Tuesday, 12 September 2017

DB PHONE DRONE

Grand Union Canal Leicester Arm

Crikey, even under grey skies interspersed with occasional periods of blue time moves quickly. I'm aware that memories of childhood when days lingered forever are never to return but the slow pace of canal life speeds by and suddenly it’s the weekend, whatever that means, again. Knowing the day of the week, on the day, is part and parcel of orientation. I knew, yesterday, that it was going to be Friday tomorrow but when I woke up today I was more concerned about where DB was moored. When I moved my brain into first gear I remembered we were in Rugby and then I needed to confirm that today is really Friday. Oh bollocks. Now it's Monday.

How did we get here? Nb DolcieBlue, of course. A week ago we were in Market Harborough, 2 weeks ago we were at Aylestone Meadows, 3 weeks ago we were outside Mercia Marina, and then 4 weeks ago we were in Rugeley. Wow, that’s from my working memory, it will all get filed away now and the Blog will be my forever memory that is embedded in ‘a small particle of brain in my skull’. So described by the youthful, then, Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1970.

We cruised along the Trent & Mersey Canal in the direction of Trent Lock but turned starboard onto 
the River Soar at the end or beginning of the T&M. This is our 3rd trip up the R. Soar. I think we have done it at least once the other way, as well. Without getting saucy the R. Soar and the Grand Union Canal  Leicester Arm are a favourite of ours. This time, there was little boat traffic. I know not why??? The outskirts of Leicester are a rural attraction and a keen ride for cyclists as well as walks for pedestrians. But nowhere, in my opinion, has been busy.

We met with Bill (an ex-pat neighbour from Ribiera das Canas, Portugal, who we met in 1993), sadly his beloved wife Beryl has passed away but he brought his friend Ruth to spend an afternoon cruising with us to Kegworth Shallow Lock.

We also had our mate, Mark, travelling with us and for him, it was part of his annual holiday leave. Ruth was full of appreciation to travel on DB having never experienced the joy of cruising on a Narrowboat. We all met in Shardlow for the trip and we spent a happy day ‘chugging’ along. Having 5 people and Della on board worked well for a day trip and the rain held off until the evening, so we could all be comfortable outdoors for the day.

The R. Soar intersperses with the Grand Union Canal Leicester Arm. At times it is obvious, locks and nearby weirs, that indicate the Canal or River. As yet we have not been involved in high rainfall but word has it that the R. Soar is not slow to flood. I have noticed ‘dolphin’ moorings if need dictates and there are water markers at the Locks to mark the river level. Not forgetting the abundant weather forecasts! We have the Life jackets, at hand, and Della wears a harness. I know she can swim so I don’t stress her, or is it me, with the doggy life jacket.
Carrots blocking R. Soar weir

Mark had ‘4 nights’ with us and planned to leave DB near the city of Leicester. We didn’t feel pressure to be on the move but I had booked Della for a Rabies booster at a Vet she had seen before in Loughborough. So Loughborough was the next appointed stop. What a darling dog Della is. She takes everything in her stride and is a Vet’s dream when she gets a jab. Her Pet Passport is updated and she is now fit for winter in mainland Europe.

A night in Loughborough near the slowest-filling water point, may as well top up the water tank while I take Della to the Vet, and then on to Barrow-on-Soar to tie up at the 48hr Visitor moorings as the weather looked miserable. Within minutes of mooring, the clouds moved away leaving the day filled with blue sky and sunshine. Cptn spotted some abandoned branches of a tree, firewood, so moved them on to the Bow before we cast off and cruised to Mountsorrel Lock. There was enough room in the 24hr mooring space, above the Lock, to accommodate DB and we could have a relaxing overnight stop and dine at The Waterside Inn.
Mountsorrel Lock

Cptn had a flight test with his drone, an ongoing quest to get it operating to his satisfaction. Mark went for a walk to explore the local area via the Public footpaths. Meanwhile, I had noticed that the water was slow to drain from the kitchen sink. I tried to make the palm of my hand act like a plunger but that was a waste of time. I cast my eye over the trap and knew I would likely exacerbate the problem. I am fully aware it is not a favourite job for anyone but..... The boys ended up clearing and cleaning the stinky grungy sink trap. Thanks. I kept out of the way and for the first time I exited DB through a side hatch. I have always said that if we were indoors and needed to get off DB, in an emergency, the side hatch is the emergency exit. Yes it works. I can get out!

The Waterside Inn was fabulous for service and a tasty meal. The meals were freshly prepared and tasted great. For the first time, in ages, Della stayed home alone on DB. I don’t think that that made a difference to the meal or service we received, the pub is pet-friendly but Della was tired and I think happy to be left alone to sleep on DB.

Mark had another day and a ½ with us. We stopped for breakfast on the ring moorings outside the Watermead Country Park, north of Leicester, which has a network of artificial lakes over an extensive area. I walked Della around John Merrick’s Lake watching young people learning to sail, while the chaps on DB had the chainsaw and axe out tidying up the recently collected wood. Great another job was done and we have enough firewood to see us through spring next year. There is a lot of windfall wood around but DB can only carry so much and fresh wood needs to season.

