Thursday, 6 October 2011

Short Trip to Dobsons Wharf

The boat is due out today for blacking and a few bits and bobs. The work is to be done by JD Narrowboats at Dobsons Wharf Shardlow. This meant an early start so I could be on the move by 7:30. 
Here is a photo of the New Long Horse Bridge on the Trent Navigation near Shardlow Marina.
This short trip was my first single handed journey so I include for posterity a photo of my first single handed lock

This is Derwent Mouth Lock at the start of the Trent & Mersey.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Day out to Kegworth

It may be the last sunny day before winter so we took Jans sister Kate with us for a day trip to Kegworth. There is a nice spot just upstream of Kegworth Deep Lock, next to the weir. All in all a great day! Chicken salad washed down with a couple of bottles of chilled rose. Please note today was the first time I managed to get the boat back into its mooring bay in one go!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Willington to Sardlow

We did not return to the Marina, mooring in Shardlow just around the corner from the New Inn. Although it is only a 5 minute walk back to the marina it takes about an hour by boat and we wanted to stay out for an extra night. Had a very nice meal in the New Inn, washed down with a few pints of pedigree. I think that mooring the last night at Shardlow may be the norm as it finishes of the trip with a nice easy day and we can get the boat ship shape without being tried before you start.
Overall impressions of our first major trip. Fantastic!
We both loved every minute of it, never fell out once, it feels like we have been away for a month. However we have had a seep learning curve not just canal stuff but working out a right pace to travel. For most of the trip we pushed to hard and travelled to far, but by the end we had slowed to a pace that resulted in no more than 5 hours travelling a day.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Ragley to Willington

Another quiet day did not set off until noon and were at Willington by 3pm. Had a job to find a mooring and discovered after we had moored that we were no more than 10 yards from the main railway line but what the hell. Bumped into Ros, who we met at Beeston a few days ago. She was on her way to London (single handed) but was having to go the long way around because of the water issues and Foxton. After a Gin on the boat and then a pint in the Dragon I think we have made a new friend. We hope to head of down the Grand Union to London next spring so we look forward to meeting up then.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Sawley to Ragley Boat Stop

Late start after a hard day yesterday. Shower, fill up with water, pump out and head off up the Trent & Mersey. Spent some money in the chandlery replace fender lost earlier in the week. It was almost lunchtime before we left. Derwent Mouth lock was a nightmare, three boats ahead of is, two at the top waiting to come down and by the time it was our turn we had a large working boat tied up to us as I walked back to the boat. The most sensible action was to wave the through ahead of us as we were in no rush and it would have been difficult to extricate our boat from inside the working boat. By the time we had made it past Swalkstone lock we were both exhausted, so stopped at the Ragley Boat Stop. I think that the week is catching up with us, we are still doing to much in a day. We have to change our attitude!!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Gunthorpe back to Sawley

On the move by 8:30 as we have decided we want to go back to the canals and Jan does not want to stop in Nottingham tonight. So 21 miles and 8 locks to get back to Sawley! We again met the chap who helped us look for the lost windlass at Bishops Lock, still did not write down the name of his boat. We now have the big Trent locks sussed, Jan on the bows me on the stern and Spot shut down below. Had a stop at Sainbury by Castle Marina to pick up milk etc and get a snack for lunch. Jan sent me as I am the snack king, never left a supermarket without something to nibble on. I came back with four hot and spicy chicken thighs and a bag of hot roast potatoes all from the hot snacks counter, total cost £3. We had to push hard to get back to Sawley, it was almost 6:00pm by the time we moored. We were both very tired and fractious. Make ham sandwiches served with Pomme Bears for tea. Too tiered for a shower will sort out everything in the morning.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Castle Marina to Gunthorpe

Away early to head off down the Trent. The overnight stop in Nottingham went fine, no issues or problems. Not very keen on the Nottingham canal as it seems to be drug deal central. Just a couple of locks to do to get back onto the Trent, we passed the chap who tried to find our lost windlass at Bishops Meadow lock on the Soar. I must get better organised and write down stuff like names and boat names so I can include them in the blog. Also I must get a small simple camera to carry in my pocket, my big SLR stuff is just to much to have with you all the time and I missed so many good photos. Holm lock was our first experience of a large river Trent lock - Bloody Hell! The chap operating the lock was helpful, if a little brusque, Jan said he was a miserable git.
Although the Trent is a great river we both said we prefer the canals as they are more intimate and you meet more people. Because the river is so wide you feel like you are just moving from A to B. I will say in passing, as a homage to Terry Darlington, "Egrets, we say a few". Stopped at Gunthorpe pontoon for the night. The lock keeper at Stoke lock had said that narrow boats can moor on the inside of the pontoon so we were hopeful of a spot, however on arrival it did not look promising. We circled a few times to have a better look as we went by some chaps from Colwick saw us and mover there boats forward to make room for us. People on the water are so nice!
We finished the day with a very expensive meal in Tom Browns. The food was good but cost us more that food for the previous 2 days.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Kegworth to Castle Marina Nottingham

