Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Quiet Christmas

Blogging has taken a bit of a 'backseat' over the last few weeks, partly due to the lack of boating  activity, the build up to the festive period and the regular trips to hospital to visit John's Mum. As a result, our Christmas has been a quiet and reflective one for the most part, although over indulgence on Christmas Day feels like it has taken its toll.

Following on from my last post a fortnight ago, Santa did bring me a new bike so that I can get into training for the charity bike ride in May and I've bought a 'turbo trainer' so that I can do some of the training at home - it enables you to 'ride' the bike and go nowhere !!

Much of our time has been spent at the hospital lately, and Christmas Day was no different. John's Mum had surgery two weeks ago to relieve some symptoms and is now back in the Nightingale Macmillan Unit. 

Mum enjoying some homemade trifle.
Although she is still very weak, she managed to enjoy Christmas (despite having to have a blood transfusion) and the staff in the unit are just the best. We had carol singers on Christmas Eve, Christmas dinner and crackers and the atmosphere has been tremendous thanks to the hard working and caring staff, together with volunteers. It makes you realise that there are still an awful lot of good people out there and me even more determined to do this ride.

This will probably be our last post for 2012. Blogging was new to us this year and it has been an enjoyable experience and enabled us to meet folks that we never would have met and hopefully many more that we are still to meet - maybe out on the cut in 2013.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Too good a chance to miss

Last Sunday was beautiful and the lure of the boat certainly won the day. The lack of boating activity is taking its toll, and so we decided to head down to Kings Bromley for a little 'therapy'. By the time we arrived about 9.30am, the heavy frost had almost disappeared and beautiful blue skies were overhead.

We did a bit of pottering about and chatted with our neighbours for a while before we decided to head off to the pub for a 'liquid lunch'. The short trip up to Handsacre and 'The Old Peculiar' was just lovely. We passed one other moving boat and the trees in their autumnal colours and the sunshine were just magnificent. We would have quite happily swapped today for many of our 'summer' days in the rain.

The trip back was just as pleasant (if not too short) and Louise decided to walk off her 'lunch' and take a few snaps. 

Beautiful Autumn Day

Unfortunately we also discovered a possible problem with the heating in that our Webasto heater seems to want to cut out after working for a length of time. Hopefully it will just need a service, but unsure as to whether it's a job I want to tackle myself or not - I feel a bit of research coming on !!

On the theme of heating and after talking to a friend over a pint the other night, he gave me a bag of wood briquettes to try in the multi fuel stove. He has used them to good effect in his much larger stove at home as is well impressed. He says they burn for a long time and give off good heat. They appear to be compressed sawdust and could be an alternative to smokeless fuel. Has anyone any previous experience of these - good or bad ?? Maybe some trials over the next few weeks will be in order.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Making plans for Winter

We have spent the majority of today down at the marina, getting Blue Moon ready for the colder months ahead. As we arrived at Kings Bromley this morning, it was noticeable how many chimneys were 'alive' with smoke. We took breakfast with us, and after enjoying a hearty bacon & egg 'sarnie' we set about the tasks we had travelled to do.

The main one was to fill the diesel tank to capacity so to avoid condensation contaminating the fuel over winter. Since our last top up, we had done a fair bit of cruising and the tank was about half full. I treated the tank with our regular additive before we filled and the pump clicked off at 151 litres. This year we have only used the marina for our fuel, as at least we know where it has come and there is a good turn around at the pump. It is competitively priced, but not the cheapest at 96p / £1.45, but, as moorers we get a 7% discount, it makes it worthwhile. There are so many horror stories about fuel as you talk to other boaters, but I'm not always convinced that it's the fuel, but the lack of preventative measures people take that causes some of the problems with diesel bug etc.

Back on the moorings, we drained the domestic water system and have removed the bow thruster battery to give it a good trickle charge at home over winter. Although it does get charged whilst on the boat, being isolated 50 feet from the main bank certainly causes limitations and anything to prolong it's life is a bonus.

By mid afternoon we had locked up and were on our way back home, already discussing plans for next years cruising. We will, of course, be popping down over winter to make sure everything is in order - any excuse to get away from the four walls of home - but it did feel as though our season was finally over for this year. We have had a lot of fun, met some great people and made new friends over the last six months or so and can't wait to do it all again next year.

Winter for us will be spent working for the most part and so blogs will be less frequent, although we have some things planned around music and sporting events which we are really looking forward to. As far as boating is concerned, we will spend some of the winter period researching boat painters as we have distant plans to get Blue Moon repainted (and renamed). We have some ideas, but if anyone has any good recommendations regarding painters, especially Midlands based, please get in touch. We are also going to treat ourselves to a new mattress which will no doubt have to be made to measure. Our current one has a small 'extension' as the bed pulls out on a cradle, so again if anyone would care to recommend manufacturers and suppliers, we would be very grateful.

Roll on Spring....

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Man with the Golden Voice

Some of you may have seen the documentary last Friday evening on BBC4 about Paul Carrack called 'The Man with the Golden Voice'. Tonight we were lucky to have tickets to see the opening night of his new tour here in Derby.

For those that don't know the man, he was in a band called 'Ace' back in the 70's, replaced Jools Hollands playing the keyboards in Squeeze in 1980-81 and then played with Mike Rutherford in Mike and the Mechanics in the mid 80's before embarking on a solo career.

What a great night - the supporting six piece band were so tight, never missing a note and Paul does indeed have a golden voice. He played several tracks from his new album 'Good Feeling' the highlight for me being 'I Can Hear Ray'. Add 'Tempted' from his Squeeze days and Mike & the Mechanics hits 'Another Cup of Coffee', 'Living Years' and 'Over my Shoulder' and the crowd were well and truly rewarded.

