Sunday, 29 January 2012

Trains, Planes and Automobiles - 2 out of 3 ain't bad

Monday 23rd January to Sunday 29th January 2012

No travelling this week

This has been about our busiest week since we have moved into the marina back in early November.

We had been in touch with Vanessa and Mo (nb Balmaha) since arriving here and had hoped that we could catch up with earlier, but sadly it didn’t happen. We knew that they were going to be on the move earlier than usual and heading our way, so it was a happy surprise when we got an email to say they were on our back door (in relative terms) and we were able to catch up at Rugeley – they were heading off at Great Haywood down the Staffs and Worcester canal and we wanted to have the boat to stay put in preparation of the US trip.

The train to Rugeley was just 2 stops and everything was fine.

A great day was spent catching up on everything since we had last met, which was way back in May 2008 when we were less than novices only having just completed our 6-week stint with a hire boat and still planning all that we are now doing.
Lunch with Vanessa and Mo

Lunch was wonderful – thanks guys – we wish you a pleasant time cruising and already looking forward to seeing you both again.

Our earlier exploits from cruising last year had finally taken its toll on our front button and we knew it was time to replace it – Diane had been in contact with nb Alton (Brian) about a new one – they were not that far away on the Macclesfield and we only needed to work out travelling there.

As is usually the case, it seems, something always comes along and Diane was talking to Ruth and Peter on nb Kathryn – just 3 berths down from us and they were explaining that they needed to replace both the front and back buttons. Diane contacted Brian again to ask about other sizes.

Peter was very pleased that some of the work had been taken out of the exercise and with Peter driving we made the necessary purchases and within an hour of return all three old buttons had been removed and replaced with the new ones – very impressive they all were indeed.
We are pretty happy with the finished article - the new bow button

Next in line was a spot of boat-sitting – well actually it was keeping an eye on the fire and keeping it well stoked.

Jean and Andy (nb Josephine) – about a dozen berths from us – needed to return home to decide what they were going to do with the house – sell it or rent it – and asked if we could keep the fire going for them whilst they were away – just one night.

With all of the instructions we kept it cosy and warm inside for them so that their return was not so cold.

We didn’t even have enough time to put the boat on e-Bay for them!!

It was the time to almost strike a line through one of the last two items on our list – to get the tractor seats installed onto the rear deck. We had also been talking with Jean and Andy and they decided that they would talk with him when he came over. Jon was a friendly guy and easily understood what each of us needed – measurements taken, prices agreed, dates set for installation – just way too easy – a nice guy for an Everton supporter.
The finished article for the cratch cover

and the pram hood cover - I realised that I hadn't shown any
decent pictures of them

Fine weather - just perfect for talking -
she was talking to her mum and dad back home
All that was left for us to take care of this weekend was to take the boat over for a pumpout and fill with diesel – checking on the weather including the winds gave us a timeframe of about 10am Sunday morning – no problem for me, but Diane had seen that the Mens Final of the Australian Open was on BBC from 8:15am – now she hasn’t seen a single match of the tennis and it being one of her favourites I wanted her to be able to sit down and enjoy it – well at least she saw the 1st set before deciding that we must go – she only missed the second set, but the boat had one tank filled and another emptied and all was well with the world again.

The weather this week has been superb (on the whole) and sunrise
this Sunday morning was particularly colourful
A particularly busy week for most days – but items crossed from the list, good times enjoyed, and preparations made – can’t be much busier again can it?

You just never know what is likely to come up
Well things do come up which can change plans for the week ahead and that has been the case for the week ahead – more than we had originally planned for.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Quiet Week - before the Storm

Wednesday 11th January to Sunday 22nd January 2012

No travelling this week

It has been back to marina life for us, but it could not be described as boring or dull. There seems to be something to do all of the time. This week we have concentrated on removing a few of the damp spots that appear when the moisture levels are high. Diane read in the January edition of Canal Boat, that putting up some carpet onto those areas where the moisture appears should have the effect of insulating and the moisture will not appear.

