Monday 28 December 2009

Frozen In

Sunday 27th December 2009

Left Teesside under snow at around 9.30am. The traffic was much busier than we had anticipated. We guessed this was as a result of travellers returning home on mass after Christmas visiting friends and family.

We arrived at the marina around 12 noon and were surprised to see that our neighbouring boat, ‘Bovett’s Harvest Too’, was occupied. Before Christmas the owners had mentioned they would not be at the boat over Christmas as they were visiting their son and his family in York. However, it soon became apparent that the boat had actually been sold just before Christmas, and the new owner had arrived to take it to her new mooring at Tewksbury.

This was the new owner’s first boat and although she had received a quick walk-around by the previous owners it was very much a new experience as her previous knowledge was only from time spent aboard hire boats, that are in many ways quite simplistic, and not half as complicated as a purpose built bespoke boat. I assisted in filling the gaps in her knowledge where possible. Her itinerary to get the boat to the Tewksbury mooring would be quite challenging as she would need to make good progress to beat the planned start of stoppages on the Staffs and Worcester. Her first unscheduled delay was that she would not be able to leave the Marina until the temperatures rise as we were all frozen in! Her plan was therefore to return tomorrow in the hope of some warmer weather conditions.

Elaine and I also intended to ‘go out’ but instead opted to buy the Sunday papers and chillax for the rest of the day on the boat.

The weather forecast confirmed that it would only get colder towards the end of the week – not the prediction our new neighbour was hoping for.

Monday 28th December 2009

I ventured out early, from the warmth of the boat, onto the jetty to get a feel for how cold it really was. I can confirm it was BL***Y COLD. In the search for a photograph for next years Christmas card I had a walk around the marina in freezing fog to take a few shots. Although we don’t have images of a snow covered boat the photos hopefully look cold and wintry enough! The white frost on the ropes and fairleads, against a backdrop of a frozen marina was proof-positive of subzero temperatures.
Frosty Pole, Plank and Boat Hook!

The frosty bow - very cold ropes!

White hoar-frost built up around the fairleads.

After breakfast Elaine and I then walked over to the Marina Office and asked Mike (the marina manager) if there was an opportunity for us to move berth to the neighbouring berth that would soon be vacated. This mooring has the advantage of being the other side of the jetty, on the side of the prevailing wind. Although there are no other advantages over the position we already occupy, it is hoped this will make mooring a little easier in strong winds. Mike confirmed he was happy for us to move across after ‘Bovett’s Harvest Too’ had vacated.

As it now looked unlikely we would get an opportunity to ‘go out’ we opted to head back home at around 3.30pm, arriving back home to the same snow covered ground.

We will need to return to the marina soon to move berth.

Sunday 13 December 2009

A Crisp Weekend Cruise

Friday 11th December 2009.
We arrived at the boat well after dark in temperatures hovering just above zero. It took about 90minutes to get the boat up to normal cosy winter temperature employing the services of both the central heating and the solid fuel stove. I guess a steel boat gets cold it takes a little longer to warm up than a house made of bricks and mortar – however the boat floats an lot better than the house ever would.

Saturday 12th December 2009.
It was our intention this weekend (as a minimum) to at least turn the boat on its moorings in order to re-orientate ourselves with the marina. The boat was opposite way round from our normal orientation (a necessity brought on by strong winds last time we moored up) and Elaine & I were struggling to come to terms with this 180 degree disorientation (particularly after a bottle of wine).
However, it was a lovely crisp winter morning with clear blue skies and no wind; an opportunity to go for a short cruise that we couldn’t miss.
I wasn’t sure what winter hours would be worked by the marina staff so before we departed I thought it prudent to get a new bag of smokeless coal from the shop as I had just emptied the last bag into the coal scuttle. Pulling out of the marina at about 11.00am we travelled down to Wolseley Bridge for lunch; (The Wolseley Arms looked busy so had lunch on the boat). Then we cruised a little further toward Rugeley before winding above Bridge 68 and mooring just before the ‘Boaters Christian Fellowship’ near Bridge 69. An excellent rural mooring that we had not stopped at since October when we joined narrowboat ‘Tramper’. Elaine prepared a wonderful meal while I………………..…read the paper; (A very important task)!
Across the canal a family recently bought a field and have been busily spending weekends creating a smallholding, rearing alpacas, pigs, chickens, etc. The young lad from the family crossed the bridge and walked along the towpath past the boats shouting “eggs for sale” swinging a basket. We couldn’t resist giving him some business (despite the fact we had just bought eggs that morning from the farm shop) and bought a dozen eggs from the young man. He acknowledged they had only owned the land since June or July and he said the worst thing about the winter was travelling down to the smallholding in a morning to unfreeze the livestock feeders. The eggs were only small but that didn’t spoil the transaction – we vowed we would ‘taste-test’ them in the morning.

