Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Another long weekend – rain stopped play

Tuesday 28th May

Today is the day we understood our need to have plenty of drying capacity on board. Graham woke up in a soggyWestport lake bed! Not his age but a leak in the window above, so a duvet cover, sheet and mattress cover to dry out. Then we added two sets of wet weather togs, hats, shoes and other sundry wet clothes to drip. I feel sorry for those boaters who have paid good money and used well earned holiday time to hire boats in this weather. We wondered if the “we are doing 8 hours cruising each day” crew have mutinied yet? As for the guy working locks wearing an ‘olde school’ 70’s cagoule and flip-flops, cos he hadn’t brought the right clothes for his oh so English holiday .  .  .  .  .

Having spent a pleasant evening with Terry and Christine last night, we awoke to wave them farewell out of the window as they wanted to get through Stoke locks before the rain got too bad. We then set off at 9am and made our way to Harecastle tunnel where we had just enough time to fill the watertank before being allowed through. It was a pleasant treat to find the inside of a tunnel much drier than outside. We passed through solo to find four boats waiting to enter  at the north end when we emerged into the rain again.We're staying put.

We then set off down the locks known as “Heart Break Hill” until we became totally sodden by the constant rain and decided to pull over for lunch. We’re still there and have no intention to move any further until the weather improves.



Monday, May 27, 2013

Another long weekend–another beer festival missed.

Monday 27th May

Some towns are hard to leave, but Stone proved better than usual due to the number of boats moving in both directions. It made every lock so much missed againeasier. I was saddened to find that I have missed yet another beer festival by several weeks.

Today’s good deed was a bit of pill peddling. At bridge 101 we managed to strike a southbound boat as we both tried to pass a boat moored against the piling in the entrance of the bridge. The crew on the moored boat were distressed, a disc had been slipped and no para-profen type drugs. My family take the mickey because I always keep a full first-aid kit but they are the first to offer pharmaceuticals from it to the suffering. Once we had reversed and handed over a box of Ibruprofen we continued north meeting very little southbound traffic.

Once we had cleared the Stoke flight we moored up just past festival park so that I could wander over the canal to the Wedgewood – Royal Doulton outlet shop. So many lovely pieces, but not WorkingBoat2a lifestyle between us, so I bought nowt. What really tempted me was a holiday souvenir; a black Jaspar wall plate, only £2, for the Cayman Islands. Too daft a thought even for me.

The promised rain started as we moved on towards West Port lake so we were pleased to moor early because we are meeting up with Terry & Christine (nb Grace) there this evening.

As we cruised through the 6 towns it is plain to see how times have changed. Through our canalling years we have watched factories close, buildings decay, the flora and fauna take over and then sites are cleared and new industry is established. A lot of heritage is lost, but bottle kilns are still present and folk need jobs. Hey ho!



Sunday, May 26, 2013

Another long weekend–Sunday is bathday

Sunday 26th May

I was up and en-route to Alvecote on the Di Blasi at 6am this morning. I No Crayfishthen moved the car to Stone and returned back to Jannock just in time for a cooked breakfast. There was nothing at all Geesein the crayfish net when I recovered it from the river Trent, I wonder if it was due to the number of geese here?


We set off towards Colwich lock, at about 10am, where we were fourth in the queue to ascend. Haywood lock was relatively easy with just one boat entering in front of us as we arrived. After that came Hoo Mill lock where we were seventh in line. After about 3/4 of an hour waiting, the boat in front of us gave up and turned to return to Great Heywood. SheepThey were supposed to be on a training trip on their new boat and decided that they already knew how to queue. By the time we’d made it to the front of the queue we counted nine boats waiting behind us. Every lock after that had one boat waiting to enter as we arrived.

Once we had passed through Weston lock I went inside and had a shower leaving Brenda at the helm. When I had finished we changed positions and she went into the bathroom. It was then that I happened across a loose boat blocking the canal. No sign of life aboard and the mooring ropes had piling hooks still attached. I nosed Jannock around the obstacle and then decided to take it in tow and affix it to the piling about 300m away. All this manoeuvring attracted Brenda’s attention and she appeared on the back deck to help wearing a bathrobe, a towel around her hair and a pair of stout trainers. Not the best of boating fashion.

