Category Archives: RCR

2021 An Adventurous Year

Time for the annual round up. Put the kettle on or pour yourself a glass of something stonger, put your feet up, this is a long post.

Looking out into a cold world!

As midnight turned from 2020 to 2021 we saw the old year out and new one in at the house in Scarborough, a quiet affair with just the three of us.

January and February brought ups and downs with them. Oleanna rose and fell with the water level at Viking Marina due to the breach at New Bridge whilst the country locked down. Despite the restrictions on travelling we made use of having a hire car for a few days at the beginning of the year to keep an eye on Oleanna.

Jobs around the house continued, our bedroom was redecorated and reclaimed from troublesome tenants. Tilly and I ventured out into the nearby park for the occasional walk, dependant on the number of woofers and the weather of course.

We walked, we ate, we drank, did our best to stay well and I started on the design for Chipping Norton’s panto in my reclaimed work room.

The spare living room was used as a workshop doing some work for Animated Objects, scrimming giant sci-fi guns and then painting model buildings all for The Odyssey. Beetroot burgers were made and pancakes consumed.

Then March came along and some easing of restrictions. Colour came back in nature with the daffodils popping up and my panto model started to get coloured in. A design for some origami paper arrived ready to be folded up to be part of 1000 ships display that would happen a couple of months later along the Yorkshire coast.

With new freedoms we had a couple of trips to Goole to check on Oleanna. First one was to swing her round and finally put fire extinguishers on walls all ready for her Boat Safety Inspection which she passed with flying colours and a comment that we seemed to like CO and smoke detectors, well I’d rather have too many than not enough!

The cofferdam at the breach site was completed and an access ramp created. My posts about the breach put us in touch with several people in Goole and at the beginning of April The Goole Escape Facebook group was formed. Due to the breach and lack of water in Goole Docks no leisure boats were allowed to use Ocean Lock out onto the Tidal Ouse. A joint calm voice was needed to try to find a way out for those boats wanting to leave, including us.

Of course March was also when Mick and I got our first vaccinations. Who’d have thought having a jab would put a smile on peoples faces! Not that you could really see them behind all the masks. A bathroom got a make over and we discovered parts of Scarborough we’d never been to before.

April was a very busy month. With lodgers on the horizon house jobs needed finishing. The roof needed attention along with a wall in my work room, both jobs were for the professionals. Pictures went up on walls, finally. The bathroom needed finishing with Frank fitting us a new bath surround.

Mid month out attention moved back to Oleanna. Way back when, we’d booked her in at Goole Boathouse to be blacked. We had a night on board before moving her from one marina to the other to come out of the water. She was jet washed down and the chaps began applying layers of 2 pack to her hull. We visited most days with jobs to do ourselves. Mick busied himself inside whilst I ground back rusty bits on the gunnels, repainted them and the tunnel bands. Inside the oak floor had a good clean and then was treated to two coats of oil. The weather had been perfect for it and she went back in the water a week after she’d come out, enough time for the 2 pack to cure. She looked smart again, well the cabin sides still needed a good wash!

Whilst in Goole we met up with David, Karl, Wendy and Martin, four members of The Goole Escape group. David had managed to negotiate with ABP passage for leisure boats through Ocean Lock at Goole Docks, this was limited to specific times of the tide. So escape was now possible but everything would have to come together to make a sensible plan. We wouldn’t be ready for a few weeks and hoped that there wouldn’t be a mass exodus before we could join people.

As I carried on trying to finish my panto model Mick made good use of his time doing a VHF radio course, we’d need to be able to use the radio to meet the criteria for going through Goole Docks and out onto the Tidal Ouse. Tilly visited the vet and got a years worth of flea and wormer treatments, we were all set to move back on board.

The first of May was that day. We’d hoped that Tilly would remember the boat after seven months on shore, within about two seconds of being back it was obvious she knew where she was. News that Goole caisson gates were now open and cruising up towards the breach site was possible we headed off to give Oleanna a good run and so that Tilly could venture back onto dry land. It was very good to be back on the move again. On our second such trip Tilly remembered how to swim!

Whilst in Goole Mick took his Short Range VHF Radio exam and passed. I carried on painting my panto model. We both had our second vaccinations. Heather Bleasdale came to visit joining us for an outdoor lunch. We got to know the Goole Escape Committee and discussed plans. We watched work going on at the breach site. Mick had a birthday and Joan’s Home Kitchen provided us with a celebratory meal a couple of days before we hoped to escape.

