Monday, August 29, 2011

If it’s August, why are my fingers and toes numb?

Monday 29th August

An un-eventful days cruising in disappointing weather. The highlight of which was a concerted effort to get as many cooking apples as possible from the tree adjacent to bridge 3A.   Graham made a collecting device from his new bucket and the broom using a couple of cable ties to join them together. Initially he dislodged the apples using our short boat hook whilst attempting to catch them in the bucket as they were well out of reach. This was only partly successful and so he then used the bucket/broom to collect those he’d not managed to catch from the water where they had landed. During this activity we were passed by steam nb Tixhall, heading up the Ashby, who had a trail of three boats queued up behind him. All crews smiled and approved heartily of our scrumping activities. What is the adult world coming to? We should have had our ears boxed and given a severe talking to ;^)

Onto the Coventry canal and we travelled to Hawkesbury where we turned onto the Oxford through Suttons stop with no queues. We continued south meeting lots of northbound craft proving that the water shortages further south were encouraging people to try the north Oxford instead. After a couple of hours we tied up on a suitable 14 day mooring and Graham fetched the car whilst I prepared dinner. A tidy up and home ready for Graham to go back to work tomorrow.


You need a road name.

Brenda rant 29/8/11

Efficiency ; discuss- imagine you find some poor soul wandering through unfamiliar rural lanes not a million miles from a village, a small town and then a fairly well known city we’ll call Coventry.  You remember your first aid learnt in the volunteer sector so that’s a bonus for the tax payer, and assess his condition pretty accurately, not going to be violent, walking wounded; but not walking far enough for help not to be necessary. Help appears, ahh, the volunteer society again, it happens despite governmental policy gurus. Poor soul is delivered quite near to his place of safety, he just can’t remember exactly where he lives, whether or not he’s got to work tomorrow or even when his birthday is. He can, however, remember how to use his mobile phone to show us the picture of the scan of his baby-to-be. Ahh, sweet!

It’s time for the public sector to take over – thanks guys, you were great; all of you. The paramedic in his car, the three policemen in their two cars and the ambulance crew of two who came when the paramedic was able to concur with the cut on the head and concussion diagnosis – had it been worse than we’d thought he’d have needed - - - -  oh, an ambulance anyway. I presume the Police turned up to make sure that no crime had been committed; no crime was reported or even suspected. I bet someone somewhere was reporting their suspicions and being told that no Police could be made available until a crime actually happens as they are very busy. The police left once they had ascertained that no crime had even been thought about.

Now the daft thing is this – after dialling 999 all that rapid response, high tech professional and expensive help depended on one thing. It was close run; we needed a road name so that computer aided help could be dispatched. We knew which town we were in, we knew which pub and retail outlet car park we were in, we even knew which supermarket chain had it’s sole representative in that town just across the road, but until Graham ran around the area whilst on the 999 call, we had no idea of the street name. You see, if there hadn’t been a spare kindly passerby to do a quick local geographical survey they would not have been able to send a paramedic and two police cars to the aid of a poor bloke, covered in blood with no idea of what planet he was on, let alone where his mates had gone or even which way was up.

So if you plan to need an ambulance just be sure you know where you are on the map or get help from someone local who knows where they are. This has special relevance to us ‘canal users’. “We just passed the water treatment works outside the village with the fabulous church spire, after lock 3 but before you reach bridge 48”just ain’t gonna help in this efficient age.

Rant over


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jannock to the rescue – again

I got up and set off towards Snarestone at 8 am this morning whilst Brenda was still in her bed. By 9am we were passing through Bosworth Wharf which is the furthest we have been up the Ashby before and so we were now clocking up more new territory again – we’ve done well so far this year.

Shackerstone was busy with all the reserved moorings filling up before the festival next weekend. We continued on through Snarestone tunnel and up to the canal terminus where we winded to return through the tunnel and moor at the southern end in order to take Sunday lunch in the Globe Inn. An excellent roast dinner washed down with Brains S.A. and followed by home made plum crumble (that even had real stones in ;^)  This establishment gets a Jannock recommendation although their kitchens will be closed between the 6th and 12th of September due to staff holidays.

After lunch we returned through the Shackerstone chicane where we passed Nuneaton and Brighton moored in the reeds and even had to follow a reversing boat for about 1/4 of a mile as he looked for his mooring. We had one really heavy rainstorm during this exercise which lasted until we reached Market Bosworth again.

Upon mooring for the night at Dadlington wharf we decided to go for an evening constitutional around the village. It was at this point that the fun started. Having completed a walk around the village green we then headed down the Stoke Golding road hoping to find the canal in order to return to Jannock along the towpath. Halfway down the hill we came across a young man who was covered in blood and exhibiting signs of concussion. We persuaded him to sit on a bench seat and use my handkerchief in order to try and stem the bloodflow from a large gash above his left eye. It would appear that he had been riding an off-road motorcycle with a couple of mates and he’d fallen off. There was no sign off his mates now and he was wandering around looking for them. At that point a lady stopped her passing car and offered to help. Alex, the patient, said he lived in Hinkley and so she offered to take him home if we accompanied her. On arrival in Hinkley it became obvious that Alex could not remember where he lived and as all of our attempts to contact his girlfriend using his mobile had failed I decided it was time to dial 999 and get him some professional help. We were parked in the car park between the Windmill Inn and Halfords. The emergency services operator insisted on me giving a road for where we were. I had no idea as I’m not familiar with this area at all and so I ended up having to run out to the  main road in front of the pub in order to find the road name.

