Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 Soddit Cruise #2

Friday 24th Sept.

We travelled to Jannock via the Southam chippie for our supper - excellent. We then loaded our stuff onto the boat, opened the beer and the playing of Soddit commenced. Four games were completed before bedtime accompanied by the sound of rain on the roof of the boat.

Saturday 25th Sept.

A traditional Soddit breckie of bacon sarnies, tea and OJ was followed immediately by the arrival of a diesel boat Towcester. As Jannock was getting low I purchased 170 litres at a cost of £175.00p declaring 60-40.  We then set off towards Calcutt where we were 4th in the queue for the bottom lock. We shared through that one but our partner went to join the now single boat waiting in the next lock as their previous partner had moored up. Once into the middle lock we waited to see if one of the boats now coming through the bottom lock would join us but they waved us on ahead so we continued up the flight solo. We then joined a long procession heading for Braunston. There were frequent stops when someone ahead had to wait for an oncoming boat through a bridgehole and we had varying reports of twenty to fifty boats ahead of us in the procession from oncoming crews. We stopped for lunch prepared by Ian and more non-contact fishing just after bridge 99 and watched many more boats pass us. On then to Braunston and a right jam-ole (excuse the pun). Once through the junction, with a quick glance left to see Allsorts moored up,  there was a long queue of boats all the way to the marina entrance where a boat was winding. We started moving and then a boat at the water point pulled out in front of us and then winded in the marina entrance as well. Past that and we had to hang around while another boat did a 98 point turn opposite UCC. All this time there had been a Willow Wren hire boat just behind us but when we finally got to the bottom lock they were nowhere to be seen. We waited for a while but the boat waiting to come down persuaded us to continue without them. As we were departing from the lock we were admonished for not waiting for them by a woman off of the 3rd boat in the queue that now existed for the lock. It would appear that she was intent on sharing with her friend so would be putting the hireboat through solo ahead of them. We agreed to wait at the second lock and then shared the rest of the flight with a crew of novice Danes. They were a much better crew by the time we left the top lock. Into Braunston tunnel with Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory and the 633 Sqn theme issuing from Jannock's stereo. After a rousing passage through a remarkably dry tunnel we moored at Welton wharf for the night and were complimented for our choice of music by the Danes as they passed. I prepared a chicken dinner with fresh veg from Brian's garden and then we settled in for 5 games of Soddit before giving up for the evening just after midnight.

Sunday 26th Sept.

I was up and out on the Di Blasi by 6am to do a car shuffle to our destination. On my arrival back at the boat the other two were still asleep so I put the kettle on and made tea. Brian thought that I had just got up to go and move the car - Ha! After breakfast we moved down to Buckby top lock which we passed through solo and then joined another boat, that had been in front of us, for the remaining 6 locks. Between locks 11 and 12 I was asked by a fella on the towpath whether he and the girl he was with could experience going down a lock on a boat as she'd never done one before. I let them onto the front welldeck once I was in the next lock and they descended down with us to the bottom lock where they got off. The whole bottom lock area was swarming with a well mixed collection of  foreigners (possibly students) of which the couple I had given a lift to were part. I felt sorry for our lock partner as, typical of performing to an audience, he completely messed up his entrance to the lock. Once we were through the bottom lock we found the same fella winding an ABC hireboat in Wilton marina entrance. It turned out that they had hired two boats for a daytrip for all these studenty types and didn't have time to pass through any locks. Meanwhile the weather remained dry, grey and cloudy but we were sure it would start raining soon. We stopped before Stowehill bridge for lunch and then moved forward onto the water point to fill up once we'd finished eating. As soon as we started off again the rain started too. Light drizzle at first getting heavier and colder in the biting northerly wind. Brian retired inside to keep warm and help finish up the beer whilst Ian and I braved it out on the back deck. After the glorious weather we had yesterday this was a disappointing end to the weekend. On arrival at our destination we soon decamped into the car and headed home. Another wonderful weekend proving that fishing is a non-contact sport aimed purely at teaching maggots to swim. The final Soddit score - Ian won 5 games, Brian and I both won 2 each. I think in future I'll ban this futile fishing lark and try to get more games of Soddit played.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Cutweb Rally 2010

On Friday I had a day off work - motorbike 8000 mile service in the morning followed by a run down the Stockton flight to attend the Cutweb Rally held at the Blue Lias Inn. Whilst wandering around Abingdon waiting for my bike to be serviced I noticed No Problem heading Northbound up the Thames so I followed them up to Abingdon lock and introduced myself to Sue whilst they were locking up. I then disgraced myself by calling Vic, Chas - Oooooooooooooooops. Sorry Vic.