On 21st May an escape committee meeting was had early on, the weather looked hopeful for the tide in the afternoon, we were booked in at Ocean Lock. Our escape was to be via Selby, the Lock keeper was called there and our plan confirmed. At lunchtime we moved up to fill the diesel tank and await the other escapees, Sea Maiden and Lullabelle. Given the go ahead by the docks to proceed we were soon passing through to Ocean Lock where there was plenty of space for the three of us. At around 14:30 the large lock gates opened to reveal our way out of Goole onto the Tidal Ouse.

All three boats arrived safe and sound

We headed upstream following Sea Maiden being pushed along with the tide. Would we make it to Selby before the tide turned. Each boat arrived individually and was locked up into Selby Basin. We’d made it, now all we had to do was escape Selby as the swing bridge out of the basin there was broken.

We waited. Tides, times, weather and the amount of fresh coming down stream all had to fit together. Bridget and Storm came to visit. We twiddled our thumbs. The Environment Agency came and closed the flood barrier. We twiddled our thumbs. Daily escape committee meetings were held. By the 27th everything was looking to fit together apart from one thing, Keadby Lock would not be manned at a suitable time for us to get off the river. Sea Maiden and Lullabelle decided to stay put in Selby. Heather Bleasdale was joining us for the trip but Oleanna would be out on the river on her own heading to Trent Falls.

What a day that was! David’s advice was spot on. Leaving Selby just before 10am Oleanna zoomed downstream with the out going tide. We followed our charts keeping to the channel. At the Apex light Mick swung Oleanna round to head upstream onto the Trent our progress slowing instantly.

We then crawled our way to find where we should wait for the tide to turn. Two hours of very little, drifting on our anchor. We’d picked the day well, it was wonderful out there.

When Oleanna started to move round a touch more we managed to pull the anchor up and found our way back into the main channel to head upstream with the incoming tide. One plan had been to moor up in Gainsborough, but we decided to carry on and arrived at Torksey just as the last light was fading at just gone 22:00, 64 miles in a day, I doubt we’ll ever beat that.

Over the next few days we made our way up the Trent, dug out our windlasses to work locks in Nottingham. Once we rose up Derwent Mouth Lock onto the Trent and Mersey we had completed our escape. The going would now be much slower along shallow canals and plenty more moored boats to slow down past.

Now we should make our booked mooring at Rembrandt Gardens, every day would be a boating day unless the weather was either too hot or far too wet to cruise. Along the Trent and Mersey, pausing to stock up in Alrewas. At Fradley we turned onto the Coventry Canal to head southwards. We gave a tow to NB Burghley Girl to the bottom of Atherstone.

At Hawkesbury Junction we did the 180 degree turn onto the North Oxford Canal, through Rugby and up Hillmorton. NB Kamili with Andy and Irene passed as we arrived in Braunston where we paused for another butchers, then up the flight and through the tunnel.

Straight on along the Grand Union. On route we stopped for a drink with Lizzie at Bugbrooke. Paused for a hot day under some trees near Milton Keynes. Had a diversion along the Wendover Arm for a night. Picked up extra crew, my old college friend Jen, for a day through Hemel Hempstead. Came across our first sightings of HS2 cutting it’s way across the landscape.

At Bulls Bridge we turned left onto the Paddington Arm. On our trip into London we came across our friends Pete and Clare on NB Billy, it turned out we’d be neighbours at Rembrandt Gardens for a few days. We arrived on time and the next day headed across London by bus to Hackney to see the London Leckenbys for the first time since Christmas 2019.

Plenty more family to catch up with. Kath came for lunch, we had a trip to Eastbourne to see Marion and John, a lovely lunch with Christine and Paul. So good to see everyone again and not just on a computer screen every Saturday.

Happy Birthday Big Brother

Andrew’s 60th Birthday was celebrated, nothing fancy just good to be able to be together for it, we’d achieved our second goal of the year.

We heard there was a space at St Pancras Cruising Club for a long boat like Oleanna, so we took advantage of a more secure mooring close to Kings Cross whilst we had a visit back to Scarborough. Checking on the house, lodgers changing over and seeing the latest Ayckbourn play with Bridget and Storm, it all made for a good weekend away. I then headed off to Huddersfield for a couple of days work with Dark Horse, fitting costumes for a photo shoot.

There was to be a Tideway cruise from St Pancras Cruising Club and with one space left we jumped at the opportunity. Ten boats made their way to Limehouse, we breasted up with NB Misty Blue, Graham turned out to be another Goole Escapee. Three lock-fulls of boats headed out onto the Tideway on the morning of 10th July, special permission had been sought to go under Hammersmith Bridge which was closed to all forms of traffic at the time.

Tilly thought we were mad taking her onto such rough water, I was a little perplexed too! Very glad that I was the official photographer, clinging on as we did more than bob up and down! Tower Bridge, The National Theatre, Christine, Adam, The Houses of Parliament, Battersea Power Station. So many sights, what an experience!