Rescued BoatOnce the rogue boat was firmly re-attached to the bank we continued on towards Aston lock where we met a southbound Anderson hireboat whose crew were determined to complete the Four Counties ring in 1 week. I hope they do not encounter lock queues like we’ve had today (or need any shopping etc.) otherwise they’ll be running long days on the Shroppie.

We moored for the night on the 48 hour moorings below Star lock in Stone. After dinner it was nice to have a visit from our friend Ian (aka Norman)



Saturday, May 25, 2013

Another long weekend–wake up and smell the Lilac

Saturday 25th May

We awoke to a much better day today. Graham was up and off by 08:45 while I languished in bed. We had an uneventful cruise up the Birmingham Big broodand Fazeley canal, passing this enormous brood of at least 20 ducklings en-route, to Fradley junction where we pulled over and filled with water just before the swing bridge. The chap on the boat in front was upset being moored on a water point as he had completed his fill and was about to set off when his cat, who had been carefully contained for the process, snuck out and hightailed it down the towpath and into a field. Kitty would not be called so chap wandered off to the shop and returned with 4 pints of milk. Kitty hopped out of the hedge and onto the boat. The problem was obviously a milk shortage.

I negotiated the swing bridge and the ShadeHouseLockjunction with ease and grace but no-one was watching – shame! (actually it was easy cos there were no other boats manoeuvring there despite a steady flow through the locks) Up through the locks, all made easier by the volunteer lockies, and onward towards Armitage.

We popped into Rugeley for provisions. Graham found lots of beer making goodies but only bought some brewing sugar for his next brew, but I then gained Brownie Points by finding some ‘non-honeymonstered’ puffed wheat. Answers on a postcard .  .  .  .  .  . 

We left for the short haul past the Taft, still in lovely sunshine, to moor Bishton Hallopposite Bishtom Hall. A peaceful spot by the River Trent where Graham spotted a lovely large Pike resting in the shallows, whilst trying to find a place to set the Crayfish net tonight. Supper of roast beef, oven roasted vegetables and Mr Morrison’s own lemon meringue pie, all washed down with home made Strawberry cider, was taken to the sound of woodland song birds.



Friday, May 24, 2013

Another long weekend–day 1

Friday 24th May

We arrived at the boat late yesterday (Thursday) afternoon and settled in before wandering across to the Samuel Barlow opposite for our evening meal. No frills good food served in a friendly atmosphere (and they even let me park the car there until I return to  collect it)

It turns out that the Chef/Manager Paul weatheroriginates from Oz but managed to live and learn his current trade in our home town, Thame, at a now defunct pub where we used to partake of a lemonade (or beer ;^) after a country walk when the boys were smaller. Ah, the Royal Oak at Moreton.

It must be the start of another bank holiday weekend as the weather is foul. Junction marker plaqueI didn’t want to set off in it this morning and so I pottered doing a few little jobs whilst Brenda managed to finish the book that she’d brought along to read over the weekend. She also made her first ever bit of Kumihimo as well. We finally upped pegs and set off at 2pm. By 3:30 Brenda’s fingers were numb and it was chucking it down again so being asked to go inside and make a brew was a pleasure for her.

As we came through Hopwas I noticed posters up advertising the Hopwas Beer Festival so we stopped to check the date. Shame cos it’s next weekend, Thursday through to Saturday 30th TV aerial mast obove treesMay to 1st June. If you are in the area it sounds as if it should be good.

We finally moored up at Whittington, adjacent to the plaque marking the junction between the Coventry and Birmingham and Fazely canals, in gale force winds and then glorious sunshine broke through the clouds to warm the cabin up for the evening. No problems with aligning the TV aerial tonight.



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Well they never predicted this lot.

Saturday 11th May

21 degrees last Tuesday. Nudging 11 degrees today, with very gusty winds and accompanying showers. Don’t you just love British summertime.

We drove up to Hartshill and were pleased to find an empty Bluebell Wood parking space in the car park. Loaded Jannock and then set off towards Atherstone. The wind was very gusty causing the occasional issue with navigation when we slowed down to pass moored boats. The bluebell woods looked glorious on the offside. About 1/4 of a mile from Atherstone there is a sunken cruiser on a bend. It does not appear to be tied to the bank although there is plenty of Orange tape draped on steel posts on the towpath beside it. As you approach it drifts towards the centre of the cut forcing you right across to the offside where it’s quite shallow.  Once past this obstacle we pulled over above the Atherstone flight and had lunch before tackling the locks. We certainly needed the sustenance.

