Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Stewing gently

It's been a week of getting things together after ten weeks cruising and, latterly, trying to keep cool. It's possible to open doors and windows throughout the lodge, as well as the Veluxes, so as to get a through draught, but even so, sleep has been difficult most nights.

Of course, if this sort of weather was a regular occurrence, it might be worth investing in a standalone air con cabinet, but since we probably won't have it like this for another twenty years, it's not worth it.

We're looking forward to my sister Jane visiting from the States this weekend. We'll have a family day on Sunday when the gang from Lincolnshire come over. It's due to be cooler and, knowing how it is, probably wet...


Thursday, 15 June 2017

Boating home

It was a good run yesterday in decent weather. We left at half seven and made it back by half one, about standard for the Alrewas to Mercia run. Things were very quiet at first, but we found boats queuing to come up Tatenhill and from then on there were boats going in both directions. After the grotty weather over the weekend and Monday, everyone had clearly come out to play.

We had an interesting time getting back to the pontoon, starting with trying to remember which one it was... Fortunately, Fallen Angel was still in so we knew where we should be. Having been coping well with manoeuvring in the wind, I completely muffed the turn onto the berth. Mind you, the Mercia wind waited its chance and started blowing in an unhelpful direction once I was committed to the turn.

Still, we made it in without crashing around and were soon shifting stuff up to the lodge, having done a good bit of packing whilst boating. It helped, too, that we'd left the lodge stocked with all the non-perishables and with a lot of stuff duplicated to reduce the amount to move.

Today, we've had a walk round the marina and carried on with moving stuff about. We've also done a big Ocado order to bring both boat and lodge stocks up to requirements.

We've now got to hang about waiting for the surgery to call me for a blood test, then once that's sorted it will be hi-ho for the Four Counties and Chester. Probably.

I'll try and blog once a week, just to keep folk updated about when that's likely to be.


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Too busy to blog

We're back in the marina safe and sound and have been busy moving stuff into the lodge. We've also spent a big chunk of time catching up with folk and hearing all of the gossip/scandal.

I'll do a proper blog post tomorrow, when I've got time to think about it!


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

How many volockies?

The mooring on the towpath outside Kings Orchard is very handy but not as quiet as you'd expect. For one thing, both the A38 and the West Coast Main Line are within earshot and, although it seems to be out in countryside, dog walkers come past at regular intervals. In addition, the marina is only just over the hedge and so odd disembodied voices are to be heard from time to time.

None of this is a problem, you understand, it's just an interesting example of the way what seems to be the back of beyond isn't.

Another start just before eight found us chugging along the cut to and through Streethay Marina. There were folk about already in the yard and plenty of signs of industry going forward. It's an "interesting" bit of canal from there to Fradley village which for some reason is always a) shallow and b) overgrown on the offside. It's not quite in African Queen territory yet, but if CRT don't do some dredging and vedging soon, it will be.

As it is, the steerer has to stay alert for oncoming craft. Fortunately, there weren't too many of these for the first hour, though once we were into Fradley village it got very busy indeed. There were volockies on both Junction and Keepers Locks and nothing coming up as we arrived. I managed another smooth evolution out of the Coventry, round onto the T&M and into the lock without touching reverse, a source of quiet satisfaction given the watchful eye of the lockie.

We crossed with boats at each lock on the way down to Hunts, following another down the last two. Sheila was chuckling as she rejoined me after Common Lock – apparently the chap on the boat in front had taken her for another volockie. In fact, he thought she was two volockies as he didn't realise that she'd walked down from Keepers to Hunts. He said he thought her double at the first lock had been a bit older...

I think she's still trying to work out if that's a compliment.

Although there was so much traffic on the move, there were lots of spaces both here above Bagnall, where we've tied for the night, and on the village moorings, as we found when we walked along them on our way to the shops. One boat we did find was Soda with Colin and Maureen, fellow lodge owners from Mercia. We were sorry to hear that Colin had been taken ill whilst they were tied on the Wedgwood moorings (they've been up to Chester and back) and had had to spend three days in hospital. They are taking it easy travelling back to Mercia and have already had offers of help from fellow moorers there.

The notice above Bagnall still says that the river section is in the yellow, Proceed with Caution, though in fact it's way down and the notice by the lock itself says Normal Conditions. I'll check them all and then drop another email to CRT when we get back. It's not good enough – if they are going to have the notices at all, they should be kept up to date. Of course, there are few staff at either Fradley or Peel's Wharf Fazeley now, since the abolition of the Central Shires Unit, and this is the result, I reckon.

Tomorrow, on to and into the marina.


Monday, 12 June 2017

Getting near home

Sutton Road Bridge is a reasonably safe mooring, not least because the Audi dealers alongside has substantial CCTV coverage, but it was a bit noisy last night with (presumably) youngsters racing cars around the car parks. It did go quiet eventually so we got some sleep, if rather erratically.