The further west we got the calmer the water got. We were glad when Hammersmith Bridge was passed as there had always been a chance that it might close to boat traffic at anytime due to safety reasons. We turned off at Brentford along with several other boats and continued up to Hanwell where we had a very sociable evening at The Fox with everyone. Thank you Simon for mentioning the cruise to us.

Sadly our washing machine hadn’t liked the lumpy water so for the next month we cruised meeting up with engineers on route hoping it could be mended. Back through London, pausing at St Pancras again. Then down to the Herford Union to cut across to the Lee and Stort. We had another mooring booked on the Lee awaiting our arrival, alongside NB Billy.

Then up the Lee and onto the River Stort. We’d only ventured so far up the Stort during our first winter on Lillian, this time we headed all the way to Bishop Stortford. Our return journey was held up slightly due to the river going into flood overnight so we had to wait for it to lower to get under the bridge at Roydon.

Back through London we made use of the new Eco-moorings near Islington Tunnel, a handy stop off with electricity. Here we met up with Nick an old friend from York and Adam called in for a catch up after working the breakfast shift at Radio 2.

Goodbye Christine!

At the end of July we pushed on and left London behind us, returning to Bulls Bridge.

We headed up to Uxbridge for cheap diesel and finally got our washing machine mended. We turned around and headed back to the Hanwell flight, stowed the garden back in the shower and headed out onto the Thames again where we turned right towards Oxford.

With a weeks license we couldn’t dawdle, although a broken lock gate at Boveney Lock did hold us up overnight so our license would be extended. A space was spotted below Cliveden so we treated ourselves to a night moored in the grounds of the big house. We paused for a socially distanced chat with Sue on No Problem XL, good to see her looking so well. Henley Regatta was almost ready as we passed through and our favourite mooring above Days Lock did not disappoint. All too soon we turned up Sheepwash Channel and ascended Isis Lock back onto the Oxford Canal.

Whilst in Oxford I managed an actual face to face meeting with Dash the Director for Chippy Panto. He seemed happy! Then we made our way up to Thrupp where we’d booked ourselves in at the cruising club for a few days whilst the London Leckenbys came to visit and we had a trip back to Scarborough and we got to see the show at Esk Valley for the first time since we’ve been living afloat.

I had a day trip to Chippy where I did a final model meeting over zoom from a dressing room, but also had chance to measure things up. Then we were off up the Oxford Canal, mooring in our favourite spots, it was a touch busier than it normally is in the winter.

A pause to visit Village Meats in Braunston and we spotted our old share boat NB Winding Down so we stopped to say hello. On up the flight sharing with a boat full of actors, then left up to Crick for the first time in ages.

A prearranged boaters meeting at Houdini’s Field worked brilliantly, NB Panda and NB Kamili convened and we all enjoyed each others company over a fantastic barbeque outside so everyone could feel safe and Tilly could roam about. Oleanna was treated to a very good wash and brush up before we were on our way again. We now needed to get her north before I started on Panto.

News came through that the breach on the Aire and Calder had been mended and nine months after the canal had sprung a leek it was mended and open again. Boats could now move through the area, mooring however is still restricted.

Following the Grand Union we headed down the Stockton Flight to Leamington Spa. Tilly and I had a few hot days on our own moored at Radford Smelly then we were on our way again. An obligatory burger at The Cape of Good Hope the night before we teamed up with NB Mad Hatter to ascend the Hatton flight. One day my old college friend Emma will not have an excuse to helping us up the flight, this time we met for a cuppa and a catch up the following day.

On up Knowle to Catherine de Barnes, then Camp Hill Locks, the Ashted flight and Tunnel (!) followed by Farmers Bridge into Birmingham. The city centre is still full of building and tram works but with the sun out it looked stunning. We also caught up with Paul Balmer from Waterway Routes before carrying on with our journey.

A night at Hawne Basin filled the diesel tank up. A night at Dudley Port Basin got the cupboards filled. A pause at Urban Moorings meant we could donate our deposits and the next day we descended from the Birmingham plateau down the Wolverhampton 21.

Along the Staffordshire and Worcester we managed to have a mid stream catch up with Barbara from NB Bessie Surtees. At Great Haywood I managed a catch up with Kay from NB Pea Green as she set up to trade for the day and Mick filled Oleanna’s water tank.

Heading north on the Trent and Mersey we pulled in for lunch and a surprise hello to Barry and Sandra from NB AreandAre whom we’d got to know last year in the first lockdown. In the afternoon we were joined by Bill and Lisa for a trip through Harecastle Tunnel. Now we swung off the Trent and Mersey and onto the Macclesfield with it’s wonderful bridges.

