Thursday, June 30, 2016

McBoating on Sonya-Day #13

30th June 2016

An early rise this morning as we had to be at lock 16 at 9am to meet todays locking DSCF2271crew. As I was making our early morning tea I spotted a kingfisher had perched on the bow rope of the boat moored in front of us. It watched the water and then dived down to take a fish and bring it back onto the rope perch to eat. It then started scanning the water again. I awoke Brenda and we both took as many pictures as we could beofre it flew off. Pity we couldn’t get any shots that were not through the front windows.

IMG_2541We set off and arrived at lock 16 to find that we were in the capable hands of four Re-Union volunteers for our journey down the thirteen locks to visit the Kelpies. As we passed down the flight it is obvious what work was undertaken to make this canal re-navigable. You come to a new lock, identifyable by concrete walls and stainless steel fittings, rather than the usual cast iron, which takes you under a road bridge. You then pass through the gate-less original lock the other side of the bridge.

Partly due to the changes in lock contruction and also not being able to see whereIMG_2539 the cill is because of the amount of water cascading over the top gates, today I did a first and ‘cilled’ the rudder. This dislodged the bottom of the rudder post out of the lower bearing before we slid off of the cill. I thought I had managed to refit it OK whilst still in the lock because the rudder moved correctly again and I was able to steer down the rest of the flight. But on arrival at our Kelpie mooring the water was so clear that I could see it was still not seated properly so I had to refit it again. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are it is still easy to get caught out.

IMG_2552When our volunteers tried to access the Re-Union boat in the basin to have their break, they found that they had been given the wrong set of keys so we hosted them for a cuppa on Sonya. Once they hadIMGP4774 finished and set off up the flight with another boat, we lunched and showered before going for a walk to explore the Kelpies and the new Helix link to the River Carron.

IMG_2551We are now awaiting it getting dark so that we can see the Kelpies lit up at night time. It’s going to be a late night tonight as it doesn’t get dark up here until about 11pm (and now it’s started raining again at 9:50pm :).


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

un-McBoating on Sonya-Day #12

Wednesday 29th June 2016

Today we had a holiday from our holiday. We left Sonya on her moorings and went out in the car to explore the Golf Coast.

First stop was Portobello a seaside location three miles from Edinburgh, which hasIMG_2518 been on Brenda’s wish list since we started planning this trip. It was here that she finally managed to find the sea and the beach together at the same location. What a super place, the beach was lovely and full of children playing and dogs digging holes and fetching balls. A municiple snadcastle make was being held. A lady with her ID card around her neck and a tablet to take name, rank and number was busy rounding up any child under seven and herding them to sandcastle central. As we left Icecreams were being doled out as their reward. Lovely to see.

IMG_2520Just off the beach we saw two lovely kilns, a surfeit of clay led to pottery and bricks being industries way-back in the area. Time for a cuppa, we went into a very yummy-mummy-organic- free from- homemade and natural tea shop and restaurant. There was so much fuss and bother going on with no service obvious that after a few minutes waiting we gave up and went to the “Espy” (or Esplanade Bar and Restaurant) nearby. Much cheaper tea, nothing was too much hastle, the lunches smelt good and what a fun interior. Try it!

I’d love to own a flat on the front at Portobello – I know just the one ;^)

In the rain we set off towards Musselbrough – to see the fishing port. The tide wasIMGP4737 out but we sat in the car, watching the beach and eating our pre-packed lunch whilst avoiding the rain – just like pensioners. Good to get some practice in before we need it. We then drove towards North Berwick along the Golf Coast Road. We then turned about and stopped at the Scottish Industrial Museum at Prestongrange. Over the centuries there was coal mining, salt making, glass, IMGP4742pottery and brick making on this site. It was a pleasant walk around the site where nature is slowly encroaching   upon the few bits and pieces, but worth a visit. A more child friendly museum we have never come across, just go there to use the space hoppers, play swingball or do colouring whilst mum and dad have a cuppa.

