Thursday, 18 September 2014

Maintenance and mates

Yesterday at Cosgrove was a boat maintenance day for us both after a lie in and late breakfast.

David did boat housework, so the inside looked spic and span – all while still in his dressing gown – very suburban, I thought.

I scraped down, sanded and treated the little bits of surface rust on starboard side of the boat. Strangely, there are far fewer on the starboard side than on the port side. Most of it was on the roof in the channel made by the handrail. There was a significant amount of surface rust though on the roof either side of the starboard slider rail for the top hatch – that isn’t surprising really as the hatch is off centre and the starboard side is lower than the port side of it. The paint had flaked so was easy to get off totally.

Previously I’ve used the scraper on the business end of the wirebrush but yesterday I got out the scrapers I’d bought in Macclesfield – much more effective, with better scraping ability and much more purchase for my hands – made scraping much easier. I also find that the sanding blocks are better than paper – easier to handle, fewer bumpings of my knuckles and my hands don’t ache. My hands do however get filthy with dark blue paint dust as well as Firtan which I have taken to wiping on with the ubiquitous blue paper towel that we bought in Midland Chandlers – it is cheaper that paper towels from the supermarket and looks proper butch! However using it to apply the Firtan is a bit girlie, I think.

I had washed off the worst of it all when there was a tooting behind us. Out I went to see Jaq and Les about to come past. An invitation for a cuppa was called for so they stopped, ‘just for a few minutes’ (yeah, right) and stayed for well over an hour, drinking tea, eating gingernuts and the remains of the chocolate brownie, swapping recipes, laughing. Jaq and I left Les and David to chat among themselves while she took me to see the composting toilet – we are going to get one as the ROI is positive over a 4 year period for 5 months of each year based on a pumpout every 2 weeks. Are you impressed with the business casing done for this purchase? (D & I have agreed it is a higher priority than a solid fuel stove.) David and Les were then down in their engine bay for some reason and discovered much water – a leaking stern gland. Because David appeared carrying our hand pump, I think I can be safe in assuming the guys pumped out most of it so they weren't transporting the canal from one place to another ...

The upshot of the visit was that we are meeting up today at one of their secret moorings (if I tell you, I’ll have to kill you) and we are having dinner on their boat. See, we were originally going to have dinner with them tonight, but we all thought we’d cancelled that because of dinner together two nights in a row between Grafton Regis and Yardley Gobion earlier this week. But Jaq and I were having such a good conversation we decided it needed to be continued – Dale Spender, women’s studies, reflecting men at twice their natural size (Virginia Woolf) … David and Les will not be emotionally safe tonight, but they will be well fed. I guess they can't have everything …
Speaking of which, this photo from the other night shows Les looking scared (he has his neck scrunched to expose it less to my rabbit punch possibly) and I'm not even touching him! He's not that much shorter than me, but he is on his knees for some reason I cannot remember ...
David and I went to the Barley Mow in Cosgrove for dinner last night – the food was lovely and the chardonnay was OK. We crossed the canal through the horse tunnel which has a decided dip in its roof.
It is only just higher than me

I am not sure of it was built skew wiff for a reason - I did wonder about the horse harnesses being on one side or another but the horses would have traversed it in both directions

You can see the dip in the roof part way through

Today I have to replenish the cupboards at Tescos at Wolverton – Barry and Pauline arrive tomorrow night, so plenty of food, nibbles and booze required. We plan to work them hard so need to feel and water them well!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

New friends, old friends

Another gap in the blogging – my apologies, dear readers. It has been a busy, well occupied few days. Here we are at Wednesday and I finally have space to create, I mean: report.

On the Sunday morning at Bugbrooke we had an email from Jaq Biggs saying they were moored near Yardley Gobion, so I was keen to go and find them. We had arranged to have dinner with them this Thursday but I thought a surprise arrival would be a good idea - it’s the NZer in me, I guess … So we started off quite early – partly to get through the Blisworth Tunnel before there was much traffic – it’s two way and the only hassle I find with boats coming towards me is the brightness of their headlights makes for an uncomfortable passage – trying to see the right hand side of the tunnel right beside me to keep off the wall, while the light coming towards me is rather blinding. In spite of an early start (7am) in the lovely mist that feels and looks quite different from that I experience in NZ (where it generally seems to have the sun partially discernible above it), we arrived at the tunnel at about 9am. I had been a bit spooked to read the evening before that Blisworth is ~3000 years long – longer than Harecastle, not the lonest on the system, but the longest we will do as I won’t be doing Standedge at 3 miles, thank you!