The band are on the road for the best part of six months and we will definitely be trying to fit in another date or two before it ends. A great night Mr Carrack !!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A bit of gongoozling and a touch of curiosity

Three weeks have passed since our last post and we have been back on the hamster wheel of work, sleep, work, sleep and thoroughly missing the boating life. Last weekend we ventured down to Kings Bromley to take some bits and bobs back to the boat and we sauntered out onto the cut, mooring up in one of our favourite little spots near to bridge 56 for a couple of hours, before returning in the rain mid afternoon. 

This weekend we have resisted the temptation to head for the marina - no reason other than we have some things to do at home. This morning we decided that we needed some boating connection, so we headed down to Mercia Marina and then enjoyed a walk with Jasper down to the coffee shop at Stenson Lock where we enjoyed a hearty breakfast cob and a coffee whilst taking on the role of gongoozlers.
Stenson Lock
On arriving back at Mercia, we took the decision to look around a boat offered for sale by New & Used Boat Co. Having had Blue Moon now for 18 months or so, we are absolutely delighted with what we have. We bought her for the two of us, but occasionally wish we had a dinette area. Louise has always fancied a cross bathroom too, but that is a matter of choice I guess. The saying goes that you never get things entirely how you want them until your third boat, but apart from little things, we wouldn't actually change much at all.

Having viewed the boat in question, another Aqualine which is 2 years younger than ours, our curiosity was short lived. Thanks, but no thanks was the quick answer. We certainly wouldn't consider making the change and it made us realise what a well looked after boat we have. 

Quite a few bloggers are now making plans for winter and tonight we have paid our final mooring installment of the year. It will soon be 2013 and a new cruising season - it can't come soon enough.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Back home and back to reality.

We made the trip from Grendon to Huddlesford on Friday, again in glorious weather. There were plenty of hands to make light work of Glascote locks and we really took our time along the Coventry, basically running at tickover most of the way. Even so, we arrived at Huddlesford by mid afternoon and found a mooring near to The Plough where we decided to spend our last evening. As we have mentioned before, it is a very welcoming and dog friendly pub, and we had another really good meal.

We were in no rush to get away on Saturday morning. As we were preparing to go, we got chatting to the people on the boat moored behind us. They now lived in Bristol, but it transpired that they used to literally live around the corner from us and they have some very close friends who live almost opposite us - what a small world it can be at times.
Chaos at Fradley Junction
We were quite lucky with our timing as we arrived at Fradley. Just one boat ahead of us to go up the locks, but by the time we entered the lock, there were six behind us and the queue above Shade House Lock to come down was even longer. Wood End Lock was also very busy going towards Fradley, but having gone straight through, we decided to enjoy the rest of the day and moored up in Ravenshaw Wood for a few hours before finally having to face the facts and return to the marina.
Chilling out in Ravenshaw Wood
We have enjoyed a lovely trip with the weather improving as we went on. We have totally chilled out in some peaceful surroundings, and have only watched the TV once in a fortnight. Putting my watch back on felt strange too (I never wear it on the boat).

Canalplan reckons the trip to be - Total distance is 224 miles, 3¾ furlongs and 86 locks.

Oh well it's back to reality on Monday for us both. I wish this retirement lark would hurry up !!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

CaRT - Causing a Right Traffic (Jam)

Another lovely day to be cruising and we left the Ashby this morning and turned right at Marston Junction onto the Coventry. Nuneaton was made all the more pleasurable when Louise appeared with a bacon & egg sandwich and we arrived at Atherstone locks about 2pm.

Apart from picking up a plastic sack on the prop entering lock 2, everything was going to plan, although we were having to fill each lock as there was a boat ahead.

As we got to lock 6, the boat ahead went down and two CaRT chappies appeared, resplendent in their blue shirts and wielding a windlass each. Great we thought, lockies to assist, especially as one of the bottom paddles was out of order. Our hopes were short lived. 'Shan't keep you long. Be about 20 minutes'

Oh they've come to fix the gate paddle - oh well, its got to be done we thought. But no - they proceeded to bring their working tug into the lock and scrape the weed and algae from the lock gates and walls and pull weeds from between the bricks in the lock walls. The gate paddle was clearly far less important !!!
Lock 'gardening'

Now I know it is a job that needs doing, but today the locks were busy. By the time they'd done their 'gardening' there were 3 boats waiting to go down and 6 behind them waiting to go up, the first of which had been behind them since the bottom lock and witnessed the same rigmarole at each lock since. The fact that he had not been allowed, or, even offered the chance to go through, had left him far from amused. 

Fortunately, the work was done for the day (it was past 3pm after all) and they moored up right behind an unlicenced cruiser that was in the same spot over 10 days ago when we came through. I wonder if they did anything about that ??

We continued on and moored just past Grendon Dock. John spent the evening with fish crawling up the line and we watched the farmers hard at work with the combines well into the night.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Relaxing times on the Ashby

The last three days on the Ashby have been very relaxing. It really is a lovely waterway and we never get tired of travelling it, especially in the sunshine of the last three days.

