Tuesday, 8 October 2019

The end of season report

So here we are back in Waikanae having left the boat for another 7 months.

I cannot believe that our efficiency at getting ready to leave the boat meant that, within a few hours of the departure time, we had done all of the key tasks. I fully expected that there would, as always has been the case, be a mad rush to finish the last few things. But crossing fingers worked and it wasn't so. The last morning was restricted to packing the car, sweeping and washing the floor, putting the heat retaining coverings inside the windows and portholes, draining the water, wrapping the pumps, leaving taps open, setting frost heaters up for the expected cold winter, locking up and leaving.

It's been an interesting boating season, taken all round. On the one hand it feels like we have filled the 5 months with plenty of boating days and distance. On the other there is the knowledge that we 'lost' a few weeks of boating because of the drama of the capsular phimosis in David's right eye and the preliminary appointments, the surgery and the post operative appointments in Birmingham. It has certainly cost us a fair amount, savings-wise - I reckon at least £10,000 including medical costs, car hire and accommodation.

But his sight in that eye is all that the NZ ophthalmologist was aiming for when he did the cataract surgery back in April. And Pete Shah and Imran Masood in Birmingham are very pleased with the results of Imran's surgery.

We had intended to do the Grand Circle this year, but had to cancel because of the eye problems. However we got down the Grand Union as far as Berkhamsted, went to the environs of Birmingham (Alvechurch and Edgbaston) a couple of times - the former at speed and the latter twice at a more leisurely pace. We've been up and down the Knowle flight - magnificent: if you haven't done it, do!

We've spent fabulous boating time with old friends
  • Mick and Julia, 
  • Salvi and Ann, 
  • Neill and Neil
  • Laughing John
 We've met and made new friends:
  • Bernice and Roy (oops, I did forget to include you - but you're certainly not forgettable, darling! Apologies big time!)
  • Liz and Barry
  • Wendi
  • Colleen and Mark
  • Lyndon and Karen
  • Nigel and Liz, and 
  • the other members of the Lockkeeper's Rest Support group and Dave and Catherine, the owners
We've had dogs on board too:
  • Kai (our boat dog)
  • Enzo (N&N's jack russell)
  • Maggie (Wendi's foxy)  
We've had the grandsons and one of their cousins on board when they were all put to work:
  • Olek steering and working locks
  • Karol and Krysz doing locks under David's supervision.

We had three lovely weeks with our son Tim coming to join us each night while working not too far away - I was able to take on being a mum again to provide:
  • dinners, and
  • cut lunches, and 
  • on one occasion, cheese scones for his workmates.
The quid pro quo was that he has done and will continue to do some tidying and sorting of electrical stuff for us. He's:
  • moved the battery charge level indicator inside to the switchboard
  • shortened the hugely long solar panel cables that were squished behind the switchboard
  • started replacing the florescent light tubes with LED strips
We've had the lovely Ed on board sorting stuff:
  • fixing the pumpout toilet by fitting new bolts to hold it in place (it had got very wobbly ...)
  • webasto heat exchanger replacement
  • replacement of all engine hoses (the old ones were probably original and so needed to be replaced even though they were still functioning happily 
  • doing an engine service.
John Wiper made and fitted a new cratch cover and a new tonneau cover - absolute bargains at £930 total. The cratch cover has been wonderful and the shape of the new cratch (cratch board, lockers and table made and fitted by Mick) has made getting in and out of the cratch much easier.
Everything is in the car and we are ready for the off. See the fabulous tonneau cover? And David is smiling so clearly the departure was not too stressful.

You will note that I and smiling too and I have started wearing looser T-shirts ...

And the cratch cover. Note that the table is folded up inside.

We have no idea how many miles we have done, or how many locks we have ascended or descended, or how many hours boating that makes. We have no idea how much we have spent on boating or food or wine or diesel or mooring fees or dinners out over the 5 months.

And I have lost count of the number of batches of cheese scones I have made ...

I also don't know how many kilos of weight we have put on over this season, but I know we both have - David has a bit of his pot tummy back and I am finding my jeans are significantly tighter. We gave up being careful about what we ate at about the time of David's eye drama, and never got back to good eating patterns. The only saving graces were that we often didn't have dinner if we'd had lots to eat at lunchtime and we had limited binges on pre-dinner (or dinner replacement) nibbles. Now we are home, we cannot weigh ourselves as the battery on the scales has died ... But once jetlag has been conquered and I buy a new battery for the scales, we will start being disciplined, I promise!