When the sun came out we upped pegs and set off towards the flight. Atherstone top lock always used to cheer the spirit of boaters and walkers alike as it possessed a notice board that was the fount of all knowledge, most of it silly. Wise words and scatological ditties were to be found there. Most importantly it always told you how many days were left until Christmas. All for the want of a lock keeper.

Once we were in the top lock it was not so much Round the Horne as around the horn. We fought the wind all the way, the rain fair stung our faces at times. The flight was quite busy and so plenty of slow speed PhyllisMayIImanoeuvring was called for. Some of it successful. I was using the bike to set the next lock whilst we worked through the last. The single-hander in front of us had a volunteer lockie working him down. When we passed through the 5th lock both lockies were sat in the hut eating their fish and chip lunches.  Then I found myself assisting the single-hander in front of us.

Once through the flight I decided the weather was so bad that we would moor up opposite Grendon Dock and wait for it to improve before continuing towards Polesworth. After a refreshing cup (or two) of tea and some dry clothes the sun appeared again so we continued our journey. By 4:45 we had moored on the north side of Polesworth just as the wind and rain set in again. We were on the end of the moorings immediately behind Phyllis May II, the legendary Darlingtons and narrow dogs.

Sunday 12th MayFootmark

Last night, after we had gone to bed, a very noisy group a pi$$ed  youths came along the towpath being very  argumentative. I was roused from my dozing and prepared myself to get up when there was a very loud thump against Jannock. There was no evidence of anything being Ducksbroken and they continued walking and arguing on their way and so I returned to my bed and waited for the morning to see what had been thrown at us. In the morning it became apparent  that one of said youths had booted the side of our boat and left a lovely footprint but no other damage. I hope it hurt him!

In blue skies and a north wind we completed our shortest cruising day ever. Just enough sun to raise our vitamin D and lower our blood pressure a tad. Brenda spotted this duck family on the towpath as we approached the bridge at Alvecote but unfortunately the male took flight and ruined the group photo. We moored up and left Jannock before midday as there were things to do and places to go.


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Oh what a day!

Tuesday 7th May

Hurrah – Brenda wasn’t cold at all last night. We haven’t put the central heating on at all this trip so most nights 4:30am felt a bit chill, but not last night!

Charity Dock A very pleasant mornings cruise in warm sunshine was peacefully un-eventful. However we did take a broadside from another boat. They came past us far too fast whilst we were still moored up at Hawksbury but surprisingly they were going far too slow for anyone's tastes or needs by the time we caught up with them near Nuneaton. When the going was suitable I pulled closer and asked to overtake. They agreed but wanted us to take the ‘wrong side’, i.e. pass to starboard, which would have been fine had they moved over a bit more to allow sufficient room for the manoeuvre. Consequently they gave us a heft clout with their front end as our backend passed them. Paint was lost – boating truly is a contact sport. Later in the day they again passed us moored at our destination at warp factor 2 but then cut the engine to achieve ‘no steering capability’ as they approached a water point and adjacent bridgehole. Much revving and manoeuvring finally got them watered up before they set off at speed again.

Whilst I was pumping out our black-water tank at Braunston last Sunday we got talking to another Cutweb member to whom I had sold a previous Di Blasi. He said he’d had little trouble apart from having a drive belt break once. I commented that I had never experienced that problem – well I hadn’t then! Twenty miles intoDi Blasi - mine's Blue the journey to fetch the car from Hillmorton the drive belt on my Di Blasi decided it was fed up with being a continual loop and wanted to be free. This was on a dual carriageway section of the A5. I pushed it about 1/2 mile to find a safe haven from where I could recover it later whilst being harassed by very fast lorries, vans and cars. I then folded it down and padlocked the bike and my crash helmet to a suitably secure road sign, and hoping that it would not be stolen I then walked a further 5 miles down the A5 to the car in the blazing sun. No shade or offers of lifts on the A5 – shame. In hindsight maybe I should have kept my crash helmet with me as several solo motorcycle passed whilst I was walking. I finally arrived back at Hillmorton about a hour late and feeling very hot and sweaty – thank goodness for vehicular air-conditioning. Back to the traffic sign to collect the Di Blasi and then back to Jannock where Brenda had a cup of hot tea and my dinner waiting for me.

