Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Another great Crick

I promised a blog post today, so here's a brief one now. We're still in Crick on a variable data connection, sometimes 4G, sometimes GPRS.

It's been a good weekend as ever, both socially and from the point of view of Braidbar. Mei Long was greatly admired and took second place in the favourite boat in show competition. It's been a while since a Braidbar won, ten years indeed, but we've been second placed in those ten years more often than not. Consistent quality is the name of the game.

We had very good evenings, visiting the Wheatsheaf on Wednesday, the Red Lion on Thursday, the Moorings on Friday and again last night and each other's boats in turn on Saturday and Sunday. We all got along well together and everyone has enjoyed themselves by their own report. In addition, we've another fund of stories of curious encounters with potential customers – I won't risk embarrassing anyone by retailing those here, but of you happen to find me in a pub and buy me a pint, I might be persuaded...

In addition, various Mercian friends came to see us, especially Peter and Katie on Saturday and Jo, Wynne, Bill and Jo on Sunday. We're especially grateful to Jo James for bringing us some post from the marina.

Today has been a day for chilling out after we'd finished the take down and seen the Braidbar four (that's Peter, Susan, James and Donna) on their way. A bit of shopping got done, the engine's had a good run to recharge the rather depleted batteries and get a wash load done, and puzzles and books have had some attention once more.

We plan to stay here tomorrow to repeat the latter parts of that programme, then will wander off along the 20 mile pound for a couple of days. After that, it will be heigh ho for Mercia for a short stay. I won't blog again tomorrow, but should have something to say after we've started boating again. Assuming I can find a data signal that is...


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

So far, so good

We've been getting stuff done over the past two days. Cala and Priscilla II have arrived and are snug on their moorings.

We've washed the port side of Sanity Again and brushed all the hawthorn petals off the roof, not for the last time!

Tomorrow will be a bit quiet until the boatyard folks arrive with all the show gear like the marquee.

I'll not blog again now until Tuesday. If you are at the show, come and say hi at the Braidbar stand near pontoon F34.

Monday, 22 May 2017

We're here

I'll keep this short because, as expected, the internet connection here is spasmodic and slow. Today went according to plan and we got here before half ten. The moorings are already fully marked out and reserved and we've gone straight on to ours. We have a stranger boat outside us and four Braidbars in two pairs ahead of us, right at the end of Zone 1, the decent stuff.

There's no 3 or EE signal, some giff gaff but without much data speed and a fluctuating Vodafone signal, wandering from GPRS all the way up to 4G. I've bought some extra Voda data for this month and will use that as needed. I won't blog every day – when we're not boating it's hardly needed anyway – but I will try and get an odd post up from time to time.

Oh, and there is some connection with the marina wifi but it requires a passcode, not surprisingly, which we don't have.


Sunday, 21 May 2017

Up Watford

We had a very pleasant evening yesterday entertaining Tony and Margaret though it meant a bit of a late bedtime for us all. Since one of the penalties of getting old is that you can't sleep in like you used to, we're both a bit dopey today. Nonetheless, it's gone well. We hung about on the mooring until about a quarter to ten, then Sheila boated us round to Weltonfield and reversed Sanity Again onto their service wharf.

When they opened at ten, we had a pump out and filled the diesel tank as planned. You can make any declaration you like for the diesel, which is good, but the pump out was £20 which is less so. It was a decent pump out, but nothing special. The staff are friendly though which always helps.

Half an hour later we were off again. I made us a coffee each whilst Sheila took us to the foot of Watford where we found a couple of boats, including Mei Long, waiting at the bottom and another in the pound below the staircase. There was just one boat coming down, so it wasn't long before the convoy was moving upwards. Two volockies were on hand to keep us all in order, though one of them told me that they do have a problem with people who ignore all the signs and start up the flight without booking in. We saw a bit of this today, to the irritation of a hire boat waiting to come down and who kept being told "after the third boat, no, after the fourth... fifth... sixth boat".

The crew did have the sense to turn out and help work us all up, a good example of the way hirers are often more considerate boaters than privateers.

By the time we cleared the top it was gone twelve, but we soon found a mooring between Bridges 7 and 8, albeit after having to abandon our first attempt for lack of depth. The Armco near 8 is newer and thus more recently dredged than the stuff immediately through 7.

Tomorrow, we'll start the engine whilst breakfasting and get a wash load going before setting off. On arrival at Crick, we'll go on the water point and fill that tank to the top. We shall thus have full fuel and water tanks and an empty toilet tank, together with a complete collection of clean clothes. Hopefully, this means we won't have to worry about moving for the week leading up to and including the show.

The phone signals are always a bit dicey here and it varies from year to year. We presently have a bit of Vodafone, both voice and data, and a half decent EE data signal which I'm using for this. There's also a giff gaff signal but I don't have that SIM in a wifi capable phone. The situation will probably be different again when we get to Crick. I'll try and do at least a brief blog on arrival, but don't be alarmed if you don't hear from me until a week tomorrow!