As we expected, Monday was spent meeting some fabulous working boats making their way from Shackerstone festival. The Ashby is notoriously shallow and so passing them can be interesting, but we managed unscathed and eventually moored near bridge 31 at Dadlington by mid afternoon and spent the afternoon with a glass of wine sat in the cratch watching more working boats pass us and listening to their wonderful engines.
The imposing bow of nb Darley
In the evening we walked over the fields with the dogs via the footpath from bridge 31 to The Dog & Hedgehog. This was our first visit, as last time we tried, it was closed. What a fabulous pub !! We were made most welcome, and the dogs even more so - they even have dog treats on the bar !! Unfortunately, we had already eaten, as the food looked fantastic and the menu was very interesting. We enjoyed a couple of drinks and a chat with the friendly staff and will certainly return. It really is a must if you are passing.
Snarestone Terminus
Tuesday saw us travel up to the terminus at Snarestone. Still some working boats heading from Shackerstone, and we also met one of our old shared boats, Inglewood, with Graham & Sandra, travelling towards Sutton Cheney. Unfortunately we weren't able to moor up and chat where we met them. We wish we had known they were out this way and we would have arranged to meet up. We arrived at Snarestone by early afternoon and enjoyed a peaceful afternoon before John was collected and headed off to nearby Kings Newton for an important bowls match, which unfortunately ended in a team defeat.
Jasper keeping watch towards Shackerstone
Today we have had a relaxing day cruising back down towards Hinckley. We've only passed about half a dozen boats travelling north. Louise had a good stint at the helm and the sun has accompanied us all day. We managed an ice cream at Sutton Cheney Wharf, and although tempted to stop at Dadlington, we are now moored just below Hinckley in a very peaceful spot. A minor crisis as we approached Hinckley as Louise announced she had run out of tonic water. It would have been a major crisis had it been the gin !!

We have caught sight of a water vole this evening and John has landed a Zander, a first for him fishing in a canal and most unwelcome !!!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Making the most of the weather.

The weather has improved and looks to be set fair for the next week too, so we have made the most of it over the last couple of days.

Yesterday we had a lovely trip from Welford Junction back along the Leicester line. A few more boats out for the weekend, but it has been a great few days on this quiet and rural stretch. Lots of buzzards circling, in fact we saw more of them than humans on the run down to Watford Locks.

We had to wait almost an hour to begin our decent, but there are far worse places to be held up. Apart from the constant drone of the nearby M1, it is a lovely spot for a break, and the lock keepers were in good spirits. Our delay would have been small compared to the queue of at least 10 boats waiting to travel in the opposite direction.
Top of Watford flight
Having cleared the locks, we then turned right at Norton Junction towards Braunston and soon passed nb Prince Albert moored up. It was nice to have a brief chat as we passed with Alan & Ann - the last time I saw Alan was last Wednesday when he had banged his head and become unconcious at Braunston. He had had stitches in the wound, but was back fighting fit and looked so much better than the last time we met !!

We shared Braunston Locks and then met up again with David & Sarah on nb The Hodma'dod and managed to moor in next to them, before having another lovely meal in The Boat House.
The Hodma'dod
Today we wished David & Sarah well as they departed just before us, heading towards Wigrams Turn, and we headed north towards Rugby. There was a constant stream of boats towards us and also mayhem behind as two hire boats collided heavily on a bend at Willoughby - one of which was moored and minding its own business. It was not a glancing blow but a bone cruncher - just glad it wasn't us they hit !!

Hillmorton Locks was also very busy, but the main queue was coming up. A brief stop off at Tesco in Rugby to stock up on provisions before continuing on beyond Stretton Stop and mooring near Hopsford Aqueduct. A lovely homemade curry for tea and a nice evening with Louise sat out reading on the towpath and me catching some fabulous Roach as the sun goes down.

Tomorrow we will head for the Ashby and no doubt meet lots of working boats departing the Shackerstone festival.

Friday, August 31, 2012

One up on the enemy at Foxton.

The Leicester section of The Grand Union Canal is very rural and one of our favourite stretches for peace and tranquility. Our plan for Thursday was to get to Foxton Locks by mid afternoon, giving us chance to descend in good time even if there was a queue. The weather was supposed to improve as the day went on, but we did stop briefly for a downpour as we approached Welford Junction.

It was a welcome relief when Luke & Annabelle offered to steer us towards Foxton, negotiating Husbands Bosworth tunnel in the process, whilst we enjoyed a beverage in the front deck. Annabelle had her first attempt at steering and did very well (judged by the fact that no wine was spilt).

On arrival at Foxton, we were soon beckoned to descend. Luke steered whilst the rest of us worked the paddles and gates. It is such a lovely place and as usual we got into conversation with a number of the gongoozlers. Annabelle soon learned the process of red before white and enthusiastically wound paddles up and down. As we emerged, Louise went to open the swing bridge and witnessed a lady fall in as she tried to get back on her boat on the other side of the bridge, much to the amusement of the clientele of Foxton Locks beer garden !!
The young 'uns doing the work

We moored a short distance along the arm and Luke enjoyed some good fishing and Annabelle also caught her first ever fish. We had an excellent meal at The Black Horse in Foxton - certainly one to recommend, especially if you like real ales. 

Today saw us continue into Union Wharf at Market Harborough. A lovely early morning trip in bright sunshine. Two kingfishers and breakfast on the move - what could be better. Luke & Annabelle were heading home today, so we walked with them to the train station and saw them off, before doing a bit of shopping on the way back to the boat - they were actually back in Derby before we were back at the boat !!

We left around midday and headed back to Foxton. Louise went to find the lock keeper to book us in, but he was no where to be found. Even the second lock keeper didn't know where he was. Twenty minutes later and he was located in a secluded spot having his lunch - not that he had bothered to tell anyone !!!

We were told to begin coming up the locks and then wait in the middle pound for three boats to pass us which were coming down, which we did. As we set off again, a family with two teenage boys got talking to me as I locked. I couldn't help but notice that one of the lads was wearing  a Nottingham Forest tracksuit top. Now I'm more a rugby man, but the rivalry between Derby and Forest is a good one, and I couldn't let this opportunity pass. They were mildly keen to help and open gates, but I encouraged them to help open and close each set of gates and by the top few locks, Mum was getting involved too.