Sunday 13th December 2009
A slow start on another fantastic clear sunny day (although it was very cold). Elaine prepared scrambled egg and bacon. The eggs were delicious. We travelled up through Colwich Lock (finding it difficult to spot any improvements after the recent stoppage – in fact the gate paddle ratchet was jammed open and the bottom gate wouldn’t stay shut). Then we slowly dawdled along the canal past Shugborough Hall exchanging the usual greetings with moored boaters, and up through Haywood Lock.
Just before arriving back at the marina, we approached a line of maybe eight fishermen, so after passing an oncoming boat, I opted to take the middle line between moored boats and the towpath. At tick-over, this would hopefully create least disturbance between the fishing areas they had chosen to fish (i.e. both against the towpath side and against the moored boats on the opposite bank). To no avail – although some fishermen exchanged pleasant greetings one guy who shouldn’t go fishing if he can’t cope with the cold and was clearly too annoyed at his own poor performance shouted, from behind a massive brolly. Suggesting we drive down the middle – a position I was already in (if only he used his eyes). It is therefore now quite clear to me that you can never keep all fishermen happy. It is therefore now no longer my intention to try! If it wasn’t for the canal boat they wouldn’t have a canal to fish in. Why do fishermen feel canal boaters should exercise such caution and observe such etiquette when passing them? When in fact the majority of fishermen fish on white bollards, fish opposite moored boats, fish near locks and bridges and their licence is chicken feed compared to the charges we pay in order to maintain the canal.
Overall a great weekend.

Robert & Suzanne visit the boat.

Monday 23rd November 2009.
We booked a days holiday from work to travel down to Great Haywood with Robert (Elaine’s son) and his fiancĂ©e, Suzanne. This was the first opportunity they had had to see the boat. The weather was dreadful! Lashing down with rain from the minute we passed Leeds on the A1 and strong winds only worsened the experience as we got closer to Great Haywood. Never the less they seemed impressed with the boat and its facilities.
Robert already had first hand experience of the local canals around Great Haywood as he had spent many a holiday with us on Anglo Welsh boats in the past; (before it became un-cool for teenagers to go on holiday with their parents)! So, instead of going on a ‘cruise’ we went for a ‘booze’ (well something like that) to one of our favourite local pubs: The Holly Bush at Salt. (Great meals and an excellent atmosphere). We then called at Trentham and visited the garden centre and retail outlets on our way back home.

Monday 16 November 2009

A Windy Weekend!

Sunday 15th November 2009

Although it had been our intention to spend a long weekend on the boat the met office weather warnings of flooding and high winds in the Midlands had put us off travelling down until Sunday morning.
A clear journey down; left home at 9.30am and by 1.30pm we had eaten on the boat and were pulling out of the marina. The storm force winds that had apparently caused chaos the day before had dropped and the sky was pure blue. We enjoyed a lovely quiet trip up through Hoo Mill Lock and winded just through Ingestre Bridge (No78) and later moored just south of the bridge. We had only passed one boat - I guess most people had written off the weekend and gone home.

Locking up through Hoo Mill Lock

Immediately after winding, and as the canal was quiet, I thought I would practice some reversing as 'Escapology' has got to be the most uncontrollable boat to reverse in history not responding to any of the 'text book' techniques the magazines and manuals promote! Although the exercise was completely inconclusive and seemingly pointless to any 'gongoozler', I managed to reverse all the way to Brinepit Bridge (No79), and it was great fun. The 'galley girl' however was most uncomfortable with this pointless display and did what she normally does in this situation - vanished from the rear deck to sit out of sight in the saloon to avoid embarrassment until forward gear was selected and normal service resumed.

Mooring just south of Ingestre Bridge (No78)

We had both booked Monday off work because firstly we both dislike Mondays and secondly we were under the impression that the weather was always good on a Monday! A theory born from repeatedly witnessing great conditions on the day you go back to work after a wet weekend on the canal. After dark I checked the weather forecast on my hand-held gadget; to my disappointment the met office were predicting heavy rain and strong winds for Monday. Great.

The weather forecast we didn't want for Monday!

