Saturday, 7 May 2016

Settling back in

OK, so you're all waiting to hear about the fish and chips ;)

Well, they were OK, no more than that, I'm afraid, and, in our view, not worth putting up with the noise from the railway line that makes the Willington VMs so uncomfortable. Next time we fancy fish and chips on the way back to the marina, we'll get them from Alrewas. Specifically, the chips were cut very small so had cooked rather hard and there wasn't enough fish inside the batter.

Yesterday, we arrived in the marina between eight and half past and pumped out. Jules came across a bit before nine and sold us some diesel, 130 litres, in fact, and we were back on pontoon Y21 by ten. We spent the day packing up to move back to the lodge and nattering to Peter and Melanie on Inkling who had been across to the Aqua moorings for some snagging and were just back.

Elanor finishes early on a Friday at the moment and came over with Sally in the late afternoon to help us move stuff into the lodge. Sheila looked after Sal whilst the car was loaded up, which gave her the happy opportunity to natter to Trev and Rachael who had come across to see Peter and Melanie, being fellow Aqua owners. After moving loads of stuff up to the lodge, we had a gentle walk round the marina, taking our time as it was so hot.

Getting up this morning, we realised the breakfast cereal was still on the boat...

The plan is to do stuff in the lodge today, then tomorrow we'll start on a whole series of cleaning and minor repair jobs on the boat.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

A night in Willington

Setting off at 7.45 once more, we had a good run to Willington, arriving just three hours later. The route is showing the benefit of CRT's work in cutting back offside growth and dredging shallow spots. Sanity Again maintained 3.5 mph when not creeping past moored boats or sneaking up on blind bends.

We had plenty of choice for mooring when we got here, but it's really filled up now. As we approached the village, we saw several Mercia moorers heading the other way – clearly the better weather is having an effect on cruising plans.

We've got Mirabilis tied in front of us for the night and have been exchanging loads of chat with them all day.

After lunch, we popped into the village to stock up on perishables like grapes and salad stuff that we can't get from the marina shops. Back at the boat, we put the coal box away in the bow locker and cleaned up the well deck, so that SA is now definitely in summer cruising mode.

The cunning plan is to have fish and chips from the new shop here tonight then go into the marina first thing tomorrow. We need diesel and a pump out and to refill the water tank. Elanor is giving us a hand on Saturday to move stuff back into the lodge. If this weather holds, we'll be able to get a lot of outside work done next week, touching in the paintwork here and there and washing and polishing the cabin sides.

This will be the last of the daily blogs until we are cruising again, but as before, I'll blog from time to time with news about us.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Quick run to Branston

Alrewas to Branston is one of those runs that takes either two and a half hours or three. If you set out expecting three, you get two and a half and vice versa. So today we left at a quarter to eight, aiming to arrive between half ten and eleven, and got here at quarter past ten. We'd had all the locks with us bar the last, Tatenhill, and were followed by two guys from Keir, the contractors, moving a workboat to a new location.

They'd actually showed up above Bagnall just as Sheila was getting ready to set off but insisted that we go first. There was very little traffic moving and the weather has continued to pick up.

CRT were doing some work repairing the towpath edge between Tatenhill and the Water Park, but not in such a way as to obstruct navigation. They were using stakes and sandbags to make good the edge, then backfilling with dredge from the centre of the channel. It's a lot better than nothing but doesn't remove the big stones that have fallen out of the washwall that stop you from getting up to the side, something that's a particular problem in this length.

After we'd had coffee, I set off to walk to Morrisons, having forgotten to buy more tomatoes yesterday. It's a bit of a trek, so I was delighted to find that there is now a large Co-op in Branston village, about the same size as the new one in Willington. The Co-op is certainly investing a lot in new stores these days.

After lunch, we took a brisk walk round the lake. No unusual birds were seen, indeed there's less variety than at Mercia, but it's still a very pleasant stroll.

Tomorrow, on to Willington. It looks like we should be able to get some of the outdoor jobs done in the next few days if this weather holds up.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

On to Alrewas

It's been a routine but very pleasant sort of day. We set off just before eight with the familiar run to Alrewas in prospect. The weather was much better than yesterday, though still with a chilly wind, and I didn't need to wrap up anything like as much for my stint on the back.

By the time we got to Woodend, we'd had coffee and Sheila had started a wash load. We passed some old acquaintances from our WRG days, the Bakers on Enbee, and they followed us down the locks as far as the junction. The locks were against us until we got to Middle, where a volockie had set it for us. We then had this excellent service at every lock through Fradley. In contrast to some complaints that have been aired on CanalWorld, they were courteous and considerate and took particular care to ensure that, as the steerer, I was happy with what they were doing.

