Follow the ongoing travels and adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the Canals of the UK and Europe aboard their narrow boat 'Oo-La-La', read the monthly account of their travels and view photos documenting those travels. Follow the adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the canals of England and Europe aboard their narrow boat OO-LA-LA
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Travelogue: England - 2002


February

(All photographs can be viewed at a larger size by clicking on the image)

London and February do not conjure up pictures of spring - or do they? Mentally we had prepared ourselves for the worst: grey, rainy, snow blizzards, extreme cold, icy towpaths and a boat layered in white. Instead we got - flowers! Mother nature decided to deprive us of our winter misery and the month was filled with daffodils, tulips, gorgeous pink camellia bushes, lilies, buttercups and tiny irises. The average temperature has been 50 degrees Fahrenheit with highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s. Thus far the only cold snap has been around the holidays when the canal did freeze for a few days. Reports are coming in now from the news that this was a remarkably warm winter, possibly an effect from the global warming situation.


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February Flowers February Flowers Marlane and Roses! * *
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Oo-La-La was moved from her winter mooring in Camden Lock to Little Venice for the last two weeks in London. It was good to have a change of scene and look forward to cruising again. After several "Goodbye parties," first, at the Princess of Wales Pub in Primrose Hill. Frank Wilson and the Royalties a hot New Orleans style jazz band, they play every Thursday night. Sunday the party continued with the P.O.W Sunday Roast Band along with regulars Dee and John. Later that night we met Rene Goodman at Clancy's Pub in Holloway featuring one of our favourite Irish bands, Six Mile Walk. Can this girl play the fiddle! Clair is the hottest player we have ever heard; the guys aren't too bad either. Of all of the places we visited in London these are the best for music and food, stop by if you get a chance. We love London but it's good to get moving again.


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Rob and Marlane Dee and John 6 mile walk 6 mile walk Sunday Roast
Jessicaa and Clancy Rob and Rene Frank Wilson Frank Wilson poster Royalties
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We headed off north on the Grand Union Canal under cool sunny skies to begin our 2002 cruising year with lots of anticipation and excitement. Originally the idea was to travel back over the Thames to Reading where we'd catch the Kennet and Avon Canal to Bath and Bristol. But we learned that there is a lock stoppage on the Thames until March 29th. Also a 'fast water' warning that sounded ominous. So the alternative route was taken and we headed up the Grand Union toward Braunston where the Oxford Canal intersects and goes back south to the Thames, circling the lock stoppage in question.


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Grand Union canal in February Rob and call to Mom Changing the oil on Oo-La-La * *
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Winter cruising on the canals is not very popular. That means that previously crowded sections are wide open and there are no queues to go into the locks. There are 'canalholics' usually single handers who constantly cruise and some of them are characters. We locked through Berkhamstead with "PapaFlora" a retired gent cruising for some 15 years with three dogs on his 35-foot boat. He is also a dedicated fisherman and said that his wife of some three dozen years left him because of it. He has seven daughters and 18 grandchildren but it was apparent that his heart was in cruising with his dogs more than anything.

Winter vistas are made more interesting by the lack of leaves on the trees. Expansive views of rolling farmland and towns appeared where before we had seen a verdant cover. Cerulean blue sky over huge swaths of green grass makes springtime seem ever so near - or is it? We were deceived.

Rob - Bandito!As we approached Winkwell Swing Bridge the sky became deeply grey and heavy after a morning of light sun showers and brilliant sunshine. Temperature dropped 15 degrees and we swaddled our necks in scarves. Just in time. The storm came without warning as hail the size of ball bearings pelted us and covered the spring setting in white very quickly. A strong wind blinded us and the hail was quite painful on any bare skin so our faces were covered. Rob resembled a bandito with his broad brimmed rain hat. It was over in 20 minutes and within an hour the sun was shining again, this time with rainbows. We pulled over and decided to moor for the day. What a day.

The strong winds continued for the next couple of days as we battled to keep the boat in the canal center and not hit the bank unexpectedly. Finally we pulled over in Marsworth because the wind was just too strong to tempt any longer. A look at the map revealed Aylesbury Arm, an extra narrow 6-½ mile canal to the 13th century town of Aylesbury. We decided to explore it when the weather permitted.


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Marlane and Canal basin in Aylesbury Marlane and Lock Rob by church in Aylesbury Rob and house in Aylesbury  
2 cats Aylesbury church Aylesbury Aylesbury square Kingshead in Aylesbury
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Which it did the following day. Although still windy, this small off shoot of a canal is one of the narrowest on the system and the type that our boat is built for. Only seven feet wide in some spots, the locks are also tiny and have space for one boat at a time. The bridges are very small and we often held our breath as the boat literally squeaked by, protected from scrapes by mere centimetre's and our hands pushing off. There are sixteen locks but they fill quickly and we were through the entire arm in 4 ½ hours feeling a good physical workout was had by both, better than a week in the gym. Canal working muscles that were dormant all winter are waking up and it feels good.

Aylesbury is the county seat for Buckinghamshire, about 60 miles north of London. Quaint centuries old town squares surround the 15th century church. Originally this was a market town of some importance and King Henry VIII wooed Ann Boleyn at the Kings Head pub. The town must have been quite eminent to have a canal all its own. It took 20 years for an arm built from the Grand Union at Marsworth to actually reach Aylesbury in 1814. Successful for over 100 years it almost disappeared due to railway competition in the early 1900s; it was saved by an early hire boat operation in the town basin and the efforts of the Aylesbury Canal Society. The society was formed in 1972 and is still quite active today. A newsletter is published and they have many social events. It is one of the few spots where we were actively welcomed by a community of narrowboat owners who helped us with the usual questions of where to obtain fuel and get the best pub grub. We plan to spend several days here before we exercise our way up the Arm again and back onto the Grand Union.

This February will always be important in our hearts as Rob's Dad, Robert "Bob" O'Neill, Sr. passed away on the 21st . He was 85. We celebrate his life as we mourn his departure and he is missed. Our thoughts are with Mom (Betty) and our family as we travel. He was always Rob's inspiration to travel and his love for boats was infectious. From an early age Rob remembers stories of the Bob-n-Bet, the fictitious "One of these days...." family boat business in which all the kids would be mates and he was the fearless Captain. This boat would change from deep-sea fisher, to lobster boat or a shrimper. The basic story line: good times for all and plenty of free seafood while roaming the seven seas. His favourite trick to keep the story alive was to wake Rob with the urgent call," Come on! The boat's leaving, are you coming fishing or staying home?" As a little kid Rob would jump out of bed dazed trying to remember what he needed only to realise it was just time to go to school. We will always think of him finally at the helm on the boat of his dreams.

.....on to March 2002

 


 
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