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On to Abingdon

On Tuesday morning we untied from our East Street mooring and moved down to Osney lock. The lock keeper was busy painting out graffiti on the nearby footbridge but within a few minutes he was back at the controls and helping us lock down. As we chugged our way around the edge of the city we saw hardly anyone, it was all very quiet around Folly bridge, no doubt due to the fact that it was only ten o’clock on a Tuesday morning and outside the school holidays. All of the punts were safely tied up  outside the Head of the river pub and Salter’s trip boats were moored on Folly Island. Once free of the city we realised just how much the open spaces and deep, wide waters of the Thames are in stark contrast to the features of the Oxford canal. We took our time and yet we still made good progress through the next two locks before eventually reaching Abingdon.

Abingdon lock approach.

We took on water before dropping down through Abingdon lock and taking the first available mooring there. We wanted to have a few days in the town and had been told that the moorings there would be busy with only the first day being free. Where we had tied was a five day mooring so we were happy enough with where we were.

Mooring below Abingdon lock.

Caxton’s panels tilted towards the evening sun.

The lock keepers cabin.

A brave soul kayaking below the weir.

We later found out that in fact all of the moorings allow a stay of five days and although there were a lot of boats around, many were coming and going so we needn’t have worried about finding a space. We were happy enough though with two routes into town, and since both walks only take ten minutes, we thought that we were in a good spot. What we hadn’t appreciated was that marker buoys in the river made the approach to the lock relatively narrow with the result that every large boat that passed, particularly Salter’s Steamers, pulled hard on our mooring lines.

Salter’s Steamer passing by.

On Wednesday evening I had to reposition the pins as well as re-tighten the ropes so on Sue’s suggestion we walked downstream and found a space opposite the park where the river is much wider. Fifteen minutes later we were on our new mooring and as the following days proved, passing boats had very little effect on us.

Abingdon is a lovely town and one that I have never visited before, despite having passed by on the A34 on countless occasions over the last twenty years. There are lots of shops, pubs and historical buildings to see and explore, which we did during our stay. The following photographs should give a little flavour of the place but for better information click here

Robert Gatward Jewellers.

 

Farmer’s Market in the market place.

 

Abingdon County Hall Museum.

 

St Nicholas Anglican church.

 

Morland brewery owned pubs had these adorning their walls.

Oxford – East Street

On Saturday morning we left our mooring near Aristotle bridge, moved down to Isis lock and dropped down on to the river Thames. Once clear of the lock, the route to the river ‘proper’ is a tricky one but we pushed around the 180 degree bend, slid through the narrow channel created by the now redundant railway swing bridge and under the mainline railway bridge before turning left on to the main channel. As Osney Bridge came into view a few minutes later, we could see that there were spaces available on the East Street moorings so we pulled in and tied up. Hardly the longest of cruises but it would give us a few more days in Oxford. The Environment Agency (EA) are responsible for the Thames and they also manage the popular mooring areas including East Street where the first 24 hours are free and then the next two nights cost £5 each. The payments can be done online so we paid our £10 using paypal and settled down until Tuesday.

We used our three days to wander around the city centre as we have done on a number of occasions before. It’s a lovely place even though it is very busy with tourists who are exploring the historic university town. It would be near to impossible to write a comprehensive travel guide to Oxford so I am not even going to attempt it here.

The boat moored behind us had been let on airbnb to half a dozen young people, a nice little earner for the boatowner at £120 a night. Accommodation probably is expensive in the city but visitors should take a look at the Youth Hostel Association (YHA). Their building in Oxford is a modern one and is next to the railway station and whilst their cheapest rooms are small dormitories, they also have family rooms and en-suite doubles.

Boats came and went during our stay on East Street but one local inhabitant, a heron, could be seen every day patiently waiting on the weir under the bridge for a tasty meal.

The local heron waits for lunch to arrive.

Patience!

One of the local ducks.

A goose sits and watches us.

Disused warehouse on the other side of the river.