We decided we could get Mark into the City of Leicester, the following day, and he would be within walking distance of the Train Station. On his last night, with us, we moored on the bollards at Birstall and did the river/canal cruise into Leicester in the morning. We noticed new pontoon mooring at Friar’s Mill that looks well positioned, and safe from the madding crowd. The Castle Garden moorings are OK, secure but there were no boats moored there. We moved over to Castle Garden moorings, after breakfast and walked with Mark in the direction of the Train Station.

Weed

I checked, earlier, that the canalized R. Soar ‘Mile Straight’ was navigable as there was two working craft with crane scoop to hauling bulk water grass matter out of the water. There was heaps of it floating. I’m guessing Duck Weed. I was told that the floating barrier would be lifted up to let us through and the ‘Mile Straight’ was navigable and would clear before we got to Freeman’s Lock.

No problem, we were quickly underway aware that we were the only Narrowboat on the Mile Straight. Back into Lock-land and a quick Aldi stop, because we can just after Aylestone Mill Lock. Time moves on and we agreed Kilby Bridge was a Bridge plus more too far for the day’s destination. We found a perfect rural mooring just after Blue Bank Lock and spent a quiet night there enjoying the feeling of being on our own by ourselves.

We still had a distance to get to Kilby Bridge and Cptn has noticed the Locks on the Grand Union Canal are getting a bit testy to work. Maybe this is why this stretch is little used. I have heard that the majority of boat traffic on the Leicester Arm of the GU Canal is on the move between the Foxton Locks and the Watford Locks. Ah yes they are the easy Narrow locks and in good working condition.

Aylestone Meadows...view from the otherside

View from indoors looking out to the other side

Ideally, we would share the locks if there were other boats on the move but the morning that we left for destination Kilby Bridge, had 2 boats go past us minutes before, and another 2 arrived as we were ‘going up’ the first Lock of the day. Kindly they closed the Lock Gates after us and we never saw them until the next day? 

The water level was low and luckily we only met one boat that moved us into shallow waters. I don’t like that ‘tippy’ feeling as DB scrapes the Canal sludgy side bottom. The loose items on the kitchen bench are likely to end up on the floor. Part of the prep for cruising should be ‘damage control’ i.e. relocating loose items on the bench. Failing that then always be prepared for quick action!! The best thing is, at the helm to reverse thrust let the oncoming boat pass and the non-helmer to race indoors and stop the 'bench' slide.

I didn’t feel hopeful that we would get a good 48hr mooring at Kilby Bridge as it was getting late into the day when we arrived. But, I think, Cptn could see there was space at the front of the mooring bollards, because we got the place we wanted. We decided we would make use of 48 hrs and relax rather than rush off. The rest day was warm and sunny, ideal to hang the laundry on the clothesline. I checked it a couple of hours later and I noticed a chap using a controller standing in the open space outside DB.

“Are you flying a Drone?” I said. I couldn’t hear any sound and the widgets on the controller could have been a Wii thingy. I’m a technophobe, out of touch or out of synch?? Whatever!!

“Yes.” And he pointed out where it was flying.

Spot DB, in plain view!

I asked if he would please email me an injury free photo of DB, shot by a drone. I called out to Cptn as I thought he might be interested to talk to a person with Drone success.

We had a long conversation and invited Pete the Drone and Dani for a Bank Holiday Monday cruise on DB, the following day to the medieval field (Wistow) near Newton Harcourt.

Lock share

Waiting!

We enjoyed our morning with P & D although we said farewell before our destination. C&RT emergency had asked us to wait for a couple of hours before we moved through the last 2 locks at Newton Harcourt, shallow waters near Leicester meant water had to be sent there from the Saddington reservoir near the Saddington Tunnel via open Lock sluices and boats in the flow needed to tie up until the all clear was given. We weren’t bothered, it was a beautiful day, probably the last attempt for a summer’s day and we had been sharing locks with another Narrowboat. There was no hardship in waiting and when we were told we could carry on, we did and we got our favourite mooring opposite the Medieval Field. And we had the first and last BBQ of 2017!
Medieval Fields

A ray of sunshine

We didn’t loiter and a quick look at the weather forecast, of course, meant that we’d move on. I put in practice taking DB through the Saddington Tunnel. Good for me to cope with sharing the narrow space with an oncoming boat. It was fine, although I don’t like it. More tunnels later down the Cut.

DB cruised on turning at Foxton and onto the Market Harborough Arm. I did the helming and Cptn worked the 2 swing bridges.
Swing Bridge, Foxton

Market Harborough Arm on a fine day

Berry nice

Plenty of the 48hr C&RT moorings were available at 'Arborough. Where are the boats, there used to be boats?! I had phoned Union Wharf to book into moor plugged into electric for 3 nights. Having more than 2 lights switched on at the same time on DB is a luxury.
Free form waiting at Foxton Locks

On the 4th day, we were ready to get going and move up the Foxton Locks. No queue when we arrived but a Trip boat was in the way loading up with passengers and blocking the Lock mooring. I did a crafty manoeuver and managed to hold DB alongside the Trip boat. 