Monday 16th November 2009

Woke at 6.30am to a howling gale and heavy rain. Although the weather had deteriorated we waited for a dry spell, around 11.15am, to push on back to the marina. By the time we arrived the wind had returned and the rain was falling. The only option for birthing was to pull in front first at a reasonable lick and only apply the break once we were well into the mooring. That we did quite successfully. Although we dislike mooring this way around as everything seems back-to-front and with added complications as we are further from the power socket, any attempt to reverse into the mooring would, I am sure, have been futile in these conditions.

Despite the desperate weather it had been a good day; for a Monday!

Tuesday 27 October 2009

A Wet Weekend!

Friday 23rd October 2009
Arrived at the marina at 7.30pm after a reasonable drive in what was reported to be the busiest day on the roads this year.

Saturday 24th October 2009
Heavy rain and strong winds dissuaded us from venturing out in the boat. Instead we had a ride in the car over the M6 to Wolverhampton to pick up a rechargeable lantern from Go Outdoors that will make a suitable lamp for the rear deck when arriving in the dark. We paid a visit to the marina office on the way out to pay for the next 12 months moorings – not a cheap weekend; although we have benefited from the lower rate of VAT.
The intention to have an evening walk down to Great Haywood Junction was thwarted again by the weather so instead we opted to have a steak on the boat and watch a DVD in front of the stove.

Sunday 25th October 2009
Up early (assisted by the clocks going back) and after breakfast we took a drive up to Aston Marina (just south of Stone) and unsurprisingly the marina is still far from finished (although 50% of it is in water) – despite the press notifications that is was ready to receive boats. The marina, when finished, looks to have a lot of potential with a creative design and good facilities. I also observed the new opportunity for travelling boats to wind below Aston Lock, by using one of the new marina entrances. This should prove to be an excellent facility for boats not wanting to go right into Stone before turning. En-route home we chose to travel up the M6 and call in at Middlewich as there was to be a boat rally on 23rd-25th October. We parked up in Middlewich and walked the canal from the junction down to “The Big Lock” and it was clear the poor weather on the Friday and Saturday had taken its toll on boat numbers. Apart from the Fudge Boat and Ivan with his working pair there were few notable moorers. We then continued home.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

A Short Weekend

Friday 9th October

Arrived at the marina late as a result of a late finish from work.
Despite it being cold and drizzly, and travelling down from the North East in busy traffic conditions. it was, as usual, a trip that is easy to enjoy as it always results in a rewarding outcome. (The journey back on a Sunday evening is a completely different feeling however!).

Saturday 10th October

A lovely day, sunny and mild for this time of year. After a lazy start, followed by bacon sandwiches, we moved the boat across the marina to the diesel filler and topped up the tank (160ltrs). Made the usual ‘finger-in-the air’ guess at what percentage of the fuel was to be liable to tax – settling on 50-50 – a more than generous offering to Gordon. After parting with some hard earned we couldn't resist burning off some of the ‘tax-liable stuff’ by cruising down to Tixall. We winded at the wide and travelled back to the marina.
The crew of Kaspra our neighbouring boat, a boat with whom we share a 15ft gap on the jetty, had arrived for the weekend and were about to depart. We commented on how better co-ordinated our respective arrival and departure could have been, (as it is obviously so much easier to get in and out of the berth when the neighbouring boat is absent), and vowed to co-ordinate better in the future.
We then set about the intended improvement for this weekend and applied a coat of yacht varnish to the ten internal porthole reveals. During last winter, when temperatures outside were drastically different from inside we noticed a misting of condensation could form on the oak lining around in the porthole reveal; presumably as a result of the reduced insulation at this point. In this situation we thought it would be prudent to improve the protection to the oak. Despite the job being fiddly it only took a couple of hours. We also took the opportunity to varnish the oak lining on the underside of the rear hatch as the original spray applied varnish doesn’t hold up as well as brush applied in vulnerable areas.
Just before dark, Brian and Bridgett, the crew of out other neighbouring boat (nb. Bovett’s Harvest Too), arrived back into the marina. They had been missing from the Marina since May and confirmed they had enjoyed a great trip around the network and really didn’t want to return home.

Sunday 11th October

The weather was drizzly first thing; and as we both had work to do before Monday we left the marina at around 11.00am in order to give us adequate time at home on the desktop PCs - very sad but we have to pay the bills somehow! Hope to be back soon without the same distractions.

Monday 28 September 2009

Weekend at Weston

Friday 25th September
Arrived at the Marina fairly late after travelling in the usual Friday night traffic. John and John at Great Haywood Marine Services had not let us down - they had finished the blacking and returned the boat to the water and moored her back in our berth (even the electric was plugged in!) - Great job.