Oxford and the Thames

After a peaceful night below Kidlington Green lock, we decided to press on and complete our journey to Oxford. It was straightforward enough, a couple of lift bridges to raise and two locks to pass through before we reached our destination, the visitor moorings near Aristotle bridge. After we had showered and changed we took a walk into the centre via the Oxford yarn store which coincidentally was (almost) on our route. Our circular route brought us back to our mooring by walking the towpath from the end of the canal.

We decided to go the opposite way the following morning as we had a few bits of shopping to do and we were back on board for lunch by noon. The sun came out in the early afternoon so we decided to go for a walk, this time heading away from the busy streets of the city centre. A few hundred yards away, the road crosses the railway line and as we approached we saw an incredible sight in the distance, a steam train was approaching, as it came closer it was clear to see that this was a bit of a superstar, it was the Flying Scotsman.

The Flying Scotsman

Closer view

The train was gone in a few moments but luckily enough, Sue had her phone to hand and got a couple of shots. We then carried on to Port Meadow and continued our walk to Fiddler’s Island and then on to The Perch at Binsey.

The river from Fiddler’s Island

The Perch at Binsey

The Wedding Marquee

Enjoying a refreshment at The Perch.

A wedding reception was being held in a marquee in the garden of the pub and the guests arrived in a vintage double decker bus.

Once we had refreshed ourselves at the Perch, we decided to visit a nearby farm which was selling fresh strawberries and asparagus. We had just been talking about how lovely it was to be away from the crowded streets and how good it was to walk down a traffic free country lane knowing that the nearby A34 would be its usual Friday afternoon self. No sooner had we said this than three fire engines passed us, blue lights flashing, heading in the direction of the pub. This puzzled us because we had left the small hamlet of Binsey just minutes before and nothing seemed out of place. We decided that perhaps this was some sort of back route avoiding the mayhem of the A34. Once we had bought our farm produce, we retraced our steps and found that the fire engines were parked near the river and were in the process of launching a rigid inflatable boat.

Cow Rescue Service

Firemen console the bull, assuring him that his girlfriend would soon be safe.

It turned out that there had been reports of a cow in the river and the firemen were out to rescue it. They didn’t find it, presumably it had climbed back out again. We took a slightly different way back across the meadow and eventually found ourselves near the railway station, by the time we got back we had walked a total of ten miles during the very eventful day!

Navigation Blocked!

After the high winds and rain on Tuesday, we figured that there could be a lot of boats on the move on Wednesday. We decided to get up early and move to the water point which is just beyond the main road bridge on the edge of Kidlington. We got up at 6am, the first time for me since April, and started our journey. Despite the fact that the water tank was almost empty we were on our way again just after seven. Originally, we had expected to complete our journey to Oxford in two stages but having got off to such an early start we decided that we may as well do it all in one hit. The canal is very green and rural as it skirts Kidlington and there are only a few areas that are suitable for mooring. This means that there aren’t too many moored boats to pass and at this time of the year it also means that the canal is lined with green walls of trees and hedgerows. Soon enough we had passed through the second of the Kidlington locks and were heading for Dukes lock, just over a mile away. A tree, presumably a casualty of Tuesday’s high winds, had fallen across the towpath and was partially blocking the canal, creating a sort of watery chicane but it presented little problem to us. After a while, I became somewhat confused because I couldn’t quite work out which way the canal was turning up ahead. I could see the green hedgerow but the water seemed to have disappeared. Suddenly I realised that I wasn’t looking at a hedge but a tree which had fallen across the canal and was completely blocking it about 400 yards ahead. After calling to Sue who was working inside, I brought Caxton to a halt and we weighed up the situation. It was obvious that we could not continue and it was equally obvious that we wouldn’t be able to moor easily either because of the rough and overgrown banks. We knew that there was a stretch of Armco below the last lock and we reckoned that since the blockage could take some time to be cleared, that stretch was probably our best option. It was still only just after eight o’clock so we knew that were wouldn’t be much traffic heading south and there was definitely none heading north so while Sue rang CaRT (Canal and River Trust), I reversed Caxton the half mile back to the lock. The half mile, mainly in a cross wind, through a narrow lift bridge and of course through the chicane created by the other fallen tree went without incident, no doubt because there were no witnesses! CaRT called back and told us that they had instructed a contractor to attend and that they hoped that the blockage would be cleared later in the day. A couple of other boats had arrived at the lock so we passed the message on before walking back to the tree to look at the damage. Once there we could see that the tree was pretty large and we could also see that there were four boats tied up on the other side of it.