The Blisworth was OK – it is high and wide, although the original brick is dark and so even though our headlight is powerful, it didn’t seem to illuminate it much. Reminded me of the Homer Tunnel in the South Island on the way to Milford Sound – when we drove that back in 2001 it had no lighting and driving into it from the bright outside light was a plunge into darkness and initially terrifying as my headlights seemed to have no effect! Well, Blisworth wasn’t THAT bad, but the vague similarity did strike me … David got our big torch out and arranged it on the stern cover so it shone on the wall just in front of me to my right. That helped a lot, as it kept me aware of the relative positions of the boat and the wall, and it also – fortuitously – was aimed just at the right height for me to be able to see the metre markers as we passed them. While the tunnel is over 3000 yards it is measured inside in metres and is just over 2800 of them. The signs are every 100m, and went up to 1400, and a few metres (I was going to say yards …) further on there was another 1400m sign. Confused me, but only momentarily, mind; until I realised that we had reached halfway and were now counting down – quite a reassuring feeling, all in all. We didn’t meet anyone coming towards us but David told me there was someone following. I couldn’t hear them, so they were a fair way behind. The big torch gave out about two thirds of the way through but the trusty torch app on the i-phone came into play and did a sterling job although David did have to hold it.

We had decided against stopping for long at Stoke Bruerne as it was bound to be busy – there was a Village at War event on that weekend. A couple of hundred yards (see I am back to imperial measures again) there were loads of boats moored, and as we came into Stoke Bruerne, they were breasted up and the passage through was quite narrow. One guy told me the gap was the same size as the tunnel and in daylight, but my reply was that may be the case, but in the tunnel I wasn’t in public view and not in danger of hitting old and valuable boats whose owners would be very stern if I did so. Well, that’s what I wanted to say, but I was concentrating too hard to turn and look at him for long enough to get that out. So the reply was in my head – one of those silent ripostes …

It was lovely seeing people dressed in wartime fashions with appropriate hairstyles and men in uniform, people cycling on old sit-up-and-beg bikes (the best kind – no sore bum or neck); I even saw Winston Churchill complete with bowler hat and cigar! Although I doubt he ever came to Stoke Bruerne – but he did spend a lot of time at Bletchley Park so maybe he did. Unlikely though as it could have given away clues about Bletchley’s existence.

The top lock at Stoke Bruerne - I remember Kirsty doing this one watched by myriads of schoolkids back in 1990
We came through the first couple of locks on our own and moored up to have some lunch. We then shared the rest of the locks with Mike and Ethel on Blue on Blue. Ethel and I drove into them side by side – lovely fun and quick. At the bottom, we filled with water, I sloshed a couple of buckets of water to get the leaves and dust off the channels on the roof sides as I was planning possibly to do some rustproofing or priming, and then on we went on our mission to find nb Valerie.

Success!! We pulled up in front of them on a lovely quiet stretch and finally we met the people I have been reading of for the last year or so and emailing with for the last couple of weeks. Cups of tea, much chat and laughter, games of bananagrams (sp?) for Jaq and me (we can talk and play), David and Les inspected the composting toilet (we are definitely going to get one!), we discussed the vagaries of the English language as she is spoke by various colonials and the English themselves in all their variations, and then had an impromptu meal together – stuffed baked potatoes (J), green beans (J) and a salad (M) followed by gf pikelets (M) and blackberry compote (J) with yoghurt (M). Yummy. Plus wine and Elderflower and lime cider.
I think Jaq had just read something by Bill Bryson (Notes from a Small Island) to us about how the English give directions ...

New friends

I think Les may have been a bit perturbed at how stroppy Jaq and I are together ...