Back down the last of the Soar and a quick left turn to Sawley Marina to replace the windlass and top op fuel and water then an about turn down the Trent and through Nottingham. All went smoothly until we arrived at Beeston Lock. Spot has developed the habit of jumping off the boat with Jan as soon as we reach a lock, in fact we have on several occasions pulled over to let spot jump off and follow us down the tow path. This was all fine until she tried to jump off at Beeston lock (three feet higher than the deck) and did not quite judge it right. Big splash, dog in water, engine in neutral, now dog is swimming between boat and bank, but she finally turned and swan around the back of the boat so I could grab her by the scruff and hall her out. Managed to close the boat doors to stop her running through the boat shaking, so all was well accept for her dignity. Yet another lesson learnt, this one by Spot.
Finally moored in Nottingham by Castle Marina. Had a meal at The Riverside Bar, which used to be the Baltimore Dinner. Cheep and cheerful meal that went down a treat as I could have eaten a scabby donkey between two mattresses. Jan was a little concerned about mooring in the middle of Nottingham but all was fine.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Barrow upon Soar back to Kegworth

Following the general chatter about water levels around Kings Lock we decided to return down the Soar and try our luck going down the Trent. The return journey was, deliberately more sedate. Rushing to get through Loughborough yesterday was bad planning and  meant we were tired and saw little of the area. The trip back was far more enjoyable and is another lesson learnt. At Bishop Meadow lock we were joined by a couple who had come through Leicester, they confirmed that the levels were very low, and that freinds of their had been stuck in Market Harborough foe a week. Lunch was at Loughborough basin after a visit to Tesco for a re-stock. The basin was empty with large quantities of floating rubbish. The rubbish and the adjacent wall covered in razor wire spoilt a very pleasant basin. Having purchased lots of goodies from Tesco we had a picnic on the boat. This was punctuated with Jan looking through binoculars at people eating in a Chinese restaurant on the basin. I think next time we pass this way we may be having Chinese.
Finally stopped for the night just by Kegworth Shallow lock. Had a shower (day 2 on the water, not sure how long it will last) and went to the Anchor Inn for a pint (well 3 actually). The beer was fine but no food so back to the boat for ham sandwiches and crisps. A couple of things to note. One, the Anchor Inn has a sign offering the lease for sale from Enterprise Inns. I know this company as 3 of my local pubs are owned by Enterprise Inns. It is almost impossible for anyone to take a lease from them and make a living. Two we always have ham on the boat. Every trip we make I cook a ham, cut it into three and vac-pack it. This way we always have something to eat.
Tomorrow we go the Sawley Marina to repace the lost windlass and fill up with water and fuel before heading to Nottingham. We are looking forward to Nottingham as we both lived there for many years.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Shardlow to Barrow Upon Soar

First day out and we overdo it again! The plan was to set off Monday lunchtime but could not get out the Marina because of the wind so set of Tuesday early. Managed a few firsts today, first pumpout, first electric lock at Sawley ( fortunately nobody was around so we took our time and studied it all until we were happy), first windless loss over the side at Bishops Meadow Lock, first fender loss (two more lessons learnt). A very nice chap came over with a magnet to try and find the windless but no joy. So many nice friendly, helpful people on the cut. We did manage to share a couple of locks with two boats full of old chaps trying hard to grow old disgracefully. They had obviously had a fair bit to drink (not that that in itself is an issue) and left each lock with the paddles up and gates open, Jan had to stop and put everything right before we moved on.
Out timing was a bit out today, we arrived at Normanton too early to stop for the day but late enough to give us a tough run to get through Loughborough. We ended the day at Barrow Upon Soar and had a nice meal in the Boat Inn. The pub was full of groups that had been canoeing so we thought the meals would be hearty and the were.
We had a few boats tell us of the very low water levels around Kings Lock in Leicester. We were hoping to get through Leicester in one go tomorrow so we have decided to rethink. We knew that Foxton was closed but thought we would go to Market Harborough, however we are not that fussed so will wind in the moring and head back down the Soar and head off down the Trent.

