Monday 27 September 2010

Final Weeks Cruise of 2010 - Part 6

Saturday 25th September 2010 - Fradley Junction to Great Haywood

Up early and ready to set away at 7.30am. A clear blue sky with sunshine but a biting cold wind! Negotiated Fradley Junction without incident although we guessed it would 'heat-up' later as there were boats moored overnight on all the white bollards at the top and bottom of the swan lock leaving no space for waiting boats.
Bacon sandwiches en route after Woodend Lock and then we stopped briefly at Rugeley to visit Morrisons. We then continued up to Great Haywood to watch the Grand Prix Qualifiers.
The only three locations near Shugbrough Hall where I know I can obtain a satellite reception were unfortunately all taken so we moved up to the marina to watch the Grand Prix.
The end of an excellent week. Looking forward to going back to work - Not!

Sunday 26th September 2010 - Set away back home.

Friday 24 September 2010

Final Week Cruise of 2010 - Part 5

Moored outside the Clock Warehouse

Wednesday 22nd September 2010 – Shardlow to Branston Water Park

Before we set away we thought we would have a walk around the village as we have been here several times before but never wandered further than the canal side pubs. A nice place – nothing further to report.

By 10.30am we returned to the boat (avoiding an over aggressive pair of swans) and quickly backed out of our mooring to take the opportunity of joining narrowboat Better Than Ever (a canaltime boat) in the first lock.

We travelled up through all the wide locks with this boat and stopped outside Mercia Marina for lunch and a wander into the marina where a white chocolate Magnum took toll on my waistline! After lunch decided to push on through to Barton Water Park. Arrived just before dark and passed Linda and Ian who were moored and still making a very gentle pace towards the Trent. We wished them well and look forward to seeing them again next year.

When you are moored below the wide locks on the Trent and Mersey while the lock is emptied you can suffer a savage surge. Therefore when you are only loosely tied by your middle rope the boat can quickly get out of shape in the canal. Yes – you guessed. The boat did get out of shape; once; and we have suffered damage to one of the zips on the cratch cover on the starboard side when the zip was jammed between the boat shell and an unforgiving concrete lock structure! The zip lost. We will have to sort this out tomorrow in better light together with clearing the weed hatch as we have picked up some kind of debris in the last 4 miles before mooring.

Thursday 23rd September 2010 – Branston Water Park to Alrewas

During breakfast we were passed by a very fast moving canaltime boat – aptly named “naughty Natalie”! They had a bow wave and a rooster tale that many a powerboat racer would be proud of. Surprisingly the skipper managed to travel along the whole line of moored craft without being reprimanded by a single moored boater.

After removing a couple of miles of nylon rope from around the propeller and a large spider from the weed hatch we set away at 9.30am.

It was again a lovely sunny day although within 30 seconds of Elaine stepping off the boat to open Barton Turns Lock it turned into a monsoon! She was completely soaked. With sodden clothing and straggly hair with her mascara running down her face see looked a real treat! However her sense of humour did not wane. Before we reached the next lock, (Wychnor Lock), she had been showered and changed and the weather had changed back into a lovely sunny day as quick as it had changed into a monsoon.

At Alrewas we moored up for the day. Visited Coates’s Butchers for a Pork Pie for lunch. (We had hoped to get some of their pork and black pudding speciality sausages but none had been made this week).

In the afternoon Elaine set about repairing the zip to the cratch-cover and made a first class job with limited equipment. The stitching is very neat. I painted a white square on the rear hatch in readiness for a red diamond pattern (part of the original intended livery that the boat builder didn’t get done two and half years ago!). I also painted the small ‘dams’ that I have fitted to the rear gutters to prevent rainwater over shooting the side outlets and soaking the rear seat cushions. Apart from encountering heavy rain halfway through he job it was a success – well hopefully; it’s still drying and it’s still raining – so will see the result in the morning.We are again moored below that oak tree with occasional falling acorns to keep us on our toes!

Friday 24th September 2010 - Alrewas to Fradley Junction

Woke to the sound of rain on the boat roof. After breakfast I checked the weather forecast on BBC Breakfast to find it was scheduled to clear up by lunchtime. A plan to set off late was hatched. Elaine baked some rock buns to accompany our 11 o'clock coffee break while I inspected yesterdays paint job and removed the masking tape. It was quite a smell sensation; Cellulose Paint on the rear deck with the wafted smell of fresh baking from the galley! The paintwork turned out well considering the weather we had endured during the last 12 hours and better still the rock buns were delicious!

Not a little dragonfly! (In the wildlife park next to Fradley Junction).

