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.