Thursday, 25 October 2012

Final Cruising

Monday 8th October to Wednesday 24th October 2012

21 Miles, 8 Locks for this fortnight

Totals: 1426 Miles, 1150 Locks, 46 Tunnels, 24 Lift Bridges, 96 Swing Bridges

We have settled back into the life of the marina quite well – water (on tap), power (on demand) and generally everything quite settled.

There were still the mundane things to take care of – fill up the diesel tank and pumpout the waste tank – not very exciting stuff but very necessary; it was whilst we were in the midst of doing this that Paul (nb Caxton) was chatting to us across the water – plans were made for the arrival later on in the morning of Mick and Elly (nb Parisien Star).

Coffees and cake on the deck and we all had a great time hearing about all of the things that we had gone through but which were awaiting Mick and Elly as they were about to head out from Minshull Church Marina on their voyage of discovery.

We especially had some fun at their expense (sorry guys) about some prospective new neighbours that they would have in their choice of marina – we must have given them a good enough going over that they had barely made it out of the gate when they decided that they wanted some more of the same for this winter – they have ditched the other marina for Aston – looking forward to you both coming in after your 6 weeks of travel.
Not looking too bad at the moment - the polishing has brought
the finish up to a much glossier look

We did however have some things to keep us going and in particular the renovation of the kitchen was always going to occupy a fair degree of our time. A visit to Stafford and we had sorted out the layout of the new kitchen and would be able to use ready-made cupboards and units; also happy with bench top, sink and other extras – all of this in a few hours – so we were on our way.

Whilst life in a marina for some time can be thought of as a bit on the boring side, it does in fact happen to be the reverse –  the conversations with others become longer; the number of people that we see constantly increases and the number of cups of coffee consumed is ever increasing.

Alway something different - a lone hot air balloon

We have started to walk with Andy and Jean (nb Josephine) – Wednesdays only – the need to keep active during this time of the year is important so that the weight does not reappear; so we will walk and talk some more.

We were also able to welcome back (not into the marina, but back to Stone) Lyn and Phil (nb Valentine) with whom we had shared some time in June and early July before, during and after the time in Liverpool. Very pleased to say that Phil is a picture of full health and fully recovered – they had completed the Four Counties (after a side order of Llangollen) – so it was lunch in Stone with both.

The short cruise with them into Stone had Diane longing for just one more short trip out; and as she is able to do, I complied with her wishes.

First a short cruise into Stone to see another kitchen place and this time we have exactly what we wanted as well as being able to quickly adjust the appearance in the future.

Then was a longer cruise down to Tixall Wide. This is the ideal place for the preparation, priming and painting of the gunnels – so the expectation is complete all of this in three days – at least 3 fine days and the weather report says that the next few days should provide us with that.

The trip down from Stone was relatively uneventful save for the sighting of my first Kingfisher – alas no photos of it unfortunately, but it was quite a sight.

We had been a bit unsure as to whether we would try to make it all of the way or moor up before there, but very glad that we went to whole way as the weather on Sunday was, after some early fog, bright and very sunny.
Perfect day at Tixall Wide

A well earned break after more polishing

We managed to sand, prime and apply one topcoat on each side (gunnels only) and Diane managed to polish both sides.

Shugborough Hall beckoned for us and so we were able to use our newly acquired National Trust membership and do a complete tour of the property – the lifestyle of a bygone era. Even though it was late in the season everything was open, but as we found out it was the last week before closing down for the winter break.
the front of Shugborough Hall

and the manicured gardens at the rear

Autumn is well and truly here

The return trip to Aston was again uneventful, but we did break the trip at Weston and then finished off the following morning – in the wind – would we try to reverse into the mooring – one half of the crew wasn’t too keen on it but she who must be obeyed suggested that we try it once and if not then we could go in forwards. Have to say that we managed it quite successfully with a fair crosswind and a bit of help from Andy who was there to take the stern rope.

Back safely and moored up – good to go out for some cruising but also good to be back.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Coming Home

Monday 24th September to Sunday 7th October 2012

25 Miles, 16 Locks for this fortnight

Totals: 1405 Miles, 1142 Locks, 46 Tunnels, 24 Lift Bridges, 96 Swing Bridges

The weather turned a bit for the worse on Monday and we didn’t venture far from the inside of the boat – our combined need was to be here ready for Stella’s mum to arrive by train on Monday afternoon – mission accomplished.

Our plan was to then move on Tuesday down through thr stop lock and back onto the Trent & Mersey and through the Harecastle tunnel.