Location:Watford Gap

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Pressing on to Norton Junction

It's been another day that went pretty well to plan. We got going in very good time and were on the Stop House water point before eight. Whilst the tank was filling we had time to eat breakfast and drink a cup of coffee/hot chocolate. Then it was on to the foot of the locks. Union Canal Carriers were busy shuffling boats all over the place (situation normal) but there was still room, just about, for us to tie on the lock landing, so called.

Actually, this meant tying the stern line to a ring and us taking it in turns to hold the centreline, there being no other bollard or ring available. After about 15 minutes, a shortish boat called Phoenix turned up and shared up the locks with us. It was my turn to boat and Sheila's to lock – she had a fairly easy time of it with most of the locks with us. We crossed with a couple of boats coming down into the bargain.

Similarly, we crossed with a couple of boats in the tunnel, neither in the dog leg, fortunately. The first was no problem, but the second had a stupid great tunnel light, pointing directly forward, so that by the time I reached him, I was too dazzled see Sanity Again's bow and we brushed past each other with a bit of a bump. Please, folks, it's not a motorway in there, you only need enough illumination to see the sides of the tunnel maybe twenty feet ahead of the boat.

We've come through the junction and tied on the moorings just a bit up the Leicester Section. This afternoon, we took a walk along to Weltonfield to check what time they open in the morning (10 o'clock) and to collect some more kindling.

Back at the boat, we decided to take our windlasses down the Buckby flight and see if we could see the Braidbar showboat, Mei Long, coming up. Instead, we found that they'd already arrived here and were tied a couple of boats behind us. We've had a very pleasant afternoon drinking coffee with Tony and Margaret and looking through their beautiful boat. It's always a relief to find that you really like the boat you're going to be showing people through!

Tomorrow, we'll go into Weltonfield to get a pump out and fill the diesel tank before carrying on up the Watford flight to tie between Bridges 7 and 8.

Location:Norton Junction

Friday, 19 May 2017

Another wet one

Another soggy day, but hopefully our last in Braunston for the time being. We had a good meal last night – the Old Plough seems to have changed hands or managers again. Last time we were in there, a few years back, a couple of lads had just taken over and it showed with a rather amateur feel to it. Either they've improved or been replaced as it felt much better last night.

In addition, they were offering this steak meal deal of two rump steaks with the usual accompaniments, plus a bottle of house wine, for £24.95. I asked for red and had a choice of Merlot, Shiraz or Malbec. We went for the Malbec which proved to be entirely acceptable – not the best it can be, but perfectly good plonk.

I ordered a nachos starter which Sheila shared with me – just as well, one each would have been too much. The steaks were cooked as we'd asked and the only down side as far as I was concerned were the chips, which I thought odd and soggy but which Sheila liked. All in all, a very pleasant casual meal out.

We had a lazy start this morning to the sound of the rain on the roof. It's never completely let up, but did ease off enough in the late morning to let us get up to the village one more time for a second session at the butcher. He now stocks a good range of local veg, so we bought a selection of those with some more meat.

We've stayed on board since then, looking out at some very damp sheep and boaters going by, some in the field opposite and some on the cut, fortunately the right way round. We've not been totally idle. I had an idea for another quiz round, stimulated by something I'd read in the Indy as so often, and put ten questions together.

Sheila has advanced my Guernsey right up to closing the shoulder seams in the arcane way used for that kind of jumper – she's always glad to get it done successfully.

Tomorrow, an early start to the water point, before the Saturday hordes descend on it. We'll have breakfast whilst filling up then move on to wait for a locking partner at the bottom of the flight.


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Taking advantage of better weather

It's been a very different sort of day today. We woke this morning to bright sun which persisted into the afternoon, though it's clouded over now, presumably because of the vast amount of moisture steaming back up from the sodden fields.

We've put this weather to good use, walking up to the village first thing to get another load of supplies, then starting the engine on our return. This enabled a wash load to be run. We'd already deployed the whirligig to finish drying the last load which had been hanging about indoors, rather. The new load was done just in time for lunch and was hung out this afternoon.

Meantime, we swept through the boat, getting rid of the accumulation of dried grass and general dirt that collects as a result of steady boating at this time of year. Whilst Sheila was hanging out the washing, I brushed the mats and cleaned the mud off our boots.

That felt like enough serious work for one day – since then, we've been sitting out in the well deck, knitting and reading, until the clouds got too much and we retreated indoors once more. After reviewing the various pub options, we've settled on the Old Plough for tonight. We did think about taking a walk up to the Admiral Nelson for lunch, but an examination of its website made it plain that it's now very much a gastro-pub, not our sort of thing at all when boating, not to mention the prices they charge.

The Plough, on the other hand, is offering a deal on two steak dinners. A steak would go down well after all this work...


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Sitting tight in the wet

"You can tell when it's summer in Swansea," the barman at a conference hotel in that city once said to me, "the rain gets warmer!" In the same way, you can tell when it's summer on board Sanity Again, my hair gets shorter. After blogging yesterday, Sheila gave me my first summer trim of the year, 3/4" all over and very comfortable it feels.

