Sunday, 26 September 2010

A week in Rugby - and boats going past slowly

Monday 20th September to Sunday 26th September

14 Miles,  1 Tunnel, 1 Swing Bridge– for this week

Totals: 248 Miles, 289 Locks, 8 Tunnels, 7 Swing Bridges

When you look back on any week that was, it will generally show that there have been particularly bright spots that you recall the picture and the scenery of the time – two of this weeks very bright spots were

Monday – around Bridge 16 I came across Waterway Routes filming as they travelled north – a quick shout and a few words from Paul and it was all over – we will catch up one day.

Tuesday – I was just about finished working for the morning when Del and Al on Derwent 6 went passed – I have been following their blog from day 1, and as they were mooing up just a couple of boat lengths up this was a chance to meet them and have a bit of a chat – which is what I did.

We did have a bit of a chat about a few things – they were just stopping for replenishments before heading further north, but like Waterway Routes we will catch up again.

Still on Tuesday the weather was extremely good – very warm and sunny

There has been no movement for the remainder of the week as on Saturday I have my engine maintenance course, so the action plan was more work indoors on the laptop and some work outside on the boat – Friday was not a particularly great day – in fact rain on and off and very windy as well as being on the colder side, but I needed to get one side the gunnels sanded in preparation for painting sometime next week – so an hour of effort and a job completed.

It is nice to know that there are people reading this blog; I had an email from my little “obnoxious” friend – I know it was him by the language – I am sure that he knows the Queen’s English, I am just not sure that he knows much of the actual language (apart from some words which cannot be repeated). I could not say all of what he had to say regarding what he would do to me if I knocked on the window again and advised for him to slow down – seems that his view is this “the canal is much deeper (in the middle) so (that) boats (can)..pass you quicker”. I feel sorry for him – he will someday find out for himself about the ettiquette that should be followed.

I didn’t much care for being called “old” either.

I can’t say that I would really care if I ever saw you again – at least there would be one less boat speeding past, but I do thank you for the time taken to read the blog.

You know, I have heard it said that “you should never argue with idiots – sometimes people can’t tell the difference” – so I won’t.

I need to make a correction to last week update – I indicated that the lock at Hawkesbury Junction was 300cm – I was a little too eager on the keyboard – it should only be 30cm.

A further note about something that I forgot to say last week – I have been amazed at the number of boats that are travelling at night – when it is completely dark outside – I saw a few boats doing this on various days on the Ashby and now again this week there has been 1 or 2 moving at 10 or 11 at night – pitch black – their lights are on and they are moving slowly, so they haven’t been annoying to anyone, but just not sure why they need to – one theory put to me last week was to evade BW inspecting licences.

Saturday was to be a relatively big day in the week – firstly there was the AFL Grand Final to “watch” – this was restricted to watching it on the net and then only to see the scores changing – in the end it was a draw and with no extra time we will be back there again next Saturday morning at 5:30.

After a small break it was off to the Diesel Engine course at Willow Wren Training – just a 20 minute walk away along the towpath. It was an excellent day and I now feel much more confident about tackling the servicing side for the engine. Steve was excellent and a really nice guy as well with plenty of experience. The other attendees were very friendly and I think we all got along very well. I would recommend this course to anyone who is thinking of doing their own servicing but need a bit of knowledge on how to do it properly.

Sunday was a rather bit more relaxed – a bit of work and some relaxing – the highlight being the weekly phone call from Diane in the morning – this is something that I do look forward to – so only another 7 days until the next one.

Took the boat down a mile and winded and back again – now heading the right way for the get away next week some time.

And the finale to this week is that there has been a great deal of boat traffic throughout the week, all of whom knew the correct speed to pass by moored boats - even all of the hirers - well done to them all !

Monday, 20 September 2010

Slowing down and less exertion

Monday 13th September to Sunday 19th September

26 Miles, 6 Locks – for this week

Totals: 236 Miles 289 Locks, 7Tunnels, 6 Swing Bridges

This was a somewhat lazy week in terms of travel and the travel that I did do was also of a non-exertion state.

As I mentioned last week the TV and internet signals were both good at Atherstone so I stayed put on Monday and got stuck into work. I did however take a wander around – firstly along the towpath down (or should that be up) to Lock 1 – the numbering was going down but the locks were going up – nevertheless I found Bridge 41 and walked along the road into the town centre – not far at all.

A new entry in the lovliest lock competition - Bridge 43 / Lock 5 at Atherstone

Atherstone High Street
I was very impressed with the High street – a good range of shops (excluding a decent coffee shop) and there were a great many people out and about – found a locksmith and had a spare key cut for the front doors as well as a replacement watchband – the other had almost broken through.

Tuesday came along and the first thing I noticed was that we had a decided list to starboard (away from the towpath) – mmmmm that wasn’t good – a quick look outside and the water level was down in the pound – quickly dressing and down to the lock – no paddles left up and all seemed OK; boats were coming down so I assumed that everything would resolve itself. Set off at 9:30 and made it to the first lock and the lock-keeper made an appearance – there would be a delay whilst water was let down to completely stabilise all of the pounds.