It would have been nice to take our time but we had a rendez vous to make. The end mooring at Marple was free and from here we headed into Manchester by train to join the London Leckenbys for a meal of big red fish. The following day my old school friend Morag joined us for a night on board with some serious catching up to be done.

Our next deadline loomed, Standedge Tunnel. We dropped down the Marple flight, crossed the aqueduct and turned right at Dukinfield Junction onto the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. We knew we were in for some hard work to climb our way over the Pennines, last time we’d enlisted crew to help as I was one handed. This time we’d be going solo. Apart from the very first lock it wasn’t too troublesome. The work is rewarded with stunning views.

Standedge Tunnel did not disappoint. Because of social distancing Mick got ride ride up front in the cratch leaving the helm to a C&RT volunteer. Bumps and scrapes made Oleanna wince along with us, but we all got through in one piece with no damage. Tilly wasn’t too happy about the trip, but at least I can now boast to the local cats in Scarboreugh that I’ve been through the longest deepest highest tunnel on the canal network whilst they just lazed around on their shed roofs!

On our way down the other side Oleanna had a belt that went taking out quite a few wires in the engine bay. RCR were sent for, the engineer suggested we’d need to remove a pulley on the alternator to be able to remove trapped wires, this could not happen where we were. We could move but the batteries would not charge. The only way to top up our electric was with the solar panels. Emergency power conservation went into operation, blogs were hand written, the freezer turned off and we gradually ate our way through our defrosting supplies. Every day Mick managed to pull more wire from the alternator and soon there was no need for an engineer again, just a new belt needed fitting.

We made our way down to Huddersfield and arrived the day before I had a production meeting at Dark Horse. After walking to my meeting I handed over the model and we stocked up on supplies before heading off east along the Huddersfield Broad Canal.

The Board locks are just that, but they are short. On Lillian we’d nearly got stuck here, but Oleanna was built a foot shorter so we knew we were fine, we still had to take great care in descending the locks diagonally. This continued on to the Calder and Hebble, taking our time and using our Hebble spike. The rebuilding work done at the Figure of Three locks, after flooding washed huge parts of the structure away, are only noticeable due to the new stonework.

Bigger locks were welcome, using the key of power once past Wakefield. The sun shone wonderfully for my last full days boating this year as we made our way to Castleford. Here we hired a car to get me down to Chipping Norton to start work on Panto whilst Mick and Tilly stayed on board with the plan to move Oleanna to a winter mooring in Thorne.

Whilst I painted the set working all the hours I could, Mick and Tilly gradually made their way eastwards. They passed through the breach site and headed to Goole to top up on diesel. On their way back towards the New Junction Canal the engine started to over heat, a problem that had happened a couple of years ago on the Thames.

The following day he winded and slowly made his way to Rawcliffe Bridge for easier access for RCR. Little could be done there and then, so Mick and Alastair (engineer) arranged to meet at Viking Marina in Goole. Oleanna managed the two and a half miles in three stages. After her cooling system had been flushed through the problem hadn’t gone away. The water pump was removed and was obviously the problem. A week later with a new pump Mick moved back out onto the cut and joined Lullabelle (a fellow Goole Escapee).

Taking a long weekend off panto, I headed up to join Mick and Tilly to help move them back to Scarborough. Wendy and Martin kept an eye on Oleanna for us whilst we settled Tilly back into the house, I knew where I was! Pah!!

Several days later with the weather on his side, Mick returned as early as he could, pushed off and single handed Oleanna back along the Aire and Calder to Sykehouse Junction where he turned onto the New Junction Canal. With swing and lift bridges to work he was glad of the assistance of a volunteer at Sykehouse Lock. Then the sharp turn at Bramwith onto the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigations. A few more bridges and two more locks before he arrived at Blue Water Marina, Oleanna’s winter mooring.

Tucked up for a rest

On our way back from Chippy a week or so later we called in to check on her. A boat in winter isn’t too friendly without the stove lit. We’ll have visits every now and then to check on her and do the odd job. The weeks are already flying by before we move back on board.

For a year that we’d decided would purely be about seeing our family and friends we ended up having quite an adventurous time. Trent Falls, the Tideway through London and Standedge Tunnel made it quite a year.

So our vital statistics for the year 2021 according to canal plan are

Total distance was 932 miles, ½ furlong and 627 locks . There were 42 moveable bridges of which 16 are usually left open; 169 small aqueducts or underbridges and 30 tunnels – a total of 19 miles 3 ¼ furlongs underground and 3 major aqueducts.