We arrived at Jannock just after 2pm and set off down the Stockton flight sharing with another boat which makes a change. Brian and Diana (Harnser) and Nigel from Enseabee came up from the Blue Lias to assist us down the flight. The couple on the other boat were very impressed by our 'staff' As we neared the bottom we learnt that due to low levels of water we had been allocated the 'buffer zone' mooring - i.e. immediately outside the pub an the first mooring after the bridge. The evening was spent in the function making new friends and renewing acquaintances over a few pints.

Saturday started with me having to run the engine a bit for battery charging due to the short trip on Friday. I was interested to find out that the Blue Lias now do electric hook-up for moorers at £3.50p per night. Not cheap but welcomed by some of the Cutweb boats as it meant no engines needed for the duration. Saturday afternoon was filled with Cap'n Beeky's Boules competition which I helped out refereeing when I wasn't playing. Teams were drawn from a hat and I partnered Sarah-May (aka Baddie the Pirate) but we were knocked out in the semi-finals. After tea and cake (in the rain) the evening entertainment was supplied by the Original Backroom Boys who were absolutely brilliant. They did a 2 hour set with an hour break in the middle for food and were then followed by the Cutweb Mega-raffle.

Sunday morning was the Charity auction followed by a roast lunch. Immediately after that several members decided to head off up the Stockton flight so Brenda and I went along to help them up the locks. Brenda appeared back with a large collection of plums that she'd harvested off of a tree that overhung one of the old narrow locks that are now used as by-washes. She had already gathered a large bowl of blackberries from around the fishing lake so she stewed up loads of nice fresh fruit before teatime. Sunday evening entertainment was provided by John and Margaret from nb Ernest (not that one, the other one) who ran a quiz.

Monday morning we were due to set off up the locks at 8:30 sharing with Enseabee as I had promised to run Ann (Enseabee's crew) to Rugby station to catch her train to London. I moved the car up to the wharf at 7:30 and then set a couple of locks whilst I was walking back down the flight. We set off a little early and winded at the arm before entering the bottom lock at 8:15. We breasted Jannock up to Enseabee so that Brenda, Ann and I could work the locks with only Nigel on the boats. We did the flight in about 40 minutes, catching up the boats ahead, as Brian and Diana came to help as well.

A great rally so thanks to Angela, Brian, Andrew and all the other Cutweb members who helped to make the weekend a good one. Shame about the teatime rain on Saturday. Pictures to follow.

Graham (the website is broken)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Winding in Piccadilly circus

We left Hillmorton at 10:30 and set off for Braunston - our mission was to do a self-pumpout and then wind to continue on towards the Blue Lias for next weekends Cutweb rally. We entered Braunston from the north, passing Mike and Krystina moored near the junction and went on to the sani-station. Another boat had just pulled into the sani-stn moorings so we obtained permission to hang offside of a moored boat and await their departure. I was disappointed to see they were only taking on water, there were two empty water points down near the stop house which they could have used for that - never mind, we patiently waited, and had our lunch, whilst they took 45 minutes to fill with water. They finally finished and moved off allowing us to complete a water fill and a self pumpout in 15 minutes max. They must have got an awfully large tank to take that long (although Brenda is convinced they didn't have the tap turned on for the first 20 minutes due to the lack of leakage at their hose connector). On leaving the sani-stn we moved down to the marina entrance and started a protracted winding manoeuvre - delayed several times by passing boats. I finally got Jannock heading North again and we set off for the junction and the route to Napton. The sunken boat and accompanying rescue craft on the Oxford is certainly a navigation hazard, there were 3 boats either way waiting to pass it as we approached. Then onto Lower Shuckburgh where we followed a Viking Afloat boat through the two sharp bends under the A425 narrowly missing on-coming craft by choosing to hit the bank instead. At Wigrams we turned under the bridge onto the Grand Union and proceeded down the Calcut three changing partners after the first. Then onto a 14 day mooring so that I could collect the car from Hillmorton before we headed home.  Not a sunny as forecast but not uncomfortable - although Brenda was wearing a jumper and coat to try and keep the cold wind out.


Monday, September 06, 2010

Anybody lost a pair of glasses?

Sunday 5th September

Question of the day :- Who has left a pair of glasses on Jannock. Brenda believes they are ladies glasses but I'm not certain. Any claimants?