We then off loaded our stuff into the car, washed up and headed home. I was supposed to be working night shift that evening but luckily a telephone call was received at 18:05 telling me that the job had been cancelled due to technical issues and so I was able to had a good night’s sleep to recover from the enforced route march.


Monday, May 06, 2013

A day of Threes

Monday 6th May

The sunshine that Matt and Ali brought with them last evening has endured – hooray! We pulled offBridge 80 looking like new of our peaceful overnight mooring and found ourselves following nb Trafalgar (Portsmouth) out of Calcutt, which we believe is a navy boat. They were all over the canal as every time something caught the steerers attention then the boat started heading towards the opposite bank. The repaired bridges (80 & 79) near Barby Hill are both looking good now. At Hillmorton they decided to wait for the nearside lock to be used so that they could refill it for their use while offering us the offside lock that was ready. Result! We flew down the flight with no delays at all. Meanwhile Trafalgar insisted on only using nearside locks and so a hireboat crewed youths managed to overtake them as well. Brenda referred to them as HMS Navylark. Trafalgar – Troutbridge. Not a lot of difference.

On through Rugby, past All Oaks Wood and on to Stretton Stop where I managed to hop off the boat, fetch some milk from the shop and get the swingbridge open before she had managed to steer Jannock through the melee’ of hireboats on a changeover day.

New ponds at Tusses bridgeAs we approached Tusses bridge we noticed that new duck ponds have appeared in the fields either side of the canal. I hope these are due to a high water table and not the canal leaking. At Stretton Stop two cruisers were waiting to ascend just where I wanted to swing the stern in order to get round the turn. The second one pulled out to enter the lock but then quickly changed his mind when he spotted Jannock’s back end rapidly approaching him sideways.

We moored for the night and within 25 minutes I had applied another coat of varnish to the back seat and mended my glasses by making a tiny screwdriver from a bradawl whilst Brenda had showered and got a roast lamb dinner to the table. Isn’t a slow cooker a wonderful item of boats inventory.

As for the threes :-

Three Cutweb boats passed – Vida Nueva, Cartref and Miss Heliotrope

Three motorways passed under – M45, M69 and M6

Three locks at Hill Morton

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Braunston on a bank holiday

Sunday 5th May

I was up and out at 7am to fetch the car from Cosgrove. The wonderful sunny morning at Welton was soon replaced by fog south of Towcester. Once back on Jannock I enjoyed a nice bowl of porridge for breakfast before we set off towards Braunston tunnel. This was really dry inside compared with the the Blisworth boat-wash yesterday. Once out the otherside we had our best ever run down the Braunston fight after a quick chat with the Minimo crew who were moored above the top lock. Down through a very busy Braunston until we found a mooring free outside the Boathouse where we were meeting Ken Kroeker for Sunday lunch. After an excellent meal we moved Jannock IMGP3650down to the turn to wind around before returning right-sided to the sani-station to perform a pumpout. As we arrived a hire boat was just vacating the sani-station mooring. A lady who was emptying a cassette there told us that the hire boat crew had been eating their lunch there using the walls and hatch as somewhere to rest their picnic upon. They must have been either illiterate or very stupid indeed. I pumped out Jannock’s tank and filled up with water while Brenda walked the rubbish down to the skips at the Stop House. We then winded again in the marina entrance, waved farewell to the newly painted and re-named Prairie Crocus and continued on our journey North. Matt and Ali rang and wanted to come and see us so we arranged to meet them at Willoughby wharf.

A stag crew, wearing the obligatory silly hats, stripy pirate tops and/or women’s clothing were in front of us as we left Braunston. They were fairly well mashed. Not knowing the canalscape they kept running aground on the shallow insides of the bends. We were tutting like mad! They seemed to be leaving a trail of bottles and cans floating in the canal. Then we saw them pulled up onto the towpath yelling at us as we approached. Tut tut Swan1tut. Could we rescue something from the water for them? Tut. It was a food package blown off of their roof by the wind as they prepared ham rolls for tea. They apologised, albeit rather drunkenly, explaining that they didn’t want to litter the place. Sorry guys, we misjudged you. The bottles and cans were someone else’s and your manners were impeccable.