Once we set away the weather was dry; but colder than it had been so far this week. At Fradley it was surprisingly quiet; with mooring space! We found it hard to resist the empty moorings opposite the British Waterways Shop; so after topping up the water tank we moored up for the day. We had only travelled 6 lock/miles but we had all morning tomorrow to get to our intended Saturday mooring at Shugborough Hall to watch the Grand Prix Qualifiers. Ran the engine for an hour to top up the batteries as we hadn't travelled far enough to reach 100% charge. Had a wonder around the junction before an early night ready for an early start in the morning.

Mooring just south of Fradley Junction

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Final Weeks Cruise of 2010 - Part 4

A misty start at Barton Water Park

Waiting for the Stenson Lock

Tuesday 21st September 2010 - Branston Water Park to Shardlow

Woke to a very foggy day but it wasn't long before the bright sunrise burnt off the mist to reveal a beautiful blue cloudless sky with not a breath of wind.
Set away, Elaine walking to prepare the first lock on a heavily dewed towpath. Passed Shobnall Fields in Burton-upon-Trent and into Dallow Lock where an old lady riding a battery powered scooter offered to help Elaine with the lock gates! Elaine thought about it for quite a while before declining her services!
When filling up the water tank etc. at Horninglow Basin Sanitary Station we were plagued by a young kid on a bike who had far more questions than answers. However when questioned he was allegedly missing school as it was a teacher training day. He said "It's all about the teachers these days isn't it!"
After a late lunch at Swarkestone we finally arrived in Shardlow at around 6.00pm. It seemed like a long days cruising; perhaps because the wide lock gates were a nightmare to close; particularly when you are travelling down as a single boat. On many occasions I was having to tie up and go back and assist Elaine with the heavy gates.
At Shardlow however a mooring outside the historic 'clock warehouse' was rewarding enough as we could only guess which historic boats had moored here before us! An excellent mooring and a good meal (although Elaine now stinks of garlic!). Having winded in the basin we are now orientated for starting our journey back tomorrow.

Monday 20 September 2010

Final Weeks Cruise of 2010 - Part 3

RNLI Memorial
Fleet Air Arm Memorial

A Sculpture in the Main Memorial

Monday 20th September 2010 - Alrewas to Branston Water Park

Although we woke to a very dark and threatening sky it soon faired up and by the end of the day was spectacular for this time of year.
We walked from our overnight mooring to the National Memorial Arboretum which is only about 1 mile outside of Alrewas although it did mean crossing the busy A38. The speed on the A38 was quite a contrast to the canal pace of life! Although it was a little windy it was very interesting to explore the site and view the many memorials. Well recommended to anyone who wants to break their journey.
Returned to the boat for lunch before setting away down onto the river. By 4.00pm we had passed Barton Turns Marina and had reached our overnight mooring at Branston Water Park. An excellent mooring at the edge of the Water Park; I was wishing we had some folding bikes on board to explore the area further but there was brass and windows to clean so we weren't short of stuff to do. We need to get a reasonably prompt start in the morning as we are hoping to reach Shardlow by tomorrow night.

Final Weeks Cruise of 2010 - Part 2

Sunday 19th September - Rugeley to Alrewas

Rain showers appeared to be the order of the day as it had rained on and off most of the night. In between showers we walked to Morrisons for a Sunday paper and came back with the usual accompliment of provisions; nothing we particularly needed but they took our fancy in the shop and sadly, it appears from the packaging they all have calories.
After breakfast that featured scrambled eggs (not just any scambled eggs; these are scrambled eggs made from eggs that were laid by my mothers chickens that she keeps in the garden at home - very nice they were too).
After a late departure we travelled down through Armitage and Handsacre arriving at Fradley Junction about 4.30pm just in time for a bus load of welsh choir-men to be offloaded to add a further 55 faces to the crowds of gongoozlers. The junction was very busy as everyone seemed to be going the same direction as us - meaning much juggling and queueing of boats was necessary outside the Swan (where the male voice choir congregated with pints in hand). Thankfully we didn't provide a spectacle and in fact I was complemented on my boat handling ability by another skipper! (I however have no witnesses to this as Elaine was at the lock at the time).
Finally arrived at Alrewas; mooring near the winding hole at around 6.00pm under a very dark threatening sky. We had clearly travelled during the best part of the day. Only problem is we are parked under an oak tree which means every now and again an acorn falls onto the boat roof to keep you on your toes!