Saturday 26th September
Although we were up early; by the time we had eaten breakfast and fiddled about with our ropes and removed offending spiders from the fenders; it was after 10.00am before we were pulling out of the Marina heading North on the Trent and Mersey towards Weston. The weather was very good; buying the hood was still proving successful in warning off the rain clouds! A very enjoyable cruise up through Hoo Mill Lock and Weston Lock despite short queues at each, presumably as a result of the Shroppie closure. Moored at Weston in time to take a short walk round the village, visit the post office and return to the boat in time for the Grand Prix Qualifiers (Singapore). It is clear from this brief walk that 'the chaps' live in Weston; judging by the type and average size of house in the village. A very tidy and classy spot. We were joined at the mooring by nb. Silver Croner that had been moored in our marina for the last 4 weeks while they were breaking the journey back to Nantwich (their permanent base). At 4.00pm we decided to push on a bit further and winded above Sandon Lock before returning to Weston (North of the road bridge) just before sunset.

Sunday 27th September
After breakfast Elaine washed the starboard side of the boat while I polished the brasswork and chatted to a fisherman that had been fishing just off the bow of the boat since 6.00am. I think he had had more successful fishing trips; as a deep draughted coal boat, quickly followed by two fast hire boats disturbed his 'bated area' irreparably. This was only made worse by our soapy water! I thought it best to leave before he invested any more time attracting fish to his line just to be inevitably ruined again by our churning of the canal on our departure. We left on speaking terms - quite a result with a fisherman! Only a light breeze at the marina flattered my maneuvering backwards into our mooring! After lunch watching the Grand Prix we departed for home.

Thursday 24 September 2009

Getting Escapology out of the water.

Monday 21st September
Up early and ready for lifting the boat out of the water. It was strangely satisfying watching people commuting on the packed passing trains on a Monday morning when we were on holiday. After a short cruise across the marina we were soon (approx 10.00am) being lifted out of the water by John (Bazzi) and John (Sharpe) using their tractor hauled narrowboat skid. This was the first opportunity we had to inspect the hull since the boat went into the water 18 months earlier. The existing comastic paint finish had stood up well against the threat of corrosion and the anodes were working well. Although this was early (as a scheduled inspection) it gave us much peace-of-mind and we thought it wise to check all was well before it was too late. The guys then set about pressure washing the hull and applying the first coat of comastic. The guys prefer to apply bitumen. It was soon clear that this wasn't just because it was cheaper; the stuff stinks and eats foam rollers for fun! My apologies to everyone on the marina who had to suffer the smell.

After lunch at the The Holly Bush at Salt (reached via road; not canal!) we returned to the marina to make use of the dry dock facility and repaint the tunnel bands and tiller as it will be several years before we get another opportunity.
We spent the night on the boat - a very strange experience on land!

Tuesday 22nd September

Up early again as I had jobs to do and didn't want to get in the guys way. Cleaned the weed hatch steelwork and the weed hatch cover (before the chaps arrived for work) and painted with two coats of comastic. Packed the car and set off for home; we are both at work Wednesday. We intend to return on Friday when the boat is being returned to the water.

The last long cruise of the year! Part 3

Thursday 17th September

Another dry day with only light wind!
On our return journey down the Ashby Canal we spotted narrowboat 'Speckled Hen' from Skipton moored outside the Brewers Fayne (originally called The Marina!). It was still quite early and the crew were only just waking so we thought it best, not to give them a knock. Particularly as we know they named their boat after the beer and they may have been recovering from the night before! The last time we saw them was on the Staffs & Worcester down near Kinver approx. 12 months ago. I can only guess this was another trip otherwise it had taken them an inordinate length of time to reach here; even by narrowboat standards. We pressed on and after a brief stop for lunch opposite Valley Cruisers Marina we followed a working boat through the first six locks of the Atherstone Flight. We moored briefly in the pound in order to visit the supermarket for provisions before navigating the next two locks, past Baddesley Basin before finding quite moorings for the evening away from the town.

Friday 18th September
After leaving Atherstone Locks we had a very uneventful journey down to Fazeley apart from passing narrowboat 'Tramper' at Glascote Locks and exchanging greetings. John and Moira (the crew) had been moored up for a week (while they attended a wedding) since we saw them last. At Fazeley we stopped for lunch and set away again behind a pair of old working boats that were immaculately prepared for the working boat gathering at Huddlesford Junction.
As we approached the junction the cruising speed dropped considerably as there were lots of shiney working boats moored both sides of the canal (many rafted out two deep) leaving only a narrowboat width between. Thankfully, we only met one boat coming in the other direction, and with a lot of luck and some anxiety we managed to pass in a gap between rafted-out boats without incident. As we crawled through the train of moored craft, we still managed to speak to Linda (crew of JP2) on the towpath who we had seen earlier in the week. It was unusual not to have the added complication of strong wind in these situations; I guess the blog may have been reporting a different experience had the wind blown! After the gathering boats petered out we moored for the evening just before Streethay Wharf.
The evening entertainment was supplied by a local microlight pilot who was practising his landing in a grassed airstrip next to the canal, passing only feet above the boat roof before touching down in the field on the opposite bank.