The next day we invited them for dinner on our boat, so they kindly changed their plans to move on to Cosgrove for water and stayed on. We don’t take all the credit for the change of mind – it did start to rain … It also stopped and I went out to collect blackberries. In a space of about 600 yards, I collected 3lb 4oz – and that was only the ones from 2ft above the ground (above dog pee height) and below 6ft (probably about how high I can reach). I had gone out with my rainjacket on and thought about taking it off as the sun came out and I was very hot. But it protected my arms from blackberry thorns, hawthorns and nettles.

Back to the boat and time to make dinner. I mixed a chocolate brownie as part of dessert and Jaq cooked it in her oven – the last time I cooked one I wanted to throw it in the cut as the top crisped up but the inside wouldn’t cook even though I left it in for ages. David ate it with a spoon straight from the cake-tin … Jaq calls the ovens generally found in narrowboats Barbie camp ovens and I know what she means when it comes to cakes! I can do mean cheese scones (Ministry of Food recipe, just the best), great toad in the hole and Yorkshires but the chocolate brownie failure knocked my confidence. I will have to give it another try though – cannot be put off like that! Les had been for a walk to Yardley Gobion to buy wine. The main was chicken with lemon and tarragon (usually lime but we didn’t have any left) with crunchy potato roasties and carrots with poppy seeds. Dessert included the brownie (beautifully cooked, thanks, Jaq) with blackberry compote and yoghurt. We tried setting the world to rights after dinner but I don’t think we succeeded. However it will do alright or (more likely) not, without our input, so I think we agreed we were better to keep boating and avoid the news and stress that it brings.

David and I were leaving early yesterday to get water at Cosgrove and meet up with Lesley, her dad and a friend over from Canada. A good piece of coordination as they could park right next to the cut. On the way down, the bread was rising and then cooking (I had stopped the boat on a straight section and come in to mix the flour into the yeast mixture and put it in the tins to rise). Prior to Lesley’s arrival, we had pulled up just short of the waterpoint as we couldn’t see clearly exactly where it was and there were boats and fishermen. David held the boat as I walked round the corner. Who should have just pulled up at the waterpoint but Mike and Ethel on Blue on Blue. So I brought the boat round, we had a chat and I tottered off (I did have the granny trolley) to the shop that is in the caravan park also next to the cut. It’s only open April to October, so I need to remember that if we are here outside those times.
I think we may explore this on foot today - it is spooky crossing it on the boat and looking over the side without the railing - the boat deck is level with the side of the caisson ...

With the new crew on board, having made them use the toilet at the service block, we headed down the lock, then stopped for cheese scones, which I had prepared for morning tea – however by the time they arrived, we did the lock and moored up it was 1pm. then on to Milton Keynes. David prepared a very late lunch of tuna mousse – we stopped and ate that on the side of the canal at Stanton Low. So lunch was actually more of a high tea at 4pm. We had planned on dropping them off and having them cab back to Cosgrove but decided we would turn and cruise back to there. It was lovely in the late afternoon sunlight and still so warm! Dessert of blackberry crumble and yoghurt when we moored up and then off they went back to Crosland.

We have now made our plans for the rest of our time onboard so I wonder how many times we will change them in the next 12 days??? Changed plans have been a feature of our 4.5 months onboard – some through necessity for getting repairs/changes made, and some through choosing to do different things. Just a few days ago we had decided we would race (as much as you can in a narrowboat) south to Slapton and then meander back. Now we have decided to take it much easier. So today we may well stay put at Cosgrove or just move a short way down towards Milton Keynes again. We’ll meet Barry and Pauline on Friday night in Milton Keynes and then head south on Saturday, back on Sunday to drop them off for their return to London. Then on up we will come again on a leisurely trip back towards Barby. Hopefully we have our friends Neil and Neill coming from Cornwall to stay with us next weekend and we can work them hard through locks and tunnels …

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Braunston to Bugbrooke

Today has been great!

We started off at about 8.30am and made our way through the Braunston tunnel – it is 2 boats wide, with good roof height and, at 2042 yards, is  shorter than the 2926 yards of the Harecastle. So none of the collywobbles I feel in that one.

