To all our readers, a very
and a Happy New Year
During our summer cruise this year we decided that we were fed up with not having enough room in the saloon, and, as we rarely have visitors, that we could live without the dinette. It’s all my fault as I first designed the boat with an L shaped dinette. That proved to not be very comfortable to sit at, so, after our first summer’s cruising, Neil changed it for a raised Pullman dinette.
This was the original dinette – lovely to look at but not very comfortable to sit and eat at:
We then changed it to this, comfortable to sit at, but it cut down the space:
So we have now redesigned the saloon without the table and one bench. We have had to leave the other bench as it houses the freezer, and we have decided to keep the table in it’s storage rack under the gunwhale, and refit the desmo socket in the floor. With a new, slightly longer leg, and a couple of folding dining chairs it will still be a functional dining table. We usually eat off trays on our laps whilst watching TV so it will only be used occasionally. The plan was to buy a small drop leaf table with chairs stored inside the centre, but I don’t think that will be necessary now.
We are very pleased with the results of the refit. We have had the TV cabinet moved to the opposite side of the boat, and swapped with the bookcase. We can now sit further away from the TV for more comfortable viewing and both be facing up the boat rather than across – the TV is on a swivel arm inside the cabinet and pulls out for viewing.
It’s given us tons more space, and we now have room to store the footstools beside the chairs during the day, which will avoid us having to try to scramble over them when moving through the boat! All we need now is a slightly larger rug.
If anyone needs any interior work doing on their boat, I’d thoroughly recommend using David Ritson – link to his website >>>HERE<<<. He lives and works at North Kilworth on the Leicester Arm of the GU, and will usually travel within a 30 miles radius to work on a boat – he says that he finds that any further and the travelling costs become prohibitive. He’s done a lovely job adapting the TV cabinet to fit the new space and replacing the flooring where the dinette was – if it weren’t for the fact that the new boards still have the lacquer shine on them you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The new boards, which I sourced, were ever so slightly thinner than the original, and he re-machined them all to fit. It is fairly obvious what has been moved and to where, as the maple ply is a different colour where it has previously been covered, but we hope that it will change colour to match the rest over the next couple of years.
So, there we go! I’m sure Neil from Beacon would be pleased with the result – if he’d been able we would of course have asked him to do the job. Ally, if you are reading this, please show Neil the pics and let us know what he thinks.
And lastly, a photo of Windsong on her new mooring at Brinklow Marina. At last, a full length pontoon!
On Monday morning, bright and early due to our body clocks still being on British Summer time, we waved goodbye to Gayton Marina for the last time and set out for the short trip to Brinklow Marina, which is to be Windsong’s new home.
A last sight of Gayton Marina on the left through the bridge, and the Northampton Arm of the GU
It was a beautiful morning, if a little on the windy side, and we made good time, sharing the Buckby lock flight with a charming couple who’s boat name escapes me now! We managed to bag our favourite spot at Norton Junction, just past the water point on the Leicester Arm, and moored up just after 3 pm
Our mooring for Monday night
On Tuesday morning, we again set out reasonably early (for us!) with Braunston tunnel and locks ahead of us.
Rog reversing out of the junction
Another glorious day, and again we made excellent time, down Braunston Locks in record time. We contemplated making the most of the weather and cruising on until we reached Brinklow. Just north of Braunston that all went for a bag of rats! Having turned onto the north Oxford, and stopped at Midland
Diddlers Chandlers for a new TV aerial, we rounded a bend and were confronted with this:
Nb Boudica was stuck fast across the full width of the canal, having tried to turn a 65 foot plus boat in an ‘unofficial’ winding hole, only big enough to turn a 45 foot boat!