Saturday 19th September
Set away at around 9.30am and moored at Fradley outside the Swan to pick a copy of Towpath Talk and buy a newspaper. It appears people in Fradley only read the Daily Mail; as that is all that is stocked! However, we stopped for a while and had morning coffee and read the papers. The weather was fantastic again which made for a very enjoyable cruise up to Great Haywood; stopping briefly at Armitage for lunch.
We moored in our favourite mooring next to Shugbrough Hall below Haywood Lock. This is a popular spot for many boaters; and we noticed narrowboat 'Chelsea' at the head of the line of moored boats. (This was a boat that was featured on an early series of Waterworld that Anthony M had fitted-out in the late 1990s that actual won the best boat award at Crick).
As is often the case on a Friday and Saturday evening when the weather allows; Hot Air Balloons take off from the grounds of Shugbrough Hall, and on this occasion drifted over head (see Photos).

Moored next to Shugbrough Hall

Sunday 20th September

Navigated the last mile or so through through Haywood Lock and into the Marina. Moored up at 10.00am. The weather was again fantastic and we wanted to use the rest of the day to touch up some of the battle-scars before she was lifted out of the water the next day for blacking. The first job (unexpectedly) was to clean down our jetty as geese (or as it seemed a herd of elephants) had roosted overnight leaving lots of 'calling cards' that we didn't want paddled into the boat! It wasn't until after obtaining and reading the Sunday papers that work could commence on cleaning the boat and starting the paintwork touch-ups. This marked the end of a great weeks cruise when the weather had been amazing.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

The last long cruise of the year! Part 2

Monday 14th September 2009

After a slow start we set away in cooler weather than we had experienced over the weekend. At Fazeley we spoke to the crew of Lilipad at length about the pros and cons of pumpout versus cassette toilet; whilst filling the fresh water tank of Escapology. We moored for lunch at Polesworth before tackling the Atherstone lock flight.

We passed narrowboat 'Nannierex' at Bradley Green Bridge (another Anthony M, No1 boat) and finally moored at 6.30pm just south of Mancetter Bridge.

It wasn't long before the customary local Tamworth tear-away passed on a mini-moto bike. (Don't know why we have only experienced the motorbike nut-case on the towpath near Tamworth!). I am sure a mooring line tied at hedge height would solve any future problems! Anyway, we had other priorities, as darkness fell it was inevitably time for the gas bottle to expire - requiring me to reach into the spider filled gas locker to turn the gas bottle changeover tap.

Tuesday 15th September 2009

Weather was again dry and mild but quite windy. Apart from meeting Ian & Linda (n.b 'JP1') who were travelling back to Great Haywood, the journey was quite uneventful. We travelled up the Ashby and moored at Bridge 37 before Market Bosworth. Elaine & I have never been any further up the Ashby Canal than the Bosworth Battlefield Moorings (the furthest extent of a journey in an Anglo Welsh hire boat in 2002). We are therefore cruising in new territory.

Wednesday 16th September 2009

Set away at 8.30am and travelled up through Snarestone Tunnel and on to the current terminus of the canal. It had always been the plan (as Elaine's itinerary) to wind at the terminus at midday today as this was exactly the middle of our holiday. We actually winded at 11.50am (timing with almost military precision). We stopped for lunch on the return at Shackerstone before finally pushing on to moor for the evening between Dadlington and Stoke Golding.

Just leaving the winding point at the current navigable extent of the Ashby Canal.

The south portal at Snarestone Tunnel

Inside Snarestone Tunnel - about to emerge from the south portal

Sunday 13 September 2009

The last long cruise of the year! Part 1

Friday 11th September 2009

Arrived at Marina at 6.00pm and unpacked the car in time to appreciate a wonderful sunset and more importantly, in time to align the satellite dish in order to receive Emmerdale! During the adverts I fitted the first two premeasured pieces of sound insulation around the vacuflush pump unit. A first phase of a grand scheme that will eventually (& hopefully) result in a quieter flush! This went too well; and it would only be a matter of minutes before a problem manifested itself. Like clockwork; within five minutes it became apparent, after Elaine emptied and refilled the sink, that the overflow connection on the galley sink had in fact become disconnected from the overflow on the sink itself. The cupboard below the sink was flooded resulting in all the contents at both floor and shelf level being soaked. Although this problem was clearly a result of forcing too much gear onto the shelf below the sink (i.e. Elaine's fault) it wasn't long before I had to take full responsibility by acknowledging I may have too much Boddingtons and Budweiser stored on the boat leaving inadequate space for sensible stuff. Thankfully the problem was easily and soon rectified without throwing any drinks overboard.

