Monday, 21 May 2018

First leg of the summer outing completed

Last year was for us, rather odd boating wise. As we had our home on the market and were looking at relocating, extended cruising was not an option. But eventually we sold up, put our goods and chattels into storage and moved temporally onto the boat whilst we sought a new home.

Having eventually found a new property in South Leicestershire,  we spent the winter making it ours. A lot more to do than first envisaged,  but hey ho, mostly done now.

Anyway, by mid April, we were itching to go. Dodging the rain and cold days, we managed to do a little maintenance on Triskaideka and give her a well deserved wash and polish. It had been a long, cold and wet winter. The spring seemed to be on hold when we left Dunchurch Pools Marina. It was cold, windy and every other day, rain seemed to be in the forecast. This meant on the "good" days, we pressed on, whilst we sat out the worst of the weather. The first day for example was ok, so saw us cruise 28 miles to Springwood Haven!

The first outing had a purpose. A meet of Beacon boat owners at Normanton on Soar boat club, hosted by Karen and Ian of N.B. Serenity. This was scheduled for the bank holiday weekend in early May . We had allowed ourselves time to avoid adverse weather and decided to complete the Leicester ring clockwise. This direction would see us hitting the river Soar to travel against any fresh flow. It turned out to be a good move!

 Bluebells appearing

We bimbled up towards Fradley junction, mostly mooring in rural locations. It was eerily quiet, with very little other boat movement. Maybe the weather? Turning onto the Trent and Mersey, this continued to be the case. The river section at Alrewas was behaving and we made a good passage. We had forgotten just how noisy this canal is. The constant road traffic drone was enhanced by the trains and even planes!

A stop at Willington saw us meeting up with Denise & Steve of N.B. Riverside. Their new boat is to be exhibited at Crick show and is superb. After coffee and catch up with them at Mercia marina, the sun came out and we made the most of it and hopped on. Mercia is now very busy. Too much so for us.

Reaching Shardlow, we decided to hunker down as yet again the forecast was not good for the following day. We had hardly settled when a familiar boat hove into view. N.B. Merryweather . It turned out, Greg was temporarily single crewed as Jo had to pop home and he was travelling just behind us. We just had to catch up with him that evening in the pub, rude not to...

So, not so early the following day, after a night of heavy rain, the clouds began to part and the sun peeled out. We are on broad locks so travelling the rest of the route together made sense.

All went well. The sun shone and we dropped down at Sawley ready to hit the Soar. Living up to its reputation, the river had a surprise for us. The light was on red at Redhill flood lock, although the gates were open. CRT advised we stay put, so we did, watching the river rise by the minute. The delay enabled Greg to juggle transport to collect Jo and during the evening the flood gates were closed sheltering us from the worst of the flow.

By late morning the following day, the green light illuminated and we were off. There was still a considerable flow though and I cannot remember ever having to use the engine at such high revs to make progress. This river is renowned for this though and it was soon on its way down.

We arrived at the Soar boat club in good time. The sun shone for the whole weekend. There were four Beacon boats at the meet. Us, Serenity, Merryweather and Fruits of the Vine making her last trip before going on brokerage. Several boat owners made the meet by car, including Pip & Rog ex of N.B. Windsong . Great to see you all again.


photo pinched from Soar Boat Club!

photo pinched from Soar Boat Club

 Ian also was having an early (by a few days) celebration of his birthday!

We had a fantastic weekend. Thank you to Karen & Ian for organising the meet and to the Soar Boat Club for hosting us. But by far the best part of the weekend was meeting Neil ( Bugs ) once again. Neil built all our boats superbly and they remain a testament to his skills and of course to his partner in crime, Ally. Great to see you looking so well again Bugs.

By bank holiday Monday, we decided it was time to move. ( Our livers needed a rest!) So we said our farewells. Keith and Dianne from Fruits of the Vine were making for Crick to go on brokerage and we made tentative plans to meet up with them.

We enjoyed the superb weather travelling south. A quick stop at Loughborough for supplies and slowly onwards. In Leicester, we stopped on the new moorings at Friars mill and enjoyed a walk around the city. This city has a rather undeserved reputation amongst the boating fraternity, but great efforts are being made to make this a destination rather than somewhere to quickly pass through. Further new secure moorings are now in place above Limekiln lock and litter is noticeably reduced. Keep up the good work Leicester.

Our next destination was Market Harborough . A favourite trip for us to what is now almost our home town. We moored in the basin, hooked up, shopped and enjoyed a meal out. Even here expansion is evident, but hopefully, this will not spoil the town.

We hopped up Foxton locks. Once again, it is very quiet. Moored at the top and were joined by Keith & Dianne. Their valedictory leg now, so we had a tipple or three to celebrate their future plans off the water. Home waters for us now. The summit pound is quite beautiful and again, very quiet. Surprising, given the weather and the proximity of the show on the calendar .

A stop at Crick allowed us to meet up with our old  boating neighbour Lizzy from N.B. Panda, then down through the tunnel and Watford locks. After overnighting near Welton Hythe marina ( Home to N.B. Dionysus) we made for Braunston. The tunnel here can be a pain if it's busy with inexperienced boaters, but again, it was quiet and we made the entire passage without meeting another boat! We even dropped down the locks all on our lonesome.

But, Braunston is always busy. The close proximity of so many marinas with ner a lock is perhaps the reason. The Admiral Nelson was offering Fish and Chips two for one, so it would  have been rude not to visit. Superb.

With the sun shining, we reluctantly made our way back to Dunchurch Pools. Jobs to do at home, then a wedding to attend, so a couple of weeks off the boat before we set off again. It's been a fantastic trip.

Total distance 165 miles, 101 locks, 6 moveable bridges and 5 tunnels.  99 miles of narrow canals, 36 miles of broad canals, 29 miles of small rivers; 45 narrow locks and 56 broad locks

and finally - love this time of year with all the new life appearing (we did see moorhen chicks as well, but no camera handy)

obviously got tired so were hitching a lift!