Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year - Ice Free of course

Tuesday 30th December to Wednesday 31st December 2014

When we woke on Tuesday morning the first thoughts were "What is it like outside?" - to which we saw lovely rippling water - great no ice, let's get moving.

So breakfast was prepared - I with my cereal, Gordon wanting only some toast - well it would have been toast but we couldn't light the griller - it sounded as though the gas wasn't coming through for either the griller or oven - the hob was working and this was an all-in-one stove.
The oven was working the previous evening, the spark was sparking; the gas was not there; so it was toast without the toasting effect. (We now suspect it related to the power - as everything later worked after we had run the engine)

Out we were to get the boat ready to depart and wait for it to become light enough to move, so I decided to walk along a bit just to check it out - mmm a bit of ice further on and that continued - when I returned to the boat I could see that the overhanging trees obviously created a covered area and hence no ice.

We decided to press forward anyway and at first light, the engine was started and engaged - all went exceedingly well for the first 3/4 of a mile - well the only 3/4 of a mile and then we stopped.
We had sliced through some thin ice but this gave way to ice that was too thick - let's moor up and wait for the sun and/or another boat to do the heavy work.

At 12:20pm our ears pricked up to recognisable sounds of a diesel engine - a marinised diesel engine - and then the sight of a boat coming towards us from the direction of Rugby.

Engine on; warp speed engaged; ice broken in front - we were off - perhaps not quite at warp speed but certainly better than being stopped.

A little further on, another boat approaching - this one was very familiar - it was Mike and Charlotte on nb Isobella - I think Mike finally recognised us after he passed.

The cruising was exhausting as the ice made steering difficult on the turns; moored boats slowed down any momentum that was gained and on two occasions we met oncoming boats with moored boats - the broken ice channel then had to be widened.

All-in-all we were glad to reach Rugby at not long after 4 pm and we decided to moor up and head over to The Harvester for a pint or two.
After the third one neither of us felt much like cooking so we stayed and had dinner there.

The following morning arrived and there was no such false hope as there had been the previous day - we could see the ice.
Unlike the previous day we knew that we couldn't afford a second day of waiting for a boat to come our way - by day's end it was the correct call, we didn't pass another boat.

We  would have to be our own ice-breaker; so we put the clip-on ice-breaking attachment onto the bow of the boat - namely Gordon with a pole - and we gently eased out - very slowly at first and careful not to hit any other boat.
Across the way was nb Waiouru - only Jan on board this morning, so had a short chat with her - Tom was expected back later in the day.
We crept along gently breaking through the ice which in places was thinner than others. Under the bridges was the best - all water, no ice at all.

Progress was down to about 2mph, which of course is better than sitting still.

Finally at Anstey, we hit broken ice - there was a boat ahead of us breaking it for us - amazingly this coincided with Gordon taking over at the helm.

By the time we were at the junction we had caught up with a boat ahead, but they weren't the ice-breakers - a boat even in front of them and once on the Coventry (the other boat had winded to head back again), we found that the ice had started to reform, but the channel could be seen and it was the way we headed.

As we were heading further northward, the time was heading further the way of setting sun - later.
Not wishing to moor up too soon we continued, with tunnel light ablaze, and finally we were dazzled by the bright lights of The Anchor Inn and friendly moorings.
In what will surely become a tradition for this trip, we headed off to the pub for a pint or two (or three) - simply to relax after an even longer day.
This time however we did return to the boat for dinner.

As I am writing this blog - now at about 10pm - there have been two boats just pass by within minutes of each other - moving whilst the ice is broken.

Weather reports are saying a minimum of 6C overnight and up to 12C tomorrow - we have already set ourselves for a 7:30am start and a finish as late as possible - don't even care about any rain - just no ice. Today's effort was 22 miles and 1 lock; Tuesday : 9 miles and 3 locks

We would also like to wish everyone a Very Happy New Year - especially our lovely wives - Diane and Dot - whom we shall see again next year (2015)

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The needs of others...

Sunday 28th December to Monday 29th December 2014

When we started the original idea of buying a boat to cruise along the canals, part of our thought processes involved the feeling that if we waited too long before we pursued this lifestyle we may in fact be too old to properly enjoy.

We did not have, at that stage, the likelihood of our children having children, and Diane's parents were of reasonable health and not in need of care from us, yet.