The weather forecast for the weekend was fine, some patchy cloud and top temperature 22 degrees. Yesterday disappointed. Today started grey and declined to a half hearted cold drizzle just as we approached Rugby - henceforth to be known as Mayhem Corner.  There were two instances of boats winding with no regard for or warning to anyone close behind them, a couple of boats continuing to enter bridge-oles they could not possibly exit due to oncoming boats refusing to slow down or give way, a newbie hirer whose response to other boats nearing him was to pull over and put off crew with ropes to hold their boat until the others had passed. Hillmorton locks had more boats in the vicinity than we've seen all summer it seemed - and the turns can be tight at the best of times. Good humour just clung on by it's finger nails. The 14 day moorings above Hillmorton were choc-a-block so we had to continue past in the rain and find a mooring further on. We had wanted to eat at the Bistro but by the time we'd finally got sorted it was too late for the long walk back as last food orders are at 2 pm. Bah Humbug!  Omelette du jour sounds a bit like Bistro food even when Brenda cooks it on board. (Egg and leftovers anybody?) Then it finally stopped raining. During the trip back to Hartshill I got smothered in mud passing by some very dirty road works near DIRFT so my shoes and the Di Blasi have now changed colour to a rather fetching Grey. Whilst I was fetching the car Brenda befriended some Napton narrowboat hirers who were studying the locks at Hillmorton trying to pluck up the courage to go down them. She explained how everything worked and so we hope they managed today because it had taken them 2 days to get here from Napton and they'll have to turn round soon.


Sunday, September 05, 2010

Not as warm as forecast!

Questions of the day :-

1. Has anyone lost a Fiat/Lancia 15" spacesaver spare wheel? - if so contact Jannock

2. Should a large dead dog be treated as an island for navigational purposes?

On a more cheerful note.

We meandered down the Coventry, passing and photographing the new bankside 'Rigdenhouse'  at Bedworth, until an elegant two boat manoeuvre took us around Hawksbury turn into the North Oxford. The steerer of the other boat, coming through the lock,  told Brenda that he was heading to Coventry (and she has witnesses) so that information was relayed to me at Jannock's tiller. Having set Jannock up accordingly, imagine my surprise when he appeared put of the turn heading North towards Nuneaton! Never mind, with a massed crowd of on-lookers sat outside the Greyhound, we both completed simultaneous turns without hitting each other or the bank. It's not often that happens - usually complex manoeuvres are only completed successfully in the absence of an audience. 

We reinforced earlier traits by pulling over on the offside, just past Hopsford Aqueduct, to be alongside a free blackberry dispenser. Soon after that the canal got awfully busy. Blackberry rage? No chance! The first boat past enquired if we were aground and needing help. The second boat past and also asked if we had a problem. They then briefed the hire boat who passed next and they had a helpful list of other picking locations to try as they passed. In less than 15 minutes we'd completely filled Brenda's tupperware container. Blackberry envy more like!

We arrived at Brinklow just as the Angels, Simon and Jeanette aboard nb Clara, also moored up and so an official mini-GiG occurred aboard Jannock until midnight.

Incidentally - as we entered Hawksbury lock we passed a boat (Ian from Warwick IWA?)which had leapfrogged with the Manchester crew last weekend. He enquired whether they had left the boat clean and tidy for us. Oh ye of little faith.


Friday, September 03, 2010

The Greater Manchester crew.

Saturday 28th August:

Crew: Simon, Ellie, Ralf and Elin.

Aston Lock to Handsacre

Having car-shuffled the night before, and returned at 1am (after getting lost in the dark round Lichfield and Tamworth) Simon and Ralf weren't popular in the morning. Especially when Simon had the crew awake at 8.15 ready for a full day's cruising.

Locks were few and far between, and the miles passed as the crew marvelled at their luck with the weather. We did pass Mike and Krystina Wooding on Draco who were towing a butty northwards.  Sunshine was occasionally interrupted by the odd spit of rain from a passing cloud, but the weather held...just. Ellie and Elin had their first canal boat driving experience, with Elin's Swedish sailing experience proving useful with figuring out the steering. Ellie, however, took a little longer to get used to the reverse nature of rudder steering.

Jannock took on water at Great Haywood junction while the girls ventured to the farm-store over the bridge, returning with delicious raspberries. As we moved off, the heavens opened, so a unanimous vote decided to stop for lunch while the rain passed. A delicious quiche and a number of cinnamon rolls later, we moved on, only to find ourselves held up at each and every lock by a slow boat in front. Frustrated, Simon decided, while waiting for Colwich lock, to hover the boat on the wrong-side of the cut while the crew raided the blackberries from the bushes next to the railway - thus untouched by countless walkers beforehand.

We passed the Boaters Christian Fellowship at Taft. Although we didn't stop, Ralf thought it very admirable that the BCF had allocated part of the bank as a "Swan area", although didn't understand how the swans would read the sign to know it was intended for them!

Rugely passed without incident and finally the crew moored in Handsacre, resisting the temptation of the Fish and Chip smell that drifted down the cut. Instead, Simon was making prawn thai curry, but forgot the thai curry spices and the coconut milk (later found in the car) so had to adapt the plans using a jar of Indian Tikka sauce in the cupboard (sorry Mum!).