Rotted base to the trunk.

Completely blocking the canal.

This helped us make the decision to remain on the mooring for at least another day and in effect revert to our original plan by making the journey to Oxford in two stages. By eleven o’clock we had showered, changed and were ready to walk the mile back into Kidlington where we did a bit of grocery shopping and then had lunch at the Black Horse.

It was two o’clock when we got back to our mooring and the first of the trapped northbound boats was nearing the lock, the blockage was seemingly cleared. I was quite impressed that the work had been done so quickly but even more so when I walked back to the scene and saw that there was very little evidence of the tree left on site.

All tidied up.

Cleared up by 2pm.

We didn’t do much for the rest of the day, the early start and the seven or eight miles walking that we had done left us feeling that we deserved a bit of a lazy afternoon.

A week in Thrupp

We left our mooring below pigeon lock on Wednesday morning with Thrupp in mind as a place to carry out our services. In an ideal world we would have liked to find a mooring in Thrupp but since it is a popular place, not only did we hold out little hope, we just didn’t factor in a stop there at all. On reaching Bakers lock where the canal joins the river Cherwell, we noticed that there is a new electronic indicator board showing the state of the water level on the river below. This is an improvement on the simple red/amber/green marker system because it is lock-side rather than out of sight, below the lock. Unsurprisingly, the level was in the green and we were good to go. It’s a twisty section of waterway with some tight bends but it is not for long and soon we reached Shipton weir lock where we parted company with the Cherwell. A few minutes later and we reached the approach to Thrupp and the long line of moored boats. We were pleased to see that the service wharf was free although no sooner had we tied up on it than a boat came through the lift bridge and pulled up behind us. They too had wanted water but seeing that we would be a while, decided to visit Annie’s tearoom for breakfast. While the water poured into Caxton’s cavernous tank, I took a walk around the corner on the off chance that there might be a space to moor for a day or so. I was amazed to discover that there was one last space, big enough for us, at the end of the seven day moorings. The tank seemed to take an age to fill but ‘our’ space was still there when we finally moved around the corner and under the lift bridge. We were secured to the bank a few minutes later, utilising the rings provided with a couple of our pins added as springs fore and aft.

We decided to stay in Thrupp for as long as we could, with our water supply probably being the limiting factor. The nearby village / town of Kidlington, which is probably classed as a suburb of Oxford, is only around 1.5 miles away and provided us with a good walk most days. The high street in Kidlington has a Tesco, Co-op and Iceland as well as a number of smaller shops which have provided the rest of our everyday needs.

Thrupp itself is tiny but around the canal there are a number of businesses; Annie’s tearoom, The Boat inn and the Jolly Boatman pub. We visited all of them in the week that we were there and they were all good in their own way.

The Jam Butty boat.

Another business which was there temporarily was the Jam Butty boat so not wishing to let the opportunity pass, we bought some chutneys from them and very good they are too. I had a chat with Andy or Captain Ahab as he is sometimes known. Coincidentally, he has also just taken early retirement and like me isn’t missing work at all!


In addition to our almost daily walks to Kidlington, we also found time to walk to Shipton on Cherwell and to the abandoned village at Hampton Gay where all that remains now is a ruined manor house and a Church which still has around six services a year. This area was the scene of a terrible train crash in 1874, the details of which are here.