I've also trimmed my beard nice and short so I'm ready for anything. Talking of Swansea weather, it has rained non-stop today, as forecast, real monsoon standard, but it's not proper Swansea weather as it's expected to stop tomorrow.

We took advantage of what seemed like a lull after breakfast to get out for a quick walk, taking a bag of rubbish to the Stop House skips. Naturally, it waited until we were there before persisting down again – our trousers and water proofs have been hanging up to dry in the engine room ever since. I lit the Squirrel before coffee this morning to dry the boat out a bit as it was feeling very clammy.

For the rest, it's been a quiet day on board, reading, doing puzzles and the odd bit of housework. Tomorrow, we'll give the engine a run (the solar panel's not contributed much today) and run a wash load to keep on top of it. We're planning to treat ourselves to a meal out in the evening, probably at the Old Plough.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Back to Braunston

We weren't completely idle yesterday, though we didn't actually leave the boat all day, so wet it was. Sheila did her online tax return and I took a look at some more rust, this time in the storage area between the starboard swim and the engine bay. A good wire brushing revealed that it wasn't too severe, there being no pitting, just surface rust running under the Danboline bilge paint, but also that it was impractical to try and do the complete job whilst cruising.

Parts of the space are inaccessible without removing the hexagrip decking from above it, so I got as much of the loose stuff off as I could reach and gave it all a good coat of Rust Konverter. That should hold it until we get up to Braidbar in August when the guys there can do the proper job with primer and undercoat.

Not surprisingly, having had little exercise, it wasn't a brilliant night and we were awake quite early. So we put this fact to good use, getting going promptly, moving onto the water point and breakfasting whilst letting the hose dribble into the tank (it's not very good pressure at Hillmorton). By twenty past eight the tank was three quarters full and we decided to get on.

It was my turn to lock and we had a good run with all the preferred, right hand, towpath side locks with us. I gritted my teeth working the middle lock, trying not to think about the officially sanctioned graffiti that besmirches both sides of the top gate balance beams. It's ironic – there is so much that is truly poetic about the cut, the lapping of the water on the hull, the antics of the water fowl, the rippling pattern of light and shade on the cabin ceiling when the sun is shining on the water outside.

But all the official poetaster could come up with is banal gibberish such as "THIS DOOR MAKES DEPTH". I ask you...

No matter, on we went in slowly deteriorating conditions. I got the washing machine on the go then alternated between bow lookout, baker of part baked petit pains for lunch and coffee supplier to the steerer.

We got to Braunston just a bit after eleven with the wind becoming more and more of a problem. We've found a good mooring after Bridge 89, our favourite length as you can walk up the fields to the village, an easier approach than slogging up the hill from Butchers Bridge to Nibbits Lane. Better, as last time and this, to walk back that way so as to have a snoop along the GU towpath and see who's about.

Not many at the moment. We went shopping after lunch as an alternative to dozing off and the butcher was commenting on how quiet it was just now. It will get busier next weekend and the following week, of course. We've started playing the game of spotting the show boats on their way to Crick, but haven't seen any definites yet.

We'll sit tight here for the next few days, unless we need to move to get more water. I'll try and do at least a quick blog every day as there'll then be a bit of a gap once we're actually at Crick and working.


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Finishing the well deck

This is a quick update as we haven't been boating today. Things have gone pretty well according to plan. Heavy rain overnight was late enough not to affect the working of the Rust Konverter, if anything helping to wash the unreacted stuff away. After a relaxed start this morning, I wiped over the treated areas with meths to finish that job and, once the whole area had dried in the sun, Sheila got busy with the masking tape.

I then applied a coat of Gunwale Black, using a 2" brush on the locker lid and to cut in around the edges of the well deck, then a roller to do the main area, working backwards and ending up climbing in through the bow doors. Since I'd started the engine after breakfast, Sheila was able to get a wash load going whilst I was doing this. Last time we did this job, I forgot about the fact that the tank breather was masked off until Sheila was showering, resulting in 1) a serious tin lidding noise when I finally remembered and 2) anxiety about the state of the tank welds for a couple of weeks after.

This time, I'd remembered to open the filler cap so that the tank could breathe when the pump was running. Dry sunny weather all day has meant that the paint has set nicely. After lunch we put stuff back in their regular positions on the deck and went for a walk. First was a visit to the rubbish skips to get rid of accumulated recycling, followed by an amble back along the towpath for a couple of bridges to stretch our legs.

It's still looking pretty wet for tomorrow, so we'll almost certainly stay put here, moving on on Tuesday. If so, I probably won't blog tomorrow unless there's something in particular to talk about.


Saturday, 13 May 2017

A good day at the bottom of Hillmorton

We had a bit of a lie-in this morning after a rather broken night, not sure why. It didn't matter as we hadn't planned to move today, so were able to take our time getting going. The forecast looked hopeful for painting the floor of the well deck, so the main job in the morning was giving it a good sweeping and a wash. Before that, I fitted the new bulb in the rev counter lamp. I'd been told the old one was a 5 watt capless, so that's what I'd got from Halfords as a replacement.