As we drove through Prestonpans we saw some of the murals painted on exterior walls. They are mostly historic, all interesting and skilled. Another visit to Musselbrough on the way home to buy some fresIMGP4748h fish for tea. Both the staff who served us and prepped the fish were Thai. So it seemed a good idea to get some Thai style filo prawns & crab fishcakes for our starter plus the freshest ever trout for our mains. Yum.

Back at Sonya and after dinner the rain finally stopped so we went off in search of the Antonine wall and Rough Castle Roman fort. A very pleasant, if slightly soggy underfoot, walk through deciduous woods took us to the edge of the Roman empire, where they gave up and went home to Belgium from here it seems. More Asterix than Caeser.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

McBoating on Sonya-Day #11

Tuesday 28th June 2016

I am fed up with being cold! I packed the usual {canaling} selection of clothes, a bit of everything to layer up as needed. It’s been so chill thatIMG_2511 the light clothes all stay in the cupboard, the warm clothes are all worn – at once! I just wish that I had brought winter tights for under my trousers.  brrrrr!

We slipped our really peaceful, remote, overnight IMG_2512mooring just as the Aussies we’ve been travelling with approached. The sorry sight of a fire damaged lockside premises even shows how the UPVC window frames were badly distorted by the heat of the fire. We ran on downIMG_2514 through the locks and bridges which saw us back at the Falkirk wheel basin just as the rain began.

Graham had volunteered to take the Aussies to their hotel at Glasgow airport ready for their onward journey to their Baltic Cruise Ship – what a change that’ll be after a wet ten days on a canal boat. Having already been to Aberdeen I suspect the organisation of that trip would be beyond us.

On his return to the boat we had a quick lunch before setting out in the car to explore. We’s seen a small advert on a free map for a pub with a micro brewery. Off to Corbiehall at Bo’ness. We found the pub and asked about the brewery. We were told that it must be open for visitors as the brewers van was still parked in the carpark. It turned out that the pub and microbrewery were separate businesses.

IMGP4716Stuart the brewer and John, his assistant, were happy to show G the brewhouse and talk tips and techniques. Stuart told us of his brewing journey. Like G is has been inventive in making his own bits and pieces to solve brewing problems. We all reckoned that brewers need to be engineers as well as chemists. Having brought some ‘samples’ we headed off.

One of the volunteers, working in the dry dock next to our mooring at Falkirk, had recommended a supper stop so it was off to the Canada Wood kitchen and bar. It isIMGP4720 in Lochgreen Road, Falkirk. I say Falkirk but it’s above the town and set in a very pretty wooded area. There’s a cycle hire shack there and walkers were limbering up for a pole assisted yomp in the raqin as we left.

We enjoyed a good meal in lovely surroundings, we went without dessert, just had cake instead. We’d also planned to walk up to the Antonine wall this evening, but rain stopped our history walk.


Monday, June 27, 2016

McBoating on Sonya-Day #10

Monday 27th june 2016

We had a lazy start this morning as we were booked for the 11:30 bridge lifting.IMG_2503 Obviously the Police Scotland Marine Search rib can get in and out without the bridges being lifted as they paid us a visit just after breakfast.

Once released from Spiers Wharf we made our way to Stockingfield Junction, avoiding the Partick Thistle lagoon (no fisherment today so no fun) before turning right back towards Falkirk. The Aussies on nb Gosling were in front but Sonya naturally cruises at a slightly higher speed than them so Brenda overtook them on the straight just after Lambhill bridge.

I was then despatched to prepare lunch to I prepared the non-traditional meal IMG_2507of scotch pies and salad followed by a medley of fruit cake and fig rolls. We stopped at Kirkintilloch for a re-provisioning visit to Sainsburys. We then moved on to Hillhead Bridge where we were joined by Gosling and a Marine Cruises hireboat to wait for the Scottish Canals staff to open the bridge for our 3pm booking. Even though all three boats were there waiting in full view, they sat in their van until 3pm before they opened the bridge to let us pass through.