We spent a fair bit of our time in Thrupp cleaning and restoring Caxton to its former glory and by the time we left, the starboard side looked magnificent. The paintwork had been polished and the gunwhales, side hatches and tunnel bands had all been painted.

Caxton looking resplendent after a bit of a makeover.

 

Cream tunnel band repainted.

 

Side hatch now matches the other side after a repaint.

 

Mirror finish!

 


Staying a week in one place was a bit of a novelty for us and felt a bit like we were holidaying on a campsite but with spectators. The weekend was blessed with good weather and as a result there was a steady stream of visitors to Thrupp. We found it funny to hear passers-by commenting on our boat, seemingly unaware that we could hear every word. We even heard one parent pointing out to their child, “look, there’s a lady doing some knitting”. Well, eventually the notion of being an “extra” in an unofficial living museum wore a bit thin and we were glad when it started to rain on Sunday afternoon as that seemed to disperse the gongoozlers.

The weather turned a bit sour for our last couple of days at Thrupp but we still managed to get out now and again between showers for the odd trip to the tearoom, pub or shop. Had we been on holiday, we would have had to brave the elements and get on with our journey but in our new found existence, that is now a thing of the past. We managed to survive on one tank of water and our solar panels kept the batteries topped up for the first five days. When the thick cloud arrived with the rain on day six, we ran the engine for a while just to make sure that we had enough power to see us through the day.

All good things must come to an end and for us that meant leaving Thrupp on Wednesday morning, our first priority being to refill the almost empty water tank.

Tackley & Kirtlington

As the last few weeks have gone on, it has been more and more difficult to know what day of the week it is, not that it matters anyway! It was easy today, it must be Bank Holiday Monday because the weather had taken a turn for the worst. We were up and away at half past seven because we wanted to get through the wharf where the hire base is situated before all of the “Friday to Monday” boats returned. We made it but only just, settling at the water point by eight o’clock. The short journey wasn’t without incident though, Sue had set off on foot to open Mill Lift bridge, thankfully now mechanised since we last passed this way, no problem there. After passing through, she continued on foot while I chugged slowly passed the line of moored boats running down to the wharf. A few minutes later and I was confronted by a boat from the nearby Oxfordshire narrowboat hire base. The steerer had plenty of room as I maintained a six inch gap between Caxton and the moored boats but seemed reluctant to use more of the seven or eight feet that he had between his boat and the canal bank and so there was a small bump, nothing serious but totally avoidable.

Five boats returned to the base in the thirty minutes or so that we sat filling the water tank, no problem for us but they blocked the canal as they manoeuvred their vessels into place. We were soon underway again and in similar fashion to our trip two days earlier, we covered around five miles and dropped down through another three locks, mooring below Pigeon lock. The bottom gate of this lock doesn’t open fully and when we arrived a queue had formed as a result of a boat getting stuck, allegedly because it had its fenders down. It had gone by the time we arrived so we don’t know for sure but once things had started to move, the backlog soon cleared.

After lunch, we walked to the village of Tackley which is just over a mile from the canal by way of a bridleway. The path begins by winding around the back of the private houses which were once the Three Pigeons pub and a water mill respectively. There is now a sluice where presumably the mill stream once ran and the path crosses it by way of a bridge. The bridleway continues between fields of crops until it reaches Tackley station where the walker has to cross the tracks before continuing into the village. There isn’t much to Tackley, like so many of these villages which have become commuter dormitories. In fairness to the inhabitants, there must be some people who want to retain a village spirit because the village hall has a community shop, although it had closed by the time we got there because of the bank holiday. The local pub, the Gardiner Arms is also a community run business and has limited opening hours as a result. We called in and had a drink, it is a lovely building with a spotless well maintained interior.

We were half way back to our mooring when the rain started and why not? It was a bank holiday after all!