This was made up of 277 miles, 1 ¾ furlongs of narrow canals; 270 miles, 4 furlongs of broad canals; 89 miles, 4 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 59 miles, 7 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 121 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 105 miles, 2 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 8 miles of seaways; 263 narrow locks; 302 broad locks; 61 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

Sadly with Oleanna’s log book where it should be, onboard, I’m not able to offer up the engine hours, litres of diesel, gas bottle or bags of coal. Maybe I’ll update this once we are back on board.

The Thames, 2021

This year we’ve done more miles than last, not bad considering we were on land for so much of it. We’ve done far more tidal miles than ever before and for the first time we’ve been on a Seaway! If someone can tell me what the difference is between Tidal waters and Seaways please do. Maybe it was around Trent Falls, or was it downstream of Tower Bridge?

As last year I hope the pandemic doesn’t throw a spanner in the works for us or anyone else. We need the theatrical world to still function with an income for me designing shows and lodgers paying to stay in our house.

I want to say ‘Keep well friends’, but I feel I need to add, ‘Get well soon friends’, as so many have tested positive recently. Thank you for following us and hope to see you soon x

Panto Postcard 2. 2021

70.75 hours

Cheese and Ham Muffins

Sunday. What a lovely day. Time for a cuppa in bed for me. I didn’t really plan on doing that much as I’d had a busy week and knew that the following week would be even busier! Not having my breakfast chef on hand I put together a treat breakfast. Two toasted muffins with cheese and ham. Very tasty, but not a patch on one of Mick’s breakfasts. I then spent most of the morning trying to catch up with The Great British Bake Off, played on the laptop whilst crocheting and most importantly keeping my legs up.

Crochet and baking

During the last week my knees have taken a battering, an old war wound on my left knee used to be sorted with a good rub. But sadly now the effect only lasts a few minutes. So keeping my feet up was a very important job today, also having the opportunity to do some crochet was good. My blanket is now of a size that Tilly and it cannot live comfortably on my knee at the same time.

Gluten free fish and chips

In the evening I joined Gemma (Production Manager), Chris (Production Carpenter), Ade and Lou (Set Builders) for a drink and some food at the Blue Boar where we could get a table. It was good to see the team again, have a drink and of course have fish and chips (gluten free version available).

Meanwhile in Yorkshire, Mick had been up early to move Oleanna for her rendezvous in the morning in Goole. Thank goodness it wasn’t further! His first hop before Oleanna was over heating got him about half way from Rawcliffe Bridge. Time to let the engine cool down before the next hop just to inside Goole caisson.

The lift mooring

Then the final hop was into Viking Marina, to the boat lift. Oleanna wouldn’t need to come out of the water, but this was a space that was available. Our mooring from last winter now has a boy racer cruiser tied up to it, but we could still claim to be neighbours with Lisa and Al’s boat. The trip of 2.5 miles had taken Mick and Oleanna 6.5 hours.

Meet and greet

Monday. A very busy day for me at Chippy, read through and fit up all rolled into one along with meeting a sixth form work placement student (Imogen) who’d be joining me several times this week. I collected all my model pieces together and using blue tack put it back together as best I could in the time I had before being asked questions by the builders, showing my face at the meet and greet. Blimey that was odd, everyone being masked, trying to talk to each other and be heard, whilst at least 20 other people were trying to do the same thing!

Busy busy busy

I did the model showing, followed by Helen showing the costume designs, then it was the read through, so much better read by the actors than read in my head. Plenty of ‘Chill out Hilda!’

Ade and Lou concentrated on building a platform for Rapunzel to get to her tower, whilst Gemma and Chris busied themselves rigging portals and cloths. I managed to get quite a few things drawn out so that they could all be jigsawed out to the correct shape. Jo (Prop maker) arrived with many goodies in her van, including the giant strawberry.

In Goole Mick and Alastair were being busy. First the antifreeze in the cooling system was drained off. Then pipes and the gear box oil cooler were removed. Lots of rusty crud was blocking these. A pressure washer was then fitted to the system and the whole thing was given a good wash through.

The system was put back together filled with water the engine started up. After about ten, fifteen minutes it became clear that the crud was not the only problem as Oleanna’s temperature started to rise again. Alastair decided that a pressure test would be needed to check if the head gasket had gone! This could only be done when the engine was cool, so it was decided to do that the following morning as it was already late in the afternoon.

Chocolate fuelled drawing out

Tuesday. More drawing up for me today and with the help of Imogen lots of furniture had a base colour applied, Imogen could well be a useful find. Ade and Lou headed home leaving a box of their fresh pressed apple juice for us all to enjoy. Chris and Gemma carried on rigging pieces of scenery with the help from Ash and Gav the two in house technicians.

Base colours on the town flats

By the end of the day I’d managed to get some paint on more pieces of scenery and solutions for the cinema screen to be able to fly in and out had been found. One tower has a hinged door in it the other has a section that can be removed with care, hopefully this won’t need to happen too many times. A good day in Chippy.