Meanwhile Cptn sauntered off to book in our passage up the Locks. We only had to wait for 2 boats coming down the Locks. The first one was a 70’ rental and they wanted to turn sharp starboard out of the Lock. DB was in the way so I had to reverse DB almost to the moored boats on the other side of the basin behind the Trip Boat sidled off as well. Did I mention an outsider arriving fo the 'Up' Lock wait? I’m trying to give the view of ‘Strictly Boating’ in a ‘Line Boating’ movement. The spectators were watching with interest. With the Trip Boat gone we could get moored albeit briefly and then it was DB’s turn to begin the staircase Locks. I took her all the way up while Cptn worked the red and white paddles and offered some gongoozlers to ride up a Lock with me at the Wheel. It is nice to share the experience as all I could say with the rise in each Lock, it must be like being born again. I know going down the Locks is going 6 ft under 10 times!

10 Locks later, bye bye Foxton and a pretty cruise into the sunset. But sunsets have been rare this summer, plenty of cloud cover with little view of the sun setting!

Nicw

Husband s Bosworth Tunnel

Husbands Bosworth Tunnel was on the agenda, early the next morning. I was reluctant to commit to taking DB through but we waited for an oncoming boat and I could see the tunnel was clear of traffic so I steered DB. Again we moored in a favoured rural setting for the night. I remember seeing ‘shepherds’ on 4 wheel drives rounding up sheep, here, 3 years ago! Now the fields were scattered with round hay bales. 21st century farming!!
Bales of Hay

We held off with cruising and waited for the end of weekend traffic, that is we moved on a Monday to get past Crick, and through the Crick Tunnel and down the Watford Gap Locks. Yep I helmed for the Crick Tunnel. I always thought it was a leaky tunnel but it wasn’t bad. I could see there was an oncoming boat as I entered the Tunnel but I could do it. What I didn’t know was it was a working boat towing another working boat. That meant over 140’ of steel but it kept to its side and I kept to mine. No scrapes remembered. Our boat headlamp is LEDx3 and it is good to be able to clearly see into the black hole ahead.
Watford Locks

Cptn took DB through the Braunston Tunnel. A boat was just exiting as we were entering. Cptn of the approaching boat was unhappy with our lights “There should be a law against those lights” said that Cptn Sensitive Ocular. Turns out he had had a go at the boat ahead of us for having bright lights. I think he has a dim outlook. Ships that pass in the night????? How does he get on when the bright sun shines on his face?

Braunston an overnight stop but not much to keep us moored here. Let’s cruise up the Oxford Canal, North. Just getting on the move is in our bones and we are lucky that our lifestyle means we can do this. We are never really sure where we will moor, most days, on the move but occasionally we will have an aim. We just wanted to leave Braunston. Watch out for the burnt sunken boat near Bridge 90. Lucky a boatie told us “Watch out for the sunken boat.” With warning I was able to avoid it but where is the warning sign and hi-vis tape indicating ‘danger obstruction’! I suppose the best warning was the verbal warning and we were lucky to be given it and to hear the words!!
Compote in waiting

I loved our next mooring and I went off with a plastic container to collect blackberries, sweet juicy blackberries. As I walked along I remembered we had walked along here before, this was the first time probably since3 years ago and then we had seen a drone in action flown over some land that was being marked out for an inland marina to be designed by an Architect who was involved in the Eden Project in Cornwall. I thought that the Marina hadn’t gone ahead but lo and behold we cruised past last Thursday, and there was Dunchurch Pools Marina. Well, that was a surprise!
Rugby

And so to Rugby, where we are moored for a few days. It wasn’t planned but we need a change in road vehicle for the forthcoming drive to Spain. Plus, out of the blue, my younger Bro is going to be in London so I’m going to train to London to spend some hours with him tomorrow. Then we're on the move.

That’s it Blog is up to date! Now to post it!!



Feed me!













Saturday, 26 August 2017

‘WILD GEESE’ ON THE T & M



I never blogged the gap on our Canal cruise from the Shroppie to the Staffs & Worcs to the T & M. Writer’s privilege prevailed and I moved swiftly to blog the Caldon Canal and leave us on the T & M. T & M is Trent & Mersey Canal.

Now we know that DB is measured to fit the uninviting Harecastle Tunnel one future day but no current plans for that. 45 minutes under the low undulating roof is not an attractive call.

We have moved swiftly but slowly along the T & M remembering that speed is not for the Canals. The series of Locks at Stoke-on-Trent had a few boats on the move but no lengthy queues. I was at the wheel, as my back was giving me a spot of grief when I worked the Locks and it was best to take heed of the pain, medicate and not irritate. I am enjoying steering DB, I am not overwhelmed by her length anymore. We stopped at Trentham (pr. Trent-ham) as there is an Aldi a couple of bus stops away. Me and my trolley walk the distance and it is the best way to carry shopping, I am a Trolley Dolly on land! The previous week we moored in Trentham, under the threat of stormy black clouds. I had walked to Aldi and was indoors, there, when the ‘heavens’ opened and I heard loud bursts of thunder. Under the artificial lights, I couldn’t see the lightning flashes but I knew the storm was overhead and I was stuck in Aldi for a long time. It was still raining when I decided to leave but I think the spray from passing road traffic was wetter than the falling rain as I trudged along.