Saturday 12th September 2009

Up early; and after breakfast were ready to set off (circa 8.30am) on our cruise down to the Ashby Canal. As is normally the case, when you haven't been to the boat for a couple of weeks, there were many stow-aways on board of the eight legged variety. The photo below shows one such spider that had created a web between our boat and that of our neighbouring boat, nb. Kaspra.

A spider - unsure of which boat to stowaway on.

By lunchtime we had reached 'The Plum Pudding' just before Armitage and moored to watch the Italian F1 Grand Prix Qualifiers. Judging by the speed of passing boats it was clear that there wasn't only Lewis Hamilton with 'KERS'. After 'Quali 3' we set-away again heading for Fradley Junction. On the way we passed narrowboat 'Danby Dale' that although this boat didn't mean anything to me I was soon advise by my eagle eyed galley girl that this boat was in fact bearing British Waterways Registered Number 516807. This was chronologically the number immediately prior to ours! (516808). Quite a coincidence and a coincidence that was sadly missed by the crew of 'Danby Dale' that by now were diminishing into the distance behind us.
Lunchtime mooring just beyond the Plum Pudding

At Fradley Junction we turned south onto the Coventry Canal and were lucky to find a perfect mooring just beyond the water point. After dinner on board we walked down to the Swan for a drink.

Sunday 13th September 2009

Today, as yesterday, the weather was fantastic for this time of the year. (Most unusual for our cruising experience!). The new pram hood is clearly keeping the rain clouds away. Moored for lunch at 12.30pm near Whittington and watched the Grand Prix before continuing down to Fazeley Junction where we were again lucky in finding a perfect mooring opposite Peels Wharf at around 5.00pm. A short walk to Tesco Express to top up the stocks of Bread and Milk rounded off a very enjoyable day.

Monday 31 August 2009

Typical Bank Holiday Weather

Saturday 29th August

We didn't set off from home until Saturday morning to avoid Friday night Bank Holiday traffic (& festival traffic around Leeds). We called in at Barton Marina at Barton Under Needwood for a 'nosey-around' as we had not visited this marina since it first opened. The marina is now more of a base for retail therapy than a traditional narrowboat centre but well worth a look. Arrived at Gt Haywood around 12.00 Noon just in time for the Belgian Grand Prix qualifyers. The wind was gathering speed and it began to rain. After the qualifiers we therefore decided to have a ride down to Trentham in the car for a walk around the shops as the weather was not very conducive to cruising. A trip to B&Q at Stafford on the way back also prompted me to make a start on altering the rear electric cupboard door. The original door was full length which meant that, in order to open the door completely, the rear steps needed to be lifted out . A situation that quickly becomes frustrating. By teatime I had already removed and altered the door to make two independent doors of the original single full height door. After tea they were swinging and ready for magnetic catches and brass knobs.

Sunday 30th August

Although a bright morning it was still quite breezy and we had already decided Saturday night that we were going to visit Lichfield in the morning. We hadn't been to Lichfield before and were well impressed - a lovely city with real character. Made better by the bank holiday as most shops were closed and there were very few people around. Called at Ammerton Farm Shop for some more retail therapy on our return to the marina and despite my regular rants about shops selling Christmas gifts in August I bought Christmas presents for my two nephews! That has got to be a first - me buying Christmas gifts ahead of Elaine. Watched the Belgian Grand Prix and chilled out in the afternoon reading the Saturday and Sunday papers and Elaine started to plan out next cruise (up the Ashby), as we have another 10 day holiday in a fortnight's time.

Monday 31st August

A lazy start - had cooked breakfast, killed a few wasps and packed the car. Filled up the fresh water tank, and dipped the diesel, ready for a quick Friday night departure next time. Set off for home about 1.30pm.