The view back down the locks
As Louise brought Blue Moon into the top lock, I looked over at Mum and said 'It'll make their day to know they've helped two Derby fans'. If looks could kill - their faces were an absolute picture. Some banter was exchanged, but they were clearly gutted. I was assured that things would be put right on 30th September when the two teams meet. I don't think my comment about Derby only taking ten men to the City Ground was too well received - Derby fans will know what I'm talking about - as will any Forest fans :-)

We treated ourselves to a well deserved cherry ice cream as we filled with water at the top of the flight before cruising down towards Welford for the night.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Filling with water can be dangerous !!

Monday was a quiet day as planned and we only moved about four miles down to All Oaks Corner, which is one of our favourite moorings, arriving just after lunch. The weather was mixed, so we just relaxed on board and watched the numerous boats passing in both directions, including steam powered Adamant, making their way to next weekends Shackerstone Festival.
Nb Adamant
Tuesday saw us move down to Rugby and meet our youngest son Luke and his girlfriend Annabelle, who were joining us for a few days. Luke was recovering from four days at Leeds Festival but seemed to have had a thoroughly good time. We made our way up through Hillmorton Locks where only one of the duplicated locks were operating, and then on to Braunston in the sunshine. There were plenty of moorings available and we settled for one next to the marina entrance. We were treated to Nutfield and Raymond passing us as they returned from the Alvecote gathering. The way they were steered into the marina, breasted together, can only be described as deliberate and extremely precise !!

Nutfield & Raymond

We had planned to eat at The Plough in Braunston, but unfortunately it was shut due to a cellar problem, so we walked to The Boathouse where we hadn't eaten for some time as we weren't impressed the last time we visited. However following a change of name (from The Mill House) and chain, we were very impressed. Good deals on main meals with two for one offers and a huge menu choice, we will certainly be back sooner rather than later.

Today has been one to remember, and one that makes you realise that you can never take everyday events for granted. I walked into the marina to buy a new bow line from Tradline Fenders just after 9am. When I returned, there was a boat on the water point outside The Stop House, but I also noticed a man lying on the ground next to the standpipe and a lady crouched next to him. I went over to see what had happened and it transpired that 'Alan' had been pulling his hosepipe off the tap connection, when the hose gave way and he smashed his head onto the corner of the standpipe, causing a very nasty gash above his right eye. He was concious but very groggy, but said he wanted to sit in a chair as the ground was wet. I helped his wife to sit him in the chair and confirmed that an ambulance was on its way. However after a few minutes, he started to go grey and very quickly became unconcious. I lifted him out of the chair and back down onto the ground and checked he was still breathing. I then tried to get some reaction from him by pinching his ear and talking to him. After a short time some colour came back to his face and he started to respond to my voice and I kept talking to him and pinching him to prevent him drifting off again. After what seemed like an age, the paramedics arrived and I was able to hand over to the experts. Not the best start to the day, and we sincerely hope Alan quickly recovers from his injury.

Todays boating has been wet to say the least. We have travelled from Braunston to Yelvertoft. The rain started as we cast off this morning and hardly relented all day, until, that is, we moored up this evening. Luke and Annabelle have even had tea sat on deck chairs on the towpath - the good old British 'summer'. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

A rude awakening... and a big day.

The sight of all the working boats at Alvecote was one to savour, and they always get my attention when we see them out on the cut, so much so that I have often said to Louise that I would quite like to own one (which always falls on deaf ears). However, on Sunday morning at precisely 5.49am, we weren't quite so taken by the first boat passing us, obviously leaving the gathering. Now one wouldn't be so bad, but it was as though we had hit the 'snooze' button on an alarm clock, as by 6.15am, SIX had passed us. I must admit, the sound of the engines is much more pleasant than an alarm clock, but a lie in would have been nice.

They say if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, so we decided that as we were up we'd set off. We left about 7.15am and were soon rewarded by a flying display by an adult kestrel and three of her young - a birds version of follow the leader as they swooped and changed direction in line.

Atherstone locks are always pleasant to work and we dropped lucky as we arrived with just one boat ahead already entering the bottom lock. Two quickly followed behind and so many hands made light work. We passed quite a few boats going down, but were never held up and reached the top lock soon after 11am.
Atherstone Locks
The sun was shining and there were plenty of boats passing in the opposite direction, but for some reason today, so many steerers looked miserable and couldn't raise a smile. Louise nearly gave one a heart attack as she said hello quite loudly to him as we passed, causing him to raise his head - worse than some of the anglers we have encountered recently. Why do an activity that makes you so miserable - get off the water and try something different !!!

Louise took the helm as we left Nuneaton and I walked the dogs towards the junction with the Ashby Canal at Marston Junction. We always seem to meet boats here and today was no different. A cruiser was just leaving the Ashby as a 70' narrowboat was about to make the difficult right turn onto it. The narrowboat steerer was moaning that the horn of the cruiser had confused him and words were exchanged. Louise held well back until they sorted themselves out and then moved forward, just as another cruiser came into view from Hawkesbury. I signalled to her to stay back and waved the cruiser to come through which worked well. Louise then started to proceed through the bridge as a narrowboat appeared at speed. There was another narrowboat behind us by now, so I signalled to the steerer to slow down, to no avail. As it got closer I shouted to him to slow down as there were two boats coming towards him. 'Where?' was the reply !!! 'In the bridge, I suggest you hit reverse' was the advice. It was all a bit tight, but Louise coped with it all very well and didn't spill a drop of her wine.

