Blue Skies nothing but Blue Skies

Today was perfect, blue skies and slight following breeze.

Reg said Brenda would need fuel probably by the end of the day. Brian fired her up and roared down the river to overtake us. The engine promptly died, mmm could need fuel methinks, another go and off she went to the nearest fuel stop.

We continued on through gorgeous scenery and past fabulous houses and boats from Tilehurst to Henley- on- Thames.

We could see vintage private planes flying from a nearby airstrip and 2 hrs later – still no Brenda. The drone of the light aircraft was easily mistaken for Brenda powering down the Thames.Having caught up with us it transpired that when refuelling the attendant was asked if there was a discount for a charity concern the answer was no. Instead Blakes Boats of Caversham offered a free trip for a day in one of their boats, which will be auctioned off – more details later.

We made good progress – 12 miles and 4 locks and a good lunch @ St. George and the Dragon at Wargrave. A very affluent area and as Reg said he thought they’d never had a floating skip moored before. Nor had Henley on Thames seen a boat arrive with socks and underpants drying on the top of the boat (Stephens – so much washing – so few laundrettes!)

255 miles 208 locks

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No Room at the Inn!

Poor old Bryan & Stuart, not used to roughing it these two, one night on Brenda and they’d had enough of camping on a flat lilo. They came into town, well Wallingford, with us confident of finding a B&B or grand hotel, they weren’t bothered so long as they had a proper bed and a shower.

Sorry, said Wallingford only 2 hotels could be located at short notice and both were full. The poor chaps had to crawl back and ask Reg if they could stay another night.

its a long way from Huddersfield

Big thanks to the Town Clerk at Wallingford who reserved a mooring, with a proper notice, for Brenda overnight.

I have done some re-calculation and assuming the weather and wind are fair we could be tucked up in Brentford Lock by Tuesday the 18th. This does not mean, avid readers of the blog, that we will finish early. We will finish at Putney Bridge on the 20th as there are tides to consider and this gives me 2 days to hit Putney on an agreeable tide.

Today’s travel was 13 miles and 4 locks in agreeable conditions with the wind abaft the beam.

43 miles 204 locks

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Wallingford and Beyond

Yesterday we completed 10 miles and four locks. 217miles 196 locks Today was another breezy day, but, thankfully it was abaft the beam and the 13 miles to Wallingford was completed by 4.00pm, having taken a good lunch at The Shillingdon Hotel. Glen Bates a good friend and ex work colleague happened to be in the area today and luckily chose a bridge to greet us as we were passing by.

Start of a gruelling day

The locks are a dream just row in sling a rope round a bollard, and down you go. We were coming out of a lock and straight under a road bridge . A wide beam boat was coming through the bridge with wife in the bow talking to husband by walkie talkie some 75 ft behind her. Jennifer commented on how civilised this was as it saved shouted instructions and misunderstandings. The owner began to moor up before the lock not realising the lock was open and ready for him to enter . His wife must have informed him, by walkie talkie. Suddenly there was a shout from the stern ” I can’t free the rope, the f*cking rope is stuck” “What is it dear?” says wife “I can’t free the f*cking rope” The raw human voice can convey so much more!

Local property!


The swans from Oxford onward are much more learned and can probably read that the name of our boat is Swan as they don’t bother us at all. One swam right up to the side of the boat whilst feeding and then moved on. 230 miles 200 locks

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Happy Birthday!!!

We’re a day early! We arrived in Oxford yesterday well NNE of Oxford

Oxford antiquity

in Lower Wolverton. So today we rowed to Abingdon making us a day early. The wind was on the bow for the whole of the day and as all the locks on the Thames are operated by lock keepers you are in and out before you know it allowing no time for a cig or a cup of tea. We rowed furiously for 3 hours and still nearly six miles to go! After lunch we rowed furiously against the wind arriving in Abingdon at around 4.30, and, allegedly, only 9 miles done. I am going to check this for accuracy on the chart. Having moored up our good friends Trevor & Maggie were there with a birthday cake & candles ‘cos it is my 67th birthday.

Thank God You held back on the candles with all that Oil on the Loose!!

Jen takes on fluid for that morning after feeling……

We went out with them last night to an Italian Restaurant, good food but champagne, beer and wine took its toll first thing this morning. Back to Brenda the oil loss, now fixed. We decided enough was enough Brian used my brand new bilge pump to pump the emulsion into spare buckets. Of course any heads in engine compartments attracts an audience. We found Carl from Chicago 26,000 miles of sea voyaging, moored up 3 boats from us. Out with his equipment, stern gland tightened we were on our way. Brian then scooped nearly a gallon of oil emulsion into another bucket. So heroes both and we feel more in tune with nature. Emulsion tidily disposed of at the evening mooring point.