There was quite a bit of traffic about, especially Canaltimes, but nothing to cause inconvenience. We've tied just above Bagnall lock, as usual when going in this direction, but there would have been room on the controlled moorings if we'd wanted to stop there.

After lunch and a rest, we walked the towpath to the river lock. The boards all say "Proceed with caution" though the river level is well down in the green. There's a fair flow on, mind, so not much different from when we came up three and a half weeks ago.

We took a path across the fields into the centre of the village, emerging onto Dark Lane. I don't honestly think that it saved much time, if any, but made a pleasant change when we weren't in a hurry anyway. We popped into the Coöp for some bits and pieces and ambled back to the boat for a cup of tea.

Tomorrow, we'll go on to Branston, then to Willington on Thursday. At the moment, the plan is to tie in the village for the night so as to sample the produce of the new chip shop, then go into the marina on Friday morning.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Hit's hon to 'andsacre

Sorry about that – I'm a bit short of sleep after a very good evening last night. We only just got to bed before midnight having disgracefully overstayed on Bunnies. It was such a merry meeting that we couldn't tear ourselves away earlier.

Many thanks, Ian and Sharon, for good food, good wine and excellent company.

We still managed a decently prompt start this morning, being keen to get down Haywood and Colwich locks before the traffic built up. As it was, we found one boat just locking down the latter and had to turn it for ourselves. Sheila steered on through conditions that weren't as bad as yesterday, but were still very breezy with rather lowering cloud at first.

The sun finally broke through as the morning went on, so that by the time we finished at Handsacre Sheila was getting too hot in her rain suit. There was a fair bit of traffic about, but not too much of it encountered at awkward spots.

We didn't stop in Rugeley, having stocked up in Stone, and finally finished for the day at half eleven. Since then, we've been loafing, rather, recovering from the weekend's excesses, you may say. Tomorrow, on to Alrewas. We've seen Bunnies go past, but have lost track of Inkling (thanks for the comment, by the way, Mel!)


Sunday, 1 May 2016

Wet slog to GH

The day started well, sunny and so forth, and we got away just after seven. It took an hour to lock down Stone, Sheila locking and me steering. Bunnies Warren was just getting ready to go as we passed them but the gap between us was soon filled by Tara from a bit further along. We all chugged along fine until Weston, where an AngloWelsh pulled out in front of Tara, so now we had a convoy of four.

At the lock, we had to wait whilst a little Stone Canal Cruising boat struggled with it and everything got very busy. By now, it was quite windy and starting to rain. From there on, it was a bit of a slog, not the most enjoyable boating ever, I fear – queuing at locks, getting damp and chilled, and time ticking on, always with the uncertainty of whether we'd find a mooring at Great Haywood.

Arriving at half twelve, we actually had a choice of a couple of spaces, despite rather sloppy mooring by some of the boats already here. We got tied and shot below for restorative soup and sandwiches. Some serious resting followed after which we made an expedition to the Farm Shop. We've bought a few indulgent bits and bobs we didn't really need. Bunnies Warren is tied a couple of boats behind us; Ian and Sharon were also in the shop which bodes well for tonight, though they threatened to serve just broccoli and eggs, that being what they had in the basket...

We're snug back in the boat for now and looking forward to another merry evening ;)

Tomorrow, we have to decide whether to do a very short day to Brindley Bank or a longer one to Handsacre. We'll see how we feel in the morning.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

And so to Stone

We enjoyed our first experience of Rummikub, I think. It's a game that improves with practice, I guess. Elanor had actually brought her travel set with her when we were coming up, but we were too weary every evening to play. Never mind, next time she's with us we'll have to take her on.

With just a couple of hours to do today, we didn't set off until eight and had a good run to Meaford then on down the locks. We've tied in our usual spot near Roger Fuller's yard, which looks very quiet. After coffee, we walked into town and shopped at Morrisons for various perishable items. Since it was another cold damp day, we treated ourselves to a pasty apiece, Morrisons doing particularly good ones.

As we got back to the boat, there was Inkling working down the top lock, having been caught in the hail shower which blew through whilst we were in the store.

Back at the boat, we ate lunch, stoked the stove, rested awhile and pottered a bit. I checked the diesel tank as I've no feel yet for how much fuel the Webasto is using. With luck, we'll last to Mercia, but I'll keep a close eye on it.

Bunnies Warren came past later, pressing on down the locks. We've just exchanged texts with Ian and Sharon and agreed to meet in Great Haywood tomorrow. It's a bit further to go than we'd normally do in a day, but with the enticement of a meal and another good evening's entertainment, well worth it.