After another good night’s sleep we awoke to a fairly bright morning with a sky filled with white clouds. After pottering around until lunchtime, we set off in the direction of another close by village, Kirtlington. Like Tackley, Kirtlington is just over a mile away from Pigeon lock along a road which only gives access to the old mill. It didn’t take us long until we reached the village centre with it’s traditional village green. We visited the church, the village shop and then the Oxfordshire Arms. Kirtlington might just win the prize for being the most desirable of the four villages that we have visited in the last few days but again it is very quiet with little activity going on.

The Heyfords

On Saturday morning we were woken by heavy rain but by the time we had sorted ourselves out, the sun was out and so we decided to move on from Aynho wharf. There was no particular reason behind the decision, we just thought it would be a good thing to do.

This trip has been defined by its lack of having an itinerary to follow, the only big decision that we make each day is whether to move or stay where we are and that’s only important because if we stay, we heat the water for a shower and if we move we let the engine heat the water and we shower after we tie up. We can survive about ten days before we have to worry about toilets and fresh water so there is no pressure to move every day or every other day for that matter.

After leaving Aynho, we travelled for two and a half hours covering five miles and passing through three locks before finding a quiet mooring between Upper and Lower Heyford. After securing Caxton and then making ourselves presentable to the outside world, we walked along the towpath to Heyford station, three quarters of a mile away. A few days earlier, Sue had broken the frame on a pair of her glasses so we thought that it would be a good idea to travel to Oxford and find Specsavers, leave the glasses with them and then collect when we arrive by boat – whenever that might be. The train only takes fifteen minutes to make its way to Oxford and it didn’t take long after we arrived there to find Specsavers. Luckily enough, the frame style is still available so the repair could be done there and then by swapping the lenses, all we had to do was to leave the old ones and return an hour later and this we did.

We hadn’t been too interested in spending time in Oxford as we knew that we would have plenty of exploration time once we had landed properly so after the repaired HD equipment had been collected, we returned to the station. We had a bit of time to kill and who should we bump into on the platform but none other than ex Prime Minister, David Cameron. Of course you can’t really bump into him because if you did, one of the burly body guards who accompany him would no doubt make mincemeat of you. So we passed him by, he looked aloof as usual and walking remarkably upright for a man with no backbone.

We were back on board our boat by five o’clock and then we just sat outside and watched the world go by from the comfort of the front deck.

Sunday dawned, bright and blue and with the big decision of the day being to stay, we took our time and got showered, dressed and breakfasted. By mid morning we were ready to start our daily walk which on this day would take us back along the towpath to Allen’s lock, up the hill to Upper Heyford and then along the main road to Lower Heyford. It was a beautiful day and not too hot for walking either so we were able to keep up a good pace all along the route. Both of the villages are very pretty with many stone built houses and cottages but being the Sunday of a Bank holiday weekend meant that the narrow streets were full of cars which somewhat spoil the image. By the time we reached The Bell in the market square at Lower Heyford we were in need of a refreshment so we popped in for a drink before carrying on to the wharf where we had lunch at Kizzie’s Bistro. We sat outside and ate in the garden overlooking the canal, quite idyllic! After lunch, it was back to Caxton where we did a few chores before settling in for the evening.

Aynho

It’s now four weeks since we moved on board permanently and three weeks since my birthday, the day that we cast off on our six month adventure.

We decided to move on a bit further on Friday so after a lazy start to the day, we got underway around ten and continued our journey south. After passing through Kings Sutton lock and watching the spire of the village church disappear gradually behind us, we reached the M40 for the third and final time. I would have lost count of the number of times that I have passed over here on the M40, that’s if I’d ever been bothered to keep count in the first place. This point marks what should be the half way point between the Basingstoke office and our home in Hinckley. I say should be because that journey used to take anywhere between two and four hours. I almost always remembered to look down at the Oxford canal and sometimes there might just be a boat passing under Coles lift bridge. On this day, the boat passing through was called Caxton, crewed by two happy and carefree individuals.

