Friday, 29 July 2016

A good night and a good day

The mooring at Handsacre was quite gloomy but, possibly for that reason, we both got a good night's kip. Knowing that we didn't have a long cruise scheduled, we lay in a bit and it wasn't until gone eight o'clock that we set off. It was a pretty routine chug through Armitage and the "tunnel" and past Hawkesyard Priory, presently largely hidden by greenery.

As planned, we went straight through the usual shopping moorings at bridge 66 and tied instead on the VMs at 67. This was, frankly, a bit of a mistake. There are very few rings and we could only just get in to the side. In future, we'll tie in the usual place and walk up the road to visit Aldi. However, we found everything we wanted when we got there, including the Squirty Squash concentrate that's much better value than the Robinson's equivalent. It tastes better, too.

Back at the boat, Sheila set off whilst I stowed away the goodies and made coffee. I then took over for the last stretch so that Sheila could put her foot up. When we got to Brindley Bank, Margaret Beardsmore and her merry IWA team were tidying up the moorings and they kindly warned us that they were about to start strimming. So at their suggestion, we moved across to the other side and tied on chains – the canal has towpath on both sides here.

It's been raining on and off ever since we got here but hopefully will be drier in the morning. There has continued to be a niff of diesel after turning off, so I lifted the engine boards again. Sure enough, there was still an ooze from the problem joint. I got the self-amalgamating tape out and wrapped it which has stopped it completely.

For those who don't know, self-amalg is a non-tacky stretchy silicone rubber tape that only adheres to itself. It's excellent for waterproofing electrical connections and for emergency repairs of split pipes. You stretch it a lot as you wrap it round the joint and it forms a sealed tube gripping the target. Being non-tacky, it's easy to remove when you come to make a permanent repair.

Tomorrow, tally-ho for Tixall.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

On to Handsacre

We'd had breakfast by seven and set off shortly after, Sheila steering and your correspondent walking ahead. Bob Drummond was keeping himself fit by assisting at Bagnall, an easy lock to work compared to his usual beat at Stenson. With his help we were soon through and away towards Fradley.

The motor of a pair was working down Common when we got there, so we stopped on the lock landing to let them get the butty down too. However, the lockwheeler waved us in, giving Sheila an "interesting" task as the landing is very close to the mouth of the lock. I said we'd been expecting them to bring the butty down, but the lockwheeler said "I'm not strong enough to be shouted at this morning". It's a shame that so few people on the cut understand the problems of working a pair, it being much easier to long line the butty down with the motor than to bow haul it through the lock.

We worked up Hunts on our own but found a volocky on duty at Keepers, it now being about half eight. Crossing with another boat at Junction, we saw that things were getting busy, but didn't get held up particularly. More volockies were arriving as we got to Shade House, after which we had a good run to Woodend.

This one was against us and no boat in sight, but no sooner had I drawn a paddle to turn it than a boat appeared coming round the corner in the distance. I quickly wound the paddle down, told Sheila what was happening via the radio and drew the top paddles to refill and open the lock. It was a family party heading for the Coventry and then the Birmingham and Fazeley, Mum, Dad and two boys. Mum told me that they hoped to get past Drayton Manor without the boys noticing.

Good luck with that one...

As we came up the lock, another boat arrived at the top and one at the bottom, so things really were warming up. We'd not decided between Kings Bromley and Handsacre for our overnight mooring but since the weather was still dry and we were well ahead for time, I decided to carry on to Handsacre.

It promptly started raining, but not sufficiently to cause me to change my mind. Indeed, it slowed and stopped after a bit. Unfortunately, all the best mooring spots at Handsacre were taken when we got here, one of the boats being Mercia stalwarts Mick and Cathy on Crafty Foxes. We've ended up on the bend under the trees, but it's only for one night, so tolerable.

It rained seriously over lunch but has stopped again and may even be warming up a bit. Tomorrow, we'll have a short day, into Rugeley, stop at Bridge 67 to visit Aldi and then on to Brindley Bank for the night. On Saturday, we'll carry on to Tixall Wide. Mercia has produced some leaflets about the stolen boat and plans a walk the towpath campaign on Saturday. We've asked to have the leaflet emailed to us so that we can do our bit with the weekend crowd of moorers at Tixall.