Still, that was then and this time there was no rain. Untie the ropes and DB cruised on past WEDGEWOOD. That’s what the sign looks like, hardly an aesthetic draw card given the timelessness of Wedgewood fine china and porcelain.

We moored DB at Barlaston right outside The Plume of Feathers, Neil Morrissey’s pub. It was a good mooring for the night and looked popular but we stayed on board DB, tired and content. We made an early start the following morning hoping to get good moorings in Stone. Chris had the Lock work to do and I was left sitting at the bottom of the Lock, as he went on to prepare the Lock ahead before returning to let me out. All good in theory. The second Lock, was a very leaky Lock and wouldn’t stay at optimum fullness to let the gate open with the muscle of one person. I moved DB so the nose was close to the shut gate and Chris tied the gate to DB’s nose and I reversed back and eventually, the gate opened! I took DB into the Lock and Chris opened one sluice gate, to let DB go down slowly and I went and made real coffee. It felt like I was ‘trapped’ and I was happy to see the Lock Gates open. The next Lock was a short distance away but not close and I thought I saw someone, human, at that Lock. I shouted out to Chris but when I looked again I didn't see anyone. As I neared the Lock someone was there opening the gates for a boat coming up! ‘Our’ Lock had been stolen!! At the time, we weren’t happy but I can see, now, that the person wouldn’t have seen DB was in the Lock ahead and wouldn’t have been aware that the ‘dog walker’ heading in the other direction would have been responsible for filling the Lock. Yes, the clue is if the Lock paddles are wound up and the Lock is close to being full then someone has done this for a reason. I don’t think our meeting was friendly. Oh well, there are plenty more boats on the Cut!
Stone

We stayed a couple of nights in Stone, checked out the many charity shops and waited for the sun to shine. We purchased a much-needed chimney hood at the friendly Chandlery in Stone. A couple of nights and we were ready to move on. I had been walking Della, late afternoon, the day before and I heard “Hello Sarah” from a holiday boat arriving at the Lock moorings. It was Ross and Dan, gongoozlers who we had met, on land, on the Llangollen Canal. How cool, they are taking the first steps to begin the dream of a new life living on the Cut. We passed them the next day, they were looking so happy and I’m sure they’ll have their own boat soon.
Weston upon Trent

It was cool that the sun made a rare appearance on the day we left Stone. It was a beautiful summer’s day, closer to an autumn day but the leaves on the trees are still green.  We weren’t long on the move when we spotted a sunny mooring at Weston upon Trent and decided to stop for breakfast. It looked like a nice spot so we called it a day. No need to move on, we were meeting a friend from NZ in Rugeley and we were well on time for that plan. We took a late afternoon walk into the village and were surprised to find a couple of home produce stalls just off the Canal. One had fresh eggs and we saw the chickens roaming free nearby. I put Della on a lead to remind her that these weren’t ‘chase me’ chickens as I knew she would be keen to play with them! We’ll never forget the time she came running out of the Truby King Reserve, in the grounds of the Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, Otago, NZ. Della had a feathered friend, a chicken, held gently but firmly in her mouth. She released the chook and it scampered off.
Puffball

On the walk into town, we passed a cutting at the side of the road which had enormous puffball mushrooms growing. Getting more information later, from the internet, we verified that puffballs were not toxic and we watched them being cooked on Youtube. Cptn went back and picked one and I prepared it....cut it like a loaf of bread, brush both sides with extra virgin olive oil, lightly fry it then place it under the grill until it is golden.
Slice of Puffball

We moved on to the outskirts of Rugeley waiting for our friend to arrive to stay with us for two days to cruise to Burton-upon-Trent.  
Nice view near Aquaduct over R.Trent, Rugeley

It felt like we were moving to familiar waters, the threat of rain was holding off and just as we were untying the ropes a Narrowboat came into view from behind. 

Dead centre of Rugeley

There was no way I was going to cut in front of them but the draw of the water pulled DB back towards the boat moored behind. I throttled forward and bow thrust into the Cut to avoid contact with the boat moored in front. Matey, on the moving NB was only slightly in front but no contact was made. I kept DB, at a distance, behind and was going past at Tic as they were mooring up at the Tesco mooring.
“SLOW DOWN!!!” they yelled
“I AM SLOWED DOWN. I CAN’T GO ANY SLOWER.”
“NO YOU’RE NOT!! YOU TRIED TO PULL OUT ON US BEFORE!! I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!!”
They were angry. No time to explain. Best I forget.


We are bumping, not literally, into boat
people we knew from Mercia Marina. We did spend about 2 years there and for that time the gated marina was our home. It was a surprise to see Cptn being warmly greeted at the Top Lock at Fradley Junction. I didn’t recognise, the people, from a distance but it was Christine and Adrian. Nice to see them, they moved away from Mercia a couple of years ago as well. Then when we moored in a tight mooring between 2 Nb’s at Alrewas, on the Nb behind us was Sharon and Trev. Sharon had made the curtains for Avalon Mist and she had told us of a garage being advertised for rent when we needed a place to put our boxes shipped from NZ. That was then....
Alrewas wasn’t as busy as former times we have been there. In fact the Canals we have cruised along are not busy. C&RT have done well keeping boats on the move and moorings that have people overstaying are no longer noticeable.
Stop talking and let me out!