Sunday 23 August 2009

A Quiet Weekend on a Busy Canal

Travelled down to Great Haywood on Friday evening for a weekend on the boat. The roads seemed quiet for a Friday night in the holiday period - we soon realised why! Everyone was on the canals. The Trent and Mersey was extra busy as a result of the breach on the Shroppie which has temporarily closed the canal forcing everyone to use the T & M.
We opted to stay in the Marina on Friday night and I used the time to fit the runners to the under dinette freezer that I had fabricated in my garage the previous week. The easier access to the freezer is a huge improvement (according to the galley girl - Elaine).
Freezer runners now installed!

Saturday morning was an early departure from the marina and we opted to keep off the "four counties ring" and travelled South from Great Haywood towards Rugeley. Although we had initially intended travelling a little further we actually chose to moor before the winding hole north of Rugeley, almost as an 'emergency-stop' manoeuvre, as we passed narrowboat Tramper. Tramper was the next boat to be fitted out by Anthony M after ours and we were keen to meet John and Moira and see how they were enjoying the boat. It was great to chat with John and generally 'chew the fat' on the towpath comparing boating bits and sharing experiences. Naturally, It wasn't long, walking up and down the same length of towpath, before we realised I had stood in dog s***! This was shortly followed by John discovering he had stood in it as well. Despite thorough searching of the grass I still couldn't identify where the offending parcel lay! Later (to Elaine's joy), I discovered (by sense of smell) that I had transferred it to most of the boat's accessible areas; gunwales, fore deck, aft deck, bow, saloon, galley, etc, etc. This resulted in almost a full internal and external valet - how popular I was!!!

Narrowboat Tramper

Sunday morning started with a beautiful sunrise and almost still condititions. We took off early, winded north of Rugeley, by the time we returned to Great Haywood in true 'Sods Law' fashion the wind had picked up making for a more interesting arrival at the Marina. Thankfully our berthing was made easy by the fact that our neighbouring narrowboat Kaspra was still out cruising resulting in a full 15ft gap to hit with a 6ft10inch boat - even I could do that in the wind. We watched the Grand Prix and had lunch before heading home for the week.

Early Morning - North of Rugeley

Looking forward to the bank holiday weekend.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Weekend Entertainment Courtesy of Victron Energy!


Arrived at the boat Friday evening to find the domestic batteries were flat despite a landine connection to the marina. Fridge and freezer both fully defrosted and any remaining 12volt power was weak. A great start to a relaxing weekend. Soon identified the cause as being a faulty connection on the battery thermostat that in turn was falsely registering high battery temperatures (when in fact they were stone cold) which was then preventing the inverter from charging the batteries. The kit is far too clever for it's own good.

Although the electrical equipment on board was soon operational, (just in time for Coronation Street) the process of fully recharging the batteries would take a little longer and re-synchronisation of the battery monitor and inverter would not be done until Saturday.


Up early to check on charging progress and to make a call to our boat fitter - Tony Walker (Anthony M). Who needs River Canal Rescue when you can rely on a boat fitter like Tony! He was more than happy to take our 'may-day' call and talk us through the re-synchronisation process over the phone. (Thanks Tony - who needs enemies when you have customers like us).

As we still needed to remain connected to the marina shoreline power to complete the battery charging process, a trip along the canal was off the agenda this weekend. As the freezer was now empty (all contents in the skip) I decided to use the time to begin the installation of a sliding runner system for the under dinette freezer. The first job in this installation was extending the wiring. This was soon completed following a quick trip to Midland Chandlery at Penkridge for the correct connectors and wire. All measurements were taken for the joinery alterations that I will be fabricating at home and fitting next weekend. By 8.00pm we were all charged up and set off for a short walk around Gt Haywood. We walked over to Shugbrough Hall via Essex Bridge (the longest packhorse bridge in Great Britain) and decided to see if we could circumnavigate the Shugrough Estate returning down the Staffs and Worcester Canal. This turned out to be an easily achievable acomplishment on a nice day in the Summer but not so easy at night in the Summer! The walk took us via woodland tracks, over railway bridges, past a reservoir and along narrow and busy country roads before we reached the Staffs & Worcester Canal; all without a torch and appropriate reflective clothing - very unprofessional! Finally we arrived back at Great Haywood at 10.15pm (having travelled 5.5miles), for a well deserved Boddingtons!

Essex Bridge - Great Haywood


A quiet morning doing a few DIY jobs around the boat before packing to head home.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Base Camp - Accommodation

This weekend we arrived at the Marina Friday night using Escapology to break our journey to South London to visit Family.
An early Saturday morning departure from the quiet and idilic marina (despite the drizzle) was a stark contrast with the crazy 'nose-to-tail' traffic of the M25 that we encountered within a couple of hours of our departure. Nobody needed to remind us where we would rather be!
If it wasn't for the fact I was making a visit to see my newly born nephew and his brother I would surely have turned back. Although the journey was difficult (even for a car buff) the visit was priceless. The boys are marvellous and I am naturally very proud of them both.
However difficult it was leaving them behind (at circa 5.30pm) the journey up the M40, M42 etc. was rewarded by a glorious sunset over Tixall on our arrival back at the marina.
Priceless accommodation! - better than any hotel!
Sadly, this was only going to be a flying visit as we are both back at work tomorrow and therefore left for home late this afternoon.

