Friday, 6 September 2013

What a difference a day (or week can make)

Saturday 31st August to Thursday 5th September 2013

The lady of the boat was pleased again – she had her coffee in bed and the paper had been provided, but sadly she knew that she had to get up as we had decided to move on Saturday – we were going to head towards Birstall but we weren’t exactly sure where we would moor up.

It started off as a reasonably cloudy morning but as it wore on the sun found its way through and it turned out to be a lovely day – yet again – but as the BBC weather people had been stressing – “it be would an autumnal day”.

The wide sections of river cruising have continued to appeal especially to Diane – who is now looking forward to next year and our cruising of the north-east, but for now we could just continue to enjoy.

The lock gates on these double lock have been quite heavy indeed and today was no exception.

Along the way we encountered a couple of day boats out for some fun, but as is normal with these there seemed to be too many people intent on the too much fun part of it and a little less attention paid to some simple safety aspects of it all.

At one of the locks, another guy and I were doing the top gates – ground and gate paddles – we needed to ask a couple of women to just stand on the deck rather than the soft cushions on the seats before we would open the gate paddles – simply for their own care – they were all good.

Ironically, at the next lock it was to be a woman on a narrowboat coming out of the lock who was trying to push the boat off from the day boat moored on the lock moorings (in the right place) who was the one to fall in – the flip-flops that she was wearing were totally inappropriate for being on the boat doing what she was doing; she was a bit shaken but otherwise OK and a bit philosophical about it – her partner was considerably less so – using expletives and blaming the moored day boat for being in the way – from our understanding of it, he didn’t manoeuvre properly to be out of the way of the stationary boat, meaning the woman had to push off (and fall in).

I guess he will settle down and maybe even see that it was not someone else’s fault.

The cruising here is really wonderful and like every other waterway that we have experienced it is different.

Eventually we reached Thurmaston and just before the lock was a lovely mooring – would have been better if Diane had decided it was a nice place to moor before we had passed it, but reverse into it we did; moored up; and our mooring partners were Linda and Richard from nb Mary ‘H’ (…and Tigger too) who also blog.

After seeing to the things that you need to do, we all sat down outside and chatted about what boaters chat about – although we didn’t mention anything about toilets until we realised that we hadn’t.

We even watched as Richard finished off the little painting job that he had set up to do before we sat down – the end result was very good indeed.

We did agree to travel together the following day (Sunday) down into Leicester – setting out the strategy of getting into the town centre and be there at the time most likely to find a mooring spot.

Having made the plan the execution was important and we headed off before 9am and through the first lock; halfway to the next we came across a boat with engine problems so a tow was in order – down to the moorings just prior to the next lock from where they could get some help – that was all that they needed.

It was pleasant cruising, though the air was a bit chilly at times, and we reached Leicester fairly quickly and then as is always the case, something found its way around the prop.

We managed to get into the next lock which was the next to last and after a bit of a struggle the prop was cleared – the good bread knife had to be put into service to help with the job.

At the same time Richard also cleared some plastic from around his prop which was  not really affecting his travel, but the final amount that he cleared was more than the cloth and entangled twigs and other stuff that we had around our prop – but the boats were certainly better for it.

The strategy paid off – along the way there were 2  boats that had left the moorings and when we arrived one was left, which was taken up by Mary ‘H’ (as planned) – we breasted up.

coming into Leicester - this wonderful multi-arched bridge

the National Space Centre - looks just like
a giant bouncy castle

still coming into Leicester
A little later on, the hire boat that was also there readied itself to leave, so we moved back to take that spot – as usual anyone wishing to breast up will have at least ourselves to do so with.

We managed to do a quick tour of Leicester, locating the Richard III exhibition and then finding the Tourist Information office – so we are armed with maps and brochures for an attack on the city on Monday.

the cathedral

the walls may not be straight but it has stood for more
than half a millenia
this carpark - where the remains of Richard III were found last year

As we usually find with most town and cities, each has its own characteristics – some of which we like and others we like not so much.

The one aspect of Leicester that we found very appealing is the ease with which we, as pedestrians, could get around. It is not a huge city, but the most of the town centre is heldover to people just being able to walk around without any traffic; even the smaller narrower streets are pedestrian-friendly, with one-way traffic the norm.

just part of the pedestrianised area in the centre of the city

The self-guided tour was easily accomplished within the morning and we managed to fit in a couple of the museums as well as lunch; I wouldn’t say that we had seen all of the city, but we had seen enough of it for our purposes on this trip.

St.Maria of Castro - the chapel for the castle
which is no longer standing

One of the old gates into the castle

The Magazine Gate - entry for the armaments of the old town

the ruins of the Roman bathhouse
my centurion - she doesn't look that old (yet!)

We would not bypass Leicester in the future if we were to come this way again.

Linda had not been feeling at all well on Monday morning, so by our return from being the ever-tourists that we seem to be, it was most pleasing to see her up and about – well up anyway – she was relaxing on the end of the pontoon, comfortably in a relaxing chair and obviously a lot better than earlier.

By Tuesday we had completed our 48 hr stay and we were off; Linda was feeling much much better indeed – our intended target was Kilby Bridge, which for us was the next pumpout point and for Linda and Richard, where Fiona and John (nb Epiphany) were going to be mooring up.