The cruise to Burton-upon-Trent was quiet, with little waiting time at the Locks. I was steering DB as I was still having time out from the Locks to avoid ‘heavy’ work. 

Cruising a straight stretch of Canal beside the busy A38 and I was aware there was a Nb coming towards me. I moved to the (R), as is the rule, and it swerved in slow motion to its (L) which means it is on ‘my’ side of the Cut. It looked like it was going to ‘wind’ but it wasn’t right whatever it was doing. I made to move to my (L) and it pulled out to its (R), so I moved back to my (R). Whatever!
As we passed and got stern to stern
“What are you doing?” I called out, puzzled.
“Wild Geese.” he said.
“What?”
“APOLOGIES.” he said.
Miscommunication as hearing gets lost due to the noise of the boat engine and the nearby motorway.
Wild Geese, I like it. It could be in the Boaty slang Ducktionary....
 
No wild geese in this lot.
Shobnall Fields is a good mooring in Burton and it is just slightly more than a hop skip and jump into town. But I was on a mission to get my Ukulele back into play and I had made stringing it into a problem. I knew there was a Music shop, and I took my Uke to Pete Oakley Music to get my baby restrung and while I remembered to get a stud put on it so I could have a strap attached. Yay, my Uke sounds playable again.


 
Shobnall Fields











Wednesday, 9 August 2017

WHAT WEATHER WHINGE WITTER!!







Etruria Sanitary Station.

We are loosely following the 4 Counties Ring so why not use the possibility of 4 weather forecasts to predict the conditions we may be cruising under. It’s all very well to hope that cruising will only take place, for us, under predicted fair-weather. The %-age risk of rain minimally varies but the time it may fall differs. Gone are the days, here, when the heart spoken words “What a glorious summer day” could last for the whole day let alone ½ a day. We are on the west-ish side of the Island and maybe that is part and parcel of the land/Oceanic climate here. But for the sake of sanity under the Jet Stream the polar front has stalled over the UK bringing wet and windy weather. Then the talk moves to Jet Streak... So much information, maybe it should just be called Jet Maelstrom. Anyway, instead of saying “What a beautiful day”, I am saying “What a warm sunny day at 9.30, this morning, and now, at 10.53 it's raining cats and dogs.” The weather may as well be timely in its description. 

One morning, on the Caldon Canal I woke up, I wake up every morning, the day was dawning treating me with a clear blue sky and when I rose a ray of sun shine beamed through a crystal hanging in the port hole window. Happy vibes! I dressed, early, to take Della for her morning walk. Della is a creature of habit and knows that when she has done her business it will be her same-as- always doggy breakfast, James Well Beloved biscuits soaked in water with a taste of added Pilchards. So we get off DB and I look into her black dog eyes to tune into which direction to take the walk – I look and point saying “That way, or the other way?” Decisively I command “That way.” I want to take a photo of nasty Bridge 42 while we are moored at Cheddleton.
See the gouged bridge!!

The arch of the Bridge is low over the Canal and has bitten other boats and it grabbed the starboard side of DB's front wooden wheelhouse panel. Honestly truthfully I wasn’t going fast and I had throttled back in reverse to slow almost to a stop to avoid contact. I turned on the bow-thruster, bzzt bzzt sounded as I buzzed to Port too late and the panel got grabbed but not swallowed. It looked and sounded worse at the time it happened. I am not happy about being involved in damage.  

Beyond the weather has been the journey along the Caldon Canal. We went on this Canal as far as Cheddleton in 2011 on Nb Avalon Mist. I remember it was and still is a narrow Canal and there were some windy days. I had my first attempt at ‘winding’ (turning the boat around) at Cheddleton, we didn’t venture to Bridge 42! 

Cheddleton, AM 2011...hi-vis marks the spot
After ‘winding’ AM I had jumped onto the towpath holding her stern rope and one of my feet went straight into a one-foot deep muddy hole. That must hold some humour! I wasn’t happy but no bones were broken, I remember it well. BW (British Waterways) were quick to the scene with orange high-vis to mark the point of danger!

I like the Caldon Canal, it is a quiet Canal with little boat traffic. Once we had moved out of the Potteries area and the Stoke-on-Trent ‘burbs we went past Hanley Park, nice but I wouldn’t moor there, and out into beautiful rural land. We moored further on, past Milton, and chatted with happy people walking the clean asphalted Towpath and picking the ripening blackberries.
Near Milton

“You wouldn’t think there was this beauty so close to Stoke.” said a happy pedestrian. 
I think  ‘Keep that a secret from the Southerners.’ 

We turned onto the Leek Branch of the Caldon Canal to make the short 2-mile cruise to the end of the Leek line. It was well worth it, the countryside is gorgeous green forested and lush. There was wood on the towpath from a fallen oak tree. Tempting but the canal was too shallow to get alongside the towpath and the lengths of tree were too heavy to ‘person-handle’. 
Leek Branch

Further along is the 130 yd Leek Tunnel. 