Saturday 18 September 2010

Final Weeks Cruise of 2010 - Part 1

Saturday 18th September 2010 - Great Haywood to Rugeley

Although we broke up from work yesterday for a week we had intended travelling down to Great Haywood last night. The delayed start to the holiday was as a result of my Volvo experiencing some kind of electronic fault on the Thursday evening, whereby the car went into "Full Guard Mode" thinking for itself that it was being stolen. This involved a very difficult recovery on the Friday, as all the wheels were locked in gear; made slightly worse by an over exuberant recovery driver who clearly underestimated the cars determination not to be stolen which in the end involved the back axle being pulled off by his winch! This making the repair much more prolonged than anticipated and probably much more expensive (although the recovery company are footing the bulk of the bill).
However it was nice to be driven in Elaine's car for a change. As I had no control of the vehicle (from the passenger seat) this meant that when we were passing Amerton Farm Shop; Elaine was able to pull in and I ended up buying a wedding cake for our wedding in May next year! Well at least ordering a cake (I guess a fresh one would go mouldy by May). Non the less it will be a very fine cake; made by the same people who prepared a cake for the last royal visit to Staffordshire. By Appointment to the Queen no less!
Once at the Marina we unloaded the car. While Elaine found a home for the contents of this latest food drop I applied the name plate to the 2nd spare toilet cassette. This tank is now called 'Hobbs' after our neighbours back home. This completes the set of three tanks. The others being 'Maynard' and 'Dickson' who are my parents neighbours with whom they have had many years of legal wranglings. No doubt by the end of this week; like their namesakes; they will also be full of s**t!
Finally setting sail down the Trent and Mersey at about 1.30pm we moored just beyond Bridge 66 in Rugeley. On the way we passed Linda and Ian who were now heading home for the winter and had overnight mooring near the Christian Boaters Fellowship. They introduced us to their new crew member - a 9 month old black Springer Spaniel. We will no doubt meet up again this week as we are sharing the same canal for the next 3 days.

August Bank Holiday Weekend

(Sorry this update is even later than usual - I misplaced my notes.)

Thursday 26th August 2010
Arrived at the boat in the evening in drizzle and wind. Loaded up; and after dinner battened down the hatches for an early night.

Friday 27th August 2010
After topping up the water tank and a quick trip to Argos at Stafford to purchase a replacement set of bathroom scales we set away up the Trent & Mersey towards Stone. We always anticipate that Bank Holiday weekends are going to be busy and after 1 full hour of cruising we had only travelled up through Hoo Mill Lock (about 1 mile away) as we encountered a queue of 4 boats at the lock. Not to worry we had no preconception as to how far we were intending to travel. Finally we couldn't resist an excellent mooring in Burston and stopped for a relaxing evening on the boat with dinner on the boat with a bottle of red.

Saturday 28th August 2010
Up and away in good time in order to 'wind' in Stone and moor up to watch the Grand Prix qualifiers. After lunch we visited the chandlers and purchased an updated Nicholson Guide (four counties) as the existing was getting a little out of date. On the way back to the boat we couldn't resist calling in the Star. A very old pub that was built prior to the canal and over the years has suffered massive subsidence. The bar floor level is now approx 18inches lower than the outside ground level and I almost fell into the pub as I opened the door. I know people fall out of pubs but falling into a pub is ridiculous. Stayed the evening moored in Stone. We anticipated Stone to be full of boats over the Bank Holiday but most people had stayed away and we had acres of space!

Sunday 29th August 2010
Very heavy rain prevented any cruising through the morning but after a short dash to the Sunday paper shop we spent the rest of the day chill-axing! (We did of course see the Grand Prix). In the late afternoon, in better conditions we cruised back to Burston where we had moored on the Friday night.

Monday 30th August 2010
Excellent weather, (as is always the case for Mondays - but this was a Bank Holiday Monday), provided for some very pleasant cruising back to the Marina. Only snag was; we then had to travel home in Bank Holiday traffic.
Overall we had enjoyed a very relaxing weekend.

Monday 13 September 2010

Elaine's Birthday Weekend

Wednesday 21st July 2010 - Great Haywood to Tixall Lock
Left home just after 1.00pm as I had to go into work in the morning. It was a very hot and humid day although arrived at the marina in good time and in perfect conditions for boating; sunny, dry and without any wind. Loaded the boat and pulled out of moorings. Literally the minute we pulled out of the marina the heavens opened. Although the hood saved our skins it was a very heavy rainstorm that thankfully quickly ended allowing us to moor up in the dry below Tixall Lock.
Thursday 22nd July 2010 - Tixall Lock to Acton Trussell
A slow start safe in the knowledge that we only intended cruising up to Acton Trussell today. A lovely morning, sunny blue skies and only a slight breeze. However within 10 minutes of setting away, up through the lock we endured the heaviest rainstorm I had ever been cruising in. The water was rushing backwards along the gutters of the barrelled boat roof with such volume and speed that the outlets forward of the rear cabin seemed pointless. Water poured with huge momentum into the rear deck area so that despite the adequate systems for displacement it appeared that I was stood in three inches of water for a period of several minutes until the rain subsided. This wasn't too problematic as this area of the boat is designed to cope with wet conditions. However, Elaine then remembered we had earlier opened the side doors during the sunny conditions that had prevailed 10 minutes earlier. There was now a river of water inside the boat making it's way from mid-ship to the rear cabin that Elaine was now battling with while I steered the boat to a temporary mooring against the towpath avoiding the need to drop the hood at the next bridge! Once it fared up we continued on to Stafford Boat Club Marina for lunch, then on to Acton Trussell; mooring opposite The Moat House Hotel.