Someone didn’t tell the weather people that we were moving and it started off poorly – which was the highlight of the trip.

We had gone no further than a few hundred metres when there was some strange noises from the engine compartment, followed by some spluttering followed by the engine almost stopping and then coming back to life – this cycle between life and dying went on for a bit as we needed to get about 500 meters further along to be able to moor up and change the fuel filter – we were lucky enough to know what the problem was most likely to be.

However not lucky enough to know where the spare filter was – so it was a matter of trying to clean out the old one – all to no avail – then a eureka moment as I remembered where I had stored it. New one installed and the engine was as good as “new”.

Boat was working fine again; we were off and happy to be moving again – pity that the rain was still persisting.

This was all still new territory for nb Isobel and crew – the Hall Green stop lock looked like it was going to be a problem with the top gates leaking as abadly as though a paddle had been left open until a River Trust person literally kicked it back into place.

As we reached the tunnel, the sun, which had been having a sleep in decided to show its face – just as we were about to go underground through Harecastle.

After the Standedge tunnel any other is now going to be anti-climatic – and so it was here – plenty of room on each side and only 35 minutes.

True to form as we emerged the sun deserted us and the rain re-appeared – time to fill with water and then head down to Westport Lake to moor up.

Mike, Stella and her mum Anne were off the next morning by about 9am as they wanted to see a few places before Anne was off home on Friday, so we saw them off. As for us we wanted to do a bit of shopping and see a few things in Stoke before we left, so it was a short trip down to Festival Park, where we have moored many times before and always felt very safe.

During the short trip from the lake to the park we were able to get a pumpout and a fill with diesel and after our time was up at the park we watered up before heading down the locks, then past Brittania Stadium and on to Wedgewood.

No matter what time we come through Stoke heading south or through Stone heading north Diane is always able to manage to have us moored up at Barlaston for the Sunday roast – one of her favourites – and of course it was no different this time.

We had in the process of moving from Stoke to Barlaston changed our minds about going up the Caldon – two reasons – firstly the weather reports were not great for the week and secondly the Stone Food and Beer Festival was happening on the following weekend.

After Barlaston, it was moorings at Stone above the top lock where we were able to go over and see Tina Paramore and arranged dates for the boat to be blackened as well as getting the Mykuni serviced and a full engine service carried out.

We moved down 3 locks and caught up with Mike and Stella again before the Festival and then it was another couple of locks and we were back home in Aston Marina – it really did feel like coming home – we had been feeling like we were home as soon as we emerged from the Harecastle tunnel (so well do we know the canal from there to Stone).

After getting everything squared away, including perfect reversing back into the mooring point (self-congratulatory pats on the back), Diane had the washing machine in action and hose out filling the water tank; electricity cord plugged in – she was in her element.

The Festival was the next point of attention and we had a great time there and at the Farmers Market in the High Street.

Plenty of beer and food to sample – we were there until closing time at 8pm – it is well worthy of a visit – but you will have to wait until next year.

As seems to be the case increasingly, there is always someone ready to do something which endangers the safety of others and then wants to tell you how good they were.

We were sitting down on Saturday night, Diane in the lounge and I was at the dinette, when we heard a boat outside – it was about 8:15pm – engines suddenly revving quite hard – Diane peers out the front and there in almost complete darkness is the rear end of a boat just feet away from us trying ever so hard to be moving forwards but inching closer backwards towards us – fortunately they missed us, but the manner in which it was completed was entirely luck rather than any good management on their part.

Having had the need to travel in the dark just a few weeks ago when we were going up the Marple flight, we know how careful you need to be and how slowly you need to proceed – we didn’t have other boats to negotiate around, nor did we have a vast expanse of the dark marina (without any end of pontoon lighting) to visualise our location – which is almost impossible. So why oh why would anyone proceed at any speed under those circumstances and when confronted later think that I should be thankful that it was only an almost hit case (instead of actual) and that I should not have any concerns – as well as that it was a trading boat – restaurant/pub boat.

Anyone mooring near or simply being near (travelling or not) the boat Sir Tomas Brocklebank (no link provided - I am not going to advertise his business), do not assume that he cares about you – his actions last Saturday night and his subsequent explanations leave me shaking my head in amazement at the irresponsibility that was shown.

Most insurance companies will void your policy if you cause an accident whilst travelling in the dark, so who would have paid if we were hit – the trip boat or the marina or both – they would have both been involved in the legal arguments.

Needless to say that when the marina office is open I shall be talking to them about it;  they must have an understanding to allow the boat to be in the marina at all.

For the next few months the blog will be updated every fortnight