What we do know is that
  • overall, it has been lovely, 
  • the weather has been a mixture and that has been totally acceptable (I like it not being constantly too hot)
  • we have finally sorted how to have David get off the boat without the need for me to bump the bow or the stern on the bank - it's only taken since 1990, so we are very clearly slow learners!
These seem particularly apposite on both sides of the Atlantic at the moment ...

Sunday, 6 October 2019


We are home - arrived in Auckland yesterday morning at about 4.40, did the immigration, collecting baggage and customs thing, dropped the bags at the transfer desk, and walked over to the domestic terminal in the fresh air and caught the 7am flight to Wellington. Lovely flight home.

Collected at the airport by Bruce and Gary, catching up on the health and well-being of mutual friends, did a quick one-bag shop at New World, dropped our bags at home and then went out to breakfast with B&G to Olive Grove in Waikanae. Yummy breakfast - you may wonder why we wanted to eat after 24 hours of eating on the plane - reason: I didn't eat dinner on the flight from Vancouver to Auckland, and hardly touched my breakfast.

David and I walked home in beautiful warm sunshine, I called in to say hello to Kay while David went on to make the bed. I showered, climbed into bed, and have been there ever since, mostly sleeping.

It's now 1.23am and I am awake, so am up making breakfast and a cuppa.

I know David had a sleep because I found him so on the bed in the sunroom. I also know he has sorted out the mail, started the car, started the motorhome, sorted out temporary internet coverage before Actrix come and sort out our new thingie, and watched the ABs/Namibia game (but delayed coverage). He is now sleeping in our bed.

I will make brekkie and probably take it back to bed and be as quiet as I can.

More later about the last days on the boat and the week of visiting friends and family. That will have to be done as jetlag and other bits permit - I have to take the motorhome for its COF in about 12 hours, David has an appointment at Wgtn Hospital for his left eye (the one that had the acute malignant glaucoma before we left NZ back in April) and I need to make an appointment to see Jonathan the osteopath to do the finishing touches to my still sore (but much better thank you Rupert in Pimlico) lower back.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

A friend in need is a friend indeed

After reading the previous post about my very SORE back, Mick and Julia phoned yesterday as I was leaving Two Steeples Medical Centre following my second appointment with the osteopath (this trip was cheaper as he was working in Wigston which is quite close to Kilby Bridge). They expressed appropriate concern about the PAIN, and made a sensible suggestion: they reckoned Laughing John, our boating companion from the 2017 trip all over the place from Braunston to Stratford, Tewkesbury, Gloucester, Hanbury Junction, Birmingham etc, may well be happy to come and steer the boat for me.

I called him, explained the situation, whined about how much my back HURT, and John put aside his plans for the day (preparing for his 2 year old granddaughter's birthday party), and drove over from Peterborough to give us a hand.

What a champion, what a kind person, what a star!

So we moved from Kilby Bridge to Fleckney, David did 12 locks biking between them, John steered, and I sat on the stern deck in a chair with cushions and the icepack, and between sittings, so that I didn't seize up, I:
  • made cheese scones
  • made cups of tea
  • made a fish pie
  • stood up, sat down, multiple times
  • held the rope occasionally, and 
  • steered the boat the last couple of hundred metres while John walked ahead to see if the desired spot was clear.
It was a very very good day, and being able to move freely, or sit, really helped my back a lot.
John is used to single handing so at first he got off at the lock to assist David. I sat down and took a photo ...
Two chaps doing the lock - I am still sitting down, or standing but only momentarily ...
Waiting for David, outside the lock.
I liked the tree in the field with something growing round its trunk.
And another one ...
The man of the hour - thank you, John!
We pootled gently towards Crane's Lock, and the paparazzi were waiting, monocular at hand. David was a bit weary by this stage, and took advantage of our slowness to have a lie down on the grass. Sensible, as there were still 4 locks to do!
Next to Taylor's Turnover Lock is this interesting wedding/events venue. It has been extended since we were last here. Yesterday was the first time I noticed (John pointed it out) that the poles are fake and do not extend down into the tepees ...
It's beautiful countryside around here, even if there  are pylons in the distance.
The last lock of the season for us - Kibworth Top Lock.
Once we were moored up, we had a very early dinner (fish pie with smoked haddock and cod, a beer each for the guys and a chardonnay for me), we walked (me, I walked!!) across the field to Fleckney and we sent John in an Uber back to his car. He was very impressed with the Uber app - he seems to think we are really clever with the technology, but little does he know that it was the daughter Kirsty who taught us about it...

