Monday, 16 July 2018

Exciting times at Tamworth

We've had a steady morning's boating to Sutton Road Bridge, just under three hours of very pleasant cruising along the Coventry. The stretch just after Whittington is greatly in need of dredging – Sheila happened to be steering whilst I made some coffee and had an African Queen experience with a bare boats width between the reed beds.

Elanor took over for the run through Hopwas Woods and on through the village nearly to Tamworth. Her steering skills have not deserted her and she coped well with an encounter at Hopwas School Bridge made more tricky than necessary by a GRP cruiser tied, in breach of the no mooring signs, far too close to the bridge.

I took the boat back for the final bit to a deserted mooring at Sutton Road Bridge. Sheila and I did some food shopping before lunch, then Elanor and Sheila went off in search of tops afterwards. Not long after they'd gone, a combine harvester showed up in the field opposite, as a result of which the boat has been well dusted over with minute bits of chaff.

After a while, billows of smoke started pouring up from the corner of the field nearest the boat. I was just pondering whether I could move the boat only assisted by Sally when the shopping party returned, alarmed at the sight of smoke right where the boat was tied.

Whilst we were bow hauling her out of the way, blues and twos could be heard and seen and a fire appliance parked just by the bridge. They didn't in fact need to pump water out of the cut, the use of a spray from the on board tank was enough to deal with the blaze.

Combining is once more occurring as I type this. We've been joined by at least one more boat now. Tomorrow, on to Kingsbury Water Park.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Hot mini blog

Boating was good today, though very hot. Sally especially doesn't appreciate it, makes it hard to keep cool when supervising. We got away from Branston in good time and had a straightforward run to Alrewas and on to Fradley.

Not a lot of traffic about for the first couple of hours, but it got steadily busier after Alrewas. It was my turn to lock, ably assisted by Elanor and supervised by the hound.

A sign of age creeping on: we've bought a GO Windlass, the ratchet one. It's very good indeed, working well both in ratchet mode and as a long throw windlass. In addition, the extra fixed socket below the ratchet one makes winding down very easy.

The only lock we were a bit slow through was Junction, where the volockie had his own pace of working. Sheila managed the turn onto the Coventry with no problem. It was getting on towards lunchtime, so we decided to stop at the bit of Armco just beyond Fradley that we remembered as being signed not to leave a boat unattended there overnight. It's now signed for CRT boats and loading only, so we just stopped for lunch and have come on to Kings Orchard for the night.

Tomorrow, Sutton Road Bridge and some retail therapy.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Off again

We're out for a week with Elanor and Sally, just an amble up to Kingsbury Water Park, probably. I was going to get Sally to do this post, but she's spark out, what with the stress of getting ready yesterday, all the supervising today and the heat.

Also, we cruelly made her walk to Branston Co-op this afternoon and all she got out of it was a white Magnum.

Actually, I know how she feels...

I'll keep you all posted with progress but don't expect too much. It's too hot.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Home again

We set off at seven and got back to Mercia just after half three, having stopped for lunch at Branston. This is slower going than our usual rate, but the cut was very busy on a sunny Saturday.

Highlights were meeting Mick off Three No Trumps at Alrewas – he very kindly helped Sheila with the lock – and Sheila spotting a mink at Wychnor. It carefully considered where to enter the water, then swam across just submerged.

Elanor cunningly met us at the marina, having expected us to arrive earlier, and gave invaluable aid in the initial sorting out. Daughters are wonderful.

No more blogs for a bit, a couple of weeks in fact, until we go out again to give Elanor a holiday break.

Friday, 29 June 2018

A bit further than we meant to

I forgot to mention our excellent evening with Peter and Mel the other night. We had a merry time yet again – one of these days we'll actually get round to teaching them Mah Jong, which had been the goal of this summer's cruising. No matter, the chance will come some day.

With no particular target in mind today, we didn't get going until seven, but then chugged merrily on through the metropolis of Rugeley, for once not stopping at bridge 66 to shop. There were a lot of boats tied between the aqueduct and bridge 67, the first shopping bridge, and plenty at 66, of course, but then very few after that until we got to the Ash Tree Boat Club.

I managed the turn under the bridge onto the Spode House straight without touching or reversing and we didn't meet another boat through all the narrows, an advantage of setting off in good time.

The Handsacre moorings were pretty busy, so it was just as well that we'd already decided to make for the towpath above Woodend. Kings Bromley is OK, but very overhung by trees, meaning that you have to spend time cleaning bird poo off the boat if you stop there. The only thing was, when we got to Woodend, there was a piling and dredging gang working right where we'd planned to tie. It's good that there will be more room to stop there in future, but no use to us today.