No difficulty for us to go through this tunnel, and it was the cleanest tunnel we have seen in our experience of passing through Tunnels on the waterways. There are a few moorings at the end of the Leek Branch but the moored boats were not close together and we struggled to moor. We tied up and met land friends who had driven to Leek to meet up with us outside Morrisons! Their journey was 25 miles, by car, and took just over an hour. When I phoned them to say we were close to Leek, our journey was about 1 1/2 miles, by boat and 1/2 mile on foot and took us about 1 1/2 hours. It is an IQ challenge to work out distance and timing as a water gypsy!


Later, we cruised back to be near to the Caldon Canal for an early start, the next day when we cruised as far as we could along the Canal past Cheddleton and onto the River Churnet. It was like being in the Botanical Gardens on the R. Churnet. 

R. Churnett

Beautiful and a couple of floating tree trunks purposely blocked the weir meaning a sharp turn to Port put us back on the Canal cruising a narrow stretch past the Consall Railway Station.
Consall Railway

We had to wind at Flint Mill Lock as DB is too wide at her cabin top for the Froghall Tunnel. Nevermind, next time I will walk the towpath!

The Holly Bridge, Denford

The Caldon Canal is worth the cruise from the beginning of the Canal at Etruria off the Trent and Mersey Canal. There is history along the way and there is no need to cruise the distance at speed. Be wary of the bridges, they are low. Another small accident was the low chimney got taken out under another bridge arch. That was owner error and I should have made sure the flat chimney cap was in situ! It was time to replace it, anyway!

The days' end of our journey was a fast, we thought, 2-mile cruise from Etruria to the Harecastle Tunnel. 
Detail

We thought being so close to the Tunnel we should measure up with the skilful advice of the Tunnel Keeper to see if DB would be able to make passage through it one day in the future. "YES" was the answer but we would be placed at the end of the queue so we would have no pressure to move at speed. It is a long tunnel, and there are low heights to be wary of. One day I will steer her through. Cptn has taken AM through 3 times and doesn't enjoy it. I think our lighting is better and I'm up for the job! 
Measuring up!

BUT NOT THIS YEAR!!!

We thought that we would be able to Wind at the tunnel. We tried but we are too long.
Clear this bit away and it may be possible to Wind!!

Reversed back to Westport Lake, the Bowthrusters battery was tired but Cptn did the job well. Next day it was only a couple of bridges and the battery had recharged and we were able to wind and head in the right direction along the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Reversing looks easy!


  





Saturday, 15 July 2017

ALMOST STEEL KISSES – DOING THE ‘CLANGY’ [sic] Llangollen Canal

Looking down over the narrow edge towards DB & and our shadow


Our first and last time before this time, (got it?), cruising the Llangollen Canal was in 2011 when we were newbies, first timers, taking the long journey on Nb Avalon Mist from Devizes to Willington. I was tiller shy and avoided the long steel arm where possible as I felt I was an accident waiting to happen. My recollection of the Llangollen Canal was a pretty and scenic canal with a lot of holiday rental boats banging along. Now, thinking about it, who was I to have such an attitude when we were still nbb’s (new born boaties) growing through our infant stage. I decided then to nickname this canal as the ‘Clangy’.

The ‘Clangy’ hadn’t been on our repeat list but with few deadlines to meet in our 2017 unwritten cruising timetable we were close to Hurleston Junction with the choice of straight ahead to Chester or left to Welsh Wales. We decided Wales when we saw there was no queue apart from the mid-placed 34’ Narrowboat occupying the space of 3 boats, waiting to go up the flight of 4 locks at Hurleston Junction. The tiller-man was at the bottom lock, on his ‘mobile’ when I arrived there. I asked him in a deadpan way “Is that your heap of s boat down there?” He replied saying he was in no rush and we could go before him. I yelled down to Cptn and the rest of the nearby world, backing up words with hand signals for DB to move into the Bottom Lock. Later Cptn reported that the Bottom Lock is narrower than the other narrow locks. We remember in 2011 seeing a working boat try to get into the Bottom Lock. I think its stern must have been wrapped with fenders meaning its ‘bum’ wouldn’t fit and no amount of forcing would budge the lock. I expect it had to have a fender removal if it was going to get in. Who knows what happened?? I’m not bothered. Another memory from 2011, at the Top Lock, was I found €30. Finders keepers.

We cruised up the locks and no pounds dried up on us, not like in our 2011, some of the pounds were mudbaths and flooding below from above was the 'fixit' means. We were on the move but no rush as I was set on steering DB over the aqueducts in the next week or two, heights don’t make me squirm.

We didn’t move far on our first day but were happy to find ring moorings. Ring moorings are handy but not essential. I like them. I observed, as we cruised along the Llangollen Canal, there are plenty of isolated places with 48hr signage which indicate ring moorings.  Day 2 we got to Wrenbury, in time for lunch at the Dusty Miller. Great Sunday roast and dog friendly. We could have gone to see Elvis at the Cotton Arms but thought it might be a bit rowdy for the chilled mood we were in. I have heard that the food is great there but you need to pre-book. Wrenbury is a good stopping place and I like the moorings after the key operated lift bridge.

The weather, yes, there is no escaping the weather. It has been a mixed bag, as it is likened to in this country. We knew there was rain coming and we moved to Willeymore, no less, Lock where there is a remote pub family owned. The location sounded perfick for a couple of days and we could get on with some interior decorating works. 