In the evening, after a few drinks, Ralf (being German, and a huge Uno fan - ask him about his homemade 'Speed Uno'!) discovered Oh-No-99. The rest of the evening passed amid tears of frustration as we (a) kept losing games and (b) slowly lost the ability to count reliably. Elin was judged to be convincingly the most unlucky, managing to play half the time with at least two '99' cards in her hands...

Sunday 29th August

Crew: Simon, Ellie and Ralf.

Sadly, Elin had to return to Manchester, and a few hours were spent in the rain trying to organise her journey back home. Thus, cruising only commenced at 11.30, and so the remaining crew rushed to make good progress, hampered a number of times by heavy showers. Thankfully, full waterproofs were donned and the weather passed by the time we were most of the way down the flight to Fradley Junction. Strong winds meant that Simon crashed into everything possible while trying to navigate the turn onto the Coventry canal.

Frustrated by his less-than-elegant turn and the weather, he suggested that the crew take a break for a visit to the Swan to soak up the history. Sadly, the pub was rammed full of people eating Sunday lunch, but a quiet corner was found in the tardis-like basement. Suddenly, the sun was out again, so we moved outside to the tables around the back, finished our drinks and went back to the boat to make the most of the conditions.

Sadly, the wind picked up leading to several hair-raising 'drive round the corner sideways only to find a boat in a bridgehole immediately in front of you' moments which necessitated drastic action, generally resulting in a cruise under low branches, the crew jumping into the cabin and the driver's hair left full of twigs. Some of the weeping-willows on the Coventry canal need a serious trim! Two miles from Fradley junction, Ellie said "Ah, I've left my expensive coat in the pub..." Thankfully, the Nicholson's guide came to the rescue with the Swan's phone number, so arrangement were made to collect it on Monday.

North of Hopwas, Simon was appalled to see two hire boats moored up in the wood on the off-side, right next to the signs written in big red letters saying "DANGER - LIVE FIRING RANGE. KEEP OUT!" as the children ran off into the woods. Thankfully, the boats must have noticed my critical stares and decided to move on. Ralf and Ellie were pleased to see a traditional working boat and butty also moored in the wood (in a somewhat safer place, thank goodness) before we came into Hopwas. As we passed the visitor mooring, we were told "this is the last mooring for miles" but we continued, to find a 48 hr mooring in the middle of the village. Conveniently, this was about 50m from the Tame Otter pub, which was selected for dinner, drinks, and the venue for teaching Ralf and Ellie how to play Soddit. We then decided to see whether the Red Lion (on the other side of the cut) was worth a look, but the thumping music, "Two meals for £5" offers and the drunken people playing Wii bowling on a big screen put us off. We retired to Jannock for some more drinks and another game of Soddit.

Monday 30th August

Crew: Simon, Ellie and Ralf.

Monday heralded a beautiful sunny day, without a cloud in the sky: in fact the largest object available to obscure the sun was actually the moon! We left Hopwas fairly early, hoping to reach Atherstone before it got too late, but as soon as we reached Tamworth bottom lock, found ourselves in a queue. After proceeding through the Tamworth locks, Ellie and Ralf proceeded to perfect their driving skills as we headed back into the countryside, dodging low hanging trees, and boats steaming towards bridge-holes with ease. Finally, we arrived at the final challenge: Atherstone flight. We were due to do a pumpout before hitting the flight, but the sanny station at Grendon, below Atherstone flight, didn't cater for self-pump systems. Never mind - it can be done at the top of the flight...

Since we were now running behind schedule, it was agreed that we should attack the flight while snacking at regular intervals, and then eat an early dinner before heading home. By this time, the lock crew was a well oiled machine, and we kept having to wait for the boat ahead of us to leave the lock in front. After about 2 hours, the 11 locks were completed, and Simon went to find the sanny station across the way from the top lock. However, according to the resident of the lock-keeper's cottage, this station also is unsuitable for self-pumpout, as the connection to the main sewer system has been removed. He said that the official reason for this was because careless use kept leaving it blocked, but he strongly suspected that it was simply a ploy to force self-pumping crews to spend money at boatyards to have the deed done... If that's true, that's practically criminal!

Eventually, the tired (and slightly sunburnt) crew made it to Hartshill. Simon and Ralf had - lost on the car shuffle late on Friday night - parked Simon's car in the wrong place, and so Simon wandered a further half a mile down the cut to the Anchor pub to collect it. After cleaning, tidying and packing up, it was time to leave. Just as Simon was locking up, he found the suncream...

Thank you for a pleasant weekend. We hope to see Jannock again soon!


Edited by Graham