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.