So into a couple of cupboards, attached to the inner side of the boat’s outer walls have been carpeted (wall and cupboard ceiling) – both successful; so then it was onto the lounge where one side was damp and the other not – of course we knew why one was not – it had the central heating pipes behind it.

Nevertheless we have carpeted halfway up the wall on the other side and problem gone.

In addition, the windows continue to be remarkably dry – both inside and out – a bonus and another success for Diane – I may have to keep her on for a bit longer.

The outer side of the boat has been attended to as well with some elbow grease and polishing – looks much better as well - she really is quite a marvel.

Celebrations abounded for a 40th birthday for Stella, as friends and family descended from down south (or should that be “ascended from down”) and we went along to help – for both lunch and dinner – afraid that we couldn’t keep up the pace when mention of the pub was made after dinner – it was just a wee bit too late for both of us.

We have had a trip into Stafford by bus (first time) – now we know where it leaves from and how to get back – more trips are already being planned – we both need to go because the nature of things is such that one gets to spend and the other gets to carry (I know my place).

The weather has been very up and down during the last 10 days – we have a mixture of sun, rain, wind but alas the temperatures are (as they say on the reports) – mild – so no snow yet again. Latest reports were that this was, so far, one of the mildest winters on record.

We have now finalised the last of the bookings for our upcoming US trip. We were going to fly between Orlando and Washington, but have now decided to go by overnight train and have found a very nice B&B in Washington.

Stafford park - still with the heavy frost - even in the afternoon
Whilst we were in Stafford we managed to book our train travel to Gatwick and the return from Heathrow – the advanced purchase has saved about ₤60, so another win with that.

This week ahead is looking rather busy with a number of things coming up – I suspect that by the end of it we will be exhausted again – will have to wait and see.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Gone with the Wind

Friday 30th December 2011 to Tuesday 10th January 2012

38 Miles, 18 Locks – for these 12 days

Totals: 1011 Miles, 824 Locks, 28 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 20 Swing Bridges

We have really taken advantage of this very unseasonable weather and had a decent cruise – down to Penkridge and return.

The outward journey - who would believe that it would be so great
A visit to the markets on Wednesday whilst we were there allowed "she who must be obeyed" to lighten my wallet a little bit.

We found a printing place in Penkridge and the people have said that they should be able to do the lettering for the new name for the boat as well as few other bits and pieces which we want to add - stay tuned for further updates.

You just never know what you might find in some of the towns along the way.

A few days each way at Tixall Wide – we had been expecting many more boats here given the conditions but there has been no more than 3 or 4 at any one time.
Moving into Tixall Wide and not another boat in sight
Just could not believe the weather could be this good

Admittedly the towpath is a little bit muddy but no problems in getting back to Great Haywood for a pint at the Clifford Arms – a favourite for us as we can take Banjo inside and they even have doggy treats for any of the canines in there at the time.

Dare I say it again, but this weather has been mostly very good – even sunshine on a lot of the days out – some of it was quite warming.
A lovely morning for cruising - no wind, sunshine and beautiful scenery

Even though it was leisurely cruising time we still were making sure about the weather in case it suddenly turned bad and we needed to get back, but (touch wood) apart from one or two days it has been ideal.
Look at that sunshine - definitely time for the sunnies - maybe
time for the deck chairs and suntan lotion

One of the worst days we could cruise was the day we decided to move from Penkridge back to Baswich – a brute of a day – extremely windy and with a bit of rain early on.
No this is not a disused canal in need of restoration - just a very
muddy towpath, which I am pleased to say was the exception
rather than the rule

We can now say that cruising in the wind holds no great fears for us – the boat handled very well and even though there were many gusts we didn’t move off course – however the same couldn’t be said of Diane’s cap which flew off back into the water – she wasn’t giving up it – not a $30 cap.

Reuntied with her cap.
This is the lady with whom I have been in love with for 30 years
- and now as much as ever

We had an email come through from Gill and Malcolm on nb Shoehorn in the marina that things had indeed been very rough – the winds had been extremely bad and there were items being blown off the roof – for quite a few of the boats.

We seemed to have none of this – we knew that it was very windy overnight and of course on that day of wind cruising, but it really didn’t seem quite so bad. Looking back on where we had moored, we seemed to have naturally taken the safe option of protection from the housing and trees around.