Thursday 30 July 2009

Blog Catchup

In this posting I hope to summarise all that has happened over the last year up to the creation of the blog and include a few of the photographs of our cruises before we take a more regular approach to our new blogging.

Sheffield to Great Haywood

Our first trip on the boat was quite exciting and I think our ignorance to the dangers of tidal waters made for a less stressful approach to our foray from Sheffield and onto the Trent at Keadby stopping at West Stockwith, and Torksey on the way to Cromwell. We travelled the tidal section on very high spring tide.

Sat in Keadby Lock waiting for the tide on the Trent

The Trent - Travelling on a spring tide.

Our boatbuilder, in the true sense of the word had been working up until our departure from Sheffield. (And continued to meet up along the way with finishing touches etc.) . It was the last minute 'fast track' construction that resulted in the lack of an official paper licence arriving in the post before our departure bringing about questioning, and cross questioning, by every lock keeper between Keadby and Newark! Something Elaine and I were getting really aggrieved about. Really - would someone who has just spent a fortune on a boat really deliberately skimp on the cost of licence! Other than this the trip was a real pleasure. We met many new friends on the way - notably Bernard and Diane on 'Arthur Crossland' from Skipton who we paired up with on many sections of the journey.

Joined by our parents for the naming ceremony just outside Lincoln.

The trip took 12 days and although it was early May 2008 the weather was fantastic - (yes in the UK!)

Four Counties Ring

Later in the year we did the 4 counties ring (clockwise). A trip we had made previously (anticlockwise) in hire boats.

Tixall Lock

Rescued Field Mouse - getting it's breath back!

The cruise went without any notable incidents apart from our first canal rescue - a whole family of field mice who had fallen into the canal. Some needed rescuing twice as they seemed to have a strange fascination for falling off the bank into the cut.

The weather was kind for the majority of the week which made for a pleasant trip.

A Trip Down to Kinver.

This was a week when the weather fought back! Rain, rain and more rain! (Rather like our British Summer)

A Trip Down to Coventry.

Another week of mixed weather and great cruising. Unfortunately unable to moor in Coventry basin the day (or evening) we arrived and were forced to moor outside the perceived security of the basin. Nevertheless we didn't encounter any problems other than a poly bag or two around the prop and a 'scum-line' around the gunwales where the mucky and oily water of the Coventry Arm stuck to the boat blacking.

On the way down to Coventry we couldn't avoid the photo opportunity provided by one of BWs new bollards. This photo was later published in Waterways World under the 'golden bollard section'.

The Severn and Avon Trip

This year we took a fortnight off work to explore further afield. Travelling down to Stourport onto the Severn down to Tewksbury and up the Avon to Stratford. Returning to Great Haywood via Braunston and the Oxford Canal. For this trip we recognised that a 'pram hood' was our only chance of beating the weather so we had Wilsons of Kinver fit the hood before we left. Although the hood rather spoils the look of the boat it is a real pleasure to cruise on a wet day and it seems to have the opposite effect on the prevailing weather than that of lighting a of a BBQ on a sunny day; and has so far kept the majority of the rain clouds away. It also provides an extra usable space on the boat.

Escapology on the Caldon Canal with new hood in position!

The Caldon Canal (incl. Leek Branch)

Our most recent cruise was up the Caldon to Froghall (at least this side of the tunnel) and up the Leek Branch. Again, a great trip greatly assisted by the hood.

Wednesday 29 July 2009


A brief introduction to our boat;
'Escapology' is a 58foot semi-trad narrowboat, custom built in 2008 by Jonathan Wilson and Tim Tyler and fitted out in oak by Anthony M (Tony Walker) in Sheffield.
She has now been in the water since 1st May 2008 and after her maiden cruise down from Sheffield she has been moored at Great Haywood Marina except when we are out enjoying the canals.
The boat is primarily designed as a comfortable two birth (the clue to the theory behind this is in the boat name) however she is capable of being easily converted to accommodate 4 with a quick dinette shuffle if required.

We hope to be able to keep the blog up to date with the latest cruises and activities to keep friends, family and fellow boaters entertained.