Sunday, 5 October 2014

The end of our " City Tour " and some TLC for the boat.

Last Sunday saw us commence the final day of our cruise for this year.  The weather was once again kind and we made an early start in order to tackle Watford locks.  We had anticipated something of a bottleneck here, but on arrival, not a boat in sight.

Ali walked up to book in with the lock keepers and as she was doing this, a bow wave announced the arrival of a Napton narrowboat crewed by a German couple. They thought these were wide locks, so with difficulty, I explained the procedure.  By the time Ali arrived back, I think he understood and we were the first up.

What a pleasant and uneventful passage up the locks we had, aided by the keepers.  Our early arrival had paid dividends, as there were four boats waiting to descend as we left the last lock.  Then a chug through some really pleasant countryside towards Crick tunnel, hard to believe the M1 is so near.  No boats in the tunnel, so an easy passage through and thence into Crick Marina. 

Miles 4.5
Locks 7
Tunnels 1528 yds

We had contacted Pip and Rog from N.B.Windsong and arranged to meet them.  We had just moored to our pontoon when they arrived.  So nice to meet up once again.  So off to the Wheatsheaf did we go and enjoyed a Sunday roast and a drink or three, and a good chin wag, then back to the boat. In the evening, Lizzie from N.B. Panda came over and we finished off a few bottles of wine together.  How she managed work the next morning, gawd knows! Her boat, upon which she has spent many an hour repainting, is looking fantastic.  An incentive for us to get washing and polishing.

For us, it meant a somewhat later start than planned.  Got the car started, checked the tyre pressures and fluid levels and then a trip into Rugby.  By lunchtime, we were back and set to with avengence. Roof and port side washed and polished, then turned her around and set to on the the starboard side.

By this time we were both shattered.  But our purchase earlier of a 12v polisher and extension lead paid dividends in making the job a little easier.  It was 1900 and getting dark when we finally called it a day.  Slept really well that night!

As if all the remedial work on the paintwork, the washing, then polishing was not enough, Ali decided further work was needed. Having already varnished the Cratch, she decided to repaint the engine room!. Not an easy task at the best of times, but our cocooned engine does not leave a lot of room for manoeuvre.  I cleaned it out as best as I could, and then Ali set too.  The result is fantastic, looking better than new.

On Wednesday after an internal tidy up, we went to Jane and Paul's for a family get together and visited Grahams new house.  Plenty of potential and work there, but it will be worth it.  After a lovely meal and of course after viewing the "Great British Bake Off", back to the boat for our final night onboard.
Ali took her project for the summer for Helen  Mark, 
she had knitted them a blanket for their new baby

Thursday was spent emptying the boat, loading the car and tidying up.  The time flew by and it was late afternoon before we set off for home.  I will be returning to the boat later this month when she is due in for blacking, but sadly, that is the end of our cruising for this year, I think!

Although somewhat shorter than usual, due to my knee op, we have had a wonderful summer. With Liverpool, Leicester, Chester, Birmingham and parts of Manchester visited, we have done many a mile through urban areas, which are full of interest and contrast with the rural stretches we have travelled.  The weather has been more than kind to us and allowed us to really enjoy the river Soar without the worry of water levels.  A really good year, so already planning for next years cruise.

But for now, sorting out the house!

Totals for this summer
583 miles, 429 locks, 37 swing bridges, 5 lift bridges and 12743 yards of tunnel

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A day in Braunston and why our ascent went downhill......

Friday morn saw us pull the pins mid morning.  We had not got far to travel, just enough to charge up the batteries.  The journey in was uber familiar. This is a route we have covered many many times. The weather was pleasant and the views over the rolling Northamptonshire countryside could not be bettered.  It was a slow journey as we were following a hire boat who was taking it easy, enjoying the journey and slowing down passing moored boats.  This year for some reason, we have become more aware of just how quickly boats now travel when passing moored boats, because we have been on the receiving end so often perhaps.  So it was nice to see a boater showing consideration.  The main culprits are undoubtedly private owners, of shall we say, a certain age!

 Anyway, at the picturesque junction, with the familiar church spire on the horizon, we turned right. The visitor moorings were busy, but we spied a space opposite the Boathouse P.H. and we were in. We spent the day wandering between Bottom lock and Midland chandlers, buying a few bits and pieces, then chilled out on the boat.