He is such a kind person.  Thank you, John, for all of your help and for dropping everything to do so.

And this morning I woke up feeling much better - not totally cured, but much better. To the extent that I could put my own socks on and zip up my boots. I will know I am right when I can put my knickers and jeans on without sitting down ... TMI, I know, but there you go 😚😜😝

So today, we walked into Fleckney again and had breakfast at The Toast Office, did a small shop at the Coop (essentials only).
A lead flashing over a window in Fleckney's main street

Then I put a top coat on the roof bits, and David washed and sanded and painted the rubbing strake and scratched bits (lots) on the towpath side.

We have moved on a tad now and are moored up with the towpath on the port side, so David has washed below the gunwales on that side, and has painted the rubbing strake and scratched bits of the sides (lots). A magnificent effort, while I looked after my back by sitting reading on the towpath in the sunshine. Well, needs must and all that!
I did make dessert for a late lunch - the puddings are from the Coop, and I didn't realise they are for the microwave. So I decanted them into china ramekins and heated them in the oven. Worked very well!

The sky this afternoon - absolutely stunning! No clouds anywhere.
Working, boss ...
The mooring - stunning spot! (I walked for this shot...)
And from the other direction - I walked for this one too!
A well-deserved G&T, plus evidence of working. I made the G&T and prepared nibbles for dinner, so I wasn't totally idle, honest!

It is a beautiful evening, we are moored out in the countryside, and it is lovely!
And the sunset - what a night to end the cruising season on!

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Maintenance deferred again - Ow ow ow

I wanted to write about our travels from Barrow on Soar...

View to the rear early in the morning when we left Barrow upon Soar
David untying before we depart - it was a beautiful still morning. Barrow upon Soar has some lovely homes down by the river and it is lovely to boat through with homes on one side and fields with walking tracks on the other.

As we approached Mountsorrel we saw these houses with roof-lines very reminiscent of the Netherlands
and seeing Mick and Julia for a picnic lunch at Birstall,

Dreadful photo of me, but caught Mick's best side and Julia looks beautiful from any angle. Best mooring spot at Birstall with the grass, but I did have to sweep/scrape goose poo by the cwt from the concrete and Mick swept off the grass clippings. The approach to that spot is a bit clunky though as there are lots of slabs of concrete and rocks under the water for the last 30 or 40 metres ...
and about not going to The Dining Room for dinner either night we were in Birstall (Thursday and Friday) but having excellent Chinese takeaways the first night (after we decamped from The Dining Room because there were kids there watching movies on their tablets and the kitchen staff were involved in a late running inspection), and then not going the next night after M&J had been for a picnic lunch, because we were still full from eating cheese tart and Vogel bread and yummy meats and beetroot and carrot salad and carrot cake and icecream.
And this is the ugliest church spire I have ever seen - it's the RC church in Birstall. Yuk!!

And I wanted to write about getting through Leicester without getting anything caught on the prop (yay!), and the drunks' lock (Limekilns) not being populated by drunks but by three young guys who were stoned and sitting openly smoking dope.
Approaching the lock near the National Space Centre

The Space Centre and a rather impressive weir. Autumn colours are starting.

And I wanted to write about how I snapped a rope when I tried to use the 'twice around a bollard and stand on the trailing end to stop the boat' but the boat was still going too fast and the rope just went snap. I had to run back to grab the back rope and get on the boat again to stop it, then ask a guy to help me pull it in after I'd flicked the portside middle rope over to the starboard side and thrown it to him.
Notes to self:
a) be going much slower when doing that trick, and
b) make sure the bollard has smoothness so the rope can move a bit before it bites, so some of the strain is taken.
One end of the snapped rope

and the other end - a bit scary. Good to see that the weld of the stanchion held.