The former of these is a little close but still not imminent and the latter, we are pleased to say is very much still the case.
The brains of the operation - also the silly ones

The brawn behind the brains.

So for us we are of an age where we can fully enjoy it all, with the expectation of many more years.
That is the problem for all of us - it is an expectation that things will continue as they currently exist.

However, we do know that we cannot stay in this field of everything being OK and staying that way for many years to come.

This has been brought home to us dramatically through our friends and never more so than a catch-up-by-chance on Sunday morning when we ran into a friend (no names will be given) whom we have known for a few years now and she was so upset about her husband being admitted to hospital with a serious illness.

When these things occur there are always 1001 things that you have to take care of and the mind is not necessarily sorting everything into the right order.
Your priority has to be with your family and your better half, who is ill. It does not need to be trying to deal with peripheral things that seem to pop up.

Whilst we were talking to her about all sorts of things that were coming up, she also said that she didn't know what to do about the boat - which was moored at an inconvenient distance away and if it was much closer (like in Stone) it would be ideal for her to stay on.

Your wish shall be our command, so we immediately offered to help, if she so desired and would arrange for the boat to be brought to Stone, bearing in mind that there would be a planned CRT lock closure in between the start and end points which would cause a delay if we did not act quickly.

NB. When I refer to we offered, this is really Diane saying "Ray and Gordon will do it".

She texted back the following morning and has taken us up on the offer, so the organising machine that is Diane was sprung into gear, and by nightfall on Monday night Gordon and I had found our way to the boat - many thanks to Roly for driving us there.
The boat is out of the marina - away from an icy solitude - and we are ready for a wintry trip - one during which we do expect to deal with a fair bit of ice. We have almost a week to get ourselves past the imminent lock closure.
The canal a layer of ice - hopefully you can see it

Much easier to see that these swans are walking on it.

The circumstances of all of this being necessary should remind us that we need to certainly plan for our futures but do not forget to live for today; to appreciate every thing that we do; to appreciate every day that we have together; and to help others wherever you possible can.

No travel 

Saturday, 27 December 2014


Saturday 27th December 2014

It's amazing how quickly the day gets away from you. We still woke relatively early, early enough for Diane to be enjoying her coffee before 7am.

Our primary aim today was to move down through the Star Lock, fill with water; then wind and move back up through the lock.

This was all accomplished within an hour, but it wasn't made easy by CRT boats moored in the winding hole - I would hate to say it but people listen a lot more if you practice what you preach.
In the middle of the picture is the winding hole

...and CRT have moored their tug well into it,
just making it that much more difficult to turn

Anyway, that aside it was a little enjoyable cruise and it was a mighty fine morning to cruise - just a pity that we didn't want to go anywhere.

Once back and moored up, I decided to have a look at the tunnel light which had decided not to work about 2 weeks ago (before we came through the Harecastle).
I had previously tried to check the switch but of course when I took it out and then apart I lost a piece, which meant it wouldn't work anyway.

When we moored in Stoke earlier in the week we visited Halfords for a new switch and a new bulb assmebly - we got the new switch but found a twin headlight kit for just ₤8 - the bulb assembly was ₤5.49. 

The photos below show the differences.
This for ₤5.49

...or this for ₤8.00 - it's a no-brainer

As I was just getting into it we had a lovely visit from Roly and Bev - excellent time to down tools for a cuppa and a chat......and they brought some presents as well - lovely.

Bev was very excited and couldn't wait to tell us about the wonderful Xmas present that Roly had bought for her - a petrol generator - just what every girl wants.
(Pretty certain that Diane will wait for a diesel one!)

Before we all knew it the time had drifted onto noon and we all had a bit of shopping to get done.

Once we had finished buying what we could remember from the list we forgot to take with us and returned and then had some lunch, I recommenced on the tunnel light.
The best plan for me was to replace both the switch and the light bulb assembly and assume that the wiring in between was still OK.
Switch replaced and no luck - of course it wouldn't work - I had forgot that I had taken the bulb out to get a new one.
Armed with the new one and with a small amount of rain coming down, it was of with the headlight assembly, put in and connect the new bulb - amazingly the light came on - that's the problem with replacing the switch without on/off markings - it was in the on position-but what the hell - the bloody light worked and when I flicked the switch the light went off.