A view of The Moat House Hotel from the side door

Friday 23rd July 2010
Elaine's birthday. After birthday present opening I asked Elaine to marry me! (After almost 11 years I thought now was about right!). She agreed; and after a champagne breakfast and a celebration lunch in the hotel it wasn't safe to cruise any further today.

The Ring!

Saturday 24th July 2010 - Acton Trussell to Great Haywood.
Slowly cruised back toward Great Haywood, stopping again as Stafford Boat Club Marina to watch the Grand Prix Qualifiers and stock up on some provisions from the Co-op in Baswich. Finally arrived back at the Marina at 5.00pm.
The crew from nb. Kaspra (our next door but 1 neighbours) were just pulling the boat out of her berth and intend to cruise until October. They announced they had both just retired and were going to make the best of the Summer: Elaine & I were not jealous in any way!! At least I hope it didn't show; as we wished them well on their journey through gritted teeth.

Sunday 1 August 2010

Leicester Ring - Post No 4

Monday 24th May 2010 - Long Itchington to Warwick
Another very very hot day; the sun was feeling warm at 7.15am when we set away heading for Warwick.
We travelled through the next few lock with Narrowbaot Solstice. A boat that the owners ordered on midsummer day in 2009, and were intending taking delivery of on the shortest day of 2009 in December. However boat builders being boat builders it was slightly late; although the narrowboat name still remained. We stopped at "The Mooring Pub" just outside of Warwick and enjoyed an excellent lunch outside on the terrace. Even after only two quick pints I must admit I was feeling the effects of the beer - an effect I put down to dehydration!
Although we prefer to buy fuel from our marina the diesel levels were now very low, so we bought just £110 worth at Kate Boats (a cash only facility), before resting up for the night opposite their yard.
We then walked back down to Tesco to top up the larder before dinner and an early night.
Tuesday 25th May 2010 - Warwick to Catherine De Barnes
Left our moorings in Warwick under overcast skies anticipating a wet day for the longest lock flight on our travels (the Hatton Flight). However when we reached Lock No3 of 24 locks Narrowboat Comfrey from Calcutt had seen us behind and were waiting for us to catch up. It is a lot easier in wide locks to travel up as a pair (the same amount of work with twice the crew!).
After a few locks we tied the boats together to free up the crew of Comfrey completely, enabling us to climb the rest of the flight in record time. It was a little embarrassing as the most strenuous thing I did all morning was squint into the sun while resting my arm on the tiller, while all the crew from Comfrey and Elaine worked the locks.
As we emerged from Shrewley Tunnel we experienced what appeared to be our first disaster on board. Smoke was billowing out of the electric cupboard and the thick smoke suggested an electrical fire. We immediately isolated all the electrics (Elaine was pulling quite a lot of power at the time with the galley appliances; washer etc.), and the smoke subsided as we drifted around the canal before making an emergency unscheduled stop to identify the problem.
It was impossible to identify the source of the problem even after some 'mayday' calls to the builder (Tony Walker) we were unable to put our finger on the problem. Everything seemed to be working perfectly although a side effect of the problem was that the navigation lights were now on continuously (even when switched off). Despite Tony's genuine keenness to call out for us we opted to remove the nav light bulbs and wait until we got back to the Marina on Saturday before asking him to visit. The problem later was identified as a loose connection on the main isolator that after 700hrs had rattled loose and when we were calling for a lot of power the spade connection was heating up and had in fact melted the coating on the navigation cabling that was passing close by!
After the unscheduled lunchtime stop we continued past Kingswood Junction and up through Knowle Locks to find that the canal water level at the top was very, very low, (approx. 10 inches lower than normal).
We finally reached Catherine De Barnes and moored behind Narrowbaot Midnight who's crew had gone into the village for a drink. When they returned to their boat they had found that the canal was very low (it was official) and because of this it was first come first served in the morning at the next lock. If water levels dropped further there was nothing that British Waterways was able to do to help the situation. We therefore decided an early start in the mooring was essential.
Wednesday 26th May 2010 - Catherine De Barnes to The Dog & Doublet
Up early and underway by 6.45am although Narrowboat Midnight had already set away at about 5.30am! The cooler weather was a shock to the system and progress in the shallow canal was very slow; averaging about 2.5miles per hour. It was a relief to reach the first lock where we could drop down off this top pound into deeper water. We knew that this next section through the backwaters of 'down town' Birmingham would be challenging and catching up with nb. Midnight again was very comforting. We spent the rest of the morning dredging along a rubbish filled canal lined in graffiti clad walls. Elaine had a rare stint on the tiller negotiating 3 locks on the Camphill Flight and later 3 locks on the Curdworth Flight. However, I was the skipper who managed to disable the bow thruster after sucking in a rubbish filled black poly bag. Turned East at the canal junction beneath spaghetti junction on the M6. Today had not been a cherished summer cruise but a necessity if you want to take the shortcut back to the marina. Despite our expectations we didn't once see a vagrant, vagabond or vandal! Finally mooring back in the countryside about 8 locks north of Curdworth Tunnel at a pub called the Dog & Doublet; (The Speckled Hen was delicious!).