When we arrived at Hawkesbury, there were plenty of moorings, but we decided to carry on and find a quiet mooring on the Oxford. I had forgotten how few opportunities there are along this stretch and there are certainly many sections of bank in need of attention. We wished we had stopped at Hawkesbury, but we finally moored beyond Ansty in a nice spot at Hopsford Aqueduct although a bit close to the railway line. I had a decent evening fishing catching some good roach and skimmers.

Monday will be a much quieter day... we hope.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Off to a good start

A cracking start to the trip today. We left Kings Bromley with clouds overhead, but the sun soon shone through as we approached Wood End lock and onto Fradley. No queues at the locks today and we were soon turning onto the Coventry.
We arranged to meet our friends, and previous owners of Blue Moon, David & Sarah, at Hopwas for lunch. We had a steady run down in the sunshine and moored in behind them. We had a lovely lunch at the Tame Otter and caught up on tales of their last three months cruising since we last saw them. They've clearly enjoyed the whole experience, if not the weather. It was great to meet up again and we may get chance again on this trip.
After lunch we said our goodbyes and continued on towards Fazeley and then up Glascote locks. Some light rain, but not the predicted heavy thunderstorms we were promised. Alvecote was packed with countless working boats attending a rally over the bank holiday weekend. What a great sight to see so many together.
Working boats at Alvecote
Unfortunately no mooring spaces, so we went a little further and moored at Pooley Nature Reserve which is reclaimed mining land. We climbed the spoil heaps this evening and got some lovely views for miles around - we reckoned we could almost see home !!
Tonight we have had a call from our eldest son who is at Leeds Festival and we were able to listen to one of our favourite childhood bands 'The Cure' who were playing there. The sound quality down a mobile phone in amongst 80,000 people was not good, but it was the thought that counts.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Always have a Plan 'B'

Well that's work finished until 10th September for both of us. We are off to the boat this evening and do our shopping in Lichfield before setting off tomorrow morning. The weather forecast looks a right mixed bag for the Bank Holiday weekend with heavy showers tomorrow, a reasonable day on Sunday and then rain, rain and more rain on Monday. A slight change of plan for us in that we are going to head off in an anti clockwise direction around the Leicester Ring and once we get to Market Harborough, decide whether to continue or re-trace our steps, depending on the weather, river levels on the Soar etc. We've also still got plans to meet up with friends and have guests with us for a few days, so we can't wait to get going on what will be our last major trip of the season - let's see some sunshine... please !!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ready to go

We think we have decided the route for our final trip of the season starting next Saturday. It looks as if we are going to go clockwise around the Leicester Ring and also take in the Ashby Canal again. Lots of reasons for this route in that we hope to have guests with us for parts of the trip, plus John could do with being close to Derby (top the Ashby will do) for 4th September. So all in all the route should fit in with our plans. We really wanted to head back down onto the Avon again, but the forecast is for 'changeable' weather with 'above average rainfall' and we certainly don't want to be caught out ourselves again or as others have been unfortunate this summer. It's getting on for 3 years since we were on the Leicester section and we have actually never been through the centre of Leicester, so that will be a new experience too.

Today we popped down to the marina and filled with fuel, changed the engine and gearbox oil as they were both almost ready to be done and I didn't fancy doing it whilst we are  away. A quick calculation of engine hours and fuel used over the 18 months we have owned the boat shows we are using 1.3 litres of diesel per hour overall, which, when you consider we also run the heating on diesel seems to be quite economical.

We also had a quick run out to Handsacre and moored up for lunch on board as we had John's mum with us for the day. Lots of boats on the move and everyone enjoying the sunshine...will it hold for another couple of weeks - we can but hope.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Golden Spot

It is said that you always remember where you were at significant events in history...the shooting of JFK, the death of Princess Diana etc. Well what about three Olympic gold medals in the space of 45 minutes at a home Olympics. The spot where we were moored on the Coventry Canal on Saturday night is our 'Golden Spot' - just beyond Hademore Farm Bridge.
We had decided to spend the weekend aboard with our good friends Steve & Madeleine. The forecast of 'torrential downpours' was not good, but we were determined to make the most of it. We left Kings Bromley just after midday on Saturday in bright sunshine and made our way down towards Fradley. Approaching Woodend Lock, we came across Louise's 'boss' and his partner who were spending their first weekend aboard their new boat 'Fly'. We had a chat with them as we descended the lock and then got through Fradley quite easily, turning right onto the Coventry.

We had a pleasant run down to Huddlesford with Steve taking the helm for a while before mooring up outside The Plough where we stopped for a pint (or two) and a meal. The food was good and reasonably priced, plus it is dog friendly too. We watched the Olympics, seeing the womens cycling team pursuit take gold in a new world record. As we ate, the heavens opened, so we were glad of our surroundings. 
We then moved down to our 'Golden Spot' surprised to see only a couple of other boats on a normally very popular mooring location. The atmosphere inside the Olympic Stadium was electric. It was pointless looking for a friend of ours who had been lucky enough to get a ticket - how lucky was she !!!
We had a great night shouting home Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah (what a race that was). At least we weren't moored too close to anyone else as we were a bit loud !!!
After one of Louises special breakfasts, Sunday saw us travel down towards Fazeley, before winding and heading back towards Fradley. The sunshine defied the forecast of heavy showers until we approached Fradley when we endured 20 minutes of torrential rain, just as we were working through the locks. By the time we cleared Fradley, the sunshine was out again for the run back to Kings Bromley. A great weekend with great company.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