You little beauty!! That saved the price of an electrician.

Anyone with electrical problems - don't bother calling me - I just think it was beginners luck.

Then just after all of that was completed, a knock on the windowand it was Richard (nb Pendle Warter) taking the dog for a walk - stopped for a chat - just at the back of the boat - we haven't seen Richard for must be 12 months but good friends remain the same.

After saying goodbye to Richard we back on board when a strange lady with 2 dogs wandered past and at the same time there was a huge rocking of the boat at the rear end.
Of course the strange lady was Elaine and the rocking caused by Paul. They were on their way home from Milton Keynes and had texted to say that they would probably drop by.

So good to see them both and of course the boys as well - Bombo was growling, as he does, until he settled down and Sammie was busy exploring and jumping.

Next Xmas you are all invited to dinner with us on the boat, so there will be no discussions with anyone about where you need to go - it's an open invitation.

And you know you, we are just not sure what happened but it is now getting dark and weknow we have had a busy day, but it has been a most enjoyable one too

1 mile, 2 locks

Totals: 2894 Miles, 2121 Locks, 98 Tunnels, 34 Lift Bridges, 151 Swing Bridges

Friday, 26 December 2014

I'm dreaming....

Thursday 25th December to Friday 26th December 2014

Diane was awake early - one of only two such days in the whole year - exclaming "Santa's been, Santa's been!"
"Of course he has - he'd left everything before we went to bed" I replied. "Now be quiet and let me sleep in."

Diane may wake up early on Xmas day and Easter Sunday, but for me, I use the chance to have a lie in - from years of being up late the night before waiting for kids to go to sleep, old habits die hard.

But with the offer of a cuppa, which she assured me she would make, I relented, but somehow I ended up making the coffee and the tea; and bringing her the santa stocking so that she could unload it and begin on the sugary things contained therein.

Diane is still a big kid - even after all this time.

We have given up on buying presents for each other although a couple of novelty items always seem to appear.

So we unpacked the stocking and sampled a few of the treats that we knew were in there and generally enjoyed the fact that we really didn't have to worry about doing anything straight away - no work for me to do; no need to rush off to do shopping; not even a need to head out for a latte.

There was no sign outside of anything remotely resembling any well known Xmas songs like "White Christmas" or similar - much as Diane would have liked it to be.

The weather was cold outside, but inside the boat it was nice and warm. By the time daybreak came it was clear to see that a lovely blue sky was present.

A normal breakfast was had, but she couldn't help herself and the sweet things took a bit of a beating, as usual.

There was a bit of preparation work for lunch/dinner completed - primarily peeling all of the potatoes and vegetables - there would only be the two of us, but you would have been convinced that a few others were likely to drop in.

Later on we prepared ourselves to venture outside - primarily for a visit to The Royal Exchange, but other domestic chores on the way also required attention.

Getting there a little after noon, we found Roly, Rob and Sally in the window seat; Bev was home looking after the turkey and Sally was just about to leave to help - Sally would be back to pick up Roly and Rob.
For us, there were no such problems - we were both free for a drink.

The pub was only open for 2 hours and judging by the crowd, it would easily have been thought that this was that last chance for a drink for who would think how long?

After a few drinks and plenty of chatting about what else - boats and we did discuss batteries but not toilets - we were done for a couple of days; Sally arrived to drive Rob and Roly back; we readied ourselves for the short walk.

Once back into the warmth of the boat we only had to start the cooking process and relax a bit - well, I did most of the relaxing and Diane just a little.

The starters were ready on time and devoured with gusto - simply a camenbert melted.

The main course was a little bit later on, but allowed us time to be ready for it - a roast chicken, 2 types of potatoes, 6 vegetables, gravy - the lot - it was up to the standard that anyone would expect for the main course for Xmas and lasted not long enough for either of us to even think about taking a picture.

The final course of pudding and custard really finished us off - lovely indeed - and we both stumbled inside to the lounge chairs ready to just stay there and not move - in true xmas tradition, we had definitely had more than enough.

Friday morning was again cold, but this time, not a clear sky but one that promised and delivered rain.
Still feeling the well devoured dinner from the previous afternoon/evening, it took a little while before either of us were ready for food, but after breakfast we headed out for just a couple of things that we did really need - apart from the Costa coffee.