It looked a bit brighter than the other two on the oil pressure and temperature gauges, which I suspect are 3 watt. Just to be on the safe side, I ran the engine for half an hour and used my new toy, an IR thermometer, to compare the warmth at the back of each of the gauges. They were broadly similar, so it looks like the extra couple of watts won't be a problem.

Having got the well deck clean, it was apparent that there was a bit of rust along the sides where water tends to lie and not drain out of the scuppers. Accordingly, after lunch I took a wire brush to those areas and, as is the way, turned a bit of a rusty area into a rather larger one. This really needs dealing with, so I've given those areas a couple of coats of Rust Konverter. To do the job properly, it should be left overnight to finish changing the oxide into tannate or whatever, so the actual painting has been postponed until tomorrow.

That in turn means we shall stay here tomorrow, probably running the engine to get some washing done. The forecast for Monday isn't too good at the moment – it it turns out wet, we shall sit tight for yet another day.We're not on a controlled mooring here, so have 14 days to play with. If we don't move until Tuesday, we'll go straight through to Braunston again, stopping there for the rest of the week.

Meantime, we went for a walk this afternoon which also involved a fair bit of socialising. Timewarp was tied at the top of the locks and we had another natter with Jacqui and Tony. Eventually, I succumbed to temptation and bought Sheila another tiller pin, a single owl. Finally tearing ourselves away, we carried on along the towpath to the end of the moored boats, which said included Riverside Escape. As we were coming back, Steve and Denise were just setting off to walk to the café for a mid-afternoon drink.

We joined them there and had another good gossip about various boating related matters. All-in-all, a very pleasant day.


Friday, 12 May 2017

Back to Hillmorton it is.

It's been a very good day despite the weather, which wasn't in fact as dire as it might have been and was distinctly warmer even when it was wet. We deliberately hung about at Newbold until half nine, doing bits and bobs and reading. It was my turn to steer and off we went just a bit before ten for the twenty minute run to Brownsover.

As we'd expected, the towpath improvement works are nothing like finished, though you can see it won't be much longer. Not only are there no improved moorings, the new edge has lost what rings there were.

We'd timed our arrival exactly right – there was a length available immediately after the bridge but on a bend. However, as we got there, the boat tied on the next length, which was dead straight, was just leaving and we dropped onto it as he went. There were even handy loops of rope through the railway line waling at the right spacing, too. By ten past ten, we were on our way to shop. First we went to Halfords in the retail park the other side of the bridge, where I bought a replacement instrument panel bulb for the rev counter.

Then we were able to cross the very busy road at some pedestrian lights, another improvement since we were last here, and did a good shop at Tesco. When we got back to the boat, who should be tied on the other side but Steve and Denise on Riverside Escape. We grabbed a coffee whilst stowing the supplies, then had lunch, during which time Steve and Denise set off having done their shopping.

After lunch, the rain had stopped, at least for a time, and it was pleasantly warm, so we decided to carry on back to Hillmorton. Here we found tied on the handy Armco... Riverside Escape. We've tied a boat length in front of them. They were planning to go to the café for a cup of tea and suggested we join them. This seemed like a good idea, except that a heavy shower started just as we were setting off, so a rapid retreat to Sanity Again was made.

We've had a very pleasant natter about this, that and the other thing and now look forward to a quiet evening, apart from the sheep and the occasional train, that is. We'll probably stay here tomorrow before carrying on to the jail moorings on Sunday. A couple of nights there, then back to Braunston for Tuesday is the current plan, subject to change, naturally.


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Newbold to Newbold

Another fine day, another fine plan. We wanted to run a wash load, but knew we'd barely have time for it on the planned out and back run. On the other hand, the water tank was getting a bit low, so we waited until eight, then started up and boated through the bridge onto the water point, leaving the engine running whilst we filled up. By the time we'd got a tank full, the water in the calorifier was hot and the battery bank was mostly charged, reducing the load on the domestic alternator.

It was Sheila's turn to steer, so I got the machine going as we passed through the tunnel. Whilst on the waterpoint, I noticed that I hadn't been entirely fair to CRT when I accused them, in a reply to Mike's comment about recycling, of removing even the general waste bins from here. At least, I hope that's what this notice means:

We had a very pleasant chug through to Brinklow marina where we winded. This wasn't entirely straightforward – initially, Sheila tried to do the preferred thing and reverse the stern into the marina arm, thereby keeping it in deep water, but the geometry of the junction wouldn't let her do it and she had to straighten up and go in bows first. Naturally, a boat appeared coming along the mainline as she was doing this and two more wanted to leave the marina just as she was finishing.

No matter, she completed the evolution with her usual aplomb and very little cursing. That I heard anyway, though maybe she'd turned her radio off...

We had another pleasant trip back – Sheila handed over to me between Yates yard (where they are selling diesel again, I notice) and the tunnel. Mooring was good fun, with the two boats that had been following us from the marina plus two more that had set off from the towpath as we passed all wanting to get by before we'd tied. A couple of boats coming the other way and the constriction of the bridgehole added to the entertainment.