Off we went at what seems to be our usual time these days, a bit before eight. Sheila steered in rather more wind than we'd been hoping for, though she coped well, naturally. I did lookout, mostly, with occasional breaks to get the washing machine going and the like. Hopwas came and went, then Hopwas Woods. They've replaced the Firing Range warning notices with rather sterner ones and erected big gates at the access points.

Indeed, the flags were flying today and from time to time we could hear the sound of firing, a mixture of rifle fire and some heavier stuff, mortars I suspect. I seem to remember having been told that the range is mostly used for TA training these days, so presumably what we could hear were the activities of a summer camp for part-time soldiers.

Whittington seemed very quiet as befits a village that's running out of pubs, sadly, and there were few lurkers in the vicinity of Huddlesford Junction. We passed Farne sitting quietly on her mooring. The guy who was trying to set up a business by the railway bridge seems to have given up, though there was a part-completed boat tied under the bridge. Even the visitor moorings at the Plough were almost empty.

I took over for the last stretch to our target mooring by the entrance to Kings Orchard marina. It's continued windy for much of the afternoon, though it seems to be easing down at last. The forecast is much better for the next couple of days, warmer and calmer, but at present it's scheduled to get breezier again on Thursday.

If it stays that way, we may well trim a day off the cruising plan and do Alrewas to Mercia in one day on Wednesday, rather than trying to get onto our pontoon in a severe draught. Meanwhile, Jo and I have co-ordinated an Ocado delivery for Friday morning.


Sunday, 11 June 2017

Steadily to Fazeley

We were tied almost straight across from the Samuel Barlow pub last night, which seems to have changed its character a touch since we were last there two years ago. It was certainly trading quite well and there were sounds of Muzak from the upper floor all evening, together with much merry laughter from a party on the upper veranda. It wasn't impossibly noisy but we were quite glad when it all quietened down by midnight.

Apart from that, we had a peaceful night, despite the proximity of the West Coast Main Line, and woke refreshed in good time this morning. As a result, we were on our way rather before eight for the plod through Amington. It was a pleasant morning, though it clouded over as the day went on. The Glascote Two were against us but were in better condition than they've been on other occasions and Sheila had no problem turning the locks.

Once down, it's a steady run through to the junction, with very little traffic on the move despite it being the weekend. We got to the Sutton Road Bridge moorings by ten, to find that they were all but deserted. It's one of those stretches that is either empty or full of liveaboards, just depending on where the local boats have roosted for the time being.

We had an early coffee then set off to Sainsbury's armed with a mixed shopping list. For once, we made something of an impulse buy in addition. We've been thinking for some time of getting a second handheld blending wand. The Bamix I've used for many years is excellent but now lives in the lodge where it gets put to use in the winter in the production of stocks and soups, mostly. The big Sainsbury's here has a substantial home goods section including a variety of such appliances.

I settled on a Breville beast complete with a chopping bowl attachment. It's a 500 watt motor so should cope with anything up to and including ice cubes (not that I often have cause to produce crushed ice, but you never know). It does mean that any substantial use will be better with the engine running, since pulling over 40 amps from the batteries for any length of time is not a good idea.

It's turned very breezy indeed since lunch – we're glad not to have to move this afternoon. Tomorrow, we'll carry on along most of the remaining Coventry canal, probably finishing near the new Kings Orchard marina.


Saturday, 10 June 2017

It's Alvecote

Sheila was just saying that the stretch from the foot of Atherstone to the Fazeley side of Polesworth is quite hard work for the steerer and I know what she means. It keeps it interesting but it's quite serpentine (though not as bad as the South Oxford) with bridgeholes and narrows galore to keep you awake. In addition it was Saturday so after the first hour or so there was a bit of traffic.

Having worked down the last two locks, we stopped briefly on the service point to dump rubbish then carried on towards Polesworth. I made coffee and started a wash load as we went, in between doing look out.

We stopped briefly at the first Polesworth moorings to see if we could help the crew of Bobtail, whose engine wouldn't start. The electrics seemed to be completely dead despite a spare battery connected by jump leads and I couldn't see any obvious cause. In the end, I had to admit defeat. They passed us whilst we were moored here at Alvecote, so presumably they found a more competent source of help.

We've had a quiet time here since arriving with not a lot to write about, frankly. I brought the BOG Pub Guide up to date and Sheila has progressed my guernsey a bit further, otherwise it's been the usual reading and puzzling activities.

Tomorrow, on down Glascote and to our preferred Fazeley mooring at Sutton Road Bridge. We'll need to get there before lunch as we've run out of bread, pretty well. A Sainsbury's shop should see us right, the last supermarket shop we'll do before getting back to Mercia.

Speaking of Mercia, Rampant Rhubarb passed us some time after we'd tied. She's a Mercia boat that's been to Debdale for blacking (they do fancy kinds of blacking at Debdale). One of her owners has been taken ill, however, so the Mercia folks have arranged relays of people to bring her back to the marina; the plan is to do the whole trip in five days, which is some serious boating.