Heading back to Viking before she over heats

However in Goole investigations continued. Alistair set about doing a pressure test at 8am. This had to be done first thing as the boat lift was needed today. Thankfully Oleanna passed the test and so the head gasket is good, phew! He was sent over to the visitor moorings whilst the lift was being used. Mick headed off to do some shopping and once the mooring was free again he moved back over for more investigations.

The water pump

The water pump was removed and then taken to bits. Ah Ha! This was the problem, Mick had thought it might be. For those unfamiliar with what the inside of a pump should look like, there should be 6 fins that pump the water through the cooling system, Oleanna’s for some reason only had 1.5, the rest having disappeared into the rusty crud.

It should not look like this!

A phone call was made to RCR as the job could now be passed back onto our breakdown cover. A new water pump was placed on order, but no-one was sure when it would arrive. Oleanna certainly wouldn’t be going anywhere, she was hooked up so Mick and Tilly could have power again. The marina sadly isn’t a suitable place for Tilly to explore so cabin fever was soon to set it.

Wednesday. Covid policy at Chippy Theatre is to do two lateral flow tests a week which have to be photographed and sent in to Annette the Company Stage Manager. There is also a thermometer by the pass door into back stage. Tuesday morning I’d offered up my forehead at which point the unit flashed red, displaying a large L. I tried again, the same thing happened. I removed myself from the building whilst the thermometer instructions were checked. As I thought, my temperature was too low, thankfully that meant I was allowed to enter the building and get on with work. The same happened again today, six times before my icy heart warmed up enough!

This was a delivery to the pub next door, honest!

The theatre has arranged for the theatre bar to be open on an evening for the company to drink in, hopefully reducing the chance of someone picking up Covid by mixing with the general public in a pub. I’d already decided that a bottle of wine back at my digs was preferable to going to the pub, plus I’m unlikely to be doing that anyway as I’ll be at work till late most evenings anyway.

The backdrop was flown out, red bands added to the portals, they still need to go gold, some of them were trimmed to fit better. As I’d designed the tower last January/February I knew getting in and out of it might be quite a tight fit, so I was the one who had to try it for size first. Thankfully I fitted meaning Rapunzel would have quite a bit of spare room as she is half my size.

I spotted a problem with part of the set. A tent that needed to be on wheels. A discussion was had about it. One side saying if they’d have known it was to be a truck (on wheels) then it would have been built completely differently. The other side said it had always been a truck and that the drawings most probably said as much. In fact the drawings had sketches explaining what would happen to the tent truck. A carpenter would be found to amend the tent.

Green wires!

Mick busied himself on Oleanna. There was the green wire to solve from the alternator belt incident. He also took apart our original domestic water pump and gave it a good clean as suggested by Alastair. This worked a treat, so it was put back to work. The new faulty one was also taken to bits and the switch was found to be faulty. Mick managed to mend this whilst Tilly climbed on the ‘Feed me’ shelf at regular intervals throughout the day. Well I had to occupy myself with something if there was no shore leave! Tom got himself a gate key and blatantly chatted to Toms outside, coming and going at will, leaving me to snooze in front of the stove!

My bowl is empty. Feed me!

Thursday. Test day for me and another day of being cold hearted!

Mine is a bit brighter

Today the actors moved into the theatre to rehearse. I moved into the auditorium and spent the day painting the groundrow, which I thought I’d based on a David Hockney painting of the Yorkshire Wolds. However on visiting the Co-op it appears I’ve been influenced by the mural there!

Dash (Director) had quite a few questions and found it quite novel that they could be answered by me within minutes, it’s not often a Designer is in the rehearsal room all day every day. It’s nice for me to hear where ideas are coming from rather than just getting the request on an email at the end of the day.

In Goole Mick waited for the new water pump to arrive. We’d been hoping to have Oleanna back along the New Junction Canal by now, maybe at Bramwith Junction. Extra crew, Bridget and Storm had been enlisted to work the lift bridges for Mick, but by now they had been stood down several times. The pump would be coming from Beta and should be delivered by midday on Friday.

Fusedale alongside the new dry dock at Viking Marina

Fusedale turned up for refuelling at Viking Marina, Laird was expecting it to require 850 to 1000 litres!

Friday. Chris returned for the day, a few hours of his work saved the technicians several days worth and I know things will work now including the tent truck, Hooray! Scenes were rehearsed, a lot of long hair climbing in and out of windows. How to support your long hair and a witch at the same time became a bit of a theme for the day.

