Another miserable day in the making. At least it started off dry, for a while. All the boats around us moved off and carried on their journey and it was soon time for us to do the same. With Stoke Bruerne flight closed we decided to move along to before Gayton, mooring up where Tilly could go off and explore.
I helped push off and then left Mick to it whilst I did some work below. I’d been putting off checking a few things out on my ground plan for panto. So I started the day with the drawing board out. I made a list of potential problems and then worked my way through them. Details of the trap in the stage had only just been confirmed, the size and position having changed a touch since last year! It didn’t matter for Aladdin, but this year it does. A bit of problem solving and I have a couple of options.
Mick moved us on, far less traffic on the cut than in the last few days, most probably due to the broken lock ahead. He pulled us in after almost three miles cruising at the last big M on our map before Gayton Junction. Here there is armco to make it easier to moor, but the trains are quite close. Trains are a feature of the Grand Union Canal that you have to get used to. The line does move away at times but hugs the canal the remainder of the way to London.
Seven Hours! Blimey! What could I do with all that time?! No need for it to rain as the grass was good and soaking which got me very wet too. Marvellous.
More of my model got painted this afternoon and Mick went for a walk up to the junction to see what he could see and give me a bit more room to work. He returned just after it started to rain again, I made him some room on the table in return for him not nudging it too much as I painted thin lines of turquoise and dark red.
If you are looking for something to help fill these rather wet times avoiding being outside, can I point you in the direction of a friends blog. Jan is a story teller based in Edinburgh (Link to her blog). She is also a Theatre Designer, textile artist and curator. Last July Jan joined the crew of tall ship Tenacious as a volunteer, hauling sails, climbing the rigging, hearing and telling stories. This year she is aiming to tell tales on ten tall ships and will be joining the crew on board The Lord Nelson sailing up the Norwegian Coast as part of the tall ships race. The first posts on her blog take her to the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies, she featured on Ramblings on Radio 4.
Stay dry. Oh, this afternoon there was an update on Stoke Bruerne (on the website not an email) saying that the locks are open again, so dependant on how much water is falling from the sky I will either be working or we’ll be heading to descend the locks. Fingers crossed.
0 locks, 2.72 miles, 1 dry start, 1 very wet end, 62 trains, 1 tail held high, 6 hours of soggy moggy, 1 hour of exhaustion, 1 set of new tenants, 1 hat (of mine) headed for the high seas this summer, 10 tall ships, many tales, 900mm wide not 700, 1 trap a touch bigger than planned.
Five years ago today we pushed Lillian (NB Lillyanne) out from Crick Marina to start a year afloat. This was never going to be just one year as when we bought Lillian one of the caveats was that our year would only start when we moved onto Oleanna our bespoke built boat. This of course took longer than originally planned, three years in the end.
So how come we’re now up to five? Well there are still places to explore, plans for this summer, plans that may be changing for next which means that they will be differed to the following year. The lifestyle suits us, so for now you are stuck with us!
To mark our fifth anniversary the sun came out and we were going to make the most of it, along with every other boat in the area!
A lady from the stern of a passing Braidbar boat shouted out GOOD MORNING! as she passed. The sun had given everybody a smile this morning. Our tight mooring became a touch awkward as soon as our spring line was undone. Boats passing, at maybe a touch too fast, pulled us back and forth on our almost straight lines, we nudged the boat ahead who were having their breakfast. From then on until we managed to push off I clung onto the bow rope.
We tagged on the end of a few boats. A lady popped her head out from NB Many Meetings to say she’d just read the article in Canal Boat as we passed. Approaching the bottom of Braunston Locks we could see that we were fifth in line, hopefully someone would join us so we could share the locks. Two boats set off, then the bottom lock was reset for the next two. I walked up to help as it looked like there was only going to be one person working the lock. A chap appeared and helped out on my side. He requested a rope be thrown up, so that he could pull them into the side as the other boat came into the lock. This was taken very literally, he was thrown a rope, both ends of it!