Today we played it very quietly indeed, compared to yesterday - just relaxed in the boat - where it was much warmer than outside - it was a colder day than the one the day before.

Later on, after the sun had disappeared from the sky, there was a sudden shout from Diane "It's snowing" and it was - the snow was coming down heavily but not lasting long once it hit the ground.
Further on it then started to build up by accumulation.

Photos were needed and as I was being pushed out through the back door I just managed to put the coat on.
The first batch of pictures were not suitable enough so I had to head out again.

Rain started coming down a bit later and the snow that had built up slowly started to disappear, but we do not doubt that there will be more before too long.

As for the fact that it snowed at all, Diane is declaring it as a White Christmas and was singing away to that tune (even with the right words as well).

No travel

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Who's been naughty and who's been nice?

Wednesday 24th December 2014

Our goal was in sight - we had been aiming to arrive in Stone on Xmas eve - just a short 3 hour run from mooring to mooring with taking on water and emptying an Elsan.
Sunrise - a great way to start the day - fine, sunny and bit chilly

Under very bright blue skies this morning, we set out; it was chilly but as the sun rose you could feel the warmth - not at all what you would expect for a December day.

The locks were all easy to operate, so it can be seen where CRT are doing some work.

Our desired mooring was above Star Lock and we found it inhabited with just one other boat.
The sun was still shining brightly after we moored up

Off to do some  last minute shopping and then we could relax and all Diane then had to do was wait for Santa to arrive.

We hope that everyone has a great Xmas and please do not over-indulge - it will just mean more locks and more walking to be done to exercise it all off.

From our family to yours

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Hot and sweaty over a new bed

Saturday 20th December to Tuesday 23rd December 2014

Well we were up bright and early - just after 6am to get ready for the Harecastle.

In still dark conditions at 7:30 we headed off for the last half mile and last lock.

Lights were on and torches abounded - there just seemed to be enough illumination to make out the lock entrance and I could see the difference in lighting between the inside of the lock and the faint light of the sky - well I could see it until Diane in her desire to help, shone her torch toward me to help light the bridge hole and then I couldn't see anything.
"Shine it into the lock" I shouted and that helped.

We made it to the Harecastle moorings just after 7:45 - tunnelkeeper was already on duty; gave us the talk; strongly advising to wear a life preserver (which Diane insisted I do - yes dear!); moved the CRT craft out of the tunnel entrance and we were first through (the only boat at the northern portal) - the boat at the southern end apparently had not shown any sign of life.

The passage was uneventful - after 9 previous passages through here, we are used to it - but always careful.
Diane decided to do a bit of cleaning inside and indicated she would check occassionally to make sure I was still around.
Once out we moored up for water and after that it was straight to Westport for the day.
Howard (nb Compass Rose) popped by (we had texted him to see how he was) - so we chatted over a cuppa for a while and plans were made for lunch on Monday.
The remainder of the day was spent inside working and reading - pretty boring we can be a lot of the time.
Sunday now became a fasting day, but we cruised down to what many call "China Gardens" but we just know it as the Toby Carvery - we were hoping to find a mooring just before the bridge but instead we opted for right outside the carvery - not a boat insight - never seen it empty before.
Look - empty moorings outside the carvery - whoever heard of that!
Our slightly revised schedule determined that we needed to do a bit of shopping today - just little things, but meant a walk up into town.

Amongst the items on the ubiquitous list - price on a new mattress (just a price!). On the way into town we stopped at one shop - tested and priced - and later discussed it a bit - our existing memory foam one was a bit depressed in the centre and was in need of replacement; so we bit the bullet and bought one - the store wanted to charge ₤75 for delivery or we got 10% off if we took it ourselves.

Most people shopping like this have cars and taking such an item is relatively simple - not for us, we had to carry lug the thing back to the boat - well over half a mile - closer to a complete mile.
Diane's words seemed to be something like "no problems - you can carry it" - it started out OK but we were both needed to finish the task.
We did appreciate the offer of help from the fellow in the blue van when we were 50 metres from the boat.
Back on board and sweating profusely; we had both dressed for the cold conditions; not for an audition for World's Strongest Person; we practically stripped off inside just to cool down.
No strength left in our bodies at all.
After recovering we needed to take it a bit easy so rather than just sitting down and relaxing on the boat, we headed off to sit down and relax and watch the third installment of The Hobbit - showing at the nearby Odeon - and we didn't fall asleep once - and enjoyed it as well.