Richard in that ruggedly lockkeeper style

Linda and I waiting (as usual) for the lock to fill
The locks are fairly evenly spaced and spread out over the 10 miles – so whilst it was possible to walk between some (and give the dogs a chance for some exercise – and natural breaks) it was a long way.


Banjo and Muffin - got along surprisingly well - until the old
dog had had enough of the pup
The travel went easily and without any incidents and we reached Kilby Bridge within 5 hours and found mooring spots readily available.

We even managed to get a free pumpout at the CaRT facility – courtesy of the pause switch being left on – a practice common at stations where there are permanent local moorers – we found this out at Huddersfield last year.

After mooring up, the real entertainment and annoyance began.

A hire boater coming from the Leicester direction wanted to water-up and seemingly missed the point – but not wanting to carry on, decided to reverse and not in a gentle way – seems that was not an option.

So at speed he reverses and firstly hits nb Epiphany with a loud bang (no sorry forthcoming – not in his vocabulary); carry’s on going backward – even though he was now past the waterpoint and could pull in – and then hits another hire boat (unoccupied) and finally decided that all of that not being enough gives Ferndale a bit of a hefty shove – still no apologies.

Fortunately there was no damage to any of the boats either inside or out (maybe a lick of paint needed), but it was an exercise in what not to do.

I can’t blame the general group of hire-boaters, it was more this person himself who seemed bloody-minded about what he wanted to do without actually knowing what he was doing.

Anyway, with that episode over, we chatted with Fiona and John and during the course of the day, arrangements had been made for dinner at The Navigation for 7pm.

Our erstwhile friend Mike (nb Isobel) with whom we had been in contact over the last week, was shadowing our progress with his own and managed to catch up with us during the afternoon, so we caught up with him for a while, by which time chairs had appeared and a few drinks also – we had been joined by Richard as well, but before we could enjoy too much of a good thing it was almost time for preparing ourselves for dinner and a drink prior to that courtesy of Linda and Richard.

The seven of us enjoyed a fine meal and some interesting conversation and something very unusual for a group of boaters – we didn’t once raise the subjects of batteries and toilets.

l to r - Mike, Diane, Linda, Fiona, Richard and John

we strongly suspect that Richard was ill due to
his favourite of ice-cream and custard
The following morning (Wednesday) was again a bright and sunny day – will this ever end – we arose with our intentions to move on today – further southwards – Fiona and John were moving north and after filling the water tank they were off at about 9am.

Linda came up to inform us that Richard had taken ill with much the same bug that had hit her in Leicester – that’s what comes from sleeping together.

He was very unwell indeed.

There was some back and forth conversation and eventually decided that the three boats would move off together – Ferndale (with Diane) and Mary H (with Linda) going ahead and Mike (Isobel) at the rear, and I would do the locks for the first two boats and hopefully be able to have the lock resetting for Mike who is experienced doing the locks on his own.

We all went fairly well along with the rhythm working without any problems – save for a single hander ahead of us leaving the top gates open – I saw him just use the boat to open the top gates (once the lock was full) and not even look back with the slightest intention to bother about closing the gates – so every lock needed those gates being closed first.

A bit of the way along we came a bit unstuck with a less than sufficient secure enough rope giving way under the force of water coming out of the lock being emptied by boats coming down and the boat ending up part way across the canal and a bit of effort required to pull her back – but everything was ok in the end.

We moored at Newton Harcourt  up for lunch and a bit of a break from the hot and exhausting morning and were greeted by the appearance of Richard who was feeling a lot better – still not 100% but was feeling up to doing a bit of steering which freed Linda up to work the locks.

With the rest of us feeling refreshed we set off for part 2 of the days workout and after the final lock, Richard and Linda cruised ahead to find a suitable mooring spot for the night.

The location just south of the Smeeton Aquaduct ranks as one of the best we have stopped at – so peaceful and quiet and plenty of space to spread out for all of us and to set the BBQ’s up to cook.

We just sat outside enjoying the food and the chatting away about just about anything; the dogs seemed completely exhausted and by the time night had fallen, I guess we were as well – it had been a hot and tiring day with the distance and locks that we had done, but like everything else we do these days with the boat, it was also very enjoyable.

Richard and Linda had been contemplating about whether or not to venture into Market Harborough, the other three of us were going in and to our delight they decided to as well – there schedule provides a few days of being able to be side-tracked or poor weather.

very foggy one minute...

... and then much clearer the next
Banjo's preferred position - on the bed asleep ...

... but next it is outside looking for that bed

So we were off again – this being a day completely without locks – just plain cruising. We headed out a bit earlier as we needed to stop at Debdale Wharf for diesel – our largest ever fill – all of the portable cans as well as two tanks now, but we are fully fuelled.

The only incident on the way into Market Harborough was Banjo deciding that he absolutely desperately needed to be back on the boat with Diane and couldn’t manage the leap – even from a moored boat. Fortunately a passing walker fetched him out (she turning out to be another boater) and lead up along for Diane to pick up at a convenient bridge hole.

The moorings just near the basin are nice and quiet and there are two happy ladies here – water taps available for refilling of water tanks which are likely to be depleted by the washing machines aboard.

With reports of bad weather coming in for Friday, we will most likely be here until Saturday – a chance to explore and check out the pubs (er I mean the shops, dear).

40 Miles, 35 Locks, 1 Tunnel, 2 Swing Bridges

Totals: 2056 Miles, 1500 Locks, 64 Tunnels, 29 Lift Bridges, 143 Swing Bridges

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