Friday, July 29, 2016

A short cruise to move to another mooring

Friday 29th July

An easy day today in order to find another 14 day mooring. We have a family commitment this weekend and so I took Friday off work to ensure that we do not contravene our cruising license. Sorry no pictures as I left the camera at home.

We cast off from above Hillmorton locks and then passed down through them using a right, right, left sequence. The voluntary lockie was only assisting at the bottom lock to meet the new hirers and also get his lockside gardening done. Out of the bottom lock and on towards Rugby.

As we passed Clifton Cruisers, the boats at the wharf were three abreast and so only left about 8-9 foot to get through – not too bright when the wharf is located on a bend. About halfway through we found another boat approaching us from the other direction. Luckily they were quite short and so could pull into a small gap between moored boats while we passed.

On through Brownsover and Newbold, where the ‘Tunnel of Light’ now appears to have been fully extinguished. As we approached Yate’s yard we found Brian and Diana aboard nb Harnser just pulling out, having filled up with diesel. After a quick chat with them we then pulled into the space they had created and filled Jnnock’s tank with 110 litres. Brenda spent the re-fuelling time having a Brexit chat with the guy working the diesel pump.

We then moved onto to All Oaks Wood where we managed to get half of Jannock tied onto the piling for her next session moored up. On the way back to Hillmorton, to fetch the car, the trusty Di Blasi clocked up 4k miles. Considering I bought it new at the 2006 IWA National at Beale Park that works out at 400 miles per year on a tiny 49cc folding moped.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Nobody wanted to share

Saturday 16th July

With Buckby and Braunston flights to do Graham was very happy. As we leftIMG_2608 Weedon we spotted this unusual craft, a home made hull housing a full shipping container. Not a lot of ventilation or windows fitted yet but it appeared to be work in progress. I bet it’s fun at some of the bridge-holes.

We arrived at Buckby bottom lock just as a pair of boats was entering. Another couple then came down and as weIMG_2610 prepared to enter the empty lock a boat appeared in the distance so we sat and waited. Another couple of boats were waiting to come down so we asked them to wait a while. Then the approaching boat tied onto the lock landing and announced they only wanted the chandlery. We set of up the flight on our own. Luckily there were plenty of boats coming down the flight and so we didn’t need to turn many locks.

After Scotland, seeing this number of boats on the move is novel. We even met six coming the other way through Braunston tunnel fortunately without hitting any of them. There were a couple of on-coming boats who made that very difficult; their headlights were obviously a trillion candle power and aimed straight ahead so all vision in the gloom was lost for a few minutes once they had passed. Quote of the day from G – “ when you are eating custard whilst steering through a dark tunnel it’s best to use the right side of the spoon”

Braunston flight was not just busy – it was busy with hirers getting used to their new craft. It was also windy and a couple of pounds were lacking in water. As we were leaving the Admirable Nelson lock, we came across much bobbing about in theIMG_2612 breeze with one in-experienced skipper hard aground on the offside and all his crew waiting at the lockside for him to arrive. Everything he tried seemed to make matters worse. We said we would take a rope and try and pull him backwards off the mud but the stern just dug in deeper. Another hire boater then came up offered to take a bow rope and pull him off the mud right into the lock. It looked to have been a success as we rounded the bend.

We went through Braunston three times. Firstly, down to the turn where we reversed back onto the mainline and headed south again to the sani-station. A pump-out, water fill and dumping the emergency ‘bucket and chuckit’ contents were required. Once all that was done it was down to the marina entrance to turn again. As we passed a couple of moored boats for the third time in an hour they wondered if we were watching them.

After a quick visit to Midland Chandlers for some self adhesive foam rubber strip, for the bottom of the cratch, it was then out into the countryside of the North Oxford canal to find a peaceful mooring for the night. Happily, once tied up, dinner was served as a beef curry had been in the slow-cooker all day.