Only an hour delay, but where I might have lost an hour waiting, I made up in time and energy. You see, whilst hardly anyone gathered at the bottom locks – only 2 boats waiting to come up, there apparently was a fair sized queue to come down, so naturally everyone was dead keen to get the process moving as quickly as possible and be on their way – magic for a single-handed boater – there were plenty of people willing to work the gates and paddles – I didn’t have to do a thing, but of course there were gracious and grateful thank-yous all along the way – when I reached the top there was still a queue of 7 more boats waiting to come down.

A casual cruise down to Nuneaton as I had arranged to catch up with Les ad Pauline, which I did and very pleased to see them both again – didn’t get back to the boat until after 8pm, but a very nice afternoon/evening.

As I was very much ahead of the schedule that I had mentally penned out I decided to make a bit of a detour and head up the Ashby for a couple of days – which turned out to be 4 nights – moored up for 2 days by Bridge 16 where I was quite happy and then decided to cruise 2 miles up to wind and had every intention of continuing back to the Coventry, but became waylaid along the way by mooring up outside Trinity Marina – although the sign said ₤5 per night I was prepared to pay – a nice outlook. Started chatting with Mac from Painted Lady –“no, don’t worry about the sign – they never come along to collect it” – 2 more nights and no outlay, and right outside the pub – just the spot to have a pint and read the paper at lunchtime (oh and something to eat with all of that as well).

For the first time since I have been on the boat, Friday night was so cold that I needed to put the heater on – ended up being about 4C overnight and such a crisp Saturday morning.

Sunday was finally the day to move and cruised down to Hawkesbury Junction – I had never been through here before, but with boats moored on both sides and just enough for two boats to squeeze through the middle; a narrow section just before the junction; a 180o turn and then a lock; boats coming down through the lock and immediately winding to go back through – what a nightmare – but very organised and friendly as well.

Through the lock – about a 300cm rise; moored up just down from the lock around the bend; then it was back to The Greyhound for a Sunday roast lunch and a couple of pints of Theakston Mild (very nice indeed), but the pub was pretty well packed as well.

The Greyhound - excellent Sunday roast

It has been a very much lazy week – not too much in the exertion stakes, plenty of help on locks and plenty of relaxing in pubs (oops shouldn’t have said that – she who must be obeyed will be reading this – sorry dear, it was purely research)

Hawkesbury Junction -  not so busy here, but a nightmare on Sunday

Sunday, 12 September 2010

All things back to normal - but now moving much slower

Monday 6th September to Sunday 12th September

24 Miles, 46 Locks, 2 Tunnels – for this week

Totals: 210 Miles 283 Locks, 7Tunnels, 6 Swing Bridges

This has been a week of direct contrast to the previous two weeks – back online and able to work has relieved my state of mind – it is very apt to say that I was very concerned about the computer – but all is well again.

I spent an additional two days in the centre of Birmingham – I have thoroughly enjoyed the centre of the city as a place to spend an extended stay; I was also pleased not to see any BW people of wardens suggesting that I move or pay the 5 pounds a night – better in my pocket than elsewhere.

Farmers Hill Locks
Looking down into Gas Street basin
There is no way to extricate yourself from Birmingham without plenty of locks involved and the Farmers Hill flight starts immediately and then followed the Ashton flight – a total of 24 in all and I was happy to have some help going down; what I wasn’t happy about was the three forced stops to clear the propeller of rubbish.

I will however say that it appeared more to do with the amount of rain that we had during my stay and hence the run-off from streets and elsewhere going straight into the canals than necessarily the direct contribution from passers-by.

I (we) will be visiting the city centre again and we will encourage others to go there – it is a wonderful city with such a full variety of people and experiences.

It was however also good to be back out into the country again as the contrast is so wide. Not to mention some of those country smells that Diane would not really (and does not) appreciate.
Farm fields near Curdworth
Travelling this week was not so hectic as it had previously been and for the remainder of this month and also next it will continue to be the same.

Bridge 54 at Polesworth
View from the window
Friday was a funny sort of day – it threatened to bucket down but didn’t; threatened to get very cold but didn’t. It was pump-out day and diesel fill day as well and I can highly recommend Fazeley Mill Marina – 66 p/l and self-declare made it much better – the tricky bit was getting in there and winding – like a “long-time” boater I need a bit more practice, but I got there.

Moored up at Polesworth that evening and stayed for Saturday – this is a lovely village – two pubs; good butcher and a Spar as well. Next time through there I want to spend a bit more time to see through it in detail.

Moved further down the Coventry and have moored up at Atherstone and had a very nice Sunday roast at the Kings Head – near Lock 5.

I think I will stay one more day here as the signals for both TV and internet are very good.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Did I say a week for a decision - how about a fortnight of forced and optionals

Monday 23rd August to Sunday 5th September

73 Miles, 97 Locks, 3 Tunnels – for this fortnight

Totals: 186 Miles 237 Locks, 5 Tunnels, 6 Swing Bridges

This has been quite a week – well actually two weeks and really the second part of it I could have very much done without.

This became a bit of a week for decisions – the time was coming near when I needed to make some sort of finality to where I was going to moor the boat in November.

