbibing establishment 

WIP as of Wed. Aug16 in Bradford library

Worcester to Gloster at speed

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 16, 2017 at 7:25 AM

Seve r n ... via Upton on Severn, the nicest village I have been in to date

Severn Stourport to Worcester

Posted by PentargonSpringer on August 16, 2017 at 7:20 AM

work in progress at Bradford on Avon Library Wed.16th August.