At Norton junction we stopped to wait for two boats coming up the locks, and along the towpath going as fast as her legs would carry her, was Lyndsay from nb Edna May. We had met her and Steve at Alrewas, the second time we had to get RCR out (that bl**dy huge alternator shaking loose the little nut that held the arm to make the starter motor work), and we’d seen them again early one morning, moored up, still in bed – well not for long, as I tooted and Lyndsay looked out the window and waved.

Hopefully we will see them when we make our way back towards Barby – Lyndsay has promised cake! I have told her I love cherry cake, chocolate cake, coffee cake – my hopes are up! It was great to see them this morning – Steve came along too and helped open the gate for David.

We shared the 7 Buckby locks with two couples on a Diamond boat: Tony and Kay, Neil and Bev. (Tony and Neil are brothers.) Tony steered and the rest of the crew were lockwheeling the current lock and David went ahead and set the next one if there were no boats coming or helped boaters up and got them ready for us. Tony and I decided after the first one that we would give it a try going in at the same time (breasted up without being tied). It was a runaway success so we did it for the rest of them. It saves so much time and it’s fun and feels great when it works! Fortunately, Neil ran ahead at one point and filmed our approach and entry into one of the locks – when he sends it to me, I will attach a link.

Below one lock was a young man on his boat, and he was drifting across the cut – he said he had lost his hooks and pins and only had one chain to attach him to the Armco. David was quite concerned and thought he was a bit doolally, certainly not that safe to be on the boat alone really. After we left the gates open for two boats exiting the lock below us, David came back to see if he could help him. The guy didn’t want to move so he could use the middle and front ropes, or just the middle rope and keep tight against the side. So David left him to it, turning down the offer to lend him a chain (when did he think he’d be able to return it?), and as David came back towards us, the guy unhooked his front rope, and with two boats int he middle of the pound approaching the locks, into the lock he went – smack bang in the middle, then lots of faffing to get to one side, threw his rope up, went up the ladder, and waited for one of the other boats to nudge him and hold his boat against the side. We lost sight of him after that, but were a bit worried. There was no boat name, and Tony noted that the boat number was not on the side we could see. So if you are in/near Braunston and you see this young man, can you make sure he is OK and now has purchased chains or pins?

We stopped for water near Weedon Bec (aren’t these place names just the bomb?) and it was a long wait – two boats in the queue before us. So I got the undercoat out and now the acne is white. It is good to use the spare minutes during the day for these tasks as by the time we moor up for the day, I am past getting on to maintenance really. We had lunch while we waited as well (slowish tap) but the wait could have been longer except that the guy filling just before us came and suggested we use the second tap (we had abstained because two taps equals half the flow) as they have a 1200 litre tank!!! and it could take another half hour for them to complete. We each showered to make sure we were clean before re-filling – helps with monitoring the amount of water we have available onboard and how long we can go without refilling – nothing like 1200 litres capacity tho!

We came past Nether Heyford (another yummy name) and are now moored quite close to Bugbrooke (see what I mean?) I remember Bugbrooke from our first ever narrowboating holiday back in 1990 with the kids and my Aunt Daphne. I am looking forward to walking into the village on our way back to Barby in a week or so.

Dinner is ready to cook – toad in the hole, brown onion sauce, potatoes, cabbage with ginger, carrots. So best I go and get it done – David can’t help as he is loading (after the horse has bolted) the OS maps on to my phone. I am now mapped from Slapton to Whaley Bridge. Well done, the IT department, I say … 

Tony, Kay, Bev and Neil just came past. I invited them in for a drink - too late! They are already have the bottles out!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Double locks - yay!

Today I started with excellent intentions of doing an oil change – how hard can it be? I thought to myself.  Instructions in the engine manual said to warm the engine and then pump the oil out, then add more oil, put the lid on and off you trot. So, engine on, equipment at the ready: a milk bottle to pump the oil into, large plastic bowl to empty milk bottle into, paper towels by the score. Down into the engine bay I go, and start pumping (having turned off the engine, naturally). And after 2 minutes of getting about 5 drops (well, 2 or 3 tbsp) into the milk bottle and getting extremely hot next to a still hot engine, I called it quits.