Monday was a chance to sleep in - still bloody recovering - work to be done - more shopping to be done - groceries this time.
Lunch with Howard - unfortunately Janet was very unwell - had a great time as we always do with Howard - he is fun to sit down with and chat away.
Lunch was good as well - just at the carvery.
Our good friend Howard

After saying our goodbyes we cruised the boat down to just short of the first lock in the Stoke flight and moored up for the night.
We had earlier unwrapped the new mattress so that we could "road" test it before leaving.
Road tested it was - hard and springy!

Our aim for Tuesday was to make it down to the Wedgwood/Barleston moorings.

For the past week really, the weather has been quite mild - not warm but definitely not cold - just nice weather - except for the damn wind.
Today it dropped a lot but still gave a little movement to the boat if you were moving slowly.
Made it through the five Stoke locks in quick time - every lock against us - then the enjoyable cruise down to Trentham Lock - also against us - by this stage we had decided on the Wedgwood moorings - someone wanted to visit the Factory Shop.
At this time of the year with few boats moving the last thing you expect at a lock is a boat coming along - no sooner had we closed the bottom gates and Diane got on - we were no more than 50 metres from the lock, than nb Harnser with Brian and Diana on board appears around the corner - a wave and greetings - at least it was set for them.

We were damned unlucky lucky, the Visitor centre (including the shop) was closing after today until April next year. The whole site has become a buidling site - new manufacturing expansion; moving the shop and cafe, and a small housing estate to the eastern side - that is, it is a small area of land, not small houses.
Entrance - to the building site

Scaffolding around the existing manufacturing building

part of the new housing estate - already occupied

across the road, the next phase of housing
So if you didn't get there, you won't be getting there until next April.

Almost forgot to include this and if I hadn't I might be turned into a newt or something worse.

To my very dear Mother-in-Law, Dorothy (affectionately known as Millie) we wish you a very happy ??th birthday - we saw you in October and had a great time - will call you tomorrow -love from both of us

10 Miles, 7 Locks, 1 Tunnel

Totals: 2889 Miles, 2112 Locks, 98 Tunnels, 34 Lift Bridges, 151 Swing Bridges

Friday, 19 December 2014

Return to Duck territory!

Wednesday 17th December to Friday 19th December 2014

It is not until you are without something that you rely on, just how lost you are without it.
That has been the case with us for the past 2 days - no internet services - and Diane has been completely lost. 
No chance to viber anyone and chat away; yes, I guess it has affected me as well, not being able to do as much work.

All three devices have failed to pick up a consistent signal, so we think that the problem is with the towers and not at our end, especially since the signal does come and go.

We have had to rethink our cruising plans a half dozen time in the last 3days, taking into account all of the stoppages and the breach at Dutton as well as what we have committed to do and what we would like to do.

But as of now we are going through Harecastle tomorrow morning (Saturday) and will be spending time in Stoke before heading down to Stone probably on Boxing Day and will leave after New Year - our booking to go north through the Harcastle is for the 9th January - last one before it closes.

After that we would like to get down to Chester and maybe Ellesmere Port; spend some time on the Llangollen before we head up the Macclesfield.
This means traversing the Cheshire Locks twice more, but having just come up we had a great time of it all.

We left Middlewich on Wednesday morning and filled with water before Kings Lock and whilst it was a bit cold and windy it was far better than being in the place of all of those people stuck in cars on their way to work.
Glad that I do not have to deal with traffic like this to get to work...

...just crap like this - why bother to bag if you aren't going to find a bin

Cruising is always lovely 

and winter views are just as good

see what I mean

We eventually moored up in a new location for us - Paddys Wood - so very quiet - we will stop there again.

Rain in Wednesday night disppeared almost on Thursday morning, but it was quite windy - more than Wednesday - but very much warmer.
The only rain that we had was a quite heavy shower before we reached Wheelock, where we topped up with water, dumped the rubbish and the elsan.
Doing the locks was mighty enjoyable - at least it was not cold and with no other boats around you just worked at your own pace - seems to be the positive side of winter  travel.
So 14 locks passed us by before we decided that Rode Heath would be the stopping place - and damn that internet signal.
Still we enjoyed the rain on the roof that night.

