Sunday, 27 November 2011

Aston or Bust - wait up we are here

Monday 7th November to Sunday 13th November 2011

5 Miles, 9 Locks – for this week

Totals: 973 Miles, 806 Locks, 28 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 20 Swing Bridges

This week has seen our last travel for a while as we enter into Aston Marina for the winter.

We are not as experienced in the trials and tribulations of English winters as most other boaters would be and decided a while ago that we would make sure that we had a few creature comforts over the colder months – like electricity and water.

We spent a few days in Stone after cruising along from Barlaston and made sure to stock up on the heavier grocery items – like tinned goods and extra dog food and on some of the alcoholic beverages.

Thursday was our pre-determined day to go down the last two locks and the last mile.

We moved into the marina; moored up on the visitor moorings whilst we sorted out access to the pontoon; some pump out tokens and I think there was some payment of money as well in there somewhere.

I am not going to regale anyone with stories of perfection with the reversing into the space between pontoon and neighbouring boat – mainly because it didn’t happen.

The smallest of cross-winds seemed to move the front right around and we ended up having to pull the boat in most of the way – Diane making sure to limit the bumping with the other boat to a minimum.

Banjo had found himself on the pontoon – Diane was on the boat – naturally he wasn’t happy being separated from his mistress – and he really doesn’t have this distance perception licked yet – not even close to leaping onto the boat, so whilst I was with rope in hand hauling the boat, I suddenly needed to keep control of that and also fetch the dog out of the water (yet again).

All settled finally; dog bathed and shampooed; electricity plugged in and cosily inside and time for lunch.

We have reaffirmed the reasons why we selected Aston Marina – coffee on the deck or inside; a beer and lunch as we see appropriate; perusal through the farm shop with purchase of a few selections and many temptations yet to come.

We have continued with the self-double glazing and another window in place – this time a porthole and working very well and very dry – the amount of hand-cutting is justified when it works and works well.

So only another 9 to go – leaving the bathroom porthole out of the equation as we do open this regularly.

Sunday lunch at The Three Crowns was a bit of a disappointment – not from the taste of the meal – a bit from the value, with an attempt at traditional fayre at a new-age restaurant interpretation. But we did enjoy it none-the-less and part of that was enjoying the company of a new friend – Stella from nb Isobel – we had met Stella and partner Mike a few weeks ago when we popped in to deliver documents to the marina and started chatting – very nice people they are – unfortunately Mike is down south with work – earning enough to keep Stella in the manner…

Banjo enjoys the open space here and the longer walks that it affords – also a half kilometre walk for the paper – so some good exercise for both of us – she remains in the warmth under the doona whilst we battle the cold and winds and rain and sleet and snow – OK, not quite that bad just yet.

apologies for being a bit late in posting this.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Winded, Winding, Windest (I winded, I am winding, I have wind)

Monday 24th October to Sunday 6th November 2011

33 Miles, 24 Locks – for this fortnight

Totals: 968 Miles, 797 Locks, 28 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 20 Swing Bridges

We left Tixall Wide on the Monday as we had intended to do and Diane had made up her mind that she would wind the boat as practice – winding at Tixall Wide, as people will know, is not at all any practice – it is wide enough to be able to turn the Queen Mary around – but she did it smoothly and confidently and we were on our way.

Our intention was to head for Stone, but we first of all wanted to stop off at Bridge 86 and visit the pub – The Greyhound Inn at Burston - which had been spoken of in glowing terms. Using the GPS in Diane’s phone, we soon found that we needed to ask directions and with local guidance we found the pub.

Diane reconnoitred the establishment – yes they were dog friendly in the bar which only had bar snacks, but not dog friendly in the restaurant which was well appointed – we would return to visit without the dog.

When we did return it was mid-afternoon and it became apparent the she had not asked enough questions – they were closed until 6:30.

Alas we moved on the following day to Stone – I am sure that I have mentioned that we both like Stone very much – this is where our canal experiences started.

We needed water and we had some time on our hands so before any of the closures we thought we might head on up to Stoke for a week and get a bit of cruising in as well.

With a lot of time available to us we only went very slowly, stopping at Barlaston for a night and then to Stoke – mooring down from the marina for 3 nights during which time we decided that we would do a pumpout at the BW station at Etruria Junction – we of course still had cards from our Llangollen journey earlier in the year.