Elaine working a lock against a backdrop of graffiti!

Thursday 27th May 2010 - Dog & Doublet to Hopwas

A very lazy start after a long day yesterday. I fixed the new well earned bridge plates to the cratch before we set off about 10.30am. Travelled down through the rest of the Curdworth Flight (3 locks) and past Drayton Bassett (& the Theme Park) noting the strange medieval looking footbridge before mooring at lunchtime in a strong breeze (without a bow thruster) in Fazeley. We had lunch on board before visiting the shop and moving on up the Coventry Canal to moor in our favorite spot in Hopwas. Had a walk up Hopwas main street before spending some time pulling black plastic out of the bow thruster tube without very much success. Turned the telly on for the first time in a fortnight - to find BP were still polluting the world and people were still killing each other - no change there!

Passing Drayton Bassatt

Friday 28th May 2010 - Hopwas to Shugborough Hall

Elaine on the tiller just North of Fradley Junction.

It had rained through the night for the first time in a while. Travelled up through Fradley Junction where boats were rafted two abreast off both sides leaving a very challenging gap just wide enough for a single boat! The busiest we had ever seen it! When the bow thruster is inoperable I wouldn't have expected anything different!

Moored for lunch above Woodend Lock before stopping again for cheese and biscuits north of Rugeley opposite the smallholding. Then in the evening sun we moved up through Colwich Lock to moor for the evening at Shugborough Hall - just in time to see the hot air balloons take flight from the Shugborough Hall grounds.

Saturday 29th May 2010 - Shugborough Hall to Marina

Got ready to set away in something of a rush to beat the forecast rain and strong wind. Within 5 minutes of dropping the hood it started to rain so the hood was quickly erected once more before we launched. Setting sail in what was, by then, heavy rain; as only strong winds were forecast to follow and pulling into the marina in strong winds without the benefit of a bow thruster was the last situation I wanted to find myself in.
I slowed under the footbridge to allow Elaine to disembark, to ready Great Haywood Lock. I immediately realised I had made a major error!! Yes - the hood was still up and now in direct contact with the bridge; collapsing the cover and frame with a loud tearing sound and pulling the the brackets out of the boat roof with a ricochet sound! A DISASTER! Arrived into the marina a great style with a canvas hood collapsed around my head in strong winds without a bow thruster! Our only saving grace was it was still too early for most boaters to notice and thankfully avoided contact with any other boat in the marina.
Spent the rest of the day acquiring the necessary parts and fixing the hood framework and brackets. Only the hood canvas was still to repair.

Sunday 30th May 2010 - Returning Home

Got up to the usual 5-star breakfast, laid on by the galley girl; and we spent the day cleaning the boat inside and out before heading back home.

Monday 21 June 2010

Leicester Ring - Post No 3

Friday 21st May 2010 - Market Harbrough to the Welford Arm

Today was so warm at 7.00am that even Elaine opted for the 'factor 50' (on her nose & ears at least). Set away back down the Arm towards Foxton Locks to be greeted at the bottom of the locks with more of a 'log-jam' of boats than a organised queue.
We had a long wait at the bottom in baking sun before beginning the climb as we had timed our arrival with all the "canaltime" boats that had left the basin the day before.
We were soon up through the locks and on our way through Husband's Bosworth Tunnel (1100 yards). The cool air in the tunnel was very refreshing, although for Elaine maybe too refreshing as she did suffer an ice-cold dribble of running water down her neck despite it being a largely dry trip. In the centre of the tunnel we did encounter thick fog despite it being a very hot clear sunny day outside.
We reached and turned down the Welford arm by mid afternoon and after first winding at the last winding point marked in the Nicholson Guide and exploring on foot the last mile we discovered there was winding space at the end of the Arm so winded again to navigate the extent of the Arm by boat. Only then would we feel we could mount our Welford Arm bridge plate! Moored on the Arm overnight.