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Good and bad

First off the good news. Nev turned up last night with his big spanners and we were able almost to stop the weeping joints. There's still a trace of ooze from one of them, giving a bit of a niff after the engine's been run and then turned off, but hopefully it's something we can live with until we get to Poynton and get Andy to remake the joint. I don't want to nip it up any further and risk stripping a thread or sheering something, thereby going from trivial irritation to broken down in one easy move!

Anyway, we're very grateful to Nev for taking the time to help out and it was good to have a catch up natter with him into the bargain. Boating is still amazing for the way people help each other out when in difficulties.

After all the excitement, we settled for fish and chips from the Alrewas Fryer for dinner. They're still some of the best we know.

Now for the less good. Incredibly, someone has managed to steal a boat from Mercia Marina by sheer brass neck. The thief got himself through the security gate somehow and then asked the way to Moorhen Pontoon. Once there, he walked confidently up to the boat, opened it, started the engine and boated off. It was all done so smoothly that those who saw him assumed he was taking it at the owners' request to work on it.

The theft wasn't discovered until the owners arrived to stay on it and there it was gone. It's a dreadful thing to happen to anyone, but the entire online canal community is on the case and there's every reason to hope it will be tracked down and recovered. There's a thread about it on CWDF with photos of the boat and phone and crime numbers to use if anyone spots it.

If you are near a canal, please visit, brief yourself and keep an eye out! There are possible sightings on the Staffs and Worcs, at Hillmorton on the North Oxford and at Stoke Bruerne on the GU. The boat's been gone for between one and two weeks so could be anywhere on the connected system by now, just about.

Weirdly, this case is almost identical to a theft from Kings Bromley Marina the other week. Again, the thief, this time dressed in overalls, just walked up to the boat, started it and took it away and the onlookers assumed he was taking it to work on. That boat has been found on the Staffs and Worcs with a lot of the thief's possessions inside, including a repeat prescription form.

The police are anxious to interview the person concerned, as they say.

We've had a quiet day today. A bit of tidying has been done, turning out some cupboards and sorting out stuff for the charity auction at the Owners' Weekend. The plan for tomorrow is to make an early start and work up Fradley, aiming for Kings Bromley before the rain arrives.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A good day in lots of ways

OK, so the boat that just squeezed in in front of us on the VMs here in Alrewas promptly got out and started a Honda suitcase genny :(, but apart from that we've had a very good day. As planned, we set off just before half seven on a fresh sort of day but by no means unpleasant. I steered most of the time with Sheila taking over for the locks.

Anyone who didn't know us would think I was some dreadful chauvinist who only let the wife near the action when he had to (shut up, you lot ;) ) but in practice it's working out about right. Until the swelling is well under control, there's no need to take chances with Sheila's recovering foot and anyway, I need the exercise.

Land and Water were blocking the winding hole below Wychnor lock, dumping dredge and reeds on the banks around the hole, but we weren't kept waiting long before getting through. All the locks were against us and it was gone nine before we started meeting boats coming the other way. On the other hand, there was plenty of room on the moorings just above Alrewas lock, which we reached just before half ten.

After coffee, I took a walk into the village to buy some supplies, including indulgent Cornish Pasties from Coates's. Mind you, I didn't know Cornish Pasties were 50% peas... Still they made a very filling lunch after our exertions.

That excellent chap Nev from Percy is stopping by on his way home from work with a serious spanner set to see if we can nip up the oozing joints in the fuel pipework. It's not a major worry, but that smell of diesel does get everywhere from even the merest smear. It is so good to have friends, it makes all this blogging worthwhile.

The forecast is not too good for tomorrow, so we may well take a rest day here before pressing on on Thursday. The next section involves quite a lot of locking and therefore steering for Sheila, so letting her foot recover for a day seems advisable.