We've stopped on the 48 hour section of the visitor moorings here. It meant using pins at the back, but it's a straight edge and we could put out a proper spring. There's still the remains of the dreaded curved washwall down there, but having deployed the fat fenders again, we only bump on it if someone chooses to go past a bit quickly.

Coming back from the village after doing a bit more shopping, we had a chance to chat to Pat and Terry on Quercus, folk we haven't seen since we stopped working at IWA Festivals. As I was typing this, the newish Aqua boat Ripple Effect has just gone by – I wonder if that's going to be the Aqua show boat at Crick.

Tomorrow, back to Brownsover, timing it to arrive when there should be some space. Once we've shopped, we may stay put or may go on back to Hillmorton, depending a bit on the weather. We'd rather not block scarce spaces at Brownsover if we can avoid it.


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Plan 9 from Newbold

(Thought I'd pop a swift Ed Wood reference in there for the film cognoscenti...)

We looked up the stoppage which George and Sue had mentioned, using the CRT website. It was described as "mooring rings and signage work" between bridges 58 and 59, due to finish by this Friday, the 12th. Accordingly, we thought that it would be as well to adopt a more extended cruising plan, which would have the benefit of using up more of the spare time before we want to be at Crick.

So we decided to carry on to Newbold regardless, staying here tonight, winding tomorrow before a further night here, then ambling back to Braunston over the next few days. Setting off a bit after eight on a beautiful morning made for a very pleasant cruise into the environs of Rugby. There was indeed quite a bit of congestion at Brownsover when we got there, though not much worse than usual given that it was still quite early in the day – if we'd stuck to our original plan, we'd have left much later, so as to arrive at Brownsover after some overnight moorers had left.

As it was, there had been a good 140' of towpath mooring right by the bridge, though now with a GRP cruiser newly tied in the middle of it. We knew it was newly arrived as he'd passed us earlier. If we'd been determined to stop, I'd have asked him to move a bit to let us in.

The CRT notice proved to have been incorrect in almost every way. What is happening is a scheme of towpath improvement beyond bridge 59, not between 58 and 59. There's no sign of improved mooring provision or signage and the state of the work leads us to suspect that it will in no way be complete by Friday. The work will be entirely to the benefit of towpath walkers and cyclists as far as I can see. I'll report further when we go back that way.

We had no trouble mooring at Newbold, though the rings are awkwardly spaced for a full length boat. The piling here is of the heavily indented type and the trick is to hang the fenders from intermediate mooring rings rather than from the boat. We've ended up on very long mooring lines and I've deployed the centre line as something of a spring, though it's not as good as a proper spring and we are still see-sawing if boats pass at all quickly. I've put out our heavy duty, go-kart tyre fenders to absorb some of the thumping about.

We took a walk to the Co-op here and bought bread and a few other bits. It's not a terribly well stocked Co-op, I have to say, presumably the citizens of Newbold do most of their shopping in Rugby itself. Also tied here is Timewarp with Jacqui and Tony. Tony makes and sells very good tiller pins and Jacqui has started making some excellent fudge at very reasonable prices. (Well, Sheila tells me it's excellent, I've been good and denied myself even tasting such a high GI foodstuff.)

As I say, tomorrow we'll carry on in search of a winding hole, quite probably the entrance to Brinklow marina, then tie here again for another night.


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Round the bend at Hillmorton

We'd estimated two to two and a half hours from Braunston to below Hillmorton, which proved to be a bit of an underestimate, it being just over three in the end. It was Sheila's turn to steer in rather dreary conditions – a bit less wind than yesterday, but what there was was still bitingly cold. I spent much of the time in the cabin, keeping a forward lookout through the bow doors except when blind bridge holes occurred. I was also getting on with various indoor jobs as we went along.

I don't think there were quite as many boats tied to the towpath but this was more than made up for by the Barby Straight moorings, of course. The new Dunchurch marina is progressing apace – it's going to be huge. The impact on congestion on these waterways will be phenomenal, I fear, and I can well understand local concerns.

Eventually we arrived at the top of the paired Hillmorton locks. The ones on the left were all with us and so I had an easy job of it as lockwheeler. It's a pleasure to work such easy locks after our efforts on the broad locks into and out of the Avon valley. Tied at the top was Caxton and our friends George and Sue emerged for a chat whilst we were locking down. We haven't seen them for a while, so it was good to catch up.

Sounds like you'll have time for much more boating, now, George!

A volocky was helping out at the bottom pair. He was giving some instruction to a first time hiring crew as we got there. If I make an effort, I can still recall just what it was like that first time out, how much there is to learn and to remember. Mind you, we first worked down these locks in 1976 on our second ever hire boat holiday, a Barney Boat out of Braunston, so it's a while ago now.

As usual, we've carried on past the official visitor moorings to tie on the much better Armco just round the first bend. We walked back after lunch to dump rubbish and recycling. CRT's policy on recycling is amazingly inconsistent. At many places there are dedicated skips for mixed dry stuff and wheelie bins for glass. At others, there are just the wheelie bins and at places like Hillmorton, nothing at all. Oh, except for a notice advising of local recycling facilities, the nearest of which in this case was half a mile away.

