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.