Getting our boat back

Friday 15th July

Back aboard Jannock and culture shock! Whilst we were moving all our stuff back aboard more boats have passed us than we saw for an entire fortnight on the Scottish lowland canals. We can recommend the Scottish canals for many reasons, but if you want a two city break with a degree of solitude, peace and quiet, go for edinburgh – Glasgow, Forth and Clyde plus Union canal. Just use a cab, bus or shank’s pony to visit the Kelpies as the locking experience was not good on that little run.

Once everything that we needed was in and positioneIMG_2604d in the right place again, Brenda set of northwards in Jannock whilst Graham did a mini car shuffle to be picked up a couple of bridges on – the car parking is slightly better at Banbury Lane bridge. We cruised to Weedon, choosing this as a sensible overnight stop before tackilng the first self service locks we’ve done in a month or so. As we passed Rugby boats they had just lifted a boat out for survey – damn, always wanted to watch that happen (as long as it’s not your own boat) Our early stop meant we had time for a perambulate around Weedon and weedon Bec. A closed road meant a perambulation around a housing estate was necessary.

Opposite the Ordinance Factory we found our first Mirabelle plums of the year. It is IMG_2607good to see industry at the Ordinance factory again. Those historic buildings are lovely and being used should keep them and their history alive & well. It’s facinating – look it up.

A camping boat passed us, not seen one of them for a fair few years. We heard it coming, a rhythmic hot bulb diesel of some sort – blowing lovely smoke rings as well. Who’d have thought that camping boats would be back in fashion.

Graham & Brenda

Friday, July 15, 2016

Anglo-American Canal Crews (Cruise)

1st to 10th July 2016

Simon and Alyssa arrived on 1st July to prepare Jannock for a week onboard with Alyssa’s family – Ashley, John and Jack – arriving from Boston on the 2nd July. However, due to storms in the USA, the arrival of the American contingent was delayed by 24 hours.

After a whistle stop tour of London, during the journey from Heathrow, the boat wasPicture 036 prepped and the crew trained ready for the off. During the lock ‘training’ Simon managed to take chunks out of his fingers before they had even cast off. Then northwards towards Berkamstead where a visit was made to Waitrose to finalise the vitteling and beer stocks.

The crew rapidly learnt how to work locks before reaching the Tring Summit pound where they passed a number of moored working boats at Cowroast. Then down the first six locks of the Marsworth flight before mooring up for a July 4th BBQ with the Keens family joining them by car for the evening. Dinner was something of a disaster with the chicken breasts taking on the chemical taste of the BBQ lighting fluid and a sudden drop in temperature due to the wind increasing but in the end it was all forgotten because  SIMON PROPOSED TO ALYSSA and so Jannock hosted an improptu and epic engagement party!

Picture 004Somewhen during the after party preparation for sleeping Jannock’s toilet packed up. We collected another crew member, Jessica, the morning after the party and then continued on to Linslade where Simon’s Dad had arranged to meet us that evening to sort the toilet out. Simon heroicly spent his first morning as someones fiance by bailing out poo-water from the blocked loo. In Linslade the crew had shore leave at a pub whilst the toilet was being unblocked, sampling local British beers.

The next morning, after a full English breakfast, cruising continued towardsPicture 078 Bletchley. Having thoroughly enjoyed lockwheeling the previous days, John was disappointed to find that todays most significant locking challenge was the three locks at Soulbury. Here, distrustful of the repaired toilet, the crew decided to visit the Three Locks public house to use their Picture 094facilities and – coincidentally – sample more local beers for a couple of hours. Later they completed the cruise to Bletchley to moor for the night.

The next morning we went to Bletchley Park to learn about the Code-Breakers, visited the spectacular exhibits, the huts and some film sets. We also sampled the beer specially brewed for Bletchley Park. Ashley had a run-in with a piece of playground equipment. After a pub lunch at the Eight Bells, a pub near Bletchley Park that was there when the town was still tiny, we continued on to moor for the night just outside Milton Keynes where we had a cheese dinner onPicture 109 the boat.

