Wednesday, 27 September 2017

AVOIDING STEEL KISSES




Figure this one out. Missing Lllangollen Canal

DolcieBlue has travelled a few miles since I wrote, earlier in the month when we had arrived in Rugby. Autumn is starting to show its colours along the Cut but it feels like Autumn has been around most of the summer. We hadn’t planned to stay in Rugby for days but we did because we could. During that time Cptn brought our ‘red car’ out of hibernation and we traded it in as part payment on a Skoda Yeti.
Yeti

There is nothing bad or unpleasant, stay positive, about this vehicle and it is exciting to have a change of wheels. So we bought the Yeti and left it in Rugby until it was convenient for us to have it closer to boat-land!

While we were moored in Rugby one of my Bro’s said he would be in London, briefly, and suggested meeting for the day! I booked a return ticket to Rugby and we met at Tate Modern. I said we’ll meet at the Main Entrance at 11ish. I arrived just after 11am at what I assumed was the ‘Main Entrance’. 10 minutes later, I asked the security bag checker “Is this the Main Entrance?” He said it was but there were another 2 main entrances upstairs, one being river-side. I put 1+2 together and thought it must be the Southbank entrance! I walked upstairs and outdoors towards the River and there was my younger Bro walking towards me.
View downriver from the Millennium Bridge

A cool moment of connection in London, the ‘city’ of millions. I even felt a familiar warmth being in London, although it was long ago when I lived in Tower Hamlets and worked in Westminster.

This would be opportune to put together.
Fun

We did the Tate Modern,

Strolling across the Millennium Bridge

walked across the Millennium Bridge (remember Millennium has 2x l’s and 2x n’s) and had another bag search to go into St Pauls Cathedral. It costs an arm and a leg to go into St Pauls so the understanding money- taker said we could go in and light a candle and take in the feel of the impressive building but don’t stay long. 

Then we were off to the Underground to get the District line tube to Kew Gardens. The Tube looked wide compared to the width of DB. DB is 7’ and the Tube is 9’7”. I wonder if anyone else compares their living space to the width of the Tube!?

It's all what the eye takes in

The closest I have been to Kew Gardens, recently, is when we have cruised by on the River Thames. I did visit the Gardens in the mid 80’s when I lived in London and I was pleased to revisit this amazing Botanic Garden with Mick. We walked and talked and walked visiting the attractions of Kew.

The Hive

Tree walk. We took the lift down!

I ‘Tubed’ it back to Euston, which took about an hour, and then got on the train to Rugby, that took less than an hour! It had been a very happy day being tourist in London and all said and done I was happy to be back on DB.
The Oxford Canal (North)

We cruised away from Rugby the following day and I helmed, as that is my current position on DB. From Rugby to the Coventry Canal there is one tunnel on the outskirts of Rugby and one stop- lock at the end of the ‘Oxford’ at Hawkesbury Junction.

There is a messy bit of Canal at Stretton-under-Fosse, possibly because there is a lot of boat activity at the Boatyard, double berthed boats with oncoming traffic as you exit under a Bridge followed by a swing bridge and a nearby water point. I had to move total Right and brace DB into a tree trunk while I waited for oncoming traffic. Does that swing bridge need to be closed, I thought, but I just kept on going. Some land-lubber can do that! One of those happenings that occurs, infrequently I report. And no steel kisses at that point.
Hawkesbury Junction, Photo from Nicholson's Waterway's Guide 3

Soon, the north branch of the Oxford Canal came to the end, for us, at Hawkesbury Junction. 12 miles of leisurely travel from Rugby and we were close to the ‘burbs of Coventry. Hawkesbury Junction has a stop-lock to negotiate and we waited for a boat to move out of the lock before it was our turn. Then DB went in, and I was puzzled why it was moored on the Lock mooring. Apparently, it had plans to reverse into the Lock after we’d left it, as its Cptn wanted to make adjustments to the stern fender. All well and good but I had a sharp turn to make onto the Coventry Canal and there was not enough space for 68’ of boat to avoid a gentle steel kiss with the boat in question. No harm was done and DB performed well in front of an audience of Gongoozlers with a one point turn assisted with the trusty Bow-thruster. The gongoozlers applauded my helming.