We were joined by NB Kingfisher a Carefree Cruising shareboat. Plenty to chat about at the stern, a little bit harder at the noisy end of the lock. At just about every lock boats were coming down so we could leave gates for them, if not then the pair following us were eager to close up behind us and empty the lock for themselves.
Between locks 4 and 5 is where things got a touch awkward. Someone must have waited for boats to come down 5 meaning they sat in the short pound between. By the time the boats coming down were leaving the lock another two boats had come up 4. The four boats in the locks had to vacate them before others could take their spaces, this meant six boats do-si-doing in the short pound. Those following up the locks just kept on using the empty lock, so there were always six boats manoeuvring around to get to the next hole in the puzzle.
At the top lock there was a queue waiting to come down. This meant there was plenty of crew on hand, one of which was Della from NB Muleless. Only time for a short chat as other boats were hot on our tail. Good to meet you properly Della, I didn’t chance to ask where you were heading.
Into tunnel mode, lights, torch, head light, life jackets and a caring head nudge for Tilly before someone turned the outside lights off. Mick hates Braunston tunnel, two way traffic and the kink, but Tilly hates it more! We were fortunate with our timing as most people must have stopped for lunch. Only one boat which we passed in the last 100 ft of the tunnel. NB Kingfisher took another ten fifteen minutes to appear from the southern portal, they’d have met two boats which would have slowed their progress somewhat.
We paused for lunch. Braunston had taken far longer than before, would we be in time to get down Long Buckby before the gates got padlocked, we also wanted water. We decided that if someone came along and joined us then we’d do the locks, if not we’d fill with water and drop down the top lock and wait for morning.
Two boats ahead pulled in at the new length of armco, the first one plonking themselves right in the middle of the view. A chap from the following boat told them to move up to allow them to moor behind, instantly eliminating two git gaps. At Norton Junction we could see NB Triskaideka swinging round onto the Leicester Section but we were to carry straight on.
As we were still deciding what to do a head popped out from a boat and asked if we were going down the locks. ‘Yes, would you like to join us?’. We had a partner. A boat was just coming up and the crew from a following boat appeared soon afterwards wanting to come up. We dropped down Lock 7 at 14:32, the gates on lock 8 would be locked at 16:00 but last boat in is at 15:00. Plenty of time.
The walk to the next lock was so pretty and fragrant, the gardens of cottages that line the canal were full to overflowing with blooms. Only time for a short pause to take a photo. Lock 8 ahead had been turned and a small tug came up. We were still within the time frame, entering the lock at 14:50 and exiting it 7 minutes later. We were in the flight now, no one could stop us.
I’d chatted with the chap from our accompanying boat, suggesting he stay on board and I’d open one gate, in front of him then Mick would bring Oleanna out through the same gate, this saves a lot of walking round and climbing ladders and means I do no more work than if we were on our own. Having arranged this off course at every lock there were boats wanting to come up so plenty of crew to open and close gates.
At Lock 10 two ladies waited to help us down, they’d left the gates at 11 open for us as they could tell someone was on their way. Apparently there was a rather officious lady there telling them to close the gates and that her husband had headed up the flight to lock the gates at the top. They were concerned that they’d be locked in the flight. I reassured them that I was sure that even if the gates had been locked then they would be allowed out as C&RT don’t want anyone mooring in the pounds over night, I hope I was right.
Arriving at the next lock two chaps were waiting to come up, it was now 15:30, half an hour after the last boat was meant to come through. We were soaring down the flight. The officious lady said she’d not said anything to us as she continued to have a point argued with her. Have to say I’d have argued my point, we’d entered the flight within time and were leaving with twenty minutes before the gates were due to be locked. On reaching the bottom lock of the flight there was a notice informing you that the last boat in would be at 16:00, not the new amended times!
Here I opened the one gate and our locking companion pootled off into the distance to find a mooring, with all the boats coming up we’d done the full flight in an hour and ten minutes.