There were boats everywhere, pulling, pushing and trying in vain to shift her. Apparently she’d been there since 8.30, and it was now heading for 12 noon. The very embarrassed skipper had been assured that it was an official winding hole – he’d had only had the boat since the day before. He’d been trying for several hours to get hold of C & RT and only managed to get someone to answer a phone shortly before we arrived! As you can imagine it was chaos, with one very officious lady trying to direct all the other boats to move backwards by waving her arms at us all. Those of you who know Rog will know how well that went down!!! We couldn’t moor where we were as we couldn’t get anywhere near the bank, so, after about half an hour with no sign of going anywhere any time soon, we reversed back several hundred yards and moored up. C & RT arrived about an hour later, and with the help of a couple of boats moored close by, managed to direct operations and jerked Boudica free. By the time the logjam was cleared – 14 boats heading southwards and 8 heading north, it was about 3 o’clock and as we had a nice mooring, we couldn’t be bothered to set off again so we stayed where we were.
This was the view from our side hatch – the iconic Braunston Church with it’s accompanying sheep – what a lovely pastoral view!
On Wednesday morning we set off in drizzle which soon turned to persistent rain. By the time we reached Hillmorton locks it had stopped though, so I managed to keep dry whilst working the locks. Through Rugby and we reached Brinklow Marina around 1 o’clock – just in time as it turns out. We got moored up on our pontoon, and the heavens opened yet again. We lit the fire and snuggled down for the afternoon.
This morning at 9 o’clock Rog got a lift into Rugby, caught the train to Northampton and a taxi back to Gayton Marina and collected the car. He was back at Brinklow by 11.20. Meanwhile I played host to David Ritson who is going to do our saloon alterations starting mid November. He came to check that the flooring we had found would be a good match with what is already there, and ended up taking all the skirtings off before he could check the thickness! But it’s all good, so now we just have to order it.
So, that’s it for this year’s cruising, folks. See you next year.
30 miles and 16 locks
Yesterday we had a pleasant trip down Buckby Locks, sharing with a lovely trio on a share boat. We moored near Nether Heyford for our last night on board for a while. This morning it only took us a couple of hours to get back to Gayton Marina. A bit depressed, we packed up the car and set off home. We arrived to find the lawn had turned into a hay field, so this afternoon was spent strimming it all down and raking it up. It will take weeks to recover. Next time we go away, we’ll have to arrange for someone to come in and cut it.
So, that’s all folks, for the time being. We will hopefully get out again in September.
12.5 miles and 7 locks
Total Trip Stats
341 miles and 190 locks
A pleasant run into Braunston this morning. A little misty, but that soon burnt off and it became very hot.
A lovely pastoral scene – sheep in the field with the spire of Braunston church behind.
As we approached the junction with the GU we wondered who we’d see that we knew this time. No sooner had we spoken than we came across fellow bloggers on nb Epiphany. We said hello and had our photo taken.
While we waited we had a front row view of nb Yarwood and her new steelwork – looking good. Unfortunately we were not able to see Lesley and Joe as they are away visiting family.
Just needs a few coats of paint now.
By the time we entered the bottom lock 45 minutes later, there were at least another 6 boats behind us.
The locks seemed like hard work today, it being so hot – we were sharing with a couple who were not too keen to converse.
Three down and three to go
By the time we got to the top we were looking forward to the cool of the tunnel. It was a welcome relief, but not as cool as we expected. We continued on to Norton Junction where we are now moored, just into the Leicester Arm, our usual mooring spot. It’s a shame, but a lot of the boats here now seem to be ‘continuous moorers’, with their accompanying paraphernalia spread all over the towpath. We felt lucky that we managed to squeeze into the spot just before the water point. We decided that lunch in the New Inn was a good idea, not least to get out of the dust from the harvesting that was going on in the field adjacent to the towpath.
7.7 miles and 6 locks
A slow trip through Rugby this morning and on to Hillmorton Locks. It was fairly busy there today, with two lockies on duty, one at the bottom set of locks and one at the top. Traffic flow was hampered by one of the middle locks being out of action, with a C&RT workboat in it, re-pointing masonry around the lock ladder. But, nevertheless we we through reasonably quickly.
Just exited the bottom lock – one in the other lock coming up and one waiting below
We continued on for about an hour and a half and are now moored between Bridges 80 and 81, about an hour north of Braunston, where there are long stretches of good mooring. Working boat Monarch came by earlier, and has just come back and picked up a small boat, just behind our mooring, towing him to Braunston.