I managed to re-varnish the back seat and fit a cooker lid retaining bolt before they arrived and we spent a very pleasant evening bathed in sunshine and birdsong.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Who predicted rainstorms

Saturday 4th May

Issue of the day – Yoof groups with leaders/crew who seemed to have little idea of what to do canal-wise whilst in charge of and even instructing children. Hhmmmmmmmm.

Working PairFor no other reason than we need to calibrate the new oven, we had chocolate croissants for breakfast. On that same note I will need to bake us a cake.

Through Blisworth tunnel to the resounding melodies and harmonies of Bellowhead played loud on the stereo. If Brian were here it would have been Jerusalem and the Dambusters. As we emerged at the northern end we met nb Minnehaha southbound. Sadness and so many happy memories of Bill.

It was all going well so Brenda Cat & Monkey have been at the beerdecided to take a shower. The bag which was still fragrant with last nights fish and chips was secured (enough for the wind conditions of the moment) to the cratch as she needed the bath-space. At the point she was wettest and soapiest the wind turned to gale force. The coolbag decided to take a swim and I noticed it floating past, hard reverse and ended up pinned against the piling by the wind. I stepped off and fetched the bag back but then was unable to un-stick Jannock from the magnetic piling. Brenda assumed all the engine noise etc. was me taking avoiding action from southbound boats at bridge-holes. Wrong! The light dawned and she dressed and came topside to get the worlds worst blow dry ever! I ended up taking the boat pole and pushing Jannock off whilst Brenda drove. I then ended up having a long walk along the towpath carrying the pole until we found a sheltered spot so that I could get back aboard. Remedial action was required to restore Brenda’s hair sanity , oh, and a cup of tea.

When the first rainstorm appeared we decided to moor up just past Bugbrooke for lunch. Whilst we were eating nb Limelight passed us by. Once we had finished lunch we set off again just in time for the second downpour during which we passed nb Limelight moored up for their lunch. On through Weedon with a constant flow of southbound traffic to be met at every bridgehole.Floating arbour

The boat with a bush in it that Brenda included in her Crepe Craft 2013 calendar has been got at by someone - it is now a floating arbour as opposed to a floating harbour.

We were on our own when we arrived at Buckby bottom lock so we sat in the empty lock awaiting someone to share with because we could see three boats approaching in the distance. The first stopped at Whilton marina diesel point, the second turned into the marina and the third moored up on the 14 day moorings so we set off up the flight solo as there were a pair of boats waiting to descend through the lock. We heard lots of tales about a long queue for lock 10 as there had been a stoppage there earlier in the day due to someone lifting a gate out of it’s socket. When we arrived there only one boat was left and so we shared the rest of the flight with them. Past Norton Junction we found Nackered Navvie moored up with no one apparently on board. We moved on through the next bridge before mooring for the night in the peaceful countryside.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Spring is Sprung

Friday 3rd May

We took on vittels at Bicester Lidl IMGP3639en-route to Cosgrove and then moved Jannock up above the lock in order to load them on. The lovely warm day cooled rapidly as a few clouds heralded a chill breeze. But considering past bank holidays – Ssssssssssssssh don’t tell the weather or it will rain.

At Yardley Gobion the crew from nb Limelight were just untying having visited the pub for lunch and as we passed they agreed to share the Stoke Bruerne flight with us. Limelight is one of the Aylesbury boats that was recently craned out of the basin and back into the G.U. at Willowbridge marina. We happily worked up the flight as if abreast and made good time. We decided to moor in the pre-tunnel cutting at S.B. for the night and so had time for a walk over the tunnel and back to the village. A little fish and chip van drove past us. Oh the enticing smell, and us with empty tums. As we walked along the towpath back to the boat we heard and old school bell clanging and realised that the chip-van had returned – kismet – and there is a tin of mushy peas on board! Ships bike was pressed into action to fetch fish and chips with the planned dinner being consigned to the fridge for tomorrow.

IMG_0052If you happen to be in Stoke Bruerne on a Friday night, just before 6 pm, you can get excellent well cooked fish in a light crispy batter and chips from the bottom of the museum car park. It’s one of three stops in the village. They were all washed down with an excellent pint (or two) of Vale Breweries latest special “One Ton Morris”.

It’s a nice mooring here, all we can hear are the birds.