An alarming call

Whilst at work this morning I received a surprise call from the marina office at Kings Bromley to say that there was an alarm going off on Blue Moon. Strange I thought... we don't have an alarm !!
Luckily I was not too far away - I was actually having a coffee in a cafe about 20 minutes drive away - so off we go with that worried feeling getting stronger and stronger. I had left Blue Moon on Sunday evening hooked up to the electrics - could it be the alarm on the Victron inverter / charger signalling that it was overheating - now that could be expensive was the thought. By the time I arrived, would the boat be on fire?? How things get twisted in your head the more you think about them. As we approached the marina, scanning the sky for signs of smoke, I was relieved that there was none to be seen. Pulling up close to the boat there was a lady looking questioningly at Blue Moon. 'Is there an alarm going off?' I asked. 'Yes' she replied...'It's been going for a couple of days now'. It was actually quite loud and could clearly be heard as I approached the mooring. Three sharp bleeps, a slight pause and then three more. On entering Blue Moon, it was found to be the carbon monoxide alarm that was going off. Even stranger as everything was off, and the gas isolated in the front gas locker. On checking the alarm itself, it says that it has a 5 year life and should have been replaced in Feb 2012, so I can only think that the alarm is defective. For now the batteries have been removed and the problem will have to wait for the weekend - an excuse (as if we need one) to pop down to the marina at the weekend !!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Quick fix in the sun.

Well, after a week back in reality, we needed a boating fix. The sun was shining and John's mum felt up to a day out, so off to the boat it was to be.

We had a run from Kings Bromley up to beyond Rugeley. Plenty of boats moving which I suppose is to be expected on the first week of the summer holidays and the long awaited good spell of weather. How great to feel the sun on your back at last. Having passed through Plum Pudding we negotiated a fishing match, but the sun hadn't made these chaps happy. Only one of the line managed a smile and bit of a joke. It's quite amusing as I have been an angler most of my life and still do a fair bit whenever I can, but if it made me look that miserable whilst I was sat there I don't think I'd bother. Louise likes to play a game of getting them to say hello, and often greets the really miserable ones with a very cheery 'hello' and asks them if they have caught much, whilst I try and keep a straight face. Having winded, we moored up for lunch at the aqueduct over the River Trent which still had a good flow on it.

The return journey was just as pleasant and Louise even had a good spell on the tiller which was very welcomed. It was nice to sit in the front deck and watch the world pass by with a cold beer. All too soon we were arriving back at Kings Bromley, but passed this interesting steam powered narrowboat near to Handsacre - I bet it was hot stoking the fire today.

Oh well, back to work tomorrow for some of us - enjoy the weather if you are lucky enough to be out on the water.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rain stops play... but every cloud has a silver lining.

The forecast was for heavy rain on Friday and unfortunately the forecast was correct. The run back to Kings Bromley is about 4 hours from Great Haywood, so we hoped that it would improve and stayed put for the morning. Boats around us were all moving in the deluge, the one immediately behind us decided that 5.45am was a good time to set off... thanks !!!

However, every cloud has a silver lining as they say, as at lunchtime, Lisa and David on 'What a Lark' pulled in next to us. Very kindly, they invited us round for coffee and we spent the afternoon having a lovely chat about all things boaty which brightened the afternoon up no end. The rain actually stopped towards the end of the afternoon, but by this time we decided that the evening was to be better spent with dinner in The Clifford Arms with Lisa and David and we would head back in the morning. 
Blue Moon and What a Lark at Great Haywood
We left this morning just after 7.30am and had a lovely run back through our last lock at Colwich and then on through Rugeley in SUNSHINE !!! The fields on the flood plain of the Trent were still full of water in places and the river itself was clearly high and flowing strongly. Despite the poor weather that we have experienced over the last two weeks, we have to count ourselves lucky as we haven't been affected as some others clearly have been where rivers are involved. 

Ironically, the weather had the last laugh as it started to rain as we left for home about 3.30pm and as I look out of the window at home now - you've guessed it - raining again. Surely things have to improve before our next trip in August... don't they ??

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Some nice weather... and don't get any ideas !

We are now back at Great Haywood and todays entry comes direct from the bar of The Clifford Arms whilst enjoying a pint (or two) of Adnams Broadside.

Yesterday we travelled from Hazelhurst Aqueduct back down to Etruria and the Trent and Mersey Canal. We were tempted to change our minds and head down the rest of The Caldon as the weather was quite good, but the water levels were still a bit dodgy, so that will have to wait for another day. Louise decided to bake a loaf in the breadmaker and put a curry in the slow cooker, so it was a bit like aromatherapy as we entered Stoke. 

Brindley Statue at Etruria Junction
Etruria Junction was very busy and it is a very tight turn onto the mainline. A couple of boats were manoeuvring to go up the Caldon, so I held back near the services and Louise went and told the two boats waiting to go down Stoke locks that we would turn and join the queue once it was clear to do so. Five minutes or so later, two other boats appeared travelling south and again Louise went and told the steerers which boat she was from and what our intentions were - good communication (or so we thought). When it was clear for us to turn out of the junction I managed to back in to a tight gap left for me by one of the late arrivals who then accused us of queue jumping !!! As you can imagine, that went down well. Apparently I should have backed up beyond the boats that had arrived after us. I offered to let him go ahead, but he was 'just saying for next time' We agreed to disagree - the sun was shining and that was far more important. We moored up at Barlaston for the night and enjoyed our curry. 

Thursday, and a lovely day. We left about 9am and at the top of Meaford locks we met nb 'What a Lark' again. This time we had time to introduce ourselves to Lisa & David - lovely to meet you both and your beautiful boat. Louise was even invited for a guided tour whilst we waited to decend Stone locks and when she re-appeared she had that look which all men will be familiar with - only to be met with 'Don't even think about it'. Fernwood have certainly done a fabulous job and we hope you enjoy your time cruising. As we passed The Star pub at Stone bottom lock we learned that it had flooded last weekend with a lot of damage being caused. The pub is famous for having the most different floor levels of any pub - a strange but worthy claim. 