Not wanting to be too close to either the West Coast Main Line or the M1 we carried on towards Weedon. The Bedazzled chap now has a lady friend and dog and seems to have curtailed his drinking from when we last came through.
The Weedon-Flore bypass bridge is now complete spanning the canal and railway. It is huge and currently the embankments are covered in poppies. In the dry under the road way sits a bench and a plaque commemorating Matthew James Elson a civil engineer who died at the age of 26.
We moved along to just past the wharf onto the embankment to moor, finding a length of towpath not too overhung by trees. Tilly headed off into the trees, we could tell where abouts she was due to the crows and magpies as ever. She popped back out from behind a vocal dog just as it’s back had turned.
A good days boating in the sun to mark our fifth anniversary.
5 years, 13 locks, 9.25 miles, 1 tunnel with 2 mysterons passing 1 just, 1 straight on, 2 boats to share with, 6 in a pound, 1 ex blogger, 1 new bridge, 4478825433638 poppies, 1 lovely neighbour for cutting our grass, 1 year of being Mrs Tilly
The forecast was for rain, followed by more rain and then…. yep you’ve guessed it, more rain until about 4pm.
The blog took an annoying amount of time to sort, the internet being so intermittent. Just when you thought it was all sorted and eventually uploaded, I’d put it into preview mode and not only did the photos not appear but half of what I’d written had too! After a lot of frustration I gave up, I didn’t want today just to be about the blog, a rainy day meant I should be getting on with some work.
I headed off into the woods. Once the trees had been climbed, I’d done quite a lot of that yesterday, Then some pouncing, I wandered that little bit further. There was a big brick wall. I prefer stone canal walls as they are climbable after some calculations. But this wall had very little claw factor (C) 0.1, Height (H) 1.3 trees high, Friendly cover (FC) 0, Angle (A) 90, Breakfast (B) 15 biscuits, wetness 7.4, Tilly (T) 100%.
I did my calculations (B x C $} T/W ~ FC x 0.7>A^H+C = :(abort attempt. Back to putting my arms down holes and climbing trees. After an hour or so the wetness rose to 8.2 time to dry off!
I drew out my scenery, everything starting from one point on the whole set means it takes a bit of marking up, but I got there in the end. It will be me painting this part of the scenery, I need to either simplify the floor design or manage to find a very quick way of marking it out.
We waited for the rain to ease. NB Chertsey braved the rain as did several hire boats. Every now and then the patter of rain stopped on the roof, Mick would look out of the windows, but by the time he’d stood up the rain had started again. At around 4:30 he decided to move. The annoying internet could not be lived with for any longer and we both knew what happened to Douglas Bader. Getting closer to Braunston would be good for tomorrow and hopefully improve the signal.
We cruised only a couple of miles, to be within eye and ear shot of the Banger Spire of Braunston. Internet signal was checked, good, so we pulled in. Tilly went out and explored again, Mick got the stove going and we enjoyed the last of the pancake batter from the freezer.
With only one thing left in the icy box that went into the fridge for tomorrow night and the power was turned off at last. Just how long has it taken to empty the freezer!? But now that mission was accomplished. It will defrost over night have a clean, then be lifted out of the drawer to see if we can improve it’s ventilation anymore. Fingers crossed our combined skills can come up with something.
0 locks, 1.99 miles, 1 very wet day, 1 very wet cat, she may as well have fallen in! 664 inmates not the 625 it was built for, 2 hours wasted, 3 portals, 1 floor, 1 back cloth started, 2 much grey paint mixed, 2 savoury, 2 sweat pancakes each, 1 instep on its way.
Hopwas Wood Bridge to Meadow Lane Bridge 50, Coventry Canal
Pootling along today on the flat meant I’d be working, however having a snot filled head did mean that what work I managed to do, in between blowing my nose, may get redone at a later stage. I did manage to draw up my panel design for the boozer, but the painting of it isn’t as good as I’d like.