One other thing we are finding is that we are being more selective about turning the TV on - if there is nothing worth watching then it stays off. We are starting to use the BBC iPlayer for any late shows and watching them a few days after screening.

The Reflecs is working a treat - the boat is keeping cosy warm at around 19-20C without any fuss. Her indoors is happy as well.

Anyway a quiet night of reading - but after 14 locks the tiredness set in early and we couldn't stay awake much longer.

Friday, still no internet, so rather than stay the extra day in Rode Heath as we had planned, we headed off towards Red Bull - our intention at that stage was to stop around there until Monday morning - the time for our inital booking through the Harecastle.
With just 9 locks and little or no wind we set off. Whilst the air was chilly, the lack of wind balanced it out and we actually felt quite warm.

She had done plenty of locks over the three days - so happy with
another out of the way...

...and some had been heavy
Diane as usual decided which locks each of us would look after - her tried and tested formula being that the ones that are close together were hers, and the ones further apart were mine.
So she looked after the first four - all set against us - and than I took over.

The sun was bright and warmish, the air was coldish

At the very first of these we found a boat coming down the lock, so it was set for us (me) and naturally the next lock which was only about 50 metres away was also set for us.
Unsurprisingly the next two of mine were also in our favour - I was doing well - 4 from 4 - a bit of a win there.
The last lock, which I was meant to look after, Diane decided she would tend to it - lo  and behold, it was full, so she needed to reset it - score was Diane 0, Ray 4.

Moored at Red Bull, we are making full use of the services including the washing machine and dryer, plus we both had showers.
We enquired at the CRT office here about Harecastle passages and we were able to change our Monday timeslot for one tomorrow - just have to be there at 8:30am.

With that done and the second load of washing finished, we headed off to Red Bull pub for lunch. A lovely warm fire a lovely friendly face behind the bar greeted us - drinks done and food ordered, Diane brought out the pigs for a game.

Our Happy Friday photo 

The food arrived in just a short time - Diane's trio of fish looked and tasted very good as did my seafood rissotto.
Alas we could not indulge in any of the desserts - and they all looked pretty good - we had a boat to move up two locks.
On the way back we spotted this little fellow

If we were to meet the 8:30 timing at the tunnel, we would not do it the morning if we had 3 locks and another1.5 miles to move - so we clipped 2 locks and a mile off the job.
Diane doing the first (had to be reset) and I did the second (set for us)
Diane 0, Ray 5
So we are now ready for the morning; still cosy warm.
Looking forward to Stoke tomorrow - eh Duck!

14 Miles, 31 Locks

Totals: 2879 Miles, 2105 Locks, 97 Tunnels, 34 Lift Bridges, 151 Swing Bridges

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

On the move again.

Monday 15th December to Tuesday 16th December 2014

It is always nice to have a car for a few days but it is also nice when you return it - simply you can be off again in the boat.

By the time I had returned, and for the first time Diane had readied the boat for the day - canopy down at the back and fastened securely; unmoored and moved the boat on her own; down to the Calveley services block; moored up; de-rubbished; de-toileted; and by the time I arrived, she was busy chatting up Bernie from nb Happy Soul - no, I mean, she was having a chat with him.
Everything done, I just simply came along and enjoy her handiwork.

The tap is notoriously slow here and so it took a little while, but once filled we were finally off.

The washing had practically finished by that time, so it meant that Diane could be inside where it was cosy warm and sort through all of that; I had just a little bit of cold air to deal with - it was essentially a mild cruising day.

Around the turn at Barbridge and slowly past all of those moored boats - not another one on the move.

Or so we thought.

I walked ahead from bridge 4 to Cholmondeston Lock and in that time a boat appeared behind us - so a virtual queue had sprung up.To compound it, as we were descending in the lock, there was a boat coming from below the lock - bloody heck, all these boats around, we thought it would be quiet.

Diane recognised the lady coming up to do the lock, but couldn't find a name, until we saw the boat nb Free - Carol and Dave - how could we not know - brief hello to Dave and we carried on - through the next lock -Church Minshull.
Church Minshull Lock

As we passed Aqueduct Marina, we were feeling a bit tired and virtually at the same time agreed on it, so we moored up just past the marina entrance. There was some rain not long after and some during the night, but it was a very quiet mooring - no sounds of cars, trains or planes.