I haven't written about a lovely mooring at King's Lock (recommended by Memory Map Plus [Julia]), where I sanded and rust-proofed spots on the lovely cream roof that needed remedying,
Dew on the vactanned spots - the morning after they were done.
 and David cycling from there to Double Rail lock yesterday and doing the locks on the way while I steered and listened to podcasts to pass the time and entertain myself.
And these were in the field above the King's Lock
And more of them. The people who live in the houses in the background have a great view - horses, the canal ...

But I won't tell you about any of that, because I need to write about how my back HURTS and why it does.

I had washed the bits of roof that needed rust treatment before I did said treatment after we arrived below King's Lock for the afternoon and night. And I decided that I needed to wash the roof thoroughly the next morning before moving off, so the roof would be dry and ready for spot undercoating when we moored up that afternoon. As the river water is VERY clean, I decided to use that, so scooped the bucket into the river from sitting in the cratch - necessarily one-handed. Bad bloody move - I felt the overstretch. And washed the roof and then did another 2 overstretches to get more water for rinsing - all this to save the water in the tank*** Stupid, stupid woman. And then I stood on the stern deck and steered for 4.5 hours as we progressed from King's Lock to below Double Rail Lock.

Instead of doing the undercoating, I went straight to bed with ibuprofen, tumeric capsules and a hot water bottle. I could barely stand and bending, sitting, leaning forward, taking off shoes and socks was agonising - AGONISING, I SAY!

David gave me a massage, stretched me and rubbed Vicks on my back (no ibuprofen gel or liniment on board) and they all helped; but this morning I had fully seized up again.

*** So having saved water, today I spent heaps of momey going to an osteopath 30 miles away from Kilby Bridge in Uppingham as, although he will be in Leicester tomorrow and Wigston on Wednesday, I could not face waiting. So I spent lots on Uber fares. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! To be fair, the driver was great - he waited for me in Uppingham as he knew there would be no Uber cars after the appointment.

So the roof is clean, but I am in no condition to do undercoating. David walked to the local Coop to get essential supplies (only essentials, Julia) and to buy more ibuprofen - came back without that as they cannot sell it. So he was going to find a pharmacy this afternoon. He was ultra hacked off when I looked on google maps and found a pharmacy on the same road as the Coop ...

Instead of doing another trip, he found his horse-pill sized ibuprofen tablets that I can cut in half and use to get me through tonight and tomorrow if necessary - I can buy more when I revisit the osteopath on Wednesday morning.

Hopefully, I will feel better enough tomorrow to do a bit of undercoating. I hope so, as Ed is coming to do an engine service and other bits. I will need to be in good enough shape for making cheese scones too and lunch - and I can hardly lie about in bed when he is here, now can I?

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Barrow upon Soar

We had decided that we would head off early again today - well, early for us, but not for the Grangers... It rained again overnight and I was a bit reluctant to get out of bed. However I got over it and off we went, on our own.

It has been quite windy, so we abandoned the plan to use the tap after Bishop Meadow Lock, as we would have struggled to get off the mooring. David had to help a boat with five crew who got swept over there on their way out of the lock.

Having looked on Memory Map to see where the next water-point was, I phoned Julia for her words of wisdom about actual water-points. So we came on without concern. She and Mick are great at having answers to such questions - to the extent that I call them Memory Map Plus ...

I am amazed at how much of that gigantic duckweed (no idea what it is really called) is growing along this section of the Soar - parts of the river width are more than half covered. In spite of this, it is a very attractive cruise - lots of farmland and some lovely houses.
This is the gigantic duckweed-like stuff I mean. Does anyone know what it is called?

We've done 3 locks today and decided that, instead of moving on to Mountsorrel (very few spaces available and if it's full it's a bloody long way to the next mooring spot), we would get water at Barrow upon Soar and moor there.
This part of the river is just behind us

It is fed by this weir. The gigantic duckweed is ubiquitous here too!

So here we are, all watered up and at the front of the visitor moorings. And across from us is a boat we recognise from when we were first on the Soar. We locked and cruised with John and Vanessa on nb Swift & Low on our way to Birstall and moored up there together back in 2015. I wrote about it here 

I am unsure whether John and Vanessa still own the boat, given it is now on an offside mooring, rather than at Leicester Marina, where they moored at the time we met them.