At Twechar bridge we all waited again for a few minutes until they arrived to open that one as well. The requirement to pre-book lock and bridge passages 24hours in advance is the biggest problem with cruising the lowland canals as it restricts your ability to linger in one place or not bother stopping at another. I understand the requirement as it allows manning levels to be predicted and makes arranging the necessary staffing manageable but the need to be able predict when you are likely to be where must be very difficult for newcomers to these canals. I am sure that if we visited here again our cruising plan would be very different.

Once through Twechar bridge we moved on to Auchinstarry marina where we pulled over to empty our rubbish bin. The other two boats were stopping here for the night but we continued on for another half hour before stopping on a lone pontoon that I had spotted out in the middle of nowhere last Thursday.


The pictures below show the views to port, starboard and full ahead from Sonya’s front well deck. Wonderful – and located in an SSSi as well.





Dinner had been cooking for most of the day whilst we travelled, The £2.52p Brisket of BeefIMGP4706 from Tesco, cooked with carrots and barley. This local delicacy was accompanied by a fine Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenere provided by my work mate John when he visited us last Saturday.

Quote of the evening was made by Brenda adopting a silly Dr Findlay-ish Janet voice “at the end of a good meal you can always store your left over barley in aIMG_2509 buttter-dish” - not a lot you can add to that. It must have been the wine talking. Whilst dining we spotted a rainbow out of the window, the picture of which has a reflection of the opposite window in it – enjoy.

Good telly signal here so that’ll keep Brenda happy – sewing bee is on tonight.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

McBoating on Sonya-Day #9

Sunday 26th June 2016

We left our mooring in Bowling, a one horse village if ever there was one, at 8:45 this morning in order to meet the Scottish Canals team at the Bascule bridge at 9DSCF2255 o’clock. We can only imagine the noise, smell and industry that parented this little place when ships were born alongside this part of the Clyde, and moved goods and people across the world. Graham fell in love with this ‘mini’ Puffer moored there. The Aussies on nb Gosling a little way behind us so we sat on the landing and chatted to today’s duty crew until they arrived. Eddie was there, he was with us yesterday but we only have two guys today, not four like yesterday. As we passed through Farm Road bridge the guys were hinting about a hot drink, and knowing that the drop lock was likely to take 40 minutes Brenda put the kettle on whilst I took their orders.

DSCF2259On into Clydebank shopping centre and it’s two lift bridges. Once these were negotiated we had to stop at the ‘sail through’ chip shop to obtain our lunch, a bucket list item if you have a bucket list. A large portion of chips was not cheap and then Brenda put them into the oven to keep warm. unfortunately it was a long time till we stopped and so our chip butties were not as good as we hoped they’d be.

When we passed some flats yesterday we’d observed a swan bashing the patio doorDSCF2256 glass with his beak. We thought he might be fighting his shadow but he was doing it again today. Having had no response he then moved on to the next set of patio doors. Obviously he does this for food.

By now the rain had set in, and it remained with us until we cleared Maryhill top lock. In one of the Clobberhill locks I found a football floating near the bottom gate so I rescued it and sat it in the life ring on the rear hatch. We stopped above Temple locks so that the Canals guys could have a cup of tea in their Bothy, we were still finishing our lunch when they were ready to go again so it was back into the wet garments and back to the locks.

IMG_2497Maryhill bottom lock is the deepest in these parts and it was also where many prisoners took leave of land in the British isles. Maryhill was a military and prison area. Prisoners were put into boats to travel to the Clyde and their waiting prison ships from here. They would hope that they were the last to board and that the weather was set fair or they could spend months waiting for the ship to fill or weather to improve before sailing for …. Australia.

We were ably assisted up the Maryhill flight by the addition of two more Canals staff and four volunteer lockies, all cheerful even though the weather was far fromDSCF2260 pleasant. Out of the top lock and we bade farewell to the volunteers. Our Canals guys would open the two bridges in order for us to moor for the night in Spiers Wharf. On the way there Graham took us on a little detour through the lagoon outside Partick Thistle football stadium. We had checked that it was navigable, indeed there are even mooring pontoons there. There were also some very surprised fishermen who flapped a bit. To our surprise, they were not rude to us for interupting their fishing spot, they just said that boats were never seen in there.