The strong breeze was quite welcome as it helped to keep us cool on yet another hot day. We did the next two locks and managed to cross at both with northbound boats, surprising really because they were the only boats that we had seen on the move. After two hours travelling, we reached Aynho wharf where we took on diesel and water. We were undecided as to where we wanted to go next but after noticing that there were a couple of spaces beyond the road bridge, we moved there and tied up. It’s a 48 hour mooring and there are rings which are perfectly spaced for us.

It was almost one o’clock by the time we had tied up, the wind had dropped and the temperature seemed higher than the actual 25 degrees that it really was. The nearby Great Western Arms looked very inviting so off we went and took shelter in its cool interior. Of course they don’t just let you go in and sit down, they expect you to buy stuff from them and since they only sell food and drink, we had to buy some of that. We’ve eaten here three or four times over the years and never been disappointed; today was no exception.

We returned to Caxton and sat in the cratch for a while, partially shaded from the sun but still in the fresh air. The mooring here is a bit of a trainspotter’s paradise. Two main lines run parallel to the canal, the furthest away being at a higher level than the nearest so it has been possible to see passenger and freight trains heading north towards Birmingham and south towards Oxford on one line and London Marylebone on the other. A few boats passed in both directions and this one turned up.

One man and his boat.

The skipper, Peter Cole, pulled up next to us and told us that had had the boat for thirteen years and Had owned a narrowboat for eleven before that. He and his wife had covered most of the system before she passed away and it was at that point that he had swapped his narrowboat for this dinky little craft. We discovered, and later watched the process that I am about to describe, that Peter drags the boat in and out of the water every time he goes out. The boat has oars but is electrically propelled and is powered by three 12 volt batteries. The boat has a detachable bow which makes the craft short enough to fit in the back of Peter’s Volvo estate car. He has a short ramp to aid getting the boat in and out of the car and there is enough room to store the batteries at the sides. There are a couple of holes in the back of the boat which Peter pushes the oars through and this ingeniously allows him to use  the oars like the handles on a wheelbarrow making the transition between car and ground and then ground and water, relatively easy. Peter is clearly well practised in the process which is a sort of Heath Robinson meets Thunderbirds affair, not bad for a seventy nine year old!

Inescapable Banbury

After our walk to Adderbury on Wednesday we were going to walk in the opposite direction and take a look at King’s Sutton. The temperature was already rising outside when we awoke at seven so we changed our mind and decided to get the bus to Brackley, a small town about eight miles away rather than walk four miles in the baking heat. There was no particular reason to go there except for the fact that it would be a new place to explore. The bus arrived at the road bridge just after midday, we boarded and paid the fare. The driver looked a little puzzled and questioned if we really meant to go to Brackley. The bus is a local one and most of the stops are request stops although the driver seemed to know all of the passengers and where they would be getting off. We passed through Kings Sutton, then the village of Charlton before arriving in Aynho. The driver stopped the bus and came to speak to us, explaining that although the service ran all day shuttling between Banbury and Brackley, this run turned around at Aynho.

The driver told us that he only did the lunchtime run and that he’d never picked up anyone from Twyford Wharf who had wanted to go to Brackley – well he wouldn’t, would he if he only drove the service as far as Ayno? I can’t really criticise, after all it was me who didn’t read the timetable properly! Anyway, he gave us three possible options, get off at Twyford, wait an hour and then get back on the bus. Stay on the bus and eventually get to Brackley via Banbury or just go to Banbury for the afternoon. We decided to go to Banbury – just for a change! It was alright though, we had lunch and a good walk around before getting the bus back to Twyford.

We saw Kings Sutton at least, pretty but not much there. We probably won’t ever get to Brackley but the driver assured us that there wasn’t much to see or do there anyway. In any case we had yet another lovely day in the May sunshine.

Sniper on the roof!