The kitchen needed to be decorated and this meant the wall units needed to be removed. With the canopies in situ over the wheelhouse and stern we had room to move out from the kitchen. All good. It was a bit 'rocky' being moored near the Lock with the boat traffic rocking DB with every passing.


Day 1   1 wall cabinet emptied and down - sand, fill (Decorator’s caulk is the biz, you don’t have to sand if you use this stuff just smooth over with soft finger and wipe with damp cloth.) paint wall and ceiling.

We moved DB along the Cut and moored below the next Lock, Povey’s Lock. There are a couple of rings before the Lock mooring and the water is calm and boat traffic didn’t disturb us.

Day 2    2 wall cabinets emptied and down - sand, fill, paint wall and ceiling. Restore.



A good job was done. There is still more to do in the open plan living area but it is straight forward. Cptn had his power tools out and got some stuff finished near the entry door. I’m determined to get the decorating done this year. Yep, DolcieBlue was launched 4 years ago!!!

In the small world of life on the Cut, Sonja and Ian from Nb Isle of Aran were moored nearby and they were cruising up the Clangy. We first met them in 2011 on the Kennet & Avon Canal, not long after we had begun our adventure from Devizes on AM. In fact it was Ian who gave me my initial tutorage on filling the Lock as AM was going ‘up’ in the Lock. I was competent with how to empty a lock but filling a lock was another story. I was concerned I would drown AM and avert the disaster was in my hands. As we were the only boat in the wide lock, Ian was keen on using ropes to keep AM in position. All I can say now is we don’t use ropes, some boats do but we don’t unless we are instructed by Lockies on the rivers. I am in tune with the movement of water in the filling Lock. I always wind the paddle up halfway on both gates and check the water pressure. If the force is strong, I’ll wait until the cill is covered but if it is a piddly flow then I’ll wind up both paddles. Each to their own but always check if you help out with another boat. If the water flows in too fast then I find DB lurches and bangs her nose, there is also a chance water may douse the Bow.
Whitchurch Arm

After the brief stop for works to DB we moved to the Whitchurch Arm. Nice moorings and a bit of a walk to town. Baz and Celia on NB April Fool arrived. They were close to our mooring when we were in Mercia Marina. We had hoped that we would catch each other on the Clangy and we did. Baz and I play the Uke and fortunately, we met up again the next day in rural canalside moorings. We all enjoyed spending some time together and we could do some Uke-ing. See yas next time, maybe Willington or R. Soar?

Navigator on duty



Narrow bridges on this canal. 

Mid boat traffic at the lift bridge meant no stopping!!

Who lives here? Worzel Gummidge?

The Mere near Ellesmere


Our next stop was Ellesmere, close to the Montgomery Canal and not far to the Chirk Aqueduct and Pontyscyllte Aqueduct. I had to book passage on the Montgomery Canal and was gobsmacked when C&RT said when would we like to go? “Tomorrow?” I enquired. They confirmed tomorrow was fine and totally in concord with us having 4 days on the Canal.


Comfy mooring

Narrow means narrow.

Horse drawn craft


Lock house

The Montgomery Canal gives us 7 miles and back of cruising along a restored Canal from Frankton Locks to Gronwyn Bridge just past Maesbury Marsh. The restoration is continuing and a few miles remain to be linked to the Welsh side, I think. The signs as we move along the Montgomery Canal were probably meant to be positioned on the other side of the Canal. We came from the Frankton Locks and the sign reads we continue on to the Frankton Locks or return to Newtown!! You need to visit the Canal to make sense of this. But thoroughly worth the time out from the Clangy

The bow thrusters had a hissy fit and on the last day I had no back up for a sharp bend which left me and DB nestled in the shallow waters and trees. Here was I thinking that I had mastered the helm but this one was a learning curve. At this point I must write when people say we have the cheat’s button I get pissed off. It is really handy as we are 68 ft of steel and it is useful to be able to nudge direction when necessary. I can steer DB and I will use the Bow thrusters when I deem necessary. They are there to be used. What I have learnt is I must be prepared to manage without them when they don't work! Cptn had to wind DB, the day before, in awkward circumstances without the Bow thrusters. The winding hole is not clearly sign posted at the end of the Montgomery and I insisted DB be winded where a Boat Club have boats moored. A sign clearly says ‘No Winding’ but the C&RT scribbled sign doesn’t clearly indicate the winding hole is at the end of the canal 250yds further along. The Lift Bridge at the end builds muscle and once, to me, was enough. The cyclists and cars that were waiting seemed to enjoy a social occasion in the sun!

We were back on the Clangy after 4 days on the Montgomery Canal and we cruised on to Chirk on a beautiful summers day. Lots of boat traffic with smiley happy people. The next day, we crossed the Chirk Aqueduct with me at the helm and went straight through the Chirk Tunnel. Quite a long one, cruising into the current of water flowing from the River Dee.
Chirk Aqueduct

Not far, now, to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. I thought the Chirk Tunnel had the strong water flow but it is the Whitehouse Tunnel that has the strong up canal flow. I remember AM struggling through this tunnel and I had thought it would be good to have some helpful leg power! We moored just before Fron(cysyllte), a mile to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The weather would have been beautiful, that day, to go over but we were waiting for an old friend who was going to cross with us the next day. It turned out he was unable to make it and the weather looked a bit sorry but we decided rain or shine we would do it. The sun shone through a cloudy sky and it was FAB. My dream had been to steer DB and now it is no longer a dream. In fact, I didn’t need to hold the wheel, although my hands rested on it. The water level on the aqueduct wouldn’t let craft go over the edge. I had joked about having some elastic around my ankle..... All tickety boo. 