She who must be obeyed – oops, I mean the Captain - had thought that we would wind at the marina, come back down and wind at the winding hole on the Caldon before the pumpout and that she would handle both – more practice.

Which some guidance the first winding went well – the boat was a bit slow in turning but we were around; down to the junction, then around onto the Caldon; after that there was just the simple matter of winding at the corner – there was no new world record set for handing control of the boat back when things didn’t quite go right, but it was fairly quick.
We moored up at the pumpout point – would have liked to have been a bit further on to be able to fill the water tank at the same time, but there was however another boat there who were doing a self-pumpout - this of course got ‘er indoors thinking and that usually, no always, means work for moi. “Why don’t we try the self pumpout next week?” – she was right, but don’t tell her that – we had the gear, but we had not taken it out to even try it at all – I was fearful of connecting everything up and messing up the line and it wouldn’t work properly or we couldn’t work it properly.

Anyway the BW pumpout completed and water tank full we set off.

In amongst all of this, we had pursued another of her intentions – in talking to Paul and Lynne on Piston Broke a few weeks back – to make push in windows to create double glazing.

We visited the B&Q, bought the materials and tried cutting the Perspex – first with the jigsaw – blade too coarse – then with the finer blade – jigsaw too fast – then by hand – template too big. Adjusting the width and the height allowed the piece to fit perfectly into the space and the clear tubing around the outside along with some BluTac to fill the small gaps gave a double glazed window, which surprisingly works very well.

Now only 11 to go – could be spring by the time they are finished.

We decided to spend a night at Westport, which of course meant that we would need to wind again – more practice – and as they say it does make perfect – she is such a delight when it all goes well for her and so modest as well.

Back to Stoke to moor for a few more nights – in amongst all of this we had visited the Toby Carvery for a Sunday lunch – excellent meal – but much better value if you go through the week for the carvery.

By now it was Saturday again and we were off to Barlaston – when we went through last week a notice caught her eye – Fireworks – Free – Cricket Club – 5th November.

We would have been off sooner if not for the fact that we needed to fill the water tank again – so back around Etruria Junction and to wind again – more practice – but this time the boat didn’t respond – no amount of coaxing would help it move quickly – even slowly would have been good. Eventually we got her to the BW station.

Whilst Diane looked after the water tank I was down the hatch to remove whatever was around the prop – from the feel of it, it was some type of garment – shirt I thought at first, but it wouldn’t budge – the large knife was called for – bit like taking to the 1 wood – and after a good 15-20 minutes it gave up the fight, just before I was preparing to call it a draw.

Someone’s dress – well we can restrict it to a little over half the population – but it was free.

After all of that struggle I heard those less than magic words – “remember last week when we decided we would try the self pumpout – we could do it now” – there was no deciding on anything last week – it was a majority of one that did that, and after the struggle I was less receptive to trying something new. But as all good and cowering men do – we did it her way.

Pleasing to say that despite the time factor for our first try – it all went very very well.

The situation here of seeing fireworks for sale here there and everywhere is a bit strange for us as the sale of fireworks to the public is banned in Australia – has been for 40 years – there were far too many injuries (and deaths) through misuse. We haven’t bought any as we don’t see the need for us and anyway the dog doesn’t like the explosions.

But seeing a display is a different thing – we trudged along the designated route – using the phone GPS again – until it stopped working because there was no signal – through the dark and the dark and more dark we found the nominated place – we opted to stay outside with the throng of people – moving every so often to get away from the metal fumes of the sparklers (affects she) – standing in the cold is not so bad – so long as the coat is warm and it isn’t too long – an hour was too long by the time the display had finished – which I have to say was well done – thanks to the Barlaston CC.

The back was excruciatingly sore and the walk back down to the boat eased some of it, but I was ever so glad to get inside where it was warm and even more so to go to bed and lie down.

Next day was Sunday and of course it was Sunday roast again – the Plume of Feathers is a favourite of ours, but I will resist the idea that she had – “we could walk the 5 miles from the marina for the roast” – on your own.

The meal was, as usual, very good and despite being a perfect afternoon for cruising back to Stone, we opted for the sit down and do nothing exercise regime.

No husbands were harmed in the writing of this; management has approved the content.