I think this is what BW mean for you not to do - running your
engine in gear - who knows how much damage is being done
to the bank

We later saw Andy and Jean from nb Josephine and they related the very windy conditions again – they had lost the Satellite dish off the roof – as Andy has said – it takes a lot of struggling with both hands to remove it from the roof (so strong is the magnet) – but to have the dish blow off, means the wind was STRONG !

It just felt so very very good to be out and moving over this time and to re-establish the feel for being on the move.
Brilliant sunshine, cool air and "stern" concentration

We took an extra day and went up into Stone, winded and moored on the 48 hour moorings below the bottom lock. It gave us a chance to go to the supermarket and not have a long walk back to the boat in the marina; a chance to have dinner out without needing to get a taxi back.

If this is winter cruising then I am all for it – but I feel that it has been just a time of very unseasonable weather – in a perfectly good and enjoyable way – the turn will be on the way.
Even the crew enjoyed being out and about - Banjo in his
favourite spot out the back

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Xmas and New Year - our first in the UK

Monday 19th December to Thursday 29th December 2011

With it being Christmas week, naturally it is a busy time of the year, and it was to be for us as well.
A slightly smaller tree than usual

Of course there is the usual shopping that has to be done and we spent an inordinate amount of time needing to shop – there are just so many times that it is possible to fill the fridge – I think we managed to fit twice its volume inside.

We have a really dumb dog – on one of our shopping expeditions we decided to walk into Stone via the towpath and whilst it was a bit muddy and wet in places it really wasn’t any real problem at all – until Banjo decided to walk a bit too close to the edge and simply slid into the water. He clung to the edge waiting for a hand to drag him out – interestingly, he had one of his coats on, which was completely saturated, but he was not – maybe, because of his many ventures into the canal, he might be picking up some of the protective oils from the swans.
Lazy good-for-nothing dog - doing what he does best - SLEEP!!

As it was the walk into Stone he remained that way until we got back, after which he was bathed – the bath may never be white again.

We decided to hire a car for the holiday weekend as we had a visit down to Watford planned and not wanting to or having to rely on public transport was just a little bit of a luxury.

The finished pram-hood cover - her indoors refers to it as the conservatory

So as to not waste having the car we then had to make sure that we got use out of it – a visit to Stoke to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie – again an enjoyable film to see; a bit of Toy’R’Us shopping; into Stone on Xmas eve to catch up with Howard and Janet (nb Compass Rose); there was also a Stafford visit on the day we picked the car up, so that ASDA didn’t miss on any further profits

We had Xmas lunch with Mike and Stella – so nice was the meal that it remains one of the great highlights of this last week – roast duck with an apricot-based stuffing and a blackcurrant-spiced gravy – very very nice indeed.
wouldn't trust these two where there are drinks around

Stella and Mike and some interloper

Xmas lunch - very very nice indeed

The usual post-xmas day of getting over too much sparkling wine (and the crook prawns).

A further trip into Stafford for a better look around the town – fortunately not too many shops open and my stomach felt decidedly better than in the morning.

We found plenty of time to catch up with everyone at Watford.

a new olympic sport - synchronised something or other - Debbie and Pam

never trust a Liverpool supporter - Jonathon with Emma (brother and sister)

or a Chelsea supporter - Phil with his smart look on
And the other great thing to happen was the completion of the pram-hood cover for the back of the boat – it makes getting in and out much better and easier – putting on and taking off coats and shoes when it is raining or just plain cold outside is a breeze, as of course is the extra benefit of minimising the draught in through the back doors. The finish is as we wanted and the amount of light we now get in when the internal back doors are open is really good.

The weather has been a mixture of nearly everything – sunshine, wind, rain, cold and warm – only missing some snow – but that will come soon enough.

It has been so mild that we are planning to go out for a cruise for a few days – it is all nice and good with the marina, but you do start to get itchy for some movement – so we will be off (if it is not too cold or wet or if there isn’t something good on the TV or some other excuse – getting a bit soft we are).