Just past last Friday night's mooring spot, two little ‘erberts were walking along the towpath full of whys and hows. They asked whose football we had, the second set of kids to do so since I fished it out of the lock, very strange. Brenda offered the football to them and they were very pleased to accept, just wondering where we’d got it from.

IMGP4703As we entered Spiers wharf, we were following another hireboat which ran aground. I suggested they use reverse to get some water under the hull but that was ignored. I also asked if they would like me to take a rope as we passed to pull them off the mud but that was refused as well so we continued on past them, winded and moored up. By the time nb Gosling was passing them they had decided that maybe a tow would be beneficial and once they were free one of the Canals guys assisted them to clear a whole load of black muddy weed from around their prop. When all three of us were happily tied up at the wharf the rain started again. Haggis Pakoras for starter this evening – they are really nice, shame Tescos don’t sell them darn sarf.

Graham & Brenda

Saturday, June 25, 2016

McBoating on Sonya-Day #8

Saturday 25th May 2016

Today was the end of week one and time to go to Bowling, where the Forth and Clyde canal meets the River Clyde, so we needed an early start.

8am and the first drama of the day, a seagull swooped into the basin and took a fish. Unfortunately the fish was bait on a fishermans line and the seagull became tangled up. The gull became distressed and the sky above immediately filled other gulls who started to dive bomb it, pecking at it. Talk about kick a man when he’s down! The fisherman and his mate fetched a large landing net and reeled the gull in to land it. IMG_2461Poor fisherman got clawed and pecked for their troubles whilst they tried to release the gull un-harmed. When they released it the flock returned and had another go at it, nasty creatures gulls.

Once this drama was played out, I reversed the boat out and winded in the basin so we could make our 9am rendezvous at Maryhill top lock. Once nb Gosling (crewed by the Aussies we met at Linlithgow last week) arrived we were off down the locks ably assisted by six Scottish Waterways staff plus eight volunteers. We soon fell into a routine with Sonya leading and Gosling following.

Near Great Western road bridges we spotted an urban Fox just curled up in a cosyIMG_2469 hollow in the undergrowth on the bank enjoying the Glasgow sunshine. Can you spot it in this picture? (Clue :- Just one ear clearly showing) It seems that few boats pass this way so it wasn’t surprising it didn’t try to hide, just looked puzzled as we passed. Then further on there were a group of terrapins basking in the sunshine between downpours. The clear water here must suit them well.

At Boghouse top lock we took on a cabin boy. A lad and his Gran were out for a walk. He was very interested in the boats and his Gran asked if he could come aboard. Of course! He was very nervouse about the step down into the front well-deck but finally joined Brenda there. He explained that he’d just done canals at school, he was nine, he’d never been to England and was probably the only one in his class who’d been on a canalboat. He got off at the next lock, spoke with Gran and then turned to ask if he could ride to the next lock as well. This time Brenda sent him down the back to experience the noisy end. As we finally bade farewell he tahnked us and said we’d made his day – he was so chuffed!

IMGP4696Onward to Clydebank shopping centre where there was a ‘sail through’ fish and chip shop. Based on a boat, it has a serving hatch canal side for passing boats to order, pay for and collect their fish and chips – genius. We’d have stopped to get some to heat up with our dinner later but were not sure how Gosling would cope with us suddenly stopping in front of them – normally the locking crew take a break here but we were running late due to the late start.

And then to Dalmuir drop lock. We were informed by the wonderful ScottishIMG_2474 Waterways locking team (now down to four as the volunteers stopped after Clobberhill locks) that it is the only one in the world. You enter, the water in the lock is pumped out so you drop to the lower level, you then move under the raod to the other side where water is allowed back in to take you back to canal level again. It takes approx 40 minutes to pass under this road. Apparently it can take up to one and a half hours for higher craft to pass through.