'The Star'............
...and the brook at the back showing water levels a few days before...

We said our goodbyes to Lisa & David below Aston Lock - pictures of 'What a Lark' and your washing will be on the blog at the weekend ;-)

... and here it is as promised

The run down to Great Haywood was lovely in the sunshine and we managed to drop on a mooring just below Great Haywood lock before our evening in The Clifford Arms. Back to base tomorrow - weather permitting.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Caldon Canal & Leek Arm

Written Tuesday but unable to post due to being in another universe...

Yesterday (Monday) saw us travel through Harecastle Tunnel and Stoke to join the Caldon Canal. A damp start, but the day improved as it went on weather wise. If anyone ever asks us about the Caldon, we always reply that the further you go, the better it gets. It's 3 years since we were last up here and there has certainly been a lot of building and re-generation taking place in that time as you leave Stoke. We eventually moored up above Engine Lock for the night. The weather forecast for Tuesday was for torrential rain overnight and into the morning, so we were thanking our lucky stars we weren't on a river. 

Monday evening - water level normal under pontoon

What a surprise then when we woke this morning to find ourselves listing. We were woken in the night by very heavy rain, but as it turned out, the water level had risen about a foot !!! The piling had disappeared and the water almost up to the towpath. Now on a river I wouldn't dream of mooring with really tight lines, but on a canal I like the ropes quite tight to avoid too much movement from passing boats. Other boats in the pound suffered the same experience... you never stop learning.

Tuesday morning  - check the difference compared to the pontoon above !!
BW (sorry...CaRT) were actually down at Engine Lock running water through the lock to prevent flooding. They seemed quite concerned about the state of the levels. Needless to say the River Churnet is well in flood as are surrounding fields. 

This afternoon we went onto virgin territory for us and travelled the length of the Leek Arm. Only a couple of miles, but a lovely stretch of water and we are glad we did it. We managed to get a mooring on the Hazelhurst Aqueduct and have had a lovely meal in the Holly Bush at Denford. We got a really close up view of the water levels in Endon Brook behind the pub which was almost to the top of the bridge... quite frightening.
Leek Tunnel

Leek Arm

Leek Arm

A lovely canal side property
Endon Brook at Denford
In view of the forecast and the fact that we've quite simply had enough of this dreadful weather, we are thinking it's pointless doing the run down through Cheddleton tomorrow and are going to head back to base a bit earlier than planned.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

No news is infact good news

Today has been a long yet very enjoyable day. We left our moorings at Four Lane Ends not really knowing what the day had in store as we hadn't managed to find out whether the fallen tree had in fact been removed. We travelled for over an hour and a half without seeing another moving boat, before deciding to stop short of Macclesfield in a lovely spot and had breakfast. Another check of Waterscape, emails and CWDF all proved fruitless for updates. After a short time a boat finally appeared heading north. It was a relief to hear that the obstruction had in fact been removed, so after finishing breakfast, we headed through Macclesfield and Oakgreave before passing the location of the fallen tree. Some goods logs there for anyone who wants them.
Leaving Macclesfield behind
The offending tree and some free logs
The Macclesfield has been so quiet. We did services before descending Bosley, and again only passed a couple of boats in the flight. The sun was shining now and we were both able to brush the cobwebs off our shorts and sunglasses... it is July for heaven sake !!
Bosley Locks with an audience
Blue skies and sunglasses !!
We made the most of the sunshine and continued through Congleton, admiring the views from the embankments, before mooring in a lovely remote spot before Scholar Green only to learn that Andy Murray had lost in the Wimbledon final... what an absolute shame - he's just not our favourite. Well done Federer too - a worthy champion. 
One thing we have learned today is that Jasper can swim !! He lost his footing this evening getting off the boat in a rush and did a few circles of 'doggy paddle' before Louise managed to haul him out. Let's hope he doesn't make a habit of it. 
Tomorrow we will head back through Harecastle and up onto the Caldon for a few days.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

There may be trouble ahead...

We had planned to move on Friday having had a lovely rest day on Thursday, but the weather forecast was for prolonged heavy rain. When we woke and took a peek out of the porthole, it didn't take long to persuade us to turn over and go back to sleep. Even the dogs weren't interested in going out !! 
We were joined for a liquid lunch by another of Johns long time work friends, who lived quite closeby and happened to be on a rest day. The rain kept coming through the afternoon and the reports on the local and national news showed quite disturbing scenes. Needless to say we kept the bar takings of The Navigation ticking over quite nicely !!
Departing from Bugsworth Basin
This morning we left Bugsworth about 8am. As we departed, we bumped into 'Dave' cycling back from Tesco with his paper. We wished him well, but he told us of a stoppage on the Macc above Bosley Locks due to a fallen tree. A quick check of Waterscape confirmed this. We hope to go down Bosley on Sunday, so hope the contractors can remove it expeditiously. The weather today was such a contrast with some bright sunshine. As we headed south from High Lane we were passed by nb What a Lark. It was nice to hear from one of the lady crew that she read our blog - Thank you and sorry we couldn't stop for a chat, but we appreciate it as we are quite new to this blogging game.
We decided to stop early at Four Lane Ends near bridge 18. There certainly aren't many boats going north which suggests the route may still be closed. I even posted on the CWDF hoping for an update, but as yet we have no updates.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chilling out at Bugsworth Basin

Yesterday we made our way up from Macclesfield to Bugsworth Basin. A lock free cruise with some wonderful views and yet again some luck with the weather. We could see heavy rain over towards Wales and Manchester but again we managed to avoid it. The mills at Bollington now house offices, but you can imagine the hustle and bustle of industry in years gone by. At High Lane we saw a heron at work catching his dinner with great success.
We turned right at Marple Junction and headed on down towards Bugsworth. I know the area around here quite well. Back in the mid eighties I was a young 'cop' at Glossop and Buxton and still have many fond memories of the area and many friends still reside and work up here. The views over towards Kinder Scout were obscured by rain, but again we managed to avoid the worst if it until we got towards New Mills. The instantly recognizable smell of 'Love Hearts' filled the air as we passed the Swizzels factory. We tried to remember as many phrases as we could from the iconic sweets of our youth.