It was on to the Coventry Canal and I knew Nb What-a-Lark, coming from Tamworth was likely to arrive at Hawkesbury Junction that afternoon. We had just tied DB’s ropes and Nb W-a-L came into view. So nice to see Lisa and David, gin o’clock was approaching and so was a quick catch-up. Next morning we had a coffee finale and both Nb’s headed in opposite directions.
Narrow messy bit of canal filled with crap (Coventry Canal)

I think the Coventry Canal is worth revisiting, pretty and lock-free until Atherstone.  We stopped while it was still rural and I went on a mission to get blackberries, to make more compôte. I noticed fallen damsons but the tree was too tall for me to reach so I selected some intact damsons from the ground. Damson and blackberry compôte, yum yum. The stones were easy to remove as soon as cooking finished. I got creative making scones patting the mix out on cling film spreading a layer of compôte and sprinkling a little Demerara sugar before rolling, sort of, and cutting to bake as pinwheel scones.
Scones

I made a small batch of scones, there are only 2 of us, and scones are best eaten on the day!
Atherstone Locks takes time, there are 11 of them. There were volunteers at the Top Lock but slow moving traffic. I think the locks could be called gentle ones and we were going down, the delay in the movement was refilling the empty Lock left by the boat in front or waiting for a boat heading up. Never mind. I think Cptn is enjoying working the Locks and it is more social than helming. At one Lock, he was walking to wind the paddle up and a chap came out of a ‘Lock’ cottage and said

“I see lots of boats at the Lock and I don’t usually pass comment on them but I had to come out and tell you that your boat looks fantastic.”

It is a thrill to hear people say how much they like the vinyl patterning and colours of DolcieBlue. We are happy to tell people how we did it. It is low cost and it takes time. We had no idea how it would turn out and it doesn’t matter, we are very happy with her and it feels like we have taken her into the 21st Century.
Moored at Hopwas (Birmingham & Fazeley Canal)

We had 2 more nights mooring on the Coventry Canal. The 2x Locks at Tamworth should have been a breeze but the queue was at least 6 boats with one boat, with no sign of life, moored on the Lock mooring, which was inconvenient. When we were moved in front of it, Cptn noticed a couple of windlasses on the roof and thought they should be moved out of sight. I decided to knock on the window, in case someone was on the boat. The Bow door opened and a sleepy woman appeared. I told her that the windlasses might get nicked and that she should move her boat as it was in the way! She got moving straight away.

As I said before, I like the Coventry Canal and it joins the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal that takes us to Fradley Junction and the Trent & Mersey Canal. There we were back on the move to Rugeley and 
along to Great Haywood where we joined the Staffs & Worcs Canal.

Cpt chopping firewood with Shugborough Hall in the distance. (Trent & Mersey Canal)

Wolverhampton indicates the Staffs & Worcs Canal

The cruising year is getting to its last month of 2017 cruising for us and we are ready to move off to Spain.
Morning mist on the Broadwater. (Staffs & Worcs Canal)

I’ve enjoyed Helming and I’m happy to take the wheel on DB.

I didn’t enjoy the near miss I had with an oncoming boat, a couple of days ago. I wasn’t going fast, I was entering a bridge and there was a Nb coming the other way. Reverse thrust, instant reaction and horn from me. There was no steel kissing but other boat Cptn had to pass comment

“You could slow down” said helpful Mr Grumpy. I should have switched to selective hearing mode.

“What?” I replied. ‘You could have tooted your horn’ I thought.

I think he could have blasted the horn to warn his boat's presence as the bridge was clearly just as awkward for both of us, and I couldn’t go fast, anyway, under a bridge where I couldn’t see round the bend! Why did you have to be thinking you were going under a bridge when I was already under it!! And to your mate in the boat behind......
Tixall Lock (Staffs & Worcs Canal)

Deptmore Lock (Staffs & Worcs Canal)

Still, that moment is gone and we have moved on. A day later and I took DB through the extremely narrow Narrows and it was a joy.

Cool cruising the Narrows

This gives an idea of Narrow in a Narrowboat

I didn’t brush DB's sides on anything as we passed through and I wasn’t dawdling. I sounded the horn frequently in warning that DB was on the move. We were well out of the Narrows when a boat appeared. Yay.
Between Brewood and Wheaton Aston on the Shropshire Union Canal

Now we are on the Shroppie in Wheaton Aston. It is quiet, here, and moorings are plentiful. Della is having her groom with Stacey at WAGS4me in Wheaton Aston. Della is always happy to be at the Beauty Parlour and she always looks great after her groom with Stacey.

Only a few weeks until we leave for winter in Spain..........






Beautiful Della 11 yrs old

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











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.