We phoned and arranged an oil change at JD Marine in Braunston. A very good 20 quids’ worth we thought. We have decided that marine services people are good at oil changes – that’s part of their job. Our job is to keep the economy moving. I know, it's hardly the way that real boaters operate, but there has to be diversity, don't you agree?

So a walk to Midland Chandlers where we got 10% discount because the guy remembered us from our shopping at Mercia MC a few months a go. I have bought boat shampoo, polish and wax – all separate containers so none of this combination stuff. I am too scared to do that as I am unsure of the effects on the paint. Boats seem to be SO sensitive, unlike any car I’ve ever had. We are very infrequent washers of cars, so this habit of keeping a boat in spotless condition doesn’t come naturally to either of us. (I washed the boat yesterday, both sides, but only with warm water and a microfibre cloth, and dried with handtowels.) Penny at Barby yesterday thought boat cleaning would be a good venture for an enterprising bunch of Polish people – just like the fabulous car wash garages they have at various places around the UK. Imagine how clean the boats would be and how fast it would be done! We used a car cleaning service at Leatherhead a few years ago and it was amazing. At home in NZ, unless it’s a fundraiser where actual people do the job, the car washes on offer are the machines at service stations. Fun to drive through, but not necessarily hugely effective.

We have ascended the Braunston Locks with a lovely crew of four on Josephine II and we are now moored up before the tunnel. We were both too tired to contemplate the tunnel today so will be up bright and early to get through it. We are on a bit of a mission as we have been invited to dinner with Jaq and Les on nb Valerie, so we have to catch them up somewhere in the next few days!

Chardonnay and cider (elderflower and lime) o'clock. See ya!

The perils of going walking

Well, how scary was that?! We set off for a walk on Thursday evening following a path David had found on an OS map. A lovely walk across green fields, harrowed fields, beside lots of blackberries (the biggest I’ve seen so far, and where was my plastic bag, I ask? Not with me, that is certain). We ate as many as we could so they didn’t go to waste, and then David says ‘damn, my phone has cut out – no charge on it.’ He checked my phone but I don’t have the OS maps loaded (failure of the IT dept, I think), so we had to wing it. On we walked, took a left turn and headed to the canal again, which is out of sight but we knew was down the hill somewhere. By this time, the two chardonnays and two ciders had worn off and we were sober and following our noses. We got to the canal, took a left turn across the bridge and headed along the towpath. At this point we realised we didn’t know the bridge number we had moored before (and crossed to start the walk across fields). We came to two plastic boats that we were both sure we had moored just after. Is our boat on that bend? NO, IT BLOODY ISN’T! So on we walk with me getting more and more stressed that someone has nicked our boat – thoughts running through my head ‘did we take the tiller handle off and the key out?’ (We have left them in place before and gone away for over an hour …) On we went through more bridges and around several corners, trying to identify features we recalled from the cruise down and things that we definitely didn’t walk past, with discussions about isosceles triangles and their relationship to the shape of the walk... Eventually, after after I’d had to pee beside the cut as I had primed myself for a much shorter walk back, I sighted the boat at the beginning of the Armco that we really had moored up on, and there in the distance was Waka Huia. Phew!!

Notes to selves:
  • make a note of the bridge number we are moored near
  • make sure phones are charged and loaded with appropriate apps before setting out
  • don’t drink two chardonnays/ciders to diminish thinking capacity!
  • and, of course, carry a plastic bag for free food collection!

One of the wonderful things about the UK is the network of public footpaths across private land.

A combination of sea legs on dry land and chardonnay caused a list to starboard ...
The stiles, with on my left, a little hatch for dogs to go through - lift the piece of wood I'm holding to raise it

Phone back into back pocket, and into the field on the other side - mown ready to harrow

The light here is that lovely mellow softness that we don't have in NZ where all colours are crisp
The light again, and the field over the rise that has the ridges that demarcated, way back when, each family's area for growing crops. These are prevalent in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds but this is the first we've seen on this trip.

Picking and eating berries as we had nothing to store them in - see them also among the hawthorns behind me.