We are hoping to meet up with Lesley and Joe on nb Yarwood tomorrow in Braunston, where Yarwood is undergoing some alterations.
11.1 miles and 3 locks
Having got thoroughly bored sitting out the rain yesterday (and it really did rain!) we were determined that whatever the weather, we were moving on a bit today. We set off under heavy overcast this morning, still hot and very humid. We filled with water and emptied loo cassettes and rubbish at the junction then through the stop lock onto the North Oxford. We made fairly good progress for a while until we caught up with a Valley Cruises hire boat. They only seem to have 2 speeds – very fast or very slow! We had a hard job staying behind them, we kept having to come out of gear and just drift, they were so damn slow. And a good job we did as they didn’t seem to be able to judge whether they were closest to a bridge, or to narrows or whether a boat coming towards them was closer. Twice the boats coming towards them had to take rapid evasive action as they just kept on crawling through. How they got away without ramming something, or having a boat ram them, I’ll never know. There were plenty of places where they could have pulled over and let us go by, but they steadfastly refused to make eye contact or acknowledge in any way that we were almost up their arse! After an hour and a half crawling along behind them we were getting really pissed off. They then pulled in far too early for the Rose Narrowboats swing bridge, and just sat there! Nobody went down to the bridge to open it, consequently 4 boats came through in the opposite direction. I was just thinking of getting off and going ahead to open the bridge, but due to the stones at the bank we couldn’t get near enough, when they cottoned on and moved. Thankfully, they then discovered the water point and pulled in again, which allowed us to pass them and go through the narrow bit – we even had the bridge opened and shut for us by a couple of Rose Narrowboats chaps. Result! We continued on a little, through the cutting and found that the visitor moorings at All Oaks Wood were practically empty so we decided to stop for the day.
A very pleasant mooring
8.6 miles and 1 lock
Yesterday afternoon was spent dozing in the sweltering heat. At one point we had some scrotes on motorbikes come tearing along the towpath. A bit later we heard them coming back so Rog got his camera ready. As they came around the bend, Rog lifted his camera and snapped a photo or two. When they spotted the camera, the lead motorcyclist yelled to his mate to turn around quick, and, as they rode off, seemed to be shouting something about Rog being a ‘Barclay’s banker’ – at least that’s what Rog thinks he heard!!! Ozzy also decided to see them off, but I doubt being chased along the towpath by a black and white woolly teddy-bear would have alarmed them much.
We did wonder whether we’d find our ropes cut and us drifting all over the canal this morning, and in fact Rog thought he heard someone outside the boat not long after we turned off the lights last night, but, when he looked out of the front there was nobody about – I think he might have dreamt it! Not enough in the photos to identify the culprits, so no point in contacting the local police, but at least it got rid of them.
This morning when we set off it was already hot with 70% humidity. As we were coming through Nuneaton we had an unexpected heavy shower of rain – heavy enough for Rog to put on his waterproof, but it didn’t last more than about 15 minutes. The thermometer we took out onto the back deck this morning registered 34 deg C as we arrived at Hawkesbury Junction and we could hear the Greyhound pub and a nice cold cider calling, so we decided to call it a day – it was just too bloody hot to be standing on the back of the boat. Lunch and the aforesaid cider was consumed at the pub, which means I don’t have to cook again tonight. The weather forecast for tomorrow is thunderstorms for most of the day, so I think we’ll be staying put.
7 miles and 0 locks
The forecast was correct yesterday, we had some fairly heavy rain yesterday evening, but it had stopped by about 9 o’clock – and we were rewarded with a lovely rainbow.
There was a lot of mist around this morning when we got up at just after 7am and by 7.45 we were on our way, determined to get the 11 Atherstone locks under our belt before it got just too hot. And so we did – we had a reasonably quick ascent, and in just 2 1/4 hours we were at the top. We used the service point to fill with water and and get rid of rubbish, and Rog popped to the shop for milk and a few other items. It was very hot by this time and we were glad to get moving and create a bit of breeze. The original idea was to push on to Hawkesbury Junction today, but by lunch time we’d had enough of the heat and have moored up just past Springwood Haven marina.