All together we transited eighteen locks and eight moveable bridges today, all operated by Scottich Waterways staff – brew breaks built in and usually a lunch stop at th F&C boat but not today as we had a delayed start.

IMG_2487Once into Bowling basin, the Scottish Waterways staff indicated which moorings we should take and assisted us by pulling on ropes to get us in there. I went and investigated the shower block and then used it to make myself presentsble again. We then went for a walk around the basin and the village including a vist to the local pub. Then back to the boat for dinner just as the heavens opened with a really heavy thunderstorm. We have been so lucky with the weather today considering it was forecast to rain all day. Lovely sunshine with occaisional showers all the way down.


Friday, June 24, 2016

McBoating on Sonya-Day #7

Friday 24th June 2016

We left Kirkintilloch at 9am expecting a wet morning’s travelling to Glasgow, as itIMG_2426 happened we have been spared most of the rain today. You do not realise that you are entering the environs of Glasgow until the last minute as the canal approach is very rural. Between our overnight moorings and the Glasgow road bridge we happened across a weed collecting boat busy gathering up all the loose weed and dumping it onto the offside bank. The driver kindly gave us a wave as we passed.

During passage of the stretch between Bishopbriggs and Glasgow we came across more horseflies than Ive ever seen before – our with the Deet spray to do my legs having killed three who were taking a meal from me. We made our way to the Scottish Waterways offices before Spiers Wharf as they advertise visitor moorings IMG_2428without needing to get the bridges lifted for access to the wharf proper. They were mostly full of non-overnight moorers leaving us just enough space to squeeze in before the bascule bridge. My work IMG_2435colleague John arrived and had lunch with us aboard before kindly offering to provide transport for us to get to the Riverside museum. A lovely museum, friendly, welcoming and inclusive. Scotland’s public museums are still IMG_2439free, it showed as there were families with small children just out for amusement – the learning is a side effect.

Having seen the bathroom on the tall ship Brenda is thinking about doing up Jannock’s bathroom.

We took the bus back into the city centre as we wanted to have a wander around. The driver was very good being both helpful to those not familiar with sterling as well as providing aIMG_2453 running commentary on the buildings and places we passed. After a couple of hours wandering around enjoying the wonderful architechture of the centuries we ended up in George Square just as a demo was gathering. It was an anti Donald IMGP4685Trump demo that got somewhat hijacked by the Scottish Independance MkII protestors – apparently they voted to remain in the EU whilst the UK “are dragging them out against their will”.

We ate in a wonderful Greek restaurant called Elia where all the staff spoke fluent Glaswegian as well as fluent Greek. We decided that this was the best Greek food we’ve had for a very long time and was better than some we’d had in Greece or Crete. Conveniently, this restaurant was right next door to the Counting House, a Wetherspoons pub that used to be RBS HQ, so it was inIMG_2457 for a nice pint after the meal.

Then back to Union Street to catch a bus back to the boat. We asked if the bus went to Maryhill and the driver said No. A bus inspector that we had collared earlier had said this was the bus we IMG_2451needed so we explained to the driver that we were heading towards Spiers Wharf and so that was OK. When we sat down a local got chatting to us and pointed out that if we stayed on the bus for another two stops we would end up nearer our boat. The driver called us when we got to the Spiers Wharf stop but we asked to stay on for another two and then explained what had happened as we got off. A quick walk up the hill brought to where Sonya was moored.

The only rain we had was while John was with us on the boat for lunch so we’ve been very lucky. Not so sure about tomorrow as we have got nineteen locks (including a ‘drop lock’ – never done one of those before) all the way down to Bowling where the canal meets the Clyde.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

McBoating on Sonya–Day #6

Thursday 23rd June 2016

Last night’s mooring, just below the Falkirk wheel, was a nice quiet location even though a railway line passes close by. The line is in a cutting and so the noise is not intrusive.

This morning we were due to meet our Scottish canals team at Bonnybridge at 10:00 and so I set us off just after 9am. We arrived a bit early so tied to the pontoon and it was only a few minutes before their van arrived. Ian came over and briefed us on the passage through the four locks and also comfirmed that our final destination for the day was Kirkintilloch.