So, do they look yummy, Pauline? Plenty of them on this walk, esp away from the towpath - makes me think it's not well used
David took lots of photos of the walk (mostly before we started to worry about the boat going missing, but some after - does he have no sensitivity or occasion ???)
If you look closely you can see the bridge number - why didn't we check the camera when we got back on to the towpath?

So that was the evening - I had to have another chardonnay to recover from the stress ... 

In the morning we had got underway reasonably early as we wanted to get within cooee of Braunston, and make a stop or two on the way.
So peaceful as we cruised along.

The first stop was to visit Barby Marina where we are leaving the boat for the winter. It is looking great – lots of pontoons and garden moorings, and plenty of boats in place. It’s still not finished – the roads are still metal and the service area doesn’t have a building, but they do pumpouts, elsan emptying and they sell diesel. They are a family-run business rather than a large corporate, so don’t have heaps of money to throw at the building works, but it is getting there. They were happy for Ed to come and swap out the heat exchanger and pump on the Webasto without charging us or him for coming on site. Penny said they do have some moorers who do repairs etc, but no one with the marina as their exclusive patch.

The feedback on the net about Barby Marina is well out of date. So if you are interested in looking at short or long term moorings, we think they are well worth checking out. On a 60’ pontoon for a year, the fee is £1950 - now that’s not bad. We are going to be breasted up with several other boats as we don’t need access during winter, and we are paying £100 per month plus power for charging the batteries.

One of the three resident alpacas - he likes the bridge as he can see everything and it is warm on the tarmac

I wish we'd got a video of him rising to his feet - ungainly but effective - just like camels
Reasonably newly planted trees, picket fencing, garden moorings and pontoon moorings

Even smaller new trees in the foreground - the planting is being done gradually. We liked the look of the garden moorings and the pontoons are a good length with power and water.
 Three different kinds of boats today:

This boat sounded just beautiful as it phut phutted its way down the cut - I bet it wasn't doing as much as 600rpm.

The beautiful Waka Huia - freshly washed - I did one side while we were at Barby and Ed was doing the Webasto heat exchanger swapout, and the second side when we moored up for the day - before the fateful walk ...

These look wrong to me - firstly, they should be travelling in waters where they can go at far more than 4mph, secondly, they look ridiculous festooned with fenders which clearly indicate their vulnerability, thirdly, more properly they should have fishing rods for BIG fish (the kind Robson Green hoiks out of the water/sea). OK, rant over.

 By the way, these are the boats I thought we'd moored just around the bend from when we came back from our walk, but no - it was at least half a mile further on ... Doh!!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Hawkesbury Junction to the top of Hillmorton Locks

The beginning of blackberry picking at the junction. The lock is parallel to the canal we were moored in
On Sunday night after dinner we went for a walk down to the junction, partly because it was such a beautiful evening and partly so I could check out the opportunities for mucking up steering out of the Coventry and into the Oxford. It turns out it is two right-angled turns, i.e. essentially a 180. As we were walking along I noticed that the hedgerows were full of blackberries, so I asked a boater near the stoplock for a plastic bag. On the way back, I picked heaps of berries (there were lots well out of my reach but anyone over 5’1” would have got far more) and David took various photos. 
See info below
I do like this shot of David's - a beautiful full moon that night in a clear sky meant a chilly start to the morning

Moored up near Hawkesbury Junction
He headed back to the boat before me (did have to come back to me to get the key …) and offered to make me a chamomile tea for my arrival. Half an hour later, when it was practically dark and I could no longer see clearly which berries were ripe, back to the boat I went. Was there a chamomile tea? Three guesses and the first two don’t count. He said he got distracted … However the tea did arrive after a while.

We had agreed that on Monday morning we’d leave by 7am to rendezvous with Ed at Ansty. David was reluctant to get out of bed at 6.30 so the duvet had to be ripped off him. Reminded me of when he was working and he wanted a ride to work with me (I didn’t mind if he was catching a bus) – and that shows that at least my long-term memory is still fine as it is more than 10 years since he retired. A cup of tea and plate of cornflakes, then on with the gloves and my silk scarf, and we were off into the mist. The mornings are getting chillier but quite beautiful and crisp. As predicted,  I did make a pig’s ear of the turn into the Oxford – didn’t touch the sides anywhere but I didn’t do it in one move nor did I end up smoothly at the lock entrance.