I'm looking!!!!

Family event, I can't see anything!


The towpath has a fence.

Then there were the Kiwis walking across the Aqueduct. All excited to see the NZ flag flying. We winded and cruised about 14 miles, getting to Ellesmere and moored on the arm 7 hours later. I was tired, I had steered all the way except for the last couple of miles. It was a downstream feel and we moved quickly. Don't be fooled that steering is the easy task. There was almost boat jam as we exited the Chirk Tunnel. Holiday boaters not knowing how to stop craft coming through the tunnel.... not my problem, we got through. Yep there were 4 boats waiting and 2 more boats coming across the Chirk Aqueduct. We were 1 boat waiting along with 2 more coming through the Tunnel. Tee hee, I got them moving!!

We got back to Hurleston Junction, on Thursday morning. That took us just over 2 days, if that, from crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. We had a rain rest day in Ellesmere. Yep, not much traffic really. At least one close call when I blasted my horn at the nose of a Nb appearing from under a bridge. Always be alert when on the Helm. There is always hope the reverse throttle jammed into full reverse will back out of the situation. And the hope is that the oncoming boat will do the same thing. And so they did. I eventually got around to turning off my horn. And in the small world we live in....holiday makers from Waikuku, NZ. A short time later....holiday makers from Fairlie NZ. Yay mainlanders!
And that’s it. 

It’s a Canal to repeat. Loved it and beautiful scenery. Lots of pastures, woodland and lakes. Almost made me feel at home. 

Beauty is everywhere, look and you will see.











A brief history

This is a blog set up by Chris and Sarah so family and friends can catch up with their travels on the British waterways in the summer of 2011. In 2010, I went to England with the idea of getting a narrow boat built. I had specific requirements so I thought that a new build may be the way to go. I e mailed to numerous boat builders, a great percentage of whom ignored me. The problem of having a family name of Laycock is that hotmail and a few others think that I am a porn star. At an early age you learn not to put C Laycock on your school books. But I guess that my nephew Paul did worse. Anyway I spent a very pleasant few weeks driving around the beautiful English countryside visiting boatyards, marinas, boat builders and just a few pubs. I had narrowed it down to two builders and in the last week I was in Devizes Wiltshire when I came across "Avalon Mist" 54 feet of throbbing neglected narrow boat. The past owner had lost interest, hadn’t maintained her and to add insult to injury had been made redundant. After a very short negotiation I was able to buy her for a pretty fair price. On the day the sale took place I had to beg her to take her trainers and a few rather suspect items of clothing, in other words she left everything. Lock stock and barrel.

Soon after the purchase I flew to California to meet Sarah and have a short holiday. Once back in NZ I started to try and organize works. The first thing that I learnt was that the marina does not allow any contractor on site, only their chosen ones, the excuse given is a concern about insurance, the suspicion is, graft, pay back, baksheesh, call it what you like. It is possible to take the boat off the marina to have the work done, but not really practical.

The first job to be tackled was to “winterize” the boat, i.e. drain off all the water, check the anti freeze in the engine and central heating and fit an automatic bilge pump.

No real problem there except communication, the mechanic just didn’t answer e mails. Difficult to do business like that.

The nice marina lady had a quiet word with him, and things did improve, thanks Debs you have been a star through out . He later confided in me the reason for this was that he was dyslexic, apparently a malady [he] claims affects a lot of mechanics.[It turns out that he is a great mechanic and a nice guy to boot].

That goes pretty high on my list of lame excuses, the top one being a really nice Irish guy Pat, who I had employed as a carpenter years ago when I lived in London. He was always a bit late for work, when I finally collared him about it; he said he could never decide what to wear to work.

Nice one Pat.

I digress, the boat was winterized, which was just as well as it was a cold one and the whole marina froze over.

Next job was to have her taken out of the water, have the hull stripped back to bare metal and have a bit of over plating done. There were a couple of areas where there was pitting, and I though if she’s out of the water, may as well do the job right, so a small amount of over plating and then the hull was blacked, and the engine bay partially de-rusted and then back in the water.

Seems like a good job was done, I had the marine surveyor who had done the original survey, check out all the major works and give me written reports and photos, so all good except once again communications.

I then came across a great guy, the partner of the woman who runs the marina and a carpenter/narrow boat fitter outer .He replaced the stern deck and did a great job, also did a great job on de-greasing, de-rusting and painting the engine compartment. A job I should have done myself, but I just didn’t fancy it, not only that be was great with communications and chasing other people up

So that takes us up to present.

There needs to be a bit of electrical work, not much. The outside is badly in need of paint, Sarah and I can do that and a bit of a tidy up inside, and then she will be a really nice boat.