A paramedic arrived quite quickly closely followed by two police cars. It was decided that Alex required hospital treatment and so an ambulance was summoned. During all this time Alex spent his time either asking us who we were or else apologising to Brenda, me and the medic for inconveniencing us. By the time the ambulance arrived so had Alex’s missing mates, their mum, his girlfriend and even his dad almost filling up the car park. The manageress of the Windmill pub came over to explain that they did not have any CCTV cameras panned on the car park and so could not provide any evidence on what had happened to Alex. We re-assured her that the incident had occurred else where. At one point the paramedic said he needed to check Alex’s blood sugar levels. After searching through his pockets and scanning the contents he’d removed Alex admitted to the medic that he did not have any sugar on him.

Once Alex was inside the ambulance everyone seemed to just disappear and so the nice lady returned us to Jannock at Dadlington wharf in her car. What an evening!


and onto the Ashby

Saturday 27th August

We set off and immediately ran straight into a Bank Holiday traffic jam, 4th in the queue for Sutton stop lock. Progress through would have been faster but for the two 60+ foot boats moored inside the turn outside the Greyhound pub (which we didn’t visit last night due to the persistent rain). They gave very little room for those needing to manoeuvre to ascend the lock. I think words were ‘had’ as the hire boat that seemed only to be there for fishing moved off all in a dither.

When we passed later they were moored up again, just up the Coventry canal, past the 14 day moorings and the rods were out again. The lads sat on picnic chairs on the roof were unhappy about taking their lines in as other boats passed so Brenda warned them about the risk of getting their tackle caught round a propeller – were they bovvered?

We moored up against Grace at the rear of the Rigden villa and went in for tea, cake and catching up. We were also treated to a scary movie that someone had taken of their attempt to enter the Great Ouse.

Then off up the Ashby and our first harvest of the year. The joy of scrumping apples and there is a great tree full of nice cooking apples on the offside at bridge 3A. Within one hour (i.e. 3 miles) they were stewed so think of the food-miles!

As we approached Stoke Golding we found ourselves tagged onto the end of a funerial procession of two cruisers following a very slow narrowboat. By the time we reached Bradfield Bridge the number of boats in the queue had increased and so we pulled over to moor for the night. Intelligence gained on Sunday showed that all three boats at the head of the queue were together and the narrowboat had an engine problem.

We spent an excellent evening on our quiet mooring glued to the television. Serial episodes of Last of the Summer wine' followed by the comedy prom on Beeb2. All in all a day of sunshine and heavy cold showers which required the cape.


Friday, August 26, 2011

A very grey day

I took today off work to have a 4 day bank holiday weekend. We left home in the pouring rain hoping it would improve as the day went on. It was still raining when we arrived at Jannock and so we got wet unloading the car as well. We decided to have lunch before setting off and the rain stopped and the sun tried to come out whilst we were doing so, it dried up enough for me to be able to move the car to a safer parking place and return on the Di Blasi without getting wet. We set off heading North with the intent of doing the Ashby this weekend. I jumped ship as we approached Stretton stop so that I could walk ahead to get the swingbridge. Mean while Brenda had to pass a southbound Viking Afloat craft on the wrong side and wait whilst a narrowbeam barge was moved onto the slipway before she could move on. Both tasks were hindered by the Rose hireboats being moored two abreast between the railway bridge and the arm junction. Once passed Stretton the rain started again and so Brenda disappeared inside whilst I took the helm. We had passed through Ansty (including stopping at the water point and filling up) and were alongside the M6 before she re-appeared having fallen asleep on the sofa. She is still blaming the general anaesthetic she had ten days ago but I think that excuse is getting a bit weak now ;^)  We moored for the night on the visitor moorings before Sutton Stop so hopefully we will wander down the Greyhound later.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What queues at Hillmorton?

Sunday 14th August 2011

When we arrived above Hillmorton locks last weekend (see Braunston was busy (and wet!) )  there were long queues to descend as one of each pair of locks had been closed to conserve water stocks.  This action has pro’s and con’s as far as I can see as you are less likely to have to turn a lock if both are in use but the queues of boats indicate that less water is being used as progress through the flight is much slower. In any case, we moored Jannock up and went home leaving the locks until our next planned day on board.

This Sunday we were accompanied by Gladys, our neighbour who feeds our cat for us when we have weekends and holidays away, and we arrived allowing plenty of time to get through the obstacle. As I was preparing to set off two boats passed us heading for the locks and when a third appeared further back along the cut I hastily cast off to join the queue. What queue? Both locks of each pair were in use and we just had to wait one boat before we could enter a top lock. It would appear that after the complaints received, BW were operating both locks between 09:00 and 16:00 at weekends and reverting to single lock operation for the rest of the time.