The journey down the Oxford was peaceful – it isn’t the prettiest part of the canal – too many pylons for that within cooee of the junction, and the M6 is audible for part of the journey. We were quickly near our destination, and stopped for water first – all of a sudden, Piccadilly Circus with a boat reversing up for water, another boat approaching and us waiting to move off the waterpoint. We found a mooring exactly where we had wanted one – right after the bridge which would give Ed easy access close to us with his van. While waiting for him, I cooked breakfast, and we saw the beginning of a huge number of boats come past. We think they must have come from the festival up the Ashby. It has been the busiest today on the Oxford than on any canal we have been on this year, and probably most other years.

We hauled one boater over and back to tie up beside us as he’d picked up something on the prop and had no propulsion. When he looked down in to the weedhatch, he hoiked out a huge piece of canvas. Which David then threw across our boat and on to me. B*stard. But revenge will be sweet and will not be exacted anytime soon. He needs to suffer the anticipation of the revenge to be exacted, never knowing when and how it will strike!
The offending canvas - not pleasant around their prop or around my shoulders ...

I went for a stroll down the cut to look for bags of rubbish the canvas woman had told David about. I didn’t find them, but I did see lots of blackberries within my reach. So back I came to get a container. I managed to fill it within 5 boats of ours – yay! There are heaps there for people taller than me, so if you are near here and over 5’1” come down and do some picking. I have a blackberry crumble in the oven waiting to be cooked, and the rest of the berries are in a saucepan to be cooked, cooled and frozen. Free food is always a bonus!

Apples in Ansty
We also walked down the road to buy some Worcester Pairmon apples from outside a house. Bought 3 bags at 90p a bag (2 for us, 1 for Ed to take home). Bargain, and quite yummy, although not a patch on Braeburns.

Ed has done the Webasto conversion, so the bottom shelves in the kitchen cupboards were emptied into large plastic containers, and the framing that covers the radiator piping along the boat was taken off. The job went well with David and Ed bleeding the radiators of air once the pipes were all joined up to the Webasto and disconnected from the diesel stove. David enjoyed being the apprentice and the boffin, working out with Ed what was happening – I sat with the kindle and left them to it. The installation went fine, but there is a problem with the heat exchanger which gets extremely hot in some areas and stays cool in others. That is going to be sorted with Ed on Thursday. He is brilliant and gives such good service.

The canal, while close to the motorway and railway in parts, is rather pretty and good cruising. We did go under the M6 - I have driven that piece of road probably 60 times and never noticed the canal below me.
Under the M6 - ten columns in each set supporting the bridge

As David said:sublime to the ridiculous in terms of transport methods

The trees are starting to turn and the countryside looks lovely

The Kiwis mooring up near Rose Narrowboats
As we were slowing down to pull up at a waterpoint (we get water every day or so and stop whenever we see a waterpoint, as it’s a bit like buses, none for ages then 3 at once) we saw a hire boat of kiwis – glad to see the colonisation of the waterways is continuing… We moored up for the day soon after not far from the village of Brinklow. Lovely moorings and quite peaceful although the motorway was faintly audible.

Newbold Tunnel, 208 yards: nice; Harecastle Tunnel: 10 times that length: nasty

This morning we set off and got caught behind two boats moving like the proverbial snails who were sleep-cruising. What should have been an hour and a half was over two hours. We finally got to Rugby town moorings beside the park and I dashed off to Tesco, towing the granny trolley. I found the lime and elderflower cider that David has taken a strong liking to and bought all 6 of the bottles they had, completed the rest of the
Moored temporarily at Rugby

shopping, packed it all in the trolley and back to the boat – took a wrong path and ended up at the back of Tescos – doh!! J&D had arrived, so off we went for lunch at the Harvester, then back on board to move along and drop them at Clifton Cruisers boatyard where they now have their boat moored for the rest of the year.
Leaving Rugby moorings and heading for Clifton Cruisers. I had just extricated us from the off-side - I was too close to the towpath and got pulled across by the wash of another boat coming towards me. Steering takes constant concentration ...