Meanwhile up on deck, Mick pootled us towards Fazeley Junction where we turned left towards Coventry. This route avoids the numerous locks up into Birmingham and then the numerous ones down again off the plateau that the city sits on.
Today we’d pass through two locks, Glascote Locks. There are nearly always boats waiting to go up or down and the slow filling chambers mean you have to be patient. Today was no exception, there being what looked like three boats ahead of us. We pulled in behind and waited our turn. The middle boat of the three turned out to be a C&RT work boat moored on the end bollard of the lock landing.
There seemed to be plenty of people around to help, but not many with windlasses. I walked up to help. The first boat rose in the lock as one was coming down from above. As we were mob handed I walked up to help the lady at the second lock, then walked back thinking that the crew would walk up with the boat, but they were the crew from the next boat in line. Snot induced lack of enthusiasm on my part, I stayed put and waited for Oleanna.
With each boat going up one would come down, but no more boats appeared behind us, so we were left to work the locks with just the two of us, everyone else had stopped for lunch.
We pulled up on the moorings above the locks, Mick popped up to the Co-op hoping that there would be a copy of our newspaper left whilst I put the kettle on. Success! After lunch we pushed off again our aim to get within striking distance of Atherstone. However our progress was halted very soon.
From below I knew from the change in engine tone that a blast of reverse wouldn’t get rid of what ever had wrapped itself around our prop! Mick didn’t even try, instead we drifted to the side where he tied up then loosened the weedhatch. A small duvet and cover was the culprit and fortunately easyish too remove.
I worked as we pootled along spotting various familiar sights, the numerous well kept gardens of Tamworth, Alvecote Marina, the boats that had been ahead of us, the railway coming and going. Passing moored boats Mick would slow us down, one of these boats he’d been keeping an eye out for, The Little Chimney Company Boat. Normally around this area, there it was just before the M42. We pulled in.
Since having Oleanna we’ve been a touch concerned about the height of our flue from the stove. Being a new boat we had to have a double skinned flue fitted, Ricky at Finesse had done his best to get the flue looking good inside the boat, but this had left us with quite a bit of extra height outside, around 10 inches that is fixed. So far low bridges haven’t been a problem, there are still a few we know of to try, but Standedge Tunnel could be a whole other matter.
A second opinion was needed. Kim came along and had a look and could see our dilemma. He could cut it down to a more manageable height, the extra length of flue that we had in a locker we could then use to regain the height we’d be about to loose. But most importantly at low bridges or tunnels we’d have a lot more chance of getting through.
Tilly was locked in the bedroom so we could run an extension lead out to Kim for his angle grinder. He marked the chimney five inches lower, covered our solar panel and set to work. With any burrs ground off the cut edge, our extension piece was tried, a fit. Brilliant! Ten minutes of cutting and chatting and we were good to go.
I returned below to carry on working and to let Tilly out from the bedroom. Normally she is either asleep or chomping at the bit to get back into the rest of the boat, but she was nowhere to be seen! Behind the bed by the steps she was cowering, the first time I’ve ever seen her truly scared. I did my best to reassure her that all was fine but she wasn’t having it.
After quite a lot of coaxing she edged her way towards the bathroom. The towel rail must have been what was making all the noise! Low and slow, keeping it in her sight at all times, she edged past it. As we made our way onwards she stayed jumpy and very very cautious of the bathroom, but slowly she started to calm down.
We reached where we were meant to be tonight, Tilly had I hoped calmed down enough to come home again so normal shore leave was granted, off she went into the sideways trees.
A couple of hours later she reappeared but seemed reluctant to come back on board. Only one thing for it, I stepped off gave her some chin rubs and picked her up, we can’t have a cat afraid of her home! Inside she took things slowly, the bathroom still a problem.
Her litter tray was moved out so she could check behind it, that was fine. Still the towel rail was the centre of her problem, she’d jab at it, at one point even hissed at it! We removed the towels so that she could see there was nothing hiding there, still she was very cautious.