5.7 miles and 11 locks
We discovered late yesterday that we had a split tin of blacking in one of the front lockers and did what we could to minimise the mess, but decided on just a short cruise today so we could do a proper clean up job, so we left Alvecote this morning went through Polesworth, and moored at the bottom of Atherstone locks on the visitor moorings there. Neither of us felt like tackling the locks today as we are still suffering the after effects of our colds so we set to and emptied the front locker, putting aside all the stuff that needed cleaning up, and putting the stuff that was just too covered in blacking to save in a black bin bag. Next using a scraping stick and copious amounts of kitchen roll, Rog scraped up as much of the blacking as he could, leaving just a thin covering of it in the bottom of the locker, which we have left empty and open in the hope that it will dry enough to replace stuff later today. After we had cleaned up the rest of the stuff with white spirit, we cleaned ourselves up – that blacking gets everywhere! We then rewarded ourselves with a cup of coffee and sat in the sunshine and watched the world and his wife queue for the bottom lock!
Pretty meadow full of poppies and other wild flowers that we passed on the way today.
Queue for Atherstone bottom lock, one in and 3 waiting – Rog decided to do his good deed for the day and went up and helped 2 single handers through the lock. Shortly afterwards our German ‘friends’ on the Anglo Welsh that we encountered yesterday appeared – there were at least nine of them on board, possibly 10! The chap we spoke to yesterday asked Rog why everyone was opening the top paddles only half way at first and he explained about the surges of water that pull the boat backwards and then shoot it forwards. The chap just shrugged and said ‘But you have an engine’. They then proceeded to make a right hash of the lock, forgetting to shut the bottom paddles before opening the top ones, and wondered why they weren’t going up! Did we laugh? Of course not!!!
4.6 miles and 0 locks
An hour or so after setting out this morning, we were at Peel’s Wharf, just short of Fazeley Junction, and needing to fill with water and get rid of rubbish and empty the loo cassettes. There was an Anglo Welsh on the service point, no sign of a water hose or anyone about. In fact they were inside the boat having breakfast. We gave them a couple of hoots of the horn, and Herr Urlauber (holiday-maker) appeared, and informed us that they were waiting for the office to open so they could get a pump out! We pulled alongside and asked if we could go across their boat to do the necessary, and disabused them of the idea of a pump-out. He pointed to the sign which said ‘Strictly no self-pump out here’. I explained that some boaters carried the equipment to pump themselves out, and it meant they couldn’t use the Elsan disposal point to do it. He had assumed, in typical German pedantic fashion, that because he couldn’t do-it-himself, they would do it for him! I don’t think he believed me because he still waited for the office to open and went in and asked. They told him where to go (in more ways than one!). He was slightly dis-chuffed because it meant they had to turn around and re-trace their steps to a nearby boatyard. I sent him back into the office to try to purchase a pump-out card just in case they found that the boatyard had a D-I-Y machine. Bless!!!
At Fazeley Junction we found some unusually tasteful graffiti – makes the change to the misspelt quips you usually see.
We continued on the Coventry past the junction, up the two Glascote Locks and through Amington, and are now moored at Alvecote, opposite the ruined Priory, which is just visible through the trees on the off-side.
After more than 6 weeks on the boat, Ozzy is looking decidedly fluffy – he will definitely need a visit to the groomer as soon as we get back!
6.7 miles and 2 locks
Just after I’d published yesterday’s blog, we had yet another meeting – Ann and Kev, ex of nb 4EverMore, and having bought Carol and George’s nb Roll ‘n Roll, appeared. We moved back a couple of feet so they could squeeze in in front of us. We met them briefly in 2008 when they were showing 4EverMore at Crick, and have read each other’s blogs ever since. We shared tea and biscuits and later, beer, and had a good old chinwag. It was great to get to know them better. It was an altogether most enjoyable day!
