Sunday, 19 August 2018

Too Early For A Paper. 18th August

Welford to Bridge 60, above Foxton

The pump keeping the dry dock empty luckily didn’t keep us awake last night, we’d kept the bedroom window closed on that side. Soon after we were awake boats started to move. Some coming to the winding hole just to turn, others to fill with water. We were beaten by one boat to the tap, but Mick laid out our two hoses to stake our claim in the queue.

P1380745smA quick tidy up in the galley and then the shopping arrived. We very often get a driver who’s never delivered to a boat before, but this chap was an old hand. He delivers to a couple of boats that are moored in the basin, Yelvertoft and he’s even been to the new marina at North Kilworth. Two things were missing from our shopping, which we’d already been alerted to by email. Birthday cake candles, I found some that would do in the bottom of a drawer, the other thing was our Saturday newspaper! Our shopping had been picked in the early early hours, long before the Saturday papers had arrived. Fortunately there is a shop in Welford where Mick managed to get a copy and some newer looking candles too. Having preburnt candles when you are in your 50 or 60’s isn’t so bad, but on your 12th birthday! I’d have been reported to the authorities for poor Aunt duties.

P1380726smOnce everything was stowed we winded and headed away from the basin. Large signs are on most locks at the moment encouraging boaters to save water. ‘Be prepared to wait’. This is to encourage people to wait if the lock is set against you for a boat coming the other way so as not to waste a lock of water setting it in your favour. However the Welford Arm was originally built as a feeder to the summit pound, bringing water from the nearby reservoirs. Welford lock was set against us, but as water was flowing over the bywash we didn’t feel the need to wait for a boat coming up to fill the lock for us. The bywash carried on flowing as the lock filled so we weren’t lowering the pound above either, just helping the water on it’s way.

P1380746smP1380754smAt the junction we turned right heading towards Foxton. North Kilworth Marina still looks very much a building site, plenty of landscaping to go on and the marina buildings are only partly clad. Harry the Heron was taking advantage of the new entrance as a good vantage point for his fishing.

P1380760smI was glad that NB Paddington Bear was still at the wharf as we passed.

Then on to Husband Bosworth Tunnel. We could make out another boat, but they were heading away from us. Staying within the profile of their boat seemed to be an alien thing to them as we could see arms reaching for the roof. With our big torch pointing up at the roof at the back we get to see alsorts. Today we got to see a couple of giant insects running across the roof, it was quite disconcerting.

P1380765smWe’d been gaining on the other boat, but once through they sped up and disappeared into the distance. With cooking to do I came below and had just turned the gas on when Oleanna went into reverse. We’d slowed right down, we were stopping. It was a bit too soon for our planned lunch stop. Looking out of the hatch I could see the reason why, our path was blocked. NB Queen Bee had slipped it’s moorings and was right across the cut, no getting past. With gas turned off in the galley I held onto Oleanna as Mick used our boat hook to pull the boat back to the side. Their mooring spikes, luckily those with rings, still attached to the ropes, so easy to hammer them back in. Had the boat been poorly moored or had the boat ahead of us gone by at such a lick that the pins had pulled out?

P1380771smAfter a short break for lunch we pushed on to Bridge 60, mooring before the visitor moorings at the top of Foxton Locks. Close to here is a long stay car park which will be handy for the London Leckenbys tomorrow. We may spend the afternoon being gongoozlers at the locks, who knows. But one thing is for sure Josh has the most chocolatiest chocolate cake I’ve ever made ready to celebrate his 12th birthday.

DSCF7114sm1 lock, 8.69 miles, 1 wind, 1 right, 1 tunnel, 0 newspaper, 8 used candles, 20 new candles, 1 newspaper, 1 rescued boat, 3 hours freedom, 2 layered gf chocolate fudge cake, 16 gf boat biscuits, 1 vat of ragu sauce ready for tomorrow, 4 groundrows painted.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Going Backwards To Go Forwards. 17th August

Houdini’s Field to Crick to Welford Wharf

P1380690smA couple of days ago we had placed an order with Shoes for Crews for some new shoes.  They make work wear shoes with very good grippy soles which are great for wet surfaces. The other good thing about them is that Mick’s feet don’t manage to burrow their way out of them within six months which is a rarity as he wears them every day all day. Yesterday we’d had notification that they had arrived at Crick Post Office, the parcel was likely to be quite large so we wanted to pick it up sooner rather than later. So as soon as breakfast was packed away we pootled the half mile to bridge 28 to wind so that we could return to Crick.