Looks like all that kayaking practice will come in handy for the white water section!!!

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A touch of frost? or maybe Sun!

Concerns are mounting for the sanity of our Rower as his missives have steadily changed from disjointed mono syllabic reports to the  one we got yesterday he has obviously had too much of something as he likens himself firstly to Humpty Gocart and then a Furniture maker (his neice got it from …. etc etc ) I leave it to you to decide ……..

Sunday 9th

We have had another glorious day down to the Thames! We are actually on the

A milestone ..or Millstone?

The weather over the last week or so has been so fabulous and of course
we have been travelling south. The sun has been generally been on my left side
and consequently the left side of my face is very brown my right side is
reasonably brown and because I am wearing a cap my forehead is pure white. Or
is it the following:- You will remember Shackletons ill-fated trip to the Antarctic
and his eventual landing on Georgia. The local populus were shocked that their
faces were completely black from burning blubber for food and heat. Perhaps my
face has turned this hue from the 200 miles behind Brendas’ stinking exhaust. We
have another change of crew today Pam & Steve have gone home with Bob Lloyd
and Reg, Brian Major and his brother-in-law have taken over.

Stephen and Trevor a lifelong friendship…

Bob & Chris
Appleby greeted us on arrival with my old friends Trevor & Maggie. 207
miles 192 locks

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Thoughts from Aboard


Saturday 8th Sept. Forgot to mention yesterday Aaron the Engineer from R.C.L. Who not only fixed Brenda yesterday but are sponsors for this project. Thank you R C L. Today has been like a voyage in Africa so hot humid and the canal almost enveloped in reeds. At times we felt like Humphrey Bogart And Katherine Hepburn in African Queen . The sun on my back and the sweat was running down my face and dripping off my cig. As I was contemplating risking the leeches in the murky waters it occurred to me that such an action would get my cig papers wet and once one is damp the whole lot go! How did Bogart keep his cigs dry in that film? It was never explained. We should reach Oxford tomorrow and then onto the mighty Thames.

A well earned Beer ..getting to be a bit of a theme

The talk is from battered boaters coming up from Oxford of red/amber alerts, you’ll never make it, they turn you back but still charge you, is haunting my every waking moment. Did I tell you I have been diagnosed with narcolepsy. So we will see, the weather is the key. We have only132 miles to go. 200 miles 186 locks


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Tomorrow is a big day….

Its the day our valiant rower passes yet another milestone not his 200th lock or the 45th Game of Swans (not a wedge as they are on the water) but his birthday ..

Just another day at the Rowlocks

I am too polite to reveal his current age but suffice to say two years ago he retired with due pomp and ceremony on his 65th Birthday (a simple mathematical calculation will reveal all).

Steven began life as a baby and grew more or less up until his coming out at the Seacroft debutants ball in 1967 his style panache and general charisma have through out his life set him aside from other mere males his ability to whistle with two fingers the whole of the Paraguayan national anthem is legendary in Roberttown although the second stanza does stretch the ear drum a little.

As outline at the aforementioned retirement “do” he has had a number of jobs ranging from gardener in a nudist colony with specific responsibilty fo thistles to Rent Collector to Sales Director of a multi national racking company.

He has long had the ambition to row from Mirfield his current wifes (sorry Jen) spiritual home to London like a modern day waterbound Whittington and he hopes on the way the tow paths of England will be paved with gold ( Mainly mud in my experience..Ed) and more (thanks to everyone whos already donated whether via  … the plan was devised and set … or so it seemed until the week before departure when we began to realise where the holes were in the expedition …. still with a tarpaulin purchased from a well known two letter DIY chain and copious amounts of gaffer tape and a band of happy and skilled  (??????… Ed) helpers the course was set and the Lady Brenda and Swan with Stephen and Jennifer on board hit the waves with the harbour lights a shining and the wives the sons and lovers waving bon voyage.

The trials and tribulations are well documented in the previous Epistles from Stephen and these will continue. If you see him tomorrow wish him a happy birthday if you can’t get to see him please feel free to post a good will message on this blog those printable will be attached those not will be laughed at nodded sagely at and then forwarded to Stephen and Jennifer …

So happy Birthday from all of us in the Blog team including the Script writers the gaffer the photographers  the best boy and the producer not forgetting the Picture and Font Manager and last but not least the ever popular Colin Aspagta without whose in depth knowledge of Britains Canals and waterways locks and swan detering techniques

They don’t look that dangerous to me!!

neither the expedition or the blog would have been possible.

Have a great ^&th birthday Stephen hope the weather holds … its all down hill from now on apparently…… (sloping water? …… Ed)



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