Friday morning we dropped Jess off at Wolverton Station and continued on, via a couple of aquaducts, through Cosgrove to Thrupp Wharf where we moored for the night near the Navigation Inn. We had Friday Fun Night (it’s the best night) dinner there which was so good that we went back the following morning for breakfast as well. Once the yummy breakfast was over we continued North and met Alan (another friend) at Grafton Regis. This is where a former King of England (Edward VI?) was married.

We then continued on to Stoke Bruerne where we climbed five locks and then met Picture 144Nat (Alan’s wife). We took a table at the Boat Inn (it was cooler inside than out) and played historic skittles with a pint or two and a meal. We then all crewed Jannock up the last two locks, under the watchful eyes of loads of gongoozlers, and realised that the American tourists had actually become part of the British canal tourist attraction! Ironic!

Blisworth tunnel then presented a challenge to novice steerers and those a little nervous about cruising under a hill for the best part of an hour. We then passed through Blisworth and said Hi to Alan’s mum aboard her boat before continuing onPicture 260 and mooring for the final time near Gayton. We had a lovely steak dinner on the boat with Nat and Alan before they ordered a taxi to collect them from a canal bridge to return them to their cars.

The next morning, July 10th, the American contingent said their goodbyes before heading to Heathrow leaving Simon behind to clean up and lock the boat. Overall, we had a delightful week of cruising and have converted a group of Americans to the joys of English canal cruising (and we also got engaged!)

Simon and Alyssa

P.S. The boat garden drinking game is a good one! When you see a garden on top of a boat – drink! It increased our ‘social’ interaction with such owner enormously.

Monday, July 04, 2016

An engaging event on Jannock

Monday 4th July

Jannock is being used by No. 1 son Simon, his partner Alyssa and her American family Ashley, John and their son Jack. We were invited to join them at Marsworth IMG_2598reservoir for a July 4th ‘Independance Day’ BBQ.

We picked up Matt, Alice and Felicity from Aylesbury en-route to Marsworth and found Jannock moored just above the car park between locks 39 and 40.

Although it was cold and windy, we all braved theIMG_2600 outside and had an enjoyable evening sat on the grassy area with a BBQ provided by the American crew. As it got dark Simon surprised us all by going down on one knee and proposing to Alyssa who accepted to every-ones relief.

Then the party moved inside Jannock’s lounge and the champagne flowed for all except the duty driver. All in all an excellent evening, thanks folks.


P.S. That night Jannock’s loo blocked and so I had to visit them again at Linslade on Tuesday evening in order to restore it back to a working state – what a sh1t job ;^)

Sunday, July 03, 2016

un-McBoating on Sonya-day #15

Saturday 2nd July 2016

We were up and the boat emptied to hand back by 09:00. The deisel tank was refilled and we had used £68 worth during our 14 days cruising. Before I took them to Glasgow airport, the Australians were charged £148 for their ten day use – that’s the difference leaving the central heating on all day makes.

We drove home via the Northumbria coastline as I had booked an overnight hotel inIMG_2568 Hartlepool. Brenda wanted to see the coast near Bamburgh castle. After a couple of hours driving we decided that a stretch of legs was required so I turned left and we headed for Eyemouth – signposted off of the A1 as a historic harbour.

What a lovely place for a stop over. In the harbour, alongside the fleet of fishing boats, there were a collection of seals hanging IMG_20160702_111856around. One big bull seal was very close into the harbour wall adjacent to a trailer selling fish to feed him with. A child was bought some chunks of Mackeral and she fed the seal using a pole with a line and clip on the end. This is a beautiful location with a museum and other tourist attractions. We then took a walk around and bought some lunch items from the Co-op before continuing our journey south.

The next thing we did was to visit the end of the CausewayIMG_2577 to Lindisfarne. The tide was well in so there was no possibility of going to visit, but we went as close as we could before turning around and heading back onto the A1. Next we passed Bamburgh castle but it was not this Brenda wanted to visit. Having seen some pictures of the IMG_2580beautiful beaches along this coastline she just wanted to sit in the sun with her feet in the sand. Even though it was quite windy, we spent about half an hour just watchingIMG_2583 beach users and enjoying the sunshine whilst sitting in a sheltered spot.