When I had the pump out at MK Marina I asked Richard there if he could do any better on a quote for a winter mooring but based on a more specific time frame rather than just saying 6 months; then on Monday I did the same with Great Haywood – both came back with much better prices but not to say that their originals were out of whack – I just defined my actual time criteria better.

I need also to go to Birmingham to see Debbie, James, Katherine and Rachel and this needs to be sooner than later.

But first another day of work on Monday – did I ever pick the right day not to move – it absolutely bucketed down for most of the day – intermittent rain-free periods but the rest was not fit to be outdoors.

Moored opposite Campbell Park, it is a remarkable area – we will be back here to explore this delightful town more – no-one should ever say that they just want to get through Milton Keynes – stop and look around and you will stay some more.

Having made my decision to go to Birmingham and be there on or about 3rd Sept, I needed to move and put some miles (and locks behind me – so I headed for Stoke Bruerne. It was such windy day and a colder rather than cool wind. Nevertheless with most of the journey being lock free it was only a matter of keeping the tiller pointed the right way – until I got to the locks just before mooring up – I made my way to the lock to prepare it and I spotted another boat in the pound above going the same way and I know that he saw me, but did he wait to share the locks, save some water and make life a little easier – not on your Nellie – he doesn’t want to cross my path in the very near future.

Still moored up relatively safe and sound – just very annoyed.

Setting off the following morning again in the company of Pauline and Les we made good time heading up through the remaining two locks and then through the tunnel; at the other end L and P had had problems again with their filter and needed to stop at the boatyard whilst I moored up to replenish supplies; they were still busy with it when I returned and said they would catch me which they eventually did as I was taking on fuel at Fred Tarry’s.

Next day and we travelled together to go through the Buckby flight of locks and then another tunnel; trouble was at the other end there was an hour wait for the first lock; the time seemed to go relatively quickly and we worked our way through the Braunston locks.

After this it was time to say our goodbyes – as they say parting is such sweet sorrow. L and P decided that they would moor up in order to see friends at Braunston, and I would continue on – along the Grand Union, but just before the turn some yahoo was shouting away at me abusing me for chastising him two weeks earlier for going too fast – he must be able to hold a grudge, but if he was going too fast then he deserved it – his boat name summed him up “Cream Cracker” – ah good luck to him in his quest to be obnoxious.

I eventually settled down above the Calcutt locks after a reasonably lengthy day – I was into the swing of doing some work that night when aghast, the computer froze up and wouldn’t do anything – no amount of persuasion would get it to budge; so I eventually forced it to close down and then tried to restart – absolutely no luck whatsoever. No computer means no work – mmm.

I spent Saturday travelling down Calcutt and then down the Stockton flight trying to figure what to do about my new predicament. Luckily for me I have such a clever daughter Samantha (Sam) (well our daughter) who suggested getting to Birmingham and PC World; so Sunday was a day out of the ordinary – up early and a “quick” 3 and ½ hour journey into Warwick to moor up, get to the station; train into Birmingham; taxi to Highgate – yes they can fix it – but can’t take it off my hands until Tuesday; luckily Diane’s cousin Debbie lived about 5 minutes away and yes, she would take it in for me; not only that but she gave me dinner as well - it was a very good day in the end with James (Debbie's husband) their two girls Katherine and Rachel and James sister Jenny and partner Viv.

After all of that it was a matter of deciding what to do – well a week off work was going to happen, so I have been on holidays this week. I got myself into Birmingham on the boat by Wednesday evening – through all of the locks – 25 in all – single handed – the last half dozen with the lady from the boat behind closing the top gates – some respite.

A note of a pleasant 30 minutes - whilst descending Camp Hill locks, I went up to a guy sitting on one of the seats and asked if he would mind closing one of the bottom gates for me (double bottom gates for a single lock) - we had a pleasant chat about a lot of things (no other boats around for the whole day) - yes he had been to Australia, but not to Melbourne; he had been on sponsored tours as a guest speaker and entertainer; he was a poet of some reknown - turns out that he was none other than Jim MacCool (a name that seemed familiar to me - more after I had got around to googling it) - ah I hear it now - "I would like to thank an Aussie boater for my latest poem - Ode to a Lock"     ---   royalties will be gratefully accepted.
A lovely man and just shows who you can meet along the way

I knew from the last visit, what a lovely place Birmingham is – and have completely confirmed it all over – moored just opposite the NIA, there has been no problem at all; the area is lovely and clean and tidy – a real pleasure to be here – there is not a nicer place for an enforced holiday when you would rather be working - Birmingham has embraced the canals and rejuvenated the city in conjunction with the waterways.

Anyway the end of the week arrives; the computer makes a late entry on Saturday afternoon and finally all up and running again by Sunday midnight - the grey hairs have grown in numbers this week.

Sometimes decisions are forced upon us that lead to reflect on where we start from – what started as a week about where I would moor the boat over winter, became so much more and something more to think about for the future.

The winter mooring is all sorted; the computer is back to almost normal; the sun did come up every morning; and the worry of what could be done has passed.

PS: photos to be placed shortly.