I'm afraid the carefully separated recycling went in the general skip. Back at the boat, I improved the shining hour by giving the loo a good cleaning with diluted phosphoric acid to clean the scale off from under the rim. See, I haven't mentioned toilets for ages... ;)

Tomorrow, we'll do a short run to Brownsover, hopefully, though George and Sue tell us that there's a lot of pressure on the moorings there, as the ones through the road bridge are currently out of action whilst CRT does some maintenance work on them. If the worst comes to the worst, we'll carry on to Newbold, but we'd rather not go so far if we can avoid it. It's not the extra distance tomorrow, it's the further travelling needed to find a 70 foot winding hole the next day.


Monday, 8 May 2017

Slogging on to Braunston

It's been a very different day from yesterday, cold and with a biting nor'easterly wind. Setting off at eight and expecting to take a couple of hours to Braunston, it was a case of wrapping up in fleece and waterproof to keep the wind out and chugging grimly on.

This section is fine by me on a sunny day, but all too often I seem to end up doing it conditions like today's, when it's frankly a bit of a drag. What's more, there are even more moored boats to creep past than I ever recall before. Most of them were on the towpath side and a fairly complete mixture they were.

Near convenient bridges there were the usual liveaboard lurkers, mixed with the other form of bridge hopper, the leisure boat being moved around enough to satisfy CRT's minimum requirement of a cruising range of at least 20 miles in the year, saving themselves the cost of a marina or long term online mooring in so doing. There were also a goodly number of holidaying boats, many of which passed us yesterday. I must give a mention to the crew of Bristol Cream – glad you enjoy this blog!

I can understand now why passing speeds tend to be a bit high on this section – the parade of moored boats just exhausts the patience of the holiday boater with a schedule to meet.

Finally, there were the long term offside moorers as we approached Braunston, There's always been a group of them along there, but I'm sure that the line has extended over the years. All in all, it was as bad as cruising those lengths of the Shroppie which are heavily populated by long term moorers. I must have been in tickover for at least half the time this morning.

It did indeed take exactly two hours in the end, which at least gave Sheila time to run a wash load, it being Monday. We had thought of stopping on the puddle banks on the approach to the Turn, but we'd forgotten just how manky those supposed visitor moorings are. Indeed , they are just a length of unimproved Oxford canal towpath, sloping washwall and all.

So we stuck to plan A and found plenty of room just north of the turn. Sheila found a neat 70 foot space on the first section of mooring, pacing it out to check. It's a good tip to make sure you know your personal pace count for the length of your boat for just this sort of situation.

Braunston has a fair few boats tied here but is by no means full. We had a restorative coffee and then took a walk along the towpath to Bridge 89, up the field path to the village and bought bread in the convenience store and pasties from the butcher. We had a quick natter with him and reassured him that we'll be back in a few days time to stock up with his excellent meat.

Then, to make a decent walk of it, we went down Nibbet's Lane to Butcher's Bridge and so back along the towpath. Back at the boat, we got sorted out just in nice time to make a mug of soup apiece and eat lunch.

This afternoon, I've done an engine and gearbox oil change which was due. The weather is showing some small sign of improvement, boding well for Sheila's stint on the tiller to Hillmorton tomorrow.


Sunday, 7 May 2017

A sunny day at the junction

As planned, we've stayed put today, so there's not a lot to say. The weather has turned very warm and sunny, so a fair bit of lurking on the bow has been going on.

We've not been completely idle, though. We took a stroll along the towpath first thing to Bridge 108. There's a lot of Armco to tie to along there, rather than using pins on a stone edge as we are here, but the road comes quite close. It's not a major road, but seems quite busy, whereas here was absolutely silent last night.

The phone signals aren't good all along this bit, though there's enough on Vodafone to hold a conversation and by putting the 3 phone out in the cratch I've been able to get a half decent data connection.

As we'd expected, there's been a lot of traffic, both privateer and hire boat. Passing speeds remain largely rather high, though some steerers are as considerate as we'd find on the Trent and Mersey.

Over the course of the day, we've put a fresh coat of black paint on the stern deck, washing it off this morning then painting this afternoon. Sheila did the washing and the masking off and I the painting. I could only just get it on quickly enough in the heat. We use Andy Russell Gunwale Black for the job, which is quick drying anyway and even more so in the heat of the sun, so I had to keep the brush moving to maintain a wet edge.

Still, it's done now and looks OK. We'll need to do the well deck and bow locker lid in the same way, a much bigger job.

Apart from all that, we've pottered about a bit. My Guernsey has advanced another half inch, as much as Sheila could bear to do in the heat.

Tomorrow, on to Braunston. We plan to tie on the North Oxford where it's easier to find space for 70 foot, then carry on to Hillmorton and Rugby in due course.

