Wednesday, 19 July 2017

A good decision

Way back in the mists of time (before the turn of the century, I think), David and I hired a Black Prince boat from Stoke on Trent with Mick and Julia, and we did the Four Counties Ring - in a week. It was a very busy week, but still had time for lunchtime pub stops. Although to hear Mick tell it, I thwarted those by dragging them out of pubs after one pint - the biggest sin being that the beer was cheap (£1 a pint, if I remember correctly what I've been told ... £1 was probably cheap, but it was some years ago, mind).

It was an excellent week for all that: speedy, full of activity and laughter. We have spoken of it on the convoy's trip this last month and a half, and noted how much more slowly we are moving these days (boat-wise, I mean, but probably body-wise as well, I guess).

We even, very naughtily, did the Audlem Flight in the dark. Well, we'd started it and decided in the evening that we shouldn't really moor up in lock pounds (did we see there were moorings in between Lock 2 and 3? Probably, but we ignored that), so onwards and downwards we went. I steered, David was setting the locks ahead, and Mick and Julia were working the lock I was in. It got darker and darker, I was steering using the headlight, and we were doing well. Then all of a sudden, Julia said in quite an anxious way 'I do hope the Boff** is OK. We haven't seen him and he could have fallen in and drowned and we wouldn't know!' That set us all worrying, but we reassured ourselves that we would find out if we got to a lock that wasn't ready for us. Heartless, weren't we? Anyway, we (all of four of us) got to The Shroppie Fly pub; in my memory of that escapade it was already shut for the night, but that's probably an inaccurate embellishment. Maybe it was just that it was a cool night and no one was drinking outside. We slid as quietly as possible into a mooring spot and snuck off to bed, hoping no one would report us to Black Prince or to BWB for boating after dusk ...

(** Julia calls David the Boffin, for reasons obvious to those of you you know him.)

This train of thought about our days as Speedy Gonzales has come into my head often over the last few days given I'd spent most of Sunday and Monday and most of yesterday afternoon generally doing blobby things.
Getting ready to leave Bridge 69 next to the Freeman's property on Monday. Can you tell we have passed our BSSC examination?

In the reeds there is the Freeman's lovely dog who came down to the canal for a drink. I did hope it was coming over to be our boat dog, but no such luck!

The only active thing on Monday was cruising a couple of miles from Bridge 69 to Great Haywood. However I also did assist a canoeist getting out of his canoe and on to the bank while waiting for the Colwich lock and I watered the roof allotment - multi-tasking and parallele processing - David take note! Oh, and we did watch a hot air balloon taking off in the fields near the canal over between Shugburgh Hall and the folly. The photos are on David's camera though so may remain unseen for some time ...

From our mooring at Great Haywood. Very peaceful. However in the distance you can barely see a boat going around the corner - it was emitting the blackest smoke and lots of it! Not sure the engine is in good shape somehow.

And yesterday, I steered to Anglowelsh's yard, reversed in for a pumpout, rubbish and elsan emptying, and water. Then I did have to make my way alone to Tixall Wide and moor up while David biked back to the mooring before Gt Haywood where he'd managed to leave a mooring chain still attached to the armco - doh! Found it - yay!

But the afternoon, apart from finishing off the painting that was started back at Ellingham Lock on the Avon (after John's and my mammoth days of angle grinding, rust prevention coating [day one] and undercoating [day two]) was taken up in having a nana nap and reading in the cratch.
I did stir myself to take this photo though - Tixall Wide is a very pleasant place to be!
Dinner in the cratch - nibbles only. You'll note the glass is almost empty. A call had been made to the first mate, but it took a while for the refilling exercise to be undertaken. Standards are slipping, indeed. I think the problem is that we live in a long tube, and the first mate has to pass everything we possess in the tube to get to the site of task completion. And given he's a boffin, and by definition, easily distracted, he undertakes other missions (unrequested, unnecessary, not on the critical path) on his way there and back. I despair of having him adhere to the critical path and have told him on numerous occasions (when thirsty for tea/water/chardonnay)  that I would never employ him on a project - he'd single-handedly cause delays through tangential tasks, as well as not being able to parallel process. As Julia would say 'Bless' and as I would say 'FFS'

During Sunday, Monday and Tuesday we have been in text communication with Mick, Julia and John, as they laboured their way from Hawne Basin to Netherton (?) and Walsall, then yesterday from Walsall to Brownhills. Today there is a debate as to whether they go to Wiggins Hill (24 locks, 13 miles) or Perry Barr (9 locks, 8 miles). They are already underway and we are still lounging in bed. And when we move it'll only be halfway to Penkridge.

We have read of their adventures and misadventures and said to each other that, while we much missed being part of that particular convoy, we did not miss the 'mis' part of the adventures.

That was borne out in a text from Mick last night which read: We've had an ordeal today travelling from Walsall to Brownhills. Stuck in bridgeholes (5 shopping trolleys in one alone), down weed hatch numerous times, and slow going all day! At one stage we managed 1/4 mile in one hour from Birchills top lock to Birchills Junction. Moored up at 1.30pm and we're having a barbie later, so happy days now - I'd say wish you were here but you wouldn't thank me for the cruising today. I think you have made a wise decision with your route. Enjoy your evening in glorious setting and we'll see you soon.

We had felt a bit naff deserting them, merely for a BSSC and the obtaining thereof, but the Admiral has forgiven us. That feels better!

And could we do the Four Counties Ring in a week now? - well, Mick and Julia could, but we certainly couldn't! After all, so far, in one day we've done 1.5 miles, and today is going to be about 4 miles. Our target is to get to Coxbank below Audlem to pick up NZ friends for Thursday next week. Is that a cracking pace or what?

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