Then on to Hartlepool viat the Tyne tunnel for our overnight stop in the Grand Hotel. Once checked in and showered, we decided to go for a wander around the Marina. Our route took us past the Station where we happened IMG_2586across ‘The Rat Race’. This is a micro-pub housed in the old taxi office. It’s so small that it doesn’t have a bar. You take a seat and are served by the owner from a cupboard in the corner that housed 4 handpumps, lots of cider boxes and bottles of Belgian Ale. What a lovely place. The picture shows a selection of the pumpclips that have been saved for display on the walls and ceiling. We left in search of food, vowing to return but time was against us and they were closed by the time we had finally managed to eat.

Sunday 3rd July 2016

After breakfast, we went to the car park to find our car was covered in seagull droppings. Thanks Hartlepool. I cleared off the windows as best I could and we setIMG_2596 off towards home. A nice easy run found us on the A38 about lunchtime so we stopped at Branston waterpark and enjoyed our lunch sat in the sunshine watching the ducks, geese and occaisional narrowboat passing down the Trent and Mersey canal on the otherside of the lake. Back home before 3pm and Brenda had two batches of washing out drying on the line before 6pm.


Friday, July 01, 2016

McBoating on Sonya-Day #14

Friday 1st july 2016

Phew! Man and the elements tried to drown us today. Too much water from the sky meant too much water in the canal as we travelled back up from the Kelpies having explored Helix park in the morning. Most top gates were weiring such that you’d fill a lock quite quickly without opening the paddles, and some of the locks were deep! You couldn’t see the top of most gates as they were inches under water. And then there were the squally showers, straight out of the shipping forecast, it felt very Dogger, Fisher and german Bight. I can attest to the canal water temperature being warmer than the air temperature as I was three times under a waterfall as I held the bow rope. At one point, I was standing in water about three inches deep in the front well deck. The first time was my own fault as I failed to throw the rope up to the lockside volunteer. They were wet and getting heavier and I had the sun in my eyes. The other two times were when one of the trainees opened a gate paddle far too soon when the bows of the boat was directly in front of it. He then closed it but re-opened it almost immediately after because he mis-understood the instructions given by the instructor  . . . .  but an appology was offered and accepted. A hard passage up the lock flight and graham had it no easier at the back end - just slightly drier.

DSCF2297A little sailing cruiser joined up for the passage. They had booked the morning run up the flight but then their engine broke down after one lock so they tied up to repair it and joined us for the afternoon transit instead. Beware of boats permanently fitted with fairy lights. We know that ropes are traditionally called strings, but all they had at first were strings, actual strings, and in the deep locks they had neither the weight to allow them to be thrown up to the lockside or the length to reach up to the hooks and back. A couple of lengths or rope, albeit very thin rope, were tied onto the ends to make them long enough.

Having watched the lady on the cruiser fail to hurl her lengthened string up to theDSCF2283 lockside several times, G asked their skipper if he possessed a short boathook on board. Yes he did so G suggested the lady used it to pass the string up rather than trying to hurl it. This worked well and speeded up our lock passage times.

It was obvious, compared to all the other lock flights we’ve passed through this trip, that today’s crew were relatively inexperienced. They were opening the paddles evenly on both sides or opening them too far when the lock was empty which both made the boat very difficult to hold steady in the lock.

Once out of the top lock, we moored on the visitor pontoon above lock 16 to dry ourselves off as well as get a beer from one of the two pubs there. Not impressed with either and ended up drinking bottled beer as the best option.

DSCF2278We then walked a little way down the road by the chipshop and found an excellent Chinese buffet restaurant. After 6pm it’s £11.95 per head for all you want to eat. We had an enjoyable meal and then went back to Sonya, moved the half mile along the canal, back to base and started un-loading all our stuff into the car ready for a quick getaway Saturday morning.

As the run through the locks was too busy for both of us I’ve just added some photo’s G. took of the lit up Kelpies in the rain last night.