P1380681smI was on mooring duties only today, trying to get a second good days model painting under my belt. If the set I was designing was a house or something a little bit abstract say then I’d have long finished painting the model, but this just seems to be taking forever! It doesn’t help when I change my mind about what colour to paint things. Slowly and steadily I’ll get it done, I’m quite pleased with the pieces I’ve finished, there just needs to be more of them!

P1380717smMick pootled us back to Crick, waving as we passed Lillian at Yelvertoft. The space nearest to the bridge was free so we tied up and Mick headed to the Post Office for our shoes and some locally grown beans for our evening meal. A little early for lunch, but as we were stopped it made sense before we winded and headed back the way we’d come. We’ll be back next week as there will be a yarn order arriving for a custom order from my Etsy shop, shame the lady hadn’t got in touch a day earlier as more than likely it would have arrived by today.

A boat was just turning out of the marina main entrance as we wanted to reverse up to the nearest one to us to wind, so we waited for it to slowly come past. This gave me chance to see if I could spot NB Blackbird sitting in the ABNB pool outside the office. She was just visible behind a couple of other boats, her bow button fender and pram cover giving her location away. When the way was clear we reversed and winded and were on our way again.

The afternoon passed quickly along the summit pound. Plenty of moored boats to slow for and plenty going the opposite way. Passing moving boats makes Oleanna list quite badly in shallow water. Mick slows us down but others on their lighter boats keep moving at speed, I don’t think they realise just what effect this has on deeper droughted boats. One chap had a breaking wash as he passed us, causing a five drawer moment and I picked up my water pot as a precautionary measure.

P1380701smAs we rounded one bend Mick opened up the rear hatch and told me to take a look out of the side. Fixed to a roof of a boat were two scaff poles which both had guide ropes, suspended between them was a very large hammock with a chap laying in it. It looked rather comfy, but a bit of a contraption to set up, bet they don’t move everyday.

P1380704smP1380712smKeeping an eye on our trip computer I counted down the bridges to Welford Junction. A boat coming the other way just beat us to the junction and turned up towards Welford where a mile further up the lock sat empty waiting for them. I hopped off and helped them through, the lady staying to lend a hand with the gates for us, chance for a chat. They are killing time until they can move onto their mooring in North Kilworth Marina, which is still going to open soon (this has been the case for years!). Apparently they booked their space over a year ago and were told that the marina would be open late last year, the latest date is September this year. However there are still not many pontoons with electric to them. I got the feeling that by Sunday there would be one more pontoon powered up just for them.

P1380714smThey elected to wind and moor near the lock whereas we carried on. Our memory was hazy as to whether there was space to wind at the end, we could remember facing the way we’d come, but not where we’d winded last time. Nicholsons shows one winding hole before the basin, but Waterways Routes shows the one at the end by the water point and pub as well. The two spaces right by the pub were taken, but we got the nearest mooring by the winding hole which will do us for a delivery in the morning (we have a birthday to cater for over the weekend).

DSCF7121sm1 lock, 17.32 miles, 2 winds, 1 reverse, 1 right,1 big parcel, 2 pairs new shoes, 2 pairs to be thrown away to make space, 500 grams beans,1 Grubberie backing, 2 tables, 4 chairs, 1 gin palace finished, 2.5 hours nowhere near as good as yesterday.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

At Home In Crick. 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th August

Cracks Hill to Crick to Tilly’s Houdini’s Field

The last few days the weather has returned to normal English Summer. Overcast and at times rainy, thank goodness, I have to say I prefer the lower temperatures.

P1380574snP1380579snI’ve been working most days, gradually working my way through a box of set pieces. The box contents still seem very pale, there’s a lot more painting still to do.

On Saturday evening we were glad that we’d moved out of the village. Lots of gazebos had been set up at the marina and we guessed that it might be the moorers summer barbecue. It was, even with the constant downpour it sounded like everyone was having a jolly good time. Our mooring was half a mile away, but we could still join in and sing along with the music.

P1380566smSunday evening we met up with Lizzie and Gary, heading to The Wheatsheaf for a meal. Their Sunday roasts are meant to be good, but sadly as it was the end of a busy day there was only one left. Lizzie and I opted for the nearest thing on the menu, Belly Pork whilst the boys had beef fajitas and gammon and chips. All very nice finished off with puddings all round. There was lots to catch up on as it’s only a few weeks since Lizzie and Gary returned from a two week cruise up the Thames on NB Panda. They had moved her over to Cropredy in advance of their trip and had planned on leaving her there on their way back for a few weeks, but because of low water levels they legged it all the way back to Crick instead and got Panda back on her mooring. Quite a few long hot days.