This morning we said our goodbyes and headed of down the two locks and onto the Coventry canal.
In Shade House Lock, and it was already promising to be another scorcher of a day
We made a brief stop at Streethay Wharf to fill with diesel and to exchange and empty gas bottle, and they very kindly allowed us to fill the water tank as well. Shortly afterwards we encountered a convoy! 3 boats in front of us travelling at tickover – it took us forever to reach Hopwas.
4th in line – 3 ahead, the first having just disappeared around the bend – you can just see their heads if you look carefully. Now, we don’t travel at a great speed, and if a boat that is obviously travelling faster catches us up, we always move over and let them pass. You’d have thought that the fact that there were 4 boats following closely might have given the lead boat a clue that they were going too slowly, but no, they were oblivious! We had half thought we might carry on to Alvecote today, but by this time we were fed up with the convoy and, as the moorings at Hopwas were empty we decided to stop for the day. The boat 2 ahead of us also stopped, but only for lunch, as did the boat behind us. We repaired to the Tame Otter for lunch and a welcome couple of pints for cider for Rog and Coke for me. That’s another night I don’t have to cook – marvellous!
8.4 miles and 2 locks
No, not the photo, the first comes later – this is sunset over the pig farm on Friday evening!
We left our moorings opposite the pig farm yesterday morning, and, having had a quick stop in Rugeley to pick up a few bits from the new canal-side Tesco, and were surprised to find that we were on our way again by 10.30! Our plan was to stop at Fradley if there was room, but we weren’t holding our breath as it was Saturday and Fradley is usually rammed at the weekend, especially in nice weather. So were were quite prepared that we might have to extend our cruising time a little bit and find somewhere further on.
Soon we were through the narrow confines of the old Armitage tunnel, now roofless, and into the wide stretch past Spode House
Through Armitage and I resisted the urge to take yet another photo of the toilets, and onto the tedious stretch between Armitage and Fradley – it seems to take forever! However, we were glad of the shade of the trees which hem the canal along here as it had become very hot and humid by this time. Eventually we reached Woodend Lock, and were third in the queue to go down. Tail end Charlie, as usual – I helped all the other boats through, but by the time it was our turn, we were all alone. A lovely couple who were getting their ‘canal fix’ helped me open and shut the horrible little gates at the bottom of the lock. They have a share in a boat, but find that they need a fix every few weeks, so they walk the towpaths regularly, helping out where they can.
And now for the ‘first’ – when we rounded the bend with Fradley in front of us, it looked like the visitor moorings above Shade House Lock were full as usual. But as we drew closer we discovered that they were actually nearly empty! In all the years we’ve been boating and the number of times we’ve been through Fradley, we’ve never, EVER been able to moor above the locks. Well, this time we have!
Space for about 3 boats behind us as well – this filled up by evening time, but they all went again this morning.
And very pleasant it is too! So pleasant in fact that we decided to stay today as well. We immediately went to the Swan to celebrate – well, we can’t possibly come through Fradley without a visit to the pub – it would be just too rude! A good decision as it turned out, because it was hissing with rain this morning. At above 11.30 there was a knock on the side hatch and there were Lindsay and Paul (?), who used to own nb Teapot. We met them in Paddington Basin, or at least I did while Rog was in hospital there. They sold the boat a couple of years ago, and are now caravanning. We spent some time catching up on each other’s doings since we last saw each other. Forgot to take a photo though! It was lovely to see you both again.
It’s brightened up now so we’ve had the chairs out, and Ozzy has found a new bezzie mate, a 7 month old orange roan cocker called Harvey – they have had great fun rolling around and chasing each other up and down the towpath.
While we were chatting to Harvey’s owner, another ex-RAF chap, I spotted a very familiar boat coming towards us.
Beacon’s No 8 boat, nb Merryweather, with Les and Susan Merry on board. As soon as we’d finished our chat with Harvey’s owner, we went to the lock and had catch up with Les. Lovely to see them again after so long.
9.2 miles and 1 lock