Monday, 5 September 2011

First Tip Day 2 Fradley Junction to Burton

Up early, couple of cups of tea and off. We decided to make an early start as we were part on a water point and we fancied doing a couple of locks without an audience. Jan did the locks and I managed to get the boat in without too much hassle. We sped off as far as Branston then stopped for a shower and something to eat. We managed to get into the Bridge Inn 5 mins before they stopped serving food. The pub does Italian food, so I had a pizza and Jan pasta with smoked salmon. Both meals were really good, the pizza was super thin with a topping to die for. We didn't fancy mooring in Burton so pushed on through until we found a spot where the canal moved away from the A38 and there were no moored boat. By the time we had all the mooring ropes sorted we were joined by narrow boat Harmony with Glen and Leane aboard. We spent several hours chatting and drinking Gin until hypothermia took over. A very pleasant and unexpected evening.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

First Trip Day 1 Fazeley to Fradley Junction

Saturday up early, horses sorted, packed, off the Fazeley to pick up boat and head back to Shardlow. We left Jans truck at Shardlow with the plan of leaving my car at Fareley until Tuesday, all organised, all going well? We arrived at Fazeley Mill Marina and set of down the 100 yrd long jetty to the boat. NO BOAT!!!! Panic!!! IT WAS ALL AN ELABORATE SCAM!! Then Jan spotted the boat moored on the other side of the marina. So we reloaded all our stuff back into the car and drove around to the other entrance and try again. The boat was tied to a rotting plank behind a large bank of brambles and nettles. Thirty minutes later, scratched and stung we manager to get to the boat and move it to the car. Another hour we are loaded, fueled and ready to go. Spot found her bed so all was ok with salty dog. We are off!!

The journey was relatively uneventful considering it was our first time on our own. This was helped by the lack of locks on the Birmingham Fazeley. After two sudden cloud bursts I remembered I had pack an umbrella! Managed not to hit anything and gradually grew in confidence over the day. By the time we reached Fradley Junction we were knackered mostly due to concentration rather than hard graft. We moored with about a quarter of our length on a water point but we had no strength to move and there was enough room for two 70ft boats so we staggered to the Swan had a couple of pints and stuffed gammon egg and chips down us and were in bed by 9:30.
More tomorrow

Monday, 22 August 2011

Tilly May is ours!!

Arrived at Fazeley Mill Marina about 11:30 to pick up keys and take over boat. I would have been earlier accept for the traffic, miles of cars queuing through Tamworth, Why? I found an alternative route to the marina via the next junction on the M42 and discovered the reason for the traffic. Hundreds of cars full of kids with faces squashed to the windows queuing to get into Drayton Manor Park, the entrance to which was two hundred yards from the marina!
The boat looked just the same as it did on Saturday but today it was ours, this introduced feelings of excitement and dread. Dave and Elaine had left a good luck card and I had taken a radio with me, other than a few items of cleaning products, the boat was empty.
Called at the Co-Op on the way home and started to accumulate the essentials such as salt pepper tom sauce etc, £70 later and I haven't made much of a dent in the list.
Talking to Dave on Saturday he said that the marina used to be a fishing lake and that you can still spot a few carp drifting around the boat. Somewhat of an understatement! The marina is full of fish big enough to eat Spot!
Back tomorrow with a boot full of stuff and my mate Colin. The list of people who want to look around is growing by the day.
Had a call from the vets on the way home, he said that they took a swab when they operated on Spot and the results said she had a fungal infection in her lung so had to pick up another set of pills. Poor Spot rattles with pills but I think she is on the mend.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Training at Fazeley