P1380588smP1380592smIMG_20180813_160802996smIt just so happens that our friends Bridget and Storm were arriving on NB Blackbird this week. One of those coincidences that was meant to happen. On Monday afternoon the curly ears of a familiar black springer spaniel appeared in our side hatch Bridget followed soon afterwards. They had arrived in the village during the day and were moored towards the tunnel where mobile signal is very poor if any, so she’d decided to walk Max over Cracks Hill to find us. Plans for a meal out at The Moorings were made for Tuesday.

P1380610smSo on Tuesday morning we winded and returned towards the village mooring quite near the main entrance to Crick marina, this gives Tilly plenty of space to explore not too close to the busy road bridge. There were parcels to pick up from the post office and a bit of shopping needed. At the water point a familiar green boat was moored, NB Alchemy. Neil Stuttle was busy working away on the bow, but we couldn’t see anyone else to say hello to.

P1380612smIn the evening we walked down to meet up with Bridget and Storm. Crick feels like home to us all, a familiar friendly place we have all got to know through the years. Mick and I started off our journey four years ago here and when we pulled out of the marina on NB Lillyanne (Lillian), NB Blackbird was waiting for us, this is when The Wasp was formed. So it was only right that we were here for their last night on board Blackbird. We had a nice meal at the Moorings. Have to say that Mick and I remembered the menu being more extensive than it was and they do not cater for those with food allergies, a little disappointing. Having said that what we had was very nice and we had a lovely evening, finished off with a couple more glasses of wine on Oleanna.

On a previous occasion there was mention of doing the Ribble Link together, which happened last summer. On this occasion there was mention of exploring the Irish Waterways, I think that after our fourth glass of wine we agreed! So watch this space.

P1380614smThis morning we walked down the towpath to say our final farewell to NB Blackbird. Bridget and Storm were pulling her along towards the water point but had just been beaten to it by boats coming from the tunnel. Time for one last photo before they emptied their belongings into their car and handed the keys over to ABNB for her to go on brokerage. Big hugs all round, a sad day. Their next adventure is already on the horizon in the form of a maroon motorcaravan. So we’ll be expecting those black curly ears to pop through the side hatch again, they will have just arrived by road not by water next time.

P1380618smA parcel hadn’t arrived at the post office, so we shall have to return in the next couple of days. We reversed back past the marina entrance and then pulled in to fill the diesel tank. Since we were last here there is a new Harbour Master, we’d met him at Cropredy a couple of years ago. A very jolly chap who has brightened the marina back up after a year of it being in the doldrums. It was nice to see Him and Her in the office even if the diesel was a touch on the dear side.

P1380621smIn the past we would have waited for a lull in the wind across the marina (we’ve met all sorts of people when Lillian got blown the full length of the marina!) but today with bow thrusters reversing and turning out was easy. We then turned northwards and headed towards Yelvertoft.

P1380633smPassing Yelvertoft Marina we kept our eyes peeled. We needn’t have really because very soon we could see Lillian glowing on her mooring. Minus her pram cover she looked in good order from what we could see. Wouldn’t it be funny if once NB Blackbird is sold she ends up mooring at Yelvertoft next to Lillian, the owners wouldn’t know their past.

P1380643smThere was a boat loitering in a bridge hole, they kept looking over their shoulders and then at us. What had they lost? As we got closer they moved towards us and warned us that we’d be coming across three boats. The front boat was towing the second which had broken down. This was then attached to a third boat which they were using as a break when needed. Luckily we’d got through the bridge before they came round a bend and we managed to hold back for them to pass.

P1380649smA short distance on was our chosen mooring for the day. Houdini’s Field. As soon as the trip computer was off the doors were opened and Tilly and I went to have a look at the field. The crop had recently been harvested leaving the golden stubble. Tilly had a good shout at it all.

P1380655smIt is great here! Trees, sideways trees, friendly cover, someone though had stolen the tall grass that was here last time. That was fun I could pounce around to my hearts content, jumping high enough just to clear the grass before landing on top of an unsuspecting friend. The grass was short and spiky, but it did mean I could see any friends much easier.

P1380661_MomentsmThere was a really good boat too. It had a low roof and was all made of wood, very handy for sharpening my claws. I think it should be Tilly’s field, but she won’t change it’s name!

black pawDSCF7121sm0 locks, 5.3 miles, 1 wind, 2 reverses, 1 left, 3 rights, 2 meals out, 1 cottage, 1 final bye bye to Blackbird, 54 litres, 2 parcels, 1 still not arrived, 1 empty gas bottle, 4 days of part time work, 3 boats all in a line, 1 favourite mooring, 1 name not changing, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Seventeenth 11th August

Welton Hythe to Cracks Hill

P1380505smP1380510smWe pushed of at around 10am today, there was a newspaper to get, we couldn’t dawdle. This is the first time we’ve have been here in August and despite the recent dry weather the whole of the surroundings to the canal are so fat and green. Along one stretch there are quite sizable trees growing between the path on the towpath and the cut, you’d be hard pressed if you had to bow haul your boat along here. The closed Thai Restaurant is almost invisible behind all the growth in the garden and the very weepy willow trees. It’s normally a sad sight.