Location:Napton Junction

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Calcutt or bust

After all that exercise, we slept really well last night and had a relaxed start this morning. We'd hoped thereby to increase our chances of getting a locking partner up the Stockton flight, but it was not to be. Setting off at eight, we found another excuse to linger two locks up by topping up the water tank at the tap opposite the Blue Lias pub – good pressure there.

Still didn't work, so on we went. All the locks were with us except for a couple of occasions when we crossed with a boat going down. These locks are paradoxically easier to work than Hatton, though of identical construction, but they look much less cared for. The paint is peeling and the steel balance beams are rusty in places. We're now in the South East Waterways area rather than West Mids – maybe they have less cash to spend.

There was perhaps one day's usage left in the toilet tank, so a pump out today was a good idea. I'd wondered about the Kate Boats base at Stockton Top, well known to us from our OwnerShips days, but they don't open on a Saturday, so Calcutt it had to be. On and up we chugged, ironically getting a partner for the two locks up to the Calcutt service wharf.

Although Saturday is a turn round day for them, there was plenty of room on the wharf and we ended up laying Sanity Again alongside rather than the usual stern on arrangement. You do get a thorough rinsing there, which is just as well as £18 is at the upper end of acceptable for us.

It was now definitely lunchtime. There's no decent mooring on the section between the top lock and the junction with the Oxford canal, apart from a bit of Armco immediately above the lock which was already occupied, so we came on round the turn and have tied on pins just onto the Oxford.

Phone signals are only just detectable here – we had planned to go onto the moorings we know by Bridge 100 tomorrow, but there are a lot of weekending boats and hire boats about and it might be hard to find a space there now, so we may well sit tight here until Monday. I may say that the hire boats are going by at tickover but many of the privateers seem to think they are in some sort of race.

We've still got most of a fortnight to kill before we need to head to Crick, as we are planning to arrive there on the Monday before the show. We're thinking of taking a leisurely run up to Rugby to use some of it up, with various stops on the way.

Location:Napton Junction

Friday, 5 May 2017

Starting the climb

Don't know if it was the pork, apple and black pudding sausages, but it was a bit of a broken night last night. No matter, we wanted an early start today and were away by 7.15. It was my turn to steer and Sheila did all ten locks. They are quite spaced out – she walked some and hitched a lift between others. Locking up these beasts is remarkably easy provided you use a long throw windlass on the Ham Baker paddle gear.

The top paddle culverts open into the chamber at several points so that, provided the boat is settled against the lock wall to start, drawing the same side paddle results in the flow passing under the boat, reflecting off the opposite wall and pinning the boat against the side. In addition, the apertures are very large, so there's a good flow and the lock fills quite quickly. We use the centre line, extended by tying on the stern line, to hold the boat steady, passing it round the bollard halfway along the lock and back to the steerer.

Radford Bottom, the Fosse Three, Wood, Welsh Road and Bascote came in steady succession, finishing with the two chamber staircase at Bascote. There's then a decent length of pound before Long Itchington, and as it was now half ten, I made us coffees.

We were pleased to find that the Two Boats pub is still trading. It was one of our favourite stops in the days when we hired from Kate Boats Warwick in the 80s. In fact, we were so pleased, we went there for lunch. They do good pub grub at reasonable prices, as they always used to. It was a bit windy to sit out on the canalside, but there was plenty of room indoors. Alternatively, there's the Cuttle Inn on the other side of the canal, but we've never found our way over there.

Things went a bit quiet in the boat afterwards, but we did then stir ourselves to walk into the village as Sheila had a letter to post. It's footpath all the way, ending in yet another pub restaurant, the Harvester. Back at the canal, we ambled up to the lock, saw one of the current Kate Boats fleet work down and ambled back to the boat.

Tomorrow, we'll work up the Stockton flight and possibly on to Calcutt, depending on how we feel.

Location:Long Itchington

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Through Warwick and Leamington

It's Star Wars day – May the Fourth be with you!

Yesterday did indeed pass peaceably with another trip to the town centre for me and two for Sheila. She finally got her hair cut very reasonably at Hair Art of Warwick.

Today, I popped up to Sainsbury's first thing to get a fresh loaf and some more tomatoes, then we settled our debts at the office and set off, Sheila steering round the slightly tricky turn out of the arm onto the mainline heading west. The GU between Napton and Birmingham was originally two separate canals, the Warwick and Napton and the Warwick and Birmingham. This latter ended at Saltisford, the arm being the bit that wasn't needed when it was joined to the route to Napton. Between them, they provided an alternative route to London from the West Midlands by joining the Oxford Canal at Napton.

The Oxford in turn met the Grand Junction at Braunston and eventually, the GJ bought out the smaller canals to create a route which avoided the Thames, still rather undeveloped for long distance carrying at the time, and the whole shebang became the Grand Union.

Meantime, we worked down the last two downhill locks at the Cape and chugged off along the sump pound. The moorings at Tesco, just on the Warwick side of the Avon Aqueduct, were mainly occupied by two rather scruffy looking boats, but we managed to get on the far end by dint of tying the bow to a tree. We then went and did a serious shop, just managing to load it all into the daysacks and a collection of reusable bags and staggering back with it to the boat.