Foxton Locks (viewed from above the bottom lock)

Foxton Locks (viewed from the top lock).

Saturday 22nd May 2010 - Welford Arm to Braunston

Set away early on another day with 'factor 50' at 8.00am!
Shortly after bacon sandwiches en route we encountered a calf in the canal just before Yelvertoft! I left Elaine holding the boat while I went in search of the farmer; as the calf was clearly unable to rescue itself. It turned out the farmer was in fact one of the owners of the new Yelvertoft Marina. After the calf was recovered we cruised around the corner where GJP were making a great job of the finishing touches to the landscaping around the marina. The marina, now with several berths already filled looks like a quality setup!

Travelled down Watford Locks and passing Watford Gap motorway services proved to remind us of the speed of alternative transport.

Top Lock in the Watford flight

The sun was still burning up the grass as we turned at Norton Junction onto the Grand Union and headed for the cool of Braunston Tunnel. We passing another boat in the middle of the tunnel without suffering any damage despite the tight squeeze before emerging into bright sunshine again and mooring for the evening above the top lock.

Sunday 23rd may 2010 - Braunston to Long Itchington

Another very very hot day as we travelled down the locks with Narrowboat 'Mrs Mickfee' (from Milton Keynes). A boat that was famous, and much photographed, for taking the waterways minister for a cruise up the canal earlier in the year. Sun still high in the sky as we continued down through Stockton Locks before finally mooring at Long Itchington.
After a quick call home; we realised, yet again, that you can't leave kids home alone! Even if they are 22 years old. Danielle, after only 24hours in the house, had managed to burn out the pond pumps by turning them on despite the motors being choked with weeds!. I guess that this is a cheap repair compared to other damage that could have been caused during her end of year house party!

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Leicester Ring - Post No 2

Tuesday 18th May 2010 - Zouch to Blue Bank Lock.
Woke up to fantastic weather.

Our mooring at Zouch

After an early breakfast we pushed on up the Soar passing Normanton-on-Soar where we were able to admire the amazing houses with gardens that slopped down to the river. The houses were substituted with elaborate timber chalets as we ran out of the village centre; each chalet built on stilts to save it from flooding!
At Loughbrough, contrary to reports we had read, we were quite surprised by the pleasant 'canal scene' and I was even very tempted to make the short journey in reverse down the arm. Although now regretting not completing this part of the navigation, I guess I have probably avoided a trip down the weed-hatch as well!
Passing Leicester City Football Club

Continued up through Leicester and as the Castle Moorings were full (the only safe refuge in the city); and by choosing to avoid the local Leicester 'chavs'; we travelled further than we had initially intended. However as the weather was great it was a very enjoyable cruise.
We finally moored beyond the city limits with another narrowboat 'Theseus' below Blue Bank Lock.
The only downer on the day was finally standing in what a local dog owner had allowed his dog to leave by the canal and then walking it all over the rear deck and gunwales.

Wednesday 19th May 2010 - Blue Bank Lock to Wistow

A lazy start working up through the locks alone to moor for lunch opposite the British Waterways maintenance yard at Kilby Bridge. We couldn't help noticing that the BW workboat "Little John" was displaying an out of date license. (Expiring 19 days earlier!) Was very tempted to make a 'patrol notice' and stick it on the rear hatch!
Pushed on after lunch through many more locks; all with gates that refused to close when you wanted them to close. Stopping at 6.00pm for the evening near the medieval village of Wistow.

Thursday 20th May 2010 - Wistow to Market Harbrough

After breakfast we walked across the canal and visited Wistow Garden Centre and Model Village. A visit well worth the walk. (Yes - even I can walk that far!). Setting away about 10.30am we soon paired up with narrowboat 'Theseus' to travel up the next few locks (they must have passed the boat while we were visiting Wistow).
Next; Saddington Tunnel (880 yards long) proved to be an experience; although the tunnel had the usual number of dribbles of water to keep you on your toes in the dark; it was the bats that provided the bulk of the entertainment. They could be clearly seen as they flew around in the beam of the tunnel lamp at the front of the boat and it was quite unnerving to think they were also flying around our heads at the back of the boat; thankfully undetectable in the darkness at this end of the operation!
The canal today was again very quiet passing only one boat all day. It makes you feel your waterways license is quite cheap when you don't seem to be sharing the system with anyone!
Travelled past the bottom of Foxton Locks. Though there were no boats waiting to climb the flight, we opted to travel down the Market Harbrough Arm for the evening as planned.
The basin at the end of the Arm is pretty much like the town; very quaint and classy with evidence of affluence all around.
Bought a pair of go-cart tyres (fenders) from the crew of narrowboat 'Tranquility' who were moored behind us on the Arm.