One boat had come past us this morning so we hoped there wouldn’t be too much of a queue when we reached Watford and we were pleasantly surprised at being the only boat. With a walkie talkie in hand I walked up the flight reaching the staircase before I met a volunteer lockie to book in. He said we could start our way up as we’d be following the boat he was with. Had we been through before? They always ask this, yes we think it’s our 17th time. I radioed down to Mick and he started to set the bottom lock. As it was ready for us a boat appeared behind us and the chap walked up the flight to book himself in.

P1380517smWe worked through the bottom two locks as one of the lockies emptied the bottom chamber of the staircase, open gates awaited us.

P1380519smP1380527smChatting to the chaps they made sure we were aware that both Watford and Foxton will be closed overnight from Monday to help with levels. Apparently there are still problems with water levels down towards Leicester, when we came through last year there were chaps letting water down all the time and that was before the several dry months of this summer! The Lockie today told me that they have to run water down from Foxton every night to cope with the falling levels below. He said that they pump water up from the river at Stoke Bruern, then water is pumped up the flight at Long Buckby followed by being pumped up at Watford. Of course during the day all the pumped water gets used by boats travelling up and down the flights of locks, so restricting passages means the pumps can work to raise levels when the locks are closed. That’s 40 miles from the river to the bottom of Foxton and another 7.5 miles to where the chaps were letting water down last year.

P1380531smP1380535smOur passage up was easy and by the time we were almost up the top of the staircase boats were arriving to come down, a line of three by the time they got started. We pulled over to fill the water tank and I helped myself to some Tarragon and Sage being grown alongside the top lock in sinks. A very healthy herb garden.

P1380538smIn the hut at the top Mick found some old instructions on how to use the locks. Blimey! So glad it’s colour coded now.

P1380542smOnwards to Crick Tunnel where we donned our waterproofs. As the bow entered the tunnel we could see that the light must have been nudged since yesterday, it was pointing to port and would blind any on coming boat. Nothing for it but to adjust it, I passed through the cabin and swivelled it to starboard before we carried on.

P1380553smMick thought the rain from yesterday wouldn’t have percolated through to the tunnel yet, but I was certain that the north end would be wet, it always is. I was correct, glad we’d warned a new boat owner to put his coat on before he got there. Part way through we could hear shouting from inside. Tilly wasn’t happy, Not happy?! I was NOT happy at ALL!! She is normally alright going through tunnels as the cabin lights are on, but for some reason she spent the next fifteen minutes shouting either out of the bathroom window or at the back door. Nothing much we could do other than get through to the other end and hope she’d calm down.

P1380556smBack in the sunshine the noise from inside disapated and we made our way to moor opposite the marina. We decided to keep Tilly in for a while to help her calm down, I was calm now, the outside had got light again. But no matter how many head nudges and licks I gave her she wasn’t going to let me out. So not fare, Tom got to go out!

P1380562smP1380565smMick cycled to the Post Office and checked they do Post Restante, which they do for any parcels we might want. But they didn’t have our newspaper, so he carried on to the Co-op where he succeeded. After lunch we decided to go a little bit further and see if the mooring at Cracks Hill was free. Here there is better internet and phone signal than back near the village along with rings to tie to. Contact has been made with our friend Lizzie and plans are afoot to meet up. We may also meet up with other friends whilst we’re in the area too, but now we have reached the long pound I have to knuckle down to work again.

DSCF7114sm7 locks, 4 of which are a staircase, 1 tunnel passing 1 with 0 mysterons, 7 day old boat owner, 1 tunnel light refocus, 2 moorings, 2nd shop lucky, 1 clean pooh box, 1 full water tank, 2 lots of herbs, 17th time through Watford, 1 calmed down cat, 1 better bell, 4 hours at last!

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Soggy Socks 10th August

Dunchurch Pools to Welton Hythe Marina

P1380384smThe temperature certainly has dropped and we woke to rain, constant rain. This is good as even more of the system is going onto night closures in the next week and now the eastern end of the Leeds Liverpool Canal is due to close, leaving the twenty mile long pound at Skipton lock bound for the foreseeable future. So any rain is good. We literally dusted off our waterproofs tops and bottoms and pushed off to cruise the three miles to Braunston.