The Pippins joined

Then in the late afternoon the Pippins joined the actors. The Pippins are local school kids, in three teams who add to the chorus of panto. Two hours with lots of singing and dancing on stage whilst I hid behind the backdrop working away.

All but the blooms done

By the end of the day the town flats were complete apart from some purple blooms.

Around 11am a delivery arrived in Goole, a water pump! You can now see what damage the old one had very clearly. Alastair fitted the pump, the system was filled with antifreeze mix and the engine started up. Everything seemed fine.

A working gauge to show the water pump working!

The new green wire also did it’s job, the temperature gauge showed a constant 80, this hadn’t shown a reading since the belt incident. Hooray! on two counts. By 2:30pm everything was deemed good to go, only thing was it was far too windy to move Oleanna. Mick would most probably have got her as far as Lisa’s boat and ended up being blown alongside and pinned there. Laird from the marina was fine with Mick staying for another night.

Peeking through the set

Saturday, a slightly later start for me today, just as well as the covid policy at the theatre has changed. Every morning before going into the theatre we all now have to do a lateral flow test. This is so that during rehearsals the actors can all be unmasked, but whilst moving around the theatre masks are to be worn. As I spend my life going from here to there and back again, I wear my mask pretty much all the time. I won’t be changing this even if everyone is testing daily, even though the back of my ears are red roar! I so feel for those who’ve been wearing masks all day every day for the last 18 months.

Gav down the trap

Time to draw up the tents and when the acting company had left for the day the scaffolding tower was erected so that I could reach Rapunzels tower to touch up the paintwork and finish bits that couldn’t be done before. The technicians dug out old equipment to see if it worked from under the stage and then Gav did a very good job of being ballast at the bottom of a ladder for me whilst I painted a coat of gold on the arches. At 6:15 an alarm went off on my phone, time to wash up, pack up, get changed and run away for the weekend!

In the afternoon Mick returned the key fob for the gates to Laird, thanked him and then moved Oleanna out from the marina. The doors were opened up and Tilly was set free to explore once more.

0 locks, 3.1miles ish, 1 new water pump, 2 mended domestic waters pumps, 1 big flush through, 1 pressure test passed, 0 blown head gasket, 34 litres antifreeze mix, 3 lateral flows, 1 theatre with doors open, 19 cast, 3 carpenters, 5 long days, 1 normal day, 2 soups, 1 brolly, 3.5 meters of hair, 1 new leaking roof, 1 tent on wheels, 4 panto masks,12 hours a day, 1 weekend off, WOOHOOO!

Just Like A Car Park. 23rd September

Roseford Bridge 94 to Swivel Bridge 108

Not a bad mooring

We had to wait to pull out this morning, boats coming in both directions, there had already been about eight boats go past heading northwards, most now familiar as we keep leapfrogging them. Eventually we pushed off and arrived behind NB First Dawn a BCBM share boat at Deptmore Lock. We helped lock them down then bring another up before it was our turn.

Hi Dawn

The morning was lovely, sun with a touch of cloud, the boat ahead had similar ideas to us, if there was space at Tixall Wide we’d stop for the day, if not we’d continue to the Trent and Mersey.

Passing Stafford Boat Club, NB Festina Lente was moored online, we’ve never met them but said hello as we passed, nobody heard us. Then the odd pram cover on NB Malakarti came into view, this was one of the last Steve Hudson boats to be built and the original owners discovered that their Huskies got seasick, so it was sold on fairly quickly. It is one of the boats that we got to see a lot of during Lockdown 1 as it was moored on Nantwich Aqueduct all the time.

Once past Radford Bridge I was onto slightly unfamiliar water. Our first cruise along here on NB Winding Down I’d had to jump ship for a day to head to Hull Truck for a read through, leaving Mick and his sister Kath to carry on to Stone. Another occasion I’d just broken my ankle, so was confined to quarters with Tilly, Mick single handing above. This is also a stretch where I seem to get busy below as it’s a good break between locks. On one occasion Mick remembers wafts of stew coming from below at 9:30am as I popped things in a slow cooker. Another time he thinks I was doing some work below. So maybe today is the first time I’ve actually been up top.

The sign to RCR was familiar but not the Stafford Riverway Link, the lock down to it currently being worked on.


I’d never seen the homemade train by NB Abba.

Milford Bridge is a roving bridge, with almost full curving lines, but still not as pretty as the Macc bridges. Across the River Sow Aqueduct I did a Gyles (Gyles Brandreth on Great Canal Journeys), ducking my head to avoid the view.

I suppose

Soon we arrived at Tixall Lock, the cream paint of the lock cottage glowing in the sunshine. We helped NB First Dawn down, as the weather was so nice they had decided to carry on to the T&M, we’d also leap frogged several other boats that had passed us this morning, maybe there might be space for us at Tixall Wide?!