We had a fantastic day yesterday. Dave and Elaine offered to take us out on the boat before we took her over on Monday. We had the full tour, cut off valves, engine maintenance, heating etc etc, most of which I have already forgotten. We then took the boat out of Fazeley Mill Marina, turned right onto the Birmingham & Frazeley to Frazeley Junction then right onto the Coventry. Dave did the first lock at Glascote, then stepped away and said its all yours. Jan and Elaine did the locks I managed not to hit too much so within an hour or so I was feeling pretty comfortable. After a sort stop for a ham sandwich we winded just past bridge 63 and retraced our route back. All went well until I forgot to turn back onto the Birmingham & Fazeley was happily heading off to Fradley Junction. Dave saved the day and managed to spin her around using the bow thruster. Back to the marina at about 5pm so we were only out for 4 hours but we were both knackered. If this is how life is going to be we are going to love it!! Dave and Elaine are a really nice couple, they made use so welcome. I am sure they are sad to part with La Vuelta she is such a lovely boat.
I will be back at Fazeley on Monday to take over the boat and say our goodbyes, and start to kit her out ready to set off of Friday to her new home at Shardlow. 
I'm like a small boy on Christmas Eve!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Today it the start of my second childhood

You may have noticed this post is timed at 5:17am. Why!
That would be the big kid in me surfacing after years of repression. Today we go to Tamworth to spend a few hours with Dave and Elaine, the almost ex owners of Tilly May. They have kindly offered to show us how all the bits and bobs work and to take us out for an hours or so to get used to the boat.
The plan for the next few days is to take over Tilly May on Monday (giving Dave and Elaine time to move off). I have next week off so will pop down to Tamworth and get her kitted out for the trip back to Shardlow and just spend some chill time with her. On Friday Jan will joint me and we will bring her back over the bank holiday weekend. Amusing we do not sink her, back to work until 12th Sept then 2 weeks cruising around the Leicester ring. By the time we are back in Shardlow Jan will have either fallen in love with the way of life or drowned me in the cut.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Almost the demise of Spot!

What a week! Just when everything was going so well with the boat, life is great and the deal is done, when Spot starts to cough. Well to tell the truth she has been coughing for a week, the vet said it was a virus but gave her some antibiotics just in case. After a week she is going down hill so general anaesthetic x-rays and endoscope. Dam fool dog has only gone a sucked 3 grains of wheat down into her lung! Major panic!
You will be pleased to know Spot is now home recovering, and hopefully her collapsed lung will re-inflate over the next week, fingers crossed.
We have a much improved dog, she scoffed a large bowl of chicken and veg which is more than she has had in the last 2 days.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

All systems go!

Just read the report from the survey and it all looks good. The surveyor (Steve Hand) has listed some minor problems but the boat is in great nick so its all systems go. Jobs done yesterday:
1. Sorted mooring at Shardlow Marina. I called in last week and told them my situation so the put the last 45ft mooring on hold for me until the boat had been surveyed. The mooring is on the far side of the marina by the river so will be quiet, but still close enough to the Old Marina Bar to stagger (more in the bar later).
2. Phoned ABNB and Dave the boat owner to sort out completion date. Not that simple as Dave and his wife return to Spain at the end of Aug and we need to arrange 3 days to get the boat back to Shardlow. The plan is to complete on Friday or next Monday which gives we a few days to ensure we have everything we need on the boat before our first trip the Shardlow the following Friday.
Things to do today:
1. Go to bank and sort money transfer
2. Sort out boat insurance to start Friday

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Spot the dog

Keira is our 8 year old Large Munsterlander, she answers to a number of names but mostly I call her spot.
A fun loving vocal dog that would much prefer to be brown not black and white and will take every opportunity to turn herself brown. Spot meets narrowboat will be an interesting interaction. Spot meets canal will be a problem I have no doubt!

The Large Munsterlander is one of several continental breeds of versatile hunting dogs. Although the breed is one of the last of the German breeds to gain official representation by a separate breed club, the Large Munsterlander was recognised as a colour variant of the German Longhaired Pointer prior to that time. The breed first gained official recognition in the Munsterland of northwestern Germany in the early 1900s. However, the forerunner of the modern Large Munsterlander can be recognised in artist's representations of hunting scenes as far back as the Middle Ages.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Boat

We found the boat on the ABNB website, she is a 45ft cruiser stern reverse layout narrowboat built in 2005 by Trent Valley Boats. She is due out of the water next Tuesday for a full survey, all being well that will be the deal done. She is currently moored in Tamworth and will need to move to her new home at Shardlow Marina, two miles from our home. Photos to follow when the deal is done.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

We have taken the first steps. We have had an offer accepted on a narrowboat.
How much do we know about narrowboats and canals?
Lots in principle, bugger all in practice!
These are the voyages of the narrowboat Tilly May and her inhabitants Big Chris, Jan and Spot the Munsterlander.
To boldly go ........