P1380408smP1380398smA farmer rounded up his sheep as Swallows had a great feast under trees on the canal bank.  They swooped and dived and swerved to avoid Oleanna as we passed.

P1380415smThe first glimpse of Braunston spire (BANGERS!), we were nearly there. Our hope had been that arriving in the morning we’d find a mooring easily. Braunston is a popular place, the start of the Grand Union heading south to London and the Thames, the south Oxford heading to Oxford and the Thames, routes to the River Soar and Leicester, towards Hatton Locks to Warwick Leamington Spa and Birmingham. Because of this there are a lot of marinas in the area, therefore lots of boats.

P1380427smWe were lucky as we pulled round the bends to find the customer mooring at Midland Chandlers free right opposite Braunston Turn. Here the two arched bridges span the junction towards the South Oxford and very pretty they are too. Midland Chandlers didn’t have a Vetus fuse for our bow thruster. It hasn’t blown again, it’s worked fine since Finesse put a new fuse in, we just want to have a spare at hand. So we disposed of our rubbish mountain and then found a mooring.

P1380430smP1380432smWe walked up into the village past the church the day was starting to dry out now and I slightly regretted leaving on my waterproof trousers, gradually getting sweaty knees. There are a lot of properties for sale in the village, The Shambles being the prettiest and most expensive at £750,000.

P1380438smFirst port of call the butchers for some bangers. Several other things also went into our shopping bag including a caramelised onion pork pie, some burgers, a couple of pork steaks and some veg. The freezer would be slightly fuller and all we should really need for a couple of weeks is bread milk and fresh fruit and veg.

Then we headed to the bottom lock to Wharf House Chandlers. They didn’t have the fuse we were after either but did have a filter and some new fender hooks as we’ve broken a couple recently. Time for lunch and then make our minds up whether to cruise on today or not. The weather reports suggested that there would be more rain this afternoon, but not until 4pm, so enough time to get up Braunston Locks. The cratch was rolled up ready, waterproofs close to hand should we need them and we pushed off.

P1380460smThe bottom lock was full, so we decided to wait for another boat to either come down or for a boat to join us to go up, doing our bit to save water. A boat appeared behind us and kept coming towards the lock, I walked up and zoomed my camera to the next lock and could see bottoms sitting on the back of a couple of boats, we were following. So I set the lock for us and NB Ottawa who had four on board so plenty of crew to get us up the flight. It was sunny and warm, no need for jumpers now. Well until a very big black cloud made it’s way towards us, it was only 3pm.

P1380471smP1380474smDrops of rain, we were following four boats up. The waterproofs were handed out and I’d head on up to the next lock to set it for us. I think it was about lock 3 that the heavens really opened up, rumbles of thunder, fork lightening on the hills. Mick even lifted up the pram cover for a bit of shelter. No matter what clothing you were wearing you were going to get soaked. Up ahead there was a hire boat sitting in a lock, water pouring over the bottom gates. I popped up to see if they were okay, they were waiting for another boat to join them from the lock above. Wise, except that boat was already sharing so a full locks worth of water headed over the bywash and the gates as they waited to be joined, the other boat then had to wait their turn. By the time we reached the fifth lock everyone was soaked, but in good spirits and the sun came back out and made everything steam.

P1380475smP1380496smWe kept our coats on and headed into the tunnel. We thought there were two boats heading our way, but only passed one, the other one was either a kid with a torch or it vaporised before we met it. Luckily we passed north of the big kink so no new scrapes on the gunnels. As we emerged from the dark the sun was streaming down through the tree cover. Works are on going near Norton Junction with a long length of armco going in, so no mooring there yet. We turned left and made our way to Welton Hythe, passing NB Happy Daze (another boat who won’t recognise us now) with a very colourful bow. Our usual mooring opposite the marina was free so we pulled in a tied up for the day.

P1380498smWaterproofs were nearly dry but shoes most certainly weren’t, meaning very soggy socks. Once a warming shower had been had I popped some nice cosy socks on. The lamb steaks I’d planned to barbecue went in the oven with some roasted new potatoes, helping to warm up the boat and put us off lighting the stove.

DSCF7114sm6 locks, 1 straight on, 1 left, 1 tunnel passing 1 with 2 mysterons, 1 wet morning, 1 torrential downpour, 8 Braunston Bangers, 2 pork steaks, 1 ring black pudding, 2 burgers, 1 pork pie, 10 new potatoes, 4 carrots, 2 pints milk, 2 fender hangers, 1 filter, 0 fuse, 2 hours curtailed, 1 cat home and locked in by 7pm!