Tixall Lock

Our approach to the wide summed up what the stretch of popular moorings would be like. Some boats moored nose to tail, others having gaps both in front and behind. On such a popular mooring if we pulled into a big gap we’d certainly have pulled up to the next boat and not plonked ourselves in the middle. We’d also nudge up if we found ourselves left with git gaps after other boats had moved on.

Looking back

There were two possible gaps we might have squeezed into, but it all felt like a giant car park for boats, did we really want to squeeze in, we know that the view is lovely, but! It didn’t take us long to decide to continue onwards leaving the masses.

There was space just after Swivel Bridge so we pulled in mooring at the end of a piece of armco leaving space between us and the bridge. Tilly was given 4.5 hours shore leave. We think she liked it as she didn’t return for two hours, then missed dingding time!

Time to be home Tilly!

The whirligig was put to good use with two loads of washing drying and I sat down to get my head around what paint I needed to order for panto. Quite a long list and one I need to try to prune a touch before emailing it onwards. One thing that I discovered is that you can at last get Bio Glitter from a well known theatrical chandlers. I’ve avoided using glitter as it is so bad for the environment, but this year I’ll be adding a little bit of sparkle to the walk down set.

2 locks, 6.15 miles, 1 train, 1 Gyles, 1 car park, 7 git gaps, 2 tight squeezes, 1 mooring on our own, until late afternoon, 2 loads washing, 4.5 hours which turned into 6! 1 grounded Tilly, 2 many colours, £8.83 glitter, 5 chums, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval, 1 failed rugby tackle.

Too Busy For A Cat Day. 6th March

Mickley Bridge 84 to Moss Hall Aqueduct

The plan today was to let Tilly have free run of the towpath. After her being cooped up during the ‘Beast’ we had found ourselves at a mooring with very little footfall, so she could play to her hearts content all day.

Miles of Tilly Towpath

Another three benches were claimed including the one outside of NB Beefur. Mid morning they pulled away and left us on our own.

The stuff of life, as my dad used to call it

Mick was low on bread, so I set about baking him a loaf so that he could have lunch today. Even though I don’t eat normal bread anymore I quite enjoy making it, but as it takes time I need advance warning. The dough was left to rise before breakfast, then knocked back and left to prove, out of the oven after an extra 5 minutes upside down (that’s cooking on a boat for you) and cool enough for a slice or two at lunchtime. The top went a bit darker than I’d have liked, so next time I’ll reduce the gas mark a touch in the top oven.

The gunnel was washed down yesterdayOnce whiteTilly had spent the morning coming and going. Stopping off for a few Dreamies and a  quick wash and brush up before getting muddy again. Her freshly laundered towels are no longer white!

Just as we were finishing our lunch Mick’s phone rang. RCR. With our gold membership we get a free engine check each year and we had arranged this for last Friday. But because of the ‘Beast’ all their engineers had been sent home for a couple of days so as not to get stranded by the feet of snow we’ve just had. The call was from the office asking where we were and would it be possible to fit us in today. A quick look in Nicholsons and there was a road bridge a couple of bridges ahead. Being on the Shroppie, with it’s shelf, doesn’t mean that we’d be guaranteed to be able to moor, but we’d give it a try. Luckily Tilly was in so we pushed off and travelled the great distance of 0.45 miles. We managed to get pulled in and moored on armco to wait for the engineer.

What's he doing in the box underneath?Checklist GOODThe chap who arrived had been the second engineer who’d come out to us last year when we had our fuel filter leak. A very jolly chappie with the gift of the gab, which actually means you tend not to take too much notice of him! Oleanna’s engine not quite being a year old meant we didn’t really expect him to find anything, it’s just for peace of mind for Mick as he does all our servicing. Everything was as expected in ‘Good’ order and the check list was quickly gone through enabling the engineer to head up the way to a breakdown in Audlem.

The next boat out of Finesses workshop after OleannaOverwater Marina

Not the prettiest of moorings we knew we could do better. So we pushed off again, passing Overwater Marina where we spotted the boat that followed Oleanna out of the Finesse workshop.

Not a bad view

At the bottom of the Audlem flight a large gap between boats greeted us and we pulled up with a great view over the rolling fields and small lake surrounded by sheep. Tilly was a little bit more cautious but still had a couple of hours to enjoy herself before feline curfew. The evening was a very quiet one, Tilly being fast asleep for most of it!

A snuggle up in Tom's coat after a towpath explore

0 locks, 0.45 miles, 1.3 miles, 2 journeys, 8 hours cut to down 5! 20 checks, 15 ‘Good’, 3 moorings, 1 loaf, 1 project nearly finished, 1 great view, 330+ channels.