We were moored up in Alrewas by mid-arvo Tuesday – a lovely mooring with absolutely no traffic noise and lovely neighbours (Lindsay and Steve on Edna May – Lindsay makes a lovely cherry cake – more on that later).
The trip up to Alrewas was quite lovely. There is a river section to go through, but it was very gentle and unless you knew or watched for things that indicated it was a river (signage, weirs, and some strange twists and turns) you mostly wouldn’t really think it was much different from the canal, at least at the level (green) that it was yesterday and the day before.
|Mel on the way to Alrewas - note how safety conscious he is|
We had stopped and moored up a few hundred yards into the river section by about noon on Tuesday, so that we could do the second side of magical signwriting. Alas, it was not to be – we managed somehow to have the backing paper stick to the transfer (I think I got it wet by spraying the boat side while I hadn’t pulled the backing paper off far enough). So the Waka transfer we were trying to stick had to be ditched. That meant of the three complete sets of Waka, Huia and koru/scroll, we were down to 2 Huia, and 1 Waka and 1 scroll (we had messed up a scroll on our first side but we didn’t tell you until now …) So it had to be done right the next time or we’d either be unnamed on the starboard side or partially named – now how crass would that be?
So, grumping a bit, off we went up to Alrewas (I was grumping, David was fine). As I said, a lovely mooring up there, and I was pleased to be following another boat on the way – meant I didn’t have to work out where the route was going!
After mooring and having lunch we went off for a walk – we wanted to get to the National Memorial Arboretum. We went along the main street, past the shops, which in the delightful way of English villages are well spaced out (not high, just spaced out) with houses in between. A man was out weeding and feeding his front verge with a little two-wheeled barrow dispensing fertiliser and weed killer (we couldn’t use that at home – there’d be no green stuff left if we killed off stuff that isn’t grass!) We stopped and asked if we were heading in the right direction. Yes he said, keep going and in half a mile you’ll cross the A38 and you’ll be there – it may take you a few minutes until there is a break in the traffic (it’s a dual carriage way) but then you can dash across but do keep a watch for the traffic. Isn’t there a subway, I asked. No, he said. Is there a safer way? Yes, he said, go down that street for 2 miles. Ah no. So we wandered around looking at the lovely houses, went to the butcher shop, went to the Co-op, stopped and chatted with people and went back to the boat to make and eat dinner. Had a chat with Lindsay from the Edna May moored in front of us.
Yesterday morning we decided to have a full day’s boating - we would head for Fradley Junction before turning around and heading back, aiming to get to Mercia Marina for Friday evening/Saturday morning, so we can leave the boat there while we are in Scotland and then get the hassles sorted by Aqua Narrowboats when Ian the marine engineer/electrician is back from leave in the following week.
Out we go, do the engine checks, check the weed hatch, put the pram cover down, turn the key, engine turns over, engine does not start. Try again, same result. Swear, curse, phone RCR, and wait for Kerry to arrive. We talk with Steve from the Edna May, and Lindsay arrives with a piece of cherry cake each – lovely and cheering. This time, instead of looking to produce comfort food as the answer, I decide on cleaning – after all, we’d consumed Lindsay’s cake before it was fully on board, so the comfort food fix had been assuaged! So I sweep, dust, polish. David managed his stress by going for a walk to the church (I am worried about his motivation) to take photos.
Kerry arrived an hour or so later, and spent some time investigating, and initially told us the starter motor solenoid wasn’t engaging when the key was turned and that we’d need a new one. Gulp, sounds expensive AAARRRGGGHHH!!! He checked the voltage from the starter motor back to the switchboard – all fine. He kept looking and after some time found that a nut was loose on the solenoid (I think). Tightened it, turned the key, and the engine started. He noted that there was a squealing noise on start up, indicating a loose belt, adjusted that and off he went.
We decided it would be most sensible to have lunch to top up the blood sugar before doing any boating – we were both feeling demoralised and wondering if we’d bought a lemon. We realised that topping up the batteries would take a lot more than topping up our blood sugar, so decided we would boat for a substantial period in the afternoon. The weather was lovely and the boating was pleasant, except I seem to have lost the knack (or not got it sussed in Waka Huia yet) of getting into the locks without nudging the sides as I am at the mouth of it. It made me very cross until I decided to stop being concerned. After that, bingo – in, straight as a die.
At about 4pm I thought we should stop and fit the name. Fortunately, I considered my state of mind (dodgy), thought better of it (good decision), and we carried on and did 6 hours cruising all up. I decided to try the approach that Helen Porter has on nb Holderness (I’ve been looking at the photos …) Helen has a little folding stool that she stands on to steer. We’d bought one back in Long Eaton, so I gave it a go. Then found, YAY!, that I could sit on the side of the boat and feel balanced, and use the stool to get up and down. The trick is remembering that I am actually a lot higher when sitting on the side, so need to get off when going through low bridges – they are not usually a problem for me for some reason! So last night my feet were nowhere near as sore as they have been on previous days where I have been standing all day. Result!
|Lovely sunset last night presaging a good day|
We moored up near Bridge 25, just over a mile out of Willington, back where we were on Friday and Saturday nights. It felt like coming home! But we hadn’t remembered that the A38 was noisy there – not sure why it hadn’t registered in the weekend – maybe it’s noisier in the week.
|Brekkie on deck - note captain's cap|
|First mate has brekkie near Bridge 25|
This morning we woke to ideal conditions for putting the name on the starboard side. Lots of boffining by David, lots of marking the panel with biro by me, using the level to get the name and koru/scroll level even though the panel is nothing like level – it rises to the rear on the horizontals and the plane is curved on the vertical. It required taping in progressively smaller sections to ease the fullness of the sign at the top – a bit like pinning a seam that needs easing. And given that any failure would mean we were all out of Waka and scroll, and one Huia left, it was just as nerve wracking as when we did the first side. If we failed we would have to call Peter and ask him to do another set and post them over. Not a good look seeing he’d already supplied us with one spare!
I am pleased to report that it all went on OK and looks great, and I am sure David and I have lost several kilos from worry. Well, maybe not, but that would have been a good side effect of stress, wouldn’t it?
We had lunch to celebrate, then set off and filled with water at Willington and I got some info from a guy there having a sneaky cigarette after emptying his cassette toilet – he told me that a mixture of Bartender’s Friend and Cillet Bang would do a grand job of cleaning the brass mushrooms. It WILL be tried as brasso is very labour intensive and I haven’t managed to delegate it to the first mate yet.
On a few more minutes to Mercia and a consultation with Justin and Ian from Aqua Narrowboats. We are booked in for a full engine service week after next, and we’ve booked a mooring while we are in Scotland. We’re now moored about 200 yards from the marina entrance, it is finally cooling down, David is doing the dishes and then going to have a shower. After spending about an hour before dinner fiddling about with a makeshift aerial pole (the barge pole) to get reasonable reception, he has watched about 20 minutes of TV, and has eschewed the opening game of the Football World Cup. I think solving the reception issue was more fun for him than being able to watch TV. That is the definition of a true boffin, don’t you think?
Beautiful evening and a good day. Tonight we are happy to be boating again and have left the suitcases under the bed …