2 locks, 9.91 miles, 1 left, 3rd in line, 0 behind us, 1 full box tissues used, 5 inches lower, £20 well spent, 1 seriously scared cat, 1 very very scary towel rail, 2 hours of trying to hide, 1 hissing fit, 1 cat needing reassurance in her own home.
Sandy Lane Bridge to Tixall Wide, Staffordshire and Worcester Canal
Because Mick is snotty and cross contamination isn’t wanted I’m trying out the sofa bed. This confused Tilly somewhat last night. First there was the excitement of me pulling out the pouffe from under the shelving. This reveals a secret passage behind the sofa. I know it’s there and quite often try to dig it out, emptying the shelves of leaflets and books, but this never works. But tonight it was there, open for me, just there!
What is down there? I hear you ask. Quite a few foil balls and some pens which are behaving themselves and staying on the floor, they did need rearranging though. She wanted to check that I was alright so I bobbed my head back out as everything changed again! Wow!! Which way to go next. The secret passage had become wider, more obedient pens, but the sofa had also gone flat! Both were good until the sofa folded up again, I think it may have been a touch drunk as it had fallen over. A duvet was brought out from the other side of the secret passageway and the sofa went flat again. All this excitement, but then I realised that the sofa being flat meant there was no easy access to the window above.
When the lights went out I didn’t know what to do. I normally spend most of the night keeping her toes warm and ‘hogging the duvet’. ‘How can such a little one take up half the bed?’ That bit’s easy. So Tom was on his own, leaving half the bed just for me, but he was making noises! She was on the drunk sofa, plenty of space for me, but did I trust it? Better to be safe and sleep on the cushion.
Boats were coming past us early, we’d not be first to Weston Lock. When we were ready we could see in the distance a couple of boats coming towards us, both taking their time if they were moving at all, so we pulled out and headed for the lock. There a boat was just finishing going down and NB Ondina the oilboat was waiting to come up. NB Grace pulled up once out of the lock to stock up, once the transaction was done they came into the lock and rose. Mick wandered down and placed an order for 10 L of 15W/40. As soon as Ondina had risen enough the chap hopped down and delved into the front of the boat bringing out two plastic 5L bottles. The transaction was completed as the top gate opened along with the heavens.
Behind us two boats waited to follow us down another arriving to come up. On we pootled past alpacas and old caravans. Apparently Llamas have banana shaped ears and Alpacas straight ones, you learn something new.
Hoo Mill Lock the last for today, we hoped, if our plan of drawing the crowds away to the north of the Trent and Mersey had worked. The water point at Great Haywood Junction was busy, two boats already filling. There was space on the end for us to wait, then another boat arrived and pulled alongside. As one space became available it was easier for the newly arrived boat to move up then we’d pull back when the other became free.
As we filled we were joined by a hire boat and another boat waited through the bridge for their turn, all very busy. Two boats turned at the junction towards Tixall Wide, would there be enough space for all of us? How many git gaps?
We turned onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal to see if our luck was in. Coming round the bend we could see boats, but there were also some spaces. The prime position is a mooring with a view of Tixall Gate House. The spaces we could see were just before this. Ahead a hire boat was plonked right in the middle of a two boat gap. The young crew said hello and then started to untie, yes! We winded and pulled in, nudging up to the boat in front.
Our view isn’t quite as good as it could have been. We can see the gate house, just. If only a bit more offside pruning had been done!
An afternoon of hunting, blowing a nose and finishing off my model. I then took a full set of photos ready to do a story board tomorrow which I’ll upload to Dropbox for everyone’s reference.
2 locks, 4.46 miles, 1 right, 1 wind, 1 wet morning, 10 litres 15W/40, 2 Dreamies (only) a visit,1 box of tissues nearly finished, 1 drunk sofa, 5 obedient pens, 2 pencils, 1 mooring with a view, 1 model finished.