Monday 17 May 2010

Leicester Ring - Post No 1

Friday 14th May 2010 - Great Haywood to Colwich
A busy journey down to the boat (what with the schools being back), having left home circa 3.00pm we arrived at Great Haywood around 6.00pm.
Waster no time loading up (as we had readied the boat the fortnight earlier) and we were out of the marina by 6.45pm and locked through Great Haywood and passed the moorings along the 'Shugborough straight' to moor at Colwich where we were more sure of a satellite TV signal. Although we had been cruising at 4mph for an hour my mind was still running at 100mph after a very busy week. It will take a little longer to get into the narrowboat mood.

Saturday 15th May 2010 - Colwich to Alrewas
A reasonably early start with bacon sandwiches on route. The smell of bacon wafting out of the rooftop Houdini hatch an a still morning with the blended smell of the log burning stove is priceless. Walkers crisps are clearly missing a trick if they don't bring out a grilled bacon and log burning stove flavour this year!
Stopped just above Woodend Lock to watch the Grand Prix qualifying before heading on through Fradley.
'Frantic' Fradley Junction lived up to it's name; it seemed to take an age to negotiate all the locks and the junction - all the time being watched by hundreds of gongoozlers!
Travelled down to Alrewas and moored 50 yards from the place we had moored two years previously (to the day). We discovered the fantastic character of this beautiful little village on our first trip down from Sheffield when the boat was brand new. If only I could afford to live here.
After dinner we had a gimble around the village to burn off some calories. We discovered an indian restaurant called Jaipur (the same name as an Indian restaurant we enjoy visiting near Easingwold when we are back home). Although we didn't try it it did look more 'E.coli' than 'Egon Ronay'.

Sunday 16th May 2010 - Alrewas to Swarkstone
Slipped our mooring just after 8.00am. Stopping for lunch at Stretton (between bridge 28 & 29) to watch the Monacco Grand Prix. Mark Webber (Red Bull) won. Another good result for the Milton Keynes team. Jenson Buttons chances were thwarted by his own 'pit lane buffoons' who left a bung in his side pud that overheated his engine on the way to the grid. (I think the bung was a fibreglass stopper not a rolled up wad of tenners - although we didn't get to see it on the telly!).
During the race the excitement in the boat peaked when a can of diet coke exploded in the fridge. This was partly a result of me turning the fridge up to full power last night (for no good reason) and partly due to the fact Elaine had packed the fridge solid with everything M&S had to offer in the chilled isle! This forced the drinks to be pushed onto the back wall of the fridge freezing them on contact. Anyway I am sure Elaine would agree - it took some cleaning up!

A Quiet Mooring Outside Swarkstone

The 18th Century Swarkstone Bridge

After a fantastic fillet steak on the boat we walked into Swarkstone and viewed the 18th Century five arch stone bridge and the elevated causeway that carries traffic over the Trent flood plain, before returning via Swarkstone Lock.

Monday 17th May 2010 - Swarkstone to Zouch
Travelled down through Swarkstone Lock alone but soon paired up with 'narrowboat Waimaru' who travelled with us down onto the Trent and up the River Soar before we both moored next to the lower flood lock pound at Kegworth for lunch. The journey, paired up with the crew of nb.Waimaru was very rewarding and we very much enjoyed the company of the other boat.
After a walk into Kegworth to visit the local co-operative store we pushed on the Zouch leaving them to relax in the sun.

Lunchtime mooring at Kegworth

The weather today has been fantastic. A typical Monday; you might say; but today we have been off work to enjoy it.
Mooring for the evening, just as it begins to spit-on with rain, opposite the Rose & Crown rounds off a great day.

Friday 14 May 2010

An April Weekend

Apologies to followers - it has been a while since I updated.
This is an update I drafted at the time but failed to publish earlier.

Friday 9th April 2010

Arrived reasonably early evening after a good run down the motorway from the North East and skirting around Derby with minimum delay. What a difference - travelling during the school holidays.