OK well not actually a sniper but a Snipe 2 satellite dish. When we bought Caxton there was a single feed (LNB) satellite dish mounted on the rear bulkhead which worked very well feeding a signal to a receiver inside. At home we ditched Sky a number of years ago and bought a Humax Freesat HD receiver / recorder. It seemed to make sense to move the Humax  on board and upgrade the dish to a twin LNB which is needed to provide the ability to watch one channel and record another at the same time. We don’t really watch a lot of television and what we do watch tends to be recorded so that we can watch when it suits us and of course adverts can be skipped too. We don’t follow the soaps either so we don’t have to slavishly watch day after day either.

I decided to really go for the upgrade and get a self seeking satellite dish to save any messing around with alignment when we moored in a new area. There are a number of options out there but I chose the Snipe after consulting with Caxton’s original owner. Joe fitted one to his current boat and assured me that it was a worthwhile purchase. The Snipe isn’t cheap, around £730 in this country but I bought mine from a German Ebay seller for £620.

The Snipe 2 control box displays the selected satellite.

Installation was straightforward although a little time consuming. The first thing to do is to attach the mounting plate to the roof, I chose to stick it down with a silicon gasket sealant rather than to drill and bolt it. Next I drilled a hole in the roof before feeding the cables into the electrical cupboard below. The Snipe kit includes a cable entry box to give a weatherproof cover for the cable. I left the silicon to cure overnight before resuming the installation.

The snipe has three coaxial cables, two which carry the signal to the receiver and a third which connects to the control unit. The cables are very thin which is great in the sense that they take up very little room but it means that they are difficult to push through confined spaces. I already new that the signal cables were long enough to reach the receiver and the controller was going to be mounted in the cupboard so there was only the small matter of routing the two signal cables.

What a nightmare!

First of all I had to break a piece of plywood which was boxing in pipes and cables across the rear bulkhead. The right angle under a cupboard wasn’t too bad using a piece of conduit to pull the cables through. I pulled the fridge out to pull through and then fed the cables into the cupboard under the sink. So far so good but then it all became really difficult.

Now if you’re the sort of person who thinks that narrowboat living should be a simplistic affair, look away now!

The next obstacle to overcome was the tumble drier, no problem I thought until I attempted to pull it out of its space. There isn’t enough room! It must have been positioned before either the worktop went on or the units opposite were put in place. Whatever the case, there wasn’t enough room to get it out and gain access to the back. With the next unit being a dishwasher – yes, a dishwasher! – I was facing a major difficulty. Fortunately the existing aerial cable lies in the same channel so I thought that there should be a way to pull the cables through. I taped a spare piece of wire to the existing cable and pulled towards the back of the boat. Once the end appeared under the sink cupboard, I disconnected it and taped it to the end of the snipe cable and pulled it forward. It got stuck, presumably in the bulkhead between both of the appliances. I attempted the move four or five times before giving up and heading off to Maplin. I figured that the only choice was to cut the existing two coaxial cables in the cupboard under the sink, terminate them and attach the cables from the Snipe. After returning from Maplin in Nuneaton, I attempted to pull the cable back but it was stuck and wouldn’t move in either direction. Now i was fearful of breaking the cable or pulling the plug off the end since it is not a standard thickness cable. It didn’t help that I had to keep climbing past or over the tumble drier which sat half way across the galley. Suddenly, the cable was free and I assumed that the tape securing the cables had given way but as i pulled the coax forward, the Snipe cable came with it. I had achieved what I had set out to do and my trip to Maplin had been needless. I figured then that if I could get one cable through, I could get the second through and sure enough, twenty minutes later, both cables were in place. All that remained was to bolt the dish to the mounting plate, attach the cables and connect the controller to a 12 volt power supply. Since the controller sits inside the electrical cupboard, that was one of the easier parts of the installation.

Was it worth it? Absolutely! One button on the controller provides the power and gives a choice of satellites starting with the last one tuned to. Another button press activates the GPS controlled dish which then points, in our case, to the Astra 2 satellite. When it’s time to move on, another button press moves the dish back to a flat parked position.

So far we’ve only tried the dish in two locations and we know that it still relies on “line of sight” to work but it’s a convenience thing rather than a necessity. Having said that, it is a magnificent gadget to see in action!

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