Into one of the Hillmorton Locks
We have moored up at the top of the Hillmorton Locks in lovely sunshine. Batteries are fully charged at last – these short boating days make it difficult to get the leisure batteries up to 100%. No dinner required so it’s a quiet and relaxing evening ahead – I sense a snooze coming on …

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Atherstone is Ace, the NHS is Nifty ...

Yesterday we went into Atherstone to do a bit of shopping, and found one of our favourite stores – a DIY shop that sells everything. We managed to buy spanners, a brad, fuses, sandpaper and sandpaper blocks, a re-chargeable torch, screwdrivers, plumbing tape, doorstop. I am sure there were more things that left the shop with us and more that we left wthout by a factor of about 6000 stocklines. Then it was on to the Co-op for a few groceries, and by then I was tired, so back to the boat for a sleep as I was feeling a bit poorly.

While I slept David spent a fair amount of time trying to sort out a leak within the bathroom basin waste piping. He has been 95% successful, and the 5% failure is probably mine – I didn’t put enough plumbing tape around the downpipe thread. On second thoughts and further discussion

, we have come to the conclusion that there was a reason the former owner had put silicone around the waste fitting at the basin … We need to find some to replace it.

Overnight I was still feeling poorly and at about 4am decided that I needed to get some medical attention this morning. The NHS has this amazing service called NHS 111 which is for use if you have an urgent medical issue that is not life threatening (ie doesn’t need the 999 service). I found the service by googling ‘nurse health line’. After an initial triage session with the call centre, I was transferred to a paramedic who did further assessment and made an appointment for me at the George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton with the Out of Hours GP team. The only cost I incurred was the taxi fare there and back – the consultation and prescription were free. So, once again, I am a big fan of the NHS – another thing that impressed me was that even without an address, the call centre could find my NHS number from my name and DOB – how cool is that? I do like joined up systems!

The taxi driver and I had a good chat there and back – he was pretty easily distracted from his complaint about immigration, and we got on famously as he told me about his after school job as a teenager at a boatyard. Hopefully he and his wife will hire a boat to try it out – he loves boats, she hates them without having been on one …

He dropped me at the pharmacist (and had commented that the only one open on Sundays in Atherstone was run by an Indian – the conversation took the line of who was prepared to do the hard yards), and then gave me instructions on how to get back to the canal on foot. A very friendly and helpful man who provided excellent service – so Atherstone and its people are tops with me!

When I got back to the boat I took my first dose of antibiotics, and we got underway - we are meeting Ed at Ansty in the morning and he will sort out our heating by connecting the radiators to the Webasto – I mentioned a few weeks ago that we had decided to get it done, as the diesel stove is a pain (more particularly its water pump is a pain with a noise that is at just the right frequency to drive us nuts … - not a long trip, mind you, but not one we are keen to take just yet!)

Today we have boated in beautiful sunshine and are now moored up close to the junction of the Coventry and Oxford canals. We have really enjoyed being on the Coventry over the last week, apart from the small section down from Fradley which was reedy, narrow and shallow. It is a lovely canal with a mix of beautiful countryside and pleasant towns. And lots of Armco for mooring.
It looks like I am heading for that bank, but fear not ...
I am turning - it takes a bit to get a 62 ft boat around corners as they are not bendy like the London buses
Someone has found a lovely mooring

 David is preparing tuna mousse for dinner and I have just checked to see (both in the paper accompanying the antibiotics and online) if I can/cannot take a dose of chardonnay with my dinner. Alcohol is not mentioned anywhere, so I am assuming that silence gives consent. It does mention birth control being rendered possibly ineffective, so I must take steps to avoid getting pregnant!

I was going to get the table and chairs out so we could sit in the sun but the boat is shading he towpath now. It is lovely at the dinette, so we’ll sit here – I was delighted when the taxi driver told me that the UK has three more months of good weather forecast – excellent news for CCers and the general public! I hope the weather at home in NZ is as good when we arrive next month.

By the way, the snakes on two of the totems in Atherstone are probably meant to be eels – not that I have ever seen eels with zigzag stripes on their bodies, but artistic licence is fine with me in Atherstone – but not anywhere else!