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.