At each of the remaining two locks we entered a ready lock after an ascending boat had departed and so a good run down the flight was made. Brenda did have a steering issue exiting the second lock as were on the towpath side and the boat waiting to ascend insisted on parking himself right outside the lower gate giving her no room at all to get out. She finally persuaded him that moving out of her way would allow him to enter the lock quicker than just sitting there. Out of the bottom lock and both taps were in use and so we didn’t stop for a water fill. On through Clifton and Rugby with no problems until we were passing through Newbold tunnel. A hireboat approaching from the other end decided not to enter the tunnel but go into the offside bank just outside the northern portal. They managed to go aground effectively blocking the canal due to having two boats following them that now had no where to go. We stopped and waited whilst they got themselves unstuck and then informed them that the tunnel was wide enough to pass in.

As we approached Lime Farm marina a boat was coming out through the bridge so we stopped mid channel again and waited for them to finish their manoeuvre. Unfortunately as the bows came round to point south, their stern went aground on a large submerged obstacle that is against the piling at the north side of the marina entrance, and they found that they were unable to move at all. The marina staff came out and assisted getting them afloat again and off they went. I decided I’d take the opportunity to fill Jannock’s tank and so I reversed her into the marina. They take self declared tax splits here and so I put 100 litres of 60/40 in at £117.00p.

We said farewell and managed to get out without encountering any submerged obstacles and moved on until we found a suitable 14 day mooring. I then fetched the car from Hillmorton whilst Brenda and Gladys picked blackberries from the hedgerow. After dinner we cleaned up, locked up and headed home in time for my regular Sunday evening Soddit session.


Monday, August 08, 2011

Braunston was busy (and wet!)

Sunday 7th August

We arrived at Jannock later than anticipated due to the queues of Fords that were completely blocking the A43 whilst trying to get into Silverstone. Their refusal to move over and queue in the left hand lane added 25 minutes to a 1 hour journey.  Simon and Lois were already on-board, having arrived some when after 3am and so the boat was open and ready on our arrival – however Simon and I did a car shuffle first as we had two vehicles available.

We set off at about 11am and went into Braunston tunnel which was remarkably dry considering the rain we’ve had recently. I got the impression we were following more than one boat through and we met seven coming the other way. Lucky for them this wasn’t a Soddit cruise with DJ Brian on board playing Jerusalem and the Dambusters march at loud volume during our passage.

We arrived at the top of Braunston flight to find ourselves fourth in the queue to descend. We paired up with nb Owl and shared the top lock after two lockings of ascending craft had passed.  In the next pound the two boats in front of us were waiting whilst more ascending craft were coming through their lock and it stayed like this for the whole flight.  Brenda  overheard   a woman walking up the towpath telling her friend that she was suffering from “water can envy” after she had observed the nicely painted cans on Owl’s roof.

We parted with Owl at lock 4 as an earlier singleton had broken up another pairing and so every-one was changing partners. The place alongside us as we descended lock 4 was taken by a Willow Wren hire craft with a 10 strong hen party on board – two of which seemed to know what they were doing whilst the rest just watched on in a bemused fashion. We were told that the ‘bride to be’ was still in her bed and was unlikely to surface before the bottom of the flight.  Seventy percent of the crew were still imbibing and getting worse, lock by lock. I’m glad I wasn’t at Hillmorton when they attacked those locks.

Above the bottom lock we found four boats waiting (and a moored butty) and so were unable to move out of the second  lock until two of them had moved into the bottom lock to go down. This also meant that the two ascending boats wanted to get into the lock we were still in. After the WW boat had moved out, one of the ascending pair came in beside Jannock so that the chain could move and Jannock could get out – you know, like one of those puzzles where you have to move the squares around inside a frame.  We then had to change partners again and the hen party went down with Owl who was now a singleton and we were joined by yet another partner – a bit like country dancing I suppose.

Whilst we waited above the bottom lock, the heavens opened with a really heavy rain storm so Simon and Lois rushed inside whilst Brenda and I got us down through the lock. By the time we were out, Brenda was completely soaked below the waist and so I sent her in to get changed and I took over the tiller. After all, I was in shorts and sandals below my waterproof coat so it didn’t matter about my lower half getting wet. I steered us past the junction and onto the North Oxford canal where we found ourselves ahead of a group of three boats.

The rain stopped and the sun came out again and funnily enough so did our crew ;^) and so it was time to teach Lois to steer Jannock. For a first timer she did quite well, only getting wobbly a couple of times when instinct says push the tiller when she really needed to pull it.  She appreciated my ‘New steerer top tip’ – point the wooden end of the tiller bar towards what you want to MISS!

We ended the day, after mooring up, with a nice hot curry that had been cooking away in the slow cooker all the time we were moving. A quick wash-up and lock-up before we took them back to Simon’s car and said farewell. They were heading back to Manchester and us down to Oxford.