IMG_2415As we arrived at Underwood (the top) lock our bicycle equipped locking team of three awaited our arrival. One of the guys had an electric assisted tri-cycle which Brenda quite liked the look of. Smoothly through that lock and we then came across a deer stood on the towpath. Luckily the Scottish canals crew, in van and on bicyclesIMG_2417 quickly slowed down so as not to frighten it. The passage through all four locks was quick with the top gates being left wide open ready for the boats that were going to pass back up the flight once we were down.

After that it was a long run through Dullatur Marsh which is an SSSI with a stretch of lovely wide straight canal bordered by a ridge of IMG_2421hills to the north. We arrived at Twechar Bridge (the next to be operated by Scottich Canals) and tied onto the landing to wait for five minutes before the crew of two arrived. Once through that bridge we continued on to Hillhead bridge on the outskirtsIMGP4684 of Kirkintilloch which is our last manned bridge of the day. The crew were already here waiting and we passed straight through.

On our way through the SSSI we spotted a lovely rural mooring which we intend to stop at on the way back next Monday.

We moored for the night on the ample visitor mooring pontoons in Kirkintilloch next to the University building. After a walk around the town we eat on board before going for a pint in the Kirky Puffer. This was a first for me as I’ve never been into a Wetherspoons pub that was formerly a Police Station.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

McBoating on Sonya–Day #5

Wednesday 22nd June

Firstly, something I forgot to mention yesterday – as I approached our overnightIMG_2378 mooring in Linlithgow (spelt properly this time) I spotted Brenda’s ‘Yeti’ that gave us the hassle on Sunday afternoon. It had been captured and was now tied to the bank at Linlithgow wharf.

We have been interpreting the local BBC weather forecast for this area. Apparently “You’ll be unlucky to catch a shower” means “You’ll get wet!”. Just our luck.

Yesterday Brenda was rather poorly, quite convinced that she’d got appendicitus at one point. Pain and fever, mostly gone this morning. She must have slept well because she didn’t recall it being dark at any point last night.

I rang Scottish Canals at 09:00 to book some lock and bridge transits and it wasn’t answered. Five minutes later the guy rang me back so we are now all sorted until Monday. We set off from Linlithgow at 09:15 – we were the third hireboat to leave the visitor moorings, the Aussies were on their way at 07:00 – and headed towards Falkirk.

IMG_2379We stopped at the Tesco supermarket, opposite the prison, near bridge 55 and stocked up on meats that we cannot afford at home, rack of lamb at £3.00, big piece of brisket for £2, scotch smoked haddock and more scotch pies – we can’t get enough of them. Whilst there we found HAGGIS PAKORA so we bought some. We thought adding Black Pudding Pakora and battered Haggis too much so we just got a photo of them ;^) Brenda also found a Lees Macaroon, a sweetie that she hadn’t seen for decades. It’s not as good as she remembers it to be, it’s probably exactly the same at 110% sugar but her taste has matured.


Back onto the boat and yet more rain, through Falkirk tunnel and so I rang the Wheel booking line, as instructed by our hire base hand-over brief, to book our transit through the locks and wheel. I was told in no uncertain terms that we should IMGP4657give 24 hours notice of our requirement so I just pleaded ignorance as I was following the instructions we had been given. As it was we went straight into the top lock and then shared the wheel with an ABC widebeam hireboat that had left Linlithgow an hour before we did. As we were called into the caisson, the wide beam showed us how strong the cross wind was and so I took extreme care when we entered. It’s a good job all those gongoozlers down below can’t see what goes on up here.

IMG_2401  IMGP4668

Once out of the bottom lock we turned left onto the Forth and Clyde canal towards Glasgow and then tied up for the night on the visitor pontoon. We then returned to the wheel site for a ‘tourist’ session. Will most likely wander back up there later hoping that it’s all lit up at night time.

IMGP4678  IMGP4680


P.S. at the visitor centre they sold ‘Wheel Ale’