Having briefly re-read that post, I am pleased to note that David no longer takes the mudguard off the bike - and I am also very pleased that he reconstructs the bike much faster now ... He has got faster and I have not got more patient 😒😏😚
Two kayaks full of kids came past shortly after we moored up - they were advertised by their excited chatter. Lovely to see. And there is Swift & Low in the background.
This made me laugh ...
So did this bring a chuckle, but as a Kiwi friend said, some of the pronunciations look more Austrayan than NZ.
I think the latter was What's Apped to me by the Lockkeepers Support Group because on Sunday I played the Toyota Bugger ads - they did seem to really appreciate them. Check them out on youtube (just type in Toyota bugger ads) and see what you think.

OK, time to head for the Co-op to get in only some much needed supplies - I avoided going to the Tescos at Loughborough because I am under instruction from a certain cupboard/fridge and freezer monitor from Desborough to empty said food storage areas - a Tesco visit would have resulted in my buying far more than I should ...

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

A lovely gift

Late yesterday afternoon there was a knock on the outside of the boat and it was Nigel who had brought gifts for me - a bottle of chardonnay (how did he know?), and a lovely bouquet of flowers from him and Liz.

Thank you both so much - the flowers are just beautiful! The chardonnay is carefully stored in the locker - but not for long, I am sure! Both gifts are much appreciated!

Roses, gerberas, chrysanthemums (white and green), carnations, and cornflowers. Aren't they beautiful?
They sit on the table when we are stationary, and I place the vase in the sink when travelling so they do not tip over.

When I did yesterday's post, I included Lyndon's photos from his facebook page, but didn't put in any of my own. So here they are:

Only one bottle required a corkscrew and it took two goes to get it out - in 2 pieces ... To be fair, my corkscrew is an attachment on the pocket knife, so it's not the most effective appliance!

The piss off mints brought on an epidemic of peeing outside the boat - strange how these epidemics only attack chaps, innit then?
I needed to look away from the peeing - it was a la la la moment for the eyes, so I thought the cooling towers would be a distraction ... That's Derby Boat Club moorings on the offside - the boats are not very long so they don't intrude into the channel.
I did manage to stay up a bit longer after the team left and take this photo of dusk across the cut to the marina (big boats: narrowboats and a smattering of widebeams and larger yoghurt pots)
We'd had brunch at the Marina Cafe at noon, then cheese scones at the Lockies in the afternoon, chippies (crisps to those people of English extraction) and piss off chocolate mints onboard Waka Huia; so dinner was not required. However David decreed that dessert was obligatory, so he heated the leftover custard, shared out the leftover ginger cake and the leftover blueberries, and brought mine to me in bed. See Julia - the supplies are going down!
Yesterday was an extremely blobby day - David didn't get up until the afternoon, and I was out of bed, sitting at the dining table still in my dressing gown. However I did make pikelets for lunch, and I baked bread. David got up when I said I thought it was time we went across for a pumpout as we wanted to head away by 8am today.

I said I wouldn't take down the pram cover as it wasn't windy. Bad mistake!! Note to self: Never travel with the sides up on the pram cover - it totally restricts access to the middle ropes, as well as making traversing the gunwales very dodgy while moving as there are no secure handholds.

We reversed back to the pumpout jetty, and that did work well, apart from the scary bits when I had to get the pram cover sides off while in motion to be able to reach the ropes. Good thing there were no other boats moving at the same time!

Then it was forwards, heading back over to the towpath to fill with water, and then pulling forward to the place we'd been moored since Friday. It is the 48 hour moorings, but there was no contention for space so I didn't feel guilty about overstaying. If stacks of people had come along wanting to moor, I would have moved down the locks - honest, I would!

And the moonlit shot across the cut to the marina later last night - taken by me just before I went to bed - when it was DARK!!
Still life on the water - taken this morning before we left at 8am
This morning, it was down the lock with Kevin and Pam on nb Stamford, out on to the Trent, a right turn on to the Soar, three locks done and now we are moored at Zouch. There is an A road nearby but it is pretty quiet.
Heading down the Trent - a beautiful morning!

We walked across the fields to Sutton Donington this arvo to go to the convenience store - we were out of butter and milk was running low. David did sneak chocolate digestives in to the basket and I managed to secrete a Mars bar and a couple of choccy treats in as well ...

Marinated pork strips are in the oven, coleslaw is made, rice will go on soon. I'd like a chardonnay, but I won't have one - I do need more than one day off the alcohol ...