So, down the lock we went and on to Shade House. I had a problem at the big turn where the T&M changes direction from SE to NE – there was a boat tied immediately after the bend and another emerged round it just as I'd got Sanity Again lined up to sweep through. I had to go astern to lose way and avoid him and ended up berrying in the offside trees. You often see a boat tied there, despite the fact that to any real boater it's obviously an idiot place to stop for exactly the reason we had today.

As we approached Shade House it began to look like we'd have to work down to the moorings below Junction Lock, but we found a nice 70' space and popped into it. The towpath is wide enough to put chairs out under the trees here, which made for a cool afternoon.

We've walked down the flight to dump recycling and buy ice creams. We're just six and a half hours boating from Mercia now and tomorrow looks like the least windy day for a while, so we've decided to finish this trip in one burst. We should get to Mercia in the early afternoon, all being well.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Hotter still and hotter

Haywood and Colwich locks are notorious for getting very busy indeed in the summer and we were two hours away from Haywood where we were at Weston. So another early start was indicated, Sheila setting off at 6.20. I just had time to grab breakfast before we reached Weston Lock, which was against us.

I worked the boat down and then the curse of Weston struck. Coming up, Sheila had run aground on the towpath side and the offside is always shallow because of the silt carried down in the by-wash, so she took care to keep in the middle as she emerged.

And promptly ran aground again. It took a fair bit of back and forth to persuade Sanity Again to unstick, but after around five minutes we got away. Clearly more dredging is needed there – when we reached Hoo Mill the by-wash was nicely on weir, so the pound was not especially low. Apart from this contretemps, we had a good run. It was cloudy and cool again, to the extent that Sheila took to wearing her fleece for most of the morning.

Haywood lock was no trouble and Colwich was just getting busy as we arrived, with a boat emerging, one waiting to go down and another arriving below as we were working down. By the time we were clear, there were two more arrived, one above and one below. This was not long after half eight, so I dread to think what it was like later today.

We got to Brindley Bank after a straight four hours cruising and found a good slot just ready for us. This is one of the spots where I'm always sure it's a 48 hour mooring, but there are no signs or even any sign of totems, must be my imagination. Maybe it's because it obviously should be 48 hour, so popular is it with its nice new rings and decent dredged depth.

Despite the heat, we tried going up the Bloody Steps. There's no sign of an old pub at the top, just a superb example of a Victorian pumping station. After some roaming around, we took advice from a passing native and found the Co-op, which is quite a large specimen of its type.

To get to it from the aqueduct, walk up the Bloody Steps and alongside the pumping station. Keep going straight on to the main road, which cross by the traffic island just to your left. Walk up the left side of the play park and keep going straight on through the housing estate until you come to another through road.

Note the name of the side road you are on – Jeffrey Walk – and turn right. The Co-op is may be 100 yards on your side of the road and is air-conditioned, oh bliss. We bought a loaf of bread and found our way back (this is where having remembered the name of the side road helps...)

The humidity has gone up a bit so we've been lurking in the boat all afternoon, sweating. We've even dropped the side of the cratch cover to keep the sun off the bow doors.

Tomorrow, on through Rugeley to Handsacre or may be a little further since we don't need to stop to shop, Kings Bromley, perhaps.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Three hours to Weston

It wasn't a good night last night. We didn't feel able to leave the stern doors open in such a public spot (though there was no kind of trouble overnight) so the bedroom was stuffy even with the Houdini open and the consumption of a couple of glasses of Yellow Tail Jammy Red might have left us a bit wired.

We gave up on the sleeping idea at half five and, after beating an "Impossible" Killer Sudoku into submission, got up and dressed. Sheila worked Star Lock and I took the boat down onto the water point at around seven. There was another boat already there filling up, but she soon finished and we ate breakfast to the sound of the tank filling.

Off we went at half seven, heading for Aston, Sandon, Salt and points south. I was actually too chilly in shirt sleeves and wore a sweatshirt for the morning. There's an easterly wind today which, for once, is very welcome, keeping temperatures much more reasonable.

Only one boat, Muleless, was here at Weston when we got here just before half ten. She's since left and others have arrived but there's still a bit of room. We've spent much of the time sitting in the well deck again, back in shirt sleeves now, though we retreated inside for a while whilst I made a start on tonight's grub.

Tomorrow, on through Great Haywood to Brindley Bank at Rugeley, probably. We've never actually explored what lies at the top of the Bloody Steps, so might do that in the afternoon.