During Monday I had phoned for Brian at Renaissance and spoke with Ann-Marie about getting some diesel - just 80 litres to keep things topped up, with the aim of being at Middlewich. We heard nothing back, but didn't worry ourselves about it.

Tuesday morning greeted us with some more rain - on and off - by the time that we were ready to leave it had abated and the sun had appeared and was quite warm on the back.

A huge flock of seagulls suddenly took flight

Fine sunny day

Only 1 lock to negotiate and a few miles, so easy cruising and we made good time without rushing - just over 2 hours and we were mooring up, a bit short of Wardle Lock.

A spot of shopping in the town and a visit to the chippy on the way back - the rest of the afternoon was keeping cosy warm and doing some work (for me) and odd jobs (for Diane).

About 6:30pm there was a tapping on the side of the boat and upon investigation, it was Brian with our diesel - we hadn't received the message that he was on his way but diesel was accepted with great pleasure.
The ease of commerce these days - delivery to the boat; poured into the tank and cans as required; payment by debit card through the portable machine -just way too easy.
So here we are now, sitting down, very cosy and comfortable, ready for tomorrow and a day with a few more locks but tonight will be a few more rain showers.

11 Miles, 3 Locks

Totals: 2865 Miles, 2074 Locks, 97 Tunnels, 34 Lift Bridges, 151 Swing Bridges

Monday, 15 December 2014

Miles, smiles and more miles

Friday 12th December to Sunday 14th December 2014

It was a quite early start - even for us - with a doctor's appointment in Watford at just after 11am - we needed to be on the road around 7am.
Fortunately we seem to have in-built alarms and after finishing breakfast, completing the packing and locking the boat, we were in the car and moving by 6:45am.

We knew that it would take a bit over 3 hours of actual travel and these days on these roads we like to have a bit of a break along the way, so a need to build that into the calculations.
Traffic was reasonable and as has been our custom we take the M6 tollway - simply because there is always roadworks on the M6; always traffic congestion; always speed restrictions, and; invariably an accident. We were correct on the first 3 and not on the last one.

The interchange from the M6 to the M1 is creating it's own disruption and scheduled to last another 2 years, but we did get through there without too many problems, although it was slow at times.
All-in-all we were about an hour early, but Diane always has a list of things that we need to take care of when we have a car, and when we are in Watford there are things that we can't do elsewhere.
So we used up some of that time to cross a few items off the list.

For once Diane was called in to see the doctor on time and was out unusually early. However, there was a need for a blood test and so we raced off to Watford General to get that all seen to.

After all of this and filling the car with petrol, it was then time visit Maggie and Paddy (Diane's aunt and uncle) - our mail collectors. Time to catch up on the family news, and pass on stories of our travels as well as pictures from home. Maggie is Diane's dad's (Terry or Fil) only sister, and so photo's of his 80th birthday were shown.
There's nothing under the tree yet for your dear!

A cuppa for all occassions
Later on we all decided to venture out - on a Friday night - for a meal - this being decided to be at the local Toby Carvery - as usual the meal was very good and we all stuffed ourselves with too much - they shouldn't allow us to do that - Diane would have loved dessert - anything at all so long as it came with gallons of hot custard - alas it was not to be.
Maggie, Paddy and David

We stayed the night as it had been a while since we had been down and gave us a better chance to see them; also it is such a time of the year that with darkness descending so early and it being so cold, the inside of a nice warm house is more appealing than the long drive back in the dark and eventual chill of the late night.
Patchy the hampster

A friendly little thing she is

The following day was a different matter and we did have to head back again, unfortunately; we did however decide to break up the journey with a visit to Kedleston Hall near Derby.

Part of our plans for the coming year are that each time we hire a car we would make a concerted effort to see a National Trust property not near to a canal. So armed with our new NT members cards (which had come in the mail that had come to Watford) we drove on - arriving just in time for a satisfying lunch in what used to be the kitchen of the house.
Christmas time was in the air and a very nice touch was the arrival of carolers singing from a balcony crossing over this area. Entertainment at lunch time, and well appreciated by all who heard.
Kitchen and lunch...

and the carolers

The tour around the house was limited to the main central area and a number of rooms off on one wing - much of the remainder of the house is still being refurbished in the style of the mid to late 18th century - but what was available was well presented and as is usual with these properties you have to really wonder about the concentration of wealth in the hands of so few.