Nice spot on the Peak Forest
We had a small 'incident' with a hire boat at a lift up bridge as we headed for Furness Vale. They raised the bridge and then the operator jumped back on his boat - not ideal if the oncoming boat is single handed as I politely pointed out to the crew. We also collected a prop foul as we manoeuvred about to allow them through the bridge. A large heavy duty plastic sack was removed with a sharp blade within a few minutes.

Bugsworth is a lovely spot and again the past industry would have been wonderful to witness. We moored in the lower basin and met some friends, Keith & Margaret, in the Navigation pub for a drink and then they took us to a local curry house for a lovely meal. We first met by chance in 2009 at Kilby Bridge when we moored next to them and have kept in touch ever since. We met up last year at Lowsonford, but they have very recently sold their boat 'Misty Lady' and replaced her with a motorhome. We had a lovely evening catching up.

Bugsworth Basin (with blue skies !!)
Today we have had a string of visitors with several of Johns work colleagues dropping by for coffee plus Keith & Margaret calling by to show us 'Wendy' their new motorhome. It has all the mod cons and we're sure they will have lots of fun travelling about in her. We have enjoyed a beautiful day with plenty of sun. We had a late lunch at the Navigation and chatted with 'Dave' who had travelled single handed from Marsworth over 4 weeks to attend his sisters 30th wedding anniversary in Sheffield this weekend - what a character !! We had helped him up Stoke Locks a few days ago. It's great how boating introduces folks from all walks of life through a common theme. All I can say is 'Never judge a book by its cover'.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Stoke and Macclesfield.

Yesterday we travelled up into Stoke on Trent which we have to say is not our favourite stretch of water. It seems to drag on forever and the locks are deep and heavy, but on the plus side, it was noticeable that there was far less rubbish in the canal than in previous years.

The tortoise and the hare
We had a brief wait at Harecastle Tunnel for one oncoming boat to emerge, and then we entered as the second of just two boats travelling north. We had been lucky with the weather until now, but the tunnel was very wet and we emerged some 40 minutes or so later into rain - we'd have been better off underground !!
Southern portal
We made the sharp turn at Hardings Wood Junction onto The Macclesfield and negotiated the stoplock at Hall Green. The rain was heavy now and so we decided to moor just beyond the lock for the night. The rain subsided briefly during the evening for some dog walking and fishing, which was very successful. A bite a cast with lots of skimmer bream, roach and perch, the biggest being a good two pounds plus which got the pole elastic stretching well.

Overnight mooring at Hall Green
We left quite early this morning as the weather forecast was for rain around lunchtime... will it ever end ?? Our neighbours were very keen as they headed off towards Stoke at 6.30, but even that was far too early for us. It is so quiet on 'The Macc' and even when we stopped briefly for a coffee at lunchtime just at the bottom of Bosley Locks, which is such a prime mooring site, there was only one other boat. We could see rain over the hills, but it seemed to be skirting us nicely, and so we decided to ascend the locks. We only saw two boats coming down the flight, the second of which was nb Moon Shadow, an almost identical boat to Blue Moon. We chatted with the owner about all things Aqualine - toilet seals, window seals and batteries to name a few !! The rain was still evident in the distance, but the gods were truly on our side today as we stayed dry all the way to the top. The views on the flight are spectacular and make the locks such a pleasant experience. We also watched a pair of yellowhammers and spotted reed buntings too.
Bosley Locks
We continued on making the most of the fine weather and had a run up to Gurnett Aqueduct at Macclesfield. Let's hope for the same luck with the weather tomorrow and that Murray gets knocked out of Wimbledon. Either one will do !!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

On our way to Bugsworth

We left Kings Bromley early afternoon on Saturday and began our journey north in windy and cloudy conditions. We earlier met Glenn from Elite Furnishings who came and fitted our new long awaited kitchen blind which looks great and is much less obstructive than the old one.

We had a pleasant afternoon with just one brief shower and moored just below Haywood Lock. We had a lovely meal at The Clifford Arms where the portions are large and the value very reasonable. 
Haywood Lock
Great Haywood village
Today is Louises birthday. 21 again plus VAT !! We were up quite early and Louise opened all her cards  and we walked the dogs (we've also inherited Louises Mums Jack Russell for this trip - oh how lucky we are !!) and then set off about 8.15 am.

Plenty of boats heading south, but no queues for us. As we approached Aston we met one of our old shared boats 'Marbury' travelling south. We didn't know the steerer and didn't get chance to speak, but it felt strange to see her again.

We always seem to drop lucky with Stone Locks and today was no exception... until the 4th lock when a boat coming down blatantly stole our water. We weren't impressed and I think they know we weren't, but what's the point in getting stressed when we are on holiday. It is frustrating though when we were clearly in view and only about 60 yards from the lock.

We have moored at Barlaston this evening ready for the run into Stoke tomorrow. Indoor barbecue, dog walking and watching the football is the itinerary for the evening.