In the evening we met Paul and Jane at the Boathouse. This is a two meals for a tenner establishment, so not high cuisine, but the beer is good!  With the exception of Paul's meal, which was a dry and bland burger, ours were ok.  Enjoyed the beer perhaps a little to much though.......

Miles 5
Locks O

This morning, after Ali had walked in for bread and milk, we slowly made our way past the numerous moored boats. As nothing had passed us heading for the locks, we expected a relatively easy passage.  How wrong were we.

The first indication was when a boat passed us and warned the locks were somewhat chaotic.  The pounds were low and they were queueing.  As we approached bottom lock, we saw two boats entering the lock, with another waiting. We joined them.  Apparently, the low water levels were a result of someone draining the Buckby flight.  Eventually, it was our turn.  The lady piloting our companion boat, ordered, and I mean ordered me to enter the lock first.  Hackles up!  When she eventually joined me in the lock, she said this was to ascertain my competency.  Cheeky cow.  It was one of those, "we look down on you" moments and she announced they were live aboards, as if this gave them some seniority in the pecking order.

As we left the lock, we could see the water levels were seriously low.  Strangely, there was a single boat waiting to ascend the next lock, although we had only seen pairs ascending.  Apparently there had been some sort of kerfuffle earlier when a boat drove straight into a lock, ahead of the two boats who had worked it.  Looks like this was the culprit and had been abandoned.  We let our erstwhile companions join the miscreant in ascending the rest of the locks, whilst we were joined by a lovely couple who had come up the first lock alone.

It was slow going, painfully so.  At one stage there were six boats in a short pound, add to this the fact that the bottom was too close to the top,  made it fun.  Not really, it was tedious.  The six locks on this flight took longer to ascend than the twenty one at Hatton.  By the time we left the last lock, we were knackered.  The water level had recovered somewhat and our lock companions waved us ahead as we bade then farewell.  Not a boat was moving towards us and Braunston tunnel was eerily quiet.  We could see through and no lights greeted us, so a swift passage was made .  Back in the daylight, we puttered on to Norton junction, then a swift left onto the Leicester line.  Almost full circle now and home, but not quite.

We have moored for the day just prior to Bells bridge, all on our lonesome.  Well we were until 1830 when another boat joined us.  So the last locks of the season for us tomorrow, the last tunnel, then into the marina.....

Miles 5
Locks 6 but felt like 60
Tunnel 2042 yds

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Home ground, nearly.

When we have Napton on the Hill in view, we know we are within days of our home mooring.  Today we saw it.  Not so long now before we will be back in the marina.  So somewhat sad.

But, the weather has again been kind, dry, bright if a tad windy later on.  This morning we once again sat tight whilst the washer dealt with yet another load.  We were in sight of the first lock of the day.  As the washer washed, a boat hove into view and prepared the lock.  Just as they were preparing to enter, along came a second and so both entered and began the ascent.  A lady single handing had preceded these two and we expected she would hold them up somewhat.  How wrong were we!

Cleaning off the leaves, whilst waiting for the water to fill

Half an hour or so later, we were off.  This is a flight of ten wide locks.  Using the trusted one gate and one paddle system, up we went.  After a few locks we became aware that we had caught up with the two boats we had seen starting the flight before us.  And so we followed them up the rest of the flight. Sometimes these locks are as easy on your own, as with company.  We saw not a sign of the single handed lady boater, who was obviously somewhat quicker than this pair.

At the top of this rather pleasant flight we ambled past Ventnor farm and Calcutt marina's.   Approaching the three Calcutt locks, there was the lady single handing her boat who had passed us earlier in the morning.  You have to admire someone who tackles these locks alone.  We shared the locks with her and were soon at the top, she was very efficient.  At Napton junction, we waved her goodbye as she headed for Banbury on the Oxford, whilst we continued on the Grand Union, towards Braunston.

The woodpecker was very vocal

We are really back in hire boat country again now.  The numerous marinas in the area also contribute to the traffic.  Bit of a shock to the system after so few boats moving since leaving the Stratford. After a few miles,in sight of  Bush hill, we moored up for the day.  Ali did some touching up to the wounds and we chilled out, or I did. 

The fruits of yesterdays foraging resulted in a delicious Apple and Blackberry pie, baked to perfection, by Ali of course.

Miles 6.5
Locks 13