Monday, 25 July 2016

First full day

We've started as we mean to go on. After a warm but not impossible night, we were drinking tea at half five. Sheila then set off just after six whilst I washed, dressed and ate breakfast. Then I took over and steered through Burton until we were approaching Horninglow. Sheila took over and I hopped off under Horninglow bridge to walk to Dallow Lane. Aqua Jeta was just working up, so I saw them out, turned the lock and waited for Sheila to arrive.

Up we went and on we went, your correspondent steering again so that Sheila could rest her foot. The main discomfort she has from it now is not the operation site but the other side, the outer edge which was presumably clamped during the op and is still quite bruised. In addition, she gets some swelling if she stands for too long.

For the next couple of weeks, I'll be steering for the long stretches as well as working the locks.

There was a lot of room at Branston when we got here, so we've tied on the VMs on the Burton side of the road bridge. The threatened housing development is coming to pass – all the land from the road here to the Parcelforce depot by the Morrisons mooring is fenced off and groundworks going on. There's some activity on the Branston side of the canal by the road too.

There's a fair bit of traffic on the cut, it now being peak holiday season. As usual, the hire boats are being pretty well behaved whilst some of the privateers charge past, staring intently into the distance. Even moored well with a spring on we're being bounced about quite a bit.

The rev counter was playing silly b's today, suddenly over registering from time to time, so I took the panel down this afternoon and found that the wire from the alternator had worked loose. I pinched up the female half of the spade connector and it seems to be behaving itself now.

Tomorrow, a half seven start as Tatenhill Lock is not far away. It takes between two and a half to three hours from here to Alrewas and we don't want to get there too early, before the holiday makers have finished yawning and got themselves organised to set off.


Sunday, 24 July 2016

Off we go, just

Having moved on board yesterday, we had some bits and pieces of tidying up in the lodge to do this morning. Sheila's turned all the washing round up there, so we shall have a nice clean lodge to come back to in the Autumn.

By lunchtime, the batteries were fully charged so we could disconnect the shoreline and stow the cable and the isolation transformer away. We went round to the front to say our farewells and to thank Grahame and Chrissy for last night's barbecue.

After lunch we got going in a bit of a breeze. We had to hover for a few moments whilst a New and Used wide beam and a narrowboat pulled off the service wharf, then went and did a pump out ourselves. When that was done, we worked across to the entrance, pausing again to let a boat come in. As I cleared the entrance bridge, I spotted the trip boat, Mercia Swan, coming along behind, so I pulled over in the approach cut and loosed them by.

There was just room for us on the Heritage field mooring, two boats being here already, so we've tucked in and settled down for the night after 15 minutes boating. ;) It's quieter on this side of the cut, being that bit further away from the railway line.

There's a slight weep in the return fuel line, but the nut involved is larger than any of my spanners. I think it was exacerbated by rocking the boat with a full tank. I've mopped it off and we'll see how it does tomorrow on the way to Branston.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Cleared for takeoff

It's been an eventful month, but at last things are sorted. Our last tenants have been and gone and we have full possession of the lodge. It means that we can start sorting it exactly as we please; we'll be unloading a certain amount of stuff like the microwave and the toaster, and some of the linens will transfer to the boat to replace worn out towels and the like.

We've acquired a luggage trolley from Midland Chandlers, a nifty four wheel folding beast that greatly simplifies moving gear to and fro. We had an Ocado delivery yesterday, partly stocking up the lodge with staples that now don't need to be carted up from the boat every time and partly stocking the boat ready to cruise.

In the afternoon, Jo kindly gave us a lift into the Royal Derby where Sheila's foot was X-rayed and pronounced well recovered. The plan is to take a few more days here, partly for her gait to return to normal after wearing a surgical shoe for six weeks and partly to finish off these adjustments to the lodge. Then, probably on Sunday afternoon, we'll pull out of the marina, getting a pump out on the way, and spend the night on the towpath.

We aim to do the long route to Braidbar, round the Four Counties to Middlewich and up the Cheshire Locks to Red Bull. The Owners' Weekend is the first in September, as usual, which will be very early this year. We'll get just a bit of work done this time, mainly sorting the solar panel controller which seems to have failed, putting as much as 15 volts across the nice new battery bank, not good at all...

Once we're cruising, I'll start blogging regularly again.