Wasted no time at the Marina topping up the water tank and pulling out of the marina with adequate time to cruise up to Tixall Wide and moor just beyond the Broad Water before dark. The nights are getting lighter again! Hip-hip-hurray!

Moorer just west of the wide water at Tixall

Saturday 10th April 2010

After an early start we fired up the engine to here that the domestic battery alternator belt to be squealing on the pulley. Very annoying. I guessed as it hadn't been called up to do any work for some time (this was the first time the belt was under load since before the winter break) it was groaning a bit. Although the noise could only be detected at tick-over it soon subsided.
Cruised up through Tixall Lock and Deptmore Lock to wind and moor outside the Moat House at Acton Trussell. After a walk around the village to admire the area we returned to the boat to firstly update our Nicholson Guide with the fact there is no longer a village store, and then set off back down the canal to moor opposite Stafford Boat Club Marina for the evening.
Elaine & I walked up into Wildwood to explore the local supermarket and drinking establishment - both worth the walk if not a little too far.

Sunday 11th April 2010

During breakfast the boat club provided plenty of entertainment with boats being winched back into the water and boats being pulled back up the slope of their dry dock. Obviously a great community as all hands were on the winders!

On the return back to the Marina, in the vicinity of the aqueduct, we spotted a buzzard that was soaring high on the thermals - an amazing bird that we had seen the day before but we were unable to identify it.

After a brief exchange of greetings with Ned from Cabincare, we arrived back at the Marina in time for lunch.

Friday 19 February 2010

Escapology Stamps!

Thursday 18th January 2010

Today we received a set of 10 First Class Stamps from the post office. Not normally an event of significance; however these are not just any first class stamps they are "Narrowboat Escapology First Class Stamps"! I ordered them from the Royal Mail website as a novelty! We intend to use the stamps when we post letters and cards back home when we are out cruising. Although we like them; they are unlikely to be sort after or collected by philatelists around the world!!

A sheet of Narrowboat Escapology stamps!

Sunday 31 January 2010

A Cold End To January!

Saturday 30th January 2010

We had initially planned to travel down to the Marina tomorrow (Sunday), for the day only. However, we took the opportunity to spend a full weekend at the marina as our plans for lunch 'back home' with friends (Joan and Bob) today was unfortunately postponed. Joan has been struck with shingles which is causing her some acute discomfort - get well Joan. We will reconvene for her birthday celebration once she is feeling better.

Left home at approximately 8.20am following a covering of snow during the night. Arriving at a sunny (but cold) Great Haywood at 10.45am. The marina was still frozen over but thawing fast in the sunshine. We lit the fire and clicked on the central heating and decided a trip by car to Trentham would give the boat time to warm up while we had a wonder along the shops.

Immediately on our return, Elaine reheated some homemade soup and this was delicious; going nicely with the crusty loaf we had bought from the farm shop. After lunch I decided today was a good opportunity to swap over the gas bottles. The boat only uses gas for cooking; so a 13kg bottle lasts about 6 months at current usage rates. I had switched the last bottle over in October and was therefore acutely aware we didn't have a spare ready for use when the current bottle expires. I had been putting off the purchase as the empty bottle we had was one of the original bottles supplied by Jonathan Wilson when the boat was new and was not of Calor origin but supplied by some obtuse welding supplies company from Sheffield, and therefore a new bottle agreement on top of the cost of the gas would not be cheap (£29.99 plus the gas). Anyway; a trip across the marina for a top up of 3 of the boats 'fuels' was required. (£10 Electric top-up; £10.oo bag of coal; and a £67.69 for gas.) Soon the bottle was fitted and we are now in the comfortable position of having a spare to rely on (because you can bet your boots it will be cold and raining when the bottle runs out); so a quick switch over is now available.

Watched a DVD and a bit of TV before stocking up the fire and going to bed. Although it was toasty in the boat it was clear to see that the weather was very cold outside as the ice on the surface of the marina was glistening in the crisp moonlight!

Sunday 31st January 2010

Woke today to find a covering of snow across the marina. Spent the morning testing out a 3G extension aerial on Elaine's laptop with an 02 card. It noticeably boosted the reception on her 3G card but still fails to deliver the signal strength she was receiving from the standard Vodafone card she had previously. No surprise there then I here you say!

A Covering of Snow on the Frozen Marina!

Travelled back up North during the afternoon; stopping briefly at Sheffield to drop off the empty propane bottle (at least Jonathan can get his deposit back on the bottle) and have a wander around a cold Victoria Basin. We did feel a little out of place as we weren't wearing our hoodies and had failed to bring our aerosols with us! An environment that was a stark contrast to that, that we had left behind at Great Haywood.