It was now 11 o'clock, so I made us coffees and Sheila got going again whilst I stowed the booty. There is a Lidl by Bridge 44 and there's said to be a Sainsbury's by Bridge 43 but Sheila says she saw no sign of it. Then there is a Morrisons between 42 and 41, but on the other side of a busy road, so carrier bags would still be needed.

Sump pound is the best description for the bit through Leamington, I fear, though more housing is appearing in amongst the industry. Mind you, we're a bit biased as the only time we were late returning a hire boat was when we found a body floating in the cut on our way back to Kate Boats. It was a little old lady who had presumably tumbled in and of course the police kept us hanging around for a while to take statements.

We've tied on one of our favourite spots by Radford Semele, a good bit of towpath with fields in view in all directions. Although it's breezy, the sun's out, we've been sitting outside and I got all our scavenged wood sawn up. This means we probably won't need the fire again before September...

Tomorrow, we start the climb up out of the Avon valley.

Location:Radford Semele

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Settling in Saltisford

Just a quick note today as we've not been boating. This morning we had a bit of a lie-in and a leisurely breakfast, a change from the last few days. We filled the water tank whilst waiting to see if the boat in front was likely to go soon. Enquiries at the office revealed that they weren't planning to leave much before 12, so we went into town to do some shopping.

Warwick's a lovely place, but definitely built on a hill – it's steep pull up to the centre. We've got my prescription made up, mostly, though I need to go back tomorrow for a couple of items. We prowled round the town admiring the architecture and sussing out hairdressers as Sheila would like to get a trim. A coffee and a chocolate in Café Nero filled in a bit of time, then we collected the drugs and ambled down to Sainsbury's for bread and other bits and pieces.

Back at the boat, things were stowed away, the boat moved onto her new mooring and lunch taken, after which it was fine enough to sit out on the bow. Here we were joined by Jo and Keith for a thorough exchange of news and some gossip. Jo was also able to recommend a hairdresser that doesn't charge silly prices (one of the others asks £80 for a wet cut – you don't even get it dried, that's another £40).

Sheila is now taking advantage of the laundrette here, which is very reasonably priced. Tomorrow will be much the same as today, so if I've no special news to report, I won't blog. This means the next one is likely to be from the Radford Bottom mooring on Thursday.


Monday, 1 May 2017

Down Hatton and into Saltisford

Well, we've made it down Hatton and are safely ensconced in the Saltisford Arm, but it's been a long hard day, even if it's only half four. Timings worked out pretty well to plan, mind. We set off in good time and I'd turned through the junction at 7.15 on a drizzly morning. The long chug along the five miles to the top of Hatton went well, Sanity Again swimming well in the deeper, wider waters of the GU.

Shrewley Tunnel was as wet as ever. I can recall a trip up Hatton on a scorching summer's day, one where we stopped at the pub near the top, which was heaving, and I bought two pints of bitter for myself, straightaway, drinking the first pretty well before I'd got out the door to where the rest of the family was waiting. Navigating through Shrewley was then complicated by the fact that the boat roof was scorching hot and the water cascading onto it immediately turned to steam and obscured the view forward.

Today, all was quiet when we got to Hatton Top, so we ran the hose out and spent 30 minutes filling the tank and waiting for a locking partner. None was forthcoming, so loins were girded and we set off down on our own at half nine. Most of the locks were with us and we soon acquired the help of first one and then another volockie. These made a big difference.

There were few boats coming up, though we crossed with a couple further down. As we emerged from the "thick" the volockies left us to it. We'd been changing over jobs about every five locks and carried on in this way. I must say that Hatton has got harder over the years, and I don't think it's just us getting feebler. After Tardebigge and Lapworth we're in reasonable training but still needed the long throw windlass most of the time. In addition, the gates are heavier than ever.

When we first encountered these locks, way back in the late 70s, you could wind a paddle up with one hand on a short throw windlass. Now, it's a two handed job and the mechanism is so worn that you daren't treat the Ham Baker candlestick mechanism as you used, knocking the retaining stirrup off to let the paddle wind itself down smoothly. If you tried that today, it would either jam halfway down or crash down, damaging the paddle.

The weather gradually improved until the sun came out and necessitated removal of waterproof tops. We emerged from the bottom lock at 1.15, so three and three quarter hours to do the flight, not pushing it, usually only working the towpath side paddles. It had clouded over again, so waterproofs were popped back on.

Just as well, as the heavens opened as we entered the Saltisford Arm and drenched us. We're on a visitor mooring just past the winding hole. It's a bit short for us, but a boat leaving tomorrow will enable the manager to do a bit of a shuffle and give us a full 70 foot by the new office.

With that in mind, I've set up an Ocado delivery for Wednesday morning. We plan to stay until Thursday. It's £5.50 per night, now, with no free first night unless you join the Trust, but it's still worthwhile to have a secure mooring near the city centre and with facilities to boot.

Keith and Jo on Hadar are still here and we look forward to catching up with them before we go.