Time did not quite get away, as there was still the matter of getting back to the boat without being too late.
The church

Lovely inside, but still cold

The Vicar of  Drivel maybe
There is always a point where you can see what is about to happen, and for us on this day it took a couple more hours for that to happen.

Diane had a thought and I didn't disagree with it at all - It would be really nice to catch up with Paul and Elaine, who were making their way to Stone for the night -indeed for a couple of nights in preparation for a Xmas dinner with all of us who had been co-horts in drinking so much last year - a boater's reunion.
It was planned for the Sunday and we would be there, but it would be nice to get a head start and we would drive home a little later.

In such a short time we arrived; Diane had messaged ahead; we were all sitting down in the bar area of the hotel in comfortable chairs - in the warmth. Before Diane even had a chance to say it, I had thought of it; a check at reception and that lead to the next beer.
Funny thing was, Diane was able to book a room cheaper over the internet than I could persuade the person on reception to give it to us for.
With that done, it was only a matter of a couple of photos and messages to go with them and we had another four with us - Sue and Andy along with Dot and Gordon.
Were we really ever apart? It seemed not!

So a few more drinks were consumed; Sue was the nominated driver. A great many laughs and stories were shared and without warning it was getting late.
We had had a great night - another impromptu one at that - the first time we had all been together for quite some time - probably since last winter.
So we said our goodbyes and headed to our room with our cases - Diane always packs for one extra day, so we were covered - only problem was our room had not been made-up - back down to reception - were they annoyed that we had used the internet for a better rate? - I doubt it.
New room - this one was all ready - but we only had eyes for the bed and sleep - too many miles driving; too many things bunched into two days.

The bathroom did have a rather large bath and Diane made good use of it - coffee was provided on demand - at least I was able to catch MOTD replay.

Breakfast time had been compromised on - 9am - Paul and Elaine were looking a bit tired - this was too early in the day.
No cereal for them, but we needed our porridge starter - the hot breakfast orders had been taken.
There was a high occupancy in the hotel overnight, but this didn't account for the slow arrival of the porridge and slower removal of the bowls and then even slower showing of the cooked portion of the meal.
Here they are after waking up - but still waiting for breakfast

Their excuse - "We don't start on the eggs until the bowls come back".
We managed to stay calm, but the clock had dragged on for 90 minutes from the time we sat down until we finished.
I think that they knew we didn't believe the excuse that it was entirely the fault of the "bl___dy porridge".

By this stage we did however need to get back to the boat as there were things that we wanted to collect for the Xmas dinner; Elaine and Paul needed to walk the dogs.

A pleasant 45 minute drive toward Crewe and a little beyond; the boat was still afloat; the batteries were in reasonable shape after 2 days on their own; the solar panels had trickled in a bit of power to top them up; we added a bit from the engine and cranked up the Mykuni for a bit of heat.

In all we were back for less than 2 hours before we headed right back to where we had just left - this time however there were 17 of us in total - almost all had been party to the great times shared last Xmas - just Richard (and unfortunately not Sharon who was ill) off OakApple being the sole new comer, but we had met them during the year at Lapworth.
Roly - unhand that lady, you don't
know where she has been or what
she has been up to

Jim (impersonating a wide-mouthed frog) and the ever-lovely Joan

Bev, Roly, Paul, and Sally (hiding Rob)

Too much fun being had

Oh what a joyous reunion it was - with Roly and Bev, Joan and Jim as well as Rob and Sally; Phil was there sporting a new goatee and his much better half Lynn; Richard and us eight from last night completed the gathering.

Lynn, Phil and interloper




We all were chatting away; the meals arrived; we sat and ate and chatted and it really was just like we had not been apart.

Most of us moved on to The Royal Exchange - our haunt from last winter - Michelle the landlady had a night off; our usual window seat was occupied by another but that didn't change the fact that we all start doing silly things when we get together.
The hats were being passed around - Phil bears a resemblance
to Leonard Cohen

Andy suddenly remembered where he had left his lost camera
At last it was time to leave, so we left six at the tables as we did really need to get back to the